Viewing entries in
Escapes

10 things to know about snow holidays in Australia

Comment

10 things to know about snow holidays in Australia

Snow holidays and Australia wouldn’t be two things that come to one’s mind, yet it’s becoming more and more popular! Although if you live in Australia, you’d probably head up to New Zealand or Japan for incredible snow - Australia also delivers when it comes to snow holidays. 

I recently went back to Thredbo for a long weekend and really felt like I reconnected a little bit with the mountain spirit. I quite miss it being previously used to go every year when I was in France. However, I’ve decided that I really want to keep trying to go every year now and really practice my snowboarding and exploring new mountainscapes. 

slopes.jpg

And I think you should too! There’s nothing like thinking you are in Australia and that you are in the snow. It’s quite unusual, fun and a good story! 

So here are 10 things you need to know about snow holidays in Australia and why you should totally go for it! 

1. Yes, it is possible!  

OK, this is obvious but I would never have thought five years ago that I would be able to ski or snowboard in Australia. Most people here haven’t experienced the snow at all and actually many don’t know there are mountains and ski fields in Australia. 

Yet, with a bit of knowledge, a bit of money and willing it’s definitely possible to go experience the snow in Australia & extremely fun!

If you'd like to read my detailed article about skiing in Thredbo, I also wrote one here from 2015! 

ski.jpg

2. It can be very very expensive  

So let’s be upfront: snow holidays in Australia are VERY expensive. Like so expensive, you’d really think twice if you should really go… Which kind of crushes my heart every single time I’m looking up to go. 

BUT don’t despair! If you really plan in advance, you can find good deals on various websites and around the shoulder season too. You also have the option of not staying in the village like Thredbo, but staying in Jindabyne (about 40 minutes away) and paying less for accommodation. But definitely take into account the lift passes, rental, accommodation and food which can be up to a 1000 dollars per person for just 2 to 4 days. 

Thredbo.jpg

3. It’s perfect for beginners and good for intermediate but don’t expect crazy conditions  

Beginners, rejoice! Learning how to ski or snowboard in Australia is really good and not too difficult. The slopes aren’t that hard, the instructors are really really nice and helpful, and it can be crowded but not so much that you can’t learn at all. 

I particularly found that snowboarding is really good in Thredbo to learn as the slopes are wide and the instructors I had were really awesome and helpful. I think I did more progress in 2 days of snowboarding than 3 years of it when I was a teen! 

37974595_10155712897808181_3249218410977951744_o.jpg

4. The season runs from early July till mid to late September  

Obviously but for visitors from the Northern Hemisphere, it can be a little nerve-racking to understand the different seasons! First time I went to Thredbo, I never thought in my life I’d be skiing at the end of July - being a typical summer month for me! 

Another point to remember, the season is quite short. It shouldn’t snow before July and you’d have to be lucky to still have snow end of September. Yet the conditions can be really amazing in a good year!

5. There are 16 ski resorts in Australia   

According to Travel Weekly, the top 5 is: 

  • Thredbo, NSW (That’s the only one I went to and really enjoyed it both times)
  • Perisher, NSW
  • Falls Creek, Victoria
  • Mount Hotham, Victoria
  • Mount Buller, Victoria 

If you’d like to see the full list of ski resorts and areas from the Australian Capital Territory to Tasmania, check the Wikipedia page here. Funny how Corin Forest in ACT has only one lift! 

IMG_3535-2.jpg

6. The après ski can be super fun too! 

It doesn’t compare to the French Alps but there are a few things to do - you’ll find the good old Aussie cafe, fun bars and more activities to try if you’re willing to spend a bit more. But to be honest, there’s nothing better than also chilling at your accommodation after a day on the slopes. 

2.jpg

7. The closest to Sydney is Thredbo with a 5 to 6-hour drive  

If you are currently living in Sydney, Thredbo is probably your closest and best bet to get some snow time. But if you feel like something different, Perisher is about and Charlottes Pass is about. 

Otherwise, you can always fly to Melbourne and drive to the Victorian ski resorts too! 

IMG_3492-2.jpg

8. The snow can be good but don’t expect crazy powder 

Following the years, the seasons can be very good in Australia compared to New Zealand but it can also be the other ways. You can expect some decent snow and the snow guns are usually pretty good too. 

However, don’t expect insane amounts of powder like you would in Japan or maybe Europe if you’re lucky! The snow can also get quite slushy towards the end of the day and the villages aren’t always covered in snow like they would in other places in the world. 

Just don’t set your expectations too high and you will be sweet. 

IMG_3460-2.jpg

9. You might want to try NZ at some point too...  

It’s great to experience the Australian snow but if you are an avid skier or snowboard and want to get more bang for your bucks, you’ll probably want to look over the Tasman to New Zealand! New Zealand is supposed to have amazing ski resorts and also a really cool atmosphere that brings you back a bit more like in Europe. 

If you feel even more adventurous, there’s always Japan that’s just a 10-hour plane away. 

10. You’ll probably never get as cold as in The Alps or Japan! 

That can be a good and bad thing. It’s good because it means you’ll never need that many layers or extra-thick socks or your toes might fall! So you can enjoy mild conditions without feeling frozen. However, it can still get cold so don’t underestimate it! 

37953445_10155712897768181_1739232992036913152_o.jpg

Just go already!  

Still thinking about it? Just start researching, plan a 3-day trip and enjoy! It may be a bit of money but there’s nothing like knowing you’ve skied or snowboard in Australia. It’s a truly unique experience which I’m sure you’ll want to do again! 

Have you been skiing or snowboarding in Australia before? Let me know! 
 

Comment

5 long weekend road trips from Sydney to take up this winter

Comment

5 long weekend road trips from Sydney to take up this winter

Winter time in Sydney doesn’t mean the exploration stops! Although it can be a little cold in Sydney, we’re lucky to enjoy many sunny weekends and at the best hour of the day, some warmer temperatures!

So rather than spending hours on the couch watching Netflix, get yourself out there and plan that winter escape! Believe me, a couple of escapes and you’ll barely notice winter was here (or not) and it will be summer before you know it!

Here are some of my top winter escapes from Sydney!

 Photograph by  Darcie C Photography

1. Drive up to Palm Beach

From Sydney by car:  about 45 minutes
From Sydney Central by bus: about 2 hours

Lovely by any weather, hitting up Palm Beach on Sunday afternoon is the perfect winter escape right on the doorstep of Sydney. My favourites? Lunch at The Boat House and then hike up the lighthouse. Plus, the drive up and back is really scenic. Stop at Whale Beach for a little extra beach time.

DSCF9329.jpg

2. Go South and avoid the crowds

The drive south is as stunning and as it does get busy in summer, especially in Jervis Bay, going in Winter and beating the crowds is actually much better! Favourite stops for me? Wollongong and Hyams Beach.

Sydney to Wollongong by car: 1h15 minutes
Sydney to Wollongong by train: about 2 hours

You’ll need a car to go to Hyams Beach!

 Winter road trips are fun - thanks to  Honda Australia  for lending us a car! 

Winter road trips are fun - thanks to Honda Australia for lending us a car! 

IMG_2448-Edit.jpg

3. Go further South and discover the beautiful Shoalhaven region

I’ve discovered this part of New South Wales only recently during Summer but also for a surf trip during Winter.  Guess what? It was rainy and cold in Summer and yes it was cold in Winter but still really fun and beautiful. My favourites? Mollymook beach, Green Island and its beach, Ulladulla and Milton. But I’ve yet to discover so many more places there.

There’s actually the 100 beaches challenge in Shoalhaven which sounds pretty fun and a good way to discover the region too!

IMG_5914.jpg
P1010202.jpg

4. Go feel the winter charm and go to the Blue Mountains

Now yes, it might be a bit contradictory to get into colder territories but there’s something very special about visiting the Blue Mountains in winter. The cold chill, the soft sunny light, a hot drink in hands and it makes it perfect! And the best about going to the Blue Mountains in Winter? You can go up and down those hikes and not feel like you’re overheating!

My favourites? I have a lot! Discover all my favourites places in the Blue Mountains in this article I wrote previously.

DSCF9252.jpg
DSCF9244.jpg

5. Go the whole way and get some snowy time in the snowy mountains!

Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte’s Pass… you call it! Why not make the most of the short winter here and hit the slopes this time. Just beware of planning well in advance as it can get a bit expensive but it’s so worth it once you are there! I’m actually going next weekend to the snow so will definitely report back on how it is.

In the meantime, check out my article from a few years ago about skiing in Australia!

Sydney to Thredbo: 5h30 minutes drive - maybe a bit more!

Thredbo-5.jpg
Thredbo.jpg

So do you have any road trips planned this winter? If so, let me know where you are going!

P1010123 2.jpg

And special thanks to Honda Australia for letting me experience and capture their car on my latest road trips! It’s been an amazing partnership which I’ll tell you more about soon!

 

Comment

Why the Maldives should be your next travel destination

Comment

Why the Maldives should be your next travel destination

The Maldives - that dreamy destination full of crystal-clear waters and incredible islands and atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It seems like an exclusive destination, full of luxury and decadence, yet there is so much more than that in the Maldives.

From overwater luxury to adventure and discoveries, there’s something for everyone in the Maldives and it’s definitely a destination on the rise which I think is getting more and more interesting by the day!

I’ve been lucky enough to spend an incredible week in the Maldives and at Club Med Kani, experiencing everything: snorkelling, surfing, diving, relaxing… And I can’t wait to go back already!

IMG_0316.jpg
IMG_0218.jpg

1. There’s an option for all budgets

From guest houses on local islands to luxurious hotels, Maldives can be done on a tight or extravagant budget. Many airlines fly to the Maldives and deals can be good - especially with low-cost airlines of course. We paid only 700 dollars return from Sydney with Air Asia and got there safe and sound. We did get a little misadventure with a cancelled flight on the way back but everything was solved pretty quickly and we even got to spend another night in the Maldives for free!

IMG_0268.jpg

It’s probably best to plan your trip in advance or as soon as you get a good plane deal. Finding a place to stay, building an itinerary and finding boat transfers can be lots of research and probably not that easy to wing once there. But with a bit of organisation, it can be the most magical trip!

2. It’s an incredible place to discover

Everything revolves around the ocean in the Maldives and for ocean-lovers, it’s definitely an incredible place to experience. Firstly it’s always warm and the water is divine so it’s really easy to relax and there’s no excuse to not get in the water for any activity.

IMG_0152.jpg

The ocean wildlife is quite stunning with rays, turtles, sharks, and so many colourful fishes! I’d definitely recommend snorkelling and diving as well. I actually did my discovery dive there and totally loved it! I want to do a course now in Australia to go diving again!

DJI_0067.jpg
DJI_0027.jpg

And with so many islands to discover, sandbanks to explore, turquoise waters to dive in, you’ll never get bored.

3. For surfers, it’s a true wave paradise

It’s not a legend, the Maldives are the true deal for surfing! I’ve never surfed in Bali or Indonesia but apparently the Maldives are the softer version of it - although sets can be big!

G0021963.jpg

At least half of the year, there are some amazing clean and peeling waves breaking on the reef. From 2 ft to event 15 ft, there’s a lot to choose from and better be brave sometimes but it’s an experience of a lifetime. Beginners would be ok in smaller spots like Chickens but I would recommend the Maldives more for intermediate and advanced surfers.

I got to surf at Sultans and although it was a bit bigger than I thought on that day, I had the best time ever in the water! Next time I come back, I’ll definitely bring a shortboard and surf as much as I can!

If you'd like to learn more about surfing in the Maldives, read Zoe's experience of surfing in the Maldives here last winter!

IMG_0252.jpg

4. The Maldivian people are incredibly nice and fun to hang out with

I only met a handful of locals but all were so helpful and fun to hang out with. From lots of other friends and visitors in the Maldives, they’ve also always had a great experience with the Maldivian people.

So many of them are also totally connected to the ocean, it’s part of them. And I even got to witness some of them surfing and they are just incredible!

I just wish I got to discover a bit more about the local islands but maybe for next time!

DJI_0072.jpg

5. And you can of course indulge and have a taste of luxury too!

The Maldives probably wouldn’t be it without all the luxury of course! Whether you’d like to stay a week in a resort or a day, there are so many options out there. I was lucky to stay in Club Med Kani for a week but saw lots of people coming for day passes, hoping from island to island. I know some other resorts do it too.

G0282233.jpg

But after all, why not indulge a bit and treat yourself to also a nice overwater experience in the Maldives? When in paradise, might as well do it well!

So to conclude, I had an amazing time in the Maldives and did so many activities I actually barely had time to slow down and relax! So looks like I gotta go back right? Who’s coming?

 

Comment

Five things you didn't know about Mauritius Island - with photographs

Comment

Five things you didn't know about Mauritius Island - with photographs

A tropical paradise located in the Indian Ocean, near Madagascar and the French Island La Reunion, Mauritius is a destination on the rise and has a lot to offer if you are looking to relax, explore diverse landscapes from lush nature to incredible blue waters and discover its amazing culture.

Going from North to South of the island will take only an hour and fifteen minutes but don’t mistake Mauritius’ tiny scale for not a lot to discover and do! With an incredible mix of culture, many different places to discover and even micro-climates following one region to another, it will surely surprise you as it did surprise me on my recent trip!

 Eureka House near Black River, Mauritius. 

Eureka House near Black River, Mauritius. 

Here are five things which you might not know about Mauritius and which I hope will make you want to discover this beautiful place.

 Road near the Seven Coloured Earth, Mauritius,

Road near the Seven Coloured Earth, Mauritius,

1. Mauritius has an incredible mix of cultures

I went to Mauritius when I was actually 2 years old but when I came back I didn’t realise how heavily French-influenced the island is. And not only! Mauritius proudly mix all of the cultures which have been present through its history from the early times to colonisation to the independence 50 years ago. You’ll discover the incredible Creole culture, full of flavours and colours, mixing both French and English cultures. For a French-speaking person, it’s quite funny to try to understand Creole language but it’s pretty hard! Mauritian kids have to learn French and English as a first-language and then can choose a third-language of their choice, often being Mauritian Creole.

