I've been waiting a long time to write about Fremantle, it's hard to sometimes find the words to describe a place that you feel in your heart. But this cute little port town really did become an unexpected home from home for me. It's ironic really, that I travelled to the other side of the world to set up camp somewhere just like home - a little port town by the ocean steeped in history and quirky culture. But perhaps the home we find is in the people we meet and the way that we feel rather than the place itself. After finding Perth a tad impersonal, Freo couldn't have been more different as it welcomed me with open arms. Read my Perth city guide here.
A good friend of mine drove me from the city to Freo one sunny afternoon, and even as we pulled in amongst the old fashioned buildings and smelt the sea air, I knew this was a place I would love. Walking into my hostel and seeing the family style tables across the courtyard and the group who were keen to invite me in to join them - it was just the kind of place I love to make my home. I was staying at Pirates Backpackers on Essex Street, right in the centre of Freo - it was just a minute's walk from the weekend markets and the harbour, close to the beaches and the shops. I'll be reviewing the hostel in an upcoming post - so watch out if you're looking for hostel recommendations.
It was the first place I had been in a long time where I felt I could really relax - Melbourne was full of working and living life to the max, Adelaide was a blur. Fremantle had a slower pace of life and because I wasn't planning to work, I could really relax and enjoy it, joining in with hostel life and having time to dedicate to my writing. I had a cafe I would go to for breakfast and coffee while I wrote my articles, I would go running each morning around the harbour and to the beaches. I could spend my nights laughing, playing cards and drinking with friends, or go to watch the sun set with a cute boy I met, or even hit the bars. The world was my oyster and I really enjoyed every second, especially those spent with the amazing group of friends I made while I was there, and the wonderful guy I met. I think I had been missing something from my life the previous few months and it was those incredible traveller personalities that really bring something new and exciting to the table. Freo brought that all rushing back into my life and was the perfect way to kick off my amazing Western Australia trip with the best people.
I might love to treat myself every now and again, but I'll always be a backpacker at heart and I'll always find ways to explore a new place on a budget. After all, the money you save on activities can always be put towards that next flight, an epic night out or a once-in-a-lifetime experience - I know what I'd prefer to spend it on. When I was in Freo, I knew the money I had saved working in Melbourne was to go towards my epic Western Australia road trip and had to pay for a road trip covering over 1,000km from Perth to Darwin for up to two months, and then setting up a new life in Darwin. So although I wanted to enjoy my life, I was very conscious that I had been waiting my whole two years in Australia to experience this trip and that I wanted to live it to the max. This meant cutting corners where I could to enjoy myself for a few weeks in Fremantle beforehand - here are my top 10 free & cheap experiences you don't want to miss when you visit:
Without a doubt the best way to spend your weekend in Fremantle - running Friday, Saturday & Sunday in the market hall at the top of Essex Street - look no further for cheap, delicious food, live entertainment and fresh fruits and vegetables at great prices. Offering a huge range of street food stalls from all over the world, including the delicious bao buns, the gozlemes and paella, plus fresh teas and juices - it's the perfect place to pick up a cheap meal ($10-15) as you walk around the stalls. Make sure you walk around the fruit and veg stalls and pick up all the free tasters for your daily dose of vitamins, then head back to the market on Sunday afternoon to get your heavily reduced fresh foods shop. I used to buy all my fruits and veggies there for just $7 for 7 items - perfect for a backpacker budget.
You'll see them all over Freo, whether it's live music, comedy, magic or something crazy that you can't take your eyes off. There's plenty going on around the markets at the weekends, but even during the week you'll often see performers take to the streets to entertain the crowds. I was gutted to miss the Street Arts Festival by a few weeks, it filled the streets with live entertainment and attracted thousands of visitors. Or why not grab a guitar or a ukulele and hit the streets yourself? I saw plenty of travellers doing just that to earn a few extra dollars and to have fun with their friends - if you've got a talent, why not use it?
My hostel was great for group activities, the owner made sure there was something going on every night from movie nights to pizza and wine evenings, marshmallows on a log fire, paddle boarding or volleyball afternoons and even wine tours - see my Swan Valley review here. It was great and brought the whole hostel together for some fun afternoons and evenings, it even inspired us to hold our own group evenings like the family dinner one woman decided to cook for the whole hostel. On Sunday's we would drink for free at Left Bank bar thanks to a hostel organised trip. I got to go on a full day's wine tour with tastings & travel included for just $30. Another day, I went paddle boarding for the afternoon for just $10 and had a great time with the group. It's always worth seeing what is going on in your hostel.
I didn't realise until some Canadian girls moved into my dorm that you can borrow bikes for free from Little Creatures Brewery (which is just across the park from my hostel). All you need is a passport ID and a credit card for them to keep on file, there is no charge unless you don't return the bike. We borrowed three cute little bikes for the afternoon and biked all the way from Fremantle to Cottesloe Beach where we sunbathed and relax all afternoon, diving into the waves to cool off in the sunshine, before heading back to Freo. It was a great afternoon and completely free - well worth looking into if you fancy getting out of the town with so many great beaches right on your doorstep.
Perth is known for it's beautiful beaches and I was lucky enough to catch the last few sunbathing days before the weather changed. While I was there I made it my business to explore as many beaches as I could, from the tiny Bathers Beach and South Beach which I went running between every morning. To the vast empty beauty of Scarborough Beach and City Beach - City Beach was actually my favourite by far because we had the whole place to ourselves when we went. And the famous Cottesloe Beach, which sadly was covered in smelly seaweed when I was there, but was still a great place to watch the surfers and enjoy the sunshine.
