Hotel quarantine survival guide

Photo of a girl in hotel quarantine

In March 2020, the Morrison Government introduced mandatory hotel quarantine for all residents returning from overseas. Whether the drastic measure is considered effective or a costly overkill is hotly debated, and it looks like it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. ๐Ÿจ

After looking on from afar for months, it’s now my turn to do my time in quarantine. Following a string of flight “cancellations” due to caps on international arrivals, it seemed like the least of my worries. โŒ

Note: this is based on my personal experience as a single in Brisbane; check out this great guide for families. There are also a number of variations between hotels and jurisdictions.

At the airport

On arrival, you will queue (observing social distancing) and continue to wear masks. There may or may not be Wi-Fi; Sydney provided it, Brisbane did not.

First, you’ll follow standard e-passport customs clearance and baggage collection. If you need to pee, go now! ๐Ÿšป

We also queued for a sniffer dog check.

Next you’ll speak to the police and have the Quarantine Direction read out to you and be informed of your hotel name and address. You’ll also receive a bunch of paperwork, so carry a pen and a document sleeve.

Afterwards, you’ll be ushered to a waiting area until everyone has been processed.

Finally, you’ll be called to board the coach under military supervision. They will load your bags while you have your attendance checked before you board. There’s a police escort to the hotel and more military waiting at the other end.

Ah, great to be home circa 1788. โ›“๏ธ

At the hotel

Photo of empty food delivery paper bag

Check in was quick as we’d filled out our forms at the airport. Plus, hotels have been going through the motions for months now.

You’ll be informed of your room number and handed a welcome pack containing details about meals, room facilities and services, as well as who to contact if you feel unwell or need help.

Some people get lucky, but chances are your room won’t have a window that opens or a balcony. I find setting air-conditioning to 23ยฐC is tolerable but you may struggle to adjust initially. ๐Ÿคง

Three meals are provided per day and you cannot opt out of this service, nor the cost. Food intolerances are accommodated, but overall meals are hit and miss. There will be limited kitchen facilities (if any) in the room; I have a kettle and a coffee machine, and I do dishwashing in the bathroom basin.

Your room will resemble a studio flat and will most likely feature a desk, futon, large bed (or two), cupboards, shower and probably a separate bath.

You’ll receive calls every other day from both the local health department and the Australian Red Cross. This is to see how you’re coping, check whether you’ve developed any Covid-19 symptoms, and to ask for your consent to do testing.

I advise that you opt into testing (which occurs on the 4th and 10th day), as failure to do so will mean you stay an additional 10 days at your own expense. ๐Ÿ’ธ

Getting ready

Photo of a person typing on a laptop

Knowing what to expect can take the edge off the experience, especially in the first days. But being prepared is even better. This is what made a big difference for me:

  • Bring Vitamin D supplements โ˜€๏ธ
  • Pack travel adapters for all your electronic devices from overseas or a power board, which would only require one
  • Pack a HMDI cable or Chromecast to stream from your devices to the TV
  • Bring cutlery, a bowl and plate. Hotels provide disposable cutlery and packaged food. So unless you want to cut steak with a plastic knife or pour cereal directly into your mouth, BYO
  • If you don’t have an Australian SIM card, see if you can pick one up at the airport or order online
  • Bring snacks and a bottle of alcohol. Hotels sell both at marked up prices, as you’d expect
  • Pack resistance bands for easy weight training. They’re cheap, effective and are light to carry
  • Bring 2-3 sets of activewear to tide you over in-between laundry service
  • Join groups to see how others are managing quarantine. You can also keyword search threads: Australians in quarantine facilities, Hotel Quarantine Australia, and Mandatory 14 day Hotel Quarantine chat Group.
  • Check out my story highlight “Quarantine” on Instagram for a blow-by-blow of what happened at The Westin Brisbane!

Survival guide

Photo of a hotel bedroom

So now you’re “home sweet home” for the next 14 days. Before you throw your arms up in despair, try this:

  • Arrange for a friend to deliver a care package. Reception accepts “reasonable” deliveries and will check it for contraband and excessive alcohol first. Aside from snacks, I requested air freshener, chewing gum and paracetamol
  • Set a routine. Each day I set aside time for productive tasks like life admin and exercise, as well as “me time” and calls
  • Make video calls fun by playing games online and host a trivia night or weekend brunch virtually
  • Exercise regularly, especially if you find yourself confined to the bed or sofa all day. There’s plenty of no equipment/limited space exercises you can try via an app or on YouTube
  • Walk around when answering calls to help stay active
  • Treat yourself to food delivery from time to time. It’s tough trying not to be wasteful but, let’s be honest, quarantine meals don’t win Michelin stars
  • Draw a bubble bath, sing in the shower, or paint your nails. Take this time to yourself while you have it. ๐Ÿ›€

