July 15th, 2016

Top attractions Yallingup Margaret River

After first basing ourselves in Bunker Bay, we visited the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. The wind’s been fierce today, but it was a pretty easy 5-min walk from the lighthouse reception area. It’s really hard to photograph lighthouses, when you’re trying to stay on your feet. Time to move on to the top attractions Yallingup Margaret River.

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

Most peoples perception of Western Australia is that of arid dessert land but within the Margaret River area there is much greenery and gentle rolling hills.

Margaret River lushness

Gunyulgup Galleries

Some of the top attractions of Yallingup Margaret River are the Gunyulgup Galleries. We liked The Studio Gallery which featured beautiful collections by leading Australian artists. For a really special purchase, this would be a good place to start. Ths photo only shows a fraction of what is available. The larger paintings are displayed in pull-out sliding doors and they are stunners.

Yallingup Studio Gallery

The beauty of this art gallery is that it incorporates an award-winning Bistro Restaurant within a bush setting. That makes total sense – great food and art make good companions. Sorry Michael, we have to move on, there’s so much to see before we stop for lunch.

The Studio Gallery & Bistro

Next stop is at a smallish handcrafted jewelry gallery featuring original and eye-catching silver jewelry.

Yallingup Jewellery gallery

You’ll have no problem finding these places – they’re in close proximity to one another and everything is well signposted. You couldn’t possibly miss this sign. Bought myself a pair of Merino wool socks here.

Yallingup Merino wool

Top wineries and artisan food

There are wineries galore here and quite a few stand-outs. Vasse Felix, Cullen Wines and Hay Shed Hill are just a fraction wineries producing award-winning wines. We decided to lunch at the Hay Shed Hill Winery in their Rustico Restaurant. There is a very good reason why Michael looks so happy.  The tapas style food was terrific.

Hay Shed Hill Wines

After our tapas, salmon pizza and pear & walnut salad, we rounded off the experience with a visit to the Gabriel Chocolate Shop. I have been accused of overworking the word “divine” but how else can you describe this “bean to bar” experience.  Free sampling before you buy and so much choice.

Gabriel Chocolate

The friendly and helpful salesperson insisted on adding more meat to my bones by sending many samples my way.  We left with 3 different varieties, all 75% dark chocolate. I’m not ashamed to say, there are only two left and the day is far from finished.

Gabriel Chocolate2

 

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Happy Travelling!

 

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July 12th, 2016

Exploring Perth and Fremantle Australia

Discovering Perth

We’re currently exploring Perth and Fremantle Australia, before taking our ‘loop’ road trip to the Margaret River area.

Perth City

Basing ourselves at the Fraser Suites Hotel in downtown Perth, has been a positive experience. The staff are professional and friendly. The suite has a short passageway leading into the main living area and is spacious. We loved the endless options for breakfast.

Fraser Suite breakfast1

After arriving in Perth after an 8-hour flight, we craved some exercise. With the sun on our backs, we strolled around the lovely Queens Garden (not to be confused with the much grander Kings Garden).

Queens Garden Perth

Many attractions within Central Perth are within walking distance or a quick bus ride on the open top double-decker Perth Explorer. On a hot summer’s day, it would be a great option.

Perth Explorer

The Perth Explorer bus stops at key points in Perth, including the Perth Mint, a must-do for visitors who find the lure of gold irresistible.

Perth Mint

It’s worth paying for a guided tour which takes about 45 mins and begins with an interesting and amusing commentary about the Perth Mint’s history. Yes, a nugget this size was actually found by some very lucky person.

Perth Mint nugget

A short video show follows, then the grand finale of viewing liquid gold being made into solid gold. I would have loved a photo of this, but there is a no-photos policy for some parts of the Perth Mint building.

Fremantle

No trip to Perth is complete without a visit to Fremantle. You can self-drive from Perth to Fremantle (30 mins) or cruise to Fremantle on a purpose-made vessel (1 hr 4mins). The latter option caters to the mass market and while it may not suit everyone, its a very scenic cruise with an interesting on-board commentary.

Perth Swan River Cruise

Fremantle is a port city known for its maritime history, beautiful Victorian architecture and relaxed vibe.

Fremantle architecture

There’s a great cafe scene here, particularly in one area known as the Cappuccino Strip. We chose Gino’s for it’s divine Tiramisu cake and great atmosphere. The staff were mostly Italian and the conversation very animated. After coffee, we explored little bookshops and a furniture makers.

Fremantle street

The Fremantle market operates on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and is definitely worth a visit, as is the Maritime Museum.

fremantle Maritime Museum

Walk around to the side of the museum and you’ll be greeted by a magnificent old battler, a 48-year old submarine.

Fremantle submarine

I loved the Round House, the first permanent building built in the Swan River colony. It makes a great photo!

Round House Fremantle

There are many attractions in Fremantle and I’ve really only covered just a few of them. I’d definitely return for another visit and not just for the Tiramisu.

Gino's Fremantle

 

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June 27th, 2016

Tasman Village near Mapua

If you walk through the Tasman Village near Mapua, you can’t help but notice the friendliness of the kids. They smile and say “hello”. Here’s a photo of a really big friendly kid.

Tasman Village Bike Trail

The Tasman Village is a small part of the large area at the top of the South Island that makes up the Tasman Region. It’s semi-rural location with apple orchards, boutique wineries, art studios, bike trails and curious sheep.

