5 reasons to go to Vanuatu in 2019

This article is a joint partnership between Expedia and Air Vanuatu.

Being a mere three-hour flight from Sydney, two-and-a-half hours from Brisbane, and from June 2019, just over four hours from Melbourne, Vanuatu is the South Pacific neighbour where your family can have an active holiday and experience real island life. Immerse in the cultural traditions by getting to know the local Pikininis (meaning kids in local Bislama) on the beach; take the little ones snorkelling for the first time; rope swing into a crystal-clear blue hole; or zipline through the tops of the rainforest canopy (and these are only a few of the reasons to go to Vanuatu).

To make it easy for you, we’ve rounded-up some of the best experiences you and the family can share in Vanuatu in 2019:

1. Snorkel off Hideaway Island

For an easy day trip from Vanuatu’s harbourside capital, Port Vila, take a short boat ride over to Hideaway Island to explore its Marine Sanctuary. Here the family can relax and swim with fascinating fish and colourful coral or watch the underwater world from above in a glass-bottom boat. For a unique Hideaway experience, visit the underwater post office – you can send a postcard from the world’s first underwater post office.

2. Swim in the bluest of waters

Vanuatu is home to fantastic waterfalls like the Lolima waterfalls on Efate; pristine coastlines like Champagne Beach on Espiritu Santo, and one of the most stunning natural wonders, crystal-clear freshwater blue lagoons. The east coast of Espiritu Santo boasts more blue holes than anywhere else in the world, including one of the most spectacular, Nanda Blue Hole, which can be found hidden amongst Santo’s lush rainforest.

3. Meet the locals

Vanuatu has been recognised as one of the world’s most culturally diverse countries, which isn’t surprising when you consider it is home to 110 distinct cultures and languages. Head to Tanna Island, and visit Yakel, where the Oscar-nominated ‘Tanna’ movie was filmed. One of the friendliest of communities, it is almost guaranteed your kids will make friends with the locals and immerse themselves in a culture vastly different from their own. They’ll be dancing on the beach and diving head first into the waves together by the end of the trip.

4. Walk over water at Eden on the River

For an entire day of jungle-filled adventure, look no further than Eden on the River, located on Efate. All ages will get a thrill out of soaring through the trees on the jungle zip lines or scrambling over the suspension bridges. Alternatively, you can take a dip in the calm river or stroll through the tropical gardens.

5. Incredible family resorts

With an array of family-friendly resorts on offer, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Resorts primely located in the archipelago’s capital of Port Vila like Warwick Le Lagon, Holiday Inn and Iririki Resort and Spa all offer free use of their in-house Kids’ Club; a range of fun, organised activities; free meals for kids 13 years and under; and purpose-built children’s pools. To really impress the kids, try Holiday Inn’s overwater family villa, complete with board games, bean bags and a PlayStation.

 

Special thanks to GTI Tourism on behalf of The Vanuatu Tourism Office for sharing the above images and top five reasons for visiting Vanuatu!

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Source: Out There Starts Here | 12 Mar 2019 | 10:49 am

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Coming soon: Hayman Island by InterContinental

One of Australia’s most famous islands is back in business from July 1st, with a new name, a new hotel at the helm and a whole new attitude. Hayman Island by InterContinental is almost here, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Following severe damage by Cyclone Debbie back in 2017, InterContinental took over from One & Only hotels and has completed a multi million dollar refurb to bring the 400 hectare private island in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef back to glory.

What can we expect? The big reveal won’t be until doors open on July 1st, but guests are already booking in their holidays because this piece of paradise is too good to pass up visiting.

The famous resort pool is still there, with rooms opening right up to the pool’s edge. There’s now a brand new Beach House, with three suites and private pools, for those after even more privacy.

We have our eyes on the new spa, with thirteen treatment rooms. For those who want to use Hayman as a base for exploring the reef, expect to see plenty of water activities on offer.

When it comes to the food menus, get ready to hear more exciting news about five dining experiences on offer, from poolside all the way to fine dining.

Keep an eye on the blog for more details about this hot new hotel in the Great Barrier Reef.

 

 

 

 

 

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Source: Out There Starts Here | 10 Mar 2019 | 12:18 am

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BridgeClimb takes International Women’s Day to new heights

More than four million people have climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and for International Women’s Day, BridgeClimb celebrated with a very special Power Climb made up of inspiring Australian women.

