Travel Maps For Christmas

Put a Pin In It

We’ve Created Beautiful Pin Maps To Record Your Travels available through our Etsy store. VISIT NOW

A few years ago we printed, mounted and framed a world map and added pins to designate the places we had visited. As we continued to travel, we added more pins. Over time, we have had a number of friends and family members admire our map and ask for maps of their own, which we were glad to give as gifts. With much encouragement over the past couple of months, we have designed our own original maps and hope to make them available for sale.

Our Etsy store is now open. VISIT NOW

After you place your order we customize and print each map and ship in about five working days via the USPS. The map is printed on heavy cover stock and is ready for framing. Detailed instructions are included for installing in ready-made, inexpensive frames or you can have it custom mounted and framed.

The World Map

Proudly display and pin your world travels while keeping track of your adventures and future plans. Our gorgeous personalized maps are a beautiful addition to your home and are a great conversation piece.

World Map #W1 in Grays and Blues

This 13″ x 19″ exclusive original design  map is available in two color schemes and is printed on premium cover stock. Included are a number of custom options (see ordering information).

World Map #W2 in Earth Tones and Blues

Pick Your Map and Select Customizations Below

  • Select a banner .                           
  • Add a custom printed name .     
Put a pin in it and record all your travels

Ships promptly in a mailing tube and comes with a collection of 50 colored pins. Includes suggestions on saving money on framing with do-it-yourself instructions. Make use of included colored pins to indicate visits to Countries, Cities and National Parks. The design shows over 200 cities along with major national parks, seas and oceans.

Available soon, framed and ready to hang.

Example of map detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

The United States Map

Great to get your children interested in geography and tracking their adventures or remembering family vacation trips. Makes a beautiful personalized gift and is designed with children in mind as a fun, in-home, learning tool.

This 13″ x 19″original design map is printed on heavy premium cover stock and includes a number of customization options.

Select Customizations Below

  • Choose a banner                              
  • Add a custom printed name       
Put a pin in it to display your travels

Comes with a collection of 50 colored pins. Includes suggestions on saving money on framing along with do-it-yourself instructions. Select pin colors to indicate visits to National Parks, States and Cities.V

This map is designed over a topographic image with all 50 states outlined and their names in bright red. Printed with over 200 U.S. cities along with major National Parks.

 

Also available soon framed and ready to hang.

Visit Our Etsy Store NOW.

Still time for Cristmas – order maps and select customization options only at our Etsy store.

 

 

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Sydney Australia and the Opal Card

Getting Around Sydney

An Update

If you are planning a trip Down Under with some time in Sydney, you need to build your plans around their great public transportation. Like most large cities, buses are plentiful but Sydney also boasts a metro rail system called “Light Rail” that connects most major parts of the metropolitan area along with a regional conventional rail network and a large ferry system. The light rail boasts frequent service and cars that are modern, clean and comfortable.

The entire system is based on the Opal Card which is a  “tap on – tap off” system. You can buy a one trip card or a card that can be loaded with specific amounts. so each time you board, you tap your Opal against the sensor pad and again when you exit. From ferry terminals and metro stations the “tap sensor” usually is a turnstile and on buses and light rail  the tap post is usually at the car entrance.

We stayed near China Town and there was a surface light rail street stop just a block from our hotel. From there we could get to Darling Harbour, Bondi Junction and Circular Quay all in less than a half hour. In addition, the massive Sydney harbor is crisscrossed with dozens of ferries which all seem to converge on Circular Quay between The Rocks and the famous Sydney Opera House.

Even if you don’t have a destination, taking a ferry is a great way to see the sights around the harbor and the city skyline. Ferries from the Quay take you out to Watson’s Bay (be sure and have fish ‘n chips at Doyle’s on the Beach), Manley Beach (a popular ocean front beach town noted for good surfing) and across to Luna Park, aSydney’s classic amusement park.

The Famous Bondi Beach

If all this wasn’t enough, there is also a multi-day fare system based on the Opal Card. You buy the card with your choice of an amount loaded (you can also reload) and than tap on and tap off on all of the above systems as well as the regional rail lines. But here’s the best part. As you use the card there is a maximum daily fare of A$15 (A$7.50 for children) with Sundays capped at A$2.50.

We took a train to the Blue Mountains (over an hour and a half from Sydney), spent the day and returned, then went to Darling Harbour for dinner and back to the hotel all for A$2.50 each. There is also a weekly cap of A$60 with the card as well and, after eight paid journeys with Opal, you can travel for the rest of the week for half-price fare.  Always be sure to tap on because staff wanders through the cars from time to time checking.

