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    Become a World Traveler  --  Inspire

    Sometimes We Enjoy a Travel Perk or Two

    Fllight Upgrades and Airport Lounge Access Perks

    Location: Around the World

    We are half way through year eight of our travel life. And sometimes we enjoy a travel perk or two. We have fallen into an easy pattern as we navigate the world. We understand how the system works, we each have our area of responsibilities as we plan and execute our travels, and generally we are content.

    However, we are also eight years older than when we first started. And along the way we have discovered a few things about ourselves that keep us happy in our retirement travels. For me, I need an outdoor space, even if it’s small, at our long term lodgings. I also need a washing machine…not a dryer, but definitely a washing machine makes me happy. Simple things but they make all the difference.

    Bangkok. We had a really long layover, visited two lounges over a six hour layover

    Budget

    Because we are very cognizant of our budget, we always fly economy. But every once in a while we will bid on an upgrade seat in Business Class. We will never pay full price for Business Class, but if we can slide in at the last minute we take it. It’s the only time I can actually sleep on a plane. We recently enjoyed a fabulous Philippines Air Business Class flight from San Francisco to Manila. It was heaven for this old girl.

    That said, we don’t just automatically book the cheapest flights out there either. We try to fly non-stops or one stop maximum. It makes such a big difference for our bodies. After the first few years of living this life on our retirement income, we figured out where and when to spend a bit more without breaking the bank.

    Business Class Life
    Philippine Air was comfy
    Excellent food and drink in Business Class

    Airport Lounge Privileges

    If you fly a lot, you quickly learn that most airports, with only a few exceptions, are all the same. Uncomfortable seating areas, expensive food, and way too many people.

    Last summer we upgraded our credit card to a Capital One Venture X. This new card provides us airport lounge privileges all around the world (in addition to some other perks). We have been very grateful for these, and have visited three different lounges in the Manila Airport (my least favorite airport in the world but the lounges are nice), lounges in Seattle, Brisbane, Melbourne, Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai so far. Some are nicer than others, but all are better than sitting at the gate.

    Seattle USA
    Manilla Philippines
    Lapu Lapu Philippines

    How Does it Pencil?

    By the way, this is not a sponsored post…I’m just sharing how much I like this credit card.
    The card cost $495 per year, but we get $300 back in travel credit when we book travel using the Capitol One travel site (which has turned out to be surprisingly easy to use and competitive with Booking.com or Expedia, our normal travel standards). So in reality we pay $195 per year less the additional cash back we get for some specific travel purchases.

    The way we figure it, before we were hanging out in airport lounges, we could easily spend $50, or more, on a meal and drinks while waiting for a flight. Now we eat and drink for free in lounges. We have enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as full cocktails, beer and excellent coffee. That saving cost alone pays for the card if you are a frequent traveler.

    In addition, the Capitol One Venture X also gives us discounts when we book with Bookingdotcom, Expedia and Get Your Guide. All travel apps we use frequently.

    Lapu Lapu Philippines
    Hong Kong
    Lapu Lapu Philippines

    Although we have yet to use it, many lounges offer showers and even beds. We usually only have a few hours, so we charge our electronics, have a meal, use the wifi and kick back in seating that is much more comfortable than at the gate.

    Melbourne Australia
    Melbourne Australia
    Singapore

    Travel Fatigue

    I’ve talked in the past about the reality of travel fatigue. Our travel life may look exciting, and usually it is. But it also can be exhausting and there are occasional long, difficult days. As we have winged our way around the world, we have learned that our dollars are well spent on a little pampering, to help make travel comfortable and reduce travel fatigue.

    Dubai

    Sometimes, since we have all the time we want, we will get a hotel at an airport, so we can sleep and be fresh for our next onward flight. This might be just for the day, or overnight. Arriving fresh at our destination makes us happier, less cranky and excited for what’s ahead.

    Bangkok
    Bangkok
    Dubai

    Sometimes We Enjoy a Travel Perk or Two

    Finding perks that are affordable but also keep us healthy and rested, is our goal. Since we travel so much, it pays to occasionally upgrade to Business Class and to carry the Capital One Venture X card. If you only fly once or twice a year, this probably isn’t the credit card for you. But if you are a nearly full time traveler like us, the lounge privileges are really nice.

    Thanks for reading my post Sometimes We Enjoy a Travel Perk or Two. See last week’s post Koh Chang Thailand, Taking it Slow. Next week we begin a series of our travels in Italy. Hope you will come back for that!

    We love it when you pin, share and comment on our blog posts. Thank you.

    Asia & Oceania Travel

    Koh Chang Thailand – Take it Slow

    Location: Koh Chang Thailand

    It’s our second visit to Thailand. We came here for a really long stay when we first began our world travels. During that time, we moved around a lot, packing in as much as possible. Seven years later, we arrived on the island of Koh Change with zero plans and zero expectations. It turns out Koh Chang Thailand – Take it Slow, is a perfect island for just that.

    We stayed in the very south part of the island near to Bang Bao

    How to Get to Koh Chang

    Just off the coast of mainland Thailand, and an hour flight southeast from Bangkok is Koh Chang. There are several islands in this area. Fly from Bangkok to Trat (about an hour flight) and then secure a van on arrival at the airport. The van takes you from the airport, onto the ferry and across, then down the Island to your accommodations. We were the last ones to be delivered since we are so far south. Most visitors stay in the White Sand or Lonely Beach area. Cost for the airport to door service was about $21 pp.

    Another option is to take a car or van from the Bangkok Airport. This was something we did not know you could do, and if we hadn’t already booked and paid for our flight we would have done this. This option, though it involves about a 4 hour drive, gets you to Bangkok at your desired time…not when the Trat flight arrives. We had a six hour layover in Bangkok. It wasn’t horrible but if we had it to do again we would hire a car or van.

    This is Koh Chang

    Where We Stayed

    We booked an Airbnb in Bang Bao, which much to our surprise, ended up being at the very ends of the earth in Koh Chang. The road only goes about a half a mile past our condo. But there are still some things in the Bang Bao area; several small bungalow type accommodations, a handful of Thai restaurants easily walkable and the Bang Bao pier where most of the snorkel boats go from. Apparently the road used to not end here. It used to go all the around the bottom of the island, but it washed out and has yet to be repaired. Our guide told us he didn’t think it ever would be.

    The beach at Tranquility Bay
    The pool at Tranquility Bay.

    We chose a lovely view condo at the Tranquilty Bay Residence. It’s kind of a strange place though. We loved the view and the pool too. But the complex, like so many places in Thailand, appears to have over reached a bit. It’s really big, but about a third of the units have not been finished. During our 30 day stay there were perhaps ten units occupied out of forty or more. Apparently there was a restaurant at one time, but not anymore.

    We booked our condo through Airbnb and paid $80 per night which was a discounted price due to our long stay. The view though…amazing.

    The beautiful deck at our Condo
    The pool was sparkling clean and never crowded

    Weather

    We spent the entire month of January in Koh Chang and we had great weather. The rainy season is over by November, but there still can be an occasional shower. It was mid to upper 80’s Fahrenheit every day.

    Sunrise hike
    Sunset walk

    Getting Around

    We aren’t confident scooter people, but scooters are the way most people, locals and visitors alike, get around. We were surprised to learn the Taxi Union is strong and so Tuk Tuk’s are forbidden on the island. That was disappointing because we love Tuk Tuk’s. Because of the remote location of our condo, you can’t just stand outside and expect a taxi to go by. Renting a car is also a hassle. So, we managed to hook up with a taxi driver and contacted him on WhatsAp the few times we needed a ride.

    I need to mention that this remote location brought with it some challenges as far as getting groceries. An easy walk to a decent 7-11 as well as a nice but tiny store that provided fruit, veg, coffee, toilet paper, rice and even fresh shrimp and chicken. We used those as needed but the two times we did tours (see below) we paid a driver to also take us to the much larger supermarkets in the town of White Sands Beach. By doing this we were able to have a good selection of ingredients for meals we made at home and then we ate out about once a week. See more about restaurants below.

    Teeny market at Bang Bao Pier
    Super Market at White Sand Beach

    Things To Do

    Well we spent most of our time just hanging out. We did our morning run in our neighborhood (hilly, and aggressive monkeys hanging out in the road), did yoga on our beautiful deck and then spent a couple hours at the pool most days. I read seven books in the month of January so that tells you how my days went. But all that said there are some fun and interesting things to do on Koh Chang, if you get bored of the beach or pool. Check out this list;

    Klong Phlu Waterfall

    Island Tour

    We hooked up with Coco Dee Bo Tours on the island and booked a couple of tours through them. In an effort to get a feel for the island, we did a full day island tour. Our driver and guide, spoke great English and had wonderful insight to the sites on the island. We visited several beautiful view points, an elephant sanctuary, and Klong Phlu Waterfall. We visited a historic fishing village and took a ride in a traditional Thai boat. It was a great day.

    Relaxing tour in an authentic fishing boat
    Several elephant sanctuaries, some more humane than others. Choose wisely.

    Bird Watching

    We really enjoyed a private Bird Watching Tour we booked through Coco Dee Bo. Our guide was excellent with an amazing ear and eye to spot some really great birds. Walkingthrough both private land and National Park land we spotted 14 new-to-us bird species. It was really fun and a good little hike too with great flora. Highly recommend.

