One Week in Sydney with a Toddler

Hello from Down Under!  Cooper and I have spent the last week running around like crazies soaking up all the goodness of Sydney.  I did a ton of research on some of the best places to bring him and we hit the ground running.  Now, this isn’t your traditional tour of the city, but if you happen to have a toddler, it is a pretty fun trip!

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The Best Active Vacations

It’s absolutely no secret that I LOVE to travel.  The Hubs and I try to take at least one big trip a year and pepper in some smaller getaways throughout the year.  This has nothing everything to do with the fact that we are both beach lovers stuck in the coldest climate ever six months out of the year.  One of the biggest criteria we have for selecting our travel destinations (besides a beach and warm weather!) is the ability to be active and make the most out of our time off.  While I love a trip to the spa or lounging pool side, I can do this for approximately one hour before I’m checking in with the lounge chair next to me asking “what’s next?”.  So I thought it would be fun to put together a list of the Best Active Vacations. Some of these places I have traveled to already and some are still on my wanderlist.  Either way, they are all equally beautiful, fun and unique.  You won’t be able to sit down for more than an hour in any of these places because you’ll be eagerly awaiting your next awesome adventure!

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is quite possibly the mecca of adventure travel.  With almost never-ending options to test your limits, your fears and your physical ability, Costa Rica is not for the faint of heart.  But if wish for a more leisurely pace, don’t worry golf is always on the menu!

pool

WHAT TO DO:  From the beach to the jungle, there is plenty to do on Costa Rica!

  • Surfing.
  • Zip lining.
  • Golf.
  • Snorkeling.
  • Rafting.
  • Biking.
  • Kayaking.
  • Canyoning.

WHERE TO STAY:  The Westin at Playa Conchal is the ultimate luxury spot.

WHERE TO EAT:  There are plenty of local restaurants where you can try out delicious Costa Rican flair.  Make sure to eat some plantains!

Yosemite

Sadly my trip to Yosemite got axed when the government shutdown happened (we went to Sonoma instead-terrible compromise, right?) so it remains on my wanderlist. With 1,200 square miles of pure nature, there are endless possibilities to enjoy the spectacular views.

yosemite

(Yosemite National Park-Source)

WHAT TO DO:

  • Swimming in any of the park’s bodies of water.
  • Rafting. Raft through Yosemite’s rivers!
  • Biking. Serious cyclists need not apply.  Twelve miles of paved cycle-ways provide a leisurely ride for everyone.
  • Hiking.  There are endless hiking trails in Yosemite.  I recommend planning a few trails you want to conquer before showing up so you can be ready to go and skip feeling overwhelmed.
  • Horseback Riding.  A unique way to experience Yosemite’s incredible views.
  • Rock Climbing.  If you’ve never done it before or don’t have the right equipment, take a lesson.  It’s hard but a great workout!

WHERE TO STAY:  The Ahwahnee is arguably the best hotel in all of Yosemite.

WHERE TO EAT:  The Wawona Dining Room looks relaxing and inviting.

Hawaii

My favorite, favorite!  The Hubs and I got married here and I fell in love (with Hawaii, I was already smitten with him).  Every island is different but each offers pristine beauty and an outdoor lifestyle that anyone coming from piles of snow can appreciate! 

DSCN0389

WHAT TO DO:

  • Surfing.  One of the best surf spots in the world!
  • Stand Up Paddle Board.  The waters surrounding the islands can be calm in some places making this a relaxing adventure but still a great core and upper body workout.
  • Kayaking.  The best way to explore in my opinion!
  • Snorkeling.  Snorkeling and scuba diving in Hawaii is some of the best you will ever see!  The fish are incredible!
  • Scuba diving.
  • Zip lining.  High up in the Hawaiian mountains, you can get a great view of the island while getting your adrenaline dose for the trip.
  • Biking a volcano.  In Maui, head to the top of the volcano and then daredevils can bike down!
  • Hiking.  There are plenty of hikes throughout the islands and they will offer some incredible views!
  • Swimming.  With warm water year round, sometimes the best way to stay active is the simplest.
  • Tennis.  Sunshine galore is conducive to a nice game of tennis.  Many hotels have courts with racquets and balls allowing you to get out for a friendly match.
  • Golf.  Hawaii boasts some of the best golf courses in the world.  Not to be missed!

