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One of Bora Bora’s most popular activities is a lagoon excursion, a day-long event which usually includes a picnic, snorkeling, ray and shark feeding, and plenty of beach time. If you’re lucky, your guide will bring along a ukulele for some live music and a festive vibe. The food can vary but generally includes poisson cru (a raw fish salad), grilled fish, rice, chicken, and a pasta or rice salad. With a good guide and a good group, you’ll feel like a mobile beach party on the most beautiful waters in the world. There are plenty of companies offering this excursion; try Pure Snorkeling By Reef Discovery or Lagoon Service. Photo by Marty Bower/Flickr.
Summer in Sydney, Australia, is about being outdoors morning 'til night. To celebrate the city's fabulous summer weather, outdoor film screenings are held in public parks, on the harbor, and at the world famous Bondi Beach. The next best thing to watching a movie on the sand is watching a movie in a park right near the sand—there's still an ocean view from the grassy hill in the back. Every outdoor cinema has its own flavor; Bondi, or "Ben & Jerry's Openair Cinemas," attracts younger moviegoers, who unpack picnic baskets of wine, bread, and cheese for live music performances and the big Blockbuster film. (During my visit, the lineup was heavy on movies that ended up in the Oscars). Bring an umbrella since rain is common. It's so warm you won't even mind.
Carnarvon is a great national park to camp in (There's also a nearby Carnarvon Lodge for the not so happy campers) because it has great hiking trails throughout the beautiful park. I didn't think I'd like hiking - but I loved it! Carnarvon is full of contrasts, from the typical Aussie outback appearance as you drive in past flocks of emus, only to discover mossy green areas more typical of a rainforest.
This is the swimming hole (billabong) at Figtree Rapids. I know it doesn't look like rapids in this image, but that is because this shot is downstream from the rapids. This is about an hour hike up a pretty decent trail - be sure to put on your mosquito repellant - but well worth it. The swimming is great. We didn't do it, but heard from the staff afterwards, you can hike further up the river (the Mossman), but it is not as good of a trail and requires crossing the river. Would like to do next time, but definitely suggest the shorter hike as well.
Lesser known (and less expensive) than its sister island Bora Bora, Moorea is just as beautiful with as many (or as little) activities as you can jam into a day. Although the best thing to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the gentle breezes, beautiful sunsets and island hospitality!
New Zealand's smallest national park certainly packs a punch. Unlike so many of the great ragged mountains that dot the country, Abel Tasman curves along the north coast of the South Island, peppered with golden sand beaches and steep cliffs that fall away to crystal-blue water. There are many options for exploring the park—by water taxi and boat, kayak, walking, or a combination of all three. Normally taking 4 to 5 days to hike the whole coastal track, you can split up the journey at many of the campsites, cabins, or even boat hostels along the way. One of the most interesting features of Abel Tasman is the high and low tide extremes, which affect the paths you take on the hike. Sometimes at low tide you might be able to cross a long beach while at high tide you have to go the long way around, making exploring this national park much more exciting.
The sun's shining, there's a light breeze, you're thirsty, the sun is still shining. Summer is the time to a take a ferry to Waiheke Island and plonk yourself down at one of the world class vineyards. As you soak in the panaramic views back to the city, you'll not notice the hours melt away on your most relaxing Auckland afternoon. Photo: Aucklandnz.com.
To many people, New Zealand has become synonymous with Middle Earth and the Lord of the Rings. From tours to location scouting, pretty much everywhere you turn here, you can find some hint from the famous films. None so true as Hobbiton, home of Frodo and the Shite. Nestled deep in horse country in the central North Island in Matamata, the original set was destroyed after the conclusion of the trilogy. But with the remake of the Hobbit, the set was rebuilt permanently and now is open for tours. Wandering around the idyllic gardens and posing in front of hobbit-holes is a fun past time for anyone on a trip around New Zealand. And the best part? Picking out what spots you recognize from the movies of course! And you can even go in costume.
The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa is without a doubt one of the most amazing resorts I've ever seen. The word "paradise" doesn't do it justice. The staff is top notch and they truly cater to all your needs. The only thing you need to worry about is which hand to use while laying in a hammock and holding your freshly cut coconut with a pink straw.
