Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 16!

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

16. Drive the Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most spectacular drives, hugging the wild and windswept south-eastern coast of Australia. At 243 kilometres long, the road not only offers  some amazingly diverse scenery, but also heaps of unexpected delights – whale lookouts, mountain ranges, rainforests, historic port towns, and, perhaps most famous of all, the Twelve Apostles – craggy limestone stacks rising majestically out of the Southern Ocean. Breathtaking!

The Great Ocean Road is made even more special by its history. In 1919, one year after the end of the First World War, it was commissioned as a memorial for the 60,000 Australian servicemen and women who had made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives during the war. Around 3,000 servicemen who had returned to Australia after the war began work on the road. Construction was done by hand – the soldiers used picks and shovels to hack through dense rainforest. Many lost their lives around the steep coastal cliffs.

In 1924 an old steam boat became stranded near the shore and had to release its cargo to free itself, which included 500 barrels of beer and 120 cases of spirits. The diggers helped themselves to the abandoned alcohol which resulted in an unscheduled and well-deserved drinks break lasting two weeks! Drinks breaks aside, the road was officially completed in 1932, and became the world’s largest war memorial (by quite a distance!).

The new road opened sparsely-populated and isolated communities from Torquay to Allansford up to the outside world – bringing money and tourism into the whole state of Victoria. The relatively recent construction of the road means that this wonderful stretch of rugged coastline is, in many parts, unspoilt and untouched.

From the Lord Arch Gorge, a scenic bay engulfed by cliffs, to London Bridge, a natural arch created by the immense power of the sea – there is a new wonder around almost every corner. Top of the list of attractions is the astounding Twelve Apostles towering out of the sea - recently voted the best place in Australia to watch a sunset.

The Great Ocean Road is not only astoundingly beautiful, but also poignant and thought-provoking. It gives a small insight into what inspired Australian soldiers in the Great War when fighting to protect the beauty of their homeland. The Great Ocean Road takes its place easily on Topdeck’s list of 40 things to do before you’re 40.

Topdeck Top Tip: Don’t rush through the Great Ocean Road! It may be easily driveable in one day, but you’ll appreciate it much more by taking the time to explore and staying overnight in one of the quaint seaside towns like Port Campbell. While you’re there, try some of the deliciously fresh seafood.

This short clip shows some of the most spectacular highlights of the Great Ocean Road

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 13!

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

13. Watch the sunrise over Uluru

The ultimate icon of Australia, Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) has an almost mystical presence. There’s something intangibly moving about seeing dawn’s first light settle on this geological marvel at the heart of the ‘Red Centre’.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Uluru is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area. For them it is inextricably linked with their Dreamtime stories, and even in today’s modern world it retains a sacred place in their culture.

In 1873 Uluru was given a second name, Ayers Rock, after the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Henry Ayers. Since 1993 it has officially had dual-name status, and is now referred to in formal terms as Uluru/Ayers Rock.

Located 335km south-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Uluru sits in terrain which is unmistakeably Outback. In the area there are waterholes, caves, springs and Aboriginal rock paintings.

But it’s the flatness of its surrounds which makes Uluru stand out even more. What earthly business does this striking protrusion have in such a landscape? It all adds to the rock’s enigmatic appeal.

For overnight visitors to this great Aussie wilderness, there’s only one way to stay – in a swag (Aussie bedroll) under the stars! And camping close to this magical monolith gives people the chance to experience one of the most majestic views in the southern hemisphere; sunrise over Uluru.

As dawn’s first rays kiss the sandstone summit, Uluru stirs and awakens as if a living thing. Shades change imperceptibly with the sun’s steady migration, until the entire rock glows fiery red, as though the blood of the nation was coursing through it. Apt, you might say, for a landmark at the very heart of Australia.

A more contemplative and peaceful way to start a day you’d be hard pressed to find. If ever there was a reason to get up before dawn, then watching sunrise over Uluru is surely it.

Topdeck Top Tip: To climb or not to climb? The Anangu ask visitors not to climb Uluru, as it’s a sacred religious site to their people, but neither is there a law against it. Take time to read the reasons for and against so you can make an informed decision.

Lonely Planet visit Uluru:

A nice time-lapse video showing Uluru’s changing colours at sunrise:

And another:

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 11!

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

11. Lie under a palm tree on a white sand beach

Once in a while you need to slow things down, get away from it all. And when the time comes to unwind, is there any better place to do so than on a beautiful beach?!

Lying on the sand, listening to your beach playlist, reading a book and sipping an ice-cold drink, as the blue ocean caresses the shore and a gentle breeze sways green palm fronds above your head… bliss!

But where’s the best place to go? For the purposes of this blog, we decided to take a straw poll of the Topdeck office to see where our staff thought you could find the best beaches in the world.

We heard many impassioned speeches and sparked intense debates, but eventually the survey turned out 3 main contenders. To try and make an informed decision, we summarised their pros and cons:

Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa

Pros: White sand beaches, coconut palms, sapphire blue ocean, traditional fishing vessels, friendly locals, cheap cold drinks, great kitesurfing, proximity to some of the world’s best safari destinations, name that makes you think of a Persian restaurant.

Cons: errrrm…

Oahu, Hawaii, USA

Pros: White sand beaches, coconut palms, sapphire blue ocean, crazy waves, hot surfer dudes and chicks, location in the middle of the Pacific, lifeguards who (may) look like they’re in Baywatch, possible hula music in the background.

Cons: uhhhhh…

Whitsunday Islands, Queensland, Australia

Pros: White sand beaches, coconut palms, sapphire blue ocean, tropical rainforest, incredible flora and fauna, great sailing destination, chance to play beach cricket, strong likelihood of a BBQ occurring, certified free of Drop Bears by the Queensland Government.

Cons: ahhhhh…

As you can see, we didn’t do too well on the Con front. In fact, we didn’t do too well separating them at all. So we’re going to sit on the hammock on this one – choosing a favourite beach is entirely subjective. But one thing all of us agreed on – we’d all like to be on one right now!

As for a good beach playlist? Well there’s something we can help you with! Here’s our pick of beach tunes for 2013, (not) available in all good music outlets:

Topdeck Beach Playlist 2013

1. Psy – Sandnam Style

2. Kylie Minogue – Loco-ocean

3. Nelly – Tide Wit’ Me

4. The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun(burn)

5. Men at Rest – Sand Down Under

Topdeck Top Tip: What to say about a beach? If you turn up on one and everyone’s naked, it’s probably a nudist beach. There you go!

A gorgeous video of Zanzibar from a kitesurfering couple:

Photos of Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays:

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!

Australia v New Zealand: Topdeck launches ‘Battle of the Bloggers’ contest.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Australia and New Zealand are beautiful nations with a longstanding rivalry. But which is best to visit? We are seeking two talented travel bloggers to help answer once and for all who rules the roost in Australasia!

The two victors of the Battle of the Bloggers contest will each win a dream holiday with Topdeck - one will experience a 14 day Island Suntanner in Australia and the other a 14 day Kiwi Explorer in New Zealand and blog about their experiences!

Each lucky winner will blog about their travels whilst on location, and their thoughts will help influence a public voting panel to decide once and for all which is the best destination!

Application for the contest is very simple:

1. Write a blog of up to 500 words about one of your favourite travel experiences (which must be a Topdeck destination)

2. Post a video entry on YouTube (tagged with #battleofthebloggers and no more than 90 seconds long) about a travel experience (which must be a Topdeck destination)

3. Fill in your contact details and submit your entry at

Applicants must submit their entries by 30 November 2012 and we will notify the winners by 24 December 2012.

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