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Category Archives:Destinations

10 Hot Destinations to escape the northern winter

Winter is creeping up, or, depending on where you live, has been here for some time. If the annual depression is setting, it might be time to trade the snow boots for some flip flops and recharge your batteries with a coconut in one hand, a good novel in another, and a beer in the other.

I’ve put together some of my favourite destinations that are hot year-round to get your travel juices flowing. I hope you enjoy reading it only slightly less than I enjoyed visiting each place individually.

Barbados

Calm waters. Beach beers. Wild Sea turtles. And 50 scrambling tourists drowning each other to get a glimpse. Sound like paradise? It is.

There is heaps to do in Barbados, or there’s very little, depending on how you like to vacation. I spent a day on Carlisle Bay – just out of Bridgetown at a beach club called the Boatyard. For $20 a day we got to sit on their deck chairs, play with their water slides/swing, use their snorkel equipment, and of course the bar is just a few sandy steps away.

Carlisle Bay Barbados - out the front of the Boatyard

Indonesia

Indonesia is South East Asia’s hidden gem but I have a feeling that in the next few years it is going to see an explosion of tourism as people realise the wonders that abound across the archipelago. Every Australian knows about Bali, and nearby Nusa and Gili islands are also becoming more popular.

Nearby Labuanbajo, home of the famous Komodo National Park is spectacular and was a particular highlight for me. Bintan Island is remote and a fun escape. And although I haven’t made it out there yet, Raja Ampat looks absolutely incredible.

Queensland

If you’re looking to escape the cold north and you’re keen to get out of your hemisphere, why not keep coming all the way to Australia? Queensland, in particular, is especially hot and you could spend weeks grazing the coast. But special mention must go to the Whitsunday Islands, just off the coast of Proserpine and Airlie Beach.

The Whitsundays is home to Australia’s number 1 beach, Whitehaven. Whitehaven is 7 kilometres long ending at Hill Inlet, the iconic river with the sandy swirls viewed best at mid tide, where the water dunes are part-filled by the income or outgoing tide.

Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island, Queensland
Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island, Queensland

St Thomas, British Virgin Isles

St Thomas is the home of the banana daiquiri and they certainly do not let you forget it! Buy one at Mountain Top where Captain George Soule invented the recipe. Enjoy one of the most spectacular views in the Caribbean while enjoying one of their most delicious drinks.

Afterwards, Magens Bay is a must stop for a swim and people watch. I wouldn’t say this beach is quintessential Caribbean, but it is nonetheless beautiful. The horseshoe type beach feels much more enclosed than beaches exposed to the sea and the surrounding trees ensure there is plenty of shade for those that seek it.

There are so many individual islands in the Virgin Islands, too, that are well worth exploring and all major ones are well-connected by ferry. You could genuinely spend a few weeks island hopping in this region alone.

Overlooking Charlotte Amalie St Thomas from the Skyride cable car
Overlooking Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas from Paradise Point

St Maarten

Recently devastated by Hurricane Irma, St Maarten is incredibly unique in that even though it is a tiny island, it is split into two countries (or overseas territories): Saint Martin (French) and Sint Maarten (Dutch).

When they get back on their feet (which I sincerely hope is soon), there’s enough to keep you entertained for a few days with water sports on Orient Beach, local eating in Grand Case, exploring historic Fort Louis in Marigot, and of course Maho Beach, famous for the jumbos that come into land metres from the little beach.

Gran Canaria

Part of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria bills itself as its own little continent. And it’s easy to see why. With rugged mountains not all that far from the beach, you could hike a mountain in the morning and come back for a surf before dinner.

Gran Canaria is equal parts sun soaking beaches, adventure seeking activities, and cultural exploration with something for everyone on such a diverse island.

It might take some effort getting there from Australia, but from greater Europe it’s a simple dolphin ride down I’m pretty sure.

Watch the highlights of my last visit to the Caribbean in the below video:

Fiji

Fiji is popular for Australians, but it should not be overlooked as a real escape from the northern winter either. Tourism is the major industry in Fiji and resorts dot the coast right around the island. You’ll most likely find yourself around Denarau near Nadi airport, but it is most certainly not the only option.

