Best of Thailand

A breakdown of our favorites!

Best Experiences to Do for Free

Go to the beach - anywhere in Southern Thailand (day or night!)

Walk out to Long Beach on Koh Phi Phi

Chill in a hammock on Koh Lanta

Wander the Chatuchak Sunday Market, Bangkok

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Walk around Chiang Mai's Old City

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Sunday Night Market, Chiang Mai

Best Experiences to Splurge On

Live-aboard diving trip to the Similion Islands

Blanco Beach Party Booze Cruise

Hire a long tail boat to explore the Phi Phi Islands early in the morning

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Renting kayaks in either Koh Phi Phi or Ao Nang Beach

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Rent a scooter to explore Koh Lanta

Rock climbing in Krabi

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Diving at Sail Rock, Koh Phangan

Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

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Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

Kata Beach, Phuket

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Maya Beach, Koh Phi Phi

Long tail boats around Southern Thailand

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Unicorn Cafe, Bangkok

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Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Grand Canyon

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Silver Temple, Chiang Mai

Pai Canyon at sunset

Best Restaurants & Bars

Order a fruit smoothie on Phuket Beach

Banana Bar for rooftop drinks on Koh Phi Phi

Living Room Cafe & Restaurant, Koh Lanta

The Jungle Club, Koh Samui

SOHO, Koh Phangan

Shirlea, Had Yao, Koh Phangan

Iron Fairies Bar, Bangkok

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Skye 20, Bangkok

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Simple Natural Kitchen, Bangkok

25 Degrees, Bangkok

Iwane 1975, Bangkok

CRAFT Beer Bar, Bangkok

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Breakfast World, Chiang Mai

Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak, Chiang Mai

Rustic & Blue, Chiang Mai

Sunset Bar, Pai

Cafecito, Pai

Ganesha’s House, Pai

Earth Tone, Pai


Best Places to Stay on a Budget

Slumber Party Hostel, Phuket Beach

FIN Hostel, Kata Beach

Loro Loco 2, Koh Lanta

The Moment Hostel, Ao Nang Beach

Slumber Party Bangkok

Thunderbird Hostel, Chiang Mai

Jikko Harem, Pai

Things We Didn’t Get To, But Wish We Did

Parasailing off the beach

Viewpoint hike on Koh Phi Phi

Diving off Koh Phi Phi

Emerald Cave, Koh Lanta

Sa Phra Nang (Hidden Lagoon), Ao Nang Beach

Lady Boy Show, Bangkok

Floating Market, Bangkok

White Temple, Chiang Rai

10 Reasons to Do the Ha Giang Motobike Loop

1. You can get from Hanoi to Ha Giang on an $8 overnight bus.

The bus leaves from My Dinh bus station in the morning and in the evening. The ride takes 8 hours, so opting for the sleeper bus is a good way to pass the time. However, they drop you off at 3 in the morning so you'll either have to stay awake until you can catch a local bus, or grab a cheap motel room if you can find one.

 

2. You can do the loop in 3 days and be back to Hanoi in no time.

The loop can be extended/shortened depending on how much time you have to complete it. The minimum time it should take is at least 3 days - 3 full days of riding. Our route was:

Day 1 - Ha Giang to Hung Ngai (near Dong Van) - this was our longest day.

Day 2 - Hung Ngai up to Lung Cu in the morning, then back-tracked down to Du Gia.

Day 3 - Du Gia to Ha Giang to finish the loop - some roads aren't safe depending on their seasonal conditions, so a longer route could potentially be better.

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3. Renting a bike only costs $10 per day from QT Motors!

QT is absolutely amazing. They have great prices and lots of options for motorbikes. The owner briefs all customers individually, explaining the hazards and challenges of doing a motorbike road trip. QT also provides a clear map of the area with updated route conditions, plus a list of recommended food and accommodation stops! 

QT also has an efficient roadside assistance team. My bike fell victim to a nail in the road only 20k into our trip, and they sent someone out immediately to change the tire. All included in the insurance! 

