Two lakes, two lakeside towns – the dilemma!

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If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, there will be much debate on which exciting cities, charming towns and endless scenic viewpoints to visit.  With limited time, you really need a solid travel plan to make the most of this country with its picturesque mountains, lakes, beaches and forest to explore.

Many travelers feel torn between the South Island destinations of Wanaka and Queenstown. The good news is they are both wonderful places to visit and you will have a fabulous time at either one. The bad

Aerial view of Queenstown with Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables (mountains) .

news is, it’s hard to pick. So I’ve laid it all out, like a delicious picnic on the beach, to help you decide between beautiful Wanaka and lovely Queenstown. Or you always have the option of seeing both places if time allows.

Queenstown

Landing in Queenstown, you will look out the plane window and be amazed at the aerial view of majestic mountains and pristine lakes. Then you go from the runway to your cozy accommodation in lightning speed time since the airport is close to downtown Queenstown.

To get your adrenaline going, try a jet boat ride on the Shotover River thru beautiful scenery.

Hiking is a popular activity for Queenstown visitors, with the Queenstown Hike being a rewarding challenge. If you prefer more of a pretty meander, the Queenstown Gardens path is wrapped around Lake Wakatipu and makes a lovely place to take in the fresh air, nature and wildlife without breaking a sweat.

For thrill-seekers, Queenstown is an exciting playground with attractions like bungee jumping, luge rides, jet boats and sky diving readily available. Adrenaline junkies rejoice at the thought of Queenstown’s adventure sports options and even if you are not brave enough to join the daredevils, watching them play can give you sweaty hands. A gondola ride up the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest cable car ride can also get the heart racing.

Excellent dining, shopping, and entertainment such as Kiwi bands playing at cool venues mean you will be kept busy for however long you stay in Queenstown.

Wanaka

By air, you will land at Queenstown Airport then drive for about an hour to reach Wanaka. The scene is more laid back and quieter than Queenstown, but just as gorgeous, with Lake Wanaka being a vision against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. One of those mountains, Iron Mountain, is wonderful for trekking and reaching the top is exhilarating. Catch your breath, then start taking photos because this will be one of the most photogenic sights of your day. Roy’s Peak is another Wanaka gem if your fitness

View of the South Island’s town of Wanaka on the lake of the same name.

level is reasonable. Diamond Lake/Rocky Mountain is a bit easier and also has the wow factor when you reach the top.

Wanaka, like Queenstown, has plenty of extreme sports and thrilling activities to experience. Hold on tight when the jet boat roars through the chilly Lake Clutha water, then go horseback riding across scenic lands. Not scary enough? You can pretend you are James Bond and bravely cross a jiggly suspension bridge then repel down a powerful waterfall. Another fun-packed experience is taking The Cardrona Bike Park chairlift to the highest point, then mountain biking down.

The Wanaka area is also known for wine with vineyards extending to the shores of the lake.

Wanaka is also home to many wineries and vineyards where you can sample award-winning wines and meet the winemakers who are so passionate about winemaking. Specialty tours for novice tasters and connoisseurs are designed to entertain and educate both the mind and the taste buds.

Hiking, biking, mountain biking and blissful walks surrounded by nature are as easily enjoyed in Wanaka and Queenstown. The accommodation, dining, shopping and facilities are also great in both places and in terms of cost, there isn’t much difference.

So it really comes down to what activities you would enjoy most, how much time you have, and if you prefer a buzzing tourist scene like Queenstown offers or a slightly more low-key experience like Wanaka serves up. The nightlife in Queenstown is hopping, while in Wanaka, you can let the barman give you the last drink before closing and still get an early night.

If skiing is your buzz, then Queenstown is a popular base with world-class ski facilities 30-60 minutes away at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables or Cardrona. You can hit the slopes from Wanaka too, or enjoy leisurely wine tastings.

Again, you could squeeze in time at both places. Using Queenstown as a base and making a day or overnight trip to Wanaka can be a good plan. All good road trips to Wanaka include a stop in the historic mining town of Arrowtown just out of Queenstown. The Arrowtown Bakery has fresh pastries that are legendary.

So Wanaka versus Queenstown – still find it hard to choose? Give me a call and I’m sure you’ll be able to decide after our conversation and it will be only one stop on a trip thru scenic and friendly New Zealand – a trip you will talk about for years to come.

Pat Ogle-CollinsTwo lakes, two lakeside towns – the dilemma!
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Mother Nature makes Australia’s route B100 GREAT!

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In the Australian state of Victoria, get behind the wheel for the scenic drive of a lifetime. The Great Ocean Road tops the list of must-do road trips for visitors to Australia because it’s one of the MOST iconic areas in the whole country.

With your favorite soundtrack blasting, you are free. Locals with surfboards on their roofs and tourists in camper vans will be your new friends on the road. Stop at Split Point lighthouse, enjoy the fresh salty sea air, indulge in fresh seafood meals at local restaurants, and enjoy the views.

Expect not only scenic ocean views along the Great Ocean Road but also sights of lush rainforests.

Rent a vehicle in Melbourne or Torquay and head along the southwest coast of Victoria to Allansford. Downunder they drive on the left side of the road, so you’ll be on the ocean side for the most amazing views if you take that route. It’s also easier to pull over for those Instagram-worthy photos of the limestone or sandstone cliffs and endless ocean views.

Loch Ard Gorge is seen in scenes in The Pirate Movie (1982) and Journey to the Center of the Earth, a 1999 television series.

While it can be daunting to be driving on the other side of the road, there is no better place to gain confidence than the Great Ocean Road. You can take your time and there usually isn’t a lot of traffic. It’s also easy to pull over and let cars pass. Well-paved and spacious with many long stretches make driving past the pristine beaches and through green rainforests easy. Best of all, most people driving The Great Ocean Road, built to commemorate the sailors and soldiers who served from 1914 to 1919 in the Great War, are out for the scenic views as well so they drive at a leisurely pace as well.

By the time you arrive at the famous Twelve Apostles near Port Campbell, you will feel happy and confident driving the 244 kilometers trip.

