Discover Margaret River region – Western Australia

My recent Western Australia trip wouldn’t have been complete without visiting the famous Margaret River region. 
The small town of Margaret River is aprox 3 hours south from Perth and although I expected a proper river, Margaret is just a regular creek. However, there was no place for disappointment because the town has so much to offer and it’s very welcoming. Cute boutiques, restaurants with personality and great live music all around, Margaret River has been my  temporary home for two days and I loved it. 
Of course, there’s no person who’d go there and not visit the wineries.

The region is one of Australia’s best wine producer with plenty of small, family owned but also world famous wineries.

I’m not a wine expert whatsoever, but as a regular consumer and on behalf of fellow travelers that joined the same wine tasting tour, I say that the regions best product is certainly the Chardonnay. Delicious taste of wine, but also the food has been remarkable, making the day a succes and the tour full of joy and laughter. 


It’s certainly wine lovers paradise here, but if you’ve got sweet tooth you’ll be happy too. The chocolate factory welcomes you with several different types of chocolate and you can taste as many as you like and you are in the right location also for the best nougat I’ve ever eaten. 


After so much and wine and sweets, if there’s still space in the stomach, you shouldn’t miss out on the cheese tasting either, you’ll be amazed by the selection on offer.
Our tour ended at the distillery, where  we’ve been spoiled with a signature liquor offered by the sarcastic, yet friendly bartender.


Amazing atmosphere at all wineries, very friendly and generous wine makers with interesting stories to share, a wine tasting tour is the ultimate must do.
Although the Margaret River wineries may be the most popular in the area, it does worth checking out more.

Dunsborough

Greeted by the colorful double rainbow, I liked this cute town as soon as I got there. The rain stopped soon and I was excited to go on a discovery walk and try to stay away from wine at least for a day. The latter didn’t quite work out because they serve everywhere the tasty Chardonnays that I couldn’t say no to. On the other hand, I was more than pleased with the walk. Discovered a long stretch of walking path right next to the sea and on my way I met a few rabbits hopping around and some smiley locals that walked their dogs. It looked like everybody had a dog there, very dog friendly place. 


I didn’t expect to end up staying a few days in Dunsborough, considering it’s small size, but then it felt so good being there that I didn’t bother hitting the road, just until the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse.

From the lighthouse the view is amazing, but I recommend doing a bit of bushwalk to properly explore the Leeuwin – Naturaliste National Park. 
The main attractions around are Sugarloaf Rock and Canal Rocks, both impressive and interesting. 

Busselton

A few minutes drive from Dunsborough is another small, but fascinating town, Busselton, home of the famous Busselton Jetty, the longest wooden jetty in the world. 


At the end of the nearly 2 km long jetty is one of only 6 in the world underwater observatories. The $34 entry fee that includes the optional train ride to and from the observatory, aprox 30 min tour and another 30 min free time in the observatory, is money well spent. You’ll experience looking at the marine life in their natural habitat without even getting wet. 

Before this trip when I heard Margaret River I just thought about wine and that’s it. Little did I know about the natural richness of the area, but now that I’ve got a glimpse of it, I feel that I must return and dig for more.

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Western Australia’s best spots to visit

From white sand beaches and turquoise water to pink lakes and diverse flora and fauna, Western Australia has it all and in a two weeks roadtrip from Perth to Exmouth it’s very likely to experience a bit of everything. The bonus to all this is that it’s way less touristy than the east coast of the continent, although it’s just as interesting and stunning, perphaps even a bit more outstanding. 
Considering that my roadtrip started in Perth towards the end of October, the weather has been still a bit unpredictable, windy and a bit chilly but as you make your way more and more north the temperatures rise and in Exmouth you’re happily swimming in warm water by the very end of the month.
In a laidback and rather relaxed travel rhytm, choosing the overnight locations happened always spontaneously, this way spent some time in little towns and also at popular attractions. 
A few of the places I enjoyed and would visit again would be :

Lancelin

The small fishing and tourist town located 127 km north of Perth has got a nice beach, a good bakery, a pretty lookout spot and a well positioned tavern, where you can sip on a wine while watching the sun going down. They serve amazing food as well, the prawns are delicious and the staff very friendly.