I actually stayed at a resort halfway between Nadi and Suva and when I wasn’t lazing on the beach I was kayaking, playing golf, cycling through puddles, or zip lining through a forest.

Zip lining through the jungle in Fiji

Texas

A surprising inclusion in this list? Perhaps. But I was in Houston for Christmas 2016 and I kid you not, I wore shorts. I’ll grant you that it was unseasonably warm, but the potential is there, and I guarantee it will be warmer than Vancouver.

Texas is a beautiful state with friendly southern accents, plentiful bar-b-cue, cowboys, rolling hills, and more bar-b-cue than you can poke a stick at. (Yes, bar-b-cue gets two mentions). Man, I want to go back for more bar-b-cue.

Cook Islands

Located in the middle of the Pacific, on the other side of the international dateline (from Australia), the Cook Islands are just about the last people to experience time in any given day. I was lucky enough to spend my honeymoon in this paradise, split evenly between humble Aitutaki and the comparably metropolitan Raratonga.

Aitutaki Boat, Cook Islands

Raratonga is small enough to loop in a bus in just over an hour. There are jungles to explore on quad bike, shows to experience some of the local culture, luxury resorts with day spas and SO much delicious seafood.

Aitutaki will bore you if you hate snorkelling in clear ocean water, reading in hammocks, stand up paddle boarding in the naturally protected reef, and feeding fish by hand. Aitutaki is paradise in every sense of the word.

Jamaica

You will either love Jamaica, or it will frustrate the living hell out of you. It is in every sense a very beautiful country with more lovely beaches, rum, jerk chicken, and sweet old Mary Jane. But if you stay in tourist hotspot such as Negril like we did, it is difficult and expensive to leave the resort area and you become an easy target for local hawkers. However, it is home to the absolute best sunset I’ve seen in my life, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

Incredible sunset over Negril Jamaica

What’s your favourite place to escape the cold? Let me know in the comments below!

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Byron Bay Travel Guide: Things to do in 4 Days

byron bay lighthouse on cape byron, Australia's east coast

Byron Bay has a real reputation as an easy going, forward-thinking, hippy destination with a dash of transient backpacker thrown in for good measure. It is this, but after spending 4 days in Byron Bay, I discovered its so much more than a place to smoke pot, grow dreads, and wear Aladdin pants. 

It’s a town where bare feet are common, and foreign accents are more likely be serving you in a cafe than chatting amongst the waves.

It’s a town where every day is the weekend, (much like any town centred around tourism).

It has an extraordinarily young demographic too. I hardly saw anyone over the age of 35 walking around the streets and working in the local businesses. For all the talk of people retiring here, they must just stay in their villas. 

Located in Australia’s sub-tropics on NSW’s north coast, Byron is a haven for foodies and thrillseeker’s alike. And with 2 craft breweries thrown into the mix, there’s even plenty to keep the beer-lover happy. The weather when Kynie and I visited was not ideal; it was overcast most of the time and somewhat rainy, so unfortunately that ruled out most water activities (of which there are plenty), but this is what we did do.

Get Your Bearings

The Byron Bay “CBD”, if you will, is centred around Johnson Street, and 6 blocks off to the side. This is where the bulk of the restaurants, bars, and boutiques are situated and is probably where you’ll spend most of your time when not at the beach or your accommodation. You’ll get your bearings pretty easily after just walking around it for a day or two (it’s really not that big). 

At the top of Johnson Street is Main Beach, and along to the southeast is Cape Byron, the most easterly point of mainland Australia. To the north is Belongil Beach.

Things to do in Byron Bay 

Like I said above, the weather wasn’t great for most of the activities that Byron is best for. I’ll still list them in the interest of giving you ideas and inspiration, though, for the sake of completeness. 

