Located around 80km south of Sydney, New South Wales you will find yourself at one of the largest Buddhist Temples in the Southern Hemisphere – Nan Tien Temple.
We stopped into the temple on our way back from a long weekend in Kiama (which by the way we highly recommend!).
Getting to Nan Tien Temple
Getting to the temple is easy! It is located in the suburb of Berkeley, on the outskirts of Wollongong, which is a beautiful beachside town worth stopping into as well.
The physical address is 180 Berkeley Road, Berkeley, NSW 2506 or you can type Nan Tien Temple into Google Maps and it will take you directly there.
A bit about the temple
Founded in 1967 by Hsing Yun, it is one of the branch temples of the Taiwanese Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order. There are over 120 branches worldwide.
As mentioned earlier, it is one of the largest Buddhist Temples in the southern hemisphere.
There are a number of buildings that form part of the temple. All of which are accessible for those in wheelchairs or those with prams.
The list of buildings and a map of the grounds can be found at this link.
It is important to note that the temple is not open on a Monday. It is, however, open 9 am – 5 pm Tuesday – Sunday including public holidays. For current opening times, click here.
It is a temple so there is a dress code you must adhere to. You need to be respectful and that means no shorts, singlets or thongs. You also much remove shoes and hats before entering the shrines.
For a full list of dress code requirements, click here.
Here are some more photos of our time at the temple.
“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” – Babs Hoffman
Mount Coolum is an ancient volcanic dome located on the Sunshine Coast and was created around 26 million years ago. It offers incredible views both over the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast and also the ocean. On a clear day, you can see an incredible distance. It really is quite breathtaking.
Getting to Mount Coolum
Located 1.5 hours north of Brisbane, you will find yourself at Mount Coolum. Take the David Low Way exit which is located 6 km south of Coolum Beach. You will find the car park entrance near the intersection of Tanah Street (West) and Jarnahill Drive. Parking is quite minimal so you may find yourself parking on nearby streets.
About the hike
The summit walk is a Grade 4 hike and is 1.6km return. It doesn’t seem like a far distance, but I can promise you the summit is 208m above sea level and given it is a grade 4 walking track, I would recommend only for fit walkers.
The hike up is incredibly steep and there are some rocky sections. We visited early one morning and were impressed with the number of people running up and down the track. There were also heaps of families there. But if you do take your children, you need to watch them closely as there are many rocky edges.
You should allow around 2 hours return for the hike, plus additional time when you’re up the top to catch your breath and to take some photos!
The walk starts in the open forest and you will notice the incline starting pretty quickly and the type of soil and trees around you change dramatically.
The further up you go the more you will notice that only montane heath plants exist which due to the harsh conditions, are the only thing that can grow up there!
If you’re interested in birdwatching, you may be in luck to see some honeyeaters and you may just be lucky enough to see some falcons above you.
Throughout the winter months, if you are there on a clear day you may even see some migrating whales out at sea.
The hike is open during daylight hours only. This is primarily for your safety.
How incredible is this view?
Click here for the Mount Coolum National Park map.
Tips for the hike
In the summer months, try to walk in the early morning or later in the afternoon making sure you don’t run out of daylight to come down. Also, do not attempt to walk the track in wet weather. The rocks can become extremely slippery and very dangerous.
There are no toilets in the national park. You will need to make sure you’ve made a pit stop before starting the hike.
What to bring with you
- Comfortable walking or hiking shoes
- Insect repellent, especially in the summer months
Note: Remember to take your rubbish with you!
After the hike, why not stop into Coolum Beach for some relaxation and cooling off!
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide
If you’re looking for a lovely road trip south of Sydney, why not stop in at Wollongong, a beautiful coastal city located on the Grand Pacific Drive in New South Wales, Australia.
If you haven’t heard about the Grand Pacific Drive before, click here to find out more – it is truly a special road trip either heading to or from Sydney. The drive from Sydney is around 1.5 hours so you can easily make a day trip or a long weekend. We stopped into Wollongong on our way back from a long weekend in Kiama.
