The Adventurer’s Checklist For A Visit To Australia

There are many, many reasons why tourists flock to the land down under from all over the world. They get scorching hot summers while most of us are getting ready for winter. They have the friendliest locals and the coolest cities. They have delicious food and incredible wine. They have one of the most spectacular and diverse ecosystems on the planet. They have some of the world’s most incredible creatures (I dare you to spend 5 minutes with a quokka and not fall in love). They have numerous thriving centres of art, music and culture, yet, one thing that characterises an Australian holiday perhaps more than any other is the enormous sense of adventure. Australia is a great place for relaxing by the beach with a cocktail and a good book, but it’s also quite possibly the adventure capital of the world.

The Adventurer's Checklist For a Visit to Australia

Image by Alex Healing via Flickr

If you’re the kind of person who can’t sit still for a moment while on holiday, make your way through this adventurer’s checklist of Australia…

Walk in the wilderness of Fraser Island

Before European settlers arrived in Australia, the country was an ecologically diverse (and spectacularly dangerous) wilderness that only the canny indigenous peoples could navigate safely. Perhaps that’s why so many of the country’s cities hug the coast. Yet, if you want to get off the beaten track and explore the “real” Australia, heading on over to Adventure Free tours and booking a trip to Fraser island is a good place to start. In this UNESCO World Heritage site in Queensland you’ll get to enjoy long hikes and swimming in crystal clear waters surrounded by some of Australia’s stunning native wildlife including dingos, echidnas, flying foxes and all manner of exotic birds.

Climb Uluru… while you still can

There are some who can’t pass a rocky outcrop without wanting to climb it, and if you want to visit the sandstone monolith formerly known as Ayers Rock with the intention of climbing it, you’d better get your skates on. The site’s cultural significance to the indigenous population and the inherent risk factors of the climb have led to the decision for climbing trips to be banned in October 2019. Of course, even if you should choose to visit after this date, there’s still lots to see and do around this seminal landmark.

Snorkel with white sharks

Australia has no shortage of stunning wildlife on land, but perhaps its most spectacular sights are seen beneath the sea. Australia has a plethora of opportunities for scuba diving and snorkelling but for a truly memorable experience head on over to the Ningaloo Reef where you can swim side by side with 10 metre long white sharks. Of course these graceful giants aren’t the only natives to these fair waters. You’ll also encounter dugongs, manta rays, dolphins, turtles and whales.

Go kayaking in Nitmiluk National Park

Finally, those who are most at home in the water won’t want to miss the opportunity to go on a kayaking adventure down the the Katherine River in Nitmiluk National Park. You’ll be able to go off the track most beaten by tourists and dive deep into the outback, mixing it up with freshwater crocodiles and paddle your way past hoards of screeching cockatoos.

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What Every Traveler Should Know Before They Get On the Plane

So you’ve made up your mind, you know where you want to go, you know what you want to do once you get there and you’re ready for an amazing experience. Hold on, pump the brakes and check to see if you’ve done everything you need to. Have you learned something about the culture? Have you learned some basic phrases which could come in handy for when you’re in an emergency? Have you got the right amount of money you will need? Do you know who to call or contact when you’re in need of some assistance? Have you planned any alternatives to things you plan on doing just in case they don’t work out? Just when you think you’ve thought of everything, you find out that actually you haven’t left no stone unturned. This is what every traveller should be doing before they even step one foot on the plane.

Notes at the ready

Even before you have boarded your flight, you should have the money you’re going to use in your suitcase. It’s not good to land and not have any kind of money to use for getting a ride to the hotel, paying for dinner, paying the hotel and for many other things. You need to look for a trusted Currency Exchange service and get the best value you can for your money into the currency you’ll be using abroad. Sometimes currencies are linked together such as the US dollar and the Canadian dollar. The CAD will almost always be worth less than USD because it’s pegged to that fiat. However if you’re exchanging a more valuable currency such as GBP or even the EUR, then you could stand to get back three times more.

An extra set

Planning for the rare occasion might seem trivial but it really does depend on where you’re going. For example if you’re heading into a tropical climate, you should pack an extra set of clothes. During monsoon season especially, sudden and incredibly strong downpours can come out of nowhere. In a hot climate, wet clothes can not only begin to stink, but they can begin to smell as well. It’s cautious and prudent to pack an extra pair of clothes that you can wear in the event that all of your other clothes are either dirty or drenched. This clothing doesn’t have to be heavy, it can just be a light t-shirt and some shorts so they won’t take up much room in your suitcase.

The translating apps

Pick from a range of translating apps and see which one for the language you need is the best. These apps are downloaded onto your smartphone and they come in great for when you need to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English. Simply speak into your phone’s speaker and the app will then translate your speech into the words you’re looking for.