Lighthouse Walk

The beacon on Cape Byron is the lighthouse, which looks over the town and looks out for ships at sea. There are roads that can take you directly to the lighthouse carpark, but if you want to get active, there’s a great walk that goes from the bottom of the Cap out to the lighthouse and back. It’s 3.7km, is pretty hilly but is a great way to see the town and the lighthouse. 

Most Easterly point on the Australian mainland - Cape Byron

Turtle Watching

I saw a few brochures on this, and I know that my friends over at the Fit Traveller have recommended a turtle watching tour in their own guide. There’ a small island just out from the beach (you can see it from the headland) and apparently this is where a lot of sea turtles live and a great place to spot them in the wild. I expect snorkel and dive equipment would be provided by your tour. 

Byron Bay Markets

There are a lot of markets hosted at Byron. While it changes depending on the day of the week, and the week of the month so check the official Byron Bay tourism site to know which ones are coming up when you’re there. 

We went to the Byron Bay Flea Markets at the Youth Centre on Saturday. It’s a great initiative where young people are given a free stall with the incentive to make some money. They were pretty small – mostly young people selling their old stuff – but I did pick up some great novels for $2 a piece. 

 

The Beach

This one goes without saying. Byron Bay is first and foremost a beach town. You can tell this by the sheer number of surf shops are around in the CBD. The beach will most likely be a central part of your stay here so prepare accordingly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me because of the weather but I think this just means I need to go back now! 

Belongil Beach Byron Bay

Best places to eat dinner in Byron Bay

It’s really easy to eat well in Byron Bay. I put this down to the lifestyle of the locals, who tend to be health centred with a focus on sustainability; two characteristics I saw at most places we ate. 

Main Street Burger Bar

As I said, Byron is well known for its hippie organic vegan culture, and it is so easy to slip into one of these by accident, but don’t fret meat lovers, there’s plenty for you too. There are a few burger joints in Byron, but Main Street was so good we had to go there twice. The patties are thick and juicy and the toppings are plentiful. I added pickles and mustard to mine because I like it American-style and the second time I got the special topped with onion rings and hot sauce. It was literally dripping with goodness.

Main Street Burger bar original burger

Treehouse on Belongil

Located a few k’s away from the main strip, the Treehouse is set behind Belongil Beach in a quiet, largely residential street. It’s a very relaxed indoor/outdoor setting with live music most nights.

Treehouse is a semi-outdoor restaurant with an eclectic mix of what can only be described as 1970’s furniture, including an old box television and chairs that would have adorned your grandparent’s dining room. They have live music on most nights of the week, but this won’t start until about 8.

The treehouse is known for their pizzas and the list is long and varied. In my opinion what makes or breaks a pizza is the base, and this base was something special. It’s a thin base with a crispy, doughy crust that I just wanted to pick at it, even though I was already stuffed to the brim.

1970s Furniture at Treehouse on Belongil

Miss Margarita’s Mexican Cantina

Miss Margarita’s sits at the top of Johnson Street with diners spilling onto the sidewalk 7 nights a week. They serve some of the finest Mexican I’ve ever eaten outside of California. I had three mixed tacos with beef, pork and fish. IT was so good I even looked past the fact that there was a healthy serving of coriander on it. A must visit when in Byron.

Three Blue Ducks at The Farm

More than just a cute name, The Farm is an actual working farm, 6 kilometres from the city centre on an acerage growing a long list of foods, all of which are used in the kitchen. The farm has a florist, an organic general store, a takeaway section and a sit-down restaurant. The takeaway has things like gourmet sausage rolls and pies as well as burgers and sandwiches, while the restaurant is full service with gourmet meals such as pork, beef pies and mussels and a choice of craft beers and over 50 wine taps!

Kynie and I went for a wander while we waited for our table (it was packed) we came across black pigs and piglets but there are also poultry and cattle.True to Byron style, it’s a very laid back place to have a picnic in the grounds or enjoy some fine food.

Best coffee and brunch in Byron Bay

Bayleaf

The best coffee I had in Byron. Single farm beans roasted locally. So good I had to have a second; a rarity for me. The place was packed with locals and visitors alike which is always a sign of a quality place and food matched this. I had the granola, which was a delicious mix of oats, nuts and seeds with yoghurt and rhubarb compote. Not something I’d usually go for, but when in Byron. 

