south island short walks – Franz Josef Glacier emerged from the clouds

Battling weather at Franz Josef Glacier

We attempt the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk in pouring rain and dwindling humour

We were in low spirits. Our heli-hike to Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand had been cancelled due to bad weather which meant we couldn’t get onto the glacier itself. In fact, given the vast and murky blanket of cloud, there was the distinct possibility that we would not see the glacier at all.

We were wary. In 2015, we almost missed seeing Machu Picchu because of endless fog. A few months after that, we trekked to Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia to find it completely shrouded in cloud – a disappointment that haunts Peter to this day.

Off the wall: scaling the Queenstown via ferrata

The Queenstown via ferrata allows climbers to scale and summit otherwise impassable cliffs rising high above the ‘adventure capital of the world’

It’s rare that a visitor leaves Queenstown in New Zealand without having tried something that raises their pulse. We visited the ‘adventure capital of the world’ as part of a G Adventures tour of South Island and were keen to sample the town’s encyclopaedia of adrenaline-filled activities.

Named by Lonely Planet as one of the best countries to visit in 2018, New Zealand offers almost endless options for those seeking adventure including bungy jumping, canyon swinging, skydiving and shotover jet boating (yep, we had no idea either).

great walks of new zealand Tongariro Northern Circuit

8 best day hikes on North Island, New Zealand

We review the best day hikes on North Island. No tents, sleeping bags or bulky backpacks required

New Zealand is one of the best hiking destinations in the world and although the South Island steals the headlines for long-distance hiking, the North Island has much to offer in terms of shorter trails.

Don’t let lower distances fool you though: these trails may be short, but they are not always sweet. Some are thoroughly challenging. What they all have in common is spectacular scenery. Emerald lakes, rugged coastlines and rocky stalagmites are defining features of these day hikes on North Island.

rotorua geysers steaming in te puia

Exploring the Rotorua geysers in New Zealand

We visit the Rotorua geysers on New Zealand’s North Island in pursuit of Pohutu, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere

We smelled Rotorua before we even set foot in the town: an unholy triad of pungent sulphur, blocked drains and rotten eggs. Built on a geothermal hotspot, Rotorua is a place of bestirred primordia: boiling mud pools, hot springs, spitting vents and erupting geysers.

interesting facts about Australia uluru

24 interesting facts about Australia

From a giant dingo fence to the planet’s largest living structure, we take a look at the most interesting facts about Australia

In a country the size of a continent there are innumerable fascinating facts to be unearthed. Australia’s mix of ancient cultures, wild terrain and cosmopolitan cities means the country has so much to offer the millions of visitors it receives every year.

Skydiving in Cairns: jumping from 16,000ft

After a month in Australia, skydiving in Cairns seemed an apt way to finish an epic trip

I slumped into the pillow with the desultory air of someone faced with 200 channels and not a decent TV show between them. I sighed, then yawned, then slouched.

After seven days of diving in the Great Barrier Reef and all the wonder and adrenaline that comes with it, spending two days cooped up in a Cairns hotels seemed like a damp squib of a way to end our month-long trip across Australia. Sure, there was a great pancake house down the street and, yes, Aangan round the corner did excellent Indian cuisine, but after camping, hiking, sailing and diving our way through this continent-sized country, we weren’t satisfied with a quiet goodbye.

interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef dugong

20 interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef

We share the most interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef gathered on our week-long visit

We’ve all seen pictures of the Great Barrier Reef: a pearl-string of reefs and lagoons boasting every imaginable shade of blue. This natural wonder in Australia teems with life.

Marine animals here vary from microscopic plankton to whales weighing 100 tonnes. It is a riot of colour, a carnival of life. Clownfish of bursting orange curl next to fish of luminous blue. It is a true spectacle – but what exactly is the Great Barrier Reef? Is it really bigger than Italy and can it really be seen from space?

Exploring Cooktown australia 15

Exploring Cooktown, Captain Cook’s historic landing site

We visit Cooktown in the far north of Queensland where Captain James Cook beached his crippled ship and helped found a giant country

If you’ve seen a map of Australia, you’ve seen the huge, remote Cape York Peninsula, an area bigger than the UK, but with a population of just 18,000. Home to Australia’s northernmost point, Cape York Peninsula points upwards towards the Torres Strait and New Guinea in the northeastern corner of the continent-sized island of Australia.

interesting facts about Australia Great Barrier Reef

8 of the best dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef

We spent seven days diving in the world’s largest reef system – and loved every minute. Below we share some of the best dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef

As travel bloggers, we are at times guilty of hyperbole. When it comes to diving in the Great Barrier Reef, however, there is no overstating. The coral reef here is simply magnificent.

We spent seven days aboard the 35m catamaran Coral Expeditions II, a small ship that accommodates a maximum of 44 passengers (our trip had 22).

Diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef coral moorish idol 1

Diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef

A first-hand report of diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef including information on when to go, how to get there and what to expect

It started with a whisper, as if he were revealing a state secret or the coordinates of Atlantis. His shoulders eased into the buttery leather of his seat, his stance loose and casual, as if this were any other drink on any other evening of our small-ship expedition across the Great Barrier Reef. His tone, however, betrayed something different: a low and certain intensity, alerting us to the fact that this dive would be like no other.

He would need special dispensation from the captain, said Colin, our dive instructor on the expedition. We’d have to leave early and take the dinghy and be back before breakfast. Nothing was guaranteed, but he’d talk to the captain and we’d wait and see.

Whitehaven Beach is one of the best beaches we've ever seen

Whitehaven Beach: is it really the best in the world?

With swathes of white sand curving like a dervish around a vivid blue sea and a reputation for unparalleled beauty, would Whitehaven Beach beat everything we’ve seen?

It’s fair to say that Peter is not a beach baby. Give him a stretch of sand and he’ll search for a kayak to go off exploring. Give him sunny skies and he’ll plan a day of solo sailing. It’s no surprise then that he was dubious about our visit to Whitehaven Beach. On boarding the Providence V, he was clearly more excited about the journey there and back rather than the beach itself.

adventure sailing holidays-svalbard

7 adventure sailing holidays for your bucket list

Adventure sailing holidays have the ability to carry passengers to the far reaches of the world, accessing some of the most remote and magnificent scenery the world has to offer.

Having recently returned from my first tall ship sailing adventure off the west coast of Scotland, and with my interest for the high seas well and truly piqued, I take a look at some adventure sailing holidays I would love to join.

Sailing the Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach 15

Sailing the Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach, Australia

The sheltered waters of the Coral Sea off Queensland’s tropical coast are best explored by boat. Here’s our account of sailing the Whitsunday Islands

Home to 74 tropical islands, the Whitsundays are perfect for sailing. Dotted along the beautiful tropical coast of Queensland, fringed and sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef, the picturesque islands are home to some of the finest beaches in the world.

Climbing Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak

Climbing Mount Kosciuszko in Australia may not be on every visitor’s itinerary, but it’s the easiest way to bag one of the seven summits (sort of)

“So does this really count as one of your seven summits?” Kia asked as we started to break trail.

“Not really. But if I’m on my deathbed and one short, it will have to count,” I replied.

I may have mentioned climbing the seven summits (the highest mountain on each of the seven continents) once or twice or ten times before. I dream of climbing them all, no matter how improbable

The Plus seating area offers the best view of the penguins

Phillip Island Penguin Parade: the day we saw 613 penguins

We visit the Phillip Island Penguin Parade in Australia to see if it’s worth the hype

There is a palpable tension in the air. It reminds me of the atmosphere at a standing-only gig just before the doors open: everyone acts calm but then rushes forward in a desperate attempt to secure a good spot, pushing people like me – short, slight, little – to the outer margins of the room.

Needless to say, I hate standing-only gigs.

Great Ocean Road attractions 12 Apostles

Great Ocean Road attractions: the musts, shoulds and coulds

We list the best Great Ocean Road attractions you must see, should see and could see along the way

The Great Ocean Road in Australia is one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives and one of Lonely Planet’s Epic Drives of the World. Stretching for 243km along the southeastern coast of Australia, the road showcases some of the country’s most dramatic coastal scenery.

The Great Ocean Road runs between the Victorian towns of Torquay and Allansford and was built between 1919 and 1932 by soldiers returning from World War I. It is dedicated to soldiers killed during the war and as such is the world’s largest war memorial.

Flinders Chase National Park Remarkable Rocks

Flinders Chase National Park: what not to miss

Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia’s finest parks. We take a look at seven sights not to be missed

Sprawled across the western end of Kangaroo Island, Flinders Chase National Park is home to wild coastline, diverse wildlife and some truly extraordinary landmarks. The park has steadily recovered from bushfires that destroyed over 400 sq km of land in 2007, and today offers a uniquely Australian landscape of sugar-gum canopies and mallee scrub. 

We chose not to visit Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park

Things to do on Kangaroo Island, Australia

From charming wildlife to soaring sand dunes, we share the best things to do on Kangaroo Island in Australia

Kangaroo Island doesn’t get much billing among the famous sights of Australia. There’s Uluru of course and the Great Barrier Reef and the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, but Kangaroo Island remains less known – perhaps no bad thing.

Home to around 60,000 kangaroos, this island has more roos than it does people. The roads are straight and empty and the pace of life is slow: a little bit prairie, a little homegrown.

Climbing Uluru: a step too far

Climbing Uluru, Australia’s most iconic landmark, will be completely banned from 2019. Isn’t the ban long overdue?

In November 2017, the board of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park voted unanimously to ban the climbing of Uluru from 26th October 2019, the 34th anniversary of Uluru’s return to the Aboriginal people.