The Wild West – Western Australia with Red Earth Safaris

After over two and a half years of living on the East coast of Australia, it was time to see why they all say, “The West of Australia is best.” With high expectations, 15kg of clothes, a camera and an adventurous spirit I was ready to take on an 8 day road-trip from Perth to Exmouth and back with Red Earth Safaris.

west coast best coast - red earth safaris

Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia.

Monday – Day 1

An early morning pickup from the Old Swan Barracks backpackers set the pace for our week of exploring with Neil (our guide) and the rest of our group onboard Red Earth Safaris. We began to make our way North along all of Perth’s beautiful coastal towns – Fremantle, Cottlesloe Beach & Scarbourough Beach. As we cruised along I could already tell that WA was different then the Eastern beaches… first of all – they were completely empty! Beautiful crystal clear waters, untouched sands and views out into the sea for miles – I could tell I was going to love this place!

As we continued driving, we made our way to the first stop of the day, which was the Yanchep National Park. Amongst the Yanchep National Park is the perfect place to spot koalas, kangaroos and most importantly to visit the Crystal Caves.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.48.31 PM

Koala friends in the Yanchep National Park.

After lunch we set off for our evening accommodation in Cervantes, but not before checking out the Lancelin Sand Dunes close by. These sand dunes are perfect for sand boarding, making sand castles, and sand angels! We have about an hour to play around in the sand and catch some awesome photos!

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.45.38 PM

Lancelin Sand Dunes. 

Our accommodation for our first night on the West Coast was in a small coastal town of Cervantes where the beach is just a short walk, and you can see sea lions close to shore. Before dinner we have the chance to explore the area, go for a swim or freshen up for the night.

Just before dinner we made our way to the Nambung National Park to watch the sunset over the famous Pinnacles Desert. This was one of the highlights of trip — my travel mate (Allan Dixon) and I didn’t hesitate running around taking loads of silhouette shots, playing hide and seek and testing out my dance skills. At sunset you get a spectrum of yellows, oranges and red’s reflecting off the naturally formed Pinnacles, which creates the perfect opportunity for stunning photos.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.45.30 PM

Silhouettes at the Pinnacles Desert, Nambung National Park.

Following sunset, we made our way back to our accommodations for a nice group meal, and an early bedtime – that way we were all refreshed for an early morning the following day! Goodnight WA – you are beautiful!

Tuesday – Day 2

We departed Cervantes, and headed to our first stop of the day, which was the Greenough Wildlife Park & Sanctuary. We were greeted by the friendly sanctuary staff and given a short tour around the park before being given time to explore on our own.

I easily found a connection and love for one of the albino kangaroos, Sebastian who was bouncing around the park. He is one in 10,000 of his kind, and was an absolute sweetheart. In order to ensure he doesn’t get sunburnt he even had to wear sunscreen on his ears!

greenough wildlife park

Sebastian the Albino Kangaroo, Greenough Wildlife Park & Sanctuary. 

Within the sanctuary you could also see kangaroos, wallabies, snakes, emus, camels, birds, crocodiles and dingos! It was so much fun exploring the park, feeding the animals, and taking heaps of selfies!

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.45.23 PM

Cheeky kangaroo…

At the end of our visit as we were about to depart Michelle (sanctuary staff) surprised us all and brought out the most adorable joey! I nearly died of cuteness!

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.47.56 PM

Our next stop of the day was to Hutt River Province. Out of all my travel experiences over the last couple years, I’d have to say that visiting Hutt River was one of the most absurd experiences yet.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 11.41.53 PM

Hutt River Province is a breakaway country located in Australia that was declared an independent province in 1970 by Leonard Casley. This was in response to a dispute with the government of Western Australia over what the Casley family considered wheat production quotas.

You can even get an entrance and exit stamp on your passport when you visit Hutt River!

Following lunch we began our journey up towards Kalbarri National Park and Kalbarri Backpackers, our evening accommodation. When we arrived the lovely hostel owners, and even better 3 hostel dogs greeted us! Kalbarri Backpackers was minutes walk from the beach and had a great BBQ outdoors area. We had the evening to ourselves to explore the area, go for a swim or catch up on some sleep before our Aussie BBQ dinner! One of the best meals of the week… beef burgers, chicken breasts, sausages, kangaroo meatballs and an assortment of freshly made salads! After a long day of exploring this meal went down nicely.