Lake Thetis

Heading more north, near the town of Cervantes, lake Thetis is a saline coastal lake, one of a few places in the world with living marine stromatolites. 

Hamelin Pool

Speaking of stromatolites, Hamelin Pool is a must visit, it’s  further up north, in Shark Bay, and it’s more impressive than Lake Thetis, also more touristy. It’s a World Heritage area and these stromatolites are the oldest and largest living fossils on earth. 

Jurien Bay

A popular coastal town, where lots of locals from Perth go just for the weekend, it’s attractive because of the beautiful beach and the great snorkeling opportunities. I’ve spotted also a dolphin in the far distance. The sunset has been magnificent and the caravan park just 2 min walk from the beach.

Geraldton

A coastal city with a quite nice downtown, lots of shops, cafes and restaurants. Great for a bit of a bigger city atmosphere or overnight.

Pink Lake at Port Gregory

The Pink Lake or Hutt Lagoon is a huge lake with entirely pink water, picturesque and unusual, the color of the lake being caused by the presence of the carotenoid producing algae called Dunaliella salina. 

Kalbarri

Probably my favorite WA town, Kalbarri is charming and offers plenty of activities both on water and land. Being situated at the mouth of Murchison River it’s home for pelicans, every morning there’s a pelican feeding opportunity as well. The Kalbarri National Park is nature lovers happy place, plenty of trails and amazing views.

Carnarvon

Not really a town that would impress, but it can be ok to make a stop, take a walk and possibly check out some of the few restaurants and the slice of nature at Chinaman Pool.

Monkey Mia

The world famous dolphin reserve is absolutely amazing, the main attraction being of course the daily feeding of the bottlenose dolphins that have been coming close to the shore for more than fifty years. It’s a wonderful experience to be so close to them and learn about this friendly creatures from the people that dedicate their lives to protect and keep the dolphins happy and healthy.
But that’s not all, Monkey Mia has also a very nice beach, a modern resort with plenty of entertainment options and nice and helpful staff. 

Shell Beach

Still in the Shark Bay region, this beach is covered completely in shells and it’s one of the only two such beaches in the world. 

Coral Bay

Another of my favorite WA spots, Coral Bay is small, relaxed and simply beautiful. The water is crystal clear, warm and nice blue, the beach is covered in soft sand and the whole surroundings are very friendly and inviting. The perfect setting for sunbathing, swimming and just enjoying the beauty of the place. It’s considered one of the best places for snorkeling, the Ningaloo reef being home for a large number of fishes, whale sharks and mantarays. As so many other places in WA, Coral Bay is also a perfect location to watch beautiful sunsets. 

Exmouth and around

The far north west town is known for its amazing Ningaloo reef and the closeby Cape Range National Park.
The town itself is relaxed and welcoming, but the real beauty lies outside the town. 
Just in Cape Range National Park I could have spent probably at least a week, it has so much to offer. Highly recommended to do the Yardie Creek walk, you’ll be rewarded with great views over the gorge, which has deep blue water, red limestone cliff faces and a wide range of wildlife, such as this cute wallaby that decided to hop out of the bush at the right time for a photo with a great background.


Osprey Bay has been amazing for snorkeling, the highlight was swimming with turtles. Also plenty of fishes of all sizes and colors to be seen.


Turquoise Bay is absolutely spectacular, definitely visit it once you’re in the National Park. As the name suggests, the color of the water is perfect turquoise blue, you feel like in paradise there. It’s known as western Australia’s best beach and one of the top best beaches of the whole continent – I can understand why.

It feels like there’s so much more to discover around here, but these highlights are probably the most spectacular ones and can easily be explored in aprox 2 weeks. The beautiful beaches are certainly attractive and the journey towards them is pleasant, occasionally some local animals may great you as well.

City2Surf Sydney – the world’s largest fun run

Runners might have it on the bucket list, Sydney siders love it and all participants are aware that City 2 surf is the world’s largest fun run and Sydney’s favorite sporting event. My long distance running experience started not too long ago with 4 k, at the second event I did a 5 k and this time I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of being part of what’s considered a blast and a challenge that everybody around me talks about. Therefore with all possible excitement I registered a week ago and with again a very minimal training but a much bigger determination I put my runners on and lined up at St Mary’s in the CBD to start the hardcore challenge.

