A quick 15 minute drive from downtown Wellington, Zealandia Ecosanctuary is an oasis amongst the craziness of Wellington city, and a welcome reprieve from the weekly grind. The history and story behind Zealandia is intriguing; as the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, it has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, 6 of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years. This all in line with their extraordinary mission to restore Wellington’s valley forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state.
The fence of Zealandia allows a remarkably rare blend of birds, reptiles, insects and more to thrive and flourish, living wild within a ruggedly gorgeous jungle valley stretching across one square mile. Keep your eyes peeled, and your camera at the ready, as you never know when you will confront a red-beaked Takahē sidling along down the path (I never did, sadly). Don’t get me started on the insects… let’s just say you most likely hope you do not have any run-ins with these knarly dudes (how do insects that big even exist?!)
After being plopped into one urban jungle after another (and loving it of course), I always jump at the chance to immerse myself in some real nature, even if just for a little while. Walking through this wonderland of green, sweet silence punctuated only by breezes and a wild symphony of bird calls and insect humming, watching the sunlight stream through feathery ferns – I could stay here for hours.. and hours. You may want to! Whether you are a seasoned bird watcher or a Wellington drop-by visitor, Zealandia has something for you – there are many different pathways and combinations thereof, so you can make your trek as long, short, challenging or relaxing as you like, and just revel in the pure loveliness of this very true sanctuary.
Find more info about the park at http://visitzealandia.com
STAY WILD xxx
If orange is the new black and almond flat white is the new skinny latte, Burleigh is long overdue to be christened “the new Surfers” – don’t worry, Paradise lovers, I’m not bashing your favorite hangout or suggesting you relinquish evening crawls down the Esplanade; I’m just saying from personal experience alongside tons of local tips, Burleigh is not to be missed!
Burleigh Heads (or just Burleigh to locals) is nestled along the expansive Gold Coast in eastern Australia, punctuating the terrain between Surfers Paradise to the North and Coolangatta (host to Gold Coast airport) to the South. At first described to me as the “more laidback and nature-oriented option if you are looking to escape or avoid the bustle of Surfers,” I quickly came to realize after a weekend at the Gold Coast that it’s not up and coming; it’s here to stay, and it may just be the place to be this summer.
Hipsters on Surfboards
As the name aptly illustrates, the renowned Surfers Paradise at the North of Gold Coast, eastern Australia, is indeed nothing other than a surfer’s heaven on earth, rolling in long, powerful waves of clear blue water, and miles upon miles of powdery white sand. The place is no short of fantastic in my opinion, and I loved every minute that I spent in and around Surfers. This story, though, is of the little gem to the south – Burleigh. Burleigh locals gaze across the waves at a grey skyline, punctuating the otherwise pristinely natural and tropical landscape and sigh; “we call it Gotham City.” If you visit the Gold Coast and you’ve had your look around Surfers and already stocked up on stag-party-accessories galore from the enormous “CONDOM” factory on main street and you happen to be looking for a little tranquility, Burleigh is your place, because while Surfers is indeed awesome, let’s be real-it has no chill. Burleigh has all the chill. From its hipster hole in the wall cafés started by surfing locals to its array of trendy restaurants and boutiques, Burleigh has swiftly replaced the ritzier bars and restaurants of Surfers as the hangout favorite of GC locals.
Be sure to check out:
Justin Lane – glamazon meets hipster in this quircky pizzeria, which is fondly referred to by locals (or maybe just my brand of locals) as “Tinder Lane”- this one’s self-explanatory. Whether or not you are a bit surprised by the level to which people get fancied up to go for some eclectic Italian bites and some craft beer, Justin Lane is certainly a favorite trendy hangout place, with a cozy upstairs bar for hours of fashionable fun.
Do all the things
Burleigh isn’t only cute cafes and shops; the sheer natural beauty is what attracted me to Burleigh and I’m sure what keeps so many people returning. Towering Norfolk pine trees line the Burleigh foreshore, home to hundreds of screeching birds that roost in the trees every night- this is a funny phenomenon that locals have long become accustomed to and that still startles visitors. Below the trees, people turn out in droves on a Sunday afternoon to set up their picnic blankets, pull out their beers and just relax on the grass, enjoying a stunning sunset. Swimming, paddle boarding, surfing- it’s all possible around the Headland, where the water is always less choppy than it may be along the rest of the coast, and the inlet next to Burleigh Heads National Park is a perfect spot for swimming, beaching and relaxing without the bigger winds and waves found up further along the coast. Burleigh happens to have some of the most renowned surf-related natural terrain in Australia and the world, with parts of the coast recognized as a world heritage site of surfing. This place really is something to everyone, and if you still haven’t found something you love, take a hike – literally – up to the Burleigh Heads National Park! Paved nature trails wind throughout the entire park and bring you to the top of the national park from which you will have an amazing view of the coast in both directions. Take it all in, and if you’re feeling extra adventurous, take a detour over the wire fence (where it says “warning, stay on the path” of course) and climb out to “Cock Rock” (and see if you can see why it has been nicknamed as such). You’ll probably encounter a friendly group of local kids that have claimed this spot as their Sunday hangout, but they certainly won’t begrudge you your obligatory selfie.
