Brisbane, Queensland Australia – A Few Things to See and Do

Brisbane, Queensland Australia – A Few Things to See and Do

Most people probably know Brisbane as the huge tourist destination it is in Australia, where all kinds of theme and water parks can be visited and fun can be had by the entire family. That wasn’t what I wanted to do in Brisbane and even though I found a lot of things to do, there was so much more I could have done. And none of those things I did were theme or water parks.

I was in Brisbane for a week and unfortunately I was just starting to get sick and my body was in pain so I didn’t get a chance to fully enjoy everything the area had to offer. What I did do though was visit several museums, hold a koala and get my picture taken, eat chocolate, and buy myself a beautiful tote bag from Country Road. I also rented a car for a day and drove down to the Gold Coast.

Getting Around Brisbane

You can rent a car while in Brisbane but I found using the public transportation system quite easy and it got me everywhere I chose to go. Also, there are tolls on some of the roads. I did learn how to use Uber when I was there though so that and taxis are also an option (Vancouver still doesn’t have ride share as of the end of 2018).

One thing that completely impressed me about travelling via the public bus system in several Australian cities, including Brisbane, is there are areas where the bus doesn’t travel along busy city streets. Instead, there are these busways. Busways are really kind of like highways solely for the public buses to travel along. It means you have to get to a station so the stops aren’t as convenient, but it also means you don’t sit in traffic which allows you to reach your destination much quicker.

Brisbane uses the tap-on tap-off method of payment with the Go Card travel card that you can conveniently replenish using machines at different stations, online, over the phone, or at select shops. The Go Card can be used on all trains, buses, and ferries in South East Queensland. I never took advantage of it but there is also a free service for the bus and ferry. The City Loop and Spring Hill Loop free inner city bus runs from 7am to 6pm on weekdays. Also traveling between North Quay and Sydney St New Farm, is the free CityHopper ferry service.

CBD (Central Business District)

I spent a few hours in Brisbane’s CBD. I visited City Hall and the Museum of Brisbane, and I walked around a bit checking out the historical building facades of Queen Street Mall, while I did some shopping. It’s where I found the Noosa Chocolate Factory as well as what was quickly becoming my favourite Australian shop, Country Road. I didn’t do a lot of shopping because I had more travelling to do and I couldn’t add to my luggage but I did get a large, stunning, tote bag on an amazing sale at Country Road. I could fold it to fit in my suitcase and I had been drooling over it since I first saw it in Adelaide, so of course I had to purchase it. Really that was my day in the CBD but there was more shopping to explore if you wanted. Especially the Gold Coast.

Noosa Chocolate Factory

I was in the CBD and knew I had to catch the public bus on Adelaide Street to get to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (link below to read about that experience) but I had time before the bus arrived so I walked a bit. I’m so happy I did too because I found Noosa Chocolate Factory (website). They had all sorts of chocolate covered items as well as beverages.  Here is what I tried.

Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts

For me chocolate covered nuts are almost always going to be a winner. You just can’t go wrong with them. Plus, I tell myself it’s protein so it makes them healthy. I find macadamia nuts delicious so covering them in chocolate was a big win for me.

Chocolate Covered Freeze Dried Strawberries

Strawberries are my favourite fruit and when you freeze dry them, it amplifies the flavour. Makes them much more strawberry-y. Cover those super charged strawberry pieces of goodness in chocolate and yeah, you have a yummy, flavourful treat.

Chocolate Covered Honeycomb

Have you ever had a Crunchie chocolate bar? This is what these pieces tasted like. Honey comb is a sweet, crunchy, melt in your mouth treat, all covered in chocolate. So again, it was good.

Iced 72% Chocolate Drink

Because I apparently need to try all chocolate drinks, I picked up the iced one offered at Noosa. It was made with soy milk, ice, and 72% chocolate. Not chocolate powder or chocolate sauce but actual chocolate. I enjoyed my cold, chocolate drink on the nice warm day that’s for sure. Cooling down with chocolate is kinda perfect really.

Museums in Brisbane

Queensland Art Gallery

Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art (website for both) are conveniently located across from each other. It’s wonderful, you get to enjoy all types of art in one day. The Queensland Art Gallery displays a wide range of Australian and local artists in many mediums. I myself really enjoyed the wall of painted portraits, but there were so many wonderful pieces to see in the gallery.

You can enjoy the permanent exhibits of the Australian Art Collection, the Indigenous Art Collection, and the International Art Collection. As well as the  short term exhibits showcasing individual artists, shown throughout the year.

Admission to the Queensland Art Gallery is free except for some exhibits and events which have an admission fee. The gallery is open daily 10 am – 5 pm except for some holidays.

Gallery of Modern Art

What a wonderful art gallery (website above). I really enjoyed visiting and seeing the exhibits they had on display. I ran out of time before I could visit everything but what I saw was worth it. There was even an interactive, enclosed slide for people to slide down from an upper level.

Normally I prefer more traditional and historical art to the modern stuff but I really loved what I saw at GOMA. I’m not sure if it’s the way they had it all exhibited or just the art they chose to display but whatever it was, it worked. I really enjoyed myself and my time spent here.

Admission to the Gallery of Modern Art is free. Some exhibits and special events do have an entry fee though. They are also open daily 10 am – 5 pm except for some holidays. Wanna see something after hours? There is a light installation on the exterior of the building that runs from sunset to midnight.

Brisbane City Hall

I didn’t have a chance to tour around the Brisbane City Hall (website) too much, I only went there to visit the Museum of Brisbane. I do wish I would have seen more of City Hall though. It has so much history. It was in the process of renovations while I visited but it was still open to the public.

Museum of Brisbane

The Museum of Brisbane (website) is a smaller museum located on level 3 of the Brisbane City Hall. It’s open daily and admission is free. There were quite a few awesome collections to see but for me, I really enjoyed the permanent Perspectives of Brisbane exhibit. Using historic photographs, film, facts and stories, it shares the history of the area for us to learn. It really was a great exhibit and a wonderful experience. I learned quite a bit about the history of the area. From the first colony to local flooding, it told it all.

Queensland Museum and Sciencentre

This museum had a lot to offer but I enjoyed being shown the history of dinosaurs and animals in the area as well as the special experience of learning about the Hadron Collider. I had to buy a ticket for it at an additional cost but it was such a great learning experience.

I’m not a big nerd or anything, I mean I like some sci-fi but just some, just the popular mainstream stuff. But even I was super excited with the Hadron Collider exhibit. It is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. Squueee! That’s pretty cool sci-fi stuff right there but this is real life. Don’t ask me to get all scientific on you and explain what I learned because I can’t but I can tell you it is a 27-km long tunnel made mostly out of superconducting magnets.

I liked the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre (website) and how it mixed several different things together in one place. It’s also another place where you can get a hands-on, interactive experience.

 

The Queensland Art Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art, and the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre are all located in the Queensland Cultural Centre in South Brisbane. Just across the bridge from the CBD. The Cultural Centre also contains the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and the State Library of Queensland.

 

Streets Beach – A Beach in the City

Other than the Queensland Cultural Centre, South Brisbane is also where you will find Streets Beach. Australia’s only inner-city, man-made beach. A beautiful lagoon surrounded by sandy beaches and various plants, it’s free and has lifeguards.

Tourist and locals use this beach so it does get quite busy. There is free Wi-Fi to use, public toilets, and there is even a picnic area. It’s a great place to relax in the sun and swim in the water, all without leaving the city.

Gold Coast

I really wanted to see more of the area than just Brisbane so I decided to rent a car for a day and drive down to the Gold Coast. I had chosen to rent the car from the airport so I could return it when I was leaving. It meant I wouldn’t have to walk as much or travel on the public transportation system with my luggage. But Brisbane has a lot of roads with tolls on them plus it costs a bit more to take the train to the airport so you should be aware of these additional costs if you decide to rent from the airport.

Shopping and a Beach in Gold Coast

The drive was lovely even though most of it was inland on a big highway. It did take me past all the theme parks though and that was kinda reminiscent of California. Because I didn’t have a goal in mind, I ended up just doing a bit of driving around, seeing the different areas, and getting a feel of it all. It was nice seeing all the different homes and buildings. Then I came upon the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre (website) so I had to stop. This shopping centre was amazing. Parts of it were outdoors, there were comfy chairs to sit on, and a lot of the shops were very high-end. It was quite the experience.

I drove a little further south and unfortunately I’m not sure where it was exactly but it was so quant. It looked like the quintessential definition of what most of us tourists think of as Australian. I watched so many people walk around in their swimsuits, barefoot, and some carrying surfboards while I was parked on a one way street of shops and restaurants. I went up the road a few blocks and there was the beach. There were so many cars around it was hard to find parking so I drove up a residential street where there were houses on one side and a park overlooking the beach and ocean on the other. On the day I roamed around there was some sort of maybe festival going on with music and even some vendors.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a day out of Brisbane and see a bit more of what the area has to offer. It has a lot to offer by the way.