    Bird Watching in the national park
    Isn’t he pretty?

    Bang Bao Pier

    Bang Bao Pier is often a stop on island tours, but it is right in our back yard so we visited there regularly. The Bang Bao Pier is home to the snorkel and dive boats…all shapes and sizes. It is also where you might go to do some souvenir shopping as well as pick up fruit and vegetables, seafood or visit an ATM. There are also several restaurants, a few Thai massage spots and a 7-11. A few remaining active fishing boats are here and homes of fisherman. The ferry to outer islands and Cambodia leaves from here each morning.

    Bang Bao Pier has boat tours and restaurants
    Bang Bao Pier has souvenir shops

    Ghost Ship

    Since we were on a mission to Koh Chang Thailand – Take it Slow we decided to hike to the Ghost Ship instead of hiring a guide. We like to hike and the abandoned ship is about four miles from our condo at the end of a long and dusty road. The story about the ship is that it was part of a resort, but when a guest fell or jumped from the top of the ship and died, people stopped coming to the resort. Today it’s an eerie shell of a place, but on the most spectacular beach. Staff (or an opportunist, I’m not sure which) collects 100 Baht (about $3USD) per person to enter and see the ship, resort, or go to the beach.

    Ghost Ship
    Abandoned Resort

    Snorkel Tours

    Bang Bao Pier is home to the majority of the dive and snorkel trips out of Koh Chang so it was very convenient to where we were staying. There are literally dozens of options; private, huge group, small group, family, slow boat, speed boat, catamaran…and the list goes on. You can do full-day with lunch and stop at five or six islands or choose half-day and stop at 2 or 3 islands. I would suggest use a clearing house like Coco Dee Bo to see all the options and book what works best for you.

    Every size boat to choose from for your snorkel tour
    Snorkel Thailand

    Thai Cooking Class

    We had the most wonderful three hour cooking class with Napalai Thai Cuisine School. At the class we learned to make ten things, all delicious, fresh and simple. I love Thai food and have cooked it often over the years, but taking the class was a way to learn even more. Our instructor Bunny was great. See the blog post I wrote about it last week here. If you come to Koh Chang, don’t miss it.

    Yummy Pad Thai
    Delicious Thai Chicken Curry

    White Sands Beach Night Market

    The night market at White Sands Beach, also called Walking Street, was a bit of a let down. I had envisioned the glorious night market of Chang Mai from our last visit to Thailand. Well, it wasn’t that. But I’m still glad we went. Mostly because the bustling area of White Sands Beach was fun to see at night….so different from the remote area we were staying near Bang Bao. The number of vendors at the White Sands Beach Night Market (happens every night) varies with the season.

    Grilled Whole Red and White Fish, White Sands Beach Night Market
    A popular fruit stuffed crepe at the White Sands Beach Night Market

    While in White Sands Beach we also ate at Beach Tango, a colorful, toes in the sand bistro. A good choice when in this town.

    Beach Tango

    Massage

    Many years ago I had a Thai massage on the island of Koh Samui. OMG I thought they were going to break me in half. But this massage, at the Indie Beach Bungalows and Cafe was much more my style. Just enough pressure and very relaxing – with a little bit of chiropractic service thrown in. I enjoyed it so very much, I went two times. Everywhere you go on Koh Chang there are massage places. It’s a very Thai thing to do. Inexpensive too – starting at about $10 USD.

    You can listen to the lapping waves during a massage at Indie Beach Bungalows

    Where to Eat on the South Island

    Since we didn’t have a car we didn’t wander too far for dining out, but there were several excellent places to eat within walking distance of our Airbnb. Although we primarily cooked in our condo, we did eat out about once a week and again the last few days when our food was pretty much gone. The following places we can recommend in the Bang Bao and Had Sai Noi area of the Southern most part of Koh Chang;

    Indie Beach Bungalows and Cafe – this lovely spot is owned by our Airbnb Host and was an easy walk from our condo. We ate dinner here three times including once for their Tuesday night buffet. Additionally we ate breakfast here once. It’s a great spot and inexpensive and the view is amazing.

    Tuesday Buffet at Indie Beach
    Indie Beach Cafe
    Indie Beach Cafe

    Ido Ido Beach Cafe – right next door to Indie Beach is Ido Ido Beach Cafe. We had dinner here one night. It’s a bit more rustic than Indie Beach but we enjoyed the food and a nice beach view.

    Fried Banana on the beach at Ido Ido

    Pipin Cafe – with some of the friendliest people we met on the entire island, the Pipin Cafe was conveniently located next door to our Airbnb. We first had breakfast there one morning when the power was out at our condo. Luckily they use gas for cooking and they created an amazing Thai Omelet for me, one of my favorites. We enjoyed it so much we returned for dinner on another night and enjoyed several delicious dishes and ended with a giant Mango Sticky Rice.

    Best Thai Omelet I ever had at Pipen
    A soupy dish with shrimp veg and delicious broth at Pipin

    Nongyim Seafood Bang Bao – on the Bang Bao Pier we discovered a tiny little place highly rated for Seafood. We had only eaten shrimp since arriving, and really wanted to try the local fish. We we went to Nongyim where we had a whole fried Seabass as well as some great squid salad. Really enjoyed it.

    The Sea Bass was excellent
    Fresh and delicious Squid Salad

    Koh Chang Thailand – Take it Slow

    So that is how we spent our month on the island of Koh Chang. Most people don’t come for a whole month. Four days would give you time to see and do a lot. A week would be perfect. Or stay a month, and take it slow.

    Koh Chang Thailand, Take it Slow
    Swimming off the dock at Tranquility Bay

    Thanks for reading my post Koh Chang Thailand – Take it Slow. See last week’s post Cooking with Napalai Thai Cuisine, Koh Chang Thailand.

    We are headed to Europe now for the next three months. Stay tuned!

    We love it when you share and comment on our blog posts. Thank you.

    Asia & Oceania Travel

    Cooking With Napalai Thai Cuisine School, Koh Chang Thailand

    Fun, Easy & Delicious

    We have enjoyed a quiet and relaxing month on the island of Koh Chang in Thailand. Koh Chang is pretty laid back, and that was what we were looking for. We did find the energy though to do some fun things, including an amazing Thai cooking class. Thai food is incredible! Simple and fresh ingredients come together quickly for flavorful dishes. If you are coming to Koh Chang, I highly recommend Cooking with Napalai Thai Cuisine School, Koh Chang Thailand.

    Let’s Go!

    Cooking with Napalai Thai Cuisine School, Koh Chang Thailand

    Located in the Amphoe area, owner and instructor Bunny tells me she started the school eleven years ago. I was very impressed with the layout of the mostly outdoor kitchen, and the quality of the kitchen and fresh ingredients. Bunny’s English is excellent and she has so much energy! Probably where she got the nickname Bunny.

    There are three choices of classes daily, and depending on where you are staying you can also get a pick up. We chose the afternoon class. This class is 1200 Baht per person (about $35 USD) and you choose one of two dishes in five categories. So between my husband and I we made ten dishes. The food is also consumed as you make it, so unlike some classes you eat it all while it is hot. I liked that. The class took about three hours. See the other offerings on the website here.

    Instructor Bunny talks about Chilies
    Napalai Thai Cusines School
    Let’s cook!

    Let’s Get Cooking

    At the afternoon class there were two soups offered, two curries (which included making two curry pastes), a choice between Pad Thai and Cashew Chicken and finally two desserts.

    Ingredients

    Fresh and local ingredients are the key to Thai cooking. Most of the ingredients in classic Thai food can be found in the USA and Europe, although you may need to substitute a few things. Talking about the local ingredients is one of my favorite things about taking a cooking class in most countries we visit. Bunny explained some unusual-to-me ingredients like galangal, finger root and a tiny berry-like aubergine.

    Galanga, Ginger, Finger Root and Turmeric
    Fresh and local
    Beautiful ingredients ready for the pot

    Soup

    I’m a sucker for coconut milk based soups, and so I chose to make the Tom Kha Kai – a Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup made with lemon grass, galangal, kaffir lime, chilies, onions, mushrooms, coriander, sugar, lemon juice, fish sauce and coconut milk. It was fabulous. I will certainly make this again.

    Arne chose to make Tom Yam Koong – A Hot Sour Prawn Soup. His was also delicious, made with prawns (or you can use chicken), lemon grass, galangal, onion, tomato, coriander, chicken stock, lemon juice, kaffir lime and fish sauce. Both soups quick and easy.

    Tom Kha Kai
    Arne enjoying Tom Yam Koong

    Main Dish

    Arne chose the Pad Thai, a dish most people are familar with. We have made this at home and have certainly eaten it in many places around the world. The recipe at Napalai included noodles, chicken, spring onions, cabbage, egg, two kinds of mushrooms, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, tamarind paste, dried shrimp and chili powder. In a wok it comes together very quickly.

    Kai Phat Met-Ma Maung is Stir Fried Chicken and Cashew Nuts, one of my favorites. Preparing the ingredients on the chopping block took more time than the cooking. It was all simple using carrots, baby corn, onion, mushrooms, red chili, garlic, sugar, oyster sauce, fish sauce, chicken and cashews. This one is easy to make at home and I have already made it.

