The Most Beautiful Beaches in Australia

The Most Beautiful Beaches in Australia

With more than 10,000 beaches around its shores, Australia leads the way when it comes to incredible sand and surf. Now in my all too brief three weeks down under, I didn’t see nearly enough of them to formulate a comprehensive review. But, I was so blown away by both the quantity and quality of the beaches I did see that I had to share some of my favourites.

Wategos Beach, Byron Bay, NSW

IMG_5132This isn’t the main beach in Byron Bay but it is quite a lovely little slice of paradise. I stumbled upon this spot on my walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse and I couldn’t help taking a pit stop. Surfers and sun worshippers alike could be spotted frolicking in the waves – the relaxing vibes were contagious!

Tugun Beach, Gold Coast, NSW

IMG_5157There is nothing I love more than beach photography and I always get a twinge of excitement when I spot a lifeguard tower. This massive, pristine, and virtually deserted beach was not on my itinerary. In fact, this was really just a bathroom break on our way from Byron Bay to Brisbane… not too shabby.

Noosa North Shore, Sunshine Coast, QLD

IMG_5181When I hear the word “camping” this view is not what immediately springs to mind. But THIS is camping in Australia! Across the river from Noosa Heads and Noosaville is Noosa North Shore – a long stretch of white sand, dunes and beautiful coastline, and the gateway to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island and Great Sandy National Park. Only accessible by a short two minute ferry this site is most suitable for experienced campers… so clearly not me. Good thing I had a crew of Aussies to show me the ropes!

Rainbow Beach, Wide Bay, QLD

IMG_5242Ahhh Rainbow Beach!!!! Doing the Great Beach Drive was the coolest thing I did in Australia. It was an adrenaline filled ride mixing one part terror (at getting stuck or swept into the ocean) and two parts amazing! Why don’t the highways at home look like this?!

Bondi Beach, Sydney, NSW

IMG_5471This may have been the most crowded beach I saw in Australia but it is certainly popular for a reason. Just minutes away from downtown Sydney, this gorgeous stretch of beach is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. If I ever move here this would be my Saturday hangout for sure!

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, QLD

IMG_2620And last, but CERTAINLY not least… Whitehaven Beach! This is the #1 rated beach in Australia and frequently rated in the top five beaches in the WORLD!! This immaculate stretch of heaven on Whitsunday Island was the highlight of my time in the Great Barrier Reef. The water was like a bath, the sand was silky smooth, squeaking between my toes, and as you can tell, not crowded in the slightest. It was like a dream! Take me back please!

I’m always on the hunt for fantastic beaches… Where are some of your favourites?

Leave a Comment Below.

 

There’s Something about Sydney

There’s Something about Sydney

It’s always an interesting experience to visit a city that is super famous. The first time that I visited both Paris and New York I kept feeling like somehow I’d been there before. This isn’t surprising considering how many movies are filmed in both cities, yet still the familiarity was surreal.

I’ve been hearing about Sydney for years and especially how much I was going to love it. Often compared to my beloved Vancouver, I had high expectations for my first visit. And although many of the sites were exactly how I imagined, the city as a whole was completely different.

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Sydney from above

For starters, Sydney is BIG. Think NYC big. With a population of over 4 million people, the CBD was always buzzing with activity. Instantly I decided that Sydney was no Vancouver. The comparisons do make sense of course – harbour city, new city, multicultural city… but the vibe is 100% Australian.

I think I hit the nail on the head when I decided that Sydney is New York on vacation. If NYC could just absorb some of the Aussie chill and spend more time at the beach, then they’d be on the same page. That’s my theory anyways.

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The ever busy Circular Quay

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Bondi Beach

I was able to spend six full days in Sydney and opted to stay in an Airbnb rental in the convenient suburb of Waterloo. My hosts were fantastic (Hi Wayne & Sasha!) and I got a real sense of what life would be like if I lived in Sydney (read: Expensive).

I am not kidding. I thought that rent in Vancouver was pricey but Sydney is next-level ridiculous. Just check out this cost of living analysis noting that renting a 900 sq ft furnished place in a “normal” area would cost AU $3,328 per month (essentially the equivalent in CAD). Now I understand why expat friends of mine had 6 room mates in a 2 bedroom apartment. Yikes! And that’s not the only thing that’s expensive… pretty much everything costs more: coffee, alcohol, gelato… only my travel/life essentials!