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4. The landscapes are breathtaking...

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5. You’ll drive through authentic Vietnamese villages.

The Ha Giang Loop continually rises and falls between mountain passes and river valleys. Sometimes you get to ride along a ridge-line or through a pine grove, but you can always rely on descending into a valley with gorgeous terraced fields and homely villages.

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Kids will scream and wave at you, hoping for a honk of your horn in return. Even along the mountain passes you'll see locals carrying crops in baskets, or a cheery cowherd herding his cows. 

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6. Staying in home stays is really, really fun!

Home stays are a much more intimate way to experience local life! They're owned by families who convert some of the rooms to house guests, with one big common room for everyone to hang out. Most home stays make family meals so everyone can eat together, so it's also a great way to try local food! 

Ma Le Homestay is 10 minutes north off the main loop towards Lung Cu, and it was the BEST experience ever! We didn't arrive until after dark, but our hosts rushed us in and filled us with home-cooked food and rice wine - granny drank me under the table. Plus, the guest room we stayed in had our own fire pit! Careful not to smoke out the whole house though...

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Du Gia Guest House (Du Gia Homestay) is another great place to stop for a night. Du Gia Guest House started as a local family hosting bikers on their way around the loop, but they became so popular that QT Motors helped fund a second location! Still run by the same family, but now there are two Du Gia Homestays. They're right on a beautiful river, and they have awesome backpacker vibes! A lot of people like to stay more than one night in Du Gia to explore the nearby areas if you're not rushing to get through the loop.

 

7. You can go to the northernmost town in Vietnam and look across China!

If you venture off the loop and head up to Lung Cu, there's a giant tower with the iconic red Vietnamese flag waving at China. There are a lot of stairs, but it's totally epic to stand in Vietnam looking into southern China.

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8. You can sneak into China… or just look at it extremely legally from Vietnam.

I'm not the one who told you, but there's a spot on the border that you can grab a China selfie. ..

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9. It's a great way to get the "Vietnam Motorcycle Experience."

A lot of travelers opt to travel the entire length of Vietnam on a motorcycle. For obvious reasons, this isn't everyone's choice. But if you're still itching for a taste of the biker life, spending a few days on the Ha Giang Loop will give it to you without having to commit to a cross-country road trip.

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10. You look like a total badass.

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Best of Malaysia

A breakdown of our favorites

Best Experiences to Do for Free

  • See the towers in Kuala Lumpur

  • Mossy Forest in Cameron Highlands

  • Hiking paths in Cameron Highlands

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  • Wandering around the Unesco Heritage Site of Georgetown on Penang

  • Visit the tea plantations in Cameron Highlands

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Best Experiences to Splurge On

  • Slowboat to monkey beach and turtle beach in Penang National Park

  • Shopping in KL malls

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  • A weekend on Langkawi

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Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

  • Tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands

  • Towers of KL

  • Batu Caves in KL

  • Street art of Georgetown

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  • Piers and jetties of Georgetown at sunset

  • SkyBridge on Langkawi

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Best Restaurants & Bars

  • Changkat Street in KL - great area for going out

  • Zouk - biggest club in KL

  • Grandmama’s in KL mall

  • Night market in KL

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  • Geographer Kuala Lumpur

  • Merchant's Lane Cafe in KL

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  • Cameron Curry House in Tanah Rata - we went three times

  • Food stalls in Tanah Rata

  • Travellers Bistro & Pub in Tanah Rata

  • Jungle Bar in Tanah Rata

  • Teksen Restaurant in Penang

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  • Mr Shwarma in Penang

  • Tipsy Tiger Bar in Penang - great for their cheap liquor, bar crawls, and free body shots;)

  • China House in Penang

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  • Scarsdale’s Fish Restaurant on Langkawi

  • The Kasbah on Langkawi - amazing burgers, outdoor lounge seating, and all around chill vibes

 

