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.

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.

What to do in Lugano in six hours?

Switzerland is tiny, but very diverse and easy to explore. In the Italian part of the country is a similar vibe as in Italy, just still organized in a swiss way.

Tessin, or Ticino as they call it, gets usually more sunshine during the year, perhaps hence the more smiley attitude of the locals.

Lugano, being the largest city in Ticino, lies on the Lake Lugano and it’s surrounded by the Lugano Prealps. Easy to approach both from Italy and other swiss cities, Lugano is a delight of the region. By swiss standards a large city, however small enough to explore by foot in just six hours.

A short walk from the train station and the breathtaking panorama reveals itself. Although it’s just 10 am the sun is burning my skin. The view is wonderful, the sky reflecting in the lake, offering a pleasant combination of colors for the eyes.


Along the lake there are plenty of benches to rest and admire the picturesque view. Besides the walk, various activities may be done, such as cruising or paddle boarding.



It’s wise to have swimmers on in case the inviting water and the sandy beach may get too hard to refuse. The ideal summer holiday setting, even though it’s not even officially summer yet. 


At lunchtime there’s no need to bother going far away, as there are several restaurants along the lake, where serving a meal comes together with the panorama as bonus. The choice may be hard though, because all of them seem cosy and the stuff very friendly.



While in Lugano, what could be the dessert if not a delicious gelato? Ice cream that tastes the best when made with Italian skill, gelato is my sweet memory of Lugano and I’d strongly recommend to try it. Yummi, yummi!

For the afternoon I thought about having a look at Monte Bre, the small mountain that’s considered one of the sunniest points in Switzerland. 


The Monte Bre funicular took me up there in a few minutes for the price of a few gelatos. The investment does well worth it. A spectacular view greets the visitors at arrival, offering plenty of spots for postcard perfect pictures.



 It is also the ideal location to serve a drink with a view at one of the restaurants. 



Heading back to the city… There is still a bit less than an hour left, just enough to briefly check out the old town of Lugano with its fancy boutiques and designer shops.

 No shopping for me, but regardless I made a complete picture of the city. With one last gelato purchased I’m happily on my way back to the train station at 4 pm. 

Tasting Romania 🇷🇴 

Probably if I haven’t lived my first 25 years in Romania I wasn’t interested to go there, as you may not be either. It’s reputation is not the greatest and is still very underrated, but it can surprise you in so many positive ways if you give it a chance.
I have my very best friends there and one of them celebrated her birthday last week. With this occasion I flew in to Bucharest, where I don’t fancy spending too much time. 

On the other hand, where her birthday gig took place is a setting out of nature documentaries. Just a few hours away from the busy capital city, in a rather remote area, lies Valea Doftanei ( Doftanei Valley).

When I say remote, it means you should be prepared for bumpy roads at some point, literally bumpy roads, especially if you take the forest road, which some tourists took by accident. 

After a good 3 hours drive we reached this peaceful spot, where it was just us, a super friendly host and the blue sky above. It didn’t take long until the uninvited guests joined us, attracted by the smell of our tasty barbecue. 

Barbecue in Romanian style is a whole ritual of bringing together several types of meat, veggies and the unforgettable tuica, which is the traditional, home made , hardcore alcohol. Food is taken seriously by Romanians , frankly, too overwhelming for me personally. The fact is that every meal is tasty, delicious and just too hard to refuse. 



As a bonus: it’s prepared with so much dedication and passion, that even the sneaky fox gets pious once it tastes it.

That weekend food played an important role in my life, however, what I was craving more was to explore a bit the nature. We did make time for this too and discovered some really nice spots. 



In the middle of nowhere has been totally amazing, I recharged my batteries, but only my own ones, as for my phone there was no need because I completely forgot to use it. No internet, no reception, no communication with the outside world. Isn’t that heaven on earth for a few days? It certainly was for me.

