Category Archives: Oceania

‘The Cow’ of Queenstown, New Zealand

At the close of an almost three-week road trip around New Zealand’s South Island, I found myself alone in Queenstown for the final night of what had been an incredible adventure. I wish I could have given myself longer to explore the gem that is Queenstown, but with it being my last stop on the tour, and as a consequence of my tendency to take a lot of detours, I simply ran out of time. Ironically, of all my destinations, Queenstown was the one place for which I had a long list of recommendations. In my phone, you would find a reminder labelled ‘Things to do in Queenstown’, under which I had added suggestions from everyone I’ve ever met who’d been there. The famous Fergburger was somewhere high up on this list and having now been there I can see why everyone raves so highly about it. There is little more I can say that hasn’t already been said; my burger was jam packed with flavour, the meat was succulent, the bread was fresh and it was all round unquestionably worth the wait.

Fergburger

Fergburger (source: Tripadvisor)

When I arrived in Queenstown and scrolled through the various suggestions — most of which were standard tourist attractions — an item on the list that caught my eye was ‘The Cow’, solely for the reason that I had no idea what it was referring to. Before endeavouring to find out more about it, I wandered around countless art galleries (another recommendation on my list). Whether art is your passion or not, the numerous galleries on offer in Queenstown are really worth a look; most showcase local artists’ work and I’m confident that if you were to stroll into any of the galleries found there you would come across talent to suit even the most individual tastes. Anyway, back to the point (see above for a perfect demonstration of my continual digressions) — after browsing the galleries and shops, I saw tucked away at the end of a street the words ‘The Cow’, on what appeared to be the sign of a pub. Continue reading

Share

A Weekend Away in Byron Bay

Bryon Bay is one of Australia’s best known beach side towns, and acclaimed for being a surfing hotspot. It is located in northern New South Wales (NSW) on Australia’s east coast, around a 3-hour drive from Brisbane airport. Though Bryon Bay is a haven for surfers, it also hosts excellent scuba diving sites and is home to a conservation park headland complete with the famous white lighthouse. During certain times of the year, humpback whale migrations can also be watched from viewpoints such as the Captain Cook Lookout, or aboard tour boats.

We spent a long weekend soaking up the sights and sounds of Bryon as well as exploring the surrounding hinterland and smaller, quirkier places hidden among the hills. Bryon is a beautiful town and has become even more popular thanks to the frequent cycle of backpackers and weekend visitors. However, this has caused huge traffic problems in the Central Business District. As Bryon Bay is a place famous for its natural beauty and its ability to keep mining and excessive development away, many people felt that such heavy traffic was contributing to its loss of identity, and a lot of effort has since been put into keeping the town pristine and still attracting its visitors. Continue reading

Share

Tales of a Traveller: the Self-made Desert Island Castaway

Ever dreamed of a simpler life? How about one where every day holds promise of blisteringly blue skies, the sound of gently lapping water, the rustle of palm leaves in the breeze and little else — instead of honking car horns, the drizzle of rain and a cramped commute? I know which I’d rather.

How many of us ever actually do it, though? Pack the bags, sell the possessions and escape…

In 1952, New Zealand-born bushcraft and survival enthusiast, Tom Neale, realised his lifelong dream of living a simpler life, marooning himself on a deserted island in the South Pacific with nothing but a pair of cats, a damaged boat, some books and a few chickens. The island was Suwarrow in the Cook Islands, and in fact it was more of an atoll, uninhabited since the war and 580 miles northwest of the archipelago’s main island of Rarotonga. He was to live on this sliver of sand, on and off, for the next 25 years.