There are so many great historical sites in Fremantle and you can easily spend a day, or two, exploring these for a bit of culture and heritage. Why not check out Fremantle's Roundhouse for great views across the harbour, then explore The Shipwreck Galleries and Western Australia's Maritime Museum for a glimpse int the town's past. Don't miss a look at the war memorial and then head over to Fremantle Gaol for a wander around - you have to pay for entry to the tours, but you can have a good look at a gallery and the courtyard for free.
Probably one of the priciest things on this list depending on where you go, but much like having fish and chips on Brighton Beach in England, it's something you just have to do. You'll be fending off manic seagulls but the freshly caught fish and chips is well worth it, especially overlooking the water at sunset. There are plenty of places to choose from so enjoy.
One of my favourite experiences while I was in Fremantle, visiting the Little Creatures Brewery is definitely something to try. It's a lovely bar to sit and have a drink and food in, or take a free tour at 1, 2 or 3pm each day. Tastings are available for around $20 and give you an opportunity to taste each of their craft beers and a cider - a pretty good way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Whether you fancy a laid-back breakfast with friends or want somewhere peaceful to work, look no further than Moore & Moore cafe. The food is fantastic and well-priced and they have a lovely sheltered courtyard with heaters for when the weather isn't great. The wifi is really good for those who need to work, and it's a nice relaxing atmosphere, often with live music in the background.
Always one of my favourite things to do - pick up some cheep wine and snacks, get a group of mates together and head to South Beach or Bathers Beach and end the day on a high. There really is nothing better than watching a beautiful sunset with people who mean the world to you.
What are your favourite free activities when visiting a new place? Have you been to Fremantle - can you add any suggestions to this list?
The last few months have really turned my travelling world upside-down. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to be for the next couple of years but it's amazing how easily you can suddenly be inspired to explore totally different places. That's one thing I love about this nomadic life, having the freedom to completely change my plans at a moment's notice if I wake up and decide I want to be somewhere else. For a long time I was convinced New Zealand was next for me, but deep down I was craving a different kind of adventure altogether. Now I'm seriously considering swapping one side of the world for another by taking on an epic trip around Canada for the incredible scenery and national parks. Having lots of family living over there, it has always been on my radar but the more I've learnt about the country, the more excited I am about the thought of exploring it myself.
Canada is the second biggest country on Earth, with a land mass of nearly ten million square kilometres. That land includes gently rolling hills, thick forests, broad rivers, spectacular mountains and wide open tundra. The only way to really take in its beauty and diversity is by road, and driving through these places is an experience that you’ll never forget. Canada is a friendly country where many things are free and prices are generally low, so despite the distances involved, it is possible to make this kind of trip without breaking the bank. The key is good planning.
Despite its vast interior, Canada has some beautiful stretches of coastline, especially in the west. Driving north from Vancouver gives you the chance to appreciate the majesty of temperate rainforests, which contain some of the country’s biggest and oldest trees, as well as beautiful sea views. You can watch the sun set over the Pacific and, with a bit of luck, see whales and dolphins sporting in the waters below.
In autumn, a road trip through Quebec will give you the chance to taste the delicious fruits of its many farms. The French-speaking state is full of beautiful buildings and is famous for its restaurants, with delicious wines and cheeses available even to those on a tight budget. The hills are rich and green, and the maple forests blaze a fiery red as you travel towards the interior.
The mountainous National Parks of Alberta contain some truly stunning scenery and are linked by the Icefields Parkway, the best route from which to appreciate the chillier side of Canada’s natural wonders. Along the way, you can go climbing on glaciers, admire thundering waterfalls or warm yourself beside hot springs.
Saving money on a road trip like this is much easier if you set out your journey carefully before you start. The biggest expense – after the unavoidable cost of fuel – is usually accommodation, and you can reduce this cost by booking youth hostels (even if you’re no longer youthful), staying on campsites or using a couchsurfing website to find free places to crash. You’ll also need to budget for food and for entertainment if you plan to go out socialising at your stopover points. Make sure that you have some money left over for dealing with emergencies. Pack a toolkit, emergency vehicle repair gear and a first aid kit in your vehicle to reduce the risk that you’ll need assistance.
The vehicle best suited for your road trip will depend on the route that you plan to take and the kind of weather that you expect to encounter. Making a good choice can save you a lot of time, trouble and money overall. Never attempt a journey like this in an older vehicle – either pick up a second-hand vehicle in good condition or invest in a new one, because the last thing that you want is to break down somewhere remote, and in Canada it really is possible to find yourself hundreds of miles away from help. These days, you can get a car loan even with low credit score problems, and getting a new vehicle makes it easy to find something that’s really fuel efficient, potentially saving you a lot of money.
Much of what makes the difference when you’re managing your finances out on the road is how you deal with the little things. You’ll need to have a good supply of water in your vehicle wherever you go, but this doesn’t mean that you need to splash out on the bottled stuff – just take a few large bottles and fill them from taps when the opportunity presents itself. Don’t buy expensive snacks in roadside eateries or garages – pick up multipacks in supermarkets or bake your own. Layer your clothing so that you won’t need to buy new things if the temperature undergoes an unexpected change. Avoid the souvenir shops and visit markets in small towns and villages to find more unusual and much more affordable keepsakes.
