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!

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.

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Cape Otway Lighthouse, Great Ocean Road

Australian break

Koala, Great Ocean Road

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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

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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.

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

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!

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…

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…

things to do in sydney

Escape to the Hawkesbury River for a brilliant day on the water!

Our family recently enjoyed a winter mini-break in Sydney. We had visited Sydney several times before and explored most of the highlights. This time our highlight was a day on the Hawkesbury River kayaking. It was a pleasure to get active and enjoy the great outdoors so close to Sydney!

 

Hawkesbury River

Parsley Bay

The Hawkesbury River:

Is an easy 1-hour train journey from the city, and the tranquil hamlet of Brooklyn is the gateway.  Brooklyn is a good place to grab a coffee and consider your options for how to explore the river. The Hawkesbury River is a breath of fresh air that flows past riverside towns into bays and inlets between the Ku-ring-gai Chase and Brisbane Water National parks. The Hawkesbury River is navigable for over 100 kilometres. You could cruise and explore these waters for weeks and still not discover it all! Spend a day hiking, boating, kayaking or enjoy an overnight anchorage in a hired boat or a waterfront B&B and wake up to the call of Kookaburras, Whip Birds, Sea Eagles and the lapping of the tides.

Here are some of the key things to do:

Kayak:

An easy and fun way to explore! You can hire either a single or double canoe, and paddle for a half or full day, or overnight and camp in the National parks. We did a 20-minute paddle to Dangar Island, had lunch at the Bowling Club, then paddled another 20 minutes to an inlet at the base of Tank Creek. Did a 1 hour bushwalk to the cascades & waterfalls with an incredible natural infinity pool that looks directly over the stunning Hawkesbury. We then returned to Brooklyn after an amazing day on the kayaks.

Hawkesbury River   

Hawkesbury River

Tank Creek Infinity Pool

   

Dangar Island:

Has a regular ferry service. No cars on the island, so it is very peaceful! Wheelbarrows are the main mode of transport for moving shopping from the jetty to home. The Dangar Island Bowling Club is the local watering hole and the place to have a meal during the weekend. Bradley’s Beach is on the southeast side of the island and is an excellent swimming beach on high tide. At low tide, the beach becomes the perfect place for the kids to play in ‘river mud’.

The Riverboat Postman:

Enjoy a historic 3-hour postman boat run on the Hawkesbury. This daily service delivers mail and other essentials whilst you soak up the magnificent scenery of the Hawkesbury.

Houseboat Hire:

A great way to explore at your leisure in the comfort of your own houseboat. Swim at secluded beaches, fish or just relax with a good book. Minimum 2-night hire outside of peak periods.

Hawkesbury River

Take a day out of your Sydney visit to enjoy a kayak on the magnificent Hawkesbury River. It is off the beaten path, easy to access, and really is a stunning excursion that does deliver on a great outdoor experience! Ask us to include the Hawkesbury in your Australia holiday itinerary…

Down under Australia

Down Under Australia Holiday

Down Under Australia Holiday by Sylvaine Djafarian

If you’ve dreamed of traveling down under to Australia for a holiday, but baulked at the distances and time zones to cross from your native Europe or America, perhaps your time in China is the perfect opportunity to go.

After each business trip in Australia, my husband kept telling us how beautiful this country was, and how friendly Aussies were. So, knowing that this might be our last year in Shanghai, and that from Europe, the trip would be much more complicated and expensive, we decided to spend the whole Christmas holidays there.

We had a few wishes: diving and snorkeling, beaches and nature, with two children aged five and seven, who are not used to long hikesand Australia fulfilled them all!

To the Apple Isle

Echidna Down Under AustraliaOur first taste of Tasmania, Australia’s southern island state, was an evening stroll around the harbor and enjoying delicious grilled meat. The next morning, we picked up our rental car in the city center, and drove to Port Arthur. Driving (on the left!) is a very convenient way to visit Tasmania, either with a car or campervan.

We were all eager to meet the local star, the Tasmanian devil, so our first stop was at the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park, between Hobart and Port Arthur. After seeing a female and her young having lunch, we understood why the Warner Bros Looney Tunes animated cartoons portrayed this marsupial as Taz, a carnivore with a great appetite! We also learnt that the Tasmanian devil is now an endangered species, because of a very contagious dis-ease, its illegally introduced predator the red fox, and road accidents.

