Great Ocean Road and Grampians

I’d like to share my itinerary for this famous road trip to make your life easier!

Tip: It tends to be gloomy in the morning with really blue skies 12pm onwards, so keep this in mind for your photos.

Day 1:

Pick up car from Melbourne Airport, drive to the Great Ocean Road putting in Torquay as you first stop. The Great Ocean Road is a permanent memorial to those who lost their lives whilst fighting WW1. From here, head to Bell’s beach known for its surfing -> Anglesea -> Memorial Arch -> Lorne -> Eskirne Falls > Teddy’s Lookout -> Apollo Bay for lunch and grab takeaway dinner here -> Otway National Park for Cape Otway light station (this is a paid activity and closes at 5pm with last entry being 430pm. If you miss this, you can still do a free walk on the side to see the lighthouse from a distance). Check in to 12 Apostles Inn and drive to Gibson Steps and the 12 Apostles for sunset.

This sounds like a lot in one day but keep in mind it’s all about the drive and view points so nothing took up too much time other than the lighthouse walk. Of course we took the first flight that got us into Melbourne ASAP.

Day 2:

Continue along the Great Ocean Road and ensure plenty of time to stop at the lookouts along the way. There are short walks at Loch and Gorge -> Bay of Islands -> Logans Beach viewing platform for whale watching (May-Oct is best) -> Warrnambool for lunch and cheesy factory-> Tower Hill State Game Reserve for multiple walk options -> Port Fairy for Griffith Island lighthouse (nice gentle walk) -> Stay the night in Warrnambool Redwood Manor Motel Apartments.

 

Day 3:

Drive to the Grampians! First stop Dunkeld where you will find The Old Bakery known for its croissants (opens 9am) -> Boroka Lookout especially stunning at sunset if you wanted to do the drive here the night before instead (90m from carpark, best view) -> Reeds lookout (100m from carpark) -> The Balconies (Easy 2km return walk) starting from the Reeds lookout carpark -> Mackenzie Falls 2km return to the base of the falls (there are also other short walks to other falls from here) -> Beehive falls which is almost the highest point of the Grampians National Park (there wasn’t any water when we went, seasonal, 2.8km return therefore not worth doing) -> Pinnacle Lookout (2.1km climbing rocks too, best hike, starting from Sundial Carpark). Stay at Halls Gap, The Grampians Motel and eat at The Views Bar and Restaurant. Food around this area is pricy because there isn’t much choice. Halls Gap is the base for the Grampians. Sunset is best from The Balconies and Reeds Lookout if you want to catch this.

We initially thought we needed to split all these across two days but it is absolutely doable to see and hike everything in the one day as long as you stay the night because you will need the rest!

 

Day 4

Grampians to Ballarat exploring the town known for Gold. From the information centre in the city centre, pick up a free walking tour guide so you can read up on the historic buildings you will see everywhere you walk. Definitely visit Sovereign Hill and the gold museum. Drive back to the airport to return the car and fly home.

North Island, New Zealand

Kia Ora (hello,welcome, goodbye, have a safe journey)

I’ve just come back from my 10 day road trip from Wellington to Auckland and thought I would share my entire itinerary here. I definitely could have spent longer at each destination due to the many hikes so i’ll be back!

Day 1: Arrived in Wellington and picked up our JUCY car rental from the airport to drive ourselves to the city centre not far away. Climb up Mount Victoria for a 360 degree view of the city and enjoy the play area there too (definitely adult friendly). Take the Wellington cable car up and walk back down to the city through the Botanic Gardens. AirBnB 120 The Terrace.

Day 2: Drive from Wellington to Cape Palliser where you will see a large seal population along the sea front near the light house. Climb the steep steps to reach the lighthouse and enjoy the views. Return up the road to the start of the Pinnacles hike (funky rock formations from Lord of the Rings). Drive to Whanganui and visit the near by beach for sunset. Accom: Whanganui Backpackers (a motel).

