Apple of the Eye

We’ve all seen pretty pictures of Tasmania, striking red boulders contrasting the white sandy beaches, crystal waters, not to mention the award-winning food and wine.  As a photographer, it’s been on my bucket list for a while, so I decided to get together a bunch of girlfriends and jump in a car to find the best places to explore on a road trip.  Let me start by telling you straight up, words and pictures do not do this place justice.  It’s insanely beautiful.  Somewhere you will visit and wonder why it has taken you so long to discover.  Trying to put together an itinerary for just one week is no easy task because doing my research, there are so many worthy places to stop and visit all over Tasmania.  Having now spent a week on the road, I would suggest the best itinerary is the most flexible one.  Perhaps have your accommodation booked and some must do activities, but allow plenty of time to just stop on a whim.

With only one week on the road, I (reluctantly) restricted the itinerary to only the East Coast which allowed enough time to explore a whole range of locations and experiences, but at the same time didn’t feel too rushed.

The trip started in Launceston which is an easy flight from mainland Australia.  Situated in Northern Tasmania, Launceston is a cute little town on the banks of a river with the famed Cataract Gorge.  With undulating hills and heritage listed houses, it is rich with a great arts type culture and a perfect place to start our journey.

From Launceston, the drive up north took us to the famous Bridstowe Lavender Estate.  To really appreciate this place in full bloom, you need to visit between December and early February when the flowers are in full vibrant purple bloom and the sound of bees buzzing through the fields creates this melodic peaceful atmosphere.  There are guided tours by staff at the farm or just enjoy a wander through the 260 acres of the world’s largest privately owned lavender farm.  It’s such a popular tourist destination, and probably on our trip, the busiest place we visited, however the sheer size of the farm didn’t give the feel of being too hectic.  The only indication of its popularity was the car park.  A must try is the lavender ice cream, makes the perfect Insta-pic with the purple against the purple blooms and tastes divine.  The first of many local gastronomic treats we were treated to on our journey.

A short 30 minute drive further north and you will come across the quaint seaside town of Bridport.  You kind of get the feeling in Tasmania that you are taking a step back in time, with no crowds and cute little towns like this, offering good old fashioned friendly locals and low key, unspoilt locations.  There is such a lazy, relaxed feeling even though there is so much to see and do. Take a walk down to the old Bridport Pier and beach or if you like golf, Bridport is home to one of the best golf courses in Australia, Barnbougle Dunes Golf Course.

The east coast of Tasmania stretches from Mount William National Park in the North all the way down to Port Arthur and Bruny Island in the South.  That’s over 400 km of coastline, all spectacular and all worth adding to your itinerary.  If time is no issue, as many seem to do, hire a camper van and spend a leisurely few months meandering your way through the towns and beaches that make up this breathtaking landscape.  For the rest of us, where time is a little more precious, there are a few must stops along the way.

The Bay of Fires is the 40 kilometres between Eddystone Point and Binalong Bay.  It’s best known for the huge orange granite boulders littering the beach.  The boulders are coloured from lichen that is a non harmful algae growing on the rocks giving them a rich orange hue.  In stark contrast to the whitest of sandy beaches and crystal clear water this makes for the most beautiful beach landscapes.  If I had to pick a favourite part of the coastline, it is probably this region.  The beaches are deserted, the seas can be both moody or tranquil, depending on the weather and the landscape so picturesque. Watching the change of colours as the sun rises over Binalong Bay is an experience I will never forget.

One thing you notice road tripping in Tasmania is all the places that you MUST stop at along the way.  Each day our itinerary was thrown away in place of stops at mussel and oyster farms, wineries, berry and dairy farms, or just cute towns that we just had to visit driving through.  The dominate theme is local produce and this is transferred to every restaurant and café you visit.  It’s so refreshing to see locals supporting locals in such a strong way and I definitely have a few new favourite wines and gins on my shopping list having sampled the local flavours.

Freycinet National Park and Lodge provided one of the most luxurious experiences of the trip.  Staying inside the National Park at the 4 star Lodge you are greeted on one side by spectacular sunsets over Oyster bay and behind you the magnificent Hazard mountain ranges.  The lodge is nestled in amongst native trees and wildlife and each cabin is cleverly designed to feel like you are in the National Park all on your own. Your own outdoor bath completed the experience where you can enjoy a glass of the local Freycinet Vineyard wines whilst soaking in a hot tub in the fresh mountain air.  It’s such a unique experience.  There is also the main lodge with a bistro and 5 star restaurant perched above a tranquil cove and newly renovated long jetty to watch the sunset over Coles Bay.

