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.
I have travelled to Melbourne many times but never taken the time to head out of the CBD much. On a recent trip we were lured 15 minutes out of the city to visit the town of Spotswood, home to Scienceworks - and aren’t we glad we did! A whole day of educational fun awaited us, I had to drag the kids out at the end of the day.
Here are five reasons to take the journey out of the CBD and let the kids enjoy a day at Scienceworks Melbourne.
1. Race Against Cathy Freeman
My kids love being active and have been involved in Little Athletics since they were toddlers. Scienceworks includes a fascinating sports exhibition that was like the holy grail for our sports mad kids.
One of the fun displays provided the opportunity to line up at a race start line and run against a video wall featuring Cathy Freeman in action. The track was only about 15 metres long - the race took 2 seconds - but they did it over and over and over again!
Other highlights of the sports exhibition included rock climbing, virtual soccer goal keeper, a virtual wheelchair racing game and a balance beam to try out some gymnastics.
2. Discover the Tallest Buildings in The World
One of the intriguing exhibits I found as an adult was the display depicting the tallest buildings in the world. It is fascinating the engineering that has gone into building architecture that has allowed modern society to achieve such heights.
In 1931 the Empire State Building, New York, was considered an amazing accomplishment at 381m but in 2010 when the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, reached heights of 828m it makes it seem insignificant. When Jeddah Tower, Saudi Arabia, completes construction engineers will reach yet another milestone with the building planned for a height of 1008m.
The exhibit was presented pictorially and really made you appreciate how modern engineering has changed the landscape of modern society.
3. See the Lightning Shows
Apart from the interactive displays, the lighting room provides some cool kids science shows. We were entertained with Bolt from the Blue. A great interactive display explaining how lightning is created and how to avoid getting struck during a storm!
The presenter was theatrical and enthusiastic and aimed the content right at the kids. From producing storm clouds in a plastic bottle, making balloons statically stick to a child’s head and showcasing how the hair on your head can point straight to the sky, there were plenty of educational takeaways from the session.
4. Visit the Planetarium
If you have never been to a planetarium, it is likely you may not even know what it is. A planetarium is a domed shaped theatre designed to view projections of the night sky. Additionally, specially created films are produced to be shown on the unique shaped screen. The Melbourne Planetarium holds a 16 metre dome with reclining chairs for pretty comfortable viewing (or a nap if you are worn out from all the activities!).
We attended a viewing of the film Blackholes, which was interesting if not a little unusual, followed by a live commentary of current Melbourne night sky projections. It is the live commentary that we enjoyed. Being able to see the constellations that are in the Melbourne night sky that evening was fascinating for the kids.
5. It’s Great Value
We arrived at about 10:45am and did not leave until close at 4:30pm. There is so much to see and do here and the kids loved every minute of it. We visited on a weekday, it was quite busy with school groups when we first arrived, but by about 2:30pm the crowds resided and we had free range of all the exhibits. If you only have a few hours, you may want to visit in the afternoon otherwise be prepared to deal with the crowds.
Tickets for Scienceworks are priced at just $15 for adults and free, yes FREE, for kids up to 16 years old. Additional extras are the Planetarium and Lightning Room which are priced at $8 each or $12 if you do both. For a full day of activity and learning Scienceworks offers great value.
If you have a car, this is your best option, however if you are like us and staying in the CBD then Spotswood is about 15 minutes out of the city.
My first option was to catch the Williamstown train from Southern Cross Station to Spotswood, it seemed a simple and affordable idea. However it turned out that Melbourne does not have a very visitor friendly transport system outside of the free CBD tram system.
In order to purchase a day fare for metro train travel at a cost of $8.60 adult and $4.30 a child, we first had to purchase a Myki Card each at a cost of $6 per card. So I had to buy a $6 card to load with $4 of travel! What!!!!!
I decided that by the time we purchased the transport cards and loaded them with a day fare, an Uber would be around the same price and much more comfortable. An Uber from the city cost $18 and that is how we got there!
Let us know if you have visited, what was your favourite exhibit?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family was a guest of Scienceworks on this visit.
About three months ago I was approached to go on a fully paid cruise in exchange for creating blogging content. Great - I love to cruise I am in! The only caveat was that the cruise was departing out of Auckland and it was a Nude Cruise.
