Globetrotting eZine Quiz July 2014

Test Your Globetrotting Knowledge

* What is the name of one of the most famous pubs on the Sunshine Coast
* In what country can you hang with the gorillas?

* What is the biggest desert in China?
* Where is the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes?
* Where is the famous pink sand beach Anse Source d’Argent located?

* How many wineries are in the Sunshine Coast Area of Australia?

* What is a typical dinning time for an Argentian?
* What is Chinese street is also known as ‘Snack Street’, for the tasty as well as bizarre delectable?

Posted in Africa & the Middle East, Asia, Australia & the South Pacific, Idyllic Islands, Latin America | Comments Off

Is this the year to escape the ENTIRE winter for a warmer climate?

Anyone living north of the state of Florida is only just thawing out from what experts have now pretty much agreed was the coldest winter for most North Americans in more than 35 years. What if the coming winter is just as harsh? We have come up with some viable options to ensure that instead of shoveling snow this January, you are buying sunscreen in Costco size quantities.

For the next few months we will highlight places in Goway’s Globetrotting world that we feel are well worth spending one, two or even three month in. We start with the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. The Sunshine Coast offers a laid back environment that is relaxed in atmosphere but at the same time has a vibrant feel with numerous activities to explore allowing you to be active if that is what you seek or simply relax and enjoy the sun, the surf and the sand.

Anywhere called the Sunshine Coast sounds appealing to winter weary northerners. It suggests as the name implies lots of sunshine but do the weather stats back it up? Well it would appear that they do, the average high January through March is 82.5F and average low is 70F and the relative humidity sits at about 60%. The sun rises about 5am and sets around 7pm so days are a decent length.

Now that we have established we can guarantee you will not be shoveling snow what is there to do? We have compiled a list of the top activities available within a 2 hour drive to keep you occupied .

Golf in Paradise!

Golf in Paradise!

1. Golf

If you are a golfer this is great destination as there are numerous golf courses (more than 26 within easy driving range – no pun intended…) and the green fees are quite reasonable at many of the local courses. There are even some of the top ranked courses in Australia including the Hyatt Regency Coolum where the Australia PGA championship is played and Bribie Island which is considered one of the best in Queensland. Often though it is the local lower key golf courses where most of us will find ourselves and where you will meet some of the locals. The most picturesque and one of the most popular courses on the coast is the par 72 Mount Coolum course (nestled at the foot of Mount Coolum). It is a relatively flat course and has water play on 12 holes. The club house is in an original Queenslander (type of house that is unique to the state) and has a bar as well as what the locals call pokies (slot machines). It is not uncommon to spot kangaroos on the courses!

2. Beaches

shutterstock_59113309The Sunshine Coast is known for some of the widest and most beautiful unspoiled beaches in the world. They stretch on for miles and miles (43 miles to be precise – or 70 kms) and have incredible surf! The sand is white, the water is crystal clear and warm, but not so warm that it doesn’t cool you down. In other words – perfect! There are beaches with calm waters for swimming, world class waves for surfing or watching those that can surf, beaches perfect for walking, snorkeling, scuba, sailing, fishing and of course sunsets or for the early bird sunrises. Almost all beaches have a Life Saving Club, facilities for BBQ’s and picnics, ample parking, shower and toilet facilities. A few of our staff favs are Mooloolooba, Maroochydore, Caloundra, Noosa, Coolum, Peregrian and Marcoola.

3. Bushwalking Treks and Trails

Bushwalking is the Australian word for hiking. There are 52 bushwalking treks and trails on the Sunshine Coast. A superb place to begin is the Glass House Mountains National Park, the mountains are a group of 13 volcanic peaks that dominate the landscape of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Offering bushwalks that range from easy to challenging, many ending in magnificent views. You can also join some of the official bushwalking clubs as a visitor and participate in group walks.

4. Markets

There is no better way to explore a new community than sourcing out the local markets and heading to them to buy locally grown produce, freshly baked breads and treats, gourmet cheeses as well as browse handmade crafts, see local artists and is some cases watch buskers and listen to musicians. The markets range from local farmers markets such as Caloundra Country & Farmers Market on Sundays from 7am to 12 noon to the largest market on the coast, the Eumundi market, which attracts up to 10,000 visitors from locals, to interstate to international, it runs on Saturdays from 7am to 2pm. One of our favorites is the Fisherman Road Market in Maroochydore from 6am to 12noon on Sundays because it has loads of fresh seafood. At last check we counted over 25 markets within the two hour driving range! You could stay on the coast for 3 months and still not get to all of them!

5. Wineries

shutterstock_21233458There are 10 cellars within the region and wines range from Shiraz, Chambourcin and Chardonnay through to Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. All are boutique vineyards who hand-pick their grapes and hand prune their vines. The wineries are filled with locals who are passionate about their vineyards and wine, and who want to showcase Queensland wines and offer insight into the Queensland life style. The Sunshine Coast wineries marry the enjoyment of wine and delicious food. Many of the cellars offer cheese platters, gourmet picnics and excellent dining experiences that range from verandah dining overlooking vines, to relaxing with a glass of great Queensland wine by the harbour. There are a few wine tasting tours available locally so that you don’t have to drive!

