Things To Do In Western Victoria – The Best In The West Series.
When it comes to things to do in Western Victoria, there simply is so much! Beaches, mountains, long stretches of roads, great eateries, pubs, bars and accommodation. Museums and galleries, markets, music festivals, adventure activities and so much more! There are so many great things to do in Victoria with kids.
Covered in the Victoria South West series is Anglesea, Derrinallum, Koroit, Lorne, Mortlake, Noorat, Port Campbell and Warrnambool. LOOKING FOR MORE THINGS TO DO IN WESTERN VICTORIA? VISIT SOUTHERN GRAMPIANS REGION.
The Great Ocean Road and South West Victoria offers some of the most spectacular beaches in Victoria, holiday destinations, luxury accommodation, coastal towns and waves for surfing in Australia.
Anglesea is a beautiful, family friendly, seaside town on The Great Ocean Road in south west Victoria. It is one of the most popular holiday destinations along The Great Ocean Road, partly due to its close proximity to Geelong and Melbourne.
Learn to surf, kayak, ride a SUP by local experts. The patrolled and protected beach is fabulous for families of all ages. The river mouth offers more gentle wading for younger children. Depending on the tide, the ocean can be great for surfing, body surfing, kayaking, SUP and often just floating around. There is plenty of sand for the ever loved sandcastles to be constructed as well.
Anglesea has everything you need from a supermarket, to boutique shops, take away options, chemist, newsagency, banks, butcher, bakery. As well as lovely dining choices as well as the family friendly local pub.
Accommodation options are endless. Air BnB options are popular for longer stays, however, there are several apartment style offers close by to the beach, multiple caravan parks and holiday houses to rent through local agencies. The Big 4 Anglesea is a very popular choice for the hours of entertainment within the park, available to children and families.
At the foot of Mount Elephant sits the lovely country town of Derrinallum. For volcano enthusiasts, and those who enjoy a fantastic view, a walk up Mount Elephant is a must with a well maintained trail owned and operated by the local community.
Cycling along the old stone walls of the district is a great way to see the area, followed by some fishing or water sports on one of the nearby lakes.
There are dine-in and take-away options when you get hungry, with Front Paddock a favourite amongst locals and visitors. They serve breakfast, brunch and lunch, great coffee and have friendly service and a welcoming atmosphere.
Accommodation is available at the Mount Elephant Hotel Motel, who also serve up pub meals in the evening. Air BnB have several local choices; or, alternatively there is camping at the Deep Lake Reserve.
Perched above a beautiful golden beach overlooking Loutit Bay, Lorne has long been a holiday destination for those seeking a seaside break from the big smoke of Melbourne. As one of the larger towns along The Great Ocean Road, Lorne remains a popular stop off point for those driving Australia’s most famous road.
Though fairly compact Lorne has plenty to keep you occupied. At the entrance to the town is The Great Ocean Road Story. This small museum documents the backbreaking effort that went into building the iconic road by returning soldiers after the First World War.
Lorne’s gorgeous beach is also a popular surfing spot, whilst Lorne Pier is a great place for fishing. As with much of the coastline along The Great Ocean Road, Lorne Pier is also a great place to look out for whales as they migrate during the winter. Just above Lorne is the famous Teddy’s Lookout, a wonderful vantage point with spectacular views over the sea and the winding Great Ocean Road.
There’s plenty to explore just outside Lorne. There are walking trails through the forests near Teddy’s Lookout where you might spot koalas in the wild. There are also a number of spectacular waterfalls nearby in the Great Otway National Park. Erskine Falls and Shoak Falls are both just a few minutes’ drive from the centre of Lorne.
Lorne is also blessed with a number of great places to eat. The Bottle of Milk is the perfect place for a healthy breakfast or brunch. Sat right on the beach, the Lorne Beach Pavillion has the best views in town, as well as a great range of cocktails.
Lorne Pier Seafood also has a pretty special view as well as the best seafood menu in town. The best pizza in Lorne can be found tucked away next to the Erskine River at the excellent Pizza Pizza.
There’s no shortage of places to stay in Lorne either. The Lorne Hotel is one of the best in town and also has a great restaurant and bar. The historic Grand Pacific Hotel is full of character and charm and has fantastic ocean views. The Sandridge Motel is another great option, with good sized comfy rooms and the entire town and the beach right on its doorstep.
Koroit is a pleasant little township in south west Victoria, just a short drive off The Great Ocean Road. Koroit is known to be one of Australia’s best representation of early Irish settlement. The town itself is full of history, charm and has a genuine sense of community.
There is lots on offer in Koroit. It is home to a number of events which bring crowds to this popular western Victorian village. The most popular being the Koroit Irish Festival which is held annually.
Tower Hill is well worth a visit; a dormant volcano thought to have last erupted 30,000 years ago, was declared Victoria’s first National Park. Koroit has lovely Botanical Gardens, a Heritage Walk through the towns most historic points; an Art Gallery and is part of the newly developed Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Trail.
Our choice dining option and somewhere that offers something for everyone, is Izzy’s Restaurant. The restaurant was established by Izzy’s Group in 2007 and after extensive renovation in August 2019, the restaurant re-opened with a striking new interior. The cosmopolitan menu includes moreish European style pizzas, a delicious list of starters that can be shared with a glass of wine in front of the fire, sizzling steaks from the grill, and an incredible selection of seafood dishes and vegetarian options. A comprehensive takeaway menu is of great appeal to holiday-makers and locals wanting an easy night in. Izzy’s Restaurant is open on Wednesday through to Sunday from 5pm until late.
Accommodation options are not short! From hotels, to holiday or farm stays and bed and breakfasts.
Mortlake is a nice little town in the South West of Victoria. It is well presented, maintained and boasts some beautifully restored hotels and buildings.
Take a break from the trail to shop for vintage treasures and antiques, dine at one of the restaurants or cafes, or enjoy a famous Clarke’s pie sitting in the Market Square.
Accommodation options range from the two equally charming restored hotels, Macs Hotel and Mt Shadwell Hotel, as well as holiday houses and nearby Air BnB options.
For camping or caravan families, the very clean and friendly Mortlake Caravan Park, is an excellent option. Located alongside the picturesque Tea Tree Lake, which has a well made walking or cycling track around – a fantastic place for the kids to ride their bikes. The skate park and playground are also sure to keep the kids entertained.
Picnic under the sheltered areas, or throw a rug under a large shady green tree. There are tables and chairs to be used and electric BBQ’s available.
Known as the Olivine capital of Australia, this green crystal can be found in the volcanic bombs ejected from nearby Mount Shadwell thousands of years ago. More recent history is celebrated in a large number of bluestone buildings dating back as far as 1857 with a well-established heritage trail to follow.
On the road between Mortlake and Noorat (and Terang), you will be amazed by the Terang – Mortlake Road Wall. This interesting attraction is part of the western Victorian Dry Stone Wall Heritage Trail.
Noorat is a small town, in South West Victoria, nestled into the base of Mt Noorat. Mt Noorat is a dormant volcano considered to have the largest dry crater in Australia.
A popular walk is this western Victorian town, is the Alan Marshall Walking Track to the crater and a superb lookout. You can also walk around town to see buildings and locations significant to Alan Marshall.
Food and accommodation needs are taken care of at the beautifully restored Mount Noorat Hotel. Head in for a well-earned drink, a hearty meal, a charming place to sleep and a chat to locals and visitors alike.
Across the road from the hotel, you’ll find Maryland Store, a well loved store where you’ll find vintage items and plants and very friendly customer service. For something a little different visit successful local milliner Georgina Conheady in the historic town hall for a bespoke hat.
This gorgeous South West town, on the Great Ocean Road, is a must for all Victorian travellers. Port Fairy oozes history with its nineteenth century stone cottages, charm, community and creativity. It is a popular family holiday destination, girls weekend away or romantic escape for couples.
The hub of Port Fairy is based around the Fiddler’s Green, which intersects the main streets for shopping, cafes and restaurants. The ‘Village Green’ is a popular meeting point, a great spot for a picnic and for enjoying the performances or live music that take the stage.
Port Fairy boasts some of the most magnificent Victorian beaches. East Beach is popular for surfers, stand-up paddle boarders, kayaks and the popular Surf Life Saving Club. During the Summer months, the beaches are buzzing with tourists who are lapping up the beautiful waters. East Beach extends to the east and many locals and tourists alike, enjoy the long beach walks to start their day. To the west, is a picturesque stretch of beach with the Port Fairy Lighthouse on Griffiths Island to admire.
Griffiths Island is a beautiful way to enjoy a quiet part of Port Fairy, take in some unique views and find some small sandy beaches to splash and paddle in – these, however, are not patrolled, so care must be taken. The views are stunning and the walk is easy and very enjoyable. The track leading directly to the Lighthouse is wheelchair accessible, however, a full lap of the island unfortunately, is not possible.
A little further west is South Beach, otherwise known as Pea Soup. This lovely little protected beach is very popular for families to swim, paddle, float and snorkel; however, this beach is not patrolled.
Port Fairy Surf School is a great option for learning to surf and stand-up paddle board; they also offer snorkel safaris and kayak adventures. Daktari Sports runs the SurfGroms program is available for booking in Port Fairy and Warrnambool.
Off the water, you can join Historic Town or Wharf Walking Tours, which depart from the Visitor Information Centre. If you are an Art lover, follow and explore the local Art Map, which is a collection of galleries and studios open to the public.
Port Fairy Geo Tours is an eco-tourism company offering tours in this unique volcanic hinterland on the Southern Ocean coast of The Great Ocean Road. Port Fairy is home to regular markets, with the Farmer’s Market and the Community House Markets, both being very popular.
The Wharf is an absolute gem in Port Fairy and you must take yourself down to have a look. Wander along the walk way, admire the boats and lovely accommodation options, go fishing, take a boat trip out along the Moyne River past the Lighthouse or simply ‘stop and smell the roses’. At the Griffiths Island end of the Wharf, there is a great playground for the kids to enjoy, public toilets and plenty of space for a picnic.
You can hire bikes from the Port Fairy Information Centre in Bank St, for 4 hours or a full day. Enjoy exploring the streets, or if you are up for a bigger challenge, take yourself on the Port Fairy-Warrnambool Rail Trail, which takes you through the Irish inspired town of Koroit.
This lovely little Great Ocean Road town is well known for the Port Fairy Folk Festival. Tourists come from all directions to enjoy fabulous music which line the streets and a great festive feel over the March Long Weekend. Tickets into the main stage events and accommodation, are fast to sell out for this event, so you must get in early to avoid disappointment.
Your dining options in Port Fairy are endless! From lovely cafes to eat-in or take-away, great restaurants to enjoy a sophisticated meal out, bars and pubs and higher end dining.
For the best pizza and great atmosphere catering for everyone, is Coffin Sally. The menu is extensive, the service if friendly and it is a place that you want to continue to go back to.
Accommodation options in Port Fairy are everywhere! From self contained apartments, to caravan parks, hotels, motels, holiday stays and Air BnB options. For families who are looking for great value, location, family friendly, space and character, our recommendation is Moyne Cottage – between the river and the sea.
A trip to south west Victoria along The Great Ocean Road is incomplete without a trip to Port Campbell. Home of Port Campbell National Park and the exquisite point for a visit to see the wonders of Twelve Apostles.
Terang is a small town in the Western District of Victoria. It is just a short drive from the popular and well known town of Warrnambool. The main road that goes through Terang, is wide divided road, with a beautiful grassed medium strip.
Large shady trees line the middle of the road, making it a nice place to stop for a picnic, sit and read a book or take in the historic buildings surrounding you.
Terang has all of your everyday essentials, including an IGA supermarket. Make sure you stop in at the Bakery, for award winning pies and/or vanilla slice!