Now to be clear, I am not a nudist - never have been and don’t really know anyone in my circles that is. Although the offer of a fully paid cruise was tempting and it was for me to go solo, so also meant an all expenses paid trip away from the kids, I really had to consider if I could even do this.
I really had to think long and hard about this offer and so set about to do some research about what the experience would be like. In 2018 I have decided to have a year of saying Yes to new experiences so I know for many of my readers who know me they will be shocked to read the five reasons that convinced me to actually say yes to take the Nude Cruise.
1. No Long Packing List
Packing would not be strenuous. Toiletries was probably all that was needed. No need to pack a million changes of clothes to cater for formal night, cocktail night, theme nights etc. Once onboard not much would be required except a heap of sunscreen.
2. I Didn’t Need to Buy New Swimwear
As a woman I hate shopping for swimwear, it is the one thing that pains me before taking a sun holiday. Bikini, tankini, one piece - block colour, patterns or stripes there are so many options to consider it is such a dilemma. At least with a nude cruise there would not be any swimwear even required.
3. I Could Get a Great Tan
I love a good tan as much as anyone, but pesky swimwear covering body parts make for terrible tan lines. A Nude Cruise, without the family, would allow me hours of selfish sunbathing time and I would not need to worry about dreaded tan lines. Think of how great my tan would be upon my return.
4. No One Knew Me
The cruise was leaving out of Auckland, I don’t know many people in New Zealand and the chances of bumping into someone I knew were relatively slim. What would be the chances of someone recognising me? If I was ever going to consider taking up nudity on a regular basis here would be a great place to sample it.
AND THE FINAL REASON................
Do you really believe this crazy story - if so GOTCHA! April Fools:)
Itchy Feet Family
Bergen is a beautiful city in Norway that if you happen to be cruising through the Fjords you are most likely to visit. We were fortunate to take the journey on the P&O Britannia in 2017 and found ourselves unusually in a dry day in Bergen!
Bergen is known to have rainfall on an average 240 days a year, it is known as the most rainy city in the world! So a dry day is unlikely for your visit - we got very lucky!
So pack your raincoats and umbrellas and head out and see this stunning city - here are some ideas of what you can do if you have not booked a tour.
Walk to Town
The ship ports close enough to the city that a stroll in is a pleasant introduction. A 15-20 minute stroll will have you in the thick of things in the centre of town.
Cable Car or Funnicular
If you love spectacular scenery Bergen offers two vantage points to take in the views. From the city centre you can catch a Funnicular to the mountain of Fløyen at 320m above sea level. Many tourists opt for this as you can walk to the Funnicular from the city centre - but beware it is busy!
An alternative is to take the cable car where you will get the most spectacular views of Bergen from a top Mt Ulriken - the highest of Bergen’s seven mountains. The cable car is a little out of the city centre so you need to catch a bus from the city centre right near the tourist information centre.
The bus journey takes you out of the centre of town so not only do you get to the less crowded mountain, you also get to see a little of the outskirts of Bergen as you travel to the cable car.
The cable car is a seven minute journey to the top which takes you to 643m above sea level. Upon arrival you can stop at the restaurant, let the kids play on the playground, do a zip line across the top of the mountain or just sit and take in the views.
There are also walking trails so if you have the time and are up for an adventure you could walk one or both ways to take in the views at a leisurely pace.
Visit the Fish Market
In the centre of town you will find an open air fish market showcasing the best of the regions local catch. It is vibrant and bustling offering tourists and locals alike a taste of Bergen. Try things like Reindeer hotdogs, Kaviar and of course salmon is plentiful and presented in a myriad of options.
See the Wooden Houses
Bergen actually has one of Europe’s largest collections of wooden houses and they are spectacular. If you are after some great photos of colourful houses and buildings this is the place to see and walk amongst them.
Whilst many fires throughout the years have seen these wooden houses disappear, the centre of Bergen houses Bryggen - a UNESCO World Heritage Centre - the old fishing wharf. The area is beautifully restored and houses shops and restaurants for visitors to enjoy. Just walking amongst these restored buildings is a great way to spend your day.
What did you do on your day in Bergen? Leave your tips and ideas in the comments for other travellers.
Itchy Feet Family
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
Fiji is full of many hidden gems and treasures and so it was no surprise on our recent visit to Port Denarau on a cruise port day we discovered one of them - the Thermal Pools and Mud Bath.
