Noosa, located on Queensland’s sunshine coast, is a great destination for families, solo travellers, couples and everything in between. There is a bit of something for everyone - and great weather most year round to greet you.
On a recent visit we discovered the Noosa Heads Coastal Walk - one of the great coastal walks in Australia, up there with the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk in New South Wales. If you like getting outdoors and experiencing amazing scenery, this walk ticks those boxes.
Starting from Hastings Street, the main street of Noosa, the start of the walk is easily accessible. Grab your morning coffee from a Hastings street cafe and then meander north in the uphill direction and you will join the boardwalk path.
There are a number of walking tracks to take in this area that allow you to discover the National Park, we opted for the Coastal Track - but an inland track is also available for those that like to discover that sort of terrain.
The walk starts out as a beautiful wide boardwalk path making it accessible even for those with strollers or wheelchairs. Most of the path is accessible - up until Dolphin Point where we saw those with strollers turning around as it gets a bit narrow with rougher terrain.
The coastal walk is a great fitness track and many locals use it for their regular routine, however as tourists we took the opportunity to do a slow meander and enjoy all the scenery had to offer.
Rugged coastline, crystal clear waters, sandy beaches, this is a stunning part of Australia.
There is a look out called Dolphin Point - where I did not see any dolphins, but at another stop along the way I watched a pod of some 15 dolphins playing in the waves - it was amazing. If you have the time to enjoy the walk at leisure, be sure to take some regular stops to soak it all in. Whales are regularly sited in-season (August to November) and Koalas can be spotted in the trees.
We walked as far as Hells Gate, about a 3.7km walk from Hastings Street, there is an option to follow the heads around to Sunshine Beach and then grab a bus to return - we opted for the return walk from midway point.
Take a Swim
If you love the surf, there are plenty of opportunities to stop off for a swim or catch some waves at quiet secluded beaches. The crowds at Noosa Main Beach are overwhelming during peak seasons, the beaches along this walk offer a much more isolated experience. The sands are white, the water is clear and they offer welcome relief from the crowds. However look out for the stingers - Queensland beaches can be unforgiving when it comes to marine life that sting and the beaches in Noosa are no exception.
There are plenty of picnic spots along the way with welcome shade from the harsh Australian sun. There were very limited toilet or water spots along the trail so be sure to pack a backpack with the essentials - hat, sunscreen, water - and if you have the time pack a picnic and enjoy one of the many stops along the way to soak it all in this a great place to do it.
Have you ever taken this walk? Leave us a comment about your highlight of the experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you are wanting to up your anti on your Australia Day celebrations, a unique option is to take an Australia Day Cruise out of Sydney that will have you spending the iconic Aussie Day in Sydney Harbour amongst all the action.
Departing out of Sydney we experienced the P&O Australia Day three night cruise aboard the Pacific Explorer in 2019. A great option for international visitors and locals alike, here is a wrap up of the highlights you can expect.
Sydney Harbour Activities
Whilst the three night cruise is a “cruise to nowhere” - ie the cruise departs Sydney Harbour and does not dock again until disembarkation - the ship does drop anchor in Sydney Harbour for Australia Day. The Harbour is abuzz of activities and the cruise ship is right in the thick of it.
With the Harbour Bridge and Opera House within your camera lens shot, there is a festive atmosphere on the top pool deck with a fever of activities going on in the Harbour. In the sky RAAF fast jets, a Navy helicopter and a Qantas aircraft all do low fly overs. On the water the iconic Sydney ferries take part in a ferry race from Circular Quay to Shark Island and then back to the finish line of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There is a tall ships race, a tug and yacht ballet and a stirring 21-gun military salute. There is so much activity in the Harbour you could literally just pull up a sun lounge and sit and watch it all unfold in front of you for the day. Tall ships, luxury yachts, catamarans and ferries - if it floated it was on the Harbour proudly flying Australian flags and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
Lamingtons, Pies and Prawns
Food is always an important element to any cruise and on an Australia Day celebration cruise there are certain items you would expect. Lamingtons and prawns featured in the pantry, or you could buy a bucket for $15, and if you were wanting a meat pie with sauce there was no shortage of them.
For those that love their pies a pie eating competition was on offer - the fastest to eat three pies washed down with a XXXX can of beer the winner!
