Daydreaming about our Honeymoon!

The next big holiday Pad and I take will probably be our honeymoon… For two reasons mainly. Firstly, this year we’re going to be pretty busy attending other people’s weddings – which can get pretty pricey and means most of our summer weekends are taken up with hen / stag do’s and the weddings themselves. Secondly, we’re saving up for a wedding – which of course means that the holidays have to be trimmed down a bit, in order to save up for wedding stuff.

So, know that our next big trip together will be our honeymoon, I’m spending at least an hour a day daydreaming about it and the kinds of places we could go. At the moment, we’re planning a mini-moon straight after the wedding, and then a bigger honeymoon (for a month – maybe up to 6 weeks) later in the year.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking for the mini-moon:

Ibiza 

I love the idea of renting a luxury villa in Europe for 5-7 nights and just having some sunshine and an amazing view and a pool (there has to be a pool… extra points for infinity pools!). I know Ibiza has a reputation for being a party island but I’ve had so many friends and family recommend the island to us now for a more relaxing kind of getaway – that I want to see what all the fuss it about. The areas of Ibiza further away from the party towns look gorgeous, and would be the perfect luxury getaway for a few days straight after the wedding, plus it’s only a few hours by plane (so no jet-lag – yay!). I love how close to the sea we can be, the views we’d have are amazing. I’ve seen some lovely ones and I’m pretty sure I could find our dream holiday villa in Ibiza somewhere.

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The Caribbean

My other choice for the mini-moon is the Caribbean. Pad and I went for the first time last year (for our friend’s wedding!), and loved every second of it. The clear blue sea, the white sandy beaches, the all-inclusive resorts…. we just loved it. You can get direct flights there from here in London, and the packages are really reasonable – so this would be ideal too. It’s a little further away, but the all-inclusive deals make things so effortless, that I don’t think it’d matter to us too much. I’ve been looking at holidays to the Grenadines (which is part of the Caribbean we haven’t yet explored) and the beaches and sunshine send me right into a daydream.

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Here’s what I’ve been thinking for the longer honeymoon….

AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND! 

OK, so this bit, we’ve already kind of decided. Pad and I have a love affair with Australia and New Zealand, and ever since we came back 2 years ago we’ve literally been scheming about how we can get back there, and when. It turns out, our honeymoon is the perfect opportunity.

I think we’ll head over to Sydney first (maybe stopping on the West Coast of the USA on the way) and spend a week or so in Sydney – a city which we both fell in love with back in the day. We’ll maybe even try and squeeze in a weekend trip to Hamilton Island too (on the Whitsundays) and do a little reef tour.

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After that, it’s onto Queenstown, a small town in New Zealand’s South Island, where we both lived together a couple of years ago. It’s our ‘special place’ so it’ll be awesome to go back and just enjoy the town again. I don’t think we’ll do much more than that – Queenstown is the place we’re really excited to get back to, so we’ll probably just spend our time there doing all the things we loved. Like eating at our favourite restaurants, taking walks to our favourite places and just standing in awe at the view!

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In a dream world….

We’d love to go to Bora Bora for a week or two – but right now that is way way out of our budget. Maybe for our ten year anniversary!? 😉

A Guide to The Blue Mountains in Sydney, Australia

 

During our time in Sydney and Bondi Beach we also took a trip over to the Blue Mountains, which one of the main daytrip and excursions from Sydney. The Blue Mountains is the big beautiful national park closest to Sydney – and are called so, because they’re very big, and very blue.

See the photo below for further proof of their bigness and blueness.

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The mountains aren’t really mountains in your conventional sense – as in – they’re not pointy, they don’t have snow and you can’t ski on them…. we’d just come from New Zealand where mountains were like massive and pointy, so I just wanted to clarify!

They’re still incredibly beautiful though and the gorgeousness is more in how expansive the valleys are. I’ve always had a thing for valleys that fall behind each other, fading into the background, and you definitely get that here, you’ll find some awesome opportunities for photos.

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You have a few options if you’re planning on visiting the Blue Mountains, you could rent a car and drive there yourself – or you can take a group tour and let someone do the driving for you. For the sake of ease, Pad and I chose to do the latter. It was a long day (and a long drive) and it’s just so much easier to leave the job to someone else!

We left the city at about 6.30am (I know… so frickin’ early), and started getting to the viewing spots around 11am ish, so there’s a good solid 4 hours of driving before you even get to the hot spots.  Luckily I slept for most of it (thank God for neck cushions) so it wasn’t so bad. Pad’s shoulder is always a hugely comfortable pillow too, so needless to say – I always sleep well on coach journeys.

Here are a few companies that do coach tours:

Blue Mountains Tours

Anderson Tours

Blue Diamond Tours

PJ Tours

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blue mountains sydney

One of the main ‘sights’ to see in the Blue Mountains are the 3 sisters, a rock formation on the side of one of the cliff faces. It is pretty gorgeous, and you’ll be able to see them from any tour I’d imagine, as it’s one of the priorities.

Part of the trip involves stopping at Scenic World (where you can ride a cable car through the mountains, and also THE WORLD’S STEEPEST RAILWAY – which is kinda scary, but in a Disneyland kind of way… so nothing to be worried about). At Scenic World (where most Blue Mountain tours stop at, you have amazing views of the 3 sisters)- so don’t worry about missing them.

I think most of the tours that stop at Scenic World, involve a little bit of walking – so don’t wear flip-flops or anything stupid. Wear some trainers or pumps.

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blue mountains sydney

blue mountains sydney

blue mountains sydney

 

Another thing worth noting, is no matter what tour company you book with when visiting the Blue Mountains, you can either book an inclusive tour (which includes the Scenic World tickets, lunch, etc) or a non inclusive tour. To be honest – for convenience, just go with the inclusive one. Our tour guide was able to skip us through queues, etc because he had our tickets ready and waiting – which wouldn’t have been possible if we’d opted for the option to buy them ourselves. And it was kind of nice not having to queue up – because the Scenic World was extremely busy! For the sake of a few dollars either way, I’d honestly go for the inclusive deal.

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blue mountains sydney

blue mountains sydney

Any negatives about the day?

The only thing I hated abut the experience, was the sheer amount of flies there are up there in the mountains. Not mozzies or wasps or anything – just plain old flies. BIG AND GROSS.

I really hate flies.

At one point I didn’t want to talk because I was scared of inhaling a few. Eurgh! It’s a shame actually – because there are some absolutely lovely picnic sites around the mountains which we stopped off at. Maybe it was the season though, we were there in the peak of summer – so maybe that’s peak fly season!? But I guess, if flies don’t bother you too much (or you’re smart enough to bring repellent) then that’s not an issue anyway and you wouldn’t mind at all.

