Category Archives: Australia

Instead of taking your regular

three-hour drive via the M31 to reach Canberra from Sydney, why not spice up your trip with some memorable stops along the way? Even such a short stretch of road in Australia hides multiple natural wonders worth a visit, as well as charming little towns with their lovely, hospitable cultures. If you’re up for an adventure, bring your camera and pack your travel snacks for the road – here are a few worthy stops you can make that will slightly prolong your time on the road, but also turn your mundane ride into a fun experience you’ll be eager to repeat!

Royal National Park

An absolute must-see for any local as well as tourists, Royal National Park is the second oldest of its kind in the world and in addition to its historical value, it offers quite a captivating range of natural wealth. You can try the coastal walk and soak in the incredible view of the steep, broken cliffs, or you can roam through the bushland and by the numerous streams to admire the rich flora and aviary life. If you’re in a hurry, the track to Bungoona Lookout takes no more than half an hour, and it’s stroller-friendly for those traveling with kids, so you can have a taste of the wilderness off road, in all its glory without going through a strenuous hike.

Wollongong

After you take a portion of the Grand Pacific Drive, you get to a city with the cultural scene of Sydney, but without the hectic tempo. Wollongong has idyllic beaches where even beginners can have a go at surfing, such as Killalea Beach. On the other hand, if you’re still hyped after the National Park hike, you can visit the city’s ancient rainforest in the Southern Highlands. For a more urban experience, the city is teeming with fine eateries, His Boy Elroy’s can offer you some of the best burgers and fries in Australia, or you can enjoy the view of the Harbour from Bombora Seafood Restaurant.

Shellharbour

Shellharbour

Beautiful, serene and still lively, this charming little nook is just an hour away from Sydney, and it hides quite a few versatile activities that are family-friendly, as well as those for thrill-seekers. You can stop by the Illawarra Lake on your way to the town, spend an afternoon in a boat on the lake, or try some quiet fishing.  If you are planning a group tour, renting a bus from Sydney to Canberra is the most convenient option, as you’ll have the freedom to choose your stops and breaks. You can spend some time exploring the galleries and shopping areas in the center, or stop by Tongarra Museum if you want to learn something about the city’s rich history. For airplane enthusiasts, visit the local Aviation Museum and travel back in time to learn about the famous World War II troop carriers and other incredible aircraft from that period.

Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

In case you haven’t had the chance to get up-close and personal with some of Australia’s friendliest marine creatures, Jervis Bay is your perfect opportunity to meet and greet some of the local dolphins. Then again, this is also a perfect spot for whale-watching during their yearly migration, so pick a spot if you’re traveling between June and November and cameras at the ready!  In addition to hospitable people, don’t be surprised if you come across numerous curious wildlife, such as kangaroos, wallabies and wombats, all living in harmony. The bay is truly a natural gem, so make sure to ask the locals for the quickest way to the gorgeous lagoons and hidden beaches for a picnic or just a perfect photo opportunity.

Lake George

Lake George and Winery

The lake alone can greet you either dry or filled with water, depending on the time of your travels – although completely dry most of the time, when winters are particularly wet, as in 2016, the lake can refill and regain its bountiful beauty. However, the scenery is no less mesmerizing even without the water, so rest assured you’ll be welcomed by stunning vistas with or without water. For wine-lovers, the nearby vineyards often yield some of the most authentic Australian tastes, such as the Riesling Shiraz and Pinot Noir. It’s highly recommended to book your stay or tasting in advance, as this particular location is very desirable for weddings and other events, so they might be booked by the time you arrive.

As you reach the lovely city of Canberra, you will be eager to get back on the road once again and explore the wonders of these little-known Australian corners. Don’t underestimate these treasure troves of beauty and culture – they might surprise you with their charm and intact nature, and inspire your next journey to the untraveled nooks of Australia!


Nicole Noël is a lifestyle blogger at HighStyleLife and a frequent and welcome contributor to followsummer. Read more from Nicole by following her on Twitter and FB 

Planning a trip to Sydney anytime soon?

If you are, have you thought about the best places to grab a bite or rest your head? Sydney is an amazing city that has a lot to offer and saying that your options are numerous is a bit of an understatement. If you need advice on how to go about your Sydney stay, keep on reading. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your favorite spots that you’ll want to visit again and again.