6. Pubs

Australians love their pubs, everyone has their local and the people are very friendly. We highly recommend that you simply try a variety of different ones. Having said that there are few that you might want to find your way to as they are unique to the region. One such pub is The Ettamogah. Ettamogah is the indigenous word meaning “place of a good drink” and that is exactly what you’ll get as well a very unique experience. The Ettamogah Pub is a cartoon pub created in the mind of cartoonist Ken Maynard and was featured in the now defunct Australasian Post magazine. The pub claims to be the most photographed pub in the world.

7. The Australia Zoo

shutterstock_2768148Everyone young and old will more than enjoy a visit to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. Unlike any zoo experience in the world the beloved Crocodile Hunters Zoo features an immersive hands on experience. Highly recommended is the full day guided tour and make sure to catch a crocodile show. You can cuddle a koala, hand feed a kangaroo and even walk with a tiger. Zoo staff wander the grounds with the animals as opposed to the typical zoo experience where you watch them from afar. The zoo features guests such as Jane Goodall in interactive shows. You can be a zookeeper for the day, or have a specific animal encounter (both must be prebooked).

8. Scenic Drives

There are three separate designated Scenic Drives that are each well worth an afternoon of exploring. Glass House Mountains (Tourist Drive 24), Sunshine Coast’s Coastal Strip, The Blackall Range Tourist Drive. The surrounding hinterland areas hold dense foliage, winding streams, cascading waterfalls and out-of-the-way quaint villages that showcase local art and crafts.

For more information about accommodation options and the nitty gritty of how one goes about organizing such a trip please contact one of our dedicated Downunder Experts via phone, online chat or email request. We also have an entire area of our website dedicated to long stays.

Next time we will cover the Cook Islands.

Posted in Australia & the South Pacific | 5 Comments

China – Where the Old and New Come Together

The following was written by Goway Travels Holidays of a Lifetime manager Bob Glazier.

Visiting China in the early 1980’s for the first time was an experience I will never forget. The contrasts with today are enormous as this country has made outstanding progress to catch up with rest of the world. On a recent visit to this country, my mind went back to memories from those days. Back then vehicular traffic consisted almost totally of bicycles and trucks compared to the many modern cars to be found on the roads now. The style of dress consisted of both men and women primarily wearing the very practical but drab Mao suits. Today it would be hard to differentiate between Western and Eastern fashions. Living quarters were either prefabricated dull looking apartment buildings or attractive traditional courtyard residences located in narrow alleyways. Now, in most major cities, the sky is often pierced by tall modern buildings towering above the remnants of older dwellings.

Before you come to the conclusion that the old China has disappeared from sight and progress is inevitable, let’s quickly say that many things don’t change and are preserved for posterity. The Chinese are well aware of their great heritage and have fondly preserved not just buildings but their inherent culture.

The Forbidden City, Beijing

The Forbidden City, Beijing

On Goway’s 18 Day Holiday of a Lifetime, Splendours of China, the old and the new are both front and centre. Here are some examples. In Beijing, on entering the Imperial Palace also known as the Forbidden City, you step back immediately 400 years to the time of the omnipotent ruling Emperors and see exactly how life was lived by them. Then take a stroll down one of Beijing’s main thoroughfares, Wangfujing Street with its modern shops, smart hotels and numerous restaurants and cafes (also known as ‘Snack Street’, for the tasty as well as bizarre delectables).

The city of Xian was once the ancient capital of Imperial China and its many treasures from that time are on display here including the 2000 year old Terra Cotta Warriors originally made to symbolically protect the First Emperor of United China. Contrast this with some modern gated communities one can find here.

 

The Bund at Night, Shanghai

The Bund at Night, Shanghai

Shanghai will absolutely astound you with its modern infrastructure and exciting, pulsating ambience. Yes, the city has the look of a major Western contemporary metropolis but there are still many traditional elements to be found such as the Bund on the waterfront with its early 20th Century grand architecture including the famous Peace Hotel – just step inside the door and history will “hit you in the face”.
These are just three examples of Chinese cities with fascinating differences.

However, not everything is as contrasting. On arrival in Lhasa, Tibet, you will come to a place which has not radically changed. Here it is not unusual to see ethnic Tibetans walking down the street in colourful, traditional dress. Bustling street markets, the imposing late home of the Dalai Lama, the enormous Potala Palace located high on top of a hill overlooking the city, traditional Buddhist temples and monasteries, all represent the old.

The Potala Palace at dawn, Lhasa

The Potala Palace at dawn, Lhasa

The Chinese countryside naturally doesn’t really change. The majestic beauty of the Yangtze River scenery is easily absorbed while relaxing on a modern river cruise ship. However, wait until you reach the huge hydroelectric dam towards the end of the cruise. This is a piece of modern engineering which will amaze you with its size and dimensions.

