Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims & The Bellarine Peninsula

For a hands-down most fun thing to do with your family make sure to do the Dolphin & Seal Swim. Just 30 minutes from the start of the Great Ocean Road and 1.5 hours from Melbourne, Sea All Dolphin Swims operates from the historic town of Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. This is a nature-based experience that you simply won’t forget!

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

But here’s a warning… this is not a Seaworld attraction experience. All animals are completely wild, and the experiences are totally impromptu…

Dolphin Swims

Dolphins at play

The swim tour:

Takes 3.5 hours, and you get to meet the local residents of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park… most notably colourful fishes, Australian Fur Seals and of course, the Burranan or Bottlenose Dolphins. You can do as much or as little as you like in these shallow and protected waters. Learn to snorkel, then swim with both the Seals and Dolphins or simply watch from your spot on the boat or the boom net if you prefer…

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

Australian Fur Seals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I gotta tell you it’s a lot of fun sitting in the boom net watching the dolphins & humans at play !

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

Since a recent ban on commercial fishing in the Bay has been introduced you can expect a 95% success rate with Dolphin sightings. Sea All Dolphin Swims offer a nice small group with a maximum of 35 guests onboard. If you are wondering about your young ones swimming, then let them decide. They will be well coached and supported on the day. Swimming is open to all ages.

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

The Dolphins:

Dolphin Swims

The dolphins are the stars of the show and they love to frolic in the boat’s wake. They are both social and intelligent, and it is SO much fun to be with them in the water. Sea All Dolphin Swims prides themselves on ensuring that their guests have an engaging and altogether unforgettable experience. So, make sure to add this to your wish list!

Good to know:

The swim tour is based at Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. Queenscliff is a port with a car/passenger ferry which connects one side of the Bay to the other.

Queenscliff-Sorrento Ferry

The ferry is an excellent way to connect your stays on The Great Ocean Road to Phillip Island or the Yarra Valley and beyond. But whilst you are in Queenscliff take time to also explore the wider Bellarine Peninsula by visiting the local wineries, farmgates and the Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary at Barwon Heads.

The Whiskery on the Bellarine Peninsula. Chris McConville

Wine from Jack Rabbit

Seafood on the Bellarine Peninsula

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Update: Australia’s Bushfire recovery

Record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have fuelled a series of massive horror bushfires across Australia in the summer months of 2019-2020. The areas most affected were southern NSW, far eastern Victoria and Kangaroo Island in South Australia. At least 33 people have been killed – including four firefighters – and more than 11 million hectares (110,000 sq.km/27.2 million acres) of bush, forest and parks across these regions of Australia has burned. Up to 2,000 homes have been lost. More than 1 billion mammals, birds, and reptiles likely lost their lives in the blazes. Smoke pollution from the fires reached New Zealand over 1,000 miles away.

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Source: NSW Rural Fire Service / Victoria Country Fire Authority, 31 Jan/bbc.com

These are very sad facts indeed…

And what has happened since? The rains have helped contain many of the worst fires in February 2020. The ongoing incredible generosity from individuals, groups, organisations both from local and global communities has helped with Australia’s bushfire recovery. The Australian Government has sprung into action with a dedicated effort. There have been many bushfire relief concerts ranging from events at the local hotels to International stars such as Katy Perry & Mylie Cyrus announcing their support with upcoming concerts. Community fundraisers abound.

These efforts and events all signal a collective hope. Hope that we can make a difference. Support those directly affected. And in the words of our National Bushfire Recovery Agency it’s all about……Relief. Recovery. Regenerate.

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Darren Donlen – Nature and Wildlife 2019

Here is a quick look at some of the amazing bushfire recovery initiatives & stories:

Aces for Bushfire Relief:

Tennis stars from across the world joined forces at the Melbourne Australian Open in January to help the victims of Australia’s bushfires by turning aces into donations. The Aces for Bushfire Relief campaign encouraged the public to pledge a donation for every ace served by their favourite tennis player. An amazing 11,058 aces were served over the duration of the Australian Open with a total of AUD $5.8 million raised.

Australian Open

Blaze Aid:

Blaze Aid is a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods. The volunteers work alongside the rural families and help to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed.