Best Places to Stay on a Budget

  • Reggae Mansion in KL

  • Map Travelodge in Tanah Rata

  • The Frame Guesthouse in Penang - for a quieter, more minimalist stay in Georgetown

  • Honey Badger Hut Hostel on Langkawi - they have cool huts for private rooms and resident cows to keep you company on the patio at night

  • Vila Thai - huge hostel with big dorms, and they have scooter rentals and massages available even if you’re not staying there

  • Tipsy Tiger in Penang - if you wanna parttyyyy, otherwise you’ll be up all night anyway

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Things We Didn’t Get To, but Wish We Did

  • All of the east coast beaches!

  • Sabah region of Borneo, but more specifically:

    • Orangutan Conservation Centre

    • Sun Bear Conservation Centre

    • Rainforest Discovery Centre

    • Mount Kinabalu in Kota Kinabalu

    • Pom Pom Island off the East Coast

Komodo National Park

Getting to Komodo

Getting to Komodo is as easy as a short flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo Airport (LBJ). The main downtown area is just 10 minutes away. You will be bombarded by eager taxi drivers upon exiting the airport - any driver is good, but don’t pay more than 50,000 rupiah. 

The main road of Jl. Soekarno Hatta is right on the water. We stayed in Bajo Nature Backpackers, but there are loads of options. Take a walk along the main drag when you get there to browse some dive shops for packages you’re interested in. 

Dive Komodo

Among the many reasons to fly out to Komodo, we were compelled by the marine wonders within the national park. We chose to go on a day trip with a company our friend recommended, Dive Komodo. In addition to day trips, they also offer overnights and multi-day trips for those who would like to spend more time underwater. When you book your trip, you'll also give them Rp 150,000 per person for the National Park entry fee (one-day general entry).

On certain days, they can also arrange for an afternoon “dragon trekking” adventure on one of the islands. It takes a considerable amount of time to get out to the national park from Labuan Bajo, so if you have a limited amount of time, consider opting to see the dragons on the same day you go diving.

As is usual with diving, expect to get on the boat around 7am. The ride out to the dive sites takes about two hours. The early morning makes for some beautiful lighting, so be sure to sit up top where you can watch the passing boats as your cruise among the islands.

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Our first dive was at the Coral Gardens. You descend into an wide open sand field and work your way towards the coral on the far edge. Along the way, you’ll probably spot some camouflaged sea rays, rogue upside-down jellies, and maybe some ornate pipefish in the sand. Once you’re in the coral garden, keep your eye out for turtles munching on the patches of sea grass!

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Diving with Manta Rays

Upon begging and pleading, our guides agreed to take us to Manta Point for our second dive. Like any creature of the natural world, you’re not guaranteed to see manta rays, but diving at one of their cleaning stations gives you a good chance. Lucky for us, there were four. We spent the entire dive parked on the sandy slope watching the mantas glide through the waters - a truly magical experience.

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Expect to return ashore around 5pm. You’ll head back to the dive shop, log all your dives on paper, and maybe book a second day of diving if you’ve really been enchanted.

Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park was established in 1980, and soon became a World Heritage Site in 1986. The park is a total of 1,817 square kilometers, including both terrestrial habitats and a marine park. The five main islands of the park are Komodo, Rinca, Padar, Gili Mota, Nusa Kode.

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The climate of Komodo is mainly hot and dry with less than 800mm of rainfall per year. November is the hottest month of the year, while most rain falls between December and March during the northwest monsoon season. As a result of the particularly dry conditions, over 70% of the park is open savanna habitat consisting of tall grasses, and twiggy shrubs. Other than Komodo dragons, the park is home to 276 other species.

Komodo Dragons

Komodo National Park is the only place in the world where the dragons can be found, on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, and a small part of western Flores. Sadly, they recently went extinct on Padar. Most companies will take you to Komodo or Rinca to see the dragons.

