Articles

  • Get Festive in New South Wales

    Vivid Sydney

    Sydney Harbour | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Sydney Harbour | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    The weather in Sydney in May is absolutely beautiful and the addition of  Vivid Sydney enhances your stay. Vivid Sydney is the world’s largest festival of light, showcasing innovation and creativity across the iconic city. The Sydney skyline, harbor, Opera House and bridge all come alive with bright light installations each night during the festival. This spectacle of light and music transforms the city into an artistic wonderland. You can even view from a private boat on the harbor! I would add an extra day in Sydney to experience it.

    Crystallise Light Installation | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Crystallise Light Installation | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Magicians of the Mist | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Magicians of the Mist | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    New Year’s Eve in Sydney

    New Year's Eve Fireworks | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    New Year’s Eve Fireworks | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    It was my first New Year’s Eve in Sydney, and knowing I would soon be climbing the bridge, sailing under it and seeing the world’s most spectacular fireworks display, had my adrenaline surging. The evening begins cruising around Sydney Harbour for a few hours enjoying champagne and the view. Then, they serve dinner after the first round of mesmerizing fireworks. Finally, right at midnight, the second round of fireworks begins which lasted much longer. The finale could not be put into words. New Year’s Eve in Sydney exceeded my expectations.

    Sydney Harbour Fireworks | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Sydney Harbour Fireworks | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Opera House on New Year's Eve | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Opera House on New Year’s Eve | Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Handa on the Opera

    Sydney Opera House | Photo Credit: Opera Australia

    Sydney Opera House | Photo Credit: Opera Australia

    Imagine sitting on the edge of the park in the Royal Botanical Gardens, with Opera Australia performing on a floating stage and the famed Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge as the back drop. Each year the performance changes! I suggest taking the VIP package with access to the lounge before and during the intermission. This is not an event to be missed!

    Hosh Carmen Dancer | Photo Credit: Opera Australia

    Hosh Carmen Dancer | Photo Credit: Opera Australia

    Madama Butterfly | Photo Credit: Opera Australia

    Madama Butterfly | Photo Credit: Opera Australia

    This self-described “true blue Aussie” was born in Brisbane and showed a true knack for entrepreneurship. After meeting and marrying Linda, an American with a penchant for international travel, they started Swain Australia Tours (now Swain Destinations) in 1987. Over the course of the next 10 years, Swain Destinations became the largest seller of South Pacific travel on the East Coast.

    May 23, 2018 • Articles, Australia, Destinations, Ian Swain Sr, Travels • Views: 2541

  • Where to Stay in New South Wales

    The Langham Sydney

    Lobby | Photo Credit: The Langham, Sydney

    Lobby | Photo Credit: The Langham, Sydney

    The Langham Sydney is tucked away in a residential area in the historic Rocks district. Just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Sydney Harbour, this charming hotel has a residential feel. It is a tranquil oasis after a busy day of sightseeing. I especially love that each of the 98 rooms and suites is decorated in an elegant and classic style. Each room overlooks the Western Harbour or the city. You can treat yourself at the wonderful Spa by Chuan. Also, you can enjoy the beautiful indoor heated pool with its star-covered ceiling – a Sydney icon! A favorite of mine is afternoon tea with Wedgwood in the Palm Court. You certainly don’t want to miss this indulgent experience!

    Grand Langham Room | Photo Credit: The Langham, Sydney

    Grand Langham Room | Photo Credit: The Langham, Sydney

    Afternoon Tea | Photo Credit: The Langham, Sydney

    Afternoon Tea | Photo Credit: The Langham, Sydney

    Pool | Photo Credit: The Langham, Sydney

    Pool | Photo Credit: The Langham, Sydney

    Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

    Wolgan Valley | Photo Credit: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

    Wolgan Valley | Photo Credit: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

    Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is a conservation-based resort set in a 7,000-acre nature reserve in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains area. The resort is an easy three-hour drive or a 45-minute helicopter flight from Sydney. A stay at Wolgan gives a unique opportunity to explore the Australian bush in style, with superb accommodation and outstanding food and wine!