Wildlife Help:  

A Victorian man put his own life on the line to help save koalas that have been impacted by the bushfire crisis in East Gippsland. After fire tore through the eucalyptus forest in Mallacoota, Patrick Boyle ventured into the still-smouldering bush to save the lives of the vulnerable marsupials. The 22-year-old said he just wanted to do his part after seeing everyone rally around one another. https://9now.nine.com.au/today/victoria-fires-mallacoota-local-puts-life-on-line-to-save-koalas/f20708ae-b97f-4815-a2b9-7099e0859816 

 

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Darren Donlen – Nature and Wildlife 2019

Spend with Them:

A number of incredible new initiatives have been launched on Instagram showcasing the abundance of small businesses in bushfire-affected communities, encouraging Aussies to spend their money at places that need it the most. It’s a way to put money directly in the pockets of these fire-affected businesses & service providers. #spendwiththem, #buyfromthebush, #emptyesky

Firefighters:

After saving countless homes and lives in this hellish bushfire season, firefighters can now look forward to a free cruise as a reward. Over 7000 volunteer first responders will enjoy a luxury 4-night cruise compliments of Royal Caribbean International. https://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/national/free-luxury-cruise-for-bushfire-first-responders/news-story/6c4386b73e327a866ae516f5af7bfbe5

 

Travel Local:  

A new campaign has been launched to encourage visitors to support the communities who need our help by visiting and staying awhile. While donations have flooded in from around the world, the number of tourists visiting has dropped by 80 per cent in some regions compared to the same time last year. The campaign is focused on the regions hardest hit. By booking a trip to these regions we can all help the local economy and pump much-needed funds back into towns that need tourist dollars to survive. #DontDelayYourStay.

Byron Bay

Be amazed by Byron Bay!

Byron Bay. What is all the fuss about? It has a lot to do with the hugely independent and creative character of the community. Of course, there are the stunning beaches and pristine coastline. Not to mention the magnificent hinterland with many National Parks to explore. The town is all about being clean and green. And yes, let’s not forget Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor in the Avengers) has chosen to call this coastal town home.

Byron Bay

The Pass Stairway. Tourism Australia.

In the past Byron Bay was known for its whaling station and as a surfing mecca. These days it’s a bohemian town on the global map with over two million visitors each year. Don’t expect high-rise towers overshadowing the beaches, franchise shops and shopping centres in this northern NSW coastal town. If you want that drive 40 minutes up the road to the Gold Coast. Byron is loved because of the nature and low-rise feel of the town. With the choice of two airports within a 40-minute drive, and the Brisbane International Airport only two hours north, Byron Bay is easily accessible. So, if you enjoy nature walks, beaches, buying locally organic food from the farmers market and treating yourself to the local day spa then Byron Bay is your town.

Byron Bay

Person walking to Minyon Falls. Tourism Australia.

Here are some of the key things to do:

Explore the Beaches:

Byron Bay has a plethora of gorgeous beaches to choose from… all blessed with white sands, plenty of waves and resident dolphins. They enjoy the waves just as much as we do! Main beach/Clarkes beach are in the town centre or take a picnic and wander to beautiful Wategos or Little Wategos Beach for a spell. Otherwise make time to wander through Arakwal National Park to Cosy Corner and Tallows Beach. We enjoyed a close encounter with a Wallaby and her Joey in the National Park before we walked the long expanse of Tallows Beach.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay Lighthouse views of Tallows Beach. Tourism Australia.

Cape Byron Walking Track:

Visit the most easterly point of mainland Australia at the Cape Byron Lighthouse. This loop track is 3.7km and takes roughly 2 hours. Lots of great bush & water views with plenty of steps and stops on the way. Tip – don’t walk back on the road but instead take in the Tallows Beach return route as it’s much nicer. Aim for Sunrise or Sunset for the best photos.

Byron Bay

People watching the Sunrise at Cape Byron Lighthouse . Tourism Australia

Get out on the water:

Byron Bay is all about the beach so make sure you take it all in. One great option is to do a kayak tour to see the dolphins and whales (in season). It’s alot of fun, and the bonus was sighting Loggerhead turtles and kayak surfing back to shore. You can also snorkel or dive at Julian Rocks marine reserve. Alternatively, consider a surf lesson for the whole family.

Byron Bay

Kayaking in the Ocean. Tourism Australia.

