travel photography

a budget day in the ‘gong

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Sydney is meant to be heading into autumn but certainly has not felt like it. We have been getting a steady 30 degrees Celsius every day with the lovely humidity to go with it (except maybe for today – with the welcome cool change)

When we woke up on Saturday, the day was too gorgeous to waste on anything other than a day trip somewhere. So we chose a drive south to Wollongong; an easy 85 km drive from home.

Our one-day itinerary, mixed a bit of culture and a bit of nature, was not only glorious but “budget” too 🙂  … winning!

So here is a list of the free things to do in Wollongong in a day (and on the way too).

* Lookouts

A “road trip” wouldn’t be right without viewpoint stops. It does not matter how often we do these types of trips, we always make sure we stop to take in the shoreline that maps out this side of Australia.

Stop at Sublime Point Lookout, Bald Hill Lookout or both and soak in the excellent views. Both are great vantage points, delivering 180 degree views of the coastline.IMG_0072_2

* Drive the Sea Cliff Bridge

Either on the way down, on the way back or both directions, choose to take the 665 metre Sea Cliff Bridge route. You can walk, drive or cycle across this bridge – feel the South Pacific Ocean breeze in your hair. It is always certainly a highlight for us when we head South.IMG_0071_2

* Nan Tien Temple

Include a visit to the largest temple in the Southern Hemisphere. The grounds are beautifully manicured and provides a sense of serenity. Visiting here actually made us feel like we were overseas. It took us immediately back to the temples in Japan and China.IMG_0020_2

* Beaches

Any budget day anywhere probably could easily include a visit to a beach (if they are accessible) and it is no different when you head south from Sydney.

The soft warm sand between our toes was enough for us to forget that winter was coming. Sydney was not ready to say goodbye to summer. In and around Wollongong, there are numerous beaches to go to. But remember swim at patrolled beaches and between the flags for your safety.

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* Botanical Gardens

Another great little free spot to escape the hustle bustle of urban life, with plenty of paths to weave around and explore the many different garden collections on display. Ideal to leisurely stroll through and absorb the natural surroundings. See if you can spot the various birds and butterflies.  There is a big playground area for children and also picnic areas perfect for a BBQ or a picnic.IMG_0045_2

Although it’s a pretty jam-packed day, it was enjoyable and affordable.

It is so easy for us to forget that we don’t have to travel far and wide to experience a getaway. There is so much to explore so close to home.

Have you got a favourite day trip from home? 

Share with us in the comments.

 

overnight in arthur’s pass

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We were towards the end of our New Zealand South Island driving holiday. After several stops along the way, we finally made it to Arthur’s Pass National Park from Hokitika. It was late afternoon by this time and we still had to find where we were staying  but at the same time, we didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity for at least a walk in the National Park.

So we settled on seeing the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls. After parking the car, we could hear the water before we caught a glimpse. IMG_1026After weaving through some trees, we crossed a suspension bridge before climbing gradually to the viewing platform. The views around were so spectacular. IMG_1031 IMG_1034It was an easy-moderate 1-hour return walk to the platform and we were not disappointed. IMG_1059 IMG_1056 Gosh, we love waterfalls, no matter how big or small – though the teeny trickly ones are disappointing. (We should probably add that we are yet to see the likes of Niagara, Iguazu or Victoria, so if we are blown away by any waterfalls… imagine what will happen when we see the real BIG names in waterfalls).

So after returning to the car following the bush walk, we made our way through the winding road to our accommodation for the night. We chose to stay in the heart of the National Park in a little roadside motel. And surrounding us were mountains as far as the eye could see! It was isolated, peaceful and with no wi-fi. We made good use of their foosball table 😉 IMG_1063 Open up our curtains and the view was a wee bit surreal for us…We had to go for a walk in the evening to see that it was for real.IMG_1074And it was a full moon that night.
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Have you visited Arthur’s Pass National Park? 

Drop us a comment.

our visit to trakai castle

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So here we are in summer (supposedly – but let’s not talk about that) in Sydney. And it seems like the Northen Hemisphere has been snowed in of late. Our Facebook newsfeed is filled with photos of places covered in snow. Whether it be because of this winter or previous ones, we can’t be sure… but there are plenty going around. Trakai Castle in Lithuania was one of the ones that we came upon. Such a beautiful castle and even more magical and elegant in snow.