Three Sisters in the Blue Mountai

 

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney is a very walkable city. The focus of the downtown area (CBD) is the Circular Quay and The Rocks. Facing the water at the Quay, the Opera House is to your right with a number of restaurants and shops nearby and the ferries straight ahead. Off to the left is The Rocks, the location of the original English settlement at the harbor with a number of shops, restaurants, galleries and museums. Some of the museums offer free or reduced entry admissions so be sure to check this out if you plan to visit.

Sydney Metro Rail System

A short walk From The Rocks is the approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is worth the climb up to its walkway for the view. If you are really adventurous and aren’t afraid of heights you can book a climbing tour up the suspension cables to the very top. A dozen blocks west and south is the Kings Street Wharf and Darling Harbour area with a great waterside walk lined with restaurants and tourist attractions including a wildlife center, an extension of the Sydney zoo and the aquarium.

A light rail trip out to the town of Bondi with a bus connection at the station to the famous Bondi Beach will take about forty minutes from the central train station area.

Often getting around a large city as a tourist can get costly but not Sydney with a Opal Card.

 


Port of Call Kona, Hawaii

The Port of Kona or Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii

Kona is a favorite stop for cruise ships visiting the “Big Island” of Hawaii. Famous for its coffee, beaches and Volcano National Park on the island.

              Link to Google Map                 

Where the Tenders Dock

There are no docking facilities so cruise ships anchored out, using tenders to get ashore. The tenders will dock right at the intersection of Palani Road and Ali’i Drive in the heart of town. Ali’i Drive runs along the waterfront and there are a number of restaurants and shops. Going straight up Palini about a mile will bring you to a Walmart, Post Office, Grocery and a Home Depot.

Transportation

The actual town is small and pedestrian friendly. If you want to get out into the countryside the best option is to rent a car which are available at a few agencies in town.

  Along the waterfront in town

Currency

Hawaii is a state in the United States and the currency is the U.S. Dollar.

Hulihee Palace

Attractions

Kailua-Kona is a town on the west coast of Hawaii Island (the Big Island) with a few sites located near town. Hulihee Palace is a former royal vacation home dating from 1838. Mokuaikaua Church, from the 1800s, is Hawaii’s oldest Christian church. On Kailua Bay, reconstructed thatched houses at Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark are erected on the site of King Kamehameha I’s residence. There are a number of good coral reefs which located just off Kamakahonu Beach. Kona is also near to Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park with some nice hiking trails.

Shopping strip along Ali'i Drive
Shops along Ali’i Drive

The “Big Island” of Hawaii is the largest and southern-most island in the State of Hawaii. It is home to The Volcano National Park which includes Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive shield volcano. The other major town on Hawaii is Hilo on the southeast coast and another favorite stop for cruise ships.

Port of Auckland New Zealand

Auckland New Zealand and The Bay of Islands

Approaching Auckland
Approaching Auckland

Auckland is a popular port for cruises around Australia and New Zealand as well as southbound Pacific repositioning cruises. Most itineraries also include a stop at The Bay of Islands due north from Auckland.

 

Where You Dock
Princess Wharf
Princess Wharf

The Port of Auckland has a number of piers east from the ferry terminal at Princess Wharf. All of the docking spaces are right in downtown Auckland so it is only a short walk from the dock into the CBD. There are also a number of public facilities not far from the port.

Transportation

With only a few hours on average for exploring while in this port there are a number of places within walking distance and the downtown area is very pedestrian friendly with lots to see. Taxis are readily available but Auckland is the center of a large metropolitan area so it is best to have a destination in mind and agree on a fare before heading out. There is also an extensive bus and ferry system around the area with a good web site that shows your options HERE . The city also has a visitors one and two day pass that includes admission to a number of attractions HERE.

CBD Auckland
CBD Auckland
Money

The New Zealand currency is the NZ$ currently worth about 65¢ US. Foreign currency is not readily accepted but credit cards usually work fine.

Attractions

Within walking distance are a number of good sights including:

  • Albert Park – Historical, park with trees andflowerbeds, a Victorian fountain & statues.
  • Auckland Art Gallery – A collection of national & international art, with Maori works, in a château-style historic building.
  • New Zealand Maritime Museum – exploring the country’s seafaring history through exhibits & sailing trips on replica ships.
  • The Skywalk Visitors Center
  • Auckland Bridge Climb (Bungee jumping available)
Downtown Auckland

Also about twenty miles west of Auckland is a very nice wilderness area called Waitākere Ranges Regional Park that if you have a few days this area should be considered.

