Travel Blog

A breathtaking abseil into Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Caves are one of New Zealand’s most iconic tourist attractions. Famed for their unique occupants, the caves are visited by thousands of people every year searching for the iridescent glow-worms, which cling to the walls of the caves, creating a truly magical, luminescent spectacle. A trip to Waitomo Caves is not just illuminated by the chance to spot the glow-worms. There’s also an array of activities on offer here that will enthuse and excite you. If you’re feeling brave on your tailor-made New Zealand holiday, you could attempt a breathtaking abseil into the caves.

 

Abseiling into Waitomo Caves

 

If you’re an intrepid explorer with a head for heights, there are few experiences more exhilarating than an abseil into Waitomo Caves. If you’re keen to test your mettle, organised tours will treat you to a nerve-jangling 100 ft abseil, which enables you to plunge into the depths of the caves and discover the gems that make this such a popular and appealing tourist attraction. On your way down, you can get an idea of the scope and size of the caves, and once you land on terra firma, there are plenty more adventures on offer. Abseiling can be daunting, especially if you’ve got a fear of heights, but you’ll be looked after by experienced guides who will ensure that you’re safe and offer some words of reassurance and pearls of wisdom to get you through if you’re struggling.

 

Once you’ve negotiated the abseil, there’s a day of walking, wading, jumping, swimming and splashing around, and that’s before you’ve even marvelled at the glow-worm display. This is a day out when you can get your hands dirty and have loads of fun. On your travels, you’ll see everything from whale carcasses and a giant flowstone to caverns you’re required to scuttle through and water jumps you need to negotiate to reach the next stage. There may also be some creepy crawlies along the way, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re not a fan of eight-legged creatures.

 

Depending on the tour you take, you’ll need a moderate level of fitness and plenty of enthusiasm and energy. You don’t have to abseil into the caves, and there are plenty of trips that are suitable for those who aren’t feeling quite as adventurous and those who don’t have a full day to discover the caves. Some tours also include lunch or dinner and refreshments.

 

A white water adventure on the Franklin River

The Franklin River in Tasmania, Australia, is one of the last truly wild rivers in the world. The river runs through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, beginning on the southeast coast of Tasmania, and flowing through to the west coast of the state. It’s a World Heritage Site, filled with unique Australian wildlife and the Aboriginal caves dating back more than 10,000 years. It’s also one of the top white water rafting rivers in the world. If you’re an adventure seeker, plan your next vacation to raft the Franklin River in Tasmania.

 

The Franklin was nearly destroyed 30 years ago when attempts were made to dam the perennial river. But after a tough political fight, the river and surrounding wilderness became a protected site. The river is home to the Irenabyss, a fantastic rocky gorge; the Great Ravine, full of tumultuous rapids surrounded by beautiful hills; and Rock Island Bend, a beautiful island in the middle of the river – the image that ended up saving it from destruction in the 70s and 80s. Some trips include a hike of Frenchman’s Cap, a mountain alongside the river.

 

Rafting the Franklin River isn’t a one day expedition. Shorter trips are offered for part of the river, but it takes 8-14 days to see it in its entirety. Most tours begin in Hobart, in the southeast. Experienced professional guides will take you the whole length of the river, navigating the waters with ease and keeping you safe.

 

Groups usually run with four to eight people, and no previous rafting experience is required to get involved – everyone works together to paddle the raft. Camp under the stars, with guides preparing fresh, delicious, local food every night.

 

Expeditions tend to be all-inclusive, from the first night in a hotel through to the last night at the other end. Food and most of the gear is included, though some require you to bring your own sleeping bag, so it is best to bring one along if you can.

Rafting trips are offered from October to March during the Australian summer. The river is unpredictable, with both lows and highs possible in the same day. Expect the unexpected on this trip, but know that it’s the adventure of a lifetime. If you have time, travel around the rest of Tasmania, which remains an isolated paradise undiscovered by mass tourism, with some of the best wilderness you can find anywhere.

 

Planning a Tasmanian road trip

A treasure not known to many tourists, Tasmania has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Australia. With more mountains than anywhere else on the mainland, beaches on all coasts, and 45 percent of the land covered with national parks, Tasmania has much to offer for those looking to get off the beaten track on a road trip.

 

As the smallest state in Australia, Tasmania is in fact best covered by car. There are no mammoth motorways here, so roads are all easily-navigable and scenic two-lanes, winding the two to three hour distance between cities. Bus transport is infrequent, and there are few domestic flights, so planning a road trip across the state is the best way to take in all the beautiful sites.

