Dodging Those Bikes: 3 Days in Amsterdam

DAY 1: Get Your Bearings

Canal Boat in the 9 streets

Start your day with a relaxed stroll around De 9 Straatjes (the 9 Streets), a picturesque area, which really shows you what Amsterdam is all about. While you wander up and down the canals you will come across Westerkerk and Anne Frank’s House as well as many trendy shops, cafes and restaurants. You could spend a whole day relaxing in this area if you wanted to but if you’re short on time, spend a morning browsing the shops and then grab some lunch from one of the independent eateries. You can also take a look at the Jordaan neighbourhood, especially the streets, Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk which are at the top end of the area. While walking around look out for the bikes, one second you think you’re safe, next thing you know bikes are coming at you from all directions!

Bikes Amsterdam

9 Streets

From ‘the 9 Streets’ it’s a short walk to Central Station, in front of which you can catch a canal boat tour, which will give you chance to sit back and relax after your morning of walking. It will also let you get your bearings, see the different neighbourhoods, learn some history and admire the city’s architecture. If you want to see that little bit extra and have a more authentic experience, go on a smaller boat as they can go to more parts of the city.

Canal Cruising

Amsterdam Canal in Autumn


DAY 2: Get Cultured

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Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam has some absolutely beautiful and brilliant museums, so on your second day I would suggest heading to Museumplein. Conveniently, the most famous of the museums are all in one place so you can get from one to another pretty quickly and it makes it easier to see them in the same day. Tickets to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelikj are around €17 for each so if you’re on a budget you may want to pick what you want to see carefully. You can comfortably fit seeing two into a day and make the most of your entrance price. If you want to fit in all three museums, it would be possible, but you may have to make your way around them a little faster and maybe just pick some highlights in the Rijksmuseum, for example ‘The Night Watch’ painted in 1642 by Rembrandt, the Doll’s Houses and the library. The building is reason enough to visit the Rijksmuseum. A couple of highlights of the Van Gogh Museum are ‘Sunflowers,’ painted in 1889 and ‘Wheatfield with Crows’ painted in 1890.

If you didn’t manage to fit in the Anne Frank House on the previous day you could do it today instead of one of the museums. It’s about a 25 minute walk from Museumplein, is only €9 and definitely worth a visit.

After your day taking in the city’s history and art, head to FoodHallen to relax and experience the trendy burgeoning food scene of the city. Located in a renovated tram depot, this indoor food market has a wide variety of independent vendors to choose from and a great mixture of locals and tourists. Grab your food, a drink, sit back and enjoy the bustling atmosphere. There’s live music on Tuesdays and a live DJ on Fridays and Saturdays.


DAY 3: Get Wandering

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Royal Palace

This is the day to see some of the areas you’ve not explored in the previous days. Of course you won’t be able to fit everything into three days, but hey that gives you more reasons to make a return visit! Of course, what you see first on this day will depend on where you’re staying but the city is very walkable and it’s very enjoyable to wander around as all the streets are just so pretty. I’d recommend going to Dam Square to see the Royal Palace and the National monument. Not too far from there is Begijnhof, a picturesque little courtyard with a long and interesting history.

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Begijnhof

The street that runs from the Rijksmuseum, Spiegelgracht/ Nieuwe Spiegelstraat is also worth exploring as it is full of quirky, independent shops and art galleries. Then, if it intrigues you, take a stroll through the Red Light District.

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Nieuwe Spiegelstraat

Of course there is so much more to see in the city such as Vondelpark, Westerpark, the Rembrandt House Museum, the docks and North Amsterdam. Lots of reasons to stay longer than three days or to go back again at another time! I know I will be!


Enjoy this short little video of my time in Amsterdam:

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Escape the Crowds: A Day on the Island of Capri

If you’re spending a day on the island of Capri I have two key tips:

1. Make sure you take a boat tour around the island to see the stunning landscape. Part of the charm of Capri is its rugged coastline and seeing it by boat is one of the best ways to experience the island.

