November 24, 2010

Melbourne a city you can’t get enough of!

My love for Australia goes back a long long way, but my recent visit has left me completely speechless. My first sight of Australia was Melbourne’s dazzling skyline, the soothing Yarra River and colonial trams! Like a child excited about going to Disneyland for the first time, the 15 hour flight to Australia and the wretchedly long queues through immigration didn’t pull me down! The delegation was escorted for dinner to a Chinese restaurant called Shark Finn’s Inn. As absurd as the name suggests, the food is spectacular!!! For sea food lovers, you can even pick your food from a live fish tank! Our agenda after dinner was to get a phone connection and crash for the night.

Day 02 of our trip was big and believe me, it totally was worth the hype! After getting well acquainted with our cars and the driving rules especially the legendary hook turn, we rolled out of Hertz and headed straight out to Ballarat. Our first stop was the Ballarat Wildlife Park. Well, I’m biased towards Australia so I loved the place, but if strolling in a park with kangaroos, feeding Tasmanian devils and chilling with wombats and koalas is your thing, then this is the place for you. Our next stop was Sovereign Hills. Contrary to the boring historic impression we have of the place, it’s really quite fascinating. Imagine a make believe township with actual bakeries, horse carriages, gold mining, making and panning, this open air museum is flanked with the most hilarious ‘residents’ dressed in Victorian outfits, who randomly begin entertaining themselves by singing or arresting people! After our bout of touristy experiences for the day, we started out to Warrnambool. Take my advice and travel the inland route, stretches of mustard fields, lazy cows and quaint farm houses, are a verdant side of the exuberant Victoria State. We ended our day with dinner at Pippies by the bay and a night spent at the Sebel Blue Hotel.

Day 03 was undoubtedly the highlight of our stay in Victoria. The Great Ocean Road Drive – something we were all looking forward to even before we commenced our journey. The 200 odd kilometer drive from Warrnambool to Queenscliff was absolutely picturesque. With the lush Port Campbell National Park on one hand and the pristine coastline on the other, the drive is definitely one of the most spectacular in the world. Limestone formations like the London Bridge, Loch and Gorge, Blowers Hole and the world renowned 12 Apostles are definitely a great photo opportunity, and the best way to capture images is by taking a chopper ride over the rugged coast. The mighty formations standing tall amidst the ocean, the flawless beach, the froth of the waves and the opulent ocean collectively make a picture that one frames in their mind for eternity. Dotted with numerous small towns like Lorne, Apollo Bay and Torquay, the region personifies an easy way of life. Open air cafes, bistros, boutiques, motels and B&B’s, the life here is to die for! We boarded a passenger ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento. An hour later, we arrived at a place which definitely features on my list of immigration destination options! A local favourite in the Mornington Peninsula, this beach town is ravishing! Stretches of flawless white beaches, crystal blue water and colourful beach shacks, Sorrento caught my attention almost instantly. Besides being famous for surfing, sailing, fishing and other water related activities, Sorrento is also known for its trendy stores, gourmet restaurants, vineyards and strawberry fields! Ladies, for those of you who are looking for a chic haircut, locals in Sorrento are borderline fanatical about hair!

On day 04, we were scheduled to visit the Phillip Island. A popular weekend getaway for families, couples or friends travelling together, it’s got something to suite every visitors taste. From koala conservation centres, penguin viewing stands and grand prix circuits to stylish restaurants, local pubs and bowling alleys, the island will not disappoint you. We headed back to Melbourne on day 05. After having dropped off our cars and checking into our hotel, the evening was ours to explore Melbourne in our own way! This cosmopolitan city has a fervent love for art, culture, food, wine, fashion and of course sports! The grandeur of the Flinders station, the lively buzz at the local bars, pubs and the legendary Crown Casino, the swanky boutiques and street stores, our Friday evening in Melbourne was racy!

Dramatic as I might sound, leaving Melbourne on day 05 and travelling to Sydney left me with that hollow feeling at the pit of my stomach! The region was just so me – well trimmed green parks, a blend of Victorian and modern structures, the intertwining trams, the chugging of trains the peaceful river, Melbourne is a city you can’t get enough of!

Story by Devanshi – Beacon Team.

November 15, 2010

Back from the beach on Hamilton Island!

If you have time on your side I would recommend a week’s stay in an apartment where you have access to your own kitchenette , this way you can enjoy going out when you like and staying in on the days that have been action packed !

The variety of marine life to see is breathtaking… we took a trip out the great barrier reef during our 4 night stay up there and I can truly say it is an experiences of a life time if you choose to snorkel or scuba dive you have some great views of the reef. Nevertheless, if your less adventurous you even have the a trip out in a glass bottom boat. To name a few things we saw a baby reef shark, a little sting ray, sea cucumbers, thousands of fish or the likes of “Nemo” and all his friends, unbelievable corals and much much more. We went with H20 and they were really great.

Some of the Beacon team have just explored Hamilton Island, and this is what they have to say…..

If you would really like to get away and see some of the bluest of blue waters the Whitsunday islands is the place to go.

We took some amazing day and sunset cruises on sailboats and enjoyed seeing the island turtles swimming about. If you like activities the Island SPA is quite popular, though we spend all our time out on the boats so I can’t report back on the SPA first hand.

Food on the island is a mix or café style and fine dining, you can even enjoy room deliveries for the pizzas down at the marina. There is a fair bit of good seafood around. I do recommend a drink down at the stunning yacht club and dinner at manta ray café to try their calamari entrée (it was Devine). Islanders do recommend lunch at the golf course club house (which is on the neighbouring island) even if you’re not into playing golf as the views from Dench Island are magnificent.

It’s is a stunning place to visit and I would give it an absolute 10/10 for that however you do end up spending a fair bit on money on the island. As everything added up from the food to the buggies works our quite expensive.

We stayed at the Reef view hotel on Hamilton Island…look at some of the views from our room.