    One of the highlights of this property are the charming individual villas. These villas are complete with a double fire place and each with their own plunge pool and veranda allowing for beautiful views over the valley. Above all, there is never a lack of things to do! Activities range from 4WD adventures that allow you to spot local wildlife to colonial heritage tours and stargazing. The spa at Wolgan Valley is outstanding, but I would recommend pre-booking any treatments. A stay at Wolgan Valley is the quintessential Australian experience. It is one of my favorite places in New South Wales for a relaxing, authentic adventure in understated luxury.

    Horses | Photo Credit: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

    Horses | Photo Credit: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

    Picnic | Photo Credit: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

    Picnic | Photo Credit: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

    Wildlife Drive | Photo Credit: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

    Wildlife Drive | Photo Credit: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

    The Byron at Byron Bay Resort and Spa

    Exterior | Photo Credit: The Byron at Byron Bay

    Exterior | Photo Credit: The Byron at Byron Bay

    The Byron at Byron Bay Resort and Spa sits in a coastal rainforest, minutes from a stunning beach and coastline. The resort has a casual, laid-back yet elegant vibe. Dining at the Byron at Byron Bay is a true fine dining experience where you will enjoy fresh, seasonal and locally-sourced food in the restaurant overlooking the rainforest. The comfortable suites are located within the sub-tropical rainforests with screened in porches and spacious living areas.

    Complimentary yoga classes are offered, and the multi-award-winning spa is definitely worth a visit! You can visit the gym, tennis courts or go on a guided walk through the rainforest – this resort certainly has something for every traveler! Also, the resort has a complimentary shuttle to take you to the center of Byron Bay, a beachside town with a quirky style and a thriving food scene. The Byron at Byron Bay is an oasis of tranquility where you can enjoy wonderful hospitality!

    Deluxe Spa Suite | Photo Credit: The Byron at Byron Bay

    Deluxe Spa Suite | Photo Credit: The Byron at Byron Bay

    Infinity Pool | Photo Credit: The Byron at Byron Bay

    Infinity Pool | Photo Credit: The Byron at Byron Bay

    The Restaurant | Photo Credit: The Byron at Byron Bay

    The Restaurant | Photo Credit: The Byron at Byron Bay

    Anne Pace, born and raised in Australia has traveled extensively throughout the world. She returns frequently to her favorite destination, her hometown of Sydney.

    May 22, 2018 • Anne Pace, Articles, Australia, Destinations, Property Highlights, Travels • Views: 2625

  • Experience Vivid Sydney

    A Festival of Light

    More than just beautiful and inspiring, Vivid Sydney is exceptionally fun. As much as you are exploring and observing the unique installations, you are also interacting with them.

    Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    My most memorable moment was arriving in Circular Quay as the lights began projecting on the sails of the Sydney Opera House. The colors and designs were incredibly vivid, adding this overwhelming sense of surrealism to such an iconic structure.

    Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Write New South Wales in on your travel list around Vivid Sydney. Experiences like these leave you with that unforgettable WOW feeling – and it is only getting better!

    Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Photo Credit: Destination New South Wales

    Let me know your thoughts on my favorite shots from my Vivid Sydney adventure!

    Most claim that this captivating young adventurer made his first appearance in the travel industry at the tender age of five, working diligently to become the most efficient brochure boxer this side of the Atlantic, all the while running up and down the office halls in-between projects. Always following his father around the office throughout the years, Ian began to learn the ropes and become more engaged with the company and travel industry. As Ian grew older, his knowledge and skill set were outpaced only by his passion for travel and desire to see the world, venturing to destinations across the globe from Australia to Africa,. After four years of study, and a few years working within the hotel industry, Ian began his official career much like it started, with a wide-eyed enthusiasm and tireless work.

    May 2, 2018 • Articles, Australia, Ian Swain II, Travels • Views: 2836

  • Five Myths About Koalas

    Koalas are so cute they could be mythical creatures; maybe that’s why there are many popular myths about them. Below are the top five most popular myths about these fuzzy creatures.

    Myth 1: Koalas are “drunk/high” on eucalyptus

    This is possibly one of the most popular myths in the animal kingdom. In fact, if you start typing into google, “are koalas…” the first option is “are koalas high”!

    The idea that we’re not the only species on the planet that gets intoxicated is gratifying. That this intemperate animal should be Australian resonates with the world view of Australia: a land of friendly, sozzled creatures lazing about in the sun. However, koalas are not drunk or high on eucalyptus! There is no alcohol in eucalyptus to intoxicate them. They do rest a lot, but it’s not due to a hangover!

