Port Douglas

An insider’s guide to tropical Port Douglas…

Port Douglas in Far North Queensland ticks the box of being the real “treat” component of your holiday….it oozes tropical relaxation and adventure! Expect a touch of paradise, Port Douglas is uniquely bordered by two World Heritage sites, the magnificent Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest.

Port Douglas

The Great Barrier Reef Drive. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef Drive is the top coastal drive that leads you from Cairns to Port Douglas in just over an hour. The huge palm trees that border the drive into Port Douglas set the scene well for this tropical getaway and seaside town. Blessed by the tropical weather, you can expect lovely mild weather in June/July/August that is perfect for all outdoor activities or simply relaxing at Four Mile Beach. Humidity & the wet season kick in over the summer months…but essentially Port Douglas is pretty much perfect to visit year-round.

Port Douglas

Four Mile Beach. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Port Douglas

Indigenous Art Gallery. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland/Andrew Watson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Mile Beach is picture-perfect with the palm-tree lined beach consistently recognised as one of Australia’s best beaches. Great for long walks, swimming or trying your hand at kayaking or paddle boarding. After some sun and beach time wander up the main street to explore the shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants. Drop by the local markets on Sundays for a vivid array of tropical fruits and local arts & crafts. The Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina has some great bars and restaurants from which you can watch all the boats returning from a day on the Reef. For something unashamedly Australian don’t miss the nightly Cane Toad race at the Iron Bar. For a great Thai cooking class and lunch you can’t miss Oaks Kitchen & Garden or alternatively if you just feel like a decadent long-lunch travel 15 minutes out of town to either Silky Oaks Lodge or Thala Beach Lodge and indulge.

A small village that delivers so much, Port Douglas has so many things to see and do… you can easily spend a week or more in the area. Here are some of the key things to do:

Port Douglas

Michaelmas Cay. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Explore the Great Barrier Reef: 

The main attraction to this gorgeous town is no doubt the Great Barrier Reef. It is absolutely a must-do! Fortunately, you have easy access from the local marina with plenty of operators to choose from. You can choose boats that take a minimum of 12 or a maximum of 350! The bigger operators have more toys to play with, expect glass bottom boats, helicopter rides etc. The smaller operators offer a completely personal nature experience focused around snorkelling and diving. I strongly recommend the smaller group tours…however the decisions don’t stop there. Duration is another factor, with the most popular choice being the full day tour. But you can also do overnight/live-aboard trips for the keen divers, or the fast half-day trips for those that are happy with a shorter snorkel. Finally, from Port Douglas you have quick access to the Low Isles, a sandy coral cay located on the inner Great Barrier Reef which is a good option for those with younger children, or of course you can visit the outer Great Barrier Reef on a longer boat trip to get to those famous dive/snorkel sites that offer the visual paradise that the Great Barrier Reef is famous for.

Port Douglas

Snorkelling on Opal Reef. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Port Douglas

Moore Reef. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Appreciate the Daintree Rainforest:

The other main must-do is to visit the Daintree Rainforest, one of the top three oldest in the world. The first stopping point is Mossman Gorge, located only 20 minutes north of Port Douglas. You can do self-guided walks, or join a Dreamtime Walk Tour and learn about the indigenous culture and their connection to the natural environment. Don’t miss a refreshing dip in the gorge for a beautiful Rainforest experience. Then on to the township of Daintree and catch a 1-hour wildlife cruise where you can expect to see crocodiles enjoying the sun. Cross the Daintree River and explore the Daintree Discovery Centre. The kids will love the Canopy Tower and aerial walkways through the Rainforest. Drive further north to Cape Tribulation, where you can step straight from the rainforest on to the magnificent beach. For a family fun activity do some Ziplining through the rainforest with Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy some tropical fruit ice-cream from the Daintree Ice Cream Company on your return journey.

Port Douglas

Daintree Creek. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Port Douglas

Meet the wildlife: 

Meet Zac, the 5-metre Saltwater Crocodile at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. He is a big fella, around 500kg and over 50 years old. He still has all his teeth! Don’t miss the Crocodile feeding shows where you see the crocodiles jump for their food. Hartley’s is a great day out. They have plenty of other unique Aussie animals as well. You can book a private tour to cuddle a Koala, feed wallabies (small kangaroos), hold a lizard and meet a Wombat. Hartley’s is 25 minutes south of Port Douglas. The closer alternative is Wildlife Habitat, which offers the Aussie wildlife experience right in Port Douglas.

