I have had some adventures in my time – but this was probably one of the most indulgent and unusual experiences to date. A helicopter pub crawl from Darwin, Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory is a unique place to visit. The land is red and sparse and not very densely populated. A lot of the townships are isolated and the humid, tropical, weather makes it a tough place to live.
It is a unique destination where it is laid back, locals are very casual and they love a cold beer to beat the heat.
The helicopter pub crawl allows in one day to visit a number of unique local pubs that would otherwise take hours to reach by land. And who otherwise would not receive very many tourists.
The helicopter air strip was located approximately a 45-minute drive out of Darwin and on arrival we were met by a young pilot and what I considered a rather small helicopter!
Up we went and over the sparse red land we flew travelling at some 200km per hour to reach our destinations. The scenery was diverse and spectacular – we saw wild buffalo roaming, crocodiles on the riverbanks and miles of harsh red land.
The locations for our visit were Crab Claw Island Resort, Darwin River Tavern, Goat Island Lodge and the Noonamah Tavern.
Upon arrival at the remote pub locations, we were greeted by the locals who – at whatever time we landed – seemed to be already drinking cold beer – and by bar staff who were happy to share a yarn.
The most unique destination on the itinerary was a stop at Goat Island. Owned by an eccentric Danish man who goes by the name King Kai! He lives alone on the island with his pet crocodile Casey and his dog. Signs at the property entrance warn that “You are now entering a politically incorrect area” and King Kai makes up his own rules on this island.
Despite the isolated location of Goat Island, and the amazing fact that our pilot managed to land on the tiny island, there were cold beers waiting to be drunk and stories to be told.
The helicopter pub crawl is essentially a taxi service – the tour includes the transportation, all drinks and food for the day were at our own expense. We booked through Heli Fish.
It was a magical day out – a completely unique experience – and one I would highly recommend when visiting the Top End.
Itchy Feet Family
If you are visiting the nation's capital and want to see it at a slow pace - why not walk Canberra. On my first visit for 20+ years I put on the walking shoes and spent a weekend seeing the city from the walking trails. If you also like to see a city this way - here are a few suggestions to see Canberra.
Telstra Tower a top Black Mountain
One of the iconic landmarks of Canberra - you can drive to the Telstra Tower - but there is also a great walking track. The Telstra Tower actually closed in July 2021, and has not been very cared for since, however it is still an iconic piece of the landscape and worth a closer look.
There is a good walking track that takes you through the National Park up Black Mountain to the iconic tower, you walk through bush and it is a decent climb requiring a moderate level of fitness.
We enjoyed this walk but were a bit disappointed that the bush land was quite overgrown so there wasn't any fantastic views of the city to speak of when we got to the summit.
Mount Ainslie Circuit
On the opposite side of the city from Telstra Tower is Mount Ainslie. There are a number of walks you can take to reach this summit - we took the Mount Ainslie Circuit for the up route and got a broad view of the city suburbs as we wrapped around the mountain.
There are walking trails and bike trails - the signage is minimal we had to check google maps a couple of times to make sure we were heading in the right direction. It is not a spectacular walk - but you get views of the suburbs and then upon arrival at the summit you are rewarded with the perfect view of the parliamentary triangle.
Kokoda Track - Mount Ainslie
If you visit the Australian War Memorial, do yourself a favour and walk behind it to find the base of the Kokoda Track. This walk will take you to the summit of Mount Ainslie for the most spectacular panoramic views of Canberra.
The track is well maintained and sealed for the majority of the way. It is a constant incline so again requires a moderate level of fitness - when you hit the stairs near the summit your legs will let you know they are there!
The panoramic views at the summit however are spectacular - there are a number of viewing platforms, picnic tables and a water fountain. And on the day we climbed there was an ice cream van!
If you want to take in the top sites of Canberra - you can walk the Parliamentary Triangle. The three apices of the triangle include Parliament House, Defence Headquarters at Russell and City Hall.
This walk will take you along Lake Burley Griffin, across the Bridge on Kings Road to Parliament House and then back across the Lake on Commonwealth Avenue. It is a fair walk - but one that will provide you with an opportunity to see some of the great iconic landmarks of Canberra.
