August 27th, 2015

Autumn Honeymoons in New Zealand

Hey, we’re haven’t even hit the summer season yet and here I am talking about the next year’s Autumn! But considering that a lot of international visitors book their New Zealand honeymoon 12 months ahead, it’s not such a stretch. Listed below are a few advantages to travelling this beautiful country in Autumn:

 

Advantage No 1 – Settled Weather New Zealand in autumn

 

Yes, the Autumn months mean sad goodbyes for some. But in that special time between March and May, the scenery is never more beautiful and the weather is probably at it’s calmest. It’s a great combo to see the rich Autumn colours, yet at the same time, enjoy sunny blue skies.

Lewis Pass2

Advantage No 2 – New Zealand in Autumn photography

 

Nature actually creates a darker light and keen photographers love it. Loved-up honeymooners will get a lot of space to themselves to photograph those surprisingly friendly Tuis and Fantails. No waiting for others to step out of your way here folks. There’s no sweeter moment when you re-visit your photos and recall that beautiful waterfall.

Waterfall couples

Advantage No 3 – Off-the-beaten in New Zealand:

 

In the Autumn months it’s still possible to enjoy off-the-beaten places like Lake Hauroko in the Fiordland National Park. (Can you believe that many New Zealanders have never heard of this, let alone seen it!). Tour number will be fewer and you’ll often get the undivided attention of your guide.

Lake Hauroko

Advantage No 4 – Seasonal prices and more choices:

 

Of course it’s beneficial to your wallet when the ‘shoulder’ winter rates kick in. Plus there’s the added bonus of having a better range of choices for romantic accommodation. You may not be so lucky to get this gorgeous little cottage in the busy summer months.

Old Schoolhouse Kina

Advantage No 5 – Walking tracks:

 

Long after the Christmas/New Year visitors have departed these shores, you’ll get to explore great walking tracks without meeting a single soul on the way. How cool is that!

Autumn Honeymoon couples

The lovely lady who took this photo on a beautiful day in March, was the only person we met on this part of the Milford Track .We remember her kindly. Thanks Karen.

 

Happy travelling.

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August 11th, 2015

Travel Planning New Zealand

When I’m designing New Zealand travel itineraries, my first recommendation is to “slow down”. Don’t cram in as many locations as possible. Limit the number of locations so you can stay at those locations longer to explore. We all know about the “See-14- European-countries-in-10 Days” tours. This type of travel is so outdated. You will need some time to relax along the way.

Queen Charlotte Sound Day walk and sleep

 

Travel Planning New Zealand on the map…

 

Many travellers will start planning their holiday by looking at a map. “Gee, New Zealand looks small” they’ll say. Well guys, looks can be deceiving. New Zealand is actually a mini Planet Earth compressed into a painter’s pallet with beaches, fjords, glaciers, islands, oceans, vineyards, rainforests etc.

Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve Michael

New Zealand roads can be hilly in places and may take longer to travel than it would on the flats.

Wanaka to Fox Glacier

 

BEFORE planning your New Zealand holiday, consider this:

 

a) Accept you won’t see everything in 7-14 days.
b) Make some hard decisions and trim-line your “wishlist”.
c) Use a realistic “action plan” to set this up – visual is best.

 

TRY this great planning strategy for New Zealand travel:

 

1.  Set your travel dates and make as much time as you possibly can.
2.  Write down what you really have to do and see in New Zealand
3.  Design a layout with dates & locations – on a spreadsheet or similar.

 

Have a look at this Travel Planning Guide which is especially designed to help you with all the above.

 

If you use the above strategies, I guarantee it will sharpen your focus and you’ll see what can be achieved in the time you have.

New Zealand explore St Arnaud

 

Happy travelling!

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August 6th, 2015

New Zealand serving up treats

New Zealanders love bold flavours with tang and spice and it seems that visitors to our country do as well. Along with our beautiful scenery, our guests never forget  that special piece of Carrot containing delectable goodies like walnuts, treacle, apples and apricot pieces. And let’s not forget the real cream cheese icing!