Found at the western end of the Great Ocean Road, Warrnambool is famous for its rugged beauty and the Southern Right Whales that arrive every winter for their annual calving. Between June and September, these magnificent whales birth their calves in the “nursery” areas close to the shoreline. The best place to spot them is from the specially built viewing platform at Logans Beach.
Warrnambool is situated on the Shipwreck Coast and its spectacular coastline is the final resting place for dozens of shipwrecks. Visitors to the region can hear the stories of the crewmen and passengers whose lives were lost, at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village and Museum.
A highlight of the museum is the fabulous reconstructed outdoor village that gives visitors a taste of what life was like for Australia’s early settlers. While you’re there be sure to stop by the cute Tea Rooms for scrumptious scones with jam and cream. In the evenings the museum holds a Sound And Light Show where visitors can learn about those who braved the Southern Ocean in search of a new life.
Lake Pertobe is an absolute must stop for families and one of Warrnambool’s best kept secrets. There are playgrounds for all ages, a great space to run, picnic, BBQ and enjoy some quality family time. From the slides, swings, maze, climbing frame and flying fox, you could literally spend an entire day there. You can also hire a paddle bike or boat for some time on the lake.
A trip to Warrnambool wouldn’t be right without stopping by Allansford Cheese World. Here visitors can sample award-winning cheeses and browse a variety of local produce and wines.
The Cheese World museum is a trip back in time with a collection of farm machinery, household items, and mementos from the early 1900s. There’s a lovely café onsite that serves breakfast, light lunches and snacks.
One of the best places to eat in this lovely south west Victorian town, is Bohemia Cafe and Bar. The food is absolutely sensational! With a creative menu, bohemian space, family friendly and great customer service, it is no surprise it is always busy. Located in the town centre, there is plenty of parking, walking distance to all essential shops and boutique stores.
With Warrnambool’s museums, gardens, walking trails, nature, and stunning beaches, this south west sea-side town is the perfect place to spend a few days in western Victoria.
*Disclosure: There are affiliate links throughout this article. Should you choose to purchase through a link, Love To Travel, Stay-Eat-Do may earn a small. This will be at no extra cost to you.
Things To Do In Western Victoria – The Best In The West Series.
When it comes to things to do in Western Victoria, there simply is so much! Beaches, mountains, long stretches of roads, great eateries, pubs, bars and accommodation. Museums and galleries, markets, music festivals, adventure activities and so much more! There are so many great things to do in Victoria with kids.
Cavendish is a small town in the Southern Grampians Shire in Western Victoria. It is situated either side of the picturesque Wannon River. There are lovely walks to enjoy along the River, which are surrounded by beautiful gum trees. On the main street, there is a sign to the Settlers Walk, follow this and enjoy the beautiful riverbanks of the Wannon.
Home to The Bunyip Hotel Cavendish, which in recent times has become a reason to visit. The Bunyip, as it is known to the locals, prides themselves on delivering great food and wine, using local products, in a genuine country pub setting. The food is exceptional and if you’re visiting on a Sunday, you are strongly encouraged to stop in for their five-course set menu Chef’s Table.
Sunday sessions, Paella Day’s and other special events are always very popular to the locals and beyond. The outdoor beer garden is one not to be missed on a sunny day, it is very family friendly and has a fantastic outlook over the Wannon River.
The Bridge Cafe is a popular cafe, fast food restaurant and convenience store for locals and those travelling through.
Cavendish is also the home to the popular community event, The Cavendish Red Gum Festival. Through a diverse range of family friendly activities, the festival exposes and educates visitors to the unique local environment.
Just a short drive from Hamilton Victoria, you’ll find the small town of Coleraine. Just 19km along the Hamilton-Coleraine Rd, keep your eyes out for signs directing you to the picturesque Wannon Falls, which are fed by the Wannon River. The Falls are a popular stopping point and are a wonderful sight after a downfall of rain – keep an eye on the BOM South West!
Coleraine is known for the Glenelg Fine Confectionery, a yummy place to stop for some chocolate treats. The Catching Pen is a popular cafe which serves delicious homemade style food, prepared daily and the cafe boasts friendly local service.
This small Western Victorian town has a lovely atmosphere, great local community and a very scenic outlook. There are plenty of accommodation options including Air BnB, the Coleraine Hotel which also provides bistro meals and breakfast; as well as, a council-owned caravan park.
Dunkeld is a destination in itself and would have to be the most spectacular town in Western Victoria. Visiting Dunkeld should be on every person’s list of things to do in Victoria. Dunkeld is located at the southern end of the Grampians National Park.
There truly is something in Dunkeld for everyone. From walking tracks, paths for kids to ride bikes, the local playground, gardens and pool, tennis courts and bowls club. Food lovers are always impressed with a great variety of options. Art lovers, a visit to Koopmans Dunkeld, Off The Rails and Ros McArthur Art Studio are definitely worth exploring.
Many visitors flock to the Southern Grampians town to hike and enjoy the dramatic views of the Grampians National Park. Mount Sturgeon (Wurgarri) is a 7km return walk and can take up to 3 hours. From the top, walkers enjoy views across the town and beyond. The Picanninny (Bainggug) is a 2.4km return walk and is a great walk to do with children. There are some short steep sections on the walk, but a great starting point for families with young children wanting to hike in the Grampians. Mount Abrupt is a 6.3km return walk and on a clear day, offers some of the most spectacular viewings across the southern end of the Grampians.
The Dunkeld Arboretum is an absolutely stunning location for visitors. This hidden gem in the south west Victoria is a place to swim, paddle, walk or run, cycle, or simply wander. There is a made track around the lake and it is perfect for small children to practice their cycling skills. With beautiful mountain views, it is a popular spot for early morning walks to enjoy some spectacular sunrises.
Just a short 5 minute drive on the Victoria Valley Rd, surrounded by stunning Southern Grampians views, is Freshwater Lake Reserve. This is such a beautiful spot, so quiet and the perfect location for a bush picnic, to wander the lake, climb trees, have a camp fire or even camp.
Dunkeld is the home to very popular community run events including the two-day hiking/running event Serra Terror over the June long weekend; the trail running festival Peaks and Trails in August, as well as the 3 Peaks Festival in October. If you are considering a time to visit the beautiful country town, these are particularly great occasions.
The annual Dunkeld Cup is another event that visitors flock in from all over the State for. With the most stunning of back drops, the race day has been named in the Top 10 Most Picturesque Race Tracks in the world. You can book a marquee, umbrella package, or come on the day and find a spot on the mound. Bring your own picnics or have your day catered for by local businesses.
Where to eat…
There are plenty of options to eat out in Dunkeld, locals and visitors really are spoilt for choice!
Koopmans Dunkeld is a brunch/coffee spot housed within an old garage on the main street of Dunkeld. The refurbished space also houses an art gallery which features the work of local artists. Open 7am-4pm daily, Koopmans Dunkeld serves up St ALi coffee, all day brunch, house-baked goods as well as smoothies and salads (balance is key) all with a spectacularly framed view of Mt Abrupt. Parking is located on Parker Street with full accessibility and amenities for wheelchairs.
Izzy’s Café is a delightful welcoming dine-in and takeaway restaurant which was established by Izzy’s Group in 2004. It is located in the bustling main street of Dunkeld. Izzy’s Café menu choices include European style pizzas, indulgent burgers, Illy coffee and gorgeous Timboon ice cream.
A wide range of prepared meal options to suit all diners, including those with particular dietary requirements, are prepared fresh daily such as pasta dishes and appetising salads. Customers queue for delicious pies, sausage rolls, cakes and biscuits all baked by the Izzy’s team. The café is open on Monday to Thursday from 9am until 6.30pm and on Friday to Sunday from 9am until 7.30pm.
Dunkeld’s best kept secret, The Old Bakery is located in Martin Street and offers visitors the chance to step back in time. The Dunkeld Old Bakery was established in 1887 and is a living piece of history as one of only a handful of operating bakeries that still has its original wood-fired scotch oven. It has also drawn travellers since the 1920s for its quality pies.
Relax on the verandah in the morning sun and enjoy a locally roasted coffee and fresh pastry with your Grampians view. Inside, the charming cottage is bathed in morning sun with a wood heater for rainy days.
Current custodians, Geoff and Belinda Potter aim to continue the tradition. Geoff is up early to bake the sourdough bread and baguettes, and his beef and ale pies still draw a crowd. They stand alongside slow cooked lamb pies and pork and fennel sausage rolls, served with relish to his mum’s secret recipe.
Belinda’s passion is hand crafted croissants and pastries, rivalled only in popularity by the classic vanilla slice with passionfruit icing. Be warned, the bakery does sometimes sell out bread, pastries and pies early but you can choose something from an extensive menu until 2.30pm, or enjoy a coffee with a slice of carrot cake. The bakery is open from 8.30am – 3pm weekdays and 8.30am – 3.30pm on weekends. Closed Tuesdays.
The Dunkeld General Store offers all of your every day essentials and gourmet essentials, including great coffee. They have a range of quick breakfast and lunch options to go, including wraps, focaccias, salads and sandwiches. There is a large selection of cakes, slices, biscuits and all of your sweet treat requirements. The Dunkeld General Store stocks lots of local produce and locally crafted gifts and art work, as well as local wines.
Cafe 109 is a small Café Bistro and Bar. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week from 9.30am till late. They have a great range of meals that in include vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. Tuesday’s are Chicken Parma nights that offer a range of toppings and Wednesday’s are Steak nights. They do take-away and offer delivery service within the township of Dunkeld. Cafe 109 also serve coffee and cake.
From 6-8pm every Friday, locals and visitors are welcomed for Happy Hour. A great time to relax and enjoy a beverage in their updated courtyard or dining room. Take in the Grampians views and enjoy their award winning mural by a local artist.
Dunkeld is famous for the well renowned Royal Mail Hotel and is often a reason people travel to the western district of Victoria. Famous for it’s two hat Wickens dining experience, Cellar Door and Kitchen-Garden Tours.
Parker Street Project is popular with locals and visitors alike. If you’re planning to dine at Wickens and Parker Street Project, booking is highly recommended. Parker Street Project has a lovely beer garden with Grampians views
Where to stay…
Accommodation options in Dunkeld are endless given the size of the town. At the higher end you can explore the options available at the Royal Mail Hotel. Southern Grampians Cottages offer rustic self contained cottages which are very popular for families – they are beautifully maintained and well presented. There are several Air BnB opportunities around, as well as the well cared for Dunkeld Caravan Park. For larger group accommodation contact Corea Quarters.
You can also, stay at the Dunkeld Old Bakery. Accommodation in the charming baker’s residence is adjacent to the Dunkeld Old Bakery and cafe. Offering two suites – the Queen Suite and the Baker’s Suite. Each offers a spacious bedroom with queen size bed, separate private sitting room with free wifi, television, tea and coffee facilities and private bathroom. Wake up to the smell of freshly baked artisan bread and barista-made coffee.
At ‘Heathvale Heights’ Bed & Breakfast, you’ll listen to the crickets as the sun goes down; hear the birds announcing rain may be on its way; sit in a breakfast bay-room and be greeted by sheep grazing in the farm paddocks.
Embraced by the Southern Grampians landscape and 9kms from the popular tourist town of Dunkeld, Heathvale Heights enjoys an outlook of the ever-changing hues of Mt Abupt & the Serra Range.
An overnight sojourn offers the guest: a private
section of the house; key lock entry on request, a very comfortable queen bed
and spotless clean amenities. In the morning a generous selection of fruit,
breakfast cereals, toast, condiments, tea & coffee awaits for you.
‘Heathvale Heights’ is a unique country experience for city folk. The stay is quiet, calming and peaceful. Val and Malcom are available for advice and to enjoy the sharing of your experiences. Treks & trails both adventurous and challenging are close to our door. You can make your stay tranquil and restful or invigorating & adventurous. After your day exploring return to ‘Heathvale Heights’ and remember to look up to the starlit night.
