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Australia By Campervan: Five Handy Tips

New Mexico Road Trip

Australia is a paradise for camping fans – no matter if you’re doing it the old-fashioned way by pitching a tent every night or the more common way with a camper van, there’s no better way to explore Australia than by hitting the road and pitching your tent or parking your campervan in one of the National Parks, camping gives you a much greater freedom when traveling around this vast continent. There are so many incredible places in Australia, you could easily spend a year driving around the country taking in its natural beauty and vibrant cities, checking bucket list places like the Great Ocean Road, Sydney, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Australia off your bucket list. The more time you have, the better, but even a few short weeks will allow you to hit up the best camping spots in Australia.Couple holidaying in Purnululu, outback AustraliaTo guarantee your camping trip goes smooth, we compiled the top five things to know before you go on a camping trip in Australia:

1 Find the right vehicle

This is especially important for those looking to buy or rent a campervan, and even more so if you are planning an extended trip and will be traveling with your vehicle for a while. Most travelers opt for a used vehicle and then sell it again at the end of their trip. If you decide to buy a vehicle, I highly recommend this detailed guide on buying a campervan in Australia by Anna of Global Gallivanting. It has all the information you need on how to find a campervan, what to consider when buying one, everything you need to know about paperwork, registration and insurance, how to sell it afterwards, and much more.The Barn at The PinnaclesOnce you’ve bought the vehicle, give yourself a few days to familiarize yourself with the vehicle before setting off on your road trip. Make sure that the car is in great shape, that things like oil and windshield cleaner water are filled up. Purchase a couple of extra bottles each in case you run out in the Outback, where gas station charge more for these items than shops in big cities.

2 Have appropriate equipment and food provisions

Depending on the nature of your trip (camper van vs car & tent) it is absolutely essential to plan your trip in detail – what kind of equipment do you need? How much food do you need to travel with? If you’re visiting remote areas such as the Outback it is necessary to pack enough food to last you for a few days, and it is best to purchase all the essential items (things like spices, tea, instant coffee, oatmeal, pasta, etc) you’ll want for your trip before you hit the road.20120917_18_HondaAs for camping equipment, make a list of everything you need and go on a shopping spree. If you don’t want to buy new gear, check out websites like Gumtree for used gear. Depending on if you are traveling with a tent or campervan your needs for equipment will vary, but there are a few things you’ll need either way, for example a first aid kit, bug & fly repellent, sleeping bags (or sheets), lights (solar lights are great), dishes and cookware. To save money when buying your essential equipment, head to Dollar Sense, a popular Australian discount store.

If you’re traveling with a car and a tent, do a test run and set up your tent before leaving on your trip. Even better: testing it before you buy it – go inside, lay down, see how big it really is and if it’s comfortable for you and your travel companion(s) – remember that you’ll have to spend the next few weeks or even months in it.Stockton, Australia

3 Map out your daily drives

I know that it is tempting to simply head out and hit the road, but since much of Australia is sparsely populated and distances are greater than most people anticipate, it is important to map out your route before starting your trip. Mark things like supermarkets, gas stations and camp grounds on your map – you might drive by one and then realize hours later that you should have stopped there. Not being prepared can result in some frustrating situations. Make also sure to add some extra time to GoogleMaps’ (or whatever route planner you’re using) estimated duration of the trip. It’ll definitely take you longer, since you’ll be stopping along the way for photo ops and maybe even short hikes. Plan your daily drives realistically – don’t try to fit in too much, or you’ll tire out quickly.

I’d suggest investing in a travel guide, such as Lonely Planet (which has suggested itineraries and detailed maps) or The Ultimate Australia Travel Guide By A Traveler For A Traveler: The Best Travel Tips; Where To Go, What To See And Much More or at least a good map of Australia, like National Geographic’s Australia Adventure Map. That way you can visualize your trip better and you’ll get a ton of practical information as well as details about the National Parks you’re visiting and sights you are passing.More ParadiseAlso download some useful travel apps, such as Wikicamps, the largest and most up-to-date database of campgrounds, caravan parks, backpacker hostels, day use area and points of interest. The Free Wi-fi finder app is also useful for campers to help you plan your next stops and to avoid paying for wi-fi.

4 Set a realistic budget

Traveling in Australia isn’t cheap, but there are plenty of ways to save money. Investing in a Lonely Planet will help you find out about all the costs you’ll have on your trip, from national park admission to campsites to sights. Being able to calculate your daily costs is key to make sure you don’t run out of money before the end of your trip. Traveling by camper van around Australia is actually the cheapest way to see the country!

Research ways to save money during your trip – shopping at discount grocery Aldi is a good start, for example, or using apps, as I’ve already said in #3. There are also some apps that help you save money, like The Happiest Hour app to find drink, food and cocktail specials in your current location or Fuel Map Australia, a crowd-sourced fuel station & fuel price finder, to find cheap gas.Outback selfie (Oodnadatta Track, South Australia)

5 Be flexible with your itinerary

Once you hit the road, you’ll quickly notice that it’s not easy to stick to your original itinerary. You’ll want to spend an additional day in some of the national parks, you’ll want to take a rest day, some of your activities might get rained out. It is nearly impossible to stick to your plan – but don’t stress out over it, let the road lead the way for you. And if you meet other travelers who suggest places to visit that are not on your itinerary – if they sound good to you, you should visit them. Personal recommendations are often the best ones, especially those from locals.Kata Juta Panorama

Photo credit: All images used under Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Purnululu by Roderick Eime; (2) Campervan in The Pinnacles by Tony Spencer; (3) Camping in Australia by David Clarke; (4) Stockton, Australia by anonphotography.com; (5) Australia by Curtis Foreman; Outback by krheesy; (6) Kata Juta by Georgie Sharp.

