Planning a road trip on the East Coast of Australia…

Travelling the east coast of Australia in a campervan is the perfect way to get to know this vast and varied part of the country and an experience that I can’t recommend enough. The freedom to go where you want to go, when you want to go, to stop somewhere on a whim, change your plans and sleep where you want is a wonderful feeling! This is my guide to planning a road trip on the east coast of Australia…

Campervan hire:

Our three-week adventure started in Sydney and ended in Cairns, covering a total distance of 2629 kilometres. We landed in Sydney, jumped in a taxi to Jucy rentals and picked up what was to be our home for the next three weeks, a green and purple campervan. This little beauty looked like it had been well-loved which made me like it even more!  We got given a quick briefing and then handed the keys. Our Jucy Van was compact but had everything we needed for our three-week journey. Bedding, pillows and towels were provided with the van along with pots and pans, crockery, cutlery and a map. The van had a small kitchen area at the back, which consisted of a camping gas stove, a cool box (powered by a leisure battery) and a sink. It also had a DVD player, but with so much exploring to do we didn’t get round to using it. Awesome campervan and an awesome company!

 

 

Things I took with me on the trip:

  • When planning for a road trip on the east coast of Australia, my first tip would be to pack fairly lightly as living in a van means you have limited space.
  • Guide books: Lonely Planet East Coast Australia and Cool Camping Australia – East Coast – I don’t know what we would have done without these two books. We found places we may not otherwise have visited and they really helped us out especially at the beginning of our trip when everything felt a little bit daunting.
  • Driving licence: Don’t forget this! Check out the Australian Government website for more information on driving in Australia with an overseas licence.
  • LED lights and torch: These were much needed as we stayed in some very remote campsites which were pitch black at night.
  • Keypod: We use one when we surf in the UK and I thought it would be perfect for Australia. It’s a small box, big enough to fit your car key in with a combination lock and padlock on top. It can be attached to the underneath of your vehicle and is perfect if you want to go for a swim or surf and don’t want to leave valuables and car keys on the beach.
  • Washing tablets: Although we could have bought these out in Oz I decided it was one less thing to spend our pennies on once we were there.
  • Resealable bags: Handy to store food in and to stop any beasties or bugs finding it!
  • Tea bags and sugar: Again something we could have bought in Australia but I just thought I would be prepared, and there’s nothing like a decent cuppa in the morning!
  • Anti – bacterial wipes: To clean down food prep areas in the van once we picked it up. You don’t know whose grubby paws have been on it before you! (Although the rental company did a very thorough clean it was just something that made me feel better!) They are also perfect for cleaning up after cooking.
  • Mobile phone and Wi-Fi Dongle: We were very lucky as our lovely friends Olivia and Jamie who we stayed with in Sydney lent us these – great for calling campsites in advance and Google mapping if you don’t have data to use abroad included in your phone contract.
  • We bought a USB charger to go into the cigarette lighter when we got to Australia. This proved priceless for charging our phones and camera batteries on the road.
  • I’m a big flip-flops wearer but I was so pleased I packed a pair of converse ‘just in case’ I needed them.  They came in very handy for bush camping. When it gets dark you never know what creepy crawlies are wondering around!  So I would definitely recommend packing some closed-toe footwear.
  • We took fairy lights and bought candles when we were out there, it added extra light to our camp and also made it look nice.

 

 

Sleeping:

National Park campsites:

National park campsites are the way forward for cheaper camping and for going back to basics. My advice is don’t be scared of long drop toilets and having no showers! I overcame this and experiencing these beautiful places, which can be off the beaten track and often with hardly anyone else around is awesome. It felt to us like ‘real’ camping. One tip my friend Liv gave me was to check under long drop toilet seats for spiders before you sit down! This was a great bit of advice, especially when you consider that most of the wildlife we came across were discovered in the long drop area! Liv did well at practicing her own advice….One night as we sat around the campfire in the Blue Mountains we heard screams coming from the dunny – she had found a nasty looking spider under the lid!  

You need to take your own water for most national park campsites and also need to pre book, although Black Rocks campground (one of our favourite spots) in Bundjalung National Park had signposts with a phone number to book upon arrival. Lots of these campgrounds can be found along very bumpy and long unsealed roads, but this adds to the fun! 

One night we parked up and slept on the side of a road, funnily enough opposite a campsite! It was quite a nice spot on the harbour front at Hervey Bay; we chose it as the car park just in front of our parking spot had a half decent public toilet that wasn’t locked at night. We had been on a whale watching trip which meant we didn’t get back until early evening and we had a lot of driving planned for the next day and got up at around 5am. Due to this we decided there was no point in paying for a pitch. Lots of car parks have no camping signs clearly displayed so they are of course a no go. I am not entirely sure as to whether we were allowed to camp on the roadside, but hey sometimes you’ve got to be a rebel and just live on the edge!

Head here for campsites in New South Wales: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Private campsites:

More expensive campsites were fantastic after a few days of staying in a national park or roadside camping where showers are non-existent.  So to pay for a campsite with showers, flushing toilets and even a laundry room was a small slice of luxury!  Most private campsites we stayed at had camp kitchens that were really well equipped with gas barbeques, fridges, ovens, sometimes microwaves, washing up facilities and plug sockets for charging electronics. Some even had free Wi-Fi, which was a big bonus.

For more information I’ve written a guide with all my favourite campsites to help with planning a road trip on the East coast of Australia: Cool Campsites on the East Coast of Australia.

 

 

 

The drive:

Driving the east coast is such a great way to see experience all the countryside and its differences as you head further up or down the country. The climate changed quite a lot from Sydney where there was a bit of a chill in the air to Cairns with its humid and very hot rainforest feel. I got bitten by mosquitoes further up the coast too. The temperature of the water also felt warmer as we moved further up the country.

On the drive we passed over hundreds and hundreds of creeks, we also passed sugar cane fields, plantations, rainforest, and ocean. It was interesting to drive through so many different towns like Rockhampton, with its quaint Victorian buildings making it look like it had stood still in time. Within the sugar cane fields were train lines, I loved watching the cane trains pass, transporting sugar cane to the plantations. There were also lots of banana farms up near Cairns and we also witnessed a few wild fires in this area; they were pretty scary looking.

There are plenty of opportunities to deviate from the main highway as sometimes the long straight road can get boring. All the way along there were brown tourist signs indicating an alternative route through places of interest and how many kilometers it covered before bringing you back onto the highway. We did this a few times; my favourite was the drive through the Glass House Mountains. The scenery was just incredible with bright red soil and the mountains looming high above the otherwise flat landscape. We stopped off at a great viewpoint for lunch and took photos; it was a lovely scenic diversion.

One thing to know about when driving in Australia is toll roads. These can be avoided but we ended up going through some in Sydney and then in Brisbane. They don’t cost very much but you need to make sure you go online or phone up to pay the charges. For NSW I used this website: myrta and for QLD: govia.  Phone numbers and websites are signposted as you go on the toll roads and you pay the charges by giving your car registration number along with the date and times you would have been on the toll roads. It is then automatically deducted from your credit or debit card, easy!

Although it is quite an obvious thing to say I would definitely recommend keeping an eye on your fuel as sometimes fuel stations were very few and far between. We often drove for an hour or two without seeing one. We tried to make sure that our fuel gauge didn’t drop below a quarter, that way we felt safe. Something else I should mention is that the Aussies are pretty strict on speed limits, so make sure you stick to them.

 

 

 

Rest stops:

We experienced a mixture of good and bad rest stops while on the road. Many with the words ‘Stop, Revive, Survive’ were brilliant, with toilets, gas barbeques and picnic benches sheltered from the sun. Some even provided free tea and coffee. Although, nice service stops turned into sparse truck stops with awful long drops on the Bruce Highway, north of Brisbane. So be prepared for some horrendous dunnys; hold your nose and don’t look down!