 

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Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, More Than Just Koalas

 

 

 

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, More Than Just Koalas

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, More Than Just Koalas

Probably my best and favourite memory of Brisbane in Australia was visiting the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (website). Apparently the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary. I had really wanted to visit a sanctuary when I was in Alice Springs but unfortunately the dates I was there didn’t work for the dates they were open. I had no idea about Lone Pine either before I arrived in Brisbane, but my Airbnb host told me about it when she was making suggestions for things to do in the city. Obviously I should have done some research before I arrived but I will forever be thankful of that Airbnb host because I got to hold a koala. And I have the pictures to prove it. Well, and remind me of the joy as I get older and start to forget things.

Koalas at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Koalas are just these cute, sleepy, cuddly animals with sharp claws and spiky, course fur. They aren’t overly soft or friendly really. But hey, if you were always tired and wanting to sleep but instead random people kept wanting to hold you and cuddle you, wouldn’t you be cranky? The staff at Lone Pine are wonderful though. They hold the koala, you stand on an exact spot, they tell you how to place your hands, then they gently place the koala in your arms. If something is even slightly off or the koala doesn’t seem happy, they take them back from you. The koalas come first here. The pictures cost an additional fee of course but the staff will also happily take pictures for you using your camera. It was great because I was alone and I just wanted more than the one paid photo.

Cassowarys at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

I also got to FINALLY see a cassowary!! Or as I like to call them, dinosaur turkeys. They honestly look like one. Apparently the dinosaur turkey is everywhere in the Daintree Rainforest but of course I never saw one. I was so happy when I finally got to see one at Lone Pine. It too was trying to be elusive and hide from me but I went searching for it. I almost stepped on a lizard crossing the path while I was looking but I kept going. Even though I almost missed my bus back into the city, I kept looking. Finally, I was rewarded with seeing a cassowary in real life, not just the life-size statue in the Daintree. And holy crap, it really does look like a dinosaur turkey. It’s basically a giant, bad-ass looking turkey. And unlike a regular turkey who at worst will chase you and peck at your hands and feet, the cassowary will hit and cut you with the big boney fin-like thing on the top of their head. They will also karate-chop you with the crazy, dagger-like claws on their feet.

Kangaroos at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Shortly before I visited Lone Pine I saw a video on Facebook of a kangaroo kicking someone and taking them out. So of course when I was visiting the sanctuary I was a bit cautious. They were very well behaved and quite wonderful though. Just laying in a field. Honestly, that was a bit of a surprise but it was also really cool. Lone Pine has this fenced off, wide open field for the kangaroos to roam around in. Us mere humans can enter through a gate and roam around with them. There was a separate fenced off area for the kangaroos where people can’t roam though. There were also signs all over saying to stay back from the kangaroos and don’t touch them. I didn’t get too close and I didn’t touch them but I did watch as other people sure did. It made me feel bad for the kangaroos but all in all Lone Pine seems to treat them very well. You can purchase special food to take in the field with you and feed the kangaroos too if you want.

Emus at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Oh, you know what else was in that open field? Emus. I enjoyed being so close to them and I figured they were as relaxed as the kangaroos. That was my mistake. I was standing there taking one’s picture when it decided to run at me. I kept thinking, oh this could be a great photo, I hope one of these turns out. Needless to say I didn’t recognize the situation I was in until the emu was right in front of me. Thankfully he must have realized how useless I would be to him so he ran past me. Apparently I was in a game of chicken without even realized it and I think I won.

The animals freely roam around in their pens, cages, or some kind of open containment. Except for that lizard I almost killed. Animals like wombats, Tasmanian devils, dingos, platypus, raptors, and even reptiles (like turtles and two of the most venomous land snakes in the world) live at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. There is a schedule of shows, talks, feedings, and different photo opportunities so check it out when you first arrive because there is an entire day of activities if you want to experience everything.

Getting There and Other Stuff Not Animals

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is quite easy to get to. I caught the 445 public bus on Adelaide Street near City Hall in the CBD and the 40-45-minute trip ended in the parking lot of Lone Pine. Because of course they have their own public bus stop. You can even take advantage of the free Wi-Fi in Lone Pine to upload all the really cool animal photos to your social media. Or go shopping in the gift shop to take home even more memories. If you are planning on staying all day at the sanctuary, there is a café just outside the entrance. Inside the sanctuary there is a general store with an atm where you can also purchase café food, snacks, and drinks. There are several public washrooms throughout the park.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary helps and cares for animals but they are also an interactive centre. Enabling you to meet and learn about all the different animals. It really is a wonderful experience and I am so happy I was able to visit.

 

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Fitzroy Island Resort, Queensland Australia

Fitzroy Island Resort, Queensland Australia

I loved Australia. I know, I saw a cockroach in Alice Spring’s that made me question everything I knew about life (you can find the link to that interesting story at the bottom of this article). And yes, bugs ate me like I was a free buffet they had never tasted before, which I guess I really was. Unfortunatly I also learnt the body sweats in places I never knew existed and I probably smelt like something died. But I really did enjoy my trip. And if I had to choose, I’d say Cairns and Fitzroy Island Resort (website) were probably my favourite. I think this is where I finally started to relax.

Although I found out once I had arrived in Cairns that the weather is more bearable around May, I did still enjoy the hot weather. If I would have known in advance that it was also stinger season and I wouldn’t be able to safely go into the ocean without wearing a stinger suit (like a wetsuit), maybe I wouldn’t have been slightly disappointed though. The heat and the scenery really made me want to be in the water.

There are quite a few activities offered out of Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef but they weren’t an option for me. Things like diving or sailing or even one of the other activities would have been awesome but my body just wasn’t up to the challenge. Instead, I found Fitzroy Island Resort. A little island resort located smack in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Details

Fitzroy Island is 4 square km in size, made up of gentle hills, tropical rainforest, and like 97% of it makes up the Fitzroy National Park. The island is fully accessible to the public with walking tracks throughout. There are two beaches, Welcome Bay (where the Fitzroy Island Resort is located), and Nudey Beach (not a nude beach but it was named the #1 best beach in Australia for 2018 by 101 Beaches). The island also contains a historic lighthouse as well as a Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

The Resort had special things going on over the Christmas and New Years and I even spoke to people who were staying there an entire week. I unfortunately could only afford to stay one night but I would have preferred a few more days there.

Getting to the Fitzroy Island Resort is quite easy. It is a 45-minute each way ferry ride from Cairns on the Fitzroy Flyer, the resort’s ferry. Like everything else at the resort, the ferry is an additional cost. but local fisherman and private yachts can also use the public moorings.

ResortWhile Fitzroy Island Resort offers day trips to visit the island, I’m so happy I chose to spend the night instead and experience more of what the resort offered. I’ve never stayed at a resort that was on its own island before and I’ve never been anywhere tropical before. These both made for a very relaxing stay.

Resort Facilities at the Fitzroy Island

Not including the wonderful rooms or the awesome pool, the facilities are the extra stuff. I may or may not have spent time in the pool both days I was there, before I checked in and after I checked out. Even though the day I checked out it was cloudy and rainy. It also doesn’t include the beach which is made up of dead coral. Something you definitely don’t see every day at a beach.

When you arrive and check-in, you are given a wristband to wear for the duration of your stay as well as a map of the island with and activity and tour price-list, plus a schedule of all events for the week. They have you covered. It also allows you to figure out everything you want and can do.

Luggage Storage

One thing I really appreciated is the fact that the Fitzroy Island Resort has an air-conditioned luggage storage for people who arrive before check-in and who leave after check-out. I was both of those. I took the ferry over earlier in the day, arrived and was told where to store my luggage before I went and had lunch. There are open shelves in the storage room as well as paid lockers you can rent. It’s a great set-up for guests.

Foxy’s Bar

Foxy’s Bar is a huge, covered, open area on the beach where everyone, including families, are welcome. They serve a casual food menu and there were even vegetarian options for me. I thought the food was of a good quality and I was very happy with my lunch. They were also setting up for a buffet while I was finishing my food so I guess they offer that too.

The Dive & Adventure Centre

The dive and adventure centre is the place to go for almost everything water based on the island. They rent out all the equipment you could need, including the stinger suits, as well as organize and run the tours. A stinger suit wasn’t personally an option for me at the time I was visiting but I did take the Glass Bottomed Boat Tour out to see the Great Barrier Reef. Other than feeling a bit bad for being on a boat in the water over the Great Barrier Reef that is dying, it was amazing. And it provided me a way to see the Reef without having to dive. It was awesome and an amazing experience.

Zephyr Restaurant

I ate here for dinner the night I arrived as well as breakfast the next morning. I had a bit of a later dinner but the restaurant definitely wasn’t overly busy the night I was there. My meal was fancier than the bar lunch I had earlier in the day but they were both delicious and great quality. Like I said, the menu was fancy at Zephyr which means there were only a handful of items to choose from and only one was a vegetarian option.

