Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm a contributing writer for Destinations Magazine Summer Edition 2013!

Check out the Summer 2013 Edition of Destinations Magazine. I am very pleased and proud to be a contributor. I have written a piece on the Australian Outback. It is available from most Newsagents - Its a great read!


P.s The grammatical error in the 'Meet the Contributors' section is theirs not mine. ;)

Happy reading! x

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Under the Pines on Lord Howe Island Australia, August 2013 - (no kids).

Photo credit USFCA

Quite often, an island or beach billed as 'paradise' doesn't quite live up to the hype... or doesn't even reside in a postcode on the same continent as paradise! I'm fairly well travelled in South East Asia and the South Pacific. I've been at times confronted by teeming masses of tourists, pollution, swarms of touts and filth in places sold as paradise in the brochures. Either the images are photoshopped, or they were taken 20-30 years ago before they got ruined. Sometimes, they are nice enough, but just plain boring!

Sir David Attenborough once wrote that Lord Howe Island is "so extraordinary, it is almost unbelievable". I'm not going to argue with him. Lee Abbamonte, a travel blogger who is on track to be the youngest American to travel to all the countries in the world said that "I don't know what paradise awaits in the next life, but i do know that Paradise on Earth is located on Lord Howe Island. It is quiet possibly the most beautiful place in the world"

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/the-most-perfect-place-in-the-world-belongs-to-australia-20120927-26nc4.html#ixzz2cGx8n4fZ

Now this humble mummy blogger is going to announce her absolute infatuation with this incredible place.. await the headlines haha!! Truly pristine, uncrowded, safe (they didn't even have locks on the doors where we stayed!) and amazingly beautiful. If you have any doubt as to the credibility of Sir David Attenborough though, here is just a couple of my pics to give you an idea of what we are all blabbering about!

We had the pleasure of staying at Pinetrees Lodge on Lord Howe. http://www.pinetrees.com.au/ It is one of the oldest family run businesses in Australia. Members of current manager Dani Rourke's family have been on the island since 1848. She is the 6th generation to run the lodge. We absolutely loved Pinetrees. Absolutely everything about it! We stayed in an 'Under the Pines' room. These were at the front literally under the gigantic Norfolk Pines. The room was spacious and clean. No separate lounge, but a little patio with chairs at the front. It had a queen and a single bed. The bathroom was a good size, and the shower had good pressure and was nice and hot. It had a nice flow through of air, and plenty of natural light. We found the rooms lovely, and in keeping with the charm of the place. Not very modern I suppose if you are inclined to be picky, but we didn't spend much time in them anyway with what was waiting for us outside! There is a full size tennis court on the grounds, as well as a guest laundry. The main building houses the bar, restaurant and the deck for buffet meals. There is also a games room with a pool table and a lounge with a fireplace. This a warm, cosy spot in winter for pre-dinner Canapes or after dinner cheese and fruit served with stimulating conversation. I also loved that the lodge blended nicely with its surrounds. It was unobtrusive and completely surrounded by Norfolk and endemic Kentia Palms. Very leafy and green. Be warned... Prepare to shrug off the distractions of the modern world that would interfere with your purpose here... to relax, de-stress and enjoy one of the most beautiful natural places in the world! There is NO mobile reception on Lord Howe. There is very limited internet access, which is slow and by Lan cable and not available in your room. There is NO TV, unless you go next door to the bowls club for their Satelite reception! We loved this fact. We felt we concentrated on each other more, and on getting out and about. I honestly felt that I was holidaying like my parents or grandparents might have in much simpler times like the 1950's. A unique and wonderful experience.

 A short walk across the road is 'The Boatshed'.. literally a boatshed with a well-stocked honesty bar, tables and chairs etc. It has an amazing view of the twin peaks of Mt Gower and  Mt Lidgbird from here. Plus, the beach is fantastic for swimming. We loved to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset.. superb!
The Boatshed

View of the Twin peaks to the left of the Boatshed

View to the right of the Boatshed.

Pinetrees has all meals included in its tariff. This consists of continental buffet and/or hot breakfast, buffet lunch, afternoon tea, and 4 or 5 course dinners. The food is honestly worth the visit alone. After being stuffed full to the brim 4 times a day, I put on weight and went to bed with a groaning tummy every night!

Example of dinner menu

 Oven-roasted eye fillet

 Flavours of Pina Colada dessert

Lord Howe is all about glorious nature at it's best. Lets start with the beaches!