What happens next

Discharge is like a cliff edge after such a challenging experience. Some choose to walk away and never look back, and that’s fine. Others continue the narrative. If you’re the latter, you can:

  • Challenge paying the invoice. No doubt the costs of even getting this far have been crippling, and having to fork out for this biosecurity measure imposed on us by the government is such a slap in the face. If you can demonstrate financial hardship, you might as well try
  • Share your story online and to reporters. Keeping the pressure on politicians and continuing to raise awareness locally and globally will help fellow Australians still struggling to come home
  • Consider joining a class action.

Winter wonderland in London

Photo of London South Bank covered in winter snow

It’s the magical time of year again when temperatures drop and we swap jackets for coats, cord for sequins, pumpkin spice for mulled beverages and deck the halls. ๐ŸŽ„

It may be chilly outside but with a good thermal and endless choice of activities to do in a city that never sleeps, there’s no excuse to hibernate. ๐Ÿ›‹๏ธ

From fairy lights to festivities, here’s what Londoners love about wintertime. โ„๏ธ

Dazzling lights

Picture any European city from mid-November and you’ll get everything from quaint glittering villages to all-out light show bonanzas; you can guess where London sits on the spectrum. โœจ

Dazzle your family and friends with impressive light installations at Regent Street stretching between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square. ๐Ÿคณ

For something a little different, visit Christmas at Kew, Carnaby Street, Leadenhall Market and spectacular out shopfronts in Mayfair, Fortnum & Mason and Harrods. ๐ŸŽ

Be sure to check your local council’s website to find out what’s happening in your area! ๐ŸŽ„ 

Festive food

Photo of a woman holding a hot beverage

I hope you saved some space after Halloween because the food fest doesn’t end when the jack-o’-lantern snuffs out. ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿซ๐Ÿญ

Planning a Christmas feast or need to bring a plate? A traditional Christmas goose might be hard to come by, so you can opt for a stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce or roast ham with apple sauce. Pair this with delicious roasted potatoes, parsnips, carrots, sprouts and a Yorkshire pudding with gravy. ๐Ÿ˜‹

For starters, pigs in blankets and mince pies are classic, and for dessert a Christmas pudding or layered trifle. ๐ŸŽ…

Wash it all down with a mulled beverage like wine, cider or whiskey. The secret ingredients are citrus peel, cloves, cinnamon and a pinch of sugar!

Ice skating

Work off those calorific Christmas treats with a lap or two (hundred) around the ice rink. โ›ธ๏ธ

Skate by fairy light at iconic venues such as the Natural History Museum, Somerset House, Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace. โœจ

Don’t forget, you can also enjoy ice skating year round at venues like Alexandra PalaceLee Valley Ice Centre and Streatham Ice Centre! โ„๏ธ

Magical markets

Photo of a woman at a Christmas market

Christmas markets are perfect for socialising and shopping outdoors. Here you’ll find all your trinket, bauble and bratwurst needs in one place. ๐ŸŒญ

In Central London, visit markets in Leicester Square, along the South Bank, by the river at London Bridge, Borough Market and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. ๐ŸŽก

In North London, pick up gifts from Camden Market, at Stokey Winter Market or Alexandra Palace. ๐ŸŽ

In South London, you can enjoy markets at Greenwich Market, Pexmas, Winterville in Clapham Common, and the Scandinavian Christmas Market for something a little different! ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

Wet weather plans

Photo of a woman admiring art in a museum

London isn’t exactly known for its amazing weather, so when the grey clouds roll in you’ll find plenty to see and do under cover. โ˜”

Check out a new theatrical production at the iconic West End or Shakespeare’s Globe, shop at Oxford Street or dance the night away at one of London’s many music venues. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽค

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to museums and galleries, many of which are free to visit. Some favourites are the British Museum, Science Museum, Tate Modern, V&A and the London Transport Museum – all of which have fabulous gift shops. ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

Wintry walks

Every now and then it snows in London and adds a mystical mood to London’s picturesque parks. ๐Ÿ„

If you’re looking to make the most of a dusting of snow, look no further than Regent’s Park, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park and Kew Gardens. โ›„

Breathe in that crisp fresh air with a stroll along South Bank or on the Thames Path – my favourite stretch starts at Hammersmith Bridge and finishes in Richmond. ๐Ÿฅพ


What are you most looking forward to in wintertime in London? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


More in London

Photo of a squirrel in London in autumn

Fall for London in autumn

London in warm autumnal hues coupled with fun activities and events will make you think twice before swapping hiking boots for slippers. ๐Ÿ‚

Australia survival guide

Photo of an Australian koala

As an Australia expat living in the UK, I often get asked by friends and colleagues “how did you survive?!” to which I respond: if my dog Jack can handle it, I’m sure you can!

