Category Archives: Australia and Oceana

The best beach in Hawaii and the world

Vagobond Travel Museum – The World’s Best Beaches

Want to know where the world’s best beaches are?  There are a few ways you can find out. One is to go to a source like the famous Dr. Beach – he’s one guy and he lists the world’s best beaches every year. The only problem is that he focuses solely on the USA and he likes to shift the list around to give all the beaches a fair chance. By the way, Dr. Beach’s favorite for 2012? Coronado Beach near San Diego.

The best beach in Hawaii and the worldAs for me – my favorite beach in the world is without a doubt Kalama’s Beach in Kailua on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Not quite as beautiful as the nearby Lanikai Beach but with better waves, Kalamas isn’t as crowded as Kailua Beach Park and has wide expanses of sand. Perfect for body surfing, beautiful views of the Mokulua Islands and a safe and friendly locals beach on an island crowded with tourists.

I wanted to know the very favorite beaches of people who travel all over the world to out of the way places and who don’t necessarily have a commercial reason to list one over the other. So I turned, once again, to the travel bloggers of the world.

La'alao Beach Big Island of Hawaii image courtesy of Stacy KuyfI wasn’t the only one to pick a Hawaiian Beach as my favorite.  Stacy Kuyf of One Travels Far picked La’aloa Beach Park (Magic Sands) on the Big Island of Hawaii (and a few other incredible Big Island beaches.)

Sanibel Island in Florida image courtesy of Green Global TravelA couple of mainland American beaches made it to the list as well. Bret Love of Green Global Travel chose Sanibel Island Beach in Florida. Dr. Jesse Voights of Wandering Educators preferred the Great Lakes beaches of Michigan’s Sunset Coast.

Uruguay Cabo Polonio image courtesy of Michael Hodson - Go See Write It’s not just North America and the USA that have wondefulbeaches though – Michael Hodson of Go See Write  points out the gorgeous Cabo Polonio of Uruguay while Mariana Calleja Ross of My Travel Thirst leads us to this incredible Southern Caribbean Retreat with Aruba,  Bonair,  and Curaçao.  Laura Ann Klien of Edgy June Travels heads to Mexico to get her beach fix in her Doorway to the Sea.

Navagio on Zakynthos photo courtesy of Heather Cowper In terms of European Beaches – there are a lot to choose from. Cristina Cantarelli of The Travloution is a huge fan of the beaches near and in Barcelona while Heather Cowper of Heather on Her Travels recommends  Navagio on the Greek island of Zakynthos.

Turkish Beach at Phaselis courtesy of Natalie Sayin of Turkish Travel BlogIf you are wondering about the beaches of Turkey, Natalie Sayin  of Turkish Travel Blog recommends one of my all time favorites – Ancient Greek ruins and beautiful Mediterranean beach at Phaselis.  Ayelet Weisz of  All Colores shares this off the beaten path beach  in Netanya, Israel.

Beach on Perhentian Islands Malaysia courtesy of Flashpacker FamilyFinally, just in case you were wondering why there aren’t any magnificent Asian beaches…Bethaney Davies of Flashpacker Family shares Tuna Bay on Perhentian Besar in Malaysia. Sebastian Canaves-Borner of off-the-path writes about the paradise he found at Ton Sai Beach in Thailand.

Noosa Beach photo courtesy of Get in the Hot SpotAustralia, the world’s largest island is surrounded by beautiful beaches. What’s the best one? Annabel Candy of Get in the Hot Spot  tells us it’s Noosa Beach and offers a fun filled travel guide for Noosa to boot.

No one brought up Africa, but the beaches in Morocco, at least are pretty awesome. Here are a few Asilah, Tangier, Essaouira, Tetuan, Agadir…so I’m guessing the rest of this huge continent has some pretty stellar beaches too…

Last but not least, the beautiful Alexandra Kovacova shows us her favorite beaches of the Mexico, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines in this very bikini centric  photo-essay.  She really is a crazy sexy fun traveler!

Where’s your favorite beach in the world? Come share it with us at http://www.facebook.com/vagobondtravel

New Zealand Gannet Safari

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand – 6 Things Not to Miss!

Story and Photos by Katherine Rodeghier

Wines of New Zealand
Mission Estate is New Zealand’s oldest winery, founded by French missionaries.

Mother Nature practiced her own brand of “tough love” on Hawke’s Bay, but this fishhook-shaped stretch of land along the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island is all the better for it.