Thong Tossing Competition
Thongs, Flip-Flops, whatever you want to call them! Australians love spending summer with a piece of rubber strapped to their feet - they are essential Australian footwear - Haviana hit the jackpot when they landed in Australia. What better way to waste away some time than throwing a thong at a target! The thong throwing competition was hotly contested - shortly followed by the beer can ring toss!
Aussie Rock Anthems
Jimmy Barnes, Midnight Oil, Darryl Braithwaite, John Farnham and Cold Chisel - all the classics you need played on Australia Day - they were all being belted out on the top deck. Groups of friends singing Horses, followed by Karaoke on the big screen on the pool deck, there was no shortage of opportunity to join in on a classic. It wasn’t the Triple J Hot 100 - but it was a great collection of Aussie anthems creating a buzzing atmosphere all day long.
Aussie Legend Dress Up Competition
Passengers were invited to don their best for a Look Like A Legend competition. From the Wiggles, Kath & Kim, Dame Edna and Steve Irwin there were some passengers that went all out for this one. With a $10,000 cash prize to be won there was some serious competitors in on this one and it created a great atmosphere onboard.
Aussie Movie Classics
For those that love their movies, a classic Aussie movie marathon ran throughout the day both indoors in the theatre and out on the pool deck. Classic Aussie films Muriels Wedding and The Castle featured.
The one question that everyone asks is - Did you see the fireworks? And the answer is no. The ship had to depart the Harbour around 4:30pm so we were not docked for the evening fireworks display. And whilst it may have been nice to have seen them - there was certainly enough activity in the Harbour during the daytime that made this a special cruise and one that we would do again for the experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you are visiting Port Villa, Vanuatu for an extended stay, or on a cruise port day visit, and are looking for something adventurous to try a fun activity is Zip Lining through the jungle! Popular with both locals and visitors, this is a great way to see the lesser visited areas of this destination.
We have only ever visited Port Villa on cruise ship port days and have tried a few of the excursions on offer, for our Christmas 2018 cruise visit we opted for flying through the jungle on a zip line.
From the cruise port we joined 10 seater vans for the 30 minute journey out to the location. Along the way there was plenty of opportunity to see a bit of the town and our driver provided commentary as we passed a local school, the prison and drove through the main street.
As the activity is up in the mountains we were transferred at the base of a very steep driveway into 4WD vehicles with a bit of grunt for the descent up. A narrow and windy road took us to the top - a drive I would not like to attempt in my city SUV.
Upon arrival we were strapped into harnesses, given gloves and hard hats and triple checked to make sure we were secure before heading into the jungle. As our guides pointed out - the equipment is faultless the only thing that can go wrong is human error. They were very thorough in checking the equipment, something I was very thankful for once I was in the air!
Before we took our first leap of faith we needed to climb a few flights of stairs of a man made platform to our first launching point - from then on in it was all zipping through the jungle from one tree to another like Tarzan! There were a couple of short lines to get us warmed up and used to the experience before we crossed a rope bridge to our first serious experience - and what an experience it was.
As we came out of the jungle we were zipping across a ravine with views of the beach to the right, beautiful cliff faces to the left - and a massive drop beneath our feet! (This is where I was thankful for the triple check of the equipment.)
The great thing about the experience is all the landing platforms are built into the jungle trees. You really do get a Tarzan like experience as you fly from one tree to another.
Generally people were propelled as single fliers, however on one of the longer lines our 12 and 9 year olds were clipped together to ensure there was enough weight to get them all the way across to the other side. An experience they enjoyed!
There were six lines in total and a couple of rope bridges hanging amongst the trees to walk across. Definitely not an experience for anyone afraid of heights - a great experience for travellers that like to do more in a city than just sit in a bus and see the sights.
At the end of the experience there was a bit of a walk through the jungle, including one steep climb of stairs, but there were some great views along the way to take away from the burn in the legs!
We booked our tour through the P&O excursion desk onboard. Tickets were priced at $129 per adult and $99 per child. We got lucky when we booked - they had kids fly free so it only cost us $258 for the family of four.
There are some great youtube clips showcasing the experience if you are after a visual of this fun activity take a look.
Verdict from our family - mum, dad, 12yo boy and 9yo girl - would definitely do it again!