We may be home to some of the world’s most venomous snakes and spiders, but you’re much more likely to be stung by a “bloody mozzie” or by a random breath test. ๐Ÿš“

That being said, there is a thing or two to know before you go. ๐Ÿ‘‡

Beachgoer basics

Photo of swimmers between the red and yellow flags

Australia is known for its sandy beaches, sunshine and surf for good reason! โ˜€๏ธ

To make the most of your time at our world famous beaches, keep these tips in mind and you won’t find yourself thrown into the deep end.

  • Swim between the flags at beaches patrolled by Surf Life Savers. The flag system protects us from rips (powerful currents)
  • Shark attacks are rare, so to keep it that way by swimming at patrolled beaches alongside other swimmers and avoid sunrise and sunset when sharks are most active
  • Box jellyfish and the blue ringed octopus are the ones to watch out for in the water
  • The ozone layer is thin over Australia, so remember to slip, slop, slap to avoid getting sunburnt in a “sunburnt country”
  • Temperatures can soar, especially in summer, so always keep hydrated and seek shade where possible.

Wrestling reptiles

Photo of an Australian saltwater

Crikey! If you’ve ever enjoyed the famous Crocodile Hunter series, you’ll recall the take home message that when you respect nature it respects you back. ๐ŸฆŽ

  • Crocodiles inhabit the northernmost part of Australia. Attacks are rare, but when in croc country follow steps to be crocwise and only swim where there are designated safe swimming signs
  • Snakes are more scared of you than you are of them and only strike when they feel threatened. Stick to the path when bushwalking, and keep your distance if you spot one at home and call a professional
  • Of Australiaโ€™s 10,000 spider species, only two types should be of concern: the Sydney funnel-web and redback spider. If you encounter one, call a professional to have it safely removed: pest control, the Australian Reptile Park or the Poisons Information Centre (13 11 26).

Cute critters

Teeth and scales aside, Australia is home to some of the most unique and adorable critters on the planet; koalas, kangaroos and smiley quokkas come to mind. Cute, yes, but looks can kill:

  • Kangaroos are colour coded! Grey kangaroos are smaller and mild-tempered compared to their red cousins, so keep this in mind when approaching one for a photo ๐Ÿฆ˜
  • Tasmanian devils appear cute and cuddly but are skittish and feisty, so heed their guttural growls and keep your fingers out of reach
  • Dingoes may look like a family pet but respect this rust-coloured wild canine like you would a wolf
  • You’re unlikely to spot a duck-billed platypus in the wild, but if you do admire it from afar as their toxic stingers can be painful.

What Australians actually fear

Photo of a kookaburra and a magpie in an Australian backyard

While crocodiles and sharks won’t really bother you, magpies in swooping season certainly do. And nothing is worse than the sting of a bluebottle at the beach, or the sight of a huntsman spider scurrying up the wall. ๐Ÿ˜จ

If you’ve ever wondered what Aussies actually fear, it’s the dreaded email alert from MyGov in your inbox signalling tax return time…

So now that you know the basics, enjoy your time Down Under!


Ever heard of the infamous drop bear? Share some of the “scariest” things you’ve heard about Australia in the comments! ๐Ÿ‘‡


More in Sydney

Photo of Bondi Beach ocean pool

Sightseeing in Sydney

Hotspots around Sydney that offer a truly memorable experience for locals and visitors. โ›ด๏ธ

London Greek food guide

Photo of koulouri Greek pastry

Greek cuisine harks back to its roots founded on the “Mediterranean Triad” from ancient times: wheat, olives and grapes i.e. wine. ๐Ÿ‡

Greek food features aromas like oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill and laurel leaves (aka bay leaves) that flavour a range of vegetarian, fish and meat dishes like moussaka and lamb kleftiko.

And let’s not forget feta cheese, featuring in the iconic Greek salad and phyllo (or, filo) pastries, and lemon and yoghurt flavours.

If you love Greece as much as I do, you can keep the spirit of your last visit alive with my tried and tested favourite Greek hospitality venues around London.