 

If you’re coming from the Australian mainland, the Spirit of Australia is a ferry that runs daily. Otherwise, flights are available from various Australian cities into Launceston, Hobart, Burnie, or Devonport. There is so much to do in Tasmania that it’s worthy of a holiday of its own, so try to plan at least six days to allow you to see everything it has to offer.

 

The southeast of Tasmania includes the capital and most populous city, Hobart. Be sure to check out Salamanca Place, the waterfront heart of the city. Visit on a Saturday to catch the fantastic Salamanca Market, or take a trip to the Museum of Old and New Art, a fantastic gallery on the cove. For outdoors enthusiasts, Mount Wellington offers fun hikes and breathtaking views.

 

On your way out of the area, check out the beautiful sea cliffs and surf beaches that dot the southeast and eastern coast of Tasmania. Once you hit the east coast, make sure to stop at Freycinet National Park, home of the Hazards mountain range and the world-class beach of Wineglass Bay.

 

The northeast holds the fantastic Bay of Fires coast, one of the most beautiful areas in Australia. Take a stop at Launceston, Tasmania’s other large city, a showcase of different architectural styles.

 

Moving on over to the other coast, Devonport is a charming seaside city, and the gateway to the northwest. The Cradle Mountains are just the beginning of the fantastic wilderness the state has to offer. Further down the west coast, Strahan is a small, former convict village that now serves as a tourism hub for the area.

 

Check out the Macquarie Harbour on the west coast, and then move into the southwest to see Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, a kayaking and rafting destination for thrill-seekers to top off your trip in style.

 

World’s largest dinosaur footprint found in Western Oz

A “globally unparalleled” collection of dinosaur footprints has been found on the coastline near Broome in Western Australia, including prints from Sauropods that are the world’s largest.

 

Paleontologists from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and James Cook University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences unearthed 21 different types of dinosaur tracks in Walmadany, the name given to the area by its traditional inhabitants. Some of the prints from Sauropods were a staggering 1.7 metres long.

 

The tracks are also considerably older than most of the fossils discovered in Eastern Australia, with those fossils believed to be between 90 and 115 million years old. These findings have been published as the 2016 Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

 

University of Queensland paleontologist and lead author of the study Dr. Steve Salisbury told The Telegraph that 21 different prehistoric species living in such close proximity is very unusual and represents the most diverse discovery of its kind in the world.

 

“Nowhere else has as many different types of dinosaurs represented by tracks than Walmadany has,” Salisbury said. “It’s such a magical place, Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting. It’s the Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti. And it’s written in stone.”

 

As for the 1.7 metre footprint, Salisbury says the track would have belonged to a dinosaur “probably around 5.3 to 5.5 metres at the hip, which is enormous.”

 
The fact the tracks were found at Walmadany was significant, considering that in 2008 the Western Australian government nearly turned the site into a massive liquid natural gas processing precinct. Luckily, the area was awarded National Heritage status in 2011, and it has benefited from this protection to provide us with one of the great paleontological discoveries of recent times.

 

 

Australia welcomes record number of Chinese visitors

1.2 million Chinese tourists travelled to Australia last year, helping to increase the country’s visitor expenditure figures, according to the latest report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

 

The data showed that visitors to Australia spent a record 39.1 billion Australian dollars in 2016, with about a quarter of that figure coming from Chinese tourists.

 

In a statement following the release of the International Visitor Survey numbers, Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said tourism is on its way to being one of the country’s most vital economic assets.

 

“Spending by international visitors to Australia has now grown by more than 35 percent in the last three years — supporting Australian jobs and the broader Australian economy,” he said.

 

These numbers come during the China-Australia Year of Tourism, a celebration of the relationship between the two countries. Several events are planned throughout 2017 in order to bring Australia and China closer together.

 

Australia is also working to prepare for an expected increase in Chinese visitors, adding approximately 1,000 new hotel rooms to market to huge investments from Chinese entrepreneurs.

 

On top of the rise in Australia’s visitor expenditure figures, the increase in Chinese visitors has greatly helped local retailers. According to the Deloitte Access Economics Retail Forecasts report, retail spending from Chinese tourists accounted for 1.05 billion US dollars.

 

Deloitte Access Economics partner David Rumbens was the lead author of the report and said that number was set to quadruple within the next decade.

 

“Chinese tourism is a significant contributor to the sector,” he said.

 

Recently, Australia expanded its 10-year visitor visa to Chinese citizens, while respective authorities signed an ‘open skies agreement’ that removed aircraft capacity restrictions on the lucrative China-Australia routes in anticipation of increased demands.

