Australia · Day Trips · Travel Tips

4 Sydney Beaches to hit this Summer

With hardly a day left to 2017, I’m ready to breathe a sigh of relief that this crazy ride of a year is coming to an end.

I can look forward, with hope, to a new one of excitement but to look back with gratitude, I find it best to single in on three simple things: sun, sand, and waves.

If there is one thing I can say about 2017, it’s that it’s taken me to many a beautiful beach–possibly more than in any other year of my life. Goals!

From a relaxing vacation in Puerto Galera and a surf trip to Baler in the Philippines to camping in Port Macquarie and road tripping to Byron Bay in Australia and of course all the day trips to beaches in and around Sydney, it’s been one sunny year.

I can’t think of a better way to wrap up this (half) year of blogging than with a write-up of four beautiful beaches I’ve visited this month, all of which have some standout features that make them excellent spots to bask in the hot, hot glow of summer as you start the new year right.

Here’s a quick look at our four beaches.

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1. Manly Beach

Manly, the first beach I visited in Australia, is still a favorite.

It’s a scenic 30-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay and the walk from the wharf to the main beach takes you through warm streets graced with park benches, fountains, sandwich shops, bookstores, cafes, surfboards, and the occasional talented musician.

While it can get crowded in summer, it appears to be an excellent surf spot and one I look forward to trying out in the new year.

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When the sun starts to dip behind the trees and cast shade on the beach, you can chase it back to a nice little bit of sand just beside the wharf.

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2. Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach is a 15-minute walk along the coast from Manly but you can also drive there directly, park just up the path, and have a nice barbecue in the shade. The waves that hit Manly don’t reach this little spot so it’s great for little kids and snorkeling.

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From the parking lot, and before heading down to the beach, catch this gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean.

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3. Whale Beach

Whale Beach, north of Sydney, features a pool and fun rocky area for adventure play and exploration. On the opposite end of the beach, there is a surf rescue and, coincidentally, a gnarly surf spot. Those seen slashing the waves over here certainly had a seasoned appearance.

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This beach has also got tables and grills for barbecues and a little playground in the shade for the kids.

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4. Wattamolla Beach

Wattamolla is south of Sydney and tucked away in a beautiful nature reserve. You’ll have to drive here and once you get off the main road you’ll lose signal on your phone–a beautiful thing, really.

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This stretch of cool ocean water is perfect for a swim because the waves are very mild. If the open sea is a little too chilly for you, however, you can hang out in the warmer pool of water on the other side. There is plenty of shallow water here for little kids to wade in and rocks off of which the older ones can jump.

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There you have it, just a small taste of Sydney beaches but I dare say it’s a good start.

Here’s to a beautiful evening and a blessed 2018!

Australia · Day Trips · Travel Tips

A Day to Wander Sydney

Sunday is a perfect day to wander around Sydney because you can take unlimited bus, train, and ferry rides for only $2 with your Opal card. (That’s Australian dollars, so about 1.50 USD)

Start at Circular Quay and mosey to the Opera House

From wherever you are, catch a bus and/or train to Circular Quay. Make sure you say “key” and not “kway”.

For routes and schedules, Google Maps is all you need and it will give you real-time updates on changes and delays.

From the train, you will emerge at the ferry terminal and we’ll get back to that. First, walk along the harbor, past the Harbor Bridge, and head toward the Opera House.

Take your time and definitely stop to enjoy the street artists and performances.

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There are plenty of spots to grab a coffee to go or a bottle of water, both of which will cost you $4-5.

Get your photos of and with the Opera House and the bridge and go down the steps to the lower level of the Opera House for bathrooms and the cafe.

Stroll the Royal Botanic Garden

Get lost here for a while; it’s already one of my favorite places in the city and a beautiful place to kill however many hours you’d like.

Have a picnic, have a nap, read a book, eat a snack, and enjoy the view.

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Catch a ferry to Manly Beach

When it gets too hot in the gardens and the water starts to look quite inviting, walk back to the ferries and catch one to Manly Beach. They leave Circular Quay every 30 minutes and it’s roughly a 30-minute trip across the harbor.

