must visit in Australia – tropical queensland (part 3) – airlie beach

The final stop in my Tropical Queensland adventure was Airlie Beach, saved best till the end. The first thing that struck me was the colour of the water. It was this clear purely dream azure blue. All the previous places were beautiful but far from this. I had a room with the water views so was excited about waking up and admiring the ocean first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, I arrived in Airlie around 1pm so all the trips and cruises were gone for the day. I know, what a shame and I had to fly back to Sydney the next day… Instead of running around the town I decided to chill out and sunbathe at the balcony having visited the lagoon in Airlie. I will definitely be back to sail around the islands soon.


hungry anyone???

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach Lagoon

sea shells

Airlie Beach

sunset – Airlie Beach

nite nite Airlie

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must visit in australia: tropical queensland (part 2) – mission beach, townsville and magnetic island

Having run around like crazy for a few days in Port Douglas we went down to MIssion Beach, a perfect place to relax. Quiet, quaint and cute. Since I had no time to sunbathe until then I decided to stay at the beach and soak in some sunshine. I don’t know why but the sound of the ocean has a truly relaxing impact on me. You could hardly see any people around and the beach seemed endless. I could not get into the water due to the stinger season so I had a dip into the pool at our motel after I was done with the sun. Fully reinvigorated we set off to Townsville the next day.  We had a small detour (not sure if it was that small 1 hour each way!) en route to see the biggest single-drop waterfall in Oz – Wallaman Falls in Girringun National Park. The road was really narrow, bendy and on top of that not the best quality (a few kilometres in the middle weren’t sealed…. yet we made it). The waterfall was rather impressive, not sure if worth the effort though especially if you are in a hurry. We got to Townsville in the afternoon and liked it instantly. I really enjoyed the atmosphere, a bit of a party place but not too overcrowded. It had a really good vibe. We caught a ferry to Magnetic Island as the sun was lowering down, absolutely stunning. We admired the sunset from Horseshoe Bay (caught a bus from the ferry terminal) and had a close kangaroo encounter, that jumped across the road as we were on the bus. Luckily the bus driver slowed down in time. Next stop – Airlie Beach… tbc in part 3.

Cairns

Cairns beachside

MIssion Beach

hmmmm

beach crab artwork

happy in paradise

somewhere en route to Townsville

en route

Wallaman Falls

Magnetic Island

sunset – Magnetic Island

must visit in australia: tropical queensland (part 1) – port douglas

If I had to pick one of my favourite regions I’ve recently visited it would have to be the tropical Queensland. I flew to Cairns then had to drive to Port Douglas (our 1 hour trip turned into 2.5 hours thanks to a landslide, never mind…). We arrived at our accommodation around 11pm with no food. Everything was shut and we were too tired to venture outside so half a block of cheese, 4 pieces of chocolate, 1 mandarin and 2 slices of breakfast fruit loaf between the 3 of us had to do. More importantly we had no wine either… Adventures like that just make it more memorable later. The next day greeted us with clouds and rain. What to do?? The great barrier reef trip was cancelled due to the landslide so we had to change our plans. We first went on a trip down Daintree River with Daintree River Cruises http://www.daintreerivercruises.com.au/. On arrival I received a cup of tea, nice touch. It was still drizzling so all the big crocks were hiding in the water but we saw quite a few baby ones, really cute. We also saw a number of snakes, frogs, butterflies and birds. The group of people on our boat was really small so it felt more personal. We could ask our tour guide any questions a truly knowledgeable man with a great sense of humour. After the river tour we dashed off to the Daintree Rainforest walk. We booked it with Daintree  Wilderness Lodge: http://www.daintreewildernesslodge.com.au/ and I’m so glad we picked them. We walked through the oldest and probably most glorious parts of the dazzling rainforest. It rained for most of our walk. I think it made it more special, true rainforest experience. Most of the rain was caught by the trees so we didn’t get too much rain on unlit the end at least when it started to pour down properly. We saw a number of stunning plants and trees, some of them considered extinct, and we encountered a lizard on our way. You could sense our tour guide truly loved the rainforest, she was talking about it with such passion and fascination. She reminded me of David Attenborough if you know what I mean. She let us taste some exotic fruit from their orchard at the edge of the rainforest and I took some wild limes home. OMG, flavour to remember and the smell to die for (what do they do to the fruit from the supermarkets to make it fragrant free and nowhere near as tasty???).