Why visit Wollongong
If you’re into surfing, Wollongong has great surfing beaches and if you’re not, you’ll be able to find some rock pools to relax in.
The coastal town is perfect for thrill seekers or those wanting to relax. You can take part in skydiving and of course landing next to the beautiful beach, or just relaxing and getting some sunshine.
Wollongong Head Lighthouse
Actually, Wollongong Harbour is home to the only point on the eastern coast of Australia which has two lighthouses.
The point makes it a perfect spot for views over Wollongong and a pretty cool spot for a picnic if you have the time!
Where to stay and eat
Although we popped in only for a few hours, we stayed for lunch at Pepe’s on the Beach which we highly recommend!
What else to do in the area?
If you haven’t visited the Figure 8 Pools in the Royal National Park, I would suggest trying to add this onto your long weekend away but it is important to know when to visit – you can’t just turn up! To read more about this really cool spot, click here.
“He who would travel happily must travel light.” – Antoine de St. Exupery
As a child, you imagine spending time at rock pools, swinging from ropes into the water or jumping off rocks into waterways. Well, that’s pretty much what our childhood was about. Jenna grew up in Brisbane, so visiting the Gold Coast was something that happened frequently and so a trip or two to the Currumbin Rock Pools were definitely on the cards. The thing about South East Queensland is that there are so many incredible choices when it comes to visiting unique spots – we are certainly spoilt for choice.
We recently stopped by the rock pools and it is still just as popular as it was all those years ago.
Where to find the Currumbin Rock Pools
Located in Currumbin Valley, just a short 15 – 20-minute drive from Currumbin Beach (around 1 hour and 15 minutes from Brisbane City) you will find yourself at the Rock Pools. Just put in Currumbin Rock Pools into Google Maps and it will take you directly there.
The area is well signed, however, if you happen to arrive on a day where it is quieter, you may drive right past. However, no doubt you will see the line of cars that are parked underneath the trees along the road.
If you’re coming from the Pacific Motorway, take the Stapley Drive/Reedy Creek exit as that will be your most direct route.
The drive from the beach through the Valley is lovely and worth it even if you don’t want to stop for a quick swim.
About the Rock Pools
The water, when we visited, was quite cold! It certainly took your breath away but the beauty of these natural rock pools is that they are filled with fresh mountain water.
You will notice a variety of smooth sloping rocks, pebbled pathways and large boulders. A gorgeous little waterfall created the perfect spot (seat) for cooling off and people watch.
Always remember to be careful when jumping from any of the rocks into the water. Some areas are quite shallow and can often have rocks underneath the surface.
Facilities at Currumbin Rock Pools
The great thing about the area is the ample grassed area where families can bring their own picnic, or you can utilise the bbq facilities there and tables provided.
There is also a toilet block on site for those planning on spending some time there.
If you’re not one to bring your own food with you, or you happen to stay longer than planned and get hungry, there is a cafe across the road and they can arrange takeaway so you can take it back over to the pools.
What to bring with you
You need to remember you’re in Queensland and particularly if you’re visiting in summer, you will need to remember to pack for summer!
- Food & Water or you can use the cafe across the road
- If you have rock shoes, bring them – it will make it easier!
- A camera of course!
“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” – Anna Quindlen
The following is a guest post from Ryan and Carolyn, a like-minded couple who are traveling the world together. They’re thinking of starting their own travel blog, so they contacted us for some advice. We invited them to write a guest post on our blog so they could experience what it’s like. We hope you enjoy it.
Like Steven and Jenna who’ve had heaps of great tropical travel experiences in the last 12 months, Carolyn and I have had some absolute gems.
We got really lucky in 2017. Surfing the web for new places to travel to, we caught a great deal to visit Malaysia, which included a short stop in a place called Penang. I’ve got to be honest, it wasn’t at the top of our travel list, but that’s what’s so great about travelling – going to new, exotic places and being open to new experiences.
