Beachouse/Coral Coast – Fiji

Most travelers start and end their Fiji trips in Nadi/Yasawas, but because I had the time I decided to extend my trip and venture out beyond the typical tourist stops. Someone I met whist island hoping had said her next stop was Beachouse in the Coral Coast. She was going because her cousin had gone and loved it when she was in Fiji. Word of mouth recommendations from fellow travelers is my favorite way to travel. I looked up the property and it looked nice so I decided to go there after my lux few night stay in Nadi

It was hard to leave the Radisson, but after one night extension I decided to force myself out. The only way to the Coral Coast is by driving or bus. So from my hotel I took the bus to the main bus terminal for $1 FJ (CRAZY) and then hopped on the big bus, which was $10 FJ. It’s about a two-hour drive to where I was getting off, but the bus continues on to Suva. 

Beachouse is set on a beautiful, lush green property and it was like walking into a private retreat. The main area looks over the ocean, pool, and there are lots of lounging options. Rooms are a little bit of a walk inland and away from the ocean, but it’s no more than two minutes to all the action. I booked three nights here before I would head onward to Suva. 

There were plenty of activities on offer including yoga, kayaking, hike to a waterfall, snorkeling, massages, day trips to nearby islands, and more. Scuba diving was also available here. There were plenty of options or you could just lounge and swim – that was what I mostly did. Something to note the high and low tides here were insane; I’ve never seen the water recede so far back. If your first impression made during low tide you probably wouldn’t be impressed, but the landscape does a full 180 when the tide comes back in.  

A simple breakfast was included (fruit, toast, muesli, and coffee/tea), but you could buy a hot breakfast. Then for lunch and dinner there were separate menus that changed daily. For travel pricing, I found everything reasonable, but it may have been on the higher end for Fiji pricing. There was also an afternoon tea at 3pm included. In addition to the drinks there was also something to nibble on as well (pancakes and warm rolls were on offer two of the days). All the food I had was pretty tasty.

One of the highlights to me was the little shop up the road; it was maybe a minute walk from the rooms. They had all local artisan goods (clothes, jewelry, swim wear, etc.), but it also served as a coffee shop. They also had some sweets and I’ll admit I had cheesecake there more than I should have, but it was soooo good! I liked coming here in the afternoons and reading on the porch or chatting with the workers who were all super sweet. 

It rained every day during my stay, but it was usually at night and didn’t interfere with the day’s activities. It did however bring out a lot of bugs, which were relentless. That was probably the biggest downfall of my stay. I was being bitten up like crazy and no repellent was working. I didn’t have this much of an issue anywhere else in Fiji. Another “con” was that you’re kind of sucked in to this place. You feel like you don’t really need to leave because it’s so chill. Obviously, this isn’t a con for the property, but if you want to see more of Fiji you need to move on from here. I probably would have stayed longer if it wasn’t for being bitten like crazy. 

Blue Lagoon – Fiji

Blue Lagoon is one of the furthest sections of the Yasawas. Blue Lagoon Resort is located on Nacula Island. This is about 4.5 hour via ferry from Nadi. I can honestly say the journey is WORTH it. Staying at Blue Lagoon was comparable to other resorts and quality/value is so much higher. There’s again a compulsory meal plan of $119 FJ per person per day. We stayed in an eight person dorm for $44 FJ per night. 

The dorm was super chilled and felt like a relief going in each time. All of the beds were singles (no bunk beds) and the layout was good. We ended up with all girls in the room and it really felt like summer camp for the two nights. 

The food here was top notch. For breakfast there was a continental buffet and a hot choice from the menu (eggs varieties, pancakes, etc.). For lunch you were able to choose from about eight options with something for everyone. The standard dinner was three-course (choice of starter, choice of main, and choice of dessert). One of our dinners was a BBQ buffet so there were even more options available. The food and the options here were very good and definitely up to a resort standard. 

One of the biggest perks of Blue Lagoon was all the little extras. You could rent standup paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel gear, etc. for free. They also offered yoga twice a day and a guided morning hike. You really didn’t have to spend extra on anything if you didn’t want to. 

