Blue Mountains β›°

Anyone who knows Sydney will always think of the Blue Mountains. They are one of the most iconic attractions to visit within New South Wales and are less than a 2 hour drive from Sydney. If you want a break from city life, this is one of the best and nearest places to visit.

Stunning scenery, bush walks, trails and plenty of fresh air. The mountains and valleys were formed from sedimentary rock about 100 million years ago when the area was lifted up. For more detailed info on the history you can read here as I am not clued in at all. Also if you would like to know why the Blue Mountains appear blue, click here. I’m not sure if I’ve ever thought they were that blue to be honest but I’m sure others can see it πŸ™Š.

Whether you visit for a couple of hours or a couple of days, you will be transferred to a land far, far away with Jurassic Park like qualities. It is such a vast area but there are many key lookouts at different points where you can take it all in and get lost within the beauty of nature.

I will show you three popular lookout spots that we just happened to visit on our last trip there.

1 – Wentworth Falls

For postcard views and a cool little waterfall that flows 100m to the valley floor, this is the place to be. It can be found at the quaint little village of Wentworth.

2 – Echo Point

This is without doubt the most famous spot of the Blue Mountains and is where you will see the most iconic landmark, The 3 Sisters. Located in the village of Katoomba, this sight is buzzing with hundreds of tourists daily. It is magnificent to see and provides a good starting point for completing any of the treks or bush walks on offer. There are different varieties of these, for those who like short walks or much longer ones for the more adventurous. Just be aware that you are at quite a height here. Some of the walks will involve you descending a lot of steps, not for the faint hearted but definitely worth trying if able. Katoomba town has a good few shops and eateries that are well worth checking out and there is also a train station here if you happen to be taking public transport from Sydney.

The 3 sisters

3 – Govetts Leap

This is a great lookout if you are after panoramic views over the mountains. You can access some of the more physical walks from here. It is the perfect location to come for a picnic, even on the early hours of the morning you will see couples coming for romantic breakfasts as the sun rises. The only downside for us was the insane amount of flies. Yes you will be tortured by some flies anywhere in the mountains, however, here seemed to be particularly troublesome (but don’t let them put you off coming here). This lookout can be found in the town of Blackheath where we happened to be staying. The town itself is pretty small but plenty of character and a couple of interesting wee pubs.

These are the 3 lookouts that we happened to see, although, there are plenty more. Blue Mountains is a magical place and well worth a visit. Check out https://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/blue-mountains for any further information.

Thanks for reading.

W 😊

Sculpture by the Sea

Hey everyone. This blog post will be short and sweet but I just really want to highlight such an amazing event. ThisΒ is one of Sydney’s most popular events, Sculpture by the Sea. It is a free annual event and is situated along the coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama. The area showcases 100 sculptures by artists from all around the world.Β The event is on for 3 weeks in Spring, this year finishing on the 4th November. It is the biggest yearly sculpture exhibition in the world and although a free event, people are encouraged to donate some money at the end of the walk to help with costs.

It attracts around 500,000 visitors so expect it to be crazy busy. It is best not to go at the weekends. We tried to go on a Sunday afternoon and it was disastrous . It is hard enough to see the sculptures with so many people, let alone take a good photograph. We returned on a Sunday morning at 6am and it was much better. I’d say on a weekday would also be not as busy.

The event has taken place since 1997 and really encapsulates the imagination of Sydney and its visitors. It is a really unique event and 100% worth a visit if you are in Sydney at that time of year. We thoroughly enjoyed it and appreciate the amount of work people put into this incredible event. You can see a few of my favourite sculptures below.

Cheers,

W 😊

The Entrance

We wanted to escape the city for a long weekend and were thinking where could we go that doesn’t involve too much time to travel. We decided on The Entrance on the central coast of NSW. It is only about an hour and a half drive from Sydney and it was very cheap to rent a car for the weekend.

This is a lovely seaside spot with water all around you. You have Tuggerah Lake to the left of the Entrance and the Pacific Ocean to the right. We stayed in a motel along the Blue Bay where you have a spectacular beach and ocean view. The motel itself was amazing and the staff were extremely friendly, offering advice on what to do and where to eat in the area. You can check it out here.

Just behind the motel lie 2 ocean baths if you fancy a swim. Unfortunately for us it was a little cold but I’m sure they would be pretty popular in summer time.

The motel also boasts it’s own award winning seafood restaurant, aptly named The Ocean Restaurant. We really wanted to try here, not only because it was on our doorstep but we had heard this place was amazing. The food was delicious and the views were pretty special, even good at night time as we had a few thunderstorms to keep us entertained. The girls working there could not have been more friendly or helpful for advising us which beaches to check out the next day. Definitely worth trying in its own right, if you don’t stay at the motel.

