Spectacular Coastal Walk – Australia

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About half way between Brisbane and Sydney, positioned on the East Coast of Australia in NSW is the area known as the Mid North Coast. The part of this area that I visit regularly is the Coffs coast, Coffs Harbour.

Over the years, I have walked parts of the Solitary Islands coastal walk many times including Sawtell, Jetty, Park Beach, Macauleys Headland, Diggers, Charlesworth Bay, Korora, Sapphire and Moonee.

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The Solitary Islands coastal walk is a 60km stretch between Sawtell in the south to Red Rock in the northern beaches, linking a string of long golden beaches, rocky headlands and lush rainforest along the Coffs Coast. It is certainly one of the most beautiful walks on the east coast of Australia.

Solitary Islands and Muttonbird Island are picturesque and make for perfect bird watching, so bring your binoculars. Little terns and white bellied eagles are often seen along the shores. Dolphins surf the waves of these beaches all year round and the headlands are ideal for whale watching throughout the winter months.

The tracks are well set out with the walks to various grassy headlands. While some of the tracks are steep in places, they are well maintained and always provide interesting sea and mountain views.

 

There are kangaroos among the rocks on the beach as well as on the grass on the headland. Along the way there are surfing beaches where you can take amazing pictures of surfers. It is a magical experience.

 

This Coastal Walk is superb and can be done in stages. It is amazingly diverse – with long gorgeous beaches, steep stairs in suburbs, headlands, wildlife & estuaries along the way. Resting after walking at a pristine beach makes it even better

 

There is plenty of coast line to see with not a lot of bush restricting views. You are also able to get easy access to all the beaches and can then take a swim or just saunter along the sand.

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These are some of the prettiest beach coves along the northern NSW coastline, with plenty of lovely coffee spots or picnic locations en route. You can visit lookouts and headlands and join the walk in many different places.

 

The total distance of the walk is 60 km but you can choose to do as much or as little as you like.

Overall it is a fabulous experience, mostly clearly signposted and comfortable walking. I would definitely recommend it.

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Japanese Garden by the Waterfront – Just a Beautiful Place

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Situated in the heart of Hilo town, on Banyan Drive, on the island of Hawai’i is the Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens. This beautiful park with Japanese Gardens, sits on a 24 acre park on Hilo Bay. These Edo-style Japanese gardens are said to be the largest such gardens outside Japan. The gardens contain Waihonu Pond as well as bridges, ponds, pagoda, statues, torii and a Japanese teahouse.

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These traditional Japanese gardens are extensive, simple, peaceful and a place to walk, reflect and enjoy.

The park itself is beautiful with winding pathways that take you through the peaceful Japanese garden with many different foot bridges and several huge banyan trees.

Queen Liliʻuokalani Park and Japanese Gardens is such a beautiful tranquil place to have a picnic, stroll, or just relax on the beautiful landscapes.

With pagodas, bridges and flora and fauna that is perfectly landscaped, you are almost mythically transported to a magical place. Located along the shores of Hilo Bay, you can enjoy the bay as well.

As you wind your way through the park, over the arched bridges and past numerous Japanese statues, you begin to truly feel a sense of calm, which is pretty much what the park was designed to do in following traditional Japanese gardening techniques. Definitely worth a stroll through – and would certainly be a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch from the Farmer’s Market

We saw a Nene here, which was also a treat for us. It certainly is a great place for photographs. Anywhere you point your camera will give you a lovely photo.

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Take the time to stroll through the garden and experience the peace and beauty of Hawaii. If you like to walk peaceful gardens or just take a quick walk, this is the place.

A Great Night out at Eat Street Markets – Brisbane.

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It is 4 years since I last visited the Eat Street Markets. I said that I would be back, but I had no idea that it would take me so long to return. I don’t even know why it took me so long because the markets are extraordinary.

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This time we arrived by city cat. City Cat is the Brisbane river transport system with terminals stretching from The University of Queensland at St Lucia to Northshore Hamilton. It was then only a short walk from the Northshore ferry terminal to the markets.

