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If you are planning to see Iceland in a campervan or experiencing camping in Iceland then this guide to Iceland campsites is a must read. 

Iceland is a country that gets under your skin. 

From landscapes covered in ice to moss-covered hills where huldufólk hide and dancing northern lights, it is a country of dramatic contrasts.

It can also be a country most people decide is off the bucket list with Iceland accommodation and food being notoriously expensive. 

Luckily there is a way to see the best of Iceland that won’t break the budget.

Seeing Iceland by Campervan!

Table of Contents

Iceland Information

Where is Iceland?

Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe. It lies in the North Atlantic Ocean, between Greenland, Norway and the UK. It is only a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle and is part of the Nordic Council

10 Interesting Iceland Facts

Here are some interesting things you may not know about Iceland:

  • Iceland capital and currency: Reykjavik and Icelandic króna
  • Norwegian Vikings settled in Iceland around 800AD
  • The first parliament of Europe called the Althing was held in Þingvellir National Park, Iceland in 930 AD. Iceland is also the oldest democracy in the world.
  • Þingvellir National Park is also one of only two places in the world where you can see two tectonic plates, the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates clearly drifting apart. 
  • Most of the country is powered by renewable hydro and geothermal energy.
  • A lot of the population still believe in Elves and Trolls.
  • People do not have surnames in Iceland. Instead, their last name is their fathers name with the added -son or -dóttir. 
  • Icelandic Horses are unique to the island and have their own special gait called the tölt. They are the only breed allowed in Iceland and if a horse leaves the country, they can never return. They are also super friendly!
  • The largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull is in Iceland. It covers around 8% of the country’s landmass.
  • Beer was banned until 1989 and you will find hotdogs EVERYWHERE. If you fancy some traditional snacks you can munch on skyr ( a delicious creamy dairy product), Hákarl (Fermented Shark) or Svið (Sheep’s head). Find more interesting Iceland food here
  What is the best time of year to go to Iceland?

  • June – August for better weather and longer days
  • February, March, September, and October for a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights
  • May – September for whale watching
  • Mid-April to Mid-August to see Puffins 

The best time to visit Iceland will vary on how you are traveling and what you want to experience while you are on your Iceland vacation. 

Most travelers visit Iceland in Summer with peak season in Iceland being mid-June through to August. Although days are long and the Iceland climate mostly comfortable, expect crowds, especially at popular tourist areas like the Golden Circle and an increase in prices.

If you dream of seeing the Northern Lights then the best time to visit Iceland are the months of February, March, September, and October. With nearly endless nights, your chances of seeing the aurora borealis are much higher but weather conditions will be tough and you may experience road closures.  

Also, be aware that some campsites may be closed offseason. We share more details for each campsite below. 

Wildlife lover? Then the best time to visit Iceland maybe May to September to see whales or Mid April to Mid August for a chance to see Puffins.  

Thinking of visiting Iceland in September? This is when we took our first trip. Although we missed out on some sites like the Ice cave and puffins, we got to watch locals bring in their sheep for the winter ( just be sure to be on the right side of your destination as you can get stuck behind thousands of sheep for hours), experienced the Northern lights in the early hours of the morning and had many of the Iceland attractions to ourselves. 

For more in-depth information and average temperatures in Iceland check out this post on when to travel to Iceland.

Iceland has extreme weather changes at any time of the year, even if Summer. So whenever you decide to travel be prepared with the right clothing and gear. We share some great tips at the end of this post. 

  Places To Visit In Iceland

There are so many things to do in Iceland, that it can be overwhelming when you are trying to plan your Iceland itinerary. 

Here are some ideas for what to do in Iceland:

  • See Icebergs at Jökulsárlón and on Diamond Beach
  • Explore the dramatic Þingvellir National Park
  • Walk behind a waterfall at Seljalandsfoss
  • Get off the beaten track at Snæfellsnes and walk through lava tunnels 35 meters underground
  • See Europes most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss
  • Walk along black sand beaches and see basalt seas stacks at Reynisdrangar
  • Find secret hot springs and soak in them while admiring the stunning landscapes.

 

Trips To Iceland

A great idea before checking out campsites is to have a rough itinerary of the sites you would like to see.

An important note is to be realistic about drive times. As much as we all would love to see everything Iceland has to offer, in reality, you are never going to do that in a week or two.

Choose your must-see Iceland destinations then check out what campsites are nearby. Driving in Iceland can take longer than expected for a few reasons: 

  1. You will want to stop A LOT to admire the scenery and explore landscapes and waterfalls that don’t even make it in the guidebooks.
  2. The roads can be sometimes challenging, especially with a campervan. Even though the Ring road is the main road in Iceland, parts of the road are not surfaced. 
  3. Most Campervans can not travel on F roads and in other areas, check with your rental company before planning your itinerary and campsites. 
  4. The weather is unpredictable. Winds can be extremely dangerous and may hold up your trip.

