Joining the no hangover club.

There’s nothing I used to love more than the clink of ice cubes as they fall into a gin and tonic, fizzing Prosecco as the cork leaves the bottle and the smell of Aperol on a hot summers day, but sometimes love is not enough, it can get complicated! This is why I’ve decided to call it quits on drinking for good.

Drinking is a way of life for many Irish. Our biggest problem is not how much we drink but how we drink. Just as much as we can enjoy a cold beer or glass of wine on a summers afternoon, we can loathe the troubles alcohol brings.

You don’t need alcohol to have fun!

Most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for months on end I woke up dehydrated, anxious and nauseated after a few sociable drinks kicked on to a club or karaoke, where 1 drink would lead to 20! The fears, the tears and alcohol amnesia would have crippled me for days necessitating a dark room, cold shower, beach swim and salty food to restore any semblance of humanity. A short time into my alcohol free life I feel worlds away from that wretched creature who used to wake up cracking one teary bloodshot eye open and cursing her appauling life choices made the night before.

I’ve become slightly mystified as to why I kept doing it when it caused significant pain to my head, stomach, pockets and mental health.

But it’s all fun and games…right? WRONG.

I, like others used alcohol as a social lubricant to gain a greater confidence and ease myself into unfamiliar surroundings. Did you know for women, binge drinking is defined as more than four drinks in one sitting. I couldn’t believe this. It sounds like what used to be a regular night for me and most people I know! Drinking too much is normalised, so we forgive each other’s drunken tomfoolery, antics and complete bullshit. We tolerate hangovers and recovery periods as if it’s par for the course.

As I started to reflect more honestly on my relationship with alcohol and how it made me feel, I realised uncomfortably that almost every regrettable decision I’d made had occurred under its influence and often made me feel anxious, guilty and sick to the core. Growing up in a household affected by addiction I did not want my life to follow suit. I started to wonder…could I actually give up alcohol? Could I eliminate it from my life?

Like many of us I’ve abstained from alcohol for a month under the guise of a detox, a fresh start to the year. Despite feeling better afterwards, I always looked forward to resuming normal service at the bar.

I slowly began to realise that a month is only a taster of what life could become. I want to make a lasting change. I want to like the person I’m becoming, remember the new people I meet on nights out and make more time for different endeavours. I’ve decided not to go it alone, because along with the social lures and cultural norms, alcohol is everywhere, really addictive and habit forming, especially when you’ve been indulging for years.

The good news is there is plenty of support available, from apps to podcasts and online communities such as @weareunwstd which I am so grateful to have found.

How good do these mocktails look.

This year and for years to follow I plan to explore different strategies and gain an insight into what it takes to live an alcohol free life. My main concern starting this journey was the fear of being bored – or ‘boring’. This was my own perception of an alcohol free Kate, silly I know! However, my quest for self improvement and personal growth far outweighs those fears and there’s only one way to find out!

There are so many things I love about being booze free including: better sleep, reduced anxiety, closer connections, more adventures, earlier mornings, a sense of calm and losing weight both mentally and physically without trying too hard.

I’m keeping a diary and will share with you what I discover along the way.

Life as an expat: How to combat loneliness and make real genuine connections.

All sorts of people breeze in and out of our lives who we deem ‘friends’, acquantices, co workers, classmates, social media followers etc. What we really yearn for are ‘real’ connections. People we can count on. Friends who enjoy us. Pals who will stand by our side when times are tough. Companions who’ll both laugh and cry with us. Real friends who will stand the test of time.

As human beings we all long for real human connections. Even in our busy day to day lives with people around us, these genuine connections can be hard to find.

Here’s a few things that have helped me along the way:

1: Quality vs Quantity.

In the last year I’ve made it a point to keep my social circle small, but with deeper connections. Real human connections are needed to be happy and fulfilled. The best job in the world, all the money in the world and all the possessions in the world won’t matter much if you’re lonely and have no real connections. The majority of people focus on the quantity of friends that they have as opposed to the quality of friends they have. Quality and depth is the most important thing when it comes to friendships.

2: Be open about yourself.

Often when we meet new people we try to present the best side of ourselves. We try to come across as being super confident, competent, knowledgeable, interesting funny and smart. That’s a front, it’s only part of who we are, the good part. Why connect with somebody if you are going to give them a false identity. As scary as it seems, open yourself up and show the real you. Becoming vulnerable is risky but you’ll be sure to reap the rewards. You gain a deeper connection, trust and in lue a better friendship. Once you have developed your own interests and character, share it with the people around you. When you become enthusiastic about what you love then others will want to be around that enthusiasm and friendships will begin to manifest.

3: Be open to random connections.

While I accept fewer invitations these days, when I randomly meet someone I try to remain open. Opening up, wondering who they are and setting aside any pre judgements. Share who you are openly and positively.

Accept the other person for who they are. Don’t pigeon hole them. Be curious. If we want to get to know someone we must delve below the surface. Asking deeper questions moves the conversation from nicieties towards intimacy and vulnerability. There, we really get to know someone.

The more you expose yourself to the world, the more likely you are to attract different people into your life. This isn’t magic, it is simply the result of being in the right place at the right time and becoming open to whatever happens in the moment.

4: Engage with your emotions.

If you want real friendships, be ready to open up your emotional self. Connections progress through shared storytelling, shared experiences, and shared emotion. Being emotionally open requires trust and courage when you allow someone in. In return you get to know these places in them as well. It’s a reciprocal action and a necessary step in building real genuine connections. I don’t believe in over sharing but the more risks we take in being vulnerable, the more people are drawn to us as we are relatable.

Think about it, a true friend is sort of like a therapist. Besides your family, who do you tell your problems to? Your true friends are the people who will listen to whatever you’re going through, good or bad. They’re attentive listeners. They make sound suggestions and support your happiness.

5: Treat friendships as an investment.

Friendship, as with anything else is an investment. What does an investment require? Time.

Friendship is something that is to be cultivated over longer time as opposed to a shorter time period. You are simply cultivating an acquaintance if your perspective is focused on short term. Meet friends on a 1:1 basis, cultivate a friendship before introducing alcohol and leave the phone at home! A pet peeve of mine is when people answer calls, reply to texts or feel the need to document the whole encounter on social media from beginning to end. (I too fell into this trap at one time). It is not necessary, do it on your own time!

6: Be the friend you want to have.

We all tend to attract people into our lives whose character mirrors our own. Be a true friend yourself. Though, you want the other person to be a true friend, being one yourself allows you to attract the right person. Surround yourself with people who want to lift you up. Real friends want to see you shine. Listen deeply rather than waiting to talk about yourself. Real friends challenge you to grow and they grow with you, you call each other out and you point out when you’re not living up to your values. Surround yourself with people who fan your flame and practice what they preach.

A friendship is supposed to be a supportive union between two people. Be there for your real friends when you can. Do they need you? Is there anything you can help them with? How can you support them?

7: Real genuine connections are a two way street, make the effort.

Continued effort is required to maintain real connections. Willingness to make the effort is what differentiates real friendships from acquaintances and friendships of convenience. Call your friends, meet up regularly, reach out. Depending on the relationship you could meet every few days or few weeks! For some of my best friends we meet every week or two, yet, never doubt that we’re closely connected and will be there for each other when needed.

Catch up via phone call or text message (personally I prefer not to text as messages can be interpreted in any manner the recipient wishes to read it). Technology has made communication so easy it’s difficult not to stay in touch.

8: Put down the phone, make conversation with people.