The next day our Great Barrier Reef Cruise with Quicksilver http://www.quicksilver-cruises.com/ was back on track so we spent the whole day out in the ocean snorkelling. We went to the Agincourt Pontoon on the outer side of the Reef. I signed myself up for a guided snorkel and it was fabulous. I was in the middle of the water during the fish feeding time and that was spectacular. All the fish literally battling to get the food without crushing into one another or into me. I also took a tour on a semi-submerged boat but seen no sharks or turtles… All in all, a great day. The tour itself didn’t feel as personal, however the staff was so friendly and helpful and knew a lot of course. The lunch was great and there was plenty to do even if you did not want to get into the water.

7 Mile Beach in Port Douglas

one of the harmless snakes on our river tour

mini croc

whitelipped frog trying to look like a leaf

and another croc

the dragon lizard

spot me if you can!

Quicksilver boat

bye bye reef

final morning in Port Douglas

i’m a coconutter 😉

last sneak peak… 7 Mile Beach

on the way to  Mission Beach

night time shots – darling harbour

I used to think night time shots are a waste of time. I’m aware now I knew nothing! Tripod is a must so maybe that’s why I was not too keen on it to begin with. Blurry images are not the most attractive ones… I fell in love with it after my night time photography class where my tripod had it’s debut. I was so surprised with the quality of photos I produced. It inspired me to go to Darling Harbour to take more night time shots. It’s not my favourite place during daytime but it’s so colourful and alive when it gets dark! Just magical.

Go and try for yourself!!

Camera settings used:

ISO: 100 – apparently the lower the better

f/16

shutter speed varied from 10-30 seconds (long exposure)

Darling Quarter

The harbour with a moving police  boat

Pyrmont Bridge/Monorail

sydney weekend escape – Booti Booti National Park

Nothing to do during the weekend? Go to Booti Booti National Park if you fancy a break from the city. Google says it’s a 3.5 hour drive from Sydney but it took me 4.5 hours on a public holiday weekend to get there mainly because of the road works. It was my first camping  trip in 15 or 18 years and I survived ;-). We stayed at The Ruins campground just a few step away from the beach. Sun, boogie boarding, volleyball, swimming, BBQing what else can you ask for. The facilities are good, hot showers (make sure you press the red button!), gas/electric bbqs, picnic tables and drinking water are available.

For more info and rates go to:

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks/parkCamping.aspx?id=N0081

Booti Booti Beach

sunset

pro boogie boarders

shells

fly away

my favourites

at dusk

night time beach

more beach

restaurants to eat out in new zealand (south island)

Here are a few places to eat we tried out during our South Island + Wellington trip.

I’m not a fine dining chick and love decent food that is not too overpriced. It wasn’t always easy to choose a restaurant but the Trip Advisor app was incredibly helpful.

Bon a petit!

Lake Tekapo:

Kohan Japanese Restaurant http://kohannz.com/

State Highway 8  Lake Tekapo 7945, New Zealand, Tel: 03 680 6688

Not the most obvious association NZ and Japanese cuisine?? Hell yeah!! Try some teriyaki  salmon, so fresh and delicate, just melts in your mouth. Stir fried veggies were delicious and so was the selection of sushi and sashimi.

VIew from the restaurant…

Te Anau:

The Fat Duck Restaurant, go to their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fat-Duck/171480302898405

124 Town Centre, Te Anau 9600, New Zealand, Tel: 03 249 8480

Lamb salad was sooo good, my father in-law was so keen that he had it as his main two nights in a row (he’s normally really picky), lamb burger looked really yum too!

Miles Better Pies

2 Milford Crescent, Te Anau, New Zealand, Tel: 03 249 9044

Scrumilicious pies, I tried satay chicken, so yummy and filling. Great, cheap alternative for lunch.