IMG_9798.jpg

Another culture very heavily influenced in Mauritius is the Indian culture. Indo-Mauritians actually make up to 60% of the population which you can imagine is huge! You’ll see many Hindou temples around Mauritius and delicious Indian food as well. More than Hinduism, there are also Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Baha’is… An amazing melting pot of culture, all living in peace!

2.  It’s a small island but with so much to see

Mauritius has an area of only 2,040m2 - which makes it a whopping 3,795 times smaller than Australia! But with more than a million people living there and many many places to discover, there’s a lot to see on this tiny island!

IMG_9822.jpg
 The seven coloured earth, Mauritius

The seven coloured earth, Mauritius

Some famous places are Black River Gorges National Park with a stunning waterfall, the seven coloured earth, Rhum Distilleries to discover, Port-Louis for a day, L’Ile aux Cerf for the most incredible blue bay, Flic-en-Flac for some beach time, Grande Baie for shopping, Majestic Le Morne Brabant which you can hike… So much to discover!

 Delicious Chamarel Rhum in Mauritius. 

Delicious Chamarel Rhum in Mauritius. 

 Me in Club Med Albion, Mauritius 

Me in Club Med Albion, Mauritius 

3. Tourism and Travel is the first industry among others

Being such a small island with no natural exploitable resources, Mauritius has managed to be a champion in many industries over the years. And tourism is now one of the biggest! Take anyone who’s been in Mauritius and they will tell you about the incredible Mauritian hospitality, how nice and helpful people are and all of the incredible places you can stay in! Mauritius is good to explore but also really nice to relax.

Other significant industries in Mauritius are textiles, agriculture with sugar cane (and delicious Rhum) and more and more Information Technology Services.

 Incredible sunset over the Zen Pool in Club Med Albion. 

Incredible sunset over the Zen Pool in Club Med Albion. 

4. Mauritius has over 27 microclimates!

When talking with Mauritians during my trip, they explained to me how driving from region to region, we could experience very different climates and temperatures. Quite crazy for such a small island! I totally noticed it when we went from the west to the north, where it barely rained during our few days.

 Blue water and ski in Club Med La Pointe aux Cannoniers, Mauritius

Blue water and ski in Club Med La Pointe aux Cannoniers, Mauritius

According to Mauritius Inside Out, there’s that much to know about the local weather as there is:

  • a tropical climate in summer

  • a subtropical climate in winter

  • a maritime climate throughout the year

  • a cyclone season

  • a rainy season

  • southeast trade winds from March to November

There are definitely ways to enjoy a sunny holiday in Mauritius but it could rain from time to time! Again according to Mauritius Inside Out, October is the best month to visit.

 Beautiful lush green in Mauritius

Beautiful lush green in Mauritius

5. The late Dodo bird is a national symbol

Fun fact, when I went to Mauritius for the first time as a 2-year old I was absolutely obsessed with the story of the Dodo bird. But the history on how the Dodo bird disappeared is quite sad actually being a combination of human stupidity and the introduction of new species.  The Dodo bird was a beautiful big bird (23 kgs) which couldn’t fly having any predators in over 4 million years. When the Arabs arrived as the first people to set foot in Mauritius and Portuguese as well in 1505, Mauritius was a big destination in the spice trade and the Dodo bird was hunted for its meat.

 The Dodo of Mauritius - it's about that big!

The Dodo of Mauritius - it's about that big!

And later as the Dutch colons arrived, they brought other species with them: rats, monkeys, and pigs - which all ate the egg of the Dodo bird. Unfortunately, the Dodo bird was laying only one egg per year so its population quickly diminished and the last was seen in 1681.

However, the Dodo bird proudly remains in Mauritius’ culture as a symbol in the coat of arms of Mauritius and in pretty much everything that you’ll see in Mauritius.

 Myself in Club Med Albion, Mauritius. 

Myself in Club Med Albion, Mauritius. 

Overall Mauritius is a great destination to explore and discover more about its history. I really enjoyed discovering different landscapes, tasting delicious Mauritius food and Rhum, and talking with the local. I must say thanks to my work with Club Med for sending me there, discovering both Club Med Albion and La Pointe aux Cannoniers and re-discovering the Mauritian Culture all over!

After Mauritius, many told me to check its nearby French neighbour La Reunion - so maybe on my list for next time!

Have you been to Mauritius? Let me know!

 Lush green in Mauritius 

Lush green in Mauritius 

Comment

How to visit Rottnest Island in one day and see lots of Quokkas!

Comment

How to visit Rottnest Island in one day and see lots of Quokkas!

Located just an hour and a half off the Perth coast by Fast Ferry, Rottnest Island is another incredible Australian gem with quirky perks such as having no cars or seeing very cute and furry little creature: the Rottnest Island quokkas!

IMG_9310.jpg

Taking advantage of spending a few days in Perth, I could not miss the Rottnest Island day trip and truly made the most of it in just about 7 hours! Discover below how to visit Rottnest Island, what to see, where to spot Quokkas and how to come back with the ultimate Quokka Selfie!

Have you seen my Rottnest Island Video? If not watch here! 

Where is Rottnest Island and how to get there

Rottnest Island is a small island just off the shore from Perth in Western Australia. The only ways to get there are to either take the Fast Ferry (Rottnest Island Fast Ferry or Sealink ferry) from Elizabeth Quay in Perth or Fremantle near Perth, to get with your own motorboat or sailing boat, or to get a small plane to Rottnest Island airport.

I opted for the Fast Ferry early in the morning from Elizabeth Quay, which took me a nice one hour and a half to reach Rottnest Island. I had also good commentary and beautiful views all the way. And then opted for the way back from Rottnest to Fremantle so I could hang around Freo for a few hours in the evening.

IMG_9370.jpg

The total price for me to get a return trip to Rottnest Island + bike hire - more on that below - was about 120 dollars which is quite expensive but definitely worth it. I also booked it a day before so probably didn’t get the best rate! Keep an eye in advance for better rates and offers.

What to do on Rottnest Island and how to get around

Rottnest Island has an incredible variety of things to do for all ages and all tastes! Whether you are staying a few hours or a few days, you’ll definitely get a good glimpse of the island.

There’s something you need to know: there is no car on Rottnest Island! And this is truly awesome. You’ll see maybe one odd car needed for maintenance around the island or the local police. But the main ways of transportation of Rottnest Island are either: cycling or  the only tourist bus going from stop to stop! So no worries if you are not totally fit to cycle for a day, the bus is also a good option.

IMG_9350.jpg

On Rottnest Island you can: cycle, sightsee, relax at the beach, discover incredible landscapes, eat and drink, stay over for the night or a few days, snorkel, surf, sail, swim (from port to pub - very famous swim), spot quokkas, fish, spot whales, dolphins and more…

I chose to cycle around the island for the whole day and did about 12 kilometres on that day! I did most of the island except the pointy bit thinking I might get too tired and might not have enough time.

IMG_9318.jpg
29250043_10155414051153181_8911352562699993088_n.jpg

My favourite beaches were Little Salmon Bay and Salmon Bay with incredible blue water and white sand, and I also spotted dolphins! This is easy to get to if you are only there for a few hours. I also wish I explored more of the Basin with nicer weather on the other side. Overall it’s worth going around the island and inside as well to see a bit of everything. You can do it all in one day but you’ll have to be pretty fit to cycle so much and have lots of hours ahead of you.

About the cycling: I thought it was totally manageable but I also cycle to work quite often with lots of hills. I would recommend for everyone to try at least the small circle and see a bit of the island this way. Also, no locks are provided unfortunately so keep an eye on your bike or bring your own!

Where to spot Quokkas on Rottnest Island and how to get the ultimate #QuokkaSelfie

This is the ultimate questions when on Rottnest Island: WHERE ARE THE QUOKKAS?! Well luckily, they are very easy to spot and very easy to approach. On the map provided by Rottnest Island, you’ll get some spots for Quokkas sightseeing. They do approach the humans a bit for food in the more touristy areas and definitely don’t feed or touch them but you can still get quite close. I recommend keeping an eye on bushes and more remote areas near the road and you’ll definitely see some!

IMG_9486.JPG

And yes, they are the cutest animal ever! They are so just happy and friendly, it’s incredible. They have no predators on the island so they are very trustworthy of others and should be truly protected.

How to get the ultimate quokka selfie? Be patient and be ready to get to the ground! It’s totally fine to get a selfie as long as you are respectful and patient with the animal. Western Australia and Rottnest Island tourism boards are even encouraging it! Just don’t touch or feed them, get on the ground and get ready to take about 1000 pictures before getting THE ONE! It will make your day, week or every year really!

Are you planning a visit to Rottnest Island soon or have you been? Tell me your stories in the comments below!

IMG_9309.jpg

Comment

How to visit the Whitsundays: my sailing experience

Comment

How to visit the Whitsundays: my sailing experience

In October 2017, I finally ticked off one of the top things I wanted to do in Australia: sailing the Whitsundays! It took me a while to decide if I would visit the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns or the Whitsundays. I finally set my mind on sailing the Whitsundays Islands because I thought the experience could be a little bit different and I also really wanted to experience new landscapes I hadn’t seen before.

You can experience the Whitsundays through the air - check my blog post here on my flight experience over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef with Backpacker Deals, through day trips from Airlie Beach or for a few days with a full-on sailing cruise.

sailing-whitsundays.jpg

Always wondered what it could be like and if this adventure is for you? Discover my sailing experience in the Whitsundays in details. Let’s go, sailor!

Before - book really in advance and ask yourself what kind of sailing experience you’d like

I started to look at what boat to book in early September for the end of October and they were all almost full. So big tip: book as early as possible if you want several days on a sailing boat! This is important because then you’ll be able to choose the boat you prefer and which one is the most suitable for your budget and travel style. I booked through Sailing Whitsundays which was very easy as there were lots of boats on offer on the website and all kind of prices - but lots were booked out already so we had to choose our second best option.

IMG_5162.jpg

There are many styles of sailing experiences - sailing for just one day, backpacker style sailing (with a lot of loud music and a lot of people on the boat but cheap!), young active/couple sailing cruises with smaller groups, family-friendly sailing with no partying and easy activities, some other sailing boats go around for more than three days and some even go to the reef. So many possibilities!

IMG_5200.jpg

If you want to see the Whitsundays without rushing and feeling overwhelmed with the crowds, I would suggest booking a boat with 10 to 12 people maximum so it’s intimate but still affordable. I personally wouldn’t go for the big party boats unless you’re really in the party mood and don’t mind sleeping a bit rough (I heard from our boat crew some of the boats have also some bed bugs so careful and read reviews before!).

Although not our first choice, we ended up on a family-friendly boat called Prima which was super relaxing and nice to sail on! We opted for a 2 nights - 2 days and half days package and had some meals included which was really convenient and pretty cost-effective in the end.

whitsundays-island.jpg

During - Sailing the Whitsundays is really relaxing and beautiful in good weather

Overall you can expect the Whitsundays Sailing experience to be quite relaxing and easy - just get comfortable in your cabin, head out and breath in all that pure ocean air.

 With the crew on the boat

With the crew on the boat

About our boat - don’t expect 5-star comfort but a lot of fun

Sailing is a different experience though if you’ve never sailed before. You can expect to have minimum personal space - if you stay in a cabin, it’s very tiny but cosy and the bathroom - that you may have to share - is a combined toilet-shower of about a square meter. You can also expect to take very short showers to save the precious water and really you won’t dress up fancy at any time or wear make up for the girls. But it’s part of the charm of sailing, you just relax, let your hair down and don’t give a damn about anything else in the world just for those few days.

 Our boat Prima 

Our boat Prima 

Our boat, Prima, was really nice on the outside deck with tons of space and a sitting area to observe the different landscapes and islands. The inside was really cosy and nice as well with 4 private cabins and 4 beds available on the center of the boat (cheaper beds but you would have to sleep in the “living room” of the boat basically.) Our cabin was really good, I didn’t mind it being tiny and we shared our bathroom which meant it was a bit cheaper than private bathrooms. On those boats, you wouldn’t really spend much time inside anyway as there’s so much more outside of course!

enjoying-the-view.jpg

The crew was also amazing, super knowledgeable, friendly and always willing to help or accommodate so you’d have the perfect Whitsundays experience. The food they made was also super delicious - which is always a bonus as you can get quite hungry after so much adventuring, snorkelling and sailing!

IMG_5177.jpg

Snorkelling is quite basic but still beautiful

When sailing the Whitsundays, don’t expect to go snorkelling on the reef as this is a lot further away than the islands itself. There are some spots though where the boat will take you and you can definitely get a lot of snorkelling in. I snorkelled about five times in total which was really nice and it’s always good to swim around but doesn’t expect to see crazy stuff.

IMG_5279.jpg

I saw some cute fishes but none were super exotic. The coral was also quite basic although I didn’t see any that was dead. There also has been a big storm in March 2017 so the corals may have had some damage too which was maybe why it’s wasn’t as stunning. Finally, we didn’t see any turtles inside the water but we did at sunrise looking from the boat, which was still really nice!

G1027992.jpg

Oh and since the region around the Whitsundays is prone to deadly Jellyfish - see my jellyfish section on my top things to do in Airlie Beach blog post - it was highly recommended to wear a stingers suit to protect ourselves from any passing jellyfish. It wasn’t the season so we weren’t at high risk but nonetheless, it’s better to wear it plus it protects from the sun and makes you float! Not the sexiest wetsuit though! Also, bring your own flippers if you’d like to swim faster and easier.

Whitehaven Beach is very very bright!

Part of our sailing adventure, we got to spend a few hours on Whitehaven beach - said to be one of the most beautiful beaches and with the whitest sand in Australia. It really is a stunning place with incredible sand and colours. I really loved the lookout Hill Inlet over the beach but the crowds were really annoying. There were so many people everywhere, the beach kind of became the victim of its success. Be prepared for a lot of brightness and to be very hot, but it’s worth it. I wish I could have spent an extra hour on the beach and exploring the other side actually as it was really nice.