Eat

With a city as big and diverse as Sydney, you really won’t have to worry about where to find food and drinks that will suit your taste. However, if you have no idea where to stop by, you may want to check out the following places. 10 William Street in Paddington will make it to the top of your list. Simple yet friendly atmosphere spiced up with delicious wine, and Italian cuisine is a pure delight. If you want grandeur, pay a visit to 12-Micron where you’ll be able to taste desserts late into the night. A personal favorite is the Boathouse in Palm Beach, where the laid-back atmosphere and the food and drinks,  out of this world. There’s an excellent Greek restaurant called 1821, so if you want something different for your palate, this should be your stop. 1989 Kitchen & Arcade will get you into the old-school groove with burgers and games while 2KF is the hotspot of the city if you want a great cup of coffee.

boathouse

image courtesy of The Boathouse, Palm Beach

Sleep

Again, there’s something for every character and every budget in Sydney. If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay, Airbnb is the best option for you. After all, you’ll get to stay with the locals and get the first-hand info on the best places for fun in Sydney. If you’re into camping, you can always opt for a Cockatoo Island camping site. Sydney Harbour YHA is one of the most popular yet very reasonably-priced hostels with an incredible view. Royal Hotel in Randwick is an excellent middle-ground option when it comes to price as well as the location. If you can’t decide whether you want to be closer to the outer city beaches, this is the place to book your room. Of course, if you want real luxury on your trip, you can’t go wrong with The Park Hyatt in The Rocks or the  InterContinental. For some more privacy, consider booking a secluded Palm Beach holiday house to get a real high-end experience and a breathtaking view just for yourself.

Sydney

Sydney is a city of a thousand beaches but if your stay there is limited, make sure to at least visit Bondi Beach, which offers numerous attractions, fun activities, water sports and, of course, pristine waters and relaxing stretches of sand. If you can squeeze in the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, you'll love it! An obvious choice would be to head to the iconic Sydney Opera House and witness the legendary architectural gem yourself and see a play if possible. If you’re a nature lover, Sydney Botanic Gardens won’t leave you disappointed. For travelers who want to learn more about the city, Government House should be a must-stop. For the ultimate shopping experience, visit the Queen Victoria Building. And if you want to observe the city’s landscape in the most mesmerizing way possible, go straight to the Sydney Tower Eye.

Repeat

The only flaw that the city of Sydney has is the fact that there’s just too many incredible sights to see and places to visit. However, this only means that you’ll always have a reason to come back. Many restaurants and cafes are waiting for you to discover them. Moreover, Sydney’s nightlife is undoubtedly an experience of a lifetime. Explore more of the popular as well as locals’ favorite beaches. Visit the National Maritime Museum and SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. Absorb the magical atmosphere of Blue Mountains and explore the mysteries of Jenolan Caves. And every time you come back, there will always be some new experience to look forward to.

To make the most out of your trip to Sydney, make sure that you plan your itinerary properly. It can be tempting to try and fit everything of interest in one go, but if you want to truly enjoy your stay, you have to be realistic. There’s always the next time, the one after that, the one after that, and so on.

Travel well in Sydney, my friends!


Roxana Oliver is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant and a frequent contributor to followsummer.  She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family way 'down under'! Find out more about her writing, by following her on twitter and facebook. She is also one of the editors at Highstylife Magazine.

Best of Australia: Next Stop: Singapore

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The BEST of Australia:
Eric, Graham, Leanne, Michael, Brian, Lynne, the woman at the Maui Campervan return who didn’t charge us extra, Graham’s Mum Elizabeth, Miss Pastie DeKline, Guy, Mark, Robert, and the generous citizens of Sydney. (Oh, did we mention Eric and Graham???)

Art Gallery: The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Beaches: Bondi; Coolum, Back Beach, Southwest Rocks.
Beer: Draught Schooners of VB or Carlton
Bookstore: The Bookshop Darlinghurst
Bars: Manacle, The Columbian Hotel
Department Stores: David Jones, Sydney; Gowings, Sydney 
Disco: Midnight Shift (Video Bar)
Dive Instructors: Leanne; Chris
Market: Central Market, Adelaide
National Park: Kangaroo Island
Pool: Cook + Phillip Wave Pool, Sydney
Restaurants: Adelaide: Lime + Lemon; Melbourne: Red Orange, Gluttony: It’s a Sin; Sydney: Yipiyiyo; Trinity Beach/Cairns: Trattoria L’Unico
Suburbs: Waterloo, Surry Hills, Mossman
Wine: All of them!
Wine Tour: Yarra Valley with Victoria Winery Tours in Melbourne

Books we read in Australia: Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire; The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories, by Henry James; The New Yorker and the World It Made, by Ben Yagoda.

I find it difficult to believe that we are no longer in Sydney and Australia. It feels like we are just out for the day and will be back at Francis Street this evening or meeting Eric or Graham for dinner or drinks. Or finishing off our Sydney must see list before we go. But we have left and are jetting off to Singapore for phase three of our trip.

Bye Bye Oz: Hello Singapore!

