Category Archives: South Pacific

Charm, beaches, mountains, great food and drink – Tasmania has it all!


View from Mount Wellington, Hobart

Originally developed as a penal colony by the British, Tasmania is an island of breath-taking beauty that is slightly bigger than Switzerland. It boasts 19 national parks, pristine beaches, cliffs, caves, unique wildlife and 24 mountain ranges. Indeed, the wilderness area of Tasmania has been classified as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts, but it has immense historic charm and, is somewhat of a foodie paradise. Launceston, Tasmania is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. There are less than 50 cities in the world carrying that distinction. If some charm, some stunning scenery and some great food appeals to you — GetAway Travel can get you to Tasmania. 

On a hike in Tasmania

 History, culture and critters 

 Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and where much of the population is located. It is the second deepest port in the world and it has a charming waterfront as well as a great food and wine scene with an emphasis on farm-to-table. 

Hobart waterfront

Port Arthur is a little more than an hour from Hobart. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was built in 1830 as a timber station and penal settlement. About 3,500 convicts were housed on the 250 acres. Historians contend Port Arthur, on Cameron Bay, is one of Australia’s most well-preserved landmarks.  

Port Arthur penal colony

There are more than 30 historic buildings on the site which can be reached by ferry, car, bus or taxi. You can even take an evening ghost tour along the coast.  

Tasmanian Devil at Bonorong

About a half hour from Hobart is the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. A 24-hour facility that treats and rehabs injured or orphaned wildlife with the intent of returning them to their natural habitats, it is a temporary home to some of the most unique wildlife in the world. At any given time it is a temporary home to wombats, Tasmanian devils, quoll (a cat-like marsupial with short legs and a white-spotted coat), koalas and emus. Stroll the grounds, which mimic the animals’ natural habitats. Get another taste of the outdoors at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. It’s an outdoor oasis of multiple gardens spread over 34 acres. There’s a conservatory, lily pond and regional gardens including a subantarctic plant house that replicates the cold, wet conditions f the subantarctic islands. 

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is a museum, art gallery and herbarium that holds artifacts that are important to the natural and cultural aspects of the country. The more than 100,000 items are the bulk of the State Collections of Tasmania. It has some fabulous displays on the history of seafaring and whaling and interactive child-friendly exhibits. 

Sue hiking at Lemonthyme lodge, Tasmania

The Museum of New and Old Art or MONA, looks like it would be just one floor, but there are three more levels underground. It was started as a small museum of antiquities by David Walsh. Now, in addition to the collections, there are art exhibitions, live music, food, wine, bars, restaurants, a library, recording studio and tennis court — almost all entirely underground. 

Digestion Art at MONA – yes it actually works

The art pieces range from the remarkable to the ridiculous. 

Looking for a great shopping experience? Every Saturday the Salamanca Market is open. The more than 300 vendors sell handcrafted woodwork items, jewelry, ceramics, glassware, souvenirs and tasty items like fish and chips and scallop pie. 

Cascade Brewery, with Mt. Wellington in the distance, is the oldest continuously operating brewery in the country. It still makes award-winning ales, stouts and bitters.  

 Devils, glorious food and spirits 

 Cradle Mountain is a stop on your way from Hobart to Launceston and you can visit the Cradle Tasmanian devil sanctuary. Tasmanian devils are nothing like the crazed cartoon character that tries to catch Bugs Bunny. They are shy, nocturnal carnivores about the size of a small dog, but definitely not cuddly.  They do have a voracious appetite and the strongest biting force of any mammal their size on earth. Their jaws are extendable and can bite through metal and most farming fences. 

Marsupials, they carry their babies in pouches and use scent glands to mark their territories. 

Speaking of marsupials – here’s a Wallaby mom and joey

The Cradle Mountain sanctuary is a breeding and conservation facility for the Tasmanian devil, spotted-tail quoll and the Eastern quoll. 