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2. Do everything you can to get away from the crowds! As soon as you step off the boat at Marina Piccola you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of people, especially if you’re visiting in the summer. However, I found there are ways to escape the crowds, which can make your day much more enjoyable!

 

Our day on Capri had its ups and downs, mostly due to the funicular, which takes you from the port up to the town. It was very busy and we had to wait quite a long time, and the way down was even worse, we were packed in like sardines while we waited. So learn from my mistake and beware! It’s probably worth walking if you have the time and energy. The main town was very, very busy, literally bursting with tourists and Italians, probably made significantly worse by the fact it was a public holiday. Thankfully we decided to walk to Villa Jovis, which is on the edge of the North-East corner of the island. It has a very interesting history, you can wander around the ruins and it provides stunning views of the Italian coast.

The walk there took us down quiet beautiful winding paths past pretty houses and gave us the chance to experience Capri more authentically, to experience where the locals lived and see the views from many different points along the way to the villa. I’m so glad we did this as it made our day really relaxed and pleasant. Other people we spoke to who stayed in the touristy areas didn’t have such a nice time. So my top tip is to find somewhere to visit which is off the beaten track to experience the island, whether that be Villa Jovis or one of the several other points of interest. So here’s a glimpse into what you find if you wander away from the crowds.

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After your peaceful stroll, you come to Villa Jovis, which on the edge of the island, provides beautiful views of the mainland. It’s extra special having these views from amongst the ruins of a Roman palace. It was built and completed all the way back in AD 27 by Emperor Tiberius. You can walk around and imagine what it was like all those years ago. And you may find the odd goat hanging around!

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After your peaceful walk back to the main town, you can rejoin the hustle and bustle by enjoying a refreshing drink or gelato in the square before making your way back to the marina to catch your boat! If you’re visiting Capri I hope you have a wonderful time!

Venturing down the Amalfi Coast: Positano and Amalfi

If you want to witness Italian driving in all its glory then this is the journey to do. Near-misses become part of the experience on this twisty stretch of narrow coastal road, but once you’re on it you just have to embrace it! By the end of your trip you wonder how so many come so close to accidents but somehow manage to avoid them. I think Italians must have some super fast reactions compared to the rest of us! Fortunately there are ways to get down the coast without driving yourself. I can’t imagine it being very easy unless you’re super experienced on roads like this. We left it to the professionals and took the Amalfi Coast Discovery tour from Sorrento. This was a great day tour with an excellent guide, which stopped off in Positano and Amalfi as well as some points along the coast to take in the views.

We wandered around the streets of beautiful Positano…

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… and took a boat ride from Amalfi to see the town from the water.

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A Journey Back in Time: Experiencing Pompeii

Visiting Pompeii is probably one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Although a lot of the city was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius back in 79 AD, what survived was buried under volcanic ash and as a result has been well preserved. You can walk the streets of a city that was last lived in two thousand years ago. As you explore the site, you can imagine how the city was all those years ago, where people lived, worked, gathered and enjoyed themselves. The site is huge and there is so much to see that we spent nearly six hours there exploring, from the houses of the rich to the baths, the brothels, the temples and the staggering Amphitheatre. You can spend as much or as little time as you want, either just getting a taste for it or fully immersing yourself and spending a full day. Visiting Pompeii is such a unique experience and it really takes you back in time if you ignore the crowds and allow yourself to wander, explore and discover one sight after another.

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Tips

1. Taking a short tour to start your trip at Pompeii is useful to get your bearings and gain some context about what life was like before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. We took a two hour tour with Tempio travel which was pretty cheap at €12 (this doesn’t include entry into Pompeii but it is worth the money). If you’re staying in Sorrento you can book on the tour at the train station, if not there is also a ticket office at Pompeii’s station. The tour was really useful as it showed us the main parts of the city first and gave us all the information we needed to fully appreciate what we saw walking around on our own afterwards. Having a sense of where everything was and what life was like made the rest of the day much more enjoyable than it would have been if we had just wandered around on our own for the whole visit.