When you’re on the go, at the gym, in line or at the register and you’re on the phone, there’s a lot of missed connection happening. Make eye contact and converse with other people. When we disconnect from scrolling on our phones there are a lot of people around us to connect with.

9: You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Be who you are. You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that is OK. The truth is, not everyone is going to get you, and not everyone will like you. It’s likely that you won’t like everyone you come across, either. There will be people who take a glance at you and dismiss you from their circle immediately.

There will be those who want you to jump through hoops and run marathons for them, only to drop you like a hot cake when there’s nothing in it for them.

There will be people who will never take the time to see you and appreciate you for the beautiful, amazing person you are.

Don’t waste your time on those people.

Life is so much better when we make real genuine connections. We are happier, less isolated, more creative and have access to new opportunities. What are you waiting for, go out there and make some REAL connections.

10 top tips to save for future travels.

A popular myth is that travel is an expensive hobby. Certainly those who travel must have rich parents or very high paying jobs… right?I understand where you’re coming from. I used to think that too. As an Irish girl who didn’t know what a hostel was 4 years ago, I thought international travel was only for the privileged. After travelling on and off for the last 4 years I’m here to tell you that travel is possible for all of us.

Want to travel the world? Or take an extended break away? You don’t need to be rich, however, you will need to get creative about saving money. After receiving countless messages from individuals asking asking how I’m able to travel so much, I want to share some useful tips I’ve learnt along the way in order to save money for my upcoming travels.

Saving money is not easy. There are social pressures, our willpower is lacking and we are endlessly bombarded by marketing. It requires constant work and sacrifice, but if I can do it, you can too!

Best of luck – I’ll see you out there chasing your travel dreams!

1. Make a Plan:

It’s really hard to stick to long term commitments. Saving is tough and demands a significant sacrifice. Your want needs to be great in order to succeed. How badly do you want to save/travel?

Sit down and go through all your accounts to find out exactly what your finances look like. Tracking expenses is important in order to verify where you can cut back or even eliminate unrequired spending. This made me realise just how much money I’ve flushed down the drain over the last few years. Write it ALL down, how much do you spend on rent? Groceries? Nights out? Entertainment? Socialising? Date nights?

What are your monthly non-negotiables? Then take a look at alcohol, snacks, miscellaneous shopping. BE HONEST…you may be surprised at how much you’re really spending. All the small things do add up.

2. Distinguish a line between your WANTS and your NEEDS.

What you want and what you need are too very different entities. Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you need Netflix and Stan? Spotify? Do you need that coffee you get every morning on the way to work? What about the beers every Friday night? How about new clothes? Look at how much you can instantly start saving every month if you cut some of these out. Swap clothing with a friend. Head to a thrift store and pick up a few gems if you feel the need to brighten up your wardrobe. Do you really need to have a new outfit for every occasion?!

STOP BUYING THINGS YOU DON’T NEED

3. Daily habits that will save you money.

How about getting up an hour earlier, walking to work, riding a bicycle or buying a scooter. Instead of buying a coffee on the commute to work, make one at home. Cook your own meals daily instead of buying them. This can save you a hell of a lot in the long run. Prepping your own meals can save you between $100 and $200 every week.

Set up a savings account. Put money away as you earn it. Set up a direct deposit and track your savings. I find it easier to put money away automatically, in a place where it can’t be touched until I’m ready for my next adventure.

4. Reduce accommodation costs

This is one way I’ve been able to save significant money recently. It’s surprisingly extremely effective. If the place you are renting costs a lot of money, how about considering a new roommate to share the rent and bills? What about two roommates?

If that’s not an option, why not move into a smaller/cheaper place or move to a cheaper suburb. By moving to a cheaper suburb with a spare room I have been able to save a substantial amount of money monthly. When travelling or away rent out your place on Air B and B. I know some individuals don’t like strangers staying in their home. Personally, this does not bother me one bit. If anything it adds to the excitement of an upcoming trip knowing that your guests are paying for the majority of your trip away.

Sometimes you need to think outside the box in order to make your dreams come true. Drastic measures can be uncomfortable to begin with, but they do work.

5. Stop going out every weekend.

Instead of going out and spending money on alcohol, clubs and pubs, invite friends over to your place. Have a few sociable drinks in. Get outside, have a BBQ, take a hike, explore the city. Not everything has to revolve around drinking. Socialising is a non-negotiable expenditure for me. It’s important to me and I enjoy it so I just make sure to factor it into my monthly spending, but not every weekend!

6. Make extra money on the side.

We all want to earn a few extra dollars when we can, am I right? There are endless opportunities to earn extra money, even if you already have a full time job. Find a ‘side hustle’ that you can work part time. Airtasker, bar tending, events marshalling etc.

For example, I’ve worked as a dog walker with Madpaws, proofread other peoples work, taught English online with TEFL and I’m doing a web development course to further my skillset. It doesn’t need to be an amazing job, just something to boost your income. Do some research and lock down positions that match your talents. The possibilities are endless, a few apps I find useful are Fiverr, Freelancer and Skillshare.

7. One mans trash is another mans treasure.

Something that one person considers worthless may be considered valuable by someone else. It’s becoming more apparent that we really don’t NEED a lot of the materialistic items we own. Sell unwanted clothing at Kirribilli or Glebe markets. It’s reasonably easy to purchase and set up a stall. Be sure to have a float, be friendly and approachable, present your clothing and stall well, be early and stay until the very end. There’s two markets in Kirribilli: the general markets and the fashion market. They rotate every 2 weeks. There’s not as much competition at the general market, it’s a much more relaxed vibe. Steer clear of trendy, label conscious markets such as Bondi!

8. Shop around.

Do you compare prices when planning your upcoming travels?Trip planning can be daunting at times, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Blogs, social media and guidebooks have never been more plentiful, sometimes making the task of planning a trip even more challenging. I take time to shop around for flights and use a number different search engines at a time. Be sure to check out budget airlines. Google your destination and ‘budget airline’ to see if there are any you don’t know about. It’s also important to look at the best time to book. The general rule of thumb is to book your flights one or two months in advance and try to book them on a Tuesday or Wednesday, which is when airlines tend to launch their deals. Then aim to fly on a Saturday or Tuesday which are often the cheapest days to fly.

9. Build a network and coach surf.

Couch surfing can be very beneficial especially if you are travelling solo. It can help you make friends with locals and get free accomodation. Before you go away set up an account and find a local meetup. That way you’ll make friends and get added to peoples profiles and you can be vouched for. It’s all about playing the system until you get reviews which lead to more stays! You’ll then have a network worth utilising when it is time to actually go away.

If you have space in your home you can host travellers. This is the best way to get familiar with the platform and earn reviews that will help you when you are looking for a host in the future. While in Brisbane 3 years ago I couch surfed for a week and it was such a great experience. I had $0 accomodation costs, experienced Brisbane like the locals and made a great friend for life.

10. Keep your distance from financially irresponsible people.

Watching your friends go out night after night and buy expensive new phones and laptops, pricey cocktails and new dresses will destroy all your hard won determination and motivation. Don’t do that to yourself! Don’t let your determination to save for future travels turn you into a party pooper either. BE SELECTIVE with your big nights out. Choose them wisely!!! You can most definitely save for travels and still let loose every now and then.

For me, saving is essential. It allows me to travel without restrictions. I can book that once in a lifetime hot air balloon ride or go diving with wild dolphins without a second thought.

THE SPECIFIC PLAN YOU CHOOSE ISN’T IMPORTANT…BUT THE DESTINATION IS ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.

Silvermere Coastal Retreat: a getaway like no other.