 

Everything you need to know about taking a Great Barrier reef tour

When Pad and I were in Australia, one of our major highlights was the snorkelling trip we took from Cairns, to The Great Barrier Reef.

Beforehand though, whilst planning the trip, I had so many questions I needed answers to.

– Which company should we sail with?

– Which town is best for taking tours from?

– What should we wear?

– Is there anything the tour won’t provide that I should take with me?

– How long does it take? 

I literally knew nothing about all these things and had to do so much research to figure all this stuff out. Hopefully this blog post will answer all those questions for you, and then some.

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Which town / city should you use as your Barrier Reef base? 

Pad and I took our tour from Cairns – but to be honest if we were to do it again, I’d stop in a different town and take a tour from somewhere a bit nicer – like Noosa or the Whitsundays. Cairns isn’t overly great, so if you can choose a town that you can actually enjoy during the following days when you’ve finished the tour.

The following places all have Great Barrier Reef tours going out of them (either by boat, or for the further afield towns, like Noosa, by seaplane):

Cairns, Townsville, Airlie Beach (and Whitsunday Island, Hamilton island, etc), Mackay and Noosa.

My personal recommendation would be to stop on Hamilton or Hayman Island (expensive – but holy crap, so gorgeous) and then do a reef trip from there, you could even fly to the reef via seaplane. When we head back to Oz on our honeymoon next year, this will be our plan. 

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Which company should I go with? 

We sailed with Tusa Dive, and it was fantastic, they were seriously great. Our trip was on a stormy (very windy and rocky) day and they really took care of us, and made sure everyone was comfortable. I’m a very confident swimmer, but for the less confident swimmers out there I imagine the weather and roughness of the water would’ve been a bit daunting. But they made sure everyone got in, and totally enjoyed the experience.

A few other companies worth looking at are;

Diving Cairns

Quick Silver Cruises

Green Island Reef Cruises

Reef Experience, Australia

Cruise Whitsundays

Sea Star Cruises

Down Under Cruise and Dive

In terms of price, you should be looking at around $100 – $200 (Australian Dollars) for an all day snorkelling tour. If you’re diving the price will go up steeply.

Here is us looking all happy and reefy….

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What is included in a tour? 

This will vary depending on which company you opt for, but if you’re going on an all day snorkelling or diving tour, you’ll usually get the following things included…

– Snorkel mask

– Flippers

– Wetsuit or stingray suit (you will usually always have to wear these, just to protect you from getting stung by sting rays or jelly fish)

– Any floatation devices if needed

– Lunch, snacks and drinks

– Instruction if necessary

It’s always worth checking on the company website though – as they’ll be able to tell you exactly what’s included and what to expect.

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A few extra things I’d recommend taking with you;

– Seasickness tablets (and take one with your breakfast before you set off too) 

– An under-water camera (you can buy cheap ones from Amazon for like £30 now, or alternatively, you can rent an expensive one or GoPro from most tour companies) 

– A few extra towels (because one is never enough!)

– Something to read, there is a lot of waiting around at times, so this is crucial

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Happy Australia Day! (Plus a competiton!)

I thought I’d tie Australia Day (Happy Australia Day!) in nicely with a competition I wanted to enter too!

Cosmos have launched a competition last week (for a chance to win a 7 night holiday for 4 to Ibiza, Madeira, Lanzarote or Corfu) where people have to show them in pictures and videos where they wish they could REALLY be. So right now, I’m wishing I wasn’t sat on my sofa in London, instead I’m wishing I was REALLY in Sydney.

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See the connection now? 😉

Why Sydney? Sydney is awesome. It’s summer there right now (you gotta love some sunshine…!) and the city is just so perfect, and has beaches and blue skies and *sigh*

If you to enter the competition yourself, you just need to start getting creative and showing them your perfect holiday destination using bits and bobs you can find around your house. This is what I came up with…

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I wish I could be taking a real selfie in front of the Opera House, and not a pretend one in front of my framed print!

You can enter by Twitter or Instagram, so it’s pretty easy! Just update with your image, tag them in the update and use the hashtag #wishiwasreallyhere

Now. Here are some other gorgeous photos of Sydney, just because.

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An Unexpected Surprise: Bondi Beach Street Art

When we visited Bondi Beach, one of my favourite finds was the beautiful street art along the promenade.

We’d previously been to Melbourne (a city famed for it’s street art scene) and I hadn’t head anything about street art in Sydney so seeing the gorgeous art along the beach-town walls were a pleasant surprise. It’s not hard to find the street art in Bondi – you don’t have to walk along some obscure alleyway and find hidden courtyards. It’s pretty much right above the reach, where the beach ends and the grass begins.

Here are a few of my favourites that we saw, enjoy!

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Must see things in Sydney, Australia

Here’s my must-see and must-do list of things in Sydney, Australia. It’s a city I adore and hopefully you will too after you’ve been to all these places!

The little gallery below is something I’m playing around with and experimenting with, so just take a scroll through and let me know what you think!


Must see: Sydney by Elle-Rose Williams on Exposure

Hostels Vs Hotels in Australia and my Personal Recommendations.

I said it before (and I’m about to say it again)… Australia is the most expensive place in the history of the world. Ever.

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I think the prices in Oz would be a shock to anyone though (even for us) who had been living in Queenstown (NZ) and London (UK) previous to visiting – and both of these are famous for being expensive, over priced cities too.

Still, Australia was a level above even them.

When my boyfriend and I were travelling Australia, we obviously wanted privacy during the evening (dorm rooms aren’t the most romantic setting) – but that can be difficult when your budget won’t always stretch to a nice double room in a hotel. We figured out pretty quickly though, that most hostels in Australia offer private double rooms (with the options of shared bathrooms or en-suites) and at almost half the price of what you’d pay at a hotel down the road.

I wanted to write about this because we found it saved us a lot of money. Sure, hostels don’t have the best reputations (especially not where romance is concerned) but we were so pleasantly surprised with all of the hostels we stayed in – that I think the issue needs clearing up. Staying in a hostel in Australia (and NZ to that matter) isn’t always slumming it – and I would compare a lot of the hostels we stopped in during our time in Australia to a 3* or 4* bed and breakfast or hotel in the UK.