Another great experience added to our travel memories.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family.
After having such a great time on the Pacific Dawn for Christmas in 2017, we decided to head back for more in 2018 this time celebrating Christmas onboard the Pacific Explorer with a 10 night South Pacific cruise which departed Sydney December 18, 2018 -stopping in Noumea, Port Vila, Lifou and Mystery Island.
There are so many great reasons to cruise at Christmas time and the extra effort that the crew put into the festive season really make it a great way to celebrate. Here are some of the festive additions we experienced on the Pacific Explorer this Christmas.
There must be someone out there with the sole job to interior design a ship for the Festivities - nearly everywhere you went there was some sort of Christmas decoration. From trees, gingerbread houses, Nutcrackers and more, the ship was decked to the halls with Christmas decorations.
And for the passengers in the Christmas spirit, many of the cabin doors were also decorated - it was fun walking past the cabins to see what people had come up with.
Letter to and from Santa
Just because you are on holidays, does not mean you can’t send a letter to Santa. At reception there were special letter to Santa printed sheets that the kids could write a short note and post in the Santa postbox.
On Christmas Eve, Santa wrote back with a personalised letter delivered to our cabin for the kids to read before going to bed. Our towel animal on Christmas Eve, placed on the bed was a reindeer complete with a red nose!
Gingerbread House Making
Whether you are crafty or not, making gingerbread houses at Christmas time is a fun family activity. On Christmas eve the youth team put together a Fun Family activities afternoon on the lido pool deck to get us all into the festive spirit - including all you needed to make a gingerbread house. There was plenty of icing, decorations and piping bags to create a masterpiece - unfortunately ours looked more like a tornado had gone through so we just had fun eating the decorations on gingerbread cookies!
The pool deck was a hive of activities with pin the heart on the grinch, water balloon games, a kids raffle and a raft of fun activities for the whole family to enjoy together.
Yes, who would have thought in the middle of the Pacific Ocean you would get snow - well we did. On Christmas Day the atrium became a magical place to be as snow rained down from deck 7 to deck 5 and the kids were covered in white whilst Maria Carey’s All I Want for Christmas played!
The Entertainment team did the countdown, the atrium was packed with children, parents and grandparents dressed in the Christmas Day outfits to experience a glimpse of a white Christmas. Little as it was - everyone enjoyed the experience.
Towel Decoration Display
The housekeeping staff can be very creative when it comes to towel art. For Christmas they put an amazing display of creations in front of the waterfront restaurant that we could walk past and admire - much like a store window display we walked along and admired the amazing creations.
From a towel Christmas tree, to a kangaroo with a joey in a pouch, there is a very creative crew working aboard this ship!
Visit from Santa
Christmas would not be complete without a visit from Santa and all 300 children on board from age 0-17 received a gift from Santa on Christmas Day. The Black Circus was transformed into a magical sea of green and red balloons and Santa made his way to the stage sitting for hours as every child filed through for a photo, a chat and to receive a gift. The youth and entertainment staff do an amazing job to make it feel festive all decked out in Christmas t-shirts and elf costumes.
If you like to sing carols at Christmas, there is plenty of opportunities to do so on a Christmas Cruise. There is a passenger choir that is formed with rehearsals leading up to the performance and the Officers take the opportunity to try out their pipes with a special carols performance in the atrium.
Not forgetting the origin of Christmas, a midnight mass was held as well as a non-denominational service on Christmas morning. If you are wanting to join in a congregational activity - you can do it at sea.
Food plays such an important role to our festivities and the Pacific Explorer delivered. A special menu was served across all restaurants for Christmas dinner. Regardless of whether we dined in Waterfront, Angelos or Dragon Lady, we were treated with a special menu that included ham, turkey, pudding and all the trimmings.
The tables were decorated with Christmas crackers and beautifully presented with the special menu. We were able to pop a bon bon, wear a paper hat, tell bad Christmas jokes and enjoy it with our roast dinner and gravy. And no-one had to bring a plate, prepare the ham or even clean afterwards. It was just like any Christmas dinner you would have at home.
