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Happy Days on Hamilton Island: The Travel Spotlight TOP 10!


1.      TRAVEL SPOTLIGHT

Hamilton Island in Queensland.  

2.      HOW TO GET THERE

Being an Island the only way to get to Hamilton Island is either by plane or boat. The Island has its own commercial airport, and there are direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns with Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantas.    

Flight distance between Brisbane & Hamilton Island is approx. 550 km, and will take you about 1 hour and 30 minutes flight time.      The Island has its own Marina & welcomes commercial and private yachts (Marina berthing bookings are essential.) There is also a passenger ferry service that operates from the Marina and you’re looking at a 1-hour trip from Airlie Beach to the Island.    

Once you’re on the Island golf buggies are the most popular mode of transport. There is a shuttle bus that runs regularly and we found this handy at times too, as the buggy only fits 4 people at any one time.    

3.      WHAT WE LOVED  

The hiking! There is over 20Km of scenic walks and private beaches to explore, so grab yourself a walking trail map at the info center, as there are several walking tracks. Being the Great Barrier Reef, the snorkeling is divine. There are various snorkeling adventures you can choose from, including full day or half day – again have a chat at the info center when you arrive.

Swimming in the bay is beautiful, and we had some beach activities included in our accommodation package. It was great to get out on the beach and hire paddle boards, kayaks & sail boats and enjoy the crystal blue water.   

Make sure you check out the Daily “what’s on guide” as there is plenty of things to do from beach sports, park runs, mini golf, go kart racing, table tennis & even kids art classes are on offer. The Island has its own Wildlife center which gives the whole family a chance to get up close to our Australian wildlife, including Koalas. There is a little café attached to the center, with reasonable priced drinks (including nice coffee) and snack foods like fresh sandwiches, cakes and biscuits. Both the center and café were family friendly and offered a relaxed atmosphere.

After a big day of adventure, we loved lazing around the resort pools and using the various facilities available.  Make sure you get on up to one tree hill for a sunset – breathtaking and unforgettable.  

4.      WHAT’S THE WEATHER LIKE

We were told the best time to visit the Island is during August – November as these are the warmer months for QLD, however as our travel plans turned out we went in April and we had good weather. With an annual average daily temp being 27C, it really is a holiday destination all year round.  

5.      HOW MANY PEOPLE LIVE THERE

Hamilton Island has a permanent population of around 1350 people. This includes staff, business owners, contractors and numerous private residents who own holiday homes or have retired on the island. The Island even has its own Primary School to cater for the population.   

6.      WHERE TO STAY  

Hamilton Island has a variety of accommodation options from luxury hotels & bungalows to self-contained holiday homes. We stayed at the Reef View Hotel and absolutely loved it. What we liked about staying at the Reef was it allowed us to use other resort facilities and pools and also included hire of beach and water sport equipment. There are plenty of package deals available and we were pleased we had breakfast included. Depending on your budget and family needs here is the link below to help you make the best decision:    https://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/hotels-and-accommodation

  7.      WHAT’S THE FOOD LIKE

We were on the Island over Easter & it was a busy time of year. We learnt after our first night to book ahead to secure a spot for dinner. There are many options to choose from, when it comes to dining and I have attached the link below to give you an idea of what is on offer:

https://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/food-and-wine/restaurants

All the meals we had, either at a restaurant or even room service were fresh and good portion sizes. We also noticed that most of the restaurants offered free meals for kids.  The kids’ meals were decent portion sizes too!

If you are staying in self-contained accommodation and want to make your own meals, there is a supermarket on the Island. It is a little on the expensive side, however very convenient.  

 8.      WHAT ABOUT THE FINANCES

Flights with Virgin were approx. $300 return (from Brisbane) per person. Our accommodation with the Reef View Hotel was approx. $450 per room, per night this was for a twin/family share room & it included breakfast. 

There is plenty of accommodation options on the Island, so do your research to find the right accommodation package for you. 