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Reminiscent of dragons from high school biology class, Komodo dragons are the largest living species of lizard on the planet. They have no natural predators, which allows for their huge size of up to 90kg, and lifespan of 50 years or more. Dragons are cold-blooded so they need to lay out in the sun to regulate their body temperature. They are most active during the morning and afternoons, but not during the peak heat of the day as they have no method to cool down (we can sweat, they cannot).

Individual dragons are typically solitary, only becoming social during mating and feeding. When Komodo dragons need to eat, which is about once a week, they use strategy to take down the perfect meal. One dragon will attack a chosen deer, water buffalo, or sweaty tourist. The prey will effectively make an escape after being bitten, but with little hope of survival. Dragon saliva has high levels of lethal bacteria that infiltrates the battle wound. A few days later, the prey will die of infection, exhaustion, starvation, or most likely: a combination of all three. The dragon, having stalked the prey since the attack, now has dinner on a silver platter. Most large prey species can feel multiple dragons. So in general, when a prey is felled, there is a jurassic-park-esque buffet-style feeding frenzy where a who pack of dragons tears into a sweaty tourist. KIDDING - it’s very safe to see the dragons.

Dragon Trekking

Make sure you go with a park ranger. They know what they’re doing, you don’t know what you’re doing, and this is their home to show you. It costs about Rp 80,000, which really isn’t much to ask. You can either add it onto a dive trip for the afternoon, or you can book and entire day adventuring one of the islands.

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We opted for just an hour or two on Rinca, and we had more than enough time to observe the local dragons. The trekking loop brought us through some of the forested areas, across the shrubby plains, and up the main peak for a stunning view of the surrounding area.

The Best of Australia

A quick breakdown of our Aussie favorites:

Best Experiences to Do for Free

  • Pink Lake (Port Gregory, WA)

  • West Coast National Parks (Karijini, Katamutu)

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  • The Rocks Discovery Museum (Sydney, NSW)

  • Botanical Gardens (Sydney, NSW)

  • MONA Museum after 4pm (Hobart, TAS)

  • Walking around Fremantle (WA)

  • Shark Bay World Heritage Site - see the dolphins at Monkey Mia (WA)

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Best Experiences to Splurge On

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Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

  • Bay of Fires (TAS)

  • Wineglass Bay (TAS)

  • Russell Falls (TAS)

  • Rottnest Island - get that Quokka selfie (WA)

  • Fremantle waterfront esplanade (WA)

  • Pink Lake (Port Gregory, WA)

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  • The Pinnacles (Nambung National Park, WA)

  • Shell Beach (Shark Bay, WA)

  • Cable Beach (Broome, WA)

  • Lake Argyle infinity pool (Kununurra, NT)

  • Anywhere in the desert for sunrise (WA)

  • The entire Outback (NT)

  • Sydney Opera House (NSW)

  • Any mural in Byron Bay (NSW)

  • Great Sandy Dune National Park (Rainbow Beach, QLD)

  • Lake McKenzie (Fraser Island, QLD)

  • Whitehaven Beach (Whitsundays, QLD)

  • West Point for sunset (Magnetic Island, QLD)

  • Underwater on the GBR (Cairns, QLD)

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Best Cities to Hit

  • Hobart, TAS

  • Melbourne, NSW

  • Fremantle, WA

  • Exmouth, WA

  • Broome, WA

  • Darwin, WA

  • Sydney, NSW

  • Byron Bay, NSW

  • Noosa, QLD

  • Airlie Beach, QLD

  • Cairns, QLD

 

Best Restaurants & Bars

  • The Source at the MONA (Hobart, TAS)

  • Cascade Brewery (Hobart, TAS)

  • The Croft Institute (Melbourne, NSW)

  • The Swamp (Melbourne, NSW)

  • The Brass Monkey (Perth, WA)

  • Little Creatures Brewery (Fremantle, WA)

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  • Pot Shot (Exmouth, WA)

  • Wisdom Bar (Darwin, NT)

  • Monsoon’s (Darwin, NT)

  • Elixiba (Byron Bay, NSW)