City to National Museum of Australia
The National Museum of Australia is a free attraction in Canberra and a pleasant walk to get there from the CBD.
This walk takes you along Lake Burley Griffin on a stretch that has recently been developed into what looked like is going to be a City Beach area. Not sure I would swim in the Lake - but the development in this area certainly looked like that was what was being intended. If you visit after me (Dec 2022) leave a comment on this space as it develops.
Upon arrival the National Museum of Australia is hours of viewing for a complete history of Australia. Stop for a coffee at the cafe after your 2km stroll from the city and then enjoy the exhibits on offer.
Itchy Feet Family
A trip to Queensland's Gold Coast doesn't feel right without a trip to a theme park. No matter how many times I have visited this location, I can't resist the draw of a thrill ride, a photo with a superhero and an overpriced lunch to make the trip feel complete.
So when is the best time to visit a theme park? In the summer you have great weather - but with that comes the crowds. So what are the pros and cons to visiting in low season?
We recently escaped for a cheeky weekend away and here are our thoughts on a visit to Movie World on the Gold Coast in low season - June 2022.
The number one pro of visiting in winter is there are much less people in attendance. Try to go when there are no school holidays in any Australian State and guaranteed the crowds will be at a much lower level than they are in winter. Absolutely a plus.
If you have your heart set on a particular ride - be sure to check the Movie World website before you book your tickets because the low season also means maintenance season. The good thing is that they do at least publish a list of rides out of order due to maintenance on their website - the bad thing for us is that we didn't find that fun fact out until we got there!
On our visit in June 2022 there were major maintenance activity underway which included DC Rivals Supercoaster, Wild West Falls, Road Runner Rollercoaster and Doomsday Destroyer. And on top of that The Superman Ride also had some technical issues on the day we visited and Scooby Coaster had a delayed opening. For someone looking for thrill rides, that was a big bust for our visit. A con for a winter visit.
Given the above, the pricing of your entry ticket does not reflect these outages. Movie World has the same price for it's tickets no matter what time of year you go. One the one hand you have less rides to choose from, but on the other you don't have to queue for as long so get more opportunity to go on more rides. Pro or Con? I'm undecided.
With low crowds, it means less chaos in the car park. There was no need to get to the park much before opening time and we were easily able to find a car park, head to the gate and scan our tickets for no fuss entry.
And with the ability to scan in and out of the park as many times as you like - another bonus was that we could pack our lunch, leave it in the car for the morning and then run out to the car to get it at lunch time. No need to carry around big bulky back packs with snacks and lunches - the car was easily accessible when we needed to refuel. Tick for another pro!
NO WAITING FOR THE BATHROOM
There is nothing worse than leaving your visit to the bathroom to the last minute as you cram in your day full of activities - only to be faced with a lengthy queue. In the low season we could duck in and out of the bathrooms as often as required and with minimal wait times. Tick!
In the high season the weather can be quite hot and often humid. A Queensland winter on the other hand is mild in comparison to other parts of the Country. Shorts with layered t-shirts, jumpers and jackets were common amongst visitors providing what we found to be perfect weather for a day at the theme park. Tick!
What would you add to the list of pros and cons? Have we missed anything major?
Regardless of the pros and cons - any travel experience is a pro in our eyes and a visit to Movie World is a fun day out no matter if you are young or old, hot or cold!
Itchy Feet Family
Tasmania has many varied experiences to offer. From wilderness and wildlife, city breaks to farm stays, art museums and fine dining. There seems to be something for everyone on this small island.
It took me more than 40 years to visit Tasmania - now on my fourth trip in as many years I wonder what took me so long to start exploring this amazing piece of the country.
Most recently we flew into the north of Tasmania on the newly opened Virgin direct route from Adelaide to Launceston and stumbled across the unique and fascinating Brickendon Estate.
The only privately owned World Heritage Site, the property has been in the Archer family since settled as a farm in1824 and is now owned by 7th generation Richard Archer and his family.