It's probably one of the most recommended activities for travelers headed to New Zealand's south island and it sure doesn't disappoint. A cruise on Milford Sound is an absolute must on any visit to Fiordland. With the gorgeous blue water, the peaks surrounding the sound, and the possibility of seeing penguins - it just doesn't get much better. By far the most fascinating part of the cruise was learning about tree avalanches. You see all those stripes of rock amidst the the green covered cliffs? Well, the tree's here grow on those vertical faces by forming a sort of web with anchor points. When some of those anchor points fail, you get a tree avalanche where the entire web pulls off the side of the face and tumbles down into the sound.
I still owe my best friend millions for introducing me to Wellington's Cafe L'Affare while I was working in New Zealand. Founded in 1990, this quintessential cafe is cozy, delicious and gourmet ground breaking. What are your food choices, you ask? All-day breakfast, a delicious à la carte lunch menu, daily changing soup and pasta options and a comprehensive selection of café style counter food. There's not only the famed espresso and coffee bar, but also a license for beer and wine, as well as freshly squeezed juices and smoothies. This is the perfect place to start the day off right, or recharge at lunch during a big visit to Wellington, New Zealand. If you're not going through Wellington, fear not. Local cafes all throughout the country serve their delicious coffee. L'affare in Italian means 'the deal'.
Soak up the endless horizon on this 15k tramp alongside Lake Wanaka. Why is this worth your Kiwi time? The rolling and winding track that follows the lake’s edge provides an unobstructed and ridiculous view of the snowcapped mountain tops (head over in spring for sunny skies and cool winds). Park your car in one of the lakefront car parks in town and head clockwise along the lake. You'll pass Waterfall Creek and the small Damper Bay before you reach Glendhu Bay. The only thing that is missing here are sculptures of hobbits, dwarves, and trolls (just saying).
We only had 4 days in Sydney, but we made sure to check out the Taronga Zoo. The best place to find those koalas, kangaroos, and wallabies! It's also graced with an incredible view of Sydney over the water. Head to Wharf 2 and take the ferry over!
I love visiting big iconic bridges during the sunset. Trips at dusk to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge have resulted in spectacular photographs of the urban landscape. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was another great experience! The bridge is accessible by foot or by bike and is surrounded by some of the biggest attractions in Sydney. More adventurous types might opt for the Bridge Climb Tour (http://www.bridgeclimb.com/) where participants get to scale the summit of the 134-meter arch for panoramic views of the city. And yes, they offer a Twilight Tour near sunset (and a dawn tour at sunrise). We were content walking across the bridge on the pedestrian walkway. It was a brisk spring evening in Sydney, and we didn't envy the tourists climbing the bridge overhead. The views from the bridge are stunning in every direction, and it is a magnificent vantage point to see the Sydney Opera House and the Central Business District.
Waiheke Island oysters shucked fresh from the sea and topped with a New Zealand staple—beet—are a joy to behold. The freshness of the flavors combined with simple presentation and juicy flesh makes this aphrodisiac one worth lingering over.
Located on Lake Wanaka in New Zealand, Rippon Winery is as well known for its view as it is for its wine. For more than 25 years, the Mills family has been producing world class wines on their family estate overlooking Lake Wanaka. Like many New Zealand wines, the reds were a personal favorite reflecting the rich soil and kind summer temperatures of the lake region. The view is king here though so don’t forget your camera when you visit.
You know you’re in a great place to stand up paddle when you’ve got the option of the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. Mt. Maunganui is at the bottom tip of the C-shaped Tauranga Bay, a spot that has “holiday beach town” written all over it. Yet despite the influx of tourists soaking up the rays, its mellow side still prevails. And it’s definitely worth your time to get out on the water. Hiria and Seaton Rolleston, are the awesomely fun, local owners of East Coast Paddler, a SUP school, store, and rental company. For an authentic experience, this local company did not disappoint.
The two-night journey traverses 1,851 miles from Adelaide in South Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory. As the train traces the route taken by 19th-century Afghan camel drivers, Platinum Service travelers have the opportunity to disembark and explore the iconic rust-red Uluru monolith and Aboriginal rock art in the Katherine Gorge. From $862. 61/(0) 8-8213-4592. Image courtesy of Great Southern Rail/Facebook. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
Also known as the Papenoo Valley, the Maroto Valley is a magical place once inhabited by ancient Polynesians. If you go with a guide -- I recommend Marama Tours -- you'll be able to learn about the history of the area as well as learn to forage like they did in the past. The above photo is of a local fruit called noni, whose juice gets rid of mosquito bite itch. A few other natural remedies the group learned include lime can be a deodorant, coconut juice aids digestion and taro is good for strong bones and teeth.