Two refreshment stops that stood out for me were Frosty Mango, serving, you guessed it all things mango. This was recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide I mentioned earlier. We bought a mango smoothie for the road, it was so good! Tooloombah Creek Roadhhouse an hour north of Rockhampton was also a great little stop off. We were greeted by a lovely lady who fueled up the van and told us a joke at the same time… “What happened to the beans that were travelling in Australia?… They ended up in Cairns!”… It made me laugh anyway! After a chat with this lovely lady we purchased coffee, two slices of her delicious homemade cake and continued on our journey. I really loved chatting to locals, who more often than not were very welcoming. Some also passed on useful information to us such as a fuel attendant in Byron Bay. I told him we were heading to Mission Beach at some point in our journey, he told us how nice it was and recommended a great campsite. A bit of local knowledge sometimes goes a long way.

 

I hope this has given you a bit of an insight into planning a road trip on the east coast of Australia. If you have any of your own tips please feel free to add them in the comments below; I’d love to hear them. Writing this post has made me want to go back to the land of down under right now! With 1633 miles of the east cast of Australia explored I can’t wait to share the rest of my adventures with you all…

 

For more on Australia take a look at my other posts:

Five Things to do in Sydney

Whale Watching in Australia

Three weeks in three and a half minutes

 

 

Fuerteventura: A winter sun holiday destination…

If you are looking to get away from the cold weather, Fuerteventura is a great winter sun holiday destination. Fly there in just under four hours from London. Near the coast of North Africa this Spanish island is the second largest of the Canary Islands.

During the winter months temperatures remain in the high teens and low 20s; making it much warmer than most places in Europe. Day temperatures should feel warm enough to sunbathe, although the sea may feel a little refreshing. I recommend packing a light jacket or warmer top for the evenings as it can get a bit chilly once the sun goes in. There are often less tourists than the summer months so the beaches and beauty spots are quieter too. If you like to escape the crowds it’s a good time of year to go.

I hadn’t realised how diverse Fuerteventura’s landscape is, not only are there beautiful beaches, but mountains, volcanoes and the incredible ever shifting sand dunes of Corralejo’s Natural Park. It is easy to see why it was named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2009.

Here are a few ideas on what to do on your winter sun holiday…

 

Spend time on the beach:

For Europeans this is a novelty in itself as temperatures dip across most of Europe during the winter and daylight hours decrease. The beaches are stunning with crystal clear waters and golden sand; it’s hard not to be impressed. As long as the sun hasn’t dipped behind a cloud the temperatures are perfect for sunbathing. Fuerteventura is known for being windy, for this reason you’ll spot ‘Corralitos’ on many of the beaches on the island. These semi-circular stonewalls were created to keep the wind off when sunbathing and also give a bit of privacy. Fuerteventura’s beaches are popular with naturists; so don’t be surprised to see a naked body or two! Here’s the rundown on my favourite beach spots…

 

La Concha Beach, El Cotillo:

Much of the west coast is pretty rough and not suitable for swimming but La Concha Beach in the quiet town of El Cotillo is a great spot. Protected by reef and rocks this horseshoe shaped bay is perfect for a dip in the ocean and a popular spot with families. Found north of the town towards the lighthouse it has parking, toilets, showers and a bar/cafe right on the sand.

 

Playa Hoplaco, Corralejo:

I love this little beach, in the centre of Corralejo it has turquoise waters, white sand and is great for rock pooling when the tide is out. Views of Los Lobos and Lanzarote make a picture perfect backdrop and the promenade lined with cafes and restaurants is right next-door.

 

Playa Alzada, Corralejo:

Out by the dunes this is my absolute favourite beach. Heading south out of Corralejo take the road to the sand dunes past Grand Playas beaches and the Rui hotels. There are a few beaches on this stretch, Alzada is pretty much one of the last crescent shaped bays. There’s parking on the side of the road and lifeguards on patrol. The sand dunes behind make an incredible backdrop. The beach is just below the road, although I really didn’t find traffic noise a problem, the gentle waves and soapy blue water make this a dreamy spot.

 

Glass Beach, Corralejo:

Also known as El Burro Beach and located next door to Playa Alzada, it’s a popular location. There’s a small headland to the left with the Corralito stone circles, they make a great little shelter on windier days. Lifeguards are on duty here.

There are no facilities at Glass or Alzada Beach so bring your own picnic and supplies. If you’ve got children they will love exploring the rock pools when the tide is low.

 

 

Hire a car:

The best way to explore the island is to hire a car, especially if there is a grey day. We hired a car with Drive Emotion. To really admire Fuerteventura’s diverse landscape drive south from Corralejo to Betancuria, the old capital. This scenic route will take you past Volcanoes in La Oliva and up into the mountains where jaw dropping panoramic views of the island await. Stop at the view points to take in the sweeping terrain below and follow the winding mountain road down into a lush green valley. There are a few quaint towns to drive through; Betancuria is definitely worth a stop off. A beautiful church and the ruins of an old convent give a good insight into Fuerteventura’s past and are completely different to the tourist spots along the coast.

 

Explore the sand dunes at Corralejo Natural Park:

The sand dunes at Corralejo Natural Park are incredible. Ever changing due to the winds and a dramatic volcanic backdrop give a lunar feel. In front of the vast dunes is the turquoise ocean, making this protected area one like no other. Park up alongside the coastal road and cross over to explore the vast dunes. It’s a fantastic way to spend a few hours, a unique spot that you just have to see for yourself.

If you like hiking the volcanic Montana Roja is a popular trek in the dunes. It stands at 314 meters high and is around a 5 hour hike. This is a walk for the more experienced and it’s worth checking routes before you go.

 

 

Enjoy dinner and drinks with sea views:

There are plenty of lovely locations to enjoy drinks or food by the ocean in Fuerteventura, my favourites are:

Sunset Lounge: Head here for laid back beach vibes and sand between your toes. Right on the beach this is a cool bar to watch surfers and windsurfers from. Serving up cocktails, mocktails and whatever else takes your fancy. The Sunset Lounge is famous for its Sunday night beach parties. A barbecue and DJ sets keep the party going into the night.

Savannah Beach: Step right off the beach into this cool venue for food with ocean views, . A glass front keeps the wind off, making it a nice suntrap. Food is reasonably priced and it’s nice to sit and watch surfers go by to nearby beach breaks.

Waikiki: This is a bit of an institution in Corralejo, right on the beach and in the centre of town. The Hawaiian vibes fit in perfectly with the dreamy sea views. If it’s too windy sit indoors, if not secure a table on the sand. There’s a playhouse for kids and the cocktails and mocktails are a tasty and refreshing treat.

La Marina: On the beach promenade in Corralejo town centre. My favourite spot for food and views, the best steak and kebab skewers I have ever had, good wine, cocktails and gorgeous ocean views.

 

 

Go on a day trip:

Lanzarote and the small island of Los Lobos can both be seen from Corralejo. Lanzarote can be reached by boat in around 25 minutes. Los Lobos can be incorporated into a boat trip or catch a ferry across from the harbour in Corralejo in around 15 minutes. Part of the Corralejo Dunes Natural Park exploring is limited to marked paths and there is only one restaurant on the deserted island. This makes it the perfect place to visit to escape the buzz of Corralejo. Stroll to the lighthouse, watch for endangered birds and relax on the beach at Playa de la Concha.

Dune buggy trips are popular adventures with tons of companies providing daily excursions. Buzz around off road exploring volcanic areas and the sand dunes in a unique mode of transport. If I hadn’t been pregnant at the time of my trip I would definitely have done this as it looks like so much fun!

Surfing, windsurfing and kite surfing are all popular sports. If you want to learn to surf there are plenty of surf schools in and around Corralejo and ideal beginner waves. Rocky Point is a good beginner spot with easy right hand waves, wetsuits boots are recommended to clamber over the rocky reef.