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Views like this don’t come cheap (Sydney Harbour Bridge)

Cost aside, I loved my time in Sydney. I bought an OPAL card and figured out the transit system with ease. I walked a ton. I visited beaches and museums. Climbed bridges and rode ferries. I went on a free, 3 hour walking tour of the city with a tour guide that looked like a petite version of Jessica Jones. It was FANTASTIC! Probably the best tour I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a lot of tours in my travels so that’s saying something.

I never got tired of wandering around Circular Quay or Hyde Park or The Rocks. I could easily spend countless hours listening to the street buskers or people watching on the Opera House steps or photographing this city from every angle. It’s magical.

 

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The Rocks (oldest part of Sydney)

I got to soak up many of the activities that are especially lovely during the summer months, like enjoying refreshing drinks at the most epic beer garden in the world (The Opera Bar), wandering through outdoor markets, and  reveling in the Saturday night Firework spectacular in Darling Harbour.

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Check out these crowds – The Opera Bar is the place to be any night of the week!

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Darling Harbour

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Fireworks and a Ferris Wheel

Even though Sydney is conceivably the furthest destination I could possibly visit, I know that I will be back someday. Australia will not and can not be a one-time trip for me. There’s just something about the land down under that has captured my heart.

Have you ever been to Sydney? What were your impressions of this world-class city?

Leave a comment below.

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An Ode to Brisbane

An Ode to Brisbane

Summer. The high point of the entire year. A magical time when the weight of winter evaporates with the smell of barbecued meat and the emergence of freckled tans.

I always feel lighter in the summer. Floating through the streets in sun dresses and flip flops. Making my best effort to live off ice cream cones and watermelon wedges.

It’s the time of year when social butterflies are in top form. Organizing camping trips, firework viewing parties, patio drinks, and late night beach walks. Summer brings everyone out of hiding.

I dream of summer. I savour the memories and store them up for the dark days of January.

But last year, I skipped summer. Not intentionally. OF COURSE! Circumstance took hold of those all-too-brief months and I sadly watched the days slip by, paralyzed to stop them.

When the leaves started to change colour and I realized that summer had passed me by…  I panicked. The stress and frustration of an uprooted and chaos-filled season had left me beaten down and tired. I wasn’t prepared for autumn, for winter, for any of it.

So instead of succumbing to the gloom, I chased summer. I traveled to the opposite corner of the globe and found exactly what my soul needed most.

In Brisbane, I found contentment.

In riverside walks with no destination.

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By lounging poolside on a weekday morning.

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During giggle filled hikes and quick dips in watering holes.

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On top of lookouts with the sun slowing setting.

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When my two favourite seasons collided like a dream.

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When I couldn’t be sure if it was the exercise or the view stealing my breath.

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It was in the little moments of sweet nothingness. In the camaraderie of new and old friends. In the relaxed vibe of the locals.

In a city often skipped over, I found everything I was looking for. Brisbane you brought me back to life. I will forever be grateful.

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Sailing Adventure in the Whitsundays

Sailing Adventure in the Whitsundays

When I was researching where I wanted to visit during my all too short 3 weeks in Australia, I came across a destination that I’d never heard about before… the Whitsunday islands. Now you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that this tropical paradise was not only the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, but also home to Australia’s #1 rated (and top 5 in the world) beach. Sign me up!

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I decided to spend three nights in Airlie Beach, a backpacker resort town that serves as a launching pad for all the water excursions you could ask for. I had heard amazing things about the full day sailing trip offered by Cruise Whitsundays so I booked it and crossed my fingers for good weather. And I lucked out big time. I really couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.

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I have always loved sailing and spending time on the water, but this was my first full day of real, solo travel and I worried… Would I have fun all by myself? Well, it turns out that I didn’t even have to cross that bridge. Before I boarded my vessel for the day, I made fast friends with a Scottish girl named Lorna who was also travelling solo. Yeah!

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Introducing the Camira… purple enough for you?