Neale had been something of an oceanic nomad from a young age, spending his twenties and thirties roaming the South Pacific islands and taking up odd jobs along the way. It was when he crossed paths with a writer and traveller named Robert Frisbie on Rarotonga, that his desire to escape to a life of blissful isolation was truly fired up. Frisbie had been briefly stranded on Suwarrow with his family during the war, and his fond account of it captured Neale’s imagination, prompting him to book passage on a ship travelling in close proximity to the island. Continue reading

Share

Beneath the Surface: Snorkelling in the South Pacific Islands

Turquoise waters, white sugary sands, razor-sharp volcanic peaks and velvety rainforests; the islands of the South Pacific epitomise what many would consider ‘paradise’. You may never have visited these oceanic Edens, however, you will almost definitely have found yourself longing for such surroundings whilst scrolling through your Instagram feed, or leafing through a travel magazine on the train. From the Solomon Islands, east of Papua New Guinea, all the way to French Polynesia, where 118 islands scatter an area of 2000 sq. km, each palm-pricked archipelago is home to a unique culture, history and landscape, which for centuries has made them the stuff of oceanic legend, luring explorers, dreamers and adventurers to their exotic shores.

Today they are a sought-after holiday destination for everyone from honeymooners to outdoor enthusiasts. Granted, they aren’t among the most accessible destinations on earth — and they certainly aren’t cheap so if you’re living off a student loan perhaps bump a visit to your bucket list — but for those who live on the continent, or those who are looking for the romantic getaway of a lifetime, or are perhaps even backpacking Oz, they are a little slice of tropical luxury worth not passing up.

So you’re flights are booked, and you’re mulling over your itinerary, daydreaming about basking in a hammock strung between two creaking palms with a Mai Tai in hand, or embarking on a trek into the shadowy depths of the jungle to a remote village, well, one thing that absolutely must make the list is snorkelling. The South Pacific islands are impossibly photogenic above water, but below lurks a hidden subterranean wonderland to easily rival the scenery above. Here are four of the top places to take the plunge into an underwater paradise:

Moorea, French Polynesia

Part of French Polynesia’s Society Islands, Moorea is a geographical marvel boasting eight jungle-carpeted peaks flanked by shimmering aquamarine waters. Beneath the crystal clear surface lie kaleidoscopic coral reefs weaving with everything from butterfly fish to black-tip reef sharks.

WHERE TO SNORKEL? Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort is set on the edge of a lagoon and features 112 bungalows built over the water. Okay, so it’s a bit of a budget-shatterer, but if you are looking for somewhere that bit more luxurious (honeymooners maybe?) then this is a top choice and boasts some of the best snorkelling on the island.

For smaller budgets, a snorkelling tour will take you to some of the island’s most exquisite snorkelling sites, including Moorea Lagoon, on a five-hour cruise. Continue reading

Share

Broome: the Pearl of Western Australia

If, like me, you are from a modest-sized country where a six-hour drive to Scotland seems quite the ordeal, you will agree that the coastal town of Broome in the Kimberley region of Western Australia is the definition of ‘off the beaten track’. Broome is approximately a two and a half hour flight from its closest major cities, Perth and Darwin, and a staggering eight hour plane journey from Australia’s east coast. In this time, most European’s could have crossed oceans and reached whole other continents, never mind stayed within the same country. Yet, as with many secluded destinations, a visit to Broome is worth the lengthy journey.

The town’s history is a fascinating one steeped in the harvesting of oysters — a cultivation known as ‘pearling’. The industry is fruitful, however, prior to modern-day technological advancements, it was a dangerous job and one that was initially forced upon Aboriginal slaves who would dive hundreds of metres to the sea bed in search of the precious gems. When slavery was abolished, pearling in Broome was an occupation assumed by Asian workers who had arrived on Australia’s shores looking for a new and prosperous life. Nowadays, the industry has replaced these life-threatening dives with machinery, and Broome remains one of the primary centres for pearling in Australia.

This rich history, combined with breathtaking coastal scenery, makes Broome a thriving tourist destination despite its remote location. The town is hailed for being the gateway to the Kimberley wilderness, however, there is as much to see in Broome itself as there is in its surrounding area. The ambience in the town is relaxed and laid-back; the climate warm and tropical; the sights unique and varied. Its landscapes are also captivating; Broome is where the burnt orange of the outback meets the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean, and its offerings to visitors are as valuable as the pearls hauled from its coastal depths. Continue reading

Share