Travel Blog

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.

 

Trek Australia’s premier alpine trail, The Overland Track

If adventure travel is the name of the game when you journey Down Under, The Overland Track is a challenge worth contemplating. If you’re a keen hiker or you have a good level of fitness, and you’re looking for something to test your mettle while you’re in Oz, this could be just the ticket. This 65-kilometre hike will push you to your limits, as well as taking you through some of the most spectacular scenery Australia has to offer.

 

Trekking The Overland Track

 

Famed as one of the greatest bush walks on the planet, The Overland Track takes you through 65 kilometres of natural beauty in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania. It takes around 6 days to complete the entire route, which takes you through valleys, rainforests, meadows, woodlands, and moorlands. At the height of the season, you’ll need to book your hike in advance, and there is a charge.

 

Trekking The Overland Track is not for the faint-hearted. The terrain can be tricky at the best of times, and the weather conditions unpredictable. In a second, a calm sky can become turbulent, and you may find yourself facing heavy downpours, fog, and high winds. Before you begin, it’s wise to do your homework, and read some travel tips and advice from the pros. Pack a bag to take with you, and wear suitable footwear, and plenty of warm, light layers. Even if it looks like it’s going to be dry, it’s advisable to carry a waterproof with you.

 

Highlights of the The Overland Track

 

There are few routes on Earth that treat you to the dazzling array of landscapes on offer on The Overland Track. There really is something for everyone here, and the changing seasons make for a breathtaking show, whatever time of year you visit. From the serenity of the forests to the rocky inclines and the lush meadows, there’s a sight to behold around every corner. You’ll start your adventure at Cradle Mountain and make your way to Lake St Clair via glacial valleys, fragrant glades and thick forests. Along the way you’ll come across Pelion Gap, Barn Bluff, Tasmania’s highest mountain, Mt Ossa and a series of waterfalls. Ascending Barn Bluff and Mt Ossa is gruelling, but the views are well worth the blood, sweat, and tears.

 

If you are planning to mount a challenge and take on the mighty Overland Track, get some training in, get your camera primed, and don’t forget to book your hike if you’re visiting between October and May.

 

Wild swimming in the blues and greens of Lake McKenzie

Nestled on Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie is one of the most visited natural wonders in Australia. Its vibrant blue-green hues make it an inviting prospect for any holidaymakers who are hoping to take a break from adrenaline-pumping adventure travel to recharge their batteries in the lovely waters and enjoy the surroundings. If you’re visiting Fraser Island, it’s a shame to miss out on a wild swimming adventure to reinvigorate yourself at beautiful Lake McKenzie.

 

What’s so spectacular about Lake McKenzie?

 

Lake McKenzie is not like other lakes. It is a perched lake, which is not connected to rivers or tributaries. Instead, it is filled solely by rainwater. At the bottom, a layer of impervious sand forms a barrier, which prevents the rainwater from draining away, and ensures the lake remains full and ready for swimming adventures at all times. Lake McKenzie is spectacularly beautiful to behold, especially at dawn and dusk. The tranquil, rippling water is incredibly alluring, and you can swim at most times of the year.

The crystal clear azure waters of Lake McKenzie have made it one of Oz’s most popular wild swimming spots. On a warm day, this is the perfect location to cool off, and take in the views.

After a swim, put your towel down, grab a good book and soak up the sun. The powdery white beaches that surround the lake are made from silica sand, which is beautifully soft on your toes.

 

Planning your visit

 

If you’re planning a trip to Lake McKenzie, you’ll need to catch a ferry over to Fraser Island from River Heads or Inskip Point. The crossing from River Heads will take you to a car park just a few minutes’ walk from Lake McKenzie. If you travel from Inskip Point, you’ll arrive at a spot around 5-6km from the lake. If you plan to drive on Fraser Island, you’ll need a vehicle permit, so make sure you have this sorted in advance. Four-wheel-drive adventures are synonymous with Fraser Island, so don’t miss the opportunity to scale the dunes and enjoy a drive on the wild side.

Lake McKenzie boasts a very fragile ecosystem, so it is recommended that you don’t wear sunscreen or cosmetics when swimming.

 

Are you hoping to travel to Fraser Island while you’re Down Under? If so, take a couple of days to visit and dip your toes in the wonder that is Lake McKenzie. You won’t regret it!

 

A snorkel experience with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef

Off the western coast of Australia lies one of the country’s most magnificent natural sites: the Ningaloo Reef. Part of the larger Ningaloo Coast, the Ningaloo Reef is one of Australia’s protected World Heritage Sites. The reef is known for its stunning biodiversity, with over 700 fish species and a host of endangered sea turtles. It’s close to the coast, too, so it’s much more accessible than other reefs like the Great Barrier. And one of the most amazing parts of Ningaloo Reef is its seasonal gathering of whale sharks—the largest in the world. If you’re heading to Australia, you can spend a day snorkeling with these magnificent creatures.