Hamilton has a great range of things to do and places to eat. A must visit is the Hamilton Gallery. The gallery presents a range of exhibitions, programs and events so there is always something new and exciting. Next door is the Hamilton Cinema that showcases a wide range of the latest blockbuster movies and perfect if the weather is wet.
On the edge of the CBD is the Hamilton Botanic Gardens that was established by William Guilfoyle, the curator of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. A beautiful space to enjoy a picnic lunch and to wander around taking in the well established trees and plants.
Lake Hamilton can’t be missed on a visit to Hamilton and is the perfect spot for fishing, walking, running and boating. There is a 4.2km walking track around the lake that hosts the Hamilton Park Run each Saturday morning. Located on the lake is the Lakes Edge Adventure Park. A huge playground for the kids to run around and also has BBQ facilities and toilets.
Nearby to the lake is Sir Reginald Ansett Transport Museum. It showcases Reg Ansett and the history of Ansett Airlines. Reg originally started his transport business in Hamilton back in 1931.
A short drive from Hamilton, Pierrepoint Vineyard is a gorgeous spot to enjoy a wine and cheese platter. They also have different events throughout the year so check them out on social media to see what they have to offer. They also have a bed and breakfast if you need accommodation.
There are a range of different places to eat in Hamilton and a few local favourites are Tosca Browns, Roxburgh, Thai Town and Jack & Jude. Local pubs also have a great range of food and open 7 days a week.
Hamilton has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets from Lake Hamilton Caravan Park to Hamilton Townhouse Motel and Lonsdale Motor Inn. They offer comfortable rooms and parking with the bonus of being close to town.
As mentioned earlier, Pierrepoint Vineyard also has a great bed & breakfast. If you are searching for a bed & breakfast close to Hamilton CBD, Garland Cottage is a great choice.
Hamilton is a lovely town to visit plus you have the bonus of facilities like supermarkets and a vibrant shopping district.
Penshurst is a small, historic, rural township, conveniently located half way between the Shipwreck Coast and the Grampians National Park. Mt Rouse, a dormant volcano, is the dominant feature in the town and offers terrific views from the top. The botanic gardens located in the centre of the town, contain a lovely small caravan park, playground and free BBQs. During the summer months the outdoor pool, also located in the gardens, is in operation.
Leisurely walks on quiet roads with wide nature strips can be taken around the town, to Yatmerone Nature Reserve or up the steep path to the summit of Mount Rouse. Alternatively you can take the tourist road to the top of the mount where there is a free BBQ, toilets and lookout. As well as kangaroos and wallabies, other native animals and birds can be seen on a walk into the crater. The Volcanoes Discovery Centre, located in town, has displays of all types of volcanoes, and specific information on volcanic activity in Western Victoria.
Sifting through the thousands of things to do in Europe at Christmas, can be overwhelming! Below you will find some of the best things to do in Europe through the Christmas period.
If you have not yet decided where to go in Europe for Christmas, look here -you’ll find some of the best destinations in Europe for Christmas. The list of things to do in Europe are endless and let’s face it, the best things in life aren’t things; they are truly magical and memorable experiences.
Some of the best things about Christmas in Europe are undoubtedly exploring the plethora of Europe’s Christmas markets. The bottom line, however, really is that Europe does all things Christmas incredibly well!
The Best Activities for Kids in Europe at Christmas
Finland – things to do in Rovaniemi this Christmas
November 2005, after a two-year stint living in the UK, I packed up and flew to Kathmandu in Nepal to meet my best friend, Kell, for an adventure of a life time – to trek part of the Himalaya Mountains – the Annapurna Base Camp Trek (formerly Annapurna Sanctuary).
We were fortunate enough to have our very own local guide for a few days, Kell’s beautiful Aunty Lenore, who had been living and teaching in Kathmandu for several years – local knowledge is so powerful when travelling. We spent two days touring Kathmandu locally with Lenore, before joining our Intrepid tour group to see more sights.
Touring Kathmandu and surrounds
We went to the most important sight for Hindu’s in Nepal called Pashupatinath. It was a place to worship and mourn the dead, where people were cremated soon after them passing away, then their ashes were put into the running Bagmati River. We spent an afternoon in Patan Durbar Square which is Patan’s Palace square; lots of temples, great culture and beautiful and friendly people. We wandered the smaller streets and walked a part of Lenore’s school evacuation route for her school.
We negotiated Kathmandu traffic by bike to get to Swayambhunath, a site for Buddhists. The tourists refer to Swayambhunath as Monkey Temple, due to the number of monkeys there. It was such a buzz – exciting and a little bit scary! We went to Kathmandu Durbar Square and to see the home of the living goddess (Kumari) who happened to be the cousin of Lenore’s close friend.
We spent the morning in old town of Bahktapur which is about 15km out of Kathmandu. We toured the city in the morning, seeing all the sights and walking small winding streets. We ate great food, shopped in secret jewellery stores Lenore had shown us, had some down time in preparedness for what was ahead.
The Himalayan Trek, Nepal – Annapurna Base Camp
Kathmandu to Pokhara
We got a local tourist bus to Pokhara from Kathmandu.
The roads have a lot to be desired, therefore the 200km we had to travel took
7.5 hours! I was sick with a cold so managed to sleep most of the trip away. At
one point I woke to gasps from my fellow travellers. Over the side of the
bridge that we had currently been stopped on, was an over turned tanker and a
bus that had gone over the edge. As we neared our arrival point, through my
sleepy eyes I was blown away by what was surrounding us, the Himalayas –
things just got very real!
We spent the afternoon in Pokhara wandering the streets,
trying to indulge in the last food options and activities, like apple crumble
from the bakery (which was to-die-for, I might add)! Dinner was at the hotel
where we watched a performance of Nepali dancers; interestingly, this was our
first of many experiences of seeing men really enjoying the music and dance as
much as the women. Music and dance is such an important part of the Nepali
culture and daily life.
Pokhara to Tikedhunga – Annapurna Base Camp Trek
Early morning rise and a bus to Birethanti where we met
our porters who strapped two packs (max 30kg) together and swung them over
their backs or heads to carry them for us for the next 11 days! ELEVEN DAYS –
what on earth was I doing???? The day was glorious as had been predicted. It
was hot and we just loved being outside enjoying the walk.
There was a bit of up and down, made for an interesting walk.
After an hour and a half, we stopped for lunch, Kell and I were already tired,
but we did our best not to show it. We all had to try to order similar foods at
lunch so preparation didn’t take up too much of our day. After lunch we were
off again, but this time UP! It hurt, particularly the stairs that took
us up to the teahouse – a welcome resting point. The scenery had been
beautiful, walking along rivers and through fields, past school kids who would
easily do this same walk every day.
On arrival in Tikedhunga we had warm showers, making the
most of this luxury! Then had a wander around the village, took some photos,
just in time before it began to rain. Shankar (our guide), assured us that if
it rained at night, it would NOT rain during the day. During dinner when it was
pelting down outside, we were all more than happy, as it was NOT going to rain
the next morning.
Tikedhunga to Gorepani, 2750m – Annapurna Base Camp Trek
Torrential rain all night, and just as Shankar had predicted, it
stopped just as we were about to have breakfast…only to begin again when we
packed up our stuff and got ready to go. Out came the poncho’s and plastic bags
to waterproof everything. Fortunately, Kell and I had already waterproofed all
our gear before we started the trip, which we were hoping was going to be unnecessary,
but as it turned out, was VERY necessary.
Off we go. Shankar says to us, “Two hours and we’ll be over the
top of that hill”. Well for starters that ‘hill’ was no hill, it was a
mountain, and as for the two-hour thing, we had to climb 3000 steps to get to
the top of “that hill” – my mind was not going to positive places and I could
well and truly see it taking more than the predicted two hours…particularly
when it was bucketing with rain! After 1 hour of continuous up, we were
My water-resistant jacket was not cut out for the weather,
that’s for sure! My travel pants were not dealing with the weather either.
After two hours our feet were drenched and we were certainly NOT THERE! The 3rd
and 4th hours were the worst! Apart from the fact that Kell and I were the
stragglers of the group, we later found out that they reached the lunch spot a
whole hour and a half before us. I was completely wet from top to toe, from
skin to bone. Not a dry part of my body. I was freezing! I could barely walk, I
was out of energy and all I wanted to do was sit on the ground and cry. Why was
I doing this to myself???? No views, rain pelting down, so so cold. Kell who
was a little drier than me, she had a dry top thanks to her Dad’s poncho; she
stuck with me while I struggled up the stairs and through the jungle. We were
basically walking up a river bed. Some parts you couldn’t avoid the ankle-deep
water. Poor Shankar, I don’t think he quite knew what to do – it was only day
We finally got to the lunch stop. Everyone else was already
sitting around the big pot belly ‘heating system’. The first thing I did was
strip off all my clothes, down to my underwear. Put a dry jumper on and someone
else’s jacket over my legs to try to hide them from offending the locals. I
spent lunch time attempting to defrost myself and dry some of my clothes.
After lunch Shankar said we had 2 hours to go, maybe 1.5. I was
determined to make it the latter, so with all the energy I could muster, Kell
and I soldiered on. Got into a rhythm and powered on as fast as we possibly
could. We were no longer at the back. I had never been so cold in my life and I
wanted to make the second part of the day as short as possible. More uphill and
stairs, more rain, still cold and wet, but this time I walked with the bag over
the top of my head. To our great surprise and joy, we got there in 45 minutes!
We were not the first there, Shankar had said 2 hours based on my performance
earlier in the day.
The teahouse rooms were freezing, but taking off all my clothes
made me about 10 degrees warmer. We dried ourselves, put dry warm clothes on
and headed to the dining room which was turned into a drying room with some
chairs and tables. Every person’s boots, clothes and underwear were in there
trying to dry. It made for an interesting afternoon of drinking warm drinks
trying to get the blood flowing again, finding feeling in my toes, and
constantly turning clothes and boots so they wouldn’t burn or melt! I did not
think I was going to make that day – it was a horrendous and horrible feeling.
For dinner we ate like you wouldn’t believe…and then rewarded
ourselves with dessert – a ‘snicker roll’, a deep-fried snickers bar – heart
attack on a plate, but very yummy! As we went to bed, it was still raining but
we were all praying for it to stop as we were to get up at 4am to go to Poon
Hill for sunrise.
Gorepani to Tadapani, 2700m – Annapurna Base Camp Trek
We woke up at 5:30am; so much for Poon Hill. We looked
out the window, the rain had stopped. I guess we were thankful for that, but
disappointed that we missed out on the sunrise.
Our walk started uphill, tough, but there was a clear
view of some mountains in the area so we were happy. It was nice to be able to
stop and take photos along the way. We lapped up as much of it as we could,
just in case we didn’t see anything else. It was pretty misty and very
overcast, but we could see mountains so couldn’t really complain. UP UP UP!
Kell and I, along with 3 others made up the ‘back of the pack’! We had a little
bit of Nepali flat – up and down, up and down, nothing too steep in
either direction through the jungle for a couple of hours. We loved Nepali flat
by the end of the trip.
Kell and I talked the whole way, beginning our catch up on the
past two years, it was great. We then followed a gully down for an hour, which
was quite steep. Landslides – they were muddy; it certainly made for an
interesting trip. We learnt Shankar’s favourite saying, he used it every time
someone complained or questioned something – ”What to do, Kathmandu”. We
were entertained by Shankar as much as I think we entertained him – we got
along very well. We crossed some bridges, typically Nepali bridges – they were
a ‘little bit scary’.
We had 30 minutes of ‘steep up’ to the teahouses, where
we had a hot shower and found ourselves with a ‘room with a view’, not that
there was really any view with the cloud cover. The teahouses were cold and had
tin walls and roof. I bought a yak pashmina and some socks which were probably
a couple of my best purchases for the trip. Whilst waiting for dinner,
Shankar explained the current Maoist situation to us, and that he had to pay
US$15 per person for us to be there.