The entertainment team go all out at Christmas - we had a special Christmas presentation on Christmas Eve and then on boxing day a performance of a Christmas pantomime. There was a pretty funny rendition of the 12 days of Christmas, (5 Toilet Rolls! for anyone that was on board) some great vocals singing Silent Night and of course renditions of All I Want For Christmas. If you like to be entertained in the main theatre you will not be disappointed by the Christmas performances on offer.
Home Alone, Elf, 42nd Street - all the Christmas classics were shown across our 10 day cruise. Some shown on the big screen on the pool deck, some in the Black Circus, others in our stateroom - but there was no shortage of opportunity to squeeze in a classic Christmas movie on our festive cruise.
There are many pros and cos to Christmas cruising, but we believe that the pros far outweigh the cons and after four Christmas cruises now on the Pacific Jewel, Pacific Eden, Pacific Dawn and now the Pacific Explorer - we look forward to continuing the tradition.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you're looking for a family holiday that’s full of adventure, sunshine and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet (if we do say so ourselves!) then heading Down Under is the perfect option. That said, it’s a pretty enormous country, so for those of you who aren’t familiar, it can be hard to decide where to go. Here are our recommendations for the best places in Australia for a family holiday.
Sydney certainly doesn't disappoint. When we did our 24-hour Sydney adventure, we managed to get on national TV, explore the stunning botanical gardens, visit Macquarie’s Chair, stop off at the Opera House for some great photo ops, check out the Harbour Bridge and even catch a game at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Imagine what you could fit in if you were here for a week!
Brisbane is the perfect city for children, with so much to see and do. Take a ferry ride and head to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to fulfill a dream of snuggling with one of these furry little critters. The Streets Beach is man-made and as such has shallow water, ideal for your little ones.
For some free fun, the treehouse playground at New Farm Park is popular, or soak up some culture with the Queensland Art Gallery, or the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre – both of which cater to children.
If you’re looking for the perfect family driving holiday, jump in a campervan and head to Tasmania – small but perfectly formed. Check out the Freycinet National Park for some of the most stunning views you'll see, and explore Mt Wellington on your bikes. There are so many different museums for those rainy days, but otherwise, you will probably want to be out and enjoying the accessible wilderness.
Darwin and the Top End national parks
Nature loving families need to head to Darwin and explore the Top End National Parks for their holiday. Litchfield National Park has beautiful waterfalls, ideal for cooling down. Alternatively, head to Kakadu National Park to check out the amazing indigenous rock-art galleries, as well as spot some crocodiles and other crazy creatures. The Mindil Beach Sunset Market is ideal for a stroll after a busy day, or unwind as a family at the Deckchair Cinema.
If you’re a family of daredevils, the Gold Coast is a fantastic option, with five enormous theme parks! Head to the beach to try out surfing, jet skiing, and kayaking, but remember, if you’re going for some of the more extreme activities, you’re going to want to check that your insurance covers them – just in case! For example, base jumping is not something most insurance providers will cover. For a more relaxed afternoon, spend some time whale-watching or head to the Australia Zoo, where you will not be disappointed.
As you can see, there’s so much to offer families in Australia, and these are just five of the best – we could keep going on all day! Whether you want to soak up some culture, get your adrenaline pumping, or just relax, there’s somewhere for everyone.
So, what are you waiting for? Have you been to Australia before? Where would you recommend, or where would you most like to visit?
By Guest Blogger: Vixen Mixer
Food and holidays certainly go hand in and hand, following Itchy Feet Family’s review of Juan More Taco’s Walking Foodie Tour in San Jose I happened to be in Cabo San Lucas so decided to try Juan More Taco’s Cooking Class.
Each day the cooking class’s food agenda changes and whilst I was pretty flexible on what I cooked my inquiry to join the class the following day was promptly responded to by Issi with encouragement to do hold out for Thursday Paella Day. With the weather looking average for the next few days I locked in his suggestion and waited hungrily for Thursday to arrive!
The cooking tour is a small group activity with no more than 10 people. The tour starts by visiting a few local shops, including a tortilla factory where the majority of the town’s tortillas are produced. The group were able to sample the tortillas whilst they were still warm, crisped up and touched with salt. We knew the day was looking good after the first salty bite! We also visited a local grocer and fish supplier and Issi quickly moved through the stores making sure we had enough time to see a little part of daily life, but respecting that cooking was our main game and reason for joining him.