Finding a family friendly shore tour that provides a bit of activity is often hard to come across but this one jumped out as something we would all enjoy. Having visited Mud Baths in Nha Trang, Vietnam, we were not afraid of smothering ourselves in local soils and are glad we took the opportunity to do it again. Here are six top reasons you should try the natural thermal pools and mud baths of Fiji.
Upon arrival freshly made flower necklaces will be bestowed upon you as you enter past the serenade of the village’s welcome song. As tradition requires, an official welcoming ceremony follows with the Chief including an opportunity to sample the local delicacy of Kava.
2. Get away from the city
The thermal pools are an approximate 30 minute bus journey from Port Denarau. If you are fortunate like we were your journey will be commentated by an enthusiastic local guide. Our guid, ‘Mr Cool” as he referred to himself, enthusiastically provided a myriad of fascinating facts and stories about Fiji and the local way of life. The tour takes visitors away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy Nadi and gets you out into the villages.
3. See the Sleeping Giants
This part of Fiji is famous for the mountain range known as the two sleeping giants. The mountains literally look like two giants have just laid down and mountains formed in their shapes - it is a bucket list item to see. Whilst you don’t get up close to them you do get a fair view of them on this tour.
4. Cover yourself in mud
Honestly, how many times in your life are you legitimately going to have an opportunity (as an adult or a child) to take a bucket of mud and simply lather it all over your body. The mud is dug from the mud pool and put into large buckets and you simply go for it. Dressed in bathers you simply slap the wet mud on from top to toe and cover every part of your body. It is quite an unusual thing to do - but one I highly recommend. The sun then does it’s job and dries the wet mud into your skin so it becomes a full body mud mask.
5. Enjoy the thermal pool
Once your mud mask has dried you head into a series of thermal pools to wash and cleanse - the first pool was all natural you could feel the mud squishing in your toes beneath you - the second one man made with the thermal waters pumped into it for a warm and relaxing bath like experience in the great outdoors.
6. Finish with a massage
The final part of this tour, which was not in the brochure, was the inclusion of a 15 minute full body massage from the local village ladies. A great way to finish the outdoor spa adventure of being scrubbed and buffed to relaxation.
After being farewelled with another village song we shuffled back into the bus and headed back to Nadi to catch our ship home all buffed, primed and relaxed. The only downside to the tour was that we stopped at a shopping street on route back to the ship and the last thing we felt like doing was shopping in our relaxed mode of buffed bliss. However others seemed to be thankful for the opportunity so each to their own - we had a little nap on the bus instead.
Itchy Feet Family
I have never really been one for girl’s trips, I have never had any burning desires to head off without my husband or children. I loved travelling with my husband BC (before children) and I really enjoy family travel now.
However last weekend I was given the opportunity to take a weekend trip with a friend, who is also a mum, a short getaway aboard P&O’s Pacific Eden. We boarded from Adelaide’s Outer Harbour on a Friday afternoon and sailed up and down the coast for the weekend landing back at Outer Harbour on Monday morning early enough to get to work for the day. The ship did not stop anywhere, it was just three nights of sailing and enjoying the destination of the cruise ship and all it had to offer.
I have now decided that all mums need a weekend at sea - here are eight reasons why!
Reason 1. It’s only three nights
The weekend cruise departs on a Friday afternoon and is back in dock by 7am Monday morning I was able to drop the kids at school on Friday before heading off and I was back in time to get to work on Monday morning.
Reason 2. You don’t need to fly anywhere
P&O operate weekend cruises departing out of Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, so if you live in one of the big capitals, no flight is needed. Whilst other States have had these for some time, cruising in and out of Adelaide has only been operating the last three years. P&O port a ship in Adelaide, the Pacific Eden, for a few weeks each year. However so successful they must have been that in 2019 there will be an extended season providing even more options for cruises departing and returning to Adelaide.
Not having to take a flight anywhere takes the hassle out of the weekend. Simply drive to Outer Harbour, jump on the ship and sail away!
Reason 3. You can throw your towel on the floor
You know how your kids just throw things on the floor and we as mums pick them up. Being on a cruise is like having your own magical mum do that for you. I dare you to give it a go - have a shower and simply throw your towel on the floor when you are done. When you return to your cabin a few hours later it will be picked up and a fresh towel folded on the rack.
Ok so that tip is not very environmentally friendly - or very adult like - but hey you gotta indulge a little every now and then.