The Port of Bay of Islands

Anchored Bay of Islands
Anchored Bay of Islands

Located about 175 miles north of Auckland is the Bay of Islands. The area is somewhat rural and one of the big attractions is the various vineyards nearby. While the production is on a much smaller scale than the southern island the quality is very good. A local industry has developed offering tours to the cruise passengers and probably the best way to see some of the region is booking one of these tours. Many of these excursions are focused on the waters around this port.

The Wine Trail
The Wine Trail

 

 

 

Visiting Haleakala

The Largest Volcano on the Hawaiian island of Maui

Approaching Maui

The Hawaiian island of Maui is actually two volcanic cones joined by a small piece of land. The larger volcano to the southeast is Haleakalā towering 10,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean and still considered active, though currently quiet.

North shore surf seen from 10,000 ft
North shore surf seen from 10,000 ft
 The Haleakalā Observatory
The Haleakalā Observatory

The Haleakalā Observatory, also known as the Haleakalā High Altitude Observatory Site, is Hawaii ‘s first astronomical research observatory.

Haleakalā is a unique place since there are very few places on earth where you can drive from sea-level to ten-thousand feet in just a couple of hours.

Afternoon clouds role thru the crator
Afternoon clouds role thru
The view across the caldera
The view across the caldera

The trip up the slopes to the Haleakalā National Park from the seaside town of Kapalua is a full two-hour drive. The steady climb up the slopes represents half the trip but the views from the summit are worth every minute it takes to get there. From the summit looking off to the north you will see the coast with its reefs and surf just offshore from the coastal Hana highway. Looking south is the spectacular view out across the caldera with its numerous smaller eruption cones and gorgeous multi-colored deposits of cinder and earth. The landscape makes you feel as if you are on the planet Mars.

The view across the caldera
The view across the caldera

A popular expedition is to go up to the 10,000 foot summit before dawn to watch the sun rise out of the sea (you need to get a permit for the pre-dawn trip). Mark Twain called sunrise from Haleakalā “the most sublime spectacle I have ever witnessed.”

The best way to really experience the park is by walking its trails. There are 35+ miles of hiking trails in the Wilderness Area that guides hikers through sub-alpine scrubland, rain-forest, and cinder desert.

Maui silversword
Maui silversword

On the slopes of Haleakalā are a number of native birds and over 800 species of plants with over 300 species native, or endemic to Hawaii, found only in the islands. At the higher elevations you will find the Maui silversword or Haleakala silversword, a rare plant, part of the daisy family Asteraceae.

Maui silverswordThe silversword in general is referred to as ʻāhinahina in Hawaiian (literally, “very gray”). The Haleakalā silversword is found only at elevations above 7,000 feet on the Haleakalā volcano, on the summit depression, the rim summits, and surrounding slopes in Haleakalā National Park. The Haleakalā silversword has been a threatened species as defined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, since May 15, 1992.

If you are only spending a day or two on Maui probably the least costly way of getting to see Haleakalā is by rental car. Cars are usually about $75 for a day and at the most $100. It is also worth pointing out that the best time to visit is in the morning. Because of the islands height it has a tendency to develop clouds around the peak in the afternoon and while it is a beautiful sight being above the clouds on Haleakalā you could miss some spectacular views of the island.

The view across the caldera
The view across the caldera
View at 6,000 feet
View at 6,000 feet

O’ahu, Hawaii, the American Paradise

Above: Waimea Bay 

O’ahu, Has Something For Everyone
Waikiki Beach

Banzai Pipeline, Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head – these are all names we associate with Hawaii and they all are found on O’ahu. There are numerous reasons to visit all the Hawaiian islands but O’ahu is the real star. This island offers the excitement of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, the laid-back island style of Hale’iwa on the North Shore and historical sights at Pearl Harbor and a number of Hawaiian and Polynesian cultural centers around the island.

Honolulu and Diamond Head

Thinking of a trip to the Hawaiian Islands? We recommend you start with O’ahu. There is just so much to see and do on this island while getting to other islands takes time and can get costly. Hotel rates aren’t as outrageous as you might think and you should plan on renting a car (oddly our rental car costs have been lower than average in O’ahu), you will save a lot by getting around the island on your own. Besides getting to see more of the island, having a car can help with finding economical places to stay, eat and shop.

