Jul
29
2016

Hervey Bay Ocean Festival

By Australia / Queensland /

Hervey Bay Ocean Festival arrives next week with oceans of fun and a jam-packed 9 day program of events highlighting the Fraser Coast’s deep connection with the sea, according to the region’s tourism body. World famous whale-watching experiences, renowned mouth-watering seafood, a seaside lifestyle, music and cultural activities are all heroes of this gigantic showcase from August 13.

Pick up your Sunshine Coast car rental and head north for a whale of a time!

Festival highlights:

The Blessing of the Fleet opens the even, which the Fraser Coast’s famous fleet of whale watch vessels undergo a centuries old tradition at Hervey Bay Marina to ensure a safe and prosperous season. Visitors can tour the vessels, wander through market stalls and enjoy delicious wine and cheese tasting, a sail past, fabulous fireworks and live entertainment.

Hervey Bay Seafood Festival launches the next day, August 14, the event serves up a host of fresh and delicious wild-caught ocean produce, loads of entertainment, competitions, cooking and catching tips and more at Fishermen’s Park, Urangan Boat Harbour. Highlights include tasty morsels such as cooking demonstrations from leading chef Javier Codina from Moda Restaurant, prawn eating competitions, bumper artistic, music and cultural program with performances by 8 Ball Aitken, The Rain and Wal Neilson plus more.

Whale Parade and Concert in a big drawcard and features an enchanting spectacle of lights and floats representing the humpback’s annual migration, followed by a fabulous free concert with local artists.

MEANWHILE, Hervey Bay’s world renowned whale fleet is famous for providing visitors with soul-stirring, intimate encounters with the gentle giants. This year an estimated 22,000 humpback whales have migrated from Antarctica to the warm northern waters to breed.

The humpies are on their return journey and will be making their annual migration stop-over in Hervey Bay until early November. The proud new parents and the cutest calves on earth are making a temporary home in the tranquil marine environment of the Great Sandy Straits, creating a wonderland of intimate and interactive whale activity.

Get on board with one of these leading operators for a whale experience to live long in the memory.

Blue Dolphin has exclusive full day whale encounters including limited passenger numbers for great viewing; eight hours touring on board the luxury eco-friendly vessel; morning, afternoon tea and quality buffet lunch with free drink. If the conditions are right, passengers can immerse themselves with the whales in the water on the boat’s purpose-built platform. Passengers benefit from a highly educated crew with more than 30 years’ experience in marine animal behaviour.

Hervey Bay Whale Watch Quick Cat II has a full day Whales and Fraser Island experience including light breakfast, morning tea and hop off at Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island for lunch. Quick Cat ll offers four levels of viewing decks and full wheelchair access around the entire vessel. Underwater cameras and hydrophones add to the interactive experience, but for that once in a lifetime experience, Hervey Bay Whale Watch also offer a swim with whales experience that is not to be missed.

Whalesong are whale and dolphin specialists at Hervey Bay providing an ideal way to explore the pristine waterways and diverse wildlife between Fraser Island and the Fraser Coast. Discounted rates for teenagers (up to 18) makes for an affordable day out on the water, while fresh local produce prepared onboard will delight the tastebuds. Whalesong can also assist you with exploring Fraser Island while you’re here.

Freedom III is a family owned and operated business which offers longer days on the water and small to medium passenger numbers to provide a relaxed experience. Rated number one on TripAdvisor, it is clearly a popular choice, and with the delightful menu on offer including homemade morning tea, buffet lunch fresh fruit and cheese platter, it’s no wonder people keep going back for more.

Spirit of Hervey Bay is the largest and fastest whale watch vessel in Hervey Bay, offering the biggest underwater viewing room in the fleet and a hydrophone to listen to the whales. The Spirit has a range of well-priced tours complete with courtesy transfers, souvenir whale DVD and more. Five levels of viewing decks means you can catch the whales’ antics from every angle.

