Category Archives:Top 10

9 Places every Aussie Must Visit Before they Die

Us Aussies love our home, but how many of us have really seen the true Australia? 

I have been living in Australia for 10 years now and I have been lucky enough to visit almost everywhere on this list. What surprises me, though, is how few Australians get out into their own backyard and explore. So if you have been snubbing some of the ‘touristy’ sites as being well, too touristy, you may be missing out on some of the best that our country has on offer.

Check out my top ten places to visit before you die.

Surf Wave Rock

wave rock wa

Yes, it may be just a rock – but it’s a really cool one! This natural rock formation resembling a large wave is located in the small town of Hyden in the far-south of Western Australia.

While you may or may not be interested in its fascinating geological history – it still makes for a great photo. Say cheese!

Go Down Under in Coober Pedy

coober pedy australia

Situated in the heart of South Australia, about 846 km north of Adelaide, Coober Pedy is one of the most unusual towns in Australia – and perhaps the world.

To avoid the harsh Australian sun, residents of Coober Pedy built their entire town underground – mostly in refurbished mine shafts. Enjoy a cold beverage in an underground bar or go shopping for opals – Coober Pedy is the ‘Opal Capital of the World’ after all.

(I recently spent a week in Coober Pedy — so keep an eye out for my guide! It was truly amazing.)

Bring out your Inner-Tarzan in Daintree Rainforest

Daintree rainforest

Daintree Rainforest – just north of Cairns – is the world’s oldest and most diverse rainforest. As well as being home to over 30% of Australia’s native animal species, Daintree offers spectacular scenery, relaxing walks and breathtaking waterfalls.

The rainforest also seamlessly joins onto the spectacular Great Barrier Reef as it reaches the coast.

Cruise the Kimberley

kimberley cruise

The Kimberley Region is one of the most magnificent sights to be seen in Australia. With dramatic scenery, sky-high waterfalls, secluded beaches and dazzling sunsets – the Kimberley is the perfect place to relax and explore.

Cruises are the best way to see the Kimberley – taking you deep within the soaring gorges and up-close-and-personal with the powerful waterfalls.

Enjoy a Glass in the Barossa

Jacob's Creek Winery, Barossa Valley
Jacob’s Creek Winery, Barossa Valley

If you like to sit back and relax with a glass of rose, merlot or sav blanc, then there’s no better place to do it than in the Barossa Valley. Look for Australian flights into Adelaide – then the Barossa is just a short drive away.

A must-see destination for all wine connoisseurs, the Barossa Valley offers an eclectic mix of South Australian charm, world-class wines and fine foods. Cheers!

Relax on Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach, QLD

Possibly the most photographed and recognisable beach in the world – Whitehaven Beach really is as good as it looks on the postcard! 

Just a short boat-ride away from the coastal town of Airlie Beach (or I took a boat tour from nearby Daydream Island), make your friends jealous with photos of you soaking up the Australian sun on pristine white beaches with the crystal clear Coral Sea lapping at your feet. It truly is paradise!

Drive the Great Ocean Road

The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles

What were once the famous ‘Twelve Apostles’ jutting out of the water in South Australia has sadly become just eight due to erosion. With erosion constantly threatening the remaining rocks it is certainly a destination that needs to be visited before it’s too late.

These remarkable rock formations can be seen while driving along the Great Ocean Road, along which you will see all sorts of other spectacular scenery. Great excuse for a road trip!

The Biggest…

The Big Merino
The Big Merino

Australia is home to some of the biggest (albeit strangest) things – so make a point to visit them all! Did you know that Goulburn is home to the Big Merino (it’s a surprisingly fun place to visit!)? What about the Big Cow just north of Nambour, Queensland? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss out on the Big Prawn in Ballina – right? And we can’t forget the world’s biggest rock – Uluru – right in the heart of Australia.