    Pad Thai
    Kai Phat Met-ma-manung

    Curry

    Red Curry and Green Curry are a little different in Thailand than what you might be familiar with in India. Though not difficult, it is a little more time consuming to pound the ingredients for the curry paste. These two dishes were spicier than anything else we made, even though we scaled back on the spices. If you aren’t used to the spicy chilies here, you need to be careful…it can really knock your socks off.

    We started by finely chopping our ingredients for the two curries before moving to the mortar and pestle and grinding the ingredients into paste. The pounded ingredients for the red curry included red chilies, garlic, shallot, lemon grass, galangal, coriander, kaffir lime, turmeric, peppercorns, cumin and shrimp paste.

    Finely chopped
    Grinding the paste

    The ingredients for the green curry included green chilies, garlic, shallot, lemon grass, galangal, coriander, kaffir lime, turmeric root, pepper corns, cumin and shrimp paste.

    When the curry paste was ready we moved to the woks where we added the chicken, eggplant, corn, basil, fish sauce and coconut milk.

    Homemade curry paste starts the dish
    Kaeng-phed
    Kaeng Khiaw-waan kai

    Dessert

    Of course the much loved Mango Sticky Rice, Khao-Neeaw Ma-Muang, was on the menu. And this stuff is dangerous. I could eat it every day. One of my all time favorite desserts and it is so easy. We also made Banana in Coconut Milk, Buat Fak- Thawng, which tasted like a Banana Cream Pie without the crust. The freshest fruit and good quality coconut milk/coconut cream, as well as sticky rice are the featured ingredients in these desserts.

    Khao-neeaw ma-muang
    Buat fak-thawng

    Cooking Around the World

    For me, taking a cooking class in a foreign country is hands down the best way to get close to the culture of a place. Food is such an important part of people’s lives, religions and culture. Seven years ago I took a Thai Cooking Class in Chiang Mai. And my experience Cooking with Napalai Thai Cuisine School, Koh Chang Thailand was an exceptional refresher. And I learned some wonderful new things too. Thank you to Bunny for being an exception chef and teacher.

    Thank you for reading my post Cooking with Napalai Thai Cuisine School, Koh Change Thailand. If you are coming to Koh Chang, don’t miss it. I hope you saw last week’s post Sensational Singapore – A Visit to the Lion City.

    We really appreciate it when you pin, comment, share our posts. Kahp Kah. Thank you.

    Inspire

    Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023

    A Year in Review

    Location: Planet Earth

    I absolutely love writing this blog post each year. Throughout the year I think about what experiences and places might make this list. And when it’s time to write – it’s a fun walk down memory lane as I reminisce about the previous year of travel. Maybe I can inspire you to travel to some of these places. I know for a fact several of my followers traveled to Malta this past year. Malta was last year’s winner of our favorite country! I hope it’s fun for you to read and enjoy the awards we bestow on our favorites and the best of the best (and a few duds too) from our year of travel; the Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023.

    The Grand Adventure Year Seven

    Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023

    I’m surprised that I am already talking about the “seventh annual” travel awards 2023! We are now well into our eighth year of travel as part of The Grand Adventure. What a remarkable ride it has been. Not sure exactly what year nine will bring…but it’s already open for discussion.

    2023

    We have had a wonderful year of travel; both long stays and short, independent travel and guided. The list includes; Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Bolivia, Barbados, Curacao, Grenada, Bonaire, Trinidad and Tobago, USA, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Philippines and Australia. The states included Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Georgia, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington DC.

    Birds of Australia

    So sit back and get ready….here are the winners! Our Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. By the way see our First AnnualSecond AnnualThird Annual, Fourth Annual  Fifth Annual  and Sixth Annual awards by clicking on the links. Each one special in its own way.

    Destinations – 14 Countries and 8 USA States

    Favorite Country – Australia

    Australia – Our favorite country of 2023

    We spent the last two and a half months of 2023 in the amazing country of Australia. It’s our second visit to Australia since we started the Grand Adventure in 2016. The first time we spent three weeks. Oh but there is so very much to see in this amazing country and even two months didn’t cover it all. We loved Brisbane and spent four weeks in our Aussie Nest, the caravan we took more than 2400 miles. Also, Melbourne was incredible and then an entire month in Hobart enjoying the beauty of Tasmania. If you haven’t been to Australia…it’s time!

    Favorite City – Melbourne and Honorable Mention Hong Kong

    Beautiful Melbourne Australia
    Hong Kong

    Unlike most years, 2023 included several big cities. Not on purpose really, it just worked out that way. We loved Mexico City, La Paz Bolivia, Atlanta Georgia, Washington DC, New York City, Hong Kong, Brisbane and Melbourne. But, if we must – and we must – our choice for favorite is a tie. Beautiful Melbourne is a place I could go back and spend a few months. Astonishing Hong Kong was sparkling clean and HUGE, delicious and just a wonderful surprise.

    Cutest Town – Savannah Georgia and Honorable Mention Hobart Tasmania Australia

    Savannah Georgia USA
    Hobart Tasmania Australia

    Despite having traveled quite a lot around the US South, I had spent almost no time in Georgia. So this year we made it to both Atlanta and Savannah. Savannah is a fabulous town, historic and charming. We had great weather, ate great food, spent time with dear friends. It was worth the wait. On the other hand, Hobart on the island of Tasmania, Australia was such a wonderful surprise. With an incredible and diverse collection of things to do. We enjoyed both.

    Favorite Island – Panglao Philippines

    Panglao Philippines

    We arrived in Panglao Bohol with absolutely no expectations. I knew it wasn’t Maui. Or the island of Malta. But I was intrigued and curious. What we found was unexpected and fabulous. Nothing fancy..but ridiculously inexpensive, beautiful, friendly and sunny.

    Most Expensive Country – USA

    Snoqualmie Falls and Salish Lodge
    Snoqualmie Washington State USA

    Second year in a row that the USA is our pick for most expensive country. Granted we own a small house in the USA, so while in that part of the country we don’t need to pay for lodging. But groceries, dining out, excursions, flights and anything else to do with day to day life or domestic travel is more expensive than nearly anywhere else in the world.

    Least Expensive Country – Philippines

    Panglao Philippines

    It was frankly shocking how cheap the Philippines were. I mean an entire four course meal with drinks for 2 people was $20!! What? A manicure was $3! Our lodging with private swimming pool was $60 a night. Yep, hands down the Philippines is this year’s least expensive country.

    Accommodations – 11 Airbnbs, 15 hotels, one cruise ship, one Glamping tent and one motor-home

    Favorite Airbnb Hobart Tasmania, Australia – Honorable Mention Washington DC

    Airbnb Hobart Tasmania Australia
    Airbnb Capital Hill Washington DC USA

    The Airbnb in Hobart was such a lovely surprise. It’s a bigger house than we need, but we wanted something quaint and cozy for the holidays. We got that and a whole lot more in the historic Gatekeepers Lodge in Hobart for $170 per night. Although we never met our hosts, they left us delicious treats and were kind and generous. But the tiny basement studio Washington DC Airbnb in the beautiful Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington DC was also lovely. A perfectly appointed small space so well thought out. We loved it for our short visit at $150.

    Favorite Airbnb for service – Panglao Philippines and Roatan Honduras

    Airbnb Panglao Philippines
    Airbnb West End Roatan Honduras

    We rarely have complaints of any kind with our Airbnb choices, most are acceptable and usually better than expected. But once in a while we have an exceptional host that takes the customer service level up a notch. Of course those same hosts also know to give us the privacy we need. Our hosts in the bungalow in Panglao Philippines were so helpful with any questions, booking drivers and much more. Our host on the island of Roatan Honduras was also superb. We loved that big, beautiful third floor walk up and thanks to our host we had absolutely anything we needed and more.

    Most Expensive Airbnb – New York City.

    Airbnb Upper East Side Manhattan New York City USA

    The second year in a row New York takes this category. Everything is expensive in New York. At least the Airbnb we had this year was much more comfortable and bigger than the one we rented last year. We paid $320 per night. However, since we stayed there in April, New York City has passed a new law and Airbnb’s can no longer rent for less than 30 days. So, I’m not sure what that means for any future visits to NYC.

    Best Value Airbnb – Panglao Philippines

    Airbnb Panglao

    At only $60 a night our four week stay in Panglao was one of the least expensive, yet completely relaxing stays we have ever had. The private pool was wonderful, although rustic I had a nice running route, and we could walk or take a Tuk Tuk everywhere we needed to go. It was simple, with a very small kitchen but we made it work. We would visit here again in a minute.

    Best View Airbnb Roatan Honduras

    Airbnb West End Roatan Honduras

    The West End Roatan Airbnb was awesome. It involved ALOT of stairs, and since we didn’t have a car we also walked up and down a steep hill each day to town, but the hill and the stairs resulted in a lovely 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment with a beautiful deck and gorgeous view of the Caribbean for $140 per night.