Of course there were the additional cost extras available too. You could go to a village visit, guided snorkeling trips (AM and at night), or a cave excursion. 

We did the morning day trip to the Sawa-I-Lau Caves. It took about 20ish minutes to get there by boat. The first cave you climb down stairs and jump in. It was pretty open with lots of light. Then you swim under a small section to access the other cave. This one is narrower and a lot darker. The guides found out it was my birthday and I was sang to in a cave…how many times will I be able to say that? The sounds echoed and it was pretty epic if I do say so myself. After the caves you had the option of buying some souvenirs from the local who boated over to the area. I really liked this excursion and would recommend it. 

If you are traveling the Yasawas I think Blue Lagoon needs to be on your list of places to stop. It was such a nice resort and I truly did not want to leave. The long ferry ride can be a little daunting so an alterative is that you can take the seaplane over one way and ferry back (or just take the plane both ways). This is obviously more expensive, but an option. 

Wayalailai Island – Fiji

Fiji has always been one of those dreamy, far off destinations that seemed unattainable, especially coming from the US, for so long. Coming from Australia it’s much easier to get Fiji (and New Zealand is even closer)! So as my birthday was approaching Fiji was looking more and more appealing. I knew I wanted to venture off the mainland and explore the islands, but I didn’t have an exact plan. My first island stop was Wayalailai in the Yasawas. 

Going to Wayalailai was recommended to me by someone I had met in New Zealand. It’s about 2.5 hours by ferry off the mainland making it about the halfway mark to where the Yasawa Island’s top point. From the ferry you take a small boat tender to the island immediately the beauty overtakes you. The water, trees, mountain are all absolutely stunning. You’re greeted by the workers singing and ending with a big BULA welcome. By dinner the first night all the workers knew your name and looked genuinely happy to see you around the resort.

On the island you can either do a homestay or at Wayalailai Resort. The resort is 100% Fijian owned and according to the website “all profits are shared amongst the villagers for school, church and village improvements.” I booked into a dorm, but they actually put me on my own in a room for two. It was nice to have my own room and bathroom. One main quirk of the resort are that there’s no electricity during the day. It comes on around 5pm and will stay on throughout the night into the AM and then back off. Not a huge deal, but that means no fans or charging anything during the day. Online it had said that there was Wifi, but there wasn’t and the service in general was sparse. The room was quaint with fresh hibiscus flowers all around, but it wasn’t luxe by any means. The best way to describe it is local islander comfort.

The rate was $140 FJ per day and that included breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. All the meals were started by drums beating and were buffet style. There was always a rice, meat options, and veggies. On the second to last night there was also a traditional Kava ceremony. After lunch local women came for a “craft market.” You could buy goods they were selling or make your own bracelet, anklet, or necklace for $10 FJ. It was suggested that the water wasn’t suitable for drinking and you could buy a 1.5 liter for $5 FJ.

Snorkeling right off the beach was beautiful. There were many hammocks all around to lounge about to read, nap, or just stare out at the ocean. I even woke myself up to watch one of the sunrises on a hammock. They had optional activities like a village visit, sunset or sunrise hikes, snorkeling with reef sharks, or a bull shark feeding dive.

Speaking of diving this is where I got PADI Open Water scuba dive certified. certification takes four dives, quizzes, and a written exam. I completed my dives in two days and the whole process took three days. It was pretty quick, but now I can scuba dive! My third training dive we did the bull shark dive. This was a surprise “bonus” to me. Usually this dive alone is $300 FJ, but as I rocked up for my training they told me we were going to go with the sharks. We ended up seeing a tiger shark (super rare for them), bull, lemon, blacktop, and nurse sharks. I couldn’t really differentiate the sharks apart from the nurse sharks and honestly I was terrified even though they did a really great job making us feel like we were okay.

I really enjoyed my stay at Wayalailai. It was the perfect first stop on this trip. I wouldn’t call the stay glamorous, but it was very special.