Coffee and brunch

Photo of girl carrying freddo cappuccino Greek coffees

From freddo capuccino to crispy spanakopita, get your brunch and caffeine fix at these stylish cafes. If you’re after something sweet, order a bougatsa or a galaktoboureko to go with your Greek coffee! โ˜•๐Ÿฅ

  • Briki in Exmouth Market. We ordered spanakopita, tiropita and bougatsa.
  • Ergon Deli + Cafe in Mayfair and Westfield Stratford. We ordered koulouri with poached eggs, Greek yoghurt and spicy oil, and galaktoboureko.
  • The Life Goddess in Bloomsbury and Carnaby Street. We ordered spanakopita, kataifi and baklava.

Street food

Photo of Greek lefkada lamb souvlaki with Greek salad

If you’ve visited Greece you’ve undoubtedly snacked on delicious pork gyros, but Greek street food is more than just your favourite pitta wrap with chips! ๐Ÿ˜‹

  • Holy Pitta in Angel. We ordered bifteki with feta filling and karditsa (sausage) and ravani.
  • Kalamaki Street in Covent Garden. We ordered the Spartan Box with pork souvlaki, Greek salad, feta sauce, spanakopita and bougatsa.
  • Yamas in Camden. We ordered kolokithokeftedes (courgette balls) and pork gyros portion.

Taverna

Photo of grilled octopus at a Greek restaurant

Depending on where you’ve visited in Greece, chances are you’ve enjoyed the warm hospitality of a fish or meat taverna. These are our favourite spots in London to enjoy a hearty feast with fresh Greek salad and ouzo or tsipouro. ๐Ÿ‹

  • Andy’s Taverna in Camden. We ordered the mixed grill, halloumi and pastourma.
  • Hungry Donkey in Aldgate. We ordered feta chips, htipiti (cheese dip), avgolemono (chicken lemon soup), soutzoukakia (lamb) and kormos.
  • Tony’s Pita in South Hampstead. We ordered tyrokafteri (spicy feta dip), kokoretsi (intestines) and mixed skewers.

Restaurants

Photo of a Greek restaurant starter pastry with feta and tomato

Greek restaurants don’t differ a whole lot from tavernas in terms of menu items, but keep these spots in mind for a special occasion and for a modern twist on traditional flavours. ๐Ÿฅ‚

  • Lemonia in Primrose Hill. We ordered saganaki (fried feta), soutzoukakia (meat balls) and pagidakia (lamb cutlets).
  • Opso in Marylebone. We ordered feta kataifi, metsovone croquette, giouvarlakia dumplings and roasted potatoes.
  • Retsina in Belsize Park. We ordered taramasalata, falafel, lounza (pork), loukanika (sausage), mixed grill and kataifi.

Do your tastebuds agree with this list? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


Still hungry? Be sure to check out my guides to the best Neapolitan pizza and Australian brunch spots in London!


More in London

Photo of Oxford's skyline

Day trips from London

There’s nothing quite like strolling along a tree-lined canal or cobblestoned village lanes. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

Photo of Tower Bridge and London's skyline

First impressions of London

If expat life feels like home then you’re doing it wrong ๐Ÿ˜… This is my ever growing list of culture shocks I’ve experienced since moving to London.

Fall for London in autumn

Photo of a squirrel in London in autumn

Picture the city’s beautiful parks painted in hues of gold, red, purple, russet and orange. It’s no wonder autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons to experience London. ๐Ÿ‚

Pair this stunning backdrop with some of the most fun events, festivals and holidays of the year and you’ll want to think twice before swapping hiking boots for slippers.

From comfort food to leafy trails, here’s why you’ll fall in love with autumn in London.

Forest floors and foliage

Photo of autumn fall leaves in London

For a sprawling metropolis, London boasts an abundance of green spaces. Come autumn, lush greens transform into warmer hues and brings that satisfying crunch of leaves underfoot. ๐Ÿฅพ

Take in the crisp fresh air in beautiful city parks like Hampstead Heath, Kew Gardens and Kyoto Garden in Holland Park.

There are also hiking trails on the outskirts of the city. Some of my favourites are Epping Forest‘s natural beauty, the lakes of Lee Valley, Richmond Park‘s grasslands and free roaming deer, and Surrey Hills‘s countryside (wine tour, anyone?).

Warm knits

Photo of three knitted jumpers

The beauty of autumnal weather is its consistency; no more of summer’s mood swings between heat waves and downpours! Autumnal crispness is here to stay.

Time to swap flats for ankle boots, mini for midi skirts and … well let’s be honest, you never put that light jacket away, did you? ๐ŸŒฌ๏ธ

Quality knits are worth the investment. You’ll need a comfy fitted jumper or cardigan to easily slip on and off, an itch-free scarf and a statement coat to complete your look (and practical needs).

Scottish cashmere is perfect (if you can afford it). Otherwise, Uniqlo, Gap and Marks & Spencer have a range of affordable staples and basics.