Carrot Cake

The one thing I missed when overseas, was quality, creamy yogurt. Australian and New Zealand gourmet yogurts are readily found in supermarkets and they’re thick and delicious. Call me biased, but I think that our cream is the best in the world. And kids, this peanut butter really deserves it’s place on a star-studded stage.

Pic's Peanut Butter Jars

Love it that we do this stuff so well. Ok, must go, the morning Latte beckons.

Latte small size

Happy Travelling.

 

 

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July 26th, 2015

Port Douglas Accommodation Options

If you want to explore the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Forest and outdoor adventures, Port Douglas is a beautiful base with lots of Port Douglas accommodation options.

Port Douglas Beach boutique

Handy Hint: When travelling into Port Douglas you’ll want to stay on the eastern side of town as this is quieter with less traffic. We stayed for a couple of weeks in Port Douglas and enjoyed numerous local tours, but we also personally experienced a number of accommodations.

Shantara Interior Port Douglas is great for couples

As a Travel Designer, my recommendations are based solely on places I have seen for myself and can recommend at the time of my visit. Skill is needed in matching travelers expectations to their budgets, and accommodation needs. Couples don’t necessary want to stay in a family resort and families require child-friendly apartments with kitchen and playground facilities. So folks, here’s my list:

Thala Beach Lodge is an eco retreat near Port Douglas

1. Port Douglas Apartment Accommodation for Families


Cayman Villas Port Douglas

If you’re are staying in Port Douglas you may wish to be fairly central within walking distance to shops, restaurants and supermarkets. Naturally, you’ll want peace and quiet too. Cayman Villas are perfectly located for both.

Cayman Villas are a centrally located Port Douglas accommodation option

I loved the layout of their 2- and 3-bedroom apartments. They’re spacious and stylish. This resort has three main buildings, each with three levels. There is no elevator, but there is a heated swimming pool in the middle of the complex. Heated Pools are a great facility for children especially in the more moderate winter months between May and September. (Price Indication: A$300-450 per night per room per apartment.)

 

Peppers Beach Club Port Douglas

First impressions are very important and the one consistent thread with all these accommodations is their commitment to maintaining both plants and building to a high standard.

Peppers Beach Club with family apartments close to town centre Port Douglas

Peppers gave a very good first impression with it’s beautiful large pools surrounded by sand. Couples are also likely to stay here as well, as there is a bar and grill restaurant and a gym. The ground floor rooms have direct access to the pools and it’s a very short walk into town. There is complementary guest parking and a 24 hour reception service. Elevators serve the majority of rooms.

 

Mandalay & Shalimar Beachfront Apartments

These sister properties are managed by one Company and are only 100 metres from the Port Douglas beach. The resort has two pools, one of which is heated.

Mandalay Port Douglas accommodation option is a boutique apartment for family travellers

There is a well maintained tennis court, BBQ facilities and childrens playing area. There is no complimentary wifi, gym or spa facilities. The 1-, 2-, 3- bedrooms apartments are spacious and modern. (Price indication: A$300-450 per night per apartment.)

 

Mowbray by the Sea Port Douglas

Mowbray is located with close access to the Port Douglas beach (sorry, no photo). It’s also very close to the central village (5-10 minutes walk). Mowbray caters for a family or two couples together. It has 3 levels, a heated lap pool, Formerly managed by a corporate company, it is now owner-operated. And the personalised attention by the owner is already paying off with facilities being updated and guest services (such as complimentary wifi) enhanced. The apartments are roomy with a balcony attached. As with most apartment options in Port Douglas, full kitchen facilities are included. (Price indication: A$200-350 per night per apartment.)

Garrick House Port Douglas

Garrick House is on the preferred side of town and is now an owner-operated business. The apartments are a different level down from the previous properties I’ve mentioned and this is reflected in the price.

Garrick House has a great location close to Port Douglas beach

Options include Studio, 1- and 2-Bedroom apartments. The 2-bedroom apartments are on the third level and accessed by stairs. Garrick House has a small (currently) unheated pool and offers complimentary wifi. The owner is very approachable and helpful. Price level: (Price indication: A$120-200 per night per apartment.)