Ride a Camel in Broome

camels on cable beach
Camel rides along Cable Beach, Broome

It’s not every day you get to ride a camel across the beach – not in Australia anyway. Take a camel ride along Cable Beach in the late afternoon for a unique way to see the spectacular red sunsets of the northern Western Australian coast. It is certainly one of the more unique Australian holidays!

10 Smart Ways to Save Money on Holiday

The thought of holidaying is what keeps us motivated through our working week – but we all know they can be very expensive. While we’re usually quite happy to splurge a little on our holidays, saving money where possible means we can come back feeling a little less guilty!

Be Flexible

The more flexible you are with your holiday the more money you can save. If you are able to leave a couple of days earlier or later you may find the flight prices are significantly lower – particularly if they are mid-week. Head into the travel agents with an open mind regarding location and dates and get the best value for money.

Book Early/Book Late

By booking early you have access to all the cheaper seats on flights as they are released, and by booking late you get the cut-price seats that the airlines need to get rid of. Leaving it until the last minute is a risk – but if you are flexible you can usually grab a good deal.

House Swap

You may not think your home is a tourists haven, but there’s something nice about staying in a home rather than a clerical, stock-standard hotel. Not only will it save you on accommodation but you don’t need to leave all the luxuries of home… at home.

Go back to basics

Camping may not be your idea of a relaxing holiday – but you’ll be amazed at how far camping has come in recent years. You can hire tents with all sorts of mod-cons and camping also gives you the option to stay in the best locations at a fraction of the cost of a hotel.

Shop Online

Thanks to the internet we can now be our own travel agents and search for bargains online. Many of the best holiday deals are online including cheap flights, accommodation, tours and activities.

Watch Exchange Rates

Fluctuations in exchange rates can make a huge difference to the cost of your holiday. Try heading to a destination that has a good rate against the Australian Dollar to maximise your spending money.

Switch off the Mobile

It can be hard saying goodbye to modern man’s best friend; however the costs of having it on can be extortionate depending on your network and plan. Many networks even charge you to receive SMS while you’re away.

Choose Cheaper Locations

Many countries are notoriously expensive to visit. Even after paying for flights and accommodation you will find yourself forking out large amounts for basics such as food and transport. There are plenty of cheap locations such as Thailand, Italy and Fiji that won’t break the bank.

Avoid Tourist Traps

Once you’ve arrived at your location you need to be a little bit holiday-savvy. For example, don’t eat at a restaurant right next to the Eiffel Tower – you’ll pay at least double what you’ll pay at one a couple of streets away. The same goes for souvenir stores, bars and hotels.

Go Public

Public transport that is. Hire cars can be very expensive and aren’t always necessary – particularly if you plan on staying within a small area. You can always get a cab to travel short distances if required.

Top 5 Rooftop Bars in Melbourne

Summer is here (although fellow Melburnians might dispute this!) and one of my favourite things to do is relax with a nice glass of wine at a rooftop bar. There are plenty of great bars at ground level, but why settle for that when you can have a tipple with a view?

Madame Brussels

Level 3/59-63 Bourke St, Melbourne
www.madamebrussels.com

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Perhaps it’s my English background or my love for all things cute and pink, but Madame Brussels is my first choice when looking for a place to enjoy the sunshine with friends. From neatly cut sandwiches and jugs of Pimms to dashing waiters in Fred Perry tennis whites, this hard-to-find bar is like an English garden party in the sky.

It gets very busy over the summer, so be prepared to fight for a seat!

Siglo

2/161 Spring Street, Melbourne

siglo001
When you mention rooftop bars, Siglo is usually top of mind for most locals. It’s the place you go if you want to impress a date or just have a classy night out with friends. There is a distinctly European feel to it – I can’t quite pinpoint a specific country but a nice blend of Spanish, Italian and French.

The view is what really makes it – you have a fantastic backdrop of Parliament House and the spectacular St Patrick’s Cathedral. You’re also in the heart of the theatre district, so it’s perfect for a pre- or post-show drink.