    Favorite Hotel – Red Tree House, Mexico City and Honorable Mention Clarion Suites Gateway Melbourne

    Red Tree House Mexico City
    Upgraded to a full suite at the Clarion Gateway Melbourne

    Staying at the Red Tree House in Mexico City last March, was the first time we had ever returned to the same hotel again just because we loved it so much. The Red Tree House won our Favorite Hotel award in 2021, and our second stay was just as lovely. When in Mexico City it’s the only choice. Ask for a room that looks at the garden. But we also really loved the Clarion Suite Gateway in Melbourne – our suite was perfect and we could have stayed forever. The location is perfect for exploring Melbourne.

    Most Expensive Hotel – Hilton Logan Boston

    Well we often have an early morning flight out of Boston to Seattle, so it’s very convenient to stay at the airport. But it still is a sticker shock to me every time…The Hilton Logan Boston is lovely, but $400 plus per night.. Not our usual that’s for sure.

    Least Expensive Hotel – Sempre Premier Lapu Lapu, Cebu, Philippines

    Sempre Premier Lapu Lapu Cebu Island Philippines

    We spent one night in the Sempre Premier in Lapu Lapu before taking the ferry to the island of Bohol/Panglao. We stayed in the same hotel for one night again, on our way back, returning to the airport. The hotel room was compact but comfortable, spotlessly clean with all the comforts we needed. The hotel included a restaurant with a great breakfast (included) and dinner service for an added fee. We paid $40 per night.

    Most Unique Accommodations – Salt Hotel Bolivia

    Salt Hotel Uyuni Bolivia

    Our eleven day tour with Intrepid Travels around Bolivia we stayed in several different lodgings…some nicer than others, but all acceptable enough. But one stood out above all others – The Salt Hotel. On the salt flats of Uyuni, we spent one night in a hotel made of salt. The walls, the floor, even the bed was made of salt. Apparently some people lick the walls to be sure. I declined, but it was interesting.

    Tiny But Fun Award – The Aussie Nest Motorhome, Glamping in Millersylvania State Park Washington

    Our Aussie Nest
    Pampered Wilderness

    Spending a month in a tiny motorhome traveling 2400 miles in eastern Australia was one of our favorite things this year. The space was tiny, unique and very memorable. But I also have to give a shout out to the Glamping Tent we stayed in back in Washington State USA in the summer. I highly recommend it a visit to Pampered Wilderness at Millersylvania State Park.

    Food and Drink

    Favorite Country Cuisine – Mexico

    Breakfast at the Red Tree House Mexico City

    Returning to Mexico City, one of our favorite cities in the world, was a special treat. We ate nonstop during this second visit to this beautiful, historic and delicious city. I can’t wait to go again.

    Best Food Tour – Hong Kong

    Hong Kong Food Tour all the dumplings I could eat

    Angel our tour guide, who we found through With Locals ,took us on such a wonderful tour of delicious Hong Kong. We would never have found the hidden gems she took us to, or learned the hidden stories about delicious Hong Kong. It was a wonderful tour!

    Best Cooking Class – Hong Kong

    Pots and Pans Cooking School Hong Kong

    What a wonderful private cooking class we had in Hong Kong with our new friend Bill at Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio. It was fun talking to Bill about Hong Kong, the cuisine and learning to cook multiple delicious dishes. We ate till we thought we would burst and then we took home even more!

    Best Meal Carmine’s Italian Restaurant New York City

    Veal Picatta at Carmine’s NYC

    We eat well on our travels. Even though we try to cook in our airbnb’s as often as possible, we still dine out and enjoy local cuisines everywhere we go. While in New York for five nights we ate out each night and enjoyed delicious meals. But our evening at the famous Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, where we met up with good friends, was memorable. The family style (huge portions) was delicious, the service on point, the atmosphere boisterous and fun.

    Most Overrated Restaurant – Pujol Mexico City

    Pujol

    I hadn’t known about this restaurant the first time we visited Mexico City. So when I knew we were going again I made a reservation seven months in advance at Pujol – the highest rated restaurant in Mexico City. But, I was underwhelmed. It was unique, most certainly, but not up to the hype I’m afraid. As a matter of fact, the authentic meal we had at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City restaurant called Sala Gastronomica was so much better.   

    Most Unique Meal – Popular La Paz Bolivia

    Amazing meal at Popular, La Paz Bolivia

    We learned about this restaurant from our walking tour guide. Otherwise I don’t know if we would have found it. Popular is only opened for lunch and reservations are required. Hands down one of the most unique, beautiful and delicious meals I’ve experienced.

    Best Beer – Australia

    Beer in Australia

    Well it’s Australia Mate! And they love a cold one here. Australia’s Microbrewery scene is fantastic, throughout the country and we enjoyed each regional specialty. We also had a wonderful tour in Hobart Tasmania of the oldest brewery in Australia – Cascade Brewing, established. BTW – Australian wine…also really great.

    Culture

    Best Overall Cultural Experience – Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea

    Most Authentic Cultural Experience – Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea

    Goroka Festival
    Goroka Festival

    Two categories – one winner. It was a stretch for us to book this tour with Indigo Tours, more expensive than our usual choices, but Papua New Guinea was not a place we felt we could tackle on our own. Lots of back and forth with the owner of the company before we pulled the trigger. And I’m so glad we did. This experience, participating in the annual Goroka Festival with more than 150 tribes of Papua New Guinea was once in a life time. Papua New Guinea, one of the least understood places in the world, lost in time, beautiful. The tribal spectacle that is the Goroka Festival is undeniably one of the most incredible shows on earth…and I was there.

    Most Amazing Man Made Structure – Teotihuacan Mexico

    Teotihuacan, Mexico

    This place blew my mind. So incredibly underrated…I had actually never heard of it until we visited Mexico City the first time. So, on our second visit it was top of my list. Construction of Teotihuacan began in 100 BCE, long before the Aztecs. The actual name of the people who built it and lived here is unknown and there is no written record. But they left behind this vast site that today is still being discovered. The Aztecs settled here and ruled the region much later from about 1200 CE until the Spanish obliterated them in the 1500’s. Archaeological research and discovery first began in 1904.

    Best US History Site – Martin Luther King Museum and Ebenzer Baptist Church Atlanta Georgia

    Martin Luther King National Historic Site, Atlanta Georgia

    MLK National Historic Park is Atlanta’s top tourist attraction and it’s free! We visited this moving and inspiring site on two different days. The first day we visited Ebenezer Church where King preached as did his father. We also visited the beautiful memorial area where both Martin and his wife Coretta’s tombs are.

    The MLK museum was so good, and actually made me cry. This is worth going to Atlanta for more than anything else.

    Best Garden – Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne – Honorable Mention Rhododendron Spieces Garden Federal Way Washington

    Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
    Rhododendron Species Garden, Federal Way Washington State USA

    We visit a lot of gardens in our travels. But Australia has been an absolute paradise when it comes to the botanical gardens in every town we have visited. Every single town. And every one was free. The pinnacle of all these gardens was the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. Fabulous.

    Honorable Mention goes to a garden very close to my home – The Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way Washington. This little beauty was such a surprise I don’t know why I had never visited. And a bonus was the remarkable Pacific Northwest Bonsai Gardens. I’ll be taking my out of town visitors to this place in the future.

    Best Museum – Anthropology Mexico City and the African American Museum WA DC

    Anthropology Museum Mexico City
    African American Museum Washington DC USA

    The Anthropology Museum in Mexico City is one of the finest museums in the world. Astonishing the story it tells of the cultural history of this amazing land we know as Mexico. And by the way, don’t miss the cafe. It too was remarkable as it explored the ancient tribal foods of Mexico.

    BUT, there is another museum that was just as remarkable. The African American Museum in Washington DC. The depth of this experiential museum will blow your mind. I wish we had known, we would have gotten tickets two days in a row. It is worth it. Entrance is free but booking is definitely advised.

    Most Bizarre Museum – Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart Australia

    MONA, Hobart Tasmania Australia

    The strange Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), located on the Derwent River in Hobart is definitely the most unusual museum I’ve ever been to. I’m still not sure what it was…art? Culture? Or was it about architecuture? Maybe the goal is just to be different…and it certainly suceeds there.

    Best Walking Tour – La Paz Bolivia

    La Paz Bolivia

    La Paz is, frankly, a strange place but strange in a wonderful way. The cultural history, the incredible people living at 11,000 feet, and the architecture will blow your mind. And then there are the myths and religions and witchcraft. We learned all about this on our amazing walking tour with a local.

    Best Historical Sight –  City of La Paz, Bolivia

    La Paz Bolivia

    We spent about three times more time in La Paz than most people do – a full 12 days. We planned the time so I could acclimate to the altitude because I have suffered from altitude sickness in the past. And for the most part, it worked. And, over those 12 days we discovered this remarkable city. A place unlike anywhere we have ever been from the way of life, the people, the myths and the construction. Mind boggling.

    Best Performance – Ballet Folkloric Mexico City

    Ballet Folkloric Mexico City

    Not only was this performance the best of the entire year, it was honestly one of the best things I have seen anywhere in the world. The Ballet Forkloric in Mexico City is an ethnic cultural dance and music performance, professional and mesmerizing in a beautiful and historic theater. Stunning.

