Tales from Two Trusted Travellers…
As much as we would love to, we can’t all take time away from our daily lives to indulge in endless, mind-expanding, soul-enriching travel! However, we often have friends who do, and we get to travel vicariously through their journeys. I have two such friends – Ron and Marjorie – who have visited 30 countries in every continent over the past 10 years. They love connecting with nature, and also enjoy the more luxurious side of life – perfect travel criteria! Their favourite trip to date was the seven months they spent experiencing the life and culture of the towns, outback, beaches and mountain communities around Australia last year, combining both ‘camper trailering’ and luxury lodging. Here are their top tips for exploring this great land:
Q – Which was your favourite destination?
A – Without a doubt, The Kimberleys, and particularly the *True North experience. The gorges, rugged coastline, wildlife and waterfalls in this part of Australia are spectacular and the adventure activities along the Kimberley coast on the True North were the best we have ever experienced. We also loved our time at **El Questro, Broome, Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) and especially Karijini National Park, in the Hamersley Range, also in Western Australia.
*True North, part of The Luxury Lodges of Australia group, is a small, Australian cruise ship which caters for just 36 passengers and 20 crew, and includes 6 tenders and a 6-passenger helicopter enabling guests to access some of the most remote coastal gorges and waterholes in Australia. **The El Questro Homestead, also part of The Luxury Lodges of Australia, is a luxury retreat for 18 guests, perched on a cliff overlooking the Chamberlain Gorge in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Q – What was your favourite food experience?
A – Sometimes the simplest food, in relaxing surroundings, is the best! We found the best fish and chips at Point Samson overlooking the beach, freshly cooked prawns, all along the coast and fantastic fresh oysters at Coffin Bay. Also in Point Samson, a most unexpected gem in TaTa’s, a great up-market restaurant. Most memorable for me (Ron) was the Byron Beach Café, at Byron Bay, where we had lunch overlooking the spectacular bay. The degustation at The Town, in Bangalow, northern New South Wales, was also a highlight, and lunch at Harvest, in Newrybar, also in northern New South Wales, is worth a mention. The food at all the Luxury Lodges was all great especially the camp candle-lit meals prepared by Arkaba Station while on our walk through the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
Q – Which activity did you enjoy the most?
A – We both love walking, so trekking through the spectacular scenery of the Karijini National Park and Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) in Western Australia; Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges with Arkaba Station; around the Geikie Gorge, which towers over the Fitzroy River in Western Australia, and the hikes from the True North were highlights.
Q – What was your number one accommodation pick?
A – Apart from our “Aussie Swag” camper trailer, which afforded us the ultimate in relaxed, hassle-free travel, Qualia at Hamilton Island was the best accommodation we experienced, as it is truly luxurious and in a stunning location. This is followed closely by El Questro, Arkaba Station and Bamurru Plains, a luxury safari experience near Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory, which is rustic and different, including featuring a shower made from a tree! Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island is also one of the best places we have ever stayed, in that the whole experience, from the friendly staff to the amazing food, interesting activities and luxurious accommodation, is unbeatable.
Q – If you could do this holiday again, what would you change?
A – We would do more research as we missed out on some things which we didn’t know about until we got there, by which time it was too late to try to book. For example, we should have booked a tour along the Geikie Gorge led by one of the local Aboriginal groups to fully appreciate it. I think, given additional time, we could have stayed longer in some spots and relaxed rather than moving on quickly.
Q – What worked really well?
A – This was the most relaxing trip we have ever done. There was very little unpacking and packing, it was our own timetable, we mostly had our own transport, we were less time constrained and could be more spontaneous. If we liked a place, we would stay longer. We combined luxury with nature and we could mostly cook our own food! We met some great people, had some wonderfully new experiences and saw some unforgettable places.
Q – Any tips and tricks you learned along the way?
A – Talk to people in general, but also in the laundry! Seriously, it’s where you have the best conversations and get the most useful advice from other travellers who have gone before you. Also, there are a lot of small, isolated towns along the way which are very proud of their regions and run superb information centres. Go there as soon as you arrive, as the staff are always very helpful. Don’t over-pack! You only need two pairs of everything – one to wear, while the other is in the wash. Quick dry fabrics are also a must. The caravaning set are also a very special band of travellers, and there is a ‘sundowner’ every night with drinks, fun and laughter. So, our advice is to get out and explore this fabulous country. Australia has everything – spectacular scenery, great people, a huge variety of wildlife, fantastic weather and stunning beaches! Take your time, seven months was not long enough to do Australia properly. If time is a constraint, do the North and West in one trip and the South and East in another. Write your own blog along the way. Even if no-one else reads it, you will have a great memory of what you did!
Q – Anything quintessentially Australian which you think all travellers should experience?
A – Walking along a deserted beach in perfect weather! Some memorable examples are Karumba Beach in the Gulf of Carpentaria; sunset on Cable Beach in Broome; and the pristine, white beaches of Esperance and Barn Hill, south of Broome, which boasts beautiful white sand, a majestic red cliff and a glistening emerald ocean.
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