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 da

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.

New Zealand: the ultimate travel bucket list.

New Zealand is without a doubt one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to with stunning landscapes, amazing food, delicious wine and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. New Zealand holds a very special place in my heart. It’s so exquisite they had to split the island in two! It has the perfect combination of beauty and adventure accompanied by an extremely laid back attitude, making it an ideal travel destination. New Zealand is a bucket list destination for many and with good reason.

1: Visit Queenstown.

Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. It has so many activities to jump into. Question is, how many can you fit into your time here? It’s home to the worlds first ever commercialised bungy jump and is the place to go for extreme sports and adrenaline inducing adventure! Put your life in the hands of a giant rubber band and work up the courage to jump off a bridge, go skydiving, jet boating, zip lining, horse riding… the options are endless. In winter there’s skiing on the slopes of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.

Hungry after all that adventuring? Don’t miss Fergburger, Queenstown’s famous burger joint. The queues are worth it. Experience Queenstown’s legendary nightlife. Cosy up next to a soaring fire for some apres ski or gear up and go bar hopping in central Queenstown. Below Zero ice bar, The World bar and restaurant, The Pig and Whistle, Cowboy bar – test your stickability skills on a bucking bull, Pog Mahones, or a favourite of mine Winnie’s – go for pizza, stay for a party! Winnie’s has a reputation as one of Queenstown’s most popular hang outs for locals and tourists alike. Watch as Winnie’s transforms into one of the busiest and best nightclubs with its amazing opening roof.

Putting my life in the hands of a giant rubber band
Some of the fabulous people I shared this experience with
My roomies and fellow wine drinkers

2:Hike the Tongariro Crossing

New Zealand is a hikers dream! There are countless epic walks with one of the most popular being the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It’s a 12 mile (6-8 hour) day hike that will lead you past a distinctive combination of volcanic landscapes and colourful crater lakes. Red crater is the highest point, believe me, the view is outstanding. The Emerald lake sparkles like a jewel reflecting the sun rays. Tongariro was made famous by its star appearance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The alpine volcanic scenery is the setting of Mordor, in which stands Mt Doom. For the entire trilogy Frodo and Sam are trying to get to Mt Doom in order to destroy the infamous ring. It is a point to point hike so a little effort is needed to arrange transport to either the start or the finish of the hike.

Emerald Lake

3: Kaikoura – swim with dolphins.

Immerse yourself in a world below the sea, an unforgettable experience in one of New Zealand’s most breathtaking destinations. The sound of the engine falls away and excitement builds before you dive right in. Joyful, social, dusky pods of dolphins, frolicking in their natural environment, something I’ll never forget, hundreds of dolphins, leaping, flipping and jumping.

Up close and personal

4: Franz Josef glacier heli hike.

I’d seen the photos and heard people rave about their experiences. Could it really live up to expectations. I later found out, one thousand times over, yes! Franz Josef heli hike sure is a recipe for excitement! Towering crevasses made of iridescent ice accompanied by glacial views, the scenery on the ice was just as impressive as the ones from the helicopter. While a trip to the glacier isn’t exactly budget friendly, it is a once in a lifetime experience and worth every penny. To see the blue ice up close is just incredible. Almost every shade of blue is reflected in this magnificent glacier. Peeking down moulins, wiggling through tunnels and even sliding into an ice cave or two.

Landing on Franz Josef Glacier

5: White Water Rafting in Rotorua.

White water rafting on the Kaituna river is one of the activities you should not miss when you visit Rotorua. Don’t let the crashing of the rapids or the water splashing scare you away. Grab your helmet, life jacket, paddle, buddies and hope you don’t come a cropper at the Okere Falls, the worlds highest commercially rafted waterfall at a 7 metre drop. It’s not every day you get the chance to raft down a class 5 rapid. After an extensive safety briefing you are set for off. The guide communicates the whole way through, explaining what to do before plunging through each rapid (our guide was very pleasing to the eye, we had no problem keeping a close eye on him and his instructions!). The guides allow you to rotate seats throughout, in order to get the most from the experience. Apart from having a major wedgie (bring shorts, or ask for a wet suit) it was an unbelievable adrenaline rush. Once you start there’s no turning back. We were completely vertical cascading down the waterfall. The raft went under and we were submerged completely. Within seconds we sprang back up to the surface, all turning to make sure we were in the raft. Josh, where’s Josh… yes he had come a cropper. It was scary (even more so for Josh) but the guides got him back in safe and sound.

