Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

40 things to do before you’re 40

Friday, November 15th, 2013

No. 38 Sleep out back with an Aussie swag

Sleep out under a huge Outback sky

Sleep out under a huge Outback sky

As early settlers to a new country, it must be a bit daunting to give new places names. After all, what you settle on will likely be etched onto maps and into history for posterity. You really wouldn’t want to get it wrong.

So credit to those early Aussie battlers, those who managed to name the distinctive topographical features of this new land in a manner that would not so much avoid any future ambiguity and confusion as squash them dead. Like cockroaches. We can’t be sure how long it took them to think up a name when they happened upon a range of mountains distinct from any others thanks to the presence of snow, but it must have been a long night at the pub after they struck toponymous gold and hit on the ‘Snowy Mountains’.  How do you accurately capture the sense of vastness, not to mention sandiness, of one of the country’s largest deserts? Well you could do a lot worse than calling it the Great Sandy Desert.

So when it came to the vast, untamed wilderness that stretches mile upon mile away from the coast and into the hinterland of the Australian continent – this land that possesses a haunting beauty tempered only by its ruthless ability to claim lives with impunity – they would have wanted to really nail it. After all, it exists out the back of every built up area in the country. So…

Welcome to the Outback!

There are few more true blue Australian travel experiences as camping out under the stars in the Outback. What could be a better way to spend the night after you’ve spent the morning on a bushwalk, the afternoon swimming in some hidden away rock pool and the evening watching a swollen sun set behind the mysterious monolith known as Ayers Rock? After sitting around the campfire swigging a cold beer and sharing a story or two, all you’ll want for now is a good swag.

Fancy a swag?

No, whatever else it might sound like it’s none of those things. It’s an item as indispensable to any Outback wanderer as a billy can and some decent tucker. Essentially it is as modest a dwelling as you could imagine; roughly the same length as a supine human and not a great deal higher. It’s enough to keep any rain off your person and flies away from your face. Which is pretty much all you need. It’s as authentically understated as an Australian place name.

Spending time in the great Australian outback is not the reserve of obscure z-listed celebrities; in fact it just so happens that you can do all the above on any number of great Topdeck trips that go to Australia’s outback. Funny that.

And you won’t have to eat iguana gonads or platypus placenta while you’re there. Or at least not if you don’t want to!

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 25!

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

25. Surf in the Pacific Ocean

Whether you’re a keen surfer or not, you may know that some of the best surfing locations in the world can be found somewhere along a Pacific Ocean shoreline. Put your surfboard under your arm and skateboard to Australia, the United States, Indonesia, Peru, El Salvador, or any of the Pacific Islands and you’ll be sure to find those gnarly, far out heavies that will make you want to hang ten all day, everyday.

Covering one third of the total surface area of Earth, the Pacific Ocean is big. It’s so big that even if all the continents of the world were put together, it would still cover more surface area. Nice try, continents!

The Ocean was originally named ‘Mar del Sur’, or ‘Southern Sea’, by Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa however it was Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who sailed into the apparent ‘calm waters’, naming it ‘’Mar Pacífico’, or ‘Pacific Ocean’. Whether Balboa or Magellan had time to wax their boards and go for a paddle, we will never know.

In Australia, surfing hot spots can be found up and down the East Coast of the country with Sydney, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast being amongst the most popular locations. The United States are lucky to have the Californian coast and Hawaii - the home of surfing, to attract surf-lovers from around the world. The Pacific Islands and South America also host some amazing surf spots and are popular locations for many dudes and dudettes. This year the ASP World Championship is hosting surfing competitions at a variety of Pacific Ocean locations including the Gold Coast (Australia), Tavarua & Namotu (Fiji), Bali (Indonesia), California and Hawaii (USA). If you’re looking for the best surfing spots, just follow these guys!

Whether or not surfing is on your personal bucket list, the Pacific Ocean coastlines boast some of the world’s best beaches and are definitely worth seeing.

Topdeck Top Tip: If you’re a beginner, don’t forget to lay on the sunscreen. You might feel cool and refreshed by being in the water but the sun still packs a punch! It might also be worth getting to know your surf spot, including any possible dangers, before jumping into the water.