Wednesday – Day 3

Today was a day I had been looking forward to for a while, visiting Kalbarri National Park. We made our way deep into Kalbarri National Park and arrived at the entrance of the Z Bend Gorge. When we arrived we began our hike down into this 400 million year old landscape and got surrounded by sheer cliffs and bouldering rocks. When we arrived at the base we had the option of doing a 25-metre abseil with Kalbarri Abseiling. As the adrenaline junkie I claim to be, I was the first person to put their hand up for this experience!

kalbarri gorge

Kalbarri Gorge. 

The most famous part of Kalbarri National Park is Nature’s Window.

natures window

Nature’s Window is a wind-eroded opening in the layered sandstone that frames a view of the river.

We departed Kalbarri National Park and began our journey further North towards Shark Bay World Heritage Site. Along the way we stopped at the Billabong Roadhouse for lunch, and had an ice cream to cool off!

Shark Bay World Heritage Site is the setting for a variety of popular WA attractions including; Shell Beach, Hamelin Pool Stromatalites and last but not least, Monkey Mia!

Shell Beach was our first stop in Shark Bay Heritage Site. Shell Beach is very unique to other beaches… as there is absolutely no sand! It’s completely made out of shells, billions of them! Shell Beach is another great spot to find crabs and jellyfish! The water is also extremely salty at Shell Beach, different than any other beach I have ever visited!

shell beach

Shell Beach, Shark Bay. 

As we made our way back to our accommodation in Denham; the Western-most town in Australia, we couldn’t help but utilize a long stretched out country road highway for some epic road selfies! Lucky a car didn’t pass by during that time!

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.40.16 PM

To infinity and beyond…

When we finally arrived at our accommodation for the evening, we had some free time to explore the waterfront, go for a swim… or kayak in the pool!

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.40.02 PM

Goin’ for a paddle… 

The sunset over the Western-most town in Australia was breath taking! A spectrum of reds, oranges and yellows, accompanied by the palm tree silhouettes created epic photos.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.47.05 PM

Denham sunset, Shark Bay. 

It was a great evening along the Coral Coast of Western Australia, and with such a great day today, I could not wait to see what tomorrow would bring!

Thursday – Day 4

Clear skies, and a warm Western wind woke us up on our fourth day on Red Earth Safaris. We were off to one of the highlights of the West Coast, and something I had been very excited to experience… the dolphins of Monkey Mia!

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.46.49 PM

Bottlenose Dolphins of Monkey Mia, Shark Bay. 

These bottlenose dolphins at Monkey Mia are wild, and have been returning to the same location at the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort for years on end. It is amazing to see how comfortable they are up against to the dolphin trainers, and how predictable their nature is with the time they arrive at the resort every day. After the dolphin experience we had time to explore the resort, go for a swim, or catch some sun rays on the beach.

We departed Monkey Mia just before lunch and made our way to the Hamelin Stromatalites.

hamelin stromatalites

The Hamelin Pool stromatolites are oldest and largest living fossils on earth. Stromatolites are considered ‘living fossils’, part of the Earth’s evolutionary history.

For the real Western Australia country experience we headed off to our accommodation for the night at Warrorra Station. Warrorra Station is an outback sheep station located inland from the Coral Coast. When we arrived at the station, we dropped our bags off into our rustic accommodation and jumped into the back of the trunk and ventured for the beach. Warrorra Station has hundreds of acres of beachfront on their own and you can’t see another person along the beach for miles. We had the evening to go for a swim, enjoy some snacks on the beach, enjoy dinner and catch the beautiful sunset.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.28.17 PM

Warrorra Station Sunset

Friday – Day 5

Up bright and early after a stormy night at Warrorra Station, and on the road to Coral Bay! After a quick coffee stop, we made it to beautiful Coral Bay. As Coral Bay is located on one of the most concentrated parts of the Ningaloo Reef system, it was an obvious choice to head out on a snorkel trip to explore this beautiful part of the West Coast.

Coral Bay Ecotours took us out for a morning snorkel tour visiting 2 unique spots on the Ningaloo Reef. We jumped on board the glass bottom boat and made the quick trip out from the bay to the reef.

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 11.38.01 PM

Coral Bay Ecotours snorkel trip on the Ningaloo Reef. 