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Five Awesome Things To Do In Melbourne Experiences This Summer

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Not only is Melbourne regularly voted one of the most livable cities in the world, but it is also famous for its edgy vibe, for its exquisite coffee scene, its sophisticated dining, and prime location in Port Philipp Bay. Add to that the fact that there are plenty of cheap hotels in Melbourne and a few days in Melbourne can easily be the highlight of your trip to Australia! If you are visiting Melbourne this summer, make sure to look beyond the typical sights, and take in some its hidden gems. To help you get started, we picked five memorable Melbourne experience for you to include into your Melbourne itinerary:

Melbourne City Australia

Venture into the drain tunnels

Did you know Melbourne had a subterranean city? There are over 900 miles (1,500 kilometers) of storm drain tunnels, constructed by ANZAC (the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and discovered by chance by some civilian dwellers in 1986 who now call themselves ‘Cave Clan’ and hold regular meetings in the underground tunnels.

These drain tunnels are the perfect playground for urban adventurers – just be aware that not all of them are safe. If you’d like to peek inside one of the many drain tunnels, check out this article by Atlas Obscura which has a great overview over the main tunnels that can be visited. This is a fascinating side of Melbourne not many visitors get to see!

Train Tunnel at Brighton

Explore the hidden laneways

I am sure most of you have heard of Hosier Lane, Melbourne’s famous graffiti alleyway, covered in street art, but did you know there’s an entire network of hidden laneways (also known as arcade ways)? Hosier Lane is a must for anyone who loves street art, but make sure to also check out a couple of the less colorful alleyways.

A must for coffee lovers is Degraves Street (located across the road from Flinders Street Station) which is home to some of Melbourne’s best coffee shops, and cocktail lovers need to add Croft Alley to their places to visit in Melbourne, because it is here where you find The Croft Institute, a semi-hidden bar that is housed in a school science lab-themed space in Chinatown and offers some of the most innovative cocktails in the city.

Foodies will love Hardware Lane with its amazing eateries and bars in a remarkable setting (beneath the facades of 1900s warehouses) and hard rock fans must visit AC/DC Lane, which is where they filmed their classic 1976 music video ‘It’s a long way to the top (If you wanna rock’n’roll), and where you now find the famous live music venue Cherry.

No matter which laneways you decide to check out, they are all unique in their own way and boast urban art, al fresco dining and independent shops. Here’s a superb self-guided walking tour through the laneways which you can print out or save on your smartphone: Melbourne Arcadeways Walk

Melbourne laneway

Go on a self-guided coffee walk

Another fabulous self-guided walking tour is a Melbourne coffee walk. That way, you don’t only get to stroll around the city, but you also get a taste of what Melbourne knows how to make best: coffee. No matter if you’re a coffee-holic or simply enjoy a good cup of coffee every now and again, you have to stop by one of the city’s world famous coffee shops – Melbournians take pride in their sophisticated coffee culture and Melbourne baristas regularly win prizes at the big coffee making and latte art competitions around the globe. There are literally hundreds of good coffee shops in Melbourne, but some truly stand out.manila tobys estate flat white philippinesTo combine a nice walk with outstanding coffee, mark the following coffee shops on GoogleMaps and go on a self-guided coffee walk:

  • Heartattack and Vine
  • Market Lane
  • Brother Baba Buda
  • Patricia
  • Little Bean Blue
  • Ponyfish Island
  • Chez Dre

melbourne-coffee-walkThis walk takes around two hours – plan in around 3.5 hours for the entire walk including coffee stops, and maybe a little longer if you want to linger for a while at Ponyfish Island (they do not only have coffee but also great drinks).

For a shorter coffee walk, start at Brother Baba Buda instead of Heartattack and Vine – that one is just over 3 miles (5km), around 70 minutes walking time.

Enjoy a movie on a rooftop

Melbourne’s rooftop cinema is hugely popular with the locals, but not many tourists make their way up on the rooftop of Curtin House (252 Swanston Street, between Lonsdale and Little Bourke Streets) to enjoy the screening of a classic, such as Stand By Me or Casablanca, an art house or a recent blockbuster in a stunning location in the middle of the city. The setting is fabulous – deckchairs to lounge in, Melbourne’s skyline as a picturesque backdrop, and cocktails and fast food enjoy at the rooftop bar. This is a movie experience you won’t forget anytime soon – you can check out their program here.Melbourne Skyline.If you are traveling around Victoria by car, you might want to check out Melbourne’s first rooftop drive-in cinema, which just opened. It fits 65 vehicles and sits atop the atop the Harbour Town precinct (90 Waterfront Way, Docklands) and offers fantastic panorama views over Melbourne’s skyline. It is one of a very small number of drive-in cinemas in Australia, making it an especially unique experience.

See Melbourne from above

And last but not least: get a bird’s eye view of Melbourne. The tallest building in the city is the 88-floor tall Eureka Tower, which is home to the highest observation deck, Eureka Skydeck 88, the highest public vantage point in the entire Southern Hemisphere, by the way! If you’re brave enough, you can step out on ‘The Edge’, a switchable glass cube which slides out from the building, with you inside.DSC00769Another fantastic place to see Melbourne from above is the observation deck of the Rialto Towers. These adjoined skyscrapers are Melbourne’s second highest buildings, with the higher one standing 830 feet (253 meters) tall. The top floor is occupied by the fine dining restaurant Vue De Monde – a gorgeous setting for a dinner to celebrate a special occasion.