The restaurant was quite busy for breakfast the next day though. I paid the additional charge for breakfast when I booked my room and there was quite a lot to choose from considering I am a vegetarian. That being said, I have had breakfasts of the same quality, or even better, free at other hotels I’ve stayed at.

The General Store

The General Store is the only store on the island and it is mainly there for tourists so it contains necessities and some basics and it is priced accordingly. Just like any other convenience-type store you would find in a hotel but bigger and with a larger selection.

Massage Services

Between the physical pain I was in and my friend sending me money for Christmas, I decided to get a massage at the Fitzroy Island Resort. I had about six hours or so after I checked out of my room so I stored my luggage in the storage room and paid for the massage.

They prefer you book a massage while you are still staying in the resort, before you check out, and they happily come to your room then which adds to the relaxation. But there was a room on the main floor where I was able to get the massage in. You can also get a 20-minute foot massage at the pool if you prefer that. Or if you want, get both. You are at a resort on an island surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef so you might as well enjoy yourself.

Necessities and Entertainment

Fitzroy Island Resort is a great place for singles, couples, but also families. In fact, the resort has quite a lot to offer and entertain.

Guest Laundry Room, Kids Room, Games Room, Library, Movie Cinema

 

The Fitzroy Island Resort was amazing and if I ever end up in the area again I would really like another stay, but for a few days next time. I loved my time there. The only downside is the fact that everything is an additional cost. Nothing was included in the nightly stay price for the room. But it was so beautiful and relaxing there.

 

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Cairns and the Surrounding Area in Australia

Cairns and the Surrounding Area in Australia

[fusion_text]Having never been to a tropical weather location previously, I was quite shocked by my week in Cairns and the surrounding area. I thought I knew my body and understood it’s functions. The how and when of my body sweating. I did not. (Turns out I was visiting the area at the hottest time)

I left the airport in an air-conditioned car and when I got out of that car at my accommodation, my eye glasses immediately fogged up. That was my first sign that things were going to be different. Of course, there were other tell-tale signs of the high humidity. Like how I would use a towel to dry off after I exited the shower, only to never be dry again, for like a week.

Oh, the things we learn when we travel.

For me, visiting Cairns and the surrounding area, taught me about sweat. Honestly, I never knew a person could sweat so much. It even took me a few times to realize that no, I did not sit in anything wet. That was just my ass sweating. My body was constantly wet and even my hair was sticking to my face and head. I was sweating so much in places I didn’t even know could sweat. I’m pretty sure my eyeballs were even sweating.

Cairns Central Shopping Centre

My first day in Cairns was December 28th and I was obviously woefully unprepared for the level of heat in such a humid climate. I was walking around for about 15 minutes when I found Cairns Central like some kind of mirage in a hot, dry, deserted desert. So of course, I decided to spend some valuable time in the wonderfully air-conditioned building. I want to say I cried big salty tears of joy but honestly, it’s hard to say. It could have just been big drops of salty sweat.

I knew I was hot and sweaty but I thought I was managing to hide it pretty well. That is until the lady in a shop, trying to give me samples of face lotion, asked if I wanted samples for oily skin. She looked at me with this confused look on her face when I replied that I had dry skin and would prefer those samples. I realized at that moment, I wasn’t hiding my sweat as well as I thought. I had to explain that my constant sheen was actually a sweat coat on my face. There went any hope that I had some sort of beautiful, radiant glow going on. It was quite an eye opener. Turns out, there really wasn’t even a hint of a radiant look.

There was a variety of different types of shops in the mall from flip flops, to health food, to electronics, clothing, etc. There were also a few café style coffee shop places to sit and have something to eat and drink.

Cairns Esplanade

I arrived in Queensland all ready to spend a week enjoying the beach and swimming in the ocean. The very first day I found out that wasn’t going to be an easy option. With the heat, the ocean temperature increases and you get stingers. Stingers can be so small you can’t see them, you only feel them sting you before you end up at the hospital, or so large you could ask one out on a date. Being a plus sized person with some injuries, finding a proper wet suit/outfit to protect against the stingers, wasn’t worth the effort for the little bit of ocean time I could do.

The Cairns Esplanade was amazing though. It is a massive 4800 sqm, salt water pool on the waterfront in the CBD. It is an interesting shape with one end being a sand bottomed area where you can walk or children can play. The other end is a deeper section where kids and adults alike were swimming and playing games. It is not fenced in and entrance is free. There are lifeguards on duty during opening times and there are also toilet, shower facilities and a shop.

Cairns Art Gallery

The Cairns Art Gallery is located in the CBD in a heritage-listed State Government building, so walking around this (air-conditioned!) building also allows you a little tour of local historical architecture. There were paintings, photos, sculptures and glass works on display by both new and more experienced artists. It’s not very large but I did enjoy the assortment of art they had on display as well as the building itself. There were even a few benches where you could sit and enjoy the view while trying to prevent your body from either spontaneously combusting or drowning people passing by in the constant sweat pool that is your body.

Reef Hotel Casino

As I write this article I realize I spent a lot of my time in Cairns trying to cool off. While I was walking around the CBD looking like I was just spit on by one of those dinosaur turkeys in the Daintree, the locals looked dry, refreshed and untroubled by the heat. It was annoying.

I was walking around the waterfront area and came across the Reef Hotel Casino. I had already spent time shopping and enjoying art in an air-conditioned building, now I might as well enjoy games of chance.

The building is really nice and although I don’t know how old it is, it was in great shape. I guess that is what you expect from a 5 star hotel though. I can only imagine what the hotel rooms are like. The Casino itself was kinda posh, just in a less garish way than Las Vegas. There were tables, sporting events, etc, but I only played a few of the slot machines. Just till I lost my budget.

Cairns and the Surrounding Area Reef Casino

 

Night Markets and Food Court

Here in Vancouver our Night Markets are outside with heaps of stalls. The Cairns Night Market and Food Court though is in a very large building filled with heaps of little shops. You can buy almost anything you can think of as well as eat until you are way past full. Obviously I chose to buy ice cream, but there were many different things to eat.

Airbnb in Cairns and the Surrounding Area

I stayed with a lovely family, through Airbnb, about half way between Cairns CBD and Palm Cove. It was approx. 25 minute bus trip to either. I had my own room with ensuite bathroom, separate from the main house. I even had a small enclosed sitting area just outside of my lockable bedroom door.

The house also had an outdoor pool and laundry facilities that I had access to. The family was wonderful. They shared local fruit with me and started me on my Tim Tam addiction. They also checked with me during my stay to make sure everything was going well and even texted to make sure I was doing okay, if I was out all day. I had great experiences with every Airbnb location and host I stayed with in Australia but this family in Cairns, were the most thoughtful and helpful. I absolutely loved my stay there.

Getting To, From, and Around Cairns

You can rent a car in Cairns but because it is a very touristy place, heaps of people are renting cars. The public bus system was sufficient for me plus there are day tours out of the city to various locations in the area. You can read about my car rental experience for my trip into the Daintree Rainforest.

I found the city bus system in Cairns and the surrounding area to be great. It took me from the Airbnb location to Cairns CBD and it would have taken me to Palm Cove if I wanted to. From what I could tell, it covered the entire area quite well. The cost for a bus trip depends on the zones you travel through.

I flew from Alice Springs to Cairns because there really was no other way to get there, driving would have taken too long. There is also a train station in Cairns though so it provides you an alternative way to get to and from the area.

Flying Foxes (Bats)

Bats are not something most people can say they have seen a lot of in their life. But head to Cairns and Flying Foxes, as they are known in Cairns, are hanging out in droves in trees around the CBD. You hear them before you see them. Although you can barely make out the massive amounts of moms and babies hanging in the trees, when they decide to leave, you see way more than you can possibly count. It was absolutely amazing to see, and hear. I didn’t even know this was possible outside of caves.

[bctt tweet=”Sun, water, Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, history, adventure & flying foxes. Cairns kinda has it all.” username=”dapsile” nofollow”yes”]

Cairns is quite a touristy city, but with its stunning landscape of ocean and rainforest, I really liked it. You have access to two UNESCO sites; the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. It also provides an assortment of adventures like bungee jumping, skydiving, and white water rafting. There are so many things to see and do in Cairns and the surrounding area, it seemed like every shop I walked past had cameras and Go Pros for rent or sale. Not to mention travel agencies for tours and car rental agencies. If you are looking for something wonderful but a little less adventurous, check out this Flights to Fancy post for the Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class: Step Back in Time. There are so many waterfalls to see in the area around Cairns.

Don’t let the abundance of adventure activities or the tourists fool you though. The Cairns CBD is full of wonderful historical architecture being used for an assortment of new reasons. Hostels, Art Gallery, Night Clubs, etc. It’s such a beautiful visual homage to the past while enjoying and sharing the present.