Rooftop Bar & Cinema

6/252 Swanston St, Melbourne
www.rooftopcinema.com.au

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Whenever I have people come to visit me, I always take them to the Rooftop Cinema. A first-date paradise, the rooftop bar and cinema combines two of my (and most people’s!) favourite pastimes – movies and drinks. It sure beats sitting in a dark cinema with a box of overpriced popcorn!

The views of the city skyline are unbeatable, and you can enjoy them with a drink in hand, relaxing in your own deck chair. You don’t need to watch a movie either – you can just hang at the bar!

The Carlton

193 Bourke St, Melbourne
www.thecarlton.com.au

carlton-club-05
The Carlton is one of few bars/restaurants that really does cater for every type of event and person. The decor is eclectic – to put it lightly – and the crowd even more so. But that’s what makes it so great – you never know who you might strike up a conversation with!

The drinks menu is good and the restaurant serves up some mean pub-style (albeit gourmet pub-style) food. There are two rooftop bars, complete with a Hawaiian beach-hut style vibe.

Warning: it is very easy to head there for a quiet drink and not make it home until the following day!

Captain Baxter, St Kilda

10/10-18 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda
www.captainbaxter.com.au

CaptainBaxterDeck2
City skylines are amazing at night-time, but if you’re after a mid-afternoon drink (we won’t judge you!), there’s nothing better than a relaxed beach-front atmosphere.

Overlooking Melbourne’s iconic St Kilda Beach is Captain Baxter – a chilled out bar with a fantastic outdoor deck. If you’re like me and love the idea of the beach but hate finding sand in your clothes for the next three weeks, here’s a way you can enjoy it from afar.

Top 5 Celebrity Holiday Destinations

The rich and the famous can practically take their pick when it comes to choosing a holiday destination, so naturally we are interested in where they go. Plus it’s kinda cool to stay in the same place as your fave movie star 😉 While our wallets might not be as generous as theirs, you can often get discounted rooms in many 5* hotels if you plan ahead or seek out a last-minute deal.

Or, what I like to do – stay at a cheaper hotel up the road and visit the fancy ones for a star-studded lunch/dinner! I may have occasionally snuck into their pools too… but shhh.

1. Los Cabos, Mexico

A favourite with A-lister Jennifer Aniston and her ‘Friend’ Courtney Cox, Cabo is a dream destination for those that like to live it up with booze, parties, beaches and sun! In fact it’s where a bevy of celebs including George Clooney, Jennifer, Justin Theroux and Jimmy Kimmel saw in 2013 with New Year’s celebrations at the Mexican holiday destination.

Want to live it up like the stars? Check out Jennifer Aniston’s favourite resort, One&Only Palmilla. Rooms are up to $3,000 a night – bargain really…

One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos
One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos

2. French Riviera

Thanks to it being the first choice holiday destination for members of the British Royal Family for many years, the French Riviera has long been a hotspot for celebs. There are few celebrities that haven’t visited the coastal towns of Saint Tropez, Cannes and Nice – so I won’t even begin to list them! But Victoria and David Beckham are two of the regions most famous guests.

A lot of the stars have their own private yachts to stay on while they’re there – so most of us can rule that out as an option. If you want to stay on terra firma, try Hotel Byblos in Saint Tropez. One of the trendiest hotels on the French coast, supermodels such as Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen have partied the night away at the on-site nightclub Les Caves du Roy.

Les Caves du Roy, Hotel Byblos, Saint Tropez
Les Caves du Roy, Hotel Byblos, Saint Tropez

3. Las Vegas, Nevada

Celebs are really just like the rest of us when they’re planning a holiday – while we may not be seeking shelter from the nosy paparazzi, we are looking to have a good time. And where better to have a good time than in Sin City itself. What happens in Vegas may not always stay in Vegas when you’re a celebrity, but you’re sure to have one hell of a good holiday!

With dozens of uber-classy hotels along the Vegas strip, there are many that the rich and famous frequent, but The Palms is one of the firm favourites. Don’t be surprised if you bump into Lindsay Lohan or Kim Kardashian down at the pool.

