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If you only eat out once while visiting Fort Lauderdale, make it GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill.

After a day playing at the beach, enjoying the Florida sun, sand and warm ocean water, we cleaned ourselves up and made our way to GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill. This restaurant gives a casual twist to fine dining…and that’s a good thing.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I knew we had chosen a place that had outstanding cuisine, but I was surprised at its comfortability.

From the moment we sat down at our table, GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill felt incredibly relaxing, but yet fine dining all at the same time.

GG's Waterfront Bar & Grill Review - YouTube

Perhaps it was because our table looked out over the ocean. Or perhaps it was the golden setting sun, painting the sky in gorgeous reds, pinks and oranges. Maybe it was just the simplicity of warm evening air coupled with a seasoned waiter who seemed to understand perfectly how to treat guests like everyone was a VIP.

Whatever it was, our entire family relaxed.

Here’s why if you only dine out once on your Fort Lauderdale vacation you must make it GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill: 1. Gorgeous Waterfront Dining

It’s hard to find a more beautiful place to eat dinner than sitting outside on the deck watching boats slowly return to dock while the sun goes to bed for the night. Though I’m sure the inside of GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill is pleasant too, I don’t think it can possibly compare to the gorgeous setting of eating outside.

Home for us is much more north, where it’s often too cold to eat outside. So a table directly on the intracoastal waterway in the middle of winter where we can feel the warmth of a Florida evening is just glorious. The noise really only comes from the boats returning to harbour and the soft discussion of other people enjoying dinner.

When you come to GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill, be sure to request an outdoor table. I’d even suggest you wait for it. The view and relaxation is really worth the wait.

Cool Fact: The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is not the ocean. The ICW is actually between the barrier island on the ocean and the mainland. It’s a lively channel filled with boats and yachts going by. It was dredged during the sedan world war so that barges could go up and down the US coast with supplies and avoid U-boat attacks. 

2. Intricately Selected Food & Beverages Photo: GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill Photo: GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill – POW POW Shrimp! The most popular appetizer and we loved it!

GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill is simply a foodies paradise.

When a plate is set before you with brussel sprouts that you can’t stop eating, it’s not because you love brussel sprouts. It’s because the way those brussel sprouts were prepared took your tastebuds to a whole new universe where the vegetable that gets a bad wrap actually tastes like something you’d like to continue eating.

GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill takes quality ingredients and combines them to perfection.

I’m not kidding or even exaggerating. The food was absolutely impeccable.

The drinks too impressed us. With an extensive wine selection you are sure to fine the perfect pairing for your meal.

Mouth-watering steak to satisfy even the toughest of critics. Fish that melted in my mouth and filled my desire for seafood. Five different exotic wild mushrooms, sautéed in bone marrow. Exquisitely prepared appetizers with the ahi tuna on won tons with the perfect balance of crunch and raw ahi fish. And I can’t leave out the show-stopping pow pow shrimp. Believe me, there’s a reason it’s the most commonly ordered appetizer.

And when it came time for dessert, we all found a bit of extra space in our tummies for chocolate, bread pudding and Florida’s famous key lime pie. But when my son’s almond basket came with the gelato scooped inside, we all looked in wonder at how they even can make sure a delicate bowl.

3. Comfortable Feel, Yet Fine Dining All At The Same Time Photo: GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill Photo: GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill

Is it possible to eat exceptionally delicious, perfectly paired food and drinks, served by 1st class servers and still be able to sit back and relax? Normally I would say no. Fine dining almost always means formal and elegant, sophisticated and stuffy.

But at GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill, we found we could come in after a day at the beach and feel relaxed and welcome. GG’s is the type of place that will welcome you even with a bit of sand still on your toes. There’s no uppity pretence here. Just wonderful service and exceptional food.

While it’s also okay to dress up, you won’t feel out of place if you don’t. It’s just a very comfortable bar & grill whether out on a special date or with the whole family.

4. Professional, Knowledgeable, Courteous Staff

Our server was the absolute best. He was patient while we perused the menu. He took the time to explain what we could not understand. And his gentle approach to serving was different than I had experienced before. Without being pushy, he suggested some wonderful selections. His ability to notice the small details like a child’s napkin slipping off their lap, brought me secret joy.

At first I thought we lucked out with a good server, but I watched others do the same. This place must know how to train their staff to remain relaxed, yet vigilant.

Jay even noticed it as he admired the “pick up window” where all the servers wait for their table’s dishes to be ready.

He said it was like watching a smooth dance in the kitchen.

They were all so polite and kind.

Pushing out a lot of quality food smoothly without looking frantic can be incredibly difficult unless that’s just how it’s done here. They all spoke to each other with kindness…not a common sight in the restaurant industry.

So it makes me think that courtesy for one another even occurs within management. It sure makes for an enjoyable environment.

I couldn’t imagine a more perfect choice for dinner in all of Fort Lauderdale. Click to view slideshow.