 

If you are interested in or starting to plan a trip, there are several travel related products and websites listed on the Yup…..We Like These page, to help you out. Some of the affiliate link descriptions also contain a coupon code for you to use.[/fusion_text][imageframe lightbox=”no” gallery_id=”” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][fusion_text][/fusion_text][one_fifth last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”” id=””][/one_fifth][one_fifth last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”” id=””][imageframe lightbox=”no” gallery_id=”” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][/one_fifth]

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Visiting the Alice Springs Area – And The Cockroach That Won

Visiting the Alice Springs Area – And The Cockroach That Won

[fusion_text]When I booked my flight to Australia, I knew I was going to be there for Christmas. I was really looking forward to my very first warm one. Instead I got one that reminded me of Christmas in Vancouver. It was wet. The way things worked out, I ended up visiting the Alice Springs area for Christmas. You can read all about my experience on a tour from Alice Springs to Uluru and Kings Canyon on December 23rd – 24th. I didn’t see as much of Alice Springs as I had hoped to. The Christmas season, the rain, and me just basically being tired, meant I had excuses. I had been wanting to visit the Telegraph Station for years but instead, I watched movies and listened to the rain storm. Oh, and FaceTimed people back in Canada.

On the positive side, I got some laundry done, visited with family & friends back home, stayed dry, and just rested. On the negative side, I missed out seeing everything Alice Springs has to offer. Visiting the Alice Springs area is quite different than anywhere else I have been. It is in the middle of the Australian Outback, which is a desert, and a lot of the city has the look of being run down. That mixed with things you read on the internet about not walking around when it is dark, you start to believe there is nothing worth visiting for.

Alice Springs Bad Reputation

The thing is, I don’t think it is that bad. I think it is just a city with more struggles than what most of us are used to. Visiting the Alice Springs area is something most tourists do, so it is full of us. Then there is the fact that the city is in the middle of a desert. It is approx 16 hours in each direction for the nearest large city. That’s a long way from every thing and makes replacing things, expensive.

I know Alice Springs has a bad reputation for being dangerous but I personally never noticed or felt that while I was there. I read about the crimes that made the news, but crimes like these happen everywhere. You have to be careful and take precautions wherever you travel. Just because you are in a small city, doesn’t mean there is no crime.

I stayed in a residential area outside of the centre of town though and I didn’t have to park a rental car on the street. While I only went into the centre of town for two short trips in a vehicle, the neighbourhood I was in felt completely safe when I was walking the street by myself at 5:30 am and at 7:30 pm.

Christmas tree at Alice Springs Airport while visiting the Alice Springs area

Accommodation in Alice Springs

I rented an apartment on Airbnb (you can read my previous article on Airbnb here) for my stay in Alice Springs. It was over Christmas and I just wanted to relax, eat food, watch movies, do laundry and talk to family and friends back home while everything was closed. I also looked at just renting a room but the ones that were close to tour pickups, weren’t available. The ones available, weren’t close to tour pickups. It worked out quite well though because the location I chose was a quick, easy walk away from accommodation that my tour was picking up from. A big bonus at 6 am. My host was also wonderful and not only picked me up at the airport but he also took me to the grocery store. Big thumbs up!

There are a lot of different accommodations in Alice Springs. Some of them nice, and some of them not so much. I would recommend thoroughly reading all of the reviews for a place. I was reading reviews for one place and they were all pretty good. Nothing outstanding, but I was going to book it. The very last review I read, talked about how the place was good except for one thing. As soon as the lights went off, hundreds of spiders started coming through the air vent into the bedroom. I didn’t stay there.

Transportation While Visiting the Alice Springs Area

Alice Springs is not a large city so you can walk around most of it. Some accommodations even offer bikes to use or rent. There is a public transportation bus but it ‘s schedule is something like every 1-1/2 hours. There are also taxi’s or you could rent a car.

To reach some of the popular sightseeing areas out of town, you can choose from a range of tour companies offering day tours, two day tours, or even more. I went with the Emu Run Experience for my two day tour from Alice Springs to Uluru and King’s Canyon. The area has a lot to see though so there are other tours.

Flying to Alice Springs

There are bus tours and trains you can take from Adelaide to Alice Springs. There are also flights and I chose to fly with Virgin Australia.  The flight times and price all worked for me. The Alice Springs airport is a really nice, modern but small one. You even get to walk outside, between the airplane and the building. Very retro.

Inside the airport there are two shops and a cafe with quite a large sitting area. When I was leaving the Alice Springs airport, I really appreciated the massage chairs/recliners at one of the gates. It’s a great way to wait for your flight.

I booked myself on the Alice Wanderer airport shuttle to get me back to the airport. I had to organize the pickup from one of the accommodations they pickup from, but it was very close to my Airbnb location. It was all very convenient and easy actually.

Christmas cake from Virgin Australia while visiting the Alice Springs area

An Eventful Evening With a New Friend

I remember when I was a kid, I heard stories like, oh the cockroaches will be the only things to survive a nuclear war. You know what the stories didn’t tell you though, that Australian cockroaches won’t just survive but they will protect some animals by sitting on top of them and end up ruling the world when they all survive.

The first time I saw an Australian cockroach was at night, in the city, and it was large. The next time I saw a cockroach was at about 2 am, in my room, in the Airbnb apartment I was renting in Alice Springs. The thing actually made noise moving, before I even saw it, cause things that large are noisy when they travel. At 2 am, that freakin’ thing looked like a small rodent or maybe even a child, bent on my surrender & destruction.

I was surprised & freaked out (okay I might have let out a squeal but I’m sure it was small) when I saw it but figured I was tough enough to kill the bug. I was a superior human. Instead, I almost cried purely out of fear by the time I was done. And all I had managed to do, was send it scurrying/jogging into my suitcase. I like to think that cockroach was also scared of me. With my human leg that kept randomly lifting and dropping to the floor, over and over again with no action, direction or even any other movement. So, he ran into my suitcase out of fear.

Instead, I think it was actually a strategically planned event done to keep me awake half the night simultaneously listening for movement and having the feeling of bugs crawling all over me. Not to mention the horrific thought of having to go into my suitcase for clothes in the morning that just kept going through my brain on some kind of momentum building loop. Two days before on my tour, when the guide explained we had to watch where we walked because there were deadly snakes, that didn’t even phase me. But this night, an Australian cockroach beat me. It won. I couldn’t even bring myself to take a picture to show you. I’m pretty sure the moving shadows on the wall were that thing moving around the room. The entire time knowing I was completely awake and barely breathing.

Maybe it wasn’t wind I heard that night, but instead, cackles of laughter.

Indigenous Art Carpet Pattern in Alice Springs Airport while visiting the Alice Springs area

Alice Springs

I was in Alice Springs for December 25th & 26th. It rained while I was there. A lot. So I was a whiney baby. I didn’t go out to see any of the wonderful sights the city has to offer. I don’t recommend doing this but then again, Uluru was closed one day because of the rain, my Kings Canyon tour almost didn’t happen and Alice Springs ended up getting enough rain that I saw flooded roads as well as the Todd River flowing-ish. All quite rare experiences so at least I came out of it all with something memorable.

Another bit of information I found interesting, the potatoes I bought for Christmas dinner, weren’t covered in the dirt I am used to seeing. The bright red dirt of the area covered them instead. It was weird but cool at the same time.

 

Rain in the Outback in the Alice Springs area

 

If you are interested in or starting to plan a trip, there are several travel related products and websites listed on the Yup…..We Like These page, to help you out. Some of the affiliate link descriptions also contain a coupon code for you to use.

 

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The Tour from Alice Springs to Uluru and Kings Canyon

The Tour from Alice Springs to Uluru and Kings Canyon

The Tour from Alice Springs to Uluru and Kings Canyon

Wow! Australia knows how to impress you and scare the living crap out of you, all at the same time. You know, just enough so you start questioning your sanity. Enter the tour from Alice Springs to Uluru. I mean, while I am busy admiring the wonderful view, the tour guide was explaining how we had to watch where we walked because there were snakes and Australia had 7 (seriously, 7) of the world’s 10 deadliest snakes. Now go and enjoy the sights. Thank you Australia.

*this is a long article*

I booked the two-day, budget tour from Alice Springs to Uluru and Kings Canyon through Emu Run Experience. I chose them because they had a budget version for accommodation that wasn’t camping. It was in an outback resort which means everything in one location. There was a hotel, hostel style dorms, camping, restaurant, outdoor buffet style eating area, laundry room, as well as various other features.

You can read about visiting the Alice Springs area here. It also contains a harrowing story of the night a cockroach planned my demise.

Emu Run Experience Tour– Day 1

Day 1 was with Emu Run Experiences for a tour from Alice Springs to Uluru. Both drivers/guides were knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. The day starts with a stop for an included buffet breakfast and ends with an included bbq with sparkling wine. With heaps of snacks in between. In fact, every time we stopped we were given something to eat. There was fruit, biscuits, granola bar, and gummy candies for snacks. They also had giant containers/kegs of cold water so you could constantly refill your water bottle. These are people who live with some pretty hot temperatures; they know what it takes to stay hydrated and keep your energy up.

