A family trip to the Gold Coast is something most Australian families will do at least once. If you have done the mandatory visit to the theme parks and the kids are asking for a repeat, consider a side-trip to Moreton Island to break the holiday up.
Whilst I love a week at the theme parks as much as anyone else, I also need a holiday to recover from it and Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island offered just that.
Unless you have your own boat, access to the island is via a ferry from Brisbane. The trip is just a short 75 minute commute.
Upon arrival there is beautiful sands, wrecks for snorkelling, restaurants, swimming pools and an assortment of activities you would expect from a resort catered for families.
These were our top four things to do at Moreton Island:
If you stay at the resort, included in your stay is an opportunity to feed wild dolphins. Every night a pod of dolphins swim up near the jetty for feeding and guests are invited to enter the shallows of the beach and hand feed them a fish.
Whilst you can not touch the dolphin and the experience is very short and sweet, it is a unique opportunity to get close to wild dolphins.
The dolphins are wild and the experience is not guaranteed, but from what I heard, it is very rare for none of the dolphins to make an appearance. The activity started back in 1992 and the resort follows strict guidelines to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the dolphins.
Snorkelling The Wrecks
Snorkelling amongst 15 ship wrecks was an absolute experience that is unique to Moreton Island. The ships were purposefully wrecked to form a breakwall for small boats. The abundance of sea life that has resulted was something that both surprised and delighted both the kids and adults.
When we instructed the kids to place their heads in the water, the look of surprise when they first realised what lied beneath was priceless.
You can walk along the beach from the resort and swim out to the wrecks, however on our visits to the Island we have done both the escorted tour via boat with a guide and a self-guided tour with kayaks. The currants can get quite strong so having a floatation device whilst snorkelling is recommended.
Going head first on a waxed board down a sand dune in the desert is not something I was expecting to do on an island resort holiday.
The Moreton Island desert is just a short drive from the resort with daily tours to the area.
After donning swimming goggles, yes swimming goggles in the dessert, it is quite a leap of faith to set yourself off from the top of the dune face first with only a thin board between you and the sand.
This activity is not for the faint-hearted, the climb to the top of the dune in itself was a challenge - let alone doing it over and over again!
Miss 5 was given an option to complete a half-dune and despite being tentative on the first launch, she completed it over and over again.
Master 8 head to the top of the dune with the adults and despite having a slight nose dive and roll out of control in the sand - he got back up and did it again.
Sunset Beach Walks
The sunsets on Moreton Island were spectacular. Family walks along the beach at sunset every night were mandatory. The kids cartwheeled and searched for shells as the adults enjoyed the amazing colours as the sun bounces on the ocean creating shadows through the wrecks.
Other activities we completed included quad biking, kayaking, archery, basketball, swimming and much more.
For details about Tangalooma Resort visit their website.
Next time you are planning a Queensland family holiday, consider Moreton Island as a side trip. There may not be any theme parks but the natural beauty and activities of this island will leave you wanting to return.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
The average age of cruise passengers has dropped dramatically in recent years. Australians are a cruising nation, one of the fastest growing cruise markets in the world, and families are taking over.
The target market of cruise passengers has reduced meaning that the old days of the senior citizens with their zimmer frames ruling the flavour of on-board activities are gone. More and more families and multi-generations are cruising and they want adventure!
We have been fortunate enough to have taken a number of cruise holidays with P&O and a big drawcard is the P&O Edge activities - the largest adventure playground at sea!
No longer do you have to attend knitting classes or ballroom dancing lessons, now you can take a zip line, learn to ride a segway, rock climb the ship’s funnel, abseil down the bow, recreate the Titanic moment and climb the cargo ropes in the lobby! There are so many options to burn off the endless calories you consume when cruising.
However P&O Edge does come at a cost. To complete activities individually is quite expensive, we recommend a pass that provides access to activities each day of your cruise. If you purchase the pass in the first 24 hours there is normally a discount on offer.
OUr Top 5 p&O edge activities
Segways are a fun activity be it at land or at sea. The Segway course on the P&O Jewel is one of the better on offer as it has a large space dedicated to the activity with ramps and obstacles to navigate. The Eden and Aria also offer Segway however it is done on the basketball courts with a course navigating around cones as obstacles, still fun but not quite the same experience as on the Jewel.