Where’s Beth gone!

6: Explore New Zealand by Campervan.

I had the pleasure of spending time with my sister and her partner on the road in their campervan. It is without a doubt the best way to see New Zealand. Open your door to sunrise in the morning, explore hidden gems and have the adventure of a lifetime.

Travelling in New Zealand you will see an abundance of tourists exploring the countryside in campervans. It’s makes for an affordable way to travel offering the freedom to go off the beaten track and take in the sights at your own pace. Driving in New Zealand is effortless with minimal traffic and quiet roads. What’s great about New Zealand is the amount of campsites on offer. The best way to find campgrounds is to download a New Zealand campground app, the most popular being Campermate. It shows all campgrounds, from free camping to holiday parks. They include reviews which is extremely helpful. It even has a feature where you can search the map for the nearest public toilet (this came in handy as I’ve a bladder the size of a pea).

A basic campervan will do perfectly as most campsites have everything you need from communal kitchens to showers, toilets and laundry facilities. Packing for a campervan is quite different than what you’d bring on any other trip. Space is limited, less is more, each square inch counts. Keep it casual, New Zealand is very laid back, no fancy clothes needed here! Pack layers and a rain jacket, you may encounter snow, rain and humid sunshine all in the same day. With epic landscapes, good roads and unspoiled wilderness, New Zealand is the perfect place for a campervan adventure.

Wanderly wagon

7: Glow worms, Waitomo Caves.

The Waitomo caves, known as one of New Zealand’s best natural attractions is home to thousands of Glowworms. It’s by far one of the most popular attractions. The Glowworm is unique to New Zealand, making the Waitomo caves an absolute must do. See thousands of these teeny tiny creatures as they radiate luminescent light into a subterranean world. If you can – splurge on a black water rafting trip through the caves.

8: Go on a Milford Sound Cruise.

The Fiordland National Park is one of the most breathtaking natural attractions of New Zealand. One of the best ways to see it is by boat. It is a fusion of spectacular features with amazing cues around every corner. This World Heritage destination is a world renowned natural wonder with cascading waterfalls, towering peaks and crystal clear water. Keep your eyes peeled as the fiord is home to fur seals, penguins and dolphins.

9: Book a day trip to Hobbiton.

No trip to New Zealand would be complete without a trip to Hobbiton, the movie set where The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy were filmed. Located just outside Matamata in a picturesque private farmland you can visit Hobbiton for your own middle earth adventure. Go inside the hobbit homes and enjoy a pale ale at the Green Dragon Pub.

10: Explore Arrowtown.

Arrowtown, a historic gold mining town between Wanaka and Queenstown . The main thing that struck me about Arrowtown was its quaint nature. The Main Street a mere 200 metres long couldn’t be further from the bustling, over crowded tourist metropolis that Queenstown has become. Most of Arrowtown’s nicest old buildings are located on Buckingham street, the old towns Main Street, which is extremely cute and photogenic. My favourite being St Paul’s Anglican Church on Church street. Arrowtown is renowned for its spectacular Queenstown trail. Hop on a bike and ride past mountains, lakes and rivers. Cross the 80 metre suspension bridge and take in the open farmland and stunning views. Be sure to stick to the tracks and avoid the mortifying ambulance trip back to Queenstown!

Whether you’re swooning over the lakes, zig zagging along Arrow river, white water rafting in Rotorua or searching for Bilbo Baggins at Hobbiton, touring New Zealand will guarantee adventure by the bucketload. I can’t wait to return.

Canggu, Bali: A trip to remember

Bali is without a doubt the most magnificent place I’ve had the privilege of visiting. A never ending adventure into a paradise of fitness, surfing and amazing food. It offers everything from idyllic beaches, terraced rice paddies, exotic sunsets, upbeat energy and the beginning of life long friendships.

After a winter of working towards improving our fitness levels we decided to treat ourselves to an Ultimate Fitness holiday, to sweat, explore and relax in one of the worlds most epic destinations. Having spent two amazing weeks at Ultimate Fitness Thailand last year we thought we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Oh how wrong we were! Ultimate Fitness Bali itself did not live up to our expectations. The classes were small and lacked lustre. The trainers while helpful and enthusiastic lacked expertise, drive and passion. What the camp failed to meet in training definitely made up for with its amazing characters we had the privilege to holiday with. There were people from every walk of life sharing one common denominator – the love of fitness. Training, living and socialising with one another for two weeks meant that we had formed a very tight bond and got to know each other extremely well.