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  • Legend Pizza (Byron Bay, NSW)

  • Woody’s (Byron Bay, NSW)

  • Malaya (Sydney, NSW)

  • Chin Chin (Sydney, NSW)

  • Doyle's on the Beach (Watson’s Bay, NSW)

  • Lumi (Sydney, NSW)

  • Chinese Laundry (Sydney, NSW)

  • The Jam Factory (Sydney, NSW)

  • The Rail Friendly Bar (Byron Bay, NSW)

  • The Bean Drop (Noosa Heads, QLD)

  • Lillipad Cafe (Cairns, QLD)

  • Rattle N Hum (Cairns, QLD)

 

Best Places to Stay on a Budget

  • The Nook Backpackers (Hobart, TAS)

  • The Art House (Launcester, TAS)

  • Bambu Backpackers (Perth, WA)

  • Linga Longa (Port Gregory, WA)

  • Pot Shot (Exmouth, WA)

  • Lake Argyle Resort and Holiday Park (WA)

  • YHA Darwin (NT)

  • Jump Inn Alice (Alice Springs, NT)

  • The Art Factory (Byron Bay, NSW)

  • Noosa Nomads (Noosa Heads, QLD)

  • BASE Magnetic Islands (QLD)

  • Gilligan’s (Cairns, QLD)

 

Best Things to Bring With You

  • AUX cord

  • Bluetooth speaker

  • Headlamps

  • A dry bag to keep your valuables dry and sand-free!!!!

  • Sleeping bag liner

  • A hat and sunnies

  • Multiple bathing suits

  • Two towels (one for salt and sand, one for suds and soap)

  • Ladies - hair oil… your hair will take a beating between the salt and the sun

  • Divers - your own mask and snorkel

  • LOTS of sunblock

  • maps.me for the West Coast drives

 

Things We Didn’t Get To, But Wish We Did

  • Cradle Mountain (TAS)

  • Great Ocean Road (NSW)

  • Adelaide, NSW

  • Cage diving with Great White Sharks (NSW)

  • Margaret River (WA)

  • Karijini National Park (WA)

  • Diving with whale sharks (Exmouth, WA)

  • Gold Coast (QLD)

  • Camping in the Whitsundays (QLD)

  • Daintree National Park (QLD)

 

Things to Remember in Australia

  • Drive on the left side of the road

  • Gas stations are few and far between

  • The heat is intense… like really fucking intense

  • HYRDRATE HYRDATRE HYDRATE

  • Humidity gets worse as you travel north

  • Australia is more expensive than you think

  • It’s a HUGE country. Give yourself more time than you think.

  • Marsupials are nocturnal, don’t look for them during the day and…

  • Drive slowly and carefully at night - you don’t want to kill anything

  • Wear close-toed shoes and bring a headlamp to the Outback

  • Bugspray.

  • Book everything on the east coast in advance

  • New Years in Sydney is very chaotic, plan accordingly

  • If you miss whale shark season in Exmouth, you’ll still make it for turtle mating season:)

  • Go to the outer parts of the GBR if you can!

  • You will make some really amazing friends, especially on tours! <3

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is an exceptionally unique part of Australia’s east coast, and is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts! The small island is under formal conservation as Magnetic Island National Park, which means that all the flora and fauna on the island is under protection. Additionally, the island lays within the boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which itself is listed as a World Heritage site! Double whammy!

Getting to Magnetic Island

As part of our Loka passes, our trains, buses, and ferries were booked ahead of time. You take the Queensland Rail into Townsville, a local bus to the ferry port, and the Sealink Ferry to Magnetic Island! Once you’re on the island, just ask someone at the port which local bus to hop on for transfer to your accommodation.

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Before you leave the mainland, stock up on groceries and booze. Everything is more expensive on the island. Otherwise, the mojitos at the Island Bar are pretty rad.

Where to Stay

You have a ton of options for accommodation on the island. BASE hostel was an obvious choice for us, not only because we have the BASE Jump card, but also because it has the most popular bar on the island.