2. Cargo Net Race
We first experienced this activity in the lobby of the Jewel. Rope nets are hung from the ceiling of the lobby which spans three levels of the ship. Crowds of cruisers gather around across the levels to watch the climbers compete to see who can get to the top the quickest. This is a tough climb and not for the faint-hearted or those scared of heights. When you reach the top your weary body abseils back down allowing a much quicker journey to the bottom.
3. Rock Climbing
Rock climbing off the funnel that sits in the open air of the ships top deck is a great challenge for all levels. Once harnessed in there are a series of courses to get to the top that challenge the beginner to the experienced climber.
4. Walk the Plank
Now this was a novel idea. Harness yourself in and walk off a plank over the edge of the ship. If you are game enough, let go of the rope and balance on one leg. You can walk at either day or night depending whether you want to see what is beneath you or not!
5. Laser Tag
This is the kids favourite activity. The Edge team take over the theatre and let the kids run wild on a laser tag adventure. Players are divided into teams and battle it out with electronic vests and laser guns.
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
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When Trump was announced President Elect, Master 10’s first concern was “Does that mean we can’t go to Mexico again? How do we get over the wall.” Having just visited Puerto Vallarta his concern was quite legitimate.
In June 2016 we were heading Stateside and wanted something to break up our US adventures. Randomly, the Hard Rock Hotel all inclusive resort at Puerto Vallarta caught our eye.
Just a three hour flight from Los Angeles, the thought of spending a few days at an all inclusive resort in the sunshine ticked all the boxes to ease into our three week holiday.
And in Mexico ALL inclusive means just that! Once we stepped foot on the resort, there was not a further dollar to be spent. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, mini bar, coffee shop, pizzeria and the swim up bar - ALL INCLUDED!
The resort boasted many dining options from a traditional buffet to, of course, a Mexican eatery as well as an Italian outdoor restaurant by the beach and an Argentinian restaurant serving meat by the sword.
And there was no going thirsty. There was a mini-bar in the room with three bottles of liquor ready to poor, a swim up bar and a constant flow of servers ready to shake a new cocktail (or mocktail for the kids).
And if you complained that your cocktail was too weak the bar man’s response was to simply provide you with your own bottle of Vodka to top it up! What did they care! At the Italian restaurant when I ordered a glass of wine with dinner - I got the whole bottle.
The kids loved the freedom of being able to swim up to the bar and order a mocktail or head into the Mexican cafe for a bowl of guacamole and corn chips. It gave them a sense of independence and they relished in it.
As well as food, there was also plenty of entertainment at the resort. I can imagine at certain times of the year the resort would be quite a loud party place. We were fortunate that there was not so much of that going on whilst we were there. Whilst we enjoyed our afternoon cocktails and nightly sundowners we don’t exact fit into the frat party category or party people.
The resort had amazing facilities for the kids club unlike any I have seen before. However our kids preferred to wonder in and out of the unsupervised games room where they could play pool, video games and get a soda and popcorn rather than sign in to be supervised. There was too much going on poolside with a water slide, beach soccer tournaments and poolside bingo with the entertainment staff.
The location of the resort did not allow for a stroll out the front gates to the “real” Mexico, so we needed to make a conscious effort to get out and about and not just be lured by the cocktail server and poolside lounges.
We were given resort credit that could be used on tours so we used that as a prompt to get out and about booking day trips for zip lining and quad biking and simply took taxis to get into town and explore.
So next time you are booking a cheap return flight to LA, consider a side trip to Mexico and you won’t be disappointed by a stay at the Hard Rock Hotel Puerto Vallarta.
You can book your stay with Agoda who have great rates.
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
ITCHY FEET FAMILY has also stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel Bali - read our review
Playing and swimming in mud is not normally something that sounds appealing to adults, however on a recent visit to Nha Trang, Vietnam, that is exactly what we did!
Only in Nha Trang for the day on a port stop as part of an Asian cruise, we narrowed our options down to a visit to Vinpearl, the amusement park, or a visit to the local mud baths.
Having done a number of theme parks in our life we opted for a fun family day at the mud baths.
Nha Trang is well known for it’s mud baths, there were a number to choose from. We settled on the Thap Ba Hot Springs and we were as happy as pigs in mud!