It was an early pick-up time of 6 am for me, but it also depends on your pickup location. Mine wasn’t the first, or the last that morning. You get the opportunity to sleep on the bus though until they stop for breakfast, at about 8:30, at Erldunda. Here we were also able to use the washroom, do a little bit of shopping and even make friends with some emus. Once we were back on the bus, a 55-minute documentary on central Australia was played. I found it to be really informative and interesting even though it stopped playing the video and only had sound for more than half of it.

The Second, Third, and Fourth Stops of the Day

Officially the second stop was just on the side of the road for a great picture opportunity. The next big stop after breakfast though, is Walpa Gorge. Enter the above snake conversation. You have the opportunity to walk all, or part of, an easy 2 km return hike to the Gorge. The entire walk provides you with some great photo opportunities.

The Fourth stop was at the Uluru Culture Centre for approx. 40 minutes. The centre was wonderful. There were washrooms, a store, as well as a shop for Indigenous art. There were some amazing pieces of art for sale in several different mediums. The artist’s bios were also listed with each piece, giving you a great background of that artist.

Somewhere along our drive to Uluru, we also stopped at Kata Tjuta for some great pictures.

Uluru

The big feature of the day. Uluru. This is a very sacred place for the Indigenous people, you really have to be respectful. You are asked not to climb it, so please don’t. There are also only certain areas you are allowed to walk, or even look at. While some areas are accessible for everyone, some are only for males, and some are only for females. There are signs throughout the walk along the base that explain this.

Uluru is an amazing site to see. It is basically a giant, red rock in the middle of a vast space of flat, red desert. It has a way of sticking with you though. Most people I talked to that have seen it, said it was a stunning red. The day I was there, it was raining so the red rock was actually more of a pink/black/grey rock. It didn’t stand out in pictures but I do have a great shot of the clouds literally devouring it.

Uluru being devoured by Clouds from a tour from Alice Springs to Uluru

The walk is easy, it’s flat. But there are some really interesting sites to see including a small waterfall, waterhole, and rock art. Plus, if like me you are there when it is raining, you will be fortunate enough to witness the rain transforming the rock. It really is spectacular. Spoiler Alert: the water falling off the rock, is quite warm. And, also contains a lot of gross things that animals excrete, as it washes and cleanses Uluru.

BBQ Dinner

The tour itinerary description, from Emu Run Experience website, explaining the BBQ dinner:

The scene has been set, the highlight of the day, the breathtaking Uluru sunset with a glass of bubbly and a delicious Aussie BBQ. A spectacular day never to be forgotten.

What really happened (might have been adjusted because of the rain):

The bus stopped so we could look back at Uluru and take some pictures from a distance. Then as we all hopped back on so we could be taken back to the Ayers Rock Resort, we noticed the clouds absorbing the giant rock. Earlier in the day we dropped off one of the guides so when we arrived in the camping area of the resort, he had everything set-up for dinner. There was a tent structure with benches and tables for us to sit in and after a short time we were served our buffet style dinner. There were even vegetarian hot dogs for all the vegetarians. Me, I was the vegetarian. We were served glasses of bubbly, or we could have juice, and for desert there was a pre packed slice of lamington cake. There were also leftover fruit slices.

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The View, or Lack Of, to Finish the Day

The website for the Ayers Rock Resort shows a wonderful aerial view of the entire resort (which I obviously did not see because I had no idea it was this big) and how close it is to Uluru. Perhaps on a nice day, with no rain, it would have been exactly like the Emu Run Experience website’s description; we would have eaten our dinner outside and had a stunning view of the sunset with the magnificent rock.

After dinner, a few of us were dropped off at the Outback Pioneer Lodge within the resort. We were dropped off around 7:30-8:00 pm though so there wasn’t much time to do anything or even explore too much because pick-up the next morning was at bloody, crazy time of 4:00 am. It was such a wet day, I don’t think I really dried out.

Tour From Alice Springs to Uluru Accommodation – Outback Pioneer Lodge

There wasn’t a lot of time between being dropped off at the Ayers Rock Resort in the evening on Day 1 and being picked up very early in the morning on Day 2 so I didn’t get to experience much there. I can tell you the staff was super helpful and friendly. Also the dorm room I stayed in was clean with the bedding supplied. There were no towels provided though. The large public women’s washroom area was well used and probably would have been cleaner if it wasn’t for the mass amounts of rain the area was receiving. Same goes for the shower area. Each shower had its own stall with locking door. When you walked into the stall there was an area with a bench and hooks on the wall and you continued through to the personal shower.

AAT Kings – Day 2

AAT Kings was the tour operator for the second day of this tour, going to Kings Canyon. I was picked up at 4:00 AM. Myself and the others picked up at the Outback Pioneer Lodge, were not the first people to be picked up that day so I’m not sure where this tour originated or what time it started at. The bus was much larger and there were more people, but the tour guides were just as friendly and knowledgeable. Most of us slept on the bus until our first stop at Kings Creek Station for the included buffet style breakfast. There was a lot to choose from including meat, eggs, toast, cereal, etc.

Kings Canyon

There are two different walks to choose from at Kings Canyon depending on your level and experience. The six-kilometer Rim Walk is the option for more experienced people. You climb a 100 metre cliff face and walk around the rim of the canyon. You get some really great views.

I did the Creek Bed Walk. It is a casual two-kilometer walk along the creek bed. Please don’t think this means you can wear flip flops or something. You will still need a pair of supportive shoes with good traction. The views were really impressive and we were given a lot of incredible information from the guide on the plants and insects in the area. The Indigenous people have lived off the land for thousands of years so it is very interesting. Some things can be eaten or used in a completely beneficial manner, and of course, some things will kill you. Or injure you but the killing me part is what stuck in my head the most.

Those of us who did the Creek Bed Walk were obviously finished first so we were driven to the Kings Canyon Resort where we could walk around, explore, and buy lunch. The group that did the Rim Walk were brought back to the resort a little bit later but they were also given time to purchase and eat lunch before we all got back onto the bus.

The Trip Back to Alice Springs

On our long drive back to Alice Springs we once again stopped at the Ayers Rock Resort, this time to exchange our guides/drivers. It was a long day. I was dropped off at around 7:30 pm and I was exhausted. I ate a bit of food, showered and was asleep a lot earlier than normal for me on Christmas Eve. It’s a good sign that I had a great two days on this tour.

I enjoyed everything I was able to see and experience on this tour, but I also really appreciated everything I was able to learn. The knowledgable guides on both days, taught us how the Indigenous people of the area lived for thousands of years as well as the importance of the area to their culture. It was such an informative and unique experience. Mine just also happened to be quite wet.

Smart Phone Tip:

If you decide to travel somewhere and there is even a possibility of rain, I recommend a good waterproof phone case to protect your smart phone. I couldn’t use my DSLR much because of the rain so I took a few pictures with my phone. The rest of the time my phone was in the pocket of my rain jacket. My rain jacket stopped being waterproof somewhere over those two days.

My seven-month-old iPhone not only got wet, it got water damaged and even stopped working. The screen went black, and I couldn’t turn it off to reboot the phone. I wasn’t able to set my alarm for the 4:00 am pickup on day 2 and I ended up standing in the bathroom at about 3:30 am with my phone under the hot air hand dryer. I was able to get it dried out enough so it basically worked again but it was on and off for days. I’m guessing it isn’t good for the phone though so I also don’t recommend holding your phone under a hot air hand dryer. Overall it was not a great experience. You don’t have a container of rice to dry out your wet smart phone when you are travelling.

 

If you are interested in or starting to plan a trip, there are several travel related products and websites listed on the Yup…..We Like These page, to help you out. Some of the affiliate link descriptions also contain a coupon code for you to use.

Swami’s Yoga Retreat – A Review of My Stay

Swami’s Yoga Retreat – A Review of My Stay

I climbed out of the car, stepped on the soft grass, felt the heat of the day in the air as it touched my skin, and suddenly the most incredible feeling of calm and peace settled over me. This was my immediate impression upon arrival of Swami’s Yoga Retreat (website). It didn’t leave me for the entire three nights I was there and it is still my #1 memory.

Once I had booked my trip to Australia, obviously I had to research things I wanted to do while I was there. Of course, there were the normal touristy things to see and do but always, at the back of my mind, was a yoga retreat. I researched and found a bunch of different ones but I just couldn’t decide. Then I saw Swami’s Yoga Retreat in Kenthurst, just outside of Sydney, offered on Groupon. I bought it.

You never know what to expect when you book things on-line. I read reviews so I had a general idea, but it’s still not quite the same as seeing it for yourself. Swami’s is not a luxury style retreat. What it is though, is a place to go to breath, do yoga, meditate, go for wilderness walks, swim, have a massage, relax and basically just release stress. A real and authentic place where you are free from judgement. And let’s not forget the most amazing vegetarian food I have ever eaten. Ever.