Our lodging in Cradle Mountain

Cataract Gorge is Launceston’s biggest tourist attraction. It is home to the world’s largest single-span chairlift and the gorge has fabulous panoramic views as well as walking trails, wandering peacocks and other natural wildlife, gardens including a Victorian garden, a tearoom, restaurant and cafe.  

Cataract Gorge, Launceston Tasmania

Queen Victoria Museum has natural science and history collections as well as a planetarium and just across the river is the Art Gallery with contemporary and traditional art and art pieces.


But let’s talk food and drink, after all, Launceston is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.  

Charcuterie platter hits the spot at Pooley!

The country is small enough that visitors can take advantage of great food and drink options throughout the country.  

Moo Brew on tap at MONA

Enjoy craft brews of cider, single-malt whiskey, small batch gin or vodka. Most distilleries offer guided tours — try ships whey vodka, gin flavored with sloe berries or lavender rye. The “very Scottish weather” is not only great for whiskey, but also for blended spirits of apple, pear and cherry as well as some fabulous Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. The Pipers River region near Launceston produces superior quality sparkling beverages. 


Derwent vineyard – Keeping the birds out as it gets close to harvest

Many of the vineyards have their own restaurants which take full advantage of crayfish, abalone, asparagus, mushrooms, fish, scallops and octopus which can be sourced nearby. Take the bay tour and stop off at Freycinet Marine Farm and they will let you put on a pair of waders and shuck oysters taken directly from the bay. Visit a truffle farm and go out with the truffle-scenting dogs and find your own treasures. The gin distilleries offer classes where you can learn the intricacies of making gin and mixing in some exotic botanicals. 

Check out our previous blog on wine tasting around Hobart – located here


Art, food, wine, history, culture — Tasmania has it all and GetAway Travel can get you there! Reach us at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: or 





Time for a sunny getaway to Fiji?

Beach in Fiji – only thing missing is you

Although any time is a perfect time to experience the outdoor paradise that is Fiji, the dreary days that start in mid-fall and run to mid-spring is a perfect time to getaway. From swimming to snorkeling to zip lining to just enjoying the drop-dead gorgeous scenery of any of the islands, Fiji is a perfect fit to drive the gloomy blues away. Let a travel advisor at GetAway Travel help you put some sunshine back into your life. 

 Islands offer something for everyone 

 Located in the South Pacific, Fiji is an archipelago or stretch of sea containing several islands. The more than 300 islands that make up Fiji offer up activities for adventure seekers, families and those whose idea of a perfect vacation is eating, sleeping well, sunning on a beach with a book and repeating for several days until the stress level drops. It is easy enough to travel from the island to island so you can day trip to your heart’s content 

 Nadi and Suva on largest island of Vita Levu 

 Fiji’s largest island is Vita Levu and the capital, Suva, is there as well. Nadi has a large international airport and that is where most flights arrive. 

Ni Sa Bula – welcome home!

The Fiji Museum is in Suva. A huge Ratu Finau, or a double hulled canoe, is the centerpiece of the museum. There are exhibits that trace Fijian life over the centuries as well as a collection of cannibal forks, war clubs and kava bowls. Rugby is the national game, and you can watch a match at Suva’s National Stadium. 

Welcome Home

About 40% of Fiji’s population is ethnically Indian. In Suva as well as throughout the islands, there are fabulous Indian restaurants. Get hot parcels of roti (a flatbread) stuffed with pumpkin and eggplant in coconut curry. 

Fijian coconut milk ceviche

The cuisine throughout the islands is decidedly international with an emphasis on different types of curries as well as fish, prawns, lobsters and crabs. Sweet potatoes and taro figure prominently into cooking and most resorts offer visitors a chance to experience a traditional loro or pit oven feast with slow-cooked meat and fish as well as root vegetables with onion and coconut cream cooked in a pit with hot coals.  

Suva has a modern shopping mall as well as open-air markets and a busy nightlife you can enjoy after you savor a spectacular Fiji sunset. 