Photo credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons License. (1) Melbourne by Lenny K photography; (2) Train Tunnel by Drew Douglas, (3) Laneways by eLjeProks; (4) Melbourne Skyline by Daniel Sallai;  Eureka Tower by Jan Mark Holzer
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Seven Day Trips From Brisbane For Beach Lovers

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Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, is often called Australia’s most underrated city. With a fantastic art scene, more coffee shops and restaurants you could possibly try, vibrant nightlife and plenty of outdoorsy activities on and along the river (cycling, kayaking, running, swimming…). Brisbane deserves a few days of exploration, if not even longer. And not just the city itself is worth spending some time in, but also the area around Brisbane. There are beaches and isles, wildlife, national parks for hiking, mountains to climb and the fabulous Granite Belt Wine region. My recommendation would be basing yourself in the city, rent serviced apartments in Brisbane for example, and use it as a jump-off point to explore Southern Queensland and nearby Northern New South Wales.

There is a plethora of things to do around Brisbane, from stunning sights such as the Glow Worm Caves at Tamborine Mountain or the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is a must-visit for animal lovers, pristine beaches and small country towns. Thanks to its perfect location between the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, there are plenty of awesome places for beach and water fanatics just a short drive away. We have compiled the seven best day trips from Brisbane for beach lovers:

1 Coochiemudlo Island

Coochiemudlo Island is the perfect place to spend a relaxing day – a short ferry ride from Victoria Point, it brings you to a completely different world in only ten minutes! There’s not much to do on the island itself, but that’s the draw of it – it is a place to get away from it all. Pack sunscreen, a picnic and a book and enjoy the tranquil beaches of this tiny island. The return ticket for the ferry is only AU$8.

no mud at coochiemudlo

2 Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is known for its beautiful beaches and especially popular with surfers. Burleigh Heads is known to have one of the best beaches on the Gold Coast, and Mermaid Beach has several trendy cafes that are worth a visit. It only takes about an hour to get there from Brisbane, and you have plenty of beaches to choose from. If you want to get a view over the entire Gold Coast and its gorgeous beaches, head to the Q1 Tower in Surfers Paradise, the highest building in all of Queensland. The views from the Observation Deck (AU$22) are stunning!

The Gold Coast, Australia

3 Sandgate

Sandgate is a 19th century seaside village that feels like not much has changed here over the past two hundred years, and that’s exactly what makes it so charming. It’s easy to get to from Brisbane, connected to the city via the Queensland Rail City network. There are plenty of cute little cafés along the seafront promenade which invite to while away an afternoon.

Shorncliffe Jetty

4 North Stradbroke Island

North Stradbroke Island is one of the most popular   destination for Brisbanites and rightly so – home to the world’s second largest sand island (the largest one is in Fraser Island further up the coast) it has five fantastic beaches and is only a short 20-minute ferry ride from Brisbane.

North Stradbroke Island

5 Moreton Island

Speaking of sand islands – Moreton Island is another incredibly beautiful sand island (the 3rd largest in the world) and is an easy ferry ride from Pinkenba. Only 75 minutes from Brisbane, and you’ll feel like you’ve landed in a tropical paradise with picture-perfect beaches and tall sand dunes. You can feed wild dolphins here and dive among ship wrecks, and if you want to see more of the island, rent a quad to or kayak through the island’s lagoons.

tingalooma wrecks, sunset

6 Bribie Island

Bribie Island north of Brisbane belongs to the sand islands that line the coast near Brisbane (Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island are the other two). It is connected to a mainland by a bridge, making it super easy to get there by car (it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes). Most of the island is uninhabited national park, and In addition to relaxing on the beach, you can go on a fishing trip, or tour the National Park to spot some of Australia’s amazing wildlife such as kangaroos, kookaburras and goannas.

sunset bribie island (19)

7 Sunshine Coast

A visit to the Sunshine Coast is something you can’t miss if you’re in Brisbane in the summer. Noosa is a favorite with most visitors, and a dip in the crystal clear waters of Sunshine Beach is a must. Noosa is also home to some great restaurants and cafes, but if you’re looking for a more tranquil getaway, head straight to Noosa National Park. The 37-mile stretch of beaches can feel overwhelming for a day trip because there’s so much to see and do – check out Fodor’s Sunshine Coast Travel Guide to plan your day trip in detail.

Sunshine Coast, Australia.jpg

Photo credit: All images used under Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Coochiemudlo Island by King Tide; (2) Gold Coast by Sunland Group; (3) Sandgate by Luke Chapman; (4) North Stradbroke Island by Brieuc Saffre; (5) Moreton Island by Kasia Wallis; (6) Bribie Island by Bert Knottenbeld; (7) Sunshine Coast by Harald.

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Four Festivals You Can’t Miss In Sydney This Summer

KFOG Kaboom Fireworks

While the northern hemisphere is bundling up and enjoying the first snow of the season, Australia and the rest of the southern hemisphere is gearing up for Christmas BBQs and beach days – summer is here! And there’s no better place to visit Sydney than during the summer months – not only can you enjoy the coast, the beaches, sidewalk cafes and al fresco dining, outdoor movies and markets, but there are also a number of extraordinary summer festivals that make a visit during the summer months even more memorable.