Singapore Airlines gets the “best airline so far” award hands down. I mention to John that it doesn’t feel like we are in an airplane at all. Incredible service, beautiful staff and wonderful diversions to keep you busy. The eight hour fly just “flew” by. We arrive to low, threatening thunder clouds in Singapore and 36 degree temperatures. Yes, we are in the tropics again. Singapore is well manicured, lush and very cosmopolitan. We are preparing ourselves for the weather forecast of rain and thunderstorms for the four days that we are here. Our cab (clean!) drops us at the Peninsula- Excelsior Hotel and our room is a retro 70’s tribute to a by-gone era of splendour and luxury. We are only here for four days after all and it is air conditioned. We head out to do some exploring and shopping. We buy two Polarized lens filters for our camera we had been eyeing in Sydney. With the exchange rate, they are less than 1/4 of what they were in AU. We find a Szechwan restaurant inhabited by the locals and have a wonderful, spicy meal and a pitcher of Tiger draft for less than $40 CDN. We are going to love SE Asia!!

One final note on Sydney: We cannot thank Eric and Graham enough for unselfishly looking after us so well in Sydney. They never expected anything in return and their generosity and friendship will always be one of the incredible things that we will remember about our time in Sydney.

 

Enjoying the Blue Air in the Blue Mountains of Australia

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 The Blue Mountains, Australia

Up early – we are heading to see the Blue Mountains, a 90 minute drive west of Sydney. Eric has lent us his car for the day, and he arrives at our place to drop it off just after 9, and of course there is a hamper for our morning coffee break sitting on the back seat. Again, his generosity leaves us speechless.20040312001

We head off, not needing maps to negotiate our way out of town – we feel like true Sydneysiders at this minor triumph. Traffic is easy this morning. We wonder whether the air will be blue today or not – the weather forecast for the Blue Mountains is a high of only 13, 20040312003-e1391291035389and the air is turned blue when the sun heats the eucalyptus trees and their oil evaporates.

The Lonely Planet  guidebook tells us of a scenic back road, and we turn off onto it, catching glimpses of beauty. We stop at a lookout, and craning over the trees, see a beautiful vista of the valley and the mountains. We spend some lovely minutes here, alone with the view. We realize that we will indeed see the famed blue air today.

We continue our drive, and shortly after arrive at Echo Point, the main lookout, with spectacular views of the 3 Sisters and the canyon.

We continue the beauty-laced drive, eventually ending up in Katoomba, the main city of the Blue Mountains. We stop for lunch, and are just nicely seated in the restaurant when it starts to pour. It continues to pour through lunch, and we run back to the car through the rain. We vote to head back to Sydney.

We make our way to Eric’s place for a pre-dinner cocktail, then we all head out to a wonderful hole-in-the-wall Eric knows, serving Japanese food, and crammed to the rafters with Japanese students studying at the nearby university. Then home to an early bed – we have to be up early on Saturday.

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge

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As fate and weather go hand in hand, Monday morning breaks clear, sunny and warm after a weekend of heavy constant rains. The numbers are in from the attendance at the Mardi Gras Parade and they are disappointing. Rough estimates put the crowd at about 300,000. This is down from years past and entirely due to the weather. The20040308003 locals stayed away so it was up to us crazy foreigners to do all the cheering and whooping.

We are scheduled to do the BridgeClimb adventure today which takes us to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge about 134 meters above sea level. We have seen the climbers scaling the bridge several times during our trips to the harbour and today is our day to conquer the bridge. Grant Wedge has decided to join us and we meet about 11:30 at Circular Quay to make our way up to the bridge for our pre-reserved 11:50 check in. We are in the “12:05” climb and have been told we will be at the Bridge for 3.5 hours in total.

We arrive to a very organized production line. We are quickly 20040308004divided into our “team” and watch a quick video on the process. We are then ushered into our debriefing room, sign our waivers and do our breathalyser test (Yup!). We then move to the dressing rooms and are given grey polyester one piece suits to wear on the bridge. Not very flattering but then everyone looks the same, thank God! For liability issues, we cannot bring anything up on the Bridge with us—no cameras, wallets, watches, loose change etc. They want nothing to fall in to the traffic lanes of the bridge. Our sunglasses are fine but are attached, as are our baseball caps and pretty well everything else, to our suits by clipping them on our backs.

Our Fearless Guide: Big Pete20040308001We meet our diverse team, young and old alike, and watch as the two or three teams ahead of us go through their paces before disappearing out the door and up the Bridge. Our team leader, who will also be our guide for the climb, is Big Pete. Pete is true Aussie and a big guy (hence the name) and is jovial and full of knowledge. Next up is our safety harness that attaches us to the walking line and the bridge for the entire trip. This is an ingenious piece of simple design that allows us to squeeze through some cramped areas and around some tight corners while still being safe and attached. Our final gear up is our headsets and radios so that we can follow Big Pete’s scintillating commentary throughout the process. There is a simulator on site and they make us climb the ladders with our gear before we get on the bridge. Note: The simulator doesn’t even come close to the ladder climb we will do! We receive our final debrief and off we go! Everyone was told to strip down to our underwear under our suits today for the climb because of the sun and we are glad for it. As some of you may be aware, polyester doesn’t breathe that well and walking ten feet, we break sweat.

