Some people swear by snowy skiing holidays, some people can't live without fresh mountain air - for me it's beachy bliss and ocean dreams that fuel my travels. I've been a total water baby since I was a kid and I can't stand being far from the ocean - I've always lived no further than 20 minutes from the sea and it's always been the one thing to soothe me. From winter beach walks to summers running along the seafront and charing the waves, I just love the peace and simplicity of a life with sandy feet and salty hair. My farm work was possibly the hardest time of my travels - and some of that I put down to being the furthest away from the ocean I have ever been. 800km west of Brisbane, I was pretty much in the centre of Australia and a minimum of 12 hour driving away from the sea. It sounds silly, but we humans are 80% water and it seems crazy that being near or far from water cannot affect our mood.Since being back in Melbourne, I've been working like crazy sometimes 50/60 hour weeks and so it's become more important than every that I make the most of my time off by going to new places I haven't yet explored. For me, that means venturing in different directions to explore the best beaches and most beautiful places I haven't yet seen in this amazing city. I love Melbourne and there is so much more for me to discover so I've been on the buses, trains and trams to find my favourite new beachy destinations in the area. I've come up with my top 10 list of my favourite beaches I've been to in the area - all within easy reach of Melbourne CBD and well worth visiting if you fancy a change.
My top 10 beaches in Melbourne
St Kilda Beach
It goes without saying that St Kilda Beach is a lot of fun - it's far from the prettiest beach in Melbourne but it's the place to be if you want to enjoy beers in the sunshine, the odd festival or to warm up for a night out. I spent Christmas Day here with my nearest and dearest - we enjoyed a full Aussie Xmas Day from beers in the sunshine to water fights in the sea and a full rave on the beach - so much fun and always a good place to head to meet people. Plus, penguins... need I say more?!
My new favourite after visiting the other day, this one is perfect for escaping the city. Just 30 minutes on the train from Flinders, this beautiful untouched beach promises crystal clear waters and gorgeous golden sandy beaches. Endless rock pools and nature to explore, or you can just relax in your own little cove.
Half Moon Bay
Last time I was in Melbourne, I went on a lovely date with a guy to Half Moon Bay. It was a beautiful little cove attached to Sandringham Beach but also completely separate. We had the whole beach to ourselves and went swimming at sunset, it was beautiful to watch the sun hit the water and watch the ships sailing past. A perfect spot to romance anyone special in your life.
A home away from home, this little gem comes complete with an amazing view of the city from across the water and cute little beach reminiscent of those you'll find on quaint English beaches like those near my home. Plus, it's only 20 minutes by train! A lovely chilled beach and great for swimming as there isn't too many rocks in the water and it isn't quite as shallow as some of the beaches. While you're in the area you can also check out Elwood and Hampton beaches.
This has become my local beach of late -just 5 minutes on the tram from my apartment, it's my perfect escape for a sunny morning before work. on the same stretch of Port Phillip Bay as St Kilda, it couldn't be more different. Usually empty of people and very peaceful, this is more of a family beach and less party. It's a perfect place to take a book and relax for a few hours.
Halfway between a beach and a cliff face - this one is definitely worth a visit. The water was ice cold when I went but you couldn't miss the beauty of the place. Come here for cliff jumping and a good swim in crystal clear deep waters. On hot days the place turns into a party for the Mornington crowd!
Take a 25 minute train ride and a step back in time to Williamstown, a small seaside town with all the cuteness of a British seaside resort. I went on a windy day when it was perfect for sandy beach walks instead of sunbathing but still saw the beauty in the simple, untouched beach. Perfect if you fancy escaping the busy sands of St Kilda.
Escape the city for a day or overnight like I did, I went to visit a friend who lived down in Torquay, near the start of Great Ocean Road. This was a perfect excuse to head down to the gorgeous surfing beaches like Bells Beach to walk the dogs and catch up for a few days. While you're at it, why not hire a car for a few days and do the whole Great Ocean Road? Check out my posts for planning your trip here and here.
I just spent a few hours on one of the many Mornington Peninsula beaches during a stormy day, but it was very beautiful and the whole area is covered with gorgeous beaches to explore. Easy to get to in a day, they're worth exploring and if you have more time then Sorrento and the beaches down at Wilson's Promontory are also worth a visit.
Pretty far out of the city but worth a visit if you have more time, Frankston is full of lovely beaches to explore, most of them I saw during windy days so I enjoyed walks rather than sunbathing but they'd be beautiful on a hot day!
There's something so soothing about the ocean isn't there? If you love it as much as I do, why don't you check out Celebrity Cruises by Bolsover Cruise Club for their take on modern luxury while you explore the globe.
What's your favourite Melbourne beach? Can you recommend any others?