Our package included membership to Crossfit Wanderlust for the two weeks. We had followed them on Instagram for quite some time and were becoming increasingly excited to train with them. After day one we were in awe! One of the main reasons Wanderlust is so effective is the proven fitness techniques they employ. Training is scaled for each individual, catering for all levels of fitness and knowledge. The coaches are unbelievable, extremely fun, knowledgeable, outgoing and supportive. Hands down the people are what made Wanderlust so insane. Expats, travellers, big hotshot crossfitters, locals and visitors. Due to the size of the classes most workouts required a partner which only added to our experience, always engaging with new people. Being one of the largest and best equipped training facilities on the island they offer a huge variety of classes from gymnastics to Olympic Weight Lifting, to Body 360, Metcon and CrossFit. We are now most definitely Crossfit converts!

Certain areas of Bali have been hugely influenced by tourism leading to vegan eateries, hip beach bars and cute cafes. Canggu is now the place to be, it’s one of the most up and coming areas due to its boho vibe and surfer culture. Spanning from north of Seminyak to south of Tanah Lot it has so much to offer. A hot spot for travellers as well as digital nomads seeking refuge close to the beach! Canggu is rugged in the most beautiful way possible. It’s surrounded by unpaved roads, one being the shortcut (google it). It is charming, characteristic and charismatic, composed of green rice fields for as far as the eye can see, filled with markets and friendly Balinease locals.

While Bali is tropical with high temperatures all year round the best time to visit is during dry season, May to October. Humidity levels are lower and rain is unheard of. That being said it’s the most popular time to go resulting in more expensive flights and it tends to be quite busy.

We chose the Deluxe Package on offer with Ultimate Fitness Bali, our accomodation, breakfast and lunch were included. This meant we didn’t have to worry about looking for places to stay. Speaking to other travellers we were informed that the main part of town is extremely popular, hostels, guest houses and hotels along Batu Balong. From here you are within walking distance of the best cafes, restaurants, shops and the beach.

Thing to do in Canggu

Rent a scooter:

Traffic in Bali is horrendous and is extremely wasteful of precious holiday time. Driving a scooter in Bali is chaotic and aggressive so it will take some time to get used to. That being said it is ‘the Bali way’ and very cheap at that. We rented a scooter for 10 days, the best decision we ever made. We explored somewhere different every day without having to sit in traffic or wait on Uber’s. It cost 50 IDR per day. A full tank of petrol lasted a week and cost 200 IDR. I can’t stress enough how important it is to wear a helmet. The amount of accidents is unreal. If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself you can use the GOJEK app for an uber on the back of a motorcycle. This is also used to order food online, a very handy app to have.

Surfing:

Canggu is one of the most popular places for surfing in Bali. Batu Balong is a great spot for beginners. Echo Beach would be considered the main spot where famous surfers are known to be spotted regularly. Old Man’s, named after a nearby bar is a popular spot recommended for fans of longboards or mid level to experienced surfers. Boards can be rented on most beaches for 50 IDR for two hours, surf lessons can also be provided on request.

Horse riding on Canggu Beach:

Dare to jump on horse back and explore the rice paddies or gallop along the horizon of sunset. Bali Equestrian Centre is renowned for their experienced trainers and well kept horses. While we didn’t have time to explore this opportunity, friends of ours could not have spoken highly enough about their experience.

Get lost in the markets/boutiques:

Love Anchor is a small popular market in the heart of Canggu. It sells everything from clothing to homeware. Old Man’s hosts a market which is on the last Saturday of every month from 8am-3pm. Canggu is filled with beautiful boutiques. If you are travelling on a budget DO NOT ENTER! The clothes are fabulous but tend to be on the pricier side.

Book a spa treatment:

No visit to Bali is complete without immersing yourself in the world famous Balinease massages. The very best and most popular amongst the fitness fanatics is AMO spa. An intricate affair of pleasure, relaxation and pain all combined! All massages are carried out in private rooms, you pick the sex of your therapist, the preferred pressure and the scent of your oil. Other facilities include ice baths, saunas, steam rooms, beauty therapy and hairdressing. It was the equivalent of 50 dollars for 2 people.