Swami’s Yoga Retreat – A Bit of History

Swami Sarasvati is a yoga expert that has been credited with bringing yoga to Australia. She had a very popular TV show weekday mornings from 1968 to 1978. I believe it was in the 1990’s that she and her husband started the retreat but the buildings are older than that. While the place is older, it is still well maintained and clean. The rooms are basic but again, very clean, and have an ensuite. There is no air-conditioning, but there is a ceiling fan in each room and the buildings were designed to stay cooler when everything was closed during the day.

I was visiting Swami’s Yoga Retreat in the middle of January so it was quite hot while I was there. The yoga room had a breeze flowing through it, helped by the ceiling fans, but it still ended up being almost like hot yoga in the afternoons. That little bit of discomfort was alleviated by the pool though. I’m not sure if anyone used the spa (hot tub) but the pool was very popular.

Upon arrival, you receive a welcome booklet. It contains a sample of the daily program, which is not written in stone and can be changed. It also contains a morning wake-up stretching routine, a prayer, a recipe, an action plan for you to fill out as well as explanations on yoga, meditation and how to use meditation beads. This is a great booklet that I still refer to.

The Schedule and Time

While every day the daily schedule is put on the board in the dining room, it can change. It’s also a good idea to not get too hung up on times. Swami’s Yoga Retreat has a very relaxed atmosphere and while most meals and events started on time while I was there, not all of them did. That was one of my favourite things about being there. No one was giving little dirty looks, or judging anyone for not being somewhere exactly on time. It was so liberating and relaxing. Things just flowed organically and it felt rather comforting to me.

During one of our meditation sessions we were given a handout of ‘8 Simple Meditative Exercises’. I really like this list. Now that I am home, it is so easy to get caught up and forget how to find peace and relax. The list reminds me.

All the people you see working at Swami’s are volunteers. They all offer different knowledge and talents. I think it is great. You end up with people who are choosing to be there as opposed to people who are just there to receive a pay cheque. It also means the same people might not be working each time you visit. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. While I was there, the chef was a man from Sweden who was working on his chef’s apprenticeship. As I said above, it was the most amazing vegetarian food I have ever tasted. It was incredibly flavourful and varied, all while filling me up.

Calm is Created

Swami’s son Sanjay runs the retreat now. Once you have a chance to talk to him, you realize where that overall feeling of calm and peace you receive from the retreat begins. Sanjay is a very calm, positive, serene person with a slow, quiet voice. He shares his mother’s teachings and the things he discusses about yoga, meditation, life balance, gratitude, etc, are all shared to help. I found him to be very knowledgeable and a wonderful calming presence. He believes, and lives, what he teaches.

I was at the retreat to learn, rest and heal. I was filled with nutritious, delicious food. Taught some new meditation techniques. Shown how important life balance is. Given the chance to exercise different ways, several times a day. Had the opportunity to meet some great people. Wisdom was shared with me. And I slept, a lot. I felt I got what I was looking for from Swami’s Yoga Retreat and even a bit more. I really enjoyed my time there and I wish I lived closer so I could attend more often.

Airbnb Accommodation: The Pros, Cons and Tips for Renting

Airbnb Accommodation: The Pros, Cons and Tips for Renting

Accommodation is probably the largest expense when you travel.  Hotels are the more expensive option and hostels or camping are obviously the cheaper options. Smack in the middle of those choices now though is Airbnb (website). Not only is Airbnb cost efficient but you choose the location, the accommodation type, the extras you have access to, the cleanliness, etc. Airbnb also gives you the opportunity to experience how people live in that country. You see what their homes are like. If you choose to cook you get to go grocery shopping and see the different foods. If you have television you can see what that is like. Depending on the rental and the hosts, you might get the opportunity to have a conversation with them.

Insider Knowledge and Perks

Obviously each rental and host is different but you can generally count on receiving insider knowledge for everything from transportation (some provide you with a reusable travel card for their city that you add money to), things to see and do, great local places to eat, maps, city guides, etc.

Some hosts even provide little additional perks. In London we were given wine. In Cairns I was given local fruit and Tim Tams (this unfortunately started my little addiction to these dastardly, delicious, treats), as well as a pickup from the airport and a ride into the city the next day. At one of the places in Sydney, I was given a ride to the airport. Almost every location I stayed at in Australia and New Zealand I was also given breakfast. In both Amsterdam (read that article here) and Brisbane, the hosts offered a pickup from the airport to the rental, for a fee. The fee was less than a taxi and these drivers knew exactly where they were going.

There are also the bonuses that come with staying with someone. In Brisbane my host invited me to dinner out with her and her friends. In Christchurch I went to a festival one evening with my host.

All of these perks and insider knowledge, are things you just won’t find from other types of accommodation.

Airbnb Accommodation Type and Features

Through Airbnb I have rented an apartment, a studio apartment, an eco retreat cabin (read that article), and a room in people’s homes. Each place was different and choosing them took some research but this makes sure you get the specific features you are looking for. How long your trip is, how many people are traveling with you, how long you will be at the specific Airbnb rental, what season it is, and the location, are all factors that help in your decisions. For me, I generally look for heat or air conditioning depending, use of a kitchen, wifi, and use of a washing machine. If you have a lot of choices to choose from, you can then judge the bonuses and perks. Does it include breakfast? How large is the apartment or individual room? Does it have an ensuite? Is the room part of the house or is it separate? Is the bathroom shared or is it private? How much is the cleaning fee? Is the wifi fast? Will I have access to a pool? Is there a tv? What is the bed type?

The room I rented in Cairns was a private suite at the back of the garage, completely separate from the main house. I had my own entrance, ensuite, air conditioner, fridge, microwave, tea kettle, tv, as well as supplies, a little sitting area and the above-mentioned fruit and Tim Tams. I also had use of their washing machine as well as their outdoor pool. As an additional bonus, I was staying between Christmas and New Years so the hostess even had a mini Christmas tree and some decorations put up. It was so thoughtful and I really appreciated it after spending Christmas by myself without any of that.  Not only was this an amazing rental but the family was thoughtful, helpful, checked up on me and generally went out of their way to make sure I had a wonderful stay.

Location of the Rental

One thing you might want to pay close attention to is the location of the rental. If you will be driving, is there convenient, free parking close by? Maybe, first come first serve street parking, isn’t what you want to leave to chance.  If you aren’t driving, is there close, easy access to public transportation? Perhaps walking 2 km to the closest stop isn’t something you are capable of. If you are in a town or city without public transportation, is the rental located within walking distance to places you want to visit? Are there taxi cabs available? When I was in Alice Springs I chose to rent an entire apartment instead of a room because of the location for my 6 am tour pickup. There were other factors of course but that 6 am pickup location, in a city with no public transportation, was a big factor.

Location can also play a big role in your decision between a hotel and an Airbnb rental. One of my stays in Sydney was a room in an apartment. The apartment was in Bronte Beach, approx 100-ish metres from the beach, and it had an amazingly, beautiful view of the beach and ocean, just a little obstructed, from every window. I could not have afforded a stay like that in a hotel.

Airbnb Reviews

As a solo female traveler in Australia and New Zealand I was obviously concerned about safety when I was renting; whether it was an entire apartment or a room in someone’s home. So, when I read the reviews, I looked to see if other solo female travellers had stayed there and what they had to say about the experience. Hearing about someone else’s experience in the same situation as you, can give you good information to base your decision on. One of my rentals in Sydney was a room from a male host with two long-term male guests in the home. I was the only female in this apartment but I felt completely safe and respected during my stay there. I also ended up getting along amazingly with the host. If I hadn’t seen that other solo female travellers had stayed there, I wouldn’t have given it a chance and I would have missed out on a great place.

Cleanliness is quite important to me. I was interested in a great sounding rental once where the pictures showed a nice home. As I was reading the reviews though, it became obvious cleanliness was not an important issue for the owner. Every single review mentioned the dirtiness of this place.

Try to read all, or most, of the reviews for the Airbnb rental, not just the most recent.

Sometimes reviews can be confusing though. I rented a room in a family’s home. The reviews were good and it’s cleanliness had been mentioned a few times. So you can imagine my shock when I arrived and the extent of clutter inside this home was beyond anything I had every seen. My first thought was hoarders. Yes, the room and the bathroom were clean, but the home was FULL of stuff, unmentioned pets and people. It was overwhelming. The family was so considerate and thoughtful of each other, and me, though. I had an internal debate going on in my head the whole stay. It wasn’t a bad Airbnb rental but it also wasn’t the best.

Another place I rented had reviews from people who didn’t like the place or their stay. I was struggling to find a rental for that one night and decided the reviews weren’t bad enough to deter me, so I booked it. It turns out the place was more old, than anything. The hosts were friendly and helpful but the house could definitely have done with a bathroom renovation. The bed linen was mismatched and older but they were still in good shape. That’s as bad as it was. That rental felt more like staying with a bunch of your friends when you are in your twenties. The place was pretty clean but it was an old home and the linens were the ones given by your Mom when she cleaned out her cupboard. Completely acceptable place to stay for a night.