Reason 4. Enjoy a meal without taking someone to the toilet or cleaning up a spilled drink
The Pacific Eden offers three restaurants included in your fare. Friday night we had Italian at Angelos, Saturday night is was Asian at Dragon Lady and Sunday night we ate at the main restaurant, The Waterfront.
Imagine a whole meal not having to take a child to the toilet, clean up a spilled drink across the table or having to cut up someone else’s meal. It was bliss. Add to the amazing food a bottle of Moet and we were in mum heaven!
No-one had to drive, no-one had to sort the kids before we went out, we just got ourselves dressed and walked to dinner! We even stopped off at the bar first for a sneaky pre-dinner drink.
Reason 5. Stay out all night
There is no curfew on the ship - you can stay out as long as you like. You don’t have to worry about trying to get a taxi at the end of the night, you don’t have to rush home because you are paying the babysitter by the hour and you don’t have to wake up at 6am the next day to get the kids breakfast or take them to sport. In fact, the next day you can stay in bed as long as you want - and we did!
Reason 6. Read a book
When I cruise with the family we are on the go a lot of the time. Take the kids to kids club, meet for morning trivia, pick the kids up and take them on the flying fox etc etc. I have taken books away with me before, but it normally ends up just weighing my bag down and rarely getting read. On a mums weekend away I got myself out of bed, headed for the adults only area and sat in the sun to read a book.
So engrossed I was in reading (which incidentally I had not done in years) that I completely forgot to reapply sunscreen and fried to a crisp! Again, not great advice, but shows the indulgence you can take to simply switch off and do something for yourself.
Reason 7. Enjoy the late night shows
We were on a comedy cruise which meant late night comedy shows at 10:30pm. Now lets be honest, as a mum going out at 10:30pm is a very rare occasion. When you cruise as a family the kids club closes at 10:30pm so you either tag team and only one parent gets to go to the show whilst the other picks the kids up, or you pay the late child minding fees so you can both go. No such dilemma on a mums trip, we went and enjoyed every show on offer.
Reason 8. Meet other mums
When dining in the Waterfront restaurant the wait staff ask if you mind sharing a table. This is a great way to meet your fellow cruise passengers and, to our luck on each occasion, we were seated with fellow mums also on a weekend away.
Apparently we were not the only mums that had found this phenomenon of a sneaky weekend away at sea. One pair we ate with were on their first ever cruise, let alone weekend away - by the Sunday night they were already booked in for 2019 - something they would tell their families when they got home! Deposit paid - in fact I think they paid in full and made sure it was non-refundable.
So if you have ever thought about taking a girls trip, consider a weekend cruise, you won't regret it. If you have ever taken a sneaky mums weekend at sea, leave us a comment and tell us why you loved it.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Travel blogs generally are all sunshine and lollipops. Everyone always looks so happy, the pictures post an idyllic scene and there is a tendency to think that travelling is always great.
Whilst 90% of the time that is true, there are also times when a visit to a location can be disappointing. Take for example a recent cruise port of call stop in Fiji that we have now phrased - our “Sad Stop in Suva!”.
As part of our Christmas Cruise onboard the Pacific Dawn in 2017 our itinerary included a stop in Suva, Fiji. This was our first visit to this destination and we really did not know what to expect. We didn’t book any shore tours - in hindsight our biggest mistake - and instead thought we would explore the town on our own. Suva is the capital of Fiji, it must have something to offer right?
The weather was pretty awful when we arrived, warm but with overcast with showers which persisted throughout the day. And the scenery was pretty grim, the ship pulls up in a working industrial shipping port with shipping containers and workmen the greeting views. The plus side to this was that we were within walking distance of the town and no tenders required to get off the ship.
We were in Suva just a few days before Christmas so the town was busy and buzzing with locals getting supplies for the festive season. We took a shuttle bus from the port to the town shopping mall which actually took longer on the bus than if we had walked it due to the crazy traffic. However at least we were sheltered from the rain, we got to see a little more of the town and we were able to sit and watch the locals go about their pre-christmas shopping frenzy.
On route our bus guide made sure we knew the obligatory term “Bula” and gave us a few tips on what to do in town - a message skewed towards shopping at the shuttle bus sponsor Taperoo Centre (essentially a shopping mall).