A well-planned trip across Canada shouldn’t cost you much more than a driving holiday at home, after the cost of flights. You can bookend it with city breaks, which will give you the chance to enjoy the country’s fantastic museums and learn more about the places that you visit on your trip. Although a weeklong trip is enough to drive along some of the country’s shorter scenic routes, be warned – the real expense lies in the fact that you’ll want to return for more.
Does anyone have any tips for applying for Canada visas or travelling the country? What parts should I definitely visit?
*First image is of Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada - source here.
Penguins, chocolate factories and beaches - if you ask me this sounds like one of the best trips of all! Phillip Island was definitely one I was looking forward to, especially since we were doing it independently. Many people go on organised bus trips to the island, but I was keen to hire a car and go it alone so I rounded up a few friends and booked a car. Naturally I went through Budget, my favourite hire car company to use, which cost us around $100 including full insurance for the day - pretty cheap when split between four of us. It takes around three hours to get to Philip Island from Melbourne CBD so you’ll want to set off as early as possible to have a full day on the island to explore. Located down on Mornington Peninsula you can bet there’s plenty of stunning nature to see.
We headed straight for Cape Woolamai when we arrived and with the sun blazing down on us it was the perfect place to be, looking out across Woolamai Surf Beach we watched the waves roll in. Down on the beach fishermen were catching fish right in the surf, while an elderly woman collected seaweed. It was beautiful and stretched as far as the eye could see, and I simply had to go dip my toes in the water. Afterwards we followed the road and stopped off at each beach along the way for more stunning views.
There are endless beach, bush and cliff walks across Phillip Island - use the maps you can find at visitor’s centres on the island, or just stumble across them. The Pinnacles Lookout comes highly recommended but sadly we didn’t make it to that one. We did however take some cute little bush and boardwalks through mangrove forests and bush land leading to lakes which were filled with wildlife including wallabies with babies in their pouches.
We headed to Cowes, one of the main towns on the island, for lunch and a wander along the pier. Like stepping back in time, the town is filled with old ice cream shops, cute little stores and lots of lovely places to eat. We headed for Isola di Capri, which was right on the seafront and overlooked the ocean. Sitting in the window, we had the sun beaming down on us as we enjoyed the view and tucked into a feast of pizza, risotto and calamari. Although out of a usual backpacker budget, we were treating ourselves - it was the last time I would see two of my friends and myself and the other friend had just quit out jobs and were also about to set off travelling again. Plenty to celebrate and how better than with good food and good friends? After lunch we took a walk along the pier to watch the fishermen.
The rest of our afternoon was spent over at the western tip of the island at Point Grant, where The Nobbies is located. Perfect for shark, dolphin and seal watching, the Nobbies ecotourism centre overlooks the huge boardwalk that takes visitors along the cliffs where they can view natural sights including Seal Rocks, The Nobbies and The Blowhole. This area is also home to Australia’s largest colony of fur seals, and if you’re lucky like we were, you may spot fairy penguins! It’s very windy up here so take a jumper with you, but definitely stroll along the boardwalk around sunset, the views are stunning and very photogenic.
Afterwards, of course, you have to head over to the Penguin Parade - the island’s biggest attraction. I had though it was definitely worth a look as you get the cute sight of lots of tiny penguins swimming into the beaches and running up them in time to roost. But to be honest, I was hugely disappointed. As you all know, I’m very environmentally conscious and yet I felt this whole “attraction” was done in a very unsafe way for the penguins. The sheer noise of the onlookers and the floodlights on the beach designed to highlight the penguins places them in more danger for predators and confused the birds. It was the most unnatural natural experience ever and it made me sad afterwards when you could see tourists shining cameras and lights in the faces of the birds as they ran up the boardwalks, they were confused and people crowding them didn’t help. The volunteers did very little to prevent this and instead just seemed concerned with people taking photos and videos as they were already selling these in the gift shop. All in all, I didn’t think this was worth the $20-30 spent and I just felt uncomfortable with the experience. I wouldn’t recommend it personally as I feel it is harmful to the environment and the animals, I actually preferred seeing the penguins over at The Nobbies because they were less crowded.
Overall, I loved Phillip Island, it’s a beautiful place to visit and definitely worth a day trip. But the Penguin Parade left a nasty taste in my mouth and I wouldn’t recommend it. I actually much preferred seeing the penguins at St Kilda because there were less people there and it seemed much more amazing. Plus its free and right on the beach so no travelling time.
Have you been to Phillip Island? What did you think of the Penguin Parade?
I love wine. Whether it's a nice hearty glass of red with my dinner, a crisp white on a summer's day or a glass of bubbles with the girls - I love wine and any excuse to drink it. So you can imagine I was the first to sign up when the owner of my hostel decided to organise a day of touring the vineyards and independent producers of Swan Valley, just outside Fremantle, Perth. I had only been in Western Australia a week or two and already I was loving life over there - check out my city guide to Perth - and especially since I had moved over to the lovely Fremantle - check out my Fremantle post here. It was great to be travelling again and to be able to just enjoy life, to say yes to everything instead of always thinking about money and working. This wine tour was the perfect excuse to escape life's worries for the day and to truly indulge.