One of my favourite places in Sydney was Manly - I only went there twice in the month I spent in the city, but both times I fell in love with the seaside town. It's one of the places you could just see yourself living long-term, and I know many backpackers who moved there despite working in the city and facing a bit of a commute every day. My first time there was actually the first Sunday I spent in Australia, just two days after I arrived. A group of us caught the ferry over from Circular Quay (an easy free bus ride on the 555 from the top of the CBD, and just $2.50 on the ferry as all travel prices are capped on Sunday's) and after just 30 minutes we arrived at the small harbour there. As you walk out, you come to a little Boardwalk that takes you past a selection of bars and restaurants which look out right across the water. Don't be put off thinking they are really expensive, actually a couple are really well priced and I had a lovely meal in one of them. Once you get to the road, it's just a short walk through the town centre towards the main beach, with lots of places to eat, drink and shop along the way.The main beach is heavenly - the golden sand goes on for miles and as far as the eye can see there are surfers riding the waves. Up and down the beach you can see groups playing volleyball or runners making their way along the sand, picnics and children playing. It's just perfect, although be sure to get there in the morning or early afternoon because the sun actually sets on the harbour side and the beach is cast in shadow from the late afternoon thanks to the buildings. But I'm sure the sunrise is gorgeous there, and I know the sunsets are absolutely stunning over on the harbour side. There are lots of walks for those who want to explore further along the coastline, or to find somewhere a bit more secluded. I think what I loved most about Manly was that the beach and town felt like a place where people live, not just where people go on holiday or visit to pose like they do at Bondi and some of the others along the East Coast.Another beach I visited, which is definitely worth a visit, was Maroubra. Sadly the day I went it was absolutely chucking it down and I got soaked through, but even then the surfers were out in full force and you could tell it would be a beautiful beach on a sunny day. Even in the rain it was pretty awesome, just miles of open sand and more of a deserted feel than the others. If there's one thing Sydney boasts a lot of, it's miles of gorgeous coastline with endless sandy beaches, waves packed with surfers and that beachy Aussie lifestyle we all come here looking for. Definitely try and fit a visit into some of the beaches into your stay. I'm already looking forward to heading back when the weather is better for a chance to sun myself on that golden sand.
Have you checked out Sydney's beaches - which is your favourite? Are you a beach bum, or do you prefer city life?
I was really excited to arrive in Hoi An - all through Thailand and Laos I kept meeting people who had loved it there, who raved about the food, the shopping and were often wearing fabulous clothes they had made there. I was looking forward to exploring the history of the city and to having that perfect combination of historical city, pretty riverside, lively markets and having the beach just a few kilometres down the road. It seemed like Hoi An would offer everything I wanted in one place - what more could a girl want? My friend Matthieu and I arrived after a long bus ride from Hue and set about finding somewhere to stay - we ended up at the Hoi Binh Hotel which charged hostel prices and was very good value considering it had a swimming pool and breakfast included. Plus it was right in the centre of everything which really helped when exploring and walking around the city. I spent the first afternoon exploring and eating some of the fantastic local delicacies including the White Rose wontons, spring rolls and other delicious snacks. Hoi An is well known for having fantastic food and I know a lot of people who did food tours there which they said were amazing but sadly I didn't have time - I just made sure to eat as much and as often as possible while I had the chance.Knowing I was there for just a few days and on a tight schedule - one of my priorities was getting some clothes designed and made for me. Now while many were getting outfits or suits made for work - I was lucky knowing I won't be back in a desk job anytime soon so I used my money to buy cute outfits I knew I could wear on a daily basis out here in Asia and Australia. I went to see a tailor who comes very highly recommended on Tripadvisor and through other blogs I follow - Miss Forget Me Not - hoping her work would love up to the hype. I was convinced straight away after seeing how busy she was - her and her workers invited me in to look at designs and materials. I explained what I was after and showed pictures I had previously found online of designs I loved - two playsuits and a top - then chose out some lightweight, floaty, summery materials. It took ages to choose - so don't go there on a tight schedule because it's a bloody hard decision!Finally we worked out the details and designs to suit my body shape and I was measured up for each, it definitely helped that I had taken my own designs but they do also have a collection of their own you can use depending on what you are after. There is also an option for you to provide a material you like if you don't want one of theirs which definitely helped a few people who were struggling to match a material with their chosen design. My clothes took one full day to make and I was due to return for a fitting the following night and to pick them up the following day - talk about impressive! Everything fit like a glove and only one seam needed altering slightly - they were all so professional and such lovely women. My clothes cost around the equivalent of £40 for two playsuits and a top, all custom-mad to my design and choice of material in less than 48 hours. Pretty bloody amazing if you ask me, especially considering I could, have paid up to £50 for one of these playsuits in the UK. I wish I had more space in my bag to get more made and am already looking forward to returning to Vietnam with more designs!The rest of my time in Hoi An was spent walking the streets, exploring historic houses and markets, talking to locals by the riverside and playing dominoes with them. One highlight was visiting the Tran Duong family home - nestled down one of the quaintest and most beautiful little streets