Port Douglas

Tree Kangaroo. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Port Douglas

Visit Atherton Tablelands:

For a full day trip visit Kuranda & the Atherton Tablelands. Only 1 hour from Port Douglas there is plenty to do up there. Kuranda is a good starting point with the Rainforestation, Markets and the largest Butterfly aviary in Australia. This is a coffee growing region so if you love your coffee & chocolates make sure to visit Coffee Works. For more action there is a professional go kart racetrack at Mareeba that even beginners can have a go on. For something different make sure to visit the Bat Hospital in Atherton or look for the elusive Platypus at Tarzali Lakes. Finally, don’t miss the Curtain Fig Tree, one of the largest trees in Far North Queensland in an endangered forest near Yungaburra.

Port Douglas

Origin Espresso1. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland/Andrew Watson

Make sure to add Port Douglas to your wish list for your next Australia holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one to tick off your bucket list!

West Coast New Zealand

Experience Franz Josef Glacier & the West Coast, New Zealand

The Fox and Franz Josef Glacier are one of only two places in the world where you can view glaciers descending into temperate rainforest and close to the sea. The Glaciers are unique relics of the last ice age. Rivers of solid white, tumbling down ice-hewn rock valleys, they are beautiful and mighty… and are simply a must see.

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier. Photo by Fraser Clements

As part of the Westland Tai Poutini  National Park, the glacier region is a recognised World Heritage area for good reason. The park extends from the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, to the rugged and remote beaches of the wild West Coast, South Island New Zealand. It is an area of magnificent rugged vistas – snow-capped mountains, glaciers, forests, tussock grasslands, lakes, rivers, wetlands and beaches.

West Coast New Zealand

Westland National Park

The Glaciers and Westland National Park are just two of the main attractions on the wild west coast. Wedged between the towering Alps and the crashing sea is Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks/Paparoa National Park, Hokitika Gorge, and of course Haast which is surrounded by national parks and World Heritage areas. Simply breathtaking scenery.

But Franz Josef Glacier village is definitely at the heart of it all. It is a pretty town alongside the fast flowing Waiho River. The village caters well for the wide range of adventure activities close by. Lose yourself in the rainforests, glaciers, waterfalls, and lakes. You are guaranteed plenty of excellent cafes, restaurants and activities. The hard part is deciding on how to fit everything in!

Here are some of the key things to do:

Heli Hike: 

An amazing experience as the only way to touch or hike the glacier is by a short scenic Helicopter flight up the glacier valley. Global warming has seen the glacier retreat and we were told it is likely that the Heli Hikes will only be possible for a further 5 years. Get great views from the helicopter over Westland National Park before you get your crampons on and explore the ice caves and admire the many crevasses which feature across the glacier. Minimum age is 8 years and tour duration 3-4 hours.

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast. Photo by Julian Apse

Glacier Valley & other local walks:

An alternative for those with younger family members, you can choose a self-guided or guided walk down the valley where the Franz Josef Glacier once stood. A great way to understand the history and retreat of the glacier. The guided walk has a minimum age of 6 years. There are many other fantastic walks in the region including a short 45-minute walk from town centre to the Tartare Tunnels. This is an old gold-mining tunnel with plenty of Glowworms!

West Coast New Zealand

Town activities:

For more action consider quad bike rides or skydive. For an awesome perspective of the area catch a scenic flight over the Glaciers & Westland National Park. Relax at the Glacier hot pools in the Rainforest and enjoy the many local restaurants and coffee shops in town. Say hello to the local Kiwi birds at the West Coast Wildlife Centre, and don’t forget a scenic boat/kayak tour or fishing charter.

Haast Pass Scenic Drive:

It took 90+ years to complete this spectacular 142 km stretch of road. The winding route from Wanaka to Haast is not to be reckoned with. The road hugs the towering Southern Alps… look the other way and be rewarded with stunning aquamarine glacial lakes. Wild shorelines and untamed natural wilderness. This dramatic landscape offers a bunch of fun adventure activities: hiking, trout fishing, jetboating – but be sure not to miss the thundering waters of the Gates of Haast.

West Coast New Zealand

Photo courtesy Tourism West Coast. Haast

Tranzalpine Train Journey:

One of the world’s great train journeys, the Tranzalpine traverses the spectacular Southern Alps and vast Canterbury Plains from coast to coast. The inland journey takes a little over 4 hours and runs daily between Christchurch and Greymouth. A nice way to sit back, relax and soak up the striking scenery as it passes by. A great way to begin your West Coast travels!

Tranzalpine Train Journeys through vast Canterbury Plains

Make sure to add Franz Josef Glacier & the West Coast to your wish list for your next New Zealand holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one area not to be missed. Expect to enjoy a top New Zealand experience!

Australian break

Our beautiful Australian break

Text & Photography by Sylvie Drion-Halbin

It’s already been a few weeks since we came back to Shanghai and, when thinking about Australia again, I first see its colours : the bluish green of eucalyptus plants, the turquoise blue of the sea, the azure sky, the red soil with all its ochre nuances ; then I get all the pleasant smells from the fragrant trees such as tea trees and eucalyptus.