WHERE TO STAY:  The Four Seasons on Lanai is the lap of luxury and perfect for those who love golf (there are two courses but the Challenge at Manele, designed by Jack Nicklaus offers unrivaled views) and snorkeling.  There is also SUPing with dolphins!  The Marriot at Wailea in Maui.  Reasonably priced yet still luxurious, this is a great resort in the center of all things Hawaiian.  Makena Beach and Golf Resort.  The tennis club at Makena is worth the trip alone but the kayaking, snorkeling, SUP and swimming are all impeccable as well!

WHERE TO EAT:  The Four Season at Manele Bay on Lanai has some wonderful restaurants.  I recommend private dining if you are willing to shell out the cash!  Café O’Lei on Maui is simply divine.  The food will melt in your mouth it is so delicious.

Puerto Rico

Unexpectedly one of the most active vacations I’ve ever had, Puerto Rico boasts warm waters of the Caribbean but offers the conveniences of mainland USA.  Only a short trip from the East Coast, I recommend an extended weekend stay! sup1 WHAT TO DO:

  • Snorkeling.  There is a coral reef off the island of Vieques that has some rather amazing snorkeling.  If you’re keen, take the 40 minute kayak out to a deserted island and then snorkel until your heart is content.  Just beware of how low the tide can get so you can avoid hitting any precious coral.
  • Stand Up Paddle Board.  Although the water can sometimes be a little rough and the current strong against the wind, it’s all just a great excuse to work your core on a SUP.  There are many small deserted beaches you can paddle to. You may even get lucky and see a sea turtle!
  • Kayaking.  Kayaking is one of the best ways to get around the island and visit all the little beaches!  Plus if you get hot, just jump in! 
  • Mountain Biking.  You can mountain bike around the island and from beach to beach.  Just beware that the roads are windy and narrow with cars passing.
  • Tennis. 

WHERE TO STAY:  Venture off the main island to the smaller Puerto Rican island of Vieques.  The small island charm makes you really feel like you are a world away.  Plus, the beaches on Vieques are some of the best in the world.  Stay at the W Hotel for excellent service and amazing views.

WHERE TO EAT:  While there are plenty of places in town to curb your appetite, some of the best (if not overpriced) dining is at the W Hotel.

Italy

Most people associate Italy with oodles of noodles, decadent food and historical monuments.  Italy for me, however, means biking the Cinque Terre.  This is number 1 on my wanderlist.  I have been talking about it for probably two years.  I will get there someday!  Can you imagine, biking along the cliffs overlooking the Italian Riveria—cue drool.

cinque terre

(View of the Cinque Terre- Source)

WHAT TO DO:  I am dying to take the DuVine Cycling Cinque Terre six day bike tour!  With between 75 and 97 miles of biking in six days plus kayaking and swimming in the sun-drenched Cinque Terre, this is the ultimate active vacation!

WHERE TO STAY:  This is all set up for you by DuVine!

WHERE TO EAT:  Again, all set up by DuVine but it includes an Italian cooking lesson!

Cape Cod

My stomping ground.  My parents live on the Cape so the Hubs and I take every opportunity to spend quality time here in the summer.  It is quite possibly one of the best summer vacation destinations in the United States.  I’m not biased or anything.  It is so picturesque from the lighthouses to the traditional houses to the amazing beaches. Cape Cod Rail Trail 3 (Cape Cod Rail Trail)

WHAT TO DO:

  • Bike the Cape Cod Rail Trail.  A paved bike trail following a former railroad track, this 22 mile stretch of bike path is heaven for cyclists.  Plus the views are incredible!
  • Kayak.  Kayaking is huge on Cape Cod.  There are plenty of inlets, harbors and bays that are perfect for exploring.
  • Stand Up Paddle Board.  Relatively new to the Cape, these babies are popping up everywhere.
  • Surfing.  While not as well known as other surf vacation spots, there are some decent waves on the upper cape that can lend themselves to some serious surfing.
  • Tennis.  Tennis and golf are huge pastimes on Cape Cod with many private clubs and also some public available.
  • Golf.