We saw it a couple of summers ago now and it was a stunning blue sky kind-of-day. What we saw and what it looks like at present is no doubt very different.

We do have a fascination with castles… Lured to them when we travel to old countries. Lifestyles of the rich and regal.

Trakai Castle is one of these castles we fell in love with from the outside. There is something so ridiculously “magical” seeing a castle out on an island in the middle of a lake, Lake Galve to be exact.

IMG_1169The castle was built in the 14th Century and was updated in the 19th Century. And no doubt has a colourful history like most castles do.

To reach the castle, we had to walk along a wooden bridge before entering the main gates.IMG_1174 IMG_1177Once inside, it is as if we are stepping onto a movie set, half expecting knights or lords or ladies to poke their heads out and jeer at us. IMG_1176 Exploring this castle is much like any castle – there’s a left wing, a right wing, Chapels, spiral staircases  up into towers or down into dungeons.

Here is David (red top:LEFT) looking around in awe as we sat and appreciated the Chapel and its architecture (and to rest our feet).IMG_1189Back up on our feet, we walk through doorways, and hallways and balconies. Up, down and around….

IMG_1200 IMG_1202Artefacts from archeological finds are displayed in the different rooms and we always love looking at things like that. To think how old some of the objects are simply blows our minds. And even more surreal when we are able to stand in the room that the royal families used to sleep in. Who would’ve thought! IMG_1193 IMG_1197And it’s not only within the city walls that visitors can explore. We walked around the island outside the city walls.IMG_1210Seeing too many castles whilst visiting Europe can happen but even so, we love visiting them.

So much history, so much intrigue and how humbling that we can catch a glimpse into what life once was like.

 

three must-dos in hokitika

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So… what is there to do in Hokitika?

“You mustn’t miss the sunset” were the last words we heard as the waitress cleared our table of dinner plates.

The sunset? Where better to view this than at the beach.

And right on cue as we arrive, the sun shyly ducks behind clouds. We wait patiently for it to show itself again before we start “snapping” away.

We love sunsets. We love the way the sky changes colour, the twinkle reflections on the water and the sight of the sun itself. IMG_0903 We love how the horizon gobbles up the sun in an instant; how the air feels automatically different the minute the sun is out of sight. IMG_0910 IMG_0917

The three must-dos (that are also free) when in and around Hokitika:

  • the sunset
  • the glow worms and
  • Hokitika Gorge

(1) Sunset

As already described.

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(2) Glow Worm Dell

This is free and easy to get to; easier than when we tried seeing glow worms on the North Island a few years back. No queues, no boats…. Only a short track, right off the main road out of Hokitika lies the Glow Worm Dell.

Be sure to go after dark. The track is pitch black with only lighting at the start, so bring a torch to see where you are going but turn it off when you are at the end.

If your timing is right, you will enter the area with only a few (hundred) speckles of blue-green glows but within minutes, the area is splattered with “a sky full of stars”. And if your timing is perfect, you will be lucky enough to get the place to yourself in complete silence – a little bit of magic right there in Hokitika. Unfortunately we were a little slack and did not take any pictures to share.

Word of advice: It’s not an epic experience, expect it to be short and sweet – it is a 5-minute walk from the car park and the viewing area isn’t huge.

(3) Hokitika Gorge

Don’t let the 30km detour deter you. It was by far ONE of the most incredible natural things we have laid our eyes on.

The colour of the water is like nothing we have seen before… so vibrant, so turquoise!IMG_0928The road to the car park of the gorge is narrow and sealed for most of the way. It becomes gravel on the last stretch. And then it is only an easy 10-15 minute walk down  (with a swing bridge crossing included) to the gorge viewing platform. IMG_0952IMG_0934

We saw plenty and did plenty in the South Island of New Zealand and these three things were easily in the list of our favourites! So if you are ever in Hokitika, don’t miss these if you can help it.

Hokitika is located on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island – an adorable little town. It was a flying visit, one night only on the way to Arthur’s Pass from Franz Josef for us.

Have you been to Hokitika?

Share your comments here.