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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.
Lake Tekapo is a sweet little slice of heaven, and a paradise you'll have all to your own, should you visit outside the high season. The glacial waters running out of the Southern Alps are every bit as mesmerizing as they are refreshing - which is good, since I was knee-deep in the frigid water for half on hour while working on this image. It was nice to have a distraction. I made this image with the help of a dirty black sock - I held the sock over the top half of the frame, where the sun was brightest, allowing me to capture an even exposure throughout. Cheapest piece of gear I've ever bought.
Most visitors to Australia have heard of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, but few realize that neighboring Nitmiluk National Park, four hours south of Darwin, is actually more spectacular. During the wet season, from November to April, electrical storms streak across the sky, Nitmiluk’s waterfalls transform into thundering cascades, and immense flocks of magpie geese, brolga cranes, and jabiru storks converge on the wetlands. Year-round, the Katherine River carves a path through 13 sandstone gorges—Nitmiluk’s main attraction. The custodians of this land are the Jawoyn, Aboriginal people with one of the oldest living cultures on earth. Jawoyn-owned Nitmiluk Tours rents canoes and guides visitors through the gorges in flat-bottom boats. Arrange for excursions at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre, where the Jawoyn also run arguably the best restaurant in a 220-mile radius: the Sugarbag Café. The menu incorporates bush tucker (native ingredients) in such entrées as kangaroo steak accompanied by Kakadu plum chutney and barramundi fillets with lemon-myrtle sauce. For more than 50,000 years, the Jawoyn people have hunted and camped throughout the Nitmiluk region. Their vivid depictions of spirits, warriors, kangaroos, turtles, and emus can be seen painted in yellow, red, and white on the rust-colored rock of the gorges and throughout the park. Some of the estimated 3,000 rock-art sites here are currently accessible only by helicopter. Contact Aboriginal helicopter pilot Richard Baker through Nitmiluk Tours to see rock art at such secluded sites as Nipbamjen. At this remote gorge system, one waterfall cascades into another, forming emerald-colored swimming holes. “I used to work for the Parks and Wildlife Service,” Baker says. “Out here, all that textbook science stuff is still living and breathing as if development never occurred.” —Chantal Dunbar Photo by Jimmy Chen. This appeared in the March/April 2010 issue.
The Solomon Islands are pleasantly void of mass tourism. For those that make it here no doubt wonder why. Even better is discovering Oravae Cottage a tiny island with a quaint cottage and "penthouse" double bedroom annex. You're fed by the local family who live at the end of the island and days are spent doing as much or as little as you please. Dive, snorkel, surf, trek or simply lie in a hammock watching the water changes from blue to green as the day goes by.
There's not too much to do on Rottnest Island, just off the coast of Perth in Western Australia, unless you want there to be! Since there aren't cars on the island, excepting the off maintenance vehicle and one bus, visitors use their two feet or a bike to get around. You can bring your own, or rent one. Since the island isn't large, you can't really get lost. Since there's very little infrastructure, there isn't much in the way of distraction from the pristine ocean water, white-sand beaches and incredible snorkeling that exists all over the islands surrounding reefs and limestone shelves. My recommendation: take the ferry from Perth or Fremantle and plan to stay one night at minimum. The first day, bike the entire circumference of the island just to get your bearings. Do so without stopping very much, as long as you gear up with extra water, then tucker yourself out and get a good night's sleep. (Campsites and small cottages are both available to rent.) The next day, walk or ride the bus to the spots which you note to have the best snorkeling or the least-crowded stretches of sand. Do nothing at those places except sunbathe, bathe in the water or snorkel. Simply, relax. It's incredible how so close to a major city it can feel like you are truly in the middle of nowhere and about as far from civilization as one can get without it being too far away to be useful in an emergency... One last tip: don't miss out on enjoying a scoop or two at Simmo's Ice Cream.
Cable cars, Victorian houses, fresh crabs on the waterfront: Wellington, New Zealand, is a Southern Hemisphere City by the Bay. With a harbor at its doorstep, farms to the north, and one of the world’s most active café scenes, this city is well fed. Photo by Alex Efimoff. This appeared in the October 2012 issue.