Dreaming of a getaway where you can relax, have fun and explore? Make that dream come true at Silvermere Coastal Retreat. Shoalhaven offers some of the most iconic holiday destinations on the South Coast of Australia. It beckons with white sandy beaches, rolling National Parks and a huge variety of entertainment for all ages. If you have not been lately, now is the time to secure your special experience at Silvermere Coastal Retreat which is nestled at the idyllic beach location of Culburra. Take full advantage of everything this popular destination has to offer from the comfort of your own private property.

Master bedroom

Located in the laid back sleepy town of Culburra, Silvermere Coastal Retreat provides the ultimate beachside retreat where you can forget your worries, relax and explore the area. This magnificent waterfront abode exudes sophistication and charm by combining stunning ocean views, a modern coastal interior and a hypnotising fire pit area. This stunning home is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the spectacular views of Culburra beach right from the comfort of the kitchen.

Kitchen view

Privacy and outdoor living are a major focus here: with a spacious and open plan living, dining and kitchen area. Large sliding doors open onto the balcony creating a lovely, breezy, alfresco environment with breathtaking views over the beach. This luxurious 3 bedroom home sleeps 7, it has all you could ever need and more. Manicured gardens and an outdoor fire pit make this property the perfect location to catch up with friends over a few drinks, or experience a romantic night by the fire with plenty of seating in order to enjoy the tropical surrounding.

Outdoor entertaining area

Silvermere Coastal Retreat is a dream home, with luxurious interior, an open plan flow, relaxation den to rival others , a stunning bathroom, the most perfect outdoor entertaining area and of course the beach only a short stroll away. This tranquil oasis is also dog friendly. The fencing at the retreat is maintained and provides a secure boundary. All the boxes are ticked for your perfect South Coast experience.

Luxurious bathroom

We enjoyed the house so much we cooked in both evenings making the most of our time at this precious location. It gave us the opportunity to spend some quality time together, celebrate our anniversary and fall in love all over again. The house is equipped with everything you could ever need. A fully contained kitchen, coffee machine, smart TVs, laundry facilities and bikes to explore the local area. What more could you ask for?

Dining room

Upon booking we received a detailed guide of locations to explore in the area and instructions for everything in the house. Beth and Rod have simply thought of everything, even down to popular road trip destinations for those making the journey from Sydney.

Things to do in the area.

Visit Culburra Beach:

Culburra beach, only a stones throw away offers many water activities and it’s well known for its surfing spots. Hire a boat, kayak or paddle board. Get up early and take a walk on the beach for sunrise. Get out and reconnect with nature.

Head to Jindyandy Mill for brunch and a browse:

This historic mill is one of the most popular one stop shop destinations on the South Coast. Set on picturesque land with a relaxing view across the paddocks, Jindyandy captures everything country life should be! There are 5 specialty shops including antiques, homeware, clothing, a gift store and the infamous lolly shop. The cafe features delicious locally sourced organic cuisine. Be sure to try their scones, they are to die for. The locals could not have been friendlier. We listened to their adventurous tales of days farming and even got to meet a few members of the popular shoalhaven coffee riders! (a sociable group for bikers to meet for a coffee, motorbike ride and a catch up).

Jindyandy Lolly shop
Meeting the locals

Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse:

Take a short walk and explore the vast headland and lighthouse at the mouth of shoalhaven river. There are several lookouts providing wonderful views of the river meeting the ocean. A great place to sit, look out and soak up the wonder listening to the crashing of the waves.

Views for days

Cambewarra Lookout:

Sitting amongst the beautiful forestry, the Cambewarra Lookout is well worth making the drive up the narrow winding roads. A small cafe provides the foundation for an epic lookout. This lookout is definitely worth a visit to experience the wide, beautiful vista that shoalhaven has to offer. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see King Parrots, Rosellas and other popular birds on the bird feeder which add to the insane view.

Cambewarra Lookout

Experience an in home spa treatment:

In home spa treatments can be arranged at Silvermere Coastal Retreat with Team Spa. Their blissful massage and beauty therapy packages have been designed for individuals seeking visible benefits while immersing themselves in ultimate relaxation. Be sure to book early as they do book up in advance. I can’t wait to return and experience all this has to offer.

Stylish interior

From the sublime coastline to the emerald hinterland, this retreat in the shoalhaven region is the perfect holiday destination. A mere 2 hours and 45 minutes from Sydney it is most definitely worth the trip. Silvermere Coastal Retreat embodies the ultimate sea side retreat. Stylish, comfortable, indulgent and superbly located. This beautiful beach side home really does provide an outstanding getaway which will give you, your family and friends wonderful memories to last a lifetime. What are you waiting for, book your stay now.

Orange: A very ‘a-peeling’ staycation!

A mere four hour drive West of Sydney you’ll find one of NSW’s best food and wine experiences. Orange is one of the friendliest thriving regional cities in Australia. Whether you’re visiting during wine harvest, or in town for a cosy winter experience, each season brings a new delight. Orange has quickly become famous for its extensive food and wine scene, trendy cafes and bars. However, there are many more things to do in Orange than what meets the eye. So what are you waiting for?

Getting there:

Getting to Orange is easy! You can drive, take a train or fly to the small town airport. We decided to drive in order to have freedom over the weekend. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a weekend roadtrip from Sydney. Witness the passing suburbia as you travel up through the mountains where the fabulous scenery turns into winding roads, tall trees and colourful views. There are plenty of places to stop along the way: Katoomba, Blackheath and Bathurst.

Where to stay:

We had the pleasure of staying with Quest Orange in their luxurious apartments located on Kite street in the heart of Orange. Quest Orange is within walking distance of the CBD, Orange train station and bars/restaurants. We felt right at home in our one bedroom apartment with plenty of space to move about, a seperate bedroom with a king sized bed, TV and a wardrobe. The relaxed and beautifully furnished living area provided privacy and comfort. A spacious work area was provided, meeting the needs for business travellers as well as tourists. The bathroom offered full laundry facilities with a washing machine and dryer, whilst the kitchen was fully equipped with a hob, an oven and a full sized fridge and freezer.

Quest apartments also feature a communal rooftop area, perfect for BBQ’s and a fully functioning gym for you gym bunnies. What more could you ask for? One of the things I loved most about Quest Orange Apartments is that they support local. The tea provided was from remymax.com.au, a local brand and our breakfast hamper featured local produce from the Orange region aswell. They even went as far as providing an extensive pillow menu to cater for a good nights sleep.

I could not recommend Quest Orange and Quest Apartments enough. The staff were warm and friendly, they went above and beyond to make our stay as comfortable as possible. If you are travelling to Orange in search of somewhere centrally located, affordable and luxurious, look no further than Quest Orange!

What to do:

Orange has a popular, growing wine industry with over 30 cellar doors in the area, making it a promising vacation! The wineries are however well spread out, making a car essential. Be it an Uber (which are few and far between) or a taxi, you will have to plan ahead.

The cool climate city is renowned for its vast array of Chardonnay, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc. All of the wineries offer different style tours with varying inclusions. We visited 3 wineries in total.

Nashdale Lane Wines: A proudly Australian family owned and operated business. They have built a winery that is shaped around ethical practices and respect for the land. Situated almost 900m above sea level, visitors can enjoy the refreshing mountain air. Positioned at the foot of Mount Canobolas with unobstructed views and a wood fire, you have everything you need to enjoy tasting varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Shiraz. They also provide luxurious glamping amongst the vines for a fresh distinct getaway.