Visit Tanah Lot Temple:

Tanah Lot Temple is a popular landmark for tourists. You definitely won’t escape the crowds here. Often referred to as the temple of the water, this ancient Hindu shrine is perched on a rocky base in the middle of constant crashing waves. A mere 20 minute scooter ride from Canggu and most popular at sunset with many tour buses arriving for their final stop of the day. It’s important to note that you cannot access the temple grounds, the locals lead you to believe you can. However, the views are simply amazing. Like everywhere else there is also a tourist village with stalls selling souvenirs and clothing.

Chase sunset:

Catching a beautiful sunset in Canggu is essential. There are numerous spots to do so. Old Man’s – Batu Balong Beach is one of the most popular destinations. You can purchase everything from fresh coconuts to beer or corn on the cob. Echo Beach, the Shack was a favourite of ours, immersed amongst the locals spotting sight of surfers riding their last wave of the day.

Hit the Beach Clubs

Finns Beach Club:

A huge club on Berawa Beach. We found this place to be slightly pretentious boasting 6 bars, 2 swimming pools, a restaurant and spa. The rental fee for a day bed starts at 500 IDR. There are different parties on each week including international DJ’s.

The Lawn:

The Lawn is by far our favourite beach club. It has a chilled boho vibe. It is a day to night venue with a relaxed atmosphere and delicious food.

Potatoe Head Beach Club:

Potatoe Head Beach Club located in Seminyak is a must visit place, the ambience, the music and food in totality is not to be missed. Ensure you book a bed in advance, it’s extremely busy with up to a two hour waiting time.

La Brisa:

La Brisa, a bar and beach club on Canggu’s Echo Beach offers beachfront cocktails and shabby tropical vibes. It’s a popular sunset hotspot and is home to breathtaking decor.

Climb Mount Batur

As far as wake up calls go, trekking Mt Batur at sunrise was 100% worth it. In fact it was one of the highlights of the trip. After doing our research Dee a friend of ours booked the tour. In the early hours between 2 and 3 am we were picked up from our accomodation and taken to the foot of the volcano. We met our tour guides, were equipped with flashlights and began our ascent.

A rocky path to summit a 1717m high volcano. A relatively easy climb starting at 1000m hiking throughout the night. There are several paths up and dozens of companies offering organised tours and private hikes with experienced guides. This is, after all, one of the most popular activities to do in Bali. While Bali is associated with tropical temperatures this is not the case on top of Mt Batur. It’s freezing cold! Be sure to bring something warm to wear. Above the clouds the sky is still dark, then the emerging show of colours began. In fascination we all watched on while the sun began to slowly rise – an array of shades that only nature could display. It was breathtaking.

The sun had risen, the flashlights were off and breakfast had began. The guides boiled eggs from the steam of the volcano and provided bread and banana sandwiches. Dirt bike taxis are on hand for a hefty fee for those who struggle to complete the summit. The descent began, we passed some wild monkeys raring for a photo opportunity. Beware they will steel your belongings and drink your water! The way down is not as easy as you would think. Don’t let the locals fool you – they run up and down in flip flops.

The entire experience was nothing short of magical, worth every step of the way.

Take a day trip to Ubud

Ubud Bali’s inland jungle is extremely popular with tourists and for good reason, an abundance of culture immersed with friendly locals.

We managed to see Ubud in one full day trip from Canggu. It’s also possible to do from Seminyak and Uluwatu. Many tourists spend a few days here, however, I’d recommend 2 days maximum as it’s very highly populated. The easiest way to see Ubud for a day is with a private driver. We hired Maddie through @Puturv.bali on Instagram. Anyone planning a trip to Bali needs to get in contact with him. We learnt so much about the culture and nature of Bali. You can hire a driver for a particular tour or you can dictate where they take you. Have a plan and be assertive. Leave early to avoid traffic. We were picked up at 6am and our first port of call was the Tegallalang Rice Terrace as it becomes quite unbearable later on in the day. We had the whole rice paddies to ourselves. Having a driver meant that we did not have to contribute to the forced donations every few metres while moving from terrace to terrace.