Located on the southern tip of Kangaroo Island, situated on a cliff overlooking the rough Southern Ocean sits the luxurious and architecturally stunning South Ocean Lodge Resort – otherwise know as SOL. Friends of mine and I visited SOL for four days and three nights this past May, their winter season. The resort provides guests with guided excursions around the island provide a great way to see the wildlife. From koala bears to roos and wallabies to the sea lions and fur seals – there is a lot to take in, especially with the stunning backdrop of the South Ocean and the crazy rocks formed long ago in the area. SOL’s food is beyond compare. Each carefully prepared meal, breakfast, lunch and diner, are different each day. Much of it is locally sourced and is delicious! And since all you meals and liquor are included, guests are invited to select any wine from their beautiful wine cellar or bar. We discovered David Franz wine while we were there. Only available in Australia, it was a rare find, thanks to Ash, the restaurant manager. Ash even helped us set up a winery tour once we got back to the Barossa Valley. The service is excellent, and during the wintertime season, it was wonderful spending the afternoons and evening in the hot tub or by the fireplace. Hiking along the breath-taking beaches and cliffs surrounding the resort is a must!
It's not just the romantic and quaint timber cabins at The Polish Place that you'll fall in love with - the views from your back deck are to die for. The two-storey, self-contained cabins are designed for couples and this back deck comes with a purpose-built couples chair just for soaking up this glorious view. Just add wine, cheese and your squeeze.
It's simple food, served out of a demountable but the atmosphere can't be beaten. After you've worked up an appetite doing your shopping at Brisbane's Davies Park Farmers Markets on a Saturday morning stop for a coffee and a chat at the food van. Sit at a table under the trees, dig into your brekky and listen to the buzz of chatty vendors and inquisitive shoppers and smell the freshly-baked bread when a vendor rips the top off a baguette, even though he's metres away. I love that at the markets you can really smell the produce, something that is often lost and then artificially replaced in supermarkets. These farmers markets in West End are my favourite because of the amazing range of fresh produce, passionate vendors selling fruit, veg, handmade soaps, fresh seafood, cooking up paella and whipping up fresh smoothies, freshly baked bread, local designers, craftsmen and even a fortune teller or two.
On a private island, this ultra-luxurious resort offers plenty of privacy. It often hosts celebs; in fact, Oprah stayed in one of the villas you can see out on the tip of the island.
As the weather begins to warm locals will flock to the seaside at St Kilda. Set up your towel on the beach and enjoy a day of bathing and sunbaking, or for those preferring something a little quieter spend time at the St Kilda Sea Baths – a 25 metre warmed seawater pool and hydrotherapy spa with views across the bay as you swim. The nights are balmy so enjoy them by eating al fresco along the streets. Currently Mexican food is big with Bluecorn (203 Barkly St) and Radio Mexico (Carlisle Street) vying for top position. Away from the beach, Fitzrovia’s (Fitzroy Street) classy modern European menu is classic and fresh. Be sure to try the signature slow-roast pork belly that’s cooked to perfection. On Sunday February 9, the St Kilda Festival will be hosted along the foreshore. The free community event, one of the largest of its kind in Australia, showcases top Australian music, as well as local performances, workshops and carnival amusements. In the week leading up to the event a number of smaller events highlighting Indigenous music, culture and arts are held.
Most New Zealanders have never seen a kiwi in the wild. Guests at The Farm at Cape Kidnapper's can radio track, locate and actually hold one of the rare and endangered birds on the Farm's private nature preserve.
Laucala Island resort has the most amazing food I tasted in Fiji, like this "butler's tray" at breakfast. There are five different dining venues, all overseen by a remarkable French chef. Many of the ingredients are grown right on the island, including fruits, vegetables and even Wagyu beef.
While there are many places in the world you can go caving, rappelling, and underground rafting, how many locations can also boast having millions of glowworms dangling above you while exploring? The Waitomo Caves are famous in New Zealand for the unique beauty of twinkling neon blue glowworms that cover the roofs of the caves. With different tours to chose from that suit every sort of adventurer, my favorite is the Black Abyss tour - 5 hours of underground rafting, rappelling, ziplining, climbing waterfalls and exploring the caves. It's one thing to float serenely underneath the glowworms nice and dry in a boat, but it's another matter entirely to do it in a wetsuit covered in mud after climbing down a 115 foot hole in the ground.
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