Everything was exceptional. And we were able to enjoy a quiet, relaxing evening out as a family. It was definitely a splurge for us as we don’t tend to eat at such fine establishments very often. But on this holiday, when we wanted something extra special, GG’s Restaurant Bar & Grill fit just right.

My mouth still waters at the thought of how good the food was and these pictures take me back to a perfect night.

So check it out for yourself. You will be so glad you did.

GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill

Website: ggswaterfront.com

Virtual Tour: ggswaterfront.com/contact/

Menu: This menu will keep you coming back night after night.

Tip: Plan for at least a 3 hour dining experience if you want to get the most out of GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill.  You will most definitely want to make a reservation to guarantee your table. This is a more expensive restaurant, especially for a whole family so be sure to check out the menu and set a budget ahead of time.

Google Map Directions: How To Get To GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill

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Just minutes from the Cozumel Cruise port you will find the perfectly situated El Cid La Ceiba Beach Resort.

Choosing the right shore excursions will make or break your cruise every time. That’s why we put tons of research into each cruise port, identifying the very best shore excursion to go on. The island of Cozumel is no exception.

This very small Mexican Carribean island consists of 95% Mangrove forest, so don’t expect to find a last minute shore excursion to do on your own at this cruise port.

Cozumel does have a good number of typical excursions to choose from like snorkelling, scuba-diving and ATV tours. However, this tiny cruise port town of San Miguel can easily become overrun by thousands of cruisers at the same time which means big crowds and crowded excursions.

So what’s a cruiser to do who likes to get away from the crowds?

The perfect Cozumel resort cruise shore excursion! - YouTube

We found the best kept secret in Cozumel for cruisers and we are going to share it with you! Let the Traveling Islanders help you get the most out of your Cozumel cruise shore excursion.

First, save some of the more active Caribbean cruise excursions for the other ports with more to offer.

Second, reserve your cruise stop in Cozumel for what could very well be your most relaxing day of your entire cruise vacation.

10 Reasons Why El Cid La Ceiba Beach Resort Is The Perfect Cozumel Cruise Shore Excursion 1. El Cid La Ceiba Beach Resort Is Just A Short Stroll From Your Cruise Ship

Take a break from wondering whether you will make it back to the cruise port on time. Admit it, we all do this in the back of our minds. But not this time! There was just something so comforting and relaxing to be able to look out from El Cid Resort across the ocean and see my Royal Caribbean cruise ship knowing we could be back on board in minutes if wanted to.

Just a couple minute’s walk down the sidewalk, you will find El Cid La Ceiba Beach Resort. Being so close to the cruise port we were able to quickly blend in with those staying at the all-inclusive resort and start relaxing within minutes.

In fact, had we known it was so close to the cruise port we may have opted to sleep in, enjoy a light complimentary breakfast in our room, and eat breakfast at El Cid. The food was fresh and delicious! Especially the fruit.

2. A Cozumel Cruise Shore Excursion Away From The Crowds

We had over 5000 cruisers on our Royal Caribbean Allure Of The Seas cruise ship. In addition, there were 2 other cruise ships in the Cozumel port that day. Needless to say, thousands of cruise vacationers went ashore at the same time. I like a cruise vacation as much as the next person, but if there is an opportunity to get away from the crowds with my family I’ll go for it.

We were in Cozumel during the peak season of March Break. Believe it or not, we were the only cruisers who found the Cozumel secret of El Cid Resort.

We couldn’t believe it!

Literally just minutes away from us were thousands of hustling cruisers, crowding about. No one knew about this gem of a resort. It was the most PERFECT Cozumel cruise shore excursion.

3. Fresh And Delicious El Cid La Ceiba Beach Resort Food

Overlooking the ocean just beside the swim-up bar sits La Chopa Restaurant. Impressed at every turn with El Cid Resorts, the food and restaurant ambiance was no exception. Tasty, authentic, fresh Mexican food awaits you on this Cozumel cruise shore excursion.

My personal favourite was the guacamole. It was simply the best I have ever tasted. And it went perfect with our fish tacos. Drinks all around for everyone and banana splits for the kids, made us all feel like we were in tropical paradise…because we were!

I know the food is good on a cruise ship too, but in this case I have to tell, you El Cid was a welcome change. And the freshness couldn’t be beat. The best part is, it’s all you can eat and drink for 6 hours!

4. Cozumel Snorkelling Tour Right Off The El Cid La Ceiba Beach

The Traveling Islanders can’t get enough of snorkelling on a tropical vacation. So we were glad to hear snorkelling was included at El Cid. With our all-inclusive pass, we simply picked up our snorkel gear at the activity desk and dove right in just steps away from our beach umbrella and chairs.

There were fish everywhere with all sorts of varieties and colours.

If you swim directly out from the resort, you can even see a plane crash underwater! This surprised the kids and I as we snorkelled over top.

The current was a little stronger than we would have liked on our visit, but it wasn’t a problem. We easily rode the current to the El Cid beach exit and were just fine.