The Beaches

Neds Beach

My new fave beach in the WORLD! I can't rave enough about this magical place. This place was actually partly responsible for the extra kgs I took home with me too haha... I was meant to do a lot more of the hikes on the island, but couldn't drag myself away from here!

My goodnes there's a person in this photo - must be rush minute! (Thanks Peter Phillipps for the line lol!)

A walk to the left or right of the main sandy beach produces some lovely coral and rockpools to investigate.

The beach is just stunning. There is in fact not a beach on this island that isn't astounding, but this one was the complete package. The sand was white and fine. The water so clear, and an incredible shade of blue. There is a a shed here you can hire snorkelling gear and wetsuits. Just pop your money in the honesty box. Now the snorkelling.... just take a look what I snapped on my little Fuji waterproof camera...

 Rainbow-coloured wrasse

 Spot the octopus!

Not bad right???? Certainly the best snorkelling I've ever walked off a beach to. This brings me to the most famous thing about this beach.. The fish feeding!!


Well hello!

There is also some BBQ's here free for use and stocked with wood. If you don't want to make your way back to Pinetrees for lunch, they will deliver a picnic hamper with lunch or a BBQ pack for you in an esky at any of the picninc/BBQ locations around the island. Incredibly, no one touches it. You just turn up when ever you feel like it for lunch and there is your esky with a name tag on it waiting for you... fantastic! BTW you are NOT ALLOWED to catch those poor fish and chuck them on the BBQ... that's not even sporting! Plenty of fantastic fishing available off the island... just not here!!

Blinky Beach

This is across the road from the airstrip. In fact they are lowering dunes here, because they've become a bit high for landing and takeoffs (they don't always occur over this point, it depends on the wind). This is also a great beach. This differs to Neds as this is where the surf action is. The best place for the surfers and the bodyboarders to catch a wave.

Lagoon Beach /Old Settlement Beach

Lagoon Beach runs from the end of the airport to The Jetty in town. Old Settlement is after the Jetty. Lagoon is the beach across from Pinetrees. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. The more adventurous can paddle out to the reef break. I saw a few paragliders and windsurfers out there when i stayed. Old Settlement like the name suggests is the site of the original first settlement.


This is hikers heaven!. So many wonderful walks to do. Many different levels of difficulty. It's why most people come to Lord Howe I suppose - to hike and bird-spot. Ummmmm ok, I'm not a huge bushwalker/hiker (people that know me are spitting out their coffees and laughing reading this). I am very much the lay on the beach, massage type of holidayer... Snorkelling is about as energetic as a get! I did do an easy walk though, so there! I walked to Clear Place, which is a class 2, and took me about 1 1/2 hours return.  If I did it anybody can do it! I chose Clear Place because this was the easiest walk you can do to get a view (on a clear day) of Balls Pyramid. This is a remnant of a shield volcano about 20kms south of Lord Howe. It is the tallest volcano stack in the world. I could actually see it better than the photo suggests. The best way to see it is on a boat tour. But the weather conditions on the water weren't ideal when we were there. There are levels of walks right from a 20 minute class 1 flat walk through reserve, right up to The Mount Gower walk. This is a class 5 with 8 hours turn around (why? I ask why? lol) and features vertical climbs by rope etc. You have to do this accompanied by a guide.

The beginning of The Mount Gower walk and as far as we got haha! (don't be judgmental!) That is obviously not a real Woodhen by the way... we thought it would be funny at the time?

The Birds.

The feathered kind of course! Lord Howe is a bird-watchers mecca. Once again... as i'm not particularly into walking up and down things, I cant really show you a heap of pictures. This island is famous for its Muttonbirds (out of season when we were there), Terns, Petrels, Boobies (that got your attention!), Albatrosses etc... The most famous is the Lord Howe Island Woodhen. One of the rarest birds in the world, they almost became extinct because of rats, cats and feral pigs. A ban on cats, complete elimination of feral pigs, and a rat baiting program in conjunction with a captive breeding program has seen these return to about 300 or so. The speed limit is 25kms per hour on the island too, so it would have to be a pretty dopey bird to get hit by a car. I followed one around the grounds photographing it...

These are not to be confused with the common buff-banded rail... which is very similiar but actually prettier with a band around its necks and flecks of colour. I think they are gorgeous, but I think islanders think of them like land seagulls... there's heaps of them and they scavenge everything - a bit of a pest. My husband was pointing them out and going "Oh look Woodhen! How rare can they be?... They're bloody everywhere!".. until he was corrected haha!! In all fairness they are closely related.... (alright, I did point at a Purple Swamphen when we disembarked at the airport and squealed "Is that one?".. I could feel the collective sighs and eye-rolling from the entire rest of the plane all armed with camera lenses a metre long on the hunt for Sooty something-or-others).