 

Fuerteventura: A winter sun holiday destination

As a winter sun destination, Fuerteventura has so much to offer. The winter months excluding December are often a quieter time of year to visit with fewer tourists. It’s warm enough to sunbathe on the beach and there’s plenty of exploring to be done if the sun isn’t shining. Hire a car and explore the islands diverse landscapes. Head to the mountains for jaw dropping views and stroll around the quaint town of Betancuria. Walk in the sand dunes, have a cocktail at a beach bar and get that much need vitamin d from the winter sun! To help plan your trip Marco Polo have a Fuerteventura guide with a useful pull out map.

For another winter sun destination check out my blog post on Mallorca: Finding Winter Sunshine in Mallorca. Although it may not reach the same temperatures as Fuerteventura it’s a nice option for a winter break.

 

This is a sponsored post with Marco Polo Guides. As always all views and opinions are my own.

A Babymoon in Bermuda…

If you are planning a babymoon in Bermuda then look no further. Not only is it a beautiful destination, it’s only 6.5 hours flight from the UK, a couple of hours from the U.S and more importantly it’s Zika free.
Bermuda is a melting pot of culture; it’s a British Overseas Territory so there are plenty of British quirks to be spotted. From red post boxes to driving on the left hand side of the road they are easy to spot. What’s more there are British style pubs, serving up plenty of British grub. Along with Caribbean and American influences it’s a unique place to visit.
A string of islands connected by bridges, 181 to be precise there is plenty to explore. Bermuda is perfect if you want a laid back trip or an active holiday. Read on for more on a babymoon in Bermuda…

 

Beaches:
As it’s your babymoon you may be looking to get in as much relaxation time as possible before baby arrives, especially if it’s your first. You’ve chosen the right place, as Bermuda’s beaches are beautiful. Warwick Long Bay is one of Bermuda’s famous pink sand beaches. Tobacco Bay is unbelievable for snorkelling, while Horseshoe Bay is perfect for finding a sheltered spot if it’s a bit breezy. On my last visit in November, the beaches were empty and the temperature was a nice 23 degrees. Paddle boarding is a great watersport to do while you are pregnant and Bermuda’s clear waters are perfect for gliding over while catching some rays.

 

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse:
For panoramic views climb the 185 steps to the top. Built in 1846 it is the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the world and one of only two still standing. With views of Hamilton and the South Shore it’s a good way to blow away the cobwebs on a blustery day. If you are not feeling so energetic The Dining Room located in what was the lighthouse keepers cottage at the base serves lunch and dinner. Double check the website as opening hours are varied during the week.

 

Crystal Caves:
For something completely different visit the Crystal and Fantasy Caves. Admire the clear waters of the underground lake in the Crystal Cave from the floating walkways. The stalactite formations are incredible, discovered by two boys playing cricket in 1907; the caves are millions of years old. It’s worth noting that it’s pretty warm in these underground beauties, so dress accordingly and wear rubber-soled shoes. Located in the parish of Hamilton, there are daily tours and tickets can be purchased for one cave or both.

 

Bermuda Railway Trail:
The disused railway trail is a great way to explore. Cycle or walk along the 18 miles through tropical woodland and past turquoise waters. The trail is very well signposted and there are information boards dotted along the route describing the history of the railway. Here’s a little bit more information and images from my bike ride: Biking the Bermuda Railway Trail…

 

Hamilton:
Overlooking the water, capital of Bermuda is a picture perfect town full of pastel coloured buildings. On Front Street you’ll find restaurants, bars and shops, including the good old English store Marks and Spencer. There’s plenty of history to discover too, taking a walking tour or a self-guided tour is a great way to get immersed in the local culture. There are also food tours, although not cheap it looks like a cool thing to do. Sample and learn all about local cuisine while exploring the streets of Hamilton.

 

Getting about:
Tourists aren’t able to hire cars in Bermuda but there are plenty of other options to get around. Twizys are a really fun mode of transport, Current Vehicles rent out the tiny two man electric cars from their branches at the Hamilton Princess, Fairmont Southampton and The Loren at Pink Beach.  Buses are another good option for exploring, pastel pink in colour you can’t miss them. There are eleven routes covering the whole of the island, the main bus station is in Hamilton. Pay on the bus with cash, you’ll need the exact fair or use tickets, tokens or a day pass. These can be purchased at the bus and ferry terminals in Hamilton, information centres, some post offices and hotels. Day passes can also be used on the ferries so may be worth combining for a day out. This brings me onto the ferry service, running from Front Street in Hamilton there are four routes that make a nice alternative to exploring by road. Scooters are another option although if you are heavily pregnant than you might not feel that comfortable on one of these! Taxis are readily available throughout the island and easily picked up from hotels.

 

When to visit:
May to October is the best time of the year to go for beach weather, having said that I visited in November and spent time on the beach. It felt a little chilly when the sun went in and cooler in the evenings but there was still plenty of sunshine. November to February is generally a cooler time of the year with rainy days, the temperature can reach 17 – 18 degrees but you may need warmer clothes on damp days. April and early May is springtime in Bermuda and whilst it may not be warm enough to swim in the sea, if you are from the UK it will feel a lot warmer and sunnier than at home. Pack some light jumpers and jackets along with summer clothes and you’ll be fine. April and May are also cheaper months to visit in terms of accommodation.

 

Useful things to know:
  • The Bermudian Dollar is fixed to the U.S Dollar, which can also be spent in Bermuda.
  • Bermuda has the same voltage as America and Canada. If you are travelling from the UK or Europe pack a two-pronged plug adaptor.
  • Remember to pack your pregnancy notes and double check that your travel insurance covers medical problems during pregnancy.
  • Flight socks are a good idea to wear onboard an aircraft during pregnancy.

 

A babymoon in Bermuda is the perfect choice to get a bit of sunshine and relaxation in before your new arrival makes an appearance and being Zika free will give you a worry free holiday to remember.
For more information on pregnancy related travel I have a blog post all about it here: Planning a baby moon and flying during pregnancy…
Are you planning a babymoon? Any questions? Let me know in the comments below…

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Menorca from the water…

*This post is part of a paid campaign to promote the Balearic and Canary Islands, as part of their #SpanishIslands Campaign. Although all views are my own and I have not been instructed what to include.

 

Exploring Menorca from the water is a fantastic way to see this Spanish gem from a different viewpoint. UNESCO named Menorca a Biosphere Reserve in 1993 and with 160 km of pristine coastline to explore it’s easy to see why. There are more than 70 beaches on the island, white sand and crystal clear waters in the south and beautiful deep golden sandy beaches to the north. Not only that but there are many caves, gullies and secret beaches only accessible by the water, so jump in to gain a unique perspective of this popular holiday destination. From kayaking to snorkelling or just a gentle swim in the Mediterranean Ocean there are plenty of watersports in Menorca to be discovered.

 

Kayaking
If you’ve not kayaked before then Menorca is the place to give it a go, warm waters and sparkling ocean make it a very welcoming sport. Double kayaks are a fun way to explore with someone else. I recommend booking onto an organised tour, especially if you want to adventure into caves along the coastline. I went on a kayaking tour from Cala Galdana in the south of the island; the Atrium Audax Hotel has an exciting 3-hour trip along the dramatic coastline. Heading east there are some incredible caves to explore, Dragon’s Cave being one of them, this trip is definitely for the adventurous, you get to paddle right inside this incredible cave. Equipped with head torches you will kayak through the entrance and once inside get to turn off your torch. How often can you say you’ve kayaked into the eerie darkness of a cave? The other stop off on this tour included a very narrow cave, kayaking through Pont de n’Ali, a limestone tunnel and further along at the final stop we go the chance to moor up and swim out of for a spot of snorkelling. The tour guide provided us with beers and snacks too; it was such a novelty to be perched on a rock, towering cliff edges behind, a cave to my right and a beer in my hand! On this trip the scenery is just beautiful, hidden coves and beaches, imposing cliffs and a bit of cave exploration too; all of which are only accessible via the sea.
Another place I recommend hiring a kayak is Punta Prima in the southeast. SUPaire have kayaks, paddle boards and windsurfers for hire. Around a mile from the beach is Illa de l’Aire an uninhabited island just right for exploring. Also known as Black Lizard Island as its only inhabitants are, you guessed it black lizards. The lighthouse on Illa de l’Aire is the tallest in Menorca standing at 38 metres high. Once you’ve navigated over, park up and explore the footpath leading right to the lighthouse, keep an eye out for the lizards on your way. This stop is even better if you find yourself to be the only ones there, a proper Robinson Crusoe moment! Check the conditions before going out as it can be a bit of a struggle in strong winds; the guys at SUPaire are the best ones to chat to.