The Entrance town itself has that seaside vibe down to a tee. Lots of quirky shops and cafes and a couple of nice places to grab a scooner or two. We really enjoyed The Entrance Hotel, even for some pub food. The atmosphere was great and seemed to be a popular place to hang out. The thing I wanted to check out the most in the town is the infamous daily pelican feed. The pelicans flock here every day at 3:30pm for a feed of fish provided by a couple of local gents. I had never seen a pelican before so this was a great opportunity not only see one but to be up close and personal to a pod of pelicans. Although they were only interested in the fish, they were magnificent looking birds with different characters shining through. There was interesting commentary and it was very family friendly, children seemed to love it.

While we were at The Entrance, we were fortunate enough to be there when The Entrance Food and Wine Festival was happening. This was held at The Entrance Lake House and was a really enjoyable experience. To be honest we didn’t have any food as we arrived after we had eaten dinner but it was great to try a few different wines from different regions, even some as far as Italy. The location was perfect, great ambiance inside and outdoors with live music playing under the stars. We loved this place so much that we returned the next morning for brunch. It was equally as good and it was cool to see the lake house in the daylight.

Other places to visit near The Entrance:

1 – Norah Head Lighthouse

A really lovely spot and with my love for lighthouses, I was very keen to see it. There are lots of activities you can do here too if you plan to stay such as rainforest walks and whale watching and you can even reside in the lighthouse keepers quarters. For more information click here.

2 – Long Jetty

This little town beside The Entrance is a must see for its many jetties (small piers). There is a cycle path that can take there from The Entrance, approximately 12km. The jetties were previously used for holiday makers arriving by boats. They are impressive to see and have become very popular for budding photographers. The town itself is pretty quaint with trendy coffee shops and vintage shops.

3 – Bateau Bay – Crackneck Lookout

This is a really cool spot if you fancy a bit of a bush walk. Beautiful ocean views can be seen from a height and you can see right across The Entrance shoreline. This is a prefect location for a picnic with a few picnic areas and even a quirky little coffee dock. This was probably my favourite place we visited, it’s really quite special.

4 – Avoca Beach

This is another lovely beach with an amazing seaside town in walking distance. We found this on the drive home from The Entrance and we were glad we made a final pit stop. A very popular place for holiday makers and close to other towns and beaches. Perfect place for a milkshake 😝.

I hope you enjoyed reading a little snippet of the central coast. It is definitely a place I would love to see again and would advise others to see for yourselves.

Thanks for reading!

W 😊

Northern Ireland: An alternative guide.

I have just returned from Northern Ireland and settled back into Sydney life again. It was amazing to be home and catch up with family and friends. It was also great to see how much Northern Ireland is changing for the better and continues to offer so much to the locals and tourists alike. There’s a reason Northern Ireland was named the top place to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet!! I would like to write about a few different things that I undertook whilst being in Northern Ireland that maybe aren’t the usual run of the mill tourist things to do or places to see. Most people who have heard of Northern Ireland will know about the Giant’s Causeway, the newly built Titanic Centre or the many murals on the peace walls to see. However, there are other places to see that also show case Northern Ireland in a great light. There are so many but I will just mention the ones that I was able to see or do.

1 : ManannΓ‘n mac Lir – Celtic sea god 🌊

I was recommended by a friend to see this statue of the mythical Celtic god of the sea. It overlooks Lough Foyle, found near Limavady at the North Coast of Northern Ireland. According to legend, Manann mac Lir is the Irish equivalent of the Roman sea god Neptune (or Greek Poseidon) and is said that his spirit is released in fierce storms. It really is a marvel to see first hand. You also have great views looking over Magilligan Point towards Donegal. People often visit here for the views alone but the statue definitely adds a bit of character to the area. We visited on a very cloudy day, therefore we couldn’t see any of the views unfortunately. However, the cloud cover did add to the eeriness of the statue. Definitely worth a visit and found using good old google maps πŸ˜….

2 : Olive Bizarre – Afternoon Tea β˜•οΈπŸ°

If you’re looking for somewhere extremely quaint for lunch or a cup of tea then this is the place for you. This is an amazing little cafe found in Newcastle, Co. Down, on the main road as you head out of the town towards Kilkeel. The walk to here from Newcastle town is really something else. You have the sea to your left with the Mourne Mountains to the side. It’s not often you get to view the sea and mountains together and it’s a really stunning scene. Olive Bizarre is warm and cosy and would put you in mind of sitting in your grandmother’s living room. The afternoon tea we had was exquisite, plentiful and tasty. The staff were especially friendly and for that reason the experience was made even better. Smiles all round and nothing was a bother to them.

3 : Kinbane Head – Kinbane Castle πŸ›

This is a hidden find that not many tourists will know about. It is a long, narrow limestone headland projecting into the sea with an old castle ruin still situated there. This can be found on the way to Ballintoy, about 5km from Ballycastle. It would be about 1 km off the Causeway Coast route. This place is tricky to find being off the main road and hard to access for coaches. You can park at the top of the cliff but you will have to walk down quite a few steps to reach Kinbane Castle. The castle is pretty good to see but it’s the views that are outstanding. They are truly magnificent. You can walk around the area and along the headland but this is not for the faint hearted. You are raised quite a bit from sea level and there are no hand rails. I am so glad that I have been able to see this spot a couple of times now.