Printhie Wines: Printhie wines is another family owned vineyard with four different elevations in order to produce the finest fruit for their wines. Set next to their winery, printhie cellar door is a cosy space to relax and sample sparkling wines. The staff were super friendly and informative, educating us about their new topography range. Their sparkling wines picked up awards for the last two years in a row.

Heifer Station: Heifer station wines is a small family owned and operated single vineyard tasting room in one of oranges most picturesque areas. It’s located on the volcanic basalt slope of Mount Canabolas. We enjoyed a wine tasting in a 100 year old shearing shed. The woodshed is normally reserved for wine tastings only. They offer intimate vineyard tours for groups of 5 or 6. My favourite part of the station was the petting zoo. You can feed the chooks, pet the ponies and watch the pig bathe in mud and chase the chooks! This was without a doubt my favourite winery. It oozes authenticity with a fantastic selection of wines and hospitality to boot.

It is not all food and wine; there’s plenty of other things to do in Orange!


Lake Canobolas: Near the foot of Mt Canobolas lies a beautiful, tranquil lake which welcomes locals and visitors. It supports a range of activities throughout each season: dragon boating to cycling, swimming and triathlons.

Pinnacle Lookout: Take the Pinnacle walk all the way to the lookout for mesmerising views over the World Heritage listed area (Border Ranges National Park). A short walk providing spectacular 360 degree views all the way to the coastline. I only wish we got up to witness it at sunrise. The views from the top are quentessentially Orange, with its beautiful colours and vast vineyards. Beware, the climb does include steps, sturdy footwear is essential.

Millthorpe Village: Escape to the fantastic little village of Millthorpe, a 20 minute drive South East of Orange. Take a step back into the 1900’s with a contemporary edge. Browse the many boutiques and vintage collectables, follow one of the many village walks or visit the Golden Memories Millthorpe Museum.

Where to eat and drink:

Bring your appetite and be prepared to work up a thirst. A weekend in Orange is not complete without good food, fantastic wine and the great outdoors. Coffee addicts can be assured knowing that cafes and good coffee is somewhat of an obsession in Orange. There are plenty of cafes and coffee roasters to choose from: Bills Beans, Factory Espresso and Mad Hatter. Mad Hatter Drinks Lab was recommended by quite a few people. Is it a cafe? Is it a distillery? Is it a winery? Truth is, it is all of the above! The drinks lab has become one of the go to coffee spots for visitors and locals alike. It serves typical takeaway breakfast food from a funky, yet grungy industrial space. They also produce their own wines and pre mixed cocktails under the Mad Hatter Wine Co.

The Union Bank: has a great reputation as one of the regions highly sought after dining institutions. The Union Bank has an emphasis on showcasing everything wonderful about Orange by sourcing all ingredients locally. Championing local food produce and celebrating the cool climate wines of Orange, this wine bar restaurant should definitely be on the top of your list. We were adventurous and tried octopus for the first time. It was delicious.

Washington and Co. Whiskey Saloon: set in the middle of town along Summer street sits the popular Washing and Co. whiskey saloon. This cosy space is adorned with mounted deer heads, vintage artwork and dimmed lighting. We could have been in the heart of Surry Hills. The vibe energetic, the music electric and the cocktails 10/10. With the current covid-19 restrictions they’re only taking walk ins. Do yourself a favour and head down early!

Orange is a gorgeous getaway in the countryside surrounded by friendly people and clean fresh air. Discover award-winning restaurants, boutique shops, beautiful gardens and bustling markets, all set in the shadow of a striking ancient volcano. Go on, book your trip now, you won’t regret it!

Tiny Away Review: D’Getaway!

The concept of ‘disconnecting to reconnect’ is a fundamental part of Tiny Away. Spending quality time with a loved one in a space where you simply enjoy the company with little else to worry about is pure bliss.

Escaping the city and experiencing the true Australian countryside is what it’s all about. This weekend alone, we discovered waterfalls, canyons, caves and even went off road to explore sought after destinations. Little did I know that our Tiny Away adventure would involve exploring more of the Blue Mountains region than I’ve seen in the last 3 years while relearning how to appreciate the simple things in life.

Our Tiny Away Cabin amongst the great outdoors.

We chose D’Getaway cabin in Blackheath from the options available at Tiny Away. It was the perfect location, less than a 2 hour drive from Sydney surrounding the mountainous region. We were far enough away from the city for our staycation to feel like a true adventure. Tiny Away offers an array of tiny house getaways close to nature for a unique experience. Take a drive and discover the tranquility of Regional New South Wales by staying at one of these off the grid tiny homes. D’Getaway offered a relaxing Australian bushland escape situated in Blackheath, just a stone throws from the Blue Mountains. If you’re one to relish in being close to the mountainous terrains and awakening to the sounds of birds, this is the place for you!

Humble Abode.

Early Saturday morning we packed the car and headed for what would be an unforgettable weekend away. The Blue Mountains offers miles of hiking trails, alluring views, waterfalls and record breaking adventure attractions. The roads to the Blue Mountains are very easy to navigate and street parking is free at most of the attractions. For the weekend that was in it we decided to rent a Jeep Wrangler from Car Next Door, giving us the option to explore off road tracks that the mountains have to offer.

Taking a trip to the Blue Mountains requires a little homework as it’s such a huge place. With some time to kill before check in, our first port of call was the Wentworth Falls Lookout Track to check out the falls. Dip your toes in here and explore the National Pass for unrivalled views over the falls. If you don’t fancy too much cardio, don’t head too far down! The hike back up will take it out of you. Climate change is making drought more serious than ever in Australia. Lower your expectations if you choose to visit Wentworth Falls during a dry month. We found the Wentworth Falls hike moderately easy as we mostly walked in the shade. The only difficulty is the number of stairs that could be daunting for those not used to hiking. Be sure to dress for the occasion, I did not!

Wentworth Falls

One of the most spectacular and most visited landmarks of the Blue Mountains world heritage site has to be The Three Sisters. Tourists flock to stand in awe at the unusual rock formations carved from the cliffs at Echo Point in Katoomba. These three majestic rocks burst with colour throughout the day. It’s not only the wonder of the landscape that captures the heart of many a traveller but the story behind the three rocks that stand tall. The ancient aboriginal legend tells the tale of three sisters hearts captured by three brothers from a neighbouring tribe. However, the law of the land forbid the girls from following their desires and marrying outside their own people…crazy right!

Our final hike before checking into our Tiny Away cabin was Katoomba Falls. Often overlooked by tourists this beautiful segmented waterfall is located between Echo Point and Scenic World. While it is a short but picturesque walk it guides you through a lush rainforest all the way to the waterfall with panoramic views of Jamison Valley. Personally, I think it’s one of the most enjoyable tracks in the Blue Mountains that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

We arrived at D’Getaway just after 1pm and were greeted by the lovely Eugenie. We’d been running a little ahead of schedule and I’d optimistically sent Nilesh and Eugenie a message asking if we could check in early (check in was to be 2pm). When Eugenie greeted us she gave us a tour of the tiny house and gave us insight into the best walks, hikes and places to visit. We then explored the tiny home and it’s wonderful surroundings.

Cooking up a storm!

Our Tiny Away house was fitted with everything you’d need and more! Air conditioning, heating and blankets, showering facilities and all amenities needed for a big cook up. The queen bed lay on its own upper level within the house. The roof only a mere metre above our heads, we expected to feel claustrophobic, but in actual fact it was extremely cosy! The tiny houses are designed to be eco friendly and are built using sustainable materials. We were surprisingly impressed by the hot shower that even measured the temperature and the amount of water used per shower. The toilet, being eco friendly, actually smelt quite pleasant! Instead of flushing waste, an enzyme spray and wood chippings were used to absorb the smell. While this was not particularly luxurious it was eye opening and a true experience living sustainably.