Before showing you more about campervan rental in Iceland and the best campsites in Iceland here is a note about wild camping in Iceland. 

Can you camp for free in Iceland?

I’m sure you have seen images of people wild camping in Iceland but the truth of the matter is a little different.

While technically not illegal in most parts of Iceland (yet) there are many restrictions to wild camping. Free camping in Iceland is just that, camping..in a tent! There are also a whole lot of laws about what land you can camp on, where you can camp and other stipulations such as there being no actual campsites in the area. Find out more about wild camping regulations here

The laws are in place to help protect this beautiful country and respect the Icelandic people. Please follow them. By paying for campsites you are also helping Icelandic tourism.

If you are choosing to visit this country because you want to see the natural wonders then be a responsible traveler and help Iceland stay beautiful for those that follow in your footsteps.  

 

Camping Iceland

If you are planning on an Iceland camping trip here are a few things to think about.

Probably the main thing to consider when tent camping in Iceland is that the weather is ALWAYS unpredictable, even in summer. Winds can be extremely high ( I’ve seen cars with doors repaired after they have been bent backward by the wind here) and you will probably experience some rain. It can also change very quickly. 

Be sure to always check for road closures and conditions. You can find updated information here. 

Another thing if you are heading around the Ring Road is that services can be few and far between. Be sure to stock up with food and petrol when you see facilities. 

Iceland Camping Equipment

Of course, you can bring your own camping equipment but a cheaper option than paying for all that luggage on flights is Iceland camping equipment rental.  One company that rents camping gear is here

Please note we haven’t used this company ourselves so if you have any feedback we would love to be able to add it to this post. 

Another option is to look at self-drive tours of Iceland that include car rental and camping equipment. 

  Iceland Camper Rental

Campervan hire in Iceland is super easy. Although finding a cheap campervan in Iceland may be a stretch it is definitely the best option for your budget if you like the comfort of a bed rather than a tent. 

In Iceland, van rental is limited so it is best to make sure you book ahead as soon as you know your dates for your Iceland vacation, especially if you are traveling in peak season. 

There are lots of companies to choose from and reviews on the best campervan rental in Iceland. We won’t suggest which company you go with but here are some tips that will help your trip run smoothly:

Iceland Campervan Rental Tips
  • Get Insurance. Yes, it may be expensive but it’s better to be safe. Our campervan got totaled a day before we hired it, I seriously hope the poor travelers had insurance. Sheep roam freely, winds can bend doors and driving conditions difficult. 
  • Consider what sites you want to see and how big your campervan is. Due to our campervan being unavailable the first day we arrived we had to hire a car to explore the Golden Circle. This actually turned out to be a blessing as we would have found parking difficult in a large family sized camper. Do your research about road conditions and parking facilities of those places you want to visit before choosing what style and size camper you hire. 
  • Hit the supermarkets like Bónus or Krónan and stock up on supplies before you set off. This will save you a lot of money. These bigger chain stores aren’t available in some of the smaller towns around Iceland. 
  • Do not buy bottled water. Icelandic water is amazing and safe to drink. You can refill water bottles at campsites. 
  • Splash out on extras like an inverter and extra bedding. Nights can get chilly.  
  • Make sure you know the driving regulations. Find a guide to Iceland road rules here. 
  • If this is the first time you are renting a camper then make sure you read these great campervan tips for first timers to make sure your trip runs smoothly. 
 
Camping Card Iceland

One of the best things to purchase is the “camping card Iceland”. 

This card is valid for 28 nights ( until 15th September each year) and covers access to 38 different campsites around Iceland for 2 adults and up to 4 kids. 

At around 160 Euro it’s a great deal and can save you quite a bit on camping Iceland prices.

Be sure to note that not ALL campsites in Iceland are part of the camping card. We found a few areas of our Itinerary were not near sites we could use the campsite at but we still think we saved money. Also, some campsites may charge extra for electricity and other facilities which are not covered by the card. 

Get your camp card and find out more details here.  You can also buy the card in Iceland at various outlets. 

Iceland Campsites Map of Iceland Campsites

Click this map of Iceland to discover the camping destinations we mention in this post. 

 

Camping Sites Iceland

Deciding where to camp in Iceland can be hard work. For a small country, Iceland campgrounds are plentiful. 