WHERE TO STAY:  There are plenty of B&Bs and hotels along the Cape but I recommend a rental if you can score one to get the most authentic experience.

WHERE TO EAT:  While nothing beats a homemade clambake, the Lobster Pot in Wareham will get you close.  For fine dining, try Twenty-Eight Atlantic at the Wequassett Inn in Chatham.

Croatia

In my opinion, Croatia is the unexplored gem of Europe.  Often outshone by its super-neighbors, Italy and Greece, Croatia boasts unspoiled beauty as well as action and adventure.  I am obsessed with the REI Croatia Multisport tour and would give my left arm to do this!  All activities, meals and accommodation are planned for you so all you have to do is show up ready to roll.

croatia

(Plitvice Lakes National Park-Source)

WHAT TO DO:

  • Hiking.  Hike anywhere from 15-20 miles in total during this 8 day Croatia adventure.  You hike the Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as, Paklencia National Park and Krka National Park, which has some amazing waterfalls!
  • Biking.  Bike 20-26 miles around the Croatian countryside taking in unspoiled landscapes and traditional villages.
  • Kayaking.  Spend about 3 hours kayaking along the stunning Croatian coastline.
  • Rafting.  Three to four hours of Class I/II whitewater rafting.  The Hubs and I did this two years ago and Class I/II is pretty tame.  It means a lot of time chillin in the raft and enjoying the amazing views!

WHERE TO STAY:  All hotels are taken care of on this trip!

WHERE TO EAT:  Meals are all set too!

Vermont

This one is the outlier.  My only winter destination.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to ski.  I’m just ok doing it for three days, once a year!  Vermont is filled with amazing ski destinations and you are pretty much guaranteed snow!  

skiweekend13

WHAT TO DO:

  • Skiing.  The main attraction.  I recommend finding a mountain that has a lot of trails, multiple lifts (high speed preferably) and a range of levels because even if you are an advanced skier, you may want to warm up and cool down on some easier trails.
  • Snowshoeing.  This is something I haven’t tried yet but it is on my list.  It is a major calorie burner and workout and kind of looks like fun!
  • Tubing.  The workout here is the walk uphill!  The downhill is a lot of fun though too! J
  • Ice Skating.  Channel your inner Olympic athlete and gracefully swirl around a frozen pond or indoor rink.

WHERE TO STAY:  I recommend Killington as my Vermont Mountain of choice.  There are a ton of accommodation options.  If you are looking for luxury then the Killington Grand Hotel is the way to go.  Budget friendly accommodation is the Mountain Inn, located near the Grand Hotel with views of the mountain and easy access to the base! WHERE TO EAT:  On the Rocs Lounge has a create cozy intimate atmosphere with good food and wine.

Australia

Australia defines outdoor living.  With some of the best beaches, most amazing sites and varied landscape in the world, there is an activity to suit everyone’s interest down under! oper house bridge view from gardens (View from the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens)

WHAT TO DO:

  • Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Kayak Sydney Harbour.
  • Hike the Blue Mountains.
  • Surf Sydney Beaches.
  • Run through Sydney’s famous Royal Botanical Gardens.
  • Stand Up Paddle in the Whitsundays.

WHERE TO STAY:  Pony up some dollars and stay on Hayman Island. WHERE TO EAT:  Ripples in Sydney is one of the best restaurants with amazing views!  Echoes in the Blue Mountains has superb food with again, amazing views!

colloroy 4

(Surfing Sydney Beaches)

Of course the best part about being super active when on vacation is you can indulge without guilt in the amazing local cuisine at your destination.  Personally, I’m not big into deprivation when I’m on vacation.   I want to try everything!  And after burning a gazillion calories all day long, I do just that! 🙂

Readers, do you like to sit and chill or get up and go when on vacation?  What’s on the top of your wanderlist?  Any vacation plans for the summer?  