The actual class is conducted in Issi’s home with a converted area as a work kitchen (separate from the main area of the home). Around a long table the other seven tourists I’d just met became friends as we squeezed limes, seeded chillies, chopped seafood and vegetables and listened to Issi share his tips on preparation and Mexican cooking.
This tour is just as much for kids as it is adults. On our tour we had a father and daughter enjoying the day and Issi confirmed that many children come along, mostly over the age of 10 years old.
The class is as ‘hands on’ as you wish. We were all keen participants and I was particularly pleased when the first item we made and shared was a Margherita – certainly I can make that! My view on tequila quickly changed as Issi introduced the higher grade of tequila and shared his prepared recipe. Of course you can enjoy the virgin version as well, for the children and non-drinker just as much fuss is made to make special drinks sans alcohol in keeping with the family friendly activity.
Moving into appetisers we chopped and diced and the plain tortilla chips were transformed into taste sensations as we enjoyed a range of salsas. There were lots of variations on what you find in traditional eateries which highlighted the delight of home-made food. We had to forcibly stop snacking so that we could enjoy the paella in the next phase of our class!
Over the stove we stirred, fried and watched our paella come to life, with lots of wonderful spice tips. Whilst some of us stirred, others pressed dough into small tortillas and flipped them on a hot grill.
When the main meal was served a quiet calm came over the room whilst we all savoured every bite and nodded a lot, motioned to each other to ‘try a bit of this’ and generally just enjoyed food in the way we genuinely should. After lunch we were chatting so much dessert was nearly forgotten, but Issi quickly rectified this and his generous assistant whipped up a delicious finish to our incredible meal.
In such a wonderful atmosphere the group shared stories of home, travel, love and more. At the end of our several hours together we left not only full of amazing food but also with some new friends from around the globe and memories that are deeper than just a good feed.
The warmth of Issi’s home makes this experience something more than just a tour and as the food changes daily you could easily do more than one day – if you’re not committed to weighing in on your return home!
Until the next adventure…..The Vixen Mixer
If you have no idea how to play golf, more swing and miss than hitting targets - here are 7 reasons to visit Top Golf Gold Coast and why it is for you. If you are a pro at all things golf and enjoy a challenge - Top Golf Gold Coast is for you. And If you are a kid that has never even picked up a golf club before - Top Golf Gold Coast is also for you!
Top Golf Gold Coast is a triple level state of the art golf driving range, the first in Australia, and here are seven reasons why you might like to give it a try.
1. All Automatic
There is no guessing the scores here - the balls are microchipped and the computer system knows exactly where you are landing. Your name comes up on the screen, you swipe your club for a ball to appear and away you go. The chip tracks how far the ball goes, whether it has hit a target or not and provides you with a score. No-one needs to sharpen their pencil or guesstimate how far the ball has travelled. Mind you for those golfers that like to exaggerate how far they can drive a ball you are in for a reality check here!
2. Variety of Games
There are a variety of games available that are programmed into the system. Whether you want to just swing and track, or if you want to be challenged to hitting certain targets, there is something for all levels of experience - and plenty of choices to make you want to come back. There are both men and women’s clubs in each bay (kids clubs are available from reception upon arrival) or you can bring your own. And both left and right handed tees are in each bay.
3. All Ages
Top Golf is an activity for all ages. We visited for a corporate function with adults and then returned as a family. Our Miss 8 barely knew what end of the club to hold, but she managed to hit a few of the targets and not once threw her club over the edge!
4. Great Atmosphere
We visited on a Thursday night for a corporate function and walked into a funky, vibrant, atmosphere for 80s night! There was a DJ on the decks of the roof top bar and there were some great tunes being blasted through the speakers. There was a really good vibe at the venue and, as well as our corporate function of 50 people, the bays were filled with groups of mates of varying ages and genders. There is a bar/eatery on the ground level as you enter the venue and then another on the rooftop level.
Our second visit was on a week day before lunch and although not as vibrant as the Thursday evening, there was still a good vibe about the place.
5. Comfortable Bays
Each bay can cater for up to six people. The bay consists of a six seater lounge area, or high tables, that offer table service for food and drinks. They have self controlled televisions with a range of sporting channels to choose from and self controlled heating, ceiling fan or mist sprayer.