After locking away our belongings and stripping down to our smallest swimming costumes we were directed to an area filled with varying sized baths.
When arriving we were given an option of paying for a private bath V communal bath, however despite taking the cheaper option of communal bath we were put into a private bath just for our family. And so the mud flowed!
In we jumped, a family of four in an outdoor bath filled with mud. It really was a very bizarre experience. The mud is not thick, it is very watery in consistency yet thick enough to leave a film on your skin and hair.
The kids poured mud over their heads, rubbed it into their hair and floated in it. When would you ever have an opportunity as a kid - or an adult - to do that!
And to add to the bizarre experience was the fact that all the time we were being watched by fellow bathers! An elderly German couple in one bath, a group of Japanese girls in another - it is a very communal experience despite having our own private tub.
After some time swimming in the bath we were then directed to a large outdoor shower area where we attempted to remove as much of the mud from our bather bottoms as possible before walking through what could only be described as a human carwash! Water sprayed from every direction as we walked through a series of open top tunnels and washed off!
At the end, a selection of waterfalls and mineral pools of varying temperatures to continue the ritual of bathing and relaxing.
Top tips for mud bathing
1. Wear a two-piece swimming costume. Having mud in your one-piece suit could be very uncomfortable.
2. Wear an old pair of bathers. The mud can be difficult to get out, you may not want to wear your new expensive pair of swimmers.
3. You can pay extra for a private bath, but if you are in a group you will most likely get a private bath anyway.
4. Leave your valuables at home. Whilst there is a bizarre locker system available, I wasn't that confident it was very secure.
5. Rent a towel at the facility. Although I don't normally like communal towels - if you take your own you will probably throw it away after the visit.
If you ever get an opportunity to experience a mud bath, go for it. It is a bizarre experience, but one that you will neither regret or forget. If you are looking for other great things to do in Vietnam check out this great list of things to do.
Check Agoda for hotel deals in Nha Trang - visit Agoda.
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
Having been to Bali a couple of times, I had always vowed that I would NEVER stay in Kuta……. but as you learn in life you should NEVER say NEVER!
Our last trip to Bali we got an amazing deal at the Hard Rock Hotel, right in the heart of Kuta. I was sceptical - but I have to say, I would actually stay there again. Here are my top four reasons why.
The pool area at the Hard Rock Hotel Bali is amazing. The largest free-form swimming pool in Bali, with an amazing sand bar, this pool is off the hook!
Not only does it have slides for the kids and the mandatory swim up bar for the big kids, but it also has a great vibe.
During the day it is easy to find a chill out space to read and soak up the sun, and for those that like a bit more going on the crew do a great job to keep people entertained. The kids loved the foam disco party, the beach volleyball and the biggest splash competition.
2. The Location
I know this hotel is right in the heart of Kuta and for a family Kuta is probably not the location that comes first of mind, however it really worked.
In the morning, after breakfast together as a family, the kids would head to kids club and we could take a five minute stroll and be in the thick of shopping and massages.
My children hate shopping and whilst they actually like to get massages in Asia and wanted to come with us, it was nice to be able to go on our own occasionally. There was no need for a taxi or any commute, we just walked out of the hotel and into a spa.
An hour (or maybe two) later, we could be back at the hotel - again no taxi required - to collect the kids for lunch.
In the evenings we had plenty of options for dining at our doorstep and we were also within walking distance of Waterbom Park..
3. Rock Royalty Lounge
I have to admit, having access to the Rock Royalty Lounge certainly put a shine on our stay here.
This is Hard Rock’s equivalent to a “Club” area and it really was a nice extra to include.
Instead of eating breakfast in the large buffet restaurant (which was in itself great), Rock Royalty allows a much quieter experience with personal table service in a more intimate, yet very funky, dining area.
In the afternoon snacks and soft drinks were available followed by early evening canapé’s and cocktails.
Admittedly Rock Royalty felt a bit indulgent - but we certainly loved it! The kids relished in the independence of being able to order mocktails and enjoyed happy hour as much as we did!
If you can get it included as part of a package for a reasonable price, I would say go for it. I would not pay top dollar for it as you want to get out and explore and not spend your whole time at the hotel trying to get the value from it.
4. Kids Club
There are two things we always require in a sun holiday, a swim-up bar and a great kids club! Hard Rock Hotel has two big ticks on this one.