I have ever seen - it has seen four generations of the family and holds a wealth of history about the city. Mr Duong was more than happy to welcome us in and spoke perfect English to tell us all about his family, the history of the house and the wider history of both the city and Vietnam as a whole - it was so interesting to hear about it from someone who was educated enough to speak impartially about the political history of the country. I learned more in an hour and a half spent at the house than I did from any guidebook or website, so I highly recommend you visit as well. Elsewhere you have to pay for a ticket to visit a number of historical sites around the city although many of them you can see without actually entering the sites. I personally preferred to walk around the streets and to see the locals living their day-to-day lives, chatting to them down by the river was lovely. One of my favourite things to do was to spend a few hours catching up on blogging by the river over a delicious Vietnamese ice coffee - heaven!And I mustn't forget the beach! Hoi An has a gorgeous beach just three kilometres down the road - a perfect distance for a nice cycle ride with friends, especially when it's so cheap and easy to hire bikes everywhere. Me and two friends cycled there for a few hours on our last day - one the guys went swimming while me and Paul decided to be completely insane and do a workout on the beach. It was hilarious and really fun - plus it was such a beautiful and empty beach. I really wished I had time to visit the beach again for a day of sunbathing, but sadly not on this trip as there was just so little time and so much to see and do. I would really recommend - if you have enough time on your trip - spending up to a week in the city, perhaps with a few days staying down at the beach and a few within the city to get the history side. When you arrive, make it a priority to get your clothes order in so you can ensure they will be ready in time and the relax, enjoy and explore the city at your own pace. There are lots of walking tours, cycle tours and food tours available, or you can do it all by yourself and have fun getting lost and discovering many of the hidden treasures the city has to offer. One for me was finding a selection of restaurants around that work for the community with all money raised supporting orphanages or helping to educate children or get the, away fro domestic violence or drugs. I love that by doing something as simple as eating out I could be supporting the community and giving something back - plus when the food is that good why not?!
Have you been to Hoi An - what did you think? Any advice you can offer for the historical tours, or for having clothes made? What was your favourite part of Vietnam?
As I'm sure you can imagine, last week flew by in a blur of family time, catching up with friends and saying my goodbyes, packing and a constant battle between eating my fill of British food to last me the next year and working it off at the gym to get my body even remotely bikini ready. As you read this, I'll be somewhere in Bangkok - hopefully wandering around a market eating delicious food and taking in the sights. I'll be spending the first couple of days in a hotel, getting my bearings and making a firmer plan for the upcoming weeks and meeting up with friends. I'm sure it will only just be starting to register that this is how my life will be for the next year - no more getting up at the crack of dawn to go to work in cold, raining England - but finally what I have been working for and planning for over 12 months is finally a reality! I can't quite believe it myself. I have to be honest, I've had the worst possible run of news stories since booking my flights - it seems there's pretty much been a murder on a Thai beach, a shark attack in Australia, or a plane going missing every bloody week! Great for reassuring my mother I'm going to survive my trip, and great for reassuring me that I'm going to survive my flight. It's okay though, I've never been much of a worrier so I'm putting all these news stories to the back of my mind and just doing everything I can to avoid being mugged, raped, murdered or involved in some horrible incident. In the meantime though, I have been doing my utmost to make sure I have some very special memories of home, my family and my friends. I'm sure there will come a time when homesickness strikes and I am very glad of them! As you guys will have already read by now - I've got some pretty good ones in the bag after a perfect Christmas with the family, my Mexican-themed New Year's, my Nineties-themed Leaving Party, and a couple of lovely dates with the boyfriend.This post is just a quick one to show you what else I got up to in the week between Christmas and flying out. My week started with a bracing, windy walk on the beach with my parents at Sunny Hunny - we have a beach hut there and it was a chance for me to say goodbye to the hut as I won't be seeing it for over a year. It was a beautiful day, very frosty and the coldest morning yet of 2014, but perfectly fresh at the same time. I love walking at the beach on cold, sunny days - the air is so clean and it really does blow away all the cobwebs. It was great to get some serious fresh air and some colour in my cheeks - plus with that and a few workouts, it was great to get past feeling so stuffed with all the delicious Christmas food. We covered about six miles and it was good to spend some time back by the sea - my inner mermaid was satisfied. As you can see scattered around this post there are a few pics I captured while by the sea - it's such a pretty place. I also had a lovely day at the spa with my mum where we were treated to a lovely facial and full body massage, plus lots of lovely steam rooms, Prosecco and cake. A pretty perfect mummy and daughter day - it was really lovely to have a day just the two of us before I go. This was followed by New Year celebrations, catch-up's with the boyfriend's family and other friends and then my long-awaited Leaving Party! The week finished with a lovely family meal with my parents and grandad - then some sad goodbyes with my best friends and the boyfriend. Then before I knew it, my parents were driving me down to Heathrow and I was on a plane, and whoaa now I'm in Bangkok. Life is pretty crazy sometimes, but crazy good. After a really rubbish start to the year, I couldn't have ended it on a better note.
What have you guys been up to? Are you sad to say goodbye to 2014, or are you already head-first into making 2015 the best yet?