This stunning collection of limestone stacks is an awe-inspiring sight. It is estimated the rocks that rise out of the ocean are over 20 million years old. Sunrise and sunset create spectacular lighting to see the famous rocks (there are only eight still existing from the original dozen) from the boardwalk located in Port Campbell National Park. Explore the Gibson Steps leading to the beach for a new perspective of the rocky scene. Just past the Twelve Apostles discover the Loch Ard Gorge, a location included in several movies, and The Grotto, a photogenic sinkhole. Take a photo under the naturally formed London Arch before hitting the road again.

Plan to be on the road for at least three days if driving. But if your time is unlimited, you surely will want to stop for scenic nature walks, shopping in quaint towns and maybe a dip in the ocean. You might go zip lining, take a surf lesson, hike to a waterfall, go bird watching or fly a drone from one of the many gorgeous lookout points. Of course, seeing some cute koalas in their natural habitat would top off the trip. At Kennett River on the Grey River Road, a number of these cuddly creatures reside, or you might spot them anywhere along the Great Ocean Road, which has an abundance of wildlife and nature.

Other sights that produce oohs and ahhs along the Great Ocean Road include koala bears seen along the Kennett River Koala Walk.

Driving and sightseeing can be tiring so luckily there are many lovely accommodation options to choose from. Spend an evening relaxing in style and comfort with dinner and drinks, scroll through your picturesque photos taken that day, and get ready for another epic day of discovery.

Early rises are more valuable than sleep-ins because the soft morning light is so pretty, especially for photos and videography. This tranquil time of day is also quiet, with less traffic than later in the day. So if you fancy cruising in solitude, this is going to be your favorite time of day to be driving.

Erosion, Mother Nature’s sculpting, creates numerous photo-worthy sights long the Great Ocean Road, including the London Arch.

If you are driving back to Melbourne, try to stop at the Grampians National Park for some of the lushest rainforests you’ve ever seen. You can hire bikes and get some exercise and tourists often report having kangaroos hopping around nearby. You’ve heard of diving with sharks, but did you know cycling with kangaroos was a thing? Expect the unexpected and a whole lot of beauty in nature when you travel The Great Ocean Road, also known as the B100. Spend as much time as you can because there is so much to see and do during this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Contact me today if this sounds like the trip for which your soul yearns. I’m ready to help you plan your trip to Australia, including a fabulous trip along the Great Ocean Road!

Pat Ogle-CollinsMother Nature makes Australia’s route B100 GREAT!
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Cairns deserves more than a transit stop to get to the Great Barrier Reef!

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If exploring the Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, your next trip should include time actually in Cairns. The Australian destination is a tropical paradise with ample adventure opportunities in a laid-back atmosphere. With temperatures of up to 32°C during summer,  Cairns has a lot you can discover if you are willing to explore the surrounding area.

Of course, visiting Cairns without visiting the Great Barrier Reef is also a no-no. As one of the natural wonders of the world exploring the reef allows you to get a glimpse of its unique features.

Cairns Waterfront

You get to learn about the 900 islands and almost 3,000 individual reefs that make it the largest system in the world. If you are adventurous, consider being part of a snorkeling excursion or scuba diving in its cool waters from one of the many island resorts or take a day long excurions from Cairns. Taking a tour that takes you into the 344,400 square kilometer coral reef system should be on your itinerary but you shouldn’t stop there.

Kuranda Skyway overs ocean views from above the rainforest as you travel 7.5 km journey from Smithfield to Kuranda.

 Discover scenic  Kuranda

It takes two hours to get to the picturesque Kuranda Village by train. But this train journey is unique because of the many attractions you get to see while on the 120-year old train. The village is surrounded by a World Heritage rain forest in full view while the train passes. Other fascinating sights on the Kuranda Railway include a wildlife park and an aviary with lots of beautiful birds. You can decide to spend the entire day on the scenic railway, for a deeper experience and connection with nature.

View the rainforest from the sky 

Booking a seat on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is an exciting way to see the popular World Heritage attraction. The glass bottom gondola provides an aerial view of the entire rainforest and the

nearby Barron Gorge National Park during the 7.5 km in the air. You can relax while traveling in style with the forest underneath your feet. At the end of the aerial trip, pass by the Rainforest Interpretation center to learn fascinating facts about what you saw or join a cultural tour of the Aborigine people. If you are interested in a more fulfilling trip, consider combining the Kuranda railway and the cableway activities in one day.

Walk through a rainforest

An abundance of vegetation, stunning scenery, and scenic sites is what you can expect in the Daintree rainforest. It is one of the oldest rainforests in Australia with one of the largest populations of butterfly and bat species. If you are a nature lover, hiking through the forest will lead you to incredible sites, waterfalls, amazing walking trails, and coastal views. Delight in different aspects of the ecosystem that has evolved in isolation for many decades resulting in an unspoiled Australian rainforest. Luckily, several tours are available for visitors interested in exploring Daintree, giving you a chance to be part of a guided excursion.

Explore the Crystal Cascades

Just outside Cairns is the breathtaking Crystal Cascades, a waterfall perfect for cooling down in the summer. It takes about

Walk thru the canopy of the Daintrain Rainforest.

twenty minutes to reach the area and another half-hour walk to reach the hotspot nestled within the expansive rainforest. The waterfall drops into a deep hole filled with clear freshwater, perfect for swimming. Snorkeling is another popular activity at Crystal Cascades with the clear water allowing you to swim safely and see different types of fish underwater.  If you prefer to stay out of the water, you can lay out a picnic nearby and enjoy the scenic view offered by the surrounding forest. Remember to carry insect repellant to be safe from the many flying insects that call the forest home.

Explore Aboriginal culture at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Park.

Experience Aboriginal Culture

The Australian aboriginal people are an interesting community and one of the oldest cultures globally. Its 40,000-year-old culture is worth exploring when visiting Australia at the famous Tjapukai Aboriginal Park. At the park, which is only 15 minutes from Cairns, you get to be part of the Aboriginal culture through storytelling, dance, live performances, and music. Visitors to the cultural park participate in several interactive experiences like throwing a boomerang, playing, riding a canoe, playing the

didgeridoo, or taking part in a corroboree at the fireside. For a wholesome experience, you can sample traditionally prepared bush foods at the park.