I would recommend anyone travelling Oz to totally embrace the hostel scene (we primarily used Hostel Bookers to find ours, as they have lots of choices), and save yourself all that money – so you can spend it on something like surfing or theme parks or beer. Hostels give you more of a social scene too (that you rarely get in a hotel) and you’ll find that most hostels will have food deals on too throughout the week. At the FlashPackers hostel in Noosa, we had all you can eat pizza for $8 each one night, and a free BBQ the next night. Stuff like that is lifesaving when you’ve begun counting the pennies and when you’re travelling on a tight budget!

So saying that, here are a few of the hostels we loved when we were in Australia:

YHA, Brisbane – amazing view, en-suite bathroom, rooftop swimming pool overlooking city, big kitchen and central location.

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Byron Bay Beach Resort – HUGE BED, hammocks, free shuttle into town, fun restaurant next door, 30 second walk to the beach.

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The Friendly Hostel, Hervey Bay – Homely feel, cosy living room (shared between 3 rooms), kitted-out kitchen, free bike hire, short walk to the beach.

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The Space Hotel, Melbourne – Gorgeous room, Amazing view (see below!), rooftop jacuzzi, modern decor, cheap cafe and bar on-site.

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Flash Packers, Noosa – comfy king-size bed, beautiful en-suite bathroom with rain shower, free surf board hire, gorgeous swimming pool.

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I’d love to hear any hostel or hotel recommendations you may have for Australia – as I’m sure I’ll be back there one day!

Did you enjoy this post or find it helpful? If so I’d love if you could spare a second to vote for me in The Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2014. Just click here to get to the voting site. Thanks a million!

Greyhound Australia Review – A Backpackers Best Friend.

When we made the decision to do the traditional backpacking route of Australia, at first I was kind of dreading it because of all the flights involved. BUT, after a bit of research and googling (yay for Google!) I stumbled upon Greyhound coaches and I pretty much knew it was the best option for us.

Basically Greyhound offer a huge network of coaches that run all the way up and down (and across) Australia. Every backpacking destination that is worth going to is covered by these coaches, and you hop on and off as you please, depending on what pass you’ve opted for. We chose a mini-pass, which allowed us to travel all the way from Cairns to Sydney hopping on and off wherever we liked – so long as we only went in one direction (for us, that was down the coast, rather than up).

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Doesn’t it take, like, forever to see Australia by coach? 

OK, so the Greyhound coaches perhaps aren’t the quickest way to see the country – but you save yourself the hassle of airports and flying, and usually (what with checking in your baggage, driving to the airport, etc) even a 1 hour flight can end up taking 4/5 hours…. in which case, you might as well get the coach. The coaches all depart from central locations within each town and city – so you don’t have to worry about getting a $30 taxi ride out to the bus station or bus stop – which is usually the case with airports. In Sydney I think we forked out $60 for a taxi from the airport to the city…! Ouch!

The longest coach ride we did was 12 hours – which seems like a lot, but to be honest it was kind of nice. I stocked up on a couple of cheap movies from iTunes, synced my Spotify so I had lots of new music to listen to – and then just sat back and enjoyed the ride. It’s not like UK coach journeys where you never stop for rests or toilets – the guys at Greyhound are pretty good with stopping frequently for that kind of stuff, maybe once every 3 hours – if not more. I’m not a big fan of coach-toilets (even though there are some on board) so I was pretty glad for the frequent rest stops!

We did two of those very long journeys, one over a full day and one over night. The night time one seemed to go much faster and it was way easier to fall asleep because it was dark outside, it was also much quieter during the night time coach and there seemed to be about half as many people on board. I would recommend in all cases doing the longer journeys overnight, because (trust me) 12 hours feels way shorter when you can’t waste away at least 5 of those sleeping.

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Can you eat on the coaches? 

Of course you can – I think you just need to be respectful of others though. Cold food is best (hot food tends to smell stronger – which might get you a few glances off other passengers!) so stick to things like sandwiches, sushi, pasta salad…. those kinds of picnic foods.

The rest stops are usually for about 20 minutes too – which gives you a chance to get out and stretch your legs, and even grab some food from those garages if you want to. I’d stock up beforehand too as a back-up though, because sometimes the garages you stop at might not have much to offer aside from sausage rolls, meat pies and burgers! Some of them however were serving full on buffet type meals – which was a welcome change!

What are the coaches like for space? 

Not bad actually – I was pleasantly surprised! They were never too busy either, so most of the time Pad and I opted for a double-seat to ourselves. He might be the most loveliest boy I’ve ever known – but I’d still choose to have 2 seats to myself on a 12 hour coach journey…!

Leg room is pretty good (for all you tall folk reading) although this was never even remotely an issue for me as I’m only 5ft2 and I have small legs. I’m usually spoilt for leg room even in the tightest of spots. I got Pad to model the legroom below for you though – he is 6ft with normal legs and his don’t even touch the front seat.

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How do you purchase tickets? 

You can book them online, or call them up, or go into one of their branches (see below) – so it’s pretty easy really. We liked that you could then book each individual journey ahead of time online – which made us way more organised than usual. You do have to do this – you can’t simply turn up and hope to get on a coach. We booked all our journeys about a month ahead of time (being the keeno planners we are) and then we had our full itinerary.

You don’t need to be this forward thinking though – you could probably get away with booking about a couple of days in advance, and there would be seats available  To put it into perspective – we travelled on some of the busiest routes in peak season – and none of our coaches were ever full t the brim.

I would recommend printing a few copies of your ticket / pass out though just to keep handy. Usually you don’t need them – but occasionally drivers would demand to check them and some people were always caught out. So maybe print a few copies out and keep them in your purse and your passport.

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Are the coaches comfortable? 

I think so, especially over the budget airlines. I’d much rather spend 8 hours on a coach that has a reclining seat and legroom, than on a budget airline with neither of those two things. I slept all the way through a couple of our journeys – which was pretty sweet!

Here are a few things I’d recommend taking:

– A big hoody or jumper (the coach can get a little cold in the evening and at night)

– A neck cushion

– Socks! Because you probably don’t want to wear shoes for 12 hours – and your feet will get cold without them.

– Ear-plugs (in case you have a loud talker behind you!)

I don’t really think it matters where you sit on the coach (that’s just personal preference to be honest) but it’s worth grabbing a seat near the front if you don’t have any entertainment with you. Sometimes the drivers will put a film on occasionally – so if you’re near the front you should have a good view of the TV screen.

Overall rating?

I’d give Greyhound 9/10.

We never experienced any problems, and I LOVED not having to get on a plane for a month. The coaches are clean, comfortable and their system is easy enough to work out, and easy to get the hang of. It’s an awesome way to see Australia, and you’ll even meet new people along the way who are working along the same route as you – which is an extra bonus. The only thing I’d change is perhaps the online booking system and making the process a little simpler – but like I said – once you get the hang of it – you’ll be a pro.