Eugenie suggested we visit the popular Lincoln’s Rock for sunset. It is one of the most accessible and open areas for sunset as it looks out over the Kings Table and Jamison Valley. Please be careful here as it is not fenced. It does get extremely busy, so be sure to arrive early. The rest of our night was spent playing house in our tiny home. We cooked, played guitar and chatted until the wee hours.

Unfenced…Lincoln’s Rock.
The view of Jamison Valley from Lincoln’s Rock hidden cave.

Check out wasn’t until 10am giving us time to have breakfast and plan for the day ahead. The rented Jeep Wrangler came in handy on the unsealed and bumpy Mount Hay rough dirt road to the start of the Lockley Pylon walk. Over 7km of this road is dirt road which has become increasingly difficult to drive on with a conventional car. Lockleys Pylon walking track, just near Leura, is an invigorating walk offering scenic views. This walk traverses through the heath to a small peak overlooking eucalyptus forests of the Grose Valley. Be sure to climb up to Lockleys Pylon and take in the wonderful golden sandstone cliffs of Mount Hay and Mount Banks. This part of the Blue Mountains is still relatively quiet and undiscovered, which makes the track on top of the pylon even more enjoyable. The first section is uphill heading towards a unique rock formation called The Pinnacles. As the path continues, Lockleys Pylon will appear in the distance and you can enjoy the panoramic views of the valleys and mountains from both sides. With the strong winds and alpine landscape Lockleys Pylon walking track was exhilarating as it’s quite unique compared to other popular hikes.

We christened him Gilbert!

After refuelling, we checked out the Grand Canyon Walk. Often regarded as the most impressive trail in the region with lush rainforest, creek crossings, waterfalls and rock overhangs. The Grand Canyon Walk is a full circuit, meaning you can start at several different locations. We chose the 3km hike along the cliff edge of the Grose Valley offering some of the most spectacular views.

We covered a lot of ground in just 2 days. Most of the Blue Mountains can be seen in a short space of time once you have a plan!

Govetts leap lookout point.

If you are looking for an incredible weekend away off the grid, I cannot recommend a stay with Tiny Away enough. Each landowner/farmer receives a share of the profit, resulting in a form of sustainable tourism, how good is that. It was a unique and memorable experience, with next to no wifi, internet or phone reception, come prepared and ready to disconnect and recharge. Check out Tiny Away for yourself and book your staycation now!

A day in Darling Harbour: reliving my childhood!

Located in the heart of Darling Harbour you’ll find some of Sydney’s most interactive attractions, two of them being Madame Tussaud’s and WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo.

Madame Tussaud’s:

Do you find it cooky or cool? There’s no denying how amazing Madame Tussaud’s is. A world renowned famous museum that draws millions of eyes annually. From Royals to Hollywood celebrities, they have life size wax figures moulded. Where else in Sydney could you rub shoulders with sporting Olympian’s, Hollywood stars and iconic historians.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit the world famous Madame Tussaud’s museum in Sydney to experience the latest life size wax replicas in themed galleries. During COVID-19 Madame Tussaud’s are giving specific allocated arrival times, do not arrive early, you will not be granted access to the building before your given time. Temperatures are checked on arrival and there are hand sanitisation products provided throughout the premises.

Madame Tussaud’s is a self guided experience allowing you to explore each of the themed rooms within the attraction at your own pace. With over 250 lifelike wax figures on display, my favourites were Spider-Man and ET, giving me a chance to relive my childhood! As well as being able to get up close and personal with the wax figures Madame Tussaud’s also proved to be an educational affair with each waxwork having an information board providing background for the figure on display.

Have you ever wondered what the sculpting process requires? I know I have! For an artist to create a realistic sculpture of a personality, they will make roughly 150 measurements. Wax figures are said to shrink overtime so all figures are moulded two percent larger than their original stature. Each waxwork takes approximately four months to create, I can well believe this. Each character is so intricate, every single detail is recorded carefully, from exact eye colour to tattoos and birth marks. Even hair (eyebrows and eyelashes too) are individually inserted into each wax figure. You really do need to look very closely, the waxworks and theming are extremely realistic!

It doesn’t just stop with waxworks, Madame Tussaud’s provides endless entertainment. Learn to walk, talk and dress like Royalty at the new Royal Academy, you’ll even get to meet Madame Tussaud’s new arrivals Prince Harry and Megan Markle. Take time to perfect that royal wave, English accents at the ready! Prepare your make up and strut the catwalk with Elle McPherson, bust out your best dance moves or even experience MTV in the infamous music zone to make your experience even more immersive.

Overall, I had a fantastic time getting acquainted with some of the worlds most iconic individuals. It’s a great experience for all age groups.

WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo:

WILD LIFE Sydney zoo is the perfect destination to get close to Australia’s most iconic animals. Snap a selfie with a koala or experience a buffet breakfast served on the koala rooftop. Discover one of the kangaroos at the kangaroo walkabout. I had the pleasure of encountering some very exciting animals, some being beautiful birds in the zoos replication of the Daintree Rainforest and Tasmanian Devils – critically endangered species. I watched the wombat and wallabies chase each other around their enclosure playfully and witnessed Rocky the mammoth saltwater crocodile (the largest reptile in the world) snooze in the pool for the duration of my visit. Like most crocodiles he spends a large portion of his time sleeping!

I was mesmerised by the nightfall habitat, the most interesting being the ghost bat. Prepare to be amazed as the animals can be viewed in their ‘day time’.

WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo provide daily keeper talks and animal feeds at various times throughout the day (Covid-19 pending). It is the perfect spot to bring young children for a family day out.

With so many places to visit in Sydney, Madame Tussaud’s and WILD LIFE Sydney zoo are well worth adding to your itinerary. Be sure not to forget your camera!

Perth: the closest I’ve felt to home!

Perth is famous for being the most isolated city in the world. Who knew!

For me, Perth has been the closest feeling to home. Modern, yet rustic, rugged but sophisticated. From the lush green parks to the white sandy beaches and home to radiant skyline views. Perth is a fabulous destination which I think I could definitely call home one day.

With a near Mediterranean climate it is a city with endless summers. Its miles away from everything, but it never feels so. Mining and oil drilling has ballooned Perth’s population, resulting in a city of activity and growth. Perth encapsulates everything I imagined Australia to be: clean, hot, friendly, laid back, easy to get around and relaxed but still moving.

As a young city Perth itself is beautiful, however, it was the people that drew me in. I had the pleasure of meeting Conors extensive family in Perth. They made me feel like I’d been there years. Just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of the city they lived in the most beautifully chilled neighbourhood. I immediately thought to myself ‘wow, I could see myself living here.’

Things to do and see in Perth:

  1. Get lost at Kings Park and Botanic Gardens.

People often say a trip to Perth is not complete without visiting Kings Park and Botanic Gardens and I couldn’t agree more. The magnificent views over the city are one of the main attractions. Kings Park is one of the largest and most beautiful inner city parks featuring both cultivated gardens and untamed bush land. You can picnic on grassy lawns, take a jog through the bush land or attend one of their outdoor concerts. I’d recommend joining a free walking tour led by Kings Park volunteer guides. If you’re feeling energetic you can tackle 101 steps of the spiralling DNA tower for spectacular panoramic views.

DNA Tower
  1. Take a day trip to Rottnest Island.