What is unique about the Ningaloo Reef is how close it is from the shore – you can literally grab a snorkel and swim a couple metres out and the vivid colours of the reef and the diversity of marine life will surround you! You sure can’t do that as easily on the Great Barrier Reef!

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.02.07 PM

I couldn’t wait to get my snorkel gear on and jump into the water… in fact I was so eager I was the first one off the boat! The colours of the reef were of the rainbow; we saw turtles, and an assortment of different fish species! The water was so blue; it was like nothing I had ever seen before! At one point when we headed towards the boat deck, the crew began a fish feed and you were swarmed by thousands of fishes!

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.48.55 PM

Hello fishes!

It was the perfect weather and the perfect morning out on the reef – I can’t wait to come back and experience it again soon!

After lunch we had the afternoon to enjoy the untouched beaches, and crystal clear waters of Coral Bay. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves… I could of stayed here forever.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.48.44 PM

Coral Bay, Western Australia. 

After a very sad goodbye to Coral Bay, we began our journey to our final destination on our West Coast adventure… Exmouth! We enjoyed the journey and made a few stops along the way; catching all those amazing touristy photos at the Tropic of Capricorn!

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 11.46.17 PM

Wahoo! We finally made it to Exmouth! Exmouth is famous for it’s variety of water and land based activities! Most popular include; snorkeling and diving the Ningaloo Reef, swimming with the Whale Sharks, interacting with sea turtles, spending the day with the Manta Rays, fishing, and exploring the Cape Range National Park. It’s an adventurer’s wonderland and well worth the trip from Perth!

We had an early night in Exmouth, in order for us to take full advantage of our day in the 37 degree weather of Exmouth the following day!

Goodnight Exmouth!

Saturday – Day 6

Today was ours to explore! We all had a nice sleep in and met around 9am for our day – first thing planned was heading to Turquoise Bay! We had the morning at our leisure to enjoy the beautiful white sand, and snorkeling in the area. This place is the definition of paradise.

turquoise bay cartwheel

Turquoise Bay, Exmouth. 

After getting our daily dose of vitamin D, we made our way to Yardie Creek in the Cape Range national park for lunch. We had the opportunity to walk along the creek and take in the exceptional views of the park.

yardie creek

Yardie Creek, Cape Range National Park.

Just prior to dinner we decided as a group we wanted to check out sunset over the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse. It was the perfect setting to say goodbye to Exmouth, and reflect over our last 6-day travelling from Perth to Exmouth.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.45.54 PM

Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, Exmouth.

Our evening was finished off in true country style with enjoying dinner at Exmouth’s famous country pub, Cadillac’s Bar and Grill!

Sunday & Monday – Day 7 & 8

It was time for the long journey back from Exmouth to Perth! We set off at 7am on Sunday morning and headed south. Along the way we stopped to stretch our legs, capture those last touristy shots at some of the quirky roadhouses, and grab a bite.

We arrived at our accommodation in the early evening, and had a couple hours to relax before dinner. Our accommodation was in Northampton at the Old Convent where it is know to be haunted… definitely made for an interesting night and a few stories being passed around! It was our final night as a group and the perfect time to reflect together on how amazing of a trip we had all had along the West Coast.

On Monday morning we arrived back in Perth just before lunchtime. It was a very sad goodbye to the group, and our amazing guide Neil as we all parted ways and continued our wanderlust elsewhere…

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.39.36 PM

The world is yours to explore… 

Thanks for the incredible trip Red Earth Safaris; you showed me the West Coast in style, and proved why they say… the WEST IS BEST! I am left with ever lasting memories, thousands of new photos and a new appreciation for this side of Australia.

Photos by Allan Dixon (instagram.com/daxon)

Thanks to Red Earth Safaris!

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 11.53.51 PM

Quokkas, beaches, snorkeling & more! – Rottnest Island, Western Australia

A beautiful Sunday morning in Perth, WA brought the perfect opportunity to experience Rottnest Island for the first time. After reading through the Rottnest Express brochure ample times, I was very much looking forward to seeing the “5 Awesome Reasons to Visit Rottnest” first hand. After a full day of exploring the island, I can confidently say there are whole lot more than 5 reasons to visit this magical place in Australia.