5. Five Star El Cid Staff And Service This is Johnathan! My youngest new El Cid best friend on staff at the resort.

El Cid has a reputation for treating every guest like a VIP. We noticed it the moment we walked onto the resort property. Genuinely warm, welcoming and always aiming to serve is what we experienced all day long. We can’t say enough about how well we were treated.

It was as if we were royalty.

In fact, if we have the opportunity to go on an all-inclusive Mexican Resort vacation, El Cid will be our first choice every time. There is just something about the staff that make you want to come back.

6. The Ocean View Freshwater Pool

If you have kids, then you know water is where they will want to play. If I close my eyes and imagine, I can feel, hear and see it all. The kids laughing and splashing, the swim up bar, the ocean view, the sun and unforgettable family memories.

I wished several times my cruise ship would have broken down in port so we could spend another day enjoying El Cid La Ceiba Beach Resort.

7. Simply The Most Relaxing Cozumel Cruise Shore Excursion You Can Choose

I think you’re getting the picture. Minutes away from the cruise port, no crowds, unlimited food and drinks at your fingertips, first class service, a pool, an adult only beach section, beach umbrellas with an ocean view, swim-up bar, away from the crowds, on-site snorkelling and a spa right on the water’s edge.

How can you resist?

I seriously have to spend a week at this resort!

8. El Cid La Ceiba Beachside Spa

There’s just something magical about receiving a massage while listening to gentle waves, chirping birds and feeling the soft caribbean breeze on your skin.

It’s truly incredible.

The spa at El Cid is right by the restaurant and there are two massage tables under a beautiful canopy overlooking the water. This is the epitome of relaxing! Gretta nearly fell asleep as she listened and absorbed all the beauty surrounding her. It was easy to arrange and equally easy to enjoy.

The only difficult part was getting up off the table.

She would have liked to stay for a nap!

9. El Cid La Ceiba All-Inclusive Resort For A Day At The Right Price View from El Cid La Ceiba Beach Resort Cozumel

What’s Included: For $49 a person, you get everything an overnight resort guest would, aside from the room. This includes access to the Cozumel resort’s beach and pool facilities plus umbrellas, hammocks, towels, nonmotorized water sports equipment and unlimited food and beverages for 6 hours. Children 6 and under are free and ages 7 to 11 are $27.

Passes are for use of 6 hours, but I can’t imagine them rushing you out the door if you stay an extra hour.

10. El Cid Family Fun For All Ages

There is always something to do at El Cid La Ceiba Beach Resort. Not so much though that you are overwhelmed by choices and worried you’re going to miss out on something. It was just right.

We all had our favourites.

The kids enjoyed playing on the giant sized chess board, while Papa took on the kids at a game of ping-pong. Nana just liked sitting under the beach umbrella, sipping drinks while visiting with her granddaughter.

I enjoyed taking each one of my kids on a snorkeling tour while Gretta’s favourite was her oceanside massage. What do you think you would enjoy the most?

Such precious memories no one will soon forget.

El Cid, you are simply priceless.

El Cid La Ceiba Beach Resort – Cozumel

Website: elcid.com/el-cid-la-ceiba

Check out El Cid In Mazatlan!

Google Map Location:

We were special guests of El Cid during our stay, but our thoughts and opinions are our own. 

The post The Perfect Cozumel Resort Cruise Shore Excursion appeared first on Traveling Islanders.

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“I came, I saw, I loved.” This is the meaning behind Amavi Charters, and it’s easy to see why.

Located on the gorgeous Honduras island of Roatan, Amavi brings the love of the island and the ocean life to each chartered excursion, welcoming you like royalty.

Surrounded by turquoise water and a nearly untouched reef, Roatan has some of the best snorkelling in the world. Roatan is an island in the Caribbean, about 65 Kilometres (40 mi) off the northern coast of Honduras. Roatán lies on the southern edge of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest barrier reef in the world.

Photo: Amavi Charters

If you are wanting to go snorkelling on your Caribbean cruise, this is the place to do it.

Since Amavi specializes in private charters, they were the clear choice for us. They were even able to easily accommodate Papa joining in the fun. 

Multi-Generational groups is no problem for Amavi. In fact, one of the guides even let Papa hold his forearm and snorkel together to make sure everyone stayed safe and had a good time.

Amavi Charters caters to multi-generational families. Perfect for Papa & Nana!

World class service – USA Expat, Owners Rob and Natasha, along with Captain Andrew and 1st mate Alan worked together to provide impeccable service. From the moment we walked onto the catamaran with Amavi, we were treated like VIP guests.

After a quick tour of the boat and a couple simple safety rules, we were off on our trip, but never once had to lift a finger. It’s as though they anticipated every need. From drinks, to snacks, to friendly conversation, each crew member gave us the trip of a lifetime.

There were snacks on the ride out to the reef, snacks as we exited the water to get the salt taste out of mouths, and everyone served with graciousness and friendly smiles.

Amavi Charters Offers The Best Snorkelling Tour In Roatan! - YouTube

7 Reasons Why Amavi Charters Offers The Best Snorkelling Charter Tour On Roatan: 1. Amazing Caribbean Snorkelling On The Second Largest Barrier Reef In The World

We had all been snorkelling before, but never like this. The diversity of coral blew me away! Amavi provided all our snorkeling gear and then got in the water with us to tour us around the reef. As we traded our sandals for flippers, we were amazed by what we saw.