Many places in Northern Ireland have been used as Game of Thrones locations and this would 100% put you in mind of one of those spots. I’m guessing they didn’t use here as it is hard to access 😬.

4 : The Grand Opera House Belfast 🎭

This theatre HAS to be checked out when you visit Northern Ireland. It is steeped in history, having been built in 1895 and designed by the famous architect at the time, Frank Matcham. It has been through many changes over its time and survived through world wars and a few bombings during the troubles. The interior is magnificent, with the auditorium maintaining its oriental theme and vision of opulence. It is quite possible one of the nicest theatres in the UK (from what I have witnessed). We were fortunate enough to watch Evita when it was showing – spectacular! There are a variety of shows to suit everyone’s needs, from musicals, to ballet and opera or drama and local comedy. It would be a shame to not step into this incredible vicinity. Even if there isn’t a show that you want to see at the time, you can take a tour of the theatre or simply have a drink in one of its bars.

5 : Golflinks Hotel Portrush – The Deerstalker Bar & Bistro πŸ–

Up in the North Coast is the popular tourist destination of Portrush. Most people who visit Portrush will already know that the harbour area has a good few restaurants owned by the Ramore group. This area has become increasingly popular here over the last few years and the restaurants here are fantastic. There are 6 in total, each offering different cuisines. However, when in Portrush I was able to try another restaurant that may get overlooked. On the other side of Portrush on Dunluce Road, you will find the Golflinks Hotel, famous also for Kelly’s nightclub (a very popular nightclub in Northern Ireland, people will come from all over the country!!). We went here for my birthday dinner and boy was it good. The food was delicious, service was great and it had a really relaxed ambiance. I would highly advise to check this place out for somewhere different.

6 : The Merchant Hotel 🏫

Now this hotel is something else. Built originally as a bank, it boasts an imposing image of grandeur. Visually impressive and steeped in history, this 5 star hotel lies in the heart of the historic Cathedral Quarter, a real hub for tourists and locals alike. It had always been a desire of mine to spend a night in this hotel and experience the rooftop hot tub that they have on offer. Both did not disappoint. The room was exceptional and the hot tub remarkable whilst providing great views over Belfast. In addition, the staff were extremely friendly and the breakfast we had the next morning was out of this world. If you want to treat yourself while in Belfast, this is the hotel to make you feel a bit special 😬.

Hopefully I have provided you with a few different things to do if and when you visit Northern Ireland. It really is a great little country and has a lot to offer everyone.

Thanks for reading!

W 😊

1 year in Sydney completed βœ…

Can you believe we have been living here a year this month? It has really flown by and doesn’t feel like a year has passed. (Technically this is our 2nd year in Australia completed, having done a year many moons ago).

I feel like I haven’t blogged in 10 years. I thought it was because I didn’t have much content to talk about. However, I think the real reason is I just haven’t had the energy or the drive. Basically, I’ve been lazy or maybe I’ve just been living life πŸ˜†. Anyways, I thought I would use this blog to tell you all what we have been up to in the last few weeks. We have been fairly quiet of late for a few different reasons. We have just moved house and we actually ended up living in Bondi Junction. If you have read my last couple of blogs, we had been debating whether to live in the city or by the beach. We thought we had decided on Bondi, however, the daily commute to work and the gym etc was becoming a real chore. Therefore, we made the decision to move to Bondi Junction. It is the next suburb to Bondi and we can travel there to the beach within 10 minutes by bus. Living in the junction makes travel to the CBD and anywhere really in Sydney much easier as there is a main railway station here. We are close to all the amenities needed including the massive Westfields shopping mall. It is so handy and means less time spent on painful daily bus commutes.

Bondi Junction

It’s winter here in Sydney now so you don’t feel the need to head out all the time. It’s the time now for getting cosy at home, warm winter clothing, blankets and bowls of stew. Being cooler you are more than happy to sit at home, watch Netflix and drink lots of tea. It’s also a good time to hit the gym and work on that summer body for next year πŸ™ˆπŸ˜. Luckily in Sydney there are still plenty of things to do in winter. I will list a few that we have completed recently.

We just had the yearly Festival of Lights in Sydney known as Vivid. There are many light installations all over the city, illuminating Sydney’s most iconic features, for example, the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. There are light projections at Darling Harbour along with a pretty impressive firework display and local light performances at Barangaroo. The botanic gardens has a trail of different light features that takes you on an exciting journey throughout. It is very impressive but extremely busy. My advice would be to attend during the week as weekends are chaotic.

I recently saw a post on Facebook about a really cool Japanese garden in Sydney. So thought it would be good to check out. It is a good 20km or so outside the CBD in the suburb of Auburn and is located within Auburn’s Botanical Gardens. It is a really quaint garden that is one of Sydney’s hidden gems. If you want to see a really stunning area with tranquility and a feeling of being immersed in nature, not far from the city, then you should check this place out. It also contains a very small little animal sanctuary, housing some of Australia’s most famous animals in their Australian Native Gardens section.

