Jun 13

Peppers Broadbeach

When trying to choose a place to stay on the Gold Coast, a friend suggested I stay in Broadbeach instead of Surfer’s Paradise due to construction going on in Surfer’s Paradise.  He also suggested I stay at Peppers Broadbeach.

I will caution that Broadbeach is a quieter area, compared to Surfer’s Paradise, but there is shopping and dining in the area. As such, I think this is a better area for couples or slightly older travelers.  As I was looking for a few days of relaxation after seeing Melbourne and Sydney and before starting my G Adventures Tour, I was happy with quieter location.

Peppers Broadbeach is a fancier hotel/resort and is not cheap to stay at. But for a two-night stay it was perfect.  I’ll admit that I hesitated initially due to the price.  But once I saw the prices of other places in the area, I thought the amenities here made it worth the extra money.

My room was a one-bedroom suite (I would classify it as a junior 4 since it had an office area), with a balcony overlooking the beach.  The “room” had a full kitchen, washer and dryer, tub, shower, his and her sinks, and of course a living room.  It was a bit too much for me, though I seemed to use most of the space while I was there.  I did take advantage of the kitchen though and made myself breakfast each morning.

The resort also had a pool, lounge, Zen garden, restaurants and an attached spa. There wasn’t much missing.  There was a shopping center next door and the beach was across the street.  There wasn’t anything that you would want there, that they didn’t have, or wasn’t immediately nearby.

The entertainment system on the TV did have free and for charge movies, which I did take advantage of one night when it rained.  I also took a quick swim in the pool, which had a nice view of the beach.  The best of both worlds.

Overall Peppers Broadbeach exceeded my expectations, the resort was pretty quiet, but offered anything you could need during your stay there and I would absolutely stay there again.

Mar 26

Australia’s Great Ocean Road

If I had a top 5 list of things to do in Australia, The Great Ocean Road would make that list.  I booked my tour with Go West Tours, it was a small group tour (about 18 people) and the tour bus had free wifi.  I chose this tour over others because I wanted a small group tour and the free wifi sold me, traveling to another country for 3 weeks, free wifi for a day is a consideration, at least to me.  This tour was one of the best day tours I have ever done in my life, due to a combination of a great group of people, great guide, good weather and beautiful sights.

The tour starts with local hotel pick ups, and then we head south and got a little bit of history and info about Melbourne, but not too much, it was pretty early in the morning.  Our first stop was at Bells Beach, the home of surfing in Melbourne. If memory serves me, we were a good hour from the city.  Depending on who you ask, Bells Beach is the start of the Great Ocean Road.  If you ask a different person they may tell you that the Great Ocean Road starts further up at the Memorial Arch.

The history of the Great Ocean Road is not unique, but is still interesting.  Towards the end of WWI the Great Ocean Road was conceived to help connect the sparsely populated coast and give jobs to returning servicemen.  It was financed through private means during the post war depression, and after tolls collected paid off its debt, it was gifted back to the state.  Today, it is a free and gorgeous ride, though it can be a bit touristy in spots.

Shortly after the Memorial Arch our tour stopped for morning tea.  We stopped at a gorgeous beach/rock area and had tea with breads and enjoyed the amazing view.  This stop was one of many and the a great occasion to get to know some fellow tour members.  It was a very diverse group – American’s from Ohio and Las Vegas.  A German in Australia on a working Visa and a dutchman on holiday.  I liked the international flare and the fact that everyone I spoke to had traveled extensively.  It could have been a fluke that this tour was so great, but the people really did make a difference.

We made another morning stop to see some local wildlife, Koalas and birds living in their natural habitat. The birds were pretty, but Koalas are animals that aren’t all that much more interesting in the wild.  Since Koalas sleep like 18 hours a day and spend a lot of their awake time just hanging out in a tree, they’re not the most exciting animals.  But there is always a different feeling when you see an animal living in the wild, versus in a habitat, not matter how well they are cared for.

The Great Ocean Road consists of many small towns, many of which are set up to host tourists and local vacationers.  We did not stop in Lorne, but it was one of the biggest towns we passed.  It’s also close enough to the start of the road that it’s an easy ride.  But also far enough away that you feel like you are far from your regular life.

Apollo Bay was our lunch stop, and the lunch spot for most day tours.  Aside from Port Campbell it is probably the biggest town in the area with lots of shops and restaurants.  Our included lunch was from a Tai place (with choices to fit just about any tastes) and was delicious.  We had the option of eating at the restaurant or taking our food in take away containers so we could see more of the town.  I opted for a quick meal in the restaurant and had enough time to check out the beach and get an ice cream.

Of course what is a meal without a chance to burn off the calories? We did this with a short but refreshing walk through a rainforest.  The walk was 15-30 minutes and easy enough for anyone who doesn’t suffer from a physical limitation – I wouldn’t recommend this for someone with walking issues.  The walk was optional though, if you weren’t up to it you could stay back with the bus.  But the walk was though beautiful landscapes with tall eucalyptus trees.

Our final stop of the day was in the Port Campbell area to see the 12 Apostles and London Bridge.  I booked the helicopter ride, it was a bit expensive at $75 for a 10 minute ride.  But, the 10 minute ride was enough time and the views were spectacular of the 12 Apostles and London Bridge.  It was also an amazingly quick process.  They had a safety video playing in the lobby, and then outside you stood in line waiting for space in a helicopter.  While you waited the staff gave you instructions on how to get belted in, they helped but life vests on and then when it was your turn you boarded up and off you went.  The process was so quick that in 45 minutes I took the helicopter ride, and took a quick walk down to see the 12 Apostles from the viewing platform.