G0377044.jpg

After - back on land the head full of memories

It’s funny how, when on a boat, time seems to go fast and slow at the same time. You kind of forget about the outside life, and it feels good. I loved sleeping on the lightly rocking boat at night, looking at the stars from my tiny window, taking my breakfast on the deck overlooking the islands, jumping in the water for a snorkel, and walking on Whitehaven beach…

Our boat was quite relaxing and quiet so nothing crazy for my saling experience in the Whitsundays but each sailing experience will be unique so make it your own! If you’re hesitating, don’t worry just go and you’ll have the time of your life I swear!

What would you like to see in the Whitsundays? Let me know!

IMG_5246.jpg
IMG_5249.jpg
IMG_5290.jpg
IMG_5295.jpg
IMG_5330.jpg

Comment

Top things to do in Airlie Beach, Queensland

1 Comment

Top things to do in Airlie Beach, Queensland

I discovered Airlie Beach in Queensland for the first time in October 2017 part of my trip to the Whitsundays Islands and found that there are a lot of things to do in just a few days! My total stay there was only two days and a half but I felt it was the right amount of time to discover the surroundings. I’d say it’s good to add a few more days if you’d like to explore more of the region as a road trip.

In the meantime, I’ve listed here the top things to do in Airlie Beach for endless inspiration on your next stay whether it shines, rain or hail! And stay tuned for my next blog post soon about sailing the Whitsundays Islands.

 Airlie Beach Free Lagoon! Photo: Marine Raynard.

Airlie Beach Free Lagoon! Photo: Marine Raynard.

1. Obviously, check out the FREE lagoon in the middle of the city

What I love in many Aussie cities, especially in Queensland, is all the free lagoons you can dive in! Airlie Beach makes no exception and right at the heart of the city, you can see the lagoon located between the beach and the main street.

The lagoon is huge and on a nice day surprisingly relaxing although I usually prefer to swim in the ocean (but it’s complicated in Airlie Beach, more on this below.) And you can also relax around on the grass, pure bliss!

 Airlie Beach Lagoon fun with the GoPro and the Dome case. 

Airlie Beach Lagoon fun with the GoPro and the Dome case. 

2. Check the main street with food & bars

Since we are on the main street, don’t look further it’s really all happening here! Airlie Beach has quite the backpackers vibe so don’t be surprised to see many bars coming to life at night and a horde of young travellers from all over the world happily going from bar to bar. And good news for Sydney-siders, there are no lockouts in Queensland!

For food, there is a massive amount of choice on where to eat in the main street. From McDonald’s to seafood restaurants, you have lots of choice for different budgets. However I wasn’t very convinced by the restaurants there, lots were overpriced and the food didn’t seem that good. We found a gem of a cafe though a bit further - more on this one below!   

 Airlie Beach's beach walk. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Airlie Beach's beach walk. Photo: Marine Raynard.

3. Go for a tiny beach walk

It does say beach walk but I would rename it “tiny beach walk” because it literally takes 15 minutes to do it haha. It’s good though for the lazy ones wanting to take a quick stroll and you can still see Airlie Beach main beach, enjoy the park and if you’re there on a Saturday or Sunday, have a look at the market.

 Shades of Blue in Airlie Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Shades of Blue in Airlie Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard.

4. Lay down by the ocean - but beware when swimming!

The beach isn’t the most beautiful I’ve seen but nice on a sunny day. However, there’s one thing you got to know in Airlie Beach: the jellyfishes can be super dangerous! During “stingers season” as they call it - which is from November to May - you can see or be stung by certain types of Jellyfish in some part of Queensland. The main two types that you need to watch for are the box jellyfish (typically huge and very dangerous, you shouldn’t but can die from it) and the Irukandji jellyfish (typically tiny, you can’t see it, and extremely dangerous, you can very well die.).

Therefore you’ll see in many beaches huge signs warning about the dangerous Jellyfish and how to prevent stings. During stingers season, it’s very recommended to wear a stingers suit or to not tempt swimming. During non-stingers season, it’s still recommended to wear the stingers suit just in case and as the water temperature is raising. There’s also vinegar available on each beach in case of stings. If in doubt that you’ve been stung and can feel a massive pain, call 000 if you are able or get some help nearby.

 Beautiful view of Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Beautiful view of Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard.

5. Check one of the two marinas and secret relaxing spots!

The first one is Port of Airlie where you’ll find more cute cafes and restaurants. I haven’t tried any of those but the setting is pretty relaxing and there are some shops too. The one good thing to know if that a few minutes walk from it, you also have another small beach called Boathaven Beach which is much nicer than the main beach in Airlie Beach, plus you actually have nets to prevent jellyfish! So perfect for a safe swim while overlooking boats coming in the marina.

The other marina is Abel Point Marina and is a 10-minute walk from Airlie Beach. There you have more nice restaurants (there’s one pizza place where you get 2 pizzas for the price of one on some days!) and more cafes. It’s a nice view, plus the walk to this place is really nice from Airlie Beach (more on this one below).

 Flying over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Flying over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Marine Raynard.

6. Go on a flying experience above the Whitsundays islands and outer reef

This was definitely the highlight of my trip to Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays Island. After booking our experience through backpackers deals, we took the tiny plane from Whitsunday Airport onto a magical ride of one hour over endless blue paradise. It was really incredible to see the different islands, the white sand beaches like Whitehaven beach and finally the Great Barrier Reef from up high.

I think the Great Barrier Reef part was even the best because the colours and shapes are just out of this world and it’s really amazing to witness this. It was the perfect combination of our sailing trip as we only stayed in the islands. Thanks for backpackers deal for organising this amazing adventure, you can check my full flight adventure on their blog here.

 Inside the plane when flying over the Whitsundays. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Inside the plane when flying over the Whitsundays. Photo: Marine Raynard.

7. Go swimming in a wild waterfall

Things don’t always go as expected when travelling. And you would certainly not wish for crazy rain on the first day of your trip! Well, we had to deal with it and after a bit of researching, I found this incredible waterfall spot about 25 minutes drive from Airlie Beach. That said, if you don’t have a car it’s a bit hard to get there and there is no phone reception once there.

 So much fun in the wild waterfall of Cedar Creek Falls. Photo: Marine Raynard.

So much fun in the wild waterfall of Cedar Creek Falls. Photo: Marine Raynard.

The spot itself is super cute, a small waterfall called Cedar Creek Falls, which might get dry if it hasn’t been raining but otherwise quite consistent. The best thing is that you can swim there and there are not many people around. Nothing like a wild swim in a waterfall!

 The Palmtree swing near Hideaway Bay in Queensland.

The Palmtree swing near Hideaway Bay in Queensland.

8. Get away to secret beaches north of Airlie Beach

It’s a bit of a drive but I can assure you it’s worth it. If you have a bit more time, don’t hesitate to go out explore other surroundings from Airlie Beach. Once again researching for cool places to explore, I discovered a secret beach next to Hideaway bay, part of the Montes Reef Resort. The view is more than amazing and you wouldn’t think you are in Australia. Plus, there is a SWING attached to a PALMTREE! Yes, you’ve read that right! It’s so beautiful and let’s be honest - instagrammable.

It’s peak beauty if you get there for sunset and watch the sun sink into the ocean. There’s also a bar and restaurant at the resort - which seemed lovely! Finally, you can also stay in the resort which seems like a good escape away from everything. I wish I could stay in this place all day, it was a true paradise.

 Enjoying sunset in Queensland.

Enjoying sunset in Queensland.

9. Back in Airlie Beach, go for a walk from Airlie Beach to Cannonvale and end up in a nice cafe

Or vice-versa! The walk is really nice and you’ll see beautiful ocean views on the way. I particularly liked the wooden walkway which is quite picturesque. There’s also little creeks along the way to relax in. The whole walk would take about 30 minutes.

Finally when you get to Cannonvale, take a break in my favourite cafe: fat frog cafe! Remember how I said I struggled to find a good place to eat in Airlie Beach? I am glad I discovered this little gem which has Campos coffee (I do love me a good Campos coffee) and delicious and good-priced food. Bonus, there even was my favourite dog (border collie) while I was there so it could have enhanced my experience…

 The walk from Airlie Beach to Cannonvale. 

The walk from Airlie Beach to Cannonvale. 

10. Plan your sailing experience in the Whitsundays

If you haven’t planned yet to sail in the Whitsundays, I’d highly recommend it to those loving the ocean, boats, snorkelling and some beach time. I planned my sailing adventure in advance as the spaces are filling up very quickly so I would recommend planning as soon as possible.

There are boats and itinerary for all kinds of holidays and ages. There are backpacker/party boats, day boats, 3+ days boats going to the outer reef, family boats, luxurious boats and more… I was on Prima, a sailing boat that’s doing lots of snorkelling and has a very very relaxed vibe. It was great although a bit too calm sometimes! I’ll write my sailing experience in the Whitsundays very soon to stay tuned.

 Sailing in the Whitsundays is quite magical. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Sailing in the Whitsundays is quite magical. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Bonus: check the kangaroos before the airport!

On your way in or out, you’ll notice so many Kangaroos feeding on the grass next to the airport. You can easily stop and observe or photograph them, it’s super cute!

airlie-beach-paradise.jpg

So have you been to Airlie Beach? If not, what will you do first? Let me know!

You can also check the video of my flight over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef here:

 

1 Comment

How I fell in love with the Algarve in Portugal

Comment

How I fell in love with the Algarve in Portugal

Portugal is quite a trendy destination right now. I can’t remember how many pictures and check-ins I’ve seen from friends over the last few years. Looks like my family is trendy too, without even trying, as they moved to this beautiful country when I moved to Australia almost three years ago - how convenient!

This gave me the opportunity to discover their brand new region twice (before moving to Sydney and most recently in June): Algarve, a stunning part of Portugal, located in the South.

I have yet to discover so much more but the very few things I’ve seen, I loved them. And now that I’m back from Portugal, I just can’t wait to go again.

Here are a few things that made me fall in love with the Algarve region and Portugal:

 Quinta do Lago, Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Quinta do Lago, Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard.

The Portuguese landscapes

South of Portugal has very different landscapes from other places, it can be lush green, extra dry or endless ocean and beaches. You also have spectacular cliffs and coastlines from Sagres to Faro. Perfect for photography and droning! It also reminds me of Australia from time to time.

 A beautiful beach in Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

A beautiful beach in Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

The Portuguese beaches

Portuguese beaches are simply awesome: they are free, they are clean, they are set in wild scenery and the water is delicious. It can get a little cold sometimes but really not that bad. Oh so perfect for a swim or a relaxing time.

Even better, you can go surfing on the Atlantic side coast near Sagres in Algarve. I did it only once but I loved it! I really want to surf more on the Portuguese coast. Maybe not in the north though, like Nazare, where you have some of the biggest waves in the world - see for yourself here!

 A typical balcony in Loule, Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

A typical balcony in Loule, Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

The cheap cost of living

Let’s be honest… Portugal is quite cheap. Beers are 1.5 euros and you have a nice dinner for 10 euros. Petrol, tolls and hotels can be a little more expensive but still very accessible when you come from France or Australia. Of course, the cost of life is cheaper and makes sense when the minimum wage in Portugal is only 600 euros a month. But it’s quite convenient when travelling!

 Tourists and Portuguese enjoying the summer holidays in Algarve. Photo: Marine Raynard

Tourists and Portuguese enjoying the summer holidays in Algarve. Photo: Marine Raynard

The kindness of Portuguese people

I didn’t know many Portuguese people until my parents moved there and up to now I’ve met so many kind locals willing to help, always with a smile on their face and living through optimism. There’s nothing better when travelling in Portugal than getting to know the locals and understand they’re the heart of the country!

 Myself exploring the streets of Loule in Portugal. 

Myself exploring the streets of Loule in Portugal. 

The never-ending things to do and places to discover

For a small country with only 11 millions of Portuguese, there are so many things to do and see in Portugal and especially Algarve!

There’s an activity for every taste: golf, surf, sightseeing, beach life, boat life, shopping, party, try new food, relax… It’s great for families, couples, friends… All styles of holidays and endless discoveries, really.

 A vintage Schewppes ad in Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

A vintage Schewppes ad in Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

The sweet climate

I think the climate is comparable to Australia with hot summers and mild winters. The weather is generally good although you can get some rainy weeks (highly needed before the dry summer). I love the warmth and blue sky so it definitely makes a difference if you want a sunny holiday!

 Traditional Portuguese tea towel. Photo: Marine Raynard

Traditional Portuguese tea towel. Photo: Marine Raynard

The delicious food & lively culture

Fishes, meats, cakes… there are many Portuguese specialities to try which will leave you longing for more! I love the cod fish and other specialty fishes - see here 10 of the top Portuguese dishes and tell if that doesn’t make you hungry!

As for the culture, Portugal is very rich in history, art, architecture and the language of course! In Algarve, you’ll find plenty of museums, castles like the Loule one, and other things to admire like colourful ceramics.

 Lisbon streets before the placa de comercao. Photo: Marine Raynard

Lisbon streets before the placa de comercao. Photo: Marine Raynard

And you always want to see more…

It’s a bittersweet feeling every time I have to leave Portugal as I know my parents live there and I wish I could visit more often. But unfortunately, it’s not so close from Australia!

On my list for next time is to visit more of the North with Lisbon, Porto and Sintra as well as surfing the coast!.

And my ultimate wish would also be to visit the Azores, a set of island 2 hours of flights from Lisbon, in the Atlantic Ocean. Just google the images of the island and you’ll understand why!

Have you been to Algarve in Portugal? If yes, let me know where!

 Myself admiring the beautiful beaches of Algarve, Portugal. 

Myself admiring the beautiful beaches of Algarve, Portugal. 

Comment

20-hour layover in Seoul: My experience

Comment

20-hour layover in Seoul: My experience

Layovers are generally not fun. The last thing you want to do when travelling is sitting for hours and hours at the airport, that while being extremely exhausted.