Our itinerary for the day included sailing aboard the Camira, one of the world’s fastest commercial sailing catamarans, snorkelling at Dumbell reef, a leisurely afternoon at Whitehaven Beach, and a gourmet BBQ lunch with open bar. Hello Heaven!

I happened to be traveling during stinger season (Nov – May) so in order to prevent painful stings from the prevalent Box Jellyfish and Irakanji stingers we all wore stinger suits when snorkelling. I didn’t mind. I kind of felt like Cat Woman. The coral was quite colourful and I got to see a few Dory’s swimming around. Lorna even spotted a turtle.

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And then finally it was time for the main event: Whitehaven Beach!!!!! We knew it was going to be good when we could see the glistening white sand sparkling way off in the distance. The crystal clear waters and pristine silica sand stretch over 7km along Whitsunday Island, the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays. The sand is so white that it never gets hot and so fine that it actually squeaks when you walk. You can even use the sand to polish your jewellery… trust me, we tested it.

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It’s easy to see why it is the most photographed beach in Australia and has been named the South Pacific’s Best Beach by the 2015 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. I think it’s time for me to update my list of favourite beaches.

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Everything about this day was perfect, well almost everything. I made a new friend. The crew were incredibly efficient yet highly personable (that’s a killer combo). I got to snorkel, sail, and suntan and finally set foot on my namesake (Whitney means White Island). The only downside was that despite my very best efforts to reapply and cover-up early, I burnt. I knew I would but still hoped I wouldn’t. That Australian sun is no joke.

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Blissfully unaware of my scorched flesh.

Australia has been completely knocking my socks off. I wish I had so many more months left to explore all of the awe-inspiring sights that this country has to offer. One thing is for certain, I will be back.

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Whitehaven_beach

City Girl Goes Camping: The Australian Edition

City Girl Goes Camping: The Australian Edition

Camping is such an odd experience. If aliens were to visit earth and observe people vacating their perfectly comfortable and amenity filled houses to temporarily sleep in canvas sacks in the wilderness, I’m going to bet that they would be confused. I do it and I don’t even get it. Clearly, I am a city girl.

Even so, when my Australian hostess suggested that we spend a weekend camping on the Sunshine Coast – I agreed. I wanted to experience an authentic summer in Queensland… and the locals go camping.

Kyle, Veronica, and I left the creature comforts of Brisbane before noon on Friday to make the two hour drive to Noosa North Shore before peak hour (read: rush hour). We had booked a campsite right on the beach because Australia.

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This is camping in Queensland.

The weather forecast for the weekend wasn’t looking ideal but rainy camping can be fun right? Sure, except that we hadn’t exactly planned for a windstorm too, which is what greeted us upon arrival. We should have known we were in for a rough night when all the other camping parties were set up in massive trailers with tarps secured. Then we realized that one of our tents was completely busted. Excellent.

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It took us ages us to set up our ridiculous make-shift tent village as we began getting pelted with rain from every angle. Another friend showed up later to provide a much needed tarp. We made do. And fortunately we had a full esky (read: cooler) of alcohol and Settlers of Catan to pass the time. Just before bed our whole tent structure gave up. The boys assured me it would be fine… or in Australian… She be right mate. I was skeptical.

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The next morning we woke to light drizzle and decided to move our campsite to a more sheltered forest section – this was a very good decision. We moved our gear and then ditched camp life for Noosaville where I got to try SUP for the first time. Then we wandered around Noosa for a bit, visited the beach area, and went searching for koalas to no avail. I guess I’ll have to settle for the heaps of wild kangaroos back at camp. They really are as prevalent as deer in Canada.

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Our evening consisted of more relaxing and eating and drinking and Catan. Lots of Catan. On our final day the sun finally returned as we were packing up. But, we had one more adventure in store – The Great Beach Drive.

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If you happen to find yourself in Queensland any you are able to hook yourself up with a 4 wheel drive then I highly recommend that you try driving on the 50km stretch of beach from Noosa to Rainbow Beach. I have never done anything quite like this before and I probably never will again. If you can manage a high clearance vehicle that would also be a wise idea because we definitely got stuck, twice. Fortunately, Aussies are super friendly and helpful and we quickly got towed out on both occasions. The journey was exhilarating and terrifying and just plain cool. Thanks for driving Kyle – you’re a champ!