Go up the Atherton Tablelands

If you are looking for a quiet and peaceful spot, head to Atherton tablelands, half an hour from Cairns. The highland region attracts fewer tourists and I filled with several small towns with several activities you can be part of. It’s also cooler than Cairns during the summer making it the perfect getaway spot. At Atherton Tablelands, you can choose to ride the Express steam train, visit the Chinese temple Hou Wang Miau, Tyrconnell Gold mine and Gallo Dairyland Farm. You can also sample coffee and tea at the Coffee Works roastery and Lake Barrine Tea respectively.

See lava tubes at Undara National Park

Lava tubes crisscrossing an extinct volcano is the major attraction at the Undara National park. The volcanic park is safe and gives you a chance to get up close to some of the longest lava tubes in the world. Although the journey from Cairns to the volcanic park is about a day, it’s worth it for many people that make the trip. Besides, visiting the national park, you can also be part of a sunset tour to watch wildlife or book a pioneer hut, or “glamp” in a tent village for an overnight stay.

Explore lava tubes at Undara National Park.

Although Cairns and its environs have a lot to offer, the city also has great spots to explore as you wind up your trip. Check out Cairns Esplanade which hosts several shopfronts with various facilities and grassy areas for sports activities. The botanical gardens are a great place to take a break from the city and is perfect for taking strolls while enjoying various types of trees and local plant. Remember to stop by the Aquarium to interact with aquatic wildlife common in the Great Barrier Reef and other World Heritage Sites in the area.

Ready to explore beyond the Great Barrier Reef?  I have years of experience planning memorable trips to Australia and its environs. Talk to me today!

Oh, and the picture of the rocks?  They’re known as Gatz Rock Piles found south of Wangetti on the beautiful Captain Cook Highway between Cairns and Port Douglas.  No one knows how this got started but these mounds of rocks or cairns, are proving to be a hit on social media.  Now aren’t you glad you read to the end?  🙂

Pat Ogle-CollinsCairns deserves more than a transit stop to get to the Great Barrier Reef!
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Ferry tale crossings do exist!

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“Slow down. You move too fast.”  You got to make your vacation last!  Remember that song?  OK, at least the first two sentence.  But in this fast paced world, vacations should be savored.  And what better way to savor a trip thru New Zealand than to skip the flight between the North and South Islands and take the ferry.  Yes, it is slower, but marine life, lush forests and the smell of the sea creates a more sensual experience than a view from a tiny window at 30,000 feet!

New Zealand’s interisland ferries connect the North and South Islands traveling from Wellington to Picton several times a day.

With epic views that might include dolphins jumping out of the water or seals enjoying the sun and salty air, you should pack your binoculars and keep your camera close by.

From the moment you board and receive a warm greeting from the lovely Kiwi staff, you discover your ferry trip will be as wonderful as reaching the final destination.

Approaching the hills of Wellington, New Zealand on the ferry.

Spend some time on a viewing deck soaking up the vitamin sea and admiring the gorgeous New Zealand scenery with rolling hills, moody skies and a few seagulls flying above. You might also see penguins and other sea creatures in their native habitat, which is always a thrill. During certain times of the year, Humpback whale sightings are possible as they migrate through the Cook Strait. As you enter the Marlborough Sounds you pass by island and peninsulas that appear to be uninhabited covered in lush forests.  The colors of the surrounding hills and the sea change color as light changes with the movement of the clouds and mist.

Although any time of the day is gorgeous, sunrise and sunset ferry rides can be especially memorable. If you are making a return trip, I highly recommend traveling at different times of the day for the mood can be beautifully contrasting. Getting up early to set sail by 5 am is worth it. Plus, you have fewer tourists onboard the earlier you book your ferry ticket.

The fresh sea air always makes everyone hungry and there are excellent dining services with fresh local food and drink, including a fine selection of NZ wine and beers. Indoors you can still enjoy the stunning sights through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows.

There’s plenty of space to move around or chill out as you are rocked gently during the scenic journey of the Marlborough Sounds and Cook Strait. Or you might like to enjoy the entertainment on board. The ferry is massive and exploring the different levels is all part of the adventure.

During inclement weather, the Cook Strait ferry crossing can still be comfortable and entertaining.

For families, there is something for everyone with games, movies, and activities for the kids and comfortable areas for parents to relax while keeping an eye on them. If the ship alone doesn’t keep the attention of children, the latest technology is installed throughout the ferry and wifi is available throughout the 92-kilometer journey. Some ferries even have a movie theatre so you can enjoy a movie with drinks and popcorn.  The facilities on the Aratere, Kaitaki and Kaiarahi ferries are slightly different but equally fantastic.

Entering Marlborough Sounds on a beautiful day.

Taking the time to travel via ferry is time well spent. You would never see some of the spectacular sights from a plane and there is something so romantic and charming about a sea voyage. Three hours is the perfect amount of time to gaze at some of the country’s most gorgeous scenery, indulge in some shopping, grab a delicious bite to eat, sip some vino and get ready to step off the boat refreshed and inspired. It is also convenient if you want to take your car and often more affordable than flying.

The only possible downside is rough weather which can mean a rocky trip (in extreme weather, the ferry may not sail). But most of the time, the weather is fine and the ferry carries happy travelers back and forth between the islands. Many say it is one of the most beautiful ferry trips in the world.

As you approach the pretty mainland in Picton or Wellington, you will say farewell to the ferry experience and start to get excited about more adventures that await. You can easily rent a car and continue your sightseeing. Then you might like to hike the Queen Charlotte Track and explore the wine country or Kaikoura Coast or check into a hotel to relax for a bit.

Sunrise and sunset crossings provide uniquely beautiful crossings of the Cook Strait in New Zealand.

I am passionate about helping travelers have the best possible travel experiences and maximizing their precious vacation time. So drop me a line today to find out more about a NZ adventure, including the ferry!

Pat Ogle-CollinsFerry tale crossings do exist!
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The friendliest warriors you will ever meet!