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Apparently it used to be an aquarium, so the campus is spaciously spread out with stellar views of the ocean. It’s the perfect place to kick back and enjoy some island time. Be sure to visit our BFF Adam at the travel desk for kickass adventure ideas and sweet deals on bookings. Tell him Kim & MJ sent you.

Renting a 4x4

Absolutely, hands-down the best way to see Magnetic Island. Adam booked an Arcadia Beach Car Hire for us, and we were happy with the vehicle. It was an old standard transmission cruiser, but it got the job done. We rented it for just the two of us, but you can definitely split it among 4 people for a better deal and additional company.

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The cars are heaps of fun. Topless is the way to go - it’s fun even just to drive around the island and enjoy the views from the road. You have the option to rent if for a few hours, 12-hours, or 24-hours. Definitely go for at least 12-hours so you can do all the activities. We opted for 24 hours literally just so we could drive out to West Point for sunset. Unbelievably worth it. 

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Horseshoe Bay

We started our day in the most northern part of the island at Nourish Cafe. Great iced coffee to get you going. Horseshoe Bay is the place to go if you’re interested in souvenirs and the classic tourist-ville main drag. Pretty beach too.

Snorkeling

As part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the bays around Magnetic practically call your name. Hop in any of the bays around the northeast part of the island for some more secluded swimming, or check out the more southern spots like Geoffrey Bay for snorkeling*. But be sure to rent a stinger suit with your snorkeling gear, otherwise you risk a lethal sting from some of the world’s deadliest jellies. Not worth it. Take the sexy suit. 

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Koalas at The Forts

The iconic cuddly Koala of Australia roams freely around this National Park safe haven, and you can spot them anywhere along The Forts walk. Don’t make the mistake we did - a blazing hot midday walk is not a good choice. First of all, you won’t see any koalas because they’re smarter than you by avoiding the heat. Second of all, you’ll melt before you even get to the top. Take a hike in the morning or late afternoon when the koalas are more active. When you find one, stay a respectable distance away from them and do not feed them - they can be aggressive. You’re a visitor in their home, so don’t ruin their Eucalyptus high.

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Feeding Rock Wallabies 

For another, friendlier marsupial encounter, you have to go to Geoffrey Bay at sunset. Wild rock wallabies will emerge from their hiding places in exchange for a nibble on your snacks. It’s really important that you only feed them approved foods, otherwise they could get sick. We recommend carrots because they’re cheap, we already had them for our own snacking purposes, and it’s not sticky. The wallabies really like them, and chopping an entire carrot will give you a ton of little discs to share with the wallabies. 

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Nighttime on the Island

If you’re not afraid of the dark, take a midnight stroll to truly experience the wildlife. The island comes alive at night. Just take 5 minutes to listen to the bats swooping through the sky, or the possums wandering around the trees, or even the little unknowns rustling in the underbrush. It’s a truly amazing feeling to walk among the wild things in such magical place.

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If you’re looking for a place to go for your midnight stroll, check out the Magnetic Island Bakery… it’s open 24/7 and the owner is an absolute sweetheart. He’ll hook you up with the best treats on the island.

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*Ask Adam about the batfish, maybe he’ll clue you in.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay was the first stop on our big east coast adventure. We flew into Brisbane and caught a 2-hour shuttle south to the hippie surfer town to kick back for 4 days. If you’re thinking about spending time in Brisbane, consider Byron Bay as a more laid-back alternative.

Cape Byron 

The namesake and spirit of this little beach town, Cape Byron is made for adventure. Whether you swim, surf, hike or kayak around it, you’ll be able to say that you’ve been to the Most Easterly Point of Australia - but don’t miss a photo op with the Cape Byron lighthouse!

