Hotel Review – Nadi

One thing I will admit is that planning a holiday in Fiji isn’t the easiest thing to do. Mostly because there are so many options, but not that much information. Also, Apple Maps is pretty much useless in Fiji and Google Maps is only slightly better. It’s hard understanding distances and getting directions (Apple Maps doesn’t even have the option to route things outifit can even find what you’re looking for).  The only way to really know what to do is talk to other people who have been to Fiji or travel agents (who are most definitely trying to get commission from you).  

My friend and I didn’t know much and were planning our trip based on three things: 1. Snippets of information we got from others (me from travel buddies I’ve met in NZ and my friend from her coworkers). 2. Saving money and being savvy. 3. My friend had never stayed in a dorm and she was willing to try, but didn’t want to be in a dorm the entire trip (understandable). To avoid a dorm and be economical we decided to stay at an Airbnb in Nadi for two nights, but then we realized it was kind of isolated and maybe not the best choice. When my friend and I met up we noticed there were hotels right by the port (this would have been so much more convenient). They also were about $200 AUD a night so splitting that cost it would have been a price I was more than willing to pay for the convenience and touch of luxury. That was my plan when I got back to Nadi after island hopping. 

Waiting until the last minute, naturally, I booked two nights at the Radisson Blu Resort. I was once again blown away by the staff’s professionalism and kindness. The resort was gorgeous, breathtaking really with a very open and green/jungle/topical look. I was “upgraded” to a suite upon checking in. My room was massive with a kitchenette, enormous bathroom with a bathtub and washer/dryer, a proper separate lounge area, and a magnificent, clean bed. I’m not hinting that the other places weren’t clean, but I think they were “island standard” clean not “resort crisp.”

The resort had a spa, several pools including an adults only pool, five restaurants/bars on property, a mini market where you could by snacks, water, or even some groceries, a fitness center, and more. It was also located right on the beach so you could go swimming or have a go at the water sports. Honestly, this was a vacation location and I didn’t want to leave – I extended my stay an additional night. 

I really loved the Radisson and may stay there again when back in Nadi at the tail end of my trip. That being said it didn’t completely outrank island hoping – so go to the islands and then treat yourself to a couple of nights here before flying out. 

Mantaray Island – Fiji

The next island stop is Mantaray Island Resort. The resort is located on Nanuya Baklava Island in the Naviti group of the Yasawa Islands, but it’s nicknamed Manatay Island because of the abundance of sea creatures during the appropriate season (May-October). I unfortunately didn’t see any mantarays, but that’s all good because everything about the stay was perfect. 

Every resort has a specific look. At Wayalaili the workers wore traditional, colorful clothes; Blue Lagoon had specific uniforms and they were all blue (naturally); at Mantaray the color of most of the staff shirts were red and black for the activity/dive staff. The red was such a good choice. It’s vibrant and therefore stands out next to the greenery of the island and the blue of the ocean. Right off the bat there’s a high air of professionalism. We are greeted with a singing Fijian welcome when coming ashore and then ushered into a beautiful outdoor bar/lounging area. 

Tree House Bure

We were staying here for two nights and booked the tree house bure. The first night was my birthday and opted for the luxury of not being in a dorm on my birthday. However, the dorms at Mantaray really aren’t that bad. There are a lot of people in the room, but it’s designed that you only see three other beds from where you sleep. The room was also air-conditioned so very cool 24/7. However, for the two nights we didn’t have to deal with sleeping in a dorm. Woo! The room was pretty small with just enough room to walk around between the bed, side tables, and our luggage. It’s not a space you are meant to spend much time in because there’s so much to do on the island. 

The rooms don’t have an ensuite bathroom and have a bathroom area. There’s three showers on the ground area, but to access the toilets they are up a set of stairs. This is because they are compostable toilets a.k.a. not flushing toilets. Pretty unique, but they are constantly cleaned so you barely notice. I actually liked them oddly enough.

Food

Now lets talk about the best part of Mantaray. Again there was a compulsory meal plan of  $ FJ /person per day. Notice this is only a bit more expensive than the others and it was so much better. The breakfast buffet had an array of cold options (cereal, yogurt, fruit, etc.) to hot options (like pancakes, beans, fried rice?, and more), and then an eggs station. For lunch you had your choice off of a menu of about 10ish options. Then dinner was the highlight – first course was a soup with bread, choice of starter, choice of main, and dessert. It was a generous amount of food throughout the day. Sure you had to walk up a lot of stairs to get there so you were working for it. 