I met with Louise Archer on my visit who passionately shared the family story of how the farm and all it’s history was on the brink of disappearing before they took the brave decision to open the property up to share with the world as a tourist destination. They achieved the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing in 2010 making the privately owned farm an official Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property.
Clearly a passion project that is done for the love and sense of responsibility to preserve a vital piece of Australian history, the property is a living museum of convict history in Australia. The family have restored many parts of the original farm and presented an interactive museum that presents life as it was for convicts in the 1800s that were sent to the farm to serve out their sentence.
As well as the historic significance, Brickendon is still a functioning and operational farm with crops and livestock a plenty on the 465 hectare property. If you get lucky like we did you will not only see the lambs, ducks and turkeys roaming the grounds but you may even see the quintessential Australian sheep sheering taking place in the wool shed.
And for those with a green thumb - or an appreciation of those that have one - the Estate Gardens is open to the public with what has been described as one of the most unusual collection of trees of any private garden in Australia.
With trees some 180 years old from origins from across the globe the Estate Garden provides a picturesque setting for a wander.
Just 20 minutes north of Launceston the property is accessible for a day trip from Launceston, or you can stay in the rustic cottages making for a charming farm stay suitable for all ages.
Recently the property also added a commercial kitchen and function space providing options for weddings, corporate functions or extended family gatherings.
Plenty of reasons to include this destination on your next Tasmania adventure!
Itchy Feet Family
Itchy Feet Family stayed at Brickendon Estate as a Guest. More details of the property including rates can be found at their website www.brickendon.com.au
There are so many different styles of travel available from camping through fancy hotels, and as a frequent traveller I enjoy trying as much of that range as I can.
On a recent trip to Tasmania I discovered a gem in the Rathmore Farm Stay - a style of getaway that I have never really trialled before - but one that I am thankful I uncovered.
The closest to this I had ever done before was a stay at the Dixie Dude Ranch in Texas, a rustic farm stay with cowboys, but I had never considered this type of stay in Australia before - and wow have I been missing out!
Here are my top reasons to consider a stay at Rathmore in Tasmania.
1. Just one hour from Hobart
At just over an hour from Hobart, Rathmore is accessible as a weekend away for locals - or as a side trip for mainland tourists even if only flying into Hobart for a weekend getaway.
2. Suitable for families, couples or groups
There are a range of accommodation options at Rathmore to suit all groups of travellers. The main homestead is a B&B with four bedrooms available (including two adjoining rooms great for families), the Shearers Quarters has five rooms available (perfect for a group) and Rathmore Cottage can accommodate up to six making it great for a family. The three accommodation options are spread out across the 92 acre sheep property in the central Tasmanian highlands and with all that space there is even room to park a caravan or pitch a tent!
We visited as a couple on a one night getaway, but I would love to return with the kids and could imagine hiring out the whole venue for a milestone birthday weekend with friends and family or even as a venue for a corporate retreat.
3. Hand feed a bullock
It is not every day you can get up close and personal with an almost six foot tall bullock and hand feed him a piece of bread! However Hercules is a gentle hand reared bullock that will approach the SUV to stick his head in, slobber all over you and accept a piece of bread!
As well as Hercules the farm has some friendly hand reared sheep that will come in close for a pat, a number of horses that can be fed a carrot or two, six wild platypus that can be spotted in the Dew Rivulet and a trout or two ready to be caught if you bring your line and head out on the row boat.
4. Attention to detail
The attention to detail that Cally has poured into the renovations at Rathmore are not unnoticed when you stay. And the personalised touches at every turn highlight how meticulous she is as a hostess with the mostest!
Marshmallows left as a welcome gift for guests to roast on the campfire, a fully equipped mess in the shearers quarters for self catering as extensive as including a rice cooker and slow cooker, fresh herbs picked and placed in a vase in your accommodation, the sprinkles of flowers on the plates of food prepared ensuring plenty of colour as Cally quoted “We all eat with our eyes”.
Rathmore may not be a 5 star hotel, but the rustic authentic accommodation includes personal touches for guest comfort that would rival any 5 star city hotel.