If you are visiting Sydney this summer, here are my top four recommendations for festivals you should try to experience – and for a more comprehensive list, check out this guide to Sydney Summer Events.

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Sydney Festival (January)

For almost the entire month, Sydney is having a massive celebration of culture, arts and entertainment, transforming the city with grand performances: free concerts, burlesque, dances and theater. For the 2017 Sydney Festival (7-29 January), there is an Australian Cirque Du Soleil, the Symphony Under The Stars, loads of art installations, a ferrython, and so much more. The best thing: many of the events during the festival are free! Check out the complete list of events for the 2017 Sydney Festival here.

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Sydney Mardi Gras

Sydney Mardi Gras is the world’s biggest Pride Celebration: hundreds of thousands of people travel to Sydney to celebrate LGBTQ culture and diversity, and visitors hail not only from Australia, but also other parts of the world. Be prepared for a colorful parade with over 100 floats and over 8,000 (!) participants, over 300,000 spectators, dancing in the streets, Bondi Beach Drag Races, the big Harbor Party and many other post-parade parties. The 2017 Mardi Gras Parade takes place on 4 March.

Sydney Mardi gras

New Year’s Eve

Sydney is among the first cities in the world to ring in the New Year, and the city makes sure to start it with a bang! The spectacular fireworks display over the Harbour Bridge is world-famous. There are a number of vantage points to watch the fireworks from, such as Robertson Park, Waverton Park or North Head, to name just a few. Of course you can also join one of the many ticketed events or a New Year’s Eve cruise, granting you incredible views right from the water, and making sure you ring in the New Year in style.

New Year's Fireworks Sydney 2012

Chinese New Year

Yes, New Year’s Eve is a big deal in Sydney, but so is the Chinese New Year a few weeks later. More than 1 million visitors enjoy the celebrations, making it one of the biggest Lunar New Year festivals outside of Asia. In 2017, the Chinese New Year Festival takes place from 27 January to 12 February, celebrating the start of the Year Of The Rooster with music and nightly entertainment, dragon boat races and performances from over 1,000 participants. Those include martial arts, traditional dance and folklore dance, and from 27 to 29 January, Sydney’s most famous landmarks will be lit in red as part of the festivities.

Chinese New Year Sydney

Photo credit: All images used under Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Sydney Festival by Distan Bach ; (2) Sydney  slr_the_quack  (3) Sydney Mardi Gras by KMJ Photography; (4) New Year’s Eve by Sacha Fernandez ; (5) Chinese New Year by Ashley Ringrose
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Brisbane: 5 reasons why you should visit Queensland’s capital

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When people talk about Australia, you always hear them rave about Sydney and Melbourne. But what about Brisbane? Queensland’s capital is one of the most underrated cities in Australia, even though it offers a plethora of reasons to visit. Brisbane is a river town with a vibrant nightlife, a booming art scene, a gorgeous riverfront, as well as a fantastic restaurant and coffee shop scene. It is also the jumping off point to experience the Sunshine and the Gold Coast, and in driving distance of the Granite Belt wine region, extraordinary wildlife spots (including the biggest koala sanctuary in the world!), a wide array of cycling paths and hiking trails, plus cliff climbing and abseiling spots.Brisbane RiverStill not convinced include Brisbane into your Australia itinerary, book ticket to Brisbane and a Brisbane hotel?

Here are five reasons why we think Queensland’s capital deserves a visit:

Paradise for art lovers

The Gallery Of Modern Art is one of the country’s best art museums and focuses on Australian modern art (from the 1970s to today). In addition to the permanent exhibits you find a number of often changing and cutting-edge exhibits here that include video installations, photography, film, sculptures and of course paintings.

Art lovers will also enjoy the Brisbane Powerhouse, a former power station that has been turned into a contemporary arts center, including graffiti art, performing arts, art festivals and visual arts including pieces of the industrial lights and machinery from the power station’s old electrical transformers. In addition, you find a rooftop terrace here, a bar and restaurant, green spaces and a performance theater.GOMA

But there are plenty of other galleries – you can find a list of the ten best Brisbane art galleries here.

One of Australia’s best and most vibrant city life

One of the best things about Brisbane is its vibrant city life. The South Bank of the Brisbane City has been improved considerably over the past few years, and now you can take in life music here, take in the stunning river sunsets, window shop in Little Stanley Street, enjoy the free art. The Collective Markets are held on Friday evenings and weekends in Stanley Street Plaza and focus on local designers, art and jewelry – a must-do on a visit to Brisbane! On Saturday morning, the West End Markets in Davies Park are buzzing with joyous shoppers and on Sunday morning, the riverfront docks area north of the CBD (what Brisbane’s city center is referred to) turns into a craft market. Stroll along the riverfront and you’ll pass cute cafes and restaurants with fantastic river views and excellent food – and coffee, of course.
Kangaroo Point, Brisbane by night.
A wealth of wildlife and nature

If you are a fan of nature and wildlife, you will love Brisbane: there’s the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the largest koala sanctuary in the entire world, only a 15-minute drive from the city, with over 130 koalas which are just waiting to be cuddled, and kangaroos waiting to be fed. Then there’s Mount Coot-tha, the tallest mountain around Brisbane with splendid views. You also find the (free!) Botanical Gardens here. The hike to the peak is strenuous, but the vistas over Brisbane are rewarding – make sure to bring a picnic up here!