Comfort food

Photo of a pumpkin spice latte

Comfy knits and a roaring fireplace may keep you warm on the outside, but this season’s cuisine will warm you up from within. Best of all, you can find them all around London or can easily recreate the recipes at home! ๐Ÿฅฃ

The UK is known for their roasts, so be sure to order one out at your local pub. For entertaining at home, try hearty recipes like soups, stews, curries and braised or roast meats with root vegetables.

Baked goodies are the perfect accompaniment. Some classics are crumble, pudding, pie, sponge cake, slice, cobbler and warm custard all flavoured with seasonal fruits and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Down it all with a seasonal pumpkin spice latte. Be sure to stock up at your next grocery shop: ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. โ˜•

Festivals and events

Spriggan, Parkland Walk, Crouch End

As temperatures drop, Michael Bublรฉ and Mariah Carey start to rouse from hibernation. But before London gets festive, no matter how much retailers try to force it, there’s a few holidays to mark on the calendar first!

Autumn plays host to some of the best cultural holidays and festivals: revel in spectacular fireworks displays at Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes Night), celebrate the heart of the city at Totally Thames Festival, explore architectural wonders at Open House London and celebrate London Design Week.

And let’s not forget Halloween! Some of the spookiest sites include Whitechapel (i.e. Jack the Ripper), Highgate Cemetery, the Parkland Walk spriggan, and haunted pubs like The Flask, The Spaniards Inn and The Grenadier. ๐Ÿ‘ป

Pumpkin patch

Photo of a girl holding a pumkin

Pick your own Jack O’Lantern pumpkin at a picturesque pumpkin patch! ๐ŸŽƒ

What once was a simple family outing is now an Instagrammer’s hotspot, so expect crowds. You have plenty of choice scattered around just outside London. Some of the best known pumpkin patches are:

For something a little closer to home, you can book a Pumpkin Carving session at The Cauldron, or simply pick one up from your local Waitrose and M&S Foodhall.

Snuggle up

Photo of a corgi dog wearing glasses

With so much to see and do, you might feel a little exhausted after a busy week. And that’s the beauty of autumn. “A quiet one” is the perfect excuse to stay in, and no one will shame you for it because it’s highly likely they’re thinking the same thing! ๐Ÿงฆ


What’s your the most awesome autumn activity you look forward to each year? Share your tips in the comments! ๐Ÿ‘‡


More in London

A pizza snob’s guide to London

Photo of two Neapolitan woodfired pizzas

Hi, my name’s Amanda. And I’m a self-confessed Pizza Snob. ๐ŸคŒ

I can trace my love affair back to October 2016 when I visited the birthplace of the Neapolitan pizza: Naples, Italy. Once you’ve sampled the best in the world, you’ll never look back.

I hit the ground running when I arrived in London in my search for the l’autentica. Here’s my definitive list of places you knead-to-try. ๐Ÿ•

Note: this covers traditional wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. If you’re looking for Domino’s, you can show yourself out.

Best pizza in London

L’Antica Pizzeria

About: “Real Neapolitan taste. Cooked with passion.” โค๏ธ

Made with: Caputo flour, low-salt dough, slow-fermented over 36 hours, cooked at 400ยฐC.

Perfect for: a cosy, hearty meal with family and friends.

Located in: Hampstead and High Barnet in North London.

Homeslice

About: “20” pizza whole or by the slice.” ๐Ÿ˜‹

Made with: high protein German 405 flour, aged 24 hours minimum, cooked at 500ยฐC for 60-90 seconds.

Perfect for: a date night sit-down meal or a quick bite on the go.

Located in: Shoreditch, City of London, White City, Marylebone, Neal’s Yard.

Zia Lucia

About: “Genuine pizza.” ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น

Made with: four types of dough! Vegetable charcoal, wholemeal, gluten-free, traditional, slow-fermented over 48 hours.

Perfect for: ordering in or an after work dinner with friends or colleagues.

Located in: Islington, Hammersmith, Aldgate East, Boxpark Wembley.

Great pizza in London

London is enormous, and so are its pizza options! While not all can be #1 (in my heart), these places serve seriously delicious pizza and are well worth a visit. ๐Ÿ’ฏ

Decent pizza in London

Eh, sometimes you just want to grab a bite but aren’t feeling particularly fussy. Here are some good and cheaper pizzerias. ๐Ÿ‘Œ


Do your tastebuds agree with this list? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


More in London

Sightseeing in Sydney

Photo of Bondi Beach ocean pool

I spent six years living in Sydney before I moved to London. From postcard destinations to uncovering local gems, I savoured every minute of this harbourside city. โ›ด๏ธ

Visitors often experience choice overload when it comes to exploring, and trust me its the same story for Sydneysiders when it comes to weekend planning.