Admission into the Wildlife Centre was $20 per adult and $14 per child, and this gives you unlimited access for the length of your stay, which we thought was pretty good. The center is open daily from 8.30am – 5pm.  

9.      WHAT’S THE KID FRIENDLY RATING We’re giving this trip a 5 out of 5!                        

             

10.  TIPS

|| Make sure your balcony doors and windows are shut and locked. The wildlife are friendly, and the cockatoos love to swing by and say hello. If no-one is home, they will happily enter your room and have a look around for any food that may be lying around.     

|| Kids club on the Island is called the Clownfish club. Bookings are essential and spots filled up very quickly, so get in early with your bookings.    

|| Check your accommodation packages to see if it includes golf buggy hire, as daily hire fees for buggies can be hefty.  

That’s it for the travel spotlight! Enjoy your travels & have a safe & happy day out with the little people in your lives.

Take Care, Megan  

Happy Days in the Outback: The Travel Spotlight TOP 10!

  1. TRAVEL SPOTLIGHT

Longreach & Winton in outback Queensland.

The Stockman’s Hall of Fame

2. HOW TO GET THERE

There are regular flights from Brisbane to Longreach, and it will take you a little over 2 hours flight time.  Travelling to Longreach by car is also a popular way to go, and you’re looking at roughly 1,200 Klms one way (about 13 hours of driving).  You can also take the Spirit of the Outback and visit by rail. You’ll be onboard for about 26 hours, and Longreach has its own train station so you conveniently disembark right in the heart of town.  Car hire is available in Longreach once you arrive.

Winton is about 170klm northwest of Longreach.  The county roads can be challenging at the best of times, add into the mix road trains combined with dirt roads, and this can create more challenges.  If you don’t feel confident driving and would prefer to join an outback tour, there are several providers.  Joining these tours means you can sit back and relax and the tour group will drive you around.   

3. WHAT WE LOVED   

The Qantas Founders Museum was without a doubt the Longreach highlight for us, particularly the night time Light Show.     

The Stockman’s Hall of Fame was partially closed due to renovations, however that didn’t stop us from wondering around outside and taking in the aura of the building, splendid grounds & standing beside the iconic statue of the Ringer.

If you’re a “Crown” fan take the short trip out of town to Camden Park Station.  During the Australian Royal Tour in 1970, The Queen and Prince Philip visited this property, which today is still a working cattle & sheep station. 

There is a little town called Ilfracombe (about half an hour drive from Longreach) and it has a great little pub that does fantastic meals.  The pub is very child friendly, with a big verandah wrapping around the pub and a big back yard for kids to run around in.    

We were pleasantly surprised at how good the shopping in Longreach was, with several little boutique shops along the main street, coupled with bigger shops if needing essential items.

And finally we must add the Cobb & Co stage coach ride, Captain Starlight Lookout and Thompson River Cruise to the Longreach highlights list too!

The dinosaur trail was definitely the Winton highlight!  Visiting Lark Quarry and seeing dinosaur footprints that are believed to be over 95 million years old was mind blowing & amazing.  The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum has the world’s largest collection of Australian Dinosaur fossils, and we must add the Canyon walk onto the highlights list too. 

Winton is the birth place of Waltzing Matilda, so we felt it almost necessary to visit the museum.  

After a big day of dinosaur bone hunting, culture & history, we can recommend the Winton public swimming pool & waterpark, as a great place to cool off and relax.   

4. WHAT’S THE WEATHER LIKE

The average maximum temperatures during summer in Longreach is 36-37C degrees and 23-26C degrees during winter. During winter, temps can get down to between 7-8C degrees, so definitely pack a jumper if you’re visiting during the winter months.   

Summer in Winton has averages between 36-38C and during winter temps average between 25-27C. 

5. HOW MANY PEOPLE LIVE THERE

The greater Longreach region records approx. 3500 in population with Winton checking in at around 1600 people.

