Taveuni Island – Fiji

Taveuni is known as the Garden Island of Fiji. It’s the third largest island full of rich volcanic soil and covered in thick, dense rainforest. 

The island can be reached by ferry or plane. Taking the ferry from Suva takes an average of 16 hours overnight, but it is a fraction of the cost of the flying. Most locals will take the ferry. Flights to Taveuni fly from Suva and Nadi multiple times a day. From Suva the flight takes about 20 minutes. Be warned it is a small, sixteen-seater plane. 

Taveuni is known as the Garden Island for the lush greenery and abundance of beauty. Bouma National Heritage Park takes up more than a third of the island. Hiking throughout the park is very popular. There are many birds and animals exclusive to the island that can be found here making it a nature lovers dream. During October to December, you can hike further up to Des Vouex in search of Fiji’s unofficial national flower, the Tagimoucia. The beautiful flower is found on Fiji’s $50 notes and has a love story/legend around it. Many Fijians see coming to Taveuni to find the flower as a right of passage or bucket list item.

Bouma  Falls are also found in Bouma National Heritage Park, and they are deemed the most iconic waterfalls in Fiji. The first waterfall is a short walk from the park’s visitor centre, followed by two other falls a longer trek away. Seeing the falls is worth the effort and after basking in their beauty you can cool down in natural swimming pools. 

Hiking Lavena Coast is a winding track which leads off the end of Lavena village to breathtaking beaches, across rock-strewn rivers, and into the jungle. The trek ends with a dip at the bottom of waterfalls. 

Many people come to the beautiful island of Taveuni not for the jungle, but for the water and the diving. The Rainbow Reef and Somosomo Strait are found off the island’s coast and filled with countless dive sites which are easily accessible. The Great White Wall is one of the top diving sites in the world. The water and weather conditions have to be perfect to dive the Wall, which limits the amount of days you can reach the site monthly. If you’re planning on diving in Taveuni reach out to local dive sites beforehand to see when the best diving is expected to be and plan to give yourself some extra days in case of weather delays.

Beyond exploring the island and surrounding waters there’s also several boat day trips to smaller more remote islands. These tours will be offered at your accommodation and will usually run with a minimum amount of people signed up.

Taveuni is absolutely gorgeous and a highlight of my Fiji trip. It’s not easy to get to, but I think the voyage out here is totally worth it. You could easily spend a week or more if you’re planning on diving. It’s truly paradise. I was here in March and the weather was perfect. The mosquitos were not as prevalent as they were on the mainland. April and May leads into cyclone season and heavy rainfall. If I get back to Fiji I would love to come to Taveuni between October and December and try to find the Tagimoucia flower.

Mommy & Me in Oz – Week 3

I’m a bit behind on writing because I had flown to Fiji the day after my mom left Australia, but it’s fun looking back on our travels. The best way to describe week three is bittersweet. We were looking forward to where we were going, but it was also my mom’s last week traveling with me. As much fun as she was having I also could see she was missing home and having a normal routine. Living out of a suitcase isn’t for everyone and it can get old.

Monday/Day 15 – We woke up early this morning to catch the shuttle out to the ferry to Rottnest Island. The ferry took about 2 hours and upon arriving we have lunch at Dome café. After lunch we walked to Discovery and checked in. We walked around the area to become acquainted with the surroundings and the beaches close by. We had the first spotting of quokkas and then had dinner at Pinky’s Beach Club. 

Day 16 – Today was a full on relaxing beach day. With the exception of needing to get our door fixed. We had breakfast on property, walked to the lighthouse, and then to Geordie Bay. I also snorkeled a bit around the Basin before getting ready and going to dinner at Rottnest Hotel. 

Day 17 – Our last full day in Rotto. We have an easy morning and then do a tour around the island in the afternoon. The tour starts with a train ride to the guns on the island. This was a huge piece of machinery created for WWII to defend Fremantle port. It was never fired, but still impressive. We have lunch on the train ride back and then go on a bus tour around the rest of the island. For dinner we ate at Pinky’s again. 