Next to the paddies was bursting with markets – be willing to haggle. Its full of boho homewares, infamous straw bags, spices, clothing and fresh fruit. Haggling can be tough, be polite, yet firm. A rule of thumb is to never pay more than half of the original asking price. However, this is much easier said than done!

Satria Agrowisata Coffee Plantation was a short journey away. Home of Luwak coffee, one of the worlds most expensive and low production variety of coffee. It’s made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Luwak (a small tree climbing animal) and then passed through the digestive tract, infused and defacated by enzymes before being pooped out. After ‘poo hunters’ gather this dung they are thoroughly washed, dried, lightly roasted and brewed. To be honest it didn’t taste half bad – cat poo chino! After learning about the production we had a chance to sample numerous blends of coffee and tea. A guided walk around the lush jungle setting led us to the Bali swing.

The Bali swing is popping up on everyone’s Instagram feed lately. It’s more than just a swing, it’s a playground for adults. We were presented with safety waivers and taken towards the swing. Everything is taken care of in a very professional, yet fun manner, you are well secured by a harness and waist strap. The view from the swing is phenomenal.

Instagram literally runs the show when it comes to the infamous Bali swing, nests and bamboo look outs. You can spend as long as you like within the grounds taking photos. Come the end of this experience we never wanted to take another photo again. The employees and tour guides photographing every moment , directing us to within an inch of every photo! The green forestry is stunning and it’s a surreal feeling to be swinging above the trees.

Another awesome place to visit near the swing is the Bali Monkey Forest. A sacred forest of Hindu temples and tranquil rivers where you can meet and feed free roaming Balinease monkeys. Home to 700 monkeys, this forest is visited by over 10,000 tourists a month. The entrance fee is 80 IDR. The monkeys are used to people roaming through day in and day out, however, it’s no secret that people have been bitten. Just remember to be careful and take precautions.

-Don’t look the monkeys in the eyes, it’s seen as a sign of aggression.

-Don’t touch the monkeys, if they climb on you, remain calm and enjoy the experience.

-Do not torment the monkeys, they will bite you.

-No visible belongings, don’t wear your sunglasses or jewellery. Keep your bag closed. They will steel your things.

The monkeys are cheeky little divils. Do as the grounds keepers ask. Keep your distance.

Tukad Cepung Waterfall is unbelievably unique, a must see. It’s becoming a hotspot amongst tourists. The walk to the waterfall took 15 minutes, steps down to the river, some ducking and diving through rocky areas before wading through a knee high river. After years of erosion the waterfall cresses over a wall into a beautiful canyon. If you’re lucky enough to be chasing waterfalls on a sunny day then you’re in for a treat. The rays of light that shrine through are breathtaking.

Where to eat in Canggu

Bali cuisine alone makes the visit worthwhile. The options are plentiful. A few of our favourites:

Milk and Madu – A local outdoor cafe especially popular for brunch. Famous for their stone bake pizzas. We celebrated a friends birthday here and they could not have been more accommodating.

Crate Cafe – Every time we tried to eat at crate cafe the queue was never ending. On our last day we endured the wait which was well worth it. A quirky space located just off Batu Balong. No printed menu, just whatever is printed on the board that day. Huge smoothies and all day breakfast, what more could you ask for.

Betelnut Cafe – An open air rice field view with rustic interior. The feeding ground of Canggu. Salads and wraps to die for.

Motion Cafe – Healthy vegan and paleo menu filled with fitspo bloggers, no wonder with their high protein menu and customised meal plans.

Nude Cafe – Healthy body, healthy mind is mirrored on their menu as well as their mantra on the wall: ‘Everything is better nude’. A variety of gluten free, vegan and vegetarian dishes.

Bali is known for its expansive forests, monkey friends and volcanic mountains, iconic rice terraces and beautiful beaches. It’s an amazing destination to get fit, workout, wind down, relax, explore and focus on your wellness while having the time of your life. It caters for everyone from beach bums to highly active individuals.

If you haven’t been to Bali… GO!

Pure Gold: Surfers Paradise

Surfers paradise gained its popular name because of it’s never ending coastline, white sandy beaches and amazing crystal clear blue water. From tourist hotspots to tight lipped local secrets, there’s more than one way to get the most from the Gold Coast. Epic eats, a thriving night life and a sick salty surf.