Travelling on the City Cat anywhere on the Brisbane river is an absolute delight, both in the daytime and very special at night when you see the abundance of lights along the river banks and illuminating the many bridges.

The first time I went to Eat Street Markets, although we arrived quite early, parking was difficult. However, this time, we arrived about 6pm and there were still hundreds of free parking stalls. But, when we left around 9, there were long lines of cars waiting to come in with traffic controllers directing the traffic. The first visit to Eat Street Markets.

The Eat Street Markets have moved location since the last time I visited and it was definitely for the better. They were originally near Portside where the cruise liner terminal is, and now they are further down the river in Northshore Hamilton.

 

There is nothing like Eat Street Northshore anywhere in the world. It is a special one of a kind experience. Priceless city & river views saturate & surround the 180 dining and entertainment shipping containers that add a blazing coloured landmark to Brisbane.

At soon as you walk through the gates in to the area you are hit with the exciting vibe of the place, with its millions of lights, beautiful stalls, people having fun and amazing aromas coming from the many food stalls.

 

There were so many choices of places to eat it was hard to decide. We initially walked around the entire area making mental note of what we thought we wanted to try. We stopped at one of the bars by the river and enjoyed a glass of wine and thought about what we would have for dinner. Then it was deciding time which was hard. But we did decide and we enjoyed the dinner. We each chose differently, my choice was Japanese however we all agreed on the same for dessert. Gelato.

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With over 70 vendors creating delicious dishes from all over the world you are sure to find something absolutely scrumptious.

Live entertainment fills the markets; Solo performers and bands are positioned throughout Eat Street so you’re never far from music. After dinner we stopped by several of the entertainment areas and sat in comfy chairs to watch the performances.

 

Eat Street Markets is open every weekend of the year. Fri and Sat 4pm to 10pm and
Sunday 12 noon to 8pm. Entry fee is $2.50 – 12 years and older.

If you live in Brisbane or visiting at any time, stop by for a visit, you won’t be disappointed.

Beautiful Insights into Hawai’i’s Past

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Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is located on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i.

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The historical park preserves the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge or puʻuhonua.

This is a marvelous, respectful view of Hawaii’s past and how its culture worked. Now that it is a national site, the displays & information available have been expanded in greater detail.

This “Place of Refuge” is located about a 45 minute drive from down town Kailua Kona on Hwy 160. On our way from the Volcano National Park to Kailua Kona we stopped here at the park. It is a free attraction, however you will be charged $5 to park if you use their paved parking lot.

We loved this little slice of history. The beach is breathtaking – we spent about an hour exploring the lava rock tide pools and saw lots of fish.  The self-guided walk around the park didn’t take much time – maybe an hour. We spent about 1.5 or so hours wandering around the grounds, learning about the historical information around the site. It was very scenic as well, the tall palm trees, the sand, the black lava rock, the ocean, all blending into some picturesque views. The setting, at the edge of the ocean, is just gorgeous. Since it is a religious site, you can’t swim or snorkel at the park, but there is a swim and snorkel spot right next to it and you can see colourful fish in the tide pools.

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The park has many beautiful palm trees, white sand all around and there are various beautiful ancient houses to visit where you can see the tools and canoes that ancient Hawaiians used when they lived here. You can also see several beautifully crafted “totems” around the park.

The exhibits and artifacts area of the park is small and easy to walk around. With numbered markers and some reconstructed structures, you can download an app, or use the brochure you get at the gate, to learn of the various purposes and significance of each. If you happen to be there when a Park ranger is giving a guided tour, then you will most likely get more out of it. There also is a wall of murals, with a recorded audio history that is rather simplistic.

If you want to make more of a day out of it, there is a beach picnic area a hundred yards from the parking lot to the south with tables with charcoal grills and port-a-potties.  There is no food or beverages available at the visitor centre, so plan accordingly. The visitor centre is open 8:30am – 4:30pm. It has restrooms, a water bottle filling station, a very small gift shop, and amphitheatre.