We love to find walks in and around Sydney that showcase the beautiful scenery the city has to offer. One that I had never completed or even knew about is the walk from Barangaroo (just past Darling Harbour) to Circular Quay, bridging the two giant tourist locations together. It is a really stunning walk, not overly long and gives you another angle (there are hundreds) from which to see the Harbour Bridge. Having never been here before, it was magical to find a new path to trek around right in the CBD. Definitely one to check out.

Another walk that we only happened to do today was that from Taronga Zoo to Chowder Bay. I had heard and seen friends doing this walk but only managed to find the time to do this today. Boy, what a walk! It did not disappoint. I think the weather made it to be fair. Although winter, the sun was out in force and the blue skies definitely add to the setting. It was cooler which was probably a blessing in disguise as there are many steps through bush terrain and we ended up walking about 5km. The views of the city are stunning and the coastline is out of this world. I have carried out a few walks around Sydney, all beautiful but it was pretty cool to still discover a new one to us. At the end of the walk we reached Chowder Bay where there is the most quaint little coffee dock called Bacino Kiosk. I would highly recommend everyone to check this out, one of the best coffee places I have been to in Sydney!!! We will be back πŸ˜‰.

To conclude, yes it’s winter here in Sydney now and things slow down a little, for us at least. However, there is also somewhere new to discover or something always happening to keep you entertained. One year has passed for us here and we are excited to be heading home this month for a holiday. After that, bring on year 2!!

Thanks for reading! πŸ™πŸΌW πŸ’›

City slicker or beach bum⁉️ πŸ™πŸ– part 2: Bondi

In part 1 we looked at city life as I had previously lived in the city suburb of Darlinghurst. Now that I am temporarily in Bondi I will try to highlight the pros and cons of the area from what I have experienced so far with the aim of helping me decide where would be best to live, in the city or by the beach.

Bondi Beach is world renowned. It has the wow factor from the very first time you set your eyes on it. The beach is really, really stunning. You can see it’s full beauty when standing at either the north or south side.

View from North Bondi

View from South Bondi

Although not a massive beach, it does fairly pack a punch in the scenic stakes. It is an exceptionally clean beach with white sand and amazing waves if you’re into surfing or simply want to jump into them for the laugh! Bondi Rescue is filmed here and you can often see the guys in action saving lives. Bondi itself has the holiday vibe down to a tee. There are hoards of tourists, surfers and people walking around barefoot. You have the sand, the sea and the main promenade full of the usual holiday paraphernalia. During the summer months Bondi is heaving with people from all over the globe. Living here at this time you really have the feeling of being on a permanent holiday. It offers a great vibe to live in and there is always a buzz from dusk until dawn. In the winter months Bondi does quieten down which is also lovely as you can appreciate the beauty more here without all the tourists and it is a lot easier to get public transport.

The promenade offers a great walkway from 1 side of Bondi to the other and provides the opportunity for local artists to display some of their amazing work along the aptly named graffiti wall. This is a highlight for me, seeing all these different art murals that change every few months or so. You will see many tourists and locals (including me) having their photos taken by the different artworks.

Bondi has an array of restaurants, cafes and bars on offer that will be sure to cater to all your social needs. They are quirky and lively with really cool atmospheres and vary greatly to suit all types of people. Basically there is something for everyone. You can get amazing protein shakes and aΓ§ai bowls at Acai Brothers, fantastic Bloody Mary’s at Bloody Mary’s Bondi (funnily enough! – also another one in Darlinghurst πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ), lovely cocktails at Icebergs (also if you also want a SPECTACULAR view of Bondi, this is the place to be ), or simply a quiet schooner at Beach Road (personal fave) or Bondi Hotel. There are 2 RSLs in Bondi for anyone wishing to become a member. Here you can receive drink and food offers/discounts with world class views and become immersed in the suburb you are living in. If you haven’t heard of an RSL you can read about them here. The food in North Bondi RSL is impressive and very reasonably priced. If you want to try Japanese I cannot recommend ‘SOY’ highly enough. Very authentic with the perfect ambiance. We visited Brown Sugar last week for food and were not disappointed. Food was impeccable and plentiful, the setting was cosy, dimly lit and lively and the service was fantastic. This is a place I will definitely return to. There are lots of little salad bars and sushi places, steak houses and impressive restaurants. The world really is your oyster here in this 1 suburb.

Coffee at North Bondi RSLBloody Mary’s cocktails at Bloody Mary’s

Japanese cuisine at Soy

If you love a good market, Bondi Markets are on every weekend and are hugely popular. To be honest I’m not a big market person but even I have enjoyed strolling through here and picked up a couple of bargains. There are some good sunglasses stalls and lots on offer for foodies. Saturday is the Farmers Market with lots of fresh produce and exciting dishes to try. Sunday includes food but includes vintage clothes, accessories, health items and much more. To find more info you can check their website here.