However, layovers can be fun and even be the best experience ever. For the first time in my years of travelling, I actually got to do a 20-hour layover in Seoul, South Korea, on my way from Australia to the UK and it was well worth it.

Let me tell you about it and hopefully, you’ll see layovers differently!

 One of the street in Seoul 

One of the street in Seoul 

The plan

I landed at 5:30 pm on Saturday in Seoul and was taking my plane back at 1:15 pm on Sunday. Quite a short amount of time but enough to do a few things.

I had two options: either stay at the airport the whole time - there is a hotel there, free showers, lots of entertainment OR go out and explore a new country, new city and new culture in Seoul in few hours.

As you can guess, I chose option 2 and it was totally worth it.

All you need is a bit of research and organisation

I organised my layover only two days before arriving. I originally didn’t think I would have as much time but I suddenly thought “I can’t waste this opportunity on seeing a new place!”

All I researched was how to get from Incheon International Airport to Seoul centre, accommodation for the very-short night, and essential attractions to see.

Transportation from airport to city

For only AUD$8 one way, the AREX express train was the most seamless and cheapest way to go from Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station. I just couldn’t believe how easy it was with such great comfort, nice views on the way and only 43 minutes to ride to the city. The train is every half hour. On the way back, make sure to go directly into the big Seoul Station and ask for information on where is the train. It is massive so I admit I got a bit lost!

Also, allow plenty of time to come back to the airport and clear immigration. Although it went extremely fast for me, there might be times where lines are long so you don’t want to miss your plane!

 The AREX train to Seoul from the Airport

The AREX train to Seoul from the Airport

Accommodation in Seoul

Although I wanted to explore the city, I also wanted to have a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed in between my planes. I booked K-POP Hotel right next to Seoul Station (the name made me laugh a lot, apparently it’s a chain of hotels) as this was super convenient location and not too far from the centre. And this was such a good deal for only 40 dollars the night, with a super clean, comfy and cosy room (small though but I didn’t care), a rooftop, a kitchen with free breakfast, and even laundry facilities. Just what I needed for my layover.

Transportation in Seoul

In Seoul, Uber isn’t very present yet so I had to hail taxis to get to the places I wanted. Be aware that taxi drivers in Seoul don’t really speak good English, so my technique was to show them on my phone where I wanted to go. Which worked pretty good although there were a few times where I had no idea if they understood haha! I didn’t have any data either so I was using the offline version of Maps.me for Seoul. Also, taxis are so cheap you can really use them every day. I didn’t try the train or buses though but they would probably be even cheaper.

 A street in Seoul traditional quarters

A street in Seoul traditional quarters

You can have a glimpse of Seoul in just a few hours

Since I arrived the Saturday evening and was leaving Sunday morning, my time was extremely limited but enough to at least have a feel of the city and the Korean culture.

I read a bit before arriving about the essentials I should visit and got great information from my Korean friend who wasn’t there, unfortunately. It was great to know as well that as a woman alone, I could walk around the streets at night without having to worry. And she was right, it was super super safe!

 The Seoul Tower

The Seoul Tower

I settled in my hotel and drafted my plan:

  • Saturday evening: go to the Seoul Tower and look at the city views

  • Saturday night: go to Myeongdong district with all the shops

  • Sunday morning: sunrise on the rooftop of my hotel & sneak peek at the Temple

  • Sunday morning: stroll around the traditional neighbourhood

  • Sunday lunch: back to the airport

The Saturday night was extremely fun although I was on my own! After realising the taxi couldn’t take me up to the tower, I had to take the Nasnam Cable Car up to the Hill of Seoul tower. Although cheap, it was quite a long wait for a busy Saturday night and I wondered once up there if it was really worth it. But as it was night already, it would have been hard to walk up but it’s possible.

It was however extremely fun to observe Korean families and experience the atmosphere once up there. Lots of young couples, friends and families were enjoying their night up there. The view itself isn’t crazy but interesting to see the big city from up high.

 The Myeongdong neighbourhood at night, buzzing.

The Myeongdong neighbourhood at night, buzzing.

After that, I got back down with the cable car again and went to my favourite part of the night: exploring the streets of Myeongdong. The stores were pumping with music, markets and all kind of people roaming around. I also accidentally stumbled upon a cat cafe in the middle of Myeongdong and since I was a bit hungry, it was perfect. From 10 pm to 11 pm (their closing time), I got to play, observe and photograph at least 15 very fun cats all alone with the staff! This was so far such a good moment.

 The cat cafe in Seoul

The cat cafe in Seoul

On the Sunday morning, it was a bit of improvisation and a trek to see the things I wanted. I wanted to go to the Temple but since I started visiting at around 7am, everything was closed of course. I still saw the doors haha!

 A door of the Temple

A door of the Temple

After getting lost for quite a bit trying to find the traditional neighborhood Samcheong-dong, I finally caught another taxi who got me there. I didn’t even know what it was called exactly as there are a few different ones and the distances are massive! But the taxi driver understood when I said “traditional houses” so phew, I got there! This was a definite highlight of my visit to Seoul. I loved being alone so early in the morning in those tiny streets, observe the traditional houses, take pictures, observe the few locals around, look at the only souvenir store opened so early in the morning and try to talk with the owner, get a fresh juice from the only food place opened as well.. I’d love to go back there.

 One of the traditional streets in Seoul 

One of the traditional streets in Seoul 

If you have a few extra hours, the airport itself is amazing

Finally, if you have time on this layover or for the next one, make sure to explore Incheon International Airport. Quite an amazing airport with so many facilities.

The best was the free shower, almost like in a hotel with a really nice Italian-style shower. I re-lived in between my flights! You also have classic music performances, traditional Korean performance, rest lounges and even a nap room.

And even better: the airport offers a FREE service for tours! You just have to make sure you are in the right hours and tours are from 1 to 5 hours, visiting nearby the airport or directly into Seoul. That’s a super quick experience but perfect if you really don’t want to hassle or organising. Check the Incheon International Airport website to know more about it.

Finally, I flew over with Korean Air the whole way to Europe and back to Australia. It was the first time I was flying with them and really enjoyed the experience. The food was really good and served regularly, drinks are regularly served as well, the staff is super nice. Only the entertainment system is a bit old and there are not that many movies to choose from.

 Incheon International Airport awesome services

Incheon International Airport awesome services

So did I convince you to take a layover next time? And maybe in Seoul? Let me know about your layover experiences below!

And if you want to check more of my pictures of my Seoul layover, have a look here!

Comment

8 reasons why you should absolutely visit Yosemite National Park

Comment

8 reasons why you should absolutely visit Yosemite National Park

If there is one thing you should definitely do while visiting California, it’s the Yosemite National Park. Last April, I went on an amazing adventure in San Francisco and I just couldn’t leave San Francisco without doing a detour to Yosemite National Park.

The park itself is massive, just a bit more than 3,000 square meters. It’s part of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains and home to incredible views, stunning colours at all seasons and amazing wildlife. You could spend a day or a week in Yosemite, there will always be something to discover.

So if you are hesitating to take a detour to Yosemite National Park (and believe me you shouldn’t), well take a look at my top reasons to go there and don’t tell me you don’t want to go after reading this!

1. American Nature & National Parks at its best

The United States counts 58 national parks. Some are very famous, some are less visited but all have something unique. “No temple made with human hands can compete with Yosemite”, that’s what John Muir, American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, and glaciologist, said of the park.  

Well I guess many people agree with this because Yosemite welcomes more than 5 million visitors every year. Quite an impressive number but an equally impressive park!

2. The waterfalls – especially in April  

This is something I had no idea before doing a bit of reading before my trip to Yosemite: April and Spring in general are the best months to visit the park. Why? Because of the heavy rains previously and mostly the snow melting, the waterfalls are just flowing!  

And not just flowing, they are just pouring, lashing all of the water onto earth. You’ll definitely understand when trying to get closer. You’re not even close that you can feel a light mist to downpouring rain! Beware for your cameras.

3. The views  

You know those green screens where you put some incredible landscape and make it feel like it’s real? Well it’s quite the feeling when you get to Tunnel View in Yosemite Park.

I was just stunned by the beauty of the landscape, the light, the trees, the sky… All looked almost fake as it was so beautiful. Like if someone painted it or just took a picture and put it in front of me.

But no, it was very real! And the view keep delivering all along the park. Tunnel View, Half-dome, El Capitan during hikes… There’s enough for you to be amazed! I only wish I could go to Glacier Point but it’s open only during Summer months.

4. Feeling tiny among nature

That’s another surprising feeling I had when getting to Yosemite: among all those huge trees, big spaces and massive rocks, I felt just… tiny. But in a good way, nature is so majestuous there that I just felt as a little part of this world and it kind of felt good to just go back to basics and just appreciate the moment and surroundings.  

5. Many incredible hikes for all levels

Yosemite National Park has over 800 miles of trails so as many options to go around for any levels. I’ve seen many different types of visitors in the park, families, young, old, couples, singles… But all hikes are very accessible and some are very easy to do and still deliver for the views.

 You can’t go to Yosemite without at least one leading to a fall! One of my favourite ones was the Mirror Lake Hike very early in the morning with no one around. I loved the wild track and observing the valley from the end of the hike.

6. There’s something for everyone there

Kind of linked to my previous point, everyone will be satisfied at Yosemite National Park. There is a lot of choice on where you want to stay: hostel, luxurious hotel, camping, lodge… More choice for food: restaurants, cafeteria. And lots of choice to visit around: organised tours, adventure tours, by yourself, etc.

7. The wildlife

Yosemite National Park is home to approximately 90 species. There you’ll easily see birds, squirrels, mammals like deers and mice, fishes. You can also see bears although not as easily. Funny fact, there’s been 68 human-bear incidents in 2016.  

Well funny, maybe not as this isn’t the best situation! Wherever you stay in the park, you’ll be reminded to absolutely not feed the wildlife and stay away from it to not get animals used to humans and hence avoid dangerous situations.

8. Not far from big cities like SF, LA , San Jose, Sacramento

Yosemite National Park is “only” about 4-5 hours drive from San Francisco, even closer from San Jose and Sacramento. Even from Las Vegas or Los Angeles, it’s not that far if you are already on a road trip or have a few extra days.

You can rent a car and drive or you can research a bit if there are any tours leaving from where you are staying.

Should I give any more reasons or are my pictures enough to convince you :)? Congrats if you are going! Here are a few tips for you:

  • Plan well in advance and research a lot. Research can really go a long way for your trip!
  • Check weather conditions, especially for Winter and Spring.
  • Decide how you want to go there: car, tour, transportation. There are some really good shuttles in Yosemite Valley but I’d to have a car next time I go there to see more!
  • Choose what kind of visit you want to have: adventurous hikes, photography discovery, relaxing stay.
  • Don’t go without a camera, you’ll regret not capturing the views!
  • Have all kind of clothes, it can get hot or cold quickly.

Tips once there:

  • Go stargazing! The sky is incredible and not that polluted so amazing to observe and even spot shooting stars.
  • Don’t feed the wildlife! Don’t go close to it either. Many mice carry diseases that are quite serious.
  • Check the shuttle schedule before you go on hikes, you don’t want to miss the last one and walk back.
  • Spend at least 2-3 days in the valley. One day is not enough to see everything.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks + sunscreen.

If you'd like to see more pictures of my Yosemite trips, head over here to see more in my gallery

And you, have you been to Yosemite? Let me know your story!

Comment

My One Week in San Francisco: Itinerary with Photographs

4 Comments

My One Week in San Francisco: Itinerary with Photographs

San Francisco is one of the most iconic cities to visit in the USA at an only 14-hour direct flight from Sydney or 10-hour flight from Paris. It is located in Northern California and is known for its history, culture and now technology boom. With only more than 800,000 inhabitants, the city is thriving but never too busy.

If you spend one week in San Francisco, you’ll have plenty of time for you to discover the beautiful city by the bay. But be prepared to walk a lot, brave the hills and the weather!

Discover here what itinerary I did for my week in San Francisco in April 2017, the perfect time for spring!

To see all of my photographs from my San Francisco trip, head over here!

 Chinatown in San Francisco. Photo: Marine Raynard

Chinatown in San Francisco. Photo: Marine Raynard

 

Day 1 - CBD discovery

The first day is always tricky because you are either super jet-lagged or not knowing really where to start.

If you get in early, I would recommend that you go for the all-you-need free tour with Wild SF which is everyday at 10 am. It is a great introduction to the city and CBD with some really valuable information on how to get around, the history and why there are so many homeless people in San Francisco (more on that at the end of this blog post).

After that, continue your CBD exploration around Union Square, Chinatown and the streets around.

Because I was staying in Russian Hill, I then spent my afternoon exploring around the hill as well as having a look at the very famous and crookedest street in the world!

 Walk to the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Marine Raynard

Walk to the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Marine Raynard

Day 2 - Walk by the water to the Golden Gate Bridge

Start from Fort Mason for a very long but nice walk around the Marina up until the Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll go through Crissy Field, few beaches with an amazing view and until the bridge. You can also do this by hiring a bike, very easy!

Walking on the bridge is a must-do. Many people stop in the middle but I would recommend that you go as far as possible to get the whole experience and it will be a lot less crowded the further you go. Also, you’ll have another amazing viewpoint at the end of the bridge: Vista Point. The perfect place for photograph opportunities.

So I’m a bit crazy because, after the bridge, I walked all the way to Sausalito. Which is really fun but a bit long. I would totally recommend that you continue the whole way but either by bike or by Uber or Lyft. I would recommend the second option because Sausalito can be quite busy and if you’d like to take the ferry back, the crowds can be huge. Sausalito is super cute and very nice to hang out for a few hours. Definitely take the ferry back for about $11 US dollars with amazing views of the city and Alcatraz!

Since you’ll be arriving at the main ferry terminal, maybe head around for dinner!