6. WHERE TO STAY  

The Longreach area has many accommodation options from motels & hotels to caravans, cabins & camping.  There are also some great self-contained options. We stayed at The Albert Park Motel and it was clean and tidy with a pool and restaurant attached.  Pricing was approx. $120 per night for a big room sleeping comfortably 2 adults and 2 children.

I have included the link below for more options to help you make the right accommodation choice for your family:

https://experiencelongreach.com.au/where-to-stay/

Unfortunately, our accommodation in Winton proved to not be the best choice for us, so I am reluctant to put it on the recommendation list.  However, Winton has many more accommodation options as listed below:

  • Winton Outback Motel
  • North Gregory Hotel
  • Boulder Opal Motor Inn
  • Matilda Hotel
  • Banjo’s Holiday Units
  • Matilda Country Tourist Park
  • The Pelican Caravan Park

7. WHAT’S THE FOOD LIKE

Dining in both Longreach & Winton is plentiful with a variety of options to choose from.  In Longreach we can recommend the bakery, RSL, Harry’s and The Longreach Tavern.  They all had good fresh food (big portion sizes) at reasonable prices.  All places were extremely kid friendly & very welcoming.

We didn’t have one bad meal experience in Winton either, with the food highlight being The North Gregory.  The pub has an outdoor dining area with lots of grass for kids to run around on and even includes a small kid’s playground.  The meals came out quickly & with the kids entertained, it was a nice place to relax and enjoy dinner.  

8. WHAT ABOUT THE FINANCES

Flights with Qantas Link were approx. $500 return (from Brisbane) per adult and $470 return (from Brisbane) per child.   Admission into the various museums and other tourist attractions can vary depending on what activities you want to do and also the time of year.  Links below with admission details to help you with the budget:

https://www.australianageofdinosaurs.com/page/20/australian-age-of-dinosaurs-plan-a-visit

https://www.dinosaurtrackways.com.au/

http://www.matildacentre.com.au/

9. KID FRIENDLY RATING

We’re giving this trip a 4 out of 5!

10. SOME INTERESTING FACTS

# Did you know that Longreach is the official home of Qantas?  It is in fact the birth place of Qantas & the first EVER Qantas flight took off from the Longreach airport!

# The water in Winton smells putrid (due to it being sourced from the artesian basin), however it is safe & drinkable.  Just hold your nose while you drink, or buy yourself some bottled water!

That’s it for today’s travel spotlight!  Have a safe & happy day out with the little people in your lives.

Enjoy your travels,

Megan

The Mighty Top End

If you have yet to explore the mighty top end, please add it to your list – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!  Whether you visit during the dry season (May – October) or wet season (Nov – April), there is plenty to see & do.  Make sure you research your trip before you visit, as opening and closing times do differ depending on the season. 

Let me start by saying Darwin is more than just a gateway to the surrounding National Parks, it really has its own experiences, history and culture.  Darwin has been described as a blend of ancient Aboriginal custom, European pioneering & WWII history…and I would agree!

Darwin has an annual art festival, and as a result the street art and murals are a sight to be seen.  During the 2019 festival, murals were painted by local artists, and as you walk around the streets of Darwin make sure you keep your head up, looking at the multi-story murals (they are amazing).

We loved the Darwin Waterfront which has a wave lagoon and is fantastic for kids.  It is open 7 days and entry is very reasonable (under 2 yrs free entry, and only $5 for 2 – 15 yrs and adults are $7, family passes are available too).

This is “Croc Country” folks, so get ready to have a crocodile overload!  One place I would recommend visiting is Crocosaurus Cove.  Located in the heart of Darwin, it allows you to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s largest salt water crocodiles.  You can experience croc feeding, and also dive with the crocodiles as part of their “cage of death” experience!! 

Darwin is also famous for its Mindil Beach Markets (not operating during the wet season).  If you visit during the dry season, vising the Markets is a must.  Known for its sunsets over Mindil beach, visitors can experience the vibrant, friendly atmosphere, while enjoying eclectic culinary delights, handmade art & craft and live entertainment.