At the time we were considering buying a new car, but instead we decided to take another holiday! Penang, here we come!
We hooked up a great AirBnB near the centre of the main city in Penang called George Town. We did a bit of research and figured we could find tons of things to see and do within a small area, which limited how far we needed to travel each day. No point travelling further if there’s heaps to see and do on your doorstep.
George Town is capital city of Penang, located on Penang Island. The British founded it in 1786 as their first settlement in South East Asia, and became a trading town throughout the 1800’s. It attracted people from all over the world who brought their food and culture with them.
The place has been inhabited by Thai, Burmese, Chinese, Japanese British and countless other nationalities, so there’s this really exotic mix of different buildings, monuments and styles of food. You can almost feel the history everywhere you go.
We spent heaps of time just walking the streets, looking at all the old buildings. At some you could pay a dollar or two and go on a tour.
The first day we took a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. It’s such a great way to see a new city and get oriented.
The next day we booked a full-day Penang Island tour so we could check out all the major attractions, without needing to do all the research ourselves. We’ve done these in heaps of places when we’re short on time.
First we stopped at the Reclining Buddha Temple. Then we went to the Penang Botanical Garden, which had a great waterfall nearby.
For lunch we stopped off at Hawker Centre for a plate of Nasi Kandar; spiced steamed rice with lots of different curries. Delicious.
After lunch we took a cable railway car up Penang Hill to get a look at the island. The views were absolutely stunning.
Later we visited Kek Lok si temple, which had a huge 35-meter-tall statue of the Goddess of Mercy.
Things we loved
The street art was really quirky and interesting. It was everywhere, even where you least expected it. We’d be walking down a little alleyway and there’d be a cool little installation that someone had put together.
We took a few rickshaw rides around the city and down by the harbour. It was pretty hot and sticky so we didn’t mind getting a bit of breeze and giving our feet a rest.
One of our favourite stops was the Pinang Peranakan Museum. It’s an old merchant’s mansion and is full of original items. It’s like you’ve been transported back in time 200 years. It’s a must see if you get to Penang.
As interesting as all the old historical stuff is, sometimes we just needed a dose of modern civilisation. Fortunately, Penang had heaps of great malls to check out.
We only had a few days there, but we’re so glad we took the chance and visited. We probably wouldn’t go back again because there are too many other places in the world like Vietnam that we’re dying to see. But we’d definitely recommend a visit, especially if you’re going to Malaysia.
What they don’t teach you in school is how to be a great traveller. You might be taught about different cultures, languages and beliefs but what does that actually mean when it comes to travelling? This post will help you get back to basics on how to be a great traveller and something we should always consider, regardless of the number of countries you’ve visited in your lifetime.
Learn some basic local words
Fact check, not everyone in the world speaks English! Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to learn an entire language before your trip, but try to learn the basics such as hello, goodbye, thank you and that will go a long way with the locals. If you’re really stuck and struggling to get by, try to ensure you have Google Translate downloaded offline with the relevant language so you can get by. We had to do this on our trip to Sicily as nearly no restaurant staff spoke a word of English, nor was the menu in English!
Know the dress code before you arrive
There are a number of countries around the world where they abide by a strict dress code. Always be respectful of other countries beliefs and don’t disrespect them. An example of this is travelling to the Middle East. Particularly as a woman, dressing can be difficult. Click here for our guide on what to wear in the Middle East.
Respect the local history
It is important to remember that depending on the country you’re visiting, you may hear conflicting versions of the same part of history. Don’t be that person who stands up in the tour group questioning everything and saying it’s wrong. What one country believes may be different to the next country you visit. If you’re hearing versions of the story that you don’t understand or agree with, approach your guide at the end of a private conversation. These guides are doing their job at the end of the day and I am sure don’t appreciate being accused of providing false information. There are always three sides to every story, both sides and of course the truth.
Travelling with children?