Day 3: Visit Whanganui National Park for the Atene Viewpoint Walk. Another highly recommended option which we didn’t do is the ‘Bridge to nowhere’. Then drive to Tongariro National Park for plenty of hike options! We did the 2h Taranaki falls loop track from Whakapapa Village (the largest ski area). If you have a full day, definitely do the Tongariro Alpine track which takes around 8hours. This was my favourite park out of all the hikes I did so I definitely want to come back to do it one day. Have dinner in Taupo and watch sunset by the lake. Accom: A Plus Samurai Lodge Backpackers (not the cleanest but it’ll do for the hike day)

Day 4: Drive to Taupo lake view point before heading to Wai O Tapu geothermal pools and geysers. The entire highway passes thermal pools so you’ll see plenty of steam along the way as you drive. Wai O Tapu is the most well known and the lady Knox geyser show starts at 10:15am so don’t miss that. Before heading to Rotorua, stop by the blue and green lake viewing point and lake Tarawera viewpoint, they are along the way. When in Rotorua, definitely try out luging! We then did the Maori village cultural show and dinner, and stayed the night in Rotorua Motel.


Day 5: Drive from Rotorua to Mount Maunganui and hike up of course! Then drive to Coromandel area for Ha Hei beach, walk to Cathedral Cove and then hot water beach (visit during low tide only). Stayed the night in Coromandel in the most amazing cabin ever (find Viv on AirBnB 75 Harbour View Road). I would go back to Coromandel just to stay in this accommodation again.


Day 6: Drive to Hobbiton  for the tour and then to Hamilton, stopping by the massive garden they have created. You could spend a whole day here if you wanted, appreciating the design and  gardens of the world. AirBnB 80 Beerescourt Road Suite (really cozy accom again)

Day 7: Drive to Waitomo Glow worm caves (no photos allowed) for the short tour then to Auckland, stopping by Mt Eden crater before dropping off the car. This was my favourite drive day in terms of awesome views along the way, other than the Tongariro national park drive day. Accom for the next three nights: Grand Central apartments (15min walk to city centre)
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Day 8: Walked Auckland’s main high street: Queen street and competed in Battle of the Year at night. Didn’t do much this day due to the competition.

Day 9: Ferry to Rangitoto volcanic island for the summit hike. There are specific ferry times so make sure you pre-book for the trip there and know when the last ferry is to get back! 36NZD return.


Day 10: Chill day, walked the city and played an escape room before flying back to Sydney. Try Giapo ice cream!

My first legit road trip and I loved driving those country side roads  I would do it all over again.

 

 

Darwin, Australia

Darwin is the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory and a former frontier outpost. It’s also a gateway to massive Kakadu National Park. I would recommend joining a tour to cover the Northern Territory, I joined a Topdeck tour allowing me to make friends, not have to worry about plans and especially driving on endless roads (lots of dead kangaroos along the way, you may also spot snakes and crocodiles as I did). Here is what we got up to:

  1. Mindil Beach and markets, be sure to go during sunset!20180506_181135
  2. Crocosaurus Cove on Mitchell Street (main street with the mall, hostels, restaurants, Coles and pubs). Up-close wildlife exhibits with reptiles, turtles & a saltwater crocodile in a viewing cage. You can also pay more for the ‘cage of death’, an unclose encounter with crocodiles! Or enjoy a free photoshoot with various reptiles, and a paid photoshoot with baby crocodiles.
  3. Darwin Waterfront, wave pool and open air cinema with more fancy restaurants along the waterfront.
  4. Litchfield National Park: Wangi Falls, Termite Mounds, Florence Falls, Buley Rock holes.
  5. Katherine: Edith Falls, Katherine Gorge boat tour and Katherine Hot Springs.
  6. Kakadu National Park: Aboriginal rock art at Anbangbang, Yellow Water Billabong Boat Tour and Sunset at Ubirr (best one in my opinion).