First, she changed the course of a river leaving gravel beds behind. But the stony surface proved beneficial for growing grapes, forcing the vines to send their roots deep into the earth to seek nutrients. That gave the wine produced from them extra character. Hawke’s Bay became New Zealand’s oldest wine region, now yielding 70 percent of the nation’s red wine.

Then in 1931 she sent a 7.8 magnitude earthquake unleashing death and destruction. But in the 40 seconds the quake shook, 8,500 acres of land rose from the bay and stayed above water, a fertile tract of new real estate locals call “The Gift.” The quake flattened the nearby city of Napier, but residents rallied to quickly rebuild in the style of the day. Napier now proclaims itself “The Art Deco Capital of the World.”

Don’t be mad at Mother Nature. She blesses Hawke’s Bay with a mild Mediterranean climate and ample sunshine, so you’ll find plenty to do in any season. Don’t miss:

Wine: The Hawke’s Bay region boasts 170 vineyards and more than 70 wineries, 40 of them with cellar doors for tastings. You won’t find many of these wines outside New Zealand, so your only chance to sip them might be right at the winery.

Mission Estate, New Zealand’s oldest winery, was established in 1851 by pioneering French missionaries in the Gimblett Gravels wine-growing district. It still employs winemaking techniques brought from Bordeaux. At Church Road Winery try for a hard-to-get taste of its famous Tom McDonald reds, named for the father of New Zealand’s red wines. Afterward, visit the Tom McDonald Cellar, the nation’s only wine museum. Twilight is the best time to visit Craggy Range winery because the view of rosy light on Te Mata Peak from a table on the patio is one you won’t soon forget. See Elephant Hill Winery in broad daylight when the light green contemporary building mirrors the Pacific Ocean across the road.

Art Deco: Art Deco is not unusual, but an entire town of Art Deco is unique. Napier has 140 original Art Deco buildings as well as many in the 1930s Spanish mission, stripped classical and jazz-age styles.

Make your way to the Art Deco Shop to buy a brochure for a self-guided tour or join one of the daily guided walks of one or two hours given by the Art Deco Trust, formed in the 1980s to preserve these buildings. The Trust also has hop-on, hop-off bus tours and vintage car tours if you want to tool around town in a Packard. Among the most notable buildings are the National Tobacco Co., a mixture of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, and the Dome with copper cupola and clock tower above a former insurance company building that’s been converted into four luxury apartments you can book for overnight stays.

On the third weekend in February, modern vehicles are banned on the main streets and nearly everyone dresses in 1930s attire for an Art Deco Weekend of parades, music and dancing.

Cape Kidnappers: When Captain Cook landed off the cape in 1769, the local Maori tribe thought his Tahitian cabin boy was one of their own and snatched him. The kidnapped lad escaped and made it back to the ship, but not before forever giving the cape its name.

 

New Zealand Gannet Safari
The gannet colony on Cape Kidnappers is the largest mainland gannet colony in the world and the most accessible.

A 6,000-acre sheep and cattle station operates on the cape on Hawke’s Bay, but its most famous animals are the 20,000 gannets who spend October to April gathered in 100-bird clusters of noisy nesting pairs. Not only is this the largest mainland colony of these rare birds, but the most accessible. Gannet Safaris takes you within a few feet of the white birds—related to the booby family—for a close-up view of their black eye markings and toasted marshmallow crowns.

If you prefer fairways to feathers, the Cape Kidnappers Golf Course perches atop the cape with ocean waves crashing on the rocks far below—now that’s a water hazard. Designed by Tom Doak, it ranks in the top 50 golf courses in the world and is part of the five-star resort, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. Don’t be fooled by the resort’s exterior, resembling a cluster of farm buildings. Doors open to plush rooms and stellar cuisine. Guys, you’ll need a jacket for cocktails and dinner here.

Food: The Fruit Bowl of New Zealand, Hawke’s Bay grows an abundance of stone fruits, olives and vegetables. You’ll see them on display on weekends in New Zealand’s oldest farmers market along with yummy baked goods, flavored mustards, giant crayfish in the seafood case and mugs of craft-brewed beer. Free samples! The Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market is the place to socialize with the Kiwis who come for breakfast and stay through the morning gathering around tables on the grass and listening to music from a live band.

Or you can rub elbows with the locals at the communal table inside The Kitchen Table, a breakfast and lunch spot in Napier. Walls and tables adorned with kitschy items from childhood—school lunch boxes, storybooks, toys—give you something to talk about.