Departing from Perth City, Allan and I jumped onto the Rottnest Express Ferry bringing us along the river to Fremantle and onwards to Rottnest Island. The Rottnest Express is decked out with an upper and lower seating deck, outside viewing platform and café to purchase drinks and snacks. Before we knew it we were approaching Rottnest and our day of exploring by land and water was ready to begin!

Rottnest Island

Welcome to Rottnest Island!

When we arrived we met up with our friend Annie, and we all grabbed our bikes, snorkels and maps and begin our journey along the south coast of Rottnest. Our first stop of the day was for some Quokka spotting. Quokkas are known to attract visitors to Rottnest from near and far due to their adorable smiles, teddy-bear like appearance, and inquisitive nature. There are nearly 18,000 quokkas that live on Rottnest Island, and can be spotted along the trails, in the bush and sometimes lounging on the beaches! Make sure to get your souvenir Quokka #selfie before you leave – it might gain you a few more followers on Instagram!

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 9.33.27 PM

Aren’t they adorable! – Quokkas of Rottnest Island.

There are 62 sandy beaches and 20 secluded bays nestled into Rottnest Island’s landscape – giving you various options of snorkeling spots and tanning opportunities to choose from!

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 9.33.37 PM

Little Salmon Bay, Rottnest Island.

We continued along the coastal bike trail and made our way to our first of many beach stops for the day, Porpoise Bay. Porpoise Bay has beautiful white sand, and is perfect for walking and snorkeling. It is backed with steep dunes and cliffs and presents with views of the Australia mainland in the distance. Another attractive quality for people interested in snorkeling around Porpoise Bay is the “Lady Elizabeth” Shipwreck of 1878, which is located metres off the beach in-between Rottnest and Dyer Island.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 9.34.00 PM

Snorkelling the Lady Elizabeth Shipwreck. 

After dragging our sun-kissed bodies off the sand, we jump onto our bikes and headed west on the island towards Salmon Bay. Before we managed to get to Salmon Bay we got stopped by the beautiful conditions of it’s baby sister; Little Salmon Bay. Little Salmon Bay is in the island’s southernmost promontory that also contains Parker Point and Salmon Bay. This area of the island is known as one of the best snorkeling spots around Rottnest Island, suitable for all levels of snorkeling. The bay is rich in marine life and presents with some of the best coral reefs on Rottnest! Parker Point (located just East of Little Salmon Bay) is another great snorkeling spot as it is always full of diverse fish life! If you are all snorkeled out for the day, Parker Point is nonetheless a beautiful lookout point where you can sit and admire the beauty of Rottnest’s coastline.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 9.34.09 PM

Rottnest Island coastline by bike. Stunning!

As our return ferry to the mainland was set to pick us up from the terminal shortly after 4pm, we began our bike journey back to the entrance. Along the way we kept our eyes open for Quokkas on the trails, and we didn’t hesitate to stop for one last #selfie to end off the day as it began.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 9.33.50 PM

Making new friends on Rottnest Island. 

A full day on Rottnest Island with Rottnest Express: Experience Rottnest gave us a good taste of how beautiful and diverse this Island is on land and underwater! With only a quarter of the island explored, I look forward to revisiting soon to explore the remaining beaches, secluded bays and adorable Quokka hideaways – you truly could spend days on end exploring the hidden secrets of Rottnest’s landscape.

Photos: Allan Dixon (instagram.com/daxon)

With thanks to Rottnest Express.  https://www.rottnestexpress.com.au/

Exploring Australia’s Top End – Crocosaurus Cove & Kakadu National Park

As I slowly tick off my Australia travel bucket list, Darwin located in the Northern Territory was one of the final places I needed to experience. Through working in travel, and by following many social media influencers for the past couple years; I have been intrigued by the landscapes and natural attractions that are present in Darwin. With that it only made sense that with having a week off work, I’d make the trip North to visit Darwin!

20150610_153329-1

Twin Falls, Kakadu National Park

Darwin City – Crocosaurus Cove

My adventure in Darwin began Monday morning as I made my way along Mitchell Street exploring all the towns’ shops and cafes. The sun was shining, and the temperature was a beautiful 30 degrees Celsius! This was quite a nice change from the crisp and cold 10-degree weather down in Melbourne. I made my way to the Backpackers World Travel shop to visit the team there, and they made sure to let me know about all the cool things to do while staying in Darwin! Before lunch I headed to the sundeck at the Youthshack to catch some rays as I waited for my tour around The Crocosaurus Cove.