The atmosphere from the very beginning has been very welcoming and entertaining, just as I expected it to be. Music, good vibe and many many keen runners of all ages started the countdown on this sunny Sunday morning.

City 2 surf attracts annually thousands of participants, last year reaching a fabulous number of 80,700 registrations. It’s impressive taking into consideration that it’s been only the 48th edition back then and the very first one in 1971 started off with only around 2000 runners.

This year didn’t disappoint either, the massive crowd giving the extra push and motivation along the way.

The race started on College Street in the CBD and following the route along the eastern suburbs, with beautiful Rose Bay and Vaucluse views, where many participants stopped for a quick foto shoot. So did I because I actually had no photo of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from that angle. Yeah, a side of me is still a tourist here and yes, I do love those two gorgeous icons. So there you go, I skipped one water stop and replaced it with a few seconds break of posing with the beautiful background.

Making our way towards the world famous and spectacular Bondi Beach, where the finish line is set, meant another few km-ers to go, but mainly downhill from this point on, which made things slightly easier.

Over all, as any similar event, it’s been challenging and at times really hard to push through, but also a very rewarding experience that I’m so glad that I signed up for. No wonder that in the runners world it’s often a bucket list race to do, also named by notorious publications as one of the world’s most scenic runs. I reckon most of those runners will stop for a selfie on the top of the hill to catch the great background.

I couldn’t disagree and actually if my runner version had a must do list, City 2 Surf would certainly be on it, now ticked off with a result of 1h 45 min result. Must admit I surprised myself with this. More runs to come!

Iconic Bondi – Sydney

Sydney’s most famous and certainly the busiest as well beach, Bondi for sure rings a bell even for those that didn’t get the chance yet to visit it. The iconic beach attracts many people surprisingly even in winter. Winter at this part of the world is mild though, today in a pleasant 18 degrees sunny day I was lying on the beach, reading a book, while a few brave ones were taking a dip in the ocean.

Just recently Bondi hosted a typical winter activity location, an ice rink, where both young and older could enjoy some fun on the ice with ocean views. That’s probably the closest you can get to winter here.

Nothing to complain about, especially when you’ve got the amazing coast line to explore.

On a day like today, when it’s warm and sunny, but not too hot, coastal walks are the ideal weekend activities that keep you in shape.

The stretch from Bondi to Coogee is easy and starts right from the beach, passing Bondi Icebergs and going all the way along the coast.

Very relaxing, on one side with the waves hitting the rocks and above us the beautiful blue sky, amazing combination of what in my terms means perfection.

Along the way you’ll see plenty of interesting and picturesque stone formations that look great in photos.

Also, a few small beaches, such as Tamarama or Bronte, where there are barbecue opportunities and always good vibe.

Lots of people take their dogs on this walk as it’s a very pet friendly environment and I’m sure the dogs enjoy the walk as much as their owners.

As Australia seems to be encouraging a lot sport and fitness in general, this part of the city is in particular a great example of that. Everywhere around Bondi and the sea in general, there are always many super fit people doing their work out, run, stretch or yoga. While on our coastal walk we’ve been taken over so many times by runners that just casually jog from one beach to the other on a regular Sunday afternoon.

The walk goes through a cemetery as well and between the graves you still have the magnificent view of the ocean. One way takes usually just over an hour in a normal rhytm with occasional stops for drinking water or taking pictures. Whether you opt for one way or return, in either cases there’s public transport available.

It does worth it sticking to the area until sunset for having the chance of looking at the ocean on a different light, that is quite pretty and relaxing.

The atmosphere becomes quiet and romantic as the night falls and the waves sound much louder but in the same time more calming. In the distance the city’s light start turning on and the darkness begins to take over slowly. It’s handy to have a light jacket because it gets windy and chilly very quickly, as soon as the sun sets.

The return walk took almost 3 hours and at return  the night lights welcomed us back to reality: busy, noisy and always fun Bondi.

Where to go on a daytrip from Sydney?

A perfect daytrip option from Sydney is the beautiful Royal National Park, well known for its outstanding Figure 8 pools.

How to get there?