2. Know that it will be busy, very busy and that there are tour groups and school children pretty much everywhere. If you know and accept this in advance it will make your trip more enjoyable. Just see past the crowds and find parts of the city that are a little more off the beaten path. In the late afternoon we found ourselves alone in some parts of the city that aren’t on the usual tour routes and they were just as interesting, some even more so than what we were shown on our tour. We couldn’t believe just how much there was to discover!

3. Allow a whole day and get the most out of your relatively cheap €11 entry price. There is so much to explore and it is best done in a relaxed way, stumbling upon what is around the next corner. We enjoyed finding one incredible thing after another. Pompeii is very large and so if you have limited time you may want to pick out the places you especially want to see in advance and make sure they are not too far apart. For instance, the Amphitheatre is quite a walk away from the Forum, on the other side of the city.

4. This may seem like a no-brainer but people might not know just how exposed Pompeii is to the sun. In the summer months it may be hard to find a cooler day, but if you do have one during your stay in the region make sure to go on that day. Throughout Pompeii there isn’t much shelter from the sun, so if you have no choice but to go on a very hot day, make sure you avoid the midday sun and be prepared!

5. Use your imagination and look past the crowds to think about what it used to be like to live there before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius devastated the city. There is so much remaining that it is quite easy to picture what it was like all those years ago, for instance the writing on the walls in the below photo.

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Highlights

1. The streets

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This is probably a bit of an odd one to start off with but it’s one that you reminds you that what you’re seeing was lived in so very long ago. The indentations in the stone were for carts and when gladiators went to battle their carts would go through the city on these tracks. The stones going across the road were stepping stones used to avoid walking through the human waste that was emptied onto the streets. Clever. Keep an eye out for these and walk on the stepping stones that were used two thousand years ago.

2. The Baths

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The baths were an important part of life in Pompeii, a place where people socialised. You can see this in their design, built to be grand. They are a great place to see the paintings and carvings that used to adorn the walls and ceilings of Pompeii. It’s pretty incredible that so long ago such intricate and decorative designs were used. The above photo was taken in the men’s changing room. At the bottom of the photo, the gaps in the wall were their locker spaces. As you walk around the baths you can see the different types of pools and how they were heated.

3. The Brothel

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If you venture into Pompeii’s red light district, you can go inside a brothel. As Pompeii was a port city, sailors came from all over and so on the walls are paintings which they would use to point to so they could say what they wanted. You can see the rooms which were used, each of which has a stone bed, not very comfortable!

4. The Amphitheatre 

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The Amphitheatre is on the edge of the city, a bit of a walk from the other main attractions, but along the way there are lots of interesting things to see. The Amphitheatre itself is very grand and as you enter through a passage, one of the gladiators would have used, you can imagine the crowds sat above and the events that would have taken place.

5. The Forum and the surrounding Temples and Basilica

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The Forum is probably the busiest part of Pompeii, the main square, it is surrounded by the remains of several temples and the Basilica. Just off to one side of the Forum you can see a range of artefacts found in Pompeii and also some of the casts of the bodies of the people that died when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. This part of Pompeii is especially interesting as it was the main place where business would take place and people would gather, the centre of life in Pompeii.

I never expected to visit Pompeii in my lifetime and I think that made the experience that much more surreal and enjoyable. I’d suggest adding Pompeii to your bucket list now! It is definitely one of the most unique experiences you can have and it makes you really think about the people that came before us.

Lemons, More Lemons and the Occasional Orange: Exploring Sorrento, Italy

*Spot the lemons.

This was my first trip to Italy and it didn't disappoint, what a beauty it is. I spent a week just south of Naples in Sorrento, which serves as a fantastic base for exploring the great deal of attractions nearby. Sorrento itself is a lovely place to stay and offers a relaxed atmosphere, great restaurants and stunning views of the Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius. I write a little about our stay and experience of Sorrento and give a few tips of what to see and do if you decide to visit… Or you can just have a nosy at my photos and dream of being in sunny Italy, which is basically what I'm doing as I write this! Either way, I hope you enjoy!