As for the 12 Apostles, there are only currently 8 of them and they are basically limestone stacks created by erosion.  I’ll be honest, I never figured out which of the stacks made up the 12 Apostles, but they were still pretty cool because they are quite tall and kinda funny shaped.

Further down the road we had a stop at Lord Ard Gorge.  Here we had the option of walking down a tall steep set of steps and find ourselves on a really cool beach in a gorge. The shape of this little piece of land, with the ocean water rushing in was really cool and on this day serene.  I could see the potential for this to be a volatile place to get stuck in a storm.  Good thing it was the perfect weather day.

Finally we made it to London Bridge, the other one that also fell down.  This is not the one from the song, but it’s resemblance (before falling down) to the one in London is how it got its name. On the helicopter we were told that when the bridge fell in 1990 that there was a couple on the far side that had to be rescued by helicopter. A helicopter that had to come from Melbourne.

I think our tour guide used a little touch of Australian story telling when he shared the story of the couple that was stuck on the far side after the collapse.  His story is that a new helicopter came to rescue them, but the couple hid from them, forcing a rescue helicopter to come from Melbourne. When they were rescued they quietly slipped away and hid from the press.  When they were eventually found it turned out they were on a romantic rendezvous. Both had called in sick for work, so they could have a romantic day together, away from their spouses. Opps. Like I said, I think that story is made up, but it certainly is more entertaining.

After London Bridge we headed back to Melbourne via back roads in the interest of time.  We did have a dinner stop in a town with a variety of fast food restaurants.  The only problem with this leg of the journey is that we were missing the beautiful views we had going out and because we were in pretty lightly populated areas, the wifi signal sucked. Owell, it had been pretty good for most of the trip and since everything else was amazing, I couldn’t complain.

As for whether you should do the Great Ocean Road as a tour or individually…  If you can find a small group tour, the tour is worth it.  While you lose a bit of flexibility, it is a long day (12-14 hours) and if it is warm, it can really exhaust you.  Also, if you’re driving, you can’t concentrate on the views. If you are doing the drive independently, I would suggest an overnight in one of the the towns so you can properly enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the area.

Jan 03

Traveling to Australia

Before I start writing individual posts about my trip to Australia I thought I would do a little round up about my trip, get you excited for some of the things I want to talk about.  I should say I had a couple goals for my trip, some of them were developmental for me, and some of them more practical.  This trip was a gift to myself after 4 years of major dental work and so I did have a bit of some mental recovery for myself.  but I also wanted to try and travel a little differently than I have in the past.

One thing on my mind on this trip was, do I really want to take a trip around the world in roughly 5 years?  The answer absolutely YES! The trip has inspired me to also be more careful with my spending and with saving money for that trip.

The other thing I learned was Australia is expensive, even though I had heard this, you don’t truly realize expensive until you’re searching for a meal less than $20.  As much as I’m feeling a renewal in my mission to save money, I’m also getting concerned about the cost of a trip around the world. I tried to travel cheaper than usual on this trip, but it’s not cheap enough.

On this trip I stayed in some hostels, a departure from staying in hotels and something I will have to do if I want to travel around the world.  In many ways it was better than I expected, but I’m also 37 and knew that I would need to stay in nicer places.  I can now refine my list of “wants” in a hostel.  But I also know that every now and then I need a room all to myself.

I finally got to take a tour with G Adventures, which I have heard great things about.  Yes, I will take more tours with them.

I survived adversity – shootings in airports (not near me), train derailments, flooding – they were all much easier on vacation then when they interrupt daily life.

I got to be with myself a lot on this trip and I don’t mind me. I also got to embrace some of my demons, some I knew were there, others, not so much.  But I did find they liked to come up at weird times.  But it is amazing how your mind works differently when you’re in a different environment.

I’m excited to write about my experience, I just need to sit down and focus on doing it.

Sep 06

A Run Down on Australia

australian_flag_2This fall I will be headed to Australia for a few weeks. I have never been before, and I plan on seeing a lot, while not going overboard, or so I say.  I wanted to give a little idea of my itinerary and plans for the trip.  At some point I will also discuss my budget for the trip to, not that I ever formerly budget for a trip, but I am keeping track of expenses.

 

Day 1 and 2 – Flying from NYC to Brisbane

Day 3 Arrive in Brisbane and visit the Lone Pine Lodge Koala Sanctuary, then fly to Melbourne

Day 4-7 Melbourne – Plans include seeing the Penguin Parade, Great Ocean Road and possibly doing a wine tour.

Day 8 Fly to Sydney

Day 8-13 Sydney – Plans include Sydney Bridge Climb, Bondi Beach, Taronga Zoo, Blue Mountains

Day 14 fly up the Gold Coast and stay at Broadbeach for 2 nights.

Day 16-24 I start a G Adventures tour of the Sunshine Coast – Brisbane to Cairns Experience.

Day 24 and 25 – Fly from Cairns back to Brisbane for my flight home.

For my accomodations I’m using a mixture of things. In Melbourne I will be staying at a hostel in a private room, in Sydney I’m staying in a 4 woman dorm in a hostel.  In Broadbeach I’m treating myself to a one bedroom hotel suite which for 2 nights will cost more then my 5 night stay in Melbourne.  But, I wanted a treat before starting my tour, and it has a washer and dryer so I can get myself together laundry wise before the tour.  I haven’t stayed in many hostels in my day, but I thought it was time to push my comfort zone.

I’m open to suggestions of things to do on the trip or tips to keep myself from looking like too much of a tourist.