For my final ‘pro Bondi’ point, you have the famous Bondi to Coogee walk. This is one of the most scenic walks you can carry out in Sydney, NSW, even Australia. The views are spectacular. It takes a couple of hours 1 way to complete the 6km walk (especially if you stop to take photos and admire the scenery) taking in the coastline, beaches, parks and rock pools. You can read all about this famous walk here.

As you can see, Bondi has A LOT to offer. So many positive points to consider. I will quickly run through the negative aspects. Bondi can be a nightmare to get in and out of. Yes there are buses that run very regularly to and from Bondi Junction where there is a train station. However, with no train line to Bondi, you will always have to get to Bondi Junction before you can go anywhere by train. The volume of people using the buses is huge and you will often be standing for the entire journey (often feels like a rollercoaster too). Bondi feels like it’s own little bubble, away from everywhere else. Even getting a taxi to the city can be a nightmare as it’s further away (whereas Darlinghurst is very central to everywhere!). For me, this is my biggest gripe. Another thing to consider is the sheer amount of tourists. In the summer it is crazily busy, buses are that packed that they will simply drive past you when at full capacity. So it’s best if you’re not in a rush to get back out of Bondi 🀣. It won’t just be the buses that are busy either, everywhere is busy, including supermarkets and cafes. For me, these are the 2 main issues, transport and the large volume of tourists. Having said that, I don’t know if these 2 reasons would be enough to deter me from living in Bondi. Should I find a suitable place to live in Bondi, I would be really happy to live here and become a Bondi local 😊😊😊. The beach life is a really positive influencing factor. The fact that you can head to the beach before or after work and have a swim is very appealing and there is an amazing atmosphere here that makes you feel that you are living in a very special place.

Thanks for reading!

City slicker or beach bum⁉️ πŸ™πŸ– part 1: Darlinghurst

For this blog I will be doing a 2 hander as I don’t want to bore you all with 1 long chunky article.

I would like to take a look at where I had previously lived in Darlinghurst and where I live currently in Bondi Beach. Do I want to live in/near the city CBD or would I prefer to live by the beach. This is an ongoing battle I have with myself on a nearly daily basis πŸ™ˆ. I will look at the pros and cons for each and maybe you the reader can offer me your thoughts also on this matter πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈ.

Darlinghurst – cityscape

Bondi – beachscape

I can honestly say that I really loved living in Darlinghurst and it offers many positive points. It is peaceful at night and provides a very warm and safe environment to live in. No rowdy backpackers or students nearby πŸ™Š. There are many cultures found here and is an extremely gay friendly neighbourhood, with the infamous Oxford Street in the vicinity (home to the ever popular Mardis Gras πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ)

There are numerous amounts of coffee shops and cafes, restaurants and bars. The location is great as you are only a short bus ride, train ride or even walk to the CBD and most popular tourist attractions. You are also extremely close to other popular suburbs, such as Kings Cross, Paddington, Surrey Hills, Edgecliff and my favourite suburb, albeit much smaller, Fiveways.

Fiveways as you can maybe guess, has 5 different roads leading into it. It has a very popular pub here (The Royal Hotel Paddington – with fantastic outdoor space on 2 levels), a supermarket, lovely restaurants, trendy coffee shops and a few boutique stores. If you are a lover of all things quaint, you should check out this neighbourhood.

You can also catch the bus easily to get to local and often less known beaches found in Vaucluse as well as being a stones throw away from Rushcutters Bay. These offer breathtaking views and less crowded locations if you are looking an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday Sydney life. Double Bay and Rose Bay are also on your doorstep.

Rushcutters Bay

Darlinghurst has many, many positives. However, there are a few drawbacks. Being so close to the city means there is a lot of traffic. As a pedestrian you may think this isn’t a problem. Yet, the traffic does create a lot of noise, especially first thing in the morning and rush hour traffic in the evening. It also creates huge amounts of dust and dirt, therefore, expect to be cleaning all the time, especially if you have your windows open, which for most people, is a necessity (I can’t even sleep with the windows closed). It also has the well known issue of having many hills. You are up and down very steep hills many times and on a daily basis. Yes this is great exercise but it doesn’t ever get any easier and creates such a sweat πŸ˜“. This is fine if you have nowhere to go but if you’re heading to work or out for dinner, expect to be needing a shower pretty soon thereafter.

As you can see there are a good few positives and 3 negatives that I mentioned. We will see what the pros and cons of Bondi are and see if they can conquer the city life. Please let me know what you’re thoughts are if you either live in one of these places or you have the same city/beach or even rural dilemma.

Thanks for reading.

W 😊

Fiji baby πŸ’›

I don’t even know where to start with this holiday to Fiji. It was one of those really epic trips away that you just wish didn’t have to end. I have had so many people commenting on the photos about how amazing Fiji looks and it is true, it is absolutely stunning (the photographs don’t even do it justice!!). Lots of people are also wanting to know where we stayed and can I offer any recommendations. I hope I can share some insight into this amazing country and encourage others to go and visit. Fiji, unbeknownst to me, is made up of around 300 islands, therefore, I can only speak of the areas that I have experienced.