8 Tips For A Trip to Sorrento

1. Savour the coastal views on the journey from Naples airport to Sorrento.

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You will most likely fly into Naples airport. From there it is a bit of drive down to Sorrento, but when the views are like this you won't mind so much. We actually got stuck in traffic as it was a public holiday, so it took us even longer than usual, but it didn't matter in the slightest, it gave us more time to take in the beautiful views.

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2. Take in the stunning view of Mt. Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples

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Sorrento's position on the coastline gives it an incredible view of the Bay of Naples and Mt Vesuvius. We were lucky enough to have a hotel right on the cliff edge. Several of them are, so keep this in mind when choosing your hotel if you would like to have this view as soon as you wake up or while you eat your breakfast. But don't worry if you can't manage to get a hotel with this view, you can go to Villa Comunale Park which is very easily accessible from the centre of Sorrento and is a relaxed spot to take in the view. I talk about it a little more later on!


3. Get lost in the streets and alleyways of the centro storico (historic centre)

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Sorrento itself is easy to explore. It's just the right size for a relaxed holiday with a little sightseeing. You can see it all just by taking a wander through the streets and alleyways. It's hard to get lost as it is relatively small and as you explore you will stumble upon the numerous churches and museums. As you explore the town make sure to look up to take in the pretty architecture which fills the streets. You can take a break from walking by stopping in one of the many many restaurants or cafes. Some of the little shops also offer you non-stop tasters of biscuits, sweets and most importantly Limoncello and all things Limoncello flavoured. You may leave the shop feeling a little tipsy!

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One shop highlight would be Gargiulo & Jannuzzi, a shop dating from 1893. It mainly sells locally made inlaid wood pieces, from chess boards to furniture, and also ceramic dogs, frogs and tigers. What more could you want? Even if you can't afford to buy anything it is a must-see as it gives such insight into Sorrento's history and its products.

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Being so compact Sorrento is great for an evening passeggiata (stroll). After watching the sunset, you can end the day by have a relaxed walk through the centro storico, taking a look at what is on offer in the shops, or stop to get some dinner or gelato. Perhaps finish the night with a drink at Fauno in Piazza Tasso, the main square, where you can people-watch and watch the world go by.

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4. Take a walk down to Marina Grande

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Marina Grande is the closest thing Sorrento has to a beach. A short walk from the historic centre it offers a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the sun amongst the fishing boats. There are some restaurants which serve fish from the morning's catch. We went to Trattoria Da Emilia twice. It is positioned right on the water's edge and is the perfect place to enjoy a meal. It is particularly atmospheric in the evening when the lights are shining from the marina and the hotels on the cliff-edge above. The restaurant was founded in 1947 and is family run. It has a very casual feel and the food is absolutely incredible, that's why we went back for a second night! You have to try the sea bass, so simple but the tastiest fish I've ever eaten! The spaghetti with clams are also a popular dish of the region and didn't disappoint.

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5. Find calm in the gardens of Museo Correale

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Make sure to visit Museo Correale for it's interesting collection which includes 17th to 19th century Neopolitan art and crafts, but also a variety of other pieces, from Japanese clocks to Greek and Roman artefacts. The museum is interesting and well worth a visit to understand more about the region's history, but the gardens on their own are worth the entry price. Filled with lemon and orange trees, they offer a peaceful escape away from the hustle and bustle of touristy Sorrento. It doesn't feel like you're in the town at all.

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6. Have lemon gelato under the lemon grove of I Giardini di Cataldo

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Lemons are a big deal in this region and so if you're going to get some gelato you have to try lemon gelato! I Giardini di Cataldowas just by our hotel, a family run business which offers home-grown lemon gelato made from the lemons of that very grove. It's delicious and refreshing! You can enjoy your gelato sat under the shade of the grove, a nice escape from the heat. They also sell a range of other products made from their produce, including liqueurs and jams.

