That Australia Feeling

Discover what makes this huge country with its unique flair so special – just as the Australians do.

NOSTALGIC RIVER TRIP

In South Australia where the Murray River flows sluggishly into the Indian Ocean, a replica of a historical paddle steamer is an irresistible invitation to take a relaxing river cruise. The PS Murray Princess has lots of space on board, cabins with every conceivable comfort and is not going anywhere in a hurry – the perfect place to chill out under the southern sun (3–7 nights, departing from Mannum, Captain Cook Cruises, tel: (02) 9206 1100, www.captain cook.com.au).

COFFEE CULTURE

Thanks to the many Italian immigrants, Melbourne has turned into the Australian coffee culture hotspot. Skilled baristas conjure up wonderfully creamy latte, fluffy- topped cappuccinos and aromatic espressos in many different cafés in the city. The Melbournians generally find time for a coffee break – and when that’s not possible there is always the practical coffee-to-go.

FUN ON THE BEACH

True to the motto ‘life’s a beach’, a day with sea and sand is among the Australians’ favourite pastimes. The top address where tradition, style and a high fun factor can be found is Sydney’s fine sandy Bondi Beach, where the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club was founded in 1907. The voluntary lifeguards in their famous red and yellow swimsuits are liked by all, and the Club regularly keeps beach-goers on the move with watersport competitions.

CROSSING THE CONTINENT BY RAIL

The long-distance train ‘The Ghan’ operates between Adelaide in South Australia and Darwin in the far north. This legendary rail connection crosses 22 degrees of latitude and passes through four climate zones on its journey of almost 3,000km (1,850mi). This trip of a very special kind takes about 50 hours – and a meditative mind – as the stunning Outback scenery sails past the panorama windows. (Great Southern Railways, www.gsr.com.au).

STARS UNDER THE STARS

Darwin holds evening cinema screenings under the starry tropical sky. Choose your lounger, order a cool drink and enjoy the magic of old and new films on the huge outdoor screen at the Deckchair Cinema. An open-air cinema also exists in the middle of Melbourne from December until March, the Rooftop Cinema at the top of Curtain House (252 Swanston St., www.rooftopcinema.com.au).

ROADHOUSE TRUCK-STOPS

Legendary Aussie roadhouses can be found at regular intervals on the endlessly long highways. The petrol stations are often attached to rustic eateries and motels which serve coffee, chilled beer and enormous portions of plain, simple food. One popular stop for truckers, who drive roadtrains across the Outback that can be up to 50m (165ft) long, is Blue Heeler Hotel (tel: (07) 4746 8650) on Landsborough Highway near Kynuna in Queensland.

KOALAS, KANGAROOS & CO.

Getting a close-up view of the continent’s unique wildlife is something typically Australian – such as taking a Jumping Crocodile Cruise, for example, (tel: (08) 8988 8144, www.jumpingcrocodilecruises.com.au) on the Adelaide River, 64km (40mi) southeast of Darwin, where saltwater crocodiles – which grow up to 6m (20ft) long – leap out of the water at bait. And anyone who doesn’t manage to see enough animals in the wild can visit one of the many small animal reserves where it is worth timing your trip to coincide with feeding times.

HEAD FOR THE MOUNTAINS

Anyone wanting to explore Down Under up high should head for the Snowy Mountains in the south-east of New South Wales, where Mt Kosciuszko, at 2,228m (7,310ft), rises far above the rest of the continent. In winter, the slopes are at the mercy of skiers and snowboard fans; the rest of the time, especially during the spring when everything is in bloom, the rugged mountains make the hearts of hikers, climbers and other nature-lovers beat faster. The centrally located starting-point for year-round activities is the welcoming mountain resort of Thredbo which offers a range of places to stay and eat (www.thredbo.com.au).

Buy the Marco Polo Australia Spiral Guide

Marco Polo Australia Spiral Guide

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 21: Christmas in Australia

It’s Day 21 of our Advent Calendar and Christmas is right around the corner. Christmas isn’t celebrated in the darkest of midwinter everywhere however, which is why today we are headed Down Under, to see how Australians celebrate Christmas. Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!