Byron Bay is also home to a lovely family of bottlenose dolphins. The unique shape and angle of Cape Byron protects the bay from strong currents, plus its shallow depth deters predators from hanging around, making it a calm, safe haven for our rubbery friends! If you’re interested in getting up close and personal to these pals, book a tour with Go Sea Kayak. You have the option of either a morning or afternoon adventure to hop in a boat with a buddy and paddle out around the Cape. 

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Even if you don’t see dolphins (which is always possible - nature can never be controlled), it’s well worth the view of Cape Byron. You can spot the lighthouse from a far, and you can watch the surfers shred some gnarly tubes! Plus, Go Sea Kayak will give you the unique offer of coming back for free to have another shot at seeing some pretty porpoises. 

Surfing in Byron Bay

Byron Bay is known for its superb surfing. There are loads of companies who are willing to drag you out to the wave break and get you up on a board. Contrary to it’s northern big brother Surfer’s Paradise, Byron Bay is perfect for beginners. The waves are usually smaller and break on an angle to the beach, giving you more time to get up on your feet. 

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Black Dog Surf Company took me out on my very first surf lesson, and quite a success it was. I even managed a double switch foot by the end of the day! The lesson was small and geared towards first-timers. As with most surf lessons, we started with perfecting our form before even getting wet. Then we lined up in the water and were sent off into the Byron Bay waves, one-by-one, with dedicated direction from the instructor. Their lessons aren’t very long, and sometimes Byron Bay may feel a bit busy with other beach-goers, but it’s a great way to start surfing!

Mojo Surf gave me my second lesson, and I’m glad I had some previous experience. Instead of surfing in Byron Bay, Mojo brought us south to Lennox Head. As usual, we started with stretching and dry practice. While there were blue skies above, there were rough waves on the beach, making for some seriously tough learning conditions. The safe section of beach was a bit limited, so many of us felt too crowded to give it our best shot. There were significantly more students than instructors, so a lot of the learning was on our own. - but when they were nearby, the instructors were quick to help and send you off on a good wave! Plus, the on-beach photographer is there to snap a pic if when you pop up! After the lesson is over, you get to go for a dip in the rusty colored Lake Ainsworth, a.k.a. Ti Tree Lake.

If you come to Byron Bay for a surf lesson, do some research on the local companies. If your experience with surfing is little to none, you may want to do a one-day lesson with a smaller group to get you started. If you’ve shredded before and want to take your skills to the next level, consider booking one of Mojo’s more advanced surf camps for a totally wicked experience!

Hostels in Byron

Arts Factory, owned by the same company as Mojo Surf, is a funky, colorful, good vibes hostel geared towards chilled out backpackers. They have a series of 10-bed tipis if you’re looking for something different, but they also have your classic dorm-style rooms with ventilation. The open-air campus has plenty to keep you busy. Their pool is perfect for a midday dip, or spend the evening sipping drinks on the pond-side benches, or even chat with the monstrous lizards who will keep you company during breakfast. They have weekly activity schedules for all types of explorers… word has it that the nature walk is very informative!

Nomads is also a great place to meet other backpackers and enjoy some loud nights. There are lots of long-term guests, making for nightly in-house shenanigans reminiscent of college dorm parties. They also have an outdoor courtyard with hammocks and hot tubs for a spot to chill out during the day, or socialize over dinner and drinks with some new friends at night. Plus, Nomads is right in the downtown area. You can easily hop over to any of the many restaurants and bars any day of the week. The streets are always alive.

When the Sun Goes Down

If you only have one night in Byron, you must walk down to the beachfront for sunset. It is truly magical. Pop a squat on the sand and watch the fog roll into the trees as the sky turns pink. If you’re a dog lover, get ready to start crying tears of joy. The beach is overtaken by happy puppers chasing birds and playing fetch. Heaven on Earth.

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Walking back up towards town, you’ll immediately feel the change in atmosphere. There are groups of happy folk singing and dancing even just on the beachside promenade. Every corner of Byron is a stage for performers to show off their string-picking skills or harmonic vocals. You might just find Australia’s best new artist on your walk home.

