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Best Christmas In Europe For Families

BEST CHRISTMAS IN EUROPE FOR FAMILIES.

Are you looking for the best Christmas in Europe location for your family? Below we have a compilation of personal stories and recommendations, from experienced travellers from around the globe.

Europe Christmas destination options are truly endless. Every city has so much to offer.

EUROPE CHRISTMAS DESTINATIONS FOR FAMILIES.

FINNISH LAPLAND, FINLAND.

Lapland, in Northern Finland, is one of the most family-friendly Christmas destinations. There is nowhere better to get into the Christmas spirit, especially in December, than the home of Santa Claus himself. Santa even has an official hometown in Lapland, Rovaniemi.

As well as being the hometown of Father Christmas, Rovaniemi is very family friendly. Most of the centre of town is pedestrianised around Lordi Square and there are numerous hotels, AirBnB’s and restaurants to cater for families. Rovaniemi also has several family-friendly things to do in town including three museums and an Angry Birds park. Of the three museums, two are of interest for families with young kids.

Arktikum is the museum dedicated to the Arctic Circle and the inhabitants of it, including indigenous people and animals. There are lots of different areas with interactive section for kids. Pilke, conveniently located beside Arktikum, is a museum dedicated to showing people how intrinsically important the forests of the Arctic Circle are to the people and animals. Again, there are plenty of interactive areas for kids, with a lumberjack caterpillar for kids to climb up into.

A short bus ride out of town you’ll find two places to visit Santa Claus, Santa Park and the Santa Claus Village. Not only can you meet the big man himself, but there are lots of other things to do with kids in both places. There is plenty of things to do in Rovaniemi with kids.

Whether you are in Rovaniemi or visiting the wider Lapland area, most towns and resorts have the opportunity for families to meet Santa Claus. You can also enjoy meeting reindeer and huskies and going on safari rides with them. Kids can try their hand at snowmobiling, there are plenty of ski resorts in Lapland and older kids can also enjoy a Northern Lights hunt. Lapland is an amazing place to visit with kids and one of the most family-friendly European Christmas destinations.

Cath – Passports and Adventures

KRAKOW, POLAND.

Looking for a new location for your Christmas family vacation? Krakow has a lot to offer as it is one of the most family-friendly Christmas destinations in Europe. With a broad range of activities for all ages and great food and luxurious accommodation that can easily fit your budget, Krakow ticks all the boxes for a family holiday escape.

With family rooms and apartments starting at under 50USD a night, book early to get a room near the Old Town. The Sheraton Hotel, for example, would be one of the best places to stay with its amazing location at the base of Wawel Castle, making the logistics of visiting attractions easier with young ones in tow. You can also rent an apartment in the area for as low as $600 per week with the advantage of having a washing machine and a kitchen.

Designed to be kid-friendly, the city’s transportation system is reliable and equipped to handle strollers. Most of the restaurants in the city are also family-friendly and are equipped with facilities that will make every dining experience pleasurable for all members of the family, from special kids menus, children play area, and feeding and changing facilities. Massolit Books & Cafe, Oberza Sasaidow Restaurant, and Wierzynek Restaurant are among the most recommended restaurants for family.

During your stay, make sure to visit the Christmas Market with its line of wooden stalls that are filled with authentic Polish crafts, food, and drinks. Every single member of your family will fall in love with the quaint Christmas decorations, the delicious assortment of fudge, and the thick hot chocolate. To add some magic to the festive atmosphere, take a carriage ride around the Old Town. And, don’t forget to fill up on padja (open sandwiches) and grilled cheese.

Other places of interest that are open all year round are Wawel Castle with its dragon legends, the crypt of the Franciscan monastery with its mummified residents. The Groteska children’s theatre, where traditional wooden puppets portray well-known fairytales. To add to the fun, take your family to the Park Wodny Aqua Park which has a big collection of slides. For a bit of nature, head to Jordana Park, where you can take your children around the lake with rented paddle-boats and canoes.

By Karolina – Lazy Travel Blog

MADEIRA ISLAND, PORTUGAL.

The Portuguese Madeira Island is a perfect Christmas destination for an entire family. Weather in Madeira around Christmas and New Year’s Eve is very pleasant, on average around 20C.

If you are lucky, you will have a chance to enjoy the outdoor hotel pools, and for sure, you will come back home sunbathed. This makes Madeira a perfect destination for those in the Northern Hemisphere, who would like to escape the snow and cold…but not the great Christmas spirit!

Most of Portugal’s citizens are Christians, so Christmas is an important holiday. Kids and parents alike will enjoy strolling through beautifully decorated streets. TukTuk “Christmas Lights Watching” tours are also very popular.  You will see many decorated Christmas trees, palm trees, Christmas ornaments. As well as tonnes of different Nativity Scenes in different styles.

Kids will love the Christmas Village built for them in one of Funchal’s main parks called Jardim Municipal. The city centre is full of Christmas installations, including a huge, 3 metre-tall Santa Claus. Shops and shopping malls also do not stay behind and kids will have the chance to talk to Santa there. In 2019, there was also a busy fair set up next to the Funchal Marina, with attractions for kids of all ages.

When you visit Madeira Island for Christmas, it’s worth staying New Year’s Eve, as Madeira is famous for its spectacular New Year’s shows. It used to hold the Guinness record for the “Greatest Fireworks Show in the World”. Madeira Island is a great idea for any time of the year, but December is definitely one of the most beautiful periods.

By Edyta, from Say Yes To Madeira

BADEN-WURTTEMBERG, GERMANY.

I spent one of the best years of my life living in Baden-Wurttemberg. This stunning region in south-west Germany is home to many beautiful mountains. One of the best parts about them is they are completely accessible to families looking for a great Christmas destination. Not only that, but the beautiful snow scenes in winter means you can have that white Christmas you’ve been dreaming of.

I recommend spending some time within the Black Forest. Head to Feldberg ski resort for some family skiing. Lessons are available for beginners! Alternatively, there is a sledge park at the top of Schauinsland – accessible by cable car. Here you’ll find fun for all ages. There are also multiple castles for you to visit. I recommend Hohenzollern or Lichtenstein Castle. These are great for kids and adults alike. Furthermore, take a visit to Titisee Lake – see it frozen in winter and even go ice skating (dependent on ice thickness).