The Gold Coast undoubtedly boasts some of the best beaches in the world, outstanding theme parks and is flush with high rise buildings. While tourist attractions are certainly appealing, the real Gold Coast can only be discovered by meeting its locals and getting onto, into or at least near the water!

How we got there:

Flights from Sydney to the Gold Coast are getting relatively cheaper. The key to finding cheap flights is being flexible with your dates and the actual time of day you fly. While booking flights I made sure to avoid peak holiday periods. Choosing to travel during shoulder season will also be sure to save you a pretty penny. I’d normally find suitable flights on Skyscanner and then book directly through the airline. Flying with budget airlines such as Jetstar and Tigerair we encountered no problems, however, it was an extremely short flight. Conor and I both slept on each flight so we’re probably not the best judge of character!

After arriving at the tiny airport we decided the easiest route to our accomodation was via Skybus. It provided plenty of entertainment with an outgoing bus driver dropping each of us off at our designated accomodation. It took around 45 minutes.

Where to stay:

The main reason we decided on surfers Paradise was to enjoy some sun, fun and relaxation in a location neither of us had been to before the arrival of winter in Sydney. Vibe hotel, found on booking.com was centrally located bringing ease of access to all corners of paradise. It’s outdoor pool, overlooking the river provided an astonishing backdrop for mind boggling sunsets. The staff were friendly and helpful, giving us tips on must go to bars and events taking place. We bumped into Kevin, a friend from home who was also staying there the very same weekend, great minds think alike eh!

Things to do:

The Gold Coast is Australia’s number one holiday destination with endless things to do. Surfers paradise has always been known for its night life. To be completely honest, it is pumping, but we expected it to be more of an Ibiza, Magaluf vibe, which it was not.

Hire a bike, pound the pavement (I did). We cycled the Gold Coast Oceanway experiencing the broad network of pathways along the coast, ranging up to 4km long. It’s extremely popular with runners, walkers, cyclists and tourists. Take in the magnificent coastal views, take a dip in the many beaches along the way. Take care not to cycle over or into any drains along the road. Your bicycle WILL get stuck and you WILL go head over heals. It happened to me… not a pretty sight, even if conor did get a great laugh out of it!

Hit the Gold Coast beaches, I know, pretty obvious, but you can’t beat a good beach day. Why not hit up one of the beaches along the 57kms of pristine coastline. The beaches happen to be home to some of the worlds most famous surf breaks. Our favourite beach by far was Broadbeach- towards the northern end of the coast. A long, clean stretch of beach, bordered by grassland. Buzzing with surfers, paddle boarding, kite surfers and weekend markets. Perfect for people watching!

Experience the Gold Coast festivals and events. There are several free events and festivals held throughout the year celebrating music, art and sports. While we were there they were rigorously setting up for the Quicksilver pro surfing event. A chance to watch the worlds best male and female surfers battle it out at one of the worlds best surfing spots. Even the lead up to the event housed an energetic, vibrant atmosphere. If only we had visited a week later.

With an early rise we started our first day off in the best possible way by watching the sunrise over the ocean on Mainbeach. Throw in the surfers doing their thing in the morning swell and you’ll be mesmerised just like we were. All you need then is a coffee and you are ready for the day ahead. Vibe hotel was a great spot for sunset drinks as we watched the sky light up in the distance behind Surfers Paradise skyline.

Ride jet skis, get your thrill on a jet boat, spot migrating humpbacks, go dolphin spotting, explore the waterways on a fun aquaduck safari, take a river cruise or take a paddle board or surfing lesson. Conor and I went on a jet ski safari, hiring our own jet skis as part of a group tour to explore the wild blue ocean and the hidden islands of surfers. It was a windy, wet morning, which only added to the experience. Big hairpin bends, peddle to the metal, full throttle ahead. Our guide Geoff was great, a true Aussie. We had a half hour safety brief (a little over the top if you ask me) but safety first and all that, before spending over an hour on the water. We had numb bums by the end!

Having been told about the spectacular 360 views on offer in Surfers we hopped in a helicopter to take full advantage. It was amazing, breathtaking views of the coastline. It was just far too short. Another way to take advantage of the mind blowing views would be to rise 77 stories up to the Skydeck observation deck atop the Q1. Grab a cocktail from the bar and feast your eyes on vistas from Byron Bay, across the mountains and up to sea. The extra brave can get harnessed up to climb even higher on an adventure to the Crow’s nest. See if you can spot any whales while you’re up there.