Crocosaurus Cove located in the heart of Mitchell Street in Darwin and is the world’s largest display of Australian reptiles! In addition it is ‘home to the Cage of Death, the only cage in the world that brings you face to face with some of the largest Saltwater Crocodiles in captivity.’ Being one of the must-do activities when visiting Darwin, I couldn’t wait for my chance in the cage! After wandering the grounds of Crocosaurus Cove, I made my way to join the thousands of other risk-takers who have jumped into the Cage of Death.

IMG_1065

Entering the Cage of Death

IMG_1118

Hello Chopper!

“Operated by an over-head monorail and designed for 1 or 2 people per cage, the Cage of Death has you suspended above the crocs before being lowered into the pen to get an up close and personal look at these amazing reptiles.”

IMG_1071

Suspended over Chopper… dun dun dunnnn

The most memorable part of this experience was when I would do a flip and get a bit disorientated… leaving me being face to face with Chopper the crocodile; that sure gave me a fright!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Crocodile Selfie!

Following the Cage of Death, I had the opportunity of facing yet another fear… holding a reptile… a baby crocodile to be exact! To be honest… I was more nervous about this than getting in the cage with the 4 metre crocodile!

IMG_9910

Pucker up mister!

IMG_9897

Where’d he go?

In the evening, I met up with a few work friends and we headed to Monsoons for dinner and drinks! It was the perfect ending to my adventurous thrilling day in Darwin! It was an early night as I had a 5AM wake-up call to catch my Wayoutback 4WD Dragonfly Top End Safari!

Wayoutback Australian Safaris – Darwin to Litchfield National Park

Bright and early in the morning I was picked up by the Wayoutback 16-seater 4WD bus to begin our journey through the Top End. As we made out way to Litchfield National Park our first stop of the day was visiting the Magnetic Termite mounds. Built by termites over thousands of years, the termite mounds are amazing architectural feats complete with arches, tunnels, chimneys, insulation and nursery chambers.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

20150609_101123

Wangi Falls, Litchfield National Park

As we entered the park our first stop was at Wangi Falls. Here we had the opportunity to do a hike, go for a swim or head to the café for a drink. Wangi Falls is a beautiful swimming hole that presents with cascading waterfalls, as well as secret hideaway to your own private swimming pool amongst the rock-face.

DCIM102GOPRO

Within Litchfield National Park there are various other beautiful waterfalls and lookouts to appease the eyes of it’s visitors. To name a couple, Tolmer Falls and Florence Falls are two of the more popular sites to check out.

My highlight of Litchfield National Park was the Buley Rockholes. The Buley Rockhole is a series of waterfalls and rock-holes, where you will find your own spot to swim and relax.

DCIM102GOPRO

Buley Rockhole, Litchfield National Park

Following the rock pools we made our way along the 4WD track to our camp for the night at Point Stuart Camp. Our campsite for the evening had permanent tents with beds, a communal dining area and toilet/shower facilities only a short walk away!

Mary River National Park to Kakadu National Park

A sunrise Mary River Crocodile Cruise started our morning in the National Park. The Mary River region is an area with the highest concentration of saltwater crocodiles found in the world! Along the cruise had the opportunity of spotting various different birds, and crocodiles!

DCIM102GOPRO

20150609_083930

Mary River Wetlands Cruise

Following the cruise we began our off-roading journey into Kakadu National Park where we were to be visiting Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls (only 4WD accessible).

20150610_141626

To get to Twin Falls, we had to travel by a 4-wheel drive track, a boat shuttle service and finally a rocky walking track and boardwalk! It seems like quite a mission… but I can guarantee it is worth the trip! Once we arrived at Twin Falls we had the chance to relax on the sandy banks and enjoy the view of the falls!

20150610_151622

20150610_151759

DCIM102GOPRO

Twin Falls, Kakadu National Parl

The next stop (and my personal highlight of the entire trip) was to Jim Jim Falls! To get to Jim Jim Falls there was more 4-wheel driving and when we arrived you have to walk through monsoon forest and over boulders. This will inevitably take you to the waterfall and plunge pool, which is surrounded, by 150 metre cliffs.

20150610_173126_HDR

Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu National Park

A short swim across the plunge pool and you will find yourself underneath the falls, getting an amazing massage on your back by the cascading waterfall! This is a travel moment I will never forget!