You can also explore the Christmas markets in either Stuttgart or Freiburg. Stuttgart’s are more extensive, while Freiburg’s are more local and traditional. Close to Freiburg you’ll also find Europa Park – Germany’s answer to Disneyland. While the water rides are closed in winter, there is still plenty to keep the family entertained for the day. There is also a reduced entrance rate during winter. These are just some of the great places to visit in Baden-Wurttemberg.

I highly advise staying in Freiburg. This gives you a good base for many activities. From Freiburg, it is very easy to access the Black Forest by public transport or by car. Alternatively, you could stay close to Stuttgart which has better transport connections with the rest of Germany and further afield.

By HannahHannah’s Happy Adventures

TOP TIPS FOR BUDGET HOLIDAYS

HOW TO TRAVEL & LOVE BUDGET HOLIDAYS

#1 TIP:

BE ORGANISED!

With or without kids in tow, saving money for budget travel is all about organisation and preparation. Plan well, pack well and make the effort while on holiday – it will save you loads of money!

WAYS TO SAVE ON MEALS AND SNACKS

One of the things we love most about travelling is eating out and trying local cuisines. We always ensure we do those things; however, we also travel on a strict budget so most of our meals are self-catered.

Accommodation

The longer we stay in a place, the more space we want and look for when booking accommodation. If we are spending several nights in the one location, we will always look for accommodation where we can self-cater.

Breakfast

Typically, we will always eat breakfast in-house. If you’re lucky enough to get breakfast included in your accommodation, that is a great bonus. In most cases, however, it is not worth the additional money as an optional extra.

We take cereal for the kids with us – Weetbix and sultanas for one, porridge for the other. They are easy to pack into containers and store and as they are eaten, we use the containers for other things. We would pack enough breakfast cereal for the kids for 1-2 weeks, anything beyond that, we just buy while we are away (or top up as required).

Quick meals

We also throw in some dried noodles, which can act as snacks for the kids, or a meal (as required). While they are far from a meal favourite of mine, they are easy to prepare on the night of arrival. All you need is a kettle – most places you will stay, will have that available for use. If your accommodation doesn’t have bowls, grab one of your containers that you have packed. This is quick and easy and after a long haul flight, or late arrival, it is nice to have something easy and not have to rush out and spend money on something else.

We always pack spreads – whatever your favourites are, pack them – vegemite, peanut butter and honey are the ones we normally carry. Sandwiches make a quick, easy and affordable lunch. While it’s not an interesting meal, it is a great choice when travelling on a budget.

Discount meals or kids eat free

Keep an eye out for dining-out deals, like ‘kids-eat-free’. They are popular and are often found in tourist towns. When you arrive in a town, type in ‘kids-eat-free near me’ and see what comes up. The other one to look out for is pubs which often have $10 lunches or $15 parmigiana and pot nights. Do some quick research and some planning when you arrive in a new place. Work out where you want to go and try to plan what day and time is the best to go, based on the daily offers.

Adding flavour

We take salt, pepper and turmeric – they are things we add to our not so exciting easy meals, to make them a little more interesting! Eggs, sandwiches, BBQ, salads, pasta. If we are holidaying where I think we’ll have lots of BBQ’s, I will also take an unopened small bottle of tomato sauce and either leave it in the fridge at our Air BNB or throw it away at the end of the trip. Nobody needs tomato sauce through their suitcase!

Snacks

Snack foods for the kids are essential items. These are much easier if you are in the car, or have the space to carry them; however, I’ll never leave the house without them. Snacks are also referred to as ‘sanity-savers’ in our household – they save us from the “I’m hungry” and “I’m thirsty”, when you’re just 15 minutes down the road!

Think of your kids’ pre-packaged favourites like muesli bars, dried fruit, biscuits, bake some homemade goodness for the first couple of days. Taking snacks, will alleviate those unwanted desperate stops at a petrol station or convenience store, where you’ll spend way more money than you’d like to.

Picnics

Having a picnic in a new location is a great way to ‘people watch’, as well as see what goes on in a city. You can be immersed in cities so much by just sitting and watching. Picnics are also an affordable meal option. Find a local supermarket and get yourself some bits and pieces and put together a great meal for your family.

Think wraps, roast chicken and ready-made salads, BBQ, cold meats and salad, antipasto platters. Lots of supermarkets also have meal options ready to be served, or those that simply require a microwave to warm up. We are known to whip up a cheap pasta dish or cook a pizza in the oven and then take it for a picnic by the beach or in a park somewhere. Just don’t forget your plastic containers!

Plastic containers and cutlery

Take plastic containers that can be washed and re-used multiple times. They are also great for storing half-eaten things in the fridge, keep fruit fresh and so many more things. Containers are a great alternative to Glad Wrap and enable you to buy things like blocks of cheese which are far more economical than already sliced cheese or individually wrapped items.

It always pays to have a set of cutlery and a solid plastic plate in your bag too. Makes your picnic so much easier and you don’t have to rely on your accommodation having their own. A serrated knife is very handy too, great for cutting vegetables and cheese – just make sure you pack it in your luggage appropriately, especially if you are flying!

COFFEE

One of our local coffee spots – Koopmans Dunkeld

Lots of countries do coffee really well and we love to experience a local coffee, particularly when there is a cultural experience to go with it. However, we don’t need to pay for them every day; also, there are countries that do not do a great coffee.

We are self-confessed coffee snobs…it’s unfortunate because we love our daily coffee but won’t drink instant coffee. We have trialled several coffee options along the way and often go between them, depending on the mode of travel.

My least favourite option, but can be tolerated, is a coffee bag. Robert Timms do a reasonable coffee bag, they will tie us over until we get somewhere with good coffee. They are easily packed and very light weight.

Plunger and ground coffee

This was a long time favourite of ours and worked really well on all trips, until our plunger smashed in transit. I hear you saying “Really? Glass coffee plunger?” Well yes, that is what we had so that is what we took.

Honestly, it lasted several trips and really saved us a lot of money. We worked out that even buying a new one was cheaper than buying coffees every day for us – so we saved despite the need for replacement. We still like the plunger and still take a glass plunger despite our history. It really is effortless and it is nice that we can both sit down and enjoy a coffee together with ease.