Food and Drinks 

Byron Bay is full of hidden gems. For some unique food options, check out:

  • Orgasmic Food - Middle Eastern with the best falafel ever

  • Legend Pizza - the perfect late night stop, certified thumbs up from New York pizza snobs

  • Elixiba - unbelievably flavorful vegan dishes (try the coconut flesh calamari)

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For drinks or a good night out, try:

  • Railway Friendly Bar - laid-back, good vibes pub with a beer garden and live music every single night (for the last 30 years!!!!)

  • Beach Hotel - pretty big venue with ticketed events throughout the week

  • Woody’s Surf Shack - the go-to nightclub for young partygoers

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Shark Bay Heritage Site

Shark Bay is a peninsula located on the West Coast of Australia, 850km north of Perth. The World Heritage Site is known for its unique ecological features including the Shell Beach, Hamelin Pools, Francis Peron National Park, and the marine wildlife of Monkey Mia.

 

Shell Beach

Shell Beach is not your average white sand beach. While it might look that way against the endless blue sky, the white rolling dunes of the beach are actually made up of tiny shells! These shells are all from a single species, an echinoderm known as the Shark Bay cockle - Fragum erugatum for my fellow biologists out there.

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The water is only ankle-deep for most of the way out, so it’s easy to wade in the ocean and appreciate the beach from afar! 

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Hamelin Pools

The Hamelin Pools are what credits the Shark Bay area for the second criteria of a World Heritage site. The flat “pancakes” are an ancient type of stromatolite that has been around for 3500 million years!

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Enjoy a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk as you float above the starkly colored landscape. If you’re lucky, you can listen to the birds chirping as they dance in the sun. Check out this brochure if you’re interested in bird-watching throughout the area!

 

Denham

Denham is the first town upon entering the heritage area. It’s striking blue waters welcome you immediately upon pulling into the town centre.

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The town has a rich story of sea exploration, and is themed after the historic shipwrecks off the coast. Two of the significant shipwrecks have been memorialized in the town center: Dutch merchant ship named Zuytdorp (1712), and a Norwegian whaler named Gudrun (1901). Read more about the local history on their website!

There are plenty of accommodation options in Denham, from the Heritage Resort to the variety of holiday parks along the beach. Be sure to stop by the Discovery Centre in town to check out the gallery of awe-inspiring local photography!

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Monkey Mia

Monkey Mia is home to the friendly bottlenose dolphins. Every morning, the dolphins are treated to a free continental fish breakfast! For just AUS$12, you can get up close and watch them from the shore. The park is a marine reserve, so your fee is supporting a great cause. 

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The operations at Monkey Mia have a long history of caring for the dolphins. Wildlife biologists have studied the local pod extensively, and have built the Monkey Mia experience to be as ecologically sustainable as possible. The conservationists take exceptional care to ensure that the dolphins do not feel threatened, and that their natural behavior is kept a priority. The dolphins are only there because they choose to be. There are strict guidelines for being a part of the magic, so please listen to your hosts carefully - they are professionals, and they know what’s best for the dolphins. 

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If you’re lucky, you might even be chosen to help the volunteers feed the dolphins!

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There are accommodation options in Monkey Mia if you’re keen on living with the dolphins for a few days. Otherwise, Denham is an easy 30-minute drive away.

There’s plenty to do in Monkey Mia. Enjoy an early morning coffee before the feeding, or grab some lunch at the Boughshed beachfront restaurant. Be careful of the pesky seabirds - they are not shy! 

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Before leaving, say a quick hello to the giant pelicans roaming the beach! But don’t get too close, they’re stronger than you think! 

 

Francis Peron National Park

Francis Peron is a wild, remote National Park covering the entire northern half of the Shark Bay peninsula. It’s an easy drive to the homestead, but beyond that requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Hiring a tour is the best way to see the vast wildlife haven. They can show you the best landscapes without you having to worry about getting “bogged” in the sand! Stop by the Visitor Centre in Denham to book, or check online.