 

 

Snorkelling
The incredibly clear waters surrounding Menorca are ideal for discovering underwater life. Grab a mask and snorkel and explore a whole other world. Snorkelling has to be one of the most popular watersports in Menorca and it’s easy to see why. From octopus to starfish and barracuda, there are plenty of beautiful creatures to be discovered. Don’t forget to take a GoPro to capture those underwater memories.
S’Algar and Cala Alcaufar are nearby each other on the south coast; both have rocky shorelines with an abundance of marine life. There is a dive school at S’Algar who offer snorkelling boat excursions too.
The beach at Es Grau is part of the S’Albufera des Grau Nature Reserve; shallow waters make it a great spot for everyone including children to have a go at this very relaxing activity.
Fornells is another protected area with an abundance of under water life.
Cala Morell in the north has a rocky seabed home to all sorts of sea creatures, making it the perfect place to snorkel. The small beach is pebbly so take protective footwear.

 

 

Stand Up Paddle Boarding
I love paddle boarding, perfect for adventuring out onto the water on a calm day. It is one of my favourite watersports to do in Menorca; it’s also good exercise for engaging your core muscles! Menorca is the perfect place to learn to paddle board as well as taking organised tours to explore the coastline. WindFornells offer rental and combined paddle board and snorkelling trips from Fornells Bay. While SUPaire in Punta Prima have paddle boards to hire and excursions along the coastline to hidden caves.

 

 

Boat Trips
It’s not all about exploring the open seas, a boat trip around the harbour in the capital Mahon is a great opportunity to see this pretty city from a different viewpoint and learn more about the history of the island. Climb aboard Yellow Catamarans for a one- hour tour on a glass bottom boat. Cruise along the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean, past forts, hidden coves, islets and pretty architecture. Enjoy spotting the marine life from the glass bottom viewing area and hear all about Menorca’s rich history with the historical commentary. Out of all of the watersports in Menorca this is best for those who more keen on staying dry.
If history is your thing, another trip you shouldn’t miss is the short boat ride from the quaint fishing village of Cales Fonts in Es Castello to Lazareto. It was once used as a quarantine island; from 1817 to 1917 all ships entering Mahon and Europe were required to stop at Lazareto. Passengers were checked for diseases such as the plague and yellow fever and quarantined on the small island. Its buildings and heritage can now be discovered on a two hour guided tour. Tours run throughout the summer, choose an evening one to watch the sunset, it is magnificent from Lazareto.

 

 

Beaches
Watersports in Menorca aren’t the only way to enjoy the coastline; this blog post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the beaches. With more than 70 to choose from it would be a crime not to spend some time on at least one of them and take in this Balearic Island’s laid-back vibes.
Arenal d’en Castell is a huge crescent shaped bay with a sheltered shoreline. The sparkling, shallow waters are picture perfect and just right for a refreshing dip or a spot of sunbathing. Cafes and bars are dotted between the wooden raised walkway, which is nice for a stroll too.
Punta Prima, located right in the centre of the tiny town this is a lovely small beach with views out over towards the lighthouse on Illa de l’Aire. There are rock pools to explore and crystal clear waters to dive into.
Cala Alcaufar is a gorgeous spot, there isn’t much of a sandy beach as such but it is beautiful. White washed authentic buildings and fishing huts line the rugged shoreline of this tiny bay.
The beach at Calas Mitjana has shallow, turquoise water backed by cliff tops of pine forests and is very popular. There are no facilities at this spot so pack a picnic and supplies for the day. In the height of the summer the car park fills up quickly, plan to arrive early to beat the crowds or reach it by boat.
The beaches in the north are quite different from the white sand beaches of the south. Full of natural beauty the sand is darker and rugged green cliffs back the shoreline. Pregonda Beach is one of my favourites with golden sand and glistening waters. There aren’t any facilities here, which is nice if you want total relaxation.

 

 

From caves to beaches there are many hidden spots only reach via the sea, making watersports in Menorca an adventurous was to discover some incredible locations you might etherise miss out on. Even if you’ve not had a go at any of them before choose a qualified instructor to help you, there’s so much waiting to be discovered. So jump in a kayak or climb aboard a boat, you won’t be disappointed.

 

I’ve written some other posts that maybe helpful if you are planning a trip to Menorca, read them here:
9 Things to do in Menorca: From visiting a bar in a clifftop cave to exploring the capital Mahon, this post is all about the tings you should add to your Menorca bucket list.
Kayaking Adventures in Menorca: One of my favourite watersports in Menorca, read in more detail about my kayaking adventures. There’s also a short video of my experiences of paddling through caves and exploring the coastline.

7 things to do in Bali…

Bali is an incredible place with beautiful landscapes from lush, green rice fields, to blissful beaches, volcanoes and waterfalls. The Indonesian island is nestled in between Lombok and Java. Bali is easily reached, Singapore and Kula Lumpur being the most popular places to connect from. From London I flew to Kuala Lumpur with British Airways and jumped on another flight to Bali with Air Asia. This took around 3 hours, once in Bali we had a pre booked taxi waiting for us. I was blown away by Bali’s natural beauty, staying in three different areas over two weeks gave us a varied experience of this stunning island. I must admit I was surprised by how touristy parts of it felt which I will mention in more detail below but it is easy to escape to quieter spots even in busier areas.  In Sanur we stayed in the most gorgeous villa hidden down some tiny alleyways, wafts of burning incense and birds singing was pretty much all we were (nicely) disturbed by. Yet a 15 minute stroll along the narrow lanes past warungs and locals houses with offerings to the gods outside and we were on the bustling streets in the centre of Sanur.
Read on for seven not to be missed Balinese experiences…

 

See a temple
Temples are a part of everyday life for many living in Bali. Hinduism is the main religion and as I mentioned above outside most houses are offerings to the Gods. Delicate trays made from leaves are placed on the ground throughout the day and are filled with amongst other things, flowers, food and holy water. Named after the holy spring water found within its grounds, Tirta Empul is an important temple to the Balinese. The temple has pools of holy water for bathing which is only meant for Hindus. Spend a while wondering amongst the holy water and admire the intricate architecture, I loved the beautiful doorways. There is a small entrance fee to visit and remember to dress respectfully; shoulders and knees should be covered. Sarongs can be borrowed at the entrance if needed; and ladies if it’s the time of the month you are not permitted to enter.

 

 

Go glamping in Ubud
For a completely different adventure, glamping in Ubud is a unique experience. I spent a night in a safari tent nestled amongst jungle and rice terraces at Sandat Glamping Tents. Our tent was beautifully furnished and came with its own private plunge pool. Sandat has a restaurant located under a huge bamboo structure with gorgeous food; breakfast delivered to our tent was just perfect. I loved the secluded location and the little touches such as a musical instrument to call for room service. Being able to stroll out to the rice fields was an unforgettable thing to do. Located in a peaceful area away from the busy streets of Ubud it was a stay like no other. I blogged all about my dreamy stay here: The Ultimate Glamping Retreat in Bali…

 

 

Explore Tegalalang rice terraces
Visiting rice terraces is a must when in Bali. Tegalalang is beautiful, the setting surprised me a little as it felt a lot more touristy than I had expected. Apart from that it is an absolutely stunning place. Cafes and restaurants are dotted around the edge, great for a cooling coconut water or beer in the heat of the day. There are spots all along the roadside to get fantastic photos looking down onto the terraces. You can also go down into them. I didn’t get a chance to do this as Emily was only one at the time and very hot so we chose a lovely shady spot to cool down with fresh coconut water.