Fancy cold brew at Bayleaf Byron Bay
Fancy cold brew at Bayleaf

Combi

Another vegan option, Combi is decorated with a semblance to a coffee cart construction with full timber panelings, an awning, and “windows” through to the back area. The coffee was solid but they have also an epic list of super smoothies.

Combi Cafe in Byron Bay

Folk

Folk is hipster, organic, vegan eating at its finest. The menu is simple, the coffee good, and even if you laugh at vegans like me, you’ll even find something on the menu to like (tip: it’s the pancakes!). That might be a bit tongue in cheek, but if you put aside your desire for meat for one meal, I’ll guarantee you’d enjoy anything on the menu. 

It’s certainly not the sort of place you’d expect to find attached to a Discovery Parks holiday park, but low and behold it is! This definitely doesn’t take anything away from the charm though, as the cafe looks out over their own lawn and is absolutely is its own space set apart from Byron. And it’s so spacious I doubt it would ever feel crowded. 

Folk Cafe Byron Bay

The Top Shop

Past the footy fields and well away from the main busyness of the Town Centre is The Top Shop, named, presumably for the hill that it sits on at the foot of Cape Byron.

Top Shop represents everything you know about Byron Bay. The coffee is good, there’s a huge selection of food, all guaranteed to fill you up, and largely very healthy. We had granola bowls and bircher muesli and it was so filling and delicious it was actually one of the few places we visited twice.

Best places to drink in Byron Bay

Mez Club

This sleek Moroccan themed bar oozes style and is perfect for a few cocktails after a big day of shopping. Despite not having a single homage to surfing or the beach, the bar stills retains a certain cheerfulness one would expect at a sandy feet bar, which I think is owed to the generous usage of white walls, light coloured timbers and cane furniture.

The cocktail list is extensive and the happy hour quality, which runs from 5-7 every night. I enjoyed a local, (and purple) “ink” gin and tonic. The perfect drink to quench a sunkissed thirst.

Gin and tonic at the Mez Club Byron Bay
Gin and tonic at the Mez Club, infused with natural plants to get the colour.

Stone and Wood Brewery Tour

I booked a tour of the Stone and Wood brewery a few days before. These usually sell out so this is important. They said to get there a bit early and being ever-obedient that’s exactly what I did. I rocked up to the tasting room and when I said I’m here for the tour the girl behind the bar responded with “are you driving?” and handed me the first of 7 beers. A requirement of the tour is to try all the beers.

The week I was in Byron was very cloudy and at time rainy. Thankfully, the sun finally decided to peep out from the clouds so I enjoyed the green coast lager in the sunshine that to this point had been largely missing from a place famed for its sun and waves. The lager was crisp and sweet, surprising for a lager, and perfect for drinking in the sun. A highlight was actually trying a beer direct from the fermenter and it’s honestly the freshest tasting beer I’ve ever had. 

Stone and Wood Brewery Tour Byron Bay

Byron Bay Brewery Tour (weekends at 2pm)

The Byron Bay Brewery is located in the Byron Bay Arts Centre. It’s a super random location, the complex hosts concerts and also has a backpackers attached, and the brewery is a tiny fishbowl of a room next to the bar area.

The first thing you see as you enter the bar area is 6 large conical steel fermenters. At first, I was a bit confused as to why the long shell of a bar was so empty, but then I discovered the back outdoor patio.

I grabbed a schooner while I waited for the tour to start, which began with an overview of the brewing process. It was all pretty base level stuff for anyone without a shred of knowledge of how beer is made. The brew room is surprisingly small, with a mill, a mash tun, lauter tun, two carbonators and a kegging machine. The tour concluded with a rundown of the beers. 6 samples in total, all free. I’m honestly unsure if there’s a cost for the tour. All I know is I didn’t pay, and I got 6 generous samples at the end. The Lively One (IPA) and The Bold One (India Pale Lager) were favourites with special mention to The Pale One (pale ale).