Sunset at resort in Fiji

The biggest shopping area is Port Denarau Island which is near Nadi. In addition to a world class golf course and some great spas, you can shop for sarongs, saris, jewelry, beach wear and shell knick knacks. The more than 40 restaurants offer everything from pizza and burgers to Fijian and Indian cuisine. Be sure to inquire about the spice levels if you are trying Fijian or Indian curries, they do vary. 

Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple, Nadi Fiji

Nadi is home to the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple which is an example of bright Dravidian architecture you don’t usually see outside of India. You can visit the temple if you are dressed appropriately, knees and shoulders need to be covered and no photos are allowed inside. The temple is covered with intricate carvings and paintings of Hindu gods. 

The Garden of the Sleeping Giant (named for the mountain that hovers over it) is a short drive from Nadi. Started by actor Raymond Burr to house his orchid collection, the area now has more than 1,000 orchids from more than 40 different species as well as Cattleya hybrids. Wander through the covered walkways with a guide who will put a name on the flowers for you. 

Orchid – Garden of the Sleeping Giants

 If you want, adventure awaits you 

 A GetAway Travel advisor can help you plot out what you want to do, and that will determine which islands you visit. You can kayak, zip line, surf, wind surf, hike, dive, swim with sharks or manta rays, snorkel, go rafting and whitewater rafting, stay at a traditional village and eat and sleep like a Fiji native, go mud crab catching, make coconut jewelry, walk in an ancient Fiji burial ground, take a mud bath and get a spa treatment, laze on the beach, hunt for pearls, watch a pearl harvest, feed baby sea turtles, be awed by the fire dancers and other Fiji dance performances and soak in the hot springs. 

Fiji is very family oriented. Depending on where you are staying, you can get free nanny services and older children can enjoy a variety of activities with a buddy while parents are on a day trip. Everyone can meet up at dinner. 

 Taveuni is the Garden Island 

 Taveuni is the third largest island in Fiji and it is nicknamed the Garden Island because of its lush forests. It is a great dive as well as bird-watching destination. It is home to several plants that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. In Bouma National Heritage Park on Taveuni, the tagimoucia flower blooms near Lake Tagimoucia. This is the only place in the world where you can see the flower that is the floral emblem of Fiji. The liana bearing crimson and white flowers hang in foot-long clusters off the trees. The tropical rainforest park encompasses 80% of the island. 

Paul hiding in the Garden of the Sleeping Giants

Taveuni also has the most recognizable waterfalls in Fiji. The Tavora Waterfalls are three falls and the first you see in the park is the most spectacular with a waterfall of 78 feet. 

waterfall in Fiji

There are more than 100 species of birds on the island including the rare orange dove and the tiny, endangered silk tail. Take a guided birdwatching walk on the Vida Rain Forest Trail.  

If you want a relaxing beach vacation, a tropical paradise adventure or a little of both, GetAway Travel can get you there. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: or 




Stunning scenery and adventure await travelers to New Zealand

If fabulous landscapes from mountains to beaches, as well as the opportunity to walk on a glacier and drink fine wine are on your bucket list, New Zealand is the place you want to be. For its size, the islands of New Zealand pack some big bang for your buck. Your travel advisors at GetAway Travel can package you up a vacation that involves adventure or sightseeing, or some of both! 

 A natural paradise 

Without question, New Zealand is recognized as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It has scenery that takes your breath away, plenty to do and see for all ages, friendly people and, this might surprise you, some of the finest wine in the world. 

The temperate climate means you can go snow skiing one day and water skiing the next. You can go bungy jumping in Queenstown and zorbing in Rotorua (you’ve probably seen videos of this) which is rolling around the countryside in a large transparent ball. There’s geothermal marvels and glowworm caves, too! 

You can get an idea of how gorgeous the scenery is if you’ve seen “The Lord of the Rings” or any of the “Hobbit” movies. 