Known as Perth's "Valley of Taste" and boasting over 40 wineries, Western Australia's oldest wine region has plenty to offer visitors. This exciting fusion of wine, food, beer , cider, cheese and much more has plenty to keep the whole family busy against a stunning backdrop of Perth's countryside. While families and those on holiday can easily organise to join a tour or hire a car to take the day trip, us backpackers were on a tighter budget and found a perfect way to cut corners. Our hostel owner organised for a group of us to join him for the day in this van - we were all charged just $30 for him to drive us between the very best of the wineries and food producers for talks and tastings at each. Bearing in mind that most of the tastings were free and I only spent a further $10 for the whole day, yet went home pretty tipsy and with a belly-full of rich chocolates, cheeses and much more. I'd say that was a bargain trip.
Something that really matters to me, is that Swan Valley is the first and only Humane Food Region in Australia. This initiative is a regional commitment to supporting the welfare of animals and producing high quality, healthier, tastier food. It's nice to know that when you go along and visit the area, that you are not endorsing the mistreatment or the farming of animals, and that you are only tasting the finest quality chocolates, cheeses, olive oils and much more.
There is so much to do in Swan Valley, but I'm going to focus on the huge 32km Food and Wine Trail that is made up of more than 150 wineries, restaurants, cafes, breweries, distilleries, art galleries, farm gates and a host of other attractions. Whether you're visiting independently or booking one of the tours available from the area's visitor's centre, this is a perfect way to start exploring the area.
One of Western Australia's oldest, largest and most distinguished producers of premium wine, Sandalford is definitely worth a visit as it was by far the best wine tasting of the day. The tasting did cost $5, but it was one of only two we had to pay extra for, and quite frankly it was worth every penny. The women who hosted our tasting was fantastic and taught us all so much about wine, particular red wine which is something I'm becoming a lot more interested in lately. She was keen to answer any questions we had and told us a lot of extra information about the estate including the high profile events and weddings that had been hosted there over the years. The estate itself is worth a good look, the cellars are at the centre of vast, stunning grounds around a lake - the perfect spot for a wedding.
TOP TIP: When you go along to wine tastings - even if you just want to get drunk - it works in your favour to really chat to the people who work at the vineyards. The more interested you are in their products, the more they will share with you. We got to try the most expensive wine the company produces for free because we were so interested in learning about Sandalford.
My other favourite winery of the day, Windy Creek is a third generation family-run business that has been running in Swan Valley since 1937. They have a delicious selection of wines and ports including some award-winning ones that will get your tastebuds tingling. While you're there, don't forget to try their fantastic range of cheeses and homemade jams, marmalades and relishes. Again, these are on offer against a stunning backdrop of rose gardens and endless vineyards - a perfect place to relax on a sunny afternoon. There is also a small charge for the tastings at Windy Creek, but it is well worth the price.
For those who have a sweet tooth, you'll want to make sure you pop into Margaret River Chocolate Company to indulge in the huge selection of free tasters. As you walk in the door there are huge barrels of white, milk and dark chocolate buttons to munch on and you take in the walls of chocolate delights on offer. Everything sold from behind the counter on the left side is also available for tasting and it's worth trying a few before you decide which ones you want to take home, there are some unusual and delicious treats that might tempt your fancy including some award-winning options.
You'll be amazed at the uses for honey when you pop by House of Honey and see the shelves adorned with the countless types of honey and food products, beauty and skincare items, candles, gifts and much more. I was particularly excited to try the different types of honey -many of these I had never seen before and many boasted incredible healing qualities and health benefits. Plus the skincare range was amazing, the lotions smelt amazing and you could feel how good they were for your skin. There are also several meads and liqueurs are available for tasting and a cafe with honey products and more on sale.
This was a real highlight of the day - I'm a bit of a cheese fiend so I was keen to try the different cheeses and chutneys available. With a huge collection of 80 artisanal cheeses from Australia and around the world, these guys know their stuff when it comes to cheese and the staff were keen to chat and tell you all about the different cheeses. This was the one place where we all ended up buying some delicious cheeses to snack on and take home with us - I picked up some feta that had been marinated in garlic and herbs after we tasted it and I couldn't get enough. It's also a lovely place to stick around for lunch or a drink - there is a huge outside section that overlooks the woods and fields.
These are not all of the places we visited during the wine tour - but they are the highlights of the day and I would definitely recommend popping in if you visit Swan Valley.
Have you been to Swan Valley? What were your highlights? Where is the best place you have done a wine tour?
My two year working holiday visa for Australia is nearly at an end and I can't help but find myself reminiscing over the best times I've had in this amazing country. I've been lucky enough to live in the "most liveable city in the world" twice now and Melbourne has always been an incredible home from home for me. What is it that makes this city so great? For me, I always have my home-base of my closest travelling friends who live there permanently so it will always be the place I keep going back to. But even aside from that, I've always had amazing jobs there that have pushed me in new ways and have brought me amazing opportunities, I've always had great places to live and a huge group of mates that make saying goodbye the hardest it could possibly be. Living in Melbourne is a whole lifestyle that I haven't found elsewhere in cities around the world - it's festivals and events, it's health and fitness, it's eating out and partying, it's a whole attitude and a way of life.I loved every second I spent working and during my second year in Australia, I scored big when I managed to get a job cocktail waitressing at the number one rooftop bar in the city - Rooftop at QT. What at first seemed like just another bar job, soon proved to be so much more when I realised I would be working in such a high profile bar in the middle of the city at a 5* hotel serving celebrities on a daily basis. I hosted huge parties of up to 100 people almost nightly during the Christmas period from corporate functions to birthday parties and even later on working the Ferrari party for the Grand Prix, serving the likes of Nicole Kidman. It was a busy job, and a hard job at times. The hours were long and exhausting, I had to wear high heels and have my hair and make-up done for each shift. It was amazing, and I loved every second, but true to form I ended up working way too much and burning myself out as usual. So when it did come to my days off, I made sure to make the most of them and to get out exploring the city as much as possible.On one particular day off, a group of friends and I decided we deserved a chance enjoy the rooftop bars Melbourne has to offer, instead of always being the ones serving the drinks in them. We headed out on a bar crawl of the best rooftop bars in the city and this is my guide to the best ones I've visited.