The Museum and Art Gallery is the main museum in the NT, and is located in the inner Darwin suburb called Fannie Bay.  It has a wide collection of exhibits including indigenous rock art, fossils & seafaring history.  The museum is also home to the much loved “Sweetheart” a 5.1m long crocodile who passed away in 1974.  The spectacular ‘Cyclone Tracy’ display is an experience that didn’t disappoint either!    

Now for some WWII history….

As I’m sure you are all aware, during WWII, Darwin became the first mainland site of Australia to come under attack.  On the morning of February 19th 1942, a squadron of Japanese planes paid a surprise visit, dropping catastrophic bombs on Darwin – a town that was not at all prepared for an air invasion.  

Because of this event (and others during the war), you can explore Darwin’s WWII history in sites scattered all across the city. 

For a full hit of history, head to the Darwin Military Museum.  The museum provides a powerful & interactive experience, and includes a 3D movie that uses actual footage from the attack to depict the bombing as it happened over 75 years ago.  There is also an outdoor section of the museum, so grab yourself an ice-cream in the little café and walk around outside to take in other military displays.  This museum is very child friendly, with plenty of space for kids to move around.    

We also toured the WWII Oil Storage Tunnels.  These tunnels were built during the war (after the initial bombing) to protect the oil stored in Darwin from any future air attacks. 

If you are claustrophobic then this might not be for you, as the tunnels are underground!  The space is enclosed, confined, musty and damp, however I’m so glad we did it and it is really worth a tour.  The tunnels are great for kids as there is plenty of room for kids to get around and experience the adventure under Darwin city.  Parents will love the history aspect too.   

Here are a few more ideas to add to the Darwin list:

  1. Crocodylus Park
  2. The Fun Bus
  3. Big Buoy Water Park
  4. Darwin Ice Skating
  5. Foreshore Nightcliff

After exploring Darwin, we then headed off to experience Kakadu & Litchfield NP’s.  Driving over the Mary & Adelaide Rivers was a thrill in its self, looking down spotting Crocodiles!!   Growing up in Australia I have seen plenty of documentaries & TV ads for the top end, but to actually see it for myself was an emotional & exciting experience.

Just remember if you’re planning to visit National Parks in the top end, you must obtain a travel permit before entering.  We purchased ours at a Roadhouse enroute to Kakadu.

Visiting little towns like Jabiru was fascinating, and we also visited the Information Centre at Bowali to get some great advice and assistance in helping us nut out the next few days.    

The Aboriginal rock art at Burrungkuy was breathtaking and I would also recommend a visit to Ubirr to experience the wonders of more Aboriginal rock art.  Also include Cahills Crossing to your list, it has a lovely picnic area and perfect for croc spotting!

Aboriginal Rock Art at Ubirr

Out of all the things we did, I would highly recommend doing the Yellow Water cruise.  It is a 2 hour wildlife filled cruise through the wetlands of the yellow water billabong.  This experience is very popular, so bookings are necessary. 

Spotto a Croc on the Yellow River Cruise

Next day we drove to Pine Creek and stopped at the Adelaide River War Cemetery.  During the Darwin bombings the Post Office was a direct hit and 9 office staff were killed instantly.  They are buried in the Adelaide River War Cemetery.  Walking around the cemetery’s immaculate grounds, is a sobering reminder of the sacrifices made during war and a place to pause and pay respects to those that lost their lives.   

Adelaide River War Cemetery

Litchfield NP was absolutely breathtaking, and even though we were visiting in the wet season, the swimming holes at Florence Falls and Wangi Falls were open.   Swimming in Wangi Falls was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.  Wangi Falls is a segmented waterfall that descends from an elevation of 84 metres.  Swimming in the little waterhole at the bottom, looking up at the view of the waterfall was a breathtaking experience.  We swam across to the other side and climbed up onto the rock and found a gorgeous little rock pool to sit in.  The water was cool & refreshing and a welcome relief from the heat of the Top End.   