 

Suzhou, China

Suzhou, China

Suzhou is known for its serenity and this is made evident while cruising through its network of narrow, ancient canals, entering one of the traditional and beautifully laid out ornamental gardens which will once more transport you to another era and taking the opportunity to visit a silk factory where the methods of producing silk haven’t changed very much from the way it used to.

There is so much more to China where the past and the present intertwine. What hasn’t changed is the friendliness of the people, the tasty and varied cuisine and China’s pride associated with its long and eventful past. In two weeks, the experience will give you the old and the new, something to digest long after you leave China.

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Top picks for an Unforgettable Beach Holiday

What makes for not just a good beach holiday but an unforgettable beach holiday? The sand, the sea, the location, the presence of crowds for people watching or the lack of crowds for privacy, the most out there destination or a vibrant nightlife scene with world class surfing?

We have come up with some unique beach destinations that pretty much cover all of the above.

Copacabana Beach, you may have heard of it?

Copacabana Beach, you may have heard of it?

You love to people watch
If you are a people watcher then Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro is the perfect choice. Arguably the most famous beach in the world, Copacabana Beach is a 2.5 mile stretch of white sand jammed pack with Brazilians and tourists alike soaking up the sun, playing beach volleyball and living the good life. So you don’t scream tourist when you head to the beach use a sarong not a towel – lighter to carry and your wear it from your hotel to the beach and then use it as a towel. Then pick up a pair of Havaianas (Brazilian version of flip flops and worn by everyone) at one of the big department stores – there are many and they are cheaper than the boutiques on the way to the beach. If you need shade you can rent an umbrella. The beach is full of vendors who sell snacks and cold drinks, once you have your spot established these guys become your personal waiter so to speak (no credit cards, just bring a little cash in small denominations!)

Source dArgent Seychelles _118209793

Source d’Argent, Seychelles

Unique Pink Sands
For those that love a pristine beach with perfect sand then the pale pink sands of Anse Source d’Argent in the Seychelles are going to impress. The sands sparkle against a backdrop of gigantic granite boulders, worn by weather and time making for unique rock formations. The cerulean water is shallow and protected from the ocean’s waves by a reef making it perfect to stroll in the shallow waters, or wander out further to snorkel. Long considered one of the best beaches in the Seychelles making it a popular choice for both tourists and locals. Moira Smith, GM for Goway’s AFRICAExperts, has been lucky enough to visit the Seychelles 7 times. Her comment on Anse Source d’Argent…“One of my favourite things to do on La Digue is to hire a bicycle and ride to Anse Source d’Argent, then find a secluded spot and cool off in the ocean. This is truly one of the most spectacular beaches I’ve ever seen.”

Kuta at Sunset_98345630It’s not a holiday without fantastic nightlife
You like to hit the beach for great surfing (or at least watch others surf), catch a nap in the afternoon and then party till the wee hours of the dawn? Then look no further than Kuta Beach in Bali. The first time I went to Bali there were a few hotels, a handful of huts selling sarongs and bootlegged cassette tapes and a small colony of Australian surfers seeking to ride the next big wave. Now there are hotels to suite every need and budget, more shops than you can count, restaurants offering the fresh catch of the day lining the beaches, loads of surf schools and an unparalleled nightlife scene.

Le Tahaa Island

Le Tahaa Island

It’s got to be private and you love luxury
Taha’a Island in French Polynesia is private. Accessible only by helicopter or launch the Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa is one of only two hotels and has only 57 suites and villas guaranteeing both privacy and luxury. Taha’a is also known to locals as the Vanilla Island as 75% of the countries vanilla is grown here. The resort has 10 signature beach villas each allowing for private access to an idyllic white sand beach with gentle lapping turquoise sea and a view of the volcanic peak on Bora Bora. You can even split your time between an overwater bungalow with private deck and the beach villa. Each bungalow or villa is constructed so that you can’t see your neighbors for ultimate privacy.

Nosy Be, Madagascar

Nosy Be, Madagascar

Way out there – Nosy Be, Madagascar
Looking to go to a beach that none of your friends have ever heard of and visit one of the few places on earth that can boast 345 days a year of sunshine? Then Nosy Be is it (pronounced Nosy ‘Bay’). The waters are clear and warm and beaches ring the entire island. There are few resorts and to date no noisy jet skis. Although considered to be the most popular beach resort in Madagascar it certainly doesn’t attract Caribbean style crowds. There are numerous little restaurants serving up superb seafood and cold beer. A perfect end to an adventurous trip to Madagascar. “My husband is Malagasy so we often visit Madagascar to see family and enjoy the unique attractions of this special country. Nosy Be offers great snorkeling, sandy beaches and ideal conditions for swimming, I recommend a stay here wholeheartedly,” says Jervin, one of our Africa Experts.