We had traveled to Fiji many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it as a couple. However, this time was much more different, as we were heading to Fiji with our native Fijian friends and had already met a few others before arriving to Fiji. I cannot stress how amazing it is to know people from the area, whereby, doors will be opened that you never even knew existed.

HILTON FIJI BEACH RESORT & SPA

Having left Nadi (pronounced Nandi) airport, our first port of call was to the Hilton Hotel, located on 2.5 km of beach on Denarau Island. It is only a short taxi ride from the airport. This luxurious hotel offers floor to ceiling windows, and your own balcony, from which you will see spectacular ocean and beach views. There are 9 swimming pools including 2 adults only pools. The resort itself is stunning, rooms are comfortable and offer that tropical holiday vibe. Staff are extremely friendly and helpful. It is a HUGE complex so a shuttle service runs continuously to take you from your room to any other location within the complex. The pool areas and views are really extraordinary, especially when he weather is good (unfortunately not for us on this occasion πŸ™ˆ).

Following our stay here, we made our way (through the thunderstorm!) to the next location.

MUSKET COVE ISLAND RESORT

To get to Musket Cove we took a ferry service from Nadi to the island, just beside Plantation Island. The trip takes about 45 mins to an hour and provides stunning scenery of ocean and landscape. On arrival to the island, be that Musket Cove or Plantation Island, you will receive a welcome like nothing you have seen before. It is the warmest, friendliest and most heartfelt welcome I have ever experienced. The staff from the hotels will greet you as the boat draws near the pier. They sing and give the biggest smiles. You feel very privileged to be in their company and be welcomed to their island. You cannot help but smile and get that warm fuzzy feeling 😊.

Plantation Island

Musket Cove Island Resort

Stepping off the boat you will normally be given a shell necklace as a welcome gift and we also received fresh coconut juice and hot face cloths. These little touches really go a long way πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ. Here we stayed in our own villas. These are designed beautifully, are extremely quaint and provide that welcoming island vibe. From the furniture to the decor and pictures, to the views and the little extra touches, these villas feel like being in paradise. The villas are situated along the lagoon or the white sandy beach. The lagoon views are stunning and you can even jump in and swim here if you so wish! Not that you need to as there are 2 swimming pools in close proximity, with 1 being a stones throw from our villa πŸ‘πŸ». All accommodation offers traditional and rustic Fijian decor and a separate living area, with some offering a private pool, hot tub, or fully equipped kitchen. There are 2 bars, a restaurant and a day spa.

The 2 bars are quite different, 1 is a bar and bistro, offering Γ  la Carte Fijian cuisine and the other is a more informal bar – Ratu Nemani Island Bar is situated more outdoors and provides spectacular lagoon and beach views.

Ratu Nemani Island Bar πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ

This spot was truly magnificent! Not only because we had many new and old friends to enjoy our time with but also because the location is truly breathtaking, with super friendly and accommodating staff. This place will hold special memories for not only me but my friends also and we would whole heartedly NOT hesitate to return to this fabulous location in the future!!

Furthermore, we took a day trip to the infamous Cloud 9 – a pontoon in the middle of the ocean. This is Fiji’s only 2 level floating platform with a cool little bar and pizzeria, surrounded by turquoise blue water and picturesque views. I honestly have never seen water quite like it. This place is magical πŸ’«. Good music, vibes, staff and the option to dive/jump/belly flop into the water to cool off, swim around or snorkel until your heart’s content 🐠. This is well worth the trip if staying close by. The boat trip to the pontoon is great craic too…expect lots of sprays of water and your bum to be smacking off theseat 🀣!!

THE FIJI ORCHID

Our last stop was a short stay close to Nadi Airport, however, this isn’t your typical nearby airport hotel. This place can be described as a sanctuary πŸ˜‡ – where you can relax and refresh before or after a trip to the Fijian islands. For me, I felt like I had entered a tropical garden/rainforest. It is surrounded by luscious greenery and numerous plant species (namely Orchids), which were all new to me. It is simply beautiful. You really experience that sense of calm and serenity, a place where you can unwind and reflect as soon as you enter the vicinity.

The Fiji Orchid was once the home to Hollywood actor Raymond Burr. It has since been converted to a stunning lounge, bar and restaurant. The accommodation is in the form of bures. A bure is the Fijian word for a wood and straw hut, something quite similar to a cabin. However, these are luxurious, completely out of this world. If you are seeking an extravagant stay within a tropical garden environment, then this is the setting for you! It also boasts a really stunning swimming pool and lounge area in a serene backdrop – a complete contrast from the usual beach hotel spots.

Also, nearby, is the town of Lautoka. Here you experience and witness Fiji in its every day traditional life. It provides an amazing market, boasting various foodstuffs, fresh fruit and vegetables and even hand crafted gifts to take home and help you remember the wonderful memories you will have made. For any traveller, this is a real gem – the opportunity to escape from all the other tourists and bask in the hustle and bustle of real Fiji life.