Here Are Some Beautiful Australian Beaches. Just Because.

It’s been pretty rainy and cold in London this week so the beaches in Australia have pretty much been where my daydreams have been running off to lately. Here are a few of my favourites that we visited during the last year….

Bondi Beach

Just a 30 minute bus ride from central Sydney, this is one of my favourite beaches. It’s pretty stunning to look at (obviously), but Bondi feels pretty safe and the beach (considering how busy it is) is really clean and well looked after too. There is even a grassy hill surrounding the beach for those who want the gorgeous views but not the sandy feet. Loved it!

Bondi Beach Australia

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Hamilton Island Beach

We didn’t get the best weather when we were at Hamilton Island – but the beauty of the Whitsundays didn’t escape us, it’s hard not to be wowed by the tropical beaches around here, raining or not! It’s stunning. The water here is magical too – like pure turquoise. I’ll be sure to return here one day – because I’m desperate to see it in the sunshine too.

Bondi Beach Australia

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Fraser Island Beach

Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island and has a few magical stories to tell as you drive around. There are fresh water lakes in-land, and even a ship wreck too. As beautiful as the beaches are on Fraser Island though, they’re not exactly the kind of beach you can sunbathe on (what with all the jeeps and 4×4’s zooming past).

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Noosa Beach

Noosa was one of our favourite destinations in Australia and it was actually where we learnt to surf (which we can’t recommend highly enough). The beaches here are stunning, the waters are calm enough to safely swim in (most of the year anyway) and the town and Hasting’s Street are only a quick walk for when you fancy something to eat or drink.

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noosa beach australia

noosa beach australia

Brisbane’s “fake” beach

Now I know Brisbane gets a lot of stick from travellers, but we loved it – and we especially loved the man-made beach in the town centre. In fact one of my favourite days in Oz was spent relaxing on it. Sure, it’s not the most ‘authentic’ beach experience – and you can’t surf there – but it didn’t take any of the magic away for me.

Brisbane man-made beach

Surfer Paradise Beach – The Gold Coast

Known as the Miami of Australia, Surfers Paradise is very much a party destination for those wanting a beach during the day and nightlife during the evening. I loved the beach here and we spent every day sitting on it, people watching, taking a dip in the sea and sunbathing. Sure, it’s not a secluded beach, but it’s extremely clean, the sand is gorgeous and the water is beautiful.

The Gold Coast Australia

The Gold Coast Australia

Byron Bay Beach

Byron Bay was recommended to me by a few people before we headed over to Oz, so I knew we’d have to spend some time there so I could see what all the fuss was about. It’s stunning. I can’t say anything bad about it being honest. I loved the relaxed vibe, the calm waters, the clean, squeaky sand and the low-key vibe that just seemed to ooze through the whole town. Dogs are also allowed on this beach (unlike many others we’d been to) which made it so much fun – and meant people were constantly talking to each other.

Byron Bay Beach Australia

Byron Bay Beach Australia

Byron Bay Beach Australia

Gibson’s Steps, The Great Ocean Road

I doubt you’d go here for the sunshine or for sunbathing (as it’s pretty remote and pretty southern) but the views from this beach were stunning. It reminded me of the scene in Inception where Leo washes up on the beach. It honestly feels like the end of the world – it’s just beautiful.

Gibsons Steps Great Ocean Road

Gibsons Steps Great Ocean Road

Manly Beach

Another beach right near Sydney city centre (a mere 15 minute ferry ride away) Manly Beach is really lovely and well maintained. For us, we much preferred Bondi – but manly beach is still worth a trip to. The little town has cute little market stalls and a great high street for shopping too – for when the beach get’s too hot.

Manly Beach Australia Sydney

Manly Beach Australia Sydney

What beaches in Australia would you recommend?

Australia Is Over – Here Are My Favourite Photographs

I took just over 3000 photos in Australia… But here are a few of my absolute favourites from the month we spent there. Enjoy!

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Melbourne Street Art: For me the photo above just sums up the colours and vibrancy of the street-art scene in Melbourne. It’s probably the most colour photo I’ve ever taken and would look incredible printed on a canvas when I get home! 

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Caught Out Selfie: When we headed down the Great Ocean Road we had a kind of windy day weather-wise. This photo was meant to be a standard smiley-shot but the wind caught us out. I love it. It makes me smile every time I look at it. 

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The Great Ocean Road: The 12 Apostles was one of the most awesome and powerful views we saw during Oz, and this was my favourite shot I took that day. It looks magical and almost like the very edge of the earth. 

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Paddy: Because it wouldn’t have been half as awesome without him there beside me. And I like his smile.  

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Sydney Opera House: Our favourite spot in Sydney – and what a stunning place to spend an evening. I love this shot and I’m already counting down the days until we get to return to where it was taken. 

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Jon Quinton: I’m afraid you really had to be there to appreciate this one. 

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Sea Turtle: Because moments after I took this it swum right up infront of us and I got to touch it’s shell. It’s was a magic moment – and this photo sums it up perfectly. Plus, this whole day I was pleasantly surprised my cheapy $30 underwater camera actually worked. Bonus. 

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Stinger Suits and Snorkels: For me this photo is my favourite from our day snorkelling the great barrier reef. It was an incredible day and this photo is the one that’ll being back all the amazing memories. 

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Birds on the balcony: I loved these little birds on our balcony (at one point we had about 15!) and it really helped brighten up what could’ve been a miserable few days as we had tropical storms. So perfect timing from these little guys!

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Bird selfie: Because it’s so cute!

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Whitsundays Rain: It basically rained non-stop on us our entire time on Hamilton Island – but we got on with it and actually had a really fun time. We broke 2 umbrellas in total. Oops. 

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Noosa Sunshine Beach: I love the sea in Noosa and it was the first bit of proper Australian sunshine we had! Pad also got taken out by a massive wave shortly after this which we both found funny, and this photo reminds me of that. 

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Noosa waves: Again this just sums up Australian beaches for me. Golden, sandy perfectness. 

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Tanned at last: I only chose this one because LOOK HOW TANNED WE ARE FINALLY. It might have taken a month to get there – but we finally look like we’re travellers. Yes sun tan!

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Hammock Success: After our epic failure trying to hang our own hammock in Queenstown, we finally found a hammock to call our own! And it worked! 

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Rocks on Byron Bay: This just sums up the peacefulness and beauty of Australian beaches for me. This is another shot I’d love to get blown up on canvas when we get home. 