Who doesn’t love a peak in the shops while exploring somewhere new? Cavill mall is steeped with attractions to add to the checklist. The interactive infinity attraction will bend your mind with illusion based special effects. Simulated skydiving at iFly is extremely popular so I hear. A possibility for a rainy day! On a hot sunny day markets are more appealing in my opinion. Check out Surfers Paradise beach front markets at mainbeach. It’s home to over 100 stalls and runs every Wednesday from 3-8pm.

Where to eat/drink:

After all that exploring you’ll be ready for a decent feed. We headed to Loose Moose in Broadbeach for an American style feast. We started off with loaded fries, then filled up on their incredible burger and steak before washing it all down with their specialty drinks, whisky, craft beer and gin. Loose Moose is busy, loud, it’s happening, there’s so much going on in one small location, making it extremely buzzy and unique. We missed out on tickets for Dracula’s Caberet, it’s extremely popular and we were not at all organised. A highly sought after comedy dinner theatre with a dark, gothic theme. The Island hotel and rooftop bar is popular amongst the locals. You can sit back under the stars with a cocktail in hand. The house of Brew’s is where it’s at for beer, whiskey and rock n roll if that’s what takes your fancy.

Go on, book your trip! Whether the beach calls your name or you’re after adventure, the Gold Coast awaits.

88 days a slave/88 days of new experiences: you choose!

Yes, you’ve got it in one, Australia has surpassed all my expectations; idyllic, adventurous, and beautiful, with a lifestyle like no other. This is the very reason why so many expats will do anything to elongate their stay in this wonderful country. In order to stay in Australia there are numerous pathways to choose from. The most popular being regional farm work. Most of us try our hand at farm work in return for getting that highly sought after second year working holiday visa. In order to be granted a second year in this wonderful country you need to complete 88 days or three consecutive months of specified regional work. This work falls under many categories;

Construction

Mining

Fishing and Pearling

Felling trees

Plant and animal cultivation

Often backpackers choose farm work, horticulture work and fruit picking. Working your butt off day in and day out is relentless, hard work and sometimes monotonous, however, its another new experience, another chink to add to the chain. Yes, ok, we’ve all heard the horror stories, dodgy farmers, crazy co workers, unliveable conditions and unsigned paperwork. That said there are so many ways in which you can make sure your second year regional work placement is one to remember. ’88 days a slave’, a backpacker term loosely associated with 88 days farm work required to obtain the second year visa. Find yourself a good reliable farm and your experience will be the complete polar opposite – 88 days of new experiences.

In May 2018 I left home in Ireland to return to New South Whales, Australia, in order to commence my days of slavery! Luckily I had a friend working on the same farm as I was extremely homesick and lonely. This, however, was short lived. After time I bonded with the family as if they were my own. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel so welcome. They’ve given me so many new experiences, memories and a unique farming opportunity. Despite the harsh drought conditions (not ideal for a crop farm) Trevor’s passion for farming oozed out and began to seep into my subconscious. I became interested in learning everything there was to know about crop production and livestock. This was completely different to what I had expected. Truthfully, I’d imagined I’d be counting down the hours every day, heading to bed dreading the wake up call the next morning. This was not the case at all, I was greeted by a loving farmer, his wife and other backpackers. The work was varied between tractor work, clearing land, servicing machinery and cattle work. Each day presented itself with something new. I shared a cosy two bedroom house with a fitness fanatic (jokes aside, Molly kept me motivated)and soon after a German girl Lisa was added to our group of farmers!

By no means was the work easy. We worked long 8/9 hour days, 5/6 days a week. Although, as far as bosses go we did have it pretty cushy. Trevor gave us breaks when needed, we never missed morning tea and we were provided with bottomless coffee.. the good stuff!

For someone who wasn’t an avid coffee drinker I began to enjoy it very quickly. Lisa (Trevor’s wife) provided us with the best sand cake and conversation in town. She also gladly allowed us to dip into her extensive wardrobe for different occasions such as the races. One life long lesson I learnt on the farm is that nothing ever goes to plan, working on a farm machinery will break, tyres will get punctured and accidents will happen. That’s just the way it is. When we weren’t out on the tractors or down the back with the cattle we were in Dubbo having a girly day, enjoying a family dinner by a bonfire, or at another social gathering in the town. During my 88 days on the farm I celebrated three birthdays, one being my own, all of which were very special.