The Fiji Orchid is most definitely another place I will have to frequent again. If you want time out, privacy and exclusiveness, this little haven is right up your Fiji Orchid street.

To conclude, I have simply detailed where we stayed – in 3 very different locations in Fiji. This country has so much to offer and I have only begun to scratch the surface. If you have ever thought, “I wonder what Fiji is like?” – go and experience it. You will not be disappointed. I look forward to my next trip here soon. My only difficulty is the emptiness you feel when you depart Fiji and return to your everyday life πŸ™ˆπŸ€£.

Thanks for reading, Bula Vinaka! 🌸

W 😊

Port Douglas πŸ‘πŸ¦‹

Hi everyone! I really want to tell you a little about this place as it is a really beautiful spot in Australia and I am so glad I got to experience here with my parents. We were here last month for the main reason being to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef 🐠.

Port Douglas is a small town on the Coral Sea in the tropical far north of Queensland, Australia. It is famous for its beach resorts and provides a good base for visits to both the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef system, and Daintree National Park, home to an amazing rainforest and Mosman Gorge. The main street in Port Douglas has many little boutique shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. It is a quaint little place with lots of character and summer feels. The people here, from what we had seen, were extremely friendly and hospitable.

We took a flight from Sydney to Cairns. From there we hired a car and drove to Port Douglas. It is only about an hour away by car from Cairns and the journey is spectacular. It is very much a coastal drive with amazing ocean views. You will find yourself wanting to stop, take in the views and capture a few photographs (seems to be the norm).

There are tons of roundabouts on the way to Port Douglas but it’s more or less straight the whole way and there are sign posts everywhere. Google maps is also helpful for when you arrive in the small town in order to find your place to stay.

We decided to stay in an Air BnB that we had found using the app. It was a fantastic 2 bedroom tropical town house. It couldn’t have been better and was located perfectly, only a short walk into the town. The hosts were easy to contact and very accommodating. I would definitely stay again and use the Air BnB app again. Having your own pool is a real bonus, considering the humidity in tropical North Queensland πŸ˜….

So asides from chilling out, checking out the town for shopping and exploring, dining out and having some sociables, the 2 main things we wanted to do in Port Douglas were snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef and visiting the rainforest.

For snorkelling we went with the company Low Isles Sailaway. You find details of their tours Here. The team were amazing, very friendly and knowledgeable. The boat itself was pretty cool and lots of room onboard.

They provided you with tea and coffee on arrival, a hot buffet lunch, snorkelling equipment and tour (2 tours in water and an island tour) and a glass bottom boat option if you prefer not to snorkel for a second time. I wanted a company that offered smaller tours in order to have more interaction and gain a better insight of the reef. I think this could have been the case had there not been so many kids or parents who hand over their responsibilities of the kids to the skippersπŸ™ŠπŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈ.

The reef itself is exciting to see and explore, however, it isn’t all that you would expect it to be. Yes there is coral and yes there are fish. We didn’t see any coral bleaching that seems to be a hot topic at the moment but rather the coral was dull and nowhere near as colourful as you see on Finding Nemo. The main reason for this is that under the sea is not like a Disney movie. It doesn’t appear as colourful as the glossy magazines would show either. I think this is the reality that things often don’t appear as they seem. I compare this to the time we were on the Amalfi Coast. The buildings there were amazing but nowhere near as colourful as photography would have shown. I guess photos and videos can be edited to show more colour. That isn’t to say that you wouldn’t see more colourful and lively reef elsewhere. It just wasn’t the case for us. We did, however, manage to see a few turtles and swim in their vicinity. That was awesome 🐒. Being underwater, the boat, blue skies, the wildlife, the ocean, all make the trip to the reef so worth while and I’m stoked we were able to glimpse part of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Daintree Rainforest is something we also wanted to see, being the oldest rainforest on the planet and largest tropical rainforest in Australia. Not too far from Port Douglas you can enter Daintree National Park. It provides access to the rainforest, tour guides, buses to the rainforest and access to Mosman Gorge.

We decided to do our own thing and opted for one of the shorter walks through the forest. Even at that, it seemed like a long enough trek. Some the views were really outstanding and it was an exciting experience to be walking in the middle of an actual rainforest 🀣.

At times when you find yourself alone with no people about, it can be fairly daunting. You wonder if you’re continuing on the right path and pray there are no dangerous animals or creepy crawlies in your midst πŸ™ˆ. It is tropical so prepare to get sweaty. The best way to cool down is to take a dip at Mosman Gorge. The water is so refreshing and provides a great location to swim in the wild but remain in safe waters. To be honest, for us, this was the highlight of the rainforest.

For more information about the gorge and rainforest click here. It is definitely worth a visit when and if you ever head to North Queensland.

Overall this was a great trip and we can now say we have seen the Great Barrier Reef and been to the Daintree Rainforest. Something else checked off the bucket list βœ….

Thanks for reading!!

W 😊

Nursing in Australia: Moving from the UK

Hi everyone.