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Cool down in the Pacific Ocean

Walk through the pleasant shopping street, grab a bite, and find a spot in the sand. Watch the surfers and the waves or maybe even take them on.

Eventually, the sun will start to set behind the trees and they will cast shade on the beach but if you want to, you can walk back toward the ferry and catch a bit more of the sun on the beach beside the wharf before it sinks into the harbor.

Without any waves, the water on this beach is beautifully translucent and, once it touches your toes, its cool clarity will pull you right in.

Have a drink to the setting sun

Find a pub with a view and sip on a cold one to the last of the day’s light.

Day Trips · Philippines · Travel Tips

Breakfast at Antonio’s (and the Commute to Tagaytay)

And I said what about breakfast-at-Antonio’s…

This is quite a late post but here we are, regardless. Life has been life; it catches you up short sometimes.

Recently my mother visited the Philippines and during her stay, we had a wonderful family vacation at Coco Beach along with my daughter and her father.

Before her return to the Netherlands last week, I took her down to the cool and breezy Tagaytay for a break from the city’s smog and heat. We enjoyed the mother-daughter time without the constant demands of a wonderfully active handful of a toddler.

Tagaytay is a city in Cavite, south of Metro Manila. It’s about 60 kilometers from the airport and it can take one, to two, to three or more hours to get there.

It is a popular destination for day trips and weekend getaways because it’s close to the city and boasts a temperature drop of a good five degrees Celsius, at least. It’s not as cool as Baguio but it is a lot closer.

The small and temperate city of Tagaytay overlooks a beautiful lake, featuring Taal, which is–according to Google–“probably” the world’s smallest volcano.

Commuting to Tagaytay

Let’s start with the commute, which was quite an adventure for two Dutch girls.

Granted, I’ve been here eight years, but I’ve always taken either a car or a motorcycle to Tagaytay so the commute was, in fact, a new venture for me.

From an inquiry or two and a quick Google search, it seemed we would be able to get a bus to Tagaytay from Starmall, which is close to where we’ve been staying.

Instead, I was told there was no bus from here and that we would take a van first and then catch the bus on Emilio Aguilardo highway at Pala Pala. This is the road that goes straight down to Tagaytay from the coastal side of Manila.

So, the van. Expect to fit less comfortably into this vehicle than “Antonio’s” dubs into the song “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Let the van driver know you want to catch the bus to Tagaytay and he might pull one over on the highway for you to hop right onto. If not, you’ll get out at Pala Pala and catch the first one that comes along.

If you’re going to Breakfast at Antonio’s, be sure to get a bus with Tagaytay and Nasugbu on the sign because that’s the highway you’ll want to go down. Tell the driver you’re going to “Breakfast” and he’ll let you off right in front of the restaurant.

For the way back, catch a jeep along Nasugbu Highway heading back to Emilio Aguinaldo. Walk to where the busses are pulling over and catch one heading back up to Manila. If you live in the Alabang area, you’ll get off the bus at SM Molino and get a little jeepney-cab up Daang Hari.

Incidentally, you can get the same ride down from the corner of Alabang Zapote Road and Investment drive heading down to Tagaytay, meaning you’ll catch the bus at SM Molino instead of Pala Pala.

Brunch at Antonio’s

It was noon by the time we got to the restaurant but let’s not call it lunch.

We started our meal with some delicious pancakes, followed that with quiches, and ended with pour-over iced Sumiyaki coffee and their signature bread basket with jams.

What can I say? I’m not a food blogger but everything was delicious.

I found the coffee exceptionally enjoyable: every sip was bursting with that intense coffee-bean essence and I found that it hardly needed any sweetener. I thought it was great that a syrup was given on the side as an option for those who find the bitterness too overpowering and that the iced drink hadn’t already been sweetened far beyond my personal preference, as most tend to be.

That is that. If you’re in the mood for some good food and a great cup of coffee, venture out to Tagaytay: it’s worth it.