Tadapani to Chomrong, 2177m – Annapurna Base Camp Trek
Once again, torrential rain when we went to bed the night
before. Kell woke me during the night and much to my annoyance made me look out
the window. I’m glad she did – there was clear sky, eerie sky and mountains –
REAL MOUNTAINS and we were completely amongst them. Amazing – we were so
excited at what the day ahead would show us. Our room with a view certainly
proved to be that!
Up for sunrise, mountains were beautiful but the sunrise itself
wasn’t that impressive. I took a minute whilst brushing my teeth to realise
exactly where I was and what I was doing, one of those pinch me moments. So
incredible and a little bit overwhelming.
The first part of the day was steep steep, down. We were
to get to Chomrong by lunch and spend the day there. Half way down the
steep and the sky began to cry! From then on, the day was a chore – no views,
aching muscles, pain and not really enjoying it. We got to the bottom and then
had to head straight back up. The ‘going down, to go back up’ was so physically
and mentally painful, such a challenge! There was some Nepali flat, but
most of it was gruelling. However, we did plough on through and managed to get
there in the specified time of 5 hours, in time for lunch.
The afternoon was spent recovering and preparing for the days
ahead. For the next few days we were heading up to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)
and would be back tracking our path on our way back – so we knew what we would
be going up, would mean that equally, we had to come back down.
People played cards, chatted, enjoyed the dry air (of course the
rain stopped when we did!). Kell and I thought we deserved a massage, so we
both indulged and had a one hour Nepali massage, what an interesting experience!
I wasn’t very relaxed, it was a bit too funny to be relaxed. Nonetheless, it
was enjoyable and took my mind off what was ahead. Having a laugh was perhaps
the better sort of medicine we needed at that point in time anyway!
There were tears that day – tears of pain and tears from
Sunset that night on the mountains was amazing. We could see
where we were going, quite a daunting thought, but simply amazing – it made us
all really excited! Kell and I sat in our room and had a good chat and
catch up before dinner. Another snicker roll was ordered; this time we had one
each – hahaha – I’m sure we deserved it! Another early night. We were averaging
on 7:30-8:00pm each night. We needed all the sleep we could get!
Chomrong to Doban, 2670m – Annapurna Base Camp Trek
We had a tough day ahead of us, 7 hours Shankar said. He was
pretty much spot on most of the time so it was a fairly good indication that we
were in for a big day. The first part leaving Chomrong was great, all downhill, steep down for one hour. Pretty
cruisy until it dawned on us that we then had to go up to what we had just
walked from and beyond!
We reached the river that ran through the valley at the base of Chomrong and we started to head UP!
“Steep-steep” up, for probably 1.5 hours. I was not having a good time
going up. I wasn’t feeling good walking at all and therefore was not enjoying
it. Kell was powering along which was great…for her! When you have a rhythm,
you have got to stick with it. So off she went. There was a bit of Nepali flat
which was a good relief on the aching muscles. More jungle walking, it was
mostly a nice day so we could enjoy some of the views. As the day went on, my
mood, outlook and feeling improved. After a couple of hours of Nepali flat
we then hit a very steep descent which took us to Bamboo for lunch. I was walking on my own for most of the morning,
mainly because I didn’t want to talk to anyone, as I don’t think I would have
had very much to say that was nice – I needed some mental ‘time-out’ to
re-energise and focus.
After lunch, I was ready to go with some new-found energy and motivation. Kell and I did our best to keep up with the front of the pack, only to find ourselves slowly but surely falling behind as soon as we hit an incline….and incline we certainly did! It was virtually climbing a ladder in parts, it was insane. I experienced my first headache early in the afternoon, but unfortunately it was one of many along the trip. It took 3 hours that afternoon to get to the Himalaya Hotel, so we were exhausted and certainly felt like we had put in a good day of walking! We had a ‘hot bucket’ that night which basically means that we stand in a freezing cold open air ‘shower room’ and wash ourselves from a hot bucket of water. As horrible as that sounds, it really was sensational!
It got really cold that night. Obviously the higher we moved
into the mountains the colder it was going to get. Also, the higher risk of
altitude sickness. I began my new diet that night of potato and garlic soup. I
was told garlic helps/prevents altitude sickness. When we went to bed that
night, the sky was clear and the stars were out. It was amazing. Apart from the
stars in the Sahara Desert, it had been a long time since I’d seen any like
Doban to Machhapuchhare Base Camp (M.B.C.), 3700m – Annapurna Base CampTrek
Another early morning start. Gurung Bread (or Tibetan Bread) for
breaky, up and ready to go. Shankar told us we had 4 hours of walking that day.
A pretty cruisy day, to be at M.B.C. by lunch. We had to walk slowly because of
the risk of altitude sickness. The first two hours to Deurali were tough going. Mostly steep up with a little bit
of Nepali flat for us to re-energise our muscles. We walked through bamboo
areas and forests; it really was a stunning day.
The whole group walked together for most of the day which was
great. When we stopped for drinks we’d all laugh and talk about what we doing
and how hilariously insane it sounded that we were walking for 7 days to get
‘somewhere’ to see ‘something’. With blue skies, a running river to walk alongside,
massive snow-capped mountains, how could anyone want to be in any other place!?
From Deurali the walk
along the river was gorgeous. Nice to hear water and it not come from above. We
took some spectacular photos that day. Amazing views, lots of pinch-yourself
moments. As we grew closer to M.B.C. we began walking past small patches of
snow, which slowly increased until we were right amongst it.
Of course, this brought on a snow ball fight instigated by our
guide Shankar. For the last hour up to M.B.C. we were right in the thick
of the snow. The track which had been created, or broken-in, by people earlier
that morning, became very ‘slippy‘ (as Shankar would say!). All I could
think of during this walk was Shankar’s warning to group – “Your next
mistake could be your last” – thanks Shankar!
We got to M.B.C. by 12ish and all sat outside admiring the views and our surroundings. It really was quite incredible. We had hot drinks and ordered our lunch and by the time lunch was served it was too cold to sit outside any longer, so we all moved ourselves inside to the warmth. Kell and I were rugged up in our ‘pashi’s’ sitting by the window enjoying the outside (from the inside!). While we were chatting and admiring the monstrosity of the mountains, we realised that we were at the mountain that featured on the front cover of the Nepal Lonely Planet. We were in awe of where we were and the enormity of the experience we were having.
It was time for the sun to set. We rugged up and went outside to
watch the sun set on Machhapuchhare. It was utterly incredible watching
the mountain change in colour. Something you have-to see to believe! It was
Dinner time rolled around again. It was pizza for Kell and I, a
good one too – it’s incredible what fabulous food is able to be produced in
such remote kitchens – we were very grateful to the hospitality we received
from the lovely locals on the mountain! Another early night in preparation for
our final leg before reaching Annapurna Base Camp. We went to sleep that
M.B.C. to Annapurna Base Camp (A.B.C.), 4130m – Annapurna Base Camp Trek
Absolutely freezing start to the morning. The enormity of the
mountains means the sun doesn’t come up and out until quite late. At 7:30am we
were ready to begin our 1.5-3 hour walk up to ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP –
the pinnacle of this trip!
We were all frozen to the bone, we were excited and nervous as
we were about to walk up a mountain through the snow. Even though we had a
short walk that day, we had to leave early so the snow would be crispy and less
slippery. I felt like I was on some kind of Survivor-show trekking through the
snow – spoken from someone who has experienced very little snow in their life!
It was dark and we were all walking together in a line along the man-made path.
It was awesome, we had a massive adrenaline rush, we were pumped and loving it!
At around 9am the sun came up and over Machhapuchhare, it
looked as if it were on fire, unbelievable! For the next hour and a half it was
stifling hot! The suns reflection of the snow was burning! I could feel myself
getting burnt but was loving the experience too much to care. The ‘track’ we
were walking on was insane, you couldn’t take your eye off the ground while
walking. You could see where people had stepped and fallen knee to waist deep
into snow. It was very narrow for most of the walk, so when it came to passing
people on route coming the other way, it was a challenge. I could hear Shankar’s
warning in the back of my mind – ”this might
be your last mistake”.
As we got closer to A.B.C. the group split up a bit and
once again Kell and I brought up the rear, absolutely lapping up the view and
enjoying every minute. We took photos, hundreds of them, we played, we laughed
– it was THE BEST! I was so fortunate to share it with my best friend, it was
absolutely one of the greatest experiences of our lives.
In the end, I think it took us two and a half hours to get to A.B.C.
which sat at 4130m in altitude. It was a spectacular walk and an amazing
feeling to reach the top. The sun was shining again and the skies were
completely blue. We sat in the sun and took in the views whilst having a
We were having the time of our lives! We were knee-deep in snow,
completely surrounded by mountains in the Himalayas, the sun was
shining, the sky was a vibrant blue and the air was as fresh as it could be. We
were (almost) on top of the world!
We had lunch (more potato and garlic soup) and enjoyed the sun
and views before it got unbearably cold and we had to go in again.
That night we spent chatting again and laughing about the epic
and awesome things that had happened on the trip and all we had achieved. It
was ‘simply the best’.
A.B.C. to Bamboo, 2335m – Annapurna Base Camp Trek
The morning was dark and cold. It was hard to get motivated for
the day ahead when we were in such an incredible part of the world; an extra
night here would have been great. But, we had to be up and at it to beat the
sun melting the snow, which would make our trip down more challenging.
After breakfast, we were asked for a passport photo. Our photos
were to be posted on a wall, alongside people who had trekked to A.B.C.
and for others to join us in years to come. Just as we saddled up, it started
to snow; it was beautiful, majestic.
I was concerned about walking steep down, in the snow,
but thanks to Shankar and his great ‘sock idea’, I had no trouble. He recommended
wearing socks over the top of our boots and assured us that it would stop us
from slipping. It seemed such an odd idea that none of us believed him; however,
we did do it and to our great surprise and pleasure, he was spot on – we were
no longer slipping and sliding, we just ended up a pair of socks short!
Back down to M.B.C.
where we stopped to have a break. Similar to the day before, it was cold
before the sun came up, but once it did, our already sunburnt faces felt the
From M.B.C. we powered
on down to Himalaya Hotel for lunch.
I think every ten minutes, during conversation, either Kell or I would say to
each other “I cannot believe that we walked up this the other day”. It
was seriously unbelievable.
I was probably in more pain walking down than up, my legs were
going to jelly. We had lunch at 12pm; by 12:45pm we were off, soon after it
began to rain again. It was like someone up there had said they would give us 2
good days, thankfully the ones that were most important and the rest would just
be miserable! It was annoying, but we were all so thankful that we had such
perfect days at M.B.C. and A.B.C. We donned our waterproof gear and
off we went!
It was moments like these that showed the difference in our
preparedness, experience and physical conditioning. For some of the group,
waterproof gear consisted of proper clothing, others had poncho’s or in my
case, a garbage bag over the head with holes in it for my arms – you can’t say
we weren’t resourceful! Down, down, down to Bamboo for the night. Still the whole way we couldn’t believe that
we had walked up in the opposite direction. How did we do it???
By the time we got to Bamboo,
having descended to 2300m in altitude, I was once again fully drenched,
not a dry piece of clothing on my body. I was aching and looking forward to
getting warm. We decided to get a hot bucket as once again Shankar had promised
us hot water…there wasn’t any. We were so disappointed, but as he said, “No
sun, no solar, no hot water – what to do?”.
That night I think was the first in 3 days that I didn’t have
potato and garlic soup, but instead indulged and had fried potatoes with egg
and cheese – good choice, it was so nice to have something hearty and warm! We
played cards with the guides until about 9:30pm – quite a late night for us! It
was probably one of the best nights of sleep I had the whole trip, perhaps my
mind was at a little more ease, we had almost made it – there had been times
throughout the ascent that I did genuinely wonder whether I would get there.