To make choosing easier we have put together this guide of Iceland sites. We have selected campsites close to attractions in South Iceland that you may have on your itinerary such as the capital Reykjavik and the black sand beaches near Vik. 

Because we have obviously not visited all of these sites ourselves we cannot say which are the best camping sites in Iceland. Also, note that facilities and facts can alter. We try our very best to be as accurate as possible but click on the campsites links to see the most up to date information. 

If you visit any of these campsites and have some feedback for us or you have visited any sites that you truly think are the best campsites in Iceland we would love to help our readers out with more info. You can contact us here and we can add your input to this guide. 

Most campsites do not require you to book ahead, but keep in mind if you are traveling in peak season sites can fill up quickly. 

Note that some of these campsites may still be usable outside of the opening times stated but facilities will be closed or limited. 

Camping Reykjavik

As the start or end for most peoples itinerary, camping near Reykjavik is a great way to save some money on accommodation.

  Reykjavik Campsite

Location: Only 3 kilometers from the city center at Laugardalur. 

Address: Sundlaugavegur 32, 105 Reykjavík.

Opening Times:  This site is open all year round but outside of the peak season of May 1st through to September facilities and personnel at reception are limited. 

Facilities: 

  • WC
  • Showers
  • Clothes Washing and Drying facilities
  • Hot water
  • Swimming Pool
  • Cooking facilities
  • BBQ
  • Internet
  • Electricity
  • Bike rental
  • Close to supermarket and bus stop

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Nearby Iceland Attractions: Have fun at Laugardalur Park and explore the capital of Iceland Reykjavik easily. 

Camping Card: No

Prices: Site costs include free showers, hot water, cooking facilities, and internet access. For the most up to date, prices click here.

More Info: No pre-booking is available for this site. For more information check out their website here

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How to photograph a sunrise: Follow these easy photography tips to create your own amazing sunrise images.

Motivating my half asleep body out of the perfectly shaped cocoon of bedding I have created in the dark, early hours of the morning does not come naturally to me.

It is something I avoid at all costs.

Living 5 minutes away from an array of golden sandy beaches where sunrises dance across the ocean with a metallic gleam makes me feel guilty about this lazy habit.

Last year I photographed a total of 2 sunrises at home. That was only because of my early riser of a husband dragging me out of bed.

Traveling somewhere new to experience sunrise it is a whole different story. 

I would never miss the rays of golden sun slowly creeping over the crumbling, ancient temple of Angkor Wat or lay in bed while the vast layers of two billion years of Earth’s geological history change color by the second as the sun rises over the horizon of The Grand Canyon.

Whether you’re a natural early bird ( please feel free to write and share your secrets ) or you take some convincing like me, capturing those spellbinding moments of greeting the sun in a new location is a must.

Photograph of sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia How To Photo Sunrise

Luckily creating a photograph that takes you back to that golden moment is not as hard as you may think.

Follow these easy photography tips and avoid coming home with lackluster sunrise images like so many travelers.

  Sunrise Photography Tips

The scouts live by it and so should you. P.P.P.P.P – Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

Two things you should have prepped and planned perfectly for sunrise pictures is your camera equipment and your location.

Equipment for Sunrise Photography Camera 

To get the best sunrise photos you need a DSLR.

Make and model do not matter as much as your ability to use it. Having a camera with all the bells and whistles will not create a photograph any better than most point and shoot cameras if you only use Auto mode.

Make sure you know the basics of your camera by watching a few well-chosen Youtube clips. If you’re interested, here is my camera of choice.

Battery 

Make sure this is charged. Another great idea is to have a spare fully charged and ready to go. Especially if you have a full day of photography planned after sunrise.

Memory Cards

Check that you have plenty of space available. The light changes so quickly during sunrise so you may be taking quite a few shots. If you are experimenting with effects and exposure this is even more important to make sure you capture all those sunrise pics.

File

Shoot in RAW. This is a whole subject to itself so let’s just say if you want to do some processing on your image later ( and you should), shooting in RAW lets you do so much more to your images. No idea what RAW is. Head here for a quick overview.

ISO 

I set this and a few other settings the night before as I tend to forget things in my groggy morning/ in-awe-of-the-sunrise state.

ISO is how sensitive the sensor on your camera is to the available light.

Change your ISO to the lowest setting you have. You are going to be using a slow shutter speed to capture as much light as you can in the morning so having a lower ISO ( not as sensitive to the light) makes those subtle colors of sunrise more intense.

White Balance

You can correct this post image but why not try taking your shots in Shade or Cloudy rather than Auto. This will counterbalance the cool colors of sunrise, giving you warm, golden hues.

Of course, this is a personal choice, if you want some cooler effects, feel free to play around with this.