World’s largest Hobbit

The indigenous population, the Māori (Mau-ree) are naturally friendly and outgoing and love to share their culture and heritage. And, as we always say, be respectful of local culture and landmarks because you are a visitor and would expect the same if they were visiting you. 

Let’s hit some highlights 

 New Zealand is two islands, somewhat uncreatively known as North and South islands. Together they are about a 1,000 miles long and at the widest point, about 280 miles across. There are five million inhabitants on the islands. 


Rotorua is famous for geothermal features and representations of the Māori culture. There are bubbling mud pools, boiling geysers, colored rock formations and the resorts feature hot springs bathing. The surrounding area is studded with Māori villages including Mitai, Whakarewarewa and Tamaki. They have cultural shows that feature traditional music and dance as well as hangi meals. Hangi cooking is cooking large meals in pit ovens using heated rocks. The meat and vegetables come out extremely tender and flavorful. 

Waitangi on the North Island is a major historical site. In 1840 the Māori chiefs signed a treaty with Britain giving it ruling power. There is a museum on the treaty grounds as well as a fascinating ornately carved marae (which is a Māori meeting house) and a ceremonial canoe. 

Hokianga Harbour is perfect for camping, dune boarding, dolphin watching and horseback riding. Coromandel Peninsula has hiking trails, some eclectic quaint towns and Cathedral Beach on the peninsula is thought by many to be one of the country’s most beautiful beaches. 

Tongariro National Park is a dual UNESCO site, certified for both its cultural and historic significance. It has three volcanic peaks, Mount Tongariro, Raupehu and Ngauruhoe. 

One of New Zealand’s premier wine producing regions, as well as its oldest, is Hawke’s Bay. More than 200 vineyards are clustered in this temperate area. It is famous for its sauvignon blanc wines, some have even said they are the best in the world! Napier in Hawke’s Bay has a large collection of Art Deco architecture buildings. 

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. The New Zealand Parliament Building is known as the “Beehive” due to its unique architecture and you can book a tour of the Weta Workshop. A film special effects company, it was founded by Peter Jackson, director of “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Hobbit” movies. Speaking of the Hobbit, if you are fond of the shire, Waikato is the place to go for a guided tour of the Hobbiton movie set. 

The Beehive, Wellington

Kaikoura is a great spot for whale and dolphin watching. If you visit Fiordland Park, nearby Anau has glowworm caves. 

Dusky Sound, Fjordland

Nelson is known for having the greatest number of sunshine hours per year in the country. There are numerous dining spots that highlight the area agriculture with farm-to-table cuisine as well as fine local wine. 

 Let’s eat… and drink! 

 Mutton is on the menu, but don’t pass up having lamb. Served roasted with vegetables or cooked in a hangi, it’s delicious. Vegemite and marmite — ok, not many people refer to yeast extract as tasty. Try it once. Marmite is a little sweeter than Vegemite. Put a thin layer on buttered toast and you can say you tried it. 


Venison is also on the menu, but it’s not like your usual venison. The deer here are farm raised and the venison is not tough or gamey.  

New Zealand co-opted fish and chips from the Brits, but in New Zealand you can pick the type of fish you like. Speaking of seafood, it’s great here. Don’t pass up the abalone, Bluff Oysters or green lipped mussels. Chow down on a sausage sizzle which you can pick up at a street gazebo. It’s a sausage eaten on white bread with tomato sauce, mustard and fried onions. Likewise, mince pies can be purchased at the dairy store which is New Zealand speak for corner convenience store or at any gas station. Mince is the traditional filling, but there are lots more to choose from including vegetarian or vegan. 

Rail Station, Dunedin New Zealand

The wine is fabulous. There’s a drink you must try — Lemon & Paeroa, which is a carbonated lemon juice and mineral water drink. And there is craft beer aplenty. Local favorites include Garage Project, Parrot Dog and Heyday. Oh, there’s sweet things, too. Pavlova is like eating a meringue cloud with whipped cream and fruit, peanut slabs are candy bars with peanuts, pineapple lumps are chocolate lumps with a pineapple center and hokey pokey ice cream is vanilla ice cream with toffee bits. 