Kelly Slater and co. riding some tubes at a surf competition in Fiji:

Can’t make it to the beach? Here’s 4 hours of surf waves to make you feel like you’re there:

Top to Bottom / Sydney to Melbourne

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

People often say that Australia is lucky to have two of the world’s best cities separated by a one hour flight. Many, however, may not appreciate the quality of the experiences offered by the journey between Sydney and Melbourne. Sure, you would be forgiven for hopping on a plane to reach your destination, but let’s not forget that travelling is just as much about the journey as it is the destination, and if you fancy the fun and frolics of a road trip then jumping on a Topdeck trip definitely won’t disappoint! The major cities of Sydney and Melbourne may hold the cultural delights, but this is ‘Straya!’, and there are some fantastic coastlines and some seriously scenic roads with geological wonders if you just look out the window!

The great thing about taking a Topdeck trip is that you will meet a great variety of people with similar interests but very different backgrounds. To give you an idea, a recent group on a ‘Top to Bottom’ trip comprised of 8 different nationalities. It’s fair to say that the bus ride alone, despite everything you’re seeing and doing on the way, is bound to be an interesting experience!

Day 1: Sydney to Snowy Mountains

If you’ve ever taken a road trip before you will know that there’s always a chance that you will see something completely unconventional, completely amazing, or something that will add to the overall trip experience. To everybody’s surprise, the group on a recent Top to Bottom trip were stopped for petrol where Peter Garrett, one of Australia’s most renowned musicians (lead singer from Midnight Oil), and now a Politician, was also filling his tank. The group were able to have a chat, take a photo, and be welcomed to the country by a Politician on behalf of the Australian Government! Something unconventional to put in the travel diary!

When arriving in Canberra, Australia’s capital city, the group ventures 842 metres above sea level to Mt. Ainslie, experiencing complete 360 degree views over Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. After taking in the history, visiting the iconic Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial and a number of Foreign Embassies, you’ll be keen to explore Australia’s capital! After having enough time to explore Canberra, you will be back on the road seeing more beautiful landscape and scenery, starting to realise how big Australia really is.

Arriving in the Snowy Mountains you should prepare yourself for a few things. Amazing scenery, great accommodation, delicious food, a whole lot of bonding time and maybe even a 6 pack of abs from laughing the night away! Invariably, it doesn’t take long before you start to feel as though you have known your new Topdeck buddies for years..

Day 2: Snowy Mountains to Gippsland Lakes

A word to the wise for day 2 – EAT, EAT, EAT at breakfast time. You will need the energy!

Australia’s highest mountain peaks at 2,228 metres above sea level, but don’t let that scare you, it’s a fairly non stressful hike and will be well worth the sweat once you have reached your point on the mountain. This experience will truly take your breath away (nothing to do with the air being thinner at 2,000 metres above sea level!) as the scenery is magnificent. Depending on what time of year you visit, you could also be surrounded by snow!

Once you head back down the mountain, have a little think about how you just climbed the highest peak in Australia! Something else worth putting in your travel diary, perhaps?

Hitting the road Topdeck style means more than just taking the direct highway route. On the way to Gippsland Lakes your trip will take a detour on some remote Australian roads. Here, the bus driver’s skills are truly challenged, driving through remote and unspoilt wilderness with outstanding views of Snowy River country and surrounding mountain landscape. If you’re lucky, you might even take a refreshing dip in one of the surrounding rivers!

It might be a little difficult to get your head around the fact that earlier on in the day you were climbing Australia’s highest mountain and now about to have dinner by the sea in the town of Lakes Entrance, but this is what travelling with Topdeck is all about! The Lakes Entrance town is situated on the edge of Ninety Mile Beach where the Gippsland Lakes meets the Southern Ocean. Another truly beautiful place to see…

Day 3: Gippsland Lakes to Melbourne

A word to the wise for day 3 – wake up early and see the sunrise!

From here you will again hit the road, making a stop in Forster, before heading to the relatively untouched and rugged wilderness of Wilsons Promontory National Park. The Park boasts beautiful coastal trees, banksias, and white sandy beaches known for making a squeaky sound when walked on barefoot. At this point it is quite common for Topdeck passengers to make some more new friends as it’s possible to get up close and personal with the Australian wildlife.

Arriving in Melbourne for the final part of the trip you will again be presented with some more Australian Wildlife – Melbournians. Here you can explore the culturally diverse city, commonly referred to as Australia’s little Europe, tackle the shops and travel around on the famous Melbourne trams.