The newest rooftop bar in Melbourne's CBD and already one of the most highly acclaimed, this is the best spot to enjoy a late afternoon drink in the sunshine and to spot celebrities. Rooftop at QT is a quirkier little sister brand of the hotel Rydges, expect ultimate luxury and a corporate feel, plus cocktails to die for.
Melbourne's third biggest rooftop bar, this is a great one to take a big group of mates to when you're all in the mood for good quality beers on tap and hearty meals like wings and nachos. Imperial Hotel is a great place to start a bar crawl if you fancy working your way down Bourke Street and visiting the huge number of rooftop bars along the way.
Famous for it's amazing view, you can't miss out on a visit to this fabulous rooftop bar in Fitzroy. The cocktails are delicious and the bar even have their own spirits on offer including a spiced rum that I absolutely loved. The view is incredible both during the day and at night - head into Naked for Satan and wait at the lift to be escorted up to the rooftop. There is sometimes a queue but trust me, it's worth the wait.
This cute little rooftop hideaway is easily missed from the street, but it's one you definitely want to know about because Loop Bar is one of the few bars that are fully kitted out to deal with Melbourne's crazy weather. Gas heaters and a large awning mean that even when it pours outside, you can still enjoy the rooftop experience surrounded by greenery and garden furniture.
After something a bit fancy for girls' night? Look no further than the kitsch decorations, the pink theme and fruity punchbowls to share at Madame Brussels. The cute little outdoors area will be perfect for all your Instagram shots, and it's definitely a bit different to all the other rooftop bars around.
I won't lie, Bomba had one of the most disappointing rooftop areas with no view and not much space for sitting but the menu downstairs more than makes up for this. Head upstairs for a quick drink then back downstairs for a delicious selection of Spanish tapas.
Head out of the CBD and over to South Yarra for a change of pace and a nice chilled out bar right by the train station. The Emerson rooftop is lovely and has umbrellas so you can enjoy it even in the pouring rain as we did when I went. It's right on Chapel Street so perfect for heading out afterwards.
Ferdydurke is not technically a rooftop bar, but this cool little bar is on the top floor and has a cool little smoking area that overlooks graffiti-covered walls and Section 8's awesome little container backyard bar, giving a taste of Melbourne's edgier, hipster side.
Find yourself in Richmond? Look no further than these two unexpected gems for a perfect rooftop experience - both used to be locals of mine for after work drinks and you can always expect a great atmosphere especially with regular gigs taking place downstairs from The Corner Hotel. Expect busy venues and a lively crowd, particularly on a Friday and Saturday night. Richmond Club Hotel also offers an incredible view over the train tracks and into the city - head here for sunset.
That old favourite will never leave my top list of rooftop bars - Carlton Club was just around the corner from Rooftop at QT so I was a regular there for after work drinks. It's always a guaranteed laugh with old school tunes on a Friday night and a busy dance floor, plus cheap drinks and a lovely outside rooftop area that is perfect for drinks day or night.
One I only finally visited just before leaving Melbourne but had spent a long time checking out from Rooftop at QT. You can see across the skyline to the other rooftop bars and this one always looked popular with a steady crowd up there drinking and enjoying the sunshine. Completely unpretentious, this bar doesn't even need a name, just Rooftop Bar, but for those who can't find it - you'll want to head to Curtin House on Swanston Street, the building that houses popular venue Cookie, then head to the top floor.
An awesome little find - I love Good Heavens for brightly coloured afternoon cocktails with friends - think refreshing beverages, live DJ sets and a party atmosphere. It's all set right above Fancy Hanks BBQ joint that serves all the smoked meats you could possibly eat - so head downstairs for some dinner after a few drinks.
Have you been to any of these rooftop bars? Which one is your favourite? Can you recommend any others that aren't listed?
There's no denying the last few years of my life have been all about excess. I've been throwing myself in 100% to grabbing life by the balls, to traveling solo and to having the experience of a lifetime. But there comes a time when that becomes exhausting to maintain 24/7. I'm not ashamed to admit my life has changed a LOT in the last three years of traveling, and particularly during my second year in Australia – I've changed. My priorities are different and my goals are taking me in a different direction, and that's okay.
It's been two years since I first arrived in Darwin, and don't get me wrong, I still love it up here but this time I'm doing things very differently to the last time I was living up here. My last Darwin experience was full of wild parties, traveler friends, hostel life and raving until dawn. I loved every second, I really did. It was one of my best traveling experiences with some of the most amazing friends, and it was exactly what I needed at that moment in my life. But this time in Darwin, I feel like I've purposefully done everything the total opposite to not end up ruining good memories - I started working at a different bar, got out of the hostel and moved into a house, stopped partying as much to save money and have been trying to live pretty healthily. I feel like a completely different person to the girl who arrived here two years ago, so it feels strange to come back and find Darwin as unchanged as ever, totally familiar and yet completely different.
