Disclaimer: We take no responsibility if, upon viewing this post, you immediately go and book a trip straight to New Zealand… it would actually be completely understandable!
We spent 10 days exploring South Island and every location seemed to be more beautiful than the next. The pictures don’t even begin to do it justice. Every time you opened your eyes, it was hard to believe you weren’t staring at a large painting.
We had fantastic weather and packed our time in Kiwi-land with some great activities – a bit of wine tasting, kayaking, cruising with dolphins, horse trekking, whitewater rafting, helicopter touring and a whole lot of scenic photo stops. So here we go…(video highlights still to come)
Christchurch -> Lake Pukaki/Mt Cook -> Queenstown
Queenstown -> Te Anu -> Milford Sound
Milford Sound -> Queenstown -> Lake Wanaka
Franz Josef Glacier -> Arthur’s Pass -> Back to Christchurch
When a public holiday falls on a Tuesday, what better reason than to take Monday off and enjoy an extra long weekend? So we rallied some good company and headed 3 hours outside of Melbourne to Wilsons Promontory National Park.
Since Ben we generally aren’t ones to pitch a tent and rough it in the outdoors, we rented a house outside of the park and ventured in each day for exploration. Lots of credit and gratitude going out to our friend Marie for planning and preparing loads of delicious food ahead of time to make the weekend easy and hassle free.
It was the perfect way to appreciate what we believe is the best part of Australia – its natural beauty. Ben and I may get into our moods and are too often guilty of complaining about some of the [often petty] frustrations we have living in Australia. However, while we might have complaints about work or over-hyped and under-delivered festivals or the lack of ANY decent Mexican food… the one thing that this country has NEVER disappointed us with is breathtaking holiday locations.
Wilsons Prom brings you to tidal rivers that cut through lush valleys and mountain ranges that open up to stunning beaches. Walking trails range from scenic boardwalks that hug and connect different beaches to hikes that take you through rainforest covered mountains. And if the scenery isn’t enough, the animal encounters take it over the top.
A subset of us decided to use one of the days to get out to Sealers Cove (Thadius unfortunately couldn’t get the day off so worked remotely from the house as his loyal better half stayed to keep him company). Sealers Cove is a beach that can only be accessed on foot. The walk out to the site is described by the park as a “moderate” 10km walk one way… so yes, that’s a 20km return trip. There is no other way there or back and you have to make sure that you return in time to catch a bus at the entrace of the trail to take you back to the visitor centre.
Having had a delayed start, we wanted to make the most of our time on the beach and agreed to keep a brisk pace. Surely if the sign recommends 3 hours for the walk then we could do it in 2 hours without much trouble, right? We’re fit and still young (sort of) … We did in fact finish the walk in 2 hours but not without pain. This was NOT a moderate walk! This was, by all definitions, a hike through the rainforest and up and around mountains. Plus all the way there, you keep thinking, ‘I have to do this all over again in just a few hours to get back!’
Was the walk beautiful? ABSOLUTELY. Was the beach stunning as described? ABSOLUTELY. Would I recommend it as a must-do if you are in Wilsons Prom?…. I really want to say yes but I’m a bit torn. If you like to camp then I would highly suggested putting on a pack and spending a couple days out there so you can truly relax on the beach without worrying about the imminent trek back. If you simply love to hike then start early, take a leisurely pace and you will be well rewarded all day long with a range of different scenery, treating the beach as a secluded rest stop that feels like only a lucky few earn the privilege to see. If you are just looking for a beautiful beach to laze the day away then there are several easier to access – Australia is in no short supply of amazing beaches even just within Wilsons Prom.
With all that said, I’m very happy we did it. Not only did it feel good to be active but we were all proud of the pace we accomplished. More importantly, I never want to feel like I possibly missed out on something wonderful just because it might have required some extra time and effort to get there. So cheers to Australia and all its wonders!
It’s a brand new year. We’re back at work with a few more memories and a few more pounds [to be shed]. We decided that we wouldn’t go back to the states for Christmas. It was the second Christmas in a row (and ever) that we’ve spent away from family and while still sad in ways, we had a wonderful time with friends exploring more of this country – that was the whole point of coming out here right?
So what did we do?… A long weekend of wine tasting in Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale (South Australia), another Aussie Christmas with friends waking up to presents and spending the afternoon at the beach, Tasmania with a couple old friends visiting from the states and topped everything off with a spontaneous afternoon cliff jumping into beautiful clear Aussie water. We continue to feel grateful for all we have and are determined not to waste these moments.
Now, let’s get to what you really want…the pictures!
Ben and I recognise and appreciate the fact that we live very fortunate and privileged lives. We have had so many wonderful opportunities and are surrounded constantly by amazing and generous friends. The past few months we have had some pretty rough events transpire and have relied on one another more than ever before for support. I am so very lucky to have found a partner who I can trust and rely on absolutely. I love him more with every passing day.