 

Seeing Oz on two wheels: top cycling trips

If adventure travel is the name of your game, there’s no better way to see Oz’s incredible sights and scenery than a tour on two wheels. If you love the sound of the wind blowing in your hair as you zip down coastal paths or you can’t wait to embrace the peace and tranquillity of the outback, here are some top cycling trips to take on when you’re Down Under.

 

The Great Ocean Road

This is a perennial award winner when it comes to road trips, but there’s nothing to say that it can’t be as good, if not better, on two wheels rather than four. This incredible route takes you on a meandering tour of the dramatic coastal scenery on offer in beautiful Victoria. You’ll see something around every corner, but there are a handful of highlights you’ll need to make extra time for.

 

The Twelve Apostles is perhaps the most famous landmark, and it deserves its reputation. The domineering stone stacks rising majestically from the water are the perfect backdrop for a well-earned rest and some souvenir holiday photos. Visit at dusk to enjoy the haunting beauty of the scene in peace and avoid the crowds. Along the way, you’ll also come across London Arch, the Grotto, Gibson Steps and Loch Ard Gorge. This is a tricky cycle path, so give yourself plenty of time. There are some beautiful towns and villages to rest weary legs, and it’s well worth trying to complete the journey over four or five days.

 

Mount Buller

If thrills and spills are your cup of tea, make for Mount Buller. In the winter months, the snow may put pay to your active intentions, but when the spring arrives, the clear skies unveil some of Oz’s finest mountain biking routes. Here, you can speed around, take on jumps, and enjoy the views all at the same time. If you’re keen to get the adrenaline pumping, this is the choice for you.

 

Rottnest Island

If a more sedate day of cycling is more appealing, there are few better places to be than Perth’s wonderful Rottnest Island. The majority of the land is flat, and you can amble around at your leisure, taking in the ocean views, and enjoying the warmth of the sun on your skin. The roads are closed to cars, so you don’t have to worry about traffic, and there’s an incredible array of beaches to choose from when you fancy resting your legs and soaking up the rays.

 

A tour of Undara’s lava tubes

If you’re looking for the ultimate outback adventure on your trip Down Under, look no further than the magical world of Undara’s lava tubes. Nestled in the heart of tropical Queensland, this magical maze is a reminder of ancient times, and an incredible stop-off to add to your adventure travel itinerary.

 

Exploring Undara’s lava tubes

 

The Undara lava tubes were created over 190,000 years ago when the Undara Volcano erupted, spouting tons of red hot lava onto the surrounding terrain. It is believed that the eruption was so violent that the lava could have filled Sydney Harbour three times over. As the lava flowed out to the east and west of the volcano, the edges of the pool started to cool, but the centre of the flow was still bubbling away. This is how the tubes formed.

 

The Undara network of lava tubes is thought to be the most extensive on Earth. Tours usually last for a couple of hours, and during your time in Undara, you’ll learn everything there is to know about the lava tubes, and see the incredible sights for yourself. You’ll examine the famous archway in great detail, cover some rugged terrain under foot and discover exactly what happened when that thunderous eruption occurred.

 

You can only access Undara National Park as part of a guided tour due to the importance and delicacy of the lava tubes and the surrounding ecosystems. Guided tours are fantastic because they give you in-depth information about the area, its development and history, and its significance. You can ask as many questions as you like, and you’ll be treated to the best views. There are various tours to choose from, so you can select the one that appeals the most. You can add wildlife spotting if you’re an animal lover or choose an active tour if you’re a fitness fan, and you want to explore as extensively as possible.

 

Staying at Undara National Park

 

If you’re keen to make the most of your time at Undara, you can stay over, and there’s an eclectic range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. You can camp out overnight in a safari-style tented camp, bed down in an old-fashioned railway carriage or relax in style in a pioneer hut. The beauty of staying over is the opportunity to get up close and personal with some outback residents such as wallabies, kangaroos, and cockatoos, and enjoy breathtaking views of the open plains.

 

The beautiful beaches of the Bay of Fires

The Bay of Fires in Tasmania has been voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world year on year. The 29km-long stretch of white powdery sand, interspersed with lagoons, rocky headland and coastal bush, is an incredible place to visit on your travels and well worth adding to your personalised Australia itinerary.

 

As well as the pristine sand, The Bay of Fires is famous for its crystal clear waters and the orange lichen-covered granite boulders that give it a distinctive look and feel. The Bay of Fires also lies inside one of the most popular conservation areas in Tasmania, stretching along the coast from Binalong Bay in the South to Eddystone Point in the north. If you’re looking for a picturesque hamlet to spend the night in, it’s worth checking out Ansons Bay, which also lies along the conservation route.