I have just two months left on my Australian visa and I'm very aware of the clock ticking down - I'm trying to use my time wisely around working to make sure I see anything I've missed because I probably won't be back in Australia for a long time. For me, that isn't partying with the same old crowd, it's seeing the national parks and the parts of the Northern Territory I missed previously. I'm also trying to work as much as possible while I'm still on a good Australian wage with plenty of dollars rolling in so I can save for my next trip.
For the first time in a long time, I actually have a home that feels like a home. I moved into a house with my boyfriend - yes, that's right, I have a boyfriend - and we're really happy with our amazing new home that even comes with a dog! After moving around so much over the last six months and feeling as though my life was very temporary, it's nice to have somewhere, and someone, you can't wait to go home to at the end of the day.
After spending months hiking, climbing and exploring the coast of Western Australia and living off the healthiest food - I'm full of energy and was excited to get back in the gym. I feel like my body is stronger and fitter than ever, my skin feels great and I'm enjoying eating healthily thanks to my lovely kitchen. Because of all this, it hits me 10x worse when I'm hungover or feel rubbish for drinking. I'm still drinking and going out, but I'm drinking less and trying to reduce how often I go out partying, instead preferring to make the most of my days.
I've been spending a lot of my time working on this blog and after several months away and even more out of the blogging loop, it's been nice to spend time working on my true passion. I've been redesigning my blog, working with new brands and creating a whole series of amazing new content. It's felt great to dive back into it and right now that is what I want to dedicate my energies towards. I've also been thinking about my next career move - it's been fun working hospitality and various other jobs over in Australia but I miss my work as a journalist and writer.
Perhaps it's me getting older, perhaps I'm past this stage in my life, or perhaps it's just a phase - after all, I can still party as hard as the rest when I want to. I think I've just found there is so much more to life than getting shit-faced every night with the same crowd of people. There's sleeping under the stars, watching the sun rise and set with the one you love, there's throwing yourself into your passion and seeing the satisfaction of your own success. There are workouts where you aren't hungover and saving money towards a goal that will be a lot more epic than any night out you've already lived 100 times over. Now I don't know if you can identify with any of what I'm saying here, or whether I'm just warbling on, but if you find yourself nodding along with what I'm saying, this next section is for you.
Don't be so hard on yourself if it doesn't work out in your career or relationship - we all have these moments when things don't pan out as we expected and it throws us off course. But the important thing to remember is each failure teaches us and makes us stronger for our next attempt. If the path was easy, reaching the end wouldn't be worth it.
How do you find balance in your life? Have you changed as you've hit your late-twenties? Do you find it difficult to balance your career, relationship and having fun?
Life can be pretty expensive as we get a bit older – with mortgages to pay and bills ever increasing, it's no surprise that so many twenty-somethings are being forced to sacrifice some of their favourite music events in a bid to pinch pennies. I've always been an avid festival goer - you guys know how much I love my glitter and fancy dress - but I've always been lucky and through my work and this blog, I have been able to attend most of them for free over the years. But not everyone is that lucky, and most are having to fork out a few hundred pounds before even arriving at the festival and seeing the costs mount up. By the end of a four-day weekend, you can easily have spent over £500 and for that price could have had a week's holiday in Europe. Is the price of festival tickets depressing you? I'm not surprised, before you even get to the venue you’re looking at a hefty dent to the wallet, with festival camping gear, fabulous outfits to rock and travel costs.
So many are trying the cheaper alternative of creating their own festival at home – why not give it a shot? A little planning, enthusiasm from friends and family and it’s sure to be a big success. If you create it, they will come…
A popular success story in the back-garden festivals sphere is Leefest. Lee Denny started his own festival in his mother’s back garden back in 2006 and this year the festival entertained over 5,000 people! Pretty impressive. In recent years, there has been a shift towards staying home more and making the most of the space you have for entertaining. Staycations have become common practice for those who simply want some time off work without the hassle and expensive of a foreign holiday. With this in mind, a back-garden festival could be a perfect alternative to next year's festival ticket-buying frenzy.
To differentiate between a normal garden party and a festival, you need to include a few festival must-haves. Lighting is a big part of this, so be sure to get some fairy lights to place in trees, across garden fences and dotted about the place to give a great ambience to the festivities. Lanterns are also a great shout, especially those with battery-powered candles so you don’t need to worry about fire risks.
A drinks bar will always be appreciated. There’s a couple of ways to go about this, but the best (surely) is a homemade tiki bar! This can be done relatively cheaply by upcycling some old pallets and wood, and then all you need to do is dress it up in grass skirts and decorative fruit – job done. Who will you trust as bartender for the night?
There’s also an addition to your home that can really up the ante for entertaining in the garden. Having bifolding doors can open up the back of your home into the garden, almost creating one big entertaining space for guests to mill in and out of. Also very handy if the weather suddenly turns on you!
Tipis are also key to the theme, dotted about the garden as little meeting places for people to mingle at. All you need are some cushions and throws to make it nice and cosy.
The good thing about a back-garden festival is that people won’t be expecting a lot of food. Little nibbles here and there will suffice to keep the revellers satisfied, or why not ask everyone to bring a dish? Here are some ideas to help you pull out all the stops:
Crushed pea and mint dip with carrot sticks – This yummy and refreshing dip will have the carrot sticks gone in no time. Even the vegetable haters will be reaching for one. This recipe from BBC Good Food is a must-try.