Relaxing at the Lodge you are a short walk from the gorgeous Honeymoon Bay, a popular engagement and wedding location or Richardsons Beach.  There is the Cape Tourville Lighthouse and of course, Wineglass Bay.  To really appreciate Wineglass Bay, there are several options.  Firstly, and probably one of the best ways to truly appreciate the view is a scenic flight with local airline Freycinet Air.  You get a panoramic perspective of the area as well as the most impressive views of the Bay.  Second best option is the very popular track from the National Park up to Wineglass Bay lookout.  A fairly light walk that takes about 90 minutes return trip, well worth the not too strenuous effort.  Or for those who a really keen, but not for the feint hearted, is the walk to Mount Amos Lookout.  This takes about 3-4 hours and is a difficult walk, but the view from the top of the Mountain will totally blow you away.

Not far from Freycinet Park is one of the most unique and authentic tourism experiences I have had and worth the trip to Tasmania just for this.  With a focus on local produce, we ate plenty of seafood during our trip but none fresher than from Freycinet Marine Farm.  Julia and Giles Fisher bought the farm in 2005 and what started with selling oysters out of the kitchen window has grown to a business producing over 5 million oysters a year.  Visit the farm just off Coles Bay road to enjoy freshly shucked oysters, abalone and other local seafood treats takeaway or at their deck café.  Better still, take a tour with the recently expanded offering of a true Oyster Farm experience.  Oyster Bay Tours husband and wife Declan and Patrea will pick you up from the farm shop and take you a short drive to the actual oyster farm on Moulting Lagoon.   You are kitted out in a wading suit (not the most attractive) which is basically gum boots built into a full rubber dungaree style suit to keep you dry whilst you wade out into the lagoon.  In amongst the actual oyster farm, sample an oyster straight from the water, you can’t possibly get any fresher than that.  Host Declan is full of information, stories and interesting oyster facts – did you know from inception to plate for an oyster is on average 2 years?   On returning to dry land, learn how to shuck your own oysters and enjoy with fresh mussels, sea asparagus picked from the lagoon banks and a glass of local Freycinet wine.  It’s such a rustic experience and so unique, you can’t leave Tasmania without trying it for yourself.

On our final few days, heading back to Hobart, a stop at the town of Richmond was recommended by many people and really worth the short detour.  Home to the historic, heritage listed Richmond Bridge, it’s the oldest in Australia and the feature of many photos from the wider Hobart region.  In Hobart, make sure you are in town on a Saturday for the Salamanca Markets.  These are one of Hobart’s most visited tourist attractions and it’s easy to see why. Boasting the now familiar theme of local produce, you can buy everything from flowers and food to beautiful pictures by local photographers, artwork, jewellery and Tasmanian designed clothes. I even saw a blanket made from local alpaca wool.  You are sure to pick up a souvenir of some sort and even just spend hours wandering through the historic streets lined with market stalls situated alongside the Hobart waterfront.  It’s one of the biggest markets I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

If you are going to road trip Tasmania, and believe me, you really must do it at least once in your lifetime, spending a week driving around and chatting to the many locals in Tasmania, the thing that you really notice is that they are fiercely protective of the environment and passionate about protecting it.  The roads are empty, nowhere is overrun by tourists which leaves a relaxed vibe whilst still being able to see and do so much in a short time. Surprisingly, for the landscapes that we saw, many did not involve a lot of walking or strenuous exercise.  Most locations you could pull up your car and pretty much walk a few meters to the beaches and coastlines.  Not only did we experience landscapes and produce, the wildlife was mind blowing.  We witnessed dolphins in the wild, seals, echidnas, marine life in abundance and we all swear we even saw a Tassie Devil – although it was early in the morning so I can’t be 100% sure.  By far the most impressive wildlife we witnessed was one morning relaxing on the beach at Binalong Bay, enjoying the sunshine when a James Bond look alike emerges from the water carrying a lobster in his hand.  It was literally like something out of a movie, but it turns out he was just local boy “Danny” who regularly swims these waters and sees all sorts of local wildlife (although mostly he leaves it be)