5. Sparkling Sparkles
One thing I am known for is being partial to a glass of sparkling wine or two….. when presented with an opportunity to enjoy canapés with sparkling Tasmanian wine overlooking the property at sundown it ticked all my boxes.
Hosted by owner Cally, we sipped sparkling wine while she shared with us the history of the property and a few intriguing tales that I am sure have evolved over the years through the local gossip trail.
Canapés were followed by a candle lit dinner for two in the main homestead capped off with a bottle of wine by the outdoor campfire to enjoy the sparkles in the sky. The skies in this part of the world are spectacular and we had a clear night for viewing.
Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family stayed as a guest of Rathmore. For more details about Rathmore visit their website www.rathmore.com.au
Dining out with children can be challenging at times. They like to be entertained and it is so easy to simply place an electronic device in front of them to keep them quiet in a restaurant.
However on a recent dinner out on the Gold Coast I managed to keep the kids entertained with the help of a large wheel of parmesan cheese and a flame thrower!
Salt Meats Cheese is a family owned Italian restaurant on the Gold Coast that every Wednesday night serves up a special pasta dish - cheese wheel pasta.
Apparently a very authentic way of cooking pasta in Italy, the restaurant makes a presentation of the process which had us all fascinated.
A large wheel of parmesan cheese on a presentation table was rolled up to our dining table and a flame throwing butane can used to heat the inside of the cheese to soften it. A bowl of pre-cooked freshly made spaghetti then taken from the hot pan and put into the cheese wheel to be tossed.
As the hot spaghetti jumped around in the cheese wheel the pasta picked up the melted parmesan to flavour the dish. Amazing!
A bit of bacon added on top to finish the dish and cheese wheel carbonara pasta was served! For extra flavour we also tried one tossed in pesto, which was also done on the presentation table in front of us.
As Australians we have a tendency of adding lots of ingredients into our pasta dishes, Salt Meats Cheese dishes were simple yet so full of flavour proving that sometimes less really is more.
Once the cheese wheel presentation was completed the kids also enjoyed the opportunity to return to the simple art of a blank piece of paper as a canvas to draw, which at the end of the meal they proudly pinned to the restaurant wall. Look out for the drawings we tagged @ItchyFeetFamily!
While the adults enjoyed eating the pasta - the kids tucked into freshly made wood-fire oven kid’s meal pizzas - which we followed with a nutella/peanut butter calzone AND a serve of nutella filled donuts. YUM!
The restaurant offered a great vibe for families, when Miss 10 spilled her water all over the table there was plenty of ambience in the restaurant that no-one heard the commotion or even batted an eye lid!
Thankfully there were no electronic devices on the table to be ruined - just a paper canvas that needed to be started over.
Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family were guests of Salt Meats Cheese. For more details about the restaurant visit www.saltmeatscheese.com.au
Hobart is a fantastic city - I can’t believe it took me 44 years to visit this gem! Having never visited before I have now been twice in two months and I am looking for my next opportunity to return.
In June we took a family cruise from Sydney to Hobart for the dark MOFO festival that included a 48 hour stopover, in August we took advantage of new direct flights from Adelaide and indulged in a weekend girls trip.
As first time visitors to this southern city we were keen to pack in as much as possible on our short city breaks.
If you are looking for a reason to visit - and ideas for things to do while you are there - here are a few suggestions.
Red Decker Hop on Hop Off Bus
A great way to acclimatise yourself with a city is to take the Red Decker hop on hop off bus tour. This is a sure fire way to make sure you see all the major highlights of a city when you are short on time.
The double decker bus provided a loop of the city that takes you to locations including the wrest point casino, through battery point, past the Cascades Brewery and women’s prison, back through the city and then across to the Botanical Garden.
We opted for a 48 hour ticket and of course you can get off and on at any of the stops that spark your interest.
The advantage of a tour like this is the commentary that comes with it that offers a good insight into facts and figures about the city and a lesson on the history.