Guide to the Australian Outback

The Outback is quintessential Australia, but probably one of the lesser visited areas of the country. In the states we even have the popular chain restaurant with the infamous blooming onion. That being said most people neglect to visit the Outback and stay on the East Coast of the country. During my mom’s visit we were determined to make it out to the Outback.

The Outback is also known as the Red Center. It is located in the Northern Territory, which is a massive and vast state of Australia. Looking at a map it is between Queensland and Western Australia – directly in the center of the country and north towards Darwin, and thus it is aptly named. The overall population of the state is less than a quarter of a million, but approximately 30% of this population is of Aboriginal descent. This number is significant because Australia’s other states Aboriginal population is typically under 4%. 

By land size it’s third largest state, however the entire state is pretty much desert and therefore remote. Naturally, the climate is significantly different than the other states as well. We were coming during summer and pretty much got the worst of it. This was a very dry heat too. I don’t mind the heat and would much rather be in hot than cold weather. The heat was ruthless, but the worst part was the flies by far. You can visit at any point of the year and will have temperate weather during the day. I think a good rule of thumb, if you could swing it with other travel plans, would be to avoid visiting the area between December – April. That being said this time period would be when you could get the best deals. I’ll repeat it again and then drop it – the heat did not bother me, but the pesky flies could actually drive you mad; I would avoid February in particular because it seemed like that was when the flies were at their peak. 

Things to Do

The most well known site/attraction in the Northern Territory is Uluru, or Ayers Rock. The picturesque rock formation is part of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The park has been deemed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its cultural and natural significance. Until October 2019, visitors were able to climb on Uluru. It is now officially banned given that it was not only extremely dangerous, disrespectful to the Aboriginal people and traditional owners of the land, and harming the surrounding landscape and animals. There are photo lookout points around the area, and you really can’t miss Uluru as it seems to have been dropped out of thin air in the middle of the flat surroundings. However, to actually get a closer look, walk around, or take a tour you have to purchase a pass. The pass is $25 and lasts for 3 days with unlimited entries to both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Make sure you don’t lose you pass and it’s a good idea to write your name/where you are staying and maybe even a number just in case you misplace it. Having a car would be helpful to have more freedom to come and go at your leisure. If you’re like us and without a car there were some tour options to optimize your visit – including fully guided or more of a shuttle like service. 

Kata Tjuta, or the Olgas, is the other, less known rock formation in the National Park. Coming here for the sunrise and then hike is the perfect start to a day out here. There’s an hour-long hike through the Walpa Gorgeor approximately a three-hour hike through the Valley of the Winds. The early start helps you beat the heat. 

In the area there are many different types of tours and experiences based on budget and preferences. You can ride a camel or in a helicopter or scenic plane; once in a lifetime dining experiences outdoors; star gazing either on your own or guided; a spectacular light/art installation; bike/Segway/motorcycle tours; and many chances to learn about Aboriginal history and culture. 

Three hours by car from Uluru will get you to Watarrka National Park and the location of Kings Canyon. This could technically be done as day trip, but it would be an extremely long day, and better off done as a little detour on the route from Uluru to Alice Springs (or vice versa). 

As the capital of the Outback, Alice Springs is also a popular and historic stop when in the Northern Territory. It is located directly between Darwin and Adelaide, communicating between the two cities via telegraphs was the reason the town was originally established in 1871. You can visit the historic telegraph station while in Alice Springs. Another awesome activity for your stay in Alice Springs is a sunrise hot air balloon ride. 

How long do you need? 

I think a week in the Outback would be a generous amount of time. We spread our stay to three nights in Uluru (Ayers Rock) and one in Alice Springs. If I had to plan the trip again I would have done two nights in Uluru, one night in Kings Canyon, and one night in Alice Springs with a late flight – if a late flight wasn’t available then stay in Alice Springs for an additional night before traveling onward. So I think your first trip to the Outback can be done in around 5 nights. Obviously, you can pad your trip more in Uluru if you wanted a more relaxing/laid back scheduling. 