Palms Casino Resort

4. Hawaii, USA

Every summer you’ll see photos of stars in their bikinis on a Hawaiian beach. Some we’d rather not see in so little attire, but that’s beside the point.

While most people immediately think of the packed-to-the-brim Waikiki Beach, Hawaii has hundreds of secret hideaways that are perfect for a star looking to holiday undercover. The islands of Maui and Kauai have some of the most luxurious resorts around and boast some of the best beaches in the world.

Everyone from Paris Hilton to Barack Obama have been spotted holidaying in Hawaii, so you’ll be in good company. Try Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s north shore for the ultimate in celebrity chic. The popular movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed there and on my recent trip to Hawaii I went there for lunch and a sneaky look around all the filming locations!

Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore, Oahu
Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore, Oahu

5. Ibiza, Spain

Synonymous with world-class nightlife, Ibiza is a haven for the young and the restless! Premiere League footballers and socialists alike spend their summers on the Spanish island.

Unlike party destinations such as Phuket, Ibiza is not a cheap getaway. Bars are pricey to get into, drinks are expensive and the hotels range from dingy (but still costly) to decadent! Attracting some of the world’s most renowned DJ’s and performers, as well as the stunning Mediterranean backdrop, it’s easy to see why you’d be heading straight to Ibiza if your budget allows!

Want to mingle with the stars? Head to Ibiza Rocks Hotel – an island landmark. You might recognise the pool as being featured in the Club Tropicana music video!

Ibiza Rocks Hotel
Ibiza Rocks Hotel

 

If you had an endless travel budget, where would you go?

 

 

Top 10 Historic Hotels

Newly built with modern facilities may be a drawcard for most hotels, but old hotels can be so much more interesting! When you’re sleeping in a building surrounded in history you can let a few things like bad smells, crumbling walls and even a bit of mould slide. Well, some people can anyway.

Many historic hotels have seen some of the world’s most famous events and can name world leaders, classic Hollywood stars and royalty as past clientele. Who knows, you could sleep in the old room of Marilyn Monroe!

So if you love history or just want to stay somewhere that has hundreds of stories to tell, check out some of the world’s oldest hotels. Oh if only the walls could talk!

1. Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Hayawaka, Japan

Founded in 705, it’s no surprise Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan was officially named as the oldest hotel in the world by Guinness World Records – that’s over 1,300 years of guests! The beautiful hotel is built around hot springs and surrounded by luscious Japanese countryside. And if you can’t get a room, the world’s second oldest hotel is also in Japan!

World's oldest hotel in Japan
World’s oldest hotel in Japan

2. Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, India

This impressive hotel, which deserves the name ‘palace’, is one of India’s most historic and famous hotel. Since opening its doors in 1903, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel’s has played host to high-profile guests including The Beatles, Barack Obama, Jackie O and Brad Pitt, to name just a few!

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

3. Schloss Cecilienhof, Germany

Not many hotels can boast a history as exciting as Schloss Cecilienhof. It gained notoriety for hosting the Potsdam Conference, where allies Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Harry Truman met during World War II in 1945. The now hotel was also the last palace built by Hohenzollern family, who ruled Prussia and Germany until 1918. A UNESCO world heritage site since 1990 and also housing a popular museum, this is a dream hotel for history buffs!

Schloss Cecilienhof
Schloss Cecilienhof

4. Chateau de Goudourville, France

Dating back to the 11th century, it doesn’t get much older than the Chateau de Goudourville in the French Pyrenees, near Toulouse. In what feels like a cross between Hogwarts and a Medieval fairytale palace, the chateau has managed to preserve its history and is a unique place for a kip.

salle-a-manger
Chateau de Goudourville, France

5. Pera Palace Hotel, Turkey

One of Istanbul’s most iconic buildings, the Pera Palace is as luxurious as it is old. The magnificent building first opened as a hotel in 1895 and has seen many high-profile guests come through its doors. Despite it’s rich history, it has had many modern features added to it including a state-of-the-art day spa and fancy cocktail bars!

Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul - historical elevator
Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul – historical elevator

6. Plaza Hotel, NYC

Built in 1907, the magnificent Plaza Hotel in Manhattan might not be the most affordable place to stay in the Big Apple (rooms start at $700 p/n), but it certainly has an interesting history. Many a glamorous ball and concert has been held in its numerous ballrooms and it is one of only two hotels in New York City to be designated as a National Historic Landmark (the other is the Waldorf Astoria). If you can’t afford to stay the night – there are free tours of the interior available for the public. So you can at least pretend to have stayed there 😉

Plaza Hotel, New York City during its 100-year celebrations in 2007.
Plaza Hotel, New York City during its 100-year celebrations in 2007.

8. Oude Werf, South Africa

Built in 1805, Oude Werf is the oldest hotel in South Africa.  Surrounded by vineyards and with wrought iron features, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were staying in a provincial chateau in rural France rather than in Africa. But nonetheless, this Georgian-era hotel is a chic and charming place to stay.

Oude Werf Hotel, South Africa
Oude Werf Hotel, South Africa

9. The Ritz, Paris

Fashionistas will love the history of The Ritz Hotel in Paris. Not only is it in the heart of one of the world’s fashion capitals, but it is where the iconic Coco Chanel spent 30 years of her life. She passed away peacefully in 1971 while designing her next Spring fashion collection in a luxurious suite.

Ritz Hotel, Paris
Ritz Hotel, Paris

10. Hotel del Coronado, California

Walk in the footsteps of more than 10 past U.S. presidents at the Hotel del Coronado in sunny San Diego, California. When the hotel first opened in 1888, it attracted the rich and famous from across the USA – including the president at the time Benjamin Harrison and screen-star Charlie Chaplin. You might also recognise the hotel as the film location for Marilyn Monroe’s movie, ‘Some Like it Hot.’

As well as being a celeb-haven, the hotel is famous for its world-first inventions including hotel-wide electric lighting, looked over by Thomas Edison himself!

Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, California
Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, California

What’s the most historic hotel you’ve ever stayed in?

The World’s Coolest Staircases

Stairs manufacturers in Europe don’t have to look very far for inspiration. With low cost airlines, some of the world’s finest staircases are only a stone’s throw away. If you travel a little further afield you will find even more examples of the world’s most artistic and architecturally impressive staircases.

1. The Spanish Steps, Italy

Climb Rome’s Spanish Steps from one piazza to another to reach the late renaissance church, Trinita dei Monti. The 138 steps were designed by two Italian architects and funded by a French diplomat, yet still managed to pick up the word ‘Spanish’ in their title. The strikingly beautiful steps are so named because they connect to the adjoining Spanish Square. The Spanish Square got its name from its proximity to the Spanish Embassy.

Spanish Steps, Rome
Spanish Steps, Rome

2. The Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia

The steps ascending the world’s largest religious monument are so steep that you may be tempted to use your hands to climb to the top. Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu temple when it was built in the 12th century. Today it is a Buddhist temple and is the largest tourist attraction in South East Asia. In some places the steps are so worn that they have been given a semi-permanent replacement, complete with handrails to help you up. For more steep temple staircases, check out the Mayan temples in South America.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

3. The Vatican Museum, Italy

With broad steps and creative bronze decorations, the double helix staircases of the Vatican museum intertwine like a DNA strand. Often incorrectly referred to as the ‘Bramante’ stairs, they were actually designed by Giuseppe Momo. The 1930s masterpiece is one of the most photographed staircases in the world. Whether you are viewing it from below or looking down from above, it is a beautiful sight to behold.

Vatican Museum staircase
Vatican Museum staircase

4. Umschreibung, Germany

Umschreibung, meaning ‘Rewriting’, is technically a sculpture. The steel structure is a unique 9-metre tall staircase that spirals into infinity. The architectural treasure cannot be climbed because it does not lead anywhere. The Olafur Eliasson creation simply exists to awe passers-by in the KPMG courtyard.