DCIM102GOPRO

DCIM102GOPRO

Arriving just after sunset, we made our way to our campsite for the night located within Kakadu National Park. After a long day of 4WDing and exploring, it was an early night for the group!

Kakadu National Park To Darwin

It was the final day of our Wayoutback Dragonfly 4WD Safari in the Top End of Australia. Today had a more relaxed itinerary planned as we made our way back through to Darwin. The main highlight of this day was visiting Ubirr and the rock art sites.

20150611_114907

Ubirr Rock Art

“Ubirr is within the East Alligator region of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia, and is known for its rock art. It consists of a group of rock outcrops on the edge of the Nadab floodplain where there are several natural shelters that have a collection of Aboriginal rock paintings, some of which are many thousands of years old.”

We spent the afternoon viewing the various rock art sites, as well as enjoying the view of Kakadu National Park from the Ubirr rocky lookout.

20150611_125219

Ubirr Lookout of Kakadu National Park

Following Ubirr, we began our journey back to Darwin. Along the way we stopped at the infamous Kakadu National Park entrance sign to capture one last photo to remember the amazing trip we just had!

The last five days spent in the Top End are some that I won’t ever forget! A big thanks to Crocosaurus Cove, the Youthshack and Wayoutback Australian Safaris for showing me the magic found in Darwin and it’s surroundings! This is not goodbye – I will definitely be back to explore some more!

20150609_093052

Until next adventure!

– s.clarkey

Escaping reality in Noosa – Halse Lodge Guesthouse

With the winter blues soon to hit down in Melbourne, I was in dire need of a warm holiday. It had been over 2 years since I last visited the Halse Lodge Guesthouse in Noosa, and with such lasting memories created, it made me eager to return.

Day 1 (Monday): Melbourne to Noosa, Sunshine Coast

With a chilly day in Melbourne making me even more excited about heading up to Noosa, I joyfully made my way to the airport to catch my afternoon flight to Sunshine Coast – Marochydore Airport. Flying with Jetstar, I had a pleasant 2-hour journey to arrive into Queensland just before dinnertime! I was pleasantly greeted by Sarah (Halse Lodge manager) at the arrivals halls in the terminal and we quickly collected my baggage from the carousel. We made our way from the Marochydore airport through some of the beautiful beach towns such as Coolum on the way back to Noosa Heads. As we drove through the beach side towns, we had the chance to see the beautiful sun setting in the distance, and the spectrum of colours reflecting over the waters. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.43.19 AM We approached the Halse Lodge Guesthouse located up on the hill and it was exactly as I remembered. The patio was lit up with beautiful fairy lights in an assortment of bright colours, the staff were smiling and the hostel was alive. I quickly checked into my beautiful lodge private room (which was decked out with a welcome letter, chocolate and other treats!) and I made my way down to the hostel restaurant. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.48.38 AM With a selection of delicious meals to chose from, and a full bar to enjoy – I knew I was happy to be home. The staff team at Halse Lodge go out of their way to ensure you feel welcome, in addition they provide some of the best hospitality I have ever experienced while travelling. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.43.11 AM My first night in Noosa was an early one, as I wanted to be fully rested for the next 4 days ahead of me! I was so excited and happy to be back in Noosa; I wanted to take full advantage of my time here!

Day 2 (Tuesday): Noosa National Park 

Bright and early in the morning I was awoken to the sun shining and the sound of singing birds outside of my window. I made my way down to the restaurant to grab breakfast, my morning coffee and get myself ready for the day! Today I was heading out for a wander in the Noosa National Park. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.43.35 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.43.44 AM The Noosa National Park is known as one of Australia’s favourite National Parks and one of the most easily accessible by foot from the local area. I lucked out with the weather for the day as the sun was shining; it was even warm enough to just wear shorts and my bikini top along the walk! Starting from the town, I strolled pass main beach; which was covered in holiday-goers enjoying the sun, catching some rays and as well as some epic surf. As I made my way along the rugged coastline, I found myself lost in the various coves, beaches and surf break lookouts. I sat down for an hour at one point and ended up falling asleep for a bit… not a bad way to catch a tan! Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.44.01 AM For a coastal walk that is meant to take about 2 ½ hours, it managed to take me over 5 hours because I was taking so many pictures! Throughout Australia, I have seen and experienced a handful of National Parks and I would have to say that the Noosa National Park has made it to one of the top on the list. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.44.10 AM Later in the afternoon I made my way back up to the Halse Lodge to freshen up for dinner. Throughout the lodge you will find travellers enjoying the sunshine shining onto the patio, reading a book on the lounge chairs, playing Ping-Pong or just hanging out in the common areas. The Halse Lodge gives off a very relaxed and home-y vibe for its visitors and people tend to stay longer than expected, because it’s very difficult to leave! In the early evening, I awaited the arrival Hannah who was making the trip from Byron Bay to visit for the night! When she arrived, we headed straight to the restaurant for some dinner and drinks! It was the perfect catch up as it had been over 2 months since we last saw each other!