Every snorkel location is different, but we got to see a blowfish, trumpet fish, many schools, and coral of all shapes and sizes. The beauty of this protected reef is truly mind-blowing. 

2. Beautiful Sailing Trip Photo: Amavi Charters

Sailing is new to us, so we were all surprised how smoothly we moved in the water on our return journey. In fact, it felt we weren’t even moving at times. It was a complete change to the trek out to the reef.

We were not crashing into waves, but instead moving along with them. It was so smooth, in fact, that two of our three children fell asleep! It was incredibly peaceful.

3. Quality, Delicious Food Photo: Amavi Charters

I was blown away by the absolute delicious Caribbean picnic BBQ that awaited us after we got back to the catamaran! We knew lunch was included in this charter, but no one prepared us for how delicious it would be. Our family had been on a cruise ship for five days prior to our trip with Amavi and the food was clearly better on our little catamaran than on the entire cruise ship! Natasha, one of the owners, makes everything from scratch and let me just say…boy, can she cook!

Thai pasta with rainbow veggies, green salad with feta, bbq chicken and pineapple grilled fresh while we were in the water snorkelling, lemon-pepper sea bass, and to finish it off, homemade key lime pie to die for.

If your mouth isn’t watering yet, it’s only because you can’t smell it. 

4. Friendly, Professional, Family-Like Staff

It started the moment we met our driver at the cruise terminal. As we drove the 60 minutes down the island, our driver shared his love for Roatan and taught us just a little about the beauty of this place. But when we arrived at the harbour and met the staff of Amavi Charters, it was as though we were visiting someone in their home.

The ease of conversation, their gentle, laid-back nature made us all feel like family. It was easy to relax in their boat, feel the wind on our faces and snorkelling with these new friends.  

5. Intensely Memorable, Safe, Fun And Relaxing Photo: Amavi Charters

Because of how friendly the staff are at Amavi Charters, it truly is easy to relax. They think of everything. Are you thirsty? They have drinks. Are you hungry? The snacks and lunch provided are exceptional.

Would you like to do nothing while enjoying the incredible scenery of Roatan? Done!

And the fun came easily as the kids ride the waves on the way out to the reef, jumping with each small surge, pretending they were surfing. Once we stopped and prepared to snorkel, they loved jumping in the water over and over and over from the roof over the boat’s galley. But the most fun of all came when we donned snorkels and fin to explore the reef. Amavi guides kept the time in the water at a comfortable pace, never rushing and always pointing out special fish and sea life. It’s simply relaxed, safe and fun. 

6. Private, Luxurious, Personal and Intimate

Now those are not the words you hear on most snorkelling tours! With Amavi Charters the private Roatan snorkelling tour makes all the difference. No fighting the crowds, no weird people on your tour ruining the experience. It’s just you, your family, and life long memories of an unbelievable day on the Caribbean waters. I am so glad the kids Papa was able to come too! Absolutely priceless.

7. A Tour Company With A Clear Love For What They Do Photo: Amavi Charters

This oozed everywhere down to the smallest detail. I noticed it in how they talked with each other. Or in the way they shared the tasks of our chartered tour. But mostly it was how 1st mate Alan always had a smile on his face. Maybe he was born smiling, but I think he just absolutely loved his job.

The hardest part of our day was saying goodbye. And though we were headed back to our cruise ship, none of us were ready for it to end. Warm water, colourful and diverse coral, exceptional food, new friends… Roatan and Amavi Charters has found a place in our hearts.

And just like its name, we came, we saw, and “we loved.”

No need to do anymore research on who you should just trust with your vacation dollars and shore excursion on the Island of Roatan. We spent hours researching the best Roatan snorkelling tour company and Amavi Charters wins hands down every time.

Amavi Charters – Roatan Private Catamaran Tours & Roatan Snorkelling

Website: www.amavicharters.com

email: info@amavicharters.com  

Cruise Excursion Tip: Here is our biggest tip for you! Our Royal Carribean cruise ship docked at Port Of Roatan. Be first off the ship so you can make the most of your day. When you make it to the street prepare for a little crazy. All the local tour companies and taxi drivers start calling out to you and it can be disorienting (especially if you are first off the ship). Just take a deep breath and look for your driver wearing an aqua blue shirt and holding a sign that says..

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When in Florida, seeing alligators is a must.

There is a hidden mystery about these giant reptiles of the water and since we were in the Florida Everglades, it only seemed right to visit them up close.

I had no idea how huge the Everglades are. You’ll have to excuse me, I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest my whole life and only visited Florida for a random day when I was 17 to go to DisneyWorld. So this visit to Fort Lauderdale we explored and found Sawgrass Recreation Park and their airboat ride to be perfect for our first encounter with wild alligators.

Wow! Let me just say it again…WOW!