Take the car. Although public transport can be an alternative, it’s rather complicated and time consuming. By car it’s just over an hour drive until you reach the National Park and you start the bush walk.

Explore

A pleasant aprox 15 min bush walk, most of the path is very easy, proper hiking shoes still convenient to wear.

The views are beautiful as you get a glimpse of the ocean.

It’s a bit of a challenge to reach the pool itself, as you must climb over some massive rocks for maybe around another 15 min. The proper hiking shoes come very handy at this stage.

When to go?

Definitely make sure you go when it’s low tide if you actually want to approach the pools.

As they are located at the age of the rocks, even if it’s low tide it can be a bit tricky to be around there.

The wind and waves can become your worst enemies and sadly I learnt that on the spot. Weather conditions and nature in Australia can be tough and unexpectedly dangerous.

Walking to the pools is already a slippery path, however the mood of the ocean must be your number one reason to be cautious.

As we were standing next to the Figure 8 pool a sudden wave that came out of nowhere and in a second washed us all off the rocks, smashing us to the ground and water splashing above my head. My water slide like experience lasted a few seconds, carried me aprox 4 meters and left me with a bleeding left foot, lost sunglassies and a damaged camera. Others ended up having way worse injuries but we all agreed that despite the event, Figure 8 pools is a cool place.

Just over an hour drive from Sydney, it’s a great place to escape the city and connect with the nature. Hiking, bush walks and several other outdoors activities are all available in the Royal National Park and Figure 8 pools is just a part of the beauty of this place.

New Years Eve in Sydney

The beauty of Sydney Harbour is on any given day mind blowing, but on New Year’s Eve it’s in particular stunning.

No wonder that people travel from overseas just to watch the famous fireworks when the clock hits midnight. It’s very common to see people struggling to find a good place already in the morning of December 31, taking their meals for the day and literally spending the whole day out, sometimes in terrible heat, just to experience a once in a lifetime event.

I was still little kid when I watched in the tv for the first time and I remember staring with my mouth open because it was absolutely beautiful. Back home, in Romania was still just after midday and those people on the other side of the world were yelling Happy New Year. I thought that’s amazing! And they did that wearing shorts and summer dresses, while I had warm pullovers on even inside the house. It was fascinating to think that it’s summer somewhere while at my place is winter and that it’s night when at me is day still. I started to develop a passion for Australia and especially for Sydney every year after. I am grateful for the tv channels that transmitted a short part of the New Years fireworks from the major cities around the world in the order of the time zones. Sydney was always the first, the most beautiful and my favorite every single time. Long story short: I made my bucket list item to be part of it not just spectator from my couch at home.

First time I spent New Years in Sydney was two years ago, loved it, but haven’t been so lucky to have the best viewing spot. This time, things happened differently .

I happened to be invited last minute to probably the most wanted places to be on this special evening.

At 11 pm, when we got to the Opera Kitchen, the atmosphere was great, the views amazing and the people more than excited. For starters some snack and a glass of wine, but at midnight the champagne didn’t miss either.

When the countdown started everybody turned towards the Harbour Bridge shouting out loud the numbers 3,2,1.

The spectacular fireworks lit up the sky of Sydney and colored it for a few seconds with bright blue, red and golden colors, offering us a memorable 20 minutes of show and excitement.

To my right was the Opera House, to my left the Harbour Bridge and both looked wonderful as the fireworks kept on going.

Any better view for New Years Eve in Sydney I don’t think I could have wished for.

The venue was full but not overcrowded, our table being located probably in the best spot, easily could see everything that did matter.

Another new year, quite a special one, has started in an unexpectedly interesting way in my favorite city.Happy 2018!

Byron Bay vibes

Byron Bay is that hippie town on the east coast that everybody goes to once and will fall in love with instantly. On my previous Aussie trips I did parts of the east coast and whenever I met fellow travelers that heard I made it to Surfers Paradise, the next approach was if you liked Surfers, you will love Byron. I was excited and ready to be surprised when I boarded the plane in Sydney with destination Ballina.

Yes, you can fly to Byron very cheap either to Ballina or Gold Coast airport, Ballina being the closest one, only 20 min drive from the airport to Byron Bay town center.