Posted in Africa & the Middle East, Asia, Australia & the South Pacific, Idyllic Islands, Latin America, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A 3 Day Tango in Buenos Aires

You’ve got 3 days, you want to make the most of them and like all Globetrotters you want to make sure you see the “must do” attractions but you also want to explore the unique things that are not necessarily on the main tourist path. This new feature will highlight the must do’s, what to eat and drink when you’re here, and unique areas to explore.

Where to wander, what to explore?

MUST DO:

Cementerio de la Recoleta
The number one attraction in Buenos Aires is this world renowned cemetery where past presidents, military heroes, influential politicians, the rich and famous and most notably Evita Peron are all buried. This grandest of cemeteries in the world is a city of the dead with endless streets that are lined with impressive statues and marble sarcophagi. You can peek into the crypts and see dusty coffins and attempt to decipher the history and lives of the occupants. A camera is a must and there are some excellent photo ops. You most definitely want to pick up a map of the cemetery from one of the numerous touts selling them at the entrance. You can take a free tour in English if you are here at 11am on a Tuesday or Thursday.

Recoleta Cemetary Buenos Aires Argentina LATIN_151687274

Recoleta Cemetary is both stunning and interesting

A Tango Show
Not just a tourist attraction by any means. Argentinians are almost as passionate for the Tango as they are for football (otherwise known as soccer). A Tango show is a must for every first time visitor. We work with a few, but the shows themselves can vary from street performances to multiple act theatre performances. There are a few great Art Deco theatres, and with dinner and wine included, the shows are actually a fun night out in BA.

Museo Nacional de Belles Artes
Argentina’s most impressive and most important arts museum is the Museo Nacional de Belle Artes or the National Art Museum. Housing numerous key works by native Argentinians Xul Solar, Benito Quinquela Martín, and Edwardo Sívori. There also have an impressive collection of international works by European masters such as Cézanne, Degas, Picasso, Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. The pieces are well displayed in a building that was once a pump house for the city waterworks and was designed by Julio Dormala before being modified by famed architect Alejandro Bustillo who is famous for designs the civic centre in Bariloche. The museum also houses a cinema, a concert venue and classes. As best with any museum it is always recommended to invest a few extra $$$ and take a tour. You are guaranteed to learn so much more. There are English speaking tours available.

Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo
Anchored by the impressive Banco de la Nacion, built in 1939 another work by Alejandro Bustillo to the North and the city’s main cathedral is the Plaza de Mayo. Teeming with tourists all snapping pics of the Piramide de Mayo, a white obelisk that marks the anniversary of Buenos Aires independence from Spain. The Plaza is where all protests start and the locals certainly love to protest (peacefully).
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The Unique, the unusual and the unexpected
What makes travelling best is wandering away from the must sees and simply immersing yourself into what the locals do every day. We recommend that everyone leaves one day entirely free of preset plans.

Ride The Subte
The subte (subway) is an inexpensive and easy way to move around Buenos Aires, not to mention fast as anyone who has tried to drive around can quickly attest to. Few tourists realize that Line A was built in 1913, is the oldest subway in South America and is an attraction in itself. You can ride original cars with wooden benches and panels, and a conductor who opens and closes and manual doors. If you’re in BA on a Sunday you can ride the Line A to Almagro a Barrio famous for its book fair.

Gauchos Buenos aires LATIN argentina_90445333Meet Gauchos at the Fería De Mataderos
For those that are not going to have a chance to see Gauchos in the countryside there is indeed the possibility of meeting them in BA. Every Sunday in the winter (June to September) from 11am to 8pm and on Saturday nights in the summer one can head to the Feria De Mataderos where gauchos of all ages gallop past crowds of locals at ferocious speeds to compete in traditional contests. Colorfully dressed dancers perform country dances known as chacareras to lively folk music and local women serve up locro, a traditional and delicious meat stew as well as the must try homemade empanadas with a wide range of fillings. If BBQ is more your style then you’ll be in heaven as you catch a waft of beef and sausage slowly cooking and permeating the air in a smoky haze. To round out the experience take a stroll past the 100 or so stalls selling everything from jars of dulce de leche (famous caramel crème sauce) to metalwork and handicrafts.

Barrios
A barrio is a neighborhood and BA is made up of numerous diverse barrio that are well worth the visit. Each barrio has its own unique atmosphere and is best explored on foot with plenty of time to wander through boutiques and sip coffee or wine at sidewalk cafes. There are super cool cafes and small boutiques selling trendy clothing that you won’t find at home in the Palermo Soho. Old colonial buildings line the cobbled streets of San Telmo, in Abasto houses are decorated with lyrics and portraits of tango maestro Carlos Gardel (a testament to how passionate the nation is to tango). A visit to at least a couple of barrios away from the crowded city centre is necessary to understand the heart and soul of this city full of music, art, food and a bit of chaos.

What to eat and drink, and some suggestions as to where to find it:
Well what to eat is easy: steak! And to wash it down? A large silky glass of Malbec. Vegetarians don’t despair, there is a small but growing vegetarian restaurant scene in BA. The Argentines do not even consider eating before 9pm. As a result you will not find much trouble with crowds if you stick to the typical 7pm North American meal time. BUT if you want to experience the real atmosphere of a parrilla (steakhouse) then you must do as the locals and dine later.