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Stick your tongue out. Way out.  Go ahead.  Now bulge your eyes. Move around a bit. You have just performed a typical move of the Haka, an ancient Maori ceremonial dance. The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand with a unique culture preserved for many centuries. They arrived from Polynesia and settled in the country in the mid-1300s creating a treasured part of New Zealand’s identity. Often referred to as the original New Zealanders, the Maori culture is worth exploring for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of cultural legacies.

The best way to learn about a culture is to be part of their daily activities. In Maori culture, some activities are open to everyone while others require an invitation. Luckily, there are several ways to immerse yourself into the culture of the Maori and understand its ins and outs.

Maori facial expressions are important part of ceremonial dances.

Become a Maori

You can be part of the Maori culture when in New Zealand by stepping into their shoes and becoming one of them even for a day.

Say hello using the hongi. This style of salutation is an up close and warm but may feel out of the norm for visitors used to the regular handshake. It involves the two people greeting each other pressing up against each other with their foreheads and noses touching. The Maori believe that the greeting unifies two souls as they share the breath of life. Try it out when meeting locals to see their reaction.

Maoris use tattoos now to reflect an
individual’s family and personal history.

Ever thought of getting a tattoo?  How about an authentic Maori tattoo? The drawings on the face of a Maori have a deep meaning and not just a simple tattoo. It comprises spiral patterns and curved shapes drawn on the entire face to symbolize power, prestige, rank, or social status with their location conveying specific information.  Backs, chests, arms, shoulders, and legs can be tattooed as well.  Maori-inspired designs are available to those not affiliated with the people, but make sure to have a full understanding of the design and seek the services of those knowledgeable in this style so your tatoo is culturally sensitive.

Live like a Maori

Maori culture is still alive in New Zealand with many of its tribesmen practicing its cultural beliefs. One of the best ways to experience life like a Maori is to visit the Tamaki Maori Village. The village is a recreation of a traditional homestead in the Tawa forest, which is 200 years old. At Tamaki, you will be ushered into the daily

routine of a Maori community before they came into contact with the outside world. Indulge in their food, songs and stories as you tour every corner of the intriguing homestead.

Celebrations are an integral part of Maori life as you will see at the village. Take part in a welcome ceremony known as the pōwhiri, which is one of the

The marae of the Maoris provide communal space for meetings, celebrations and other Maori community events.

most famous cultural attractions in the country. The dance is open to visitors who would like to join the locals as they guide them into the village.  If you are up to it, watch the cultural performers reenact the use of taiaha, an ancient method of killing their cultural enemies. Maori warriors used to strike and twist the head of opponents to expose the brain, which was a delicacy.

Hangi is a traditional meal cooked underground featuring a variety of meats, fish and vegetables.

Eat like a Maori

Sharing a meal with someone of a different culture is one of the best ways to experience their way of life. For the Maori, being a part of the hangi meal is a great way to celebrate your time with them.

Prepared and cooked in a hole underground, the delicious food has lots of variety. The culinary technique involves the use of a hole lined with aluminium foil, hot rocks and sometimes wire baskets.  Some of the foods cooked hangi style include potatoes, vegetables, chicken and fish.

Besides enjoying the delicious food, you can also take part in the cooking. Although hangi method sounds easy, it’s quite strenuous but the community aspect of it, makes it worth it. Participating in hangi has a two-in-one benefit of learning a new cooking method while interacting with locals as you cook together because the food preparation takes time.

Dance like a Maori

If you are a rugby fan, you have probably seen the New Zealand All Blacks team perform their famous Haka dance. The dance, whose famous composition Ka Mate was written by an ancient Maori chief, celebrates life triumphing over death.

Being part of dances like the Haka, is a great way of indulging in the Maori culture. You don’t have to get the steps right the first time, but your willingness to try will be a step in the right direction. The Maori culture is filled with actions such as rhythmic movements, gestures, poetry and a combination of dances. It may be hard to believe but most dances

The haka performed by the Maori as a ceremony or challenge displays the pride, strength and unity of the group.

are hinged on verbal expressions with little or no singing. Although most dances, were performed to scare off opponents, they are now more symbolic than threatening. The focus is on demonstrating the warrior spirit of the Maori people. It is believed that this spirit is the reason for the preservation of their robust culture to this day.

Are you interested in travelling to New Zealand for your own Maori experience? Are you wondering where to begin planning your trip? I am an expert in curating personalized trips to New Zealand to see and interact with the Maori. Call me today and let’s begin to plan your trip for a cultural experience of a lifetime.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe friendliest warriors you will ever meet!
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How do you spell controvery in Tasmania – MONA!

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Sex, death, poop and more not-for-the-dinner-table subjects are the inspiration for art at one of Australia’s most controversial museums.  To truly understand what MONA is all about, you might have to drop by. The museum in Hobart, Tasmania, is not your average history or art stop. Constantly evolving, you never know what you might find, as museum curators freely admit. Instead, they give a long list of quirky clues that ends with the story of the peacock who was banished from the museum for attacking blue cars.

So what is the Museum of Old and New Art, MONA, all about?

Aerial view of Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)

Founder David Walsh says he was inspired to build the tourist attraction so he could “bang above his weight.” A comment that leads back to MONA’s sex and death theme that states people are primarily motivated by the drive to have sex and dodge death.

“Cement Truck” by Wim Delvoye

The intense, asthmatic art lover and professional gambler is known for being provocative, controversial, and argumentative. If you are lucky enough to meet this outspoken atheist, your conversation is sure to be fascinatingly colorful. The museum is recognized by many as an extension of his loud and bold personality.

You can expect to feel strong emotions that might include amusement, admiration, disgust, joy or confusion. Evoking extreme and deep reactions seems to be at the heart

of the museum’s existence. Most people come through the doors expecting some shock value while the odd traveler stumbles across the museum and leaves with more than they bargained for. Indeed the best vacations gift you with this kind of memorable experience that might be way out of your comfort zone or totally unexpected.

Here’s a little taste of past exhibitions. We couldn’t want to give you any hint of future ones, as it’s anybody’s wildest guess.