Topdeck isn’t just about arriving to a destination; it’s about enjoying the journey between. Although only a 3 day trip, many people feel that they walk away from Topdeck’s Top to Bottom with greater knowledge and appreciation of just what an amazing country Australia really is.

“Although I have travelled a great deal of Australia, this was my first time travelling in this style, and the first time I had set off on a journey “alone”. It didn’t take long before I realised that alone I was not, and the next three days I was able to not only share these amazing experiences with like minded travellers but also come away with what felt like a little family. This was only a 3 day trip and I only left these guys a few hours ago but I am already missing them!” – Claire Harwood, Topdeck.

Like what you’ve read about our Top to Bottom trip? We have plenty more trips throughout Australia that are just as fun!

Welcome to Middle Earth.

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Yesterday, the New Zealand capital Wellington did not exist as you might expect. Instead, it was known as ‘The Middle of Middle Earth’, transformed into a place where hobbits, dwarves, elves, dragons, trolls, goblins and wizards ruled the streets! Of course, this was all deliberately planned and based entirely on the promotion of the new Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’, which premiered in front of around 100,000 fans, many who dressed in costume for the occasion. Even the airport ground staff got in on the act wearing bright yellow ‘Elf and Safety’ vests while ushering in The Hobbit crew on an Air New Zealand plane, the ‘Airline for Middle-earth’.

Explore beautiful New Zealand

Having been filmed throughout many locations in New Zealand, in both the North and South Islands, it will do a great job, much like Lord of the Rings trilogy, at showcasing the beautiful scenery New Zealand has to offer, highlighting just why this country needs to be high up on anybody’s travel bucket list! The film will showcase much of New Zealand’s landscape including volcanic mountain ranges, valleys, lakes and national parks.

If you have been dreaming of visiting New Zealand or if you find yourself wanting to see some of the country’s amazing landscape after watching The Hobbit film, luckily, Topdeck offers a great range of trips to the North and South Islands! The exciting new Australian and New Zealand 2013/2014 trips are now available for viewing online. Why not take a look and see what the fuss is all about! You never know, maybe you’ll come across one or two Hobbits on a Grand Kiwi Southbound trip!

Discover South Australia & Victoria - Melbourne City Guide

Thursday, March 10th, 2011


Five best things to do in Melbourne

Head to Lygon street for a great Italian meal

Head to Lygon street for a great Italian meal

1. Shop till you drop -

A dizzying array of first class restaurants, charming cafes, shops, art galleries, museums and theatres greet visitors to the Swanston Street area, home of the Bourke Street Mall. It has long been seen as the epicenter of Melbourne shopping: the city’s two major department stores reside here as well as an assortment of boutique shops and chain stores.

2. Visit the Queen -

The Queen Victoria Market, that is! A Melbourne institution, this huge market sells everything from bargain basement clothing and accessories to fresh produce. Head down on a Wednesday evening during summer, as the market transforms into an Asian-style night market filled with hawkers stalls, fresh food, licensed bars, live performances and locally made gifts.

3. Relax at the Bay -

A quick tram ride from the CBD, St Kilda makes for the perfect place to relax. This palm-lined foreshore with rolling green lawns has plenty to offer to visitors. Do as the locals do - on weekends, Melburnians flock here to walk, cycle and skate along the boardwalk or to lounge in an outdoor café or cocktail bar – and take in the panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay.

4. Head to (Little) Italy -

Take a stroll down Lygon Street. The heart of Melbourne’s Little Italy, this is a haven of little boutiques, inexpensive pasta and great Italian coffee! The street has great colour, particularly at night when the sidewalks are thronged with diners and restaurateurs touting for your business.

Beautiful coastline along the Great Ocean Road

Beautiful coastline along the Great Ocean Road

5. Venture West –

Stretching from the sleepy town of Torquay to the South Australian border, the Great Ocean Road weaves along the southern coast of Victoria revealing gorgeous landscapes and stunning rock formations. It’s the perfect way to leave Melbourne and head to the next exciting city: Adelaide.

Discover South Australia & Victoria - Adelaide City Guide

Monday, March 7th, 2011


Five best things to do in Adelaide

Enjoy some great food in South Australia
Enjoy some great food in South Australia

1 – Catch a tram to “The Bay”

Only half an hour from the city is the beach side suburb called Glenelg, home to boutique shops, great pubs and restaurants. Why not have a beer and watch the sun set over the ocean!