In town we headed to the top level where we were told we could get WIFI. Upon arrival we discovered you could only get 15 minutes of wifi and even when we tried to connect it was such a poor connection we did not bother. Not that it mattered we had not had any connection for the 7 days on the ship it took to get here anyway, a cruise is a great holiday for a digital detox.
If you are looking for WIFI in Suva, it is not readily available in any of the cafes or restaurants. (Update, apparently there is WIFI - we just had no luck finding it despite asking at numerous cafe's. According to cruise forums it can be found at Jacks?).
One positive to our visit was that the markets were open and we happened to be there on the day of the weekly flower market. The colours and arrangements were bright, colourful and unique to the flowers we get at home. We always enjoy walking through markets and discovering the local fare and trying to figure out what it is! There is always a new and exotic fruit or vegetable to be discovered.
After walking about a km of the main street in each direction, stopping at a cafe for a milkshake, we decided that the highlights of Suva were not going to be found in the township and we were disappointed in ourselves for not taking the time to do some research before arriving.
We ended up walking back to the ship, it was located just behind the markets and only about a 100m walk. There were a few markets set up at the port so we had a look at them but then decided to call it quits and head back to the ship.
So no WIFI, showery weather (we were there in rainy season what could we expect), really busy shops (it was Christmas) and lots of roadworks making the streets muddy and hard to navigate - that was our Sad Stop in Suva.
Having said all that the paint of the blog is that I am sure Suva has some amazing areas to see and explore, if readers can take anything from my sad post it is to book a tour when in Suva. Get out of the town and explore the beauties of Fiji so that you too don’t have to write a post like this! A good tip to do some research before you arrive as sadly we did not do.
If you have visited Suva on a port day stop and had an amazing adventure - leave a comment and let us know what we missed.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Whilst a South Pacific cruise is mostly about relaxing, drinking cocktails and swimming there is more to do on the Island stops than just check out the local marine life.
If you are heading to the Isle of Pine and are after some physical activity and great views, there is an adventurous walk that takes you to a great summit, Pic N'Ga, that sadly very few cruise passengers venture to.
We have been to this island a couple of times and on both times enjoyed the walk. The first time, three years ago, we had planned to leave the kids at the beach with their grandparents whilst we tackled the mountain. However both the grandparents and kids decided they wanted to join us despite the fact that our then 5 and 8 year olds were wearing flip flops on their feet.
Our most recent visit on our 2017 Christmas Cruise aboard the P&O Dawn, the children now 8 and 11 years old were wearing appropriate footwear, carrying water bottles and wearing sunscreen and hats!
To access the walking track you follow the main road out of town and turn left at the intersection. About 200m down the road you will see a sign pointing you to Pic N’Ga that will take you to the off road walking track.
The walk starts through green lush forest like grounds and takes you along a stream that has only been dry when we have done the walk. I have read other reviews that have said this area can be quite muddy - both times we visited were in December.
About 300m off the road there is an official entrance with a donation box that the locals use to keep the track clear and signed for the tourists.
The walk along the stream is interesting, the kids watched out for any creepy crawlies lurking in the grasses but it made for a good adventure.
The walk then takes you onto rough grounds before going into a reasonably steep climb on gravel. This section is the hardest and it is very exposed with barely any shade along the way. It is important to take water, sunscreen and a hat as it can get very hot.
Once the incline is done, the views are amazing. You can see the ship, the beaches and the spectacular greenery of the island with uninterrupted views.
The walk is about a 4km round trip, is steep and loose ground in places, is exposed to the elements - but the views are worth it.
If you are after more than just markets and snorkelling on your trip to Isle of Pines, Pic N’ga is a great activity for the whole family young and old. And a great way to work up a sweat before you hit the beach for some awesome snorkelling!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Getting away for Christmas is a great option. Avoid all the stress and running around required at home and simply board a ship and get away. This year was our third Christmas cruise - we have written before about the Pros and Cons of Christmas Cruising having sailed on the Pacific Jewel in 2014 and Pacific Eden in 2015.
This year we opted for a 12-night Fiji and Vanuatu itinerary that sailed out of Brisbane on P&O’s Pacific Dawn which departed December 16, 2017.
Many people ask us if the ship does anything special for Christmas, for those considering a Christmas cruise, here are some of the the extras we experienced this year that made our trip Festive.
