My first experience of long-haul travel came at the age of 19, when as a student, I decided to head off to India for the six week summer break. Given the complete culture shock involved with a trip to this part of the world, it proved to be an experience I was woefully unprepared for, but it gave me one lasting thing, a passion for travel. Fast forward several years and I was ready to head off again, this time on a one-way ticket to Australia on The Trans-Siberian Express via Moscow and Beijing.
Once in Australia, I stayed for two years making the city of Melbourne my home with it’s great culture and lifestyle. During my time in Melbourne I managed to take in some of the beautiful local scenery, including time spent walking in the Grampians, The Great Ocean Road and Wilsons Promontory. From Australia I jumped over to New Zealand for an extended stay, during which I was lucky enough to “tramp” several of the great walks including The Milford Track, The Routeburn Track, Tongariro Circuit and Queen Charlotte Track.
I’ve since been working in the travel industry for the last ten years or so, which has given me the opportunity to visit parts of Africa, South-East Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific. The arrival of three small children has made travel more of a challenge, but it’s safe to say there is never a dull moment travelling with a baby or a toddler!
I think my favourite destination would have to be New Zealand given the diversity of the experiences possible on the two very different islands. New Zealand gives you everything including glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, coastal scenery and sounds.
I think perhaps my favourite spot would have to be standing on the top of Mount Ngauruhoe in the Tongariro National Park, looking around at the incredible and unique scenery, knowing I had my tent and stove on my back and that I was miles away from civilisation.
My favourite hotel would have to be Sal Salis on the Ningaloo Reef on the top tip of Western Australia. Ningaloo Reef is on the opposite coast to the Great Barrier Reef, but is just as stunning and far less visited. Sal Salis is an exclusive safari camp hidden in the white sand dunes on a deserted stretch of beach in the Cape Range National Park, where the magnificent corals of Ningaloo Reef are just metres offshore. You stay in luxury ‘tents’ mwith your own hammock swinging outside. The real beauty of this place is that you can snorkel directly from the beach at any time during your stay. If you are lucky enough to visit during whale shark season (April to June), you may even get a chance to swim with these majestic beasts as I did, a truly memorable experience.
This would have to be ‘tramping’ (or hiking) the famous Milford Track in Fiordland National Park on the South Island of New Zealand. This is a four day/three night walk, covering in the region of 10-15 miles each day. It’s probably the most famous walk in the country, but it more then lives up to its reputation. As you walk, you get deeper and deeper into the National Park and further and further away from civilisation, with just a host of wildlife including the native kiwi and kea birds around you to keep you company.
You get to experience the Park at its most spectacular and the walk takes in deep lakes, silent fiords, luxuriant forests and sheer canyons carved out of granite. As you head out across Milford Sound on the final day on a cruise that carries you back to the real word you really do have a sense of achievement and satisfaction.
- Don’t let the arrival of children stop you travelling and experiencing things! Having travelled to Australia in 2012 with three small children in tow, I can testify that it’s a fun and safe family destination. Australia and New Zealand cater brilliantly for families with two or three bedroom apartments being common throughout, meaning you can always prepare that all important favourite meal! Kids respond brilliantly to wildlife, which of course there is an abundance of down under and they love nothing more then being hoisted up into the backpack for a morning’s walking with the kangaroos
- In Australia, in particular, there is a part of the country that works weather-wise with each of the major UK school holiday periods, so there are no excuse not to visit
- Australia and New Zealand are both a very long way away – 24 hours travelling if you are lucky. I’d recommend always breaking the outbound journey with a night or two stopover, as this ensures you arrive that little bit more acclimatised and ready to enjoy your time on holiday. It’s not so critical to stop on the way back, as you know you can recover in the comfort of your own home. There are so many stopover options available – Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok to mention a few so there is something that can work for everyone
- The best top tip I could give is to always remember to try to get the pace of any trip right. With destinations as vast as Australia and New Zealand it is virtually impossible to go charging around and trying to fit every single thing in. You will come home needing another holiday! Try to focus on the things you are interested in and what is driving the desire to go for you, be it wildlife and scenery or food and wine – or probably a combination of all of these!