 Some colourful houses near Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Photo: Marine Raynard

Some colourful houses near Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Photo: Marine Raynard

Day 3 - Museum and Haight-Ashbury

Oh, rainy rainy day in San Francisco… I got lucky so far but Day 3 was just pouring and super super cold. San Francisco weather can change quickly at all seasons! Therefore my strategy when the weather isn’t helping is to go to the museum! San Francisco has a few museums and because I had time to do only one on that day, it was hard to choose where to go. It also was Easter Sunday so possibly many places were closed.

I finally set my eyes on the California Academy of Sciences for the morning and it was a very very fun visit there. You’ll have many things to look at and do in this museum for at least two to three hours. Don’t miss the planetarium which is fantastic, the aquarium and finally the living roof! Incredible view up there as well.

Since the Academy was in the Golden Gate Park and not far from Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood, I then walked from there to another Wild SF tour - the free love movement. For about an hour and a half to two hours, you’ll discover the fascinating history of the hippie times in San Francisco, all of the major artists and musicians who contributed it and all of this with original songs from the time played by Wilf SF founder, Wes. This is a really nice way to discover Haight-Ashbury because its history is so important. I think the main street isn’t the most interesting part but be sure to wander around the area and look at the beautiful houses.

At an about 20-minute walk from there are the very famous painted ladies next to Alamo Square. I would recommend you take the walk and check those as they are quite interesting and with an amazing view. It’s best on a sunny day but still nice to see anytime.

 Inside Alcatraz in San Francisco. Photo: Marine Raynard

Inside Alcatraz in San Francisco. Photo: Marine Raynard

Day 4 - Alcatraz

Today you can dedicate your day to being near the sea! I booked about a month and a half in advance my Alcatraz tour (very busy so make sure to book far in advance) for that day as well as a short cruise going under the bridge.

The day was very moody and cloudy but quite in the mood to visit Alcatraz. The visit is quite stunning and the included audio tour is surreal. I really enjoyed learning about Alcatraz’s history and what it has become now. The views and gardens from the island are also incredible. Make sure to lock at least a full half of your day as there is so much to see there and you’ll easily spend 3-4 hours on the island.

If you have time during the day, go check Fisherman’s wharf although this is a very very touristy area. I wouldn’t spend too long there but if you do, go at least to Pier 39 and see the sea lions lazily lounging around the wharf or the Musee Mecanique which is quite quirky.

 More crazy view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Marine Raynard

More crazy view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Marine Raynard

Day 5 - Cable Car & Bike around San Francisco

Don’t leave San Francisco without trying to hop on a cable car at least once! They are super fun and typical although super touristy too. Avoid getting them from the super crowded area like at Powell and Market or the Fisherman’s Wharf. Get them in the middle of the streets and you’ll likely get some space. Stand on the side for the full experience and hang on when the next hill is approaching! It’s a bit pricey (USD$7) but so worth it!

I took the cable car from Russian Hill to Fisherman’s Wharf where I got to finally hire a bike. Another trick here, don’t let people yell at you in the street to get their deals and go biking. Instead install the Groupon app on your phone first and check for any deals. I got an amazing deal of 16 dollars for the whole day of biking instead of what the full price would be (32 dollars in that case.) It’s really not worth paying the full price so check before.

I would recommend for you to bike around the Marina area, discover the stunning Palace of Fine Arts, look at more viewpoints of the golden gate bridge, look at the very luxurious houses of the Presidio heights and Richmond. Then bike up to Ocean Beach with the Sutro baths and the massive beach after. From there you’ll be able to go back to the Golden Gate Park for a fun ride and discover more green places. Finally, go back through the city to drop off your bike.

Allow the full day if you’d like to do many spots and take pictures. But it is really not that hard apart for a few hills. It was definitely one of my best day in San Francisco!

 The wonderful view from Mission Dolores Park. Photo: Marine Raynard

The wonderful view from Mission Dolores Park. Photo: Marine Raynard

Day 6 - Noe Valley, Mission and Castro

Towards the end of my trip, I was lucky enough to stay with a friend in the super cute Noe Valley neighbourhood. The perfect start point to explore the surrounding neighbourhoods such as The Mission and The Castro.

Noe Valley has quite a dolce vita feeling with all those beautiful houses and shops. I’d really recommend to just walk around and from Church St to the 24th St to look at the houses, the colours and the views. On your way, you’ll also find the stunning Dolores Mission Park. This is a must-see for the view! All the locals enjoy having a break and looking at the beautiful horizon.

The Mission is also very cultural and interesting to explore. Of strong Spanish influence, you can discover amazing murals, shops and places to eat. Finally, the Castro is the gay neighbourhood of San Francisco and a really fun one to discover too. I loved the rainbow colours everywhere and quirky shops. It’s a good place to have a drink at night as well.

 One of San Francisco's streets. Photo: Marine Raynard

One of San Francisco's streets. Photo: Marine Raynard

Day 7 - Up to you

Like the first day, if this is your last day it can be tricky on knowing what you have time to do. Depending on your timing, I would recommend that you just take the time to do something you really loved, or discover another neighbourhood, a new museum or even take a day trip out of San Francisco.

Here are some thoughts for a day trip out of San Francisco for you:  

  • Oakland across the Bay Bridge. I’ve heard it is a super cute city which is booming a lot too!
  • Berkeley and the university of course.
  • Muir Woods up north of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Santa Cruz for the ocean, surf and relaxed vibes
  • Silicon Valley if you love tech and want to discover where all the big tech companies are.  

Whether solo, as a couple, with friends or in family, San Francisco is an amazing place to discover and explore. It is also quite safe to go around and there are many options for what kind of travelling you like. Enjoy your time in San Francisco and let me know if you have discovered anything amazing! 

Other things to know about San Francisco:

  • In any season, San Francisco weather can be quite chilly so pack different clothes and layers. As Mark Twain said: “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco”
  • SF being one of the most expensive cities to live in the world, It is quite pricey to travel there. Accommodation and eating out are the highest budget spends there. Make sure to book in advance or look for good deals. San Francisco Airbnbs are pretty good and leave you the option to leave the local life. But if you really are on a budget, hostels are always an option. 
  • Use Uber or Lyft to get around super easily and cheaply if you use the carpooling option. It was so helpful to get around the city and mostly from San Francisco Airport to the city.
  • San Francisco has one of the biggest homeless populations in the USA. Be prepared to see lots of them roaming the streets, especially in the city centre. There are quite inoffensive and will probably ask you for some coins, but politely say “have a good day” or give what you would like to them and it will be all fine. I would just avoid walking the Tenderloin area late at night just in case. During the day, it’s mostly fine but still be careful.
  • Book Alcatraz as much in advance as possible! It gets very very busy but you wouldn’t want to miss it.

Don't forget to check all of my pictures here!

San Francisco Low Res-218.jpg

4 Comments

My 3-day adventure in Kangaroo Island

Comment

My 3-day adventure in Kangaroo Island

IMG_1293-Edit.jpg

Since landing in Australia, I’ve always dreamed of visiting Kangaroo Island. I remember watching over and over the official website dreaming of encountering wild kangaroos and seeing spectacular landscapes. Finally, after two years in Australia, I’ve had the opportunity to visit one of the wildest islands but *spoiler alert* - I didn’t see that many kangaroos. Discover my 3-day journey below, how to get there, what to see and enjoy my colourful photographs.

You can also check out my video here or below!

IMG_1109.jpg

Kangaroo Island essential information

Kangaroo Island is located in South Australia and is Australia’s third largest island. It covers 4,400 km2 of land and is about 150 kilometres long and 90 kilometres wide. Its population is over  4000 people and Kingscote is  its  main town.

How to get there

Kangaroo Island is located about 112 kilometres from Adelaide. The best way is to fly to Adelaide if you are coming from anywhere else in Australia and then hire a car to drive down to Cape Jervis. It is a very easy and beautiful drive which should take about 1h30 but allocate 2 hours just in case. The highway is toll free but watch out for speed cameras as fines are very heavy.

Once in Cape Jervis, you can board the SeaLink ferry for Kangaroo Island. Prices vary depending on season,  vehicle type  and how many people are  are in the car. Make sure to book in advance as the ferry is quite small and can be very busy during peak season.

The ferry ride is super fun, though. It’s interesting to see how they fit so many cars in a tiny ferry. You’ll stay about 45 minutes on the ferry and you can enjoy a beautiful view over the coast and the island. You can also try to spot dolphins! I’ve seen four of them jumping around on my way back, magical!

Another option if you’re willing to spend more money is to fly directly to Kangaroo Island! Directly from Adelaide, you can take one of those small planes and not worry about driving around. I wouldn’t recommend this though because it means that you’ll have to find a way to drive around Kangaroo Island.

There isn’t much transportation out there nor taxis, so hiring a car would be definitely the best.

You also can always go with an organised tour whether it’s a backpacker tour or a more touristy one. However, I really think that discovering the island from your own means is the best way.

SeaLink Kangaroo Island
SeaLink Kangaroo Island

On Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island isn’t particularly big but you’ll have plenty of options on where to stay! Of course, the peak season is always going to be more expensive in any case so I’d book early for best prices and availability as well. But even not in peak season, the demand is pretty high so I would organise in advance.

We stayed at Aurora Hotel at Kingscote which was fine and relaxing for a family. However, if I would go back, I’d prefer this time to have a more wild retreat or rent a cabin or even a bed and breakfast. Kingscote is a great place as a starting point but if you’re looking for more wild places, definitely look further! There’s also a backpacker place and some camping sites around the island.

Finally, if you are keen for the most luxurious stay you’ll ever get, you can also stay in this mysterious and super private hotel, the Southern Ocean Lodge. It is very secluded, intimate and beautifully designed. Unfortunately not something we all can afford at minimum 1,000 dollars a night and up to 4,000 per night but gotta keep dreaming right?

Hanson Bay Kangaroo Island
Hanson Bay Kangaroo Island

What I did on Kangaroo Island

What I did: Kingscote, driving around and around, lavender farm, Flinders Chase National Park, Remarkable Rock, Vivonne Bay, beaches, more bays….

Day 0

It wasn’t a full day as we arrived later in the afternoon on the island after missing our flight from Sydney to Adelaide so everything got delayed. Nonetheless, we still made it! We arrived so late though all restaurants were closed in Kingscote (well after 9 pm) and the only place to get food was the petrol station. So if you plan to arrive late, make sure you have a bit of food with you to not starve!

Day 1

The highlight of that day was to drive across the island from Kingscote to the other side and see the seals at Seal Bay! You have plenty of options whether you’d like to go see them directly on the beach or from the pathway. The price is doubled of course. We decided to go from the pathway and it was pretty much the same as people on the beach except they were a bit closer but couldn’t really stay long. We stayed for a long time watching all those funny seals walking around, fighting, being silly. We even spotted a baby seal sleeping in between the wooden walkway. The scenery itself is incredible!

We also then explored more around Vivonne Bay which has beautiful and pretty deserted creeks with amazing blue waters. There you can relax, fish, swim, go around on a boat… It’s also a nice place if you like camping or private cabins.

For lunch, we drove across the mainland of the island and accidentally found this very nice restaurant called The Marron Cafe. We had delicious food out there which was very funny being in the middle of nowhere on the island. Dishes are a bit pricey but very good quality. We also got an amazing local beer called Drunken Drone and the Honey Wheat Ale beer. It’s has a bitter taste as it’s produced next to the bees for honey!

We spent the rest of the day driving around Shoal Bay (we even drove on one of the beaches!) and back to Kingscote. We got to explore the coastal town around sunset which was very beautiful and scenic once again. For dinner, we had a great pizza at Bella Cafe Restaurant - much more comforting that the night before!

Seal Bay Kangaroo Island
Seal Bay Kangaroo Island

Day 2

On the second day, we decided to drive early to go to Flinders Chase Park as there is so much to see out there. We first decided to check out Kelly Hill Conservation Park to see if we could see any kangaroos and see what was there. You can take few hikes for free of also check some caves. We just took a quick 30-minute hike to explore the natural landscape but didn’t see any wildlife, unfortunately.

Before reaching the main park, we also stopped at Hanson Bay as we wanted to see if we could see from far the famous and luxurious Southern Ocean Lodge from the beach. Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be seen but the beach itself is spectacular and  secluded. You can really relax in total paradise there! You also have the option of renting some cabins which looked pretty tempting.

Finally, after those quick stops, we reached Flinders Chase Park! Upon arrival, you have to get a day pass to stay the whole day in the park. What a surprise we had when we arrived when we saw about three or four koalas casually hanging in the trees above the parking! We stayed a good hour in the parking then observing and photographing them. Super cute!

In the park, you have so much to see and so many hikes to try that you could definitely spend more than the whole day. We wanted to take the small 30-minute hike to see more koalas but we ended up on a much longer bush hike which was also very nice, though! We saw the ONLY  kangaroo of the whole trip but it was well worth it. Their colour is so unique!

Then we drove to Cap du Couedic lighthouse and then further down to Admirals Arch which was one of the wildest and most beautiful places I saw in Australia! I have a thing for lighthouses so definitely loved this one and the surrounding landscape was just stunning. Make sure you walk around to see the thousands of sea lions and Hell’s Gate. Just warning you, it’s super windy!

Finally, we finished the day with another must-do in Kangaroo Island: Remarkable Rock! This natural granite formation is incredible with its orange colour as well as the surrounding landscape. You can even walk on the rock but you can’t go certain past points or you may fall down into the ocean…. I would have loved to go at sunrise or sunset but didn’t get a chance, unfortunately.

We took the long drive back home to Kingscote but had such a wonderful time! We even had time to stop on the way back to say hi to some cute alpacas and quickly check a lavender farm .

Cap du Couedic Kangaroo Island
Cap du Couedic Kangaroo Island

Day 3

This was a half-day and last day as we were catching the ferry on the way back. As we only had a few hours, we couldn’t explore too far away so we decided to come back to the Emu Bay Lavender Farm to buy a few things there. We drove around the island towards Penneshaw to explore a bit more inland and we also explored a few wineries. There are a few on Kangaroo Island and we chose one with an amazing view: Dudley Cellar Door. If you have time to stop over for lunch or a coffee do, and definitely try their wines. It’s worth a little break!