Umschreibung, Germany
Umschreibung, Germany

5. Mount Niesen, Switzerland

The Swiss Alps get the prize for the world’s longest staircase. At 11,674 steps, this challenging climb was once an access route for tram service personal. Today it attracts athletes in for an annual race. Rumour has it that one fit sprinter managed to ascend it in one hour.

Mount Niesen staircase, Switzerland
Mount Niesen staircase, Switzerland

6. The Longchamp Store, New York

The spectacular staircase in the Longchamp Store in New York must be the most architecturally impressive, artistic staircase ever designed for a retail store. This engineering masterpiece was designed by Thomas Heatherwick who was briefed to design a staircase that would attract people to the upper floor. The stairs consists of a series of ribbon-like modules, each curving into a slightly different height. To give the structure fluidity, the handrails are composed of customised curved glass panels. The glass appears to be draped over the stairs like a fabric. The design team liken the staircase to a landscape with a hillside and a waterfall.

Longchamp staircase, Spring Street, New York City
Longchamp staircase, Spring Street, New York City

7. The Kauri Tree Stairs, New Zealand

Ancient Kauri is wood that fell from Kauri trees and was preserved for thousands of years in New Zealand swamps. The largest known ancient kauri log ever to be extracted was used to carve out a staircase as a centre piece for a carving workshop. The staircase took over 500 hours to chain saw and carve. The tree lived for 1087 years before it fell 45,000 years ago. It is the oldest, and perhaps the only, staircase to be carved into a log.

Kauri Tree Stairs at the Ancient Kauri Museum, New Zealand
Kauri Tree Stairs at the Ancient Kauri Museum, New Zealand

8. Loretto Chapel, USA

This elegant staircase is famous for two mysterious reasons: its origin and its construction. In 1878 when the sisters of Loretto chapel prayed for a method to ascend to their inaccessible choir balcony, an unidentified man arrived at the door with just a few simple tools. He told the sisters he could construct a staircase but only in complete privacy. Three months later the staircase was complete but the man disappeared without a trace. Upon inspection, the sisters were fascinated to discover that the 20 foot spiral structure, that makes two complete 360o revolutions, has no apparent central support. There are no metal nails or glue, just wooden pegs. The origin of the wood is apparently untraceable as it appears to be made from an extinct species of tree.

Loretto Chapel staircase
Loretto Chapel staircase

9. Bridge-stair, Switzerland

When falling rocks destroyed the rope bridge over the Traversinertobel gorge in Switzerland, Jurg Conzett and Rolf Bachofner designed a unique alternative. Known as the ‘bridge-stair’, the 56 metre bridge of stairs connects two areas of different elevations.

Bridge Stair at the Traversinertobel in Switzerland
Bridge Stair at the Traversinertobel in Switzerland

10. Malwiya Tower, Iraq

Constructed in 852 and standing 52 metres high, the Malwiya tower is one of the oldest mosques in the world. A spiral stairs wraps around the outside of the sandstone tower. The lack of handrails makes this a dangerous climb.

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Malwiya Tower

11. Cedar Creek Treehouse, USA

Rated as one of the world’s top 10 most unusual hotels, the Washington-based Cedar Creek Treehouse is located 15 metres above ground in the canopy of the mountain. The only way up and down is via a terrifying wrap-around staircase that ascends a neighbouring tree. The staircase leads out onto a precariously high rope-bridge that links to the treehouse.

cedar-creek-treehouse-main
Cedar Creek Treehouse

12. Tiger & Turtle, Germany

The Turtle and Tiger staircase is a steel and zinc sculpture that looks like a rollercoaster. It is situated on a height offering unparalleled views of the surrounding scenery. It was designed by Heike Mutter and Ulrick Genth and it took 8 weeks to construct.

Tiger and Turtle, Germany
Tiger and Turtle, Germany

Article by Jenna Crotty.