Bamboo to Jhinu Danda, 1780m – Annapurna Base Camp Trek
A few days back when we got to Bamboo, I remember thinking,
Oh My Gosh – I have to walk back up what I just walked down. Leaving Bamboo
was steep up from memory, and I certainly wasn’t feeling ‘it’ first
thing in the morning. However, much to my surprise the steep up wasn’t
so bad after all. Probably because what we had done heading up to Base Camp
was so much harder, this now seemed like a walk in the park. We had some more Nepali
Flat and then up again. It really was a pleasant walk and we were all
walking ahead of schedule which was great.
The next part I was not looking forward to – hundreds of steps
up into Chomrong! We had to go back to the same teahouse to pick up a
few things that everyone left behind when we were there last. Again, it was
easier than we expected, but we would have been happy to never see another step!
Kell and I set goals for ourselves the whole way up, which was kind of fun and
made it a little more bearable on our tired legs. Once we reached Chomrong,
we repacked our bags (ie. stuffed everything in on top) and sat down for a well-deserved
break and serious sugar hit – snickers and Sprite!
The plan that day was to get to Jhinu Danda for lunch,
which meant about 5 hours of walking. Like I said we were ahead of time, until
we left Chomrong! It was to be one-hour steep down to Jhinu
Danda. Kell and I both had strained our achilles over the past few days,
all the pressure going down was just too much. This steep down was
mighty painful and not enjoyable at all. Most of the group were way out in
front of Kell and I, in fact probably a good half an hour in the end! In this
last hour, we came up with a new saying, ‘Nepali nearly’. Shankar
had been telling us, ‘nearly nearly’ that we were almost there…and for
the most part we never ‘nearly’ there! So instead he started saying Nepali
nearly, then when we were 5 minutes away, it became ‘Aussie nearly’,
which we preferred much more! Despite our pain and grievances, we were very
grateful to have Shankar, our fantastic guide, to keep us on track, motivated
and laughing (through gritted teeth).
We took it slowly and eventually got there, it was so nice to
finally be able to put our feet up and relax! We had some lunch then all got
kitted up, bathers, towel and flip flops; and, headed down 20
minutes to the hot springs!
There were three hot springs next to a very fast flowing river.
It was sensational! Beautiful setting and the perfect way to end our day. A few
of us enjoyed a beer in the springs, and had a quick dip in the freezing river!
After an hour there, we slowly headed back to our accommodation. We decided on
our way back up, walking down in flip flops, probably wasn’t the best idea, it
was slippery and difficult. It made us realise how incredible the porters are
who carry 30kg plus with flip flops on, or in bare feet! We had to pass a buffalo
on our way back, not that it was unusual; we probably had to do it almost every
day, but this time it was almost on the track.
That night at dinner, the guides showed us how to party Nepali
style! We had heard all week how great our guides were at dancing, so this was
the night to show their stuff. We all got up and had a dance at some point in
the evening, but it really did become the ‘Shankar Show’. It was a great night,
until Shankar decided it was getting late (8pm) and we were sent off to bed!
Jhinu Danda to Pothana, 1970m – Annapurna Base Camp Trek
We had about 6 or 7 hours of walking to do that day; it was fortunate we were in bed early the night before! We started off by walking steep down for one hour, to cross over a fast-flowing river on a slightly rickety Nepali bridge, one of many for that day. We walked up, steepup, to then walk some Nepali flat for a little while which was nice; before going back down to the river and up the other side. I was getting tired (physically and mentally). More Nepali bridges, Nepali flat and of course steps! It was exhausting, although the scenery was stunning! The final stretch into lunch was simply up, which I had begun to prefer despite still being challenging. We walked through rain forests and fields which was so beautiful and enjoyable.
My body had held up well for the trip considering how, in all honesty, under prepared I was. That day was a real struggle though, my achilles was not loving what we were doing and it was hard to cope mentally with the pain I was experiencing. There was one final hurdle, almost literally – a massive step up, just as we were coming into lunch. I could barely put pressure on my foot, let alone push off it, so I slowly and very painfully gritted my teeth and up I went. At lunch, my shoe came off, I elevated and rested my foot. I asked Kell to massage some anti-inflammatory gel into it, and there came my first tears of the trip! I was overwhelmed with pain, exhaustion and just general emotion. Thankfully we had quite a long break that lunch so I sat in the sun, foot elevated and tried to focus on making it through the rest of the trek. It wasn’t far and knew I would do it, but it was going to hurt.
Following lunch, we headed off, slowly for me – we had 2 hours
to go. According to Shankar we were heading up and over our last mountain of
the trek. It was tough and long, but a satisfying and proud part of the trek.
The scenery was gorgeous. Towards the end we walked through gardens, which
reminded me of the botanical gardens in Melbourne. We cruised along at the back
with Shankar and enjoyed the last part of the days walk. By the time we got
there, there was already a long queue for the solar shower, but I decided that
today was going to be the day that I washed my hair, regardless of the
temperature. It had been 10 days after all!
A fellow group member, Stacey, had kindly offered me her
conditioner and moisturising cream, my face was peeling at a ridiculous rate
from the sun and blowing my nose so often. I felt like a new woman – amazing,
I’ll be forever grateful to Stacey for making me feel human again.
That night we all decided to have a Nepali Night at
dinner. We all ordered Dahl Baht, rice, curry and a lentil type soup. The
porters ate with us as well, and we ate it Nepali style…with our hands! It
was fun and an experience I won’t forget!
At the end of dinner, we had a final briefing from Shankar where
he was “going to tell us something about tomorrow”. It was a little sad
as it was all coming to an end. All the guides and porters then got up and very
proudly sang us their National Anthem. It was so lovely and a great honour,
Later, the tunes were on again and the Shankar Show returned!
Everyone danced, we had some local kids dancing for us and with us, as well. We
must have all been having a bit too much fun as Shankar got in trouble for us
being too loud, so once again, we got sent to bed!
Pothana to Pokhara – Annapurna Base Camp Trek
We had a mere 2 hours to walk; however, they were to be steep down. I was not looking forward to it to be honest, the pain I was in from the day before was too fresh in my mind. But at the same time, we were too excited to let it get in my way. As we walked, we watched Machhapuchhare and the Annapurna’s get further and further away.
We asked ourselves how on earth we had done, what we’d done! For
the first hour of walking, it was actually Nepali flat which was a nice
surprise. We walked through small villages and kids who were singing songs and
blocking our path. A festival was just beginning and the children were all
The last hour was as Shankar had said, steep down! It was
tough and very painful, and getting very hot! The countryside, however, was
beautiful. There were more kids singing the whole way to the bottom, it was
very cute, some walk along with us. When we reached the end of our trek, it
felt so good! Amazing in fact. My boots were the first thing to come off!
We gave our porters tips and gifts; I gave mine my sleeping bag
and Kell gave him her trainers. We then had to say our goodbyes, it was very
sad. We had just spent the past two weeks with them, and they were such a great
The rest of the group, trekkers and guides, jumped on a bus,
some up on the roof top and the rest inside, and headed back to Pokhara.
I couldn’t believe it was over! The afternoon we spent wandering around Pokhara,
had some lunch (ice cream and cake!), did our Intrepid feedback on the
trip and then went to buy a few things, including having a skirt and top made
for a total of $10 for our ‘night out’ in Pokhara. We also made a quick
and last minute dash to a place to have our laundry done, a very good idea! We
also put together a bag of all our unwanted clothes (to our horror, dirty or
clean) so Shankar could pass them onto a village in need.
We all went out for a last dinner together, said our “thankyou’s” to the guides and in particular Shankar who had spent a great part of the trip with Kell and I, at the back of the pack. A group of us stayed on and livened up the crowd in the Amsterdam Bar, and proceeded to take over the dance floor. It was a great night and a very fun way to finish the tour.
Pokhara to Kathmandu
We had a fantastic night of sleep and woke up ready to see what our next adventure might bring us. Over breakfast, we heard news of the bombings in Delhi, quite scary considering we were going there the next day. Lots of things running through our minds, but more importantly at that time were our rumbling stomachs.
Kell and I had breakfast with our new friends from our tour, Stace and Gabe at Mike’s restaurant, which was by the spectacular Phew Lake. It was a beautiful setting, and a nice way to finish our trip. We said our goodbyes and Kell and I enjoyed our last wander around the town, picked up our washing, repacked and headed for the airport for our flight back to Kathmandu. In the airport, we checked our bags in and waited for our delayed flight. The aeroplane was small but safe, although very loud. It was nice to see the mountains from above, but didn’t compare to what we had seen walking through them.
It was such an amazing trip! I loved it all, despite the moaning and groaning and pain. We made new friends and experienced something lots of people will never have the opportunity to do. As far as Kell and I go, this trip was an absolutely incredible adventure and only created a stronger friendship between us. There really is something very special about finding a friend who you can share such experiences with. Soulmates for life.
Erin and Kell’s Nepali Trek Facts:
Km’s Walked – 84!!
Hours of Walking – 52!!
Best Purchase: E – Water bladder, aka – camel, K – $20 cargo/2nd H2O bottle
Best borrowed Item: E&K – Walking sticks
Best Item Lent to you: K – Poncho, E – Socks
Best Purchase During Trip: K&E – Pashi – so warm
Worst Moment: E – Day 2 – dying in the rain, K – Chomrong – another rainy day – know how they feel on survivor “I didn’t expect it to be this hard”
Most Painful Moment: E – Achilles on 2nd last day, K – Hip Flexor on 3rd day
Favourite Saying: E – “Not DEALING”, K – “Oh my giddy”
Favourite Shankar Saying:“What to do?” (in Kathmandu); “Nepali flat”; “Nearly nearly”
Most Dirty Item of Clothing: E – Black pants worn for 12 days, K – ‘Yak Poo Pants’ worn for 12 days
Most Days no shower: 7 days – Peew!
Longest without washing Hair: E – 10 days, K – 3 days
Best Moments: Reaching the ABC Base camp in waist deep snow; being up on rock above a Glacier; the hot springs; sunrise on Machhupuchhare.
Medication Taken: # of Imodium – E=3, # of anti-diarrhoea – E=3, # of fibre drinks – K=1, # of panadol – E=12, K=2
Are you dreaming of having the best white Christmas in Europe?
Experiencing a European White Christmas, is on the bucket list for so many of us based in the Southern Hemisphere. Who doesn’t want to experience the magic of a winter white Christmas, the lights, the snow, the markets, the beauty.
Where to go to for the best white Christmas in Europe
There are some magnificent parts of Europe you can visit for a white Christmas experience. Be inspired by these fabulous contributions on where to spend your first or perhaps your next European White Christmas – I know we will need to have many European Christmas trips to be able to have all of the experiences on our bucket list!
While living in London in my earlier, pre-kids years, I was fortunate enough to have my first European white Christmas; and, it truly was as awesome and as magical as I hoped it would be. I bought a 7 day ski package and stayed in a beautiful town called Soll, where we literally had the Austrian Alps at our doorstep.
The town was lit up at night, festive during the day and had an exquisite Christmas feel – it was perfect. The people were friendly, the local food was amazing and the apres-ski was fun!
Snow did not fall on Christmas day, however, we had the best of both worlds – freshly fallen snow the day before and beautiful blue skies to ski the Austrian Alps – all day long!
Soll is just a short trip from Innsbruck another buzzing and magical town at Christmas, with so many unique opportunities, including tobogganing and a visit to the 1964 Winter Olympics bobsleigh run.
Whenever I think of a white Christmas I’m taken back to Innsbruck, Austria. I don’t think I’ve seen so much snow in one place ever in my life! My husband and I arrived in Innsbruck on a cold December day. There was no snowflake in the air so we were slightly disappointed (although the city was charming regardless). When we woke up the next morning, however, Innsbruck was covered in a fluffy layer of snow. It was surreal!
We then took the cable car up the Nordkette and spent the whole day at 6,250ft playing in the snow and sipping hot chocolate while enjoying the views. It was the best Christmas present we could ask for!
