Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sydney and New South Wales

Sydney is one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world, surrounded by nature at every turn and with a beautiful harbour at its heart. You’ll find plenty of ways to explore this beautiful city; a cruise on the harbour, walking along the Bondi to Bronte coastal track, learning to surf at iconic Manly Beach or dining in style by the harbour.

Sydney Harbour is alive with ferries, yachts, launches, ocean liners and kayaks. Laze on a chartered yacht moored in a secluded bay or unwind on a cruise departing from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour. One of the most affordable, and enjoyable, ways to enjoy the harbour is on a ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly where you can wander along the beach, visit an aquarium and snack on fresh fish and chips. Else join a kayaking tour, or paddle in the quieter reaches of the harbour. Thrill seekers should book in for a high-speed jet boat trip that’s pure fun.

Sydney is also lucky to have plenty of green space along the harbour. Extending over 30 hectares, the Royal Botanic Gardens occupy a spectacular harbourside location and are a relaxing spot for a picnic or walk.

After you’ve experienced the top sights in Sydney, get out and explore some of the regions close by. Driving in New South Wales is pretty relaxed with an excellent network of roads, good driving conditions and plenty of things to see and do.

Less than two hours’ drive from Sydney, the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains are one of the country’s most spectacular natural attractions. There are hundreds of walking tracks in the area taking you past lookouts with breathtaking views of the valleys and mountains in this pristine region.

With 26 golden beaches, a vast blue bay and many beautiful inlets, Port Stephens is an idyllic beach getaway. Freshly-caught seafood, local wineries and waterside, alfresco dining are available at cafés and restaurants at Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens. Port Stephens is home to around 150 bottlenose dolphins; you'll find plenty of tours departing from Nelson Bay that offer dolphin-watch cruises or even kayak trips. Whale-watching is also popular during the annual migration north in June and July, and south from September to November.

150 top-class wineries, vineyards and cellar doors, 65 restaurants and 180 places to stay. The Hunter Valley is one of the best regions in NSW to really indulge a love of good food and wine with everything from olive oil tastings and seasonal degustation menus to food and wine events and welcoming cellar doors.

Family-friendly Sydney

Sydney is packed with kid-friendly things to do that will keep the whole family entertained. The good news is that most of them are close to the city centre and easily accessible by public transport.

There are plenty of places to see Australia’s native wildlife close to the city centre. Catch a ferry to famous Taronga Zoo which has spectacular harbour and city views or wander around Darling Harbour to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo. Manly is home to Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary where you can see Australia’s colourful marine life; watch out for the little penguins that inhabit the waters near Manly Wharf.

The Powerhouse Museum at Darling Harbour has more than 250 fun-packed exhibits that feature an assembly of technical, scientific and industrial wizardry while the Australian Museum has a kids' program and a dedicated area for under-fives.

Cricket plays a big part in Australia’s sporting history and cricket fans will love the SCG Tour Experience at the famous Sydney Cricket Ground. A short train ride away, an interactive tour at Sydney Olympic Park allows you to follow in the footsteps of Olympic Champions. See more sporting heroes at Madame Tussauds in Darling Harbour in waxed perfection.

Don’t miss activities in Sydney include a BridgeClimb, a visit to the top of Sydney Tower Eye and a spin on the ferris wheel at harbourside Luna Park.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Zealand: An introduction

From the northern tip of Cape Reinga to Wellington Harbour in the south, New Zealand’s North Island offers a diverse expanse of landscapes. From coastal paradise to mountains and the southern ocean, New Zealand’s South Island unveils one majestic landscape after another.

Auckland & Northland

The relaxed, sunny lifestyle of Northland springs from its subtropical climate and the myriad islands, bays and beaches around its extensive coastline. With the Tasman Sea buffeting the west coast and the South Pacific Ocean lapping the east coast, activities in this region are often water-related. Snorkelling, surfing, big game fishing or dolphin watching are experiences that are easily found along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway.

Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, has inspired a lifestyle that’s regularly ranked in the world’s top 10. Because of its unusual geography, within half an hour you can be on an island in the Hauraki Gulf, trekking through native forest, sampling wines at a vineyard or walking along a wild black-sand surf beach. Shopping, restaurants, bars and local theatre are a significant part of the city’s fabric.

Central North Island

Central North Island offers the volcanic plateau, high-altitude ski fields, surf beaches, geothermal activity and wine regions.

The Pacific Coast Highway follows the East Coast and features the beaches around the Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty and Eastland, on the way to Hawke’s Bay, which is one of the country’s key wine regions.

The Thermal Explorer leads you to or from Hawke’s Bay across the volcanic plateau, where New Zealand’s location on the ‘Pacific Rim of Fire’ is evident.

The city of Rotorua is one of the best places in New Zealand to learn about Māori culture and also to get amazed by geothermal wonders. Beneath the Waitomo area, the ground is a labyrinth of limestone passages and caves, which can either be explored on foot or on the water in an activity known as blackwater rafting.


Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is home to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and national treasures such as the original Treaty of Waitangi and writer Katherine Mansfield’s birthplace.

Martinborough, a short drive from Wellington, is a popular wine-growing area, its specialties including Pinot Noir and Riesling.

Nelson & Marlborough

The Marlborough region is one of New Zealand’s largest wine-growing regions. While Sauvignon Blanc is considered the region’s specialty, Marlborough’s Methode Traditionelle and Chardonnay wines are also well regarded.

The Marlborough Sounds, featuring spectacular scenery where bush and mountains rise straight from the sea, can be explored by boat or by foot.

The Nelson region is known for its year-round sunshine, golden beaches, national parks, boutique wineries and microbreweries. With locally grown produce, freshly caught seafood, historical streetscapes and waterfront restaurants, Nelson offers a great lifestyle.

From Nelson, it’s easy to access any of three national parks: Abel Tasman National Park, the Nelson Lakes National Park and Kahurangi - New Zealand’s second-largest national park.

West Coast & Canterbury

The West Coast is a narrow strip of land between the South Island’s Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. It is memorable for its backdrop of mountain peaks, Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, limestone landscapes, lakes and rivers, lush rainforest and a magnificent, wild coastline.

The southern West Coast is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site and is home to the alpine and thermal village of Hanmer Springs, the wine valley of Waipara, and Kaikoura with its fur seals, Hector’s dolphins and giant sperm whales.

Stunning Queenstown

Located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and overlooked by the Remarkables Range, Queenstown features year-round action such as skiing and snowboarding, jetboating, bungy jumping and whitewater rafting.

Queenstown and its surrounds also offer more relaxing activities such as golf, wine tasting in the many boutique wineries, and exploring the historic gold mining townships of Central Otago. The region is also becoming famous for its restaurants, wineries, five-star resorts and remote luxury lodges.

Wanaka, a scenic drive away from Queenstown, is located on the southern shores of Lake Wanaka and offers spectacular views of Mount Aspiring National Park.