The Giants House, Akaroa

 New Zealand is starting to sound pretty interesting and like a great place for a vacation, right? Reach us at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: or 

Enjoy sun, sand, surf and swimming in Tahiti

If your vacation dream is relaxing on a beach with an exotic cocktail with one of those neat umbrellas, Tahiti is for you. You can swim, sun bath, snorkel, dive, surf and, well, just relax and let your worries slip away. GetAway Travel is in the business of making sure you have a worry-free vacation. We can help you with a weekend getaway or a bucket list vacation overseas. 

 Wonderful water activities 

Papeete is not only the capital of Tahiti, it’s also the capital of French Polynesia and it’s a perfect jumping off point for your activities. Sure, you may get bored with beaches after a couple of days, but start out your relaxing vacation by hitting the beach. Since much of Tahiti and the surrounding islands are part of a volcanic chain, the sand on the beaches, for the most part, is black. 

But one of the most popular beaches, La Plage de Maui, about 40 miles southeast of Papeete, has white sand. And it’s pretty spectacular white sand, too. Visitors describe it as “pearly white.” It’s a beautiful long stretch of sand that frames calm, clear, warm lagoon waters. The snack bar serves fresh seafood. 

Another sun bathing option that includes surfing, is Papenoo Beach about five miles east of Papeete.

The Plage du Taharuu beach is about 25 miles southeast of Papeete and it’s a nice, wide stretch of volcanic black sand so there’s plenty of room. Relax on the beach or under the nearby palm trees. The deep, blue water sometimes hits the beach hard enough to be accommodating to surfers. 

Before you hit the beach, find out if it’s a beach that usually is visited by food trucks, or has it’s own food stands. You may need to take a lunch and some beverages. Local taxis ferry visitors to the beaches. Remember to arrange a time for the driver to come pick you up! 

If you are interested in enjoying a little hiking, take a short trip to Fautaua Valley. The Fautaua Waterfall is fabulous with the water cascading into a large pool It looks even better shimmering in the rain so don’t let a cloudburst deter you. 

 Visit other islands, museums, markets 

The Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands showcases the attributes of Tahiti and her sister islands. It educates visitors about this popular tourist sport. Divided into four sections, the museum highlights geography, pre-European culture, colonization and natural wonders. Displays are labeled in French and English and don’t skip a visit to the gift shop. 

If black pearls intrigue you, you’ve come to the right place. Papeete is home to the Black Pearl Museum. Learn all about pearls, pearl harvesting and see all varieties, sizes and shapes of pearls from around the world as well as the largest Tahitian pearl in the world! 

The Vaipahi Gardens are on Tahiti’s southern coast in Mataiea. The lush gardens contain more than 75 plant species from all over the world. Enjoy the exotic flowers, a lily pond, small waterfalls and steams that wind through the gardens. 

Your GetAway Travel advisor can help arrange tours and trips, including diving trips, while you are on Tahiti so visit nearby Huahine and Moorea. Moorea, a sister island to Tahiti, is a bit more rugged so you can enjoy hiking or take an ATV tour. There are numerous beaches on the North side of the island including the popular Temae Beach. Try zip lining through the jungle. 

Bora Bora – so nice named it twice

Get up close and personal with the local aquatic residents at the Huahine Natural Aquarium. The natural lagoon aquarium lets you observe from a platform or go into the shallow waters with a guide. 

Papeete’s Municipal Market is a two-story enclosure with fresh vegetables, flowers, fruit, meat, fish as well as hand-crafted Tahitian quilts and wraps and black pearl jewelry. If you go close to lunch time, the local food trucks have a wide-variety of international cuisine to choose from. 

 Speaking of food…. 