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7. Have dinner in the prettiest of locations at Ristorante 'O Parrucchiano La Favorita and Ristorante Cafè Latino

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In both of these locations you will be surrounded by orange and lemon trees adorned with fairy lights, a dining experience like no other. Ristorante 'O Parrucchiano La Favorita is a large family run restaurant passed down through generations. It started off as a tiny trattoria and has since expanded significantly to have a lovely enchanted garden setting above the original rooms. Enjoy the dishes, mainly pasta, traditional to the Gulf of Naples surrounded by greenery, a relaxed escape from the busy streets of Sorrento. Ristorante Cafè Latinois set in an orange and lemon tree garden in the heart of the historic centre of Sorrento. A great place, particularly in spring/summer for a drink or a meal under the stars. The pasta was delicious!

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8. Watch the sun set over Mt. Vesuvius with panoramic views from Villa Comunale Park 

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Finally, Villa Comunale Park is the place I mentioned earlier to enjoy the view of Mt. Vesuvius. Make sure you go at sunset! We only watched it from there on our last night and now I wish we had gone every night. Two words: Absolutely breathtaking.

Who wouldn't want to go?! Before writing this I knew I wanted to go back to Sorrento one day, but now looking at these photos, it can't come soon enough!

– Jen

Video | Travelling up the Coast of Queensland | Australia 2016

I didn’t quite have the footage to work with that I would have liked, hence the delay in the upload of this video, but hey you live and learn and on my next trip I’ll be making sure to film much better quality footage.

To see more videos like this in the future subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Hope you enjoy and thanks for watching!

Video | Melbourne & Road trip to the Twelve Apostles | Australia 2016

Slowly getting to grips with this whole YouTube and video editing thing. These videos have been great practice. Enjoy and thanks for watching!

To see more videos like this in the future subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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Video | Sydney & New South Wales | Australia 2016

For my first travel video, I’ve put together some footage I shot on my trip to Sydney this year. Enjoy and thanks for watching!

To see more videos like this in the future subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Top 5 Tips for Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is one of the most fulfilling and memorable experiences you can have. I spent a year in Long Beach, California as part of my American Studies degree and it was definitely the best year of my life so far. I wholeheartedly encourage people to study abroad if they have the opportunity. There is nothing quite like getting to live in another country for an extended period of time, experiencing their culture and their university life. Here are my five top tips for making the most of your time abroad:

5. Write a blog

This is a great way to reflect on your experiences, share them with friends and family back home and have an account of everything you did to revisit in the future. This will probably be the most adventure-filled year of your life so far and believe me you will want to look back on it all. Writing a blog also makes you think about all the cultural differences, realise how much you’ve done and appreciate what a unique experience this is. You may even discover a passion for writing and photography that you never had before! To get an idea, here’s the blog I kept: http://fivethousandmilestothebeach.blogspot.co.uk/ 

4. Choose the right classes

If possible take classes that you can’t get back home. You are there to learn as well as have a great time. Don’t worry, you can have the best of both worlds and fit it all in! Taking classes that are unique to your study abroad university, and a bit different from what you would usually do, will make the experience much more enriching. If you go to an American university you can usually try out as many classes as you want in the first week and see which you like the most. I wish I’d tried harder to do this on my year abroad. However, I did take some film and media classes that were very interesting and different from anything available at my home university, such as ‘Celebrity in American Culture’ and ‘Alternative Media’.

3.  Fill your time with every opportunity

Say yes to new experiences! By the end of the year the country’s culture will seem so normal to you you’ll forget there was even any culture shock when you first got there. You’ll go home and miss the food, the weather, the lifestyle, so make the most of it. You will be amazed with how much you can fit into a day. Go to the beach at the drop of a hat, go on a road trip at the weekend, find an internship, work on the school’s newspaper, whatever you have an interest in, now is your time to pursue it. Do things you’d never even thought about before, get outside of your comfort zone.

2. Embrace college life

Talk to new people, make friends with people from all over the world and join in the activities. Go to class, hang out in your dorms, wander around campus and go to the college sports games. Enjoy the dining hall experience, embrace sharing a room and having friends live down the hall. This is the one time in your life you have the chance to see what another country’s university lifestyle is like. So as well as studying and travelling make sure you have time to just chill out and be a student.