How do you get there? 

The quickest and most direct method of getting to the Outback would be via flying. Uluru does have an airport, Ayers Rock Airport, which you can fly directly into. We did this from Sydney and it was a pretty painless flight despite my prior experiences with Jetstar. Our flight price to Ayers Rock was also pretty reasonable at $222 for two people (not including luggage or seat selection). If you want to focus your holiday just in Uluru and surrounding area/day trips you can easily fly back the way you came. When we looked at flights these were a lot more expensive – think over $300 for the one way for one person. This is a pretty significant difference from the flight price to fly in. 

The other option is to fly in or out Ayers Rock one way and the other in/out of Alice Springs. This route will give you more ground to cover and see and maybe get a better deal on the flight. Keep in mind you will have to get between the two locations and this is about a 7-hour drive (with some stops) with zero reception. A bus transfer is a safe option, but will cost you around $150-$180 per person. 

A crazier way of traveling would be to drive on your own. I say this is crazy because the desert is no joke. The terrain is massive and different then what I’m sure you have driven through before. I really was serious that on the road from Uluru to Alice there was zero cell phone service (a.k.a. no way of calling for help). If you want the independence of driving at your own time just be safe and do your research. Also, printing out directions MapQuest style would be useful on your trip. 

To tour or not to tour? 

There are many multi-day and stop tours in the Outback. If I was traveling solo, I would have definitely done one of the tours. The Rock Tour is most well known, but I was also recommended WAYOUTBACK and Groovy Grape Tours.

On my trip we went more at our own relaxed pace rather than a ridged schedule. It was the perfect way for us because we had the freedom and independence to spend our days how we pleased. This is a vacation for my mom after all. 

The Ayers Rock Property 

A monopoly is the correct definition of the accommodation near Uluru/Ayers Rock. However, it is a fair, reasonable, and well-run “monopoly,” and that usually isn’t the case. Everything in the surrounding area of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is one property – Voyages Ayers Rock Resort. Within the resort you have different types of accommodation – there are campgrounds, apartments, hotel, ultra luxury, etc. 

Lots of options, but they all fall under the one Voyages umbrella. This is helpful because they make it easy to travel around the property with a resort shuttle running every 20 minutes. You aren’t confined to one resort and it’s dining options for example and can explore easily without a car. There’s also a town center on the route. The town center has a few stores, restaurants, a grocery store, and post office. The camel farm is also on the shuttle route and on property. Everything is basically in one circular route and it is convenient. The resort also offers complimentary airport transfers. 

The town center also has a visitors section with all of the tour companies represented. The main company was AATKings. They seemed like the main transport provider and we were happy with all our interactions with their staff (airport transfer, first night dinner experience, tour of Uluru, and transfer to Alice Springs).  

Full list of properties at the resort: 

My Personal Tips

Buy a fly net. Buying one beforehand will leave you looking prepared and less annoyed than everyone else upon arrival. In the town center thankfully the fly nets were a reasonable price at $10 for one or two for $15. They definitely could have charged more and people would have paid out of desperation. I haven’t checked online, but I’m sure Amazon has them. 

Water bottle. Water is the most important while you are in the Outback. They recommend a liter of water per hour. Carry a reusable water bottle around with you at all times and refill throughout the day. At any day tour they make sure to have coolers of water to refill. 

Bug spray. This will also be a lifesaver. I was reading that the Bushman products are a miracle worker so stock up on some before you head out.  

Sunscreen. Wear it. The sun is brutal and you feel it so make sure to protect your skin. In that regards I also think a hatis very useful. Not only do you get extra shade/protection you can use it as a fly swatter when they get really unruly. You can purchase an Outback looking hat in the town center as well. 

Layers. Temperatures can vary significantly from day to evening so if you are planning on staying out make sure to have something warmer. The reverse advice also goes for sunrisers. If you are taking on the three-hour hike in Kata Tjuta make sure you can easily shed some layers, which were originally necessary for the 4:30am wake up call. 