From the moment we stepped down onto the dock until we got in the car to leave, we were impressed. Captain Disco, yes, that was his name, met us and took us to his airboat. But first, he showed us a little gator laying in the lily pads just off the dock.

I giggled and felt a tiny surge of fear pop into my heart. Not knowing anything about alligators I wondered, “would they try and jump on the dock and bite my toes? Is this really a safe trip?” These fearful questions were put to rest quickly as our captain informed us we were fine as long as we stayed in the boat.

Captain Disco was every bit a Florida Everglades captain as I ever dreamed of. A slight bayou accent, a laidback walk, and teaching through stories and experiences, Cap’n Disco kept us captivated while sharing his love for the area.

Though extremely loud, an airboat is surprisingly smooth.

Captain DISCO – Sawgrass Recreation Park Alligator Airboat Tours

At Sawgrass, every passenger gets a pair of earplugs that come in quite handy when the motor turns on. We chose the 30 minute airboat experience and it was just enough to see a couple large alligators sunning themselves in the water.

We learned that alligators are not a threat during the day, and hardly a threat at night. They rarely, if ever, attack as an alligator doesn’t like to exert energy.

During the day, they swim around, warming up. All the spikes (or “scoots” as Cap’n Disco called them) along their backs work as heaters for the alligator.

They are made up of triangular bones with holes throughout where blood warms before circulating through the body. Disco even passed around a “scoot” for us to examine ourselves.

Sawgrass Recreation Park Alligator Air Boat Rides - YouTube

30 minutes passed quickly, but we still were able to see a 7 and 8 foot alligator just floating around in the wild. They each very peacefully swam up to the boat and graciously allowed us to take their pictures. They aren’t hungry during the day. Alligators are surprisingly lazy.

They only want to eat what easily fits into their mouth.

So a human is not at all appetizing.

Phew…danger averted!

As our boat returned to the dock, the warm Florida breeze gave us a welcomed reprieve from the heat of the day. Our half-hour airboat ride was only a small part of our experience that day.

Sawgrass Recreation Park is also a refuge centre for many exotic animals. Big cats, monkeys, snakes and more born into captivity are brought here as a refuge from cruelty and mismanagement.

A walk around brings us close to some younger alligators, one of which we were even able to hold!

It’s easy to understand why alligators have been hunted for their skin. Their underbellies are surprisingly soft. I imagined a tough skin, but an alligator’s is soft just like my own. We all got to hold it, though my daughter took a fair bit of convincing.

The Everglades are unlike any place I have experienced before. They stretch for miles and miles here in southern Florida. It’s easy to see how they are the largest tropical wilderness in the United States and the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippi River.

It’s downright huge.

Though our experience was short, it will remain etched in our minds for many years.

Sawgrass Recreation Park – Fort Lauderdale Alligator Airboat Tours

Website: www.evergladestours.com

Phone: 1-888-424-7262

Email: sawgrass@evergladestours.com

Costs: General Admission $22.95 – airboat-rides/admissions/

Google Map Directions:

The post Wild Alligators Up Close In The Florida Everglades appeared first on Traveling Islanders.

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It’s simply wonderful in every way.

I think it’s only right to inform you at the outset of this article that I grew up watching “The Sound Of Music” every Christmas with my family. I loved it so much that when my high school chose this musical, I auditioned and participated as a nun. My love for “The Sound of Music” only grew from there. I now watch it anytime because I own the movie. My children and I sing along to all the songs when we play the soundtrack on a road trip.

It’s for these reasons I was elated when I saw “The Sound of Music” on the schedule at The Chemainus Theatre. I knew the whole family had to go.

Tickets are selling fast, and it’s no surprise why.

With superb acting, a fantastic story, and familiar melodies, I was not disappointed.

The curtain opens with the gorgeous chants of nuns walking around the abbey in tight harmony, perfectly blended together. Chills went down my spine and the lady next to me even let out a sigh of reverent awe in agreement.

And from there, as the story unfolded, the wonder, the beauty and the delight of the Von Trapps loving a simple and vivacious wanna-be nun all came alive.

The Sound of Music. Chemainus Theatre Festival. 2019. The cast of The Sound of Music. Photo: Cim MacDonald. The Sound of Music. Chemainus Theatre Festival. 2019. Stephanie Roth and Julia Ullrich. Photo: Cim MacDonald.

It seems every single show at the Chemainus Theatre is filled with exceptional talent. The set design, lighting, costumes and of course the actors themselves deliver fantastic professional productions. “The Sound of Music” brought nostalgia and joy through songs like The Lonely Goatherd (no marionettes, but the laughter and dancing is delightful), Do-Re-Mi (the Von Trapp children learn to sing), and of course How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? (Every nun’s favourite).

If you’re familiar with the movie, you’ll be fighting back the urge to sing along.

Or maybe you will be like me and my youngest and stop fighting and just sing right along with the actors. It’s such a fun play! And our very own local children’s talent shines brightly as the Van Trapp children sing and dance their way across the stage and into your hearts. (You should, however, stay quiet during Climb Every Mountain. Listen to the Mother Superior sing it alone.