Island food selections are varied and delicious. Poisson cru is raw fish, tuna a lot of the time but it could also be shrimp, crab, mussels, eel, octopus or prawns, marinated in coconut milk and lime juice mixed with diced vegetables. Chevreffes is freshwater shrimp cooked with coconut milk and vanilla. Poulet Fafa is chicken cooked the traditional way wrapped in taro leaves and put in a special oven or a heated pit. Onions, garlic, spices and coconut milk combine with the chicken for a flavorful dish. Traditional desserts include Po’e, a creamy taro pudding flavored with banana, vanilla, papaya or pumpkin and topped with a coconut sauce. Kato are coconut biscuits that go great with coffee and Firifiri are coconut-flavored doughnuts dipped in coffee. 

 If it’s the colder weather, stress or just the need to go somewhere — GetAway Travel is ready to help you take the trip you’ve dreamed of. Call (262) 538-2140, or e-mail: 

Virtual Visit Week Thursday – let’s go Down Under to Sydney Australia

One inescapable fact is Sydney is an ocean front city.  The Harbour is everywhere with 4 of the 5 central districts on the water.  The Greater Sydney area has many pristine miles of coast line.  Did you know there are well over 100 beaches in Sydney?  Sydney also enjoys over 300 sunny days each year.   Sydney has it all – beach lifestyle, culture, food and wine, and history.  

Speaking of history – Indigenous Australians have inhabited the area for over 30,000 years and thousands of engravings remain throughout this region, making it one of the richest for aboriginal archaeological sites in Australia.

In 1770, James Cook and his crew became the first Europeans to visit the area.  It didn’t take long for more people to arrive when in 1788 the First Fleet arrived to found a penal colony here.  British convicts were originally transported to the 13 colonies in North America, but after the American War of Independence ended in 1783, the newly formed United States refused to accept further convicts.   Between 1788 and 1868, roughly 162,000 convicts were transported from Britain and Ireland to various penal colonies in Australia.   Most were transported for petty crimes with sentences ranging from 7 years to life.  If well behaved, freedom was granted at the end of your sentence however very few had the means to return to Britain and therefore became settlers.

Enough of the history lesson though – let’s get back to modern Sydney.  It’s easy to get around with 5 fantastic neighborhoods in the Central district

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Your Invited Down Under – Thursday April 23

It’s been a difficult time for everyone, trapped at home, concerned and unable to escape. A few of my Travel Adviser mates are hosting a virtual Australia information day and we’d love you to join us. You will escape your current confinement on a fabulous pictorial journey to the land Down Under.

On Thursday, April 23 we have lined up expat-Aussie, Jeff Adam to guide us through the best of Australia. There are 4 sessions as follows:

Session 1 – 11am PT, 12pm MT, 1pm CT, 2pm ET

Session 2 – 12pm PT, 1pm MT, 2pm CT, 3pm ET

Session 3 – 1pm PT, 2pm MT, 3pm CT, 4pm ET

Session 4 – 2pm PT, 3pm MT, 4pm CT, 5pm ET

For more details on the giveaways, prizes and to register

Jeff’s got a bit of a funny accent so all attendees will get a “How to Speak Aussie” dictionary, along with an Australia Map and Travel Planner. It will be balance of great information and good Aussie humor.

Wining around Hobart Tasmania

Tasmania has perfect climate for growing grapes and making wines with mild summers and long autumn days.  Tasmania features elegant cool climate wines including pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, pinot gris, gewurztraminer and sparkling wines in both the Northern and Southern growing regions.

There are 3 main clusters of vineyards in the Southern growing region which encompasses the Hobart area:

  • The Freycinet Peninsula northeast of Hobart
  • Around Hobart including the Coal Valley and Derwent River
  • South of Hobart around the Huon Valley and the d’Entrecasteaux Channel

Exhibit at MONA

We visited Freycinet Peninsula previously, so for this trip we focused on Coal Valley and Derwent River.  Basically no matter which direction you drive from Hobart (as long as you don’t drive into the ocean) you will quickly reach a vineyard.  We were hosting a cruise group on the Celebrity Solstice which sailed originally from Auckland, New Zealand and we only had a 1 day stop in Hobart.   We’d been on the ship for about 1 week at this point, so did double duty on the day – taste wines and get some laundry done.  So off the ship we went, grabbed an Uber to the car rental, dropped off some laundry, made a very quick trip to MONA ( see our previous blogs on MONA here and here ) and then off to taste some excellent Tasmanian wines.