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Surfers on Byron Bay: Another lovely shot of surf life in Australia. We’ve really embrace the lifestyle and Pad has a new found love for the surf – and this photo sums it up perfectly. 

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Surfers Paradise Beach: One of our favourite beaches of the whole trip. Gorgeous to sit on, swim in – you name it. 

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SkyPoint View: The view at the top of the SkyPoint tower was incredible, so this shot just brings back that moment of awe when we first saw it. Just beautiful.

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Balcony Sunset: Our lovely apartment in Surfers Paradise had a beautiful view and a balcony to enjoy it from – which we definitely took advantage of! I love this photo I took at sunset – it’s just magical. 

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Brisbane: The unexpectedness of Brisbane was lovely – and this photo reminds me of how nice it was and how much of a surprise it was too. Also I’m a sucker for city-scape photography, especially night shots.  

 

Things I’ll Miss About Australia (And Things I Won’t)

As far as travelling destinations go – Australia is like the ultimate one. It’s one of those places that you daydream about when you’re from the UK (especially with programmes like Home and Away romanticising the place every night at 5pm). It’s not hard to see why so many of us Brits want to travel Australia – and the more you see the more you fall in love with this beautiful country.

I can hardly believe actually that we’ve been here a month now. It’s gone so fast, and we’ve seen so much – it’s going to be bizarre saying goodbye and heading off our next destination – Asia. But as a fond farewell, here are a few things I’ll miss about this beautiful place…

1. The beaches

Never before have I ever seen such beautiful beaches as I have whilst in Australia. The beaches are huge, and some span for miles up the coastline making for the most incredibly humbling views. Pad and I loved driving the Great Ocean Road down in Melbourne and seeing the huge beaches and waves as we drove by them, but we also love the tropical beaches of The Whitsundays (even though we had rain!) and the gorgeous golden sands of Noosa, Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay. It’s also amazing to be able to swim in the sea properly – and not have to worry about freezing your toes off if you stay in too long. The sea here is clean, warm and perfectly turquoise in most places we visited. Paradise!

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2. The atmosphere

It’s no coincidence that people stereotype Aussies and Kiwis as laid back and relaxed. It’s a stereotype that is completely accurate. We love that about Australia – we love being able to walk around bare foot, not having to rush anywhere and just generally having a sunny attitude. I’ve felt safe in almost all the places we’ve visited both during the daytime and during the night-time. We’re both pretty laid back anyway in life – but here it’s just the norm and nothing is too much hassle and people are friendly from the get go. In a way it reminded me of being back home in North of England – where everyone is your friend even if you don’t know them – something which I missed a lot moving down to London. But yeah, the atmosphere is nice and puts a smile on your face. We also love the outdoor facilities they have over here – especially the public BBQs!

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3. Sydney

We loved Sydney and we’ll miss it. If it wasn’t so far away – I think we’d definitely be considered moving there and maybe setting up sticks. It’s an awesome city with just about everything you could want. London is pretty awesome (granted) but it doesn’t have any perfect golden beaches nearby. Unless you count Brighton Beach – which I don’t.

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4. The TV schedule

This is a silly one and I probably shouldn’t even admit to it – being a world traveller and all that. But the TV in Australia is SO good. They have all the best US shows (including Friends, brand new Big Bang Theory AND How I Met Your Mother AND Amazing Race) old and new, as well as British and Australian shows. Pad and I are pretty hooked on this show they’ve been airing here called Hannibal – a new US series, and now we’re going to have to wait like 5 years to finish the series. Because that’s probably how long it’ll take to come to the UK. Not that I’m bitter or anything… 😉

5. The weather

Because it’s amazing when the sun shines and makes me want to do this every morning as we walk to the beach.

And the things I won’t miss…. 

1. The Prices

Australia is SO expensive. The most expensive place I’ve ever been and Pad agrees. When we budgeted for Australia we had to budget much more than we usually would – simply because we knew it would end up being more than we expected. For those of you from the UK – these are the kind of prices you end up paying for stuff in £s for various things over here in Oz…

Bottle of Brand Shampoo (for example Loreal): £6.50 (normal price in UK? About £2.50) 

Bottle of Batiste Dry Shampoo: £8/9 (normal UK price? About £1.50) 

Cocktail in Restaurant: £14-20 (normal UK price? About £5-10)

Mars Bar: £3 (normal UK price? About £1, maybe less)

Robinsons Fruit Squash: £8 (normal UK price? About £1) 

You get the picture. If you’re coming to Australia make sure you’ve saved up your pennies because it’s very unforgiving financially.

2. The long drives

Australia is huge and we’ve covered a lot of miles in a short amount of time. One thing I’m not going to miss are the huge drives we’ve done from place to place. 13 hours on a coach isn’t fun. It is cheap though and a great way to see the country – so I guess that equals itself out somewhat.

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

3. The insects

In Australia I have had (approximately) 15 insect bites. If not more. You forget that Australia is a tropical country the further North you go and I seemed to be getting eaten alive in Cairns, by ants, spiders, mozzies, sand flies… you name it. My worst bites were ant bites in Cairns, which were actually painful (rather than just irritating) but you learn to live with it. It’s a small price to pay for such a gorgeous location.

4. The threat of Sharks

It’s no secret that Australia has sharks, and it does cross your mind occasionally when you’re in the sea (however beautiful the beach is that you’re on) that there coule be a few lurking around. Luckily we didn’t encounter any, but it sure will be nice to swim in the sea and not have to worry about a jaws style fin emerging above the waves.

Glorious Gold Coast – Surfers Paradise

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I’d been told mixed things about Surfers Paradise (on the Gold Coast), with various people along the way telling me it was either:

– Weird

– Busy

– Bizarre

– Noisy

The list goes on. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I’d seen photos of the place and it looked stunning – so I knew we had to go and make our minds up for ourselves. I’m glad we did.

Sure Surfers Paradise isn’t exactly your tranquil, small, surfery, backpacker town (like Byron Bay or Noosa) but it has it’s own charm and both Pad and I really enjoyed it. Yes – it’s not the “authentic” Australian beach town that many people spend their Oz travels seeking – but part of travelling is seeing all a place has to offer – and I thought Surfers Paradise had loads, and would recommend it to others in a heartbeat. It’s a big, busy city with lots of things to do (theme parks, water parks, amusement centres, mini golf, beaches, more beaches, observations decks, adrenaline activities…) and lots of lovely restaurants and places to eat as well.