Due to time constraints we didn’t get to Katherine Gorge – I guess that will be for the next trip!

Whilst we did Kadadu and Litchfield by car (4WD), there are several other ways to explore both NP’s and these include scenic flights, cruise boats & air boats. 

The jumping crocs tour was something we really wanted to experience; however it was closed during our visit (late Dec – early Jan).  I hear it is a great experience, and for any readers who have done the “Croc Jumping” I would love to hear about your experience. 

Back in Darwin for our final night, we went to the beach.  Plenty of room for kids to run around and the whole family can watch a famous Darwin sunset.  Because our visit was during the wet season, we were also treated to several natural light shows watching the monsoonal storms roll in each afternoon.

Darwin Sunset on our final night!

From the top end, wishing you all safe & happy travels with the little people in your lives,

Megan xo

Happydayout.com.au

Oh, What A Lady!

On today’s blog we are talking about warm sun, the smell of the ocean, sand between the toes and a lady!

We have found the perfect family beach holiday and it happens to be a snorkelling paradise too.  Lady Elliot Island is the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier reef, and flights depart daily from Harvey Bay and Bundaberg.  The Island has its own airstrip, and you land right in the heart of the resort. 

The Island got her name from a ship that sailed past in 1816, with the captain of the cargo vessel naming the Island after this ship.  

In a nutshell LEI is an eco resort that welcomes both overnight stays and day trippers.  It is a natural beauty with a rich history and once you’re on the Island you enter peace and quiet with no distractions from the outside world.  There are no TV’s in the rooms and no mobile phone service on the island….and you won’t miss either! 

There is plenty to do while on the island, including a stack of activities for kids!  There is a shaded children’s playground, activity centre (along with a reef education centre) and also a kid’s club called Junior Reef Rangers.  There is also a swimming pool & beach volley ball nets set up. 

Then of course there is the magical underwater world to explore and you don’t need to be a scuba diver to experience the magic.  Snorkelling is a great way for kids to get up close & personal with the marine life and explore the reef.  Whether it is a short snorkel on the reef or a longer snorkel on the other side of the island known as the “deep blue”, you will experience the magical world and see plenty of manta rays, cow tail rays, turtles, black tip reef sharks, colourful coral and an abundance of tropical fish. 

If you are not keen to snorkel or scuba dive, exploring the reef on foot is another great way to see the reef.  Glass bottom boat rides are also on offer for those that wish to stay dry!

The bird life is amazing on the Island and there are several educational programs you can get involved in.  The night tours are handy to find out about the nocturnal animals and also the resident ghost on the island!!

Accommodation types differ from resort units, glamping tents & cabins that are all designed to minimise impact on the island & keep within the eco practices.  Meals are included in the packages, so there are no hidden surprises at check out.

Along with the kid’s club, there is also baby sitting on offer.  The other great thing we found convenient was the movie house situated right beside the restaurant.  Each night a kid’s movie is screened, and we found that handy to keep kids entertained while we had dinner.

We really enjoyed our time on the Island and can highly recommend this destination to visit with kids.   

Have a happy day out with your kids!

Megan xo

HAPPY DAYS IN MELBOURNE

First day of Winter folks, and nothing better than sitting in front of the fire to write this blog. 

We recently holidayed in Melbourne and it was a wonderful time away.  If you’re intending to visit Melbourne with your kids for a holiday, then you’ve made a great decision.  To help you with a few ideas, here’s what we got up to…

We landed in Melbourne to a cool 12C, and we used the first few days to walk around and explore Southbank.  Right on the Yarra River, Southbank has a lively and electric atmosphere, with so many restaurants and cafes to choose from, and has the added advantage of free entertainment with street performers everywhere. 