With 63 stunning beaches, 20 beautiful bays and an 11km long island to explore, Rottnest Island should most definitely be on your bucket list. There are three different companies that provide ferry services to Rotto. These leave several times a day from three different locations; Fremantle, Perth and Hillarys. Although there are frequent ferry services to Rotto it’s advisable to book your ticket in advance to ensure you get that highly sought after spot on the boat.

Our Rottnest Express Ferry departed from Hilarys Boat Harbour and took approximately 45 minutes. Most ferry companies offer return fares and bicycle deals.

Rottnest Island is car free and most of the fun is had while cruising around on two wheels. If meandering on a bike is not an option for you the Rottnest Explorer bus runs a hop on hop off service that does a circuit around the whole island. The bus leaves every half hour from the main bus stop. Tickets cost $20 per adult.

The quokkas are a definite highlight for any trip to Rotto. It’s very unlikely you’ll leave without seeing this remarkably cute creature. The Rottnest quokka are used to interacting with humans and are literally around every corner. Quokkas are small marsupials endemic to a few regions in WA, including Rottnest (which means rat’s nest in Dutch — when they landed, they thought the quokkas were rats.) The quokka selfie has become so famous now that even the most respectable looking adults go to great lengths to get the perfect selfie!

Conor going to great lengths here!

Be sure to park up your bike and visit Cathedral Rock to witness the playful seals in the water below. Not to be outdone by the seals, Bottlenose Dolphins are spotted feeding and surfing year round and Humpback Whales and their calves play in the protected waters of the island from September to December. Go snorkelling at Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay. Hike the Wadjemup Bidi trails and explore the lighthouse.

Burnt to a crisp
Remember to slip slap slop

Rottnest has a range of accomodation options, some of which I believe cost an arm and a leg! Rotto is Western Australia’s most loved holiday destination and many book at least 18 months in advance. An easy and affordable way to stay overnight on Rottnest, even during peak season is to take a tent and stay at the campground. Be sure to avoid ‘schoolies’ where hundreds of 18 year olds venture to the island after finishing school in order to get blotto in Rotto!

Situated 19kms from Perth it’s totally accessible and explorable in one day.

3. Enjoy one of the many beaches

With an abundance of awe inspiring beaches Perth is paradise for those looking for the perfect beach day/holiday.

Locally known as Cott, Cottesloe beach caters for everyone. A plethora of trendy beach cafes, bars and restaurants, long stretches of soft bright sand and a menu full of water sports. What more could you want?

Scarborough Beach is the epitome of a tourist beach. The exquisite beach offers everything you may require for a fun day (or night) at the beach. Live entertainment, street food, water activities and amazing sunsets are all on offer.

Trigg Beach should be at the top of your list if surfing is your chosen sport. This beach is a heaven attracting some of the best surfers from all around the globe.

Sunset at Scarborough Beach
  1. Take the train to Freemantle.

For a day trip full of quirky, unique fun, look no further than the train line…Freo is the way to go! There’s endless attractions for all to enjoy. A lively and eclectic art scene, vintage clothes markets, fishing and boat harbours to explore. There’s numerous buskers, live music entertainment and micro breweries to keep you entertained. Be sure to check out ‘Little Creatures’, a small atmospheric micro brewery along the waters edge.

Young buskers at Freo markets

Take a look inside Fremantle prison, one of Western Australia’s most significant and fascinating cultural attractions. Fremantle Prison is the only UNESCO World Heritage listed building in Perth, built by British convict labour in the 1850s and operating as a prison until 1991. We decided to descend into the depts below Freemantle Prison for a tour of the prison tunnels. It was eye opening to step inside and do time down under with Freemantles prison guides. We descended 20 metres below the prison to explore a 1km labyrinth of tunnels by foot and by boat involving harnessing, crawling and climbing through the caves. It’s simply a must do.

Prison tunnels
  1. Visit the small town of Leederville.

While in Perth we stayed with Conors amazing cousins in Leederville. One of Perth’s trendiest inner city suburbs, a place where people hang out and enjoy alternative, cafes, bars and restaurants. Home to some of Perth’s finest eateries, Leederville is small but sure is quirky, fun and cool. A hip little hood, embellished with unbelievable street art. We visited around Xmas time and there was a great buzz and atmosphere about. New Year’s Eve was a hoot to say the least!

Street art
  1. Visit Crawley Edge Boatshed.

Commonly know as the Boatshed at Crawleys, this Boatshed sits on the Swan River just below Kings Park. The iconic Boatshed is accessible from Mount Bay Road. It has been around since 1930s and has recently been revamped. It has provided stunning backdrops for thousands of photographers around the world. The quaint Perth Boatshed became famous due to its rise on Instagram.

The infamous Boatshed

So! Pack your bags and make the trip to Perth. It will not disappoint. I cannot wait to return and maybe even live there one day.

The Ultimate road trip: West Coast of Australia.


The West Coast of Australia has hands down been my favourite trip to date. The vast grandeur of it all. Red dirt roads as far as the eye can see with a sparse population, taking ‘off the beaten track’ to a whole new level! Stunning beaches, amazing landscape and infinite deserts, what more could you want?

Boris our trustee camper



If you’ve always dreamed of hiring a camper van and hitting the open road on an epic adventure, now’s your chance. Mesmerising National Parks, fantastic surf, beautiful coastlines and rugged mountain ranges await.
But where do you start?



You will need at least three weeks to travel the West Coast. I’ve put together an itinerary for you, to give you a taste of what’s out there waiting for you! The Ultimate Roadie: The West Coast of Australia.


Camper Van


One of the best ways to see Australia’s West Coast is on a self-drive road trip in your own camper van but renting a vehicle in Australia can be quite expensive. To get great deals and discounts I recommend you use an agent specialised in campervan rentals. Rat pack travel organised our camper van through Travellers Autobarn. Rental companies tend to adjust their prices according to the seasons so try to use this to your advantage and rent off peak. The longer you rent a camper van, the cheaper the daily rent gets. Book in advance, availability of vehicles can determine the price. If there’s only a few left, the price will rise. Vehicle prices are not fixed, keep this in mind. If you look around you might be lucky enough to find promotional codes offering discounted rentals, I did!

Humble abode



Not many venture as far as the West Coast of Australia, however, it really encapsulates the stereotypical ‘Australia’ that tourists come to see. It’s easier to break the road trip into two different parts. Here are the destinations you must include to hit the deserted, pristine coastline, roads thousands of kilometres long, highways lined by red dirt and an overwhelming abundance of wildlife.


Part 1: Perth to Coral Bay

There are certainly a few hotspots worth traversing the odd thousand kilometres North West between Perth and Coral Bay. This is a part of the trip that involves a lot of driving. The long stretches of monotonous roads are worth enduring for the incredible scenery along the way.


Lancelin:

A mere hour and a half drive from Perth is a small fishing and tourist town. Lancelin is known to lure in water sports lovers to test their abilities in world class conditions. It’s popular amongst keen anglers, snorkelers and divers. It’s home to the biggest sand dunes in Western Australia challenging sand boarders, bikers and dune buggy racing enthusiasts. Just beware, you’ll find sand in places you never knew existed! A sea of gigantic snow-white sand dunes stretch along the horizon, it’s magnificent. Hire a board at the entrance to the dunes for $5 and try your hand at snowboarding. I spent more time eating the sand rather than staying on the board. It’s great craic! Entry to the dunes is free and it’s open every day.

