Journey to New Zealand’s Bay of Islands

1,000 years ago New Zealand was first discovered by the Polynesian navigator, Kupe, who named the islands Aotearoa, which means Land of the Long White Cloud. After returning to his home, Hawaiki, he gave instructions on how to get to the islands but it wasn’t until 400 years after this that the Maori people arrived in Aotearoa and began to populate the North Island.

In 1642, Abel Tasman charted part of New Zealand’s coastline thinking it was part of the Australian continent. Once his mistake was discovered, the country was renamed Nieuw Zeeland. But it wasn’t until 1769 when Captain James Cook came to New Zealand and charted the coastlines of both the North and South Island of New Zealand that the Bay of Islands were given their present name.

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Why You Should Go On a Nerang River Cruise with Gray Line

Taking a cruise is a great way to explore the beauty of an area from a completely new perspective. When it comes to the Nerang River, one of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in all it has to offer is by taking a cruise from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and Hinterland.

The Nerang River catchment is the largest and most important river system on the Gold Coast. Stretching as far as the McPherson Range and Springbrook Plateau, it feeds water to a number of rural areas and also fills two dams, the Little Nerang Dam and the Hinze Dam. These two dams provide much of the drinking water for Gold Coast residents.

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A Guide to Alice Springs

Alice Springs is one of the most iconic outback towns of Australia. As the gateway to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and surrounded by the MacDonnell Ranges, it’s certainly a place full of natural wonders.

Alice Springs, or The Alice as it is often referred to, has plenty to offer visitors. To the traditional owners of the land, the Arrernte people, the Alice Springs area is called Mparntwe. The shape and topographical features of the landscape are said to have been formed by three ancestral caterpillars, Yeperenye, Ntyarlke and Utnerrengatye, who moved across the landscape from Emily Gap in the MacDonnell Ranges to southeast of Alice Springs.

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Future Music Festival is Sweeping the Nation

Boasting one of the most enviable lineups in the industry, this year’s Future Music Festival is set to make every other summer festival look like an opening act. Already bringing Grammy-winning acts like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and DJ superstars Deadmau5, Hardwell and Kaskade to Australia, the Future Music Group made a late and extremely welcome announcement that music’s current bigwig, Pharrell Williams, will close each show.

This year’s Safari-themed festival travels all around the nation stopping at every major city, and like any festival with a line-up this big, tickets are selling fast. This year for both Melbourne and Brisbane punters, the organisers have introduced RFID wristbands that are to be dispatched to ticket-holders early February. So make sure you have read all the information regarding this new technology and check that you have received yours in the mail before you get held up at the gate.

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The Best Scenic Tours of Port Arthur, Tasmania

A trip to Tasmania is not complete without a visit to the award-winning Port Arthur Historic Site. A place of both beauty and horror, wandering the ruins is a fantastic way to learn about Australia’s murky convict past.

The 1.5 hour scenic drive from Hobart to Port Arthur meanders through farmlands, villages, sprawling vineyards and bays. Once you arrive, this scenery is replaced by imposing ruins set among fantastic  landscapes.

The heritage-listed Port Arthur site is home to an overwhelming 60 buildings. As there is so much to see, a guided walking tour is a good way to spot the highlights and there are different ticketing options to suit your level of exploration.
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Part I: A Weekend on Australia’s Island State … Tasmania

On the summit of Mt Wellington in Hobart, Tasmania

Mt Wellington, Hobart

Overnight bag. Check!

Boarding pass. Check!

Five senses. Check, check, check, check, check!

We’ve set off to explore the country’s smallest (island) state … Just how much did we pack in on a weekend mini-break? Read on my friends!

It’s VERY early Saturday morning in Hobart town and there’s no contemplating our whereabouts but to be at Salamanca Market. Only open on Saturdays, this is an absolute MUST-DO! Originally a warehouse and storage area in the 1830s, you can easily spend half the day wandering through the 300 stalls, galleries, boutique shops, cafes/restaurants and being entertained by talented buskers.

But first, to fuel our bodies and our unique breakfast venue of choice at Salamanca Square certainly ticked our sense of taste. Don’t be put off by their unusual name but Machine Laundry Café is a hidden gem highly rated on Tripadvisor and was well worth the wait for a table to enjoy their extensive menu, generous servings and friendly service. Oh, and great coffee to boot (you might even come across some feedback that says “A bowl of coffee? Yes please!”)!

Tummy rumbles gone, we explored what the markets had to offer. Local produce is always a drawcard for me so I couldn’t resist buying a few small bottles of jam and honey to take home.

Next destination … Mt Wellington and what a vista from the summit! A pleasant half hour journey from Salamanca Place, Wellington Park connects the city to the bush and the mountains to the waterways. We were lucky enough to be there on a clear day with panoramic views of Hobart, surrounding suburbs and brilliant harbour! Weather conditions change quickly on the summit with temperatures often below zero so be well prepared for your visit. Sense of sight … tick!

There was no stopping for lunch only because we were still full from breakfast!

The remainder of our Saturday afternoon was spent leisurely at Australia’s largest privately owned museum, the Museum of Old and New Art (a.k.a. MONA). Officially opened in January 2011, MONA alone would satisfy all your senses in one visit. You’re in for a gallery experience unlike any other as you take in MONA’s unique architecture and frequently updated collection. My favourite part? Enjoying a glass of wine and listening to live ‘MoFolk’ music on the lawns in the sunshine (on not so nice days, the music sessions get brought indoors to the museum). Sense of sound … tick!