The three hour BridgeClimb celebrates women working together, ‘rising above’ to achieve their dreams and marks the first of many series of climbs the company will host.

The inaugural Power Climb included Anthea Hammon, Director of Hammon Holdings who are the operators of BridgeClimb, Lisa Perkovic, Expedia’s own Global Travel Expert, Kate Peck, TV Presenter and model, Heidi Dening, author and self-leadership educator, Sharni Williams, Australian Rugby Union Player, Gillian Fox, Women’s Advancement Specialist, Councillor Jess Miller from City of Sydney and Sarah Harper, BridgeClimb’s Climb Operations Manager.

The Climb itself is a remarkable showcase of the skill and bravery of those who were involved in its eight year construction back in the 1930s. Guides share stories of feats of strength, endurance and mathematical marvel with their climbers as they take on the ‘catwalk’, stairs and ramps up to the peak of the bridge.

Stopping at the ‘summit’, looking out at the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour in all it’s glory, this is one Australian experience that’s not to be missed. Get your tickets here.

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Source: Out There Starts Here | 8 Mar 2019 | 2:20 am

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10 different reasons to try Japan for your next trip

Skyscrapers, ski fields and temples. Yes, Japan is home to some of the world’s most technologically advanced cities, the best ski fields and beautiful historic districts, but there is so much more on offer. It’s never been easier for Australians to see Japan in all its glory – that means getting away from the tourist hot spots and into regions that are still free from crowds but are full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Where to start? Hokkaido Prefecture and the Kansai region are two very good places to begin. We’re taking you on a tour of the 10 best places to visit in these two beautiful areas:

1. CupNoodles Museum, Ikeda (Osaka)

The humble cup of noodles; convenient snack in the office or main diet staple for university students around the world, was born in Ikeda, half an hour from downtown Osaka when Momofuku Ando created the first instant ramen. Today, the CupNoodles Museum tells the story of that history and has its own Chicken Ramen CupNoodles Factory where you can craft your own noodles, from kneading and steaming to flash drying.

2. Log rafting, Kitayama River (Wakayama)

No, this is not white water rafting like you know it. The Kii Peninsula Mountains are two hours south east of Osaka and home to a logging history that has born this adventurous sport. Recreate the old days by hopping aboard a rough-hewn log raft for a wild ride down the river.

3. Nishiki Market (Kyoto)

Tofu doughnuts. Trust us, they are worth every single minute you’ll spend strolling through the five block long covered markets in downtown Kyoto. Served piping hot, these plump doughy balls take tofu to a whole new level. Munch on a bagful while checking out some of Japan’s traditional dishes and unusual produce like BBQ eel and fresh wasabi plants.

4. Tanize Suspension Bridge, Totsukawa (Nara)

Rising 54 metres above the Totsukawa River two hours’ drive south of Osaka, the Tanize Suspension Bridge is top notch if you’re after a bird’s eye view of Japan’s lush Nara Prefecture. Stretching almost 300 metres across the river, it’s not for those afraid of heights but certainly worth venturing across if you’re brave.

5. Kinosaki Onsen, Toyooka (Hyogo)

There are more than 20,000 natural onsen in Japan and you’ll find some of the best in the charming riverside town of Kinosaki. Located in Hyogo Prefecture on the Sea of Japan, the first hot springs in Kinosaki were discovered in the 8th century and have long drawn visitors. The town has seven public bath houses, indoor and outdoor, some with wooden baths, even some with waterfalls. Traditionally onsen followed very specific etiquette, some rules are still followed today, but the Kinosaki onsen were one of the first in the country to allow bathers with tattoos into any of the seven public baths. 

6. Cherry blossoms, Goryokaku (Hokkaido)

Leave the inflated prices of Tokyo around March-April and head out to Japan’s northern most island of Hokkaido in early May. You’ve got an extra month up your sleeve to see the country’s famous cherry blossoms as the cold keeps the blooms delayed a few weeks. Around 1,600 cherry blossom trees burst into bloom at Goryokaku Park in Hakodate City. Fort Goryokaku is a large, star-shaped military fortification which is surrounded by the park and its unique manmade moat. You’ll have a unique bird’s eye view of the blossoms from the top of adjacent Goryokaku Tower.