More and more people are travelling with children these days which is amazing – it’s a wonderful way to learn about the world. However, you need to teach your kids the importance of respect. If you’re visiting temples, tell them not to run or yell as it’s disrespectful, don’t touch everything you walk past, especially in a museum or a shop and most importantly teach them the importance of different cultures and that some people dress differently to others and speak differently – and that’s ok.
Don’t be a stereotype
I can’t stress this enough! As a couple of Aussies, it is often hard travelling and people just assume that because we’re from Australia, we must be ‘Bogan’, ‘loud-mouthed’, ‘Kangaroo riding’ people who love to ‘throw another shrimp on the barbie’. In most cases, that is not who we are as Aussies! We either hear one extreme or the other about Aussie travellers, that we are friendly, kind, helpful and relaxed or you hear the polar opposite, and that is that we are loud, abrupt and absolute bogans. Leave a good impression on our fellow countries so when we leave they think us Aussies are the best kind of travellers!
Do you have any other tips you would add to this list?
“He who would travel happily must travel light.” – Antoine de St. Exupery
Who doesn’t love fresh strawberries? You can’t get any fresher than picking your own punnet of strawberries and enjoying them in the beautiful gardens. The best part about this activity is that it is 100% free to walk through and enjoy the grounds, you simply pay for the strawberries you pick.
Where are the Strawberry Fields located
You will find Strawberry Fields’ Sunshine Coast farm in Palmview, located along the old Cob & Co Route, now called Laxton Road. If you’re heading south, take the Aussie World exit off the Bruce Highway.
When can you pick strawberries?
Strawberry picking season runs from June to November. You don’t need to pre-book if you are just wanting to pick strawberries.
We went with our Niece and Nephews and they had a great time!
They do run educational tours for school groups and vacation cares and also kid’s birthday parties.
Like I said above, the best part about the venue is that you can enjoy the gardens and eat your strawberries and if you have kids with you they can enjoy the tractor playground.
Once you’ve picked your strawberries, be sure to head to the shop to pay for your punnet!
Strawberry Fields Cafe
Once you’ve picked your strawberries, or if you happen to visit in an off-season, you can still enjoy the Strawberry Fields Cafe. They sell their famous homemade strawberry ice cream which seemed to be a massive hit with everyone who ordered one!
“You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” – Eugene Fodor
If you’re visiting Cairns or Port Douglas and you have some free time, Hartleys Crocodile Adventures is definitely worth a visit.
You get quite a bit included with your entry ticket and I’ll go through some of those extras below.
Where is Hartleys Crocodile Adventures
Located at Wangetti just off the famous Captain Cook Highway, you will find the adventure park. The best thing about the location is whether you’re driving from Port Douglas or Cairns, the drive is incredibly scenic!
The drive is around 40 minutes north of Cairns and 20 minutes south of Port Douglas.
Opening Times and Entry Prices
As at February 2018, entry is $39 per adult, $19.50 per child (4 – 15 years) & a family ticket for $97.50 (2 adults and 2 children). For current pricing, click here.
The park is open from 8.30 am – 5:00 pm every day, except Christmas Day, when you buy your ticket they stamp it so you can enter using the same ticket for 3 consecutive days at no additional cost. That’s pretty good value!
Crocodile Lagoon Cruise
What we were most interested in was the crocodile lagoon cruise. The lagoon cruise is included with your ticket and you decide on available time slots when you pay for your ticket, we wanted to see the Cassowary Feeding first, so chose a time slot soon after the feeding which worked perfectly for us.
During the boat ride, the staff feed the crocodiles so you get to see this first hand! It’s pretty exciting.
The park has a heap of different animals to check out and plenty of talks throughout the day. Click here to take a look at the current timetable.
We really enjoyed the Cassowary Feeding. We were in for an extra surprise as we weren’t expecting to be able to feed these guys ourselves! But we were. And, there was plenty of food to go around so you don’t have to worry about missing out.