I’ll be back, Burleigh – stay wild. xXx
In my book, sand between my toes, sunshine on my face and saltwater is more or less all that it takes to make me happy. A Saturday at the beach is a Saturday wonderfully spent, and what could possibly make it a more perfect weekend than to enjoy not just one, but several of Sydney’s gorgeous coastal beaches. Albeit coming from a tourist’s fresh perspective on the city, the coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach is a total must-do, and something that may just bring you back time and again (I’ve already been twice for a relatively short time in Oz!)
You can of course start the walk from either end, or anywhere along the way.. I chose to start from Bondi Beach, at the quintessentially fabulous Bondi Icebergs club. If you are coming from Sydney CBD, a quick metro ride to Bondi Junction Station and a short bus from there to the beachfront lets you soak in some of Bondi’s beauty (and heat!) before heading off. I always love visiting the graffiti wall (always new and amazing art up), watching slack-jawed as 6 year olds tear up the skate park and inevitably lead me to question how I ever thought I had a shred of athletic talent, and then maybe even catch some rays or wave jump at the beach before heading on up to icebergs.
Once you’re at icebergs, whether or not you hang for a while (only $5 AUD) for full day access to pools and facilities, head along to the back on the middle level (where you see all the selfies taking place along the handrail overlooking the ocean pools) and your coastal beach walk path begins right there! Now you’re off for a gorgeous trip- as an insufferable tourist and photography addict, I do the beach walk at least equipped with iPhone and GoPro – I haven’t yet lugged my bigger camera around, mostly because I’m just there for the experience. Also, it’s likely (and I highly recommend it) that you’ll stop off at each beach, bay, or lookout to enjoy the views, take a dip, sunbathe… or who knows, catch a stray game of beach cricket or volleyball! In this case, especially if doing the walk alone, you may not want to be bogged down with extra (and valuable) baggage.
Should I run a marathon to prepare?
I mean, sure, go for it – probably not needed. I would place the beach walk firmly in the scenic category, not even really lapsing into challenging and certainly not dangerous, though I definitely think that you are secretly getting some great exercise regardless! While the entire walk is conveniently paved, there are lookouts, rock pools and other fun scenic spots that require a little scrambling, and the walk involves inclines and a good amount of stairs near Gordon Bay… I’ve seen ALL sorts of people, with all sorts of companions (animals, children, baby strollers, etc.) do this walk, but definitely would be a good idea to wear comfy walking gear/shoes. I’ve done the walk twice in bikini and flip flops, but I’m also a beach bum… your call.
What to Bring: The Essentials:
Well, back to my photography/beach bum spiel- this is really a personal choice, but remember you’re not hiking Mt. Everest, and not hiking at all, for that matter. Bikini and flippy floppies? FINE. Cutest of cute sundress, sunnies, heels (ehhhh?-seen it done, but not sure where they were going with that) and a derby-ready hat? SURE- you do you, just please if there’s one thing you take away from this, remember the damn sunscreen. I could devote an entire post just to the SUN here in OZ (which I may just do, btw), but it’s really. Not. Fooling. Around. Those people who “don’t need sunscreen” because they “never burn” or when they “just go on a walk…” NOPE. Please wear it, stay safe kids. And who wants to be a lobster smothered in aloe unable to shower for 2 days anyway.
My bringalong list: iPhone (battery pack optional), GoPro, sunscreen, sarong/coverup, flipflops/runners, toggles(aussie for bikini/swimsuit ;), sunglasses and/or hat. Beyond this, go crazy, bring a great book and find a nice nook in the cliff pools overlooking an insanely gorgeous view! Bring your inflatable flamingo or unicorn!! (but just… don’t).
What to DO along the way:
Depending on how much of your day you want to dedicate to the walk, there are endless options awaiting you. For me, the scenery, sunshine, slight exercise and a dip every now and then at a different beach is the perfect formula, but for the extra-actives, why not start with a surf and skateboard, do some swimming along the way, and end with stand-up-paddle boarding at Gordon’s Bay or Coogee Beach! The walk essentially consists of six “sections”:
Bondi to Tamarama: Scenic views
Tamarama to Bronte: watch the surfers, more scenic views. There are picnic areas and parks along both of these, as well as training parks for the runners/fitness lovers! While Tamarama is quite small, Bronte is larger and quite popular among families. The Bronte pools offer another ocean pool experience with a small jumping rock, which, even though most frequented by ten year olds, is still tempting to all of us.