    Best One Day Tour – Roatan Honduras

    Holding a sloth in Roatan Honduras

    One of our most favorite things was a full island, full day tour of Roatan Honduras. If you only have one day this might not be for you, but those staying longer definitely should do this. We booked with Omar Tourist Transportation and our driver Dario was amazing. We discussed the things we were interested in seeing and he made sure we saw those and much more. He also took us to the most amazing place for lunch, an out-of-the-way, over-the-water spot with delicious food called La Sirena.

    Best Multi Day Tour – Bolivia

    Bolivia with Intrepid Travels

    We wanted to cover a lot of territory in Bolivia, and didn’t feel confident to handle those logistics as independent travelers in this country. So we took a recommendation from a fellow full-time traveler and booked our tour with the highly regarded Intrepid Travel. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Intrepid, and particularly our guide Wendy, who made this tour the once in a life time experience it was. She is amazing. If you have ever considered Bolivia…Intrepid is the way to go. You will be so amazed by this country, the quality of the tour and the adventure.

    Best Tour Guide

    Wendy with Intrepid Travel Bolivia – Best Tour Guide EVER

    Hands down our guide with Intrepid Tours in Bolivia, Wendy was the best this year and honestly probably the best guide EVER. I experienced some altitude sickness, and we encountered some other strange situations (see below under Travel) and Wendy handled everything with a stealthy ease and a touch of humor.

    Unexpectedly Fun Tour – San Juan del Sur Nicaragua ATV Tour

    Day tour, San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua

    We booked a one day tour with Pacific Adventures. Using a rugged ATV, we spent hours with our guide on a private tour of the mountains of Nicaragua. We swam in hidden pools, climbed waterfalls and had lunch with a local family who made us an authentic Nicaraguan farm to table meal. It was a fun day.

    Nature

    Best Sunrise – Eden, Australia

    Sunrise Eden Australia

    While traveling in our Aussie Nest motorhome we enjoyed an early morning walk on the beach to watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean

    Best Sunset – Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    Sunset Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    Another remarkable experience on the Uyuni Salt Flats, watching the glory of sunset turn everything you could see pink and purple, then star studded black. Spectacular experience.

    Best Beach – Nobby Beach Gold Coast

    Nobby Beach, Gold Coast Australia

    We actually spent less time on beaches this year than we have the past few years. So when we did have some beach time I really wanted to enjoy. We were lucky to have beautiful weather when we were on the Gold Coast in Australia. It’s stunning.

    Best Hike – Booderee Australia Honorable Mention Papua New Guinea

    Booderee National Park Australia
    Papua New Guinea

    So MANY hikes to try to chose from this year! Since we hike at least once a week, year round and in every country. Australia alone provided at least 6 candidates for this category. But we chose Booderee National Park in New South Wales Australia. We spent three days there and were astonished with the bird and wildlife. We did a long hike one day where I almost stepped on a venomous snake…that was memorable! But what a place it was! Honorable mention too in this category, because hiking in Papua New Guinea in a successful search of the exquisite Bird of Paradise will always be a great memory.

    Best View Hike – Fluted Cape Bruny Island Australia

    Fluted Cape, Bruny Island Tasmania Australia

    Spectacular weather, no other hikers and views to rival anywhere in the world made this day hike on Bruny Island near Hobart just so memorable and breathtaking.

    Best Natural Sight – Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    Unbelievable Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    A bucketlist for me was visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia and it did not disappoint. One of the most incredible natural sights I have seen anywhere in the entire world. It’s out-of-this-world beautiful and worth the effort it takes to get there.

    Best Overall Wildlife Viewing – Australia

    Mama and Baby Wombats Maria Island Tasmania Australia

    At every turn in Australia there is something unique to see…especially in the wildlife category. From kangaroos to wombats, platypus to wallaby, the wildlife of Australia is unlike anywhere else in the world…worth a trip just to see it.

    Most Unexpected Wildlife Moment – Bohol Philippines

    Tiny 6 inch Tarsier, Bohol Philippines

    Despite the abundance of wildllife in Australia, the winner of the most unexpcted wildlife moment for 2023 was seeing the teeny tarsier on the island of Bohol in the Philippines. These shy little nocturnal creatures return to the sanctuary during the day because they feel safe there. So with a guide we wandered only a short distance into the jungle to see these darlings up close and personal. A breathtaking experience.

    Best Bird-Watching – Australia

    Crimson Rosella, Canberra Australia

    We track our birds through out the world, and Australia hands down wins the award of all time for the MOST new to us birds spotted. During our two month visit we marked over 80 new birds from the teeny Fairy Wren to the giant Pelican and dozens in between. So much fun!

    Athletic Pursuits

    Best Snorkeling – Panglao Philippines

    Such a great snorkle experience in Panglao Bohol

    Without even going on a boat we were able to snorkle the Napaling Reef on the eastside of the island of Panglao. With a guide we snorkled through literal millions of sardines, lots of other fish too in the crystal clear waters. One of the best snorkeling experiences we have ever had.

    Best Golf – Washington State

    Golfing all summer long in Washington State

    Our home course in Port Orchard Washington where we spend the summers takes the prize this year for best golf. During our four months back in Washington State we played golf at least once a week and sometimes more often. It’s a great golfing community.

    Best Place to Run – Brisbane Australia

    Riverwalk ancient lava flows, Kangaroo Cliffs, Brisbane Australia

    I run usually five days a week when I can, and I really loved running on the beautiful river trail in Brisbane. With nearly endless possibilities this trail is really the lifeline of this beautiful city.

    Weather

    Hottest Day – Barbados

    Barbados

    We spent five brief days in Barbados. And though we didn’t love the island, we did enjoy a couple of nice days at the beach when the temps soared over 90 fahrenheit on Easter.

    Coldest Day Australia

    Cradle Mountain National Park Tasmania Australia

    We expected Australia to be warmer than it was but we saw a little bit of everything during our visit. One very hot day and some very chilly days too. Our hike in Cradle Mountain produced the coldest day and we wore every bit of clothing that we had with us in the icy wind at 3500 feet.

    Wettest Day – Philippines

    Tropical storms can produce a whole lotta rain, and rain it did on three different occassions while we were on Bohol/Panglao Philippines. An absolute deluge.

    Travel

    Longest Travel Day – Los Angeles to Port Moresby 9730 miles

    First Class all the way! A great flight to have an upgrade since it was 10 hours. Philippine Airways was great.

    Our overnight flight from LA to Manila was luckily made bearable because of a last minute upgrade to business class. What an unusual luxury for us.

    Shortest Flight – Papua New Guinea

    Finally boarding after being delayed an entire day for only a 30 min flight

    A quick 30 minute hop (that was delayed about 16 hours) was worth the wait to get us to the amazing Goroka Festival in Papua New Guinea. When traveling somewhere like PNG you always need to be prepared for the unexpected.

    Worst Airport Manila Philippines

    I’m not giving a best airport award this year, but for the second time in our travels the worst airport award goes to Manila. It is just an awful airport and there really is no excuse for it. Signage is non-existant. Escalators rarely work. The Public Address system is awful. Even worse the Domestic and International terminals are a long ways apart and you have to ride a bus, and so if you are trying to make a connection it is stressful and frankly tricky.

    Craziest Travel Day – Bolivia

    What a strange thing to happen – but it makes a good travel story.

    On our first day of the group tour in Bolivia our bus got stopped in the road where strikers from the lithium mine had put up barricades and were threatening. We waited six hours and our AMAZING guide Wendy finally decided we would walk across. She arranged for us to quietly walk through the strikers while drivers in 4-wheel-drive vehicles snuck through the desert, lights off, to meet us and whisk us away into the night. It was totally like a movie, frightening but also exciting, especially in hindsight. We learned the next day the road remained closed for several days…if we hadn’t taken this chance we would not have been able to do the tour. And of course this tour ended up being one of the highlights of the year. It’s a good travel story too.

    Most Incredible City Transportation System – La Paz Bolivia

    La Paz is so under rated! We loved it.

    A city wedged into the mountains at more than 11,000 foot elevation means driving is difficult…and walking even harder. But La Paz has an ingenious, thorough, and even colorful system of gondolas, built specifically as public transportation, in this densely populated city in the sky – it is beyond astonishing.

    Miscellaneous

    The Ouch Award – Bug Bite Australia

    Red Bull Ant
    Ouch!

    Australia is known for things that can kill you…from snakes to jellyfish. Luckily the thing that got me was a Red Bull Ant. Evolved from a wasp, this little red devil actually stings rather than bites and the sting was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had. As I write this it’s been two months since my rumble with the mean fella, and my leg still has a bruise and scar. It may never go away.

    Expensive But Worth It – Papua New Guinea

    Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea

    It was a stretch for us to book this tour to Papua New Guinea because the cost was a lot… for two people for a week we paid $7500. This included most everything, from lodging to most meals. But that said this was still really roughing it. It’s not an easy place to travel, with terrible roads and unreliable air travel. It certainly isn’t a place I’d want to navigate without a guide. So this is how we did it, expensive but worth it.

    Favorite Photo

    I love this photo because this man asked me for water….the dancers have no access to food or water and they are sweating in the hot sun. His request helped me engage even more with the incredible spectacle of the dancers. I was happy to provide him water and he was happy to provide me a photo.
    A life long dream for me to see the Uyuni Salt Flats and it was even better than I had imagined. In the sun and at sunset the other worldly nature phenomenon did not disappoint.

