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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Embrace adventure! Drive thru New Zealand!

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Referred to as the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand defines long.  Stretching over 1298 miles from north to south (about the distance from New York City to Miami and only 194 miles wide at its widest point), no wonder the locals like to call a trip around the country the great Kiwi road trip.   There’s a reason.  The only way to get to most destinations around the country requires a car.  Some might call this a particularly exciting adventure because, yes, the Kiwis as the locals are called, drive on the left side of the road.

Driving thru the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

You could do a tour that visits the major sights of the country, but when you self-drive, you have freedom to go where you want, when and for how long. You can stop at the many quaint New Zealand towns to go shopping, see tourist attractions, enjoy traditional food and buy souvenirs as you please. Stopping to buy local products like fruits, vegetables, wine, cheese, and honey will be a highlight of your trip. You will meet local farmers and gather delicious flavors to enjoy during the leisurely days of your trip that follow.

You drive on the left in New Zealand.

The scenery is spectacular in the land of the long white cloud with rolling hills, vast mountain ranges, wide-open fields, and stunning lakes. You can also expect to see breathtaking fjords, pristine beaches, unique geothermal activity, and lots of sheep. Any time you want to stop for a photo, you can.

Driving on the left side – it’s not as scary as it sounds. After a few days of driving carefully on the left side, your mind will adapt and you will relax and be just fine. Start your road trip with short legs so you can gradually build up your confidence.

Phone apps can help you navigate your way around. For directions, you can use Google maps as you would at home. Weather apps are great, so you can see if bad weather is looming and plan your travel days accordingly to avoid driving in inclement weather.

Road conditions in New Zealand are good. Highways are similar to our state roads, not interstate highways; those are found only around Auckland and Christchurch. Roads are signposted well and there are many passing lanes or areas to pull over to allow traffic to pass. There are gravel and narrow roads in some rural areas.  On coastal roads, you can expect winds that require additional caution.  That is why it’s important to map out a travel plan in advance, so you are only driving in areas where and when you will feel comfortable.

On your great Kiwi road trip, you can explore areas like Cape Kidnappers that aren’t included on tours.

Reflective signs and road markings guide the way during evenings and at night. The maximum speed in any area is 100 km/hour (about 62 mph) and you need to slow down on approach to towns and school areas which is always signposted. Perhaps one of the trickiest things for NZ visitors (apart from driving on the left) is the roundabouts that many towns have on the outskirts and town centers.

Often you and maybe one other car will be on or entering a roundabout in New Zealand.

Before you rent your vehicle to travel to New Zealand, you’ll normally be shown a road safety video or given a road rule guide. You can also find them online to study before your arrival. Insurance is included and compulsory, as is showing the driver’s license issued in your country or international driving permit.

During your journey thru rural areas, you might come across some nature crossing the roads. It could be a farmer moving a herd of cows or a wild rabbit on the move. You might also see law enforcement along the way.

Police patrol the roads and there are numerous hidden speed cameras.   if caught speeding, your ticket will await when you return your vehicle or could arrive by mail many months after you return home.

The towns in NZ are quite close together. Even though many are small communities, you don’t need to go too far before finding a place to seek directions, fuel up or take a break to stretch your legs. It’s not difficult to find a public bathroom and restaurants and cafes have bathrooms for use by customers.

First-time driving on the left can be nerve-wracking initially.  But driving in New Zealand is quite easy because there just isn’t much traffic on the roads, except during peak times in the major cities. Even then, it’s quiet compared to many other metropolitan cities in the world. In some rural areas, you may drive for 10-20 min or more before you see another car.

You’ll be a confident driver after a day or two on the road. It is easy to find your way around and locals are very friendly and helpful should you need assistance.

Spend time in New Zealand.  Enjoy all the gorgeous scenery of both the North and the South Island.  Get to know the Kiwis.  It all becomes so easy and relaxing by car after a day or two. Drop us a line if you would like more information on travel in New Zealand and/or questions about driving the quiet Kiwi roads.  Oh, and if I can do it, you can.

With a car, you can see Lake Wakatipu on the South Island from so many gorgeous vantage points.