Mini-press and pods

A more recent device that we have been trialling on our travels, is a mini-press, which is a manual coffee pod device. If you are looking for something more solid, this is a great option. Pre-order your pods before you leave, they are light weight and they fill in all the gaps in your luggage (there is always enough room for a coffee pod or two). We typically pack enough pods for us to have a coffee per day and a handful extra.

ESSENTIAL HOUSEHOLD ITEMS

If you’re in an Air BnB or Holiday Stay, some of the everyday essential items, are not always provided. We once stayed in a holiday house that literally had the furniture required, towels and bed sheets – that was it. We had to supply toilet paper, dish washing liquid, washing powder, kitchen cloth, all toiletries and even rubbish bags.

Since then, I have been meticulous in my packing to ensure we have the essentials for our next holiday, at least to get us started. By taking these items, we have saved money while on holidays – after all, who wants to spend holiday money on these boring everyday items?

See our Holiday Packing List, so you don’t forget anything on your next trip.

ENTERTAINMENT FOR KIDS

Most holidays are filled with excitement, new activities, new adventures and fun things for the whole family. However, the reality is, there are ‘down-times’ and “this is boring” times too. It is great to have some things for the kids to do that are slow and quiet activities, that do not include a screen.

We create an activity pack for our kids. We surprise them with it on day one of the trip. Despite receiving one every time we go away now, they are still by the ‘surprise’ and so excited to see what’s in it – if you pack the right things, it can be absolute gold!

Buy an A4 sized pencil case, with a zip to fit everything into. What to put in them is a little age and interest dependent. Our kids love their Travel Journals, which has plenty of space for them to write about their adventures, space for drawings and activities.

We are compiling an ‘Activity Pack For Kids’ post with age appropriate ideas – this is a growing document and we’d love your input! Feel free to add your ideas in the comments below.

ACTIVITIES, EXCURSIONS AND TOURS

Do your research, shop around, look for the best deal and book early! There are lots of sites these days that offer great deals and discounts. Do your research and find the best price. Be careful to read the terms and conditions, so that you know you are getting exactly what you are after.

Sometimes you can buy tickets to attractions online which offer ‘skip the queue’, at the same rate you can buy an ordinary entry ticket. It is worth looking around.

Keep an eye out for local tourist magazines, you can sometimes get yourself 10% off by using a coupon from a free brochure. We were lucky enough to access this in Coffs Harbour when we went to the Dolphin Marine Centre – that was a nice little bonus and has certainly prompted us to keep an eye out for more of them!

TOP TIPS TO SAVE MONEY FOR YOUR NEXT HOLIDAY

Holidays and travel don’t have to the Earth. However, the reality is, that we all enjoy our trips a whole lot more, if we have a comfortable amount of money saved. Careful planning, budgeting, preparation, consideration and prioritising are key ways to save money.

TOP TIPS TO SAVE MONEY FOR YOUR NEXT HOLIDAY

PLAN AHEAD, TO SAVE MONEY.

During the planning stages and in budgeting for a trip, it is good to have an idea of all of the extra things or sights you might like to see, as well as the costs associated.

Know the costs of your holiday expenses, including accommodation, flights and car hire. Based on the costs associated with the above aspects of your holiday, you will have a better idea of what is possible and how much money you will need to save for your holiday.

CREATE YOUR PERSONAL MONEY SAVING PLAN.

Once you’ve established your needs, make a plan. Write it all down, use a spreadsheet, make notes on all of your outgoing expenses and then work out how you will fund it. Work out exactly how much money you will need to save (and by when), before you lock yourself into the trip.

BE REALISTIC.

Be real! Don’t get yourself into something that you cannot get yourself out of. Work out exactly where is the money coming from, to pay for the trip. Consider your departure date and the duration of your trip, in accordance with what you can afford. Don’t get yourself to a point where you have no money while you are away – a holiday is no fun if you have to watch every penny you spend (speaking from experience here!).

RESEARCH AND SAVE.

Do your research is my number one tip for how to save money when travelling! There are so many cheap travel options and the best holiday deals are always available – you just need to find them!

Troll the travel websites, look for the best deals, keep an eye out for sales, join travel groups and learn from those out there doing it regularly.

Talk to a variety of travel agents and see what everyone is offering. Utilise schemes like Flight Centre price match!

Check out the multiple booking sites for accommodation, research for the best accommodation choices. Make sure your accommodation is suitable for your needs and in an appropriate location. Read reviews on accommodation, from people who have stayed there themselves!

Booking.com

Consider whether the additional cost to the accommodation, might outweigh the need to hire a car. Perhaps the additional cost of getting a self-catering apartment, might save money for you in being able to prepare meals.

All inclusive holiday deals and holiday package deals are not always the cheapest way to go. Additionally, ‘kids fly and stay free’ are also not always the cheapest ways to go!

FRUGAL LIVING.

In the lead up to a holiday, adopt a frugal living approach to life! Ask yourself whether your purchases are really necessary or whether they are just things your want. Don’t spend money on things you really don’t need!

Do you really need that new dress? Perhaps, save your money buy a new dress on your holiday instead. If you’re a coffee snob like I am, you will want a good coffee everyday – find yourself ground coffee and make a plunger coffee instead of spending the $5 per coffee each day.

EASY WAYS TO SAVE MONEY.

Here is a list of things that we have incorporated into our everyday life, to save money for our next holiday.

Drink plunger coffee, ‘take-away food’ choices from the supermarket freezer rather than buying them from a shop, pack a school lunch every day, bake snacks for the kids, walk or ride a bike as a form of transport when you can – every little bit helps! Ensure we’ve got a well stocked kitchen so that we cook more often than eat out, be organised with time so we’re not grabbing food on the run.

HOW TO SAVE MONEY FROM SALARY.

Allocate a certain amount of money to holiday savings each time you get paid and put it in a separate account so you can’t/don’t touch it. Large and small amounts of money, all help!

You can talk to your business manager at work and ask them to put a certain amount of money (or percentage of your pay) in a separate account – this way, you don’t even see it!

HOW TO BUDGET AND SAVE.

Create a spreadsheet or a system that works for you. List all of the bills you have to pay, roughly how much they are month to month and what date they are to be paid.

Work out which bills will be paid for, from week to week. Also, whether you need to put small amounts aside each week for those bigger bills, so they don’t really hurt when it is time to pay them – car registrations, for example.

Set yourselves an allowance for free spending each week, just like it is a bill to pay. Make sure you don’t overspend from your ‘play money’ or dip into other accounts some unnecessary items.