    I try to chose a single photo each year, out of the tens of thousands of images I take on our travels around the world. This year I have chosen two because I just could not decide. My photography is a big part of both our world travels and this blog. It hopefully takes my followers to these unique places and into my life experiences. I hope you enjoy seeing these images as much as I enjoy taking them.

    Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023

    US Supreme Court Washington DC USA

    There you have it. The best of the best of My Fab Fifties Life travel of 2023. Amazing, memorable and unique experiences with new cultures and fantastic experiences around the world. What a grand adventure it is. We sure hope you will consider visiting some of these places and enjoying some of these unique experiences too – the seventh annual world travel awards 2023.

    As I post this annual awards I am in the country of Thailand. Over the next few months we will visit 12 more countries before returning to the USA in early May where we spend our summers. Beyond May we don’t know yet.

    Old and New in amazing La Paz Bolivia

    It takes me weeks to write this post so I hope you have enjoyed the Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. My goal is to inspire you. The world is so amazing…not everyone is going to want to go to places like Papua New Guinea. I understand that. But I hope you have learned something and perhaps are motivated to step beyond your comfort zone. We hope you will continue to follow us around the globe, comment, pin and share this post so others can follow as well. Thank you and stay fabulous. This travel blog wouldn’t be possible without all of you. And if you are ready to begin a travel life of your own, see our post Becoming a Traveler here.

    See last week’s post Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise. Come back next week for our post all about Singapore.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR OF TRAVEL!!! We appreciate it when you comment, share and pin our blog posts – especially this one!! The Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. Thank you.

    Asia & Oceania Travel

    Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise

    Location: Tasmania Australia

    I arrived in Tasmania Australia with absolutely no expectations. I love it when that happens. Sometimes it’s on purpose and other times it’s just because we are busy and have not really planned our visit. Usually this results in wonderful surprises and discoveries – and this is exactly what happened for us in Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise.

    Hobart from on top of Mount Wellington

    Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise

    Island Paradise? Absolutely. But maybe not in the way you are thinking. It’s not tropical…but there are beautiful beaches. You’ll love that it’s not crowded…most of it wild and undeveloped. Also it’s not hot…with four seasons but rarely getting over 75 – 80F degrees in the short summer.

    And yet it truly is a little Eden. About half the size of the State of Washington, the heart shaped island is home to a fascinating collection of birds, animals and plants. With miles of undeveloped coast, rain forests, mountains, waterfalls, lakes and meadows. A hardy local population of about 540,000 are friendly, patriotic and helpful.

    Beautiful Tasmanian beach

    Tasmania has a rich history. Home to aboriginal tribes for tens of thousands of years, the tribes were nearly wiped out when Europeans arrived. Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer, first named the island Van Diemen’s Land in the 1640’s. The British began “transportation” in the early 1800’s, transporting convicts to gaols (jails) throughout Australia including Tasmania. In an effort to colonize the area, more than 162,000 men, women and children served hard labor between 1788 and 1868. Most of them stayed, and populated the Australian mainland and Tasmania. It is estimated that 20% of today’s Australian population can trace their roots to British convicts transported during this time.

    What’s Your Pleasure?

    During our visit, Tasmania provided us activities that we enjoy the most; bird and wildlife spotting, hiking, walking, learning about history, eating seafood and drinking local wine and beer! We did all that and more during our four week visit to Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise.

    Amazing local beer and wine throughout Tasmania

    Most people probably aren’t going to spend an entire month. But hopefully this post will help you set your priorities for visiting Tasmania.

    By the way – if you plan to visit more than one national park in Tasmania, it’s worth it to purchase an annual pass which we did. Definitely worth it for us at US$60. Learn more about it here.

    Hobart

    We spent an entire month in a wonderful historic Airbnb in Hobart. All but two of the activities listed below we did as day trips from Hobart. One overnight was to Freycinet National Park, although we could have done that in a day trip too. Additionally we took two nights to go north and visit Launceston and Cradle Mountain. It was great to use Hobart as our home base, since we had such a lot of time to work with. If you have less time, be sure to spend at least a few days in lovely Hobart because there is much to do. Read all about the amazing things we did while living in Hobart for a month here Hobart Australia’s Most Surprising Town.

    Hobart

    Bruny Island

    DAY TRIP

    DISTANCE FROM HOBART – 35 min drive and 30 min ferry ride.

    Bruny Island (approximation)

    A short drive from Hobart to the small town of Kettering, you catch a small ferry to Bruny Island. Plan ahead because sometimes you wait a couple of ferries – it’s really small. Once on the island, there are some fun things to do…we did it as a day trip but depending on how much time you have it could be a great overnight. Bruny is home to some great hikes including Fluted Cape Walk, which we did. It involved a pretty steep climb but that gave us some wonderful views. We had hoped to see the famous Bruny Island white wallaby but unfortunately we didn’t. Hopefully you will. There are about 200 on the island.

    Bruny has beautiful beaches and several wineries. We took some time to visit a local brewery that also makes cheese Bruny Island Beer and Cheese Company and enjoyed a little lunch.

    Bruny Island Beer and Cheese Company

    A popular thing to do on Bruny is get out on the water on an organized boat cruise. We didn’t do this, but there are many ways to enjoy the water…and many other things as well. Learn all about what to do on Bruny Island here.

    Bruny Island Ferry
    Fluted Cape Walk
    Fluted Cape Walk

    Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur

    DAY TRIP

    DISTANCE FROM HOBART Just over an hour to Tasman Peninsula and an additional 20 min to Port Arthur

    Tasman Penninsula Port Arthur (approximation)

    Tasman Peninsula

    We started early for this day trip and enjoyed everything we did. Starting on the Tasman Peninsula we made several stops to enjoy the beauty of this astounding scenery of this area. This is home to the multi day hike known as the Three Capes. On this visit to Tasmania we were not prepared to do overnight hiking, but it’s one of the most popular things to do in Tasmania. Learn more about it here.

    However our day trip included some short walks that provided us outstanding views of this rugged and beautiful area. Starting with a couple of short loop walks that took us to the Tasman’s Arch and then to the Devils Kitchen. Another short walk in this same area is to a Blow Hole at Fossil Bay, with spectacular panoramas along the gorgeous coast. I highly recommend a stop at the Tessellated Pavement too. It’s also a short walk and worth it to view this very unique rock formation, created by the expanding salt in the rock cracks. Unreal and bewitching.

    Tasman’s Arch
    Tessellated Pavement
    Devil’s Kitchen and Coast
    Alien looking “loafs” at Tessellated Pavement

    Port Arthur

    At the end of the Tasman Peninsula we come to Port Arthur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former penal colony. Between 1830 and 1877 nearly 13,000 convicts came to this remote point of the Tasman Peninsula, at that time reachable only by water. The convicts that were housed here were those who recommitted crimes. A high offender penitentiary. The museum and self-guided tour is so perfectly presented and easy to understand. At the start of the tour you receive a playing card with the name and picture of someone who either lived or worked in Port Arthur. As you tour the grounds you read the interpretive signage and try to find your person. It was fun and interesting for young and old alike. This unique historical site of Port Arthur is sad, but frankly beautiful too. Port Arthur is a not to be missed attraction of Tasmania.

    Engaging way to explore Port Arthur
    Port Arthur
    Beautiful too

    As we returned to Hobart we stopped at one of the dozens of wineries in this area. Visiting Bangor Vineyard winery we enjoyed an early dinner in their incredible restaurant and some delicious wine too.

    Bangor Vineyard
    Bangor Vineyard

    Mount Fields National Park

    DAY TRIP

    DISTANCE FROM HOBART one hour and ten minutes

    Mount Fields National Park (approximation)

    At 600 feet, you’ll enter this beautiful national park and find a cool rain forest and home to some of Tasmania’s tallest Eucalyptus trees. We enjoyed a full day hike doing the three waterfalls loop. On our visit we hiked about 7 miles but there are short and easy wilderness walks that take you through the beautiful fern trees and to the popular Russell Falls, one of Tasmania’s most beautiful waterfalls. After our hike and picnic lunch we drove up to Lake Dobson. It was noticeably colder at this elevation of 3500 feet. In the winter it’s popular for snow activities at Mount Mawson Ski Field. Mount Fields National Park is not as popular as some of the other national parks close to Hobart, we loved how few people were there on our visit. I highly recommend you visit.

    BIG trees in Mount Fields
    Pademelon
    Russell Falls

    Maria Island

    DAY TRIP

    DISTANCE FROM HOBART One hour by car and then 30 min by boat.

    Maria Island

    One of our favorite things we did on Tasmania was visiting Maria Island (pronounced mar – EYE – ah). Another national park, it is remote and beautiful and home to abundant wildlife. I recommend booking your boat ahead, especially during high season. It’s recommended you arrive at the ferry 45 min before your departure. The passenger-only ferry with Encounter Maria departs from the small town of Triabunna. At the ferry you will find parking, rest rooms and a small place for coffee and fish and chips.