White Kangaroo by BrisVegan Street, on Flickr
White Kangaroo” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by BrisVegan Street

CHRISTMAS IN AUSTRALIA

In the southern hemisphere Christmas lands right in the middle of the summer season, so in Australia you can forget about a white Christmas or sitting by the fire – unless you are thinking of a roaring BBQ on one of the countless white beaches! Switch your Christmas jumper for shorts and a pair of flip-flops and grab an ice-cold drink, because Australian Christmas is a mash-up of all your favourite summer activities. Think camping, water fights, swimming, and naturally, BBQs. Seafood is a popular choice, and you won’t see a turkey anywhere other than on a platter of cold cuts, right next to the salad bar. Pavlova is the traditional dessert, and it wouldn’t be an Australian Christmas without a platter or four of cherries.

Even Father Christmas does things a little different in Australia. Rather than rely on his flying reindeer he arrives by helicopter, or if you can believe the Aussies, in a sleigh pulled by six white kangaroos – boomers as our Australian friends would say. There is even a very popular Christmas song about Santa’s six white boomers. Under the scorching Australian sun it does make sense to give the reindeer a rest, after all, they are better suited for colder climates.

BBQ, beaches and kangaroos, who else would love to spend Christmas Down Under?

 

Buy the Marco Polo Australia Spiral Guide

Marco Polo Australia Spiral Guide

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Top 10 Romantic Getaways

Looking for a romantic getaway? We have hand-picked the top 10 beaches around the world… only for lovers! Perfect for your honeymoon, anniversary, exotic proposal or just because you want to treat yourself!

Let yourself be inspired by Marco Polo’s top insider tips…

Ⓒ Dumont Photo Archive: Christian Heeb

Ⓒ Dumont Photo Archive: Christian Heeb

 

1. Maya Bay (The Beach), Ko Phi Phi Le, Thailand

The water is turquoise and the traditional long-tail boats come in all sorts of colours. Sheltered by limestone cliffs amidst dense vegetation the water here is so wonderfully warm and salty you feel as if you’re flying. And while on the subject – light a Chinese lantern together and send it off into the starry night with your very own personal wishes.

Buy the Thailand Marco Polo Spiral Guide

 

2. Bamburgh Beach,  Northumberland, England

Majestic Bamburgh Castle with its massively thick walls towers above the sea. And when the setting sun turns the clouds a dramatic flaming red, this is the perfect moment for a stroll
hand in hand along the beach. You can’t get much more romantic than that, can you?

Buy the Scotland & Northern England Marco Polo Map

 

3. Godrevy Beach, St Ives, England

The romantically-minded love to sit and admire the view across the awe-inspiring expanse of sandy beach or delve into history on a gentle stroll around the headland, peer into Hell’s Mouth and watch birds soaring over secret coves along the North Cliffs.

Buy the Southern England & Wales Marco Polo Map

 

4. Castaway Island, Fiji

Bula! Bula! Welcome to Fiji, to paradise in the South Seas – to a mild, tropical climate where the sand glistens in the sun and crystal-clear water reveals the coral reefs below. This is the perfect place for a romantic getaway. Or even to tie the knot. Walk barefoot along the beach together into the setting sun!

 

5. Île St-Nicolas, France

The azure-blue sea and long white sandy beaches give the Glénan Islands a tropical feel and are perfect for lovers – perhaps Romeo will be able to find a Glénan narcissus for his Juliet. It does not grow anywhere else in the world and flowers between April and June. But it’s not to be picked, just photographed!

Buy the France Marco Polo Map

 

6. Wineglass Bay, Tasmania, Australia

A perfect sweep of white sand that traces an open circle like a glittering ring around the ice-blue water. Wineglass Bay is certainly the best-known gem on Freycinet Peninsula. Wouldn’t that make the perfect backdrop for proposing? And the engagement ring will glisten like the bay on your beloved one’s sun-tanned finger!

Buy the Australia Marco Polo Guide

 

7. Piscinas, Arbus, Sardinia, Italy

If you’re looking for a remote spot to spend some time together then a secluded nest in the middle of dunes (up to 60m/200ft high) is highly recommended. And if you keep very quiet you may spot deer going down to the water. At night, a myriad of stars light up the heavens.

Buy the Sardinia Marco Polo Guide

 

8. Third Beach, Vancouver, Canada

An experience for the senses: Vancouver’s skyline and sand underfoot, at least your toes in the water in summer and a sea of green conifers. Lovebirds will be in their element when the
sun sinks slowly over the water and the lights of the Big City illuminate the sky.

Buy the Canada West (Rocky Mountains & Vancouver) Marco Polo Guide

 

9. Ceannabeinne Beach, Durness, Scotland

Pinky red, azure blue and soft shades of beige… all framed by lush grass-green. Scotland’s north is beguiling and especially romantic where the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea meet, on Ceannabeinne Beach. This is where lovers can enjoy peace and quiet together.