This is an experience in itself.)

I am continually impressed with how the actors themselves provide the instrumental background to all the songs. Uncle Max, the nuns, the baroness and even some children rotate through many instruments. It’s not only a creative use of characters, but provides additional layers of talent to the show.

If you are still waiting to get your Chemainus Theatre tickets, DON’T! “The Sound of Music”, though a classic, is only in Chemainus for a few more weeks. And if you’re one of the lucky few to get a table before the show in the Playbill Dining Room, your experience will be even more enjoyable. The food is always delicious with a wide assortment of options.

The post ‘The Sound of Music’ Is Just What You Need appeared first on Traveling Islanders.

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The best sandy beach on Gabriola Island has to be Whalebone Beach.

While we didn’t see any whalebones on our visit, I betcha that’s originally how this beach got it’s name. We did however see a lot of nice soft sand to play on, and that’s exactly what we were after.

Just 5 minutes down the road from Gabriola’s only shopping centre, access to Whalebone beach begins at a dead end road with an easy 5-8 minute walk through the woods.

The beauty of this beach lies in its extensive secluded bay, the vast ocean view with mountains off in the distance, the tide pool exploration and the best hidden sand on Gabriola island at low tide. Check the tide charts so you can plan your visit when the sand is visible, otherwise it’s all rocks. With very little waves and a lot of sand, this beach is perfect for beach lovers of all ages and swimming abilities.

Everyone has their favourite beach on Gabriola Island and this one has to be mine. In fact, had we known about this beach earlier we would have planned to stay longer for sure. I personally loved how it was off the beaten path more than the other Gabriola beaches, yet accessible for families with young kids.

Best Sandy Beach On Gabriola Island Is Whalebone Beach - YouTube

Gabriola Sands Provincial Park (also know as Twin Beaches) is the beach with the most sand on Gabriola Island. But because of the seaweed, amount of people on busy summer days, and sand fleas, it loses out to Whalebone beach as far as I’m concerned.

Note: There are no picnic tables or access to drinking water, so bring your own liquids and enjoy eating right on the beach. This is the perfect beach for those low to the ground beach chairs, so bring them along if you have some. 

Google Map Directions To Whalebone Beach:

Traveling Islander kids checking out the tide pools.

The post The Best Sandy Beach On Gabriola Island appeared first on Traveling Islanders.

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Don’t make the same mistake we did on our first trip to Gabriola Island.

Gallery? No thanks, I’m on the quest for the best beaches of Gabriola Island. Hold on a minute!

This isn’t your typical art gallery. Less than 10 minutes from the ferry terminal, these galleries show what a gorgeous art form nature can display.

From years of stormy waters crashing on the sandstone along with freezing and warming temperatures, nature has created its own on-land rip curl. This may be one of  Gabriola’s most photographed beach parks and when you visit you will quickly understand why.

Malaspina Gallery On Gabriola Island - YouTube

Malaskpina Galleries is a cool spot to explore no matter the time of day. Although, we enjoy the sunsets and how the light changes on the rock formations.

Note: Bring your snacks and water and enjoy spreading out on the massive smooth rocks and simply relax and soak in the island life. 

Google Map Directions To Malaspina Galleries:

The post Malaspina Galleries Sandstone Rip Curl On Gabriola Island appeared first on Traveling Islanders.

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A Latin American paradise for beach-combing adventure, Isla Bastimentos is one of Caribbean’s unknown gems.

A guide to Isla Bastimentos doesn’t need to be complicated. A tropical jewel surrounded by Caribbean waters, this island is for removing your shoes and forgetting about time. Nothing ever happens here. Which is why it is so appealing. The other big appeal is price. A week on Isla Bastimentos will cost similar to two days on the more famous Caribbean islands. And the coconut cocktails taste a lot better too!

Where is Isla Bastimentos?

Panama remains off the tourist trail, a country more famous for canal and corruption than vacation. In the north of Panama you’ll find Bocas del Toro, perhaps the most loved of the country’s backpacker beach destinations. Isla Bastimentos is a ten-minute boat ride from Bocas. At just $5 one way the taxi boat is a bargain, but don’t be tempted to only visit for a day: this is an island that’s best when the day-tripping visitors have left. Most people have never heard of this island that basks in the Caribbean Sea. And if fulfils all the Caribbean preconceptions.

Photo Credit: 7thheavenproperties.com Photo Credit: 7thheavenproperties.com Why Isla Bastimentos?

Think of the Caribbean and much larger islands usually spring to mind. Isla Bastimentos is even smaller and less known than Panama’s other islands, the San Blas. Yet it is an island that’s easy to picture. Think palm trees providing slithers of shade over soft, white-sand beaches. Think sea turtles nesting on the beaches, lush mangrove islands, and superb marine life. Think tropical cocktails at wooden beach bars and an atmosphere that encourages you to do nothing but relax.