We spent the next couple of hours wandering around the park and getting to know the locals. We loved the baby koala, he was absolutely adorable!
And then, of course, the little kangaroos – we fed one some carrot and he seemed to love it!
Video and our experience
Due to a technical error, we lost all of our photos from our day at the park, but take a look at our short highlights video!
Remember to put the video on 1080p for a better quality viewing.
Visiting North Queensland?
For tips and ideas for what to see and do when visiting Cairns, click here.
Packing for Tropical North Queensland
You definitely need to be prepared for your trip to FNQ (Far North Queensland). There are a few essentials in my mind, one of which is, of course, mosquito repellent! Click here for a printable packing guide for your trip.
Do you have travel insurance?
Before travelling, make sure you get a travel insurance policy – you never know when you might need it! Click here for information on travel insurance, what company we recommend and a link to get an instant quote.
“Oh the places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
Burleigh Head National Park is a small park located at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast. The best thing about it is that it is free! So, you can come along with friends, your family or solo and enjoy the beautiful Gold Coast and views at no cost whatsoever.
Burleigh, as the locals call it, is in right in the middle of Surfers Paradise and Rainbow Bay/Coolangatta, on the Gold Coast and many locals return year after year to holiday at this beautiful destination.
Probably up there with one of the most beautiful foreshores on the Gold Coast, you can’t help but get swept away in the beauty that is the gigantic pine trees and parklands filled with barbecue areas and picnic tables. It is easy to see why it has become such a popular destination.
One of the benefits of visiting a beach like Burleigh is that it is a bay and a little more protected than the surrounding beaches such as Surfers Paradise or Broadbeach, so you’re just about be guaranteed decent swimming conditions.
Where is Burleigh Head National Park
Located at the famous Burleigh Heads Beach, around 90 km south of Brisbane you will find yourself surrounded by nature and beauty. With plenty to see and do around this area, you will be spoilt for choice.
If you’re travelling south from Brisbane on the Pacific Motorway, take exit 89 and drive straight into Burleigh Heads. You will then turn right onto the Gold Coast Highway. We started our walk from the northern entrance which is off Goodwin Terrace – there is a car park at the end of this street. However, if you’re after the southern entrance, take the traffic lights immediately north of Tallebudgera Creek.
Note: Access to Echo Beach is by designated stairways only.
Burleigh Head National Park
We decided to walk the Oceanview track from Burleigh Heads beach and were not disappointed. The walk is around 1.2km one way and will take you around a half hour. The beauty of this track is that it hugs the coastline from Burleigh Heads right around to Tallebudgera Creek. You have rainforest on one side and ocean on the other!
There are a few small climbs to get to the top, but you can take it at your own pace and there are, of course, a few beautiful lookouts along the way.
If you’re visiting after some summer storms, be sure to check the Parks Alerts website to see if the track has been closed.
For us, we wanted to get to Tumgun Lookout. The views – wow, they were incredible and worth the short walk to get there. We stayed for quite a while just taking it all in and enjoying the peacefulness of this spot.
Interesting name, isn’t it? Well, this natural volcanic formation is located on the Oceanview walk. You will need to scramble over some rocks to get to this point so try to wear some comfortable shoes so you don’t slip!
The views from the rock are incredible. I went out there for a bit, it was pretty windy so I am glad I have good balance. Jenna didn’t give it a go – her fear of heights combined with the wind on the day was too much for her to risk it!
“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Anonymous
Guide: IHG Rewards Club
InterContinental Hotels Group (“IHG”) has 12 brands and more than 5,000 properties in nearly 100 territories and countries. The most prominent in brands, in my opinion, being Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and Intercontinental.
The IHG Rewards Club rewards you for every night you spend with the IHG Group; from enjoying the complimentary internet, earning points and most importantly, providing you with a great night’s sleep!