 

Diving with whale sharks

 

Get ready for an unforgettable experience. Companies based in Exmouth, West Australia, leave daily for tours of Ningaloo Reef and scuba diving with whale sharks. Guides will take you out on a boat to see the reef, where you can snorkel between the fish darting around. Then, a spotter plane will help find whale sharks which you can swim with.

 

Expect to swim with the whale sharks for 15 minutes or more. Guides will be in the water with you to help you make the most of your experience underwater. These gentle giants are bottom feeders, eating tiny fish and krill, and they’re very friendly. They have no problem swimming with humans and often come right up to see you.

 

Planning your experience

 

Since whale sharks don’t stay at Ningaloo Reef year-round, plan your trip between March and September when they are most abundant. Most tours don’t run outside of those times, but the ones that do don’t guarantee that you’ll find any whale sharks.

 

When you’re looking at tours, make sure you pick the one that’s right for you. Different tours offer different guarantees—from good weather guarantees to good swimming guarantees to seasickness guarantees. Picking a tour that offers you a good package ensures that you’ll have a good snorkeling experience no matter what.

 

Don’t forget to bring the right equipment, too. You’re going to be spending a day on the boat, so bring lots of sunscreen and a sweatshirt. It can get chilly when you’re out on the water, so it pays to be prepared. Most importantly, bring an underwater camera. Some companies offer rentals or video footage, but bringing your own camera ensures that you can capture pictures of your adventure.

 

Taronga Zoo welcomes rare cotton-top tamarin

Taronga Zoo has announced the birth of the Sydney attraction’s first cotton-top tamarin in 10 years, and visitors can now go and catch a glimpse of the tiny baby monkey scampering around and jumping up trees.

 

The primate, native to Colombia in South America, is one of the rarest species in the world. Cotton-top tamarins are one of the smallest monkeys on the planet, weighing less than 500g at their heaviest and growing up to about 26cm tall, not including their tail, as an adult. The tiny monkeys are known for their distinctive white mohawks, which grow with age and have often seen them compared to punk rockers.

 

These monkeys are critically endangered, with only 6000 wild cotton-top tamarins to be found in their native home. They have lost more than 75 percent of their original habitat to deforestation and are also under threat from the illegal wildlife trade, making this new birth at Taronga Zoo an outstanding achievement in the preservation of these wonderful animals.

 

Keepers at Taronga Zoo are yet to determine the sex of the rare primate as the infant is currently too young – it is only six weeks old at the moment – but keepers have revealed that the baby has started to explore its surroundings as well as climbing trees and cheekily grabbing food out of its parents’ hands.

 

Taronga Zoo is located on the shores of Sydney Harbour in the suburb of Mosman. The zoo cares for 350 species, of which there are over 4000 animals in total, many of which are endangered. It also carries out an admirable range of projects, from conservation, breeding programs and animal welfare to a wildlife hospital looking after the newborn and sick animals.

 

 

Animals proving a chief draw Down Under

Tourism Australia and Qantas Airlines have revealed that Australia’s range of loveable animals are playing a key role in the country’s appeal as a “memorable and desirable holiday destination”.

 

The two companies recently partnered up and asked members of the Australian tourism industry to submit their top social media posts from the year 2016, with entries ranging from panoramic pictures of Bondi Beach to the Australian war memorial in Canberra.

 

The accolade of the competition winner, however, went to Margaret River Discovery Co. owner Sean Blocksidge. His photograph of two kangaroos in front of a full moon gained over 72,000 likes. As the prize for his victorious entry, Sean will now take centre stage at this month’s major tourism and trade event, G’Day USA.

 

The top two video competition entries also both featured animals. The first showed a baby wombat called George and his caretaker, the cute footage of the pair receiving 277,000 likes on Instagram. The other video was of a butterfly perched on the nose of a koala, which received a phenomenal 38 million views after going viral on social media.

 

Australia’s tourism board has shown that the combination of the country’s unique range of animals and their popularity on social media has had a huge influence on attracting visitors. This has been seen in particular at Symbio Wildlife park, where park visits increased by 66 per cent in the month following the viral Koala video.

 

Lisa Ronson, Tourism Australia Chief Marketing Officer, said she was excited to see such a high standard of entry.

 

“What has struck me most strongly about this competition is not just the amazing quality of the photos and video submissions but the great stories that lie behind each of these postings and, importantly, the impressive results that have been delivered for all of these operators,” Ronson said.