Quick fish cakes – Choose between skinless cod, haddock or pollock for this recipe from Jamie Oliver. The addition of herbs such as dill, chives or parsley (whatever your preference) will add a great flavour to the fish cakes.
Peanut chicken satay sticks – Chicken and peanut butter, what’s not to love? All Recipes uses a teaspoon of hot sauce in this recipe so be ready for a kick!
Spring garden potato salad – Even though it isn’t spring anymore, this delicious salad will still hold its own at the festival. Full of veggies but still that little bit naughty with potatoes and cream. Try this recipe from Food Network.
If there’s any burgeoning artists in your family or friendship group, give them the stage of your back garden to entertain your guests. If not, a kick-ass playlist will suffice. You can even get a Wireless Festival playlist on Spotify if you’re lost for where to begin. Plus, there’s always one guest who fancies themselves as a DJ so you could leave them with a laptop and a speaker to entertain everyone.
Other activities could include a little coconut shy or a limbo pole to bring out the competition amongst the festival goers. Face painting is always good fun too, even if the one painting isn’t all that skilled. As long as there’s a good amount of glitter thrown in, everything will be fine!
With good decoration, good food and good entertainment – your back garden festival is sure to be a success. Why not try and squeeze in one last end of summer hoorah before the autumn weather really kicks in - or, if you have a marquee available to you, why not host a winter festival?
Perth is kind of like Vegemite - you either love it or you hate it.
The city is often the receiver of either rave reviews or disappointing memories for travelers and I know I have heard all opinions from friends over the years. Never letting a bad review stand in the way of me making up my own opinion about a place, I refused to make a judgement before seeing it with my own eyes. After a week in Adelaide - read my city guide here - I hopped on a quick flight over to experience my first taste of Western Australia and to finally start my West Coast adventure. I arrived at the airport and caught a bus straight to my new hostel which had come highly recommended by friends all across social media and was clearly the hot favourite.
Not the easiest hostel to get to, there was a real lack of information at the airport regarding shuttle buses, routes and schedules - eventually I managed to find a helpful bus driver who told me I would need two buses to reach the hostel. It turned into a bit of a mission but I made it finally. I was a bit disappointed by the "friendly" staff who barely acknowledged my presence and seemed very bored by their job - not the best welcome to a new city and hostel. I was sent up to my room which was pretty aged and a bit dirty. I'm definitely not a snob when it comes to hostels but this building felt less like a hostel with atmosphere and vibe, it felt more like an old building used for school trips. You could tell this was a city hostel with many people just passing through for a day or two or others who were working and had no time to meet travelers. I don't want to be totally negative about the hostel - I'm sure it must have been great at points for so many of my friends to rave about it - but I personally found the crowd staying there when I passed through to be quite antisocial and not very friendly to newcomers. It was not my kind of hostel. However, it is in a fantastic location for exploring the city by bus and on foot, Highgate is a great area for nightlife, food and entertainment.
King's Park is a highlight of visiting Perth and one not to be missed, these beautiful gardens are backed by the Botanic Gardens and sit high on a hill overlooking the city. Providing you with a spectacular panoramic view of the city, the park is best at sunset when you can really appreciate the beauty of Perth. You can access the park by bus or road, or you can take the more challenging way - Jacob's Ladder - a set of steep steps leading up to the park often full of fitness fanatics who run up and down for hours. Take a picnic, water and your camera for a lovely afternoon.
I stumbled across Hilary's Boat Harbour on my wanderings around the city and had the loveliest time down there enjoying a drink overlooking the water while I planned some of my travels. There are lots of places to eat and drink down there and also a range of attractions and entertainment for the whole family, including access to trips on charter/fishing boats or over to Rottnest Island. Fancy keeping it simple - why not take a stroll along the boardwalk in the sunshine?
Northbridge is just a short walk from Highgate - where I stayed - and the main city. It's a fabulous neighbourhood full of quirky places to eat and drink throughout the day and into the evening. I found a great little vegan restaurant called Flora and Fauna, which served the best range of brunches and juices I have found in a long time. Although I didn't get to go out while in the city - too much work on unfortunately - I've heard the nightlife is very good in this area as well.
Take in the views across the harbour and if the weather is good for you, why not grab a book and relax in the parks near Elizabeth Quay? It's a perfect place to take a time-out or grab some lunch to take down there and sit in the sunshine before going for a stroll among the amusements and across the bridge for great city views.
I like to keep fit and one of my favourite ways to explore a new city is on foot - whether by walking all day long or by heading out for a morning run. I discovered the absolutely beautiful Hyde Park not far from my hostel in just this way, think golden, brown, autumn leaves falling from the trees and benches overlooking a lake - heaven right in the middle of the city.
Everyone says "you HAVE to go to Cottosloe Beach" and so, I did. But I couldn't help being a little disappointed. Yes it was beautiful and yes it was bathed in sunshine when I went. But in my opinion, it didn't even compare to having the whole of City Beach to yourself, or walking the endless sands of Scarborough watching dogs and surfers frolic in the waves. Definitely get yourself out to the beaches - they are Perth's sparkling gem - but don't always listen to what everyone says.
Fremantle is the place that really stole my heart and I'll be posting in much more detail about life there, but even for those just visiting for a day there is lots to do. There are weekend markets for food and goodies, live music and entertainment in the streets, a brewery for beer and cider tastings, beaches, history and culture to explore. Just watch out - it's easy to get stuck here!