I’m not afraid of heights, but I’ll admit that peering over the ledge into the 100-metre (about 330 feet) decent awaiting me sends me into a bit of a panic attack. I can’t see the bottom of the cave, as a thick layer of mist fills the gaping shaft. Our guide assures me that I can’t fall; that the rope attached to my waist will allow me to control the speed of my decent…but my mind is screaming at me “Are you crazy?! You’re going to die!” It takes everything in me to slide off the ledge and allow myself to hang mid-air over the void. It takes 30 minutes to reach the bottom of the cave, and once we arrive, I am surrounded by pre-historic rock formations with plants jutting through the crevices and an understanding of how very small I am in this world. Our guide leads us through various sections of the cave. Sometimes we climb, sometimes we crawl, and other times we tip-toe across small ledges, hooking ourselves to the carabineers as we go. About half way through our exploration, our guide tells us to turn off our flashlights and look up. As we do,the ceiling of the cave begins to glow, covered by hundreds of glow worms. This is truly a whole other world beneath our own. This adventure took place in the Waitomo Caves on New Zealand’s north island. We did the 'Lost World Challenge' through ‘Waitomo Adventures’ company. Their website is www.waitomo.co.nz Enjoy the rush!
This is as close to the stars as you can get with your feet planted on the ground. This is Lake Tekapo. Originally we were only going to do one night of star gazing at Lake Tekapo. That turned into two nights, then three, then four. In the end it would have felt strange to try and go to bed without first stepping out into the cold glacial waters of the lake to watch the stars bounce off the surface of the water. We visited in Late September, and it felt like we had the entire universe to ourselves when we went hiking in the badlands. I probably think about this place more than anywhere else on earth I've ever been. I plan on launching Starship Tekapo again someday. Geek Note: This is a single exposure. My shutter was open for 650 seconds (and the camera needed another 650 seconds to cool down afterwards).
After you’ve canoed, sailed, scuba dived, and visited the resort’s sanctuary for the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, you’ll be ready to recline on your patio for a view of the extinct 2,300-foot Mount Otemanu volcano. —Brendan Brady Le Méridien Bora Bora, French Polynesia. (800) 543-4300, starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien, from $605. Photo courtesy of Le Méridien Bora Bora. This appeared in the September/October 2010 issue. See more overwater bungalows.
The Antarctic weather was unpredictable and often inhospitable throughout our 1-week expedition cruise. Dramamine came in really handy the last day as we sailed the Gerlach Straight. I popped them like candy before cautiously eating dinner. Just a third of our 42 shipmates were at the tables; most took just one bite of their delicious Argentine steak before calling it an early night. But just the day before, the sun was beaming, water was glassy smooth, and I comfortably shed my upper layers down to a tank top during a hike to a viewpoint over Paradise Bay. Our captain joined us and mentioned that it was the most beautiful day he’d seen in at least 10 years. It was a beauty so vast and still, that the exuberant sense of joy of that moment felt deeply imprinted within me.
The Sounds of Silence tour at Ayers Rock Resort begins at sunset, when the iconic rock formations of Uluru and Kata Tjuta glow fiery red. Take a short walk through the dunes to a panoramic viewpoint, then dine outdoors on Aussie fare, including crocodile canapés, barbecued kangaroo, and wild barramundi. When night falls, an astronomer directs you to sights in the southern sky and explains the stars’ significance in the culture of Uluru’s traditional landowners, the aboriginal Anangu people. $158 for a four-hour tour, including dinner and drinks. Rooms at the resort from $188 per night. Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, 61/(0) 2-8296-8010. Photo by Dai Fujihara via Creative Commons. This story appeared in the January/February 2011 issue.
The guidebooks say this is a difficult trek but well worth it. After a huffing and puffing trek to the top of Roy’s Peak, I would most certainly like to concur. 11k in approximately 4-5 hours, a decent level of fitness is most needed for this mission of a hike. Extra bonus if you have the ability to jump over and around sheep poo. Providing unyielding views of Lake Wanaka and the countless mountain peaks surrounding it, this hike takes you up along the mountainside through private land (hence all the sheep) and to the top of Roy’s Peak, a spot with 360 degree views of Wanaka and beyond. Be sure to check weather conditions and bring extra layers of clothing as it can get quite chilly at the top. The car park is just off of Mt. Aspiring road. There’s no restroom here, so be sure to take care of business beforehand.