Tasmania Devil Down Under AustraliaWe then spent an afternoon in Port Arthur, an open air museum and UNESCO world heritage site, which used to be a penal colony in the 19th century. History is vividly rendered through exhibitions, stories about the British and Irish convicts and their hard lives, and inspired guides offering tours of the remaining buildings. Some convicts were as young as nine, something that made our children thoughtful

From the South-East we drove to the West Coast, through impressive National Parks preserving the Tasmanian Wilderness Area. We traveled on the West Coast Wilderness Railway, a restoration of an original steam train carrying copper from Queens-town mines to the port at Strahan, and stopping at the stations along the line, we discovered the rainforest, the Huon pines, and even panned for goldwith no success!

Our favorite activity was the Bonnet Island Experience: cruising on a small boat to a tiny island just before dusk, listening to stories about the island and its lighthouse before enjoying a plate of delicious local cheese on the boat, and going back to the island at night to see its inhabitants, about 40 Little Penguins, returning to their burrows to feed their hungry and noisy chicks.

On the day long road trip crossing Tasmania from West to East, we took several short walks in the Cradle Mountain National Park, and saw echidnas and pademelons , the kangaroo’s smaller cousin. The countryside offers a great variety of landscapes, beautiful mountains and colorful vegetation.

We ended our Tasmanian trip in Bicheno, where we spent a day in Freycinet National Park, enjoying turquoise waters, white sand beaches and pink granites rocks. The best part for our kids was stroking a friendly kangaroo .in the parking lot! He was busy eating the apple a visitor gave him, despite all the do not feed the animals signs. My husband also joined the diving center for a dive among beautiful weedy sea dragons (marine fish related to the seahorse).

Tasmania is often skipped by travelers who prefer to concentrate on Australia’s mainland, but for us it was a wonderful oasis of nature, amazing animals, varied landscapes within relatively short driving range, and very friendly people.

Heron Island Down Under Australia

To the Tropics

From Australia’s most southern point, we flew north, to the coral cay of Heron Island near the Tropic of Capricorn, in Queensland. The island is about 800m long and 300m at its widest. Its eastern half is part of a National Park. Discovered in 1843, it wasn’t inhabited until the early 20th century when a turtle cannery was established. It is now shared by a resort, a reef research station, and tens of thousands of birds during the breeding season, from October to April.

Don’t expect a 5-star luxury resort, be careful of the Noddy terns droppings over your heads, and bring your ear plugs for the night, but if you love nature, diving and snorkeling, this is a great place for a few days. We took reef walks, searching in the shallows for starfish, sea cucumber, small sharks, shells, and a wide array of corals.

The forest walks revealed where the ghoulish screams at night came from: the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters feeding their chicks after a day of fishing. There is also a great Junior Ranger Club for kids over seven years which our daughter loved. She had fun, and learnt everything about the sea, its inhabitants, its dangers, and why we need to protect our environment.

Unfortunately, the weather was not the best. The trip between Gladstone and the island was a nightmare, the sea was rough, and we were all sick. Poor visibility and strong currents only allowed limited diving and snorkeling, however, from the beach, we saw stingrays, a school of young reef sharks, and parrot fish. We also were lucky to see sea turtles nesting during walks at dusk, and even once at 11am, which was quite unusual, but allowed us to take photos. Last but not least, our children still talk about the arrival of Santa Claus on a boat !

Down Under Australia

To the City

Sydney is a capital city that epitomizes Australia’s relaxing lifestyle. Our hotel, over-looking Hyde Park, was the perfect starting point to explore Darling Harbour, the beautiful Botanic Gardens, the Opera House
(where we attended the musical Children Show Hairy Maclary and Friends booked 2 months before), and visit Taronga Zoo by ferry from Circular Quay.

We did not suffer from the heat on the East Coast nor in Sydney, apparently weather was cooler than usual, with Australia still waiting for the summer to begin.

The highlight of our stay in Sydney was New Year’s Eve overlooking the harbor. After discovering that we could not access the main harbor area of Circular Quay, we walked to the Observatory Gardens, the perfect place to enjoy the Family Fireworks at 9pm. An unforgettable show, both in the sky, and also on the streets, with a mix of tourists in shorts and T-shirts, and locals in evening dresses and high heels.

Three weeks were not enough. We will have to go back for Melbourne, the outback, Uluru, more beautiful beaches, and all the other amazing places Australia offers.

Useful Tips:

  • Tasmania: Best season (December to March) usually has daytime temperatures ranging around 20-22 degrees Celsius. Early December, it was colder, pack some warm clothes.
  • Heron Island: best season (October to April) has daytime temperatures ranging around 28-30 degrees Celsius, and no jellyfish in the sea during Christmas time. Note that all boat trips are only for adults and kids older than 8.
  • If you are planning to spend New Year’s Eve in Sydney book well in advance.
  • Food and accommodation in Australia are expensive, so try to book family rooms with cooking
    facilities to avoid always going to restaurants.
  • Contact Australia Expat Travel for local knowledge and good information. www.ausxpattravel.com.au; [email protected]
Australia

Travel Down Under Australia is a fabulous holiday with variety and fun for the whole family.