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We are glad we stopped.  I would recommend it, especially for anyone wanting to know more about Hawaiian history and culture.

 

Wonderful Variety of Foods, Flowers, and Crafts – Hilo Farmers Markets.

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One of the charms of a small town is its local weekly markets

Wherever I am in the world, I always love to visit the local markets. I have a  wonderful feeling while I mingle and chat with the locals from the area. I enjoy an experience and an awareness of the local area that I don’t usually pick up by just visiting the touristy areas.

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While in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii we made time to visit the Hilo Farmers Markets. These condensed and lively markets located in the heart of Hilo offer  a huge range of locally grown Island fruits and vegetables, fresh produce, tropical flowers, locally made products, baked goods, crafts and beautiful gifts made with Aloha.

 

These markets, with over 200 local farmers and artisan stalls, are open Wednesday and Saturday from 6am – 4pm.  However on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday you will find a smaller version of the markets with over 30 farmers and crafters open from 7am – 4pm. The markets are open all year round.

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Waterfront across from the Farmers Markets

Row upon row of vendors crowd the two large tents on the Hilo waterfront. It is small and easy to navigate. The sellers are local and very friendly.  We thoroughly enjoyed the market and we were able to find a parking place quite close to the markets.

 

There appeared to be three different section.  One area has the foods, vegetables, cheeses, fruits, dips, honey, and lots of Big Island food products.   The other two sections have handmade items, including jewellery, clothes, handbags and purses, leis and flower arrangements

 

We stopped to chat with Sita of “ From Hawaii with Love” who produces and sells Ayurveda spices, herbs, natural blends, body lotions, and superfoods that promote good health. Sita was a wealth of knowledge and so passionate about her products that she creates from scratch. We bought some of Sita’s turmeric base products. I actually could have talked with her for much longer but felt we needed to let other folks learn about her wonderful products.

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Sita

Sita was just one small example of many great little experiences we had chatting with the locals on that day.

For visitors and locals alike, the farmers market in Hilo provides a visual and taste bud delight of wonderful tropical fruits and vegetables and Big Island food products, many of which are quite unique to Hawaii, and all at really affordable prices.

If you have the time when in Hilo,  pop in and have a wander,  I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

Shopping Heaven – Ala Moana

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For me, no visit to Honolulu would be complete without a shopping expedition to this centre. I always arrive in Honolulu with my list of “must do’s” while I am there and close to the top of this list is, Ala Moana Shopping Centre. Ala Moana is much more than a shopping centre, it offers me a great day out

 

Ala Moana Centre, commonly known just as Ala Moana, is the largest shopping mall in Hawaii. It has over 350 stores over 4 floors and is usually open from 9.30am to 9.00pm most days. It is easily accessed by bus from Waikiki or the Waikiki trolley pink line which only costs $2 or in fact you can walk it, depending on what part of Waikiki you are staying in.

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Just across the road from Ala Moana Beach Park

Every visit for us to this mall includes stopping for lunch at the restaurant in Nordstrom. Ruscello serves up chic, contemporary Mediterranean and Italian meals. We always arrive early as this popular restaurant fills up quickly for lunch and before long there is a line of folks waiting for tables. After our lunch often we visit the gelato bar just outside Nordstrom for a locally made gelato or sorbet.

 

This mall is enormous. The stores include Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s as the major department stores. There are high end designer stores, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Dior, etc as well as the regular mall stores and specialty Hawaiian stores. There is a Long’s Drugs, Foodland grocery store, several food courts and dozens of restaurants.

 

On centre stage, each day there are hula shows and live entertainment offering plenty of seating to stop and enjoy the local dance and Hawaiian music.

 

Ala Moana was much smaller when I lived in Hawaii. Over the years, it kept growing. There are shops for anything and everything–just wear comfortable shoes. It is a long walk to cover the length of this shopping centre. With over 350 shops, it can be overwhelming.