First stop was Derwent Estates Wines, located right along the River Derwent which is seen in the background of the tasting room below and which we’re sure you’ll agree is fantastically charming.  Several of these wines made it home to the states with us – where we recently opened the Calcaire Pinot Noir which is particularly stunning and by itself makes the entire trip to Hobart well worth it!

Derwent Vineyard Tasmania_6

Derwent tasting room

Derwent Vineyard Tasmania_13

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Dusky Sound – Fjordland National Park New Zealand

Fjordland National Park in New Zealand is a truly magnificent place to go. On our recent cruise we were favored with fantastic weather outside, but inside Sue Adams​ was a bit under the weather so some of the viewing was done just from our stateroom balcony. As we were passing by another stunning waterfall, some dolphins just happened to swim by and put on a show for us. Wow! #love2getaway


You know, some people still wonder…Do I really need to have a balcony cabin? uh, yes you do!

Animal Attraction to Travel

There are a few things in life that I know to be true.  One, I love to travel and two, I love animals.  Almost any destination and certainly almost ever animal (okay spiders and snakes are creepy but I mean like animals not reptiles or insects).  But I digress….

Koala, Churchill Island, Australia

Living in north central Wisconsin we have the usual set of animals (think farm, normal pets and wildlife) but when we travel we are opened to a whole new world of living creatures.  Take for example a trip to Australia.  Here you have an opportunity to get up close and personal with Kangaroo, Wallaby, Wombat and Tasmanian Devil.  How cool is that!  Some of these animals you’ll be lucky enough to see in the wild but not the Tasmanian Devi.  The Devil is an endangered species due to a cancerous facial tumor that has affected 30- 50% of the wild population.  But have no fear, nearby Hobart is the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.    Visiting this sanctuary will allow you hands on contact with several native Australian animals.  You can feed kangaroos, pet wombats and koala and observe the cute little Tasmanian Devil.  Our visit to the sanctuary was a highlight for this traveling animal lover.

I know what you are thinking, well sure there are cool animals in Australia but that is a long trip and I can’t go that far.  Have no fear, cool animals are everywhere you just have to look.  Let’s take the good old USA for example.  A trip to Alaska in the summer will provide you with an opportunity to see humpback whales feeding in the kelp rich waters.  And yes, a humpback whale is a mammal so thus does not fall in the creepy category 😊 Now the very best way to see whales (all types in AK) is a small craft tour (boats that hold 18 – 36 people max).  When choosing your tour company also be sure the boats are safe for those magnificent creatures you have come to see (no dangerous propellers).

Faerie Penguins, Churchill Island, Australia

What about the Polar bear, I mean the kind that live outside the zoo?  Wouldn’t it be cool to see them fishing for salmon out of a river?  A trip to Alaska, Canada, Norway, Russia or Greenland will provide you with the opportunity to see these at animals in the wild.   Of course, you aren’t just going to happen upon them, you’ll need a guided expedition or tour to give you the best chance of watching them in their natural habitat.  From Fairbanks you can take a tour mid Aug – late Step (side note, due to global warming it is expected that the polar bear could become extinct in the years to come).   This one is still on my bucket list!

Bear at Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau Alaska

Still too exotic you say.  Well as I said earlier, I love animal, pretty much any.  In particular though I happen to covet my Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Fergus.  And yes, I look for his kin just about everywhere I go.  I’ve seen them in France, Holland and Ireland, just to mention a few.  And each time I come upon one I smile and feel love.

Fergus – Our Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

So, pick your favorite animals and travel!  You’ll be surprised to see so many along the way.

Do you know who MONA is?