    One day or More

    The boat ride can be a bit bumpy, so if you are like me plan ahead with your motion meds. On arrival there are multiple hiking options depending on your fitness level. We did three different hikes; first to the Fossil Cliffs, about an hour and half. The fossils are pretty cool and the hike along the rocky cliff side of the island is windswept and beautiful. We encountered kangaroo on this section.

    Next we did the Reservoir Circuit, a very peaceful walk through tall forests with fewer people. On this walk we saw our first potoroo and some beautiful birds.

    We walked through the Darlington Township, another of Australia’s penal colonies of the 1800’s and enjoyed our picnic lunch at one of the provided tables. It was here that we encountered the rare Cape Barren Goose.

    Boat to Maria Island
    Fossil Cliffs
    Fossils

    Next we walked along the beautiful Rutherford Beach cove to the Painted Cliffs, one of the most beautiful areas of the island. A fascinating geological feature of Maria you don’t want to miss. Make sure to check on the tide however, to properly see the Painted Cliffs the tide must be low enough to walk to them.

    Walking back to the ferry we encountered wombats. Several wombats, including a Mama and a baby. Such a treat to see these incredible marsupials up close.

    We took the 10:00 AM boat out of Triabunna and returned on the 4:15 departure from Maria. This gave us plenty of time to do all of the above. There are longer hikes as well, and you can stay the night in both small historic lodging or camping. Don’t miss Maria Island when visiting Tasmania.

    Beautiful Painted Cliffs
    Mama and baby wombat

    Freycinet National Park/Wine Glass Bay

    OVERNIGHT

    DISTANCE FROM HOBART 2 hours 40 minutes

    Freycinet National Park (approximation)

    Swansea

    We visited Freycinet as an overnight but you could do it as a day trip from Hobart. Deciding to make it an overnight, we stayed in the tiny town of Swansea, about an hour from the park, in a small cabin in a caravan park. Swansea has a few restaurants but not much else. We did enjoy a walk through town and along the waterfront.

    Beautiful beach near Swansea
    Dinner in Swansea at The Branch

    Wine Glass Bay

    Wine Glass Bay is the main thing most people come to see. There is a fairly steep hike up to the viewpoint that includes about 1000 stairs. Once at the top the view makes you forget all about that. At the lookout, you can choose to walk another 1000 steps down to the beautiful sandy beach. Then, turn around and back up, and down the other side. It is a bit difficult, but if you take your time, I think nearly anyone could do it. Be sure and bring water.

    Looking down onto Wine Glass Bay
    The beach at Wine Glass Bay
    Made it to the top!

    Cape Tourville Light

    It’s also worth it to visit Cape Tourville Light. The view is incredibly, and although very windy I definitely recommend the short walk around the light. The view from the windy cliff where the light house sits is stunning.

    Launceston

    OVERNIGHT – we did Launceston as part of a two day tour of Launceston, Devonport and Cradle Mountain (see below)

    Distance from Hobart 2 hours 30 minutes

    Launceston (approximation)

    Launceston is Tasmania’s second largest city. Located on the Tamar River, it’s home to James Boag’s Brewery – Australia’s largest brewery. It’s a small town with lots of historic charm in the Victorian style architecture. It’s easy to do a self-guided walking tour. Don’t miss the Old Umbrella Shop, owned by National Trust Tasmania.

    If the weather is fine make sure to visit the Cataract Gorge and ride the old school Cataract Chair Lift over the gorge.

    National Trust Old Umbrella Shop
    Cataract Gorge

    Cradle Mountain National Park and Devonport

    OVERNIGHT

    Distance from Hobart 4 hours. From Devonport it’s about 1 hour 30 min.

    Cradle Mountain National Park (approximation)

    Devonport

    We drove from Launceston on to Devonport (about an hour) where we rented a tiny cottage in a caravan park with views of the the Bass Strait. We chose Devonport because it was easy to access Cradle Mountain National Park which was our main reason for coming to this area. The region is very agarian, a bit windy and absolutely beautiful. Devonport is home to the ferry that crosses the Bass Strait, the treacherous span of water to mainland Australia.

    We didn’t have much time in Devonport, and frankly there isn’t a lot to do. We enjoyed a leisurely walk along the waterfront a long and well maintained Torquay Heritage Trail.

    The best thing we did in Devonport was go at sunset to see the Little Penguins. Often called Fairy Penguins these little cuties leave their chicks on shore and go out to fish from just before sunup until after sunset. Conservation volunteers man the overlook at Lillico Penguin Viewing Platform each evening to help visitors spot the little penguins as they come ashore. It was cold and windy and of course dark…but I’m sure glad we did it.

    Torquay Heritage Trail
    Little Penguin at Lillico Viewing Platform – using red lights to see the penguins after dark

    Cradle Mountain National Park

    We arrived at Cradle Mountain National Park about 10am. It was the week after Christmas and it was really busy with tourists and locals too. We hadn’t realized that visiting Cradle Mountain means a shuttle bus inside the park. At first I was annoyed about that…always wanting to be able to control my timeline. However, it was a very efficient system, even on a very busy day. The shuttles are large and comfortable and frequent. Even if you already have a parks pass, you’ll need to stop at the visitor center to get your shuttle tickets.

    The park is about 3000 feet, and even in early summer, it can be chilly. When packing up that morning in Devonport where it was 75 Fahrenheit, we had only thrown in our down jackets and hats as an afterthought. Thankfully. We wore all of it most the day. Beginning our hiking around 11am with the Dove Lake Circuit, one of the most popular hikes in the park. We followed that with a nice stretch of the Overland Track – most of which is on a raised platform. Next we enjoyed our picnic lunch and were just heading out to do a portion of the river gorge track, which wanders back down to the Visitor Center. But right then it started to rain…a nasty, misty, soaking rain, and we decided we had enough for the day, and headed back towards Devonport.

    Beautiful Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain National Park
    Bundled up but loving Cradle Mountain National Park

    And We Didn’t See It All

    There are a few things we did not squeeze into our visit. Despite the compact size of Tasmania, if you like nature, you’ll never run out of things to see and do. The people are so friendly, prices are good, roads are passable to all the places I mentioned here, and summer and fall provide comfortable temperatures. Spending the holidays here we observed how laid-back life is – even as Christmas approached. People are unpretentious, happy, and completely at home in this beautiful state.

    We loved everything about our time in Australia, and Tasmania is a place we would love to return to again. If I can help you plan a visit to this remarkable place, let me know. Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise.

    See last week’s post about Hobart Tasmania – Australia’s Most Surprising Town here. Be sure to come back NEXT FRIDAY for our ANNUAL TRAVEL AWARDS post – which incidentally has a lot of Australia in it too! You don’t want to miss it – always one of our top posts of the year.

    Want to learn more about our time in Australia? Check out Visit Beautiful Brisbane, Visit Marvelous Melbourne and our Caravan Travel post one and post two.

    Thank you for reading this week’s post Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise. We would really appreciate your shares, pins and comments to help our post get more views. Thank you.

    Asia & Oceania Travel  --  Island Life

    Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia

    Location: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

    Tasmania. Where is it? I don’t think most people even know. Not that long ago I wouldn’t have known either. But today I can say it is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. And Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, is definitely worth a visit. Let me tell you why I say Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia.

    Looking down at Hobart from the top of Mount Wellington at 4400 feet

    Hobart, Tasmania

    Tasmania is Australia’s southernmost state. It’s an island too, about half the size of the state of Washington, an hour flight from Melbourne. Hobart is the capital city of Tasmania and is home to 198,000 people. The city of Hobart sits at latitude 43 south – which is equivalent to Milwaukee Wisconsin or Marseille France north. During our visit we rented a wonderful Airbnb in Hobart for an entire month over the Christmas holidays. Even though December is the beginning of summer in Australia, it never gets too hot in Hobart due to the southern exposure, and we had a little bit of everything in the weather department. It’s a perfect size city for getting around, and we had time to do so many wonderful things: from museums to hiking and more – Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia.

    Lovingly refurbished historic home
    Historic Airbnb built in 1860
    We loved this Airbnb

    Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia, has a colonial and penal colony history but natives were here much earlier. Wikipedia says “The first European settlement in the Hobart area began in 1803 as a penal colony and defensive outpost. In 1804 it was moved to a better location at the present site of Hobart at Sullivans Cove, making it the second oldest city in Australia. Prior to British settlement, the area had been occupied for at least 8,000 years, but possibly for as long as 35,000 years, by the semi-nomadic Mouheneener tribe, a sub-group of the Nuenonne, or South-East tribe. The descendants of the indigenous Tasmanians now refer to themselves as ‘Palawa‘.”

    Historic Hobart Harbor (Canva)

    Things to do in Hobart Tasmania

    In this post I will share with you all the great things we discovered to do in the city of Hobart, or less than an hour from the city. Next week’s Friday blog post, I will expand more on all the incredible attractions more than hour outside of the city. But if you are only visiting Hobart, there is so very much to do without leaving the city Let’s talk about it.

    History

    Battery Point – one of Hobart’s oldest and best preserved neighborhoods just south of the CBD. Founded in 1818, Battery Point (so named from the cannons once positioned there) is perfect for a self-guided walking tour when visiting Hobart.