Australian break

Author Sylvie Drion-Halbin at Uluru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decided to go far away from Shanghai during the Mid-Autumn Festival break to treat ourselves to a beautiful trip taking us towards spring. This had been our dream for a long time.

We researched many travel guides in preparation. However, exploring Australia and all its mythical sites soon seemed to be some kind of Chinese puzzle 😊

We wanted to go everywhere. As a result, we completed our tour in several stages. Vicki Baensch from Australia Expat Travel has been of tremendous help with organising and booking our transport and accommodation.

Melbourne

We were totally delighted with its Art Deco buildings and alleys, large welcoming parks, art galleries, narrow side streets, eco-friendly shops and delicious restaurants. Paul, from Rentabike in Federation Square, was a choice ambassador for his city. We cycled through it and thanks to him we went to its residents’ favourite places and found the most gourmet spots in Melbourne.

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Hosier Lane, Melbourne

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Cathedral Arcade, Melbourne

Australian break

Eureka Tower, Melbourne

 

We continued our discovery along the coast lines, mostly during a road trip along the Great Ocean Road. We explored lighthouses and forests where it isn’t unusual to see wild koalas. We were able to admire the 12 Apostles’ grand landscapes, which are truly moving at sunset.

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Cape Otway Lighthouse, Great Ocean Road

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Koala, Great Ocean Road

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Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

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Red Parrot, Kennett River

Uluru & the Red Centre

It was then time for us to fly towards the Red Centre. We literally landed at the foot of Uluru, Ayers Rock. Uluru acted like a strong magnet, our eyes were constantly drawn towards this mineral mountain – a true oasis amongst the desert.

Australian break

Uluru

 

 

 

 

 

 

We immensely enjoyed immersing ourselves in the aboriginal culture whilst listening to the talks given by the Park Rangers during the Mala walk and the magnificent Kata Tjuta rock domes.

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Uluru Sunset

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Kata Tjuta

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Aboriginal Rock Art

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Kata Tjuta views

 

We drove on towards Alice Springs aboard a 4×4 vehicle. After a night spent in a hybrid tent / hut we continued towards the famous Kings Canyon.

Starting walking at dawn enabled us to avoid the high heat during our climb to the top and also to come across native animals such as dingoes, kangaroos and birds. We were able to fully enjoy the totally amazing mineral landscape.

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Australia 4×4 drive

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Kings Canyon

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Kings Canyon vista

Sunshine Coast & the Great Barrier Reef

We concluded our trip with exploring the Sunshine Coast, between Brisbane and Airlie Beach.

We spent one of our most incredible nights camping in an igloo tent set up on a rig some 80 km offshore, and only two flipper strokes away from Hardy Reef, where we went scuba diving and explored the Great Barrier Reef with its 1001 shades of blue.

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Great Barrier Reef, Hardy Reef

Australian break

Great Barrier Reef

Australian break

Hardy Reef, Great Barrier Reef

We’ve already planned to go back to Australia because we haven’t managed to fit a few days’ stay in Sydney and its surroundings. We cannot wait to return to this fabulous continent and to also visit Tasmania and nearby New Zealand … we only need to decide when!

Our highlights were:
– Red Centre and the incredible energy radiating from Uluru
– Discovering Aboriginal Art
– The amazing and numerous encounters with the local fauna & wildlife
– A 10 minutes helicopter flight above the Great Barrier Reef

Australian break

Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Anglesea

Text & Photography by Sylvie Drion-Halbin | www.sdh-photo.com  | Instagram: sylviedrion

Queenstown

How to make the most of your visit to Queenstown, NZ

Looking for a holiday destination with staggering beauty, crisp fresh air and plenty to do? Then look no further than Queenstown, a bucket list destination that does not disappoint. Well known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown boasts endless activities on offer as well as great food & wine venues. In addition to the vast array of town centre attractions, you can journey further afield for some fabulous day trips to Wanaka, Glenorchy, Arrowtown, and of course, the World Heritage Fiordland National Park. Yes, you can expect a resort town with a population that swells with plenty of tourists, but the town does deliver a fabulous base for the whole family to explore and enjoy.

Queenstown

Shotover Jet Queenstown

Queenstown sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu with the dramatic Southern Alps as the stunning background. With a permanent population of 30,000, it has a small-town charm with plenty on offer. Queenstown is New Zealand’s top year-round resort town. Expect picture perfect scenery and plenty of excellent cafes, restaurants and entertainment. The hard part is deciding on how to fit everything in!

Queenstown

Queenstown Bike Trail Adam Bryce

Here are some of the key things to do and consider:

Accommodation: 

With a huge variety of accommodations on offer you are spoilt for choice. If you decide to pay the extra to stay in town proper, then don’t bother with a hire car as you have a quick walk to everything. If you are out of the town centre, consider staying in lakeside accommodation. That way you have gorgeous views, as well as quick access to the lakeside walking trail or the water taxi, both of which are a far more pleasant way to get to town without fighting for a car park!