Other places for nature lovers include D’Aguilar National Park which includes a wide range of hiking trails and the East Queensland Wildlife Centre (with turtles, pythons, lizards and other animals), New Farm Park, a park that is famous for its jacaranda trees (particularly worth a visit in the spring, when they’re carrying their purple blossoms) and the vast rose gardens as well as the Roma Street Parklands, which are the biggest subtropical gardens in a city center and home to more than 1,800 plant species. And the best thing: admission is free!Mirror Image

An unrivaled music scene

If you are a music lover, you’ll love Brisbane, which was named as one of the Top 5 hot spots for music by Billboard Magazine. There are more bars, pubs and music clubs in Brisbane than anywhere else in the world and the city’s live music scene is fantastic. For some great live music events, head to Max Watts, The Triffid, The Tivoli, The Zoo, and The Underdog Pub Co.
AMC5 Pt6 Glenn Shorrock
Scenic Moreton Bay

Brisbane sits in the center of Moreton Bay, which is a paradise for wildlife lovers. Here you find beautiful sandy beaches and you have the chance for breathtaking wildlife spottings: turtles, whales and dolphins are spotted here regularly! 365 islands are scattered across the bay, which stretches from the Gold Coast to Caloundra, and the most popular ones are Moreton Island, where people head to feed dolphins, and North Stradbroke Island, which is known for its good surf and pretty beaches.moreton bay shores

Photo credit: All images used under Flickr’s Creative Commons license. 1) Brisbane River by Aristocrats-Hats; 2) GOMA by Sonia; 3) Brisbane by night by Ben; 4) Nudgee Beach by Aristocrats-Hats ; 5) Brisbane Music by PeterTea; 6) Moreton Bay by Bert Knottenbeld

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Port Douglas Carnivale: The Most Exciting Place in Cairns!

On the hunt for quinoa in South America

Considered as the signature city of Queensland and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is certainly a treat for all tourists visiting Australia. With a vibrant culture and pleasant weather, anyone visiting the city is instantly entranced by its charm and surreal beauty.

The majority of tourists opt for a car hire in Cairns to access Port Douglas which is less than 45 miles away. People love the town for its picturesque beauty and adventure activities. However, the most attractive feature of Port Douglas is the Port Douglas Carnivale, which starts from 12th May and runs for ten days until 22nd May.Boats In Port Douglas

Highlights of the Port Douglas Carnivale

The 10-day carnival will be marked by a whole range of events and festivals for music, art, food, wine and various other entertainment shows. Families and visitors in the city will drive down to experience this one-of-a-kind event.

Beach Day

Witness the sand taking the shape of unique designs and images in the hands of trained artists on Beach Day. The Kite Festival is also conducted on the Family Beach Day with the young and old flying giant kites in the air. This one is an absolute must for those travelling with kids.Four Mile Beach Port Douglas

Macrossan Street Parade

The Macrossan Street in Port Douglas will appear in all its glory on the evening of May 20th where young artists will perform various forms of arts along the street. The theme of the Macrossan Street Parade for 2016 is “The Wonders of the Tropic”. The parade, which is a significant part of the carnivale, will attract hundreds of families with fireworks and gastronomic treats in an authentic tropic style.

Port on a Fork

The Port Douglas Carnivale is never complete without great food and outstanding wine. The Port on a Fork event will be held for the very first time this year to showcase some signature dishes of the coast. Each dish will be made from local fresh produce and will be accompanied by a great range of wine varieties. Renowned musicians and bands like Joe Camilleri and Black Sorrows will also be joining the event. The evening is expected to be the ultimate evening of beautiful music, sumptuous food and great wine.

Paradise on a Plate

Enjoy dining under the palms with an extended dining experience, aptly named, Paradise on a Plate. A fantastic treat for all food lovers, it will be a gourmet delight of land and sea fare. Lunch will be served on a long table with 4-course meals that will wow every food lover.quinoa salad at quinoa

Photo credit: All images used via Flickr’s creative commons licensing. Boats in Port Douglas by Michael McGimpsey; Port Douglas Beach by Jervis_Pics.
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What routes should you take when visiting the Gold Coast?

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The breath-taking Gold Coast is undeniably one of Australia’s most incredibly beautiful destinations – filled with stunning vistas, sparkling blue water stretching to the horizon and characteristic namesake golden sunsets and beaches. Undoubtedly one of the best ways to see it is to drive it yourself – and at Drive Now, we know all about making the most of some of Australia’s most iconic road trips. There are several different routes you can take – and lots of sights to see along the way – so here’s our pick of Gold Coast tours for first-time road trippers and for those who love the road less travelled alike. Why not put some of these routes on your next trip itinerary and see what you make of the routes we’ve chosen?Gold Coast Australia from Q1 Building

The Surf n Turf

The best of both worlds – hug the stunning coast and sample the long beaches filled with soft white sand, whilst heading inland at intervals to drink in the stunning scenery and see a few essential sights along the way, too. By the sea, Surfer’s Paradise is a must-see with its incredible beachfront and promenade markets; along with beautiful Byron Bay and Mermaid Beach. Further inland, there are lush rainforests and wildlife parks to explore. This area is also a foodie’s paradise – with fresh local produce on the menu at every turn. Sit back and relax in the lap of luxury around Main Beach, with its sparkling yacht-filled marina and bars and restaurants selling fresh seafood and local cuisine.If you’re into wine, take a turn inland and head to one of the many vineyards offering tours and tasting, like Canungra Valley Vineyard near Canungra Creek. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can hire boats or survey the area from a breath-taking aerial perspective in a hot air balloon.IMG_6926