Bookings. With the recent bush fires and overalls tourism down at the moment you can find some really good flight/accommodation deals to travel here. The resort is also very timely and with it so they usually offer deals around holidays. I booked our trip during an Australia Day sale. We went during the middle of the summer and although typically a popular time to travel I don’t think this is the area’s peak tourism time. Be aware of when that is when you book. We had the luxury of being pretty relaxed with our bookings and could even call the day of/a couple of hours in advance to book. During peak season things may sell out or need more notice. 

I’m really glad that I was able to experience the Australian Outback. This was a once in a lifetime trip and I absolutely loved it! If you want something totally different and a unique experience you should really consider traveling out here yourself!

Mount Cook – New Zealand

Mount Cook was a bittersweet stop. It marked leaving Queenstown and that my time in New Zealand was drawing to an end. If this trip made me realize anything it was a new found love for mountains and lakes. I was really looking forward to staying near the famous Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand.

On our drive we stopped at Lake Pukaki. Oh my goodness was this lake stunning. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before. The blue was just unreal with a mountainous backdrop. The water was also unmoving and the lake was surrounded by rocks of all shapes and sizes (perfect for skipping). 

The little town surrounding Mount Cook seems tiny, but our driver told us that they have strict rules on the colors of the buildings so they blend into the landscape. I thought that was a brilliant way of planning the city and keeping everything true to nature and not just catering to tourists.

Our first day in Mount Cook was beautiful and something we were told doesn’t happen often. We had a clear view of the mountain the entire drive and day. We were encouraged not to waste the day and check in quickly to fully enjoy it.

We did the Hooker Valley track and it was unbelievable. The track each way was just over 3 miles and filled with gorgeous views of Mount Cook, the Southern Alps, Lake Pukaki, and Hooker Glacier. There were beautiful suspension bridges throughout and gorgeous scenery. It was a nice walk to really take in a gorgeous day. Before turning around you end at Hooker Lake, which has floating icebergs in it! Plunge in if you dare into the ice cold water and you’ll have the bragging right of saying you stood on an iceberg in the middle of summer. We really took our time making the entire walk and then hung out by Hooker Lake for a bit, the total trip time was about 3 hours. You can do it quicker or even slower if you choose to lounge around and have a picnic by the lake. Around the lake the weather was cooler because of the surrounding mountains, but most of the actual walk was very hot with the sun over us.

Given the remoteness of the area and care taken to protect it the light pollution is very limited here, therefore the night sky is incredibly clear once it’s dark. Feel free to grab a mate and go star gazing, but note if you come during the summer that won’t be until at least 11:30pm, but it’s worth it.

Accommodation – Mount Cook Lodge

Recently refurbished Mount Cook Lodge was a treat. It was basically staying in a hotel room that was converted into a four person dorm. They renovated in November so it still felt clean and fresh. The ensuite bathroom was the biggest perk as it was spacious, clean, and stylish. On the second level there was a restaurant/bar with an outdoor terrace so there really wasn’t any reason to venture out. The staff was also very friendly and gave the environment even more of a hotel feel. I think there were other hostels in the area, but this one would be my pick. Location and cleanliness of it would be hard to beat.

Franz Josef – Seeing Glaciers

Just when I thought New Zealand couldn’t get cooler I was proven wrong. We went from sailing in the sun to mountains and glaciers in one day’s drive. The township of Franz Josef is in the middle of the rainforest, but it also features a massive glacier. It’s is the weirdest oxymoron. Each year the glacier is “retreating” further, i.e. getting smaller, and they placed plaques throughout the walk so you are able to see how significant of a change has taken place. I’m not sure how anyone can say that climate change isn’t a thing while seeing first hand the drastic change that has occurred in just a few years.