Tasman Village sheep2

This gorgeous pastoral scene is within walking distance from where I stayed recently. The refurbished and very cute Tasman Village Cottage is a true couples retreat. The window seat was my favourite place for a book-read.

Tasman Cottage window seat

Come Springtime, when the wisteria appears, it’s pure enchantment.

Tasman Village Cottage pam and wine

There’s a gentle hum about the Tasman Village that lasts all year round. Nearby, is the Mapua wharf, where the shops and cafes add a great vibe.

Mapua wharf small

Recent refurbishment of the wharf area has given a greater choice of cafes, and specialty shops. When evening comes, visitors can pop down for a wine and pizza at the Rimu Wine Bar and listen to the ‘blues’.

Mapua wharf refurb2

The Tasman Village and Mapua is a mere 45 mins from the Abel Tasman National Park. And its been fabulous having a lovely cottage to back to after a day’s explore. Saying goodbye to this special place is always hard for me – bring on summer!

Tasman Village cottage front

 

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June 15th, 2016

Milford Track Day Walk from Te Anau

New Zealand’s Milford Track is one of the most famous walks on the planet! This Fiordland National Park walk can be done as a 3-4 night guided walk or self-guided option. You can also do a Milford Track day walk from Lake Te Anau or directly from Milford Sound.

Milford Track Michael

Travellers are often time-short. If you choose to spend only two nights in the Fiordland region, you’ll miss out on some beautiful sites.

Milford Track Michael2

Milford Track Walk and Nature Cruise combo

Thankfully, guiding operator, Trips and Tramps, now offer a combo – 4 hour guided day walk. The tour departs from Milford Sound in the morning and includes a Milford Sound Nature Cruise in the afternoon.

Trips & Tramps small

Trips and Tramps Milford Guided Day Walk

For day tours, most travellers stay in Te Anau and head to Milford Sound. You can either be collected from Te Anau or self-drive to Milford Sound and join the tour from there. The 2-hour drive one-way is incredibly scenic with walks, waterfalls and lookouts along the way.

Milford Track waterfall

At 8.45 am a water taxi drops off walkers from Milford Sound harbour to Sandfly Point, the usual end point for those doing the entire 4 days hike. So between 9am – 12noon there will be no other walkers on that stretch of the walk and you can enjoy your guided tour in blissful peace!

Nature Cruise with Real Journeys in Milford Sound

The water taxi returns the walkers back to the Milford Sound Wharf  at 1.15pm. This is perfect timing to connect with the Real Journeys Nature Cruise at 1.35.pm. The 2.5 hour Milford Sound cruise goes right into the fjord and to the Tasman Sea (subject to weather and sea conditions). It’s a major highlight in any New Zealand itinerary.

Milford Track Blog2

If you’re really time-short, consider a scenic flight from Queenstown with either Air Milford or one of the local helicopter companies. Note: all flights are subject to weather conditions on the day of travel. If the weather prevents the flight, full refunds are generally provided.

Photo by Air Milford

Photo by Air Milford

Summary of Milford Sound options:

  1. Te Anau – self-drive or coach + Milford Guided Walk + Milford Sound Nature Cruise + self-drive or coach
  2. Te Anau – fly with Water Wings + Milford Guided Walk + Milford Sound Nature Cruise + coach
  3. Queenstown – flight with plane or heli (return) + Milford Guided Walk + Milford Sound Nature Cruise + flight back

Travel tip: when travelling during the peak summer months between November and March, it is essential to pre-book all accommodation and tours in the Fiordland region as options are limited.

Happy travelling!

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May 19th, 2016

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

When choosing the overnight option for a Kepler Track Te Anau walk, the anti-clockwise route is recommended. For day-walkers, walking either way is fine. We began a 2-hour morning walk from the Lake Te Anau Lake Control Gates to Rainbow Reach, heading south (direction Manapouri).

Kepler Track Pam small

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

The part of the track which runs along the Waiau River, is extremely beautiful. Fewer people walk this way so you’ll get most of the track to yourself. The area is rich with moss that springs back when touched.

Kepler Track Moss

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

The lush native bush is not the only plant life to thrive here. These mushrooms add beautiful pops of colour. Pretty to look at, but not to eat.

Kepler Track mushroom small

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

After half an hour, the track winds it’s way pass the powerful Wairau River. The sun throws fairy lights across its fast-flowing waters, the effects of which are very soothing.

Kepler Track Waiau River

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

According to Ray Willett, a legendary local we met on the way, the birdlife has trebled in the past 2 years. There is now an abundance of fantails, bellbirds, the shy little rifleman and South Island Robins. Recent photos of the rare Blue Duck (whio) sighted near the Iris Burn Hut, is great news for bird lovers!

Kepler track ferns

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

The Wairau River was a feature in the Lord of the Rings movie as the opening aerial shot of The Fellowship of the Ring, showing the forested banks of the Anduin River. How cool to walk in the footsteps of the ‘Hobbits’ from Rainbow Ridge bridge towards Lake Manapouri!

These walks are just a tiny option on what the area offers for hiking options. Heli-Hiking walks up to Mt. Luxmore have become popular, as has floatplane flights to remoter parts of the Lake Te Anau and the Fiordland region.

Southern Lakes Helicopters Mt Luxmore

Kepler Track Te Anau Heli-hike

Those trips open up the region which is so rich in history and pristine natural beauty. And unlike the Milford or Doubtful Sounds, you’ll get a sense of having an entire valley to yourself. How’s that for an enticing option?

Happy travelling

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