6. Table Service
Everyone loves table service - especially when you are paying for your bay by the hour! The fully licensed venue serves up brunch for the early arrivals and share plates and cocktails for the late night crowd. The attendants were friendly and service was prompt for our pre-lunch time visit.
7. Bays by the Hour
The Top Golf structure is you get to hit as many balls as you possibly can in your allocated time slot - you pay for your bay by the hour. Prices vary depending on when you visit but start at $55 per hour for a midweek day time bay.
When you arrive at your bay you are set up for an hour (unless you ask for more) and when 15 minutes remains you will be prompted to see if you want to extend.
Top Golf Gold Coast is located right next door to MovieWorld on the Gold Coast - a great after theme park day out activity!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
We love a sunny resort holiday and Mexico has always delivered. We have travelled to Puerto Vallarta and stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel and also visited the Costa Maya as part of a cruise out of Florida. Just a few hours flight from the US, Mexico offers plenty of options for a resort holiday to relax and enjoy some local culture - or simply hang out in a full service hotel relaxing and soaking up the sunshine.
This trip we visited the Cabo area with a stay at the Royal Solaris in San Jose Cabo.
The Royal Solaris is actually a time share, so although we simply booked through a normal hotel booking website, we were still exposed to the timeshare sell. Upon arrival at the hotel we received an individual “Concierge” to explain the hotel features to us. However after declining quite sternly for the third time to attend the VIP breakfast, (to find out about the amazing opportunities for time share at the hotel) our Concierge had very little further information to give us! Not a great start to the stay - but thankfully it did not really dampen the experience and we were not bothered about timeshare any further.
The Royal Solaris is an all inclusive resort. This means that all our meals, drinks (including alcohol) and entertainment were included. If you have ever cruised, a resort like this is a very similar experience. Once you arrive there really is no reason to have to spend any money - except for tips if you are wanting to do so.
The hotel had a number of eatery options a pizzeria, snack bar serving hot dogs, burgers and nachos, a sushi station (which was amazing), a buffet restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a couple of specialty a la carte restaurants one of which served Churrasco Argentinian (char grilled meats served to the table on swords and carved at your table). Add to that 24 hour room service (with a delivery fee) and a stocked fridge of soda, water and beers in your room - there was no reason to go hungry or thirsty.
Add to this all the bars around the hotel that were also included. Cocktails from the pool bar, tequila shots by the beach, wine with your dinner in the restaurant, late night night-caps in the lobby bar - all included. And the free pour serves of spirits put hair on your chest!
Then there was all the entertainment included. There was a kids club where kids could be signed in from 9am - 5pm (our kids chose not to use this but it was still an option and looked like it had a great range of activities), poolside entertainment that ranged from darts competitions, black jack, movie trivia, aqua aerobics, ping pong tournaments and more - there was never a dull moment poolside.
And in the evenings there was a large theatre with entertainment that for us included a Michael Jackson tribute show and a traditional Mexican dancing show. And if that wasn’t enough the entertainment crew also kept patrons busy in the evening at the lobby bar with activities such as karaoke and various game show type entertainment.
On our first night we joined in on the Karaoke at the lobby bar and discovered one of the entertainment staff, a dancer named Holly, was in fact from Adelaide, Australia (our home town). She had only arrived at the hotel in the last week, there was also one other dancer on staff who had been at the resort for 12 months, also from Adelaide.
The girls were comforted by having someone from home at the hotel, they told us in 12 months they had only come across four other Australian visitors at the resort. And they always seemed to be from South Australia! If you visit, be sure to say hello to the girls - maybe take them some Vegemite.
The resort is located on the beach, we stayed just before Hurricane Bud was heading for town so the beach was rough and not swimmable. However we still enjoyed walks on the sand, listening to the sounds of the sea and getting hair braids from the beach vendors.
From the street in front of the hotel a local bus could be caught for the cost of $1USD to take you to downtown San Jose which was filled with restaurants, shops and art galleries. Just beware the local buses stop at about 8pm so if you are going for dinner you may need to get a taxi back. We visited downtown on a Sunday night and got caught out with no buses or taxis around, luckily the restaurant owner gave us a ride in the back tray of his single cab truck - when in Mexico!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you have been to the Gold Coast or Brisbane and done all the run of the mill attractions, here is a day trip with a difference: Get Wrecked with tour operator Sunset Safaris.