Day 3 (Wednesday): Noosa River Jetboat, Noosa Springs Spa, Sunset River Cruise

An action-packed day had arrived as I would be saying goodbye to Hannah, experiencing the Noosa River by jet boat, accompanying the Halse Lodge staff party at the Noosa Springs Spa and topping off the evening with a Noosa River Cruise! Hannah and I woke up bright and early in the morning and headed down into town for some breakfast at a cute little café called Gaston. The Noosa town is packed with cute cafes, restaurants, bars, boutique shops and more! It’s hard to choose where to eat and shop.

11224405_10153359010206474_84677680634643866_o Following breakfast a fellow Peterpans colleague picked me up and we made our way down to the jetty to catch our Noosa Thriller Jetboat trip! This tour combines adventure, adrenaline and a scenic experience in one – it’s the perfect way to see the Noosa River by boat as well as view the Noosa National Park. This is a 2-hour round trip activity that fits in perfectly to any Noosa holiday itinerary. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.42.48 AM Later in the afternoon I met up with the lovely Halse Lodge ladies and we headed to the Noosa Springs Day Spa for the afternoon. We had the whole spa to ourselves and had the choice to enjoy the spa pools, the steam rooms, plunge showers and saunas. 11246018_10153359405431474_7367784895905275977_n To top off the afternoon we had a private room set out just for us with champagne being served as well as a selection of cheese, crackers and snacks. 10398035_10153359405606474_4767404104282499147_n After all the pampering we headed back to the lodge to get ready for the sunset cruise on the Noosa River. We gathered our esky (cooler), filled it with champagne, ciders and beers and made our way to the jetty. The cruise boat had two levels to sit on, and held just about 30 passengers. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.44.19 AM We passed by quite a few beautiful holidays homes location on the river. The sunset over the river was stunning – beautiful layers of red, orange and yellow reflecting off the water. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.44.27 AM Day 4 (Thursday): Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo!

Today was a day that I have been excited to re-live since I first visited the Australia Zoo. With such fond memories created two years ago at the Australia Zoo during the Best Jobs in the World competition, I was overly keen to get back to the Zoo to see the new additions that were in progress. Stacey and I jumped into the car at the Halse Lodge and made the hour-long journey to the Australia Zoo. When we arrived at the Zoo, we were greeted with a friendly smile at the front gate who provided up with site maps for the property! I felt like I was in Disney World! I was so excited to be back here, and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to see first! Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.45.50 AM The first stop for the day was to the Crocoseum, which is where some of the live shows are held! We managed to make it just in time for the bird and crocodile show to begin. We quickly grabbed our seats and were easily amazed by the talent and training behind the animals on display. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.46.10 AM My favourite part of the Crocodile and Bird Show was the demonstration on if a snake or animal in the wild bites you. A cute little dingo ran out from backstage to help out with the demonstration – I could barely control myself because it was absolutely hilarious, and at the end the dingo jumped into the dingo ambulance and was brought off the stage. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.46.04 AM Through the day we managed to see every corner of the zoo; everything from the alligators, to the tortoises, to all the South East Asian animals to the koalas, kangaroos and more! Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.46.43 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.46.35 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.47.52 AM I was so happy to be back visiting the Australia Zoo, it had changed and expanded so much since I last visited and brought quite a few new things for me to check out! Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.48.16 AM Day 5 (Friday): Noosa wanderings and goodbyes!