Entertainment 

The activities staff was fantastic. They seriously created the energy of the resort and genuinely seemed happy to be there. In general people in Fiji are nice and helpful, but they turned it up a notch. I think it speaks volumes to the management at the resort. On my birthday we got so lucky with a traditional Fijian Dance performance after dinner. I can truly say this was possibly one of my favorite nights in Fiji. So many staff members threw themselves fully into the performance and it was fantastic. The second night was raining and the pulled through again with some games to pass the evening. There is quite literally something to do all day at Mantaray – village visits almost daily, snorkeling ($25 FJ for your entire stay whether it’s a stay or a week), jewelry making, crown making with leaves, fishing, etc. 

Then most notably they have incredible diving. The location of the island gives them access to so many dive sites a few minute boat ride away. They are also incredibly professional in the dive shop. I had come to Mantaray knowing I wanted to do one of the dives, but after speaking with them I signed up for three. Not that they sold me hard on it at all – the opposite really – they were just chill, knowledgeable, and passionate. So I signed up for the 3 dives for $350 FJ. 

Spa

I decided to get a massage on my birthday. It was one of those last minute, but why not decisions. So I signed up for a 90-minute massage for $108 FJ. Honestly, the best less than $50 USD I have ever spent (okay maybe being a tad dramatic, but the best in a long long time). I can’t remember a massage that was this good. I also opted for the 90 minute so it was optimal relaxation and it was perfect. One of my new friends from San Francisco had one a day after me and he was also raving. I tried squeezing in another one, but didn’t have enough time between the dives, meal times, and ferry ride.

I truly loved Mantaray. I would come back here easily if given the choice. It’s really close between Mantaray and Blue Lagoon, but I think Mantaray has a slight edge and it’s a bit closer to the mainland. 

Rottnest Island Glamping

Most Rottnest Island visitors come for day trips and as a result there aren’t many accommodation options. Hotel Rottnest is currently being redone so we were limited to the only other hotel or a unique option – glamping. When I saw the glamping option whilst researching I was stoked, but I wasn’t sure my mom would go for it. To my surprise she did, so Discovery Rottnest Island here we come. 

Everything about the property online looked awesome and we decided to book three nights. At the time of booking there was only one type of tent option and that was the accessible tent, which can accommodate four people. The set up is one large king bed and a bunk bed. This would be perfect for a family, but a little too much room for my mom and me. There’s an en-suite full bathroom and a kitchenette also within the tent. It is very very nice and not “roughing” whatsoever. The walls besides the bathroom and the front are a thick canvas. You can’t roll them completely up like a normal tent, but there are window areas that you could roll up for extra light. The front wall had a sliding glass door and two full windows. 

We enjoyed our overall stay and I would recommend this property to anyone looking for a unique holiday destination. It’s important to be transparent so I’ll also go over the cons of the experience. The website is a little misleading and not clear. The way specifications were written it seemed like there was also laundry en-suite, in the tent. This is actually not the case at all. You can have the cleaners do your laundry for a fee or walk pretty far on the island if you wanted to do it yourself. Obviously, this wasn’t a deal breaker, but it was more like false advertising.

The second thing was that they should have been clearer at check in about how things run. They didn’t mention that there wasn’t a cleaner daily (only if you stay 5 or more nights) and more importantly they didn’t mention that all the towels that are in your room are meant to last your entire stay, this included beach towels. So regardless if you stay one night or three you’ll have the same towels. Not a huge deal for the bathroom towels, but a bit annoying for the beach/pool towels. Either way it wasn’t mentioned to us at check in, and we only had one type of towel in our room so we didn’t realize we had to ration our towel usage. On the same caliber they also didn’t say that about the toiletries they put in the room. One bar of soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc. for your whole stay regardless if it’s one night or longer. We had our own so it wasn’t a huge deal, but still it should have been mentioned in an email beforehand or at check in.

The third “issue,” and this one was actually an issue, – wen realized the first night our door’s lock was broken. When we informed reception they couldn’t do anything about it that night. Not a huge deal and we placed a suitcase in front of the door while we slept. The island feels pretty safe so we didn’t feel an immediate threat. The second day when maintenance came to check it out they didn’t think they could fix it that day due to lack of parts on the island. This would mean another night without a locked door, but more significantly leaving our belongings in a totally open room during the day as they didn’t have any safes in the tents. We weren’t really cool with that. After much deliberation we were offered to change tents, but we really didn’t want to have to pack up and move everything again. They ended up working their magic and fixing the door so all was well.