The only way to actually access the glacier is with via helicopter. They had scenic rides available to get a bird’s eye view of the area or you could actually access the glacier and do a heli-hike or heli-climb. I was scheduled to do a heli-hike the morning after we arrived. Unfortunately, the clouds that day were not in our favor and they cancelled all flights for safety reasons. We were told this happens 70% of the time and so I guess the odds were not in our favor. We persisted in trying and went to another company and even a neighboring glacier, Fox Glacier, to do the hike there, but no luck. Although, we were disappointed I was extremely impressed by how careful the companies were – it really wasn’t about the money to them. Not being able to go on to the actually glacier was a bummer, but that day consisted of two hikes/walks and seeing the two glaciers – Franz Josef and Fox. It’s not every day you can say you saw two glaciers. 

So I’m adding Franz Josef to my list of places to revisit. 

Accommodation – Rainforest Retreat 

Possibly one of my favorite accommodation stops to date.  There were great vibes from the second we walked onto the property. We were greeted warmly. We had the option to choosing your own roommates. The first night they had a great pizza party deal – I didn’t partake, but everyone that did enjoyed it. Our second night another Stray bus was coming in, as well as a Contiki tour, so it was going to be a party night. We treated ourselves to dinner at Moonson and then had a couple of drinks to pity ourselves for the heli-hike cancelations that day. It was a great night and the best part was just walking back to our rooms. 

The Rainforest Retreat also had a hot tub and sauna to use. It was a nice getaway spot that I would recommend. They had private little cabins, hotel rooms, and of course the backpacker geared dorm rooms. 

I was scammed?!

**Well actually a bus full of people were “scammed.” Let me explain, but it is two-sided – one more personal and the other totally unjust. So what exactly is this relating to? This is about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is a 13 mile trek through Tongariro National Park, New Zealand’s oldest national park and a dual World Heritage Site. The crossing includes crossing over Mount Tongariro and also has views of two other mountains, Ngauruhoe (NZ’s youngest and most active volcano) and Ruapehu. If you’re a Lord of the Ring’s fan you may know it as Mount Doom.

Let’s start with my personal woes to get it out of the way. For weeks I had heard how amazing the crossing was and how it was a top thing to do while in NZ: a “must do.” And well my friends that was just completely false. I think it is only a must if you like extreme hiking or if you want to really push yourself. Yes, the views are pretty cool, but honestly I have seen better. It isn’t something that is going to be a top thing I’ve done/seen in my life or even on this trip. And so if you are a normal traveler not looking to push your body to it’s limit I think this is something you can skip. Honestly, apart for the first hour every second of the experience was miserable and I consider myself to be fairly fit/active. It was windy and freezing and I wanted it to be over. So the fact that it was sold to us as something we couldn’t miss was the first injustice I felt. I can’t understand how something so extreme as this could have been pushed onto us so hard. Only two people from the bus opted out and the Stray drivers were basically trying to convince them to change their minds up until 15 minutes before. It just left a bad taste.

Okay now time for the actual “scam.” I think at this point it is well known I am traveling with a hop on/off bus company, Stray. They have an app where you book your travel, follow along the route, book accommodation and activities. The crossing activity on the app was listed at $69 NZ and you know we did question the cost with our driver. We were told that park fees were increased 400% or something wild this year so that was why it was so high. We all took it at face value mostly because we trusted our driver and also because we wanted to do the hike. I’ll review the actual hike at the end, but again I didn’t enjoy it and wanted it to end, especially after the summit. As a result I finished the crossing family quickly, in under 5.5 hours and I was one of the first 5 in our group to finish. Now is where it gets interesting…

We finish the walk and have to shuttle back to Adrift’s base. On the drive back we are asked if we wanted to be dropped off at a bar. Are you insane?! I almost just died (okay being very dramatic), but seriously I can think of a lot of things I want before a drink – shower, bed, food, bathroom, etc. The five of us decline and are dropped off at Adrift where we drop off our rented gear (I had rented gloves for $5 – which someone also made the point that the rentals should have been included with what we were paying). Okay cool so when is our ride coming to drive us to our accommodation? Well it wasn’t easy to get an answer, but when we finally had it clarified it was that it wasn’t coming until 5:15/5:30pm (3 hours waiting around) and that we had to wait for the entire group to finish so they only do one trip. This was just so messed up on so many levels, but the main two being:

#1. We are traveling with a bus company. Why couldn’t our normal driver come to pick us up? I even gave him the benefit of the doubt thinking that maybe today was one of his days off after he dropped us off. Nope it wasn’t so he pretty much wasn’t working after 9am that day, but getting paid for the day. I don’t see why he couldn’t have made at least one trip back.