Day 18 – Today we had to check out, but had until 5ish for the ferry. I rented a bike and rode around the island making pit stops to snorkel. It was a beautiful day and I was sad to leave Rotto when it was time to board the ferry. At the port we grabbed an Uber to take us to our hotel and we decided to stay closer to the airport. 

Day 19 – Flying to Melbourne today for our last stop. We arrived in the evening and checked into our hotel. The room was small, but wow this hotel had everything figured out. For dinner we went to the hotel restaurant, Lord Nelson. The meal was great and my mom really liked the wine she had. After dinner we called it an early night.   

Day 20 – Today we were off to fit in as much of Melbs as possible, but first on the agenda was to buy a new laptop charger. Then we had breakfast and coffee on Degraves Street. We shopped around a bit and checked out the Queen Victoria Market. We had an afternoon pick me up in the form of sticky date pudding. Then we were off to St. Kilda to see the sunset and penguins. It was chilly and we didn’t stay on the pier long and then went on the search for a dinner spot. We landed on St. Moritz and it was great! 

Day 21 – My mom’s last full day in Australia and of course she insisted on doing laundry in between our activities. Today we ate breakfast downstairs at the hotel and then went to the South Street Market. In the afternoon we went to the famous Hopetoun Tea Room for dessert. We walked around Melbourne CBD a little bit and saw the street art on Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane. We munched all day so didn’t need a big dinner. We grabbed some small bites at Lord Nelson. 

Day 22 – Mom’s flight was in the early afternoon so after wake up and goodbyes I ordered her an Uber and she was sadly back off to the airport.

Week 2 Recap and Week 1 Recap.

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.

Hostel Review 2 – Noosa

Noosa has been one of my favorite destinations so far. I already plan on going back in a couple of months when my mom visits. I stayed in two different hostels in Noosa, one on either end of the trip.

Noosa Flashpackers

A little bit out of town away from the main Noosa Beach. Sunshine Beach is closer to this hostel. They had a shuttle that was running very consistently to take you back and forth to town, which was very convenient. I stayed in a 4 person mixed dorm. I really liked the rooms because they had an ensuite bathroom. They also offer free breakfast in the mornings and coffee/tea all day. There was also a pool and a nice outdoor area to hang out in. I liked the overall vibe of the space and the size was totally manageable in meeting people and not over crowded. I would totally recommend to stay here if you don’t mind being a little bit out of town. Of course you can still walk everywhere it just takes a little bit longer.

Halse Lodge YHA

For my return trip (between Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island), I decided to stay at a different hostel and be closer to town/main beach. This time I was in a 6 person shared room with a shared bathroom. There are two buildings for the rooms and I was in the one that was a bit further back. There’s an onsite bar/restaurant that consistently had people of all ages coming in, including families. All the noise that would be coming from the bar didn’t reach or disturb me whatsoever in my room. The location couldn’t be beat as it was only a couple of minute walk down to all the action. The property was also beautiful. Besides sharing a room, there wasn’t a lot about this location that felt like a hostel. Most of the people staying there felt like they have been there for a while and already had their groups of friends. While I was staying at Halse there weren’t any social events. I was honestly exhausted from Fraser Island so I didn’t mind, but many people look for that when staying at a hostel so that may be a turn off for some people. I would also highly recommend this hostel if you are in Noosa.

Nomads Noosa Backpackers

I didn’t stay here, but it’s worth mentioning. This is definitely the more “party” hostel of the lot in Noosa. Even if you don’t stay here you will likely come out to the bar here at some point. There is also a Fraser Island tour that departs straight from here rather than going out to Rainbow Beach. From what I observed this seemed like an overall younger, rowdier crowd.

The overall feel of all the hostels was pretty good and you would be safe with picking whichever. I would probably stay at the YHA as a first choice when coming back to Noosa.

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.