Getting Around Isla Bastimentos

Any guide to Isla Bastimentos can’t go further without mentioned the lack of traffic. There are no roads on the island. Which means no noisy cars or scooters that blight so many other Latin American destinations. To get around you’ll need two feet and a basic understanding of Spanish. The island’s northern coastline is easily walkable, although the southern coast is framed by mangroves and coral reef, which can be tough on bare feet. Travel to this side by taxi boat instead, using some simple Spanish to negotiate a better price from the captains. You can also walk across the island: remember to wear good shoes for this.

Photo Credit: 7thheavenproperties.com Where to Stay

Old Bank is the only village on the island, although hamletwould be a more appropriate description. Hotels are neatly spaced around the island, ranging from cheap hostels on the beach to affordable beach villas in the south. Most of the accommodation is around the northern tip and Old Bank, close to the ferry terminal. However, take a walk away from the boat taxi dock as the real charm is found elsewhere. Red Frog Beach has a handful of great value hostels while Punta Vieja has a lovely ecolodge.

Photo Credit: 7thheavenproperties.com What to do on Isla Bastimentos

Nothing. Of course, you have to slap on the sun screen and perhaps take a walk. But the attraction of Isla Bastimentos is to do absolutely nothing. And why should you do anything on such a quiet Caribbean gem?

If you came to party then you’re in the wrong place. Isla Bastimentos is the polar opposite of Bocas town and a great change of pace if you’ve been traveling along the Central American beer-pong trail. You’ll probably be in bed by 9pm, which is really nice when you stop being embarrassed about it. It means you can wake early and enjoy the beaches for longer, as well as take a siesta through the hottest part of the day.

Unlike Bocas del Toro, the island has retained more of its local culture. You get real Caribbean vibes from the locals, who are friendly and welcoming as long as you take some time to say hello. This is a good place to appreciate real Caribbean culture, rather than the Gringo-style culture that pervades through many islands nearby.

Diving and Snorkeling

Most of the island is situated within Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, a protected reserve that creates intimate marine experiences. Sea turtles nest here, including leatherbacks, hawksbills and the abundant green turtles. They nest from March until September but can be found in the surrounding waters most months of the year. You might also glimpse a reef shark or a ray, and you’ll definitely get close to the tropical colors of strange small fish. The best sites are in the south of the island. If you’re staying in the north then it’s possible to take a boat tour or rent a boat taxi for the morning. There’s now a PADI dive center on the island as well, which is a much cheaper alternative to Bocas del Torro or Costa Rica to the north.

Final Isla Bastimentos Information

Getting to Wizard Beach is a challenging walk, where you prick your legs against spiky plants and wonder why you’re going to such effort. The reward is blissful, a long slither of sand with hardly any other footprints. If you remember nothing else from this guide to Isla Bastimentos then remember the name and make the mission.

Photo Credit: 7thheavenproperties.com

Stephen Bailey – Traveling Islanders Contributor

The post The Traveling Islanders Guide to Isla Bastimentos appeared first on Traveling Islanders.

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Hvar is the perfect mix of Croatian culture and lazy days on the beach. Hvar is an island you might never want to leave

For many visitors Hvar resembles a dream. Combine seemingly endless sunshine with cute medieval towns and vineyard-dappled landscapes, then throw in secluded coves, rugged mountains and brilliantly blue waters. While most of the world hasn’t heard of this Croatian island, it’s been a hangout for wealthy Venetians since the 15thcentury.

The ultimate Hvar Island Guide

Before thinking about how to get there and what to do, you have to make sure you’re in the right frame of mind. Hvar runs to a sultry summer rhythm, even in the height of December. While you could visit Hvar on a day trip from mainland Croatia, the more time you have the better. This is an island for lying back, soaking up the sun, sipping drinks at coastal cafes, and spending long evenings walking around lantern-lit towns. The most important Hvar information you can get is to slow your pace. This island is best when you travel slowly and absorb all the beautiful nuances.

Photo Credit: Davor- Strenja Why visit Hvar?

Some islands have a little of everything. Not many islands combine it all in such a cute and compact package. Hvar has a medieval history and its small towns are amongst the finest in Eastern Europe, especially the World Heritage-listed Stari Grad. They’ve been spruced up with designer boutiques and fine dining restaurants, without losing their old cobbled charm. Hvar City is just as appealing (it’s more like a village than a city) while Jelsa and Vrboska are more off the beaten path.

Rugged mountains and rolling vineyards fill the island’s interior, tumbling down into warm Adriatic waters. There aren’t many sandy beaches but you’ll find a number of quiet coves and deserted rocky shores. It’s easy to explore the land with a rental car and you can also consider renting a boat to reach tiny islands nearby, like the Pakleni Islands and the Blue Cave. The long evenings are for enjoying the atmosphere of the towns and dining on Italian-inspired fresh seafood.

Photo Credit: Mario-Fajt Something You Didn’t Know about the Island of Hvar…

The locals claim that Hvar is the sunniest place in Europe but that’s not true. With an annual average of 7.7 hours of sunshine a year, Hvar is certainly in Europe’s top five, although it falls behind the island of Malta.