It was a bit of a disappointment to learn the brewery is owned by Lion Nathan, especially since it’s such a small scale brewery. But the product is quality so it’s not like they’ve sold out the brand so I got over it pretty quickly.

Byron Bay Brewery Tour

Sticky Wicket

Sticky Wicket is a pretty standard sports bar, with some mostly average beers on tap (Cricketer’s Arms, the house beer is owned by Asahi). BUT, and it’s a big but, they have a pretty phenomenal happy hour. Schooners of Cricketers Arms lager is $5, jam jar cocktails are $10, and the wings (oh the wings!) are $1. This is good value in Australia and the wings were good enough for me to come back 2 nights in a row.

Jam jar at Sticky Wicket

Railway Friendly Bar

The Railway Friendly Bar is a large country style bar with covered outdoor seating in the form of picnic benches. There’s a decent selection of boutique beers on tap and one of the most comprehensive menus of pub grub I’ve ever seen. Everything from burgers, pizza, pasta, steaks, seafood, and schnitzels were on there, plus a bunch of stuff I forget about. It wasn’t super cheap, as far as pub grub goes, but it was pretty good quality and very healthy serving sizes. 

Music was provided by a local blues musician Dan Hannaford and he was awesome. Next time in Byron I’d definitely be looking up where he’s playing next. 

Did I miss anything? What was your favourite place or thing to do in Byron? I’ll add it to my list for when I return. 

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Sydney to Brisbane Coastal Road Trip Itinerary

sydney to brisbane road trip

Sydney is the undisputed gateway to Australia so unsurprisingly receives the most tourists of the country. But there is an entire coastline just begging to be explored to the north of Sydney up to Brisbane and beyond. I’ve lived on the coast my whole life and have travelled up and down it times too numerous to count and the good thing is that not once have I ever seen it overrun by tourists.

The coast is full of cities and towns, each a different size, each with its own quirks and character, and of course, each with multiple beaches. Beaches will be a common theme in this post so strap yourself in, I won’t be ignoring them just because they are everywhere!

Australia’s public transport system is notoriously shite so the best way to explore the east coast is easily by car. Pick up your pre-arranged car rental in Sydney and drive up the coast (Alpha Car Hire have very competitive rates).

It should take about 10 and a half hours to drive from Sydney to Brisbane, but by breaking it up into 1-2 hour blocks over a couple of weeks, you’ll see some of the best coastline and towns that NSW has to offer at a rather leisurely pace.

Crescent Head Beach at Sunset
Crescent Head Beach at Sunset

The NSW east coast is primed for camping, with national parks and holiday parks in great supply. This can be a really cheap way to travel if money is tight. Not to mention, camping is fun and gets you closer to nature than almost any other activity. Pick up some cheap gear on Gumtree and relist it immediately in the region you expect to finish in anticipation of passing it off to someone else.

I’ve picked out some of my favourite places along the east coast to help you know where to stop on your East Coast road trip but of course, you should always go where the moment takes you. Take the scenic route. Take a recommendation from a local. Pull over at a place you’ve never heard. And go have an adventure.

I’ve purposely not included a length of time you should take to make this journey. That’s because that is entirely up to you! Theoretically, each of these headings could be a day’s drive or less. But you could also easily spend 2-3 days at any of them so this could be a 5 day driving tour of the east coast or it could be a 4 week driving tour! You decide.

Sydney

I expect you probably spent about 3-4 days in the metropolis of Sydney. You had a lot of fun, ate a lot of good food and maybe partied a touch too hard, so now it’s time to get out of the big smoke and relax the pace a little. Pick up your hire car and head north!

I have written loads on Sydney. Get it all here.

Sydney to Avoca Beach

Avoca (and equally, Terrigal) is a tiny suburb on the Central Coast. It’s not much but it’s a real highlight of a somewhat dreary country city. A city surprisingly devoid of traffic lights. There are some classic Australian yellow beaches and some great markets on Sundays. We had a wonderful stay at the Avoca Valley B&B, which is actually set back a little from the coast amongst bush.

