The Blue Mountains of Australia

A Sydney Day Trip to the Blue Mountains

Katoomba Station

On a visit to Sydney, Australia we set aside a Sunday for a rail trip to the Blue Mountains. From the Sydney Central Station to Katoomba Station is about a two hour trip and if you go and return on a Sunday the trip is a super bargain with the Opal card (see Getting Around Sydney). From Central you can Board an air-conditioned double decker Mountains train. The express trains to the Mountains will most likely stop at Strathfield, Parramatta, Penrith, Emu Plains, and then all stations up the Blue Mountains. We were staying at a hotel near Sydney’s Chinatown (the Meriton Serviced Apartments on Campbell Street) which wasn’t far xfrom the Central Station so we walked and caught an early train. The trains were modern, clean and comfortable. One caution, this trip on Sunday is very popular and if you get the train at the Central Station getting a seat probably isn’t difficult, but after a few stops people were sitting in the isles. On our return we boarded at a station farther south and headed back to Sydney from there to avoid the crowds and to be sure we got a seat.

The Three Sisters

The town of Katoomba is the center of the Blue Mountains with a number of attractions nearby. Once in the Blue Mountains we booked the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus near Katoomba Station. The day pass was about US$30and begins at the Carrington Hotel, Katoomba Street. There are 29 stops which include Katoomba Falls, Echo Point, Three Sisters and Leura Cascades. There is a cable car ride (extra charge) and a complex at Scenic World with a café and a restaurant. There is also the Trolley Tours running a similar route as The Explorer Bus for about the same fare. Between hopping on and off, hiking a number of trails and enjoying lunch we spent about nine hours in the area.

Our trip was in late October of 2015 and the weather was perfect. The area is beautiful with dozens of good trails and scenic overlooks. We followed a couple of well-maintained trails along streams and were fascinated with the thickets of Australian tree ferns (something we planted in our yard at home). We also started to notice the birds in the trees and saw dozens of big white cockatoos. I picked up a feather for our curio case.

Upon returning to Sydney Central Station we walked back the few blocks to our hotel, freshened up and took a rapid rail to Darling Harbour. We had dinner at Baia The Italian sitting by the water watching the sun set. All and all it was a very good day. We’re thinking on our next visit we will spend a couple nights in the Blue Mountains.

 

 

More things to do in the Blue Mountains HERE.

 

 

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Port of Call Akaroa, New Zealand

The cruise port of Akaroa, New Zealand is a popular resort area for New Zealanders being less than fifty miles from Christ Church and is also seeing more frequent visits by cruise ships with the growing popularity of cruising around Australia and New Zealand.

The cruise port of call Akaroa, New Zealand is located on the southeast side of sheltered Akaroa Harbor, centered on the cute resort township of Akaroa. It is on the east coast of New Zealand’s south island. The current population is only about 650 permanent residents with a significant increase in season.

Historically its heritage is unique as it was the only French settlement in New Zealand. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour.

Geologically it was originally an island formed by two ancient volcanoes. The current peninsula has two ancient craters that feature spectacular volcanic cliffs which form Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbors. 

Where You’re Docked

Cruise ships need to anchor out and use tenders to reach the Akaroa dock. The dock is the focus of a number of boat tours and water attractions and is located right in the town near restaurants and shops.

Money

New Zealand uses the NZ$ which currently is worth US$0.70 and you will need to exchange money or use credit cards while visiting as US Dollars are not usually accepted.

Attractions

Explore the village with its colonial architecture, galleries, craft stores, and cafés. Akaroa, is famous for its several beautiful bays and harbors and there are numerous scenic boat tours available including dolphin watching. The protected waters are also perfect for sea kayaking. In Flea bay, a couple of miles southeast of town, there is a penguin colony that is rare for this region. Akaroa harbor is home to the worlds rarest and smallest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphins  and Akaroa is the only place in the world where you can take a trip out to swim with them. A short walk out of town is Meniscus Wines, a vineyard which usually is open when ships are visiting. Also not to miss is The Giants House, a unique sculpture mosaic garden above town.

 

Cruise Port of Call Akaroa, New Zealand

The cruise port of Akaroa, New Zealand is seeing more frequent visits by cruise ships with the growing popularity of  cruising around Australia and New Zealand.

The cruise port of call Akaroa, New Zealand is located on the southeast side of sheltered Akaroa Harbor, centered on the cute resort township of Akaroa. It is on the east coast of New Zealand’s south island. With frequent cruise ship visits this quant resort town is becoming more and  more popular. 

 

Historically its heritage is unique as it was the only French settlement in New Zealand. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour.

Geologically it was originally an island formed by two volcanoes. The current peninsula has two ancient craters which form Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbors. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the HMS Endeavour.

Where You’re Docked – Cruise ships need to anchor out and use tenders to reach the Akaroa dock. The dock is the focus of a number of boat tours and water attractions and is located right in the town near restaurants and shops.

Money – New Zealand uses the NZ$ which currently is worth US$0.70 and you will need to exchange money or use credit cards while visiting.

Attractions – Akaroa, is famous for its several beautiful bays and harbors and there are numerous boat tours as well as sea kayaking. In Flea bay, a couple of miles southeast of town, is a rare penguin colony. Akaroa harbor is home to the worlds rarest and smallest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphins  and Akaroa is the only place in the world where you can take a trip out to swim with them. A short walk out of town is Meniscus Wines, a vineyard which usually is open when ships are visiting. Also not to miss is The Giants House, a unique sculpture mosaic garden above town.

 

A New Travel Map

Earth Glow At Night From Space

It started as a one-off for our own use and morphed into gifts for family and friends. Now our travel push pin maps have advanced to the level of a hobby. A local gift shop has added a display and personalized order form and we have just started selling on Etsy.

Our travel maps are printed 13″x19″ on heavy weight matte stock with personalization included.

Always trying to improve the look, I have now married a satellite composite image of the earth at night with my world map design. It is now available on the Etsy page.

 

Take a look HERE.

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.

 

 

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.