Pat Ogle-CollinsEmbrace adventure! Drive thru New Zealand!
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Explore the Kimberly – One of the Last Wilderness Frontiers in the World!

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Very few places on earth are like the Kimberley. This is a dream destination like no other tucked away in northwestern Australia. It’s a pristine, wild, and untouched region of remarkable beauty, filled with a variety of plants and animals, unique physical features, and breathtaking landscapes. The big question is this, what new adventures can you experience when you explore the Kimberley? Read to the end, and you will agree the right answer is, “a lot.”

A Place of Timeless Magnificence

Its beauty is unspoiled – the main reason it continues to attract adventure-seekers looking for extraordinary experiences. Imagine a  remote area of over 162,000 square miles with a 7500 miles long coast filled with nothing but timeless magnificence. In the entire world, this ranks as one of the last wilderness frontiers.  Yet gorgeous scenery and precious natural features abound.

Mitchell Waterfall, Western Australia

Hemmed in by the Timor Sea on the northern side, the Great Sandy desert on the southern stretch, the Northern Territory to the east, and on the west, the Indian Ocean, this expansive wilderness almost the size of California, is characterized by contrasting, but stunning natural features such as the Horizontal Waterfall that forms when huge tidal currents rush through narrow, parallel gorges or the incredibly gorgeous Mitchell waterfall, splashing down 4 steps in pink, yellow and blue hues.

The Spellbinding Scene at Montgomery Reef

You will also find the Montgomery reef that turns into a spellbinding scene when it transforms at the tide-fall.  Because of the size of the tidal change, the ocean appears to rear up with large torrents of water, containing a multitude of reef sharks, dolphins, and octopuses, cascades toward shore. Rare animals like giant saltwater crocodiles, hundreds of bird species, and more abound here.

Home to a Very Busy Delivery Room

The entire coast of the Kimberly provides the largest nursery in the world for the over 40,000 humpback whales that travel to the area from Antarctica to enjoy the warmer waters from June to October.  While summering off Australia’s coast, the whales give birth to calves before making their way back to the cooler waters.  Often pods of three to four whales up to 15 meters in length along with their calves drop by to say hello to those on whale-watching excursions, often slapping their tales on the water or breaching to garner some attention.

But that’s not all, Kimberley is rich in awe-inspiring vistas of sparkling, powder-soft, silica sand beaches, azure blue waters, and vast open skies through which showers of shooting stars streak at night. And for one more surprise, dinosaur footprints, some as large as 1.7 meters in size and over 130 million years old can be seen when the tides recede outside of Broome!

Camel caravan at sunset, Broome, Australia

Spectacular Camel Trains and Golden Sunsets

Other scenes guaranteed to snatch your breath away include the more than 2600 islands along the coast whose marvelous attractions can be seen only from the luxurious comforts of a cruise. At the prestigious Cable Beach at Broome resort town, you will enjoy the spectacular sight of a camel train that daily trails along the beach on the backdrop of golden sunsets.  You can also go snorkeling, scuba-diving, or pearl hunting at Roebuck Bay.

Bungle Bungle Range, Western Australia

An Interior with Spectacular Sights to Explore As Well

The interior of the Kimberly provides sights equally as beautiful as the coast.  One of the most visited being the Bungle Bungle Range.  Located in the southern end of the Purnululu National Park, these domes of sandstone only became known in the 1980s.  Walk among the black and orange striped domes formed millions of years ago when sand and gravel that flowed thru the area compacted.  Later, when the area uplifted the domes were formed.  Continue on your walk and you come to the Cathedral Gorge.  200 ft red rock cliffs tower around you as you pass thru the area helping visitors feel the awe of nature at its best.

Not to be outdone, the Windjana Gorge, boasts 300 meter high walls and historical significance for the armed rebellion against European settlers in the late 1800s.  During a walk thru the gorge, you will find fossilized marine life and freshwater crocodiles.   The Tunnel Creek Cave system is one of the country’s oldest.  Visitors can walk 750 meters inside surrounded by beautiful rock formations while wading thru freshwater pools.