The kids club had two quite large indoor spaces but the daily program quite often took them out of those rooms and into other areas of the resort to explore.
The kids would go rock climbing, out to the garden for a picnic, to the sandbar for soccer and much more. The daily program was entertaining and the staff were as you would expect - enthusiastic and nurturing.
The kids club, like the hotel, had a very funky vibe to it and the kids enjoyed playing with others and being entertained. They even performed on stage poolside one evening after spending a day in rehearsal.
Have you stayed at Hard Rock Hotel Bali? What did you think?
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
Christmas can be both an amazing and a stressful day all within hours of itself. I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with the day. We look forward to it and many magical memories are made on that one special day of the year - but it can also be a rushed and stressful time of year.
We have taken two Christmas cruises and whilst we are not doing one this year, I would absolutely do it again. Here are my top three pros and cons to Christmas cruising.
PROS to Christmas Cruising
1. No cooking or cleaning!
When at home, Christmas day means someone has to cook and clean - or you go to a restaurant and pay top dollar for the experience. Christmas Day on a cruise means wake up, enjoy the morning opening and playing with kids presents, get dressed and walk to the restaurant for lunch. There is no rush to get a turkey on, a pork in the webber or a ham glazed, it is all done for you!
The restaurant staff go all out with all the traditional trimmings and it is all there to simply order. When you are finished, the waiter clears the table and you are done! No dishes, no clearing, just nap time.
2. No rushing
The two Christmas cruises we have been on departed on 18th and 19th of December. By the time you get to Christmas day you are chilled and in holiday mode. There is no need for any mad last minute rush to the shops to fight for the last minute ham glazing or any fights in busy shopping centre car parks to get that one last present for Uncle Jim who decided at the last minute he was coming for lunch!
You are on holiday, de-stressed and simply enjoying the moment.
3. No car travel
Many people try to squeeze everyone in on Christmas Day. A trip to visit one lot of parents on Christmas Eve, a brother on Christmas morning, parents at lunch, other parents for dinner. There can be a lot of car travel in that 24 hours.
On a cruise you don’t have to drive anywhere. If you are fortunate enough to have extended family on board the most you will have to do is walk one end of the ship to the other to knock on their cabin door. No-one has to drive, there are no responsible drivers needed at the end of the day and there are no sleepy over stimulated children screaming in the car at the end of a long day.
CONS to Christmas Cruising
1. No Family
Whilst some may see this as a Pro, it depends what your traditional Christmas looks like. Christmas to me means being surrounded by family. Having come from a large family of five children, having a crazy day with lots of family is what Christmas is to me.
The first Christmas cruise we did we had a set of grandparents with us. The kids loved having them with us and it was nice to have them there to share the experience.
The second Christmas cruise we were just the ITCHY FEET FAMILY and the kids really missed having all their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents around.
When we asked the kids what they wanted to do for Christmas this year they specifically asked NOT to travel. So instead we are going away for New Years.
2. Packing Presents
Packing gifts for Christmas day can be a bit challenging. If you require a flight to get to the departure point, your airline baggage allowance can put some limitations on what you take.
You certainly can’t have a bike or a swing set under the tree on Christmas Day and you need to be selective with what to take.
We made sure extended family knew well in advance of our travel plans and gifts were purchased accordingly - or left under the tree at home for when we returned.
Thankfully Santa makes his way on board and every child on the ship receives a gift from him - and amazingly Santa also magically left something under our cabin door each year.
3. Missing Out
Because Christmas Cruises in Australia are generally 10 or 12 nights in duration and departing before the 20th December we did miss out on a few family and work Christmas parties.
Sporting club and social group end of year break ups, work break-up parties and the like all seemed to happen in the last week before Christmas.
Most businesses don’t break up until closer to the 25th and this therefore also meant eating into our annual leave more than we would want to. The cruise returns a few days after Christmas and generally businesses are still closed for that week until the New Year which meant we would be returned from our travels but still in enforced annual leave. Annual leave allocations are precious to us as we are always maxing out our allowance and having leave and being at home is not something we enjoy!
Have you taken a cruise at Christmas? What were your thoughts? Would you do it again?
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
In Australia P&O offer Christmas Cruises departing Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.