Getting to Hvar Island

There’s no airport on Hvar, which is part of the appeal. You’ll have to come by boat, with the best option being the fast catamaran from Split, a Croatian city with an international airport. It’s also possible to include Hvar on a Croatian island hopping itinerary and take an onward catamaran to Brac or Korcula.

Where to Stay on Hvar Island

On many islands you stay on the beach and take day trips to the town. Hvar is the opposite. Stari Grad is utterly charming in the evening and is our recommendation for where to stay. Hotels within the World Heritage area are boutique and expensive but it’s easy to grab a great deal on the hills overlooking the town. Local women used to wait at the ferry port and offer their spare rooms to tourists coming off the ferries. This system has been professionalized by Airbnb and there are some superb deals if you’re prepared for a 15-minute uphill walk: note that work may be hard after an evening of coastal cocktails but you’ll enjoy stunning views from a room on the hill.

Photo: Shutterstock Things to do on Hvar Island

Hvar offers countryside walks, boat excursions, beach days, art galleries, fortresses, vineyards, cathedrals, kayaking and kite surfing. You will absolutely love all the things to do in Hvar with very little planning ahead of time. Hvar is a small island so you can easily plan an itinerary once you arrive. Just slow your pace down and the things to do will find you. And even if you only visit Hvar for two days make sure you take the time to walk around the cobbled towns: Stari Grad and Jelsa were constructed when the Republic of Venice ruled over Hvar, so you get a sense of Venetian style without having to put up with the tourist crowds and sewage problem.

Continue the Adventure After Hvar

Hvar doesn’t have an airport and most people visit the island as part of a longer Croatian vacation. You could take the ferry east to Split, a city of medieval palaces and cobbled promenades. Or travel south to Dubrovnik, Croatia’s crowning jewel, a fortified city that’s full of enchantment as long as you avoid the peak July and August months. You could sail along the Dalmatian coastline or hop to other unspoiled islands nearby, such as Lokrum and Korcula.

Croatia featured heavily in the Game of Thrones and there are more than a dozen filming locations to find if you have a week or more in the country. And seen as you’re in Eastern Europe, why not continue the adventure to other unique destinations? Montenegro is only a three-hour drive down the coast while Slovenia has superb mountains and lakes.

Does visiting Hvar take a lot of planning ahead of time?

Nope. There are some islands where you need to be prepared. Not Hvar. The more unprepared the better. Turn up without a plan and you’ll love this little island in Eastern Europe.

Getty Images

The post The Traveling Islanders Guide To Hvar Island appeared first on Traveling Islanders.

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We all have Christmas traditions.

They are the things that create memories and make us excited for the season. Twinkle lights, trees, special food and music work together for our family.

But we’ve also come to love our yearly visit to The Chemainus Theatre for the Christmas show. It’s a fantastic night out as a family with spectacular food at The Playbill Dining Room followed by excellent storytelling on the stage.

This year, “Little Women” made its way to Chemainus and it’s delightful and all sorts of nostalgia.

Our night started off with an amazing dinner.

And by amazing, I mean phenomenol!

Friday night at the Playbill Dining Room did more than just satisfy our taste buds.

Salads and beautiful veggies followed by the tastiest carved beef Wellington ever. Jay exclaimed it was Thanksgiving and Christmas all wrapped up into one spectacular holiday meal. Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, gravy…perfection in a scrumptious buffet. He almost didn’t have room for dessert.

Beef Wellington is on the menu at the Chemainus Theatre Playbill restaurant. So good!

But never fear, with three children and a chocolate fountain, we all figured out how to enjoy some of the sweet decadence.

Dinner at the Playbill is the perfect way to start the night at The Chemainus Theatre. For the simple reason that all the specialness starts 2 hours before curtain call. Every special moment counts.

And at Christmas, don’t we all just want more time with those we love?

“But I don’t want to watch a play all about girls,” whined my 11 year old son when I gave him the head’s up about the “Little Women” storyline.

I couldn’t really fault the boy. I don’t know too many pre-teen boys who enjoy a story about a few sisters from over 100 years ago.

But “Little Women” is special.

It’s more than a story of a bunch of girls.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March quickly wiggle their way into your heart. The dynamics of their relationship is similar to many families…love mixed with squabbles. In a few short minutes, my sceptical son laughed as Meg’s hair singed right off her head and his enjoyment continued all the way to the end.

“Except the kissing. I really didn’t like that part.” Okay, I get it. He’s eleven.

Little Women. Chemainus Theatre Festival. 2018. Company of Little Women Photo: Cim MacDonald

But this musical is really something the whole family will enjoy. It’s the perfect addition to any Christmas tradition. The March family delivers that quintessential feel-good Christmas experience.

Though the songs are new, they beautifully portray the depth of characters and the story itself. And each part, once again, is played to perfection.

I’m always surprised (though I probably shouldn’t be by now) how exquisitely each member is cast. From the smallest role to the largest, everyone is incredible.

“Little Women” at the Chemainus Theatre is selling out fast! Get your tickets for your family before they are all gone.

Click to view slideshow.

The post This Christmas! “Little Women” At The Chemainus Theatre appeared first on Traveling Islanders.

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