Friday came a lot sooner than I would have hoped, as it was time for me to head back to Melbourne after an amazing 5 days on the Sunshine Coast. I always knew that Noosa held a special place in my travels, but I didn’t quite realize how special this place was until this week. The team at Halse Lodge has created a home for me in Australia, where I feel completely welcome and accepted. I have never felt such a strong connection and love for a guesthouse as I have at the Halse Lodge. 11062759_10153356931006474_4600144726232566632_n It is definitely a place I know I will continue to visit year after year, to recharge my batteries, relax for a bit and experience Noosa’s beautiful surroundings.

Want to experience this place yourself? Enquire here!

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 11.33.12 AM

Mantaray Island Resort – Yasawa Islands Fiji

Following a 2-½ hour journey North from Beachcomber Island we arrived at the shimmering waters that hug Mantaray Island Resort. As we debarked from the Yasawa flyer (which cruises up and down the Yasawa Islands), and boarded the speedboat to bring us closer, the sound of cheering and sight of smiles welcomed us onto Mantaray Island. Hammocks were hung from the towering palm trees; the beachside bar was open with fruity cocktails on special for resort guests to enjoy. Crowds of people were relaxing on the beach chairs, while others chose to participate in a game of beach volleyball. Some guests were relaxing in the shaded area, reading a booking, writing their travel journey or catching an afternoon slumber. The resort was alive, and I couldn’t wait to join in!

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.40.43 AM

The dorm facilities for solo travellers were all fitted with a mosquito nets, and underlying luggage storage. The dorm was sectioned off into groups of four to provide for a bit of added privacy while sleeping. The treehouses, and jungle bures were fitted with private lounge chairs on the decks, and private quarters for couples, friends and families to enjoy. The views from each accommodation options will awe you when you wake up in the morning.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.40.53 AM

The meals were all served up a set of palm-shaded steps, which led up to the hilltop restaurant. Breakfast offered a buffet with a selection of different fruits, muffins, breads, croissants, and a warm section with eggs, beans and more. Lunch was a la carte where you could choose from options including delicious burgers, fish salads, nachos, fish and chips, wraps or various pasta dishes. Dinner was different every night of the week, which ranged from a selection of buffet items, to a la carte options to tantalize every taste bud. The communal tables located at the restaurant created for the perfect way to dine with your new mates you meet while on the island.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.41.19 AM

Down at the activities bure, you can choose from a variety of different activities to fill your time while on Mantaray Island. The activities on offer include: guided snorkeling trips and snorkel hire, fishing trips, scuba dive trips and packages, sunset tube cruises, paddle-boarding, kayaking and bracelet making. Whether you are on a tight budget or not; there is always something to keep you entertained while visiting Mantaray Island.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.42.21 AM Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.42.32 AM Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.43.09 AM

Diving on Mantaray Island is a popular activity that many travellers choose to do while staying a couple nights. You can choose between doing an introductory dive, to certified diving and if you are super keen you can get your Open Water Dive course from the Mantaray Dive Centre. If you are staying at least 3 nights at the resort, this will provide you with the perfect amount of time to complete the course and experience 6 dives in one of the most stunning locations to dive in the world. Everything from a shark dive, to a cave dive and night dive – this resort has over 40 dive sites just minutes away from the resort.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.42.08 AM Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.43.00 AM Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.43.26 AM

The Sunset Tube Cruise, which departs an hour before sunset, is the perfect activity to welcome you to Mantaray Island in the evening. After boarding the speedboat, which brought us around to the other side of the island, we jumped into the water and crawled into our tubes. Bring along a couple beers, and sit back and watch the sunset over the beautiful clear waters of Mantaray Island.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.43.17 AM

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.41.08 AM

On top of all the exceptional activities, meals and accommodation options available on Mantaray Island – what stands out the most on this island is the staff that works here. From the friendly, welcoming hellos as you step off the boat, to the amazing restaurant and activity staff, to the joyful reception team – you will feel at home straight away.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.41.50 AM

Mantaray Island is a fascinating place full of tropical beauty, and exotic marine life. When in season, the Mantarays bring in a wide audience interested in capturing and experiencing their elegant beauty. It’s an experience that is unknown to many, but those who have the chance to sight these magnetic wonders, will remember this experience for the rest of their life.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.41.37 AM

While visiting Fiji, a visit to Mantaray Island in the Yasawas will be everything you could imagine and more. It will leave you with a sense of home away from home, and will have you yearning to return soon again.