Town activities:

Queenstown is the adventure capital for good reason. Choose from a multitude of heart-racing activities such as: Bungy Jump, Sky Dive, Jet boat rides, Gondola and Luge racing, Hot Air Balloon rides, Zip Lining and White-water Rafting.

Queenstown

Luge Ride Queenstown Julian Apse

Take in the Scenery:

For those of us that prefer to embrace the great outdoors, then consider:  Horse Riding, Hiking, Winery Tours, Bike Tours and don’t forget a scenic flight of the Southern Alps.

Queenstown

Over the Top Helicopters Queenstown

Scenic Drives:

There are some magical short drives from Queenstown. One of the top scenic drives is the 45-minute trip to the historical settlement of Glenorchy. This town is the starting point of many tramping trails as well as being famously featured in the Lord of the Rings films. Another great drive is to Wanaka, a pretty lakeside town at the end of the Haast Pass, and make sure to stop en-route at Cardrona to enjoy a long lunch at the historic Cardrona Hotel.

Queenstown

Cardrona Hotel

Arrowtown Day Trip:

Drive 20 minutes to picturesque Arrowtown and explore the historic Chinese settlement and the main street shops. Then do the 15km bike ride from Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley winery region through the gorgeous countryside on riverside bike trails. Collect hire bikes in Arrowtown and catch a shuttle bus from Gibbston Valley back to your starting point. Choose between standard or electric bikes. The Kawarau River Bungy is also en-route so why not include a bungy jump in your day!

Queenstown

Arrowtown Miles Holden

Make sure to add the Queenstown to your wish list for your next New Zealand holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one area not to be missed. Expect to enjoy a top New Zealand experience!

Uluru

What to do on a 5 day vacation to Uluru…

Are you ready to explore the real heart of Australia? A visit to Uluru or Ayers Rock and the Red Centre never fails to amaze… and an epic adventure is guaranteed!

Rising from the broad desert plain in the deep centre of Australia, Uluru is Australia’s most recognisable natural icon and our most famous UNESCO World Heritage listed site. The famous sandstone monolith stands 348 metres high and, like an iceberg, has most of its bulk below the surface. Uluru dwarfs world-famous icons such as: Big Ben, The Statue of Liberty and The Eiffel Tower. It is at its best at sunrise and sunset when the colours of the desert change and play on the great monolith.

Uluru

Kata Tjuta – Red Centre.
TRUNK magazine campaign.
Photo credit: Akari Hatakeyama and Tourism NT.  

Uluru

Base Walk around Uluru. Photo credit: Shaana McNaught/Tourism NT

Uluru is located 440 kilometres (6-hour drive) south-west of Alice Springs in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Nearby is Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas. This massive pile of rock domes dates back 500 million years. Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta have great cultural significance for the Anangu traditional landowners, who lead walking tours that inform about the local flora and fauna, bush foods and the Aboriginal Australian dreamtime stories of the area.

Uluru

Valley of the Winds, Kata Tjuta, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Photo Credit: Sean Scott/Tourism NT

A must-do is to experience the drive that “joins the dots” between Uluru and Alice Springs. This is a true outback adventure, with plenty of beautiful desert country to enjoy. Make sure to stopover a night at Kings Canyon, or Watarraka National Park. A highlight of Central Australia, this is an enormous chasm that has plenty of lush vegetation and is an important refuge for plants and animals. Make sure to rise early to explore the Kings Canyon rim walk at sunrise.

Uluru

Creek Walk, Kings Canyon. Photo credit: Shaana McNaught/Tourism NT

The panoramic landscapes of the West MacDonnell Ranges lie on the outskirts of Alice Springs. Don’t miss Simpsons Gap which sports a permanent pool and rock wallabies live in the gap’s rocky ridges. Standley Chasm lights up in fiery colours reflected by the overhead sun at midday, and picturesque swimming holes such as Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and Redbank Gorge offer refreshing relief on a scorching day.

Uluru

Ormiston Gorge, West MacDonnell National Park. Photo Credit: Shaana McNaught/Tourism NT

Uluru

Backpackers pull over to take in a spectacular West Mac’s sunset. Photo Credit: Mitchell Cox/Tourism NT

Finish in Alice Springs with an explore of the many amazing local art galleries. This truly is a remarkable drive that captures the very essence of Australia!

Uluru

Mbantua Fine Art Gallery and Cultural Museum, Alice Springs. Photo credit: Shaana McNaught/Tourism NT

Here are some of the key things to do:

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park:

Experience some incredible views whilst learning about the traditional culture. Join the Ranger guided Mala Walk to explore the park’s geology, natural environment and cultural heritage. Do the famous Valley of the Winds walk which explores Kata Tjuta and reveals stunning views of the landscape. Hire a bike, ride a camel, enjoy a very special evening meal with Uluru as your backdrop, do a dot painting workshop and be amazed by the southern night sky.