  • Cloaca by Belgium artist Wim Delvoye was a smelly machine that needed to be feed daily and emitted poop
  • A wall of carefully sculptured vaginas by artist Greg Taylor
  • A dizzying yellow room full of black dots by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama

“Cloaca” by Belgium artist Delvoye

Critics are vocal about the museum, its art (including some of Walsh’s personal collection) and all that it represents. Similar to blue cheese or kimchi, visitors either love it or hate it. Do you dare to find out what side you are on? While you might think you are open-minded and capable of appreciating art that is contemporary and thought-provoking, you might find yourself fleeing for the nearest exit. Or you might be inspired and impressed. For sure, your emotions will be triggered and conversations will flow for some time after a trip to MONA.

“20:50” by British artist Richard Wilson plays with optical illusions using oil

Regardless of how much outrage it might garner, MONA is considered a cultural asset to Australia, appearing on the Tasmanian Heritage Register. Walsh is famous in art circles and beyond locally and internationally and has boosted the tourism industry to impressive heights. Annual festivals at MONA, including Dark Mofo that includes a winter nude swim, send tourism numbers through the roof.

The building itself, nestled into a rock, is another talking point and part of the memorable MONA experience. Getting inside involves quite the walk with thoughtful use of space and minimalism to clear the mind before you enter the contemporary-looking museum. Notable features of the architecture are a mirror wall at the entrance and several buildings that are joined by an underground tunnel. The work that went into the design and construction of the museum is massive and Walsh worked closely with

renowned architects to achieve his ever-changing vision. It is a vision that is endless and expected to continue growing in all directions. Once inside, staff hand visitors an iPad entitled “art wank” containing info about each expressive exhibition.

If you love MONA, you can stay the night in one of the luxury dens. We would personally fancy settling down in the Walter Den. Inspired by Walter Burley Griffin, who designed Australia’s capital of Canberra, the MONA website says the accommodation includes “TVs all over the place including the bathroom” and a personal security screen “to avoid visitors you don’t like.”

Contact us soon to arrange your vacation to Tasmania. There is a whole world of fantastic travel experiences waiting in the Australian state, including this not-to-be-missed museum that might make all other museums look dull after you recover from your MONA visit.

A portion of “Grotto” by Randy Polumbo

Pat Ogle-CollinsHow do you spell controvery in Tasmania – MONA!
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Strolling Melbourne’s laneways – a total sensory experience!

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Looking for an Aussie destination with character? Melbourne offers a cultural buffet of wonderful choices. Trams chugging through the city center, a vibrant food scene, an awe-inspiring public library, and plenty of historic architecture, including churches and cathedrals amongst the urban landscape create a metropolis always buzzing with activity. In this modern Australian city you will also find Melbourne’s laneways.

The colorful little lanes are famous for bright murals and creative street art that cover a dizzying maze of streets. Pedestrian-only streets mean you can lose yourself in the artwork without watching for cars. There is plenty of pedestrian traffic, though, with many people browsing the boutique shops, local restaurants, and fancy cafes along the way. Fashionably dressed teens bound for school, business people in suits, families shopping, and tourists documenting their travels all move at their own speed through the popular central business district (CBD) instantly recognizable as “Melbs: as the locals affectionately call it.

Melbourne’s culture embodies the laneways, and if you visit a resident of the city they will proudly show you the eye-catching creations while pointing out that street art isn’t graffiti. You will see famous Australian life depicted on the walls with work by local artists covering Aussie life, politics, pop culture, fashion, music, beauty, and love.  Explore almost every theme you can imagine using art on the  Melbournites who can relate to the work and appreciate the bold beauty it beholds.

walls of the lanes to tell a story or message. Perhaps that is why they hold so much meaning for

The history of the lanes goes back to the Victorian era, when horses and carts would clatter along the narrow paths. In the 1990s, the area transformed into a trendy spot for shopping, dining and drinking and street art slowly emerged. Soon the bright surroundings became more popular on a local and international level. The intimate lanes offer a haven where people can absorb the cultural scene, drink coffee, meet friends and

escape, even for a short time, from the bustling city just outside the coziness of the lanes. As you dance down the lanes you will notice a lot of the old architecture is well-preserved, increasing their charm even more.

Meyers Place (formerly Nicholas Lane) is one of the oldest laneways in the city, so a must-visit for true street art fans. Funky eateries and bars line the lanes where you can linger for a while. Lane’s Edge Cafe and Bar is the perfect place for dining outdoors with a laidback vibe. Refuel with dishes paired with local Aussie beer and wine before diving back into the adventures of lane hopping in search of the best mural of the day.

Hardware and Goldie lane features 20th-century warehouses and Degraves Street, named after Hobart merchants Charles and William Degraves, has alfresco dining options for patrons who appreciate the views of the art deco architecture. Hozier Lane near Flinders Street Station is another popular

urban art spot, or you might find yourself rocking out at ACDC Lane. There are so many lanes, and you can rely on your instincts and embark on a bright road of artistic thrills. There is no wrong way for your feet to take you and there’s no predicting what you might

discover. As you weave your way from lane to lane just be sure to take enough photos for invoking memories of this colorful stroll.

Melbourne’s strong coffee culture goes hand-in-hand with the thriving art scene. Rest your tired feet and order a latte at a hip café. Take in the art with the aroma of caffeine and background chatter of socializing coffee lovers for a true Melbourne experience.

Forget about Google maps and get lost in the streets for an inspiring walk that you could probably not make the following day if you tried. Roaming around another day you would notice different details of the artwork adorning the laneway walls. It’s an uplifting place for culture-loving explorers and is free as long as you aren’t tempted to spend at a chic boutique filled with designer garments that are another form of beautiful creative expression.

Enjoy the backstreets decorated with street art by emerging and established talented artists. Watch an emerging work in progress as an artist empties some spray cans. To avoid the crowds arriving early and snap plenty of photos without too many people.

Melbourne’s lanes are a major tourist attraction constantly evolving, with new murals appearing all the time. Embrace the cheery journey as you

Ready to immerse yourself in this outdoor gallery of contemporary art?  Let me design a trip for you that incorporates the laneways and the other wonderful things Melbourne has to offer! walk through a colorful moment in history that might never be the same again.