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Rainbow Beach is also just a stunning stretch of coastline with gorgeous cliffs and the Carlo Sand Blow. Named by Captain Cook after one of his deck crew named Carlo, the unique “moonscape” sand mass covers over 15 hectares and overlooks the towering coloured sands. If you don’t go camping or do the beach drive, then you should find another reason to visit. Australia has so much to offer.

 

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I’m incredibly grateful that I was able to travel with locals for part of my Australian adventure. I was able to do things and see things that I never would have known about or had the guts to do on my own. I may not be the best camper in the world but I love having friends that push me outside my comfort zone. I will never stop needing that.

What is one of your most unique travel experiences? Leave a comment below.

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The Great Beach Drive

Postcards from Byron Bay

Postcards from Byron Bay

In my parent’s dining room is a framed photograph from their visit to Australia back in 2012. The photo is of a lighthouse in Byron Bay and I was instructed, in no uncertain terms, that I HAD to go there myself. Today I did just that.

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Byron Bay is a laid back, hippie mecca on the Eastern coast of Australia. It has beautiful beaches, but then, that isn’t a very distinguishing feature in this part of the world. The main standout in BB is the flourishing surf culture and the chill vibe. You can’t help but feel relaxed with all the barefooted backpackers hanging about. It’s a wonder how anyone actually gets any work done in a town so easy going.

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After some mandatory pool and beach time, my hostess extraordinaire, Veronica, and I made sure to follow my parent’s orders – to the lighthouse.

 

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The century-old Cape Byron Light House is located on the Eastern most point of mainland Australia. We walked the popular 3.7km loop through rainforest and across cliff tops with views that had us stopping at every lookout. It was everything my parents promised it would be.

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I was able to fill my camera with souvenirs to keep me warm during the rainy winters. As per usual, I’m glad I listened to my travel expert mother’s advice.

Have you ever visited a place that fully lived up to the hype?

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Byron Bay Light House

Departure Lounge: Australia

Departure Lounge: Australia

I have a very exciting travel announcement that I just couldn’t wait any longer to share.

In just 6 weeks I will be flying to my 6th continent – A U S T R A L I A !

I’m pretty over the moon about it especially considering I only booked my flight 2 weeks ago. This is about as last minute as I get. Australia has always been somewhere I wanted to visit but it became a MUST-SEE destination after I watched that weeklong Oprah special back in 2010. Now, granted, I won’t be traveling like Oprah (although I am incorporating a bit of business class air travel… teehee!) but I still have some epic plans in the works.

It’s taken me a lot longer than I expected to finally get around to visiting the land down under. I was waiting for a huge chunk of time off to make the 12,400 km journey worthwhile. But, with a longstanding invite from my high school friend and recent Aussie citizen, Veronica, and an approved leave of absence from work – the timing was just about perfect. I know that it will be impossible to see and do everything on my Australian bucket list in just 3 weeks… So I’m not even going to try. This continent is nearly the size of the continental USA – a country that will take my entire life to explore thoroughly. In the same way, Australia will definitely require some repeat visits.

So for my first adventure in OZ, I’m basing my travels on the East Coast and focusing mainly on Queensland where my friend lives. After some time exploring the greater Brisbane area, I will venture onward (solo) to the Whitsunday islands (I mean, it’s basically named after me) before ending up in Sydney – a city, I’m told, is quite reminiscent of my beloved Vancouver. It’s going to be good!

Itinerary

Dec 6 – 15: Brisbane, Queensland

Dec 15-18: Whitsunday Islands, Queensland

Dec 18-24: Sydney, New South Wales

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These are the activities I am most looking forward to:

  • Learning to Surf at Manly Beach
  • Wine tasting in the Hunter Valley
  • Sailing, Snorkeling, and Sunbathing at Australia’s #1 rated Whitehaven Beach
  • Getting up close and personal with koalas, kangaroos, and dingos… Oh my!
  • Seeing the famed sights of Sydney and pretending to be in an episode of Dance Academy (lol)

Have you ever been to Australia? Any recommendations or travel tips?