Two Days in Vientiane.

TWO DAYS IN VIENTIANE WITH KIDS.

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.

ABOUT VIENTIANE.

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.

Vientiane is an easy city to get around and has a lot to offer!

TRAVELLING WITH KIDS IN LAOS.

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 (aged 4 and 5) we have on board!

We love to eat in local restaurants, the friendly faces in Laos were so welcoming, during our stay, we 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.

SAMPLE VIENTIANE ITINERARY.

Day One.

The Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)

On the bus!

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 buy tickets, that include transport too and from – although the bus ride was quite an adventure.

Day Two

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.

The walk up the stairs is interesting, with market stalls throughout on different levels. From the top, the views are fantastic! It was well worth the look, as the 360 degree views, gave some perspective of Vientiane.

Pha That Luang.

Pha That Luang is a large Buddhist Stupa in the city centre of Vientiane. It is a strikingly impressive Stupa, covered in 500 kilos of gold leaf. The main Stupa is 45 metres in height and is surrounded by 30 smaller Stupa’s. The complex is large and well worth a visit.

Take some time to wander around and take it all in. The details are exquisite and being well preserved. The Stupa is said to be founded in the 3rd Century. It has undergone several renovations in its time. The reclining Buddha is also exceptional and worth a look.

There are market stalls and street food options for your visit. Or if you’re on a budget, grab a baguette from the local market and munch on that as you make your way around.

ACCOMMODATION IN VIENTIANE.

Champa Hotel was a great little place to stay with the kids. Although it was too cold to swim, there was that option. The rooms were simple, but clean and we had all we needed.

Champa Hotel was in an excellent location, easily accessible to everything we needed, walking distance to lots of restaurants, the Mekong River and the night market. We also had breakfast available, which is always a nice bonus when travelling!

There are hundreds of accommodation options in Vientiane and varying prices for different budgets. Here, you will see reviews on accommodation throughout Vientiane.

From Vientiane

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!

The Best Christmas in Europe

Are you dreaming of having the best white Christmas in Europe? Are you wondering which are the best cities in Europe for Christmas?

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 and all of the Christmas in Europe traditions.

The Christmas markets in Europe are envied by the rest of the world; the snow, the magic, the traditions are so well published. Below you will find first hand experiences for some of the best destinations in Europe for Christmas.

WHERE IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS IN EUROPE?

The Best European Destinations For Christmas.

There are some magnificent parts of Europe you can visit for a white Christmas experience. It can be difficult to decide where to spend Christmas in Europe. Be inspired by these personal experiences – hopefully they will help you decide where to go to have the best Christmas in Europe.

The best places to visit for Christmas in Europe are: Soll, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Rovaniemi, Reykjavik, Switzerland, Cophenhagen, Freiburg, Berlin, London.

Christmas holidays in Europe, for skiers.

Soll, Austria.

Soll, Austria.

While living in London in my earlier, pre-kids years, I was fortunate enough to spend my first Europe Christmas holidays in Austria. 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 Soll boasts some of the best apre ski in Europe!

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. You will also find some of the best Christmas markets in Austria, here.

There are so many beautiful hotel choices in Soll, surrounded by mountains, which in Winter will be covered in snow – absolutely glorious! I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Soll, to have the best Christmas in Europe.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say about accommodation in Soll, Austrian Alps.

By Erin from Love To Travel, Stay-Eat-Do.

One of the best best European winter holiday destinations.

Innsbruck, Austria.

Innsbruck at Christmas, Travelers Universe.

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! I’m convinced that Innsbruck is one of the best places to go for Christmas in Europe.

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 top 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!).

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Innsbruck.

by Laura from Travelers Universe.

The most beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe.

Salzburg, Austria.

Salzburg at Christmas, Journey of Doing.

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 have 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.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Salzburg.

by Sara Miller at Journey of Doing.

The Best Christmas Village in Europe.

Rovaniemi, Finland.

Rovaniemi at Christmas, The Elusive Family.

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 hotels.  

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 floating and ice fishing 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.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Rovaniemi.

By Diana from The Elusive Family.

An unforgettable Christmas in Europe.

Reykjavik, Iceland.

Reykjavik at Christmas, The Travelling Twins.

In 2018 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, contributing to one of the best Europe holidays in December.

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.

For accommodation options in Reykjavik, there are tonnes of choices here. There are so many fabulous things to do in Reykjavik for families, including the very popular Golden Circle Full Day Tour.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Reykjavik.

By Ania from The Travelling Twins.

For magical Christmas destinations in Europe.

Switzerland.

View over Lake Lucerne, Mt Pilatus, Expert World Travel.

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 snow in the cities is yet to fall, you can always head uphill and get yourself a truly white experience!

Some of the best Christmas destinations in Switzerland 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. Here are some accommodation options for these three popular cities: Lucerne, Geneva and Zurich.

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.

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.

Swiss mountain gems, such as, Zermatt, Saas Fee, Davos and Crans Montana are worth putting on your bucket list. After all, there is nothing better than having a white Christmas in the mountains surrounded by snow!

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Switzerland.

By Roger Timbrook from Expert World Travel.

A slightly ‘warmer’ Christmas destination in Europe.

Copenhagen, Denmark.

Copenhagen at Christmas, Robe Trotting.

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.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Copenhagen.

By Derek Hartman from Robe Trotting.

A lovely German city, for a European Christmas.

Freiburg, Germany.

Freiburg at Christmas, Hannah’s Happy Adventures.

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.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Freiburg.

By Hannah Golton from Hannah’s Happy Adventures.

One of the best European cities to visit in December.

Berlin, Germany.

Berlin at Christmas, by Smita.

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 Christmas, 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.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say accommodation in Berlin.

By Smita Bhattacharya.

The city with great Christmas traditions in Europe.

London, England.

London at Christmas, Experiencing the Globe.

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 Christmasy 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 you want great food and maybe to get a present or two, head to 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!

There are endless accommodation options in London, which makes it incredibly difficult to choose the best place to stay. A top tip, would be to stay somewhere in walking distance to a train or underground line, that way, you are never too far from all of the action.

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in London.

By Coni from Experiencing the Globe.

Northern Grampians For Families

Northern Grampians Region For Families.