Avoca is about 90 minutes from Sydney.

Avoca Beach Central Coast NSW
Avoca Beach Central Coast NSW

Avoca Beach to Newcastle

Newcastle is Australia’s second city, a coal city known for beaching a coal tanker in the wild storms of 2007, and was discovered in some pretty comical circumstances. I argue it’s Australia’s most underrated city because of the completely laid back attitude (even for Australians), the incredible food and coffee scene, and is bafflingly untouched by tourists. But most of all I love that you can be in the CBD having a coffee or ice cream and a 5 minute walk will have you at the beach.

Newcastle is about an hour from Avoca. Read my guide on what to do in Newcastle here.

Optional stop: The Entrance for morning tea or coffee.

Anzac Memorial Walkway, Bar Beach, Newcastle
One of Newcastle’s most popular walking tracks

Newcastle to Port Stephens

Port Stephens is virtually untouched – even by Novocastrians who live on its doorstep. There are more beaches than you can poke a stick at, some on the coast, some on Port Stephens harbour – so you can pick if you want the water to be wavy or calm/filled with boats. Anna Bay is great for waves and Shoal Bay is nice and calm. Shoal Bay also has a great jetty for jumping and a fantastic (and short) walk up Tomaree Head with epic views over Fingal Bay and the whole region.

Port Stephens has plenty of adventure activities, with sand dune quad bike safaris, sandboarding tours, skydiving, and paintball. Or if you want something a little more chill you can take a whale watching cruise or visit Oak Vale Farm: a favourite with the kids!

Port Stephens is just under an hour from Newcastle. If you feel like a splurge, the Oaks Pacific Blue (in Salamander Bay) is an amazing place to stay. An infinity pool (by my definition) loops around the entire resort with most rooms opening out to the water, perfect for a quick summer swim. We stayed there a few weeks and it was just an incredible break.

Shoal Bay from the summit of Mt Tomaree lookout
Shoal Bay from the summit of Mt Tomaree lookout

Port Stephens to Myall Lakes National Park

I’ve gone camping at Myall Lakes for more years than I can count. It’s a very well managed National Park with good facilities that don’t take anything away from the camping experience. Popular with Australians in summer months you can often hear the buzz of power boats and jet skis for most of the day.

Boomerang Beach has a great resort right on the beach, Korsmans Landing is a nice and open grassy area for your tent or campervan, Mungo Brush is well shaded on a calm lake, and Myall Shores (near Korsmans) offers basic accommodation by the lake.

Myall Lakes is about 1.5-2 hours from Port Stephens (you have to backtrack a little) depending on where you stay.

Myall to Port Macquarie

Another beach town, Port Macquarie is also the home of Australia’s Ironman triathlon championship each May. The city centres around the breakwall and town beach, with the Sundowner holiday park situated perfectly in between.

If you have an artistic streak you can paint the rocks on the breakwall. There are no rules here so find a crap or fading rock painting and go nuts on it. My friends and I painted one over 15 years ago and incredibly, it is still there! Just don’t be political, please. There’s no need to have an agenda.

Port Mac is as relaxing as it comes. It is small enough that everything is within walking distance but is big enough to support some cool places to eat and drink.

Port Macquarie is about 2 hours from Myall Lakes National Park.

Port Macquarie rock painting
Our painted rock – still there last time someone checked!

Port Macquarie to Crescent Head

Crescent Head is a personal favourite of my family’s, we spend a week at Crescent Head every year. There is not a lot to do in Crescent Head but that’s what makes it perfect. It is well known as one of the best surf breaks in the country and the car park is always full of campers with surfboards.

The country club doubles as a 6 hole golf course: where its casual nature is matched only by its incredible scenery, as it snakes its way up the bluff where you much chip onto the green over a cliff. It’s really quite something, and down below is a perfect place to pick up some free second-hand balls!

The bakery makes Crescent Head worth stopping at all on its own. One of the last true bakery with displays filled with delectable pastries, sweets, and pies. Visits become a daily habit that is hard to break back home.