7. Fresh seafood (Hokkaido)

If you love seafood, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve been to some of Hokkaido’s seafood markets. The northern island is famous for wildlife, and that extends to fresh seafood served up each day at the markets in Sapporo, Otaru and Hakodate. Catch your own sashimi in Hakodate’s Morning Market, where punters are given a fishing rod and the chance to catch squid straight from the tanks, or stop by one of the nine(!) markets dotted across Otaru. Dedicated travellers know the early bird gets the worm – head to the markets with the locals at 5am.

8. World class Whisky, Yoichi (Hokkaido)

Whisky lovers consider a trip to the Nikka Distillery somewhat of a pilgrimage. The first whisky distillery was set up in Kyoto by Masataka Taketsuru for Suntory, who studied distilling in Scotland before returning to Japan. He set up his own distillery in Yoichi, a town just outside of Otaru on Hokkaido back in 1934 where it remains today. Take a tour of the distillery, learn more about the history in the museum, before heading to the tasting room to warm up with a dram or two.

9. Sapporo Snow Festival, Sapporo (Hokkaido)

Each February Hokkaido’s capital city Sapporo is transformed into a winter wonderland. We’re not just talking about ice rinks and snow cones. Enormous, towering snow sculptures take over Odori Park, some stretching more than 15 metres into the sky. Hundreds of ice sculptures are displayed in the Susukino Site and snow slides take over the Tsudome Site. The sculptures are lit up until late in the evening.

10. Red-crowned cranes, Kushiro (Hokkaido)

Hokkaido has long been known to adventurous travellers as an outdoor playground ­– its vast wilderness is also famous for unique wildlife. If you’re after an experience that is truly memorable, head to the Kushiro City Red-crowned Crane Nature Park to see the country’s iconic red-crowned cranes. Special breeding programs have helped the local population flourish.

Whether you want to try world class seafood, get an adventure fix or improve your wellness, Japan’s Hokkaido Prefecture and Kansai region are waiting. Check out our Trip Discovery tool here.

Start your trip right and experience the heartfelt Japanese style “omotenashi” hospitality when you fly with Japan Airlines (JAL), a world 5-Star Airline*. Offering daily, direct flights from Sydney or Melbourne to Tokyo, you can then connect to JAL’s extensive domestic network in Japan to Kansai and Hokkaido. Book online at Expedia.com.au and save on hotels in Tokyo. Enjoy world-class comfort and safety on board, plus great in-flight entertainment with JAL’s MAGIC entertainment system featuring a wide range of movies, audio and digital books and even manga.

*World 5-Star Airline awarded by Skytrax

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Source: Out There Starts Here | 24 Feb 2019 | 5:42 pm

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New York with small kids

Expedia has commissioned me to write a piece on travelling to New York with young kids, presumably because most people would read that sentence and think to themselves WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT ARE YOU CUCKOO NEW YORK CITY WAS BUILT FOR COCKTAILS AND RESTAURANTS AND SHOPPING LEAVE THEM AT HOME WITH GRAMMY AND POPPOP FOR THE LOVE OF BAGELS.

As it turns out, not only is NYC entirely do-able with kids (the people who live there even have some of their own!) it’s fun. And it makes for a pretty exquisite set of memories. I say this because last year my husband and I spent six weeks in summery NYC with our four year-old boy and 14-month-old girl. Partly for my work, but mostly because we love that city, and our kids are not yet locked to the school term, so we can afford to be a bit cavalier/ambitious/obnoxious with our trips.

We arrived in NYC after six weeks of training in Greece and Italy, where we perfected the art of constantly moving into new places, and eating pasta and pizza every day. We chose to stay in three different areas of NYC. This is because:

1) If we booked one home for six weeks and it was noisy, (HAHAHA JK, every place in NYC is noisy) or it sucked, we were stuck

2) NYC is huge; there are so many areas to explore, and limiting ourselves to just one felt silly

3) We enjoy packing and re-packing suitcases, schlepping them up and down lots of stairs, and making our children feel displaced and confused.