After a BIG day of walking and exploring, we still didn’t mind taking a stroll from our comfy accommodation to Battery Point, one of Hobart’s exclusive and historic little pocket. Step back in time as you admire a bygone era of stunning sandstone buildings. At Kathmandu Cuisine we appreciated a candlelit, relaxing and flavoursome meal where the friendly and attentive staff made sure we enjoyed our dinner. After our three course dinner (good to indulge every now and then), we were more than ready to hit the sack in our newly refurbished Executive Room at Travelodge.

Well folks, that was day one of our ‘Tassie’ weekend adventure.

Like to know what we got up to on our second day? Here’s a snippet … roadtrip, beaches, midlands, bushwalk, more beautiful, historic towns and plenty of photo stops!

Keep an eye out for Part II!

Top 10 Australian Festivals for 2014

There’s an Australian festival to suit everyone this year, so make it your new year’s resolution to try and get to at least one of these spectacular Top 10 events.

Perth International Arts Festival

Held from February 7th to March 1st at various locations around Perth, this annual event showcases the work of the best local and international artists, writers, dancers, actors, musicians and film makers. This year’s festival has a distinctly digital theme.

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The Rainforest Skywalk at the Gold Coast

If you’re staying on the Gold Coast, you owe it to yourself to visit the Tamborine Rainforest and take a stroll along the incredible Skywalk through the treetops. It’s a multi-million dollar structure that lets you see the rainforest in all its beauty from a spectacular bird’s eye point of view.

You start out at the Visitor’s Centre, which has a lot for you to see and do before you even head off. As well as a gift and souvenir shop, there’s the Birdwing Café where you can enjoy light refreshments on the deck with scenic views of the rainforest.

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Romantic Ideas in and around Melbourne

Zios Restaurant

Valentine’s Day dining at Zio’s Restaurant

Hang on; Valentine’s Day is this Friday!?  For those not romantically inclined, this popular day for celebrating love can seem to creep up way too soon after Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  With limited time to sort something out or for those who need ideas for next time, here are some suggestions on what to do together on Valentine’s Day in Australia’s city of love: Melbourne.

Melbourne is bursting at the seams with new food and drink hangouts amongst old favourites.  Enjoy afternoon cocktails at Naked in the Sky; the rooftop bar is very popular due to its massive range of infused vodkas and fancy cocktails, trendy atmosphere and spectacular unspoilt views of the city.  Afterwards there are plenty of eateries along Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, for something not too fancy but still absolutely delicious, try the oriental delights at Rice Queen. However, Valentine’s Day is a day to spoil your loved one somewhere small, intimate, quiet, special and has exceptional food and wine.  You then can’t go past Zio’s Restaurant in East Melbourne, set in a small terraced building; Zio’s has a range of food to cater for all tastes in the perfect setting for a romantic dinner, if it’s cold there’s even a few wooden fireplaces.  There’s no better way to spoil the one you love than to get them Zio’s famous chocolate soufflé for dessert, it’s heavenly.

Valentine’s Day luckily falls on a Friday, so why not spread the romance over the rest of the weekend!  If the weather is nice, Melbourne is scattered with many parks and gardens to explore. The Cranbourne Botanic Gardens, around an hour out of the city is a huge park showcasing Australia’s large variety of beautiful native plants; the park is perfect as a lunch spot and a walk.  Your traditionally romantic English-style gardens such as the Fitzroy Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens provide stunning settings for picnics, there are plenty of paths to walk around and the lush green grass is perfect to lie on for a bit of relaxation.

Melbourne is only a few hours’ drive to the rolling green pastures of the Yarra Valley, an area synonymous with romance.  A day in the Yarra Valley region can easily be done by car and at your own pace.  To impress your loved one on Valentine’s Day you can’t go past tasting fine wines at the Dominique Portet cellar door set in a romantic French style building. The Yarra Valley Dairy cannot be missed for their award winning marinated fetta, perhaps take a cheese platter and sit out on their deck taking in the serene views of the valley.  A few hours can also easily be spent at Hedgend Maze, hidden down a dirt track; this delightful hedge maze is great fun. You are given a list of clues and you need to match the clues with various objects you find in the maze to be able to solve the mystery.  There’s also mini golf, Frisbee golf or relax in the beautifully manicured gardens with an ice cream.

Chinese New Year in Melbourne

Building the Dockland’s Dragon ready for it’s launch!

After an intense sporting period in Melbourne with the MCG playing host to the Boxing Day Test of Australia versus England and the Australian Tennis Open which was played out to large crowds things have returned to a steady summer buzz.

Chinese New Year celebrations took place on many of the streets of Melbourne over the weekend but if you missed out then you can still catch the ‘Docklands Dragon’, a 100m long illuminated Chinese dragon in Melbourne’s Docklands starting today until the Sunday 16th February. In conjunction with this there is also nightly entertainment between 6.30 – 7.30pm including Chinese music and dance, street theatre and stalls. More details can be found on the Destination Docklands website.

If the heat of thecity is too much then why not head down to the Mornington Peninsula located about 1 hour out of Melbourne. It’s a great place to explore stunning bay side beaches, excellent farm gate experiences, a wide selection of boutique wineries or to indulge in a hot springs experience at Peninsula Hot Springs or make the most of summer with some strawberry picking at Sunnyridge Strawberry Farm.