Don’t leave it until the last minute:

For the love of all things Australian, do not leave organising your farm work until the last minute like me. People I’d met had told me time and time again to get organised early but I did not listen. After arriving home in Ireland for my cousins wedding in April I was cutting it very tight in terms of having enough days to complete 88 days regional work. I was extremely lucky to have a friend working on a farm looking to employ more backpackers. I set off back to Australia with a mere 88 days to complete the work and get signed off. Mind you, your 88 days work don’t have to be completed in one continuous block. I’ve known people to spread them out over the course of their first year. While this can result in more freedom over exactly where you want to work it turns into a very lengthy process. If like me you’ve left it until last minute you are most likely wanting to finish your 88 days as soon as possible. If you work a full working week (40 hours or more) many employers will sign you off as working 7 days a week. This varies however, every employer is different.

It’s not particularly hard to find work for backpackers, it just depends on the time of year as jobs are in high demand. The earlier you start looking the better. The worst thing would be to run out of time and end up somewhere you don’t want to be. If you know you want to stay in Australia don’t delay. There are numerous ways of finding farm work. Online facebook groups, gumtree, working hostels and word of mouth. Word of mouth is your strongest weapon when it comes to searching for farm work, talk to people! Get others recommendations, the good, the bad and the ugly. Backpackers by nature all do the same things, take similar routes and form cycles. Communicate with others, decide what you want from farm work, a boozy, tough graft, fruit picking filled three months or a laid back, family style farm or installation of windmills, you name it and you will be able to find it. For many jobs you do have to be relatively flexible, you may need to up and go as soon as you are offered a position.

Experience a different side of Australia:

For me, in terms of choosing where to do farm work was pretty easy. I knew I didn’t want to pick fruit and stay in a working hostel partying the months away, finishing up with no money to my name. I wanted my regional to be something I’d never done before, giving me the chance to learn and experience different things while meeting new people along the way. Everyone’s experience of farm work is completely different. Completing my 88 days farm work was one of the best and worst times of my life! You laugh until your belly hurts, you cry until snot comes dribbling out your nose and then you laugh twice as hard looking back at the times you cried – it’s a whirlwind of emotions. At the end of it all you realise a strength and determination you never knew you had.

Meeting new people:

One of the best things about farm work are the people you meet, you spend so much time together, you become part of one big family. I met some absolute characters. If everyone could have the experience I had they’d be whistling dixie! My favourite days on the farm were the trips to check cattle on the sister farm a few hours away. We would stop for a coffee in the local town and catch up with other farmers and individuals in the community. I’ll never forget one of my first days herding the cattle. I spent more time off the motorbike than on it! If this were to happen at home I surely would have gotten an ear full. Working outside, most employers prefer starting early during the coldest hours of the day. You’ll learn to love seeing the sunrises. On my farm each backpacker had use of a ute to travel to work and town when needed. The farm, land and accomadation surroundings were just sensational. Miles of nothing but land and wildlife. Wild kangaroos, Emus, pigs, crazy insects, surreal star gazing, topped off with sensational sunrise and sunsets. It was hard not to enjoy the outback lifestyle..

Try something new:

Make the most of having a routine on farm work. I used my spare time to work out and get fit for the Melbourne marathon, I started writing as a hobby and began listening to educational podcasts and audiobooks. It’s an experience full of lessons, memories, new skills, fun and tough auld graft.

Save, save, save:

As the majority of farms are located in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest big city and its drinking establishments, you’re likely to save a substantial amount of money that can possibly fund the next leg of your trip. Plus, the crowning glory, a shiny second year visa which will allow you to keep living the dream and keep real life at bay for at least another year.

Play by the rules:

Don’t try and cheat the system. It’s extremely easy to be tempted to use a friends ABN number, I know. Some jammy gits actually get away with it, while others don’t, making things more difficult in the long run. The majority of online ads claiming to provide the documentation are scams and the visa granting authorities are quick to catch on. If they discover that you’ve tried to get your second year visa by illegal means, they will have you on a flight home before you can even mutter the word ‘investigation’.

Farm work is exactly what you make it. Enjoy every moment.