    Koala in Tree | Photo Credit: Echidna Walkabout

    Photo Credit: Echidna Walkabout

    Myth 2: Koalas only eat one type of gum-tree

    So, these creatures live all over Australia, but only eat one tree? No wonder such a fussy animal is dying out!

    However, this is not true. Koalas in the You Yangs near Melbourne have been recorded eating every one of the 15 species of eucalypt in the park. All over Australia, the gum-trees they eat number in the hundreds of species!

    This myth may have started from some early scientific research that showed that koalas have a high preference for certain species of eucalyptus in certain regions. That can be true in some places, but not in others. In the You Yangs, 34% of koala sightings are in River Red Gum Trees. The rest of the time, they are in Blue Gums, Yellow Gums, Ironbarks, Sugar Gums and many other types.

    Myth 3: Koalas are slow

    Researchers probably wish this were true. A koala can run on the ground at around 32km per hour. If frightened, they can leap up a tree in 2 metre bounds.

    Koalas lead a slow lifestyle most of the time. They rest a lot due to the low nutrient value of their food, but when they move, they can be fast, agile and powerful.

    Myth 4: Koalas are docile and love to be pet and cuddled

    These cute creatures are still wild animals and like most wild animals, they prefer to have no contact with humans at all.

    Two independent scientific studies: a 2014 University of Melbourne study (1) and a 2009 study (2), found that even captive koalas, born and raised in a zoo, experience stress when humans approached too close to them. In the wild, Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours have found that 10 metres is the closest you should ever be to a koala. Any closer, and the koala’s behavior changes — they stop resting or feeding and they stare nervously. Unfortunately for them, they look cute even when they are terrified.

    Now an orphaned koala being raised by a wildlife carer may enjoy being pet by their carer. But all evidence suggests koalas do not enjoy being pet by strangers.

    Photo Credit: Echidna Walkabout

    Photo Credit: Echidna Walkabout

    Myth 5: Koalas are so numerous, they are hanging out of trees everywhere

    This is not true. Wild koalas are declining at a rate of 53% in Queensland, 26% in the small remaining population of New South Wales and 14% in Victoria. That is why they are listed as “Vulnerable” (one step below endangered). The IUCN lists them as one of the 10 species worldwide most at risk from climate change (3).

    This myth comes from two partial-truths — the first is historical: there was once a time when the animals were very plentiful across their range. However, that time is long gone. The other partial-truth is that there are five to six small pockets in southern Victoria and South Australia where koalas are overabundant (4), for reasons that are not understood. These populations receive a lot of media and research attention, which makes them seem larger than they are.

    This is why Australians are getting behind Wild Koalas Day on May 3rd. Wild Koala Day is about connecting koalas with habitat protection. If we are all to enjoy koalas, we need them to survive in the wild, not just in captivity. Act now to save them! On Wild Koala Day, May 3rd, plant a tree, protect the forest and phone a politician!

    Photo Credit: Echidna Walkabout

    Photo Credit: Echidna Walkabout

    References

    (1) http://theconversation.com/how-many-visitors-can-a-koala-bear-not-many-it-seems-26970

    (2) http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0007378

    (3) https://www.iucn.org/content/species-climate-change-hit-list-named

    (4) The 5-6 overabundant koala populations:

    • Cape Otway/Great Ocean Road, VIC
    • Raymond Island, East Gippsland VIC
    • Portland/south western VIC
    • Kangaroo Island, SA
    • Adelaide Hills/Mt Lofty Ranges, SA
    • French Island, VIC

    January 16, 2018 • Articles, Australia, Bloggers • Views: 5161

  • Adventure in Queenstown

    Queenstown will always be one of my favorite places on earth. Home to never ending mountain views, pristine lakes, a small town feel and more restaurants and shops than imaginable. Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand will always be a place I long to call home. Whether it’s jumping off a mountain or out of a plane, hitting the trails on a day hike or skiing trip, tasting wines, jetboating, or simply relaxing; Queenstown truly has something for everyone.