The feeling you get visiting Tasmania is that in 100 years, the rest of the world will have ruined all the great tourist locations by over visiting, not respecting and over developing, yet Tasmania will plod along and remain in its unspoilt natural state. There are no high rise buildings outside the cities, I didn’t see a chain restaurant and there’s definitely a strong culture of local produce and simple, good food whilst still appreciating and admiring nature.  Trying to put into words the raw beauty is a difficult task because everything seems so cliché.  So many times, we stopped and just took time to take in the views without lifting a camera, just in awe of everything around us.  Tasmania is a hidden gem often forgotten by the city mainland folk, but this just adds to its charm.  Even if you only have 5 days to spare, jump on a plane, grab a hire car and go and visit Tasmania.  I promise you won’t be disappointed and I will certainly be back to explore more of this gorgeous island.

Note that details of this adventure were also published in the Gold Coast Bulletin Newspaper weekend edition on Saturday 16 February 2019

Sailing the Whitsundays – Disconnect to Reconnect

In today’s modern world, we are all getting busier.  We are time poor and with the invasion of social media in recent years, family time is rare, but more importantly -priceless.  The best way to really connect with each other is to disconnect yourselves from routine and what better way that escaping for a family holiday.  Unfortunately however, as the parent of teenagers, going away on holiday does not always mean disconnecting your children from their friends.  Social media has them glued to their phones and devices 24/7 right?

So when planning a quality family holiday, I had to consider something that would be amazing, an experience that would engage and enthuse everyone.   What better way to escape than a sailing adventure around the pristine waters of the Whitsundays discovering the idyllic tropical beaches, islands and reefs in the area.  Don’t own your own private yacht?  No problems, the team at Queensland Yacht Charters (QYC) are specialists in the Whitsundays region, plus they also have a fleet of luxury sailing boats to suit everyone’s needs.

Not only is a sailing holiday a great experience for those of us that don’t own our own 50 foot yacht, it allows the freedom to move around, have a unique adventure with the added bonus of limited phone and internet service so everyone really has to let go and unwind.  Even if only for a few days, completely switching off from reality will feel like you’ve had weeks away and you return refreshed and recharged.   The beauty of chartering a boat is that you are tapping into the years of local knowledge of experts to ensure every reasonable safety measure is followed and they can provide tips on hot spots for fishing, snorkelling, beaches and islands all away from the crowds.

QYC are one of the biggest and most popular Bare Boat Charter companies in the region.   They are a part of the World Wide Company – Dream Yacht Charters.  The world’s largest charter boat organisation.  They boast dream locations such as the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mediterranean, and of course, one of my absolute favourites, the Whitsundays.

QYC base is located at Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach.  It’s a short 30 minute drive from Whitsundays airport in Proserpine and QYC can even arrange for transport to collect you on your arriving flight.  It’s best to plan to be in Airlie Beach the day prior to departure out on the water. This gives you time to familiarise yourself with the boat, do any shopping necessary and if possible, start your sailing induction.

For any boating holiday, what to take is fairly minimal.  You’re away from people, restaurants, towns and the need to dress up.  A small bag with swimmers, a few summer clothes and of course a camera are about all you need to take on board.  Even shoes aren’t required so the very process of packing for your trip is a simple and stress free exercise.

There is the option to have the food catered for you, or if you want to go all out, have a hostess and chef on board to take care of food and all your other needs.  However, part of the luxury of a self-charter holiday is going completely off grid, away from technology, television and any sort of civilisation.  It’s best to keep things simple and go back to basics with food. There are supermarkets a short distance from the marina as well as an amazing butcher (MBW on the Barbie Butchers), seafood supplier (Fishi’s) and bottle shops, chemists etc.  It’s important to remember when setting sail on a charter boat holiday, nothing can be done quickly.  The nearest location to get any sort of supplies, access to medical etc is usually hours away so plan well and you shouldn’t have any dramas. Even take a small medical kit with extra plasters, disinfectant, anti-nausea etc.

Once you’re stocked up, the next order of business before you can set sail is familiarise yourself with how the actual boat works, including a full briefing from the Charter Company.  The Whitsundays is the only place in the world where you can hire a charter boat with no boat licence at all.  You can pretty much have zero boating knowledge, and set sail on one of the most magical holidays you will ever experience.