Uluru

Photo Credit: Sarena Hyland/Tourism NT

Uluru

Uluru, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Photo credit: David Kirkland/Tourism NT

Alice Springs:

Do the nocturnal tour at the Alice Springs Desert Park. Don’t miss the Kangaroo Sanctuary and Reptile Centre. A hot-air balloon ride early morning is a fantastic way to enjoy the local desert scenery. Visit the Royal Flying Doctor service and do a quad bike tour.

Uluru

Alice Springs Reptile Centre, Alice Springs. Photo credit: Shaana McNaught/Tourism NT

Make sure to add Uluru and the Red Centre drive to your wish list for your next Australia holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one to tick off your bucket list!

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park NZ: Key things to see & do

When I think of a holiday to New Zealand, I am not picturing a city escape (sorry Auckland), but rather…spending my time enjoying such stunning natural surrounds as found in the Abel Tasman National Park. Situated on the northern tip of the South Island, this region enjoys a mild climate, plenty of golden sand beaches, turquoise waters, lush native bush, and easy access from both the North Island Ferry Terminal and nearby Nelson Airport.

No Ubers or Didi to be found here…. instead picture a water taxi and a beach picnic. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Abel Tasman National Park

Split Apple Rock Beach in Abel Tasman, South Island New Zealand

At 22,000 hectares the Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national park. It is also the only coastal national park. The Māori people lived along this coast for over 500 years, gathering food from the sea and forest. Today, we can walk in their footsteps and experience the breathtaking beauty of this much-loved park.

Abel Tasman National Park

Nelson, New Zealand Close-Up of Iconic Papa and Rangi Sculpture at Arts Unique, next to the entrance to the Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one of New Zealand’s 9 great walks. The Track hugs the gorgeous coastline, and rewards walkers with magnificent views. Soak up this iconic track by doing a half-day, full day or 3-5 day walk on this 60km coastline stretch.  If a walking adventure is not your thing, then take to the water on a kayak to explore the multitude of bays, inlets and picturesque beach stretches that make it the premier kayaking destination it is. For those of us that like to take it easy, then the water taxi is definetly the way to go. There are 6 coastal points the water taxi can drop you off or collect you after a day exploring the bays or walking part of the track.

Abel Tasman National Park

Fresh River Stream at Wanui Falls in the Mountains of Abel Tasman National Park

Further afield, combine your Abel Tasman visit with some great places close by such as Nelson, an artistic paradise, and of course the Marlborough wine region, NZ’s flagship wine destination. Perhaps stay in a cottage on a vineyard for a few days R&R after your coastal walk?

Here are some of the key things to do:

Abel Tasman Coastal Track:  The highlights include the golden sand beaches, Cleopatra’s pool which is a natural rock pool with a moss-lined water slide. Walk the 47m suspension bridge with views of the beautiful inlet to Falls River. The Coastal Track has tent-camping sites and Department of Conservation huts dotted regularly along its entire length. Bookings are essential for overnight stays. You can choose to walk independently or with a tour provider who can offer a combination of walking and kayaking. For more information please click here

Abel Tasman National Park

A Swinging Rope Bridge in the Abel Tasman National Park

Kayak: You can rent your own kayak and explore under your own steam. Alternatively, book a guided trip which allows you to tap into the knowledge of an experienced local guide and expert kayak instructor. Make sure to visit the seal sanctuary and Split Apple Rock.

Abel Tasman National Park

Kayaking Split Apple Rock

Water Taxi: The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one-way, so for those of us that don’t like back-tracking a water taxi is a perfect way to enjoy the Abel Tasman from a different perspective and return to your starting point. If you are short on time, the water taxi is a great option to get out to a bay for a shorter walk, swim at a secluded beach, enjoy a picnic lunch and back again in a day.

Abel Tasman National Park

Kayak in crystal clear waters, in Abel Tasman National Park

Make sure to add the Abel Tasman National Park region to your wish list for your next New Zealand holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one area not to be missed. Expect to enjoy a top New Zealand experience!