Touched down in Ballina, took a shuttle and reached Byron Beach Resort, which was going to be my home for the next four nights. The location is great, just opposite Belongil beach, which I prefer over Main Beach, because it’s not crowded and it’s a better match if you just want to relax.

The town is maybe 20 min walk away, but bikes are available for rent or a free shuttle runs often to town and back.

Belongil Beach is perfect for daytime, sunset watching and at night for chilling under millions of stars. But the action , aka party, happens in the town.

Railway bar and Cheeky Monkey are the most popular bars for those that love live music and alternative vibes. The truth is that live music is impossible to avoid in any case in Byron -not that anyone would like to avoid it – because quite talented baskers are all around the town playing guitar and singing to the eager public. They do a good job and they keep the spirit of Byron Bay alive.

The iconic lighthouse is proudly standing on the top of the hill and can be seen from pretty much everywhere in town.

Bush walks, biking and running trails, they all lead to the beautiful lighthouse and just behind it a short trail will lead you to the most easterly point of the Aussie mainland.

For the sunrise I got up at 4:40 am, took the shuttle from Byron Beach Resort – they organize sunrise tours on specific days of the week – and walked to the lighthouse with half closed eyes still to capture the moment when the sun pops out of the Atlantic and rises over it, lighting up the town.

It wasn’t an easy job to get up at that time, considering that the previous night was a bit long, but it was certainly worth it. Surprisingly many people have been up there and we all together stayed speechless when the sunrise started to happen. It was beautiful!

Walking around the lighthouse I discovered that a big number of people choose this place for morning yoga and meditation or dog walking. I don’t blame them. You get stunning views and definitely a good boost to start a great day.

Byron is the place where I could keep on extending and extending my stay thanks to it’s laid back atmosphere, chilled out people, super friendly locals and fellow travelers and in my case also because I met wonderful swiss people that woke up my beautiful memories related to Switzerland.

I didn’t end up extending my stay, after 4 days I went to Brisbane, but in 4 days can’t back to Byron for the night not because Brisbane is not great, but because Byron is just a bit cooler if you’re after relaxed time by the beach.

This time I’ve chosen to stay at Byron Holiday Park, all ready for new adventures, hence I booked a tent instead of a room.

The staff at The Aviary are extremely friendly and my tent was more than comfy. It rained a bit at night and some birds made weird noises cause yea, it’s Australia, but the experience has been awesome. I’m about to check out soon and I know for sure that I’ll return again here and I’ll claim a tent. But by then I’ll tell you about some daytrip options that are easily doable from Byron Bay.

Nimbin

Nimbin could be considered the little sister of Byron, it’s smaller, even more chilled out and even more hippie and colorful.

Not that I’d have any interest, but involuntarily I saw how easily you can get marijuana there, just on the street and without any cover.

Some people walk their white camel as others do their dogs.

I spent around 3-4 hours in Nimbin, which happened to be the meeting point for catching up with a friend from Brisbane, but liked it. Nimbin seemed to be interesting place at daytime, I can imagine how much more interesting it becomes at night.

Crystal Castle

You may go to Crystal Castle if you want a little bit of spiritual experience, to relax and get yourself together. The experts there will introduce you to the world of the crystals, pointing out the healing effects that each type of crystal has and you can also participate in some demo activities that run daily.

However, even if crystals are not your cup of tea, the place is beautiful, more like a botanic garden type of park with nice plants and flowers, bamboo trees and Buddha statues.

Write your wish on a paper and tie it next to thousands others, maybe, maybe it comes true. Get your lunch at the restaurant that offers great nature landscapes. Buy a souvenir at the shop. Believe it or not it’s easy to spend half day there just wandering around and taking in the scenery.

Minyon Falls

If you made it to Crystal Castle, Mynion Falls it’s just a short drive from it and it’s quite nice, I assume even nicer if it rained the day before. If time allowes, hiking all the way to the base of the falls is an option, where a dip in the fresh water is a must.

Broken Head Nature Reserve

Broken Head nature reserve is near Byron Holiday Park and it has a nice and calm beach, a possibility to do a walk along the coast with views over the Three Sisters Rocks.

Relaxing and gorgeous, the surroundings of Byron Bay are just as appealing as the town itself.