Back in Innsbruck, we visited the markets (truly some of the best Christmas markets in Europe), walked under humongous Swarovski crystals, tried to spot all the fairy tale characters decorating the streets and warmed ourselves up with steaming cups of mulled wine.
Of course, eating is an important activity at any Christmas market, so we also took care to stuff our faces with delicacies like roasted chestnuts and hot doughnuts with Sauerkraut.
As for accommodation, I recommend you to find a hotel in the Innenstadt because you’ll be within walking distance of all the attractions, including the Nordkette Cable Car station. Bonus points if you book a room with views of the Alps (it shouldn’t be difficult!).
Nestled at the foot of the Alps is Salzburg, Austria. Whether you visit the chapel where Silent Night was first performed, take a sleigh ride, or visit the many Christkindlmarkts, there is no more magical place to spend a white Christmas in Europe.
I recommend staying in the aldstadt (Hotel Goldgasse and Hotel Goldener Hirsh are my favorites!) to truly experience the magic of historic Salzburg. You easily will be able to explore the Christmas markets in Residenzplatz and Domplatz before taking the funicular up to Hohensalzburg Fortress for the beautiful views (and another Christmas market). When you come down the Moschburg, stop at St. Peter’s Abbey for the most serene sight in Salzburg’s old town.
By then you’ll be ready to warm up from the cold. Head to Getreidgasse, Salzburg’s famed shopping street and stop at Sporer to try traditional schnapps. If that’s not your style, Café Tomaselli is a short walk away and offers delicious coffee and cake.
If it’s too cold or too wet to take the bus to the Hellbrunn Palace and Christmas market, you can learn to make traditional Austrian Christmas cookies and apple strudel through this delicious hands-on cooking class. In addition to taking the leftovers home, you will also enjoy a delicious goulash soup for lunch. Other traditional restaurant recommendations are Zum Zirkelwirt and Gasthof Wilden Mann.
In the evenings you can take in a classical concert, join the ice skaters behind Residenzplatz, or continue your shopping at the Christmas markets. Salzburg is beautifully lit in the evenings; don’t forget to take a stroll through the romantic Christmas lights.
Rovaniemi, known officially as the hometown of Santa Claus is one of the most unique Christmas experiences in the world. It sits in the middle of Finland in the region known as Lapland, and draws in thousands of visitors year-round.
In the winter there is an abundance of winter activities and things to see and do. Husky sledding is one such experience. Husky dogs pull visitors on a sleigh ride across the white snowy countryside for miles and show off their endurance and dedication. Husky riding is a family friendly activity and many tour operators provide this experience, ranging from 15 minutes to several hours.
Riding on a reindeer sleigh is another wonderful experience for families and this can happen on a reindeer farm, or out in the countryside. One great place to do reindeer sleighs for smaller family members is at Santa Claus Village. Santa Claus Village is a top accommodation to stay at as well as it has reindeer, huskies, and Santa’s on site. It is also very easy to book excursions in Lapland directly from the hotel. When we went to Lapland with our kids our experience at Santa Claus Village was amazing and we were able to have a wonderful holiday, particularly since the Village accommodates families incredibly well.
Northern lights tours, ice fishing, ice floating and numerous other activities are available in Rovaniemi. Rovaniemi is a very unique family experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity for experiencing a magical experience with your family.
Last year we visited Iceland in December and found ourselves in Reykjavik for seven weeks in the middle of last winter almost by accident. But that’s another story. What we experienced when we were there was the most lovely Christmas with children ever. We were house-sitting for a family who has kids roughly the same age as ours. The place was already decked out with everything but the tree before we arrived. We settled in, and fed the contents of a box of Christmas CDs into the stereo, and did some research about what to expect. No Santa Claus.
On our first foray into the centre of Reykjavik, we found a great illuminated model of a pussy cat – how sweet! The information panel located by its rather sharp claws told us that this is the cat that eats lazy children. Hmm.
We then discovered that our house would be visited on the thirteen nights before Christmas by as many trolls, the sons of a fearsome ogress. We had better learn each brother’s likes and habits and leave an appropriate gift for him, and so it went on. It turned out that the Yule Cat and Yule Lad myths are embedded into everything during December. Of course, our kids, and we bought into all of this.
As Christmas drew near, we met more and more friendly natives falling over themselves to explain to us what we had to do and eat and see. There is a free skating rink erected in the middle of the old town where we spent another delightful evening, soaking up the Christmas spirit.
We had a very cosy family Christmas enjoying these different traditions. We saw the Northern Lights at last, swam in geothermally heated water, and ate a delicious Christmas dinner of lamb. Then as the New Year broke, we sat in the middle of the most astonishing firework display we had ever witnessed. We were in the middle of it simply because all our neighbours for miles in every direction had invested in what seemed like megatons of explosives and pyrotechnics. The show continued not for hours but days – that’s one of the strangest facts about Iceland – they spent the enormous amount of money every year on fireworks.
Want a different Christmas and an exhilarating new year? Go to Iceland and soak up the local traditions.
Switzerland is an absolutely stunning destination for a white Christmas, for oh so many reasons. First of all, it is filled with mountains, so that alone makes the experience that much more picturesque and dramatic. Even if the weather is not playing along and the now in the cities is yet to fall, you can always head uphill and get yourself a truly white experience!
Some of the best places to go during the Christmas period are actually the cities like Lucerne, Geneva and Zurich. Why? Because they are filled with wonderful Christmas lights on all the main streets, and, of course, fun Christmas markets. The markets are great because they have enticing stalls with wonderfully warm comfort food and handmade delights to buy as presents.
Be on the lookout for Gluhwein, a hot spicey wine drink, and other warm cheesy offerings like Raclette, and Fondue – Swiss classics you should be sampling anyway. In Zurich, a giant Christmas tree is put up in the middle of their market too. But not just any old tree, it’s filled with Swarovski crystals, from head to toe! So, it’s worth making a detour to see that alone.
And if you want to take things a step further and head up into the mountains, “white Christmas” takes on a whole new meaning. Everything is white, as far as the eye can see. And that also means you can partake in all sorts of snow and ice-related activities like ice skating, tobogganing and even skiing and snowboarding if you are so inclined. Such Swiss mountain gems as Zermatt, Saas Fee, Davos and Crans Montana are worth spending putting on your bucket list. After all, there is nothing better than having a white Christmas in the mountains surrounded by snow!
I moved to Copenhagen a few years ago from Philadelphia. I’m looking forward to my fourth Christmas there this year. When it comes to the Christmas holiday, Copenhagen, Denmark is a fabulous and festive place to enjoy the Christmas season. With warmer temperatures over the last few years, a Copenhagen white Christmas may be rare. However, when there is a dusting of snow in the city, it is remarkable. There are also adorable Christmas markets, gorgeous decorations all over the city and the Christmas magic of Tivoli Gardens.
The best area to stay and access all the Christmas majesty is Copenhagen’s Nyhavn neighborhood. Nyhavn is the name of the iconic Copenhagen harbor with pastel merchant houses and quaint cafes. There are many Airbnb and hotel options in the area. The streets here are crisscrossed with hanging lights and evergreen boughs. It’s also close to one of the best Christmas markets in Kongen’s Nytorv.
The Christmas market there is beautiful. You can walk around the vendors and shop for keepsakes while drinking glogg. It’s a famous Scandinavian winter-time drink – warm mulled wine with raisins and almonds stirred in. In Kongen’s Nytorv you’ll also see the Hotel D’Angleterre. It’s a gorgeous hotel where the facade is covered with LCD screens and turned into a Christmas advent calendar.
Another winter highlight is Copenhagen’s famous amusement park, Tivoli Gardens. It’s a must-see attraction any time of year, but it’s magical at Christmas. The decorations, light displays, and Christmas vendors make it a spectacular stop. There is also a fabulous Christmas cabaret each year at one of the theatres inside of Tivoli. This show is an annual holiday season tradition for locals and the only English-language feature of the year.
If you’re looking for a Christmas season winter getaway, consider Copenhagen. There’s no shortage of holiday fun and beauty. The Danes love Christmas. Even a workplace Christmas party is like nothing I’ve experienced outside of Denmark. You can see more about their Julefrokost (Christmas party) in this post about my biggest surprises after moving to Denmark.
Freiburg is a beautiful city nestled at the foot of the black forest. I was fortunate enough to spend a year living and working in Freiburg. I must say, I fell completely in love with the city. Christmas was my favourite time of year. The city is regularly covered with a blanket of snow and the nearby mountains are transformed into a winter wonderland. Temperatures regularly reach lows of -10°C, so be sure to wrap up warm before heading out to explore.
While the German Christmas markets are on the smaller side, they offer a more authentic local feel and are significantly cheaper. Several markets are littered throughout the city centre. My personal favourite is the market centred around the Munster. The cathedral provides the perfect backdrop for a festive Christmas evening. Enjoy a mulled wine with amaretto, or perhaps a scrummy bratwurst. The best place for German food in Freiburg is MartinsBrau. I spent many evenings here. I recommend ordering schnitzel with pan fried potatos and a mushroom sauce.
After exploring the city, It’s now time to enjoy the surrounding mountains. I recommend visiting Schauinsland. Take tram line two to Dorfstrasse, then switch to bus 21 which will take you to Schauinsland Tal-bahn. Take the cable car to the top to go sledging, skiing or hiking. Moreover, the restaurant at the top offers stunning views and a delicious marshmallow hot chocolate – exactly what you need after a day in the snow!
I’m in no doubt that you will love Freiburg just as much as I did. If Freiburg interests you check out the top 10 things to do in the city here. Where to stay in Freiburg? Budget: Black Forest Hostel; mid-range: City Hotel Freiburg; or, luxury: Novotel Freiburg Am Konzerthaus.
Berlin at Christmas time is bone-chillingly cold, but I believe, also the best time to visit. The Christmas markets in Germany are quite something else. Nothing else compares; the best place to start enjoying it is in Berlin.
Start with a free Sandeman tour of the city to get your orientation. Enjoy the sights of Brandenburg Tor, Checkpoint Charlie, Alexanderplatz, and the famously quirky, 1.3 km long East Side Gallery. Stay or visit the Kreuzberg neighborhood. Kreuzberg, formerly a part of West Berlin, has transformed from being one of the poorest quarters in the late 1970s to one of the city’s cultural hot spots today. It is home to a large migrant population and also to the city’s hippest clubs and restaurants. Eat at Curry 66 (on Grünberger Str. 66) along your way—best currywurst ever. Or go to the Currywurst museum for a tutorial on the invention of the city’s favorite dish and learn about its evolution over the years.
Finally, the best part of the trip, the reason you came. Go to WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt, arguably the best Christmas market in Berlin. It’s a party at these Christmas markets. They charge €1 or €2 to get in, and inside the revelry is infectious, especially after a glass or two of Glühwein or Eierpunsch, the glasses which you can keep as a souvenir. Then pick up currywurst or bratwurst and watch a choir perform on stage or a group of people dance madly or buy a locally handmade goodie from the stores which look like straight out of a fairy tale. That’s a white Christmas you’re never going to forget.
When you think of a white Christmas in Europe, London doesn’t come to mind because usually there’s no snow, but let me tell you, it absolutely makes up for it with decorations and vibe. Winter Wonderland is the most Christmas-y place on earth! Hyde park dresses up for the holidays in green and red, creating a magical place that will turn even the Grinch into a Christmas fan. There you’ll find delicious food, beautiful ornaments, fun games, the UK’s biggest open-air ice rink, and you’ll be able to visit the jaw-dropping Ice Kingdom that features an ice bar. Fun for kids and adults alike!
If you want to get into the celebrations without going over the top, head to Victoria Park’s Winterville. A bit outside the city centre, you’ll find less tourists and just as much charm. If all you want is great food and maybe to get a present or two, your place is the Christmas Market of the South Bank.