Crescent Head is about an hour from Port Macquarie.

Watch my time-lapse video of Crescent Head below.

Crescent Head to Coffs Harbour

Across Australia, Coffs Harbour is known as the home of the Big Banana. If you’re driving through and need a pit stop, the Banana is the undisputed number 1 choice for road trippers.

Obviously there’s more to Coffs Harbour though, with the Pet Porpoise Pool giving kids young and old an opportunity to interact with marine life, Korora Lookout offering spectacular views of the region, and of course, more beach.

View of Coffs Harbour from Sealy lookout

View of Coffs from Sealy Lookout, on Flickr by Andrew Schaffer.

Optional Stop: Dorrigo National Park is just inland and is a great place to camp for the night.

Coffs is about 2 hours from Crescent Head.

Coffs to Byron Bay

Byron Bay known as the hippie capital of Australia, the home of Stone and Wood (one of Australia’s largest independent brewers), and Splendour in the Grass (the biggest music festival in Australia, July). Byron is a great place to enjoy the beach, entertain the idea of eating

Byron is a great place to enjoy the beach, entertain the idea of eating organic, and switch off in a completely laid back atmosphere. However, it’s pretty popular these days so in peak times (or even otherwise), be prepared for crowds.

byron bay lighthouse on cape byron, Australia's east coast

Byron is about 3 hours from Coffs.

Optional: break up the trip by stopping in Yamba on the way.

Byron to the Gold Coast

If you thought the crowds were bad in Byron, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The Gold Coast is where Australians flock for your typical tropical beach and theme park vacation. (Brisbanites know this so they head north to the Sunshine Coast).

Surfer’s Paradise is the hub of the Gold Coast so I recommend staying a bit out at Burleigh Heads or even Coolangatta. You’ll still get the GC experience without the crowds. And besides, you have a car, you can always drive in to see what it’s all about.

Take in the view from the Skydeck at Q1, Australia’s tallest building. If you’re after some adventure hit up the theme parks, or if nature is more your speed, visit the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary or the Glow Worm caves.

Take a detour to the Gold Coast Hinterland, Springbrook National Park, if you want to get more into nature before you get back into the cities.

Burleigh Heads Beach Gold Coast
Burleigh Heads Beach

Gold Coast to Brisbane

After a week or two driving, you made it to Brisbane. There is plenty more to see up on the Queensland coast so, by all means, keep driving. But while you’re here, read this post to see how I would spend 3 days in Brisbane.

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The Best Fast Food in the USA: My Junk Food Tour

In-n-nout hollywood header

When I visited the USA 3 years ago I created a blog draft with the same name as you read above. But since I didn’t really eat that much junk food, that’s literally as far as the post went.

At the end of last year I was back in the USA for around 3 weeks and this time I made a concerted effort to ensure I enjoyed some of the finest dining experiences fast food USA has to offer. I made a list and checked off just about all of it.

If you’re visiting the USA soon and you’re a big fan of dirty burgers and seeing how the morbidly obese eat, then you are in the right place!

In-N-Out Burger

The undisputed king of the Western Conference. In-N-Out Burger believes that less is more; simple is better. And that getting it “animal style” isn’t something you’d do in the bedroom.

In-N-Out offer 3 burgers: a hamburger (meat, sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion), a cheeseburger (add cheese), and a Double Double (double meat and cheese). That’s it. Then you have fries, drinks and shakes to round out one of the simplest menus in global fast food. And it works because they nail it. The burgers are some of the greasiest around and the pickle-based sauce is what dreams are made of.

But if that truly isn’t enough for you then customise away with the “secret menu”. Well it’s actually not so secret anymore since some of it is on their website, however, one guy went on a mission to try everything on the secret menu and lists everything else here.

In n Out Double Doubles and animal fries
In n Out Double Doubles and animal fries

Shake Shack

Shake Shack is In-N-Out’s cross-continent arch-nemesis and undisputed champion of the Eastern Conference. West and East coast burger lovers are forever at odds with each over who has the better franchise but you will never truly know for yourself until you’ve had both.