 

 

Hang out in Canggu
Canggu is a really cool spot on Bali’s west coast. Cute coffee shops, brunch spots and beaches perfect for surfing make Canggu a popular area. We stayed at Villa Berawa, in a private villa with its own pool. It was an awesome treat and not as expensive as you might think. With only a short walk to the beach and Finns Beach Club, (If you like a pool party this is the place to head to.) plus a local bakery and warung along the road made the stay even more perfect. I wouldn’t say it’s the best spot for families as the roads were quite busy and there were no pavements. We also struggled to find nappies, but fear not we did find a pharmacy that stocked them! We adapted just fine in the end as you do when travelling with kids and found the nicest spot: Cinta Cafe with a mini play park at the front and open views of rice fields at the back. Great spot for parents wanting a beer while the kids play!

 

 

See the monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud
In the heart of Ubud Monkey Forest is a popular tourist spot. I have to say this wasn’t my favourite place as I felt a bit on edge around the monkeys. The monkeys roam freely amongst the trees and temples here and it does make for a really nice stroll. I felt like I had to do it to tick it off my Bali list but I’m not sure I would visit it again. Don’t be put off visiting though, I got some great photos of the monkeys and it’s a really cool location.

 

 

Admire Tegnungan Waterfall
Around 20 minutes drive from Ubud this beauty spot is a must see, it can get very busy so go early to avoid the crowds. Steps lead up above the waterfall so you can admire the falls from different viewpoints. The entrance fee is 15,000 IDR, there’s a small extra fee to pay to climb higher up above the falls but it’s well worth it for the views. The markets nearby are nice for browsing and there are a few cafes for food and drink stops.

 

 

Chill on the beach in Sanur
Sanur had to make it onto my list of things to do as I spent the majority of my stay there. The beach is easily accessible with a long paved boardwalk winding for three miles along the beachfront. It’s really child friendly, many of the beach restaurants cater for kids even if they don’t have a children’s menu, just ask. A few also have toys and play parks right on the sand so you can enjoy your lunch and a beer while your little ones have fun. The town is just behind the beach and has tons of bars, shops and restaurants. For more on travelling to Bali with little ones click here: Bali with a baby…
There’s so much to explore in Bali it’s a destination that has everything, incredible sightseeing and stunning beaches. These suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg of activities and adventures to be had in this wonderful part of the world. Just writing it has made me want to go back!
Have you been to Bali? What did you enjoy the most? Let me know in the comments below…

 

What to pack for a glamping trip in the UK…

Us Brits are well known for talking a lot about the weather. This is because it can be so unpredictable, March can be good for sunbathing while August might bring torrential rain. We often experience all the seasons in one day too. So when it comes to packing for a glamping trip in the UK it can be tricky to know exactly what type of weather to pack for. Plus this type of adventure means you may need to pack lightly as your chosen accommodation could be tight on space. I've put together a handy list to help you get to grips with what to pack for a glamping trip in the UK.
Glamping:
Glamping is a more luxurious style of camping. I've stayed in some really cool glamping spots, a bus, a Shepherd's hut, a safari tent and campervans. Some have been more luxurious than others but they've all had the same theme: a unique place to stay whilst embracing the beautiful outdoors. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, especially if you aren't used to having to get up in the middle of the night and venture out to the bathroom like the Shepherd's hut I stayed in. But there are so many styles of glamping now from budget to extravagant there's something to suit everyone.
What clothes to pack:
  • Layers: for the ever-changeable weather you'll need t-shirts, long sleeved tops and jumpers for chilly evenings.
  • Leggings: I always pack leggings for relaxing in after a long day out exploring the local area.
  • Footwear: If it's the summer I pack flip flops and converse for the day and Ugg boots/warm shoes for sitting outside at night. If your accommodation is in a field and its been raining you might want to think about packing wellies.
  • Warm jacket: If you have a fire pit then you'll definitely want to be sitting outside under the stars - even in the middle of the summer the evenings can get chilly in the UK so pack a jacket.
  • Big socks: I love being cosy!
  • You might want to pack spare towels for the beach.
Other essentials:
  • Dry shampoo: If there's no electricity your hair dryer and straighteners will need to stay at home. If it's just a few days then I find that dry shampoo is my saviour.
  • Portable charger: Again if there's no electricity take one of these for charging phones and laptops. I just bought this nifty little one for charging phones it has enough juice to do 5 charges: Duracell Portable Power Bank.
  • A small mirror: You may have a bathroom with mirror in your accommodation but if not I always find packing my own mirror is essential for doing hair and make up.
  • Board games: If you can fit it in a game of scrabble is perfect for rainy evenings.
  • Fairy lights: Add a bit of cosy lighting to your setting.
  • Logs: If you have a log burner or fire pit you may need to buy logs. Check with your accommodation as wood may be supplied.
  • Torch: If lighting is limited it's always handy to have your own.
  • Batteries: For the fairy lights and torch.
  • Matches: They may already be provided so double check this.
Food:
Check what kitchen facilities are available before you go and if there is a welcome pack. Depending on your budget most kitchen essentials will be provided which means you can keep your packing list down.
  • Make a chilli before you go - perfect glamping food, easy to re-heat.
  • Buy essentials: Milk, bread, teabags etc.
  • I always take zip lock bags with me, as they are perfect for keeping open food airtight.
  • Marshmallows for the for the fire pit.
I hope this has given a bit of an insight into packing for a glamping trip in the UK. I'd love to hear what glamping adventures you have planned. Let me know in the comments below.
Happy Glamping!

 

My favourite UK Glamping spots:
Warmwell House Huts
Big Green Bus
Shaldon Beach Hut No. 1
For more on my Glamping adventures in the UK head here:
Glamping in Dorset
All Aboard the Big Green Bus
Beach Hut Living
Unique Places to stay in the UK
For Glamping further afield: The Ultimate Glamping Retreat in Bali

 

 

 

Travel Hammock Review…

Relaxing with a book in my travel hammock
When Cool Hammocks asked me to review their *travel hammock I racked my brains for a good spot to do this. Then I realised that as I live in the New Forest the answer was literally on my doorstep. So with a book and my hammock packed in my rucksack I went in search of a good spot to relax in. I chose Wilverley Inclosure as it’s always a nice place for a walk and a peaceful place for chilling in a hammock….

 

About the hammock:
The travel hammock comes in a variety of colours, blue, camouflage, lime and pink. I chose the blue. It rolls up to a really small size, great if you are packing light for a camping trip and to save on space when travelling. If it gets dirty it can be hand washed and is super lightweight.

 

How it works:
Having not put up a hammock before I was a little concerned as to how I would get on with it. But once I found some trees to attach it to it was really simple. Unroll it and then fasten it with the integrated ropes and hooks. The ropes are fully adjustable so wind them around a tree a few times and then fix with the hooks. That is literally it, fast and simple to use.

 

What I thought:
Having not owned my own hammock before I was really impressed. It was easy to put up and comfortable for relaxing in. I love how small it folds down and will definitely take it on my next camping trip.  It’s the perfect accessory for adventurers, even if you don’t plan to go any further than your back garden! To purchase your own travel hammock head to Cool Hammocks.

 

How to find my perfect hammock spot:
If you are planning a weekend in the New Forest and want to re-create your own chilled hammock vibes then stop at Wilverley Inclosure to find your spot. It’s a ten-minute drive from Brockenhurst and Burley. The Inclosure itself has a nice 2-mile round walk through ancient woodland. When you want to stop, find some trees and hang the hammock at a distance of roughly two thirds the length of the hammock. A hanging height of 6-8ft should do nicely. Finally, pick up your book and don’t forget the beer! Hammocks are permitted for use in the forest as long as they don’t damage the trees or endanger livestock.
To spend more time and explore this beautiful area why not stay over night at a campsite. There are ten in total in the New Forest, the nearest one to Wilverley is Setthorns. In the heart of the forest it’s in a gorgeous, secluded location just right for pitching up a tent and daydreaming in a hammock. Head to Camping in the Forest for more information.