We began with two weeks in a cosy apartment in SoHo. This was ideal, since my work was based there, and we could get all our favourite NYC restaurants (Sant Ambroeus, il Buco, Minetta Tavern etc) and shopping out of our system so we didn’t spend the rest of the trip hankering for the part of Manhattan we know and love best. Our apartment was RIGHT IN THE THICK OF IT. Tourists everywhere, sirens, party drunks: SoHo is never quiet. But, the kids didn’t care. We slept well. Big days mean big sleep.

I found a babysitter through a friend so we grown-ups could enjoy the city. No point being in NYC and staying home every night. She babysat for us for the duration of the visit, and I am very grateful to her.

We ate: Out a lot – we were right on the cusp of Little Italy after all. Aside of that, take-away soup, sushi and chili from Gourmet Garage was our go-to. (I live on chicken noodle soup in NYC.)

We kept the kids busy with:

  • Numerous city playgrounds: There are a few on Bleeker that are huge, with water parks and fountains and lots of local kids to play with
  • Exhibitions, plays, and kid-based art stuff. (We went to Color Factory; it was phenomenal)
  • Going to Times Square (ahem, the M&M store) and the Empire State Building
  • Trips to The High Line for ice creams and sweltering strolls/tantrums (mine)
  • A train trip to Coney Island for the day with some friends (just the boy and the husband; too hot and far for baby)
  • Walking around the city finding parks and patting dogs and eating sushi.

We had to: Buy a ton of Lego and puzzles for hot afternoons inside.

 

Next we headed to Park Slope for 16 days. My knowledge of Brooklyn was limited to Dumbo and Williamsburg (I’m a Carrie, not a Miranda, after all), so we booked this having never been to the area. Next time we’ll spend a bit longer on Google maps, or ask any ex-pats we know over there for insight, as it wasn’t quite what we had envisioned. Alas! We’d heard Park Slope was great for families, and it really is. Lots of playgrounds, the colossal, lush Prospect Park, and tons of family friendly eateries and shops. The best way to sum it up is that it was like Real Life, whereas Manhattan always feels romantic and crazy and like I’m in a movie. (And that’s why I love it.)

We ate: Mostly at home; there were loads of those dazzling, overflowing NYC grocery stores around. There were some great places around for early family dinners, notably Hugo and Sons, and we bought crepes at the delicious Colson patisserie on our daily walk up to Prospect Park. I booked an organic toddler food delivery service, (frozen, delivered in bulk for the week ahead, Nurture Life was the company) so we always had healthy lunch or dinner options.

We kept kids busy with:

  • Daily trips to Prospect Park (rivals Central park in size and beauty)
  • Numerous local playgrounds
  • Brooklyn Zoo
  • A ferry over to Governor’s Island to camp for the night under the gaze of the statue of liberty (just my son and husband; baby not a keen camper) Even if you don’t camp, go: it has the longest slide in NY and an awesome park
  • Brooklyn Bridge park in Dumbo, (AKA, we went to the Jane Carousel, but this whole area is brand new and great)

We had to: Rack off to the Hamptons for a weekend to stay with friends to escape an epic heat wave. The Hamptons were GREAT. So pretty! Such good food! Many things for the kids to do, and many celebrities to spot! (Important.) 

For the finale, we moved up to Central Park. We’ve never stayed uptown (midtown, more accurately) before, but with kids it made sense. So, for the last 12 days we booked a hotel one block back from the park (1 Hotel Central Park – 10/10 recommend) to go out on a movie-set high.

I want to say: if you have young kids, stay up here. We were in that wonderful park twice a day, for the playgrounds, duck feeding, the zoo or the fairground. It’s magic, and it tires them out, and it’s just so dang beautiful.

We ate:  Mostly in our room. (We ended up paying to upgrade to a room with a dining table and more space after seeing our tiny original room, knowing from experience that the outlay is worth it when you spend so much time at home with your kid and still-crawling baby.)  I still had the toddler food delivery in place, but classic diner breakfasts or picnics in the park with sandwiches were good fun. The grocery stores in the city all do great soup/stews/salads, which I have zero problem with after three hours at a museum.