When it comes to things to do in Western Victoria with kids, there simply is so much! For Victorians and those in the east of South Australia, it is an easy family road trip. Alternatively, do a fly and drive from Melbourne Tullamarine or Avalon Airport.

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 for families.

Map of Victoria

Covered in the Northern Grampians Region is Ararat and Pomonal. Stay tuned for further updates!

LOOKING FOR MORE THINGS TO DO IN WESTERN VICTORIA WITH KIDS? VISIT VICTORIA SOUTH WEST OR SOUTHERN GRAMPIANS.

THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT.

ARARAT.

Where is Ararat?

Ararat – the gateway to the Grampians.   It is conveniently located 1 hour west of Ballarat and only a quick 30-40 minute drive to Halls Gap.  Ararat is a great place to visit with families.  Everything is located a quick 5 minutes from the centre of town – supermarket, movie theatre, skate park, gardens, cafes and shops. 

Things to do with kids.

An all time favourite for locals and visitors is the Alexandra Gardens. It’s a great place to ride bikes around the gardens, play on the play equipment or go for a walk through the Fairy Garden. On a Saturday at 8am, ParkRun is enjoyed by a lot of people in Ararat; many running or walking with their children.

The Astor Movie theatre or one of the pools in Ararat is also a real hit.  During the Summer, children of all ages flock to the outdoor pool.  It has a new water slide and splash playground for the babies/toddlers to enjoy.

Many people wouldn’t realise that Ararat has a lot of history.  Great family places to visit to learn more about the history in Ararat: Gum San Chinese MuseumLangi Morgala MuseumJ-Ward, and Aradale.

Green Hill Lake is on the edge of Ararat.  Many families like to go and camp out at the free camp grounds around the lake especially on long weekends and during the Summer.  This is a particularly busy spot when the lake is full.

Bush walks through some of the many trails around the area is very popular.  An easy walk if you have little ones, is the Venus Baths Loop, in Halls Gap.  A visit to Halls Gap isn’t complete without a stop at Coolas Ice Creamery. 

Family friendly places to eat.

Ararat has a number of great cafes to offer a friendly place to stop and eat in.  Foragers Café is located at the entrance of the Ararat Art Gallery and has some yummy items on the menu.  Other cafes located in the main street include Fred and Bets, The Vines and S.E.D.E. . For people staying in Ararat overnight looking for a place to eat out, the top three recommendations are Sicilians Restaurant, Blue Duck Hotel and The RSL.

Grampians accommodation for families.

If you’re looking for accommodation in Ararat, there are several options.  The Ararat Motor Inn is located at the Melbourne end of Barkly Street and has all the conveniences you need for a comfortable stay.

You can see more family accommodation options and up-to-date prices and details here.

Look here, for Ararat accommodation reviews.

By Emma CoburnEat Pray Lovel Travel.

POMONAL.

Where is Pomonal?

Pomonal is located in the Eastern Grampians. It is a small town consisting of a General Store, Primary School, Community Hall, family friendly wineries, a bistro, small businesses and a whole lot of charm. Pomonal is located just 10 minutes from the popular town of Halls Gap; and, makes for a great alternative from the hustle and bustle of its neighbouring town!

Things to do with kids.

There are lots of fantastic places to visit in Pomonal, that you really do need a few days to get around to everything and enjoy it! A very popular place to visit is Five Ducks Farm, where homemade preservative free ice cream and amazing condiments are available to taste and buy. The magnificent work of artist James McMurtrie, is available to be seen at his glass blowing studio, this is located on the road between Pomonal and Moyston.

Visit one of the many wineries in the Grampians Region, more locally you’ll find Pomonal Estate and Fallen Giants. If you’re lucky, you can time your trip to coincide with one of the popular Pomonal Community Markets, where you will meet many of the local growers and small business holders – including Blue Wren Bakery which does not have a shop front.

If you are an adventurous family there are a great number of family friendly walks in the Grampians National Park. Pack a picnic, wander and explore some of the more hidden tracks or bush spots, including Kalymna Falls Campground. If you’re feeling very energetic, with preparation and well trained children, you can walk up the back of Mt William to the lookout. This outing, however, is not for the faint-hearted – pack plenty of water, snacks and jumpers.

Once you’ve exhausted all Pomonal has to offer, venture out to surrounding towns or head into Halls Gap to explore the main tourist town of the Northern Grampians Region.

Family friendly places to eat.

Pomonal Estate

If you enjoy good food as well as wine, beer and cider, look no further than Pomonal Estate. The cellar door offers beer/cider and wine paddles and by the glass, food from the menu, homemade cakes from the display fridge and a genuine welcome.

Wine Paddle

The grassed area boasts incredible mountain views and a relaxed family friendly atmosphere. Enjoy the outdoor lounges, table and chairs or picnic blankets, while the kids run around and kick a ball or play cricket. The indoor area is modern, clean and beautifully presented, with floor to ceiling windows for maximal mountain viewing.

Cheese Platter at Pomonal Estate

There is something on the menu for everyone for lunch, as well as an afternoon visit! Pep and Adam, owners of Pomonal Estate, have made their cellar door a “one-stop-shop” where people can come and stay, relax and enjoy their time with all needs met.

Accommodation is also available at Pomonal Estate – check out the latest prices and details.

Grampians General Store

The Grampians General Store makes great Mahalia Coffee and has a range of milk available to suit your needs. It has cafe-style seating inside and outside in the garden. You can pick up your every day needs as well as the extensive range of local produce from the area!

Barney’s Bistro Bar

You can head to Barney’s Bistro Bar for a good pub meal, a great outlook from outside and a unique shearing shed style building. Bookings are essential as it gets quite busy. There is a basic children’s menu and a big screen to keep them seated and entertained.

Grampians accommodation for families.

Pomonal is such a lovely and quiet part of the Grampians – staying here will certainly create a slower paced and relaxed time away. Check out the latest prices and more details.

Love To Travel, Stay-Eat-Do highly recommend the family friendly, Views at Pomonal. The accommodation is set apart from the owners residence, it has a private yard and uninterrupted views of the Grampians.

The unit is very clean, well maintained and has all essentials to have an enjoyable family stay. The two bedroom accommodation sleeps 5, with bedding configuration being a queen room and triple bunks. The master bedroom boasts floor to ceiling glass doors, which open up to the deck and magnificent mountain views.