 

*I was gifted my travel hammock in exchange for this review. As ever all opinions are my own.*

 

 

 

Walking with alpacas in the Hamsphire countryside…

Who knew you could do such a thing as walk with alpacas in England? When I opened up a gold shiny envelope from my brother and his girlfriend on Christmas Day I didn't know such a thing existed! So on a typically overcast for Britain type of day in April, Matt and I set off in search of Hensting Alpacas in Otterbourne. Found in a gorgeous spot in Hampshire by the chalk streams of the River Itchen the alpacas have 12 acres to roam freely on. We had tickets for a two hour morning walk and couldn't wait to try out this very different adventure!

Hensting are a family run business with 40 alpacas, one llama, a New Forest Pony and some sheep. The morning began with an interesting talk all about the alpacas. I loved hearing about their quirky habits and learnt some facts that I didn't know. We were also given instructions on how to safely walk with the alpacas.

Next it was time to meet them, there must have been about 15 alpacas all together on our walk. The first alpaca Matt and I got to walk was Walter, white and fluffy he was a picture perfect alpaca. Strolling along the riverbank with him was a very relaxing experience. He was best buddies with the alpaca in front of him so spent a lot of time keeping close to his back legs! There is apparently always one or two alpacas who are happy to go in front of the others and lead the way while the rest feel more comfortable following on behind. Half way through we all switched up and had the opportunity to walk with another alpaca. Our next noble steed was Whiskey Joe. He wasn't particularly photogenic, bless him, but he was a very friendly chap. Further into the stroll we discovered if one poos then they all tend to poo, which turned into an amusingly lengthy poo stop! Alpacas do this in the wild so their eating and toilet areas are kept separate and explains why they all go at the same time.

If you like being outdoors and are looking for something completely different or a unique gift for someone then this is it. Morning walks start at 10am, plan to be there at 9.30am to park, you don't want to be late as the walk takes places a long way across the meadow from the parking area. I'd recommend walking boots or wellies if the weather isn't so great. Anyone from the age of 8 and above can participate making it the perfect thing to do for a family day out. If like Matt and I you want an escape from the kids it's good for that too! It was the perfect opportunity to take a quiet few minutes away from our hectic lifestyle!

I wonder if I can plan a walk with an alpaca on my next trip to Peru?!

A mini guide to Dubai…

Me, mid air jump on top of a sand dune in Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
Dubai has never been somewhere that has really appealed to me, I don’t know why but it’s not been at the top of my list of places to visit. However, having now spent 3 nights in this vibrant city I can safely say that my mind has well and truly changed. I loved my time there and can’t believe how much there is to see and do. The locals are friendly, the streets are clean and the climate in February when I visited was perfect; warm, sunny and a steady 25°C. I also presumed that there wouldn’t be much to do in Dubai, how wrong I was! For those that like adventure there’s the desert, ziplines, ski slopes and skydiving. For sun worshippers there’s the beach. If you’re a shopaholic the shopping malls are out of this world and then there’s the sightseeing; so much of it that I didn’t get to see it all! Read on for the lowdown on my adventures in the UAE and what you need to do on your trip there…

 

From the airport:
Catch a taxi, red roof taxis are all over Dubai, ignore people trying to usher you to the more expensive cars. There is an official taxi rank so once you’ve got your bags follow the signs outside the airport. Taxis are metered, I paid AED 105 and gave a AED 20 tip for the journey to JBR Residence, which took around 30 minutes.

 

What to wear:
I wasn’t sure what to pack for Dubai as I didn’t know how strict the country was on dress code. Dubai is a Muslim country so dress conservatively, ladies should keep shoulders and knees covered. The JBR Residence and the marina area seemed to be a bit more relaxed when it came to dress code. I was surprised to see people wearing all sorts, tiny shorts, skimpy tops and little beach dresses. I believe in dressing respectfully depending on where I am so went for maxi dresses, floaty trousers and tops covering my shoulders. Although dressing conservatively does seem to be less of a need than I expected.
Swimwear is fine on the beach or by the pool but cover up modestly when leaving and take something to change into, wet swimwear under clothes is classed as inappropriate.
When visiting a mosque covering up head to toe is a must, pack scarves and pashminas or hire when you visit.
I went on a desert safari and would really recommend comfy, closed toe footwear. I’m a flip-flop girl but I’m so pleased I wore my converse in the desert; the amount of sand I emptied out of them after sand boarding was incredible!

 

Transport:
Taxis are everywhere and pretty cheap. The metro and tram are all easy to use and there’s a monorail which goes to The Palm. Sightseeing buses are a great way to see the city, more on this below.

 

 

Where to stay:
Dubai Marina and JBR
I stayed in this area and absolutely loved it. The beach, Marina Mall and The Walk; a mile long ocean side promenade with shops and restaurants are all there. I loved sipping on mocktails in cafés overlooking the ocean and browsing the market stalls. Yalseah Arabic Lounge and Cafe was my favourite, stop by for mango smoothies and crêpes. There is a public beach area too so there’s no need to pay to go on a private beach if you don’t want to. For daredevils there’s a zipline, XLine is the world’s longest zipline. It’s super pricey but looks like an incredible experience, zoom from 170 metres high down to ground level at exhilerating speeds with awesome views.

 

Downtown
Downtown is a good spot to be for some of Dubai’s top sights, the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountains and the Dubai Mall are all there.  It’s around 20 minutes drive from the airport, Dubai Creek is also nearby. Most of the hotels in the downtown area are within walking distance of all the attractions making it a very convenient place to stay.

 

Jumeirah Beach
The Burj al Arab, the Wild Wadi Waterpark and La Mer are all on the doorstep of Jumeirah Beach as are some amazing hotels. It’s a beautiful spot with most of the hotels having their own private beaches. This is the spot for sun worshippers and those looking for beautiful hotels with gorgeous ocean views. Jumeirah Beach is also only around a 15 minute drive from Downtown Dubai.

 

 

Things to see:
Burj Khalifa
The Burj Khalifa stands at a height of 2716.5 ft making it the world’s tallest building. Work started on this incredible structure in 2004 and was completed in 2010 with up to 12,000 people working on it everyday. Step into the worlds fastest elevator and take in the views of Dubai on the 124th and 125th floor, at 456 metres up it’s well worth a visit.  Be prepared for long queues. I booked an 11.30am slot and must have spent an hour queuing to go up in the lift and then back down again. Book a mega early slot to watch the sunrise and enjoy breakfast afterwards. The views from ‘At the Top’ are amazing and what a thing to be able to say you’ve seen Dubai from the world’s tallest building.

 

Dubai Fountains
These fountains reminded me of the fountains outside the Bellagio in Las Vegas and they are in fact created by the same people. Set to music the water show is mesmerizing, with the dramatic backdrop of the city skyscrapers and the Burj it’s a really nice experience. The show only lasts for a few minutes so time your visit to the Dubai Mall to see one. There are shows during the day and evening, check on the website for times. Watch them at night and marvel at the Burj Khalifa illuminated in a dazzling  fashion.

 

Desert Safari
This was one of my favourite parts of the trip, a morning dune drive with camel riding, sand boarding and breakfast in a Bedouin camp. We were collected from our hotel at 7.30am and driven to the Dubai Desert Conservation Area. After the tyres on the 4×4 vehicles were lowered we set off in convoy into the desert. Driving up and down the dunes was thrilling. We stopped in the dunes to take photos and then continued on the adventure. After the drive we arrived at a camp and had the opportunity to try sand boarding. Next was a short camel ride and finally a sit down in the Bedouin camp along with Arabic coffee, dates and breakfast. I booked the trip with Arabian Adventures,they have a load of other fantastic experiences including a ‘Sunset Dune Dinner Safari’.