Despite the yachts being 30, 40, 50 feet long, they are surprisingly easy to manoeuvre.  QYC spend about half a day giving you a complete overview, how to work pretty much everything and what to do in most situations.  Finally, as you set sail, a member of their friendly crew will come with you for the first hour or so to ensure you have understood all the instructions and are comfortable out on the water.  Even though it sounds unimaginable to be handed the keys to one of these majestic boats without a licence, there is no way the charter company will let you leave until they are confident that you are fully in control and capable.

Part of the briefing is mapping out a course for the time that you are out on the water, taking into consideration their extensive knowledge of local conditions, winds and protected coves to moor.  Charters are for 3 up to 10 days duration, take your pick.  Of course conditions can change quickly but even though there is no phone service, onboard is a VHF radio linking you back to reality with regular updates from the local Marine Authority as well as the charter companies to keep you well informed.  You also need to check in morning and evening with your location and plans, which also gives you the opportunity to go through any queries or issues with the base.  It honestly couldn’t be simpler.

There are 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, the majority of which are completely uninhabited.  The choice is endless.  You’ve set sail, found your deserted island and you’re moored up feeling like you’ve been transported into lifestyles of the rich and famous.  This is truly living.  Many of the islands have great walking trails with magnificent views that stretch across the whole island landscape.  There’s something really bonding about being on a boat with only the company of your family or friends.  Teenagers who are usually glued to the television or in their rooms are suddenly free from the pressures that consume them and have time to really enjoy the whole experience.   We spent time playing board games, swimming, exploring the reefs and corals and even included stand up paddle boards on our boat for some extra fun.

Five nights on a charter, feeling like Christopher Columbus discovering the unknown, honestly equates to five weeks on a regular holiday.  The simple pleasure of disconnecting from the world makes time stand still.  Days spent lazing in the water and on beaches, often with not another person to be seen.  It’s easy to wind down and simply focus on your family and friends around you, or just get lost in another world in a good book.  Chartering a boat is an indulgence that many never consider as a holiday option, however the benefit of not requiring a boat licence with QYC makes it all so easy.  Once you have enjoyed the experience, you will be sure to return.  You can’t put a price on the value of reconnecting with family and spending treasured time together, it’s one holiday I will not only remember forever, but return again next year for more.

 

 

 

Gold Coast’s Most Instagramable Locations

It’s the new trend. We are all travelling more and with this, comes sharing our adventures on Social Media.  Often, a great “Instagramable” location can determine our destination choice.  In fact, many people travel to a location purely with the aim of getting that perfect “Instagram shot”.

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Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Most of us have travelled to Sydney, but if you’re anything like me, every trip has been for a purpose – work, or an event.  The cosmopolitan capital is not somewhere that I would usually go for a “holiday”, yet there are so many things on  my bucket list that I just never seem to find the time to tick off.

So, with the help of some friends, I headed off for a “Girls weekend” to find some hidden gems in this city that has been Instagrammed, photographed and written about countless times.

I’m talking about a bunch of girls, leaving the husbands, partners, pets, kids behind and taking off for an easy escape.  With Sydney just a short and fairly cheap flight away, it’s as viable a plan as any road trip.

My favourite thing about Sydney is the beach side suburbs. So our first stop had to be Bondi Beach.

Hotel and Airbnb options abound, but with traffic and parking so hectic, finding somewhere central should be a priority.

My top pick is QT Bondi located on Beach Road, with a Woolworths and liquor store right beneath high end, luxury hotel style apartments  In true QT style, the service is first class and the venue quirky and fun.  From here, you can pretty much explore the Bondi area without any need for a car. QT even have bicycles if you want to venture a little further.

With warm sunny winter skies, first activity on the list is the Bondi to Bronte walk.  It seems inconceivable that I’ve never done this before as it’s one of Sydney’s most iconic walking trails.  Starting at Bondi Beach, you walk along tall sandstone cliff tops with spectacular panoramic views of the ocean as well as taking in the luxurious homes that fringe the track.

The walk around to Bronte is about 1.5 km and takes very conservatively about an hour, however this includes a really easy walking pace and plenty of stops to take in the panoramic views and time for pictures along the way. Passing Tamarama Beach, this is also a great coffee stop with a cute little café on the beach.