Barossa Valley Vineyards

Barossa Valley Vineyards

2 – Go wine tasting

McLaren Vale, The Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra and of course, The Barossa Valley are only a stone’s throw away from the CBD. It is definitely worth the trip!

3 – Catch a game at Adelaide Oval

South Australian’s love their sport so why not see what all the excitement is all about. The Adelaide Oval is a 5 minute walk from the CBD.

4 – Tempt your taste buds at the Central Market

Right in the centre of the city, the central market is home to one of the most diverse selections of food anywhere. With our vast multi-cultural heritage, there is something for  everyone so why not have a wander through the stalls then treat yourself at the food court.

5 – Get lost in the Botanic Gardens

Surrounding the CBD is vast “belt” of parklands full of trees, lakes, and rivers including the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. There’s plenty of room to throw out a picnic blanket and relax. Want to know the best part – It’s free!

January Downunder Sale

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

The Topdeck January Sale has begun!

We’re kicking off the year with our huge Downunder Sale, so now is the time to bag that bargain trip to the beach & the bush.

Score generous discounts on AustraliaNew Zealand trip bookings made in January 2011, for travel between April 2011 and March 2012.

SAVE 20% - On all reverse direction trips of 10 days and over through Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand, including Queensland/Northern Territory combo trips.

SAVE 10% - On all Tasmania, Northern Territory and Victoria trips (both directions).

To claim your discount, simply, ‘check availability’ on the trips selected above and the discount will automatically be calculated into the price shown for those departure dates.

Win a Topdeck trip Downunder

And while we’re at it, to help celebrate our January Downunder Sale, we’re giving away not one, but THREE trips to Australia or New Zealand! For you chance to win simply upload your favourite travel photo on Topdeck’s Facebook page, along with 50 words on why you think you should win this fabulous prize. Whoever gets the most facebook “like” for their entry will win! So, tell your friends (…or anyone who will listen for that matter) for your chance win a Topdeck adventure to Australia or New Zealand!

HINT: Use the comment section on our blog to promote your entry!

Can’t forget the Aussie tucker…

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Topdeck’s Liana Szwajlyk shares her final revelations on the Land Down Under

I’ll try to wrap up my ramblings by finishing with my personal rationale for loving Australia – our food!

Our rich cultural diversity is reflected in our ‘tucker’, and while you generally won’t find Wichetty Grubs on the menu (unless you’re in the Outback) Australia does offer a vast variety of food and wine to suit every palate. A solid study of the bars and restaurants will particularly reveal our hopeless addiction to coffee, seafood and global cuisine.

Our most notable food tradition is the great Aussie barbeque, the centre of any social event – and the place where the Aussie male dominates. A lot of our entertaining is done outside, and what could be better than an ice cold beer, a succulent steak, a prawn thrown on the barbie.

Vegemite also deserves an honourable mention here, as another Aussie-food icon. It’s an acquired taste. It has to be force-fed to you from a very early age for you to acquire it. It’s a thick black sandwich spread, consisting of salt, yeast, wheat, salt, cereals, oh and more salt! Try it, by all means, but use it sparingly. Let us know if you like it!

Oh and who could forget Tim Tams?…Enough said!

If you’re not so much a food aficionado, then there’s always the great Australian fallback – the pub. Everywhere you go, you’ll find a pub or three. This Australian institution is where many Aussie blokes go when they want to spend some quality time together, away from the shielas. Not only can you get a cold beer here, spirited conversation and light-hearted banter are also guaranteed.

In all of this we mustn’t forget the Aussie people: always happy to help you out, Aussies, for the most part, are a very genuine and accepting mob, with a sense of humour which is almost certainly quite different to any you’ll have experienced anywhere else. We’d probably also have to be the most laid back people on the face of the planet and with all that sunshine and merriment, who can blame us?

Add to this the original native Australians, the Aboriginals, with their ancient culture and simple way of life and I’d say we have the most diverse population, in terms of cultural mix, of any country in the world.

So yes, it’s a big place and there’s a load to explore. You will discover that this sunburnt country is filled with excitement and immense beauty and although the length of time it takes to travel there is long, a trip to Oz is well worth the effort. It has to be one of the best places in the world to visit and I should know, I’ve been living there for the past 22 years and miss it so.

Find your Aussie adventure now! Visit

Australia, Fair Dinkum!

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Topdeck’s Liana Szwajlyk continues on with more endearing aspects of life in Aussie: the Weather, Wilderness and Wildlife.