Here ‘s my shortlist of hubs around the city that offer a truly memorable experience for locals and visitors. Each area boasts stunning scenery, good transport connections and great food options. ๐Ÿ˜‹

Circular Quay

Photo of a Sydney Ferry

Circular Quay epitomises a Sydney postcard and it hosts the most spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks in the country. ๐Ÿฅณ

Within walking distance, you can easily access the iconic Sydney Opera House, view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

A day in Circular Quay will keep you busy, but food options tend to be overpriced. The Rocks is just a stone’s throw away and has better dining options, or you can organise a picnic in the gardens with a view.

Transport: Circular Quay is well connected and serviced by rail, light rail, buses and of course the classic green and yellow Sydney Ferries.

The Rocks

Photo of people walking at The Rocks in Sydney

A short stroll from Circular Quay and at the doorstep of Sydney Harbour Bridge is The Rocks – a heritage district from the settlement days with cobbled lanes and home to one of Australia’s oldest pubs.

Enjoy the famous markets at the weekend; this is where you’ll find the perfect souvenir! Christmas in July is a particularly fun time to visit. ๐ŸŽ

Weather is pleasant year round, but if you’re after something special then check out Vivid Sydney in May and June when the city becomes a festival of light and sound where art meets technology.

Transport: a short walk from Circular Quay and its many transport connections, and the area is also directly serviced by buses.

Lavender Bay

Photo of the North Sydney Olympic Pool

Cross the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Lower North Shore home to Lavender Bay! There area is much more than just getting your adrenaline rush at Luna Park Sydney. ๐ŸŽก

Easily spend a whole day exploring this peaceful paradise. You can enjoy scenic walks from Lavender Bay to Milson’s Point, stop by Wendy’s Secret Garden, and swim at the North Sydney Olympic Pool by sunset. If you have energy to spare, return back to the city via the pedestrian walk across the bridge.

Also be sure to check whether the Kirribilli Markets happening this weekend – you never know what you might find! ๐Ÿ’Ž

Transport: the area is serviced by buses and ferry or a short walk from Milson’s Point train station.

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach isn’t for surfers. It’s actually one of Sydney’s quieter beaches in terms of crowds and the waves. ๐ŸŒŠ

Situated in the harbour, Balmoral Beach offers leisure activities like swimming, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling or strolling down the boardwalk with gelato in hand.

Rocky Point Island is the perfect picnic spot which is accessible via an idyllic bridge, and there are plenty of eateries around to satisfy everyone’s tastes and budget. Personally I recommend getting fish ‘n’ chips takeaway from the famous Bottom of the Harbour.

Transport: the area is serviced by buses, or you can drive but parking prices can be steep.

Spit to Manly walk

Photo of a water dragon lizard

This 10km bush walk offers stunning coastal views and the opportunity to spot some wildlife (the non venomous variety, if you stick to the trail!). You can take your time or power walk your way through, so it’s perfect for all fitness levels.

Technically you can start from either end, but most people start from The Spit Bridge in Mosman and finish up in Manly. This is probably due to the variety of food options awaiting you at the finish line.

Along the route you’ll come across ancient Aboriginal rock carvings, sub-tropical bushland, secret beaches and more. The path itself consists of paved walkways, boardwalks, bush trails and stretches of sand to cross. ๐Ÿš

Transport: buses to The Spit Bridge in Mosman, and both buses and ferries to and from Manly.

Manly

Speaking of Manly… While Bondi is more widely known across the globe, Manly is frequented more by locals and visitors alike.

Its tree-limed promenade is perfect for watching surfers and beach volleyball players, and off to the side is its quieter counterpart Shelly Beach which is perfect for snorkelling. ๐ŸŸ

If you don’t fancy getting your hair wet, you can also explore its many eateries and bars as well as retail stores, boutiques and markets. It’s also a hub of thriving nightlife, so don’t be in a rush to leave.

Transport: ferries from Circular Quay or frequent bus services.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach – aka “Summer Bay” from Home and Away – is situated at the farthest reaches of the Northern Beaches. Its stunning scenery and quiet privacy often attracts celebrities as their choice location for a Sydney getaway.

Its other claim to fame is the iconic view from Barrenjoey Headland. Standing alongside a picturesque lighthouse, you can take in sweeping views of the peninsula flanked by beaches on both sides. If you can turn your gaze to the opposite direction, you can see as far as the Central Coast region!

There’s two pathways to the summits; a long winding trail and a short steep path. I recommend taking the short route uphill for a bit of exercise and taking it easy on the way down.

