Cruising through Halong Bay

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay was high on our list of things to do when visiting Vietnam. The vast bay has over 1,600 islands and inlets, and is therefore best viewed by boat. With more than 200 different cruises available, there was an almost overwhelming choice of tours to choose from. After lots of research on the different boats and itineraries, we opted for the Lan Ha Legend, which is aimed at couples and families, and is reasonably priced.

We decided on a two day/one night itinerary, with this giving us the opportunity to cruise through Halong Bay and stay overnight in the quieter but equally impressive neighbouring Lan Ha Bay.

The tour included a transfer from Hanoi, and we were picked up early from our hotel before beginning the three hour journey south. We took a short vehicle ferry across to Cat Ba Island, before continuing to Gia Luan wharf, where the cruise was to begin.

Despite the thick grey clouds, we were immediately struck by the beauty of our surroundings, with huge limestone mountains rising out of the water as far we could see. It was easy to see why Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist attractions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading

Not Just Another Weekend in Hunter Valley

After visiting several of Australia’s wine regions while traveling, and having not visited one for at least a month, Simon planned a weekend away to revisit Australia’s oldest wine region – Hunter Valley. Although this time, I would be coming away with something much better than wine knowledge and a sore head.

IMG_3074.jpg

After finishing work early on the Friday and making the short two hour drive from Sydney, we arrived at our accommodation for the weekend, the Déjà vu Estate. Although there was nothing déjà vu about it, we had definitely never stayed anywhere like this before. Continue reading

The Sunshine Coast

When we first looked at our map of Australia we worried we would never make it as far as Brisbane. In fact we actually made it with a few days to spare, so decided to continue our journey north to the Sunshine Coast.

Our first stop was Noosa, which is one of Australia’s most sought-after holiday destinations. This was apparent almost immediately after arriving, as we were unable to park anywhere near the beachfront. We finally found a space a short distance away, packed a picnic, and headed out for the day.

IMG_6263

Continue reading

The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains, which are located 130km west of Sydney, are one of the most popular national parks in Australia, and somewhere we definitely had to visit. The mountains get their name from the natural blue haze created by the eucalypt forests. The oil from the trees mixes with water vapour and sunlight to produce the distinctive blue colour.

After a hectic few days in Sydney, and with 1000km still to drive before reaching Brisbane, our time in the area was limited. We therefore decided to complete a one day route along the Greater Blue Mountains scenic drive, which includes the majority of the parks most popular attractions.

After camping in Blackheath, we made our way south to Wentworth Falls where our route started.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We walked a one hour circular route, which took us to the top of the falls and round to the Princes and Fletcher lookouts, for even better views of the huge falls. Continue reading

Meeting the Penguins on Phillip Island

As soon as we arrived in Victoria it became apparent that one of the highlights of our visit would be Phillip Island, which is situated just 1.5 hours south-east of Melbourne. Philip island is most famous for its colony of little penguins, which are the smallest species of penguin in the world, and grow to an average height of just 33cm! The penguins spend 80% of their time at sea, traveling up to 50km a day and only return to the beach approximately 1 in 5 nights to rest.

We purchased general admission tickets for the penguin parade for $25 (£16) each, although there was a penguin plus option which promised to provide better viewing platforms, with more up-close encounters with the penguins. However, at $50 (£32) each we decided against this.

We arrived at Summerland Beach at 5pm and joined the crowds at the huge auditorium, which holds up to 3,000 people. Thankfully, given it is not peak season it was only half full, so we were able to get a great view.

Once seated in the auditorium we waited for the sunset. The sky was particularly clear, providing us with a great view of the full moon. Although, this did mean the beach was lighter and subsequently the penguins arrived later than expected.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At just after 6pm we watched as hundreds of little penguins emerged from the sea. It was amazing to watch as they waddled together, scrambling over rocks and making their way up the beach. Unfortunately for the purposes of the blog, there was a strict no photography rule. Continue reading

The Grampians National Park

High on our list of things to do in Australia was hiking in the Grampians National Park, which is located in Victoria, 250km north of Melbourne. We decided to spend two days exploring as much as we could of the huge park.

First up was the Pinnacle walk, a 4.2km trail which is one of the parks most popular. The walk ascended first through the Grand Canyon. Although it did not appear to resemble the American version and is on a much smaller scale, it was still very impressive and made for a great walk.

41A993C7-2103-47A5-9139-6DCA03A239F1.jpg

While the distance doesn’t sound long, the walk was mostly uphill and we had to scramble our way over the rocks at certain points. We reached the pinnacle lookout, where the incredible views of the Grampians National Park and surrounding area stretched far into the distance. Continue reading

The Eyre Peninsula

After our long drive across the Nullarbor, we spent the next few days exploring the Eyre Peninsula. After leaving Ceduna we travelled down the west coast, where our first stops were Smokey and Streaky Bay – they must be big fans of bacon around here! Both were very nice little villages, and clearly very popular with local fishermen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continuing down the coast our next stop was at Ellison, which is a lovely seaside town situated in Waterloo Bay. We made use of the free electric BBQ’s overlooking the jetty, cooking some kanga bangas (kangaroo sausages) for our lunch. We are definitely getting the hang of this Aussie lifestyle! Continue reading