For awesome views of the city head up to the 77th floor of the SkyPoint. It’s not too expensive to head up to their observation deck – and there is even a reasonably priced restaurant up there to grab lunch too. We really enjoyed it – and (more precisely) the incredible Caesar salad they served up.

gold coast surfers paradise

gold coast surfers paradise

You can see for miles up there, so it’s worth the money you pay for the ticket – especially if you’re a keen photographer. It’s every photographers dream! It’s also the perfect way to soak in the beauty and the scale of the city, I love how far the beaches stretch – it’s just breath-taking.

gold coast surfers paradise

gold coast surfers paradise

And of course… A photo of the Caesar Salad!

gold coast surfers paradise

To be honest we could have done a lot more whilst we were staying in Surfers Paradise (such as the attractions I mentioned above) but we had such amazing weather (and such a lovely hotel/apartment) that we spent our 3 days just relaxing by the pool, sitting on the beach and playing in the sea. The sea (as ever in Australia) is warm, clean and just gorgeous. No surprise there! We loved just taking advantage of our surroundings and soaking it all in, sometimes you don’t need day trips and tours – you just need some good sunshine and a sandy beach.

gold coast surfers paradise

gold coast surfers paradise

Sgold coast surfers paradise

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Our hotel also had it’s own BBQ facilities outside by the pool too , so we even dabbled in a bit of BBQ-ing. You have to experience local culture after all! 😉 When in Rome….

gold coast surfers paradise

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Learning to Surf in Noosa, Australia

We stopped off in Noosa for a few days on our East-Coast roadtrip after family recommended it to us (and you always listen to your family)! It definitely didn’t disappoint though – Noosa is a peaceful, beautiful seaside town and glimmers with all you expect Australia to be. Compared to other East Coast towns and cities like Cairns and Hervey Bay, Noosa is just miles above it’s competition. We loved it.

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We weren’t originally planning to surf in Noosa, but we noticed the surf school on the beach one morning, and had it recommended to us by a girl we met at our hostel – so we decided to go for it. Neither of us have really surfed before – but the instructor at Noosa Surf School is a past world champion so we figured we’d be in good hands. And if not – it’d be worth a few laughs at least!

Our lesson started at 9am and on the gorgeous sandy beach. Our instructor (handsome, French, need I say more) was lovely and talked us through some theory first – which I think we were all a bit relieved about. There were six of us in the group, all around the same age so it was really nice and easy going and everyone was really supportive of everyone else.

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I don’t have many photos from the morning, because you lock up all your valuables when you set off onto the beach. Which is great actually – because it means you get to really experience the surfing, and you’re not half worried about your camera on the beach or whatever. The surfing was great though – Pad was adamant before starting that he’d be awful at it, but he discovered he actually had a natural talent for it. He was stood up on his board before most in the group and by the end of the lesson he was staying up on there for a decent amount of time! I was so impressed! I know ever since he’s been yearning to give it another shot – so I’m hoping there’s a surf school in Byron Bay we can burdon ourselves on.

Unfortunately I discovered no such natural talent. But it didn’t stop me having fun. It was lovely just to be out there giving it a shot on such a beautiful beach in the stunning weather.

So, yes, Noosa was lovely. And so much fun. We loved the little lakes and water-ways and exploring the town and other beaches (Sunshine beach is beautiful across the other side of town) and everyone was super friendly. Sure it’s expensive (what’s new – we are in Australia) but there seemed to be a good variety of hostels around for travellers and backpackers to opt for and we loved the one we chose which was called FlashPackers. We booked a private ensuite double – and it even had a private patio, a king-size bed and a gorgeous rainfall shower!

Here are a couple more snaps of beautiful Noosa….

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I Heart Brisbane

 

Before travelling Australia I’d read up on the various places we were headed – asked around… all the usual. There were a few places that kept being highly recommended…. Noosa, Byron Bay being two of the most popular choices in Oz. Brisbane however, people kept just looking at me and saying “meh”. From the people I asked, and most people I’ve talked to, nobody seemed overly excited by Brisbane – so to be honest I wasn’t expecting much from this little city – and I was kind of glad we’d only scheduled 2 nights there.

But I loved it.

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Sure, it’s no Sydney – and there isn’t anything iconic or instantly memorable about this place – but it has a great vibe and a lovely lifestyle and I really enjoyed spending time there. I much preferred it to Melbourne  – and Melbourne was somewhere people recommended to me loads. But with Melbourne I just didn’t feel safe, and I didn’t really click with the city because of that reason.

But Brisbane I liked.

It doesn’t have a beach (which is weird for a big Australian city) but in their defence they have the Southbank area – which is a man-made beach and a swimming area that is always open to the public and free too. It was clean, friendly, safe and had a great atmosphere – and in all honesty I enjoyed it more than some of the overcrowded but average “real beaches” we’d seen elsewhere. Because , hey, you don’t have to worry about getting salt in your eyes, and there are city views right across the water. Which is pretty awesome. We both loved it.

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We spent a fair bit of our time on the Southbank, found some lovely restaurants (one of them serving nothing but chocolate related meals – amazing) and had a wander round, just enjoying the views. The views didn’t really remind me of anywhere else, they were just kind of a stock-image for a nice cityscape (if that makes sense?) – nothing recognisable or striking but still very beautiful and gorgeous to look at and get lost in.

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So yeah. It was the shortest stop on our Australian road-trip – but undeservedly. Maybe Brisbane deserved a few more nights from us – as it was a lovely city and somewhere we both really liked exploring and experiencing. But it just goes to show you never really know what to expect until you’re actually there seeing it for yourself.

We’re heading to Byron Bay next which has been highly recommended by literally everyone we’ve talked to before and during our month in Australia. I’m pretty much expecting it to be the nicest place on earth (based on the things people have told me) so let’s hope it can live up to expectations! But for now… a few more photos of beautiful Brisbane….

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Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 09.54.15I don’t know who these people are – but they spent like half an hour talking photos like this and Pad and I spent half and hour watching them (and suppressing laughter) as they did so. So I thought I would share the love. Still makes me smile just looking at it!

 

Bumps and Bruises on Fraser Island

Fraser Island was one of the typical “backpacker” things we wanted to do whilst we were exploring the East coast, so when Hostel Bookers offered to put us up in The Friendly Hostel for free, we took the opportunity to see Fraser Island from Hervey Bay on one of the day tours that head out there.

Our day started with a coach and a ferry out to the Island, which takes about an hour in total. We got so lucky with weather – because up until this point in our trip, we’d pretty much only had rain and storms. Australia wasn’t playing fair with the weather it had been offering us – but it decided to be nice for us on our Fraser Island day trip – thank goodness!