We kept them busy with:

Before booking, I made sure each place we stayed had:

  • Some space to play indoors – Hot NYC summer days are super exhausting for small people. The kids could generally tolerate one big session outside a day, then they would nap, and hang inside on hot afternoons till dinner, which we would often go out for, because they were buzzing to get out, and so were we, and we’re more relaxed on holidays so we can forgive the later bed time and amount of ice cream being consumed.
  • Dark bedrooms – I always double confirm there are blackout blinds in the kids’ room. (We always travel with gaffa tape to tape down any light leaks too.)
  • White noise – much needed in NYC with all the sirens etc.
  • Proximity to playgrounds or parks – no more than a block or two. They act as your backyard.
  • A lemonade fountain and indoor slippery slide – obviously.

It was a big, beautiful, blur of a trip. We were in a constant loop of excitement, FOMO and exhaustion in NYC; it’s a city that gives as much as it takes, and we are more than happy with that transaction. (We are also more than happy with the amount of Aussie cafes popping up over there, because we are Melbournians and therefore very ANNOYING AND ARROGANT ABOUT OUR COFFEE.)

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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Source: Out There Starts Here | 23 Feb 2019 | 5:55 pm

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A walk across Australia with camels - 1988
I was one of four people to walk across Australia as part of Australia's Bicentennial in 1988. March 1st - September 14th. Sharks Bay to Byron Bay. The

Source: Outback Australia Travel Blog | 24 Feb 2018 | 2:09 pm

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Ayres Rock or Kakadu in June
I will be traveling in June with two teenagers and I am interested in either going to Ayres Rock or Kakadu. Which area would be better if I only have time

Source: Outback Australia Travel Blog | 13 Nov 2017 | 5:22 am

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Planning a trip to Alice Springs via Uluru
Just looking for a few tips on how much I should budget for a 10-14 day trip to Alice Springs & Uluru/Kata Tjuta. We (my boyfriend and I) are planning

Source: Outback Australia Travel Blog | 13 Nov 2017 | 5:19 am

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People broke into my hotel room at 3.30am, and no one cared
Let me tell you about an unscheduled 3.30 am wake-up call I experienced the other day. I'm hoping my story also serves as a wake-up call to the travel and security industries as well as for the police (though I doubt it).

Source: Stuff.co.nz - Australia | 21 Jun 2017 | 10:30 pm

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Tasmania's Freycinet Experience Walk: 'Truly one of the greatest experience of your life'
The acclaimed British novelist Nicholas Shakespeare describes it as "the only trek".

Source: Stuff.co.nz - Australia | 20 Jun 2017 | 11:47 pm

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Cuisine editor: Should a NZ eatery be among the World's 50 Best Restaurants?
OPINION: Melbourne was home to the World's 50 Best Restaurant awards this year. The only other cities to have hosted this prestigious event are London (for the first 14 years) and New York (last year). Landing an event of this magnitude was game-changing for Australia. And so back in April, I set off to experience a series of events designed by Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Tourism Australia and Visit Victoria to spread the message that Australia is a must-visit culinary destination.

Source: Stuff.co.nz - Australia | 18 Jun 2017 | 6:38 pm

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My Sydney, with Vivid's Kiwi Director Ash Bolland
As Vivid Sydney wraps up for another year, we chat to Kiwi director Ash Bolland who designed the festival's most prominent show, Audio Creatures.

Source: Stuff.co.nz - Australia | 16 Jun 2017 | 7:28 pm

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Google sings songs of Uluru with new Street View vistas
With ever-growing troves of valuable data on its shelves, Google has expanded its Street View range further to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Northern Territory, Australia.

Source: Stuff.co.nz - Australia | 11 Jun 2017 | 6:55 pm

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General tips for visiting Uluru
Read all you can before you go as I am not going to tell a granny how to suck eggs. Make sure you ingest the advice and be wise to the risks, it gets mighty

Source: Outback Australia Travel Blog | 26 Feb 2017 | 5:54 am

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Finding unskilled mining jobs in WA
This page is a bit unusual in that it isn't for travellers. Or rather I should say not for tourists, because for long term travellers it may well be very interesting! In the section on this website about financing your travels by working in Australia I wrote about the possibility to get temporary jobs in the mining industry, which is VERY lucrative. And that page became very popular also with Australians and New Zealanders looking for permanent mining jobs. I also have two reader pages on the site where people looked for advice on finding mining jobs. No other pages on my site have received anywhere near the same amount of comments! All comments are from people looking for help with getting a mining job. Hence the new page. I hope it helps!

Source: Outback Australia Travel Blog | 22 Nov 2012 | 8:07 am

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