As you may be aware, I have moved to Australia and am currently working as a nurse, havingΒ previously nursed in Belfast. I receive a lot of messages on how I made the move and what people need to do to become a nurse in Australia. Therefore, I thought it may be beneficial to compose a blog about what to do and offer some tips that I wish had been offered to me. It is no easy task becoming a nurse in Australia and is a complete minefield when you first start to research the process, especially if you do everything yourself. However, it is completely do-able and totally worth it when you receive your registration. I had considered hiring a migrant agent to help me as it seemed so confusing, however, it is a simple process when you break everything down and take your time. You will save a fortune doing it yourself and if I can do it, anyone can!

First things first. You will have to join AHPRAΒ (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency). From the website you can download the form for international nurses. The form is called AGOS-40 and can be downloaded from here.Β  There is lots of helpful information on the site, make sure you read every link available, it will save you time in the long run. If you have studied the nursing degree in the UK, passed everything and graduated, then you should meet all the registration requirements. You will need to ask your university to send your university transcripts directly to AHPRA. This is basically a break down of everything you have done at university, e.g. your hours of study and placements, topics covered etc. etc. The address to post this to will be at the end of the application form. Just pick a city that you want your documents to go to (to be honest it doesn’t matter which city,Β I picked Sydney because I was coming here). You can organise this before you even start your application form. AHPRA will set up a case file for you as soon as your first document arrives to them. All other documents, including your application form will be added to your case file.

Ok so let’s go through the application form. Sections A and B are self explanatory. Section C: Proof of identity can be tricky. You have to provide 1 piece of evidence from categories A, B and C. For category A, if you are using an overseas passport with current Australian visa, you can apply for a holiday visa for free here. This will suffice for the AHPRA application. If you do this, you should be ok for categories B and C.

Section D is fine, section E you will most likely be answering with NO. You will need to attach certified copies of your qualifications. You will also need to write out a list of all your qualifications, including A levels, GCSEs etc.

Section F is registration history. You previously were able to get a certificate of registration from the NMC website here. However, it now states you can get this from your original school of training.Β  Section G you will need to attach an updated version of your CV. Section H is criminal history. Question 16 you will be answering YES. You will have to carry out an international criminal history check. You can find this here.Β Question 17 will determine your English competency. You will complete a list of your schools and state that they taught you in English. It is good to organise a letter from the schools to state that you were taught in English. If the schools cannot send this directly to AHPRA, you can print the email and have it certified by a justice of the peace. Alternatively you can complete and English language test with IELTS. Question 21 regarding indemnity insurance, the answer will be YES. The following questions are fine. There is a great checklist at the end to ensure you have answered everything correctly, it is best to use this. There is a payment to be made of $520.

Having completed the application form, you can then decide which visa will be best for you. If you are under 31 and have never been in Australia, you can apply for the working holiday visa here.

If you cannot apply for this, you can apply for the sponsorship skilled migration visa. You can find details here.Β To be honest, this has changed a lot recently and causes much confusion. Basically you will will need to find a company that is willing to sponsor you in Australia. This is difficult for nurses if you want to live in the big cities. If you want to see more rural Australia then this could be for you. Many hospitals in more rural settings will offer sponsorship with great benefits.

Another option is to apply for permanent residency. Information can be found here.You will have to carry out an English test for this (IELTS is a great one to do and available in many big cities across the UK). Details can be found here.Β You will also have to gain a skills assessment. For nurses this can be done with ANMAC (Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council) and can be completed here.Β This works similarly to AHPRA in that you can send all the relevant documents straight to ANMAC or have your university etc send them directly to ANMAC. They will set up a case file for you so documents can keep arriving to them and kept in one place. If you are doing this skills assessment, it is best to send all your documents needed to AHPRA and ANMAC at the same time, that way you are not asking different people to send things twice, it can be done at the same time (I hope this makes sense). After all this, you can set up an account with the department of immigration and border protection. A tool called skill select is used to see if your skills are needed in Australia. You will submit an expression of interest here.Β When you receive a reply (usually pretty quick)Β you will know whether you can continue to apply for the visa through skill select. You will be advised then how many points you need to gain entry (think this is 60 points) and how you will gain the points needed. If you reach the number of points needed, you can apply for permanent residency! The application is completed online and is pretty straightforward. You can upload your documents needed directly to your skill select account. You can find out the outcome usually within a few months.

I know this has been a really long blog but I hope it will give some insight for those nurses seeking to work and live in Australia. Just remember, if you are sending copies of documents, you will need to have them all certified. A justice of the peace will do these for free. If you choose a solicitor you may well be charged for each document being signed. AHPRA provide information hereΒ on who can certify documents, this is pretty standard for all documents being sent to Australia.

If you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be only to happy to help in any way that I can. Ps. I found www.britishexpats.com really helpful when I was doing all this. It is a forum for like minded nurses looking to emigrate. It was amazing when looking for advice.

Ok fellow nurses, thanks for reading and good luck!!!

W πŸ™‚