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island is basically the biggest the sand island in the world – that’s why it’s a big attraction and that’s why you go. There is a huge beach you can drive down at 80 miles an hour in 4×4 vehicles, and there are some fresh water lakes int he middle of the island too – which are great for swimming. Our day tour showed us around Central Station (where they used to do logging), Eli Creek, The Pinnacles, Moheno Shipwreck (above) Lake Mackenzie, and (of course) the 75 mile beach.

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

The day was a fun day – but being honest we were both left a little under-whelmed. Maybe it’s because we’ve just come from New Zealand where the natural beauty is just breath-taking everywhere you turn? I just felt like Fraser Island was a bit average looking. Sure, the beaches are nice and very expansive – but you can’t really relax on them because you have coaches and 4×4’s zooming up and down them at high speed every few minutes. Before the trip I’d been hugely excited for Lake Mackenzie too – and yet I was a bit disappointed with it. I could fully see that it was a great lake, but it didn’t compare to the lake in Queenstown (or any in NZ for that matter) and it certainly wasn’t the “paradise” the tour brochures had advertised it as. So much so – I didn’t even take a photo of it – that’s how uninspired I was.

But maybe we’d just visited at the wrong time? I keep hearing tales of people who had an awesome time on Fraser – so maybe we just came on the wrong day and the island wasn’t looking it’s best. Would I go again? Probably not. But I’d still recommend people to go and make up their own minds.

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

There were a few parts of the day we loved though. We loved hearing about the history of the island for one – it has such an interesting back story and there are so many little tales that make up everything you see. The other highlight for me was actually being thrown around in the back of the 4×4 vehicle we saw the island in. On our drive back (especially) our driver really put his foot down and the eight of us that were sat above the back wheels could really feel every bump and jolt. We were being thrown around so much, it was actually like being on a roller coaster – and everyone in the back of the vehicle was wetting themselves with laughter every time we hit another bump of dip in the road. So that was definitely an experience we won’t forget!

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

 

There’s also a lot of wildlife on the island – most of which you’re encouraged not to interact with. It’s nice spotting them from a distance though! I loved seeing this Dingo stroll around near us!

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

When you head back to the mainland, you head back on the ferry you came in on, and (if you timed it well) you get to watch the sunset. Perfect way to end the day :)

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

 

 

 

Rainy days on Hamilton Island – The Whitsundays

On our way down the East Coast of Australia, we decided to treat ourselves and spend a couple of days in The Reef View Hotel on Hamilton island. The idea was to spend a few days in glorious sunshine on a tropical island – but unfortunately the few days we booked happened to fall during a big tropical storm. Bummer.

We made the most of it though and although we didn’t really get to do what we wanted (our seaplane trip to Whitehaven Beach got cancelled… which made me a bit sad as it was one of the things I was most excited for during the whole trip) at least we were stuck somewhere beautiful. I mean if you’re going to be stuck inside – may as well do it in a gorgeous hotel right, with a killer view?

Speaking of which… This was our balcony view, and a quick snap of our lovely hotel room.

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

We had about 2 and a half full days on Hamilton Island – and we did absolutely love the place. We’ve both agreed that the bad weather is just an excuse to back again one day. After all, if we loved it in torrential rain and storms…. chances are we’d fall head over heels for the place in the sunshine. We made the best of it though. On our first day we went swimming in the rain, and then proceeded to get even more drenched walking back to the hotel. We broke one of the hotels umbrellas and we had about 15 local tropical parrots come visit us on our room’s balcony. We then went down and sampled our hotel’s buffet in the evening (we were planning on going to this place on the marina side of the island – about a 10 minute walk) but we would’ve ended up looking like two drowned rats sat in a posh restaurant, the rain was like stepping into an actual shower. But the buffet was good… they had jelly and ice-cream for dessert which is a total win.

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

In all honesty – the parrots were actually one of my main highlights from the few days. They’d come and sit with you on the balcony and they’re gorgeous little birds. I’ve never really been a bird person but I could’ve watched these ones all day – they are just beautiful! Plus it’s like having a little free zoo on your balcony!

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

My other highlight was hiring a golf buggy to see the island. That seems to be the main way to get around on the island and the golf buggies are everywhere you look. It’s kind of nice actually – the island is so small that having cars would just clutter it up – so little golf buggies are the perfect solution. We rented ours for the day and it cost us $70 – which was much cheaper than we were expecting! We basically spent the day zooming up and down the islands hills and little roads, enjoying the very beautiful views and getting absolutely drenched whilst we did it.

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

We’ve actually just arrived in Hervey Bay (we do Fraser Island tomorrow) and we’ve managed to catch our first bit of sunshine since Sydney (YAY!) so I’m hoping the storms might have finished and we can finally catch some luck where the weather is concerned. We’re both so lucky to be here and be experiencing all these incredible places, and we’re definitely not the kind of people to let a bit of rain get in our way of having fun (as we proved on Hamilton Island the past few days) but it can get a bit tiring and frustrating after more than a week especially when so many of the things you have planned are weather dependant.

It just goes to show though, you can never plan for this kind of stuff and you just have to get on with it. I was gutted about the sea-plane being cancelled, but if it hadn’t been we wouldn’t have had time to ride around on the golf buggies – which was awesome. So things tend to work out :)

Saying that though…. any sunshine will be welcomed with open arms!

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

 

 

5 Reasons I Love Sydney

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When we first visited Sydney over New Year, whilst we both loved Sydney neither of us fell in love with it, not as much as we have with other cities like NYC. This time however, when we stopped in Sydney for a few days – we both realised just how much we adore it here.

Sydney is fantastic. 

I’ve heard people say that Sydney doesn’t have soul, and that it’s quite a plastic city – simply putting on a show for tourists and the like. And yes – whilst there are some places that the travellers and tourists seem to flock towards – for me this doesn’t detract from the magic and the the beauty of this city. I’m now looking at Sydney as somewhere I would seriously consider living, I love the atmosphere, the people and just everything really. I’m sold on Sydney!

So why do I love it?

1. It feels safe

As a female, it’s nice to be able to walk around a city during daytime and night-time and feel safe and relaxed. In Sydney I’ve never felt unsafe. First we were in Kings Cross (which is notoriously a bit of a dodgy area) and yet I never felt threatened or uneasy. Our second time we stayed in the centre of town (near Chinatown) and I felt exactly the same. Whilst I’m sure there are probably some areas of Sydney I would want to avoid, as it’s usually the case with all cities, so far I haven’t felt unsafe in Sydney and that’s a big plus point for me. In Melbourne (where we were before Sydney) I didn’t feel this safety at all, in fact several times in Melbourne I found myself clutching on Pad’s hand a bit tighter because there were some questionable characters nearby. I mean, I’ve lived in London for 3 years – so it’s not like I’m not used to a few odd people on the street either, it’s just in Melbourne I felt a little more uncomfortable with it than I have in other cities. I just didn’t feel as safe or protected there.