Karijini National Park brims with gorges all unique in their own way. Then for for a different kind of view, Mount Bruce, Australia’s second highest mountain resides in the park.  At just over 4000 feet and with a number of short walks, expansive views await providing numerous different perspectives of the surrounding landscape.

This is just a snapshot of the fantastic Kimberley where startlingly picturesque, tranquil beauty is in abundance; and there is so much more.  Want to talk about other possible sights or options for a trip to the Kimberly?  Give me a call to talk more!

Cliffs of Cathedral Gorge, Western Australia

Pat Ogle-CollinsExplore the Kimberly – One of the Last Wilderness Frontiers in the World!
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The often missed “winterless North” of New Zealand!

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When you travel all the way to the Land of the Long White Cloud, you should also go all the way to the tip of the North Island. New Zealand’s Northland, also referred to as the Far North by New Zealanders,  is a place of cultural significance, boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the country with a subtropical climate and lots of sunshine.

Let’s look at some of the places in Northland that should be on your list of must-see Kiwi destinations. Get ready for wild beaches, quaint towns, enchanting Maori legends, endless lush forests filled with Kauri trees and waterfalls, and probably more sheep than people. You might even see an endangered Kiwi in these parts!

Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Cape Reinga

Start at the top of the North Island in Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea join, and the Maori believe that deceased spirits of their people jump from an 800-year-old pohutukawa tree (a tree covered in red blossoms referred to as the New Zealand Christmas tree or bush) into the sea to return to Hawaiki, their ancestral home. This spiritual place is as far north as you can travel and is an inspiring place to be.

Visit the lighthouse where the ocean views are spectacular and if you catch the sunrise or sunset, you might crown Cape Reinga your favorite place on earth.

Ninety Mile Beach

Ninety Mile Beach

Technically the beach is less than 90 miles long, but who is counting when the sandy shores are so gorgeous? You can see waves and sand for as far as the eye can see and perhaps a lone farmer walking his dog or brave surfer with seagulls for company. If you want to explore this remote beach on the western coast, the town of Kaitaia makes a charming base. Fresh mussels and fish from the Kaitaia Fish Shop should not be missed because you’ll be hungry after all that sea air and walking around the beach and its dunes.

Kerikeri

Known for its farmer’s market, Kerikeri is the largest town in Northland and a vibrant little place to visit. Rainbow Falls, where you can take a dip in the water hole, is blissfully photogenic. You will find many gorgeous walking tracks through forested areas lined by quaint streams and rivers here and all around Northland.

Step back into the fairly young colonial history of the country by visiting The Kerikeri Mission Station, also called Kemp House. Under the protection of a scary Maori chief, this house built in 1821 for missionaries, to whom he was kind, stands as the oldest surviving European building in the country.

Hokianga

Hokianga Harbour is where the first war canoe landed when Kupe, a Polynesian leader, arrived in New Zealand by using the stars and ocean to guide the waka hourua (large double-hulles oceangoing canoes) from Hawaiki (the original home of Polynesians) to Hokianga. Many people believe taniwha (sea monsters) protect the entrance to the harbor.

Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri

Hokianga is a beautiful spot with little settlements like Omapere and Opononi to explore. Enjoy a lunch of fish and chips at a cafe in Rawene, then catch a ferry to the seaside town of Kohukohu where you can see historical buildings from the kauri gum (fossilized resin of the kauri tree used in crafts and jewelry) mining days.

Walk through the scenic Waipoua Forest and see Tane Mahuta, called the God of the Forest, the biggest kauri tree in NZ, with an estimated age of 2,000 years old. Stop to see rare rock formations at Wairere Boulders, a geologic phenomenon created by acidic erosion. The trails are easy to walk and you can kayak the Waipoua River that cuts thru the park.

Dargaville

Heading south, you will discover the town of Dargaville, where you can take a rail and river tour which is run by locals who give you the real low down on farm life in rural NZ. It’s an adventure through farmland and tunnels, over old railway tracks and bridges.  Hot cheese scones and tea are part of the package.