Tasman Venture offers multi-lingual guides, advanced eco certification, free onboard Wi-Fi and an immersive platform allowing guests to get closer to the humpbacks than ever. Tasman Venture is also the only operator permitted to access the North West Coast of Fraser Island, taking visitors to pristine, isolated locations.

For more visit whalesherveybay.com.au

SCOTT PODMORE

Jul
26
2016

Grab a van in San Fran and hit the road

By United States /

San Fran is a wonderful place to visit. It’s an even better destination to hire a campervan and head out for a day trip to one of these hotspots.

Santa Cruz
With 46 kilometres of stunning coastline, Santa Cruz Country is the place to be if you want to experience some of California’s greatest beaches. Just under two hours from San Fran you can go surfing, play some beach volleyball, or just simply kick back and relax in the sun. There are also plenty of great beachside cafes and restaurants.

Big Sur (pictured)
Keep driving a bit further, for about another hour, and you’ll come to the tiny seaside town of Big Sur. This particular road trip is all about the journey. Highway 1 winds along the rugged coastline, offering spectacular views of cliffs towering over the ocean for as far as you can see.

Lake Tahoe
Just a four hours’ drive inland from San Francisco is the beautiful Lake Tahoe. It’s where California and Nevada meet. The large freshwater lake offers stunning scenery of beaches, pristine water and snow-capped mountains in the background. Some of the popular activities here include canoeing and fishing.

Yosemite National Park
The views of grand mountains, deep valleys and cascading waterfalls have made Yosemite National Park one of the most popular adventure playgrounds for thrill-seekers from across the world. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore. Rock climbing, camping and bird watching are other popular activities here.

Anderson Valley

Head north to Anderson Valley for incredible scenery of green rolling hills. It’s also the perfect destination if you’re looking for an authentic wine-tasting experience. The valley is known for its Pinot Noir, and some of the best places to stop include Goldeneye Lula Cellars and Phillips Hill. The best thing about Anderson Valley is you won’t find as many tourists as Napa and Sonoma.

Gold Country
Journey to the heart of California’s Gold Country. Drive two and a half hours northeast of San Fran and you’ll find the historic town of Grass Valley. Base yourself here to explore nearby attractions such as the Empire Mine State Historic Park. There, you can discover the history of the state’s once-richest gold mine.

Pinnacles
Drive about two hours south of San Francisco off Highway 101 to explore California’s newest national park. The Pinnacles is heaven for any adventure-seeker. It has several hikes, including the High Peaks Trail, which offer panoramic views of rock formations and vast grasslands. There are also ancient caves waiting to be explored.

Half Moon Bay
Just under an hour from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is a convenient and leisurely drive. Locals say it’s the perfect place to be if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Browse some local shops or art galleries, or perhaps ride a horse on the beach as part of a guided tour. Whatever you choose to do, it should be relaxing.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

Jul
23
2016

7 ways to discover Belfast

By UK /

Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast, is a destination with plenty of discoveries to be made. Hire a car from Belfast Airport and enjoy these seven great activities.

Hike through Cave Hill
Cave Hill Country Park offers magnificent panoramas of Belfast. There are walking trails suitable for all people of all fitness levels. It also has five caves on the side of its cliffs, which are full of archaeological and historical attractions, such as Belfast Castle. The most famous feature is Napoleon’s Nose, which locals say inspired Jonathan Swift’s story, Gulliver’s Travels.

Pub hopping
Spend a night hopping from pub to pub. After all, the Irish are known for their ability to drink whiskey! There’s plenty to choose from but if you’re stuck for ideas, start your pub crawl at the Crown Liquor Saloon. Then make your way to The Duke of York, which is set on one of the city’s oldest streets and decked out with original mirrors and memorabilia.

Tour Parliament Buildings
Parliament Buildings are open to the public Monday to Friday and when the Assembly is sitting there are free half hour public tours available. This will take you to the historic Senate Chamber and teach you about the story behind the incredible architecture. While here, make sure you check out the beautiful surroundings of Stormont Estate.