For shopping, go to Oxford street. The street itself is full of lights, and the store windows are works of art. Visit in the evening for a full ‘wow’ effect.
If you want to get into the festivities Royal style, visit the palaces in London and around it. Hampton Court has an ice-skating rink just in front of the palace, giving you the perfect photo opportunity for a Christmas card (or Instagram post!).
For a more meaningful experience, attend mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral. I’m not religious at all, but I spent a few hours before midnight handing coffee to people on the street waiting to get inside the church, and I got to marvel at the incredible choir singing in my favourite building in London. It’s a perfect way to spend Christmas in a foreign city!
A visit to Laos, without exploring is Vientiane, is an incomplete trip to Laos. Although we had travelled to other South East Asian countries prior to going to Laos, this capital city instantly told a different story. Vientiane is the largest city in Laos and sits on the bank of the Mekong River, overlooking Thailand. There are aspects that are impressive and glamorous – the palaces and the temples; however, there is a rich feel of history and devastation which must be acknowledged and honoured.
We stayed in the heart of Vientiane, at Champa Garden Hotel, which is in walking distance to many local restaurants, the Mekong River and the night markets. We love being able to explore by foot as much as possible, despite the pair of little legs we have on board with us these days! We love to eat in local restaurants, the friendly faces in Laos were so welcoming, we often returned for a repeat dining experience and were so happy to see the owners faces light up when they remembered us from the night before. As well as walking, we enjoy the fun of a Tuk-Tuk, so on our first night in Vientiane we travelled out to Kong View Restaurant and Bar where we watched the sunset over the Mekong River and Thailand, this was such an incredible way to start our adventure, one of those ‘pinch yourself moments’. We spent three nights in Vientiane and loved being able to take our time to wander the streets, find a playground for the kids, travel by local bus outside the city centre, navigate our way around some of the tourist spots and one of the highlights for our boys was seeing Monks, of which they had heard so much about in the lead up to our trip.
Day 1 – The Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)
For us, going to the Buddha Park, was a full day outing! Getting to the Buddha Park was an adventure in itself and one we’re very proud to be able to say we surprisingly managed, without having to go to ‘Plan B – get a taxi’. We navigated our way to Talat Sao Bus Station and somehow managed to get on the correct bus out to the Buddha Park. It was an unsealed, bumpy road and what we imagined would be an easy one-way 25km trip, ended up an hour and a half each way on a not-so-comfortable ride; that said, the experience and adventure was worth it in the end!
The Buddha Park is an open-air sculpture park which was founded in 1958 by a monk and local sculpture artist, who studied Buddhism and Hinduism. The park features an incredible array of statues of Buddhas, Hindu gods, dieties, demons and animals from both beliefs. One of the highlights of the park was the large pumpkin structure near the entrance where the opening was made to look like a demons mouth, with a ladder inside taking you to the top where you had panoramic views of the entire park. The 40 metre reclining Buddha was also very impressive. We took a picnic lunch as there was plenty of space to pull out a rug, however, there is also a cafe at the back of the park serving light refreshments.
If you’re looking for a more straightforward way of see the Buddha Park, you can get your tickets here.
Day Two – C.O.P.E. Visitor Centre, Patuxai Victory Monument and Pha That Luang.
C.O.P.E. Visitor Centre
Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise. Since the foundation of C.O.P.E. in 1996, the organisation has helped thousands of people with mobility related disabilities; allowing and enabling mobility and dignity. It is estimated that 50,000 people have been injured or killed, to this day, as a result of the UXO incidents since 1964; C.O.P.E. have worked hard to support survivors; as well as to provide prosthetic and orthotic devices, clubfoot treatment, physio and occupational therapies and related surgical procedures.
The Visitor Centre was eye opening for all of us, an education for our children but a reality to all of us, the trauma and devastation that individuals in Laos have and continue to experience is very apparent. A brilliantly set up museum and free to wander through, it is definitely worth a visit. The exhibits cover the history of UXO, how C.O.P.E. works to assist the people of Laos and improves the quality of life of individuals to go on and live a valuable life.
An interesting fact – the need for prosthetic has increased since helmets for motorbikes has been introduced – more people are surviving accidents, however, not without injury.
Patuxai Victory Monument
Patuxai, a war monument, was built between 1957 and 1968. The Patuxai has been dedicated to those who fought in the fight for independence from France. It is also commonly known as the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane as it resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Pha That Luang
WITHIN LAOS: Get yourself on a bus to Vang Vieng for some great fun, adventure and natural beauty. Or fly to Luang Prabang for great culture, French inspired Laos food, city exploration, relaxation and just generally a fantastic time!
OUTSIDE LAOS: Fly or get a train into Thailand to experience more South East Asian greatness!
There is so much to do in and just outside Coffs Harbour – food, beaches, attractions, adventure activities, walks and so much exploration.
Explore Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour Fishermans Co-Op
If you are seafood lover, you cannot go to Coffs Harbour and not get yourself a meal from the Fishermans Co-Op. It is situated in the heart of the Coffs Harbour International Marina, surrounded by other cafes and restaurants, boutique shops, ample car parking and is directly next to the walk way which takes you over to Mutton Bird Island. We shared the seafood basket for two and a serve of fish and chips, it was not only fresh and delicious, but an enormous amount of food. After lunch, we meandered towards the Island, enjoying the beautiful clear waters, spotted thousands of fish of a range of sizes and came across a spectacular spot to swim and snorkel.
Charlesworth Bay Beach
Just a short 10-minute drive north from the Coffs Harbour
Marina, you will find Charlesworth Bay Beach, a quiet little beach with most
divine coloured rocks and stones of all sizes in the water. Such a fabulous
time can be had exploring the rocks and pools and splashing through the waves.
Dolphin Marine Conservation Park
We all had the best time at Coffs Harbour Dolphin Marine Conservation Centre! It is a small centre which offers an intimate, up close experience with some beautiful marine animals. We saw a range of fish, turtles, fed penguins and fish, received kisses on the cheek from a dolphin, were mesmerised by the grace and wow’d by the seal and dolphin display, all along with a strong message, to save and care for our marine life. For more information on the conservation, education and how they care for the beautiful animals, have a look at their website – it is excellent. Our family ticket was close to $100, however, once we were there, we got to experience all of the above mentioned ‘add-ons’ for no additional price, which is a real bonus – keep an eye out for a $10 off voucher in one of the tourist mags! Food was available to purchase at the well priced cafe, there was a sausage sizzle available, picnic tables and grass space for you to also bring a packed lunch. When the boys are older and more confident in the water, we would love to bring them back for a swim with the dolphin experience – there is so much to do and see at this beautiful little conservation park.
Sealy Lookout Bruxner Park, Sky Pier
Do yourself a favour and take the 6km drive off the Pacific Highway (north of Coffs Harbour) through the banana plantations and into the lush green Orara East State Forest. We had the most crazy weather the day we visited, tropical rains, sunshine, cloud and rainbows! Sealy Lookout is 310m above Coffs Harbour and the view is spectacular, giving you great perspective of the area, including the Solitary Islands Marine Park; on a clear day you can see 100km to the south. The Sky Pier itself is an impressive structure, it projects 21.6m from the original lookout. A novel idea for our boys, they were most excited by the size of it given there was “nothing holding it up at one end”. There are toilets, picnic tables and the day we were there, there was also a coffee van! For the adventurous individuals, the Tree Tops Adventure Park is close to the Lookout and does look like a lot of fun, our kids thought it looked a bit scary, maybe when they’re a bit bigger!
You cannot miss the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour! It is located roadside heading north on the Pacific Highway, not only can you not miss it visually, but you have also got to go in and have a look around. To be honest, it was far more impressive than I was giving it credit for prior to going! There is so much to do there, so much flexibility in buying tickets for the different attractions, which is fantastic for families traveling on a budget! There is lots of parking behind the Banana and the entire complex has a very happy and friendly atmosphere. The choices of attractions are endless – a cafe, water park, cheese-making, ice skating, laser tag, toboggan rides, race slides and so many more! There really is something there for everyone, even if it is just a cheesy photo in front of the Coffs Harbour icon!
Harbour Side Markets
Every Sunday from 8am until 2pm, the Coffs Harbour comes alive for the Harbourside Markets. You will find the Jetty foreshore covered in marquees and bustling with people – rain, hail or shine; rain, as it was on the day we visited! I love a market and I had heard great things about this one so I wasn’t missing out – despite the soggy ground, enormous puddles in the roof of the marquee we chose for lunch and the need for an umbrella when we didn’t have one! The market was bursting with creative arts and crafts, local produce, live music and a variety of cuisines on offer for lunch. Their motto ensures a quality unique experience for everyone locally made, locally grown. We loved our Mexican and African for lunch, the boys had their usual market favourites!
Around Coffs Harbour
Bellingen, just 30 minutes south from Coffs Harbour you will
find ‘Mello Bello’ and it is exactly that! A very cool, bohemian style country
town; Bellingen is a must for any food lovers, the choices of eateries are
The Old Butter Factory Shopping Village, located next to the golf course, is a fabulous stop on the way into town. The Café is in a beautiful old building with high ceilings as well as outdoor table settings; the choices for meals were extensive, family friendly, easy parking and lots of space for kids to wander if they are of curious mind. The boutique stores within the village consisted of leather, homewares, woodwork, gift ware and a lovely community gallery.
We were in serious food heaven in Bellingen and we found it so difficult to choose where to spend our afternoon. The very chic, 5 Church St, won out and served us the most amazing homemade cakes to share – the chocolate beetroot was rich and delicious, but the carrot cake with a hint of ginger was the winner for us – divine! The coffee was also spot on and the kids hot chocolates were served so beautifully, it made them feel very special.
We planned our visit to Bellingen on our way through to Dorrigo National Park (see below for more info!), although we could have spent more time at both places, it was a great way to see a couple of spots in close proximity in the same direction from Coffs Harbour.
Dangar Falls, Oxley Wild Rivers National Park & Dorrigo National Park
We love rainforests and waterfalls, so as an add-on for our visit to Bellingen, a trip to Dangar Falls was a no-brainer. You’ll find the Falls located just 1.2km north of Dorrigo, the car park is at the top of the falls and there is a small lookout from there, giving you a spectacular front-on view from above. There is a mostly-made walking track to the pool of the falls, it is not a difficult walk, however, there are some stairs and slippery un-made tracks at the bottom. We were fortunate to visit just after some heavy rainfall in the area, so there was plenty of cascading water to enjoy. Back at the car park there is a toilet block, playground, plenty of room to picnic and a little way along the walking track, you’ll find a labyrinth. If you’re there in Spring time, you will be lucky enough to see the cliff lines filled with wildflowers. A trip to Dangar Falls, through Dorrigo National Park is well worth it and will not disappoint.
Dorrigo National Park is located just an hour from Coffs Harbour, you will find the beautifully rich, World-Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforest, Dorrigo National Park. You could simply spend days exploring the natural wonders – walking tracks, waterfalls, wildlife, lookouts and picnic areas. The drive up the mountain through the rainforest was stunning; steep and maybe a little narrow in parts but lush, green and very fresh.
If you are looking for a great country pub to have a meal, look no further than the Coramba Pub, a 20-minute picturesque drive north west from Coffs Harbour. The food was fabulous, the kids serve of fettucine bolognaise was enormous and wholesome, the service was great, and the beer garden comes with spectacular countryside views and lots of room for kids to run around. They have lots of specials including a $12 lunch menu where there was certainly no compromise on quality! It was quiet and had a relaxed casual feel, a fantastic spot to take the family for a great affordable pub meal. The Coramba Pub advertise regularly on their Facebook page, look out for their specials and special events which often feature live music.