Bronte to Clovelly: You’ll hit some uphills here, and most noticeably walk right smack through the famous Waverly Cemetery. I make sure to hit this part of the walk well before sunset… perhaps you will share my sentiment once you see this bit of the walk for yourself. Once you get into Clovelly, you’ll start seeing the Clovelly beach clubs etc. and a lawn bowling court which was home to the first-ever game of lawn bowling that I’ve ever witnessed played by people under the age of 70- go team.
Clovelly to Coogee: Stairs and hills are involved, and the view will be amazing from atop Gordon’s Bay, also popular amongst divers and paddle boarders. You will notice a small sign before going up a long flight of stairs to continue your walk for the “Underwater Nature Trail,” essentially a trail marked by cement and chain that can be completed in around 30 min underwater. This is definitely on my list as soon as I break into the diving game! As you arrive to Coogee, you will see “Ocean Baths”- I wasn’t positive what these were at first, but they are actually fantastic natural pools formed by some rock outcroppings and ocean, creating a lovely bathing area! Family and adventure-junkie friendly, this place is a gem.
Coogee Beach: As you near Coogee (the end of your journey, unless you plan to continue your beach walk on to Maroubra), you will be able to hear it from the insane level of noise emitting from Coogee Pav; the pav is a bit of a hybrid between private beach club and South Beach bar, featuring the widest possible range of patrons, from just-off-the-beach bikini clad hooligans to bejeweled and grey haired couples. Regardless of the style, one thing is certain: the sangria is flowing, merry is being made, and you will sure as hell hear it.
If the idea of trying to blend in at the Pav seems somewhat overwhelming to you at the moment, head on down along the beach until you come to some stairs-directly across the street from these are several restaurants, starting with Little Jack Horner, a pick of mine. This street has a pretty solid range of choices, from trendy seafood dishes to Thai and Brazilian BBQ to the “Brookie”- a brownie-cookie filled with intense gelato… obviously a must. My move after the walk is usually to find my way to some food, grab dinner and as the sun is setting, take my Brookie, ice cream or dessert of choice to the beachfront and watch the waves roll in as the sunset turns the sky to cotton candy.
If you are heading back to Sydney from Coogee, it’s just another relatively easy bus to Bondi Junction Station and train back into town. By this time, nobody cares how many clothes you (aren’t) wearing, how crispy your legs are or how much sand you track in behind you, so you shouldn’t either. Just soak in the happiness from a lovely day of those gorgeous views, amazing beaches and good, good vibes.
To all my fellow globetrotters, I am sure that many of you have already been using Bloglovin’ for a while… I’m a little late to the scene but happy to get started and join an amazing community of travel influencers and inspirers! I love how integrated and accessible Bloglovin.com is for following and organizing your favorite blogs, across all themes and industries! Of course being a huge fan of travel, most of my top favorites on Bloglovin’ are from the travel realm… and I plan to join the ranks as one of the most unique and creative blogs, offering worldwide travel inspiration with an insider’s look at the path less traveled in amazing locations around the globe.
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See you at Bloglovin’! STAY WILD
So you’re headed to Antwerp! Only have one weekend? Not to fear – even though Antwerp is such a gorgeous, amazing place and there is so much to do, you can certainly get to know this lovely city in a few days… here are a few fun ideas:
Cathedral of our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal Antwerpen)
A Roman Catholic Cathedral built in Gothic style, this structure’s final stage of construction was completed in 1521, though it nevertheless remains considered “incomplete.” Beautiful from all angles and at all times of day, it is not only extremely photogenic, but offers a convenient central reference point to any confused tourists wandering too far astray. For a small fee, visitors may enter the cathedral and see works by notable painters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Otto Van Veen, Jacob de Backer and Marten de Vos.
Grote Markt (Great Market Square)
Situated at the heart of the old city quarter, Grote Markt must inevitably be any visitor’s priority (or perhaps even base) on their visit to Antwerp. Home to various shows, exhibits and demonstrations throughout the year, and even a Christmas Market and ice rink in December, Grote Markt is one of the most popular convening spots for locals and tourists alike (indeed one of the most heavily-peopled areas of the city, though still a must-see.)