Go browsing at St George’s Market
It took six years to build St George’s Market from 1890. To this day it remains the city’s only surviving covered Victorian market. There are hundreds of stalls selling a variety of favourites, from seafood and specialty foods to locally made art and crafts. There’s also live music to entertain as you walk through one of the UK’s best markets.

Step back in time at Grand Opera House
The opera house opened its doors in 1895 and has been delivering world-class entertainment ever since. It regularly hosts operas, dramas, musicals and comedies, to name a few. You can discover the history behind these walls and the story of theatre architect Frank Matcham with a group tour.

Visit Crumlin Road Gaol
The Crumlin Road Gaol was one of the most advanced prisons of its time. It opened in 1845 and was designed to house 500 prisoners. However, during the height of the Troubles it housed up to 900 people. Take a tour of the prison, which includes a visit to the execution cell, the flogging room and the underground tunnel to the courthouse. There’s also a Paranormal Tour at night.

Explore the city in an old-fashioned taxi
This is a tour unlike any other. With Belfast Black Taxi Tours you get to spend an hour and a half in a traditional black cab, discovering the highlights of Belfast. Drivers pick you up from any location and take you to see the so-called Peace Walls, murals and Catholic Falls Road. The driver will also give you a good rundown of the history of these places.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

Jul
19
2016

5 reasons to visit Philadelphia

By United States /

Philadelphia is known for its rich history and vibrant culture. Pennsylvania’s largest city attracts 40 million visitors a year and everywhere you turn there’s something to do.

So why not organise a hire car from Philadelphia airport. While you’re at it, knock off this list of five great things to see or do in the city.

Liberty Bell Centre
The Liberty Bell is one of Philadelphia’s most powerful icons. At the Liberty Bell Centre, you can delve into its history. You’ll learn about how this huge bell came to become a symbol of freedom, which was used on everything from wind chimes to ice cream molds. You’ll also see X-Rays, which show an old crack through the bell. It’s a free walk through the centre. It’s also open year-round from 9am to 5pm, and there’s extended hours in the summer.

Reading Terminal Market
The market was established in 1892 at 12th and Arch Streets, making it the country’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market. After it’s distinguished history, it’s become known as one of the nation’s greatest public markets. Whether you’re after fresh produce, exotic meats or impeccably baked goods, you’ll find every type of stall here. If you have time, make sure you chat with some of the merchants. Many of them are descendants of the original stand holders who were part of the market when it opened more than a century ago.

Walnut Street Theatre (pictured)
While in Philadelphia take a tour of or watch a play at the Walnut Street Theatre. The company has a proud history of supporting local performance. Some of the most noteworthy actors of the 19th and 20th centuries have appeared on stage here, including Edwin Booth, Mike Nichols, Jane Fonda and Katharine Hepburn. But America’s oldest theatre has interesting roots, as it was originally home to horses.

Schuylkill River Trail
Get outdoors and enjoy the Schuylkill River Trail. Whether you feel like a job, a bike ride or a leisurely walk, you can have a go at all or part of the trail. It extends several miles across Southeastern Pennsylvania, with part of the trail stretching 30 miles from Philadelphia to Parkerford. Pass the riverside and admire the city’s skyline as you complete the trail.

Eastern State Penitentiary
Visit the Eastern State Penitentiary and pick up an audio headset. It will guide you through the complex at your own pace and explain its history. You’ll learn about riots that have occurred inside these walls, impressive escape plots and more. Take a haunted tour of Terror Behind the Walls, which is inside the castle-like walls of the complex. This is rated as among the country’s top haunted attractions.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

Jul
13
2016

Sydney to the Blue Mountains: 5 ways to play

By Australia / New South Wales /

The beautiful Blue Mountains are known for dramatic cliffs, lush forests and pristine waterfalls. The national park sits one hour west of Sydney. This World Heritage Site is ten times older than the Grand Canyon. It also has more than 300 walking tracks which span hundreds of kilometres.

Hire a car from Sydney airport, and discover these five highlights.