    Battery Point
    Row Houses in Battery Point
    Battery Point

    Hobart Wharf and Constitution Dock – a beautiful part of the city, this historic waterfront area is home to the fishing fleet as well as yachts and personal sailboats. Many tours leave from here and there are casual eateries and fine dining options. The cruise terminal is close by.

    Hobart Waterfront
    Mawson’s Museum, replica of early Antarctica cabins
    Lots of seafood options at the wharf

    Cascades Female Factory Historic Site – not to be missed former site for female convicts who were transported from Britain beginning in the early 1800’s. This is a great place to begin learning about this bleak time in Australia’s history prior to visiting Port Author about an hour and a half from Hobart (more on that next week). Don’t miss this fascinating, sad but also intriguing UNESCO World Heritage Sight in Hobart.

    Cascades Female Factory
    Historic Cascades Female Factory
    Cascades Female Factory

    Museums

    MONA Museum of Old and New – Difficult to describe; weird, curious, eccentric. Definitely thought-provoking. I struggle to understand modern art…so some of it went over my capacity. The architecture however was fascinating. Even if you go away scratching your head, it still is worth a visit when in Hobart for its state-of-the-art concept. I also recommend arriving by ferry on the Derwent River from Hobart Harbor.

    MONA
    Museum of Old and New
    MONA

    Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery – Wow. This museum was a real surprise right from the start when we realized it was free. Housed in a historic building near the original docks, TMAG is home to a wide range of exhibits from art to history and nature. I was particularly impressed with the aboriginal exhibits which I thought presented that story very well…despite how disturbing it can be. A very similar tale to the plight of the Native American.

    Wildlife

    Glow Tour with Lisa Ann – staying up past dark was worth it to do this unique tour. We walked through a city park and were astonished at the wildlife there. Using UV lights which don’t disturb the animals, we explored trees and found possums, endangered bandicoots, wallabies and pademelon. The platypus were elusive but regularly are seen after dark. A fun evening.

    Possum
    Endangered Bandicoot

    Parks & Gardens

    Mount Wellington, now called kunanyi in respect to the original local people of the region – It’s a very easy drive to the top of kunanyi- Mount Wellington, about 40 minutes from Hobart. Certainly the top was chilly but worth it for the amazing views…incredible from 4400 feet.

    Afterward we went back down to about 3500 feet where it was a bit warmer and did a lovely hike below the iconic Organ Pipes rock formation, and had a picnic and enjoyed so much bird life. This park is a must when in Hobart.

    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens inside Queen’s Domain Park – we spent Christmas Day walking around this beautiful botanic garden – one of many we enjoyed in Australia. The well tended and diverse 17 hectare space is housed within the more wild Queen’s Domain Park. Consecutively , worth a stroll when in Hobart. Free too!

    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
    A Beautiful day at Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

    Intercity Cycleway – used for commuting and recreation both, this wonderful paved trail runs along the old railroad tracks from Hobart all the way to Claremont. About 16 miles and we used it regularly for our morning runs.

    View of the Derwent River from the Intercity Cycleway

    Markets

    Salamanca Market – held every Saturday 8:30-3:00 through out the year, this huge outdoor market offers a wide variety of food, produce, gifts, clothing, arts and crafts. On Salamanca Street right near the wharf. The area is also home to wonderful shops, restaurants and historic sights.

    Salamanca every Saturday year around
    Salamanca every Saturday year around

    Sunday Farm Gate – my favorite for locally grown and produced, this market is held every Sunday in the summer. Home to fresh bread, produce, cheese, honey and even gin and whiskey all locally made.

    Sunday Farm Gate
    Sunday Farm Gate

    Hobart Twilight Market – Happening twice a month in the summer and once a month in the winter, the Hobart Twilight Market takes place near the waterfront and Franklin Pier. Albeit you’ll find lots of yummy options for dining as well as distillery options, crafts, honey and more. Live music. Dates vary so check the website.

    Hobart Twilight Market

    Food and Restaurants

    Because we had such a great kitchen in our Airbnb, and because we work hard to stay on budget, we actually did not eat out very often during our month in Hobart. But we did enjoy the following;

    Street Eats – during Australia’s summer months (December – February) every Friday night at Franklin Square you’ll find Street Eats. This Friday night food truck festival is a great gathering place complete with music.

    Street Eats
    Street Eats held at Franklin Square
    Friday Street Eats

    Breakfast -looking for a tasty breakfast in Hobart CBD? Look no further than Criterion. A unique and tasty menu and excellent coffee with great service and a good price.

    Breakfast at Criterion

    Lunch – Cultura Espresso and Bistro is a perfect place for a quick late breakfast or lunch. Italian specialties with excellent coffee and wine too. Try the Chicken Panzanella Salad.

    Lunch at Cultura

    Dinner – We enjoyed dinner out at a handful of restaurants and can recommend all of these;

    Da Angelo Italian – this highly rated restaurant in Battery Point serves spectacular food with wonderful service too. I had veal bianco and my husband had lasagna (his favorite) and we both were really happy. Da Angelo has a great local wine list, perfect with our meal.

    Pearl & Co. – casual seafood eatery connected to the fish market and located right next to where the fresh fish comes in, a really delicious selection of seafood. Oyster, calamari, blue-eye trevally and scallop pie all were perfect.

    Delicious and authentic Italian at Da Angelo
    Pearl & Co.

    Room For A Pony – it’s a funny name but a very popular spot for both indoor and outdoor dining and perfect for groups in North Hobart. We enjoyed a delicious salad and pizza. Simple and family friendly.

    Poncho Villa – we read such good reviews about this Mexican restaurant we had to try it. Consequently, Poncho Villa is so popular it even requires a reservation. The Mexican food was authentic and delicious, while being creative too. I’m glad we went!

    Landscape Restaurant and Grill – fine dining at it’s best. This beautiful restaurant on historic Hunter Street was a perfect way to end our month in Hobart. Beautiful steak, fish, wine and service…everything you need for a perfect celebration or night out.

    Room For a Pony
    Poncho Villa
    Perfect meal at Landscape

    Beer

    Cascade Brewery Tour – it’s not free but it’s really interesting to tour the oldest brewery in Australia. Fascinating building and history and your ticket includes a lovely tasting at the end. Tickets $35 Aussie (about $20 US)

    Cascade Brewery, Australia’s oldest brewery

    While in Hobart, we made a point to visit several local microbreweries. I can recommend all of them if you are a beer lover like we are. Definitely check out T-Bone, Shambles, Deep South, Captain Bligh, Hobart Brewery and Overland.

    Overland
    Captain Bligh’s
    T-Bone
    Shambles

    Entertainment

    Theatre Royale – this beautiful historic theatre, built in 1837, has events through out the year. While we were in Hobart we enjoyed a fun and festive annual Christmas show. Check out offerings when you visit.

    Saint David’s Anglican Cathedral – this beautiful and historic church hosts many events throughout the year open to the public and during our stay in Hobart we attended a free (donations welcome) holiday musical event that was truly spectacular. We loved being there with all the locals enjoying the music of the holidays in a venue where the acoustics were heavenly.

    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens – in the summer the Theatre Royal presents shows outdoors at the Botanical Gardens. We enjoyed a fun production of Pinocchio the week after News Years.

    Saint David’s Cathedral performance
    Beautiful Saint Davids Cathedral

    Pinocchio in the Park

    Richmond

    Richmond is a tiny colonial town about 30 min drive from Hobart and definitely worth a visit. Luckily we went in the morning, before the tour busses arrived, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Czeg Cafe. Secondly we followed a self guided walk around the village following the city’s online guide.

    During our walk we visited the well preserved and interesting Richmond Gaol as well as the convict-built stone bridge – built in 1823 and still in use. Richmond has some fun shops and many other restaurants as well. In the region around Richmond you will find multiple wineries. We visited Nocton Winery and enjoyed a tasting – taking two bottles home for our holiday celebrations.

    Richmond Bridge
    Richmond Gaol
    Czeg Cafe Richmond
    Breakfast at Czeg.
    Nocton Winery

    Festivals

    For such a small town Hobart is home to large variety of events and festivals throughout the year. See the full list here. While we were visiting, one of the biggest events of the the year, Taste of Summer , took place the week after Christmas and first week of January on the waterfront in Salamanca. The party on New Year’s Eve was a great fit for us. Certainly the event has so much food, beverages, excellent music – and on NYE front row seats to the 9:30pm fireworks (family and old people friendly) and the midnight fireworks as well!

    Taste of Sunmer
    Happy New Year
    Taste of Summer

    See More Tasmania

    Although I spent a month in Hobart, you could explore the city easily in three or four days. Therefore giving you time to see so much of the island of Tasmania, if you don’t have a full month like we did.

    However, next week I’ll tell you about our adventures around the island of Tasmania…some day trips from Hobart (more than an hour) including Bruny Island and Port Arthur. Additionally we also did some overnight trips including Freycinet National Park and Cradle Mountain. I hope you will come back to learn all about that next week. Tasmania is an astonishing place. I think I’m in love. Meanwhile, thanks for reading my post Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia.

    Do you want more posts about Australia? Click on these Visit Beautiful Brisbane, Visit Marvelous Melbourne, Caravan Travel Australia Part One, and Part Two.

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