Argentine Traditional Asado or Parilla

Argentine Traditional Asado or Parilla

Dining
Don Julio, Palermo
There’s a ton of restaurants that vie for the title of best parrilla in town, and this one is consistently at the top of the list. By striking an excellent balance between the indulgent and traditional. The dining room looks right into an open kitchen and the waiters will give you a full run down on all the cuts of meat, how they are prepared and suggest what you might like. You won’t be disappointed and the place smells heavenly. Argentinians eat the entire cow so you can get anything from sirloin and tenderloin to sweetbreads (a local fav and delicacy) to chitterlings (intestines…and not for everyone!). Of course it goes without saying that there are copious amounts of red wine available to wash it all down with. At the end the staff hand you your wine bottles to write messages on – fun to read and of course lots of celebs have dined here.

El Cuartito, Recoleta
There are ample pizzerias in BA and there is no doubt that after steak pizza is a favorite of locals and the El Cuaritto in Recoleta is one of the best. Established in 1934, this classic is dressed up like an Argentinian-themed diner (white-and-celeste flags, football memorabilia, photos of old tango crooners). There is no thin crust pizza here, expect thick bases, loads of gooey mozzarella and only a touch of tomato. The cost is dirt cheap and it is very casual but well worth the effort.

Take a break from steak
Buenos Aires is famous for its high quality, affordable steaks but after a while all that meat gets a bit much. Luckily there are some excellent, healthier alternatives including delicious Armenian mezze at Sarkis restaurant – we loved the flavour-packed dishes including mashed red peppers with walnuts, grilled aubergine in herbs, and feta cheese with olives.
There’s also a growing vegetarian restaurant scene where you can sample pear, goats cheese and rocket bruschetta at Artemisia and inventive dishes like mushroom and sundried tomato ceviche at Kensho.

Posted in Latin America | Leave a comment

7 phenomenal Virgin Australia packages extended for another month!

In conjunction with Virgin Australia we have created the best introductory air, hotel and sightseeing packages combining the iconic highlights of Australia with exclusive deals on award winning Virgin Australia.

To help you choose which one is best for you our Sales Manager Carolyn Weppler has added her own spin.

134 Metres above the road on the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

134 Metres above the road on the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Cosmopolitan Australia
This is the package for you if you love city life, exploring neighbourhoods, galleries, and markets on foot and soaking in the local culture by watching world go by while you sip on a coffee or a glass of wine on a patio. It features 4 nights in Sydney and 4 nights in Melbourne. We have made it as flexible as possible if you like to be completely spontaneous and loath the thought of pre-planning but at the same time offered mini packages with sightseeing and transfers to add if prefer to know what you’re doing before you go so as not to waste time. My personal recommendation and a must is to pre-book is a Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, there is no better view and the experience is exhilarating!

We start with an 11 day Cosmopolitan Australia package at $1999 that takes you to both Sydney and Melbourne for 4 nights each including roundtrip airfare on Virgin Australia from Los Angeles, all accommodation and all taxes/fees. Special add on available.

 

A turtle at the Great Barrier Reef

A turtle at the Great Barrier Reef

Australian City and Reef
This is the perfect package for the person who wants to combine all the culture and exploring you can do in a city with fun in the sea and sun. With 4 nights in Sydney to explore and then 4 nights in tropical Cairns to soak up the sun and add the options of a day trip to the Barrier Reef, a trip up to Kuranda on the train or a visit to Daintree Rainforest. You can either play it by ear or add one of our prepackaged sightseeing options (highly recommended for Cairns as there is tons to fit in and things can be busy!).

We start with an 11 day Australian City and Reef package at $1999 that takes you to both Sydney and Cairns for 4 nights each, including roundtrip airfare on Virgin Australia from Los Angeles, all accommodation and all taxes/fees.

 

Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) is not only in the heart of the Australian outback, but at the heart of Australia's aboriginal culture.

Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) is not only in the heart of the Australian outback, but at the heart of Australia’s aboriginal culture.

Australian Culture
This is the package for you if your trip to Australia is not complete without a visit to Uluru, a.k.a Ayers Rock! Building on the City and Reef package we have included 2 nights in the spectacular red centre in Uluru to visit the worlds largest monolith Ayers Rock. Designed to have you first explore beach-city life with 4 nights in Sydney, then experience the outback at ‘the rock’ and wrap up your trip with fun in the sun and sea with 4 nights in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. We have created a multitude of available sightseeing packages for you to add on or simply buy the bare bones! What I do suggest as a luxurious infulgence is to experience the Sounds of Silence dinner at Uluru! Well worth the splurge.

On this one we start with a 13 day Australian Culture package at $2699 that takes you to Sydney, Ayers and Cairns for a total of 10 nights, including roundtrip airfare on Virgin from Los Angeles, all accommodation and all taxes/fees.