Walk to Cascades Brewery
If you are after a city walk, head uphill from Salamanca to the Cascades Brewery. A four kilometre route will take you through South Hobart (SOHO) past the heritage cottages and vintage stores to arrive at the Brewery visitor centre where you can enjoy a well deserved drink.
During winter you can enjoy a glass of mulled cider with a serve of chicken wings - and if the sun is shining there is plenty of seating in the outdoor gardens to take in the views.
Of course there are also brewery tours that you can take to see the back end operations to the Cascades brews.
Operating every Saturday, the markets are a fun way to spend your day meandering through a collection of market stalls offering local products and produce. From soy candles, to gin, pashminas to potatoes there is a wider variety of stalls to wander.
The open air markets operate from 8:30am to 3pm and have been lining the streets of Salamanca since 1972.
Hobart knows how to style a bar - there are some amazing venues to enjoy a classy cocktail in a chic setting.
In Salamanca you will find a great selection including The Den, The Botanical and The Whiskey Bar and don’t forget to head over to the Henry Jones Hotel and visit the IXL bar for rosemary infused glasses filled with tasty cocktails.
If you love Modern Art, you are going to love MONA. If you have no clue about modern art, you will still enjoy a trip to MONA! The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is the jewel in Hobart’s Crown and a must see activity.
The adventure starts when you board the camouflaged catamaran from the Brooke Street Pier and take the 25 minute fast ferry ride to the museum. If you don’t like the water, there is also a bus service to use as an alternative.
Upon arrival be prepared for an assault on the senses as you take the spiral staircase down into the underground tunnels of the museum. Download The O app and be guided through the exhibits with all you need to know by the phone in the palm of your hand.
Stop and enjoy a drink in the funky bar, visit the mechanical replica bowel depositing smelly outputs, explain the fish bowl with a knife in it sitting on a chair or just ask the question - what the MONA?
If you are after a picturesque setting for a long lunch head to the Brooke Street Pier and settle in at the Glass House restaurant. The floor to ceiling glass walls provide an uninterrupted view of the waterfront where you can gaze at the country side and watch the MONA fast ferries pull in and out on their journey from the pier.
Enjoy a three course meal, matched with a glass or two of Tasmanian wine, for a long lazy lunch.
If you are visiting in winter it is highly possible there will be snow fall on top Mt Wellington which is the back drop to Hobart city. A great way to get amongst the snow is to take the Mt Wellington Explorer Bus tour to the summit which sits at 1270m above sea level and provides spectacular views of Hobart. The tour bus leaves Hobart city regularly for the 2.5 hour return journey.
If it is snowing, the only way you will get to the summit is if you are on the Mt Wellington Explorer Bus. This tour operator has exclusive and unique access to the road that leads to the summit that is otherwise closed during snow. On the morning we visited our small bus of tourists were the only people on the summit. The fresh snow was untouched providing a unique experience for the kids who had never experienced snow fall before and were able to make their first snow angels.
Stay in Salamanca
If you are staying for a city break to enjoy the highlights of Hobart you really don’t need a car if you stay in the heart of Salamanca. We stayed at the Salamanca Wharf Hotel which is an apartment style boutique hotel right in the heart of all the city action.
Walking distance to everything you need for a weekend city break, the Salamanca Wharf Hotel provided great quality accommodation and fantastic service from friendly staff.
For a unique room, stay in the penthouse loft and enjoy the balcony views of the city. As this is an apartment hotel it features a kitchenette and laundry facilities which are always useful for families.
Have you visited Hobart before on a short break? What were the highlights of your city stay?
Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family were hosted by Red Decker Hobart, Mt Wellington Explorer and the Salamanca Wharf Hotel.
South Australians can feel right at home and still get away from it all when they embark on an Adelaide staycation. A holiday in your home city or state provides an unexpected and affordable getaway from routine and reality.
Hotels.com offers many Adelaide accommodation options online. There’s also fun-filled suggestions for capturing all that Adelaide and surrounding regions have to offer.