 

A visit to Ala Moana is a great experience. Go for the shopping, the restaurants, the entertainment or just to wander around and enjoy this massive beautiful complex. There are lots of places to stop and rest, people watch and there are beautiful ponds with koi fish and many water features. The plants, landscape and flowers are stunning and found everywhere around the complex.

 

Stay an hour or several or spend days here. Young or old, male or female, there is something for everyone.

And, if you are a shopaholic, it will be a heavenly experience.

Amazing Candies and Cookies made in Hilo

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After flying in to Hilo airport, we picked up our rental car to drive up to Volcano National Park. On the way,  our first stop was Big Island Candies which was only a short drive from the airport.

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The minute I walked in the door I was impressed. The shop is beautiful.

 

We were greeted by smiling staff offering us samples of chocolates and shortbread cookies and small cups of complimentary coffee were also offered.

I was first introduced to Big Island Candies years ago but this was my first visit to the shop where their delicious delicacies are made.

The huge selection of candies is quite amazing. As well as the very popular chocolate with macadamia nuts, they have chocolate dipped local treats like chocolate dipped arare, chocolate dipped cuttlefish, chocolate dipped iso peanuts, chocolate dipped li-hing mui, chocolate dipped mochi balls, chocolate dipped animal crackers, and li-hing mui cookies plus many more.

After sampling several of the different chocolates I decided that the chocolate macadamia nut crunch, which are made with milk chocolate and dark chocolate,  were my favourite.

The prices are not cheap but they are all hand made on the premises, are made using top quality ingredients also the packaging is unusual and very beautiful.

As you walk further in to the store, behind glass partitions, you are able to view the workers actually hand dipping the goodies. You can see the cooling tunnel, the chocolate melting machine and the packaging. It was all really very interesting to watch.

 

Created and run by a local Big Island family, Big Island Candies prides itself on Omiyage- creating the heart of gift giving. An omiyage is a Japanese traditional gift or souvenir you give to friends and family after returning home from a trip. This Omiyage is so much more than just an edible souvenir, though. The content of the boxes is ridiculously divine but the brightly coloured and designed Omiyage boxes make these chocolates and cookies the perfect gift for sharing.

 

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Inside the shop

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Very beautiful inside the store

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Exquisite Presentation

After an extended visit to this delightful store, giving us time to sample several of the products, we left with a great selection of Big Island candies and big smiles.

Australia Day – In Iluka, NSW

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Iluka is a coastal village at the mouth of the Clarence River on Australia’s east coast. It is about a 3 hour drive south from Brisbane and is in the state of NSW.  Iluka is surrounded by Bundjalung National Park, World Heritage listed Rainforest, the mighty Clarence River and the South Pacific Ocean and is famous for fishing for both river and deep sea enthusiasts. It is abundant in rain forests, stunning wildlife, long secluded beaches with clean sand and crystal clear blue waters . The town is off the beaten track and I would describe it as an ‘untouched seaside resort’.

I travelled down to the Iluka area to celebrate Australia day.

Australia Day is our official National Day which is celebrated annually on January 26th. It marks the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet of British ships into Port Jackson Sydney in 1788. In contemporary Australia, the holiday is marked by the presentation of the Australian of the Year awards. It is an official public holiday in all states and territories and celebrated with festivals, concerts and ceremonies, large and small, in communities and cities around the nation.

For us, it is time with family.

Our celebrations included visiting several of the local Iluka beaches with our dogs who I must say had a fantastic time running in and out of the ocean. Many of the beaches in the area are dog friendly which is wonderful for us.

The beaches are clean, deserted and offer tranquility. When there are people, they are very few so it is most likely that you will have the beach to yourself on most days. Iluka is a popular tourist destination in holiday time however due to its small population the beaches are pretty much empty other times of the year. The beach areas have facilities such as picnic areas, toilets, beach showers and parks which are more than adequate

After our early morning to the Iluka beach we then enjoyed taking the boat out on the Clarence River and driving up to the mouth of the river. Along the way we watched several pods of playful dolphins as they swam beside the boat and often jumped in and out of the water. I took many photos but did not capture the dolphins.