Transport: regular buses or accessible by ferry from the Central Coast.

Bondi Beach

Photo of Bondi Beach in Sydney

No Sydney sightseeing listicle would be complete without covering Bondi Beach, home to Bondi Rescue, Bondi Vet and my favourite Italian pasticceria!

Bondi Beach is where you’ll show off your Sydney holiday on Instagram: gelato in one hand, a cocktail in the other, sand between your toes and saltwater in your hair. ๐Ÿคณ

Top sights and activities in Bondi are the graffiti wall, Bondi Icebergs ocean pool, weekend markets, open air cinema in summer, and Sculptures by the Sea outdoor exhibition during every October.

Transport: the area is serviced by buses, or you can walk 15min from Bondi Junction train station.


Know a secret spot or local gem that everyone should experience in Sydney? Share your insider tips in the comments! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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Day trips from London

Photo of Oxford's skyline

London’s abundance of things to see and do is part of its charm, but eventually you’ll want a break from the hustle and bustle.

In the mood for an adventure? Take a day trip to a neighbouring town! There’s nothing quite like winding down while strolling along a tree-lined canal or cobblestoned village lanes.

England is full of heritage sites and historic towns to admire. Explore medieval castles, mysterious ruins, sprawling countryside and cottages. There’s something to suit everyone’s interests. ๐Ÿ˜

These are my favourite trips easily accessibly by coach or train from the Capital. Planning ahead is advisable when it comes to affordable fares!

Bath

Photo of Roman Baths interior

Top sights: the Roman Baths, built above a natural hot spring, is equal parts museum and ancient archeological site. The city of Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage site; it boasts incredible architecture like Pulteney Bridge, Bath Abbey and The Circus. Feeling thirsty? Sample the local water’s distinct flavour at The Pump Room Restaurant.

When to go: year round, but summer can be particularly busy.

Getting there: direct train from Paddington Station (1h 20min).

Did you know? Jane Austen is a famous Bathonian resident. It’s also the set of films like The Duchess and Les Miserables. ๐ŸŽฌ

Bournemouth Beach

Top sights: explore Bournemouthโ€™s seven miles of beach and surprisingly warm microclimate! Water sports are a popular pastime here; who would ever have thought you could learn to surf in the UK?! For a traditional holiday experience you can rent a classic beach hut.

When to go: summer (or a heatwave day if you’d like to swim). ๐Ÿ–๏ธ

Getting there: direct train from Waterloo Station (2h) or coach from Victoria Coach Station (2h 45min).

Did you know? Its colourful beach huts were originally built in 1909 and the site is marked with a blue plaque at the east of Bournemouth Pier.

Brighton

Top sights: Brighton is a beautiful pebble beach getaway with its iconic pier jutting out into the sea. The town itself features charming architecture, historic pubs and plenty of stores and eateries to explore. Cycling is also a popular way to take in the coastal views.

When to go: summer or any heatwave day.

Getting there: direct train from Victoria (1h) or from Blackfriars (1h 20min).

Did you know? Brighton is considered the second most haunted city in Britain after York. Halloween party, anyone? ๐ŸŽƒ

Bristol

Top sights: the iconic Victorian Clifton Suspension Bridge is a symbol of Bristol. There is a hiking trail to get to the summit, or you can take the easier route via the park. The harbourside is also another major hub of the city, and was frequented by pirates back in the day. While you’re in the area, be sure to check out Banksy’s Girl with the Pierced Eardrum.

When to go: year round, but milder climate is preferable if you’re planning outdoor activities.

Getting there: direct train from Paddington (1h 30min).

Did you know? Famous Bristolians include actors like Jeremy Irons and Maisie Williams; literary heavyweight J K Rowling; the mysterious street artist Banksy; and the infamous Blackbeard the Pirate! Robert Louis Stevensonโ€™sย famous bookย Treasure Island features many locations around Bristol. ๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ

Cambridge

Drone photo of Cambridge University grou

Top sights: Cambridge is a very walkable city, but cycling is the most popular way to see the sights. Some highlights include the King’s College Chapel and the university grounds, a mix of things to find and try at Market Square, and a view of the town from Great St Mary’s. โ›ช

When to go: year round but summer is preferable for punting on the River Cam, and autumnal walks are magical.

Getting there: direct train from King’s Cross (50min).

Did you know? Cambridge gets its name from the River Cam, and the city has played host to films like The Theory of Everything and Netflix’s The Crown. Cambridge University has also produced world-renowned scholars including Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing. ๐ŸŽ“

Canterbury

Photo of Canterbury canal at night

Top sights: Canterbury Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the world’s most famous places of worship. The town is also home to The Marlowe Theatre; get caught up in the controversy as to whether Canterbury-born Christopher Marlowe actually wrote some of Shakespeare’s works. ๐ŸŽญ

When to go: year round, but a picnic in springtime by River Stour is a great excuse to visit!