Pat Ogle-CollinsStrolling Melbourne’s laneways – a total sensory experience!
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Boots not required for this Best of New Zealand!

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Known for its diverse landscape, New Zealand’s spectacular scenery makes it the perfect place for exploration of all types of surroundings, from mountains to rivers and even glaciers and natural hot pools by all types of travelers. Spend a day in Tongariro National Park to experience all of these! Established in 1887, Tongariro National Park was the fourth national park

Mt. Raupehu

to be created globally and the first in New Zealand! UNESCO also recognizes the park with dual World Heritage status for both its cultural and natural features.

What makes this national park so unique is its unparalleled scenery. Made up of three volcanoes that dominate the region, Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro, and Mt Ngauruhoe, as well as beech forest, waterfalls, and rivers.  Stepping foot into this park, you’re rewarded with some of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes.

A New Zealand Best – the Alpine Crossing!

Located in the center of the North Island, Tongariro National Park is home to one of the best hikes in New Zealand, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  This hike is around 20km and takes between 7-8 hours to complete depending on how fast you choose to walk. This spectacular hike (that isn’t a loop, so arrange organized transport) takes you over the volcano through different terrains, such as springs, lava flows, volcanic rocks, and the famous emerald lakes.

Hiking track, Tongariro National Park

The best time of year to tackle this famous hike is during spring or autumn when the temperatures aren’t too cold or hot. You’ll need to have a relatively high level of fitness to complete this hike and proper hiking boots.

Although this is the most famous activity in Tongariro National Park, it should not discourage anyone from visiting, as there is still a range of activities on offer.

Magnificent scenery awaits in the desert!

When you picture New Zealand, the desert isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, if you plan to drive from Auckland to Tongariro National Park, that’s what you’ll get.

After you leave sub-tropical Auckland, pass the geothermal areas around Rotorua and crystalline Lake Taupo. All you’ll see is a deserted sandy road with nothing in sight until you reach the three volcanoes that make up the Pacific Ocean’s ‘Ring of Fire,’ Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu, and Mt Ngauruhoe.

Love Lord of the Rings? See Mt Doom up close!

If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings series, visiting Mt Ngauruhoe or “Mt Doom” must be on your Tongariro National Park activities list. Standing between Mt Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu, this 2,29m (7,516 ft) mountain is the second tallest in the park and was a big part of the film franchise, drawing in thousands of tourists

Mt. Ngaurahue, also referred to as Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings films

every year. However, if you’re not a big Lord of the Rings fan, it’s still an impressive sight to see!

Stunning landscapes and beautiful waterfalls!

As well as spectacular mountain ranges, New Zealand is also home to some pretty impressive waterfalls. Located in Tongariro National Park, Taranaki Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, and you have to see it to believe it.

The falls are found halfway through the 6km loop and tumble 20-meters into a boulder-ringed pool. There are two viewing points, one from the top and one from the base of the falls. While you’re there, you’ll have stunning views of all three mountains that make up Tongariro National Park.

Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park

The walk to the falls is one of the easiest and most impressive in the national park as it takes you through beech forest, shrubland, past the Wairere Stream, Cascade Falls, and manuka forest.

Tea overlooking snow-covered mountains!

If you are more of a slow traveler who enjoys the little things, such as high tea

with a sensational view, then be sure to check out the Chateau Tongariro.  From their High Tea menu, you can choose from a range of sandwiches, scones, and treats, as well as your choice of coffee or fresh tea, served to you at a table overlooking the impressive Mt Ngauruhoe. Located within Whakapapa Village, indulging in this high tea needs to be on your list, especially in winter when snow covers Mt Ngauruhoe!

Bike along the Old Coach Road!

Not only are there amazing hikes throughout Tongariro National Park, but there is also a range of biking trails that you can explore.  One of the best ones to add to your itinerary is Old Coach Road. Located at the southern end of Tongariro National Park near Ohakune, this 15km one-way (2hr 20 mins) trail takes you through a mix of terrains, such as forest, railway relics, and rural countryside. Or, if you don’t have a bike, you can also walk this trail, which takes around 41/2 hrs.

Whatever way you choose to tackle this trail, you will be blown away by the sheer beauty of the landscapes you’ll see along the way.  Without a doubt, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike is the park’s most notable visitor draw.  But non-hikers have plenty to see and experience without hiking boots and walking stick.  From bike trails to high tea at Chateau Tongariro, no matter that type of activity you’re into, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this little corner of New Zealand.

Active Mount Raupehu with Chateau Tongariro

So, whether you prefer hiking boots or sneaks, a terrific day awaits you at Tongariro. All you have to do is give me a call!

Pat Ogle-CollinsBoots not required for this Best of New Zealand!
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Small ships lead to magnificent wonders on the Kimberly Coast!

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The Kimberley region in Australia is world-famous for offering some of the most spectacular cruising experiences. Expedition cruises into this remote Western Australian coast are in no way ordinary. Apart from its isolation and an overwhelming sense of tranquility hard to find anywhere else, this region is packed with over 1 billion years of history, splendid natural sceneries, and wonders such as dinosaur footprints over 200 million years old.

Mitchell Falls

Situated on the west side of Kimberley, Broome, an outback beach town is the gateway into this vast coastal area containing a variety of natural marvels that are simply mind-bending. From steep ochre-colored cliffs, unique rock formations, the Mitchell waterfalls splashing down 4 steps to crystal clear lakes, etc., all cruises to Kimberley offer tours and excursions full of intimate views.

Boating at the bottom of King George Falls

Up-Close Encounters with the World’s Greatest Natural Wonders

On any single day, there are multiple cruises with each covering an almost similar itinerary departing from Broome, Darwin, or sometimes Kununurra. Expedition cruising offers extraordinary experiences focusing on the environment and nature-friendly excursions. This form of travel is preferred by most clientele who are interested in where they are going and how they get there as well.

Small ships take guests to remote locations brimming with wildlife and natural wonders that impart intimate experiences. Cruises along the Kimberley coast go where few other ships can. Apart from being able to flexibly respond to things like the weather, the voyages on Kimberley cruises get you to serene beaches and shallow bays.