Now comes the last and final complaint I had about the property. Our second day when we were going through the issues with the door, we had the absolute rudest, disrespectful, and condescending front desk staff member ever. Honestly, I travel a lot and have been in many hotels, hostels, resorts, etc. and I have never encountered such a spiteful worker. She was young, probably around my age, obviously didn’t like her job and thought she was above it. I’m really not sure what her problem was, but she was terrible. And fine hunny if you want to be rude to me I will give it right back to you, but don’t you dare disrespect my mom, which was what she was doing and in front of other guests too. It wasn’t a good look for Discovery. I really don’t want to dwell on it because once we spoke to the Assistant Manager, Maddie, everything was smoothed over, fixed, and compensated over. Maddie was seriously a godsend and great at her job, but it is a shame that she had to get involved in the first place. 

So those were the woes of the property, but everything else was pretty great. They are located right between two beaches so you can take your pick or hop around. Substantial breakfast buffets were included with our stay. The tent itself was really nice, but one night was stifling hot even with the fan on – so maybe earlier in the summer is a better time to visit. I think my mom’s favorite part of the property was the food at the restaurant for dinner. The chef made a fantastic menu with great specials daily. Quokkas were plentiful around the property. You could find them around and under the tents during the day and at night they came out in packs everywhere. I would highly recommend staying here if you come to Rottnest Island. 

Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island has been on my list of places to visit for a while now. The problem with going here is that it’s a hassle and a half to get to the island. First you have to get a flight to Perth. Flying cross-country in Australia is typically more expensive than flying international like say to Fiji or Bali. Therefore it’s understandable why so many Aussies vacation out of the country. So the first step in getting to Rottnest is getting to Perth. You’ll most likely fly, but you could also take the train from Adelaide. Once in Perth you’ll have to ferry over to Rotto either from Barrack Street, in downtown Perth, or Fremantle. I used Rottnest Express and they also arrange shuttle pick up and drop off from hotels. 

Many people choose just to do a day trip, but I think it’s totally worth staying on the island a couple of nights. There’s actually a lot of ground to cover and doing it all in a day would be rushed. 

Things to Do 

Whether you’re visiting just for a day or spending a bit of time here there’s a lot to do on the island. 

Rent a bike 

This is the most popular mode of transportation around the island. Daily hires with a basket are $35 AUD and additional days decrease in price per day. I only had a bike the last day and it was my favorite overall day on the island – I loved cruising around. The terrain can be a bit rough and it’s not fully a leisurely ride – lots of up and downs so consider yourself warned. The whole island is 19km and they say leave around 4-5 hours to just bike along the entirety of the island if that is your cup of tea. That’s of course is not including stops, which are the best part. When cruising around you’re pretty much on your own schedule to do whatever you want and there are so many beautiful beaches and snorkeling stops you’ll want to give yourself extra time. If you are leaving the island the same day just make sure you leave enough time to get back to the ferry and/or return the bike. 

Beaches/Snorkeling

There are 63 beaches and 15 bays around Rottnest Island so you’re guaranteed to find one you like. The water all around the island is absolutely spectacular. My favorite spots were:

Gordie Bay
  • Parakeet Bay
  • Salmon Bay
  • The Basin
  • Little Armstrong Bay
  • Gordie Bay 
  • Pinky Beach
  • Henrietta Rocks
  • Little Salmon Bay

Hang out with the quokkas 

The happiest animals in the world, quokkas, are permanent residents of Rottnest Island these little creatures are wonderful. They really are everywhere and you’re sure to capture some amazing shots. Some tips while encounter the quokkas:

  • Remember they are wild animals and although friendly you shouldn’t do anything to disturb them. 
  • Don’t feed or give them water. They can’t digest food that has been processed so it’s very harmful to them. If they are use to getting water from humans they won’t go out for it themselves when they need it. 
  • A selfie stick would be super handy. That’s really how you get the best angles and can capture them smiling. I’ve never been a selfie stick user myself, but someone let me borrow there’s. 
  • Don’t pet them. This one is hard because they just are so so lovable. Again they are wild so they could bite, but the bigger warning is that some of them carry salmonella so yeah that should be warning enough. I would wash or sanitize your hands after every encounter even if you didn’t touch them, but touched the ground around them. 
  • Speak up. If you see anyone not following these rules say something. Although the ferries, accommodation, and all over town they have the rules posted and there’s a $300 fine for feeding or petting, people still don’t follow them. If you see someone feeding a quokka fries definitely call them out on it (speaking from personal experience). 
  • Quality time. It’s suggested to spend some time with the quokkas just observing them. So try not to click a photo and leave. 