Passenger Christmas Choir
If you love your Christmas Carols and have always wanted to sing on a stage, here is your chance. The entertainment team recruited a passenger choir early on in the cruise and rehearsals were held on the sea days . A repertoire of Carols were performed on the main stage of the Marquee theatre in front of 400 odd passengers on Christmas Eve.
Kids Christmas Play
If you have children in the kids club they will also get the opportunity to perform in the Marquee theatre in front of a crowd of passengers. The kids club scheduled rehearsals for the children who had the opportunity to take part in a Christmas play performed on stage on Boxing Day. The play was a cute story about a little Christmas tree waiting to be picked from the woods and taken home to be a part of a family’s celebrations. Our daughter played a bird!
Family Christmas Fair
On Christmas Eve from 10am-12pm the Dome was transformed into a Christmas Fair for families to enjoy. Stations of activities were set up including face painting, wreath making, Christmas colouring and cookie decorating.
The kids club team conducted family games, ice-cream vouchers were handed out and families could opt in for a gingerbread house making competition. With only 10 minutes to construct and decorate a gingerbread house we failed dismally and opted for just piling on as many sweets and decorations as possible so we could eat it later! Needless to say we did not win that competition - we did get to eat the gingerbread house though!
For those wanting to celebrate the actual reason for Christmas, there was a catholic midnight mass and a Christmas morning non-denominational church service held.
The ship slowly became festive over the course of the cruise in the lead up to Christmas day. A display in the atrium of gingerbread houses and trees, the bars all had trees and decorations, the pantry came alive with gingerbread house displays and the waterfront restaurant had a great display that greeted everyone. All the staff wore Christmas hats and t-shirts and there was a really festive feel about the cruise.
Passengers also got into the spirit decorating cabin doors with wreaths, children’s drawings and even Christmas lights. We took it a step further and put tinsel up in the cabin and many passengers wore Festive t-shirts, hats and other outfits throughout the cruise. Top marks to the group of girls wearing the ugly Christmas jumper rashies.
Letters To and From Santa
At reception there was a Santa letter box set up with special paper for children to write letters to Santa. On Christmas Eve both our children received personalised letters on their beds in return from Santa, along with a towel animal of a reindeer!
Christmas Eve Carols
On Christmas Eve a special Christmas production was performed in the Marquee theatre with all the Christmas classics sung by the Entertainment staff. Passengers were all provided with song books and encouraged to join in the with the passenger choir when they took to the stage.
In the Atrium the crew also performed a few carols during the night to get everyone into the spirit of the Festive season.
Waterfront Christmas Menu
On Christmas Day the main restaurant, the Waterfront, presented a special Christmas menu. A traditional menu was served for dinner only (the restaurant was closed lunch on Christmas Day as we were ported in Port Villa). The menu included all the traditional offerings of Christmas ham, turkey with cranberry and Christmas pudding for dessert. The tables were set with bon bons and the staff all wore Christmas hats and were in a Festive mood.
The restaurant was packed for dinner on Christmas night. We forgot to make a booking (most people did this on the first day of the cruise!) and by the time we remembered they had booked out. Having said that, we simply arrived at the restaurant at 5:30pm, was told to come back at 6pm and was seated by 6:15pm. The restaurant did two seatings that evening and did the best they could to accommodate as many passengers as physically possible. The service was a little slow but that was to be expected with a full house and it gave us as a family plenty of time to catch up and enjoy the bad jokes in the bon bons!
Visit from Santa
On Christmas Day Santa visited the ship! All the children gathered at the marquee which was decorated with hundreds of red and green balloons and a big red chair for the special visitor. The entertainment team had packaged a video together of Santa and an elf around the ship which was shown not he big screen before Santa entered the theatre and took place on the stage.
Every child onboard was then invited to the stage to receive a gift and the ship photographer was unhand to capture Santa photos for all.
Our children received a P&O Selfie Stick (11yo) and a P&O frisbee, ball and drink bottle (8yo).
Late Night Babysitting
After a long day, our kids were of course up at 6am!, the kids club offered complimentary late night babysitting. Normally charged at $5 per hour after 10:30pm until close at 1pm - on Christmas night the late-night service was offered complimentary.
The kids were given blankets and a Christmas movie allowing the adults some time for a late night drink or visit to the night club to celebrate Christmas.
Overall the crew did a great job to get us into the spirit of Christmas. We noticed many large groups travelling together and multi-generational families enjoying a stress free Christmas where no-one had to cook, clean or drive!
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.