Food/Retail with a difference:

Byron Bay definitely has a creative vibe that is evident through the food and retail scene. The wide variety of independent shops makes for a solid afternoon’s explore and there are plenty of regular markets featuring local artisan works as well as fresh produce. The variety and breadth of restaurants & cafes is fantastic. Don’t forget to explore the Arts & Industry Estate which features the local Stone & Wood Brewery.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay Streetscape. Tourism Australia.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary:

Based on the Gold Coast, and only a 50-minute drive from Byron Bay, this native wildlife sanctuary is a good option for those members of the family who want to cuddle a Koala. The law allows you to hold a koala in Queensland, but you cannot in New South Wales. The Sanctuary offers several sessions daily where you can join in to learn more about koalas and hold one at the end of the session.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Tourism & Events Queensland.

Make the time to visit Byron Bay & surrounds. Discover what is special about the area…it won’t disappoint! It’s always nice to get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the local community and enjoy this lovely coastal town.

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Discover the Sunshine Coast Hinterland…

Rainforests. Waterfalls. Crystal-clear rockpools for swimming. Local fresh produce. Hmm….sounds good doesn’t it? The Sunshine Coast Hinterland in southern Queensland offers a picturesque break from the endless beaches and water activities of the famous Sunshine Coast. Why not shift your gaze inland for some mountain fresh air and stunning vistas?

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Glass House Mountain views. Photo: Joint TA/TEQ

The Sunshine Coast Hinterland is only a 30-minute drive inland from the coast or 1:30 hours north of Brisbane. So, it’s very easy to do as a daytrip or stay awhile to really explore all the fantastic activities the area offers. A true self-drive destination, the Hinterland is dominated by the many National Parks and the 3 main towns of Maleny, Montville and Mapleton. It’s all about taking time out to enjoy the fantastic array of local produce at the country markets, visiting the dairy & cheese purveyors, admiring the art at the local galleries and craft studios, enjoying some local wines or beers with fantastic views and of course not forgetting plenty of hikes and spotting wildlife in the National Parks.

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Montville. Photo Tourism & Events QLD

Blessed with a sub-tropical climate you can expect an average temperature of 28 degrees in summer and 20 degrees in winter. No extreme weather for the Sunshine Coast Hinterland which is perfect for picking a half-day or full-day section of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland great walk route or planning a picnic at Baroon Pocket Dam. If you are looking for a break from the buzz of the Sunshine Coast, then the Hinterland is the perfect peaceful escape. Here are some of the key things to do:

Chase Waterfalls: 

The Sunshine Coast Hinterland has plenty to choose from, but the top 3 would have to be:  Kondalilla Falls – Located north of Montville these falls are found in the heart of the Kondalilla Falls National Park. The Kondalilla Falls circuit is a 4.7km walk and to reach them enjoy a bushwalk through rainforest to a picturesque rockpool at the top of the falls. Gardners Falls – One of the prettiest waterways in Australia. There are freshwater rock pools perfect for splashing about, with the largest pool for swimming found underneath the falls. Mapleton Falls – The most impressive of them all as the falls plunge 120m. The Mapleton Falls Lookout is actually above the falls itself.

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Mapleton Falls. Photo Tourism & Events QLD

Glass House Mountains:

The Glass House Mountains National Park is not-to-be missed. Remnants of volcanic activity from many millions of years ago, the mountains stand proud in an awe-inspiring landscape. Start with a stop at the Glass House Mountains visitor centre, a great way to get a good orientation of the area. Make sure to stop at picturesque lookouts, or get your heart pumping with some hiking, rock-climbing or abseiling.

Abseiling. Photo Tourism & Events QLD

Blackall Range Tourist Drive: 

Arguably the most scenic of the Sunshine Coast drives, the Blackall Range Tourist Drive takes you through a number of quiet little townships nestled up in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, enjoying amazing views of the valleys below and the coast off in the distance. Rising up over 500 metres above sea level you will find that the air is cooler, the grass is greener, and the local produce is fresh and tasty. Wander through the many art galleries, sample the local produce at the boutique wineries, cafes & restaurants, do some rainforest walks, meet the locals at the markets and you’ll even find a traditional cheese factory.

Goats, Maleny Dairies. Photo Tourism & Events QLD

Nature Lovers Paradise:

For lush rainforests, pretty waterfalls, crystal-clear rockpools for swimming, plenty of wildlife and picturesque hikes you are spoilt for choice in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.  Kondalilla National Park is a refuge for native wildlife and plants.  For unspoilt mountain scenery visit Conondale National Park. Mapleton Falls National Park has the most impressive waterfall. The Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve has 55 hectares of subtropical rainforest and a great rainforest walk.