Wine lovers are spoilt for choice in this premier wine state. The Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and world-renowned Barossa Valley are a stone’s throw away and provide access to renowned wineries, including Penfolds, Hahndorf Hill, Wirra Wirra, Bremerton, Mt Lofty Ranges and endless boutique vineyards, offering cellar-door tastings.
The kids can also feel fulfilled, educated and enlivened at a selection of tourist attractions that are right on your doorstep. The Adelaide Zoo, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide Botanic Garden and pet-friendly Adelaide Himeji Gardens provide hours of child-focused sightseeing, events and activities.
Venture further afield to a range of metropolitan beaches, including the historic, family-friendly Glenelg and Brighton beaches.
Chocoholics can get their cacao fill at Australia’s oldest chocolate-making company, Haighs.
While the parents are sipping premium Pinot, Shiraz or Eden Valley Riesling in the Adelaide Hills and beyond, the kids can also savour the freshest strawberries at Beerenberg Farm before a family visit to Melba’s Chocolate Factory.
For some much-needed rest in between the exciting sightseeing, dining and cultural attractions in abundance, Hotels.com offers a range of Adelaide accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets.
Staycationers can choose to stay in five-star style at the Intercontinental Adelaide. Located in the city’s vibrant heart, this premium accommodation option provides the ultimate luxury in first-class suites, guest rooms, facilities and dining options for discerning families.
The Mayfair Hotel also offers five-star appeal, a central Adelaide base and all mod cons in one of the city’s newest and most lavish accommodation options.
If you’re planning on a seaside staycation, Glenelg beachgoers can relax in luxurious comfort and family-friendly facilities at the Stamford Grand Adelaide Hotel. With enticing family package offers and a chocolate high tea that staycationers of all ages will savour, a visit to the Stamford Grand is worth getting excited about.
Back in the Adelaide heartland, access all the city attractions with a mini or maxi break at the five-star Hilton Adelaide. With the cream of the city’s dining destinations, including Chinatown, Central Market and Gouger Street, on your doorstep, epicureans will be spoilt for choice.
Peppers Waymouth Hotel is another central and premium Adelaide accommodation option. The feature indoor heated pool with its CBD outlook through heritage bay windows, heart-and-body warming on-site sauna, state-of-the-art gym and 24-hour room service are the makings of staycation heaven.
Every day is a holiday when you and your family embark on an Adelaide staycation, with a little expert guidance from Hotels.com.
*This article was written in partnership with Hotels.com
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'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?
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
Melbourne is a great city, any time of the year, and one that has plenty of attractions for families. We have been fortunate to take a few trips to Melbourne, and each time we try to do something different. Here are eight activities to consider for your next family trip to Melbourne.
1. Catch an AFL Game
The Melbourne CBD is home to two Australian Rules Football Stadiums, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and Etihad stadium. The MCG holds some 100,000 people and we were fortunate enough to be there for the ANZAC day match which saw a full house attend the game. There was something special about observing a minute’s silence amongst a crowd of that size.
Both stadiums are easily accessible via the city tram system and offer a truly authentic Melbourne experience for the whole family. You can pre-purchase tickets online to avoid the queues and get there early enough to enjoy the family zone activities on offer.
2. Explore the City on the Free Trams
Melbourne has a fantastic tram network and, within the city centre, an extensive free tram zone. There is a brown city circle tram that does a loop of the city and can get you to all the major attractions, however any tram within this zone is free. Criss cross your way across the city using any of the trams - at no cost.
3. Visit the Melbourne Museum
The Melbourne Museum is located amongst Carlton Gardens and is accessible within the Free Tram Zone. In fact you can catch a tram from Bourke Street Mall that will take you straight to the Museum stop.
Be sure to set aside at least two hours - more if you can - as there is so much to see. We were fascinated by the Forestry that included huge Mountain Ash and walkways to take you underneath the forest, the mind and body exhibition that certainly challenged our thoughts and the Melbourne Fashion exhibition that showcased some great local talent.
The Museum also holds special exhibits, when we visited the feature was the Vikings which encompassed all things Nordic. We really could have spent all day here and will absolutely return.