 

New Zealand’s lamb dishes are famous, especially the short loin at Black Barn Bistro.
New Zealand’s lamb dishes are famous, especially the short loin at Black Barn Bistro.

For serious dining, restaurants in the wineries stand out. At the Black Barn Vineyard, take time for lunch in the bistro, especially if you can get a table in the courtyard screened by a trellis of trailing vines. You can’t go wrong with the lamb short loin or the kingfish carpaccio. Terroir, the French country fine-dining restaurant at Craggy Range, sources Hawke’s Bay’s best produce, seafood and meats, especially First Light Foods’ venison and grass-fed Wagyu beef, also prized by chefs at top restaurants in the U.S.

Biking: Choose from more than 110 miles of bike paths in the Hawke’s Bay region, most of them dedicated off-road trails.

 

New Zealand Wines and Bikes
Watch out for frisky cows on the bike paths.

Takaro Trails Cycle Tours has several self-guided day tours that include bike and helmet hire and transfers. Itineraries may lead you along the coast or follow river tracks stopping at a string of wineries for a day of sipping and cycling. You’ll chuckle at signs on livestock gates with a cartoon graphic warning bikers not to get too close to “frisky” cows.

Maori experience: Rub noses with a Maori as you are welcomed to their sacred site, settled after these first peoples arrived in New Zealand from Polynesia in the 14th century. Waimarama Maori Tours allows outsiders onto their spiritual grounds, but only after answering a challenge from a fierce-looking bare-chested man carrying a spear. Once inside the palisades, you’ll learn a few words of Maori songs, listen to music played on traditional flutes and watch warriors go at it with sticks and clubs. Then it’s time to eat. Sit down to a feast of Maori dishes made from local seafood and produce. Sea urchin, anyone? You’ll also find eel and seaweed on the buffet along with paua (abalone), fry bread and a luscious pavlova made of meringue, kiwi and whipped cream.

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand Travel Resources

Hawke’s Bay Tourism

 

Istanbul Stopover Tours

Gay Istanbul – It’s not what you think!

Istanbul is a great destination, especially if you are Gay.

Istanbul Stopover ToursI’m afraid I’ve played a little bit of an April Fools on you – I should have spelled it Gaye Istanbul, that’s Gaye as in Gaye Reeves the owner and personality behind the Ayasofya Hotel (which incidentally, is gay friendly, in case you were wondering) in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet  District and Istanbul Stopover Tours.

While I’ve been told that there is an active and fun gay community here, this post is really about my friend, Gaye Reeves and how she can make your stay in Istanbul much better than if you don’t get in contact with her.  Gaye is an Australian expat who came here for the first time seventeen years ago  and fell in love with Turkish culture and this magnificent country. So much so that in 2009, she decided to buy a run down Ottoman house converted into a hotel and turn it into one of the top boutique hotels in Istanbul.

Easier said than done but three years later, The Ayasofya Hotel is charming guests and earning a great reputation amongst travelers. This is a far cry from when she picked it up. While the building has been upgraded and the facilities are certainly better than when she got it, I tend to think that the success of her hotel is due to her own personality.

Which one of these ladies is Gaye?

Gaye is a passionate traveler who has globe trotted with the best of them and stayed in more than her fair share of bungalows, hotels, guest houses and hostels.  In addition to using her own travel finesse to turn her hotel into a comfortable haven for those seeking to explore Istanbul,  she has the warmth and hospitality that the Aussies are renowned for.

All of that is the reason, I always recommend the Ayasofya Hotel to friends, family and generally any nice people who come to Istanbul (including you).  At this point, I’ve stayed at the Ayasofya enough that it feels like a second home to me and I get a welcome from the staff that is more like that of a returning family member. In fact, we asked Gaye to be our daughter’s Godmother – and well, it might not be a complete coincidence that our daughter is named Aya Sophia. She is made in Turkey, after all.

In any event, when you come to Turkey and you are wondering what to do and it seems like every tout is out to get you and you don’t know who to trust – my suggestion is that you trust Gaye. She’s created a small travel agency that does private tours through all of her favorite areas of Turkey.  Whether you want to do a classical tour or take a trip to small village and explore village life there. Gaye can get you set up.

And while I realize that I’m posting this on April Fools day – the truth is that today is the 3 year anniversary of Gaye taking over the Ayasofya Hotel. She’ll be the first to tell you that she bought the hotel on April Fools day because it was the most foolish mistake she has ever made but don’t believe a word of it – have a conversation with her and you’ll see – she love’s every second of it and wouldn’t be anywhere else.