Shake Shack was born in New York and has a wide variety of burgs to choose from. The burgers are good, but the franchise really comes into its own with the milk offering. Shake flavours are seasonal and at the time of writing they were Mint cookies and cream, salted vanilla toffee and mud pie.

In my view, In-N-Out is cheaper and have better burgers, but Shake Shack has better sides and shakes so it can’t be completely put to bed for me.

Shake Shack Las Vegas. One of the few in the west.

Chipotle

Taking a break from burgers, Chipotle is in my view the best spot for some quick Mexican. Burritos, tacos and enchiladas fill the room and scents of their signature chipotle sauce subtly fill the airwaves. The burritos are big, and the menu simple so your decision should be easy.

Born out of Colorado, the chain has spread all over the country so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find one where you visit. 

East coast, west coast, the Rockies. Since this list spans the entire country you might actually need to rent an RV and road trip all over to try them all!

Five Guys

Despite my fanfare above about In-N-Out and Shake Shack, Five Guys was actually my favourite burger joint across the US. A thick, juicy patty, the right amount of pickles and onion (i.e. lots), a token amount of tomato, all overflowing with yellow American cheese.

And speaking of overflowing, these guys know how to do fries. The put a tiny paper cup in the bag, and generously fill the cup a laughable amount so you have chips all throughout the bag. It’s just wonderful.

Five Guys love tooting their own horn with awards and reviews plastered all over the world, each one of them well-deserved, and many from bygone eras. They also want you to see the ingredients they use (or have little storage out back); so much so that they stack them in the restaurant!

Chick-fil-A

Despite my best efforts, I actually never made it to a Chick-fil-A. And it certainly didn’t help that they aren’t open on Sundays – the day I was most often available to go. But I still wanted to include it because of its reputation and my disappointment.

Everyone raves about the nuggets so I’d be backing up the truck.

Fuddruckers

Maybe a little left of field, but I have very fond memories of Fuddruckers. I visited one in California back in 2011. Fuddruckers’ uniqueness is that you order the size of the patty you want (and you can go BIG), how well you’d like it cooked, and then add the toppings yourself from the salad bar. That way you get exactly what you want on your burger and how much of it.

They also bake all of their buns in house, something that cannot be said for most other chains.

P.Terry’s

Special mention here must go to P.Terry’s of the greater Austin area. My good friend brought me to a P.Terry’s for one of the greasiest, dirtiest burgs I’ve ever had. Along with fresh French fries It was pure bliss after a few beers. Earlier that evening we had also enjoyed Chipotle for dinner.

The following day I came down with a bad case of the voms and it lasted a whole 24 hours. It was clearly food poisoning of some kind. Kynie reckons it was the excess of fast food in one evening. I steadfastly refuse to join those dots.

It must have been something we bought at Whole Foods earlier that day. It’s the only explanation that makes sense.

PTerrys Austin

Hooters

Hooters is on here as an honourable mention. I went to the Hooters on Hollywood Boulevard and I found it a bit overrated. This probably comes as no surprise to anyone. I mean, the service was fine, I couldn’t complain about the atmosphere, the waitstaff were friendly and mildly attractive, and the wings I ate were just ok. It just wan’t a “wow” moment for me.

However, what was memorable about that night was while we were eating, some dude was getting arrested just outside. Yep, that’s Hollywood Boulevard.

Wendy’s

Ok ok so Wendy’s is on here as a bit of a joke. Wendy’s is just awful.

Obviously, there are so many other great fast food joints in the US. Which one is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

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Beyond the Beach: Underrated Activities In The Caribbean

When you think of the Caribbean what springs to mind?

Beaches?

Scuba diving?

Cocktails?

Me too. And when I think back to the trips I’ve taken to the Caribbean, this is immediately where my mind wanders because it’s a feature of the region that is actually incredible. The beautifully temperate waters of Negril’s 7 Mile Beach in Jamaica, or the perfect white sand of Barbados and, well, most everywhere else! Continue Reading

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