The Sightseer

This route is perfect for families. You can get on the Tourist Trail and experience the best of what Gold Coast has to offer straight out of the pages of a holiday brochure or magazine.Why not start off at glamorous celebrity hang out Main Beach, with its glittering beach, exclusive boutiques and top-notch restaurants and then leisurely make your way down to Burleigh Head via Surfer’s Paradise and Mermaid Beach, hugging the coast on the main roads and highways.You’ll be spoiled for choice along the way between the magnificent National Park at Burleigh Head, the buzzing vibrant energy and laid back vibe at Surfer’s Paradise, fabulous shopping and fantastic theme parks such as Sea World and Wet n Wild Water Park. It’s a trip that will suit both the dreamer and the action-oriented traveler – there really is something for everyone!Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast

The Lone Ranger

Go off the beaten track and really explore the surrounding area and the hidden gems of Queensland such as Springbrook, Lamington National Park and Mount Tambourine. For nature lovers, there are endless deserted beaches and untouched coves to discover like Fingal Head, and parks and rainforests to hike through in the midst of nature. The O’Reilly Forest in Hinterland is great for avid naturalists, with gushing white waterfalls and leafy forest filled with rare species and exotic birds. You can also find stunning sanctuary even in the city by taking the Panorama Drive off the Pacific Highway to catch incredible views over the coast and the Hinze Dam.Small beachIf you’re considering taking the trip of a lifetime along the Gold Coast or anywhere else in Australia, you need to ensure you’ve got the right vehicle for the job, whether cheap Sydney RV’s or luxurious motor-homes to spend a few weeks in, so book your vehicle, pack your stuff and head off to the Gold Coast on one of our fabulous route suggestions. We can promise you won’t be disappointed!

Photo credit: (1) Gold Coast by Gary Bembridge ; (2) Gold Coast Surfers by sirraychen; (3) Burleigh Heads by Paul D’Ambra; (4) Small beach by Fá e Cá. All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing.
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The best LGBT events and bars in Australia

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Australia is one of the gay-friendliest countries in the world, making it easy for gay and lesbian travelers to enjoy a vacation Down Under and not having to hide their sexuality or relationship. On the contrary – all of Australia’s major cities have a number of LGBT venues and gay and lesbian travelers can also enjoy the nightlife while they are visiting Australia’s vibrant cities. It’s always fun to check out the ‘local scene’ while traveling, so here are some good bars and parties you shouldn’t miss while in Australia:2015-02-01 Melbourne Pride 16

Melbourne

Melbourne is one of the gay-friendliest cities in Australia, and there is an abundance of choices for a good night out. But this vibrant city, always battling with Sydney for the title of the coolest city in Australia, should be on everyone’s itinerary when visiting the country – if you need more convincing, check out these 40 cool things to do in Melbourne.

One highlight in the gay & lesbian calendar in Melbourne is the Midsumma Festival, which features more than 150 events, ranging from performance art to wild dance parties, over the course of three weeks, leading up to the Gay Pride parade. The festival usually takes place from mid-January to early February and it’s well worth planning your trip around it – Melbourne’s Midsumma is considered not only one of the biggest LGBT celebrations in Australia, but in the entire world!

In addition to our recommendations, check Time Out Melbourne for up-to-date information on LGBT events.2015-02-01 Melbourne Pride 20The gay night life primarily takes place in the city center, in St Kilda and in Collingwood. LGBT institutions include:

The Greyhound Hotel

Greyhound Hotel is famous for its Saturday night drag show and King Victoria Drag Kings & Bitch Fridays. Check their schedule to see which events are on while you’re in town.
Address: 1 Brighton Road, St Kilda

Libation
Libation is one of the more sophisticated LGBT venues, an exquisite lounge for a more low key night out. Libation is open seven days a week.
Address: Corner of Johnson and Brunswick Streets, Fitzroy

Sydney

Sydney is, together with Melbourne, the most popular tourist destination for gay and lesbian travelers in Australian, but it has one draw that Melbourne doesn’t have: Mardi Gras. Sydney has even been proclaimed ‘gayest city on earth‘ thanks to its Mardi Gras extravaganza, gay beaches and large number of gay bars – a mecca for LGBT travelers who want to get to know Australia’s queer culture. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014: Fisheye PortraitsSydney’s Mardi Gras is Australia’s biggest LGBT tourism event, attracting nearly 500,000 spectators. Not only the parade is a massive event – the after party, usually lined with international performers, is one of the largest parties in the country. For many LGBT travelers who travel to international Pride Events, Mardi Gras is on top of their list. Take a look for yourself – The Guardian covered this year’s festivities with a large photo essay.

Sydney is also known for its Queer Film Fest.

The gay area of Sydney used to be located around Oxford Street, however, in recent years, gay venues have ventured outside of this area and can be found in other parts of town as well.

Palms

Palms has been a Sydney institution for decades, plays mainly pop and mainstream music and yes, it is a little tacky, but it makes for a fun night out.
Address: 124 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst

Stonewall

At Stonewall, you have entertainment seven days a week, from gogo show to drag queens – there is always something going on here.
Address: 175 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst

Tripadvisor has a great overview for LGBT travelers, including more bars and clubs and gay-friendly places to stay in Sydney.