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2. The people

People in Sydney are friendly and nice. Sure, they’re not “New Zealand” or “Canadian” friendly (seriously, two of the nicest, friendliest nationalities I’ve come across) but for city folk they sure are welcoming and lovely. In London you feel a bit shunned and shoved a lot of the time, and whilst Sydney is busy and it’s a big city full of people living a city life – it’s not a push and shove culture. People are busy but they’re still nice. I like that.

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3. The culture

We found some lovely bars and restaurants whilst in Sydney – and unfortunately left with a few we hand’t managed to get too. Mamak – we are coming for you next time. I love the bars in the Harbours (Darling Harbour was a lovely place to sit with a glass of wine as the sunset) and I love the quirky nightlife and pubs in the outer suburbs too. Another great plus point? Even though the prices can be ridiculously high in Sydney, if you can catch Happy Hour you can grab a major bargain usually. Also – the city is just gorgeous to walk around – if that’s all you feel like doing. Some of my favourite moments were just sitting around on a bench near the Harbour Bridge people watching.

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4. The Beaches

There are loads nearby, and I love the idea that you can live in a big cosmopolitan city – but escape to the beaches at the weekends. And it’s not like in London when you’re escaping to Brighton Beach (a pebble beach, which is usually rainy) – you’re escaping to gorgeous big sandy beaches with surfers and shops and trendy bars. All within 15-30 minutes of the city on public transport. My favourite was Bondi Beach as I love the grassy slope and how absolutely huge it is. But Manly and Shelly Beach are always a safe bet too.

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5. It’s FUN!

There is so much to do here and it’s a fun place to be! We loved Luna Park, we loved the iMax (we saw Jurassic Park there!) we loved bar hopping, we loved beach hopping – we loved the food and everything else. Sydney is in no way a dull city – it’s the kind of place that always has some event going on and something to take part in. Plus, if you ever did get bored there is a huge domestic and international airport (with hundreds of destinations) waiting to take you somewhere for the weekend.

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Exploring The Great Barrier Reef With Tusa Dive

Tusa Dive Great Barrier Reef

We knew that one of the main things we wanted to do whilst in Australia was go and explore The Great Barrier Reef. It’s one of those bucket-list items that pretty much everyone has, and we are no different. The company we chose were Tusa Dive, and we couldn’t have been more happy with the day we had. Granted, the weather wasn’t perfect, and we had to tackle some pretty strong waves and currents when we got out the the reef – but the crew on board literally made it as enjoyable and as easygoing as they could – which made everything so much more memorable for us.

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Great Barrier Reef

“Happy Pills” are crucial if you’re prone to motion sickness, because that’s basically what they prevent. Tusa gave these out for free when everyone got onboard – which was very nice of them and something we were very thankful for later on in the day! Not all boats do that though – so make sure you have some with you and you take some before setting off, especially if you’re sailing on a rough day like we were. Even if you’re not prone to sea sickness – take one anyway. 

For those photographers reading this (or photography enthusiasts) you can actually hire digital cameras that are waterproof onboard the Tusa boat – which is totally awesome, and I wish I’d known. The photos in this post were taken with a super cheap waterproof camera I found in NZ for like $40 – and whilst the quality isn’t terrible, it certainly isn’t the standard of imagery I usually work with! But I love all the photos I took, and I kind of like the fact they’re a bit blurry – we were under the sea after all!

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

We opted for snorkelling on our Tusa Dive, although they do have diving options too – if you want to dive. We’ve never dived before though – and the sea was quite rough, so we thought snorkelling would be a good way to see the reef – and it totally was. The reef is pretty shallow in most places – between about 5 ft and 15 ft in deeper parts, so for those who are nervous about swimming in the vast deep ocean – dont let any fear like that put you off doing something like this. I have always had an irrational fear of sharks (sometimes I even get it in the deep end of a swimming pool… wait, did I just admit to that?) and not once did any kind of fear or doubt cross my mind whilst we were snorkelling the reef. Sure, there are little sharks out there, but the crew are pretty vigilant in spotting them and also pretty convincing when they tell you not to be worried. Apparently the sharks are actually really shy, and if you spot one, you’re very lucky. 
Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

The highlight for me was spotting a turtle. There were two things I wanted to see whilst we were out there; a turtle and a Nemo fish. We saw both! The Nemo fish we found pretty early on (yes, we found Nemo…. haha) and the turtle we spotted a little later in the day. It was just incredible, and had been gliding around the bottom of the reef for a while as we eagerly watched it at a distance, but then without warning it came up for air about half a foot away from my face. It was just breath-taking to be that close to a wild animal – I even got to stroke it’s shell!

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Stinger suits (you can see how fetching we looked in them above) were provided for all, and fitted well and were actually pretty comfortable. They had all sorts of sizes for everyone on board and the whole “handing out” process was easy and fuss free. You even get little booties to wear too. Your snorkel and suit are then yours for the whole day – so there is no mixing and matching which is handy as it makes the whole process miles easier when you’re getting in and out of the sea.

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

I think the conditions we were snorkelling in were quite rough at times, as there was some powerful wind and waves coming at us (especially in the beginning). I’ll have to be honest here, it did frighten me a little when I first got in the sea and I panicked slightly because I just didn’t have the physical strength to be wading through the waves with my flippers on, fighting the current which was pulling me in the opposite direction I wanted to be going. I think I was a bit surprised at this – because I’ve always been a really strong swimmer (my Mum taught me to swim when I was about 2 years old) so it’s always come naturally. But I gather that the wind like we had would be an exception in the summertime – and during peak season the water would be much calmer.

Saying that – the crew were fantastic though – and within minutes one of the lovely snorkelling blonde girls from the crew had swam over and offered to tour us around (I wish I had grabbed her name, because she was brilliant and really made the experience), meaning there were three of us all swimming together against the current and the waves. This made it so much easier to navigate, and it meant she could point out some of the interesting fish and coral for us to see – she is the one who found us our Nemo fishy!

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Overall, we just had the best day. We’ve been building it up in our minds and it didn’t disappoint at all. The reef is beautiful and it’s something that will stick with me forever. It’s such a funny feeling being somewhere you’ve always imagined – and seeing all these incredibly coloured fish and coral right there inches away from you. Pad and I said once were were back on dry land, that it’s already one of our highlights – and we still have 2 months to go.