Stadhuis van Antwerpen (Antwerp City Hall)
Standing on the western side of Grote Markt, the building incorporates both Flemish and Italian influences in its striking design. Erected between 1561 and 1565, it is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Curious about all of the flags? I was too – I discovered that in fact, throughout most of the year, 87 flags decorate the hall’s façade. The central flags on the bottom row represent Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium, Europe and the United Nations. The other flags represent countries that are member of the European Union and nations that have a consulate in Antwerp.
After taking photos of the market square and admiring Brabo, I wondered what the significance of his location/posture actually is; the statue in fact represents a mythical Roman solider, Silvius Brabo, who is said to have killed a giant- as the story goes, the giant always asked money from people who wanted to pass the bridge over the river Scheldt, and cut off the hands of those who would not pay. Because of this, Brabo also cut off the hand of the giant and threw it into the river (hence the design of the statue, if you look closely!)
St. Andrew’s Church is one to walk through, for its gorgeous large stained glass windows, depicting (as per usual) various biblical scenes… and not to be missed on your visit is a rather uniquely-clad Virgin Mary, complete with sequins, feathers (yes, feathers) – and I will let you decide for yourself about baby Jesus.
MAS (Museum aan de Stroom)
This artsy structure, composed of wiggly glass and lego-like red brick, is nestled amongst bits of land near the port, north of Schipperskwartier (area). Enjoy permanent exhibits covering topics like the importance of shipping to Antwerp’s relationship with the world, food in the city, and even an examination of life and death across several different cultures. Once you are done perusing these, enjoy a panoramic view of the city and sea from the open-air viewing deck on the 10th floor! Just across the small bridge from MAS is a glumly-industrial shipping area, turned up and coming by the presence of various hipster culinary establishments, from burger joints to espresso cafés to “The Shack,” exclusively serving designer bagels and coffee. This makes even a hung-over museum day a happy one.
Take a stroll through Ruben’s House if you have about one hour to spare, or perhaps if the weather is not to die for, as you will spend most of your time indoors. The former home of artist Peter Paul Rubens, Rubenshuis is now a museum, still housing many works by Rubens and his contemporaries, as well as his personal collections.
A hidden (tiny) alleyway along Oude Koornmarkt, which has all manner of restaurants and bars for any occasion, food type and time of day. Escape briefly from the friendly chaos of this major street for some quiet reprieve along Vlaeykensgang while enjoying adorable flower boxes of red geraniums in whitewashed windows, or perhaps even choosing a more intimate dinner location at one of the restaurants towards the end of the path.
A baby version of London’s Oxford Street in Antwerp! If you walk straight into the city center from the central train station, you will walk onto this street, which is one of, if not the major shopping street of Antwerp, complemented by sophisticated cafés and eateries, and walled on both sides by tall buildings- look up, the architecture (and angels!) is beautiful.
Bourla Schowburg (Bourla Theater)
The theater, completed in 1834, seats 900 people. The building is designed in a neoclassical style on the site of the former Tapissierspand tapestry market, within short walking distance of several boutique shops and restaurants.
Antwerp City Hostel is perfect for budget travel or a quick weekend getaway for last-minute planners. Situated directly on Grote Markt, guests have immediate access to the Cathedral and market, and all restaurants, cafés, and bars surrounding this central area. One night from 30 euros.
Aplace Antwerp (Vrijdagmarkt 1; aplace.be) has four lovely, recently renovated rooms — two suites, two apartments — on a quiet square in the city center. The friendly innkeeper, Karin, gives guests insider tips about the city (and sometimes brings by cupcakes, too). Suites from 125 euros.
The Hotel O Kathedral (Handschoenmarkt 3; hotelhotelo.com) is as central as it gets — right across the square from the cathedral. Under the hotel’s white stepped-gable roof, there are 23 minimalist rooms, some with peek-a-boo showers, as well as a downstairs bar and bookshop. Doubles from 99 euros.
Waffle Factory: You need this in your life, that is all I will say. Unless you think you can handle ice cream as well, then get it too.
Elfde Gebod: (11th commandment) – enjoy a delicious cauldron full of steamed mussels in either garlic, belgian beer or other flavors (this is a must-eat when in Belgium of course) at an outdoor patio along a cobblestone street with a view of the Cathedral- at night, everything lights up for extra charm.
The Shack: Bagels & coffee (across the river, past the MAS) – again, there are many attractive eateries and cafés out in this area, you won’t want to miss grabbing a snack before or after your trip to MAS!
Grote Markt is a good starting point for restaurants, as there are many places to eat around the main square. Oude Koornmarkt street is also a great place for restaurants, and you won’t have far to look- this street is more lively and fun.
Go on – enjoy this amazing city and comment below about your own adventures!!! 🙂