    View of Queenstown | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    View of Queenstown | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    Through the Mountains

    A must-do for those with prior dirt bike or ATV experience, Nomad Safari’s Quad Safari was an outing that I’d absolutely do again. Per the norm with activities in New Zealand, first came the safety briefing and gear fitting. We were advised that quad biking is the most dangerous activity you can do in Queenstown. After a brief tutorial on how to operate the ATV’s, we drove out to the test track to polish up on our skills. Here, they determine if anyone is unfit to journey on their own ATV – and if so they will simply ride on the back of one of the guides bikes.

    Quad Safari | Photo Credit: Nomad Safaris

    Quad Safari | Photo Credit: Nomad Safaris

    After a few rounds on the test course, we were off and ascending Queenstown Hill. Delighted to find fresh snow, we quickly made our way through powder and mud puddles. We stopped at every gorgeous outlook imaginable. We enjoyed hot chocolate and biscuits over the most beautiful snow-capped mountains. Riding through hills, we made our way through more puddles of mud and slush. All too quickly it was time to head home.

    Driving Through Queenstown | Photo Credit: Nomad Safaris

    Driving Through Queenstown | Photo Credit: Nomad Safaris

    On the Water

    I had never been white water rafting, but it was high on my list. We went for the ambitious Shotover River, graded 3-5, and had a blast. After safety briefing and wet suit fittings, and the treacherous journey on the road through skippers canyon, we arrived at the launch site. They broke us up into groups of 5-8, and paired us up with our guide. Then, we got right in the rafts and advised of the basic rafting commands. After practicing the slew of commands and ensuring we were ready, we paddled off and braced for the rapids.

    Shotover River | Photo Credit: Go Orange

    Shotover River | Photo Credit: Go Orange

    The river had five or six main rapid sections, broken up by calm stretches of the river. We were even given the ability to hop in and go for a swim. I didn’t have to be asked twice to jump in the Shotover River! Although it was freezing, it was sparkling clean – and when was I going to get this chance again?! After getting back in the raft, we headed for the highlight of the river; the cave. This is one of only two rivers in the world that has a cave you raft through. At the end of the cave was the biggest rapid of the river, and after ducking down and surviving, our incredible journey had come to a close. Out of all of the experiences on my trip, this is the one I would do again in a heartbeat.

    View in Queenstown | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    View in Queenstown | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    In the Air

    Milford Sound is one of those iconic “must-do’s” for every visitor to Queenstown. In my opinion, there’s no better way to see it than hopping in a helicopter and flying there. By road, the trip to Milford is around 4.5 hours one way. By helicopter, it’s about 30 minutes. We flew over the mountains and into the fjord, and were surrounded by unmatched beauty. On the flight back, we landed on top of a glacier where they stopped the engine of the helicopter so that we could simply enjoy the serene setting and breathe in the fresh air. After snapping some photographs and relishing in the moment, it was back in the chopper and back down to Queenstown.

    Milford Sound | Photo Credit: Milford Ultimate Heli Flight

    Milford Sound | Photo Credit: Milford Ultimate Heli Flight

    View of Milford Sound | Photo Credit: Milford Ultimate Heli Flight

    View of Milford Sound | Photo Credit: Milford Ultimate Heli Flight

    The Big Swing

    If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, look no further than AJ Hackett’s experiences in Queenstown. They have a handful of bungies and swings to choose from, and we chose the biggest swing of all: the Nevis Swing. After traveling out to the site, we waited our turn and contemplated our lives – our choices, our regrets – okay but seriously watching the people go in front of you is terrifying! Once harnessed into the swing, we were slowly brought out over thin air and stared down at the canyon below – an over 500 foot drop.

    It began with a misleading countdown of “5….4…..3….2…” before we were dropped and free falling for a few seconds, before swinging toward the other side of the canyon.  The total arc of the swing is just shy of 1,000 feet. After swinging back and forth a few times, and wiping the tears from our eyes, we were able to spot a few goats at the bottom of the canyon while we were pulled back up to safety.

    Returning to Queenstown brought a rush of adrenaline and tons of adventure activities, something that Queenstown specializes in!