Sydney

Sydney guide: New Year’s Eve & beyond…

Sydney is an enchanting city. Often described as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, its magic lies within the gorgeous Sydney Harbour and the best-known sails of the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney also showcases the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, beautiful beaches, rugged coastlines and a climate that encourages a relaxed outdoor lifestyle. Special to visit at any time of the year, Sydney is a great starting point for your Australia adventure. There are plenty of things to do, with the major event being the amazing New Year’s Eve fireworks display from the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sydney

Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks 2013. View from Kirribilli. Destination NSW

Australia is one of the first countries in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve as the clock ticks to midnight. The Sydney fireworks on the Harbour Bridge are famous worldwide with over 1 billion viewers. It is an unforgettable experience! If you are lucky enough to be in Sydney over that period it is important to plan for the celebrations. Some options for fireworks viewing are to enjoy the fabulous views on a boat in the harbour or wine & dine in a restaurant with harbour views. For those of us that don’t want to splurge our entire holiday savings on one night, there are free vantage points around the harbour if you are prepared to get there early. Another great option is to purchase tickets and get a fantastic view from the Royal Botanic Gardens. This offers brilliant views of both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in a stunning setting. These tickets include a picnic basket and family friendly entertainment. Ticket access is a ballot system, so you need to register. The pre-sale release date is September 10 before the public release on 24 September. Expect tickets to be approx. AUD $350/person. I highly recommend you register for an unforgettable night! Click here to register.

Sydney

Friends enjoy a tour in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. Photo credit: Destination NSW

But of course, there is plenty more to do in Sydney apart from the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Make sure to do a harbour cruise or catch the ferry to Manly, climb the Harbour Bridge or the Pylon Lookout, learn to surf at Bondi Beach, do the Bronte to Bondi coastal walk, allow time for some retail therapy and take a backstage tour at the Sydney Opera House to name a few. You are spoilt for choice in Sydney and the challenge is how to fit it all in! And just to make your decision even more difficult… here are a few more worthy options to consider. These must-dos should be included on everyone’s Sydney bucket list:

Bonza Bike Ride:

Take a 2.5-hour Highlights tour or the 4-hour 17km Classic tour of Sydney. It is an excellent way to start a Sydney holiday… it’s an easy ride through parks, along the harbour, and past all of Sydney’s iconic sites. You’ll get to ride on the world-famous Sydney Harbour Bridge as well! The tour guides make it a fun few hours and it is not too difficult for families. Kids can have a choice of kid’s bikes/trail-alongs or baby seats to make Mum or Dad do all the work!

Sydney

Cycling Tour around Sydney Harbour. Photo credit: Destination NSW

Watsons Bay Ferry & Lunch Combo:

Catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay. Watsons Bay is on the southern head entrance to Sydney Harbour and is Australia’s oldest fishing village. To the east is the Pacific Ocean and to the west is the Harbour with a glorious view of Sydney. Expect waterfront restaurants, great views and walks. Great for a day trip, make sure you enjoy the seafood at Doyles on the Beach for lunch. Savour fresh fish, lobster, prawns and more with views of one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world. Alternatively order some fish and chips from the Doyles kiosk and enjoy watching the kids play at the beach and feed the seagulls. There is also an easy 2-hour walk which includes a scenic hike around South Head featuring beautiful views of Sydney Harbour, the city skyline, the Pacific Ocean, North Head and the historic Hornby Lighthouse. Such a glorious day out!

Sydney

Watsons Bay, Sydney. Photo credit: Destination NSW

Barangaroo Reserve:

Discover a fantastic mix of experiences in Barangaroo, including the newest restaurants, beautiful parkland, shopping and fascinating Indigenous tours. Barangaroo is Sydney’s new waterfront car-free destination. It is the transformation of one of the city’s oldest industrial sites into a spectacular, six-hectare headland open space for all to enjoy. The highlight is a promenade along the harbour foreshore offering uninterrupted water views of Sydney Harbour from Walsh Bay under the shadows of the Harbour Bridge right through to Darling Harbour.

Sydney

Family enjoying a walk through Barangaroo Reserve, Barangaroo. Photo credit: Destination NSW

Sydney is a great starting point for your Australia Holiday. It has the wow-factor in abundance and offers so much to see and do. Sydney is that go-to destination for good reason… it’s the city you have to love. Ask us to include Sydney in your Australia holiday itinerary…

Great Ocean Road

A local’s top tips on the Great Ocean Road

The spectacular Great Ocean Road enables an experience of nature in all its wonder on an 244km epic adventure. This dramatic coastal road begins in Torquay and winds its way westward, hugging the rugged cliffs and beaches of southern Australia through seaside villages and national forests & parks. The start is less than a 2-hour drive from Melbourne, and you could easily allow 3 nights to explore the delights of this world-famous stretch of coastline.
The Great Ocean Road pays homage to serviceman lost in World War 1, and the thousands of returned soldiers who carved the route from rocky cliffs. It is most famous for the Twelve Apostles, the limestone stacks rising out of the Southern Ocean, situated within the Port Campbell National Park right near the end of your journey.