Then the ferry was there and it was time to say goodbye to beautiful and wild Kangaroo Island. The departure was as scenic as you would imagine and we even saw 2 jumping dolphins!

Lavender Farm Kangaroo Island
Lavender Farm Kangaroo Island

What to bring on KI

  • Mix of warm and cold clothes - weather can change quickly  
  • Insect repellent for mosquitoes in some areas  
  • Sunnies
  • Sunscreen
  • Good camera + zoom lens for wildlife
  • Tripod (not mandatory but if you want to take some night photos or long exposure)
  • GPS if your mobile isn’t Telstra (even then) or a good print map
  • Some food if you arrive very late, or a few snacks just in case!
  • Good shoes to walk and shoes to chill!

When to go

Anytime but it’s probably best in Summer, Spring and Autumn! I would imagine Winter gets pretty cold and rainy so wouldn’t recommend. However, off-season must be the best to avoid crowds. We didn’t have that many but even then, you’ll be all alone!

Other things to do

  • Activities like surfing, kayaking, stand up paddling, boat tours, fishing…
  • Driving on the beach
  • Tonnes of hikes in parks and around the island
  • Wildlife parks
  • Island Beehive visit

Worth it?

YES YES YES! Kangaroo Island needs a bit of preparation, can be expensive at times but is SO beautiful and so much fun! I would definitely recommend for any traveller interested in Australian landscapes and wildlife and if you love nature in general!

Have you been to Kangaroo Island? Please tell me your experience below!

You can see some of my photographs below but to see the full gallery click here! 

Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island Sealink ferry
Kangaroo Island Sealink ferry
Seal Bay Kangaroo Island
Seal Bay Kangaroo Island

Comment

Fraser Island 3-Day Vlog

Comment

Fraser Island 3-Day Vlog

In October 2016, I discovered the beautiful Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia during three days with my best friend from France, Flore! So I decided to share with you my best moments and the most beautiful places I saw in a Fraser Island 3-Day Vlog. In my Fraser Island 3-Day Vlog, you can see:

  • My arrival on Fraser Island
  • Driving on Fraser Island
  • Eli Creek
  • Champagne Pools
  • Indian Head
  • Lake Mackenzie
  • In-land driving
  • Departure from Fraser Island

It was an amazing trip as this island has some very unique features. You can only access by ferry or seaplane and the only way to get around is by driving on the sand! The ecosystem is also unique in the world as the plants grow directly from the sand.

In three days, you have so many things to do but these are good to really get a good idea of the island.

To know more in detail about how to prepare for a trip in Fraser Island and what to see, have a look at my blog post here: My Full Guide to a Long Weekend in Fraser Island

Hope you’ll appreciate the video and don’t hesitate if you have questions on the island!

 

Comment

Brisbane Essentials in Half a Day + Video

Comment

Brisbane Essentials in Half a Day + Video

Fraser-Island-Low-Res-23.jpg

Located in Queensland, Brisbane is the third biggest city in Australia and the first in its state. Relatively new city, Brisbane is a really nice place to discover and go around for a day or two. While I was visiting Fraser Island (see my article here), I flew from Sydney to Brisbane and back. I never set a foot in Brisbane before so that was a great way for me to discover the city in half a day!

My best way of discovering a city when travelling is by walking. Walking is great for you but also to discover places you would never see on a tour or from hoping from place to place. It can be exhausting from time to time, but you always have the option to go at that local bar or cafe and take a break!

Here are some must-see things for a Brisbane walk guide:

City Botanic Gardens

One of the first things I like the check out when in a city are their botanic gardens. In such new cities like Brisbane, I find it really good to wind down and see a bit of green. The City Botanic Gardens are also bordered by the Brisbane River which makes a very lovely view. You will also find around Alice Street, George Street, Parliament House and Queensland University of Technology campus (what a cool place to study!).

South Bank

You can access Brisbane South Bank by crossing a bridge on your walking tour. South Bank is a cultural, educational and recreational precinct where you will find a big wheel, amazing and free swimming pools and Queensland university. I thought the swimming pool idea was super cool, especially when Brisbane must get pretty hot in summer.

14589719_10154001357848181_4967845583266038670_o

Centre with Queen Street Mall and City Hall

There’s a lot to do, see and shop around Brisbane centre. The Queen Street Mall is a pedestrian outside mall, super modern and has many cafes and bars around. It looks like there’s also a stage for concerts! Not too far from it, the city hall is a really cool piece of architecture to also check out.

Museums

For just a half day, it might be short to check museums but it’s always nice to walk past some of them especially if they are on the way! So if you’re curious and got a bit of time, have a look around Queensland museum, Queensland Art Gallery, Museum of Brisbane and many others.

Australian Museum Brisbane

Views of the city / Eagle Street Pier

Finally there are many cool views to see around Brisbane! Whether it’s from the South Bank, one of the bridges or anywhere near the river, there’s always something cool to see. I haven’t found a place yet but it would be cool to see the whole city from very high as well! I still got to see a beautiful sunset from a hostel before leaving.

Other things to see:

The Shrine of Remembrance next to the Aneac Square. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture and heritage-listed town square and war memorial located between Ann Street and Adelaide Street, in Brisbane.

Post Office Square which has a really nice patch of green as well as a huge shopping arcade and car park.

A bit further, Mount Coot-Tha lets you see a beautiful view of the whole city while enjoying botanic gardens, waterfalls and hikes.

And many other things that I haven’t yet heard of I’m sure!

Verdict:

Brisbane is a fun city to discover, especially on a sunny day! Everything looked very new to me so that’s very interesting to discover a city like this. I’m looking forward to the next time I visit the city and discovering more things!

Hope you enjoyed the video and my photographs as well! What should I see in Brisbane next time?

Brisbane sunset

Brisbane city view

 

South bank big wheel

Comment

My full guide to a long weekend in Fraser Island

2 Comments

My full guide to a long weekend in Fraser Island

IMG_5405.jpg

I heard so much about Fraser Island since I arrived in Australia. And I heard many many good things about this wonderful place. So this was a natural choice when my French bestie told me she will be travelling up the East coast to choose a meeting point. Even better, it was the Labour long weekend in New South Wales so a good excuse to escape Sydney! Although if you know me, I don’t really need an excuse to escape, right?

A little bit about Fraser Island

Fraser Island is amazing for its unique features. The heritage-listed island is considered to be the biggest sand island in the world with a 1,840 km2 surface. It is Queensland's largest island and Australia’s 6th largest island.

Fraser Island's native name is actually K’Gari which means paradise. Its flora and fauna are so rich you quickly understand why it is called this way. When exploring the island, you will find endless beaches, rainforests, eucalyptus woodland, lakes, mangrove forests, sand dunes and coastal heaths. Although the island is made of sand, plants are thriving thanks to fungi present in the sand. And of course, on Fraser Island, you can find many different animals, with the probably most known as Dingo. Unfortunately, there are not many left but if you are lucky, you might see one!

fraser island barge
fraser island barge

How to get there

Armed with excitement and wanderlust, me and my friend Flore met in Brisbane first and then took a bus to Noosa and then a tour from Noosa to Fraser Island. There are many ways to get there but in the end, it really depends on of your availability and budget.

The closest main city and airport to go to Fraser is Hervey Bay. Noosa is only about two hours away which I think is good to include when going to Fraser Island as this is a really cool seaside town to discover as well. We chose to go through Brisbane because it was a lot easier and cheaper for me from Sydney and a good way of discovering the city as well.

Fraser Island can be accessed only by a barge and in a 4WD from Rainbow beach or by a small plane landing on the beach. There are a few options to get on the island:

  • Know some locals and go with them: lucky you if that’s the case because you can get the full local experience and freedom of discovering the island with someone who knows it well.
  • Hire a 4WD and go on your own: we didn’t look into this option as we were not totally confident of driving around for three days in the sand and being just the two of us, plus finding accommodation or camping on our own there. However, we’ve seen some groups of four / five friends with rented cars who were probably staying in resorts or camping. You definitely get more freedom but the costs can be higher as well.
  • Tag-along tours: that’s what we did with Nomads Noosa. It was very backpacker style and adventure-like tour but amazingly well organised, all included for food and accommodation and with a top-shot guide Paul. We also got to drive the cars and had plenty of time and freedom to discover the main island gems. I think tag-along tours is the good compromise if you want to enjoy Fraser while not worry too much about the logistics and driving. It is also a really good price for the value. You have many tag-along tours to choose from with different accommodation types.
  • 4WD bus tours: this is definitely the most touristy option and can get quite expensive. I would say this is good for people who don’t want something too adventurous or exhausting and keep comfort while seeing the island. You have large windows from what I've seen but you don’t get as much fun as in the cars. You cannot drive either.
fraser island tag along tour
fraser island tag along tour

What to do on Fraser Island

There is so much to do, you could easily spend a good week or more on Fraser Island! Here are some of the places I went and loved:

75-mile beach

You can’t possibly miss it as this is the main beach you can drive on in Fraser Island. As you may guess, the beach is indeed 75 miles. All along you will find amazing ocean views and can spot many whales. Some people are also camping behind the dunes along the beach in designated areas. You will have inland tracks to go inside the island. At some point, you will also see Fraser Island Shipwreck and at the end of it, Indian Head and the Champagne Pools.

Driving on the beach is relatively easy when it is on the wet/hard sand. It gets more difficult when driving on soft sand but with a bit practice, it’s fine. Just keep the speed up and avoid  slowing down or you might get bogged. You also might share parts of the beach with planes, they are pretty small but as it is their runway you have to stop when indicated. Really cool to see though! Also, it is not safe at all to swim on that beach. The currents are extremely strong and there is a very large shark population. But be reassured, there are plenty of places to have a safe and fun swim.

Along 75 miles: Fraser Island Shipwreck and Eli Creek

The Maheno Shipwreck is an impressive piece of metal sitting on the beach with a rich history. It’s pretty cool to see and to discover more about its history. It was considered as the Titanic’s sister in the years 1910’s as it was as big and luxurious at the time. Only thing is you can’t go inside as the structure is pretty unstable!

Eli Creek is a sweet little spot along the beach as well. Many locals go there and park their 4WD, get the picnic table and chairs out, and chill out by the creek for the afternoon. When you go up the creek, you can find the purest water you can drink on the island. No one can go further that point so it’s very safe to drink, I did it! Then you can float back down the creek back to the start.

Beautiful view from Indian Head! Photo: Marine Raynard
Beautiful view from Indian Head! Photo: Marine Raynard

At the end of 75 miles: Indian Head and Champagne Pools

This is one of my favourite places on Fraser Island! Champagne Pools are accessible through a little track leading to another part of the beach. You can already see impressive views of the ocean and then go down the little beach with the pools. They can go up to two meters deep but it wasn’t deep for us as the sand got washed into the holes. We’ve still really enjoyed the warm salty water, saw few fishes and even dipped a toe in the ocean next door. It was pretty safe conditions that but we couldn’t go further than a few meters.

Then Indian head on the other side is more than amazing to discover. Through a little hike up the headland, you will see the best view of Fraser Island. We’ve spotted dolphins, manta rays and turtles as well. No shark, though! Our guide Paul explained Indian head is also very rich in history and is a sacred aboriginal land. This is where the elders were meeting to meditate and also deciding on the fate of individuals who committed mistakes. Like a real life trial. The punishment could be as bad as being thrown from Indian head rocks.

Lake Wabby & Mackenzie

You wouldn’t guess Fraser Island has the most amazing lakes but it does! After about a 40-minute hike from the beach, you will find lake Wabby surrounded by dunes on one side and tea trees on the other side. The lake is green but so nice for the skin, you can also get some tea tree leaves and smell the delicious perfume.

Lake Mackenzie’s colours are unbelievable. Unfortunately, it was a bit overcast where we were there but we could still see the crystal clear waters, deep blues and greens further away. The water there is also very pure therefore good for the skin, the sand is a really good scrub! Oh and I forgot to mention that to get there, you have to go through inland tracks on 4WD which make it very very bumpy and fun!

Amazing Lake Mackenzie! Photo: Marine Raynard
Amazing Lake Mackenzie! Photo: Marine Raynard

How to pack and what to know for Fraser Island

Depending on which season you are going, you will need to pack different kind of clothes of course. Queensland is generally pretty warm but can get colder in winter. We were there in Spring, early October, and days were perfect although nights are a bit chilly. Just make sure you bring your swimsuits!

Good camera gear + GoPro is the best combo on Fraser Island. Camera for the amazing landscapes, nature, wildlife. Gopro for the adventure side, going under water in the pools or lakes. I did a mix of those two and it was great although annoying to carry around each time.

Mosquito repellent and sun protection

I had the great idea of googling before leaving about mosquitos on the island and I really thank myself for doing that! The day I left I bought the roll-on repellent and it has been my second best friend the whole trip. During the day on the beach, there’s not a problem but as soon as you go in the forest or in the evening, all the mosquitos are out! Believe, I’ve had the experience and I’ve seen other people with more than 1-15 bites. Either you’re lucky and they don’t like you, either you are a mosquito magnet like me and you better have your repellent ready.

Fraser Island’s sun is pretty good although can be strong. A good SPF sunscreen is recommended, you will still tan I’m sure!  

Good music

Finally, bring some good music through Spotify offline or on your phone. When in the 4WD you can plug your phone and rock the beach driving with your favourite tunes. Thrilling! Oh and if I said offline, it’s because it’s pretty hard to get coverage at all on the island. The luckiest you will be is if you are with Telstra and in the main village.

Driving on the beach! Photo: Marine Raynard
Driving on the beach! Photo: Marine Raynard

Few other things

Fraser Island is an amazing piece of nature so I can’t say enough that everybody needs to be respectful of its ecosystem and not throw garbage away anywhere. (You shouldn’t do that anywhere anyway). So If you see someone not respecting that, please let them know.

Also if you see some Dingos, that’s super lucky  but don’t get too close as they can be aggressive, or give them food at any time, this will do more harm than good. Just enjoy watching them quietly.

Coming next: my Fraser Island video and an amazing infographic!