 

Bus Tour
A bus tour is a great way to see Dubai. We used City Sightseeing Dubai; with a one-day pass you get to travel on all four routes as well as a boat trip. We unfortunately didn’t have time to go on the boat trip but I think it’s really great value for money at AED 300. Water was provided on the buses as well as headphones to listen to the guided tour. I found it really informative and it was nice to see different parts of the city you don’t get to see in a taxi. My favourite routes were the blue route covering sights such as the Jumeirah mosque and the Burj al Arab and the yellow route, this went around the marina and onto The Palm.

 

 

Where to drink:
Being a Muslim country alcohol is only permitted in hotels so you’ll find that cafes and bars only serve soft drinks. Shishas are very popular; you can’t go far without spotting someone smoking one. But bars are aplenty, head to a hotel for G & T or cocktail with a view. Pick a hotel with a rooftop bar, I really recommend visiting one at sunset. Jumeirah Beach Hotel has an amazing bar overlooking the ocean and the Burj al Arab. I stayed at the Ramada Plaza at the Jumeirah Beach Residence. The rooftop bar had  amazing views of the marina, ocean and The Palm. The Sofitel downtown has a chic rooftop bar with infinity pool, it’s open during the day as well as the evening and has incredible views of the Burj Khalifa. Pure Sky Lounge at the Hilton on The Walk is another perfect spot for sundowners with views of the Arabian Gulf and The Palm, time your happy hour drink for sunset.

 

Shopping:
This wasn’t high on my agenda for Dubai but the UAE certainly knows how to do shopping malls! The Dubai Mall has it’s own aquarium and ice rink and you’ll find the Dubai Fountains right outside, plus the Burk Khalifa next door. The Dubai Mall app has a map to help navigate this vast shopping extravaganza, it’s really useful for finding your way around. Mall of the Emirates has ski slopes with an alpine lodge you can stay overnight in and ski lifts to get up to the top of the ski runs. If you have time they really are worth a visit.

 

Mosques:
The only mosque open to non-Muslims in Dubai is the Jumeirah Mosque. Tours run 6 days a week at 10am and last for 75 minutes. Plan a visit here while on a bus tour; the City Sightseeing Dubai buses stop nearby. Further afield is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi which is around a 1 hour 30 minute drive from Dubai. If you have a day spare in your trip you should put this in your itinerary. One of the world’s largest mosques it has an open-door policy and is just incredible. Huge white domes   house not only the prayer hall but also the world’s largest hand-made carpet and chandelier. Entry is free.

 

Happy Dubai planning!

 

My 2018 travel highlights…

I always love reading other bloggers yearly round ups and I always enjoy writing my own. It’s a great way to look back and see all the positives of the year gone, especially if I’m feeling a bit miserable on a cold and rainy day in England! This year I’ve struggled with keeping on top of my blog, I’ve had the work/life/keeping a child alive balance to contend with so writing regular blog posts has been a struggle. Although this might mot sound like a big thing to some, blogging is a huge passion of mine and I’ve made myself feel really guilty for not doing enough of it. But onwards and upwards and into the new year, so I guess my first New Years resolution will be to write more.
I’ve had some amazing opportunities this year from writing for travel companies and working with some very cool brands. I work part-time as cabin crew and have been lucky to explore some fantastic countries. I’ve been to four new destinations this year, Cape Town, Peru, Toronto and Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Read on for my travel round-up of 2018.
January: California and Edinburgh
Matt, Emily and I celebrated the start of the new year up in the air as we flew back from our Christmas trip in California on New Years Eve. We had the loveliest Christmas with family, combined with 10 days exploring the Californian coastline. Starting in San Francisco we embarked on a road trip with Jucy campers. This was Emily’s first experience in a camper van and she loved it. From San Francisco we headed north to Point Reyes National Seashore. It was our first time visiting this part of Marin County and I was blown away by the natural beauty of the area. We stayed right by Tomales Bay, I honestly have never spent time in such a tranquil spot. Waking up to watch the sunrise over the waters edge certainly made jet lag a little bit easier and exploring picturesque spots such as Point Reyes Lighthouse and the Cypress Tree Tunnel were two highlights of our time there. If you’ve not been before I totally recommend visiting. From there the next stop was Monterey, we stayed in the area for three nights. More than originally planned as wild fires shut the campsite we planned to stay at on the beach in Carpinteria. It all worked out fine though and Monterey is a gorgeous spot and has plenty to do with kids. Carmel, the Big Sur, Morro Bay, Santa Monica, Carlsbad and Lake Jennings were all on our hit list too. Read more on our adventures in California here:
Adventures in California with Jucy campers…
Road Tripping with a baby in California…
Back in the UK I got to spend a day in Edinburgh, I love Scotland in the winter. The Royal Mile is a popular tourist designation in Edinburgh, home to Edinburgh Castle and loads of tourist attractions. There are also plenty of coffee shops to keep warm in. Mrs Macintyre’s Coffee House is one of my favourites, views out onto the pavement make it a perfect spot for watching the world go by. The pretty tea cups and saucers add a touch of shabby chic too. I also sampled some Edinburgh gin in a cosy Scottish pub.

 

February: Gloucestershire and Mauritius
A trip to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire with friends was a lovely way to start February. We stayed in a log cabin with Forest Holidays. Nestled amongst tall trees, big enough for two families and complete with a hot tub, I can’t recommend it enough. There is so much to explore in the Forest of Dean and plenty of picturesque walks. Biblins Bridge and Symonds Yat Rock were two of my favourites. It snowed while we were there too, it was such a novelty to be sat in the hot tub while watching snow fall down between the trees. I loved getting cosy inside by the log burner in the evenings too. Here’s what I thought of our time there: A log cabin break in the Forest of Dean…
I had a work trip to Mauritius in February, being cabin crew I only had 48 hours to explore but boy did I have some awesome adventures! The first evening was spent on a sunset cruise out of the harbour in Port Louis. It was a great way to get a different view of Port Louis and I loved having a few beers while watching the sun go down. The next day some of the crew and I set off to find hidden waterfalls and to see a bit of the island. The highlights of the day were stopping off at Eau Bleu waterfall, hidden off the side of a road near Curepipe it was an adventure just getting to it. Enclosed footwear is definitely recommended for the steep climb down to it. We were clinging onto tree roots wondering what we had let ourselves in for, but it was totally worth it for the beautiful views! Jumping off of Rochester Falls was an experience I won’t forget, being blessed by a Hindu priest at Grand Bassin and a refreshing dip in the ocean on the beach at Le Morne made the day an incredible one. If you are planning your own adventures in Mauritius here’s what I got up to: Chasing waterfalls and other adventures in Mauritius…
March: South Africa
In March I went to Cape Town for the first time. I had an awesome time there and with only 48 hours I crammed in as much sightseeing as I could. On the first day I explored Cape Point and took in the dramatic views of the coastline from the lighthouse, followed by a trip to Boulders Beach to meet the penguins. I had read so much about Boulders Beach so it was amazing to finally visit it in person. There are around 2,200 African penguins living on the protected beach, it’s such a picturesque place and to see penguins on the beach felt like such a novelty. Lunch at Camps Bay, steak for dinner, a tour of the vineyards in Stellenbosch and taking the cable car to the top of Table Mountain made this one of my most favourite trips of the year and has put Cape Town at the top of my list of my most loved places. For more on Cape Town head here: Things to do in Cape Town for first timers…

 

April: Jamaica and Cornwall
A quick 12 hours in Kingston, Jamaica gave me just enough time to take some photos of the gorgeous views from the air, have a beer before bed and get a spot of sunbathing in before flying home. A 12 hour stop over is often the reality of my job. Sometimes it’s so quick I often don’t get the chance to explore or leave the hotel.
Emily turned two in April so we marked her birthday with a trip to Bude in Cornwall. We stayed at Sandymouth Holiday Park in a static caravan, I have no shame in saying that I love a caravan holiday! It was brand new and with views of the sea was just perfect. We enjoyed blustery walks along the Cornish coast and lunch time beers on our terrace overlooking the sea. It even got warm enough for Emily to play in the outdoor splash zone at the holiday resort. It’s a great spot to head to with kids, there’s a soft play area, a pirate ship play park, an indoor pool, kids activities and  the beach is just down the road.