I think that it’s often easy to give thanks when all is well but more important to appreciate blessings when they are not. For this very reason, we pushed forward and invited all of our friends over for another American Thanksgiving in Oz. We were overwhelmed by the turnout – 32 people for dinner to be exact. I’ve never cooked for that large a group before!
Our friends Ray and Annie were visiting from LA and we got to enjoy a long weekend with them as well. We put them to work chopping and peeling along with a few other helpers that we could cram into our very small apartment until we were able to access the event space and kitchen we booked in our building.
It was a great evening stuffing our faces and putting aside any worries and stress to enjoy the moment. We are thankful more than ever for the friends we have made here in Australia who have helped us through some rough waters and have ensured that we are well taken care of despite being so far from family and friends in the states.
One of our “Meet Up” group couples got married this weekend and the lot of us had the honour of attending the beautiful event. And what better reason than traveling up to Queensland for a wedding than making a holiday of it and spending the next few days hopping around the Whitsunday Islands?!
The wedding took place in Airlie Beach and was a beautiful evening. The ocean setting was almost as stunning as the bride Hannah. After the ceremony, cocktails were served on a sunset cruise followed by dinner and dancing back on dry land. We were so happy to be able to share in Hannah and Simon’s day and wish the happy couple so much love!
The rest of our holiday was spent sailing through the Whitsundays with a subset of our group. We chartered a sailboat for 3 days and I can’t imagine how it could have been any better. We filled our time with beaches, paddle boarding, snorkeling, sailing and at night, star gazing on the deck of the boat watching shooting stars fly across a stunning starlit sky.
I think it’s safe to say that Whitehaven Beach is the most beautiful beach I’ve visited and the snorkeling off the coast of Hayman Island was definitely one for the books. The endless variety of coral and fish were amazing. I was absolutely heartbroken when having to leave and return to reality and work… countdown to our next vacation begins now!
This post is a little late. It’s been just over a week since Ben’s parents took their leave from us to explore the Western side of Australia with their friends. We had a wonderful time hosting them and getting to show them some of the areas in and around Melbourne. Ben took some time off work and a friend generously loaned us his car for a few days so we were able to drive out to see some sights.
Some highlights of their visit…
We spent a nice day having lunch at St. Kilda beach and then made our way back into the city for afternoon desserts at Hopetoun Tea Room which has been operating since the 19th century. The next day we had breakfast at one of our favorite spots – Chez Dre done properly with dessert – and took off for Mornington Peninsula. We stopped at a couple wineries, the strawberry farm (complete with jam purchases of course!) and then headed to Phillip Island for the penguin parade. Unfortunately, I did not come home with a new pet wallaby but it wasn’t for lack of effort!
No trip is complete without a drive down Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles! Along the way we spotted some koalas and drove through Otway National Park to take a tour through the Rainforrest Treetop Walk. Once we got to Port Campbell, the wind had picked up quite a bit and it had gotten cold so we decided to leave viewing the Apostles and other stack formations for the next morning.
Thankfully, the temperatures picked up a little the next day but the wind was still pretty fierce and… “the sea was angry that day my friends!” I thought the experience might be a bit spoiled without the beautiful weather we had back in December but it was still just as spectacular. The storm-like weather conveyed the sheer power of the sea crashing into the formations and it took your breath away.
The final outing was a trip to Healesville Animal Sanctuary about an hour outside of Melbourne. Here, we got to see some of the same animals we had encountered throughout our travels – just closer up – as well as others native to Australia that you may not see – and may not want to see – on your average excursion. Admittedly, all of us were most excited about seeing the duck billed platypus which did not disappoint but was much smaller than we had imagined.
Alas, it was time for the parents to depart Melbourne for adventures out west. Fortuitously, the night before their departure, the skies lit up with fireworks which we all enjoyed from our apartment balcony. Ben and I have learned that there is no shortage of fireworks in Melbourne over the summer and it’s something we’ve come to enjoy. I think these in particular were for the Moomba Festival but we’ll all just say that they were arranged special for Ben’s parents 😉
Overall, it was a lovely visit. They brought a little bit of home to us and for that we are very grateful. I’m sure they are having an amazing time exploring Aussie’s Western coast – something Ben and I hope to be able to do soon!
This past Friday, Ben’s parents touched down in Melbourne for their Aussie holiday. Our little city is their first stop on a month long itinerary. They are spending 10 days catching up with us and then are headed to the western side of Oz to meet up with some friends and tour a slightly different landscape.