Guided Tours 

There are a couple of tours you can take ranging from 1-5 hours. I actually wouldn’t recommend one of the tours if you’re only on the island for one day. If you have a couple of days on the island then I would recommend it. We did a long tour that started with a train ride, tour of the massive guns from WWII, and then a bus tour that gave us a view most of the island without making many stops. Also note, buses and service vehicles are the only cars permitted on the island. 

Food

  • Ice Cream – There’s one ice cream parlor in town so you can’t miss it. There are so many flavors to choose from. You can’t sample so you’ll have to go multiple times. Tip the honeycomb is fantastic. 
  • Pinky’s Beach Club – They close the kitchen pretty early so make sure you get there before 8pm for dinner. You will not be disappointed. Their chef is doing something right because all the meals were packed with flavor. 
  • Hotel Rottnest – Come here for sunset drinks and nibbles. The view is incredible even if the food is just okay. There’s also live entertainment on the weekends. Rottnest Hotel is located right on the water and close to ferry so it’s easy to get to. 

Accommodation

We went the Glamping route for our stay, which I absolutely loved. There are also houses/apartments to rent, but I think they go pretty quickly in the season if workers aren’t assigned to them. 

Karma Hotel is also on the island and has a spa. Hotel Rottnest’s rooms are currently being redone and are expected to open in September 2020. I really think this will be the premium/hot spot to stay once open. 

Rottnest Island is very special. I highly recommend this spot for anybody looking for a true getaway. I loved my stay there and would go back in a heartbeat.

Hotel Review – Perth

Our first stop out of the Outback was Fraser Suites in Perth. After the full on desert experience this was a shock. The lobby was huge and modern and our room was on the 16th floor. I don’t think they have buildings that tall in all of the Northern Territory. The room was really nice with lots of light and a very comfortable bed. Sidenote: my mom was very impressed by the crisp sheets everywhere we stayed. The fitness center and pool were also above normal hotel standards. There was also a little kitchette in the the room equipped with a microwave, sink, refrigerator, etc. Our first night in Perth we ate at the bar onsite. The food was good and you can get the full restaurant menu at the bar for a more casual setting. 

Location was very convenient as you could walk easily into the bustling areas or take a bus. We booked our stay via HotelTonight and got a pretty good deal. Our one and only negative was the bed’s positioning to the air conditioning. It was too hot not to have the A/C on, but when it was on it blasted on you directly making it really freezing. 

I would recommend the Fraser Suites for anyone traveling to Perth. 

Sunset Dinner Experience – Uluru

The best way to experience the views of the dessert and Uluru is either at sunrise or sunset. Obviously, with a park pass you can enter the national park anytime throughout the day, but at sunrise and sunset the heat isn’t unbearable and the flies are asleep. This is also when you can get epic, beautiful shots. 

Our first night in the outback we booked the Sounds of Silence dinner experience through Ayers Rock Resort. It was pricey, but a once in a lifetime experience and totally worth it. The evening started with bubbles and canapés on the viewing platform overlooking Uluru. After light nibbles, taking lots of pictures, and a spectacular view we headed down the path to the main dining area.

Drinks were unlimited throughout the night. The first course was a tomato soup and bread. At first I didn’t get the point of hot soup while outside in the desert, but it was actually yummy. Next up was a full buffet while a didgeridoo was played. Everything I had was delicious and there were so many options (from salads, to pastas, to different meats, and more). I didn’t try any, but they also had outback delicacies such as kangaroo, crocodile, emu, and so on. After dinner, a dessert buffet was served with port, coffee, and tea. 

When dinner was over we had a star gazing expert speak about the sky. Unfortunately, we had a cloudy night so it took a bit of imagination. The final part of the evening was exploring the Field of Lights exhibit. Originally, this was a temporary art exhibit by Bruce Munro, however, it was just made permanent a couple of months ago. There’s 50,000 solar-powered lights that transform this section of the desert. The section covers a distance of more than seven football fields. The lights seem to be alive with the spirit of the area.

