Checking Off Bucket List Items in Australia

As I jet over the Pacific Ocean and reflect on my Australian adventure thats coming to a close, I can’t help but feel extremely lucky.  In just two short weeks, I was able to check multiple items off my bucket list.  From underwater explorations to fireworks over Sydney Harbor, the past 14 days have been some of the best of my life.

Want to make some serious progress on your bucket list? Here’s how we did it!


Bucket List Item 1: New Years Eve in Sydney Harbor

First, take advantage of the extra days off around the holidays and head to Australia at the end of December.  This will ensure you make it to Sydney, work out your jet lag and reenergize in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

If anyone tells you to avoid Sydney Harbor on New Year’s Eve, ignore them. We were warned of boat traffic and over congestion, told it was overrated and generally deterred from ringing in 2017 by the harbor.  They weren’t all wrong — the harbor is loaded with people and there are tons of boats — but it is all worth it.

We not only ignored the warnings but went directly into the center of the chaos to a floating bar in the middle of the harbor called The Island.

Set off the coast and among hundreds of boats, on a normal day, The Island offers breathtaking views of the bridge and Opera House.  On New Year’s Eve, it’s the optimal vantage point for the greatest fireworks display in the world and home to one hell of a party.

As the countdown drew down and the fireworks exploded, I stole a kiss from my fiancé and took time to bask in this remarkable pinch me moment. 

IMG_9601.JPG

Note: If the bar/party atmosphere is not your scene, there are plenty of areas and activities for all ages and interests along the harbor.  They even set off a round of fireworks at 9PM for families with young children.  Be ready for some crowds. People begin camping out the night before, but sometimes maneuvering the crowds is worth it.


Bucket List Item 2: Snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef

After spending some time in Sydney, jump on a domestic flight and make your way north.  We stayed on the Whitsundays Islands at Airlie Beach (highly recommend the Coral Sea Resort), which is a quiet beach town with a more intimate vibe.  If you’re looking for higher paced, party atmosphere, check out Cairns. 

Both areas offer day trips to the Great Barrier Reef — the ultimate highlight of our trip.

We boarded a seaplane early in the morning along with six new friends and embarked on a three hour journey filled with unparalleled views of the crystal clear waters, islands and reefs below.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Before we even made it to the boat for snorkeling, we saw giant see turtles gliding through the waters below, white sandy beaches, vast amounts of coral stretching on for miles and, my favorite, Heart Island.

As the seaplane made a remarkably smooth water landing by the Great Barrier Reef, we disembarked and climbed aboard a glass bottom boat that would take us to the perfect spot for snorkeling.

Stinger suites zipped up tight, we dove in to check out the reef from underwater. It was an entirely new world.  Bright colors radiated from the reef as fish of all shapes and sizes floated around us in search of the perfect piece of coral.  Though we missed them, some members of our group even saw hammerhead and reef sharks.

IMG_9827.JPG

We could have snorkeled the reef all day (and still not made a dent on the 1,600 miles it stretches along Australia’s coast), but our tour guides beckoned us back to the boat an hour later. 

Back on the seaplane, an unexpected path flew us right over Whitehaven Beach and it’s infamous inlet. 

In three short hours, we’d felt like we’d seen the best of what Whitsunday’s had to offer.


Bucket List Item 3: Find a Koala!

Let’s be honest, I am still a little girl at heart and I wanted to see a cute koala bear more than anything during my time in Australia!

I could have gone to a zoo or sanctuary, but I could do that at home too.  What I really wanted was to find a koala in its natural habitat. 

Queue the Great Ocean Road.  We dedicated a day to this drive, which boosts coastal views, cultural landmarks and (wait for it) koala hotspots!

The area behind a cafe, appropriately named the Kafe Koala, is known as a popular spot for these furry creatures to hang out and it did not disappoint.  We spotted three in just the half an hour we were there!

FullSizeRender-1.jpg

We also spotted a kangaroo along the drive, which was just icing on the cake for what turned out to be one of our top five days on the trip.


Bucket List Item 4: Skydiving

Ok, full disclosure I didn’t actually get to do this, but you should!  We’d planned on doing our first skydive in Airlie Beach (even had the reservations) but ultimately circumstances just didn’t work out for us.  However, it is a very popular activity in Australia and having seen the views from above, I understand why.