     

    As a graduate of Eastern University with a degree in Anthropology, I have always valued the experiences one can find in other cultures. I’ve spent time in Belize, Honduras, Mexico, Kenya, and backpacked across Western Europe seeing 12 countries there. I have lived in Sydney and used it as a base for travels across the country. I’ve also spent time in New Zealand; and my latest trip back was a luxury lodge tour across both islands, seeing first hand some of the most breathtaking accommodations and properties that New Zealand has to offer. With the passion and longing for every individual to experience at least one other culture in their lifetime, I have found myself at Swain; with the opportunity to bring this passion to life.

    January 5, 2018 • New Zealand, Sarah Herman, Travels • Views: 3371

  • Exploring New Zealand’s South Island

    While Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island may be best known for the devastating earthquakes it has suffered in recent years, this city is certainly worth the visit – especially for its breathtaking surrounds. After spending an afternoon exploring the downtown, we had one day to try and see just what Canterbury was all about before hopping on the TranzAlpine to the West Coast.

    South Island | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    South Island | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    Flying over Christchurch | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    Flying over Christchurch | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    Exploring Christchurch

    The day began with a brief drive through downtown Christchurch, before ascending the hills on the way to Akaroa. Stops were made to view the incredible scenery. We also stopped for tea down by the water before heading into town. Once in Akaroa, we meandered through some local shops before heading to Black Cat Cruises for our adventure.

    After receiving a safety briefing and getting fitted for wet suits, it was time to hit the water. A short 20-minute cruise to the edge of the harbour was all it took to spot the first Hectors Dolphins. We were advised to never reach out and try to touch one of the dolphins. We were to respect their rights as wild animals. After assessing the wild dolphins, the brave jumped right into the freezing ocean for a closer view. After treading water and seeing dolphins in the distance, it was time to move locations for a better view.

    Dolphin Jumping | Photo Credit: Black Cat Cruises

    Dolphin Jumping | Photo Credit: Black Cat Cruises

    For the next hour or so we were hopping in and out of the boat, cruising through the harbour and swimming alongside of the dolphins. It was an incredible experience, and one that I’ll never forget. Once back on dry land, it was time for a hot shower and some fish and chips for lunch before heading back to Christchurch.

    TranzAlpine

    The TranzAlpine Train is the preferred method of travel from the East to the West side of the South Island. This five-hour train ride seemed more like five minutes. You pass through breathtaking scenery of rolling hills and planes, gorges, and snow-capped mountains. We were just a few weeks early for wild flower season, but the colors of the countryside did not disappoint. Each traveler on the train has assigned seats, and there is a full café on-board. The highlight of the train is the open viewing carriage. There are no seats, and the windows are wide open with no glass to obstruct the view.

    TranzAlpine Train | Photo Credit: Canterbury Tourism

    TranzAlpine Train | Photo Credit: Canterbury Tourism

    After taking the TranzAlpine and driving a few hours down the coast, Franz Josef is the perfect place to spend a few nights. Its remote location is emphasized by a few restaurants and handful of shops, but the beauty of the West Coast is stunning. The biggest feature of Franz Josef is its proximity to the glaciers, most notably Franz Josef Glacier.

    Flying Over Franz Josef

    We lucked out with the weather, and were able to take the only trip they were running the entire week. After safety briefings and handing out gear, the excitement begins with a five-minute helicopter flight from town to the glacier. Due to recession, the only access to the glacier is by helicopter – and you don’t hear anyone complaining about that! After getting a bird’s eye view, we touched down on the glacier and were instructed on how to properly put on our crampons. Then we were off! We weaved our way in and out of ice tunnels and across the face of a gigantic slab of ice. After what seemed like no time at all, it was time to head back to the helicopter and back to reality. I think most of us would have camped up there if given the chance!

    View Over Lake | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    View Over Lake | Photo Credit: Sarah Herman

    As a graduate of Eastern University with a degree in Anthropology, I have always valued the experiences one can find in other cultures. I’ve spent time in Belize, Honduras, Mexico, Kenya, and backpacked across Western Europe seeing 12 countries there. I have lived in Sydney and used it as a base for travels across the country. I’ve also spent time in New Zealand; and my latest trip back was a luxury lodge tour across both islands, seeing first hand some of the most breathtaking accommodations and properties that New Zealand has to offer. With the passion and longing for every individual to experience at least one other culture in their lifetime, I have found myself at Swain; with the opportunity to bring this passion to life.

    December 21, 2017 • Articles, New Zealand, Sarah Herman, Travels • Views: 8708