Surfs up


The Pinnacles:

The Pinnacles are one of the natural wonders of Australia. These strange, much photographed pillars seem completely unworthy without geological understanding. The unique limestone pillars made from the harsh elements of wind, rain and a cementing agent (calcium) are worth visiting. After paying my dues I forged my way into the Pinnacle Park. I got to witness the infamous Pinnacles in all their glory. Tall ones, short ones, stubby ones, and skinny ones. Driving through the Pinnacles was like returning through a passage of time. People were randomly taking videos running, jumping and climbing like something out of Star Wars. Oh, if these Pinnacles could talk!


Port Gregory – Hutt Lagoon:

From the Pinnacles I drove into Geraldton to recuperate and recharge for the night. The next port of call was Port Gregory, home to the pink lake called Hutt Lagoon. It boasts a unique pink lake created by the presence of a carotenoid producing algae. Depending on the time of day, season and amount of cloud cover, the lake changes in colour. I visited mid morning and found this to be a good time. The dreamlike lake draws crowds from near and far. Have your cameras at the ready, locals and tourists alike will be vying for that perfect shot!

Hutt lagoon


Kalbarri National Park:

Without a doubt Kalbarri National Park is one of the most astonishing parks I’ve visited in Australia. Dramatic gorges, long wide beaches and beautiful scenery makes for the perfect stopover. With sealed roads throughout, its one of the most-accessible parks, no need for a 4WD. Most people visiting the park will have based themselves at Kalbarri town itself as it’s only a short drive from the park entrance. Like almost all National Parks in Western Australia, Kalbarri National Park has an entrance fee. If you are exploring the West for an extended period of time it would be well worth it to buy a monthly/yearly park pass, great value for money. It’s important to note that there’s no camping within Kalbarri Park itself – no free camping, no paid camping. This means you’ll have to base yourself in the town. The caravan parks tend to fill up quickly, especially during school holidays and peak season, so I’d advise booking in advance where possible.
Kalbarri National Park is composed of both inland and coastal sections, the inland being the most popular. I covered this in one long day, my favourites being Nature’s Window and the Z bend lookout. Unfortunately, most hikes were closed due to extreme weather conditions of 40 degrees when I visited. No doubt though, I made the most of it and spent time at the beach planning for the trip ahead.

Natures window


Denham:

Denham, the infamous gateway for exploring the unbelievable Shark Bay World Heritage area. Self drive routes from Denham take you to some of Australia’s most amazing natural wonders including Monkey Mia. Monkey Mia is a popular tourist destination located 25 kilometres northeast of Denham. Head for Monkey Mia during feeding times and meet the wild bottlenose dolphins who have put this place on the map. Wild dolphins have been visiting the shoreline for over 50 years. I have very mixed feelings about this experience. While fascinating and exciting, it is a tourist trap. The dolphins are fed three times in the morning often drawing large crowds competing for that fish to feed the dolphins. If you hang around after the first feeding, people tend to leave giving a higher chance of you being chosen to feed the dolphins. However, this is an extremely long drive inland if this is something you’ve experienced before.


Coral Bay:

While making the trip to Coral Bay we passed through the town of Carnarvon known as the fruit and vegetable bowl of the North. We came across the cutest cactus garden in the horticultural district. This cool, unique spot is one of the local plantations front garden. It’s located on South river road, part of the Fruit Loop Drive Trail. We had a right auld laugh here. In season, you can buy fresh seasonal produce directly from roadside stalls.


At first, Coral Bay didn’t excite me. I had high expectations for this small coastal town. Many other travellers I’d met along the way raved about it. I’d just checked into my campsite and headed for Bills Bay, the main beach in town. Once I set foot on the beach my mind was instantly changed. The turquoise water, soft white sand and friendly locals had me trapped in their enraptured slow pace of life. The sweeping bay protected by the Ningaloo Reef was a snorkelling haven. It wasn’t all water-sports and basking in the sunshine, I jumped at the opportunity to join a sand buggy sunset adventure. It was the best sunset experience I’ve had yet. The incredible coastal scenery, riding up and down the enlarged dunes, spotting turtles off ‘turtle cliff’ and even out driving Conor in ‘Five Fingers Reef’.



Coral Bay is an idyllic little beach town in the middle of nowhere. It’s no surprise it draws people of all ages and backgrounds as there’s so many amazing things to see and do. It is a perfect spot to swim with whale sharks or manta rays and from June to October whales migrate through the area. I made the mistake of coming the wrong time of year. Make sure to head down to the dunes for sunset over the bay, a nature lovers delight.



My original plan was to continue to Exmouth, however, an emergency cyclone warning was issued leading me to make my way South West. 1,287 kilometres later and I began part 2 of my travels.


Part 2: Perth to Hyden


Bunbury:

Just two hours South of Perth, Bunbury is another destination where you can befriend and interact with wild bottlenose dolphins and learn about marine life at the newly redeveloped Dolphin Discovery Centre. Peruse Bunburys boutique shops and cafes before heading to back beach for a spot of surfing.



While Australia doesn’t have many quirky traditions or attractions – Gnomesville is one of them. Thousands of gnomes have migrated from all over Australia and around the world. It’s entertaining to see the gnomes playing cricket, climbing plants, partying gnomes and retired gnomes. You name it, it’s there! From water-sports to music festivals, street art and heritage trails there’s plenty to see and do. Take in the views from Malston Hill Lookout. Formerly a working lighthouse, the multi level viewing platform boasts 360 degree views of Koombana Bay and Bunbury Harbour.

Gnomesville


Busselton:

A firm favourite of mine. Busselton is the gateway to the Margaret River region. A luscious area filled with food, and craft beer and wine being a daily affair. The Busselton Jetty is a famous landmark extending 1,841 metres out to sea standing at one of the longest in the Southern Hemisphere and the second longest jetty in the world. How many jetty’s have a passenger train on them? Hop aboard the old steam engine and make your way to the underwater observatory. The iconic Busselton Jetty draws crowds all year round.

Things to do in Busselton;

  • Skydive over the jetty. What better way to get good visuals of the entire jetty than from 14,000 feet above.
  • Bask in the sun at the Busselton foreshore: a hive of activity for families and beach bums.
  • Cast a line: fishing off Busselton Jetty is a popular pastime.

Margaret River:

A few minutes drive from the bustling town of Yallingup towards Margaret River you’ll find amazing views of the Indian Ocean. Head on further to take a refreshing dip in the Injidup Natural Spa. A short hike from the car park you’ll find a natural spa rockpool. The surrounding rocks shelter the inlet from large bustling waves. The blasting surf acts as a natural massage coming through the cracks. For any of you daring individuals, try your hand at a spot of shallow cliff jumping. Do so with caution, there have been a few unfortunate accidents.

Conor waiting on his massage!


Not far from the natural spa I visited Canal Rocks. A series of granite rocks taking its name from the narrow channel between the rocks. Formed over time from the coastal waters heavily eroding the granite. Visit this attraction early as it’s an extremely popular area. I wouldn’t recommend swimming here as the current is strong and waves extravagant.



Margaret River itself is synonymous with award winning wines, world famous surfing breaks and luxury escapes. One of the main reasons to visit Margaret River is the wine. Most of Australia’s best wine comes from this area. Wineries here tend to be more of a casual affair as many of them are family owned. I chose a local winery tour ‘cheers’ which gave me a great taste for the region. I didn’t want to leave the friendly haven of Margaret River. Staying at Big Valley Campgrounds couldn’t have been any more enjoyable and laid back. I fed the pet lambs, walked the farm, ate, drank and met great people.

Wine improves with age, I improve with wine!