It would be very easy to check this item off your bucket list along with the others.  If you do, let me know how it goes.  I am itching to cross it off my list as well — maybe we’ll make this a honeymoon activity!


If your bucket list is ever-growing like mine, I would also suggest adding more Australian adventures like wine tasting in Yarro Valley and hiking to the Cape Byron Lighthouse for sunset.  Australia is full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities you just can’t miss.

Planning a Three Day Getaway to Fiji

Bula!

Cue the ukuleles and prepare the kava, I am taking you to Fiji. 

Home to crystal clear waters, vibrant wildlife and the nicest people in the world, Fiji is comprised of more than 330 islands.  We only made it to two during our three day Fiji getaway before traveling on to Australia, but I can safely say no matter which island you visit, you’ll leave with more than just a sunburn to remember it by.


Day One:

After the Fijian welcome complete with a live folk music performance at the airport and a taxi ride turned tour of the island, you’ll arrive at the hotel.  “Bula,” the doormen will exclaim as the country’s traditional welcome as you join the line of honeymooners and families waiting to check in.

We stayed at the Westin in Denarau — mainly because we’re slightly addicted to the Westin’s breakfast which is seriously unbeatable no matter where you are in the world.  However, there are several hotels scattered around Denarau including the Sheraton and Raddison Blu.  We walked around all three, so I feel confident saying that you’ll enjoy first class hospitality at all of them.

img_9353

Given our short trip, we choose to stay close to the airport in Denarau and take a day trip to the outer islands.  If we had more time, I would have definitely preferred to venture to a more secluded island and escape the tourist area.

Regardless of where you stay, you will likely want to dedicate the first day to relaxation and jet lag recovery.  Grab your book, a cold drink and prop up next to the pool while you overlook the Pacific Ocean and scope out the islands in the distance for the next day’s adventure.

I wasn’t kidding about that sunburn either.  Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and remember that the shade is your friend.  Being so close to the equator, it doesn’t take long to fry and ruin the rest of your vacation.  You can easily spot those who challenged the Fijian sun to a duel and lost in epic fashion.  Don’t be that person.

If you’re feeling up to it, you can rent a kayak or jet ski and explore the waters around your island. But don’t stay out too long. You’ll want to secure the perfect place to kick back with a Fiji Bitter and watch the sunset.

If you do stay in Denarau, I suggest the Sheraton’s Flying Fish.  From what feels like the eastern end of the earth, the day burns away as an intense orange and red sunset kisses the coast good night.

IMG_9461.jpg

Don’t forget to eat (a phase no one has ever had to utter to me).  Some of Denarau’s best restaurants are at the marina.  We enjoyed Nadina which serves traditional Fijian dishes and even offers Kava tasting ceremonies.  My fiancé jumped at the opportunity to try this popular local tea that is packed with Vitamin B and is known to for it’s relaxing effects.

After you feast, rest up because tomorrow you’re island hopping!


Day Two:

Ready to venture off the resort, day two is the perfect time to jump on a chartered boat and make your way to a private island.

We used Captain Cook Cruises which took us to Tivua Island.  Not more than a half mile wide by a half mile long, the island was only inhabited with the boat full of us that came over.

img_9416

The crew at Captain Cook keeps you thoroughly entertained on the hour and half long journey to the island.  They sing, they play instruments and even host a Kava tea ceremony (once again, bae was the first in line).

On the island, we had the choice of snorkeling, a glass-bottom boat ride, paddle boarding, kayaking and diving.  We jumped at the chance to snorkel along the coral and bae even saw a shark! (Don’t worry they were relatively harmless if unprovoked.)

Our tour guide on the glass bottom boat ride explained the devastating effect extreme weather and climate change is having out our coral reef. It was a stark reminder to never take our planet’s natural wonders for granted.

After a delicious cook out and some refreshing Fiji Bitters, we were on our way back to the hotel — just in time for another mind-blowing sunset.

Awesome dinner spot number two: Rhum Bar at the marina.


Day Three:

We dedicated our third day to mental and physical rejuvenation.   An early morning run along the coast and a couple’s massage at the Westin with our own private bath was the perfect balance.

Once you feel like you’ve reached the perfect level of zen, hit up the resort’s traditional Fijian show with music, dancing and fire walking!  The food is nothing to balk at either.   This little piece of Fijian culture is the perfect end to your island layover.

img_9401


Full disclosure, seeing only two of 330 islands left me urning for more so I’d suggest at least four days but these three will get you started!