4. Eat Dumplings in China Town
As with most major cities, Melbourne city centre houses a China Town. Whilst I would normally recommend side stepping the main China Town street, we have actually found a few good dumpling houses on this strip. Get there early, or book a table because locals will queue for a good serve of dumplings. We are early diners so normally don’t have any trouble walking into a restaurant, it is always fun to walk out after your meal and see the big line ups waiting to get in for where you have just eaten! We visited the Empress of China on Little Burke Street and filled up on dumplings, with leftovers to take home, for just $60. The restaurants are not fancy, it is cheap and cheerful, but the dumplings were good!.
5. Try the Patisseries at Brunetti on Lygon Street
If you have a car, or are happy to travel outside the free tram zone, Brunetti’s is a Melbourne icon known for their amazing pastries and coffee. It is a truly Italian experience ordering your coffee at the bar and savouring one of the melt in your mouth cannoli filled with Italian custard. The signature store is on Lygon Street, but there are also now Brunetti stores in the CBD and at the airport.
6. Spend half a day at Sea Life
Here is a great activity for the family that will entertain you for at least three hours - more if you have the time. Located on the banks of the Yarra, there is so much to see and do at the Sea Life Aquarium. The aquarium allows you to get up close and personal to the marine life and be amazed by the sheer size of the stingrays and sharks that swim above your head as you walk through the aquarium tunnel.
The penguin playground provides plenty of entertainment as they seemingly dance and perform for and with the kids, the crocodile lair puts you up close and personal in a way that perhaps you would not really want to be to a creature that size, and the 4D Ice Age movie offers a few fun surprises. Buy your tickets before you go.
7. Take a trip to Spotswood to visit Scienceworks
If you have a car, or don’t mind a $20 Uber ride out of the city, head to Spotswood for a visit to Scienceworks. This Museum will entertain you for a whole day with interactive exhibitions that get the kids learning in a fun environment.
While you are there you can also enjoy a visit to the Melbourne Planetarium which shares the premises with Scienceworks. The presentation in the dome shaped theatre provides a great commentary on what can be seen in the Melbourne night sky and will have you picking out constellations and planets that evening (if the city lights don’t block your views!). Read more about our visit to Scienceworks.
Shop at the DFO South Wharf
Whilst Melbourne is home to many great boutiques and stores, it is good to know that there is a Direct Factory Outlet (DFO) within the free tram zone/ walking distance of the CBD. There is a great range of stores at South Wharf ranging from sporting apparel Nike, Adidas and Puma through to higher end stores including Furla and Coach.
There are so many things to do in Melbourne, every time we visit we discover something new. Read more about our Autumn visit for other ideas. What are some of your favourite Melbourne activities? Book your activities before you arrive.
Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family were guests of ScienceWorks, Melbourne Museum and Sea Life Aquarium during our Melbourne visit.
Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to have a great family adventure and there are things on your own doorstep that can create special family moments and memories.
We are fortunate enough to live in Adelaide, South Australia, which comes alive in the month of March for what is commonly known as “Mad March”. There are a myriad of activities that fill the city every night providing a plethora of entertainment options for all ages. One such highlight is the Parade of Lights.
When I told the kids about this activity they remembered a similar experience we had in San Antonio Texas where a central building was projected upon each night on a half hourly rotation depicting the story of The Alamo. If the kids thought that one building was great - the Adelaide Parade of Lights was going to take that entertainment value to a whole new level.
Part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival the Parade of Lights is an open air free exhibition projecting imagery, short film and laser displays onto the buildings of North Terrace.
Eight buildings along North Terrace feature in the spectacular each providing a unique exhibit captivating the strolling crowds of the balmy Autumn evenings.
A special highlight was the Northern Lights display where a mixture of laser light and a smoke machine provided a rough replica of the Aurora Borealis.
Given the distance between Adelaide, South Australia and Iceland, the art display provides a glimpse into the northern lights that many South Australians will most likely never actually experience.
The thing we loved about this activity is that it was free, we were outside enjoying an awesome Autumn evening and the displays were captivating for all ages.