Bronte beach is one of the more famous beach baths in Sydney, however did you know there are actually 44 in total, so plenty to choose from. Almost every beach in Sydney has a natural rock pool for those who want a more protected ocean swim and the best part is, most are free.  Whilst these ocean pools provide a calm ocean experience with the waves crashing over the rock walls, they also make for spectacular images, iconic to Sydney.  It always amazes me that other beach locations like the Gold Coast don’t create tourist attractions like these, especially with the vastly better weather.

After a good walk on the Sydney walking tracks, it’s time to hit the streets and back streets of Bondi and experience some of their great cafes and restaurants as well as boutique shopping.  The Markets held at Campbell Parade every Sunday from 10am to 4pm offer fresh flowers, food, fashion and local crafts.

Finally, if you are staying in the Bondi area, another great ocean walk is to Hornby Lighthouse.  About a 15 minute drive via the exclusive Sydney suburb of Vaucluse and parking at the cute little beach at Camp Cove, these are well known locations to locals, but not as overrun by tourist crowds. Hornby Lighthouse is impressively painted in red and white strips making it a striking landmark on the entry to Sydney Harbour and Watsons Bay.

From Bondi Beach, you can’t visit Sydney without a stay in the city. One of the beautiful things about Sydney is its age and history and there’s plenty of historic and heritage buildings including the old Sydney Water building in Pitt Street which has been converted to the luxurious Primus Hotel and was second stop on my visit.

Steeped in history, Primus have stayed true to their heritage which is obvious as soon as you enter the building. Opting for “wow factor” over maximising use of space, a huge voided entry with impressive eight-meter high columns of red scagliola marble greet you on entry. Beautifully appointed, opulent rooms and a great roof top pool and bar, although this is central for all the Sydney city locations, it’s also a great place to just stay inhouse and enjoy the ambiance of this great historic building.  A true hidden gem of the city.

Once in the city, Sydney is full of hidden laneways, underground venues and bars and arcades with unique treasures.  There’s no need for a map or guide, get lost discovering this great city with friends and with no set plans.

Finally, my number one tip when travelling with friends. Believe me, you’ll thank me later. It avoids all the messing around with who pays for what, who owes what etc.  At the start of the trip, everyone put in say $100 to a kitty.  Then, every time you have to pay for a taxi, Uber, coffee, meal etc, it comes out of the kitty.  Otherwise, someone ends up paying more than anyone else, and it gets really messy to sort out.  Top up equally as necessary and at the end, split evenly what is left (or like us, buy a lotto ticket to share and keep your fingers crossed)

For more information or images, go to my Facebook or Instagram pages at Jules Ingall Photography or @Julesingall

Los Angeles Top 5 Tips

Los Angeles is such an easy destination from the East Coast of Australia.  It’s a direct flight from all the capital cities and the gateway to the US so makes for the perfect stopover.  Los Angeles is all about the chilled vibe, glamorous people and Hollywood lifestyle.  You can’t help but get drawn into the allure of it all. The one thing that you notice about LA is the large boulevards lined with tall palm trees.  It’s quintessentially LA, something that you don’t find anywhere else.

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New Caledonia – What the Brochures Don’t Tell You

Noumea – capital of New Caledonia. It’s about a 2 hour flight out of Brisbane, east and with a similar climate to South East Queensland, the September holidays are the perfect time to visit. Noumea is the capital of New Caledonia’s main island and located in the south of the island on a deep water harbour.

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Underwater Heaven at Lady Elliot Island

Easily one of the best places in Queensland to visit for incredible, up close underwater wildlife experiences is Lady Elliot Island. Not only is this a beautiful natural environment, but the opportunity to swim so close to turtles, manta rays and so many other marine life are just mind blowing.

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O’ahu Hawaii

O’ahu, Hawaii – my first trip to this amazing island. It’s somewhere that has been on the bucket list for quite some time. Prior to going, I was given tips by so many people and as I always do, I researched the hell out of the place to make sure I didn’t miss anything, so this is my condensed, concise version of what I thought was the absolutely must do’s and some tips and tricks that I discovered.

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2016 Top Eight Travels

At the start of 2016, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to put everything into my photography for one year and see where it led me.  Up until this point, I had been playing around, having fun but was at the stage where I pretty much had all the camera equipment I really required, so wanted to get out and travel and shoot as much as I could – around our own business and family commitments.

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