We eventually pulled in to Moriarty beach where we all dived in to the clear blue water. Moriarty Beach can also be accessed from the township of Iluka by foot or by car. Yachts, motor boats and house boats continued to arrive to the “secluded” beach while we were there and before long it was turning in to a very popular spot. And why not, it is beautiful.

As lunch time approached we headed back to the house where friends and neighbours joined us for a very long Aussie Day BBQ lunch and lots of swims in the pool.

Iluka is a perfect location  if you are looking for a quiet, remote break

New Version of the old International Market Place – Waikiki

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Since my last trip to Hawaii there has been a big transformation in Waikiki. The International Market place which is located on Kalakaua Avenue in the heart of Waikiki is now new, upscale and very modern.

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Kalakaua Entrance to International Market Place

I have very mixed feelings about the International Market place now. If you are a first time visitor to Waikiki you may think that the new market place is wonderful with its beautiful open space. And it is. However it has lost its old traditional charm. Thank goodness they have kept the original banyan tree which still dominates and is the main feature. But the old Hawaiian feel and street vendors are gone. I missed the Auntie’s stringing leis and the Hawaiians carving Hawaiian tiki statues. I missed the true international flair it had back in the day.

 

When I lived in Hawaii, the international market place was often our meeting place, particularly in the evenings and quite often it was where we spent the entire evening. There was always something happening and it was fun and remained like this for years.

 

However, It is now a beautiful open air environment with high end shops and many restaurants on several levels.

The ground floor has benches and chairs scattered about, so it’s easy to relax and enjoy just being there. Water features are everywhere, which make it feel fresh and calming. There is also a variety of trees, palms, potted plants and other vegetation. At the front near the Kalakaua entrance, you will find a new Don Ho statue where you can take photos with the local legend.

 

I have fond memories of the old international market place and while I miss the old one, there are certain aspects of the new market place that are simply delightful. It is still a great place to sit and take a break from walking or Waikiki traffic. You will find comfortable seats, lounges and benches on all levels of the market place. Stop and visit Don’s Tree house in the historic banyan tree which was planted in the mid 1800’s.

 

 

 

It seems that no matter how hot the day is, it is always cool and refreshing in the market place under the magnificent banyan tree.

Best Mai Tai – Under Pink Umbrellas

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Sitting proudly on Waikiki beach is the Iconic luxury hotel the Royal Hawaiian Hotel which is affectionately known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific. This bright pink 90 year old regal hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Waikiki and only 2 miles from Ala Moana shopping mall and 9 miles from Honolulu Airport.

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View from Surf Lanai

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We chose the Surf Lanai restaurant which is in the Royal Hawaiian hotel for our belated birthday lunch celebration.  The Surf Lanai is an upscale outdoor beach-side restaurant serving up casual elegance and specializing in classic dishes and tropical local foods.

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The Surf Lanai offered beautiful views of the crystalline ocean and Diamond Head and a wonderful lunch selection with great service. Our meals were first class.

When I lived in Hawaii, I worked on the catamaran, the Keipoikai which would have been the mother of this Keipoikai.  I enjoyed fantastic memories of some very memorable days on Waikiki beach.

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Keipoikai Catamaran

 As we walked through the hotel to the restaurant on the beach we went through beautiful rooms with traditional Hawaiian decor. There were very few changes from when I lived in Hawaii. It felt like a step back in time.

 

 

You don’t need to be a guest at the hotel to dine here at the Surf Lanai. We drove down from Kailua and took advantage of the complimentary parking. There is also valet parking available for diners at the hotel restaurants.

A walk on the beach after our meal was a perfect finish to a relaxed and delightfully lazy lunch.

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A walk on Waikiki beach

It was such a very special day out for both of us.