Queenstown:

Aggy’s Shack Fish and Chips 

Church Street, Queenstown, New Zealand

Yummy scallops and huge portions, if you are not a pig like me, it’s enough to share between two people…


The shack

Scampi and chips

Right outside the shack

The views while you munch on your food are spectacular

Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier:  

Matheson Cafe http://www.lakematheson.com/

Lake Matheson Rd, Fox Glacier, Westland National Park (Te Wahipounamu) 7859, New Zealand, Tel: 03 751 0878

I had a vegetarian pizza which was really tasty however the chorizo one was to die for (stole some of it from my in-laws), the greek salad was good too, well dressed. We went there for lunch the next day as we absolutely love the place, the decor, the atmosphere and of course the best service. We had some amazing chunky chips with garlic aioli, and a really tasty chorizo panini. One more thing, I also probably had one of the best and biggest as well as superbly looking cappuccinos ever. This place is a must visit if you are in the area. Probably one of the best dining experiences of all times. Ahh, I almost forgot about the carrot cake! Best one ever (honestly)!

ginormous cappuccino

this pix makes me hungry…

pure indulgence

Hokitika:

Cafe de Paris http://www.cafedeparis.net.nz/CafeDeParis/Home.php

19 Tancred Street  Hokitika 7810, New Zealand, Tel: 03 755 8933

this one is a though one… It’s slightly overpriced for the portions and the quality. I ordered roasted veggies that were on special that night and received some undercooked eggplant in a blunt sauce, not to mention the tiny size of the portion. One of the waitresses asked if everything was ok so I asked to change my order. I had some marinated grilled chicken and that was spectacular. All in all left happy in the end. The service wasn’t the most pleasant, our waitress seemed grumpy (maybe she had a bad day). My father in-law had pasta carbonara and he was pretty happy with it, the portion was decent.

Nelson:

Caffe Affair http://www.cafeaffair.co.nz/

295 Trafalgar Street, Nelson, New Zealand, Tel/Fax: 03 548 8295 

I absolutely loved this place, cool ambience and decor, fabulous food and good service. I had a cajun seasoned lamb salad and it was full of flavour. I completely forgot what my in-laws had but they were definitely happy.

Wellington:

Scopa Cafe Cucina http://www.scopa.co.nz/,

Corner of Ghuznee & Cuba Streets, Wellington, New Zealand,  Tel: 04 384 6020

I probably won’t do this place justice since I ordered a main I shouldn’t have. I had spaghetti alle vongole with NZ clams…. I thought they would come with no shells and blended with the sauce but how foolish I was! I decided I don’t like mussels, clams etc that night. The sauce was hardly present and was tasteless. My father in-law had a risotto so he was happy (and safe) and his wife had gnocchi pomodoro (she wasn’t too impressed either). THe portions were tiny and it seemed as if there wasn’t much love in the food. Fragrant pizzas flying past our table, on the other hand looks absolutely great so definitely wrong food choice! The restaurant has a great casual vibe however the service is a little too laid back as no one really checked if we were happy with the meal. I will give it a go next time I’m in Wellies and get a pizza!

must visit in Australia: the Red Centre – Ayers Rock (Uluru), the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and Alice Springs

There are so many amazing places to visit in Oz… The Red Centre is definitely one of them  with the stunning red rock formations of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. If you want to extend your trip Alice Springs is worth a visit too. You can’t beat the sunrise (my fav) and the sunset won’t disappoint you either. Walking around both of them is a must even though it’s over 11km around Ayers Rock and over 7km including some climbing for the Olgas. It will give you a completely different much closer perspective, you can touch it, smell it and see how uneven and interesting the surface actually is. You can see some kangaroos, dingoes, birds or caterpillar trains crossing a road from time to time. There are many trees an shrubs and I used to think it’s in the middle of a desert with no life around it… Getting there is not the cheapest but you can hunt for bargain flights and accommodation is pricey, especially for what you get but it’s a once in a life time experience so I’m sure you can deal with it for a night or two. When you get there you begin to understand why you pay so much, the place is so remote and it’s more or less the only income for the majority of the area. I stayed at the Lost Camel and was pretty happy with it. We dined at Ayers Wok – Thai take away and the food wasn’t too bad. Anyway I will let the photos speak for themselves…

Not a bad view from the aeroplane

red, red everywhere

the Olgas

Olgas cnd

and again…

one more

pretty standard shot of Uluru

vintage

sunrise

cool natural artwork

caterpillar ‘train’

dry river

gorge

the MacDonnell Ranges

early bird special 🙂