#2. We all paid $69 and multiplied by 20 that is $1,380. There are no fees to actually hike the crossing and therefore the fees Adrift has to pay are to be a commercial operator at the park – meaning they are listed on the website and can send guides with groups. We didn’t have guides we just had shuttles. So we paid money for transportation when we are traveling with a bus company….logic. And the icing on that is that we are paying for transportation, but they won’t take us when we are ready to go. We had to wait 3 hours outside (oh yes I forgot to mention that after we dropped off our gear they closed down and we were left outside) after hiking in brutal conditions for over 5 hours.

For the amount we were paying compared to the distance Adrift should have at least made two trips back to our accommodation. It was bull, but I have since let it go it is just a solid reminder to be diligent while traveling even when you trust a company like I did with Stray. Honestly, look up different options if you are looking to do the crossing – maybe rent a car with some mates to split the cost and do it on your own time. There are other options don’t feel like what is offered is the only one.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Now to the actual crossing… We were given the green light for the next morning at 7pm the night before. The conditions hadn’t been great earlier in the week and safety of the crossing is very weather dependent. When we heard it was on we were all stoked. It was our last night at Blue Duck Station and ended up being very chilled. I think most of the group retired to bed around 9pm. I’ve never been one to go to bed early and as a result inadvertently I stayed up until around midnight. Total error on my part because we were leaving at 5:45am.

It was too early to eat a proper meal, but we knew what was ahead of us so we all tried to fuel up. When we were finally on our way our driver was speeding down the winding roads. I’m really not exaggerating a couple of people were getting car sick, but he kept saying we didn’t have a choice because we were running late. After arriving, checking in, gear check, and briefed we had 45 minutes to wait for the shuttle so there actually wasn’t a need to drive wild.

I just mentioned our gear had to be checked. To do the walk you need to have a minimum three layers, a rain jacket, 2 liters of water, and proper shoes for “all conditions.” I was so concerned about the cold that I totally overdid it on layers. I brought/wore my shirt, lulu sports zip jacket, a big sweater, a lighter sweater, a scarf, and the rain jacket. Then I had 3.5 liters of water. I wore the big, black sweater maybe for the first hour or so, but even though it’s windy and freezing the layers are heavy and you are sweating from the physical exertion. So I was wearing my shirt, lulu jacket, and rain jacket for the majority of the hike the other layers and excess water was just more weight on my back. I am really glad I rented the gloves otherwise my hands would have been totally wrecked. What I really needed was a headband or hat to cover my ears.

The first part of the hike was tough. That was what pushed you physically. The weather was against you and the uphill sections were straight uphill. Even though it was hard I didn’t mind it because it felt like you were working towards something. At 2.5 hours I summited and it was spectacular. We were walking on volcanic debris sans path. At the top is where I should have turned around and went back the way I came. The second part of the crossing was all mentally grueling. At that point you just wanted it to be over and there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. It just kept going and going. Every time you thought you were close to the end you just had to keep walking more and more. And at the very end the signage became so scarce I kept thinking I could possibly be lost. Ugh it was a nightmare, but I did it and I survived and truth be told I would recommend the crossing to others just not to everyone.

Snowy Waters Lodge

For the night we were staying in Raetihi at Snowy Waters Lodge. I’m not sure for how long they have been opened, but it did seem like all the pieces weren’t there. The hospitality was great, but it was a little rundown. The heaters weren’t working in any of the rooms which wasn’t ideal after a crazy, cold hike. All in all it was an okay place to stay, but not a favorite. I think because we were all done with the crossing at 5pm we all would have rathered to keep driving to get a little closer to Wellington. Another bitter discovery was that to get to Tongariro National Park and back to Snowy Waters (so two ways) is advertised at $40 – where we paid $69 for the one-way.