All cruises get as close as possible to fascinating features on the coast. Smaller crafts usually launched from the mother ship can reach sites deep into the coast, enabling the passengers to observe interesting wildlife and to witness some of the greatest natural wonders in the Kimberley, such as the Horizontal Waterfall.

There is no better way to discover the awe-inspiring gorges, reefs, and coastlines than by ship. The close encounters enhance the sense of adventure for every traveler in

With tides of over 10 meters, the Montgomery Reef emerges with deep crevices, waterfalls and a plethora of marine wildlife left behind.

a uniquely personal way that translates every single moment into an authentic travel experience.

Travelers Rather Than Tourists

While cruising the Kimberly, another key aspect of the voyage is the emphasis on learning. To most expedition cruisers, the opportunity to learn is more important than relaxing by the pool with a drink.

The Gwion Gwion rock art, formerly referred to as the Bradshaw paintings, provide sophisticated depictions of life over 12,000 years ago.

Experts give lectures and briefings about each destination developing passengers’ sense of each place before arrival. Along the way, passengers can then step ashore for exploratory excursions while listening to those with specialized knowledge and expert opinion adding a new dimension to the voyage.

The focus is on travel, not tourism, so cruisers are keenly interested in the native people and their way of life.  And to help the locals preserve the pristine conditions, the Kimberley expedition cruises are

operated in environmentally friendly ways that limit the impact of each visit into a sensitive area so that the destination remains protected.

Helicopters are available on some cruises offering an alternative view of the Kimberly while also providing transportation to Kimberley’s inaccessible and hard-to-reach places. Guests can be whisked over cliff edges, waterfalls, or across remote islands. Helicopters provide easy access to wildlife viewing while ferrying guests to narrow waterways, terrestrial sites, and fishing spots away from the ship.

Ready for a remote adventure to the other side of the world? Call me to assist you in finding the right expedition cruise for you!

Pat Ogle-CollinsSmall ships lead to magnificent wonders on the Kimberly Coast!
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Uncork your way thru Australia!

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From palate-awakening chardonnay to sharp-tone shiraz, Aussie wines have it all.  Tourists looking to sample some of Australia’s wide variety of offerings during an afternoon or as part of a longer wine-focused journey may feel a bit overwhelmed with their choices.  Every state, except the Northern Territory, produces wine and lots of it. Australia has roughly 2000 wineries. You can bet that if you don’t find a wine pleasing to your palate, head down the road to another winery or move on to another region.  You know what they say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”

Tastings may draw you to one of Australia’s many wine cellars, but the scenery may make leaving harder.

Victoria

Located along the southern coast of Australia, Victoria is known for being the cultural hub of the country as well as the home to the Great Ocean Road and the Yarra Valley, one of Victoria’s top wine regions.  Cooler temperatures and high-quality volcanic soil contribute to the lighter fruity and floral wines coming from this area.

Twenty wine regions now call Victoria home including the Yarra Valley, Bendigo, Mornington Peninsula, Gippsland, Rutherglen, Swan Hill, Red Hill, Goulburn Valley, and many more.  The most common wines produced in these regions vary between white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and red wines like Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon from over 800 wineries!

Yarra Valley led the way in Victoria with the introduction of vineyards in 1838, well before wineries spread across Victoria in the 1860s.

Victoria’s Yarra Valley

One of the best wineries in Victoria is the Helen and Joey Estate, situated in Gruyere, in the heart of the Yarra Valley.

This winery started producing wines in 2010 after purchasing an established vineyard.  Now 65% of their vineyard is made up of a variety of reds and the rest is a variety of whites.  The Helen and Joey Estate prides itself on its award-winning Chardonnay.

While the Helen and Joey Estate, known for its stunning views may be hard to leave, some of the other sights and tastes of the Yarra Valley like the following may call you.

  • Take a scenic walk on the trail around the Maroondah Reservoir Park
  • Pick some delicious, fresh cherries at the Cherry Hill Orchards
  • Visit the Healesville Sanctuary to see many native Australian critters, like the koala
  • Eat a delicious meal at the Dixons Creek Cafe Bar & Grill

Western Australia

On the western side of Australia, crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean,  remains of ancient Aboriginal sites, the natural beauty of the remote Kimberly, and the many luscious green vineyards of world-class wineries, provide great incentives to explore Western Australia.

Western Australia has twenty wine regions, including Margaret River, Swan Valley, Great Southern, and Geographe with 503 wineries spread throughout.

Quinninup Falls, an ocean-facing waterfall, located in the Margaret Valley of Western Australia.

When visiting Margaret River, the most well-known wine region in Western Australia, spend time at the world-known Vasse Felix winery located in Wilyabrup. This beautiful property occupies 20 acres of land only 2.5 miles from the ocean, so you can drop by the winery in the afternoon and then go for a picnic on the beach and a swim in the evening!

Vasse Felix has four different locations, including Wilyabrup, Karridale, Gnarawary, and Wallcliffe, all located in the Margaret River wine region (try saying these after you have tasted a couple of wines). This winery produces some of the finest wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon,  Chardonnay, Shiraz, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend wines.

But don’t just spend time at the winery.  Nearby you can:

  • Eat some gourmet chocolate at the Margaret River chocolate company.
  • Try Rústico’s award-winning tapas.
  • Watch the sunset at Injidup Beach.
  • Explore Quinninup Falls, an ocean-facing waterfall surrounded by beautiful scenery.

South Australia

Home to the famous Kangaroo Island, the top wineries in Australia also call South Australia home.   Adelaide, South Australia’s capital city, known for being the hub of festivals and delicious food, means you can always find something exciting happening in the city and nearby.  It’s the best place to make the most of your Australian wine trip.

South Australia boasts almost as many wineries as the rest of Australia. With 28 wine regions, including Adelaide, Barossa, Limestone Coast, and Clare Valley, these regions lay claim to roughly 989 wineries today.  If you visited wineries every day, it would still take you a year often visiting more than 2 wineries a day to visit each winery!  That’s a lot of wineries!

Barossa Valley, home to some of the oldest vines in the world, also produces what many consider to be Australia’s best shiraz.   With quaint towns, lovely scenery, and great restaurants, a couple of days may not be enough to enjoy all it offers.