Pinetrees Lodge has amazing 'Wilderness Weeks' with all sorts of tours/hikes and activities planned. They also have Jazz weeks and guest Chefs etc. There are also many other tours you can do from the island. The one I WANTED to do, but didn't get to on this trip (worth going back for alone!) is a boat trip around the island and Balls Pyramid. Sea to Summit Tours do one which I'm going to jump on board next time I'm there. I believe they even have naturalist and author Ian Hutton on board to answer questions. The following photo I obviously didn't take myself, but I really want to show what Lord Howe has to offer, so I've stolen/borrowed/whatever it...

Photo credit Simotron.tumbler.com

How amazing does that look? A tour I DID DO was with the 'All corners of the island' tour with Chase'N'Thyme, conducted by Peter Phillips. It was excellent. Peter Phillips is an expert on the Island. He's not from one of the original families, but married into one (lucky man!). He has written several books, and presents slideshows in town every week on the Seaplanes that used to service the island etc. He is very well spoken, knowledgeable and good company. The tour runs for about 3 hours and takes you literally to every corner of the island. He provides fantastic commentary and discusses the history of the island and the people. One interesting stop was the Waste Management Facility. Waste Management is obviously a huge concern on an isolated World Heritage Listed Island. It was fascinating. We also visited the meteorological centre to watch a weather balloon launch. A stop at Peter's home was included, where we met his lovely wife who provided us with coffee and home-baked muffins (yum!), and their extra adorable but slightly ummmm chubby border-collie. The collie also gives you a great send-off (I won't spoil it).

Weather Balloon launch

View from the southern part of Lord Howe

A building in the 'CBD'.

There is also a plethora of fishing (the fishing here is astounding), snorkelling and scuba-diving tours available from various operators including:

Chase 'N' Thyme Email: peterphillipps@bigpond.com
Sea to Summit www.lordhoweislandbirds.com seatosummit@gmail.com
Howea Divers Web: www.howeadivers.com.au Email: howeadivers@clearmail.com.au
Islander Cruises Email: islander@reachnet.com.au
Pro Dive Web: www.prodivelordhoweisland.com.au Email: lisa@prodivelordhoweisland.com.au
Marine Adventures Web: www.marineadventures.com.au
Lord Howe Nature Tours (with Ian Hutton) Email: ianhutton@clearmail.com.au
Oblivienne fishing charters Web: www.fishinglordhoweisland.com.au Email: tbtb@clearmail.com.au
Lulawai Cruises and Fishing Email: leandalei@bigpond.com
Blue Billy Fishing Charters Email: milkywaylhi@bigpond.com.au

To sum it all up Lord Howe Island is fabulous if you are an extremely active person and a nature-lover all round. But it is also great if you love nothing better than to lie on the beach and let all your worries wash away in that lovely turquoise water. I've never been anywhere so relaxing, and with such little to distract you. No noise, no hustle bustle, no worries. There is only around 350 permanent residents on the island, and only up to 400 guests allowed on the island at one time (World Heritage Listed remember). You are never going to feel crowded! Yes, airfares aren't cheap with Qantas being the only provider and that's not likely to change. With only 400 people on the island at a time, it would hardly be worth someone else starting up. I think its worth paying extra for the having the island virtually to yourself don't you??? Pinetrees has it's own Travel Agency, and booking flights with them were cheaper I found. For transport, Wilsons has both Bike and Car hire. Most people would be able to bike around the island quite easily. But if you would like a car, it would be a good idea to book in advance as there is only 6 or so. Especially in the warmer months. On that note, we went in August and we swam and snorkelled in wetsuits quite comfortably. The climate is similar to Southern Queensland.

Wilsons Bike/Car Hire Email: cakawilson7@hotmail.com

Bye-Bye Lord Howe!

Well that's it. I have to add as this is a blog predominately about travelling with kids, that this is an AWESOME place to take kids!! I saw children there riding around the island with their parents, and with little traffic limited to 25 km/h, its nice and safe. I am definitely going to bring my children back to stay at Pinetrees. In the mean time, if you are lucky enough to find yourself on Lord Howe Island.. tell 'em Helen sent you!!!