 

2. Port Douglas Couples Retreats

Shantara Resort Port Douglas

Shantara is a privately owned dedicated couples-only apartment resort within a short walking distance from the village. This three-level property has 2 pools but no restaurant or bar. There is a separately owned award-winning Health and Spa that we can also personally recommend.

Shantara Port Douglas is a couples only boutique apartment

We stayed in one of Shantara’s spacious apartments for five nights and enjoyed it’s lovely interiors. This property is maintained to a very high standard.The kitchen is well equipped. There is a complementary wifi with a generous daily limit of 1GB – such a pleasant surprise from other properties we stayed at! (Price Indication: A$300-400 per night per room (2 person).)

 

Mai Tai Resort Mossman

For travellers seeking a totally different experience with rural and peaceful setting in native bush, Mai Tai is the perfect retreat. Anthony Roxburgh and Andre de Walsche are the owners/managers and their personal touches are everywhere.

Mai Tai Resort Mossman is a couples retreat lodge

 

The property has a strong Asian influence and offers four individual rooms, each with their own spacious courtyard. Breakfast is served on the veranda overlooking the bush. At the top level of the Resort is a self-contained apartment with full kitchen, wifi and two bedroom facilities. This is definitely an adult-only retreat with a truly peaceful and tranquil setting.(Price Indication: A$250-350 per night per room (2 person).

 

3. Port Douglas Boutique hotels

 

Peninsula Boutique Hotel Port Douglas

While talking to local tour operators, we were made aware of the Port Douglas Boutique Hotel, which is located next the the local beach.

Peninsula Port Douglas is a true Boutique Hotel close to the beach

Interesting enough there are not many hotels with breakfast or restaurant facilities in the area (most of them are further out of town). Most studio rooms are beautifully appointed facing the beach (except 4 pool view units). They are spacious and very comfortable. The hotel has a breakfast buffet included in the daily rate, which is a unusual, as most other hotels in this area, charge heavily for breakfast. (Price Indication: A$250-400 per night per room (2 person).

 

4. Port Douglas Eco Retreat

 

Thala Beach Nature Reserve Lodge

If you’re looking for ‘knock-out’ views on a private headland between Cairns and Port Douglas, you might want to consider the tree chalets at Thala Beach Resort…

Thala Beach Chalet with lots of privacy for honeymoon travellers

…and try to book a bungalow overlooking the shimmering Coral Sea:

stunning views from cottage number 2 at Thala Beach resort

The buffet breakfast at Thala Beach is top notch with every conceivable hot and cold option, however at the time of our stay, the same could not be said for the night dining, the standard of which did not match the prices charged. I would strongly suggest you travel the 15-min drive to Port Douglas where there are some excellent dining choices to be had. (I voiced my concern to Management about the dinner and I’m hopeful that this ‘glitch’ can be resolved.) Although wi-fi is not provided in the chalets, there is complimentary access throughout the main lodge.

 

5. Luxury Port Douglas Accommodation Options

Silky Oaks Lodge Mossman

Silky Oaks is a luxury retreat set in the middle of the Daintree Rainforest, adjoining the Mossman River. Mossman is a 20- minute drive from Port Douglas or around 1.5 hours from Cairns. Silky Oaks has the perfect blend of native bush and the luxurious, private setting of individual chalets.

Silky Oaks Lodge near Mossman is a true luxury retreat lodge

Those chalets are just gorgeous with polished wooden floors, stylish interior and all the mod-cons. The hammocks on for verandah of each chalet, were a very nice touch.The restaurant dinner facilities are available for in-house guests only. The lodge provides a top-notch spa and health retreat and offers guided rainforest and cultural tours, bird watching and complementary cycle hire. (Price Indication: A$400-700 per night per room (2 person)

 

We enjoyed our stay in Port Douglas during the month of July when the temperatures were between 25-27 degrees. It was also a little less busy. BTW, our fav place for excellent coffee was the Bookshop Cafe!

 

Happy Travelling.

 

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July 16th, 2015

Snorkelling Great Barrier Reef Port Douglas

This is the tour I enjoyed the most from Port Douglas – sailing and snorkelling on the Aquarius, a beautiful 62ft Catamaran with a maximum of 23 guests.