South Australia’s Barossa Valley wineries line Seppeltsfield Road.

Known for its wine, foodies enjoy the area’s shops specializing in cheese, jam, salami and many shops will prepare picnic baskets to enjoy.

Jacob’s Creek is a great place to start any wine tour in the valley. One of the world’s largest-selling brands since 1973, the winery exports to countries around the world including the United Kingdom, the United States, China, and over 45 other countries.

With its start producing table wines, good value wines rank as some of Jacob’s Creek most widely sold. But the winery produces a wide range of reserve and classic wines such as heritage reds, double-barrel Cabernet Sauvignon, cool-harvest Pinot Grigio, and many more.

After sipping some wines, wondering what activities and attractions there are to do? In the area you can also,

  • Visit other wineries in the area like Elderton wines or Rockford Winery.
  • Visit the Hentley Farm Restaurant for a delicious meal paired with their award-winning wines.
  • Spend a night at The Villas in Barossa for a special evening in a bush setting.
  • Order a picnic basket full of local goodies, like cheese, jam, salami and more, to enjoy on the grounds of one of the vineyards or other scenic site.

Sample the views of Hunter Valley wineries by hot air ballon.

New South Wales

Visiting Australia, and more than likely, your itinerary will include a stop in Sydney.   The city ranks as the #1 most visited in the country for its iconic landmarks:  the Sydney Opera House, the Harbor Bridge and Bondi Beach.

New South Wales may be big on landmarks but ranks as the fourth-smallest wine-producing state in Australia, with 24 wine regions calling the state home. These regions include Canberra, Hunter Valley, Central Ranges, and Cowra, where 634 wineries make their home.

While smaller among wine-producing states, Hunter Valley stands as the oldest region in the country and one of Australia’s major wine regions.  The region began with Semillon and Shiraz grapevines in the early 1800s.  Hunter Valley today has roughly 150 wineries producing delicious wines for both Aussies and wine lovers around the world.  Hop in the car or take the train from Sydney to visit these wineries.

Great wineries to visit in Hunter Valley include Brokenwood Wines. Started in 1970 by a group of weekend wine hobbyists, it’s now regarded as one of Australia’s most reputable wine labels.  Brokenwood Winery produces many varieties of wine such as Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Semillion, Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, and is noted for its famous Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz, ILR Reserve Semillion, and Cricket Pitch Range.

Spend a day or two in the Hunter Valley so you have time to enjoy other activities in the area.  You can:

  • Book a hot air balloon and view Hunter Valley from above.
  • Taste some delicious French chocolate at Cocoa Nibs.
  • Try out a tiny home for a night at Tiny Away.
  • Visit other Hunter Valley wineries such as De Bortoli Wines or Wynwood estate.

Queensland

Roughly 200 national parks showcase the scenic beauty of Queensland. These parks cover over 25,000 sq miles of the state and the coastline stretches nearly 4500 miles on the northeast side of Australia.  With so much coastline and parkland, it’s no wonder Queensland has the second smallest number of wine regions in Australia, with only five, including Darling Downs, Queensland Coastal, South Burnett, Granite Belt, and Queensland Zone, and only

Enjoy the granite rock formations found in Girraween Park, located in the Granite Belt wine region of Queensland.

116 wineries.  However, wine is growing in importance due to the increasing global demand for wine.

When traveling to Queensland, visit the Granite Belt, the holy grail of wine regions.  Located in the center of Stanthorpe, in southern Queensland, your journey could easily include wineries and a stay on nearby Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef or one of the many beaches along its coast.

The Golden Grove Estate in Ballandean within the Granite Belt region provides a great introduction to Queensland’s wineries.  Mario and Nita Costanzo purchased land in Ballandean in 1946 to grow stone fruits and a variety of grapes, evolving into a vineyard and winery over several generations.  Their cool weather wines encompass both reds, including Tempranillo, Shiraz, and Merlot, along with whites,  such as Sauvignon, Vermentino, and Semillon that are fresh and elegant with a natural acidity not found in wines from other areas of Australia.

The Granite Belt offers more than just wine.  After you sample some, enjoy other activities.

  • Take a walk-through Girraween National Park.
  • Book a night or two in the vineyard cottages.
  • Eat a delicious meal using fresh, seasonal fare at the Barrelroom restaurant in Ballandean.
  • Visit other wineries in the area, such as Jester Hill Wines or Tobin Wines

Vineyards surround the Tamar River in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley.

Tasmania

On the northern central coast of Tasmania, the Tamar Valley is the oldest of the 8 regions on this island located off Victoria’s southern coast.  Although Tasmania is tiny compared to other states, it is a fantastic location for traveling and, of course, winemaking. With the cleanest air in the world and the coldest wine regions in the country, Tasmanian wines receive awards for their delicious sparkling

wines, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.   Seven wine regions on the island contain 184 wineries that produce some of Australia’s best wines.

The Tamar Valley is the oldest wine region in Tasmania, due to its cool climate that makes the wines crisp and unlike no other.   Where there is wine,  you often find award-winning restaurants and the Tamar Valley is no different.   Based on locally grown ingredients, farm and sea to table are the norm here.

Dreamed of opening a business with friends?  That’s exactly what friends from two families did with the founding of Goaty Hill Winery near Kayena.  There are no goats at Goaty Hill but Rieslings and sparkling wines are top choices here along with their gourmet platters and cheese plates that also get rave reviews.  In line with their community focus, they frequently sponsor live music and art events to go with your wine.

With its clean air and fresh locally made products, there’s plenty to see do and eat after your visit to Goaty Hill.

  • Pick some strawberries from Strawberries at Littlewood.
  • Taste the local produce at the Richmond village farmer market such, as Harvest Market.
  • Taste some of the Richmond Bakery’s world-class hot pies.
  • Stay a night or two in the historical 1800s Richmond Oak Lodge.

With the extensive winemaking across Australia, time may be the greatest obstacle when exploring.  State by state, region by region, we can create a plan that can keep you returning to Australia for years to come.  Give me a call and let’s talk.

Pat Ogle-CollinsUncork your way thru Australia!
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