The way we see O’ahu is to think of it as a number of regions:

  • Honolulu and Waikiki Beach – All the excitement of a major city with restaurants, nightlife and great shopping and it all stretches along one of the world’s greatest beaches. Nearby is also the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquar

 

The USS Missouri
  • Pearl Harbor – Visit American history at the Visitors Center, the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial (as of this writing the Arizona is closed for repairs).
  • Waimea falls
    Food trucks at Sharks Cove

    The North Shore – This stretch of coast has a laid-back feel (maybe with a few tourists thrown in) with small towns like Waialua and Hale’iwa (be sure and visit Matsumoto Shave Ice), along with a few of the world’s most famous surfing beaches including Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline. Further to the east there is also Sharks Cove Park with great snorkeling and just across the street is a lot full of some of the best food trucks on the island. If you are looking for a nice hike visit Waimea Valley Park with a nice nature trail getting to Waimea falls.

  • Southwest Coast – West out of Honolulu about fifteen miles is the recently developed area of Kapolei with new shopping centers, several good golf courses, and the Wet n’ Wild park. Just four miles further out on the west coast is Ko Olina with another golf course, the Ko Olina Beach Park and a stretch of beach with resorts like The Four Seasons, and Disney’s Aulani.

    Pocket beaches dot the southeast coast
  • East Coast – East out of Honolulu along the Kalanianaole Highway (Rt 72)
    View from Lanai Lookout

    is Diamond Head Beach Park, KoKo crater and some of the most spectacular coastline anywhere (stop at Lanai Lookout to take in the scenery). Continuing on are a few more great beaches and the Sea Life Park of Hawaii.

  • Island Center– If you’re up to hiking the central island has a number of good trails and a couple of nice waterfalls like Manoa Falls and Likeke Falls. Be sure and check out the Dole Plantation and Visitors Center (try a Dole Whip) along with the nearby Green World Coffee Farm where they grow and roast their own coffee. Also not far away are the Wahiawa Botanical Gardens.
Ko Olina Beach
Waikiki Beach

Lush tropical landscapes, a mild climate and the Pacific Ocean make this island a true American paradise. Make the best of your visit and try learning to surf or at the very least go snorkeling, there is nothing like swimming thru the coral reefs, tropical fish and Hawaii’s crystal clear waters. In the winter the islands are home to a number of species of whales and there are several whale watching boats available. Aloha…

 O’ahu is a destination where we strongly advise getting a car. Hawaii has a good road system and while O’ahu has just a few major highways we find Hawaiian names difficult to follow. If you are not able to navigate using your cell phone be sure and get a GPS in your car.

If you are going to the North Shore be aware that traffic congestion is a major issue when the big waves come in (usually around October). We had spent a couple of days visiting the area with one morning spent at Waimea Valley Park and another day having lunch at the food trucks at Sharks Cove wand there were no traffic delays. A few days later we returned with a specific restaurant as our destination and didn’t realize that the surf was up. That afternoon it took us four hours to get back to the highway along coast road. Most cars were carrying surf boards and beach parking lots were so full they were stopping traffic from getting past on the road.

We were concerned about visiting Waikiki Beach and how difficult parking would be. A number of the beach resorts advertise really high rates for using their garages. Our first trip was late in the morning and we discovered that it wasn’t that difficult to find metered parking on the side streets, often only a block off the beach.

The Asian culture has a very strong presence in the islands and with that comes some really interesting finds in restaurants. There are a number of noodle and seafood fast food places that offer really good dishes at very economical prices. Look for Ramen Bones, Ramen-Ya, Sushiman and Original Roy’s. The well known American hamburger chains are everywhere but there are a number of Hawaiian fast food places that are favorites with locals like Painacafe and Fatboy’s.

Dole pinapples

We spent one day in the island center visiting the Wahiawa Botanical Gardens followed by a stop at the Dole Plantation. While Dole is a merchandising operation disguised as an attraction, it’s worth the stop just to get a Dole Whip. We were also impressed with the miles of pineapple fields lining the roads. Earlier we had stopped at the Green World Coffee Farm for coffee and pastries and would recommend a visit if you’re in the neighborhood. They’re only a few years old and their roasted coffee is worth packing a pound or two in your suitcase if you’ve got the room.

Another side trip that is worth consideration is a trip up Round Top Drive to the Tantalus Lookout. You climb up hairpin turns thru residential neighborhoods to a park with spectacular views of Honolulu and the south shore.

Pearl Harbor

Also be sure to put at least a half day on your itinerary for a visit to Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial and Visitors Center. The exhibits, movies and displays really bring WWII into sharp focus. You can also visit the WWII era battleship USS Missouri where the Japanese surrender was signed along with a number of other historic ships.

 

Index to Pacific & Down Under