Great Ocean Road

Twelve Apostles, Roberto Seba | 2014

Witness the power of the Southern Ocean as it continues to shape this stunning coastline. You are in for a treat with some magnificent surf and swimming beaches. This is where you will find the home of such iconic surf brands as Ripcurl and Quicksilver. The Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach is where the world’s best surfers compete each Easter in the longest running surf competition in the world.
Do some short walks through the Otway Ranges amongst tall trees, ancient plant life and lush green ferns. Walk among giant tree ferns at Maits Rest, make sure to see the glow worms at Melba Gully, enjoy the impressive Triplet Falls or experience the full beauty of this rainforest paradise on the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk or Zip Line tour.

Great Ocean Road

Great Otway National Park

Native animals abound with opportunities to easily spot the big Red Kangaroos on the Anglesea Golf Course and the colonies of wild Koalas on the Kennett River Koala Walk. Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is an inactive volcano that offers self-guided nature walks and plenty of wildlife viewing.

Great Ocean Road

Juvenile Eastern Grey Kangaroo

The Great Ocean Road is more than a drive, it is a feast of magnificent nature that is not-to-be-missed. Here are some of the key things to visit & do:

Torquay:

The home of the surfing industry and the iconic surf-brands, Rip Curl & Quicksilver. If you are keen on getting the latest in surf gear, then make sure to visit the Surf City precinct where you will find all the surf brands latest retail outlets. Pop around the corner to grab a bargain at the Surf factory outlet stores selling last season’s discounted stock. Take a surf lesson, enjoy a tasty lunch or coffee at Café Moby or try out the local ales at Blackmans Brewery.

Great Ocean Road

Rip Curl, Torquay

Anglesea:

11km before you hit Anglesea make a pit-stop at the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. A definite foodie delight! A must-see is to visit the Anglesea Golf Course to view the large group of kangaroos that call it home. Best seen in the morning or late afternoon.

Lorne:

Wander this charming seaside township with its picturesque beach and huge gum trees lining the bay. Lorne has a range of cafes, restaurants and boutiques. Take a walk to the back of town where you will find Qdos Arts Gallery. Situated amid lush rainforest, explore the sculpture garden, contemporary gallery or simply enjoy a light meal at the café. Catch a new-release movie at the grand Art Deco Theatre that shows daily in Summer. A great short walk is Erskine Falls, a 30-metre cascading waterfall just 10km inland from Lorne.

Great Ocean Road

Lorne vista

Kennett River:

Make sure you do the Kennett River Koala Walk – one of the all-time favourite activities on the Great Ocean Road. Relax and enjoy the peace and beauty of the bush as you wind your way along the Grey River Road through Koala popular gum forest and into the dense Otway Rainforest. A great place to see koalas in their natural habitat.

Great Ocean Road

Koalas, Kennett River

Port Campbell National Park:

Discover this remarkable stretch of coastline which includes the extraordinary collection of wave-sculptured rock formations such as the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge. Stunning at sunset.

Great Ocean Road

Twelve Apostles at sunset

Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve:

Meet Koalas, Emus, Kangaroos and many species of waterbirds roaming freely in Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, which sits inside an extinct volcano. There are plenty of short walks to explore this ideal place to experience the Australian bush, enjoy magnificent scenery and get up close and personal with some of Australia’s most iconic native birds and animals.

Great Ocean Road

Tower Hill Nature Reserve

The Great Ocean Road is a must-visit destination for those of us that enjoy the great outdoors. It is a triple win of magnificent beaches, pristine rainforests and getting up close and personal with the native wildlife. Ask us to include the Great Ocean Road in your Australia holiday itinerary…

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park New Zealand: An insider’s guide

Tongariro National Park is a 4.5-hour drive south of Auckland. It is located deep in the centre of the North Island New Zealand. Why bother to go there? Tongariro National Park is part of the North Island’s Central Plateau and is New Zealand’s oldest national park and a dual World Heritage area. This status recognizes the park’s important Maori culture and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features.

The park has three active volcanoes: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in “The Lord of the Rings” films) and Ruapehu with its ski slopes. All three volcanoes are very much alive, with Mount Tongariro erupting as recently as August 2012.

Expect a diverse landscape of steaming craters, old lava flows and thermal lakes. The mountains of this national park have deep spiritual significance for the Maori people. The lower slopes of the mountains are blanketed with forest where alpine herbs, tussocks and low-growing shrubs provide a habitat for many native birds. In summer, at Whakapapa, you can catch scenic chairlift rides and do a guided hike to Ruapehu’s Crater Lake.

 

Tongariro National Park

Active volcano cone of Mount Ngauruhoe as seen from Mount Tongariro in Tongariro National Park, North Island of New Zealand”

So, for all you outdoor nature buffs out there, make sure Tongariro National Park is on your hit-list. It’s just south of Great Lake Taupo and Rotorua. A must-do is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and for those not game for a full day-hike there are shorter walks to enjoy. Plenty of activities on offer and some great lodges to stay in make this a perfect 2+ night stay.  Expect to enjoy a top New Zealand experience!