If you love those golden rays, then you should definitely check out Australia – truth be told, the sun is always smiling somewhere in the country. As the seasons in the Southern hemisphere are reversed, the chance to swap a dreary British winter for high summer on a beach Down Under is hard to resist. Any weekend and often during the week as well you’ll find most beaches packed with bronzed bodies in bikinis and Speedos (that’s men’s brief swimwear) all eager to improve on their already impressive tan.

Speaking of stunning beaches, Australian beaches are the best in the world, soft and clean, so clean in fact that they “squeak” when you walk on them. Queensland has some of the most beautiful beaches (the sand on Whitehaven can be as white as a fair Englishman’s skin) but all around the 12,000 or so kilometres of Australia’s coastline you’ll find plenty of beaches to frolic, and all without any sign of a crocodile or a shark.

So, why are we so obsessed with getting some sand between our toes? With more than 80 percent of Australians living within 50 kilometres of the coast, the beach has become an integral part of our famous laid-back lifestyle.

In fact, it’s not just the sandy shores we enjoy: we really just love all unspoiled beauty. Australia is certainly a place to be discovered in its natural state. And, as much as I am a fan of Australia’s far North and the tropical regions, there is no denying that Alice Springs is the heart and the centre of the Australia, both in a geographical and a metaphorical sense. Close by lies the awe-inspiring formation Uluru which for many travellers is the most anticipated moment of their Australian adventure.

And then there’s “The Bush”, which entail the wilderness areas outside the cities. This backdrop provides home to a wealth of wildlife, some of which is found nowhere else in the world. I shouldn’t really be telling you this, but we Aussies like to scare tourists with wild stories about the dangerous animals in the Bush. The truth is: a lot of what you hear about the terribly dangerous animals is either grossly exaggerated or plain nonsense. However, the infamous kangaroo and koala, our most recognised mammals, do freely roam the land.

If you want to get up close to one of these little creatures, share the experience with like-minded 18-30 somethings and journey across one of the world’s most diverse countries.

Keep an eye out for my final instalment…

Topdeck’s Beach & Bush is currently on sale from £1717pp


G’Day and All That!

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Topdeck’s Liana Szwajlyk pays homage to the motherland…

Simply searching for a new frontier and a practical launch pad for more travel, I didn’t give it much thought when I decided pack up and leave my homeland for the unknown. But, I’ve been travelling and living abroad for a while now and my time away has proved a great opportunity for me to reflect on the Land Down Under.

Without boasting, I’ve travelled to dozens of countries and while I thought all of them were amazing, there’s nothing quite like Australia anywhere else in the world. So, while I’m pining for home, I thought I’d share some of my personal highlights of living in the land of opportunity. There’s a load to mention, so without boring you, I’ll present my realisations and exclamations about Oz in a series of (hopefully) exciting instalments.

Now, where to begin? For one, we call it “The Big Country” and we’re not joking. Check it out on a map - it’s about the size of mainland US and 50 perfect larger than Europe.

We have very few major cities and they’re great distances apart. But, they’re BIG cities and you will find them full of a vibrant mix of people and filled with loads of breathtaking scenery in between. From beautiful ancient landscapes, as old as time itself, to the most modern of cities there’s something for everyone in Australia.

I’ll start with Sydney, Australia’s oldest city, the economic powerhouse of the nation, blessed with sun-drenched natural attractions, dizzy skyscrapers, superb shopping, and, of course the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, what more could you want? Oh, I forgot, there’s also the Sydney Harbour itself. If you’re flying into Sydney make sure you have a window seat, the view of the harbour alone is worth the price of your flight - it really is spectacular.

Let’s move on to Melbourne, the vibrant, cosmopolitan city that hosts an impressive combination of old and new architecture, elegant streetscapes, harmonious ethnic communities and lavish parks & gardens. The locals claim that it’s the most enlightened and liveable city in the world and being an avid Melbournian myself, I would definitely have to agree. Melbourne has a lively passion for social eating and drinking, which is reflected by the vast array of fashionable cafes and restaurants. The city also boasts a full program of festivals, varied sporting events and a crazy nightlife - Melbourne certainly has it all.

I could drone on about each sophisticated city or quirky country town, but you get the picture! Our metropolises are huge and there’s a lot going on - it’s best you check it out for yourself!

Stay tuned for Part Two…

Convinced already? Topdeck’s Island Suntanner is currently on sale from: £1297