Still in Southbank, we found ourselves at Federation Square and spent hours exploring this magnificent building and all that it has to offer.  It sure is the home of cultural attractions, but there is also an array of restaurants, bars and cafes to choose from too.

Federation Square

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), which is in Fed Square, was one gallery that was child friendly!  Yes, there was the walking around looking at art and constant reminders “not to touch” but up on level 2 there was a kid’s disco area where children of all ages could let off steam and run around!  Enjoying music and colourful flashing lights, all of the children looked and sounded like they were having a blast.   

We found the price of admission, food and drink at the NGV very reasonable too.   

We also found a great park right beside Fed Square.  Nothing like giving kids a run around in a park to re-set the clock before entering yet another art gallery or museum!

Park, with Fed Square in the background

If you’re not keen to take your kids into one of the galleries, ART PLAY may be a better option for you.  Art Play is situated right next door to Fed Square and it is a place where children (babies – 12-year old’s) can explore their creativity side.  Art Play have workshops on offer (long & short) as well as art displays (which are all designed for kids)……there was not one “DO NOT TOUCH” sign on any of the displays.

Bookings are required for most workshops, however there are free drop in events available.  With more than 300 workshops, events and performances every year there is plenty to choose from.

Art Play

The other delightful activity we stumbled across, was ice skating in the Winter Village.  The Winter Village is a euro-style winter wonderland at Fed Square and is open from May – August each year.  The village offers igloo dining with plenty of food and drink options and of course ICE SKATING!  Areas are accessible for all, and pram friendly too!

Ice Skating

Still in the vicinity of Southbank, we took the kids up to the top of the Eureka Tower.  The tower is 297.3 metres tall, and it is the highest public viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere.  The express lift takes you to the 88th floor in 38 seconds. 

The Tower is named after the Eureka Stockade, which of course was a rebellion during the Victorian gold rush back in the 1800’s.  The top of the building has a gold-plated panel, and as the story goes, when you reach the top you have found your gold.

For those that want that extra thrill, you can have an ‘edge’ experience where you hop into a glass cube and you’re projected out from the 88th floor!  YIKES….and there you are suspended over Melbourne to enjoy the view!   

If you would rather keep your feet on ground zero, an outing to the Melbourne Zoo can be recommended.  It really was a journey through a world of wildlife right in the heart of Melbourne.  Pricing was very reasonable and they allow you to take your own food, which really helps out with the Budget.  Prams are on offer to hire and all the pathways around the Zoo were very pram friendly.

Melbourne Zoo

Without going into detail, here are a few more tips on great things to do in Melbourne with kids:

  • Aquarium
  • Tram Ride (city circle is free)
  • Luna Park (St Kilda)
  • Yarra River Cruise
  • The Melbourne Museum and Imax Theatre
  • Scienceworks (Science Museum in Spotswood)
  • Aquatic Centre at Albert Park
  • Visit the MCG and look around the AFL Museum

If you have time and want to experience a regional town, Geelong is a short train ride (approx. 1 hour) from Melbourne.

Supa Tramp in Geelong kept everyone happy and busy on the wet days, by offering indoor trampoline jumping, ninja circuit and rock climbing.

In fine weather a walk along the Waterfront is great with plenty of space for the kids to run around, and the waterfront has several parks to choose from.  Running around the bollards seemed to be a fun activity. 

We didn’t go, but I hear Fairy Park is a magical place to visit.  A short drive from Geelong, Fairy Park is designed for kids to discover the fairy-tale stories.

A quick tip (and depending on your time restraints), you may also like to take in The Great Ocean Road.  It stretches 243 klms from Torquay to Allansford.  Whilst you can do the drive in 1 day, with many accommodation choices along the way, you can take your time and do the drive over a couple of days.    

12 Apostles (Great Ocean Road)

We are out of time, so that’s it for today’s blog.  Enjoy Melbourne (and their great coffee) and here’s to happy days out with kids!

Take care,

Megan xo

Happydayout.com.au