Taking jet lag into consideration, we spent the weekend showing them around the city a bit and allowing them to rest up and adjust. We took them to Queen Vic Market, Shrine of Remembrance, Royal Botanical Gardens and gave them a peek at Ben’s office. Today we even ventured out to Brighton Beach to snap a few photos of the bathing boxes. It’s 4 days into their visit and they’ve already experienced the defining Melbourne weather – everything from sunshine to a storm that blew down many a branches from trees throughout the city.
On Saturday evening, Ben and I – somewhat guiltily – left the parents on their own to attend a Foo Fighters concert. Both of us individually have been listening to the Fighters of Foo for give or take 15 years. However, neither of us had seen them in concert. Every time they played near us something would come up and we’d have to miss it. We constantly lamented over missed opportunities in our youth to attend some of their epics tours. So, FINALLY, the time had come…. and it… was… AWESOME!!!
The concert was a typical stadium show at Ethiad. We opted for 4th row seats instead of general floor standing (because I am that short and we are that old). While I’m not sure I can give it the title number one best concert I’ve ever attended – that has been held by Clapton’s last world tour – it is a very close second.
They played a little of everything including a handful of covers – The Faces, AC/DC, Rush, Queen – and they even allowed some guy to propose to his unsuspecting girlfriend on stage. Normally, I am NOT a fan of public proposals but how epic is that???? Money and time absolutely well spent and of course the parents understood 🙂
Looking forward to the rest of the week touring around with the folks! Stay tuned…
Over the weekend, Melbourne city closed off all its roads downtown and hosted an all night arts festival. It began Saturday evening at 7:00pm and lasted until Sunday morning at 7:00am. The event highlighted art, light installations, music and performances – all exhibited throughout the streets of Melbourne.
Several people advised us that the largest crowds would be out earlier making it almost impossible to get around. The bulk of the city comes out for this event and feels a bit like a massive block party. With this in mind, we set a plan with a couple mates to trek out after midnight. Admittedly, this was quite a feat – we are now old and starting a night out at midnight is not something we looked forward to doing.
Thankfully, our friends had worked out a route across the entire city so we could get a glimpse of several exhibits in an orderly fashion. We actually did quite well staying out until about 4:00am when we all agreed that we had sufficiently experienced what the festival had to offer.
The Alice in Wonderland theme came up more than once and the light projections on many of the city buildings were impressive. We were definitely pleased about our decision to venture out later in the night as the crowds died down and made the exploration much more manageable. Undoubtedly, a fair number of attendees were just out to be out partying but you really have to give credit to a city that celebrates arts to this magnitude and the organization it takes to put on such a huge event.
Disclaimer: a couple of the pics were borrowed from online sources to show how big the crowds were earlier in the evening.
Coming up this week… Ben’s parents are visiting! They will be touching down on Friday morning so there will be lots of family posting to look forward to!
Some of our Aussie friends have taken notice that I genuinely enjoy cooking and recently the requests have started coming forth. There was some debate as to the first selected meal – a few of the blokes wanted Southern Fried Chicken and the ladies wanted mussels – so the only fair thing was to put it to a vote. This past weekend, mussels and pasta won out.
On Saturday evening, our friends brought over 4 kilos of mussels and plenty of wine to please the cook. I made a version of mussels provencal (mussels in a white wine broth) as well as a pasta dish – a small feast that would please any mussel fan!
It was our original intention to take the meal down to the private dining area in our building but it seems we couldn’t be bothered once the prepared food started coming out of the kitchen. I couldn’t even get the mussel eaters off the floor of our apartment and onto the couch for the first course! I suppose I should just take it as a compliment if the food is good enough that people will eat it sitting on the floor without a table!?
Before any of the cooking and eating began, we actually spent a couple hours testing out the cinema room with our Wii console. Nothing brings out a little “healthy” competition among couples than some Nintendoland games. It’s a good test for those about to get married – sort of like creative couple counseling…or maybe the counseling is what’s needed after playing. We resumed the games post-dinner in our apartment but it’s not quite the same after projecting it in a theater room.
On Sunday, Ben took care of some things around the house while I spent a little time at the National Gallery of Victoria. For the past couple months, they have been showing The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit and I’ve been wanting to go since it opened – not that anything has been preventing me aside from simple absent-mindedness. Sunday was the last day before the exhibit shipped off to Paris, so I got in right under the wire.
The exhibit was great, just crowded – serves me right for leaving it to the last minute and having to go on a Sunday. The details and materials in the clothes were stunning and everything was set up in a very interesting manner. Several of the mannequins had pre-recorded faces projected onto them which spoke or sang and admittedly were a little creepy but certainly added an interesting sensory experience.
I’m not sure how many different countries the exhibit will be touring but if you find it in your city and you are a fan of fashion and couture, I’d recommend it. It was wild seeing the garments that were worn by varying celebrities for certain iconic moments and getting a glimpse into what the creative inspirations were for them – like Madonna’s famous cone bras.