We also opted for a pre Parade of Lights dinner in North Adelaide, left the car a little out the city and walked a 5km loop. A great option as it turned out the traffic in Adelaide at this time of the year is CRAZY!
The Parade of Lights runs from 8:30pm - 12am each night of the Adelaide Fringe from February 16 - March 18, 2018. If you are in Adelaide during March be sure to check this activity out.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you are looking for accommodation in Sydney there is a myriad of choices. A range of hotels to suit your budget, apartments, AirBNB, camping and more. We have stayed at a number of hotels across the city, last year we took the kids and stayed at the Funky QT hotel. This year on a weekend trip without the kids we decided to up the star rating and checked in to the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney.
Here are six reasons you may want to check in to this hotel that you may not see listed on their website.
So you may see this listed on the website - but it has to be said. As far as locations go, you are not going to get much better than this in Sydney. Right in Circular Quay, at the bottom of The Rocks the hotel is really centrally located.
The airport train stops some 500m from the hotel, you can catch a ferry from Circular Quay to a myriad of destinations around Sydney and you can see the Opera House and the Bridge from your room! (dependant on room location - we had a partial view of the Opera House from our room as pictured).
You can walk to The Rocks and enjoy the restaurants and bars, stroll down to the Museum of Contemporary Art and enjoy breakfast there with the Opera House over your shoulder, a 10 minute walk will have you in the Shopping malls, a 15 minute walk will have you in Darling Harbour and a 10 minute walk will have you in the Botanical Gardens.
As far as locations go in Sydney for accomodation, this one ticks many boxes.
Complimentary Shoe Shine
How many hotels offer you a complimentary shoe shine? At the Four Seasons Sydney you simply place your shoes in a bag and hang on your room door by 1am and by 7am they are returned all polished and shined ready for your day! Loved it - wished I had packed more of my shoes!
Turn Down Service
The turn down service is probably one of the first things hotels cut when they are looking at tightening budgets - but I love it. There is nothing better than coming back to your room in the evening to find fresh towels hanging in the bathroom, bottles of water by your bedside, curtains drawn and the night lighting turned on.
If you like to pack light it is great to know before hand if your toiletries can be left behind. Four Seasons Sydney offer a great range of quality Appelles toiletries including shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, bar soap and moisturiser.
Australian designed skin and hair products, Appelles feature a combination of essential oils with botanical extracts in environmentally friendly packaging. Safe to say, it will not be detrimental to your skin or hair to use these products on a weekend getaway.
Check In Service
Now this is something I have not seen before - the check-in staff physically step out from behind the desk to personally hand you your room key when you have completed the check in process. Check in staff generally have a desk as a barrier between them and you and conduct the checkin process from behind that counter.
At the Four Seasons Sydney they have obviously recognised that barrier, so to break it the staff physically walk out from behind the counter to stand beside you, hand you your room key and welcome you to the hotel. Such a small act but one that really stood out as a hotel that is determined to offer an element of personalised service.
Charismatic Chef - Francesco Mannelli
This one you may also see on their website, but that may not translate into how charming and passionate the head chef Francesco is. Apart from the amazing premium spirit cocktails with unique mixes of fresh ingredients that are on offer, Francesco has introduced a stylish and simple menu at Mode Kitchen and Bar that focuses on fresh, quality, Australian produce.
We were fortunate enough to meet Francesco on our visit where he enthusiastically spoke about his joy for cooking at Mode, creating a new menu and sourcing quality ingredients. He proudly displayed the restaurants signature menu item, a 1kg grain fed T-bone sourced from the Coorong. As South Australians we were impressed that much of his produce comes from our State. I was a combination of impressed yet disturbed by the size of the cut of meat on offer - surely no-one would eat that on their own! Would they?
And restaurant manager, Simone Cordedda also ensured we were welcomed and taken care of. When we passed him in the lobby after our initial meeting he made sure to say hello.
Of course there are plenty of other reasons listed on the hotel’s website - the rooftop pool is also a key highlight - but the above were our personal takeaways.
Have you stayed at the Four Seasons Sydney? What non-brochured perks have you found at hotels around the world?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family