Hotel Review – The Outback

Staying at Uluru is a very special experience and although there’s only one company, Ayers Rock Resort, in the area there are different properties within the resort priced at different price points. It makes visiting accessible for anyone. 

On our trip to the Outback my mom and I stayed at Sails in the Desert. Within Ayers Rock Resort, Sails was located near the town center so it was an easy five-minute walk to shopping, food options, etc. The property was beautiful; I would describe it as a desert oasis. 

The resort has a shuttle service from the airport, which is really convenient and only about 20 minutes, but it also means that everyone else who flew in around the same time will arrive at the resort with you. Naturally, a bit of a queue formed and whilst waiting they passed out cool towels. This was the first sign that we were about to be pampered during our time here. Our room was spacious, clean, decorated with an outback-inspired color palette, and had a huge terrace. The beds were also very comfortable. 

The hotel had some other great amenities including a laundry room, pool, free buffet breakfasts, and spa. There were three different restaurants/bars in the hotel and you could also eat at any of the other hotels on property. Another highlight of the property was the exceptional staff working from reception to the restaurant staff. Everyone was very nice and professional – they knew what they were doing. The flies were really awful during our stay, but the housekeeping staff did a great job keeping the bugs out of the rooms. Coming into the room after a tour or being outside was a total relief. 

I really loved Sails in the Desert. It was the perfect stay and a bit of luxury in an unexpected part of Australia. 

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!

Hotel Review – Hunter Valley

In true Sylwia fashion I waited to the last minute to book our Hunter Valley trip. In my defense I was waiting for the weather and thought that since we were going on a weekday there wouldn’t be any issues. I was in contact with one hotel, but never actually made the reservation. When we finally decided to book, our first choice actually ended up being sold out so we had to go for a plan b. That took form as the Crown Plaza Hunter Valley. Not really sure what to expect we were blown away when driving up to the property. It was huge! Even including a golf course, two onsite restaurants, a fitness center, two pools, and more. The property itself was gorgeous. 

We were booked into a standard room, but were upgraded to a villa. However, this was a bit too much space for two people for one night (and it was also away from the main building and its amenities) so we opted for a normal room instead. The room was spacious and clean. The bed was super comfortable and they also provided a deep sleep pillow spray – what a cute little touch! 

Both on-site restaurants were yummy and our dinner at Redsalt was fantastic! Lovedale is a slightly more casual and has a sports bar feel, this is where we had lunch the next day and again it was delicious. They even had the option of making a pizza with vegan cheese and/or a cauliflower base. Two thumbs up for the food. 

I utilized the gym, but with the weather I wasn’t able to make the most of the onsite pools. There was also a spa and on weekends they have a brewery tour. If we stayed longer we would have made use of everything available. 

The amenities were nice, food was great, room was above average – what else could you ask for? Well the staff and all the workers were so professional and we were impressed by how friendly and efficient the reception staff was. They really were the icing on the cake for the entire experience. 

I would highly recommend the Crown Plaza in Hunter Valley if you were to stay in the area overnight. 

Hotel Review – Tekapo

In true treat yo’ self fashion for my stop at Tekapo I stayed at Peppers Bluewater Resort. I’ve never stayed at a Peppers property, but I really liked the overall experience. The staff was very friendly and helpful. The property itself was very well taken care of and it seemed to be fairly new. Rather than an enclosed space like a typical hotel this layout consisted of various blocks of little houses or villas. It reminded me a lot of the apartment complexes in Orlando. Tekapo is a very small town so you really can’t have a bad location. Peppers was located right across the street from the lake and strip of restaurants. Then it was about a 20 minute walk to Tekapo Springs and the base of Mount John.

The room was gorgeous. I was happy it was on the ground level because of my suitcases. The staff brought and picked up my suitcases which is a luxury you forget about when you’re living in hostels. The bathroom was massive and had a bathtub, shower, heated towel rack, etc. The king sized bed was super comfy and I wish I could have slept in longer or stayed for a couple of nights. My room also had a balcony where you could see Lake Tekapo poking out in the distance. The day I was leaving they also dropped me and my luggage off at the bus pick up area.

I would highly recommend this hotel if you wanted a bit of luxury in Tekapo. The experience was so positive that I will look out for Peppers properties for future trips.