The living space consists of a couch, dining table and good size kitchen with all the necessities. Surrounding the house is a deck which allows you to take in the incredible views from all angles. There is outdoor seating and dining, just waiting for you to enjoy the peace and quiet of this lovely Pomonal accommodation.

You’re welcome to wander through the paddock, feed the resident alpacas and pat Rex the family Red Heeler.

Do yourself a favour and take the time to set up for a few days. There is something very relaxing and easy about staying at Views at Pomonal.

Victoria South West For Families

The best places to visit in Victoria South West for families.

When it comes to things to do in Western Victoria with kids, there simply is so much! For Victorians and those in the east of South Australia, it is an easy family road trip. Alternatively, do a fly and drive from Melbourne Tullamarine or Avalon Airport.

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.

Map of Western Victoria

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 and NORTHERN GRAMPIANS.

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.

*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.

ANGLESEA.

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.

Things to do with kids

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.

Family friendly places to eat

Anglesea has everything you need from a supermarket, to boutique shops, take away options, chemist, news agency, banks, butcher, bakery. As well as lovely dining choices as well as the family friendly local pub.

Take away menus are rife in Anglesea, making dining in and not cooking a great option! Offshore Cafe and Catering is well priced and serves a range of healthy food choices and something to suit everyone in the family.

Accommodation for families

Accommodation options in Anglesea for families are extensive . The Big 4 Anglesea is a fantastic choice. There is hours of entertainment within the park, available to children and families; including a swimming pool, oversized chessboard, games room and more. With the friendly welcome, great appearance and excellent location between the shops and the beach, Big 4 Anglesea is really great option.

Check out the most up-to-date prices and details for your Anglesea stay.

Click here for reviews on accommodation in Anglesea, including the Big 4 Anglesea.

CRESSY.

Cressy is a cute little town with a picnic area, the Cressy Historical Centre and Historic Cressy Discovery Trail. If you come through Cressy, follow the signs to the Hotel and have a look at the original street with old shop fronts and the fabulous carving of the Brolga.

DARLINGTON.

Darlington is a small town in Western Victoria. It is the home of the gorgeous blue stone Elephant Bridge Hotel. The Hotel has meals available, is a Bed and Breakfast and café. It is also on the Vline route between Warrnambool and Ballarat.

Darlington is also home to the Mid-Western Speedway, belonging to the Mortlake Car Club Inc.

DERRINALLUM.

At the foot of Mount Elephant sits the lovely country town of Derrinallum, in Victoria South West. Derrinallum is a nicely presented and well-maintained country town in Western Victoria.

In town, there is a Food Works supermarket, historical information shelter, Post Office, library, takeaway cafes, a pharmacy, pub and petrol station.

Things to do with kids

There is a playground at the local Reserve, picnic tables and public toilets in the main street.

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.

You can also explore the Derrinallum Discovery Trail.

Accommodation for families

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.

FORREST.

Forrest is set in the heart of the Otway Ranges and known as the Gateway to the Otways. It is a gorgeous little town in South West Victoria, surrounded by beautiful trees and bushland. Forrest is a popular town to visit, inland from the iconic coast, in the Great Ocean Road Hinterland.

In recent years, Forrest has become a popular spot for mountain bike riding and trail running. As well as being a great destination for adventure activities, it is also is an excellent place to relax and get out amongst nature!

There are loads of great walks, picnic locations, waterfalls to be seen and so much more. Here is a guide on three incredible waterfalls in the Otways National Park. For adventure seekers, make sure you check out the Otway Fly Zipline Tour and the Otway Fly Treetops Walk.

Forrest boasts outstanding food and dining options, which feature the local produce in the area. The Forrest Brewing Company is a popular spot for craft beer and a great pub meal, with atmosphere; alternatively, there is Bespoke Harvest and the Terminus Hotel.

As Forrest has become a more popular town in the South West of Victoria, accommodation options have increased significantly. There are options for all budgets – from free camps, four star bed and breakfasts, hotels, guest houses and cabins.

Here you can see the most up-to-date prices and details for accommodation in Forrest. For Forrest accommodation reviews, go here.

KOROIT.

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.

Things to do with kids

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.

Family friendly places to eat

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 for families

For family friendly accommodation in Koroit, check out the best deals and details.

LISMORE.

Lismore is a well-resourced town with all the essentials, including a Post Office, petrol station, hardware store, the Blue Yabby Café with dine in or take away options. There is a Food Works supermarket, pharmacy, as well as a number of gift stores – including The Wooltrack Store, which sells Uggs, woollen products and gifts.

There is a Golf Course on the edge of town, with the Fairway Café on the highway. The café is home to a marvellous silo art piece, on a water tank. Warrnambool artist, Jimmi Buscombe’s work includes native Brolgas as well as sheep which has been the basis of the town’s economy since it was founded in the 1850’s.

The Lismore Hotel is conveniently located on the main street of town. It offers bar meals as well as a bed and breakfast.

Browns Water Holes Caravan Park is conveniently located next to the public swimming pool and Grimwade Park, which has a BBQ, playground and picnic table. It is also the beginning of the Lismore Discovery Trail, which can be done on foot and takes in the township of Lismore. The route is approximately 2.5km and takes roughly 50 minutes. Unless you make the odd detour to a shop of drop into the Birdcage Café for a coffee! 

LORNE.

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.

Things to do with kids

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 Pier

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.

Teddy’s Lookout

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.

Family friendly places to eat

Lorne Beach and Loutit Bay

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.

Accommodation for families

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.

Love To Travel, Stay-Eat-Do recommend this great Lorne property which boasts a flat walk to the beach. It is an easy stay for larger families or groups, with easy access to the beach and shops. With a mezzanine bedroom over the living space and lower level bedrooms, the house can sleep 12. It is nicely located away from the hustle and bustle of the main street in Lorne, however, is also very close to the supermarket for ease of shopping for your tribe!

Check out the most up to date accommodation deals and details in Lorne.

Click here for reviews on accommodation in Lorne.

By James Davies. Where You’re Between.

MORTLAKE.

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.

Things to do with kids

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.

On the road between Noorat and Mortlake. Mt Noorat ahead and the Terang – Mortlake Road Wall to the right.

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 for families

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.

NOORAT.

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.

Things to do with kids

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.

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.

Family friendly places to eat and stay

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.

PORT CAMPBELL.

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.