 

The Spectacular Great Ocean Road

The Spectacular Great Ocean Road

Australian Icons
If you have a little extra time to spare and your all about culture but still want a little bit of sun and fun this is the perfect options. We have 4 nights in each of Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne in this package. If you’re a wine buff you can also slip out of Sydney to the Hunter Valley or Melbourne to the Yarra Valley. Plus don’t forget the options of the Blue Mountains or the Great Ocean Road. I really like this option for an action packaged vacation that takes in 3 uniquely different states. Plus this trip is great value for your vacation dollar.

The Australian Icons package starts at $2299 and includes 4 nights in each of Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne, it includes roundtrip airfare on Virgin from Los Angeles, all accommodation all taxes/fees.

 

Private picnic near Whitehaven Beach

Private picnic near Whitehaven Beach

Best of Queensland
The 11 day best of Queensland is for those looking for a great beach vacation with a little bit of an Aussie Animal experience. This trip includes tons, 4 nights at Hamilton Island with breakfast, add to that a full day barrier reef package with lunch, a trip to one of the worlds most beautiful beaches – Whitehaven Beach, plus 3 nights in Brisbane, a full day tour to the Australia Zoo AND a day with the Dolphins…it just doesn’t get any better.

The Best of Queensland packages starts at $2899 and includes, 4 nights in Hamilton Island with breakfast, full day Great Barrier Reef tour, ½ day White Haven Beach tour, 3 nights in Brisbane, Australia Zoo day tour and Dolphin adventure, all accommodation, roundtrip airfare with Virgin from Los Angeles and all taxes/fees.

We can customize any of the packages to add more days, more destinations and any sightseeing you can possibly think of. We have a team of experts to help you plan, give advice and make suggestions to best suite your own personal travel style, timing and budget. All of our DOWNUNDER team have travelled to Australia and are passionate about the destination.

Virgin Australia logo

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Ten things to do in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal is a fascinating mix of east and west. The combination of our colonial, Zulu and Indian histories has created a rich tapestry of cuisine, culture and lifestyle. The province is blessed with abundant natural beauty and temperate weather all year round, making it an essential stop on any visitor’s itinerary. Here are 10 “must do’s” to add to your list when you plan your next visit to Durban.

 

Oyster Box Hotel

Oyster Box Hotel

1. DRINK AN UMHLANGA SCHLING COCKTAIL, accompanied by a platter of fresh oysters from The Oyster Box’s own oyster beds, in the Lighthouse Bar

Durban Dawn Surfer

Durban Dawn Surfer

2. SURFING AND SURFING LESSONS ON DURBAN’S GOLDEN MILE
Famous on the ASP circuit for its waves, warm water, protected golden beaches…and pretty girls, the Durban coast is the perfect place for learning to surf. For novices a spot of body-boarding in the shore-break is a good starting point and for the more adventurous a paddle out to the back-line on a surf-board will get the adrenaline pumping.

A Microlight over the Eastern Seaboard, South Africa

A Microlight over the Eastern Seaboard, South Africa

3. MICROLIGHT FLIGHT UP THE EASTERN SEABOARD
See the KwaZulu-Natal coastline from Ballito is unspoilt with spectacular views of white beaches and azure ocean; its quite likely that you’ll see schools of dolphins as you make your way up the coast.

Black Tip Sharks at Aliwol Shoal, South Africa

Black Tip Sharks at Aliwol Shoal, South Africa

4. ALIWAL SHOAL
This has become internationally recognised as one of the top ten dive sites in the World. A huge array of fish species as well as rays,turtles, sharks and manta’s occupy the shoal, and schools of dolphins and pods of whales are frequent visitors. Today, scuba divers flock to the shoal in search of adventure.

Hartford House Stud Farm, South Africa

Hartford House and Summerhill Stud Farm, South Africa

5. VISIT TO SUMMERHILL STUD FARM WITH LUNCH AT HARTFORD HOUSE
The historic Summerhill Stud, which has been producing world-class race horses since the 1930s is renowned for its exceptional facilities, it is considered one of the finest stock raising environs in the world. Today, this farm is home to Africa’s most formidable band of young sire talent and includes among its stallion owners, the leading studs in Australia, Japan, the United States, Dubai and South Africa. Following the stud tour, dine in one of the country’s most popular award-winning restaurants, Hartford House, overseen by the executive chef, Jackie Cameron.

Bunny Chow with Lamb Curry

Bunny Chow with Lamb Curry

6. BUNNY CHOW
A snack rich in flavour and colonial history! “Invented” and made famous by the Indian immigrants working in the sugar-cane fields in colonial times, this is Durban’s street food at its finest. Half a loaf of fresh white bread hollowed out and filled with a selection of curried fillings from beans and chicken, to mutton and beef.

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Wildlife Reserve

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Wildlife Reserve

7. FULL DAY IN THE HLUHLUWE UMFOLOZI PARK

Take a game-drive through the oldest game reserve in Africa and one of KZN’s Big 5 protected areas OR stay at a Private Game Lodge for an exclusive accommodation and game-viewing experience.