While I was staying in Fremantle, my hostel organised a day trip around the wineries and local producers of Swan Valley. It was a fantastic day of free tastings and luxury food and drink and is definitely worth a visit if youre staying in the area. It's a great day on a budget because so many of the tastings are either free or cost just a few dollars - perfect for budget-conscious travelers or backpackers.
My favourite day in Perth by far was the one I spent walking all over the city exploring - it's a good city to explore on foot and especially if you're into fitness like myself. I set myself the challenge of walking as far as possible and took on Jacob's Ladder - one for the fitness fanatics - as well as walking over 15km across the city and King's Park then back to my hostel. It was a lovely day to walk in the sunshine and I would recommend exploring the city this way. I also loved my time at the beaches near the city - these were really very beautiful and a strong reminder that Perth's real charm is outside of the city. Now while Perth may not be my favourite city by far - I really did love my time in Fremantle and traveling up the coast so don't worry if you're not a fan - there is a version of Perth to suit all of us.
Have you been to Perth? What was your favourite part? What else did you do when you visited?
Wild camping can be a scary prospect for those who are not used to the great outdoors. But as someone who has always chased adventures – I'm here to tell you the truth about wild camping and why you should try it. I've created this first-timers' guide to getting out under the stars and into the heart of nature. Everything you need to know – from where to go and what to pack, to personal hygiene and those infamous bush poos. Throughout my 5+ years of travelling solo, I've wild camped across the world, from the UK and Europe, right over to Australia.
The truth is I've always loved a bit of luxury as much as the next girl. But when it comes down to it, I would always much rather be walking barefoot around a national park and bathing in waterfalls. Although I had tried wild camping before I ever went travelling – it was only when I tried it in Asia and Australia that it really stole my heart. There's nothing quite like the simple life, of sleeping under the stars in the outback, of cooking dinner on the beach and waking up to the ocean. It's a freedom you just can't beat.
People are often shocked by how much I love camping and getting outside. But it's got to be the Norfolk lass in me – I'm just made for that outdoor life. Before I ever tried going wild, I had been camping a lot through volunteering programmes, challenges and of course, lots of festivals. I was a pro at putting up a tent and things like cooking dinner outside or the chilly run to the toilets never fazed me. But over the last few years, my whole perspective of camping really changed thanks to my travels.
For me it was the moments when I was road tripping across Western Australia that really sealed the deal. I spent over a month driving, sleeping in a car and camping wild in beautiful spots without ever seeing a soul. It was everything I had ever dreamed of in Australia and showed me how much is possible, and how happy you can be with so little. My squad spent our nights watching the stars above cattle ranches, smoke spiralling into the sky from our camp fire. Each day we woke up to the sounds of the ocean lapping against the shore and the excitement of exploring a new place.
The questions I get asked the most when it comes to camping – so let's answer these ones first. My best tip for first-timers who aren't sure about camping whether wild or not. Get over the grime. The quicker you do this, the more you will enjoy your experience. Yes the toilets are not always that nice, and sometimes there won't be any at all. You might have to have a few bush wees and maybe even a bush poo if you're in the middle of nowhere. But if you just accept the wet wipe baths and stop thinking about it, you'll soon adjust to a simpler life.
I spent six weeks living off wet wipe baths, shaving my legs with baby oil and pooing on the side of the road in the dustiest place on earth. Trust me, if I can do that and still have an epic time – you can certainly handle a weekend. If it's your first time trying out wild camping – the main thing is be prepared. Ladies, I would recommend not planning a trip for when you are on your period. It's definitely doable but just not very nice to not be able to have a shower. If you do decide to go anyway, I recommend a moon cup instead of tampons – then you don't have to worry about disposing of products.
The main thing to remember if you're camping wild is that you need to be entirely self-reliant. That means planning ahead, having everything you need and emergency kit in case anything goes wrong. The more you plan and have ready, the more you will enjoy your trip.
I've been a very lucky girl to have experiences camping wild all over the globe – but my favourite stand-out experiences have to be in these top 3 locations:
While it's nice to tell you about how amazing wild camping can be, I also want to be honest about the less fun experiences. Camping is super weather dependent and a trip can quickly go downhill if you're not prepared for bad weather. My worst camping experiences have always been due to extreme rain. In the Yorkshire Dales, UK, on my Duke of Edinburgh final expedition, we were hit by severe storms and flooded out of any potential campsites before our van broke down. Over in Melbourne, Australia, a trip to Wilson's Prom was cut short by heavy rain that flooded the campsite and all the tents.
The key to enjoying your trip no matter what the weather is preparation. Do your research before each trip and check the temperatures for day and night, predicted weather, and anything else that could affect you. If you're going to a very exposed place or somewhere at higher altitudes, you'll need to prepare for wind and cooler temperatures. Remember to take into account warmer temps in the day and cooler temps at night, and to be prepared for all extremes.
I love the freedom that comes with it. It's a simple life, where all you need is a shelter, food, a campfire and the stars. You can disappear into the outback, or to some deserted beach and not a soul will know where you are. You can turn your phone off and really switch off. Something that is so important when you work a lot and desperately need some downtime. There's something really romantic about the idea of traveling the world by van and being entirely self-reliant. You have everything you need and can escape into the world for a little while.
What kind of camper are you - luxury, festival or wild? What advice would you give to first-time wild campers?