Things to do with kids

The most obvious thing to do in Port Campbell, is go and marvel at the Twelve Apostles. These limestone stacks are a sight to be seen and well worth the journey. There are still seven of the original stacks, after one collapsed in 2005. There is exceptional viewing from the viewpoints, please take care, pay attention to and obey signage.

Family fun is well catered for with free activities available from the Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre. There is the Crater to Coast Discovery Activities: ranging from Wind Hunter; Digital Detectives; Quick Snap Scavenger Hunt; and Stargazers. You can also pop in and loan binoculars.

Family friendly places to eat

There are great food and drink options in town. These include Forage on the Foreshore and The Sow and Piglets Micro Brewery. From Port Campbell you also have the advantage of easy access to explore the 12 Apostles Food Artisans Gourmet Trail.

Accommodation for families

With plenty of accommodation options to match all budgets, there is something in Port Campbell for everyone! Check out the best prices and details to create your stay most memorable.

Click here for reviews on accommodation in Port Campbell.

PORT FAIRY.

East Beach

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.

Things to do with kids

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.

South Beach

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.

Family friendly places to eat

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.

For great coffee, brunch and lunch our recommendations are The Farmer’s Wife and Bank St + Co. For more of our recommendations, see our Trip Advisor reviews.

Accommodation for families

View from Moyne Cottage

Accommodation options in Port Fairy are everywhere! From self contained apartments, to caravan parks, hotels, motels, holiday stays and Air BnB options. Check out the most up to date deals and details.

Victoria Apartments are in a fantastic location, central to the hub of town, shops, restaurants and just a short walk to the beaches. The Apartments are clean, modern, spacious and very family friendly.

Love To Travel, Stay-Eat-Do AIR BNB recommendation for families who are looking for great value, location, family friendly, space and character – Moyne Cottage – between the river and the sea. Moyne Cottage has everything you need for a comfortable stay and the added bonus of it sleeping larger size families and there being two living spaces.

Port Fairy Big 4 Holiday Park is located just on the outer edge of town. Another excellent choice for families and so much to entertain the kids with! An indoor swimming pool, jumping pillow, pedal carts, play room and a kids club.

Gum Tree Caravan Park is located just out of Port Fairy and is a great alternative to the hustle and bustle of this popular tourist town. It is an excellent choice for families, there is a playground on site, amenities are clean and the park has a very friendly atmosphere.

Click here for more reviews on accommodation in Port Fairy.

TERANG.

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.

Things to do with kids

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.

Family friendly places to eat

Award winning pies and all of your bakery needs.

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!

Accommodation for families

There are a number of accommodation venues in the Terang area. Check out the most up to date deals and details.

Click here for reviews on the Terang Motor Inn.

WARRNAMBOOL.

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.

Things to do with kids

By Audrey Chalmers – Gumnuts Abroad

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. 

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 with the family in Western Victoria.

Family friendly places to eat

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.

Accommodation for families

The Warrnambool Holiday Park and Motel offers great family accommodation. The jumping castle and playground will keep the kids entertained for hours. The Park and Motel is conveniently located just off Raglan Parade, meaning you are close by to everything.

The Comfort Inn On Raglan and Blue Whale Motor Inn and Apartments are both well both kept accommodation options with family rooms, some rooms with self catering facilities. Both are just a 5-10 minute drive to Logan’s Beach, a popular viewing point during the whale season. A few minutes down the road, is Warrnambool city centre; and Gateway Plaza with all of your everyday needs is conveniently located 5 minutes away.

There are so many accommodation options to choose from, check out the prices and details.

Click here for more reviews on accommodation in Warrnambool.

WORNDOO.

Worndoo is a small residential and farming town which is home to a local Primary School, a Football and Netball Club that has public toilets. Just a few kilometres out the road towards Darlington is on-farm shop, selling Glenafton Goat Milk Soap. Check opening hours, before visiting.

OTHER ACCOMMODATION IN VICTORIA SOUTH WEST

AIREYS INLET

See the most up to date prices and details on accommodation in Aireys Inlet.

For reviews on the Lightkeepers Inn Motel, click here.

ALLANSFORD

See the most up to date prices and details on Allansford accommodation here.

Click here for reviews on the Allansford Hotel Motel for families.

APOLLO BAY

Check out the most up to date prices and details on Apollo Bay accommodation here.

Click here for reviews on family accommodation in Apollo Bay.

BIRREGURRA

Get the most up to date prices and details on accommodation in Birregurra.

Click here for reviews on accommodation in Birregurra for families.

CAMPERDOWN

Check out the most up to date prices and details on accommodation in Camperdown here.

Click here for reviews on family accommodation in Camperdown.

COLAC

Check out the most up to date prices and details on accommodation in Colac.

Click here for reviews on accommodation in Colac for families.

FAIRHAVEN

Check out the most up to date prices and details on accommodation in Fairhaven.

FORREST

See the most up to date prices and details on accommodation in Forrest.

SKENES CREEK

Check the most up to date prices and details on accommodation for families in Skenes Creek.

TORQUAY

Check out the most up to date prices and details on accommodation in Torquay.

Click here for reviews on accommodation in Torquay for families.

Southern Grampians With Kids

Things To Do In Western Victoria – The Best In The West Series.

When it comes to things to do in Western Victoria with kids, there simply is so much! For Victorians and those in the east of South Australia, it is an easy family road trip. Alternatively, do a fly and drive from Melbourne Tullamarine or Avalon Airport.

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 for families.

Map of Western Victoria.

Covered in the Southern Grampians Region is Cavendish, Coleraine, Dunkeld, Hamilton and Penshurst and Willaura.

LOOKING FOR MORE THINGS TO DO IN WESTERN VICTORIA WITH KIDS? VISIT VICTORIA SOUTH WEST OR NORTHERN GRAMPIANS REGION.

Cavendish.

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.

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.

Places to eat with kids

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.

Beer Garden at The Bunyip Hotel, Cavendish

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.

Family friendly accommodation

The Recreation Reserve, Campground and Picnic Area is a nice spot to stop for a casual picnic and for the kids to get out and run around.

Coleraine.

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!

Places to eat with kids.

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.

Family friendly accommodation.

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.

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.

You can take the walking track from the centre of town (behind the Royal Mail Hotel), along the Salt Creek, which takes you through the Dunkeld Caravan Park and around the Arboretum. It is a popular walk for tourists and locals alike.