Hamelin Bay:

A short distance from Margaret River is Hamelin Bay. Clear blue water, sparkling white sand and an abundance of friendly wild stingrays. Where else can you swim with wild stingrays? In this protected are the rays have become so used to people they swim terrifyingly close to see if tourists have any fish to feed them.


Denmark:

Elephant Rocks and Green Pools are two of the prettiest beaches you will ever lay your eyes on. Park at Greens Pool and walk around to Elephant Rocks to enjoy the view. As it’s name suggests, Elephant Rocks looks exactly like a herd of elephants, paddling in the shallow waters situated in William Bay National Park. Elephant Cove is amazing to visit as it is not easily accessed, and many choose to stop at the lookout rather than venture down the stairs onto the beach.


Esperance:

It was a privilege to discover how incredibly beautiful and unique Esperance is, it has some of Australia’s whitest sand beaches. Esperance has been high on my bucket list for quite some time, I was blown away. For those that don’t know, Esperance is the gateway to Cape Le Grand National Park, home to Lucky Bay, the famous beach with kangaroo. It really was an incredible place to experience. The surrounding National Parks are scenic wonders. The isolated location means that it is never too busy. Forget the East Coast of Australia. This is where it’s happening!

• Cape Le Grand National Park

The town of Esperance is surrounded by epic stretches of beach, but the best of the scenery is to be found just a short drive along the coast within the Cape Le Grand National Park. The outdoor opportunities are endless with camping, fishing and hiking to name a few.

  •  Lucky Bay

Lucky Bay is one of the most impressive areas in Cape Le Grand National Park. This long, wide bay is fringed by a white beach and granite outcrops. A resident population of kangaroos have made their home on the beach.

  •  Frenchmans Peak

262 metres in height, however, it’s a domineering sight. Almost vertical in shape and a difficult hike at that. The grade 5 hike soon became a scramble over loose rocks and dodgy ledges to reach the summit. Not much scares me but my heart was in my mouth! A little pep talk from Conor and I swallowed my fears. The views from the peak were breathtaking.

  •  The Great Ocean Drive

Jump in the camper van and enjoy an epic journey around the Esperance coastline. Few famous drives can match this in terms of beauty and rawness.

  •  Lucky Bay Brewing

In need of a cool refreshing drink after all the sightseeing? Head to Lucky Bay Brewing, the locally famous brewing company. A small cosy microbrewery, that brew craft beers using locally sourced ingredients.


Hyden:


The final stop on our incredible road trip was Hyden, the closest town to Western Australia’s Wave Rock. This world-famous rock, a granite cliff, standing at 15 metres high and 110 metres long, is shaped like a huge wave.



Western Australia exceeded all my expectations and more. It’s simply a must do. Now it’s your turn to do the ultimate road trip of Western Australia …. drive on!

Uluru: To the Red Centre and back

Australia’s red centre is extremely inhospitable , yet intriguing. It is far from lifeless being home to humongous sandstone mountains, as well as unique rock formations. Many of which remain sacred sites for Aboriginals. While the Outback isn’t your classic weekend away, no cute B&B’s, a lack of boutique vineyards and artisan cheese shops. But what it does have is the slopes of Uluru, the sheer cliffs of Kata Tjuta and incredible skies for lush sunrise and sunset.

There she is in all her glory – Uluru

Prior to booking this trip I knew nothing about The Outback – Red Centre. Most backpackers tend to stick to the East Coast. A few of my friends told me about their plans to visit Ayers Rock and I jumped at the opportunity. Having booked our 4 day trip with Rock Tours we flew from Sydney to Uluru. Landing in the outback was an adventure in itself. Arriving in the desert with the red dirt, dried up plants and dusty air felt like we were landing on Mars.

Uluru:

After meeting our guide from Rock Tours and the rest of the crew our first stop was Uluru, the outback’s most obvious drawcard. Uluru, above ground is taller than the Eiffel Tower. Like an iceberg, two thirds of it sits below the surface. The best way to experience Uluru is the Mala walk around the base. During this walk we were made aware of the sites sacredness. It’s extremely disrespectful for individuals to climb Uluru. That being said, a chain was built to help guide hikers to the top!

Uluru is famous for its mesmerising sunrise and sunset. It’s a popular spot for eager tourists and enthusiastic photographers. We witnessed the sky change in colour from a radiant yellow to a deep purple, it was one of the most magical sunsets I’ve ever seen. As the sun went down we set off for our first nights accomodation. It consisted of a large patch of dirt sheltered by a man made kitchen. No beds, no tents, all we had was our sleeping bag and our swag. We set up our swags in a tight circle, conveniently warding off wild animals. Other members of the group sprinkled salt around their swags in an effort to poison curious spiders. Whatever you’re into I guess!! Luckily we had no encounters (that we know of) with any critters.

Our accomodation – Swags
The Southern Hemisphere is home to some of the most amazing views in the galaxy

A 4.30am wake up call to an amazing sky full of stars, incredible! We rose and packed our belongings (some quicker than others) and drove to Uluru’s sunrise viewing area for breakfast. It was still dark out and we all huddled together for warmth while waiting on the kettle to boil. Getting up early was definitely worth it, experiencing the most unspoilt sunrise from start to finish.

Uluru Sunrise
Hakuna Matata
Breakfast

Kata Tjuta, Valley of the winds:

We hit the road in spots as we travelled towards our next destination – Kata Tjuta National Park. Kata Tjuta (also known as The Olgas) is a massive group of domed rocks about 35km west of Uluru itself. Thirty-six huge boulders stand shoulder to shoulder, forming gorges and cut-off valleys, dotted with vegetation. This hike was beautiful through the valley of the winds. It took 3 hours to complete and was challenging at times, but the scenery was outstanding.

Valley of the winds

I’ve grown up camping but one thing I’d never done before was collect my own firewood from the side of the road. When our guide pulled over on the side of the road we thought we’d broken down. Were we having engine problems? Suddenly a file of criminal minds flashed before my eyes. Stuck in the middle of the outback with no mobile reception was the last thing we needed. Thankfully, our guide had just spotted the perfect area to collect firewood that would be our only source of warmth for the night ahead. I realised my firewood collecting skills were far from good enough to keep me alive if I ever found myself alone in the desert, although the experience was on for the books! After finally reaching Kings Creek Station we set up camp. A proper campsite, swags lined up around the fire pit. Dingo sightings were extremely common at this location. I’m not going to lie I was a little nervous to sleep, luckily with 6 nurses to accompany me we had Phenergan (a drowsy antihistamine) at the ready to help us slip into a deep sleep!

We made stir fry on the fire. All 20 of us had a role to play, whether it was cutting up the potatoes and carrots, digging holes and collecting embers to put the pots in. Once dinner was ready we all enjoyed it around the fire, sharing stories and drinking till our hearts content.

Kings Canyon:

For a lot of travellers the highlight of their outback adventure isn’t Uluru, it’s Kings Canyon. The scenic walk takes about 4 hours and traces the rim of the canyon before descending down into the Gardens of Eden. I’d seen pictures of the canyon before, but nothing prepared me for the epic beauty of nature quite like it. The hike began with a 500 step climb to the top of the rim by torch light. This is the most strenuous part, once at the top we were treated to stunning canyon views. Having completed our hike we began our journey to Alice Springs.

Kings canyon
In the zone!
The vast canyon

You’ve probably seen millions of photos, postcards and TV commercials of the outback, but it’s a place you truely have to see for yourself. Sleeping out under the stars in the middle of the Australian desert is something I recommend everyone to add to their bucket list.