8. VISIT THE OLD SPICE EMPORIUM

Take in the fragrant aromas of cumin and coriander together with the opulent colours of tumeric and chilli spices at one of the oldest and largest stockists of spices. Learn how to cook a delicious curry and buy wonderful spices to take home.

Isandlwana, South Africa

Isandlwana, South Africa

9. THE BATTLEFIELDS

Soak up KwaZulu-Natal’s historical past with a visit to the sites of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, where British and Zulu forces clashed in bloody conflicts that shaped the course of South Africa and rocked the pedestal of the British Empire. This region boasts the largest concentration of battlefields in the southern hemisphere, where over a period of some 70 years, one historical drama after another unfolded against the backdrop of the African veld, sweeping grasslands and the majestic mountains of the Drakensberg range. The internationally renowned Battlefields route draws visitors from around the world. Every town, historical building, battle site and memorial has a fascinating tale to tell.

A waterfall in Drakensberg Region

A waterfall in Drakensberg Region

10. THE DRAKENSBERG

Visit one of South Africa’s World Heritage Sites, as you explore the mountains, caves, fauna and flora of this unique mountain area. En route, stop for a break at the highest bar in Africa (2874m above sea-level) at the top of the Sani Pass, on the border between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

Posted in Africa & the Middle East | 2 Comments

Getting the Most from Your Gold Coast Holiday – An Escape Winter Idea

The Gold Coast, Image Courtesy of Queensland Tourism

The Gold Coast, Image Courtesy of Queensland Tourism

From beaches to boutique wineries, discover why the Gold Coast is Australia’s favourite family getaway.

The Gold Coast is a strange entity among Australian cities. At times, it can feel more like a fusion of Miami and Orlando than the land Downunder. Certainly the miles (Ahem, kilometres!) of sparkling white sand beach live up to that image, as do the many inlets, canals and waterways tucked beyond the esplanades. The area is also Australia’s theme park capital, and a day out at any of the big five parks is a guaranteed kid pleaser – yes, big kids too.

Surfer Gold Coast Australia_198636119Yet coming face to furry face with a koala, kangaroo or possum, either in the wild or at one of the Gold Coast’s numerous wildlife sanctuaries offers a gentle reminder of the vast ocean between you and home. Southeast Queensland is an often unsung opportunity to taste the everyday side of Australia. While the big ticket attractions may lure the crowds, an unforgettable wildlife or nature encounter is never more than a short drive away.

The Gold Coast is in fact a network of towns, spread between the Pacific and some of Australia’s most beautiful hinterland (for which, yes, you’ll want a hire car). The region’s main treasures are its beaches, and it’s possible to spend a full week lazing on different sands each day. But it’s just as easy to explore the surrounding national parks, including Lamington, Springbrook, and Mount Tamborine. The latter also nurtures much of the Gold Coast’s boutique wine industry. Skipped by many international foodies on their way to the Barossa in South Australia or Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Mount Tamborine offers a more relaxed day as you tour the local wineries, many of which are still family owned and run.

Very little of the culture on the Coast has evolved organically. This is a dedicated tourist town, and a little research will help you sort the cash traps from the many worthwhile spots. With only 2-4 days here, your trip is probably best focused on the beach. Retail areas line the various esplanades, so a short shopping break or relaxed lunch is always close by. With at least 3 days here, be sure to devote one to a national park or Mount Tambourine.

Gold Coast Broadwater Brisbane Australia_142759552Week-long getaways are common, particularly for Australian families who tend to be drawn to Surfers Paradise, the Coast’s tourist hub. These trips usually include at least one theme park and for interstate (or international) visitors, perhaps a drive up to one or more attractions in suburban Brisbane or on the Sunshine Coast. Allow a full day for this, since the Sunshine Coast is a 2.5 hour drive each way. Surfers Paradise is located in the heart of the Coast’s shopping and entertainment district, making it and the neighbouring towns an ideal choice for either families or couples on short getaways.

The quieter stretches of the Coast are better suited to longer, more relaxed stays. Burleigh Heads is a popular choice for visitors preferring a slower pace, but for a genuine, classic Gold Coast feel, Coolangatta offers guests a pleasant surprise. With barely over 5,000 residents, this north-facing beach town is located literally at the southern tip of Queensland’s coast. It’s also a stone’s throw from Gold Coast Airport, but don’t expect to hear any flyover noise. This is as tranquil as a developed area of the Coast gets, particularly when enjoyed from your own apartment at one of the nearby resorts. Unlike Surfers Paradise, resorts in this town have sprung up without overwhelming the local character, offering superb ocean views while still feeling a world away from guests’ cares. They’re usually much more affordable too.

Outrigger Twin Towns Resort is one of our favourites, and is perfect for a longer stay. Overlooking a small boat harbour, Outrigger is just two minutes’ walk from Coolangatta’s main beach, offering you the best of beach culture through the eyes of a local. In case you were wondering, Twin Towns refers to the Resort’s unique location, right on the Queensland/New South Wales border, where it neighbours the New South Wales town of Tweed Heads (pop. 7,500). Just outside the Resort, you’ll find a monument marking the border, where countless visitors have taken photos with a foot in each state (or a hand… handstands have been done!).