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.

If you are looking for a relaxing time or an unwind, make sure you look up Griffins Hill Yoga Retreats and Cloud Mountain Retreat.

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.

Places to eat with kids.

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, Victoria. 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.

Cellar Door Tour, Royal Mail Hotel

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

Family friendly accommodation.

Accommodation options in Dunkeld are endless given the size of the town, check out the most up to date prices and details. You can stay at the well known Royal Mail Hotel, holiday houses, as well as the well cared for Dunkeld Caravan Park. For larger group accommodation contact Corea Quarters.

The Southern Grampians Cottages offer rustic self contained cottages which are very popular for families – they are beautifully maintained and well presented. They are beautifully set in amongst the trees and are an easy walk into the main street along a walking track.

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. 

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say about accommodation in Dunkeld.

Hamilton.

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.

Places to eat with kids.

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, Cafe Gray, Thai Town and Jack & Jude. Local pubs also have a great range of food and open 7 days a week.

Family friendly accommodation.

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. Check out the best prices and details on more accommodation options in Hamilton. Another popular stay in Hamilton is the Botanical Inn, which is conveniently located in town and has a lovely restaurant onsite.

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. Here you’ll find more reviews on Hamilton accommodation.

Hamilton is a lovely town to visit plus you have the bonus of facilities like supermarkets and a vibrant shopping district.

By Kate Comer. Rolling Along With Kids.

Penshurst.

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.

Places to eat with kids.

Penshurst Store Bakery Cafe, Penshurst Hotel and The Penny Wine Bar are all great places to eat. There is also a take away and a small licensed supermarket that has fresh meat and vegetables, alcohol and basic groceries and toiletries, both open every day.

Family friendly accommodation.

There are several places providing accommodation within the town including “The Grey House” and “Madigans” which can be booked online.

Whether exploring western Victoria, travelling from the coast to the mountains or wanting some quiet time in a country town, Penshurst is a great place to stay.

By Gillian Jacobs, The Grey House.

Willaura.

Grazing the edge of the Grampians National Park is the rural country town of Willaura. Simply taking a drive through the surrounding area is a highlight – expect wide open roads, vast plains, dramatic mountain backdrops and the kangaroo and emu spotting. The town features a beautiful heritage listed railway station, built in 1877, as well as local craft shops.

Popular local events include the Farm to Pub, for those who enjoy running and cycling. The annual Willaura Market is also worth a visit, with local produce, food and fun for the kids – it is a great day out.

Places to eat with kids.

Tourists and locals alike take detours to the acclaimed Willaura Bakery, famous for its traditional Aussie pies, sausage rolls, freshly baked bread and sweet pastries. Be sure to pick up one of their gorgeous illustrated tote bags!

Family friendly accommodation.

A fantastic family spot is The Shearers’ Quarters on Mount William Station – a 16-bed farm stay on one of Australia’s oldest farms. The 1860’s building was home to the station’s sheep shearers, and all the key original features are still intact.

Featuring a large communal kitchen and living room, sun-soaked courtyard, barbecue, fire pit, eight comfortable bedrooms, three modern bathrooms and its own private lake, The Shearers’ Quarters is a beautiful and affordable base for visitors to this part of Victoria.

By Elly Viner. Mount William Station.

Things To Do In Europe At Christmas

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

Highlights of Rovaniemi Day Tour – a 7 hour tour to explore the local area, meet Santa and have a ride in a reindeer sleigh.

Aurora Borealis Tour (with photos) – experience on of nature’s most incredible phenomena, the Northern Lights.

Rovaniemi Ice Fishing – 3 hours of ice fishing with spectacular Finnish scenery.

Rovaniemi Wilderness Tour – 3 hours of Northern Finland wilderness, wildlife spotting and the spectacular Arctic Circle.

Austria – things to do in Innsbruck this Christmas

Cable Car Ride – an hour and a half of enjoy some of the most beautiful views of the Austrian Alps.

Hungerburg Funicular Round Trip – enjoy a trip out of the bustling streets of Innsbruck into a stunning Austrian landscape.

Innsbruck Card – this is a fabulous way to get around (all year round) and see what this beautiful European city has to offer.

Austria – things to do in Salzburg this Christmas

The Original Sound of Music Tour – the hills become alive as you explore all of the original locations where the film is shot.

Hallstatt Day Tour from Salzburg – a five and a half hour trip to the magnificent town of Hallstatt, enjoy the majestic mountain views and walk by the lake.

Salzburg Card – a fantastic way to get around and see some of the great sights of Salzburg for 24, 48 or 72 hours.

Iceland – things to do in Reykjavik this Christmas

Golden Circle Tour and Kerid Crater Day Tour – 8 hours exploring a volcanic crater, Gulfoss and Geysir and immersing yourself in the essence of Iceland.

Northern Lights Classic Bus Tour – let the experts do the work on this half day tour and get yourself the best chance of witnessing Aurora Borealis.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and South Coast Day Trip – a full day tour exploring some of the most spectacular wonders of Iceland, you’ll see waterfalls, glaciers and icebergs.

France – things to do in Paris this Christmas

Paris Big Bus Hop On-Hop Off Tour – discover the best of the Parisian landmarks over one or two days.

Disneyland Paris – where you watch the magic of your childhood unfold before your eyes; enjoy the attractions, shows and street parades.

Paris Museum Pass – access to over 50 museum and monuments in Paris and the surrounding region.

Experience the Himalaya Mountains – Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Nepal

ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP TREK.

Himalayan Experience of a lifetime!

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.

Accommodation in Kathmandu.

There are hundreds of accommodation options in Kathmandu. You need to decide first of all, whether you want to be in amongst everything or whether you’d like to be out of the busy-ness of Kathmandu. Our recommendation would be to stay in the city centre, as you then have easy access to everything, including the markets and different restaurants.

Alternatively, you can stay in the old town of Bahktapur. Immerse yourself in the history and the smaller village, with less tourists. Another option is to stay nearby to the airport in Pashupatinath.

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 soaked.

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 two!

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 laughter.

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 that.

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 truly mesmerising.

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 night excited!

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 celebratory beer.

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 pinch.

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, steep up, 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, overwhelming really.

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 excited.

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 group!

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

Missed Most: K – Pillow, E – couch/heater

Favourite Meal: Enchilada + Snicker Roll