Here are some of the key things to do:

Tongariro Alpine Crossing:

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is regarded as the best one-day hike in New Zealand and is considered to be in the top 10 one day hikes in the world! Allow 7-8 hours and expect to see spectacular volcanic terrain sights as well as cold mountain springs, possible lava flows, an active crater, steam vents, emerald coloured lakes and magnificent views. This is a must-see and a truly memorable experience. The freedom hiking season runs from October to May

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Taranaki Falls:

Take a 2-hour return walk from within the Tongariro National Park through beech forest to view one of the most impressive and beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand

Tongariro National Park

Taranaki Fall at Tongariro National park, New Zealand

White-water Rafting:

Have some fun with either a half or full-day white-water rafting adventure on Tongariro River. Expect lots of laughs and crystal-clear waters surrounded by native bush. Fun for the whole family!

Tongariro National Park

Fly-Fishing:

Turangi is the trout fly-fishing capital of New Zealand and only 10 minutes’ drive from Tongariro National Park. Turangi offers a unique experience for all fisherman, beginner or seasoned. Visit the feisty Tongariro rivers and fight your own brown or rainbow trout during their annual migration or test your skills in the smaller local wild streams or on Lake Taupo itself

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park is a must-visit destination for those of us that enjoy pristine nature and the great outdoors. Ask us to include Tongariro National Park in your New Zealand holiday itinerary…

Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay & Fraser Island: 4 great reasons to visit!

Just under 4 hours drive north of Brisbane you will find Hervey Bay. This town is an aquatic paradise with a picturesque Esplanade, a vibrant Marina, plenty of cafes/shops and attractions to explore. The mild temperatures of this region mean that the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay are perfect for year-round swimming, sailing, water-sports, diving & fishing. But that is not all!

Hervey Bay

Credit: Jewelszee Photograhy/Tourism and Events Queensland

Hervey Bay is best known as the whale watching capital of Australia. It is a hotspot for Humpback whales to breed and enjoy the calm waters of the Bay. It is their rest stop on their annual migration north. This is their play time, and so it is a great opportunity to enjoy an up-close whale encounter as they are typically in a relaxed mood, and their inquisitive nature means they’ll often approach the boats of their own free will.

Hervey Bay

Whale Watching Hervey Bay. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland

Off the coast from Hervey Bay is Fraser Island. This is the world’s largest sand Island, and World Heritage listed for good reason. The 120km-long island stretch boasts a range of sights, colours and features that make it very special: sprawling sand dunes famous for their multicoloured hues, numerous inland freshwater lakes, lush forested areas and distinctive wildlife. Fraser Island is an eco-tourism adventure with no major towns or developments. It is protected for all to enjoy the wonders of Fraser Island.

Hervey Bay

Lake Mackenzie Water, Fraser Island. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Hervey Bay also boasts easy access to the southern-most tip of the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef. After only a 40-minute scenic flight you arrive at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, a pristine coral cay island. Enjoy a day of snorkelling and exploring the amazing sights of the Great Barrier Reef.

Hervey Bay

Lady Elliot Island – Snorkelling on The Great Barrier Reef. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

There are many good reasons to visit Hervey Bay. This region is easily accessed from Brisbane and it delivers many nature-based activities that make it a very special part of Queensland & Australia to explore!

Here are some of the key things to do:

Whale Watch:

Hervey Bay is the #1 spot to see the magnificent Humpback whales during July to the end of October. See their playful antics on a half or full day cruise. Swimming with whales is also an option!

 

Hervey Bay

Dolphins/Turtles:

Get up close and personal with some playful dolphins and catch a 4-hour cruise in sheltered Bay. Join a tour that enables you to snorkel in the Great Sandy Marine Park and see plenty of fish, turtles, dolphins and possibly dugongs. Travel an hour south to Tin Can Bay and you can feed wild dolphins at 8am daily.

Hervey Bay

Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Fraser Island:

This is a must…as only 30km off-shore or a 45 min ferry ride. As only 4wd vehicles are allowed on the island there are plenty of tour operators to choose from departing Hervey Bay. Take a one-day tour that explores the many amazing natural sites on this World Heritage listed Island.

Hervey Bay

Seventy Five Mile Beach. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland/Darren Jew

The great outdoors:

You are spoilt for choice with some fantastic beaches, hikes and walks to be had. Stroll along the Urangan Pier, which stretches almost 1 kilometre into the ocean. The Esplanade offers some great beach walks. Consider hiring a kayak, paddle board or try kite surfing.

Hervey Bay

Central Station, Fraser Island. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Hervey Bay and Fraser Island combine to deliver a fantastic holiday destination with an aquatic paradise and a huge offering of animal/nature experiences to enjoy. Ask us to include Hervey Bay/Fraser Island in your Queensland holiday itinerary…