Named for a schooner wrecked here in 1846, Aussie film buffs might recognise Coolangatta as ‘Porpoise Spit’ from the 1994 film Muriel’s Wedding. It’s within easy reach of the rest of the Gold Coast, with Surfers Paradise a 40 minute drive away. You’re also within an hour of the lesser known, mostly natural attractions of New South Wales’ Northern Rivers region. These include Mount Warning National Park and Byron Bay, mainland Australia’s most easterly point. Byron is a popular trip with locals, and is well worth a day trip, particularly during a longer stay. With Coolangatta’s relaxed pace of life, it’s hard not to start feeling like a local after a week or two.

The Gold Coast is fast emerging as a popular choice for snowbirds eager for a Southern Hemisphere summer during the cold northern months. Self-contained apartments ensure privacy and independence, with the flexibility to do as much or as little as you’d like during your stay.

Posted in Australia & the South Pacific | Leave a comment

‘Best Job in the World’ Winner Wraps up 6 Incredible Months

GregSnell_koalaWhen Tourism Australia first launched their ‘Best Job in the World‘ campaign, a young Canadian called Greg Snell won as South Australia’s ( a state in Australia containing Adelaide and Kangaroo Island) Wildlife Caretaker. We’ve been following him closely across social networks, and he’s produced SO much interesting content, it’s surprising to us that it has only been 6 months since this all began. We’ve greatly enjoyed Greg’s videos, stories, photo’s and tales, and are so happy he’s done so well in promoting a region of Australia which deserves even more attention. We’re sad to see Greg go, but perhaps not as sad as HE is.

Here’s a compilation of his experiences over 182.5 days! Below that we’ve included a little bio on him, and a blurb he uses to describe himself. Goodluck in your future travels Greg!

GregSnell_headshot“I am traveler who lives for the moment and dreams of the future, one who relishes in the experience. I smile and laugh, cry and bleed. The greatest parts of life are the people you meet, the places you see, and the friendships you create. The world is in constant motion, and I will never get caught standing still. I was raised to take full advantage of every opportunity that crosses my path. I love life, and live in a way that embraces patience, compromise, and acceptance of another’s culture, habits, needs, and addictions.”

Greg Snell is from Oshawa, ON, Canada and has lived in Golden, BC, Toronto, Argentina, Zanzibar (Tanzania), Ecuador, Aruba, and Costa Rica. Snell is an honors graduate of the Adventure Tourism Business Operations program at the College of the Rockies in Golden. He is a PADI certified Dive Master and has over 350 professional dives in most major bodies of water. Snell is an Adventure Tour Guide and born explorer, and has travelled to 37 countries and 6 continents. And above all, he is an avid supporter of sustainable tourism development, environmental stewardship, ecosystem and habitat conservation, and outdoor education.

Travel Ideas and Info:

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Great Globetrotting Movies: Million Dollar Arm

A Must See!

Million_Dollar_Arm_posterThis movie is based on a true story, takes you to real India with the craziness of the sounds and sites of the subcontinent to the dramatic Indian contests. Starring Aasif Mandvi, Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton, Jon Hamm, Lake Bell, Madhur Mittal, Pitobash and Suraj Sharma, this feel good movie is an inspiring way to look at India and life within it.

In a last attempt to save his company, JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) concocts a plan to travel to India to find the next great baseball pitcher for the US major leagues. Hoping to find a cricket player with an arm for baseball, he holds a contest in India called “Million Dollar Arm” and the top two winners will travel back to the US to train for a chance to try out for the major league ball teams. With the help of retired baseball scout (Alan Arkin), the only scout that would make the journey to India, he discovers Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) who not only have no knowledge of baseball, but also are not cricket players. As JB was so out of his element in India, these two boys, who have never been out of their rural village life, are definitely out of their element in America. As the boys learn the game of baseball, JB learns life lessons in regards to teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.

This is a simple story of being out of your comfort zone that so much of the world lives in through unique life opportunities. Travel is very much like this as we experience new worlds and meeting new people where communication often comes down to a simple game of charades in order to find your way to the bathroom or order a beer. This movie showcases India as it is, with the crazy fast paced life of Mumbai to rural village life were the family unit is the core to survival. The story travels inland to Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, Agra home to the Taj Mahal, and Mumbai the home of Bollywood.

On a personal level, I felt so many emotions from seeing some of the places in India I had just visited and relating to that feeling of being out of my own comfort zone. I could completely relate to the young men of the movie and how they felt trying to figure out how to live in my world. I was amazed when the movie was over that no one jumped up to leave. Everyone sat and watched the credits roll almost as if they were willing the movie to continue on.

Goway offers great travel ideas to India that highlights some of the places seen in this movie like Agra home to the famous Taj Mahal.

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