Ngātokimatawhaorua, Maori war canoe, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Bay of Islands

In 1840 over 500 Maori leaders and British Crown representatives gathered to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. When you visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds’ sacred site, you can see a Maori meeting house, war canoes, carvings, and a traditional haka performance (traditional Maori war dance). You can also view a replica of the treaty (the real one is archived in Wellington).  As the most important historical site in New Zealand, understanding the importance of the treaty and the events leading to the treaty reveal so much about the culture of the country.

By spending time in Northland, you gain a perspective on the entire country, while enjoying its warm temperatures, sunshine-filled days, and uniquely quaint small towns. Kiwis enjoy life at a much slower pace.  Visiting the Northlands provides time to adjust to this slower pace while learning about the culture and history surrounded by beautiful scenery!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe often missed “winterless North” of New Zealand!
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Near, On or In – Location is Key on the Great Barrier Reef!

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Submerged in a bright blue sea of water is a world unlike any other. Spots of greens, reds, purples, yellows, pinks, and oranges shine vibrantly against the simple blue of the ocean. A school of fish whoosh by, glug glugging, glugging as they go. A sea turtle floats about, basking in his surroundings as he chomps on some sea algae. This is the Great Barrier Reef.

Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders; a bucket list destination for many travelers. With so much to do and see on the Great Barrier Reef, making the selection of accommodation for your reef stay important to your overall Australian trip planning.   Options abound, but key to any planning is where: on the reef itself, on the mainland, or on an island.

On the Reef

Staying on the Reef with Reefsuites provides a truly unique experience.  Anchored at sea, the pontoon Reefsuites pontoon rooms sit below the waterline with underwater views.  Factors to consider:

  • Cost- Staying on the reef is luxurious but costly. This isn’t just a hotel– it’s an experience. With any truly unique experience, your stay will rank as perhaps the most expensive of your stay.

Reefsuites, Hardy Reef, off Queensland, Australia

  • Activities- There are a variety of activities available with Reefsuites. Snorkeling, scuba diving, dinner under the stars, and helicopter rides make the time in the blue waters go fast.
  • Time- Your time while on the reef will be completely focused on this natural wonder. There are no excursions elsewhere, so most stay only a night with a few staying two nights – less than you may have originally planned.  Also factor in travel time to the hotel and back to the mainland.

Cairns, Queensland, Australia

On the Mainland

When people visit Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, stays on the mainland and particularly in Cairns.  This is certainly an option for people wanting to make a day trip of the Great Barrier Reef so they can engage in mainland activities, great nightlife, and many accommodation options.  Consider the following:

  • Cost- Staying on the mainland is going to be your least expensive option. This exact cost, however, depending on the resort and room type selected.  However, this may allow additional funds to be allowed for activities.
  • Activities: Being on the mainland means you’ll have many activities to choose from. You could go sailing, golfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, lounge at the spa, and so much more. Plus, you’ll have a variety of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops at your disposal.
  • Time: Generally allow 70 minutes up to two hours to reach your destination on the reef. This time can vary based on where you are traveling from and which part of the reef you are visiting. Should you want to spend considerable time exploring the reef, consider the travel time when selecting the location for your accommodations.

On an Island

An island stay can offer the best of both reef and mainland accommodation locations. Of the hundreds of islands on the Great Barrier Reef, a number of resorts call an island their home offering special benefits:  they are surrounded by water, and each sports its own unique atmosphere and amenities.  Aspects of an island stay include:

Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia

  • Cost: Island stays can be affordable.  Islands that actually on the reef will cost more, but to save some money, those further away may be a good option.
  • Activities: Island resorts still offer guests a wide variety of activities.  Guests can go scuba diving, snorkeling, take a boat trip, lounge at the beach, and attend island resort events. There’s so much to do!
  • Time: Travelers should factor in the time it will take to get to the island, as well as how long it will take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from the island. The journey to the Great Barrier Reef takes 30 minutes to an hour and a half depending on the island.

The bountiful marine life, the tranquil blue waters, and the feel of the saltwater on your skin are never too far away regardless of your decision.  Where the Great Barrier Reef lies on your list of priorities for your trip Downunder will help drive the decision.  Let me help you design your trip Downunder so it fits you perfectly.  I’m only an email away!

Pat Ogle-CollinsNear, On or In – Location is Key on the Great Barrier Reef!
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