Although exploring the forest, dipping our feet in the ice cold creek and counting the stars on the clear sky has been amazing, on our departure day I was looking forward to the journey back to the city because we’d planned to stop at a beautiful spot that I eyed up already beforehand.



Paltinul Lake, the place we stopped at on our way back to the city, is a place that, too my shame, I didn’t even know it existed. Green grass, tall trees, blue sky reflecting in the crystal water of the lake and a friendly cow savouring it’s lunch, undisturbed by my camera. 





Pretty much the perfect scenery, but … I’d so much love to imagine that it was just the beautiful spot and no extremely loud music coming from a house nearby, no litter forgotten randomly here and there, no rotten stench of a dead dog left by the shore. Although, our nose and ears were clearly affected, we managed to put away the negative for a bit and just stare at the beauty that was lying in front of us. Maybe by next time the dead dog will disappear, the litter will be collected and the party at the house will be kept private … 

❤️ AUSTRALIA ❤️ – When a dream comes true…

The Land Down Under was ( and it will stay forever) my number 1 country to visit on my endless travel list. A childhood dream , which came true at the age of 29, after a long wait and fantasizing about . It was my birthday present from myself to myself, cause yea, I deserved it. Three wonderful weeks in the most fascinating surroundings, mind blowing nature and exciting cities, scary but yet admirable wild life and above all: amazing, truly great people. 

If you like Australia before going there, once you reach it you will completely fall in love and leaving it behind will be much harder than imagined. Such an emotional, beautiful trip, the best of all and so private, that I’ll just release a few pictures that talk for themselves, for the rest just one suggestion : go there and experience it and then  you will understand what I mean.

Darwin

   
 
Brisbane

   
   
Gold Coast

   
   
Melbourne

  

Great Ocean Road

   
   
❤️ Sydney ❤️

   
   

Hiking spot:France – view: Switzerland 

Geneva, as city is not too bad, it’s location is convenient either you wish to visit Switzerland or France. The local bus in less than 20 minutes takes you to the border and literally you walk out of the country easy as it sounds. No border officer to nag you, no formality – at least not on this lovely Wednesday. However, for a second it feels a bit like the middle of nowhere and slightly confusing but the view is interesting.

 At the cable car station, asking for directions it’s impossible not to notice a bit of the typical French arrogance, which actually makes me smile back cause my mood is too good today to be disturbed by such manners. It seems that Megan and myself are the only brave gals determined to hike up to the top of Mont Salève, which at first sight seems to be just a massive rock.

  
As we follow the trail, trying to find the well hidden signs, we realize that’s it’s not an easy hike – we are both beginners, let’s be clear about that – sweating becomes normal, some complains are hard to avoid, but overall it’s a fantastic work out. Even if the trail most of the time takes you between the trees, in the middle of the woods, at some point you reach some great viewing points and the view gives you the push you need to continue. 

   
 
The path, then some steps, the steep trail – all lead you to an unexpected sight: a village up in the mountains.

   
 
It’s quiet and away from the busy cities, all surrounded by green trees, in a picturesque setting there are several little houses, a church, a cafe and even some locals speaking decent English. I’m in a very positive way surprised! 

  

Leaving the cute village behind, our aim is the top, in order to reach it we continue on other steep paths leading to some other unexpected locations.

  
Buddhist center? Yes, that’s right, I didn’t expect to find that up there, but I enjoy this day full of discoveries. And who wouldn’t enjoy  also this beautiful nature which surrounds us?

   
    
 
I’m just wondering why all those young people we see at the destination had chosen taking the cable car instead hiking up? The satisfaction you have when you “suffered” to reach the top must be incomparable. Your legs are shaking, sweat is trickling down your back under the T-Shirt and your face is all red, but brightens up as you look down and see the perfect picture: the city, the lake, the trees, the roads, the moving cars – and you are all above them, watching in silence as if time stopped for a while.

   
    
    
 
For me time stopped for a while… I lie down, the sun burns my cheeks and I like it, I breath in  the fresh mountain air, I enjoy the French spot and I admire the Swiss view. Voila!