The famous ocean pool at Bondi Beach has been luring swimmers since 1929. Today, a dip and visit to the sauna costs $5.50. A bistro serves post-swim refreshments. 1 Notts Ave., Bondi Beach, 61/(0) 2-9130-4804. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: Petrina Tinslay
In mid-May I spent a day kayaking in the idyllic Milford Sound—my first day in New Zealand. The water was cool and clean and the fog gave the Sound a mysterious feel. Kayaking offered the opportunity to get up close with some playful fur seal pups, as well as get right up next to a few of the hundreds of spontaneous waterfalls that had cropped up that morning. The guides from Roscoe's Milford Kayaks were knowledgeable and their love for New Zealand's natural beauty was evident; our guide provided a constant narrative of the history of New Zealand and its people. After a grueling day of travel to just arrive in New Zealand, I couldn't have asked for a better start, and it remains the standout memory of my trip.
This Argentine-inspired grill is cool and kitschy. The decor is a mix of cowhide, faded South American posters, and leather furniture. Whole pigs or lambs roast slowly over an open pit, and the bar upstairs has a killer cocktail list.” —Luke Nguyen Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
If you need a break from lounging on the lovely northern beaches, cruising up to Barrenjoey in Palm Beach will bring you to this absolute gem. The hiking trails are plentiful and the view from the top is incredible. With sweeping views in all directions, this place is magical and totally worth exploring.
The ultimate wilderness escape for those who like a bit of pampering, this conservation-conscious resort takes up just 2 percent of a 4,000-acre nature reserve in the Blue Mountains. Indoor-outdoor pools and fireplaces are standard in all 40 of the stand-alone suites, which include binoculars for viewing wildlife. Charles Darwin visited Wolgan Valley in 1836. On sunset tours, in-house guides help spot the wallaby and wombat species that fascinated the naturalist. Spa treatments use native ingredients such as wattle seed and eucalyptus. From $1,502, all-inclusive. 61/(0) 2-6350-1800. Photo courtesy of Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue. . wolganvalley.com
Sometimes when you travel, you find places that overwhelm you with peace the minute you step into their space. My husband and I found such a place on one of New Zealand’s most northern shores. New Zealand is a sparsely populated country, especially in the far north, where you can drive for miles without seeing another soul. After a very cold and wet winter on the south island, my husband and I were desperate for some sunshine and beach time. They say the tip of the north island enjoys an endless summer, so we made our way up the coast and booked into the “Endless Summer Lodge.” Tucked into a beautiful green hillside, this oasis is not only surrounded by the thick, gorgeous green New Zealand’s known for; it also sits directly across from the beach. The windows on the front of the lodge look out across a vast expanse of ocean with nothing but a couple palm trees interrupting the view. This retreat provides the opportunity to walk along endless stretches of beach, or to lie in the hammocks set up in the front yard while listening to the waves roll in. The owners are extremely kind, and you can enjoy your dinner in the garden behind the lodge each night. The quiet town of Ahipara sits at the end of ninety-mile beach. You can reach it by car from Auckland taking Highway 1 north. There are a lot of great small towns to stop in on the way, so take your time getting there; and once you do, soak up this little oasis as long as you can!
You can wade for what seems like forever through these shallow, crystal-clear waters... and then you'll hit the edge of Ningaloo Reef! Throw on your snorkel gear and explore the depths of what I consider to be a reef even greater than Great Barrier. Then sit back and relax on the gorgeous beach and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of this little town in its own slice of paradise along the Western Australian coast.
Aerosol-wielding artists from around the world have left their mark on Melbourne. Hosier Lane, declared a “graffiti tolerance zone” by the city council, contains the area’s densest collection of spray-painted masterpieces. —Chris Baty Photo by Meena Kadri. This appeared in the September/October 2010 issue.