Twenty-five minutes north of Coffs Harbour, you will find the fun, upbeat, casual, family friendly, coastal town of Woolgoolga. We were welcomed to the town with a big “Welcome to Woopi” by a local as we walked onto the beach. We instantly fell in love with the laid-back feel to the place that is known by the locals as Woopi. Surfing, jet skiing, beach cricket, rock pools, body boarding, walking tracks, free barbecues, a beach side playground and caravan and a main street full of cool cafes and coffee spots – it is any wonder it is a popular place to visit. White Salt came highly recommended to us as a lunch stop, so White Salt it was; melt-in-your-mouth seafood, fat chips and amazing potato scallops.
From the patrolled beach, head south along the 1.7km stretch of Woolgoolga Beach and make your way to the Woolgoolga Lookout; the expansive views north and south of the Headland are simply stunning. We were fortunate enough to see sail boats out on the water and enjoyed the company of some lounging kangaroos alongside the walking tracks. During the whale season it is a prime vantage spot for seeing humpbacks cruising by. You can also access the Lookout by car and enjoy some shorter walking trails from the car park. Woopi also features the Woolgoolga Lake where you can practice your skills on a stand-up paddle board or kayak.
Where to stay in Coffs Harbour
Korora Beach – Beach at back door and minutes from Coff’s cafe scene! This very comfortable home-away-from-home, seaside townhouse is fabulous! The water is literally at your back door. Enjoy outdoor meals, beach walks, peace, crashing waves, water play, not to mention the stunning sunrises and sunsets. The house itself is very comfortable, lots of space and has everything you need for an easy family holiday.
*Disclosure: There are affiliate links throughout this website. Should you choose to purchase through a link, Love To Travel, Stay-Eat-Do may earn a small commission. This will be at no extra cost to you.
From Coffs Harbour, to…
Be sure to stop in at Port Macquarie, there are so many more fabulous places to visit, things to do and beaches to enjoy!
Port Macquarie is a seaside town in the mid-North coast of New South Wales, Australia. The Australian coastal town boasts a long stretch of spectacular beaches; as well as, a plethora of shops, fabulous cafes, bars and restaurants.
The popular Koala Hospital and Bago Maze and Winery are not to missed, for children and adults alike. The sight seeing opportunities in and outside the hub of Port Macquarie and the Hastings River, are endless. Keep reading below to find out the top things to do in Port Macquarie with kids!
What to do in Port Macquarie
Hasting River and Town Beach
Central Port Macquarie
The spectacular Hastings River is the perfect spot to start your Port Macquarie explorations. The bustling walking path oozes a relaxed, healthy and happy feel. The path is lined by a very colourful display of creative rock art all the way to Town Beach Park.
Keep an eye out for dolphins in the River, you will often see them coming in and out of the water and if you’re lucky, come right in near the shore. It was a magnificent sight and well worth constantly scouring our eyes over the top of the water for.
Riverside, there is a fabulous cafe called Little Shack, they make great coffee (with several milk selections) and offered a relaxed and trendy stop with a delicious menu. A place you could stay for hours and watch the world go by!
Town Beach Park has a popular skate park, playground, path suitable for wheels and feet! Town Beach itself offered spectacular coastline, patrolled beach, rocks for the kids to scramble over and pools to splash in; as well as, beach side parking, toilets and the very convenient, yummy and well priced Salty Crew Kiosk.
The incredible Port MacquarieKoala Hospital
Central Port Macquarie
You will find the Koala Hospital in the Macquarie Nature Reserve, a beautiful green natural parkland. Established in 1973, the Hospital came together as a place to rescue, care for and treat injured or unwell koalas; staffed by a number of paid professionals as well as 200 volunteers. They have 14 intensive care units (8 outdoors) and 33 rehabilitation yards which include large gum trees where they learn to climb again as part of the rehabilitation programs.
The Koala Hospital has been pivotal in the recovery and relief for these beautiful native animals to Australia, in the 2019/2020 bush fire disaster.
The stories we were told and read are a great lesson. Our children were very concerned about the cuddly koalas and were very intrigued to hear why they were each there. Some were due to being in car accidents, dog attacks, chlamydia, fires. Each enclosure had a story about why they were there, as well as explanations about the process of how they’re released into the wild.
This little guy (pictured) is a repeat offender, he was back this time with a bacterial infection in his eye. The care, love and dedication to the koalas is very visible.
Kids will be entertained by the fun facts dotted around the hospital – do you know how many poos does a koala do every day? You’ll have to go to find out the answer!
Tacking Point Lighthouse – views, walking tracks, rock scrambling and more!
Eleven minutes south of Port Macquarie centre
Tacking Point Lighthouse, Little Bay and Lighthouse Beach.The Lighthouse, is Australia’s thirteenth oldest and is situated just 8km south of Port Macquarie. Drive to the stunning headland, or walk the distance along the coastal walk from Town Green Foreshore in Port Macquarie.
From Tacking Point Lighthouse you will enjoy panoramic views of the mid-north coast of Australia. To the south you can wander down to Lighthouse Beach, to the north you can explore the rugged coastline and rocks of Little Bay. There is hours of fun to be had at Little Bay climbing over the rocks, searching for starfish, crabs and fish and watching the crashing waves of the expansive Pacific Ocean.
Lighthouse Beach has an extensive 7km stretch of sand, a brilliant location for those of you who love to walk on a beach. Simply stunning coastline! Enter the beach near to the impressive Watonga Rocks, for the impressive outlook and exploration opportunities for the kids.
The squeaky sand, shells and array of coloured rocks that wash in make a beach wander very enjoyable. This is not a patrolled swimming beach so care must be taken when swimming. If you’re lucky, you may find that you have the beach almost to yourselves!
Shelly Beach– meet the resident goanna!
Seven minutes south of Port Macquarie
Yet another one of the several beautiful beaches along the Coastal Walk from Port Macquarie Town Beach to Tacking Point Lighthouse. If you are intrigued by a bit of wildlife, get yourself to Shelly Beach and keep an eye out for a goanna! While he is not to be fed, you may be lucky to have this beauty wandering around under your feet while your eating lunch.
There are picnic tables, a toilet block and plenty of parking to go with this lovely little beach. Explore the rocks, look out for sea life, splash in the rock pools and enjoy natures playground.
Port Macquarie region and beyond
Bago Maze and Winerya great outing for the whole family
Twenty-five minute drive from Port Macquarie
A visit to Bago should be on every family itinerary when visiting Port Macquarie. If you love food, wine and a bit of fun adventure – your visit will have something for everyone, in fact more than that, it will be fantastic! Have fun getting lost in the 2km, well cared for hedge maze. Enjoy a BYO picnic on the massive grassed area under a shady tree. Sample the cheese platter featuring local produce and do some tastings of the unique range of whites, reds and fortified wines. Children can run around on the grass and play in the cubby house. They have live music once a month and Baba Lila Handmade Chocolates is also onsite! You cannot go wrong with a visit here!
While you’re on the road to or from Bago, take the short drive into the Burrawan State Forest, the home of the ‘Old Bottlebutt’. Enjoy the 600m rainforest loop to see the ancient Red Bloodwood tree, which is astonishingly the biggest recorded species of it in the world. Children will be highly amused by the name, as well as the enormity!
Dunbogan– take a break and enjoy a meal at the Boat Shed and Marina
Thirty-eight minute drive south of Port Macquarie
Oh what a beautiful News South Wales town, Dunbogan is! You’ll instantly fall in love with this coastal town on the Camden Haven Inlet. The quiet town has stunning views of the river, loads of picnic spots, a well constructed walking path and the fabulous Dunbogan Boat Shed and Marina.
Make sure you enjoy a coffee or meal at the Boat Shed, it is such a beautiful setting. You can hire boats, kayaks and stand up paddle boards and they are fully stocked for all of your fishing needs.
When you visit, be sure to look at the thousands of fish, if the light is shining nicely, you will see some beautiful coloured fish. Keep an eye out for the graceful dolphins that frequent the Inlet, too.
North Brother Mountain– views, trails and picnics
Thirty-three minute drive south of Port Macquarie
North Brother Mountain is located in the Dooragan National Park and offers some stunning views of the area in Camden Haven Inlet, Camden Haven River and down to Crowdy Head in the south.
For a challenging walk, you can access the Laurieton Track at the base. Or drive to the car park at the top of the mountain where you will find toilets, picnic tables and some easier walking tracks for the whole family.
The vast views from the top are stunning. The trails of the rain forest loop were great and took us to several look outs to enjoy views to the north west and west of the mountain. It is well worth the trip to gain some perspective of the area and the spectacular outlook.
SpectacularHat Head, a hidden gem on the coast
Fifty-nine minute drive north of Port Macquarie
If there was ever a beach town to visit for a complete unwind, low key, family, beach town getaway on the mid-north coast – this place would be it! About an hours north of Port Macquarie, through the Macleay Valley, you will find the most exquisite beach town, Hat Head.
Hat Head Gap was simply stunning – rocks to scramble and climb, lookouts, crystal clear waters, walking paths and views to die for! Do yourself a favour and walk from The Gap to Connor’s Beach, the views are beautiful, it is such a peaceful place and like so many other beaches on the coast, you will barely see another person. Pack a picnic lunch and lap up the peace and calm of this sensational part of Australia !
The main swimming beach at Hat Head was breathtaking, you could spend hours there, days there! The gentle waves are glorious, fantastic for all aged children and adults alike. The water was clear, the temperature was perfect, you could surf, swim, SUP, float or play!
The town itself consists of a holiday park, several holiday rentals, a general store, boat access and a fish cleaning area, the pristine Korogoro Creek and the native surrounds of Hat Head National Park.
Crowdy Head– beaches, views and 4WD
Fifty-six minutes south of Port Macquarie
The coastline along the mid-north coast of Australia, is undoubtedly stunning and this trip will be no exception. Crowdy Head, is another hidden gem along the eastern coast of Australia and well worth a visit! For visitors convenience there were public toilets and Sunsets Cafe, attached to the Crowdy Head Surf Life Saving Club. Enjoy a sensational feed in a stunning and quiet location.
Be sure to visit Crowdy Head Lighthouse and expect to be completely ‘beach-struck’ to the south. All you can see are masses of sand and surf! The Lighthouse also boasts a great spot for sighting whales during the right season.
Harrington Beach State Park is a great spot for 4WD and for having a quiet beach to yourselves! Swimming would be a little precarious and perhaps not recommended, however, running in and out of the shallows of big crashing can be a bit of fun (with close parental supervision). The extensive sand, water and tranquillity is incredible!
Miss Nellie’s Cafe– homemade and delicious in beautiful Kendall
Twenty-five minutes south of Port Macquarie
The home of homemade greatness, Miss Nellie’s Cafe boasts a beautiful setting, in the small country town of Kendall; if you’re a sweet tooth, it is a sure stop! It is only minutes off the Pacific Hwy, so if you’re driving past, do yourself a favour!
Miss Nellie’s is a country-style cafe, serving homemade cakes, delicious coffee, light meals, a kids menu and cosy comfortable table and chairs indoors and outdoors. The customer service, dedication and commitment to their business was impressive. Try their ‘ruby chocolate’ treats for something a little different – the ruby chocolate cheesecake is divine.
Where to stay in Port Macquarie
Ultiqa Village Resort is the home of 32 luxury three-bedroom bungalows. The Resort has an indoor swimming pool, sauna, clubhouse, gym, tennis courts, mini-golf, canoeing on the lake and fish feeding. There are BBQ facilities, outdoor lounges, free WiFi, games rooms and board games/puzzles/toys/DVDs all available from reception. Bungalows are spacious and offer the ease of a home-away-from-home feel.
Amenities are at your finger tips reducing expenses while in Port Macquarie. The lake area had a lovely feel, very relaxing in the mornings and full of life later in the day. Evenings consisted of fish feeding for the kids and happy hour by the water on a picnic blanket. The Resort was very family friendly and the service was impeccable, staff attending to our needs very efficiently.
Where to next from Port Macquarie?
Do yourself a favour and arrange some time in Coffs Harbour. There is so much on offer for the whole family on the coast and inland.