Everybody’s idea of clean is different. I found most of the Airbnb rentals I have stayed at though, were cleaner than hotels I have stayed at. Including the big named, expensive ones.

Review All Of The Information Given

Reviews and descriptions are important parts of your research before booking your rental with Airbnb but don’t forget the pictures. You’re reading this thinking, “Obviously!”. But even though my cousin and I looked at the pictures of a rental in Paris, we both almost missed an important fact. There was no separate washroom. The studio apartment was a very, very small room. The toilet, and I think the shower, were both out in the open, in the room. It’s good to remember that what is ‘normal’ for you in your home or country, is not always ‘normal’ everywhere else. Thankfully, we caught it.

For me, Airbnb has been a great accommodation option. I have heard some of the Airbnb horror stories that have made the news but thankfully, I have not had those experiences. I have had one or two personality differences when I rented a room in someone’s home. When you are sharing someone’s home though, those are expected, understandable and something you can deal with. Overall I have stayed in some great locations, in some great homes and have met some wonderful people. One of my hosts even made movies. He had just finished his second film and was going to be looking for film festivals to enter it into. He told me how his first movie had just finished a run on Netflix and then he gave me a DVD copy of it. Of course I asked him to sign it.

My Two Day Road Trip to the Daintree Rainforest from Cairns

My Two Day Road Trip to the Daintree Rainforest from Cairns

[fusion_text]First of all, let me give everyone a necessary piece of advice. Cairns is a tourist city. Everyone rents cars in Cairns. Don’t wait till you arrive to rent one, book it in advance. I had booked myself a place to stay in the Daintree Rainforest which is only accessible via car. I waited till I arrived in Cairns and the day I needed said car, to search and book it. Thankfully there must have been a return during my search because the internet allowed me to book a car from the Enterprise in downtown Cairns after everyone else told me they were fully booked, including Enterprise.

Now, the best part of today’s story. A coastal road trip that allows you to drive with the ocean and the Great Barrier Reef (I couldn’t see the reef from the road) on one side and the rainforest on the other. It really is quite beautiful. Thankfully there are several lookout locations for you to stop, look and take pictures from. Depending on where you drive, there are even ones where you don’t have to cross traffic. The road is quite curvy and therefore has blind spots. Not to mention you have to remember to get back on the correct side of the road.

Port Douglas

All along the road are roundabouts where you can head off to different beaches or keep driving on the Captain Cook Highway up to Mossman. I made a stop in Port Douglas for a few hours and I am so glad I did. It is a beautiful town that apparently has a lot of celebrities visit so there are heaps of resorts but there are a lot of accommodation choices for us regular folk too. There is also a wide range of amazing shops and restaurants to spend your time in. The veggie burger at Café Ziva (they also offer heaps of different crepes) with added avocado was messy and so delicious. I was learning with the humid heat you not only have to drink a lot but you also have to eat well.

I saw a little girl about 3 years old walking with her Grandmother that afternoon. This little girl was only wearing an oversized t-shirt, she had perspiration soaked hair sticking to her red, flushed face, and she was carrying a bottle of water like it was her life line. She looked like someone who had lived a hard life, was exhausted beyond believe and was about to just throw in the towel. The look on her face said ‘I want to cry but I already sweat all the fluids out of my body’. I loved her. She looked like I felt.

Maybe not an obvious choice for a vegetarian, but I also stopped at Lanterfish Fish & Chip Shop. It was so hot and they had these amazing slushies. I ended up with the strawberry basil slushie and a brain freeze. It was delightful.

Daintree Rainforest

After leaving Port Douglas, in my greatly appreciated air-conditioned rental car, the drive continues up north quite easily. Driving past all those sugar cane fields really was quite a sight. The drive starts to change once you turn off in the Cape Tribulation direction. Not too long after that you cross a river on this cool little cable ferry. It cost me $26.00 return ($14.00 one way) and only took about 5 minutes or less.

The road then becomes a very narrow, single lane each way, route with no shoulders. As you climb the hills and drive around the corners of this wonderfully scenic, tree lined route, you hope you’ve mastered where your car edges are because it is quite a tight squeeze. Somewhere on this incredible drive you also lose cell and internet coverage without noticing. Until you leave the rainforest, the only place you get it back again is at the top of the tower in the Daintree Discovery Centre. It is a great way to have an electronic detox, relax and enjoy the amazing scenery of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wompoo Eco Retreat

My accommodation for the night in the Daintree Rainforest was the Wompoo Eco Retreat in Cow Bay. It is available through them directly (website here) or with Airbnb. There are two units but the reason I chose this place was because both of the units have no glass in the windows of the washroom and they have a stunning view of the rainforest. The big surprise is that I chose to stay the night in the rainforest at all though. I hate bugs and I don’t camp.

The unit has a big patio door and two windows, all on three different walls, and all screened. You can close and even lock the door to the bathroom. There is no air conditioning but there was a breeze and a fan. The unit has a mini fridge stocked with an assortment of breakfast supplies and containers of refrigerated water. There is also a huge assortment of different fresh tea, muesli, coffee, coffee press, tea pot, oil, vinegar, all the dishes you could require and an outdoor cooking stove and sink. Outside, around the corner to the side of the bathroom, and newly built, is a cement bath. It’s shallow but perfect for filling up and cooling down after the hot tropical days.

While there were bugs, including ants and a massive spider (who kept running away) in the bathroom at night, it wasn’t too bad at all. This amazing accommodation allows you luxury, comfort, convenience and space all while staying in an incredibly scenic rainforest. It is such a remote, lovely place and very relaxing. *Take care with your usage as they create their own electricity and their water is heated with solar power.*

Daintree Discovery Centre

My accommodation was conveniently located right after the turnoff for the Daintree Discovery Centre. The Discovery Centre has several different walks for you to explore with, including the Canopy Tower to climb that takes you 23 metres up. The walks and the interactive Interpretive Display Centre, are all created to provide you with information on what types of insects, flora & fauna, birds, butterflies, mammals, etc are living in the rainforest that you might be lucky enough to see. You are able to learn the history of these things and the rainforest.

This is also where you can learn about the local dinosaur turkey. They call it the cassowary. All along the road there are signs warning of it but I never saw one. After seeing a statue of one in the Display Centre I was happy about that. It might not be as large as a Canadian moose but I think that thing could take you out. It is as tall as me, or taller, and where a regular turkey has a small flat head, the dinosaur turkey has a giant head with a massive piece of vertical hard bone on top that is actually part of their skull and grows with age. Think ax. To top it off, that’s not what they use to attack you. They use their dagger like claw feet and extremely powerful legs to fight you. You really have to check them out on wikipedia (here). By the end of my road trip and not having seen one in real life though, I was quite disappointed. Unlike Canberra and the flies.

If you are staying locally, you can get a discount through your accommodation for the Daintree Discovery Centre.

Cape Tribulation

After I visited the Daintree Discovery Centre I drove another approx 30 minutes to Cape Tribulation. It’s quite small but there is accommodation as well as tours and other touristy things available. I wanted to go up to see what it had to offer but I also went for dinner. I was told by my hosts that Whet is a café, bar, restaurant with a good vegetarian menu. They didn’t lie. The restaurant actually had a separate menu for vegetarians, and I believe, gluten free. Not something you expect in such a small location when you don’t always see that in the big cities. I went with the linguine pasta with tomato & chilli salsa for dinner and the apple, pear and hazelnut crumble served with ice cream for dessert. I also drank two large jugs of water. Other than the dastardly raisins in the crumble, everything was absolutely delicious. It was a smaller restaurant and quite busy with both locals and tourists.

The drive back to Wompoo Eco Retreat was an interesting/horror filled one. It was dark and driving down the narrow tree lined road made it even darker. Everyone said to watch out for the dinosaur turkeys but you know what they didn’t tell me. That there would be so many frogs on the road. So many frogs that I would feel like a serial killer in the middle of one of the signs of the apocalypse. I made it through by believing they were hopping out of the way. Happy little frogs hopping along the road like they own the place leaving me in darkness and terror. Thank you Australia.

Mossman Gorge

The next day I decided to stop at the Mossman Gorge on my way back to Cairns. I really had no idea what to expect though because I hadn’t done any research. I arrived in the parking lot and walked to the Visitor’s Centre where I was able to purchase a ticket. The ticket is for the shuttle to the Gorge. I noticed people walking but the route is a road with no place else to walk. No footpath and buses going in both directions. Also there is an indigenous community between the Visitor’s Centre and the Gorge and they have specifically asked that people don’t walk through.