 

May: Peru
Another first for me in 2018 was a trip to Lima in Peru. I’ve yet to write anything up about my trip to South America but I had the best time. Lima is often overlooked as a must do destination as most be people fly into Lima and head straight to Machu Picchu. But there is so much on offer in the city, from the old town, to the markets and the food; there’s plenty to explore. I loved shopping in the Indian markets in Mira Flores, I came home with a gorgeous alpaca blanket and a few mini llamas for Emily! I explored the wonderful architecture of Lima’s old town, had my first pisco sour and also surfed. There is still so much of Peru I need to see, Cusco and Machu Picchu are at the top of my list along with sand boarding in the dunes at Huacachina…watch this space!
June: Menorca
It’s been years since I’ve been away with my parents so a family holiday to Menorca was so nice. I often feel like I need to go half way around the world but actually our trip to Menorca made me realise how accessible Europe is from the UK. The beaches and weather were amazing and we were there in two hours from London. Emily has got harder to ‘manage’ on an aircraft! Being two she wants to be on the move all the time. Even with new toys and books, there’s something about being on an aircraft that makes her want to investigate all the time rather than just chill out with an iPad in front her! So the shorter the flight the better right now for Matt and I!
Anyway it was the loveliest family holiday, we stayed in a four bedroom villa with a pool overlooking the Mediterranean in Punta Prima. Our ten days consisted of spending time by the pool, building sand castles at the beach, a few evening meals out and barbeques by the pool at our villa. Matt and I hired a car for a day while my parents looked after Emily so we could explore a bit more of the island. We had planned to go kayaking along the coast and explore the caves but due to bad weather the night before the sea conditions were too rough. Instead we spent the day leisurely stopping off at glorious beaches and strolled around quaint white washed towns. We stopped off at Cova D’En Xoroi, a bar in a cave, I discovered this place last year on a press trip in Menorca and knew Matt would love it. It’s a stunning place to watch the sunset and enjoy a glass of prosecco or a pomada. One very adventurous trip saw Matt and I along with my brother Chris and his girlfriend Sarah kayak a mile from the beach at Punta Prima to the tiny island opposite known as Black Lizard Island or Illa de l’Aire. There is nothing on the island apart from a lighthouse and black lizards. It was a brilliant little expedition and fun to walk around an uninhabited island.
July: Toronto
In July I got to tick Toronto off my list of must see places and with only 48 hours there I did a lot. On the first morning I went to Niagara Falls which was incredible. I did it in half a day and managed to squeeze in a boat tour going right up to the falls. I had dinner up above the city at the CN Tower, walked all over the city and got a boat over to Toronto Island. The views of the city skyline from there are beautiful.
August: Dorset and Mauritius
In August I turned 34, writing that makes me feel so old! To celebrate my birthday Matt booked at surprise trip for just the two of us to Dorset. I had no idea what we were staying in until we reached the door. Hidden in the Dorset countryside on the grounds of Warmwell House, amongst woodland and rolling hills was ‘Sika’ the shepherd’s hut. The weather was glorious and the trip was so relaxing. This was my first time staying in a shepherd’s hut and I loved every minute. It had a cosy double bed, a small kitchen area, a table and bench seat and a log burner. There was also a separate bathroom hut which I was really impressed with. Waking up in the morning with a cup of Dorset tea in such a tranquil setting was the perfect way to spend my birthday. We explored the Jurassic coast on a walk in between Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove and cooked under the stars on the fire pit by the hut at night. Glamping has alway been one of my passions and the shepherd’s hut really reminded me why. Check out what we got up to here: Glamping in Dorset
Not long after my birthday I had another work trip to Mauritius. This trip was spent relaxing by the pool, spending a bit of time at the spa with a massage, eating curry and watching the sunset on a boat trip. I often feel like I need to always be on the go and explore all the time but I realised on this trip that sometimes it’s ok just to slow down and also save the pennies a little!
September: Toronto and House buying
September saw me back in Toronto, I had so much planned but the weather was horrendous and it rained for the whole 48 hours I wasthere. I still got to see parts of the city I hadn’t already seen on my first trip though. A highlight was visiting the Distillery District. With its quirky cobbled streets it sits in complete contrast to the rest of the city. Dating back to the 19th century the gorgeous red brick buildings now house art galleries, boutique shops, bars, restaurants, micro breweries and tasting rooms. We stopped at Mill Street Brew Pub for lunch and to try their beers which are brewed on site. I also tried Japanese Sake for the first time at the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company.
Matt and I put an offer in on a house in the New Forest and had it accepted which we are over the moon about, we are hoping to complete in January. It needs some work doing to it so we can’t move in straight away but we are so excited!

 

October: New York, Lymington and a spa break in Winchester
On a quick 12 hours in New York I had brunch in Times Square, did a bit of shopping and visited Grand Central Terminal. I know it’s just a train station but it’s a pretty impressive one! I also discovered the Grand Central food market which I didn’t know existed. I love a local market and this one really impressed me, loads of cheese, fresh meat, coffee, some tasty looking cakes, you name it, it was there!
Grand Central Terminal, New York.
Grand Central Terminal, New York.
Back in the UK, Matt and I were very lucky to be the first people to stay in ‘The Snug‘ in Lymington. My lovely in-laws have refurbished a two bedroom town house at the top of the High Street in Lymington on the edge of the New Forest. It is a Grade II English Heritage listed building with a beautiful interior. From the open fire-place in the lounge and bedroom to the roll top bath and Belfast sink, it has bags of character and charm. I loved being able to walk down to the quay in Lymington and with the forest a short drive away it’s the perfect spot for a mini break. I’ve written all about it here: Unique Places to Stay in the UK…
I also spent two nights in Winchester on a spa break with my lovely Mum. We got a great deal through Spa Seekers and stayed at Norton Park. The package included three 25 minute spa treatments, use of the swimming pool and leisure facilities, breakfast and dinner for the stay and lunch on one day. Norton Park is set among 54 acres of Hampshire countryside, it was a beautiful spot for relaxing in and such a nice thing to do with my Mum.
November: Fort Lauderdale, Florida and East Sussex
I’ve been to Florida more times than I can remember with work. Orlando and Tampa pop up on my roster most months but normally only as night stop. I’ve never really had much time to explore apart from inside the shopping malls, so I was really excited when a layover in Fort Lauderdale appeared on my roster in November. I worked with a really lovely crew who were all up for going on an adventure. We chose to go on an air boat trip in the Everglades, although after booking it through at the hotel I realised it was the Everglades Holiday Park we were going to and not the Everglades National Park. I loved riding on an air boat, it was an exhilarating experience whizzing through the wetlands. We were lucky to spot three alligators which was a very cool. Although I enjoyed the experience I’m not sure I would recommend the holiday park, I usually research before I book a trip but on this occasion I only looked into it afterwards. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy buzzing about on the air boat but there were elements I did not enjoy. One was the ‘gator show, I knew this was part of the day so feel guilty that I contributed towards something that I didn’t feel was right. I may be getting myself into deep water by discussing things like this but I want to put my honest opinion out there to you all. I felt really sorry for the alligator who took part in the ‘show’, it clearly didn’t want to be there. I should explain that The Gator Boys who do the show rescue alligators that are found in residential areas, they would otherwise be ‘put down’. The whole thing just didn’t seem that respectful to me and their enclosure seemed pretty small. Perhaps I didn’t get the full picture on how these animals are cared for. Anyway I’m letting you know so you can make your own decision on visiting. Next time I would make a trip to the actual Everglades. Although I’ve moaned on a bit, I did really enjoy aspects of the day especially the air boat.
Back in the UK, Matt, Emily and I enjoyed the loveliest wintery break in Camber Sands. It was our first time exploring the East Sussex and Kent coast and we loved it. We played in the sand dunes on the beach at Camber, strolled the streets and ate cake in the beautiful old English town of Rye and visited Dungeness.