Getting there: a direct train from St Pancras International or Victoria Station (up to 1h 30min). Canterbury East is the nearest stop to disembark but Canterbury West is equally close to the centre of town.

Did you know? Canterbury is the setting of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The town’s name is inspired by the fact that it was an easy canter on horseback from London (back in Roman times!).

Hitchin Lavender

Top sights: Hitchin is home to one of the loveliest lavender fields; best of all you can take your clippings home! There are picnics tables onsite for you use or you can order from the cafe. It’s also nice to extend your trip to the town centre where you can admire medieval buildings and cute local shops and cafes. ๐Ÿงต

When to go: lavender blooms between mid-June until mid-August, but if you stick around in mid-August you can also enjoy the sunflower fields!

Getting there: train from St Pancras International (50min) and a taxi or ride hailing app from the station (10min).

Did you know? The small market town of Hitchin became an established lavender grower as early as the 1500’s. It was one of the only two areas in the country.

Oxford

Drone photo of Oxford University grounds

Top sights: spend the day exploring The City of Dreaming Spires by visiting the university campus, baroque architecture at Blenheim Palace, 1,000 years of history at Oxford Castle & Prison, the iconic Radcliffe Camera and Bridge of Sighs, and get lost wandering the Oxford Covered Market.

When to go: year round, but shoulder seasons will mean less crowds!

Getting there: direct train from Paddington (50min).

Did you know? Famous literary geniuses attended Oxford University such as Oscar Wilde, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien who studied at the Bodleian Library. The city’s “Olde Worlde” charm also made it the perfect backdrop for Harry Potter films; you’ll recognise Christ Church Cathedral playing the part of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. โšก

Rye

Top sights: explore cobbled alleys lined with historic buildings; medieval pubs, Georgian homes and strangely named houses like โ€œThe House Oppositeโ€ or the โ€œHouse with Two Front Doorsโ€ along Mermaid Street. If you like ancient structures, you’ll enjoy Ypres Tower which was built in 1249 to defend the town and Rye Castle. A beach stroll at Camber Sands is just a bus ride away.

When to go: year round. Perfect for a beachside afternoon or an evening by the fireplace.

Getting there: two trains from St Pancras International changing at Ashford International (1h 10min).

Did you know? Rye used to be surrounded on all sides by water. Hundreds of years ago, it formed part of the medieval Cinque Ports; the town’s hilltop vantage point made it useful for guarding against marauding invaders. ๐Ÿ›ก๏ธ

Stonehenge

Top sights: well, Stonehenge! There’s also a walking trail exploring the area with great views of the famous stone circle as well as archaeology and wildlife.

When to go: summer and winter solstices are thought to be a spiritual experience.

Getting there: train from Waterloo Station (1h 25min) and a local bus from Salisbury to the Visitor Centre (30min).

Did you know? Stonehenge remains shrouded in mystery even after 5,000 years. Scholars generally agree that it was a calendar given its significance during the summer and winter solstice. It’s also estimated that 200 people are buried at the site. According to a 12th century legend, giants placed Stonehenge on a mountain in Ireland before Merlin the wizard moved it to England with magic. ๐Ÿง™

White Cliffs of Dover

Top sights: the iconic White Cliffs of Dover are a perfect for a scenic coastal hike. Popular stops along the way are the Fan Bay Deep Shelter constructed in World War 2, and the South Foreland Lighthouse. The imposing Dover Castle is also a short journey away (6min by car, 35min on foot). ๐Ÿฐ

When to go: the trail can get muddy, so pack your wellies or hold off until a dry spell.

Getting there: train from St Pancras International (1h) to Dover Priory and then take a cab (10min) or walk (40min).

Did you know? The iconic white chalk surface dates back to the Ice Age. On a clear day you can glimpse France from across the channel. Your phone’s timezone might change, so don’t panic if you suddenly think you’re an hour ahead!

Windsor

Top sights: Windsor Castle, royal wedding venue and preferred place of residence of Queen Elizabeth II, dominates a day trip to Windsor. The town also shares its name with the British monarchy features historic sites and the sprawling Windsor Great Park with 500 free roaming deer at the castle’s doorstep. ๐ŸฆŒ

When to go: all year round.

Getting there: train from Paddington with a change at Slough (45min).

Did you know? Windsor castle has been home to The Royal Family for over 1,000 years and is the largest occupied castle in the world!


What’s your favourite day trip destination from London? Share your tips in the comments! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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