Faro and Lagos, Portugal

Faro and Lagos are part of The Algarve, with Faro being the capital and where the airport is. You can see Faro in half a day so feel free to explore the rest of the Algarve, in particular Lagos which was beautiful! To get to Lagos, it would be best to pre-book a shuttle from transfer ( I used Greenbus costing 25euros, you can probably find something cheaper as I didn’t realise I needed to book in advance). This will save you time because if you wanted to take a public train or bus, you would first have to get to Faro city centre to then wait for specific set times and public transport stops at more places. A bus from the airport to the train station cost about 2euros and the train to Lagos costs 7.50euros or 5.50euros for students.

Here are my top recommendations:

  1. Walk around Lagos within the old town walls which is a tiny area so you can easily do in a few hours. There is a church, the fortress, a unique male statue and on a Saturday, the fresh fruit market is fantastic for cheap and good fruits. Spot all the art work too!
  2. Walk along the boardwalk, using the footbridge to see the Marina and Meia Praia beach. Consider taking a boat tour which departs from the boardwalk to see the caves, or kayak tour which departs from the fortress. 20180208_113555
  3. Walk from Praia Da Batata beach all the way to the light house to see sun set. You will pass by Praia do Pinhao, Praia Dona ana, Praia do Camila and Praia grande as you follow the walking path, stopping by each beach as you wish.
  4. Surf in Praia Porto De Mos known for good waves
  5. Take a day trip to Sagres, the extreme southwest of continental Europe (7.50euros return bus ticket from Lagos bus centre) and use the Tuk Tuk Sagres service which is 100% electric, therefore you won’t smell awful fumes and you’ll easily access all the main tourist spots rather than the usual huge tourist coaches. The Tuk Tuk shop is just outside the only tourist information centre in Sagres (18 euros for 1 person but the price decreases the more people there are, up to 5 people). The 2h tour will take you to Baleeira Harbour, see a view of Mareta Beach, Tonal Beach and Belich Beach, visit St. Vincent Cape (lighthouse), visit a fishing harbour and you can either return to the starting point or be dropped off at Belich Fortress to enter and explore at you’re own leisure. You’ll learn how fisherman catch all sorts of seafood!
  6. Faro is extremely walkable, especially with its designated pedestrian only shopping area, and the small old town still surrounded by a wall. Consider visiting the chapel of bones if you are interested in seeing a cathedral known for a wall of skeletons (I didn’t do this). I did enjoy taking photos of the beautifully designed and colourful doors around the city.

    Extra note: Make sure you have a nata or two! 20180211_091229

Caribbean Cruise

12 days 7 islands. Trip of a lifetime and friendships made on the cruise that will last a lifetime.

Here is what I did and saw:

Bahamas (Great Stirrup Cay) – A private island, beautiful beach and clear waters!

Gustavia, St Barts – try a yellow submarine tour, climb the look out point and admire the famous red roof houses. 

Fort de France Martinique – Visit it’s Sacra Coeur church, Balata Gardens and Historic Clement’s Plantation. Beautiful exotic plants to be seen! 26165961_10155887818902159_5868280088007234142_n

St. George’s Grenada – Join the ‘Spice of our lives’ tour where you learn about different natural ingredients and see how they dry out cocoa 

Bridgetown Barbados – Join the ‘Best of Barbados’ tour which brings you to a beautiful coast and an old church. 

Castries St. Lucia – MY FAVOURITE TOUR! Join the ‘Land and Sea to Soufriere’ tour which includes a catamaran ride. You’ll visit a beautiful estate, learning more about cocoa once again and go around the island with stunning views. 

St. John’s Antigua – Visit Nelson’s dockyard (try their bakery there too), Fort Frederick and make sure you visit a beach. They have 365 beaches! One for each day of the year.26814426_10157412252538849_8470381849237825640_n 

On the cruise:
Art class, cooking class, shows every night, tennis, table tennis, golf, mini golf, shuffle board, baggo beans, casino, pool, spa, gym, sauna, games room, croquet, jogging track, unlimited food. 4 speciality restaurants: Jacques, Polo Grill, Toscana and Red Ginger, my favourite being Red Ginger. 