Brisbane

Brisbane has a vibrant LGBT community, with an annual Pride Festival that takes places in September of each year and attracts 50,000 people, and a number of gay and lesbian parties.

There are only a few gay bars in Brisbane, and worth a visit are:

The Beat Megaclub
(six different dance floors and five bars)
Address: 677 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley

The Sportsman Hotel
(gay-friendly hotel, bar and nightclub
Address:
130 Leichhardt Street, Spring Hill

The Wickham
Long-standing gay pub, recently undergone a complete overhaul
Address: 308 Wickham Street, Fortitude ValleyBrisbane Pride Festival 2013

Perth

Perth has a rather small LGBT scene, but the Connections gay nightclub is the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights. The club is open Wednesday through Sundays, and if you want to see something rather unusual, why not check out Lesbian Mud Wrestling on Wednesday night?

Connections
Address: 81 James St. Northbridge

Another popular venue is the Court Hotel (50 Beaufort Street).

For other parties and happenings, check out the very informative OutInPerth.com.PRIDE

Adelaide

Adelaide’s LGBT community is rather small and there is only one gay nightclub:

The Mars Bar

The Mars bar is a must-visit for LGBT travelers to Adelaide – here’s where the local gay and lesbian scene gathers from Wednesday to Saturday night, and where you can catch a drag show or just dance the night away.
Address: 120 Gouger Street, Adelaide

If you happen to visit Adelaide in November, you’re lucky enough to be in town for the annual FEAST festival, a queer-themed festival including a gay pride march, cabaret and other performances.IMG_4717 Pride March Adelaide

Cairns

Cairns has no specific gay and lesbian bars, but a number of gay-friendly venues, and a monthly gay party organized by OUT! Cairns. Check their website for the date of the next party.

Good nightlife spots include Velvet Underground (the biggest nightclub in Cairns) and Salthouse.

Cairns’ Pride is relatively new on Australia’s Pride Calendar, only in its 9th year, but steadily growing. If you happen to plan to be in Cairns in August, it’s definitely worth checking the exact dates and planning your travels around it.

Photo credit: (1) & (2) Melbourne Pride by Hamish, (3) Sydney Mardi Gras by Ashley Ringrose, (4) Brisbane Pride by Ursula Skjonnemand, (5) Perth Pride by Stu Rapley, (6) Adelaide Pride by Jenny Scott on Flickr.com
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My Ultimate Australia Bucket List

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As I am in the planning stages of my big trip to Australia, I am putting together my ultimate Australia bucket list, starting with my Top 10 must-do’s. In my opinion, these are the absolute Australia highlights and I won’t leave Down under without experiencing these quintessential Oz places and activities.

For more Australia travel inspiration, check out these top 20 things to do in Australia and feel free to add your recommendations for things I shouldn’t miss in Oz in the comments!

1 The Great Ocean Road

I have been dreaming of road tripping the Great Ocean Road for years and I can’t wait to do what is considered one of the most iconic road trips, with sights like the stunning 12 Apostles limestone rocks majestically jutting out of the ocean (pictured).

IMG_0075The Twelve Apostels, by Paleontour on Flickr.com

2 Street art, coffee and city life in Melbourne

Every time I see photos of Hosier Lane, I get giddy with excitement. You all know that I am a huge fan of street art and I can’t wait to go photo-crazy there, maybe even catch some street artists adding new pieces.

And of course I’ll have to try a Flat White while I’m in Australia, and what better place to do that in than Melbourne, known for its booming coffee culture.

Whenever I read about Melbourne’s diverse neighborhoods, the coffee culture, street art and hipster vibe in Richmond, I can sense that it is my kind of city and I hope to spend a while there, truly getting to know it – which is why I am keeping my eyes peeled for a housesit in Melbourne.

3 Watch the surfers at Bondi Beach

There are so many famous surf beaches all over Australia, and for surfers Australia is the absolute paradise. I prefer watching and photographing them (at least for now) and can’t wait to watch the surfers at famous beaches like Manly and Bondi near Sydney, or Torquay and Bells Beach near Melbourne. Maybe I’ll be even tempted to give surfing a try myself.

The last waveSurfers at Manly Beach, via Laurie Wilson on Flickr.com

4 Sydney Harbor Bridge climb

Even though I am terrified of heights, this is an experience I’d challenge myself to do. The views from the Harbor Bridge are supposed to be out-of-this-world amazing and I’ve never tried a bridge climb – so what better place to do it than on this Sydney landmark!

5 Uluru and the Outback

Being a huge fan of the wide open plains of the American South West, I can only imagine how much I’ll enjoy driving through the seemingly endless wide open space of Australia’s outback. And Uluru, or Ayers Rock as it also known, is such a stunning sight – I can’t wait to see the sun set over this sacred rock, covering it in the most beautiful orange shade, and would love to join a base tour which lets you surround the entire rock.

We did not climb UluruUluru by Nathan Siemers on Flickr.com

6 Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef

I am still not keen on trying diving, but I would never pass up a chance to go snorkeling, especially in a place like the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, and famous for its colorful and plentiful marine life.

7 Search for Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania

Okay, maybe I won’t be searching for Tasmanian devils, but everyone I know who’s been to Tasmania is raving about the little island south of the continent. Apparently, Tasmania is one of the most underrated tourism destinations and Hobart is often named as one of the most livable cities in Australia. Seeing pictures of beaches like the Wineglass Bay make me think that I will fall hard for Tasmania.