IHG Rewards Club guide will cover:
- Status levels
- Earning points
- Reward points expiry
- Redeeming Reward points
IHG Rewards Club – Status Levels
The IHG Rewards Club has four status levels:
- Club: basic membership
- Gold Elite: 10 nights or 10,000 points
- Platinum Elite: 40 nights or 40,000 points
- Spire Elite: 75 nights or 75,000 points
The Intercontinental brand also has an Ambassador program
- Ambassador: paid membership ($200 USD)
- Royal Ambassador: by invitation only
To see the Status Level benefits, including that of the Ambassador program – click here. I have to say it never wears off feeling like an elite, room upgrades, drinks, free drinks etc!
The status levels are upgraded as you reach the required level of qualifying nights or points, which resets annually based on what you achieved in the last twelve months. To be honest, it’s much easier moving up in Status Level through the points than purely on the number of qualifying nights.
IHG run a number of accelerate offers which can reward you (with points) significantly so definitely register for these offers when they come along. It is also worth noting that you generally only receive the recognition and benefits of the IHG Rewards Club if you book directly on the IHG website.
IHG Rewards Club – Earning Points
Earn points through the IHG® Rewards Club family of brands listed below; points are earned on all qualifying spend and stays within the properties.
In addition to the room rate, you generally also earn points on charges charged to your room (except when staying at an InterContinental Hotel brand). The eligible charges include food and beverage, telephone, laundry, and in-room movies.
- Club: 1x base points per eligible $1 USD
- Gold Elite: 10% bonus earnings on top of the base points
- Platinum Elite: 50% bonus earnings on top of the base points
- Spire Elite: 100% bonus earnings on top of the base points
10 IHG® Rewards Club base points per eligible $1 USD spent at:
- Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts
- InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
- Hotel Indigo
- Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts
- Holiday Inn Express hotels
5 IHG® Rewards Club base points per eligible $1 USD spent at:
- Staybridge Suites
- Candlewood Suites
2.5 IHG® Rewards Club base points per eligible $1 USD spent at:
- The Residence Suites Dubai F.C,
- InterContinental Doha Residences
- Asiana Reside Saigon Residences.
ANA Co-branded hotels and ANA Partner Hotels in Japan, point earnings vary by hotel; however, you will receive 10 IHG® Rewards Club at ANA InterContinental®, ANA Crowne Plaza® and ANA Holiday Inn® per $1 USD dollar spent and either 600, 1,300 or 2,000 points depending on the specific ANA partner hotel for qualifying stays.
The remainder of the brands do not earn IHG® Rewards Club; the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants operate their own loyalty program called Karma Rewards (not covered in this guide), Holiday Inn Club Vacations is a program for owners of these properties, and Avid Hotels is a non-earning budget brand within the portfolio.
Reward points expiry
Elite members points do not expire, but if your membership moves back to Club, your points will expire after 12 months if there’s no account activity.
To sum it up, it’s easy to maintain your points balance. Just earn or redeem once a year through any of the IHG hotels or partners within the 12 month period.
Redeeming Reward points
You’ve earned some Reward points and not sure what next? Luckily IHG provides you with a range of options, from saving you money to making you feel good through a charitable donation.
Below is a short list of some of the redemption options:
- Reward Nights
- Points & Cash bookings
- Gift Certificates
- Airline Miles
- Rewards Concierge
- Digital Rewards
- IHG® Foundation
- Gift Cards (Amazon, Starbucks and more)
- InterContinental® Ambassador Memberships
In my opinion, it’s by far the best value to use your reward points on PointBreaks hotels, by far the biggest real savings compared to the alternatives. But if you only occasionally stay with IHG and don’t have enough points for a PointBreaks hotel, the Points & Cash bookings are a great alternative to reduce the cash cost of your stay.
Basically, the PointBreaks hotels provide you with ridiculous value, with frequent promotions the list of properties can be redeemed for either 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 points. Tip: add this to your favourites as the list is refreshed every couple of months!
Leave a comment if you have anything you would add
That’s our quick guide to IHG Rewards Club, what would you add? Do you have any hints, tips or tricks to share in the comments below?