 

Plenty of sunsets ❤26734345_10157412203148849_5257656953017185719_n

Tenerife, Spain

Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, off West Africa. It’s dominated by Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano that is Spain’s tallest peak.  The island has many beaches (with sands from yellow to black) and resort areas, including Los Cristianos and Playa de las Américas.

  1. Hike Masca taking less than 3hours from the top of the mountain to the sea where you can then take a boat/water taxi back to Los Gigantes-  Beginning amongst giant agave spikes and prickly pear cactus, the terrain gives way to the valley floor where, fed by underground currents, mini forests of willowy cane and lush ferns frame gentle waterfalls and still ponds of emerald translucency. You can swim as you wait for your boat to arrive, so bring your swim stuff and towel.
  2. Go jet-skiing near where you get off the boat after your hike10900093_10153926628458849_2775179284665471745_o
  3. Tiede quad safari. The guide takes photos on the trip which you can then purchase after for memories and to support their business. Mount Teide is a volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain. Its 3,718-metre summit is the highest point in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic11036498_10153926625273849_1789620945618698312_n17991_10153926625158849_7564016527436502834_n
  4. Siam Park – famous waterpark with the coolest almost 90 degree slide! Remember to keep your legs together, crossed at the ankle for safety. Pre-buy your tickets and online to avoid long queues, make sure you print it out and make sure you arrive well before opening hours.
  5. Los Cristianos Beach because it was closest to my hotel – The beaches are beautiful and it has a harbour that offers fishing trips, pleasure cruises, outings on glass bottom boats, diving excursions and ferries to the neighbouring island of La Gomera.

Extra note: Playa de las Américas is next to Los Christians beach where you can go to party the night away

 

Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan is a small island nation 180km east of China with modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Taipei is it’s capital up North. I was in Taipei for over 2 months to learn mandarin, ended up falling in love with the place so visited a year later making it extremely difficult for me to narrow down my top recommendations! But here goes nothing:

In Taipei:

  1. Climb Xiang Shan for a view of Taipei, in particular of the 101 tower. Of course, why not do this and watch sunset! Tip: Don’t pay to go up the tower, book your place in Starbucks for a free view since you just pay for your drink.
  2. Visit Yang Ming Shan both in the day and at night and have a meal up top, but be sure to book in advance as it always gets busy. Ride a scooter if you dare to, everyone has a bike in Taiwan!
  3. Visit Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, National Palace Museum and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. These are significant places and beautiful grounds. You can even see dancers practicing around the buildings if you’re lucky. I love how their government is extremely open about arts, culture and hip-hop.
  4. Taiwan is extremely famous for its night markets, my favourites in Taipei being Shilin night market and Roehe night market. Enjoy all the hawker foods, different types of noodles and make sure you try their mango ice dessert.
  5. Continuing on about food, try their most famous bubble tea in Gong Guan night market with the delicious Gua Bao (pork bao) stall opposite and also try the 2h buffet style Ma La hotpot!

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  6. The Chinese course I did was through the mandarin learning centre at National Taipei Normal University. However, my mandarin improved by joining HRC dance school where I got to interact with the locals on a day-to-day basis. If you’re into dancing, I highly recommend their studio which has two locations in Taipei. And of course, catch all the dance related camps/festivals/competitions that go on!
  7. Visit the upside down house in Hua Shan creative park which also has other exhibitions you can visit e.g. where is wally.
  8. Visit Yi Lan beach where I first tried surfing!13557666_10155269511323849_597601209174748538_n
  9. Visit Ying Ge famous for its pottery
  10. If you are into hiking, you’re visiting the right place. There are so many trails with amazing views and waterfalls in a lot of the places. 13615417_10155278469828849_3243686137910364284_n
    13584882_10155278470608849_380501687499313859_o
    绢丝瀑布, 冷水坑 & 擎天岗

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    Shifen Waterfall

Please see my other post about things to do outside of Taipei which are all accessible from Taipei, especially with their high speed rail system.