Facing Your Fears and Coming Out on Top

Hi there!  How was your weekend?  Hope you had a good one.  Today I want to talk about fear.  Everyone has fear of some kind, whether it be rational or irrational, the jump out and scare you kind or the I’m-not-sure-I-can-do-this kind.  The point is, it is a human emotion that we all share.  Fear is not always a bad thing.  It makes us cautious and aware.  It helps us protect ourselves from things that can hurt us.  But sometimes fear can get in the way of our dreams and accomplishments.  It can limit us in a way that we don’t want or need to be limited.  It can tell us no, when we should be saying yes.  

I have many fears.  The fear that someone is breaking into my apartment in the middle of the night (irrational).  The fear that I won’t succeed at something (rational, but is it necessary?).  The fear that I did something wrong and caused upset (somewhere between rational and irrational).  I also have one very specific fear…downhill.  I don’t mean the metaphorical, my-life-is-going-downhill, I mean actually going down a hill.  Let me explain.

The Hubs and I began “seriously” cycling (I use quotes because I would say we are moderately serious not very serious) about four or five years ago.  We started out just riding along the bike paths in Manhattan.  I rented a hybrid bike on the weekends and enjoyed being outside in the fresh air that is so prevalent along the West Side Highway.  Eventually I got a road bike and we started biking longer and more difficult routes.  The big hill in Central Park was nothing compared to the long stretches of road we biked on Cape Cod or in parts of Westchester or Connecticut.  We would throw our bikes on our car and drive out of the city in search of fun bike routes.

Bike Palisades

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Hunter Valley

Hello friends!  Did you have a nice weekend?  It was in the 50s here this weekend and it felt soooo good (side note- something is wrong when you think 50s is warm . . .).  Also, has anyone else noticed the sun has been setting at 5:40pm!!!  I can hear spring calling me and I want to shout out “I’m here!!! Rescue me!!”  Of course we will be getting snow on Tuesday.  Fun.  

Anyways, we’ve finally made it!  Our last stop on tour de Australia.  So far we’ve visited the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef, the Blue Mountains, and Sydney: Part 1 and Part 2.  Well, our final stop on what I call the greatest vacation ever besides my honeymoon is the Hunter Valley.

The Hunter Valley is wine country in Australia.  It is the only wine region in New South Wales and I would like to say it is the best, but I think the Barossa Valley in South Australia takes the cake on that one.  No matter!  I love the Hunter.  Pete and I vacationed there way back in 2007 right before we moved to the U.S. from Sydney.  Since it is only a two hour drive from Sydney, we decided to make a two day trip to the Hunter to show my parents what real Australian wine is (note- real Australian wine is not yellowtail.  Nor do they drink Fosters.).

grapes

vines

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Sydney: The Beaches and More!

Hello all!  Hope you enjoyed a fabulous weekend.  We had a relaxing low key one over here.  Luckily the Hubs will NOT be in Mexico this week so I am looking forward to an entire week with another person around. Yay!

We’ve almost completed our tour around Australia! Today I have Sydney Part 2 for you–the beaches and more!  If you missed my other recaps you can catch up on: the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef, the Blue Mountains  and Sydney Part 1!

One of the reasons I love Sydney so much is that you can be in the heart of the city one minute and then at the beach just a short ride later.  I have to say that the beaches in Sydney are some of the best I have ever been to, which includes better than Hawaii, better than the Caribbean and better than Florida.  The beaches are just so amazing!

Of course one of the beaches you have to visit if you ever go to Australia is Bondi.  It is probably the most famous beach in Australia.  It is a lot of fun but honestly, it is not my favorite because it is so inundated with tourists.  My favorite is Freshwater, which I don’t think I actually took any photos of while we were there!  Manly is a close second.  But Bondi is iconic Australia.

bondi 2

bondi 3

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