This BLOG post originally appeared 11/12/11 on our old site with the title “what the heck is MONA”.  MONA is still a great place to visit so we thought we would re-post.  Hopefully we will get to Tasmania again some day soon!

Just a short flight from Melbourne takes you to the island of Tasmania known for the Tasmanian Devil and convicts.

On our first night in the Australian state of Tasmania we stayed at the lovely, modern and somewhat funky Mona Pavillion. Here there are 8 stand alone villa units with either one or two bedrooms as well as a presidential suite facing the River Derwent. From the outside they look somewhat like a space ship.


From the inside they are right out of a James Bond movie. Each unit is named after Australian artists or architects. We stayed in Walter.

DSC_0393Walter from the outside

DSC_0376Living space in Walter

Each villa faces the harbor providing wonderful views throughout the day. And how could you not have a wonderful view, 3 of the walls are windows. Now i’m not saying they have windows….i’m saying they ARE windows. Full windows with shades that are operated by remote controls on the walls. How cool is that!


These modernly appointed villas have everything your heart desires including a stocked wine bar, chilling each bottle to its exact prefect drinking temperature! The fridge is stocked with local beers, juices, soft drinks and milk.


DSC_0392Yes, we had to pull them out to take a photo!

Our unit was a two bedroom, each with it’s own bathroom. And speaking of bathroom! Yeah this is my kind of set up! Oversized Jacuzzi tub with TV on the wall and a remote that if dropped into the water neither electrocutes you and still works!



The beds, extremely comfortable….you’ll just have to take my word on that and in the morning wake to the wonderful sounds of nature chirping outside. Our bedrooms were tastefully decorated, some had a bit more of the shock factor going on.

DSC_0382Bedroom #1 in Walter

DSC_0435Bedroom #2 in Walter

DSC_0422One of the bedroom’s in the Roy (the largest pavilion)

Each unit is priced differently based upon it’s size but run between $390 – $990 per night based upon 2-4 guests. Plus tax of course. There are full cooking and laundry facilities in each unit.


These pavilions have everything a traveler could want.  As a matter of fact on a placard in the villas it says “we can arrange almost anything legal, just ask”. I’d call that customer service!

So what the heck is MONA?

Well it stands for Museum of Old and New Art. Mona is located just a short 10 minutes outside Hobart, Tasmania and is home to a somewhat shocking if not weird museum, a vineyard, cellar door and wine bar, a brewery, a restaurant, the Pavilion’s and of course a shop.

DSC_0396 Main building

DSC_0447The restaurant

DSC_0448The cellar door

At the cellar door you get a 1 hr. tasting and the admission fee is refunded if you purchase. Wine tours are available for $15.

DSC_0451Of course we tasted…and purchased!

DSC_0475The wine bar and brewery

On Friday and Saturday evenings you can get a 1 hr. beer tour and tasting for $15. They make 4 types of beer and all have no preservatives and are not pasteurized. You got to love the catchy “Moo Beer” name! Wine and beer master classes can be arranged upon request.

DSC_0478Believe it or not, we did not try them all!

As for the museum, lets just say it might not be for everyone as many exhibits are downright shocking and for some would be repulsive.

DSC_0483Museum entry

As the statement goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” this pretty much sums the gallery up. The owner, David Walsh aka Glenn Walsh. Tourists not from Tasmania pay $20 for admission, those under 18 are free. Some of the exhibits are sexually explicit, others personally confronting thus the gallery may not be for children.

DSC_0493Plaster molds of a woman’s privates

DSC_0494The white room

DSC_0497The woodpecker (sorry just trying to give you a feel for the museum)

DSC_0517The human digestive system recreated, this woman is actually feeding the machine lunch at 1130am (sandwich, salad, fruit and a drink).  At 200pm it has a bowel movement! We did not hang around for that!!


Coolest thing in the museum, mummy on the left, xray tomography of it on the right!

So, that is MONA.  Who wants to go?  It really is quite a cool place, definitely 2 or 3 nights are needed.