Before you go abroad you can do these simple things to make your experience much better. The most important is getting a good deal for your currency exchange as without the national coin, you can’t pay for anything.

The Italy Road Trip

The Italy Road Trip was planned for quite some time. The dilemma was how do you see all of what Italy has to offer in 2 weeks? Well the answer is you don’t. It’s just not possible in 2 weeks. So what do you see? And where do you start? Well right here.

The Italy Road Trip – Getting There

Choose your airline (it’s Air Canada for me from Canada). In order to hit the ground running (with a 6 hour time difference), I need to fly Business Class (sometimes) or Premium Economy (this time). The extra room and increased comfort make the long flight enjoyable. I absolutely have to sleep so I bring along my new travel friend, my Palmate Travel Pillow, to get to sleep and stay asleep. I want to be ready to go and awake on Day 1!

The Italy Road Trip – Venice

Arriving in Venice, we leave the airport in a water taxi and begin the short journey into the historic canals of Venice. After checking into our hotel, we grab an espresso and head out to explore the streets of Venice. Tourists are absolutely everywhere and the streets are packed. Walking along main walking routes and over bridges, we manage to find side routes and squares where the locals are. Small neighbourhoods with cafes, restaurants, shops and Venetian homes are a lot more interesting than the main streets. On Day 2, we jump on the public water taxi (Venice transit) to get around easily and give into the main tourist areas. There’s a lot to see in Venice including Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges’ Palace. But take the time to get off the main paths and explore!

Italy Road Trip - Venice

The Italy Road Trip – Prosecco

We leave Venice in a rental car and head up to the Prosecco Region (the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso). It’s mid-September and we manage to hit full grape harvest. The area is alive with extra workers and tractors with grape packed trailers. There are many wineries to visit and wines to drink. We are looking for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Most wineries will have a fee based tasting (5-10 Euro per person) and will provide a generous sample of their product (3-5 wine samples). If you choose to buy a bottle or 2, the wine fee will be reduced or waived (depending on your purchase amount). Among the best wineries to visit: San Gregorio (family owned- you’ll meet father, mother and sisters);  Col Vetoraz (with a wine vending machine on the small road leading to the winery); and Villa Sandi (great wine and restaurant).

Italy Road Trip - Prosecco Region

The Italy Road Trip – Tuscany

There are so many reasons to include Tuscany in your Italian Road Trip. The wine; the food; the scenery and the people. Among the many wines, the Classico Chianti (with the black rooster on the bottle neck) stands out. The Classico label is only available to Chiantis produced from grapes in the the Chianti Classico subregion. The area covers approximately 260 km2 (100 square miles) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The other more well known wine in the area is the “Super Tuscan”. The American name for a deep red wine blended from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It’s priced to take advantage of the aura in the marketplace. Among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines) is Villa San Andrea. The small 400 year old winery is right next door to the well known Antinori. They provide an intimate tour and wine tasting for 10 Euro. Villa San Andrea’s Super Tuscan is far cheaper than the winery next door. They also have 7 other high quality and affordable wines.

Italy Road Trip - Villa San Andrea, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Tuscany

Among the many towns/places to visit in Tuscany are – Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and of course Florence. You really can’t go wrong wherever you go, but San Gimignano stands near the top. It’s an amazing, well preserved medieval village with several small hotels, shops, museums, and Tuscan restaurants. My favourite restaurants “Le Vecchie Mura“. It has both an inside restaurant and an outside terrace area across the lane. Authentic dishes feature pasta, steak, rabbit, deer, wild boar and of course local wine. Eating a Tuscan dinner overlooking Tuscany is pretty hard to beat.

Italy Road Trip - San Gimignano, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Pasta with Truffles

The Italy Road Trip – Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is all about the views. And getting to the coast just adds to the anticipation. Heading south, we drive along the highway through Naples, then onto the winding roads of  Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano is our destination and our base for 3 days on the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some incredible coastal views. It also has great hotels (Le Sirenuse, Villa Rosa); some great restaurants down on the beach (Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle – both highly rated and right beside each other) and lots of small boutiques for shopping. From Positano, you can easily make day trips to Amalfi, Ravello, Scala and others.

Italy Road Trip - Positano

Italy Road Trip - Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

We drive to Rome Airport and overnight at a Rome Airport hotel before leaving the next day. Except for the return flight, the trip is over. The Italy Road Trip was among my top trips ever. And that’s saying a lot given the amount of travelling that I have done over the years. Each area/stop well worth the visit to immerse yourself in the history, culture, food and wine of Italy. The biggest issue is when is the next Italy Road Trip?