Snorkelling Port Douglas1

There’s a different level of comfort and service here folks. Today, we sailed out under blue skies and a beaming sun.

Snorkelling Sailing Port Douglas2

With a gentle breeze, we headed out to Low Isles a beautiful white beach surrounded by marine life, including large green turtles. The two crew members of Aquarius, Skipper Andy and Hostess, Jo, provided a very personalised level of service. Andy understands the male obsession for being at the helm:

Snorkelling Port Douglas3

And Jo? Well Jo just sparkles with personality and doesn’t mind me watching her every move. She’s happy if her guests are happy.

Snorkelling sailing Port Douglas4

On these boutique sailing tours, there is a different type of guest. No children under the age of 16 are permitted. There are mainly couples on-board and the conversation is relaxed and easy.

Sailing and snorkelling port douglas5

Great Barrier Reef snorkeling trips Port Douglas at Low Isles:

First, we’re transferred from the Aquarius into a glass-bottomed boat to the beautiful white beaches of the Low Isles. Here’s me, clutching my flippers and measuring each step.

Snorkelling Glass Bottomed boat

When we reach Low Isles the snorkelling begins and once again I observe the meticulous care of the crew. The snorkel, mask and mouthpiece are checked on every guest and adjustments made. Jo then invites the less confident to latch on to a rubber ring which she pulls along on a rope. The energy this must take, absolutely staggers me! These crew members are incredibly fit.

Snorkelling Low Isles

Every now and then Jo stops when she sees something of interest, like the gorgeous fish known as Cleaner Wrasses. Larger fish hover underneath us, waiting patiently for the Cleaner Wrasses to remove their parasites and dead skin. Unfortunately there’s an imposter that’s able to mimic the Cleaner Wrasses.  Sometimes these little ‘nasties’ burrow through the gills of the trusting fish, helping themselves to chunks of flesh, before swimming off. How thrilling to see the Black-tipped reef sharks and yes we swim with those sharks. In fact the sharks in these waters are totally harmless and are known as the ‘puppy dogs’ of the ocean. You’ll be amazed when they shy away from you!

Low Isles Marine life

Low Isles Island Tour:

I could remain snorkelling but opt for a walking tour around the island with Andy. Can you believe the size of this clam shell! Later on when we all go snorkelling again, we’ll see giant living claims many times the size of this one.

Snorkelling Low Isles Clam

The lighthouse you see in the far distance of the second to last photo is actually quite impressive. It’s the first lighthouse in Northern Queensland. Such a pity that the first light-keeper’s wife died within 2 weeks of arrival. We spend a quiet moment at her grave.

Low Isles Lighthouse

Walking through the bush we catch sight of the birdlife and their magnificent nests before heading out once more onto the beach and it’s sparkling waters.

Snorkelling Low Isles beach

Michael and another guests snorkelled their way back to the Aquarius Boat which was anchored a short distance from the beach. The rest of us went back via the glass-bottomed boat to view more marine life. I counted 6 large green turtles in the space of 5 mins!

 

Lunch on-board the Aquarius:

On tours like this, you won’t find the usual blubbery suspects elbowing their way to the buffet table. It’s an experience to be savoured. The food is beautifully laid out with succulent fresh prawns and other delectables. But it’s the dessert table that seduces me. Who could fault this cheese platter?

Snorkelling Port Douglas lunch

The cheesecake squares are delicious, as are those insane little fruit slices that melt in your mouth. It’s all nicely polished off with freshly cut tropical fruit:

Snorkelling Aquarius lunch

There’s more snorkelling to be had directly off the Aquarius but I prefer to kick back and just chill out, totally oblivious to the curious fish on the right.

Snorkelling and Sailing Port Douglas6

Luxuriating to the sound of water gently slapping against this beautiful vessel is something I’ve dreamt of for a long time but one of the guests on-board has harboured his own dream. Bin has always wanted to hoist sails and now is his chance. Under careful supervision, Bin’s dream comes true. Mission accomplished.

Snorkelling and Sails Port Douglas7

Our day is over, but not for Andy and Jo. They’ll be getting the boat in shipshape order for the sunset cruise where they’ll sail into a golden sky.

 

Happy Travelling.

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