Our Australia Holiday By Amy Mellinger

One of my lifelong dreams has been to visit Australia. Its distance from my home country (the U.S.), its natural beauty and those fabulous accents have long captured my imagination.

Last December we took our dream vacation. My husband, three children (ages 8, 10 and 14) and I boarded the 10-hour overnight flight and awoke in Sydney to begin our Australian adventure.

Sydney

We made Darling Harbour, a neighboring inlet of Sydney Harbour, our base in Sydney and it was ideal for both beauty and convenience. From our hotel, the Grand Mercure, we were within a walk or short cab ride from numerous restaurants and activities. On our first day we took a ferry across Sydney Harbour to the Sydney Zoo. The ferry ride was an attraction itself, with its views of Sydney’s most famous landmarks, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Our favorite exhibit was the area dedicated to Australia’s native wildlife specifically the koalas and kangaroos. But the zoo’s biggest highlight isn’t zoological at all it’s the awe-inspiring vistas. The Sydney Zoo sits on a prime piece of real estate and the views from the summit are stunning. The next day my husband and two older children woke up early for the wildly popular Bridge Climb. They were so excited they couldn’t get out the door fast enough. The Bridge Climb is a three and a half hour guided climb along catwalks and ladders all the way to the summit of the Harbour Bridge, 134 meters above the water. It’s so popular that my husband booked the climb a month before our trip (the minimum age is 10). When they returned they reported the experience was awesome and not too difficult. Even our 10 year old, who was a little nervous, returned all smiles.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Australia

Claire(11), Charlie (14) Mellinger do the Bridge Climb 123 meters above the water to Harbour Bridge in Sydney

Later that afternoon we sought out more adventure on the jet boats. The boats take you on a roller coaster-like ride around the harbor at speeds up to 80 kilometers/hour. Tour operators abound at each harbor. We loved ride but be warned it does get rough and you’ll get wet very wet if you sit in the back row as we did (children must be at least 1.3 meters to ride).

We spent our last day at Manly Beach, seven miles northeast of Sydney and just a ferry ride from Sydney Harbour. We chose Manly as surf shops on the beach offer surfing lessons (try the Manly Surf School which offers lessons for all ages). A two-hour lesson is 55 AUD for adults and 45 AUD for children. My husband and the kids took a lesson while I relaxed on the beach. Afterwards, my youngest, who was wary at first, proclaimed, I want to surf everyday for the rest of my life!

Surf lesson at Manly Beach Australia

Surf lesson at Manly Beach are a blast for the whole family.

Port Douglas

From Sydney we headed to Port Douglas, the closest gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and a gorgeous seaside destination. We flew into Cairns, an hour drive from Port Douglas, and transferred to the Peppers Beach Club which we highly recommend for the rooms, pool and staff. The beach is just a block away and the town is an easy walk.

The all-day trip to the Great Barrier Reef made three stops along the reef with time at each for snorkeling and diving. It was spectacular! We saw corals in vivid blues and pinks and fish in every color of the rainbow. From a parent’s point of view the guides were great, providing a program including snorkeling tours and a bit of reef education between stops. They pointed out various sea creatures that otherwise could be easily missed and also put the kids at ease in the water, showing them pictures of sea creatures they may see and assuring them that they were harmless. At 160 AUD for adults and 110 AUD for children (12 and under) it’s expensive but still well worth it.

Another Port Douglas highlight is Mossman Gorge, part of the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest. Twenty minutes from Port Douglas, the Mossman River tumbles through a steep-sided valley lined with huge granite boulders that create freshwater swimming holes. You can take a full-day tour of the area but it’s not necessary. We had a tour bus pick us up at the hotel (10 AUD/person) and drop us at the top of the trail. From there you can walk along a 2.7 kilometer loop trail or hike across the suspension bridge crossing the river. We stopped along the way for a picnic lunch and a swim the river water is cold but feels good after a hike.

After 11 days our dream trip ended. But now I have a new dream to return. What we saw of Australia was spectacular and the people themselves were wonderful (as were their accents).

Trip Planning: We recommend Australia Expat Travel Owner Vicki Baensch. She planned a fantastic trip that included all the family-friendly details, https://www.ausxpattravel.com.au.

Port Douglas Australia