Up, Up, UP

The first part of the climb is getting to the pylon that will take us to the eastern arch. This is a very open walk and is a good warm up for what is to come. We are under the bridge right now on suspended catwalks and this is where, we discover, the waterfall effect fireworks on the bridge are let off. We continue across and over and get to our first ladder up. We must scale four 10-foot ladders. This is done alone as the climb rules state that only one person can be on a ladder at any time. Each ladder takes you up, up, up until you reach the top of the pylon, and there you are, at the bottom of the top arch of the bridge.

We are already quite high at this point and it is a beautiful afternoon with a lovely sea breeze blowing in from the North East to keep our “polyester” cool and comfortable. And we start up the arch. It is a very easy climb, the metal stairs spaced quite comfortably. We are heading north up, up, up the eastern arch and the views of the harbour and environs are spectacular.

We make it to the top

Big Pete has stopped us several times to take photos, which they try and sell to you at the end of the climb, and we stop at the top on the middle span and survey the world. We have now crossed over and are heading back down the Western Arch with views over the western harbours out to the Olympic site and the Anzac Bridge. It is interesting to see Sydney’s’ extensive harbour from up here. We get to the bottom of the Arch and have to deal with those ladders again – this time going down. Far below us is the commuter train that goes from Circular Quay to the north shore and I can hear and feel it rumble beneath me as I head down the ladder. This is the only difficult part of the climb for me. One more photo opportunity from Big Pete and it is just the final walk home and the de-gear.

It has been a more strenuous walk than we had imagined and we are thirsty and hungry for a late lunch. We end up at one of the local pub/ale house/hotels around the corner and give ourselves a congratulatory “cheers” for our hard work.

Tripping to the Northern Beaches in Sydney, Australia

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Head to the North Beaches while you're in Sydney for Mardi Gras!

Graham has offered to take us up to the Northern Beaches today – an area that is very difficult to get to by public transit. We go under the harbour and head east, covering some of the area we have already walked to – Creemorne and Mossman. We drive past the Zoo, with its commanding position on the Harbour, past Obelisk Beach and across the Spit to Manly. We drive through to the North Head, which from this side we can see is much higher than the South Head, where we went last week.

Manly is, of course, home of one of Australia’s most famous beaches. There are actually 2 beaches, one on the harbour side and, just a short distance away, the more famous beach on the Tasman. We pick up takeaway fish and chips for lunch, and sit on the beach wall watching the swimmers, the lifeguards and the tourists.

From Manly we continue on north, ending up in Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Head. I admit to having a good nap on the drive. Palm Beach was once a summer resort for the very affluent. It is now a far northern suburb for the very affluent.

Driving home we stop and meet Graham’s mother, who lives north of the city. At 79, she is still very lively, and a charming hostess. She offers us a cold drink 3 times, we decline 3 times, and she brings us our drinks. We note to Graham afterwards that she won’t take no for an answer, and he says she’s hard of hearing.

We get home in time for much-needed naps before the social whirl starts again. Lynne drops by on her way home from a job interview for a glass of champers. Then out at 7:30 to meet Graham, Jens, Jeroen, Simon and Christina at the Colombian for a quick drink before dinner. Jens and Jeroen are visiting from Amsterdam for Mardi Gras, Simon and Jens went to uni together back in the UK before Simon, originally from Wales, moved to Australia 4 years ago. Christina is a good friend of Graham’s who has flown in from Melbourne just to come out for dinner with Jens and Jeroen, who have visited Australia before and chummed around with Graham and Christina on their previous visit.

We move to the restaurant, and start with champagne – the real thing tonight, Veuve Cliquot – as Jens and Jeroen hand envelopes to Christina and Graham (Simon had already been given his). Inside are invitations to their wedding, next June in Amsterdam. Everyone cheers and cheers some more, and over a discussion of the wedding plans, dinner commences.

We are dining at RQ (unfortunately now closed), another Thai restaurant, but of a very different quality than most. The menu is fixed, the quality superb, and the multitude of dishes with little tastings becomes very complicated, as we try to figure out what we’ve tasted and what we haven’t. Then the food stops coming, they clear20040304001, and we think it’s over; but they reset the table and start bringing out the mains. Absolutely delicious.

The gang head out for after-dinner drinks, but we are both beyond exhaustion and it is already close to midnight, so we head home to drop, marveling at Graham’s stamina.