The Gorge has some really nice, easy walks, of various distances, surrounded by the flora and fauna of the stunning Daintree Rainforest. There were insects, birds, rocks, a metal suspension bridge, and small streams of water to join all of the greenery, the creek and the river. A lot of people were swimming in the water but with large rocks as well as strong currents, there are warnings. It is a great way to be active and spend some time seeing this beautiful, tropical part of Australia.

Palm Cove

WOW! I was told by a friend that Palm Cove was a favourite of hers so I decided to stop there on my way back to Cairns. It was absolutely lovely. The beach was amazing and the whole town had such a relaxed atmosphere. Unfortunatly I didn’t have a lot of time. I ended up eating a quick late lunch/early dinner so I could spend the rest of what time I had, walking along the beach staring out into the ocean. It was just so beautiful. I didn’t even want to do anything else. If I am ever in the area again, I can guarantee you I will check this place out longer.

I wish I would have been able to spend more than one night in the Daintree. Besides loving the accommodation, I never had the time to go hiking or visit any of the watering holes where I could have gone swimming. I didn’t know about all of the different stingers before I went to Queensland so I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to easily swim in the ocean. I would have really enjoyed swimming, especially in that heat. While I chose to drive and spend the night in the rainforest, there are tour companies for you to choose from that visit some, if not all, of these sights as well as others.

 

If you are interested in, or starting to plan a trip, there are several travel related products and websites listed on the Yup…..We Like These page, to help you out. Some of the affiliate link descriptions also contain a coupon code for you to use.

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VIM & VIGR Compression Socks – Most Unique Pattern & Review

VIM & VIGR Compression Socks – Most Unique Pattern & Review

When I flew to Europe last year I noticed my black compression socks were stretched and no longer in their original shape. They didn’t have all of the elasticity left in them. I knew I needed to get myself a new pair for flying to Australia and New Zealand. Obviously I needed a pair in their original shape, I was going to be flying two long-haul flights. Deep vein thrombosis is something I very much want to avoid.

I did some internet research to find a really good compression sock and of course I checked out the different patterns offered. In my search I found the compression socks chosen most often, with the best patterns, were in the USA. Canada has compression socks with patterns, but nothing that is different.

Ooooohhhh I totally loved the patterns VIM & VIGR offered for their compression socks.

The first thing that drew me to VIM & VIGR was the fact that they offer their compression socks in cotton and wool, on top of the normal nylon you always see. Then there was the pattern selection. They didn’t just have the stripes, polka dots and argyle patterns I had seen from other companies. The pair I really loved, I had not seen anywhere else. Of course I had to buy them. They are a blue and charcoal, cotton sock with the most awesome stick figure type rose pattern. Women’s Queen’s Floral is also a pretty awesome sock name. Although if a floral pattern is not your thing, they do have a cotton sock with a camouflage pattern. Plus, they have different seasonal collections.

When I first visited the web-site there was an option to sign-up for their emails. By doing that, I received a $5.00 off coupon code. I loved and appreciated this option, especially because I was trying something new. I ordered my socks on Sunday night and because of the $25.00 shipping charge to Canada, I decided to ship to a USA address for $4.99 instead. While I am happy I had that option available to me, I hope the high shipping cost to Canada is something VIM & VIGR can work on, it would be great if these socks were more readily available here.

My VIM & VIGR Order

My order shipped out on Monday and even though I chose the 7-10 day shipping option, by Thursday, the socks arrived at the address. That very fast delivery time totally impressed me. The fifth thing I noticed about the VIM & VIGR compression socks, after the fabric, the unique pattern, the coupon code and the unexpected fast delivery time (which obviously won’t always happen), was that these socks are just as beautiful in real life as they are on the web-site. The photos were wonderfully accurate.

If ordering directly from the USA isn’t an option for you though, the VIM & VIGR website also lists three international companies, one in Canada and two in Asia. The company in Canada is 26.10 Design & Distribution Inc. (website here). They are based in Quebec and shipping is a fixed fee of $15.00 CAD to Canada. Unfortunatly they only have the regular polka dots, stripes and argyle choices everyone else has. They do however offer all three fabric choices, cotton, wool and nylon.  Bliss & Bless (website here) is the company in Hong Kong and the company in Japan, Koshiya Medicalcare (website here), didn’t end up having any of the VIM & VIGR products on their site, that I could find.

The Sizing

When I purchase shoes, I wear a woman’s 9-10 and my calf’s are larger, like about 17”. So, I ordered the Large size based on the sizing chart. The awesome thing is though, VIM & VIGR has socks with a Wide Calf option. Great for people who don’t fit into the other sizes but still want or need a compression sock for flying or exercising.

There were two downsides to this sock that I noticed. The first one I experienced was because I am short and the socks are quite long. This means the socks come right up to the knee joint (or higher). When I had long travel days, I found they would cut into my leg. After two long-haul flights, a short layover, car travel times, etc, the socks were cutting into my leg pretty good. My first experience wearing these socks was actually a little painful. This might be because they are cotton and don’t have as much flexibility as nylon. I would also like to try a wide-calf option though, maybe that had something to do with it.

The second downside, these socks took quite a bit of effort to put on. Again, probably because they are cotton and don’t have the flexibility nylon based compression socks have. You get instructions from VIM & VIGR on how to properly put the socks on, which is very helpful and appreciated, but they definitely take a lot more effort than I am used to applying when putting on compression socks.

These compression socks are quite thick and tight, which is probably because of the cotton. I thought I could really feel them do their work. As soon as I put them on, my legs started to tingle. I wore these for my flights and I felt they did a great job. Although, because I am not a medical professional, other than lacking any obvious signs of deep vein thrombosis, I’m not sure how to tell. I have worn other compression socks before though and while I have felt my legs tingle, the other socks have never fit as snug, not like these VIM & VIGR cotton compression socks. Compression socks alone won’t prevent deep vein thrombosis, but they do help. I also try to get up and walk around regularly on flights.

I loved wearing my VIM & VIGR compression socks with this great, modern pattern, I didn’t have to feel as though I was wearing my Grandfather’s medical socks. That right there is enough to make me purchase these again. Plus, even though I have not worn these socks for anything other than flying yet, they are so stylish I am willing to try them for exercise, sitting, and standing.


I loved my VIM & VIGR cotton compression socks so much I decided to become an affiliate marketer with them. If you are interested, you can click above on the purple VIM & VIGR, or you can click on the description on the Recommendations page. It will not cost you any additional costs to make a purchase with this link but we will receive a commission for referring you.

I hope you will enjoy your socks as much as I enjoy mine.

Melbourne – Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate, a few things, and oh yah, Transportation

Melbourne – Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate, a few things, and oh yah, Transportation

Melbourne is a big city that has history, art, shopping, food, architecture, culture, coffee and chocolate. The one thing that stood out for me walking around Melbourne is the fact that there is so much chocolate. So very much chocolate. I’m not normally a big chocolate fan but even I fell into the rabbit hole of chocolate where I tried different things and bought chocolates to take with me. You know, to eat later, because a person can never have too much chocolate. Or so you begin to think when you are walking the chocolate lined streets of Melbourne, basically living your own, real life, Willy Wonky experience.

Chokolait
I had read before I went to Australia that this was a country of coffee drinkers who were basically connoisseurs but I did not realize that it was also a country of chocolate fiends. I have never, in my life, seen so many chocolate café shops, and I have been to Belgium and Switzerland. Most of the chocolate shops have chocolates for sale as well as chocolate treats, drinks, baked products and coffee for you to consume while sitting inside the shop. I went to Chokolait specifically to try their Chocolate Pavlova. It was amazing. There were these delicious layers of sweet Pavlova, rich chocolate, cream as well as fresh fruit and chocolate sauce. It wasn’t cheap, but it was really good. It was also large and sweet enough for two people to share. Their individual chocolates were also very good.

Ganache Chocolate
Shops were selling milkshakes and smoothies everywhere I went. Smoothies in Australia are not the super healthy ones I am used to though. They are usually a thinner version of a milkshake. So, I decided to try the Vegan Chocolate Frappe at another one of the chocolate café shops, Ganache Chocolate. It contains their Vegan Chocolate Ganache, chocolate sorbet, soy or almond milk and ice. It was really good but not quite as full of ice as I would have hoped, in their defense they had run out of ice creating my drink. I also decided I needed to try the Raspberry Chocolate Mousse. It was so, so good. I am normally not a chocolate person though and I think I actually over-dosed on chocolate after visiting this place.

Haigh’s Chocolates
This is a chocolate shop that only makes chocolates and yup, they make them well. Haigh’s opened its first store in Adelaide in 1916 and it now has shops in Melbourne and Sydney as well. I of course didn’t know this when I first walked into the store I found in Melbourne, but after buying chocolate, tasting chocolate (they give you some to try after your purchase), and reading the information outside of the store, not only was I impressed with their chocolate but I was also knowledgeable. Because these people know chocolate, and their Australian heat, my purchase was put into a foil bag before it was put in a brown, kraft, shopping bag. It did quite well too at keeping the chocolates from melting too much.