Fraser Island is one of the wildest places I’ve ever visited in Australia and enjoyed every minute of it. Check my full photos below and watch out for my upcoming video and infographic.

Have you been to Fraser Island before? Please let me know what your thoughts below!

maheno shipwreck fraser island
maheno shipwreck fraser island
Fraser Island walking beach
Fraser Island walking beach
Dingo Fraser Island
Dingo Fraser Island
Myself and Flore from the 4WD :) Photo: Marine Raynard
Myself and Flore from the 4WD :) Photo: Marine Raynard
Lake Wabby Fraser Island
Lake Wabby Fraser Island
sand dunes fraser island
sand dunes fraser island
fraser island transportation
fraser island transportation
Lake Mackenzie Fraser Island
Lake Mackenzie Fraser Island

2 Comments

Weekend in Melbourne: my favourite places

Comment

Weekend in Melbourne: my favourite places

melbourne-blog-5.jpg

As a Sydney-sider and recently moved to Australia, I’ve only been three times in total to Melbourne. So I am still to discover parts of the city but each time I went for a weekend in Melbourne, I really really enjoyed it and did so many things. If you are planning on a weekend in Melbourne soon or just want to know where to go or what to see, then continue to read below! If not, just watch the images, it’s as enjoyable!

Sweet and short: Melbourne is located in the Victoria State, on the South side of Australia and not too far from Tasmania. Melbourne is the second most populous city down under and has been praised many times as “The World's Most Liveable City” . It is now praised for its cultural activities, its beautiful food, amazing street art but the weather is a bit… capricious. Think four seasons in a day.

Melbourne is very easy to access by plane from anywhere in Australia and even internationally. The Sydney to Melbourne road trip is also really nice to do at least once in your life, I did it at the beginning of the year - read more about it here. Also, if you are in Tasmania, you can also catch a ferry from Hobart to Melbourne, how cool!

So what should you do if you only have a weekend in Melbourne?

National Library of Victoria. Photo: Marine Raynard
National Library of Victoria. Photo: Marine Raynard

1. Discover Melbourne CBD’s famous spots

Melbourne’s CBD is really easy to walk around. It isn’t too big so you can definitely see different things in an afternoon or a day if you stop longer at some locations.

Flinders Station: it’s an architectural icon you can’t miss when discovering Melbourne. Built in 1909, Flinders Stations looks beautiful in photographs and can take you to many places around Melbourne. It is also where most trams are departing. Melbourne kept a really good tram network - with most of the CBD’s ones are free now, watch for the green line. You can also take the free tourist tram, 35 City Circle, which will take you around Melbourne with some commentary.

Hosier Lane: you can’t go to Melbourne without seeing its street art. One of the most famous street art lanes is really close to everything in the CBD and showcases enormous graffiti. They change all the time so don’t be surprised if you see something new at another visit. I never saw the same ones. Make sure to take pictures and notice the little details. For a full list of where to look for street art, check That’s Melbourne website here.

Arcades:mostly from the Victorian era, you will find many beautiful lanes and arcades in the CBD. Some have hidden coffee shops, some have really cute shops.

State Library of Victoria:This is probably one of the most beautiful libraries in Australia. Make sure to check the magnificent LaTrobe room where architecture meets greatness. Nothing better than the calm of a library to relax for a bit.

Melbourne's Hosier Lane full of street art. Photo: Marine Raynard
Melbourne's Hosier Lane full of street art. Photo: Marine Raynard

2. Spend an afternoon at the museum

It might be short for a weekend in Melbourne, but if you have some time, make sure to check some of the museums. And if it is raining, that’s generally a good choice.

The ACMI: or the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is an amazing museum to discover if you like everything film, television, games and digital culture. I visited it three years ago and could have easily spent hours and hours in there. I also saw a wonderful exhibition of costumes in all kind of movies. At the moment, the ACMI is showcasing Martin Scorsese’s work. I didn’t get to go, but you have until 18 September 2016 to check it!  The ACMI is also at the heart of Melbourne’s meeting place: Federation Square. Right next to Flinders Station, you can’t miss it.

The National Gallery of Victoria:another beautiful museum with great exhibitions. I can’t get enough of museums I know! The general entry is free and you can purchase a separate ticket for exhibitions. At the moment, I would recommend going to Degas: A new Vision exhibit which showcases the most beautiful painting of the famous french artist.

The Museum of Immigration: it’s definitely not as known and not the first choice when you come in Melbourne. Nonetheless, this museum is really interesting and important to understand the story of Australian immigration until today. A well worth museum you can do in 2 hours.

The boat inside the museum of immigration showing how immigrants arrived in Australia. Photo: Marine Raynard
The boat inside the museum of immigration showing how immigrants arrived in Australia. Photo: Marine Raynard

3. Get away from the CBD

So now you’ve explored the CBD, you kind of want to see a bit more of Melbourne, right?

Well although Melbourne has its centre pretty much inland compared to Sydney, there are some nice places to discover not too far from it.

St Kilda: located at just 6 kilometres south of Melbourne or about half an hour in trams and it is definitely one of the most famous beaches. A great place to walk around and enjoy, if possible, a sunny afternoon!

Brighton Beach: now this is one of my favourites. Brighton Beach has two amazing assets: the view of Melbourne from it and its very original beach baths. It is only 11 kilometres from the city centre and very accessible via tram as well. Make sure to take photos in front of those colourful beach baths. So lovely!

Abbotsford Convent: located not too far from Collingwood, the Abbotsford Convent is a really cool place to go for a morning coffee breakfast or vegetarian lunch at Lentils as Anything. The rule, you give whatever you think is right or what you can afford for a lunch and the money will be used to help other people in need. Only volunteers help out there and the food is more than delicious. Around the Convent, there are also a few contemporary art exhibition, workshops, fairs and a really cute farm! So many activities to choose from.

Beach Baths in Brighton Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard
Beach Baths in Brighton Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard

4. Go party in Fitzroy or Collingwood

It can’t be a weekend in Melbourne without partying a bit in Melbourne!

Melbourne is luckier than Sydney as there aren’t any lock outs there and you can really feel it in the city’s atmosphere. Everybody is coming out later and stays out a lot later as well. Most of all, everybody seems to have lots of fun each time I go out in Melbourne.

I’ve always been told the best neighbourhoods are Fitzroy and Collingwood to go out. Tested and approved! Although I didn’t get to do all the bars, I went to Yah Yah’s and had a great time. Melbourne is definitely a lot more laid back than Sydney!

I’ve also heard the Tiki bar in the same area is a really fun place to go, adding it to the list for next time!

If you’re up just for a chilled drink in the CBD, go next to the yarra river. There are a few bars/restaurants and it’s really nice to enjoy the yarra river view with the South Bank and a few beers.

Yarra River's view. Photo: Marine Raynard
Yarra River's view. Photo: Marine Raynard

5. Go shopping

I’ve always found Melbourne really good to shop in. Whether it is in the CBD or around it, there’s always some good stuff to shop. There are also many individual shops where you can buy cheap and unique clothes or accessories.

I went to Prahran and really like the vibe there, many shops, cafes and a really cool market as well! It can’t be a complete weekend in Melbourne without buying a few things.

A lane in Melbourne. Photo: Marine Raynard
A lane in Melbourne. Photo: Marine Raynard

Bonus:

If you plan on a long weekend, or come back but seen it all, why not plan a bit further than just Melbourne?

My top recommendations would be: Phillip Island for the surf and seeing penguins and the Great Ocean Road but the most amazing landscapes ever. You can read more about those here for the Road Trip from Sydney to Melbourne and here for the Great Ocean Road!

So, what’s your favourite thing to do in Melbourne?

Flinders Station. Photo: Marine Raynard
Flinders Station. Photo: Marine Raynard
Hosier Lane in Melbourne. Photo: Marine Raynard
Hosier Lane in Melbourne. Photo: Marine Raynard

Comment

What to See in Central Coast for a Half Day

Comment

What to See in Central Coast for a Half Day

DSCF8691low.jpg

It was the middle of Winter in Sydney and me and my friends wanted a nice little break to discover something new: Sydney's Central Coast. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't at its best at first but became pretty sunny throughout the day. We then decided to hit the road with my Honda and explore! I've never been to Central Coast before and we had only an afternoon so we decided to drive around discover the main areas. Leaving the rest for this summer! There's definitely a lot to see but here are some essentials we visited and that you can easily do in one afternoon if you have a car!

How to get to Central Coast:

By car and from Sydney it's pretty easy  to get to Central Coast, you just need to follow the M1. Once on it, you will have several options to exit to where you want. You can take the main exit Gosford as well as it then links roads to the beaches. But I always recommend having a look at Google Maps before of course!Once there, also calculate the times you need in between the places you want to visit. Although it's super fast on the M1, it can take some time while on the coast to get from A to B.

By train, you can get the Central Coast and Newcastle line from Central station in Sydney. It will take you about an hour to reach Gosford. But then if you want to go to the beaches and other places you might have to get a car or take buses, but definitely not at easy! Having a car gives you a lot more options and freedom.

Beautiful Avoca Beach in Central Coast. Photo: Marine Raynard

What to see in a half-day at Central Coast:

1. Avoca Beach

When I hear Avoca Beach, I always think Avocado beach haha! But be reassured, it has nothing to do with avocados (cool thing if it would be). Avoca Beach is a beautiful, wild and large beach at the beginning of Central Coast. It's great for surfers as it generally has good waves and is big enough to welcome all the surfers.

I am not sure about summer but in winter there are so many dogs on the beach! Which if you are a dog (or any animal) lover like me, is a bit of a paradise! There's nothing cuter than seeing those big balls of fur jumping and running in and out the water.

There's also a beautiful little bay with the beach and ocean. Great for photos on a sunny day! (I managed to get the picture right before it was cloudy again.)

Avoca Beach in Central Coast

2. Terrigal Beach

Terrigal Beach is probably one of the most known places in Central Coast. It is very touristy and has lots of cafes, bar and a big hotel where people usually go party.

The beach is nice but a lot less wild and natural as Avoca beach. However, at the end of the seaside walkway, there's a nice short walk with beautiful red rocks. It's good to take a break there and watch the seaside town and its people.

After patting once again way too many dogs, we went for ice cream and smoothies. I recommend this place called “Juicy Junkie” where they have the most wonderful and delicious juices. Bonus for the surfing magazines while waiting.

I also met this photographer from Central Coast, Glenn McKimmin. His pictures taken from helicopters or beaches and ocean are just incredible. We talked a bit of photography, Instagram, landscape photography, gear and what it takes to become a professional photographer. Great meet, I'll definitely come back say hi and if you are looking for beautiful photographs while at Terrigal, have a look!

Finally, for the frenchies, there's a really good French restaurant in Terrigal. It's called “Le Chat Noir” I've passed in from of it and it seemed really nice so I'll make sure to visit again and try it! I've also heard only good things about it from friends.

Terrigal Beach at Central Coast

3. The Entrance

The weather started to deteriorate when we arrived at The Entrance but our timing was great because it was “Pelicans feeding time”, and what a funny experience!

I've seen pelicans before but never seen that many at the same time. It was very impressive and quite entertaining to watch because of the excited pelicans and of all the tourists as excited to watch! It lasts about half an hour and lots of fishes are being thrown around for the pelicans, and everybody is saying “wooow”.

Other than that, we didn’t explore much The Entrance but it seems nice to explore on a sunny day, there are some nice cafes and the possibility to rent some boats to go around the bay for quite cheap.

The Entrance Pelicans in Central Coast

 

4. Nora’s head with Nora’s lighthouse

This is the point where the weather really got bad so we didn’t spend as much time as we wished but still got some nice views from Nora’s lighthouse. Only a short drive away, you can see once again a really nice view of the ocean and rocks next to Nora’s lighthouse. If you are a really good surfer, you can try taking some uncrowded waves out there. Fishing amateurs will also like the place, we’ve seen a few ones on the rocks, rain or shine they are always there!

Finally, you can also visit the lighthouse, there are tours almost every day and several times a day. There are also few houses next to the lighthouse if you wish to stay overnight or more. With the bad weather it looked a bit spooky but on a nice day, it must be a great escape!

nora's head lighthouse in Central Coast

What’s for next time on the Central Coast?

There is so much to do and see around the Central Coast area, you definitely need more than one afternoon to discover the region. My next adventure will definitely be Bouddi National Park on a sunnier day as it looks so scenic and like a great hike. The entry fee is 8 dollars for a day but I am sure very well worth it!

Have you been to Central Coast? Where do you recommend for me to go next time? Let me know your best places and tips!

Pelicans The Entrance Central Coast

 

 

 

 

Comment

Infographic: New Zealand in numbers

Comment

Infographic: New Zealand in numbers

Coverinfographie.jpg

Surprise surprise!

I've finally decided to use my graphic design skills on my blog to design about my travel or anything else I find inspiring!

So, you are now seeing my very first travel infographic on The Frenchie Escapes. 

Why an infographic? Because it's fun, super visual and easy to understand. I love colours, icons and cool facts so that's the perfect way to combine those.

Have a look at my infographic 'New Zealand in Numbers' and let me know what you think!

If you haven't ready the whole story about my trip yet, then don't wait and discover my New Zealand Road Trip.

Want to see more pictures? Then have a look here and see my full photography album about my recent trip to New Zealand!

Enjoy! The Frenchie

New Zealand Infographic

Comment

A New Zealand Road Trip

Comment

A New Zealand Road Trip

13613175_10153752682303181_4954026311224827500_o.jpg

The real Middle Earth, the Land of the Long White Cloud, home of the kiwi. I visited New Zealand for the first time in May and I was far from disappointed! My only problem was … I didn’t get enough time to see everything!! A good reason to come back again.

Featured photo: myself on Baylys Beach by Leo Nelson.

My first day in New Zealand watching over Christchurch
My first day in New Zealand watching over Christchurch

Our trip in brief

My partner Leo and I left via Virgin Airlines from Sydney to Christchurch in mid-May. After a 3-hour flight, we landed in the cold and rain in the city which suffered from a significant earthquake in 2011. From there we rented a car with GoRentals (cheap but you kind of have to figure things out yourself and might get a very average car) to cross all the way from Christchurch to the Bay of Islands. And all that in just a few days as we had to be up North for my partner’s grandmother’s birthday.