Buy the Scotland Marco Polo Guide

 

10. Weststrand, Darß, Germany

The beach Weststrand on the Darß peninsula has a wild and romantic air – just what lovers look for. Far from the madding crowd, where the wind and the waves have turned driftwood into beautiful sculptures. The chance of finding amber here is good too. Have the piece of fossilized tree resin polished and give it to your partner as a souvenir.

Buy the Germany Marco Polo Map

 

Content taken from the Marco Polo World Map with 100 Dream Beaches.

Have any comments? Tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Top 10 Family Beaches

Off on holiday with the kids? Here are Marco Polo’s Top 10 Family Beaches from all around the world! From Brussels to Crete, and from Italy to the USA – we’ve done the hard work for you – so you don’t have to! 

Caribbean

1. Dominican Republic, Samana, Las Terrenas

The water is like a bath, the sand perfect for playing in and, where the waves gently lap the shore, squeals of delight can be heard each time a wave comes in. The Caribbean is a paradise under palms for families. When the children are a bit bigger, whale-watching is an unforgettable experience – the best time to visit is in February.

Caribbean Marco Polo Map

 

2.  Greece, Crete, Bálos Beach

Turquoise, more turquoise, Bálos. The lagoon in the northwest of Greece’s largest island gives you that South Seas’ feeling – but without the palms. The beach of white shell and coral sand around the lagoon and the shallow water – up to a child-friendly depth of 50cm (less than 2ft) – are ideal for a relaxing family trip.

Crete Marco Polo Guide

 

3. USA, Sanibel Island, Bowman’s Beach

Buttercup Lucine, Florida Cone… the sandcastles on Sanibel Island are richly decorated, the island an eldorado for shell collectors. Gentle waves and no sudden drops are an open invitation for small children to paddle safely. For souvenirs head for ‘She Sells Sea Shells’.

Florida Marco Polo Spiral Guide

 

4. Italy, Caorle, Spiaggia di Levante

Spiaggia di Levante, with its sunbeds and shades, stretches out beyond the old fishermen’s church. Kids love the climbing frame on the sandy beach. Don’t forget a walk along the promenade with the children who can clamber around the artistic stone sculptures to their heart’s content.

Italy Marco Polo Guide

 

5. Western Australia, Monkey Mia

Anyone who has experienced this will dream about it for the rest of their lives. Swimming with dolphins is just pure bliss. On Monkey Mia beach Flipper’s relatives in the wild come right up to the beach. What does a dolphin’s skin feel like? Like a shelled hard-boiled egg under water!

Australia Marco Polo Guide

 

6. Belgium, Blankenberge

Building sand castles on the beach here has moved to a completely new level! Every year, children and adults can marvel at the work of professionals during the sand sculpture festival when the most incredible creations imaginable are conjured up in Blankenberge. For the rest of the year the little ones can try to make a work of art of their own, or simply enjoy paddling in the water.

Belgium / Luxembourg Marco Polo Map

 

7. France, Cabourg, La Plage des Romantiques

Villas along the promenade conjure up pictures of the elegant spas of old. The beach has been given the ‘Famille Plus – Mer’ seal of approval by the Ministry of Tourism and is considered particularly family friendly with lots of activities for young visitors available throughout the year.

France Marco Polo Atlas

 

8. France, Île de Ré, Le Bois-Plage-en-Ré

The beaches slope gently into the sea and the temperature of the water is perfect thanks to the Gulf Stream – the beaches in the south of the Île de Ré, off the French Atlantic coast, are ideal for the whole family. And don’t forget to buy a packet of the finest salt – known as fleur de del – from the salt pans here to take back home with you.

French Atlantic Coast Marco Polo Guide

 

9. USA, New Jersey, Cape May

This brightly-coloured resort with its oversized ‘dolls’ houses on the southern tip of the Garden State looks as if it is made of icing. There’s plenty of room on the long beach on the Atlantic for building sand castles and the waves are perfect for boogie boarding too. Cape May is perfect for all ages.

USA Marco Polo Map

 

10. Norway, Stavanger, Solastranden

A long, fine sandy beach, blue skies with a few cotton-wool clouds just here and there… Who doesn’t think of Norway’s beaches straight away? Solastranden near Stavanger is a popular place for families in the summer months.

Norway Marco Polo Guide

 

Content taken from the Marco Polo World Map with 100 Dream Beaches.

Have any comments? Tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.