8 Ride the Ghan

The Ghan is one of the world’s most famous trains, and Australia is the only continent that can be crossed in a single train ride north to south or east to west. I’d probably take the three-day train ride from Adelaide to Darwin, crossing the entire country in an epic 47 hour, 2979km train ride.

The Ghan to DarwinThe Ghan, by Bingley Hall on Flickr.com

9 Experience the wildlife

There’s so much wildlife unique to Australia – kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, Tasmanian Devils, to name only a few, that I’d try to fit in as many as possible. Noteworthy are the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary near Brisbane (I am so gonna squeeze that koala!), the Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park for lots of kangaroos or the Caversham Wildlife Park for koala cuddles and kangaroo feeding (both near Perth).

Swimming with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, visiting the penguins on Phillip Island, or go on a whale watching trip near Sydney would be other wildlife bucket list items.

In Kurunda (near Cairns), I could also visit the Venom Zoo, where I can see all kinds of Australia’s creepy crawlies, including venomous snakes, spiders, scorpions, tarantulas and all kinds of insects, but I’m not sure if I have to include this in my wildlife experiences 😉

10 The diverse landscapes of Western Australia

Like I said: I am a huge fan of the American South West and a sucker for unique landscapes – deserts, canyons, bizarre formations such as Monument Valley, the beautiful Wave in Utah or the multi-colored mountains of Northern Argentina.. I find these places incredibly scenic, and knowing that there are several places like this in Western Australia put this part of Down Under on my bucket list. I can’t wait to hike in the Pinnacle Desert in Nambung National Park, and board down the Lancelin sand dunes. In addition to these fascinating natural wonders, Western Australia is home to some of the country’s most gorgeous beaches and Perth is supposed to be a wonderfully laid-back city with a great food culture and cherishes coffee just as much as Melbourne, with hundreds of coffee shops.

Pinnacles Desert, Nambung National Park, Western AustraliaPinnacles Desert by Ian Sanderson on Flickr.com

What is on your Australia bucket list? Or if you’ve been to Australia – which experiences and places should I add to my list?

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8 Essential Tips for your First Backpacking Experience in Australia

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It’s a well-known fact that Australia is a backpacker’s paradise.

With it’s wide-open roads, diverse landscapes, laid-back lifestyle, fantastic weather and more national parks than you can shake a boomerang at – it really is no surprise.

If you’re planning your first backpacking trip to Australia and looking for some top tips to help get you off to a flying start, here are eight must-read essential tips:

  1. Australia is big, like really big

Don’t underestimate how big this country is. Australia is the world’s sixth largest country and the world’s largest island. To put this into perspective, you can pretty much fit the whole of Europe into Australia.

With that in mind, it can be easy to misjudge how long it will take you to travel between cities in Australia, and what you think is a short road trip can easily turn out to be an eight-hour drive.

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Open Road – Australia – by dirtymouse on Flickr.com
  1. Bring more money than you think you will need

While Down Under is a great place to be, it can also be a little pricey and a trip to Oz will certainly cost you more than travelling around South East Asia.

And, despite your best budgeting intentions, you’ll end up spending a little more than you planned. In order to see and do as much as possible on your trip, make sure you have access to some extra cash should you need it.

  1. Buying or renting a campervan is a right of passage

No trip to Australia is complete without an epic Aussie road trip in a campervan. Australia isn’t short of road trip routes and it is probably one of the best (and cheapest) ways to travel around the country.

There are cheap cars and campervans for sale in most major cities, or if you want something shorter term, look into rental options.

Stockton, Australia
Campervan in Australia. By Anonphotographycom on Flickr.com
  1. Know your visa terms and conditions

To enter Australia you will need a visa. If you are planning on travelling around the country for a couple of months (with no work) then you may consider a Tourist Visa. If you plan on staying longer and want to undertake work for some extra cash, then you’ll need to apply for a Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417).

  1. Get yourself an Aussie SIM card

One of the first things to do when you arrive is get yourself set up with an Aussie SIM card. There are plenty of Pay As You Go or ‘Pre-paid’ SIM cards out there that give you free call-time and internet data to use when you top-up regularly.

It makes getting around a new city and keeping in touch with home a lot easier.

  1. Get a Medicare card

If you are from one of the countries listed in Australia’s Reciprocal Health Agreement, you are entitled to Medicare access. Medicare helps you gain access to rebates that can help with the cost of any medical treatments you undergo while in Australia.

  1. Get savvy with your city travel

If you’re staying in a city then make sure you take advantage of local city travel cards such as ‘myki’ in Melbourne or the ‘Opal card’ in Sydney. They offer cheaper rates on intercity travel and some great deals – for example you only pay $2.50 for unlimited travel in Sydney every Sunday.

Sydney Darling Harbour
Sydney Darling Harbour via Sam Ilic on Flickr.com
  1. Slap on the Suncream

Everyone loves the sunny weather in Australia. However, the ozone layer is thinner over Australia, meaning more dangerous UV radiation reaches the earth.

Nobody looks good rocking the pink lobster look, so make sure you remember to put on plenty of suncream and cover up if you feel you are burning.

So there you have it, 8 essential tips to prepare you for your first backpacking trip Down Under. All that’s left now is for you to watch a couple of episodes of Home & Away to practice your lingo, perfect your BBQ skills and pack your favourite swimming cossie.

 

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