These days New Zealand’s landscape may be best known from scenes in The Lord of the Rings, but set aside your preconceptions of Mt. Doom: Mt. Ngaurahoe (Doom’s butt double in the films) and the craters surrounding it are gorgeous. The Tongariro Crossing is aptly known as the best one-day hike in New Zealand (certainly on the North Island) and is immensely popular. Friends tell me stories of hiking in a long line of slow strangers. The secret: sunrise. We camped at Discovery Lodge with views of Mt. Ngaurahoe and Mt. Ruapehu from our tent. Our hosts encouraged us to begin early to avoid the crowd. Before dawn, they shuttled us to a drop-off near Mangatepopo Hut. Eight hours later they got us at Ketetahi Road. Best decision ever. We were already hiking at sunrise and had the trail to ourselves. We went at our own pace, in peace and awe. We were the first ones to lay eyes on the Emerald Lakes that day. We were the only figures in our photos. Getting up before sunrise was worth it, and it turns out Discovery Lodge has the earliest shuttle to the Crossing. The Tongariro Crossing is 17km (10.5mi) one way. The hike is staggering, both physically and aesthetically. The track is often steep and sometimes requires scrambling. The pay-off is great: striking colors where you least expect them, like the algal mats thriving in crystal water amid clouds of steam venting from the volcano walls. It took us seven hard but much-loved hours that I consider one of my top life experiences.
The brick-and-iron buildings of the old Eveleigh Railyards now host a diverse lineup of experimental music, theater, film, and fine art exhibitions. 245 Wilson St., Eveleigh, 61/(0) 2-8571-9099. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: Petrina Tinslay
There aren't too many hikes in the world that start with a ride on a water taxi, but that's how our hike on the Abel Tasman Trail began. We boarded our Sea Shuttle taxi off the beach in Kaiteriteri at 9:15am. Our taxi took us past a tiny island where a pod of fur seals rested in the sun. By 10:15am, we were dropped off on the beach at Medlands. We now had five and a half hours to complete our hike to Anchorage where the water taxi would pick us up at 3:45pm. It was a gorgeous day, 80 degrees and sunny. In our daypack were two large bottles of water, bug spray, sunscreen, and a delicious picnic lunch. There are no places to buy provisions and only one spigot with potable water on the trail. We brought everything we needed for the day. The trail followed the coastline, rising and falling with the mountainous topography. Sometimes it provided gorgeous views of the water and the beaches below. Sometimes the trail led into the woods where ferns carpeted the forest floor and bridges crossed trickling streams. All was incredibly beautiful. We stopped for lunch overlooking a pretty little bay filled with several kayakers enjoying the still water and numerous little inlets. The water was an incredible blue set against the gorgeous greens of the forest. We continued on the trail enjoying the views and the exercise. Our final reward was an hour on a golden beach where we put our hot tired feet into the cold water and relaxed in the sun waiting for the taxi.
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.
North of the harbor on Lavender Bay, Clark Park is an ideal spot for a picnic away from the bustle. On the western end, curious visitors discover the garden Wendy Whiteley created from a landfill. 5- to 10-minute walk from Luna Park. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: Petrina Tinslay
In a warehouse eatery, chef Mike McEnearney devises a new menu every day based on what he finds at local farmers’ markets. Weekend breakfast might include sourdough pancakes with lemon curd or baked beans with bacon and poached eggs. 85 Dunning Ave., Rosebery, 61/(0) 2-9045-0910. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: Petrina Tinslay
The area known as King Country on the North Island of New Zealand remains one of the island's least populated areas. Dripping in dense foliage and riddled with a network of underground cave systems, this area was the final holdout of the Māori leader King Tawhiao. Head of the Waikato tribes and the second Māori King, Tawhiao and his loyal followers put up stiff enough resistance that for years the King Country was regarded as a "no-man's land" for white settlers and farmers. Although the region was eventually integrated and settled, the King Country still remains a little-visited corner of the island where waterfalls such as this one cascade to an audience of few.
Luke Nguyen says: “Our restaurant’s dining room is rustic, and we hope it feels warm and inviting, like you’re visiting our home.” 545 Crown St., 61/(0) 2-9698-4355, redlantern.com.au Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
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