1. Explore

Explore the local area around the university, find the coolest spots, the best food places, shops, beaches. Whatever may be unique to the place you’re living. Some of my fondest memories of my year abroad are the simplest ones, like going to get Fro-Yo or Iced Tea with friends. As well as seeing what your new home has to offer explore the wider area. This is your opportunity to see the country you’re in. Of course be wise with money but also make the most of your position in the world. While in the USA, living in California, I visited 8 states spanning Hawaii to New York. I had never, in my wildest dreams, thought that I would be going to Hawaii, but from LA it actually wasn’t that expensive and was well worth the spontaneous trip!

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Your time abroad is all about balance: between studying, travelling, exploring the local area and just living the campus life. And not everything has to cost money, sometimes the best experiences are free. There is nothing quite like sitting on a beach watching the sunset while satisfied that you managed to fit in reading that book for tomorrow’s class beforehand. The time is what you make it and you will be left surprised by how much you can fit into a day, a week, a month, a year.

3 Day Tour: Fraser Island

With its stunning array of unique natural attractions Fraser Island is a must-see if you are taking a trip along Australia’s East Coast. It is the largest sand island in the world and has stunning lakes, rainforests and beaches. To go on the island you need a 4WD car as most of the driving takes place on sand. I did a three day, two night camping tour with Palace Adventures which was recommended by Greyhound Wicked when I booked my Hop-On Hop-Off bus pass. I was told of the island’s popularity and the usual need to book in advance so get in there quick if you plan to go! If I hadn’t been lucky enough to get a place at the last minute I certainly would have felt like I’d missed one of Queensland’s most spectacular highlights.

The tour package included two nights in the Palace hostel in Hervey Bay which is a departure point for the island. There isn’t much in Hervey Bay itself except the beach so don’t plan to stay too long. People usually use one night in the hostel the night before the tour and one night after, but due to my time limitations the best thing for me was to use both nights before as I had a night bus to Cairns to catch the day we got back.

The evening before the tour there is a briefing which is a great opportunity to meet the other people who will be going with you. On our tour there were about 27 people in four cars, three of which follow the tour leader’s. So the average backpacker with a driving license has the opportunity to drive on the island.


DAY 1:

I pulled myself out of bed at 5:30am for the long exciting day ahead. We had to be downstairs for a 6am checkout, to store luggage in lockers and watch a safety video about driving and the island. We packed up the cars and set off to the boat.

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A Dingo Welcome

We were welcomed onto the island by a howling Dingo, apparently a rare sight at this time of year as they usually head into the forest for breeding season. Our journey into the heart of the island then began on a sand road through the forest. It certainly was a unique adventure to be in a 4WD driving through forests and down long stretches of beach. The tour group spent a lot of time together being thrown around in the back of the car on the bumpy sand roads and getting stuck at some points, but this was all part of the fun!

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Sand roads

Our first stop was the beautiful Lake Birrabeen with its white sand and crystal clear water. On the island the lakes are the places to swim as the surrounding ocean can be very rough and has a high risk of sharks and stingers. You couldn’t really ask for a more picturesque swimming spot. Our tour guide told us you could wash your hair with the sand, that it would make it really soft. We were doubtful but it actually worked! We had time to swim and relax on the sand, a nice change of pace after my previous couple of busy weeks.

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Lake Birrabeen
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Lake Birrabeen

We then drove to Lake Boomanjin which is the largest perched lake in the world at 200 hectares. A perched lake means it is isolated above groundwater by a layer of rock or organic material. This lake was a stark contrast to the first one we saw. Gone was the perfect sand and bright blue water and instead was a lake with a rainbow of colours, from yellow to red to purple. It was so unusual it didn’t seem real, it appeared almost otherworldly. “Underwater it’s like swimming in blood!” exclaimed a fellow traveller upon return to the shore. This is due to Tea Trees staining the water that runs down tiny creeks into the lake. It was windier and the water was a lot colder here. I only got far enough into the multi-coloured water to paddle and enjoy the view.