So long as you don’t mind a full day out - getting off the mainland and onto the world’s third largest sand island - Moreton Island - is a great adventure for the whole family.
With a 5:45am pick up from the Gold Coast we boarded a tour bus via Brisbane to catch a catamaran across to Moreton Island that departed at 8:30am. It is a long morning, but with a bus driver at the wheel we took the opportunity to catch a few more moments of sleep before our big day.
The ride across to the island took about an hour and was fairly smooth sailing. We were fascinated that the catamaran just pulled up onto the beach, put down it’s front and off drove the 4WD vehicles ready to explore this amazing island.
Upon arrival at Moreton Island this tour kicks into action - the group was split into snorkelers and kayakers and we were kitted up with wetsuits and life vests to hit the water and explore the Moreton Island wrecks.
There are 15 ships purposefully wrecked at Moreton Island that are home to a myriad of sea life, including coral. From the top of the water, through the transparent kayaks, we got a glimpse of what lied beneath.
The sea was a bit rough, this activity is not for anyone afraid of being out on the ocean, but the current was strong and you could go with the flow most of the way. We have done a few kayak tours as a family, most recently in the Norwegian Fjords at Olden, so were excited to try out a translucent kayak - it was fascinating!
Once we had kayaked we were kitted up with wetsuits and snorkelling gear and a Jet Ski ferried us out to the wrecks. Again, the sea was quite rough and the current strong which meant we pretty well had to just go with the flow, fighting against the current was fruitless.
Snorkelling the wrecks is an amazing activity. There is an abundant amount of sea life to swim amongst and the coral forming near the wrecks was impressive. This is the southern most part of Australia that you will see Great Barrier Reef coral.
The kids love the experience of snorkelling and although the seas were rough and it was hard work, the tour guides were great in providing a buoyant ring to just grab onto when we needed a break. We all wore life jackets so although we couldn’t dive down into the sea, not having one in slightly rough waters would have been a struggle.
Post water activities we refuelled with the provided lunch of salad rolls, potato chips and oranges before boarding a 4WD tour bus that took us out onto the bumpy roads/ tracks of the Island towards the Desert. A 20 minute ride along a one way 4WD only track brought us to a sandy oasis of dunes just begging to be conquered.
With our primitive bits of plank wood we hiked to the top of the dunes to take on the mounds head first! Again, not for the faint hearted, this is an adrenaline run launching yourself off the side of that dune head first with only a thin plank of wood between you and the sand.
“Arch your back, feet off the ground and elbows up” the tour guide suggested as they pushed us off the edge. The comment “Or not” generally followed as tourist after tourist our elbows hit the ground, followed by our faces, as we rolled or tumbled near the bottom of the dune!
It is amazing how sand can find it’s way into every crevice of your body, every pocket on your clothing, every inch of you - following a face plant and tumble in a sand dune at high speed!
Covered in sand and still shaking it out of our ears, hair and nostrils we head back to the beach to catch a 3:30pm ferry back to Brisbane and a long bus ride via Brisbane CBD to arrive back on the Gold Coast at 7:15pm.
This day tour absolutely exhausted our family of four, Miss 8 slept most of the bus ride back to the Gold Coast and she NEVER sleeps in a car! Master 11 stayed awake but was very hungry and tired by the end of the trip.
The time on the island was absolutely jam packed and we were constantly on the go - but with so many activities to get through it had to be that way. There was very little, if any, time to just chill on the beach and enjoy the surroundings. Leaving from Brisbane would cut out the early start and late finish but would still be a full day.
If you have never had the opportunity to visit Moreton Island this is a great option to squeeze in a visit when next in Queensland.
For more details, visit the Sunset Safaris website and check out their Get Wrecked tour.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family were guests of Sunset Safaris on this day tour.
A trip to the USA is a fantastic family holiday. Flights to Los Angeles from most Australian capital cities can be picked up for around $1,000 if you watch out for specials. There are plenty of blogs and readings on things to do in Los Angeles - here are six tips from us.
Los Angeles is home to a number of theme parks and kids love them all. Of course there is the quintessential Disneyland and Universal Studios but another good one to try is the lesser known Knottsberry Farm. With slightly cheaper gate prices there is plenty of fun to be had here with some awesome roller coasters.