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Obi Obi Creek. Photo: Queensland Government

Take the time to visit the Sunshine Coast Hinterland when in the area. Make a point to discover what is special about both the Sunshine Coast and the hinterland. It’s always nice to get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the local community!

Kaikoura

4 Must-do’s in stunning Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura is one of a few places in the world that can boast stunning nature on both land and sea. Just a little over 2 hours drive north of Christchurch on the South Island, this small coastal town is where the mountains meet the sea. The Kaikoura mountain ranges are the northern-most part of the Southern Alps and are such an impressive sight…snow-capped in winter and they frame the Kaikoura village to the Pacific Ocean. The scenery is simply awe-inspiring.

In addition, the Kaikoura coastal waters provide a unique habitat for marine life. Just 800 metres off the coast lies the submarine Kaikōura Canyon which provides a constant rich food chain for the local population of Sperm Whales, Dolphins, Seals, Albatross and Penguins. The waters are a protected marine sanctuary for the many who call Kaikoura home. Kaikoura is an absolute must visit for wildlife lovers and marine encounters!

Kaikoura

Whale Fin, Kaikoura. Photo: Miles Holden

So it is easy to see why Kaikoura offers many compelling reasons for any tourist to visit this pretty amazing region. Its location is on the well-worn coastal path between Christchurch and Marlborough Sounds. The town caters well for the wide range of marine & land activities. There is a huge variety of accommodation options ranging from luxury lodges, glass pods set in the stunning landscape, motels & a very unique farm-stay. Lose yourself in the landscape, walks, marine activities and whale watching. The hard part is deciding on how to fit everything in!

Here are some of the key things to do:

Whale Watch:

Kaikoura is best known for their giant sperm whales. Whale watching cruises run all year. With a 95% chance of spotting a whale, it is an absolute must-do and a great way to meet the whales up close! Minimum age is 3 years and tour duration 3 hours.

Kaikoura

Whale, Kaikoura

Swim with Dolphins/Seals:

Catch a tour to swim or watch the local resident Dusky Dolphins. It’s a fun activity that will hold special memories! Minimum age is 8 years for swimming or 3 years to watch. Tour duration is 3 hours. Alternatively, why not snorkel with wild NZ fur seals? Recently listed as one of the world’s ‘Top 10 Marine Encounters’ by Lonely Planet. Tours run daily over the summer months.

Kaikoura

Dolphin Swim, Kaikoura. Photo: Miles Holden

Kaikoura

Dolphin Watch, Kaikoura. Photo: Graeme Murray

Kayak with Seals:

Kayaking is a great way to explore the marine environment and be closer to the stars of the show, the local playful fur seals. You will also have chance encounters with dolphins, penguins and albatross. Discover the magnificent marine life of Kaikoura! Participate in a guided tour with a maximum of 8 persons. 3-hour duration.

Nature Walks:

There are a number of easy walks that deliver plenty of wildlife and natural wilderness. Firstly, walk the 3-hour Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. It’s a great way to observe seals & seabirds as well as enjoy the amazing views. The Ōhau Point Seal Colony is not-to-be-missed. Expect hundreds of Seals and their Pups. Finally, don’t forget the Ōhau waterfall walk. A great chance to enjoy the waterfall views as well as see Seal Pups sunning themselves on the rocks.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura. Photo: Miles Holden

Other activities:

Kaikoura has plenty of alternative options once you have exhausted your marine wildlife activities. Catch the Coastal Pacific Train to Picton or Christchurch. If you love seafood, then feast on fresh crayfish from many of the local restaurants. You can enjoy some quad bike riding with amazing views, go fishing, visit the local Lavender Farm, catch a sheep-shearing session, meet the extraordinary Albatross seabirds up close or visit the Farmer’s Market to chat to the locals and enjoy the fresh produce.

Kaikoura

Nins Bin, Kaikoura. Photo: Graeme Murray

Kaikoura

Crayfish, Kaikoura. Photo: Graeme Murray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make sure to add Kaikoura 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!

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.

Australian break

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Australian break

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.

Australian break

Cape Otway Lighthouse, Great Ocean Road

Australian break

Koala, Great Ocean Road

Australian break

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

Australian break

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.

Australian break

Uluru Sunset

Australian break

Kata Tjuta

Australian break

Aboriginal Rock Art

Australian break

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.

Australian break

Australia 4×4 drive

Australian break

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.

Australian break

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!