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Colourful Waters, Lake Boomanjin
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Lake Boomanjin

We ended the day by driving partway down the 75 Mile Beach to get to our camp which was right on the edge of the beach (this felt very LOST). We set up camp and by about 5pm it was already dark. This was when the magnificent stars came into view. We headed down to the beach to fully appreciate the night sky with its shooting stars, Milky Way and to watch the moonrise (for more detail on this check out my Australia: Top Ten Experiences post). It was then time to try the famous “Goon” (cheap wine in a box/bag), a backpacker staple in Australia. It actually wasn’t that bad!

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75 Mile Beach
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75 Mile Beach

DAY 2:

With an early start at 7am after a bad night’s sleep in the tent Eli Creek was a welcome first stop for the day. A drive down the beach, it was the perfect place to have a morning swim to wake up and feel refreshed for the day ahead. The water is considered some of the purest in the world, filtered for over 100 years through the sand.  There is a boardwalk leading up to a spot from which you can float down on the creek’s current, a very relaxing way to start the day. This was one of my favourite spots on the island as it was a completely new experience. With its enchanting feel I could see why Eli Creek has long been a place of importance for the island’s Aboriginal people. I floated down the creek many times that morning.  It felt like paradise, the sun peeking through the trees above and the water as clear as can be.

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Eli Creek
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Eli Creek
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Tour group, Eli Creek

We then continued down the beach to the Maheno Shipwreck, an iconic landmark of the island with an interesting and surprising history. The SS Maheno was originally launched as an ocean liner in 1905, mainly sailing between Australia and New Zealand. In 1915 it was used as a hospital ship in the First World War. In 1920 the ship returned to carrying civilians but in 1935 it was sold to Japanese ship wreckers. It was being towed to Japan when a cyclone caused it to come away from the towing ship. It drifted until it landed at Fraser Island. It was then used as bombing practice in the Second World War which has contributed to its deterioration. Much of the ship is still buried under the sand. It was a very unique sight to see!

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Maheno Shipwreck
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Maheno Shipwreck
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Maheno Shipwreck

We then headed to the Champagne Pools which are created by waves crashing over the volcanic rock formations from the ocean. This is a safe way to enjoy the sea water as the dangerous sharks, stingers and currents are left behind on the other side of the rock. The waves create a bubbling fizzy pool, nature’s own jacuzzi, hence the name “champagne”. The tour group had a swim amongst the fish and hung out in the pools. They were surrounded by beautiful scenery and the view from the top of the access steps was particularly amazing. So many shades of blue in the ocean!

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Above the Champagne Pools
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Champagne Pools
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Champagne Pools

Next up was Indian Head for its 360 degree views. It is the most easterly point on the island. It was supposedly named by Captain Cook when he passed in 1770 as he saw Aboriginal people there and considered them “Indians”. From this vantage point you can see the extensive sand dunes of the island, the dense forest behind and the long expanses of beach. It is a prime spot for catching a glimpse of stingrays, whales or sharks in the ocean. I saw a stingray!

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The sand dunes from Indian Head
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The island’s most easterly point, Indian Head

We then headed back to camp in time to watch the sunset on the beach. We had dinner and watched the stars and moonrise again. Our tour guide, Tony, came and told us there were Dingoes coming up the beach so we made a move back to camp to have some drinks.


DAY 3:

We woke at 7am, had breakfast, packed up camp and then headed on a long drive through the heart of the rainforest to see Lake McKenzie, the most famous and popular lake on the island. Here the sands are composed of pure, white silica and the water is so pure it is unsuitable for many species. As with all the other spots we visited on the island we got there before the crowds (credit to our tour guide), which meant we could properly enjoy the breathtaking views and the very beautiful blue water. We went for a swim in this paradise!

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Lake McKenzie
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Paradise, Lake McKenzie

We then drove again through the forest to Kingfisher Bay, a resort from which we would be catching our boat back to Hervey Bay. We had our lunch there and explored the beach before getting on the boat, marking the end of an amazing tour! We got back to the mainland covered in sand and caught up in the amazing natural wonders we had seen. It was a truly freeing and authentic travel experience.

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Kingfisher Bay
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Kingfisher Bay

Thanks for reading. See you next time!