We drove 2300+ kilometres, so drove every day, through the rain, the shine, the storms and the blue skies. We did Christchurch, Kaikoura, Picton, Ferry from Picton to Wellington, Rotorua, Hobbiton, Auckland, Dargaville, Waipoua Forest and Bay of Islands. With a total of 9 days, this was a very busy trip!

On the way to Kaikoura from Christchurch. Photo: Marine Raynard
On the way to Kaikoura from Christchurch. Photo: Marine Raynard

What to bring in NZ / How to prepare

In our case, we knew we drove a lot and did not have all the time we wanted to visit everything we wanted to visit. We could have stayed just 4 days in Wellington and driven up North but we enjoyed being on the move all the time and discovering new things every day so this was a good fit for us.

If you are going on a road trip in New Zealand, make sure you do a small bit a research before going to know the essentials or what you want to see and organise your trip. I bought a Lonely Planet travel guide for NZ and I this was such a great help! I could check out the best spots and read more about the country when I was waiting or was not driving. Sure you can check that all online, but when you don’t have the internet on your phone and wi-fi is not often of easy to find, this was life-saving during the trip!

New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere so be prepared for Autumn/Winter between March and August and Spring/Summer between September and February. New Zealand is known to be a lot colder than Australia so make sure you pack some extra layers, waterproof jackets and umbrellas. Good walking shoes and especially hiking shoes are recommended following the activities you’ve planned. We’ve had some pretty cold days but we were pretty happy - although so much rain!

If you are on a road trip, buying a local map is also very handy. Our GPS was useless as we forgot we didn’t have a map of NZ on it (80 dollars so not really worth it for 9 days). I didn’t have data on my phone so couldn’t use Google maps but my partner did buy a data pack so that was easier. Although the road signs were pretty clear so we never had too much trouble as long as we knew where we wanted to go.

Finally, prepare your cameras! New Zealand is absolutely stunning and every corner is a scenic view. Photographers won’t be disappointed for sure. I had my Canon 6D as usual, three lenses (one standard-zoom, one prime and one wide-angle) and my small Fuji x100s. This time, I prepared a backup plan for my photographs as it is unfortunately too common now to lose files - and I surely did not want to go through that! I bought a good external drive and backed up my photographs every night.

Oh and we had an insurance policy as well - pretty simple but covering most of our belongings and in case anything happened. Now that my camera is super essential for me, damaging it would be really bad and it also wasn’t the best weather on the road (we had very worn out tyres) so, in the end, we felt better knowing we were covered (well especially me haha!)

For the banking, as I am with Westpac, it was the easiest for me as New Zealand has many Westpac ATM. So I basically could take out some cash from my account without any fees and just the currency change. It was perfect! Make sure to activate your card for abroad transactions by calling your bank before though and not doing 5 minutes before take off like I did haha.

A typical New Zealand landscape. Photo: Marine Raynard
A typical New Zealand landscape. Photo: Marine Raynard

Highlights - what we loved

In our short times everywhere, here are my favourites!

South Island

Ok, we stayed in the South only like 2 or 3 days top, but the few things we saw on the South Island were really cool! Two things to know: 1. There are really not many people on the South Island 2. In May, this is a pretty low season so even fewer people.

Christchurch is a unique city. It, unfortunately, suffered from a bad earthquake in 2011 which left irreparable damages, shattered buildings and killed 185 people. Now the city is rising from its ashes and many new parts are built. However, half of it is really still not in condition and it feels a bit weird. It was also funny as we were there on a Saturday afternoon and there was absolutely no one around. Maybe because of the weather…

Kaikoura is also a beautiful spot about 2 and half hours drive up of Christchurch. This is perfect is you love long walks, nice ocean views and wildlife. I really enjoyed the sunrise and sunsets as well although the weather wasn’t that great. Make sure to check out the seals near at the end of the esplanade, they are pretty funny!

Beautiful Kaikoura. Photo: Marine Raynard
Beautiful Kaikoura. Photo: Marine Raynard

Wellington

To reach Wellington, we took the ferry via Picton on the Interislander Ferry. We were really not sure we would make it in time knowing our tight times but it was actually a very smooth process! We both never put a car on a ferry so we were pretty happy with how it went. Picton is a really cute seaside city - although under the rain there’s not much to do around - but the scenery is great as it is in the Marlborough Sound. Getting on the ferry was pretty easy and not very long. The first half hour was so beautiful as you could see the hills and blue seas, it was still pretty calm at that point. But quickly the wild weather kicked in and we were shaken around pretty bad, probably at least 3-4 meters waves. I sometimes get a bit seasick so I really didn’t want to experience this badly so I took two tablets. I got a weird blurry vision feeling for the 20 first minutes but then I was fine and all excited about the rocking boat. Many poor people though were stuck on the deck with paper bags or their head above the sea as they were feeling very sick. 3 hours can be a long time if you are seasick…

We finally reached Wellington under the pouring rain and were exhausted so I can’t tell you much about Wellington at night - but we still got some amazing pizza from Pomodoro pizza, a place that looked like it came straight from an NYC hidden corner. The day after was absolutely stunning with blue skies - finally! Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time so did only a walking tour around the city, Te Papa museum and Mount Victoria Lookout. The essentials if you want to quickly see the city. The museum is really really interesting and so well designed. You could stay a whole afternoon there and learn so much about New Zealand culture. The mount is also amazing to see a 360 view around Wellington.

That moment when things got a bit wild. Photo: Marine Raynard
That moment when things got a bit wild. Photo: Marine Raynard

Rotorua & Hobbiton

On our way to the North of the North Island, I really wanted to do a stop there. I initially wanted to go in the mountains but time missing we had to choose.

Rotorua is extremely touristy - there are so many hotels, activity centres and offers for tourists. But it’s a great place to understand the Maori culture and discover more about the volcanic nature of New Zealand. There are many parks to discover this but we went to Te Puia which had some Maori dances and talks as well as to see the Kiwi Bird and the famous Geysers. The geyser was super impressive and we also saw the bubble mud bath - at 92 degrees! It was a great place to walk around and visit and we were almost alone! A bit pricey, though.

Not too far from there and on the Auckland road, was also Hobbiton! I’ve really liked the Lord of the Rings movies and I could simply not miss this place. Be warned, though, it is very very pricey. A bit too pricey I think but I really wanted to see it. We had the last tour - under the pouring rain once again - but the scenery was amazing and the little hobbit houses as well. It felt quite magical and our guide was so passionate about it, it did the little extra. I really enjoyed it and will remember it for a while for sure.

So beautiful Hobbiton! Photo: Marine Raynard
So beautiful Hobbiton! Photo: Marine Raynard

North - Bay of Islands, Waipoua Forest and Baylys Beach.

We spent only a day in the Bay of Islands as we were staying a few days in the north but it was simply amazing! In summer, it is a very popular destination but in winter, it’s pretty neat with no crowds. The must do in the Bay of Islands is seeing the islands and dolphins! We took a 3-hour boat tour and must say we had a great time! We saw so many dolphins (and flying dolphins) I couldn’t count, the captain was funny as hell and we went through the hole in the rock which was super impressive!

Driving around is really great as well. We saw Russell which is a cute village - it was the first permanent European settlement and seaport in New Zealand. We, unfortunately, didn’t have time to stop in Waitangi next door - best known for being the location where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed on February 6, 1840, and where the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand was signed five years prior, on October 28, 1835.

Not too far, we also went to Waipoua Forest for another day trip which was amazing for its greenery and majestic trees. Waipoua is one of the largest remaining tracts of native forest in Northland and you have access to great walking tracks to the most spectacular trees of the forest: the giant trees named Tane Mahuta, Te Matua Ngahere, Four Sisters, and the Yakas Tree, as well as the historic Waipoua Forest Lookout Tower. If this forest, you really feel connected to nature and its beauty. Just make sure you stay on the tracks and not step on the roots, as well a cleaning your shoes before and after as, unfortunately, a Kauri dieback disease is killing the native kauri.

Finally, we stayed at Baylys Beach, just 20 minutes from Dargaville as we visited family there for few days, which was really really nice. There are lots of small seaside village all along the coast and you truly feel refreshed there. We stayed in this small and cute seaside cottage and had access to the beach in a 5-minute walk. The beach is very impressive as it’s huge - it goes on for kilometres of sand. You are allowed to drive with a 4WD on the beach so that must be fun but our car was way too small to safely drive on there. The seas can be pretty wild as well, especially in winter. That would be a great surf though in Summer if you are good at surfing - because the current are very hard in there. Finally, when it’s nice and clear weather you can catch amazing pictures in the day or at night with the milky way!

Dolphin in Bay of Islands! Photo: Marine Raynard
Dolphin in Bay of Islands! Photo: Marine Raynard

Till next time

I absolutely loved my first time in New Zealand and can’t wait to go back. My number one wish for next time is going to Queenstown to ski and visit the Milford Sound as well. For the cities, I saw Auckland quickly so didn’t see much but why not visiting it again. Wellington was a definitely nice place to be, though, with great food and atmosphere. With only 3 hours from Sydney, it’s definitely feasible again even if it is just for a weekend. Finally, I’d really love to discover more of the fjords and mountains, there is so much to discover in New Zealand!

Have you been to New Zealand? Tell me all about your favourite spots!

Wanna see all my photographs? Then don't wait and head this way! 

And stay on the watch for a cool infographic and a video to come. Yep that many new things!

The only good photo I got of Aukland haha. Photo: Marine Raynard
The only good photo I got of Aukland haha. Photo: Marine Raynard

Comment

My favourite places in the Blue Mountains

2 Comments

My favourite places in the Blue Mountains

bluemountains-copie.jpg

Located at about two hours west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains is an amazing place to discover. Apart from the main touristic points, there is so much to see you would need weeks to go everywhere!

For me, this is the perfect nature getaway for hikes, waterfall chasing and autumn leaves chasing as I did recently.

With an area covering more than 11,400 km2, there is a wide range of dramatic landscapes, steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests, and cute villages to discover. These are mountains but of course, you can’t compare to the European mountains. There you can’t ski (if you want to ski in Australia, have a look at my article here) but nonetheless, it still gets cold in Winter. The highest point in Mount Werong with 1,215 metres.

Autumn in Mount Wilson. Photo: Marine Raynard

Quick history of the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains formed around one million years ago as part of the Kosciusko Uplift during the Pliocene Epoch. Before the Europeans arrived in Australia, the region was already inhabited by the Aboriginals - the Gundungurra people and the Darug people.

It also took a really long time to figure out how to build a road around the Blue Mountains. From first explorations, the rugged terrain and many challenges made the crossing of the mountains extremely difficult. It is only in 1814 that the first road was constructed thanks to great engineer skills from Europeans and Aboriginals.

What I liked in The Blue Mountains

Wentworth Falls and the Charles Darwin Walk

Wentworth falls is from far one of my favourite places in The Blue Mountains. It has wonderful views, entertaining hikes and so much beauty. I love how the atmosphere can change whether it is foggy, sunny or even stormy!

The Charles Darwin Walk let you follow the famous steps of the naturalist who walked this track in 1836. You can start it from Wilson Park and easily stroll through the boardwalk and bush tracks within the forest until the end of the walk for impressive views.

The Charles Darwin Walk. Photo: Marine Raynard

 

Hassans Walls Lookout

Located in Lithgow, this lookout (among many other cool lookouts around the area) will show you spectacular views over the Blue Mountains. At approximately, 1,100 metres above the sea level you will have an overview of to Mount Wilson, Mount York, Mount Tarana and Mount Blaxland and the whole Hartley Valley below. It is said to be at its most spectacular for sunrise or sunset. I’ve only experience during the day but can’t wait to go back!

Myself in at Hassans Walls. Edit: Marine Raynard

Glow Worm tunnels near Lithgow

Be forewarned, this is a true expedition to get there! Through about one hour of driving on a very wild, dusty and unsealed road in the Newnes plateau, you will arrive to the majestic and mysterious glow worm tunnel. My favourite part before arriving was entering with the car this massive tunnel that just looks like a decor out of Jurassic Park. Thrilling feeling and memories of Disneyland guaranteed!

Once arrived, you have 20 minutes walk through the forest to get to the tunnels. Make sure to bring some lamps as it can get really dark but don’t let them on for too long otherwise, you will have trouble seeing the worms. Best to go early or late as it can get crowded. And if you are not a scaredy cat, go at night. Even more thrilling feelings guaranteed!

Glowworm tunnel. Edit: Marine Raynard

Mount Wilson in Autumn

There are many villages in the Blue Mountains and I have yet to explore most of them! However, if you happen to be in Sydney during the month of may, this would be the best time to explore Mount Wilson and the Breenhold Gardens. You will see the most beautiful colours of Autumn leaves which will leave you with an unshakable feeling of mystery and beauty. Make sure to bring your camera!

Magic happens in the gardens! Photo: Marine Raynard

Katoomba and the Three Sisters

While this is a very touristy and probably the most famous area of the Blue Mountains, I would definitely recommend you have a look at it. Very accessible and free, the lookout offers majestic views on The Blue Mountains. You can also explore the area with many walks around, be careful though the lower you get, the harder it will be to go back up haha! But definitely worth it.

1072182_10151564627828181_1073571394_o

Bonus: Lincoln Rock

On my last trip to Mount Wilson, we wanted to catch the sunset from somewhere and my friend Kel suggested Lincoln Rock. While this is a small part of the Blue Mountains, once again you can see wonderful views! The giant flat rock is great to sit on and relax and appreciate the view. Just be careful if you get closer to the edge, you never know!

chasingautumn - copie

So this is of course a non-exhaustive list as there is so so much to discover in The Blue Mountains. I really want to go back again and discover new places!

What would you recommend I go to next :)? Looking forward to seeing your comments!

 

2 Comments