Waterfalls
This picturesque region is home to some of Australia’s most beautiful waterfalls. One of the most popular is Katoomba Falls. It sits in a rainforest gully surrounded by ancient trees. Spectacular views of Bridal Veil Falls await if you walk from Govetts Leap to Evans Lookout. Then there’s the impressive Kanangra Falls.

Featherdale Wildlife Park
This attraction is home to more than 1700 animals. Featherdale has more than 280 species, from echidnas and kookaburras to crocodiles. Watch little penguins play, cuddle a cute koala and hand feed kangaroos and wallabies. Then there’s the Reptilian Pavilion, where you can come face to face with lizards and snakes.

The Three Sisters
The view of the Three Sisters is picture perfect. Standing nearly one kilometre above sea level, the Three Sisters have a fascinating dreamtime story that gives insight into their existence, according to local Aborigines. Take an easy walk from the Echo Point Visitor Centre to Lady Game Lookout for a superb view of this special rock formation. On the way back, detour with one of many walking trails.

Katoomba Heritage Walk
The lovely township of Katoomba offers cosy cafes and traditional shopping. Walk through town and stop by art shops to buy locally-made creations. Throughout the shop-front windows are historical photos and information. Admire the town’s variety of old architecture. You’ll find miners cottages of the 1800s and Federation style buildings.

Blackheath Lookouts
Drive through the highest point of the Blue Mountains between Katoomba and Mount Victoria. These are known as the Blackheath lookouts. They offer some of the most awe-inspiring views of dramatic mountain scenery of the national park. Anvil Rock and Evans lookouts are some of the most popular. Blackheath is heaven for photographers!

Also check out Seven of Australia’s best waterfalls and 5 Amazing Things To Do With The Family 1 Hour From Sydney

BRIANNA PIAZZA

Jul
11
2016

Great day trips from London

By Europe / UK /

London is one of the world’s greatest cities. With attractions like Big Ben, London Bridge and Buckingham Palace, there’s plenty to keep you pulled into the city centre. However, time never seems to stop in London, and that brings with it a whole lot of noise, tourists and journey to England isn’t complete unless you venture out into the countryside, full of rolling green hills and quaint villages.

Book a hire car from Heathrow Airport and head out on one of these five great day trips.

Stonehenge

Drive two hours south west of London and you’ll find one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments. Many mysterious still remain about Stonehenge, which is more than 5000 years old. A visit to the site allows you to walk in the footsteps of our Neolithic ancestors and you can even step inside a Neolithic House to discover what everyday life was life. For the best pictures, try to book a Stone Circle Access tours, which occurs either very early morning or late evening.

Bath

This charming city is set in rolling countryside, about two hours west of London. Bath is most famous for its natural hot springs and 18th Century Georgian architecture. People have been visiting the city for thousands of years, and it’s no less spectacular today. The iconic attraction is the original Roman Baths, including the Great Bath, statues and a temple. Once finished, make sure you take a stroll through the vibrant Prior Park Landscape Gardens.

Blenheim Palace

England is full of beautiful palaces, but all are unique and nothing compares to Blenheim Palace. Drive about an hour and a half north west of London, where you’ll find one of the country’s largest houses. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was built between 1705 and 1722 and was designed in the rare English Baroque style. Much history has been witnessed inside these spectacular walls, including the birth of Sir Winston Churchill. From Monday to Saturday there are guided tours of the State Rooms and gardens.

Osea Island

Osea Island is about a two hour drive North East of London. It offers nearly 400 acres of beautiful countryside. It also has a stunning village, which is surrounded by four miles of beaches and coastline. This luxury island is worth staying overnight, but it still makes for a lovely day trip, with plenty of relaxing activities. The island also has a fascinating history which spans 5000 years. Here, you’ll discover the remains of Neolithin villages, Viking burial grounds and Roman occupation.

Mayfield Lavender Farm

Fields of gorgeous purple await about an hour south of London. At Mayfield Lavender Farm you have 25 acres to walk through and photograph. It’s a family-run farm, which is open from May until September.The best months of the year to visit are July and August, when the lavender is in full bloom, and an annual photo competition is held.

BRIANNA PIAZZA