 

Make sure to bring your snorkel mask, as The Bay of Fires provides some of the most tranquil swimming conditions on the island. Waiting to be discovered within the region’s clear turquoise lagoons, inlets and bays is a diverse and fascinating aquatic world. Local guided tours of varied levels provide opportunities to go diving and snorkelling. You will get to see some spectacular reefs and corals and swim inside mysterious underwater caves. The marine life found in the Bay of Fires ranges from fish of all colours to sea dragons and rock lobsters, and visibility along this stretch is excellent all year round: you will typically be able to see up to 20 metres.

 

If snorkelling and diving are not for you, why not try one of the many other activities on the coast. You can take to the waters on a fishing trip, go boating around the coast as the sun sets, hire Kayaks or try your hand at surfing and bodyboarding.

 

Once you’ve dried off under the sun, discover some of the lovely lookout points by making your way along the walking trails. You can book a spot on a guided walk or you can explore on your own terms. These will allow you to visit Skeleton Bay, Grants Point and Elephant Head. Whilst on these picturesque walks you will no doubt see some of the best wildlife Tasmania has to offer. Birdlife including wattlebirds, pacific gulls, sea eagles and yellow-tailed black cockatoos can all be spotted among the native orchids and Banksia.

 

There are a variety of places to stay inside the conservation area, with the option to camp in the southern and middle sections of the conservation area. The coastal town of St Helens also provides a range of hostels, b&bs and hotels for you to bed down in while you enjoy this standout coast!

 

Queen Mary 2 sails into Sydney for 10th anniversary party

The Queen Mary 2 sailed into Sydney over the weekend to celebrate 10 years since the Cunard flagship first visited Australia.

 

Accompanied by her sister ship Queen Elizabeth, the 345-metre long Queen Mary 2 stayed in Circular Quay before sailing out for her maiden visit to Tasmania on Monday. Queen Elizabeth left for Brisbane on Tuesday.

 

The Queen’s visits comes almost exactly 10 years since Queen Mary 2 first sailed into Sydney for a royal rendezvous with her older sister, the now retired QE2. A decade later, Queen Mary 2 returned with AU$145m in renovations, including 50 new staterooms, a wine cellar and a new Carinthia Lounge.

 

Executive Chairman of Carnival Australia Ann Sherry spoke onboard the 2700-guest liner on Sunday, saying Queen Mary 2’s maiden visit in 2007 helped spark interest in cruise tourism throughout Australia.

 

“Queen Mary 2’s first visit to Sydney captured the imagination of thousands upon thousands of Australians, who fell in love with her classic style as well as her state-of-the-art features. Without question, Queen Mary 2 put cruising on many Australians’ wish lists and helped fuel the industry’s phenomenal growth Down Under,” she said.

 

Cunard Vice President of International Development David Rousham added that the cruise line’s growing popularity in Australia has prompted Cunard to plan additional deployments in the area in 2018.

 

“Australians have a real bond with Cunard which strengthens every year as our Australian guest numbers grow. Over the past decade, the number of Australian guests cruising on our annual world voyages has increased fifteen-fold and Australia is now our second major market for world voyages and our third largest passenger market overall,” he said.

 

 

Discover the defining moments in Australia’s history…at sea!

Princess Cruises is bringing history to the open seas in a new initiative with the National Museum of Australia. The cruise line will feature a new exhibition about Australian history on each of the company’s five Australian-based ships, and interested tourists will be able to enjoy the attraction until 2021.

 

The exhibition, entitled Defining Moments in Australian History, was developed through public discussion, online resources and community events. One hundred events that have shaped Australian history were chosen, from evidence of Indigenous Australians over 50,000 years ago to the opening of the Sydney Opera House.

 

Twenty panels and artefacts were assembled for display on the cruise ships, including convicts’ iron legs, a Dead Man’s Penny and Aboriginal stone tools. They are exclusive to Princess Cruises and their guests.

 

The exhibition is being featured on Golden Princess, Emerald Princess, Diamond Princess, Sun Princess and Sea Princess. Princess Cruises has reported initial success in this foray into history, drawing large crowds to the exhibition.

 

The National Museum of Australia has also achieved its stated aim of upping visitor engagement thanks to educational events that are being held to celebrate the opening of the exhibition. Curators are onboard to introduce items, conduct talks and engage with guests in discussion.

 

Princess Cruises are offering the chance to help shape the exhibition in the future. Guests are invited to events onboard the cruise and to suggest their own defining moments in history, which will then undergo a review process. Passenger-suggested events may potentially be added to the exhibition in the future.

 

Princess Cruises offers cruises around Australia as well as getaways in one city. Cruises range from two days and no ports to 13 days and five ports, covering the major cities of Australia.