Our most recent trip included a visit to Universal Studios for the day. Many die hard enthusiasts will tell you that one day simply is not enough - but we managed to see every section and ride every ride in one day.
A great tip is to purchase your tickets online before arrival. The tickets are not only cheaper than gate prices, but they also allow early park access. We were able to enter the park at 9am for access to Harry Potter World an hour before general gate opening time. It was fantastic - we were straight on the rides and completed the Harry Potter section of the park (including two turns on the roller coaster as there was no-one else waiting) in the first hour. We were then in a great position to go on the Simpsons ride when Krusty Land opened at 10am, again with no waiting time - we were actually first in the gates! Other rides then opened at 11am and again we were first in those lines.
There is an option to purchase fast track passes - for whatever reason we picked a great day to visit as the most we waited in any line was 20 minutes for the studio tour - all the other rides we visited were under a 10 minute wait - if any wait at all. From what I have heard from others though our visit was a complete rarity and front of line passes although expensive can be worth every dollar.
If you are after a great vantage point of LA the Griffith Observatory, perched high in the LA hills, is a great place to visit. There is free parking in the Greek theatre at the bottom of the hill and a shuttle bus can transfer you up to the top. The bus cost just 50c per person each way (kids were free) and run every 15 minutes. You can park at the top of the hill, but it is crazy busy and charged at $4 per hour - and you are likely still to have to walk quite a way. Alternatively, if you have some time and are after some exercise, there are walking trails to follow from the base car park up the hill.
Once up at the Observatory you will have a vast view of downtown LA and the famous Hollywood Sign. The Observatory is free to enter and there are some interesting displays inside that are focused on astronomy and the history of the location. There is also a planetarium with tickets just $7 per person.
Visit a Diner
There are lots of options for diners in Los Angeles. Milkshakes, burgers and fries are abound and there is something quintessential about sitting in a booth enjoying your free refills on your sodas. If you visit a Ruby's Diner, be sure to take advantage of their offer of not only refillable sodas but also refillable fries!
Shop at Citadel Outlets
You are bound to run into fellow Australians at this location. America is a great place for shopping if you are after brand names at heavily reduced prices. The Citadel Outlet is an outdoor mall with brands such as Coach, Gap, Nike, Calvin Klein and everything in between at heavily discounted prices. In the Nike store we picked up sneakers for $22, Shorts for $15 and t-shirts 3 for $25. And while you are shopping be sure to log into the free wifi and check for coupons at retailmenot.com Americans love coupons and this is a great site for finding even further discounts on your discounts!
See a Soccer Match
Americans, like Australians, love their sport. On previous visits we have taken in baseball and basketball games and whilst soccer is not the first sport that comes to mind when visiting Los Angeles, we thought we would give it a try. With a FIFA mad son (check out our review of FIFA Museum in Zurich), it was a treat for him to watch the LA Galaxy in action and see one of his favourite players, Ziatan Ibrahimovic, who even scored in the match!
The stadium was located in Carson, 23kms south of downtown Los Angeles and holds 27,000 people.
Walk of Fame
A trip to Los Angeles is not complete without a visit to the walk of fame. A strip of stars on the sidewalk commemorating some of the finest movie and music celebrities to make it big in Hollywood. The area is not really Los Angeles finest, it is quite dirty, a fair number of homeless with signs looking for money and just a bit of a seedy part of town. We walked the strip and took some photos, visited the Chinese theatre and saw the hand prints and signatures and then left. There are plenty of cheesy souvenir stores and overpriced restaurants but not somewhere we spent a lot of time. It is one of those bucket list places that did not quite live up to expectations for us.
We hired a car and stayed at the Lexon Hotel North Hollywood. The hotel was brand new having only opened in June 2018 and so was fresh and clean. The hotel had a car park, free wifi and included a continental breakfast. Universal Studios was a $10USD Uber trip each way which worked out more economical and convenient than driving and paying for parking.
Read my trip advisor review here.
If you are flying domestically within the US, instead of flying from LAX airport you may want to consider Burbank Airport. We were travelling on to Seattle and flew Alaska Airlines from Burbank Airport LA. This airport is much smaller, less congested and was close to our accommodation in North Hollywood.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.