**In full disclosure this situation happened two weeks ago and I’ve honestly gotten over it at this point. I almost didn’t want to post about it at all, but thought it was important to be transparent about the ups and downs of my travels. Also, when we were stranded for the 3 hours waiting for our transport we did look into options like taxi, uber, bus, other shuttle companies, etc. we just were limited because of not booking in advance/not much around.

No Nonsense Noosa

Noosa is a very chic beach town in the Sunshine Coast. If you are familiar with Florida it has a very similar feel to Naples and if you’ve traveled around Australia a bit it feels like the “grown up” version of Byron Bay. Still full of chill, beachy vibes, but filled with families and fancier establishments (restaurants, shops, etc.). 

Getting There

From Sunshine Coast Airport there’s a public bus that will take you into Noosa Junction Bus Station. Depending on where you are staying you can transfer buses here, take an Uber, or walk because the accommodation starts around this area and then filters towards the main beach. I stayed at two very different hostels in Noosa.

Things to Do 

Main Beach – really easy to get to regardless of where in town you are staying. Most places are an easy walk and the further accommodations are still walkable or will most likely have shuttles to the beach. It was a beautiful beach to catch the sunset or lay out in the afternoon for a couple of hours. 

Noosa Coastal Walk – If you haven’t guessed by now I’m a sucker for the coastal walks. I finally had the opportunity to do this walk on my last full day and I knew I couldn’t leave Noosa without doing it. I started the trek at Main Beach. This walk goes through the Noosa National Park and it’s beautifully well kept and if you are doing the walk solo the other walkers will give you peace of mind. There are a bunch of well marked pit stops along the way from the Boiling Pot, Dolphin Point, Hell’s Gates, and most well photographed the Fairy Pools. I think these blew up because of Instagram and I witnessed firsthand what millennials will go through for the ‘gram. It wasn’t easy getting to the pools, in fact I would even wager and say it may have been dangerous, but that didn’t stop any of us from going. And you know what? It was worth it. The pools were so pristine and just freaken cool. The water is crystal clear (you can even see a little bit of coral on one of the rock walls) and the ocean is crashing on the sides, but not bringing enough to welcome any fish or you know sharks. So you feel like you have this special spot in the world. To top it all off dolphins came out in the horizon and kept swimming in the near distance for 10 or so minutes (I think they liked the music that was playing or maybe they just wanted to show off).  After sun bathing for a bit I realized I had to keep moving or I wouldn’t finish the walk before dark. The walk ends at Sunshine beach and is a total of approximately 3 miles one way. 

Kayak in the Everglades – I lived in Florida for five years and never did anything close to exploring the Everglades. Now I move to Australia and I kayak in theirs for five hours. It’s funny how things turn out. In all seriousness the excursion was fantastic. I went with Kanu Kapers. The leaders were so incredibly sweet and they made the experience. It also wasn’t a laid back paddling at leisure type of thing. It was challenging and I loved it.

Food

There are so many nice restaurants with live music or brunch specials. I’m sure you will be able to find something that suits your fancy. This is where I actually tired Betty’s Burgers. Now I realize it’s a chain, but until that point I hadn’t seen one anywhere else and every time I passed by there was always a long line. I really loved it!

I caught up with a friend who happened to be in Noosa at the same time for dinner at FOMO. We shared a bunch of tapas (small plates) and it was lovely.

I didn’t get the chance to go to Sum Yung Guys, but that will be one of my first stops when I get back to Noosa.

Shopping

So many cute boutiques on the main street by Main Beach and also around Noosa Junction. I wanted to give a special shoutout to JOJO Noosa for your classic boho beach wear. I had a small snag with a dress I bought and their customer service was fabulous.

Noosa is the perfect beach getaway for a girl’s trip or family vacay. It’s a must go if you are traveling the east coast of Australia.