Focus Mode 

This will depend on your confidence.

Aperture Priority mode is perfectly acceptable if you are a little nervous about full manual.

But if you are willing to experiment and learn, put this in manual mode. If your new to the world of DSLR’s, don’t start panicking. We will talk settings later.

Lens 

Choose which lens you want to take and give it a quick clean the night before.

Light changes so quickly you don’t want to waste time fiddling around changing lenses.  Wider lenses are great for landscapes but if you want to focus on a particular point you may want a zoom. I tend to travel light and use my 24-70mm for most situations.

Tripod 

You are going to be using slower shutter speeds to get the best light when shooting sunrise so a tripod will ensure you don’t get any blur. At a push, I have used a wall or fence to place my camera on but it really is worth investing in one if you want to get the best shots possible.

Shutter Release

Don’t stress if you don’t have this. If you have one, pack it.

Filters

Take off your filters ( UV and Polarising) if you know you will be shooting into the sun.  You don’t want any ghost reflections on your image and they also reduce the light coming into your camera.

On the flip side, GND filters ( Graduated Neutral Density) can make exposure easier as it has a gradual dark to light effect over the lens.

Head Lamp 

A headlamp is a great accessory. To catch the perfect light you will need to get to your location well before the sun starts to show. This will help you find your way while still being able to carry all your equipment and not fall down any dark holes.

Clothing 

Dress appropriately.

Standing in one spot for a couple of hours in the freezing cold with no gloves or warm clothes is not going to help you concentrate on getting the perfect shot.

Remember temperatures can change dramatically in some parts of the world before the sunrise.

Choosing a Photography Location Time

Check the time for the next day’s sunrise and aim to be there at least half an hour before the sun actually rises.

Seeing the sun come up is beautiful but it is usually the moments before and afterward, are the times to capture the magic and photograph sunrise.

Research the best spots to see your sunrise 

This may be somewhere a little off the beaten path or it may be that tourist trap ( they are usually popular spots for a reason).

Chat with locals, even better ask some local photographers.

Know exactly where you are heading and how to get there. Getting lost at 4:30 am then watching a glorious sunrise while still hiking to your location is not a great way to start the day.

If you can actually go to the spot the day before and have a quick look around even better.

Tours

Sunrises in some locations will mean you have to get on a tour.

If capturing the sunrise on camera is your main goal, do a tour that is going to allow you the time to do this. Even better if your tour guide is a photographer with some great local tips.

Sunrise caught on tour with Dineh Bekeyah Tours over Monument Valley, Utah, USA Check the weather forecast

Clouds and a little haze are the ideal conditions to photograph sunrise ( living in Australia, some of the most amazing sunrises I have seen are during bushfire season).

Unfortunately, a forecast can not tell you if the sunrise is going to be spectacular.

Most of the time you will need to experience it and hope the weather gods are on your side. If you know the weather really isn’t going to work by all means sleep-in.

Clouds create a beautiful photograph of sunrise over The Grand Canyon. Arizona, USA

Now get an early night to make that early hour alarm not so painful.

Sunrise Photography Settings

Loved our tips on how to take sunrise photos. The next step is to find out the perfect camera settings for sunrise.

 

Travel with Meraki – As with all sun photography…never look directly at the sun, especially through your camera’s lens. 

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Fancy exploring the world with your Camera? We hope you enjoyed these easy photography tips on how to photograph a sunrise. Share your sunrise images with us below.

The post How to photograph sunrise while travelling appeared first on Travel With Meraki.

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Looking for ideas on what to do in Big Sur? Find some of the most stunning places to explore on your Big Sur day trip and make the most of your California coast road trip. 

 

I had a day-dream of road tripping along one of the worlds most iconic ocean roads, The Big Sur in California, USA driving a convertible Mustang. Wind blowing through my hair as I breathed in the amazing turquoise waters and stunning views.

Reality may have hit when trying to figure out the logistics of exploring the Big Sur with kids and fitting in all our luggage ( I will get the hang of packing light one day).

Cue a mum bus.

Then the weather, in true coast style was overcast and misty.

We couldn’t have had more of a great time visiting Big Sur. 

Big Sur California Where is Big Sur?

Big Sur is in California and on the Central Coast. 

The Big Sur drive lies between Carmel and San Simeon on Highway 1 and is around 90 miles. 

You can choose to explore with a few different routes. Because GPS can be poor, we suggest planning your Bug Sur road trip before you leave. 

Big Sur map

How long is Big Sur drive?

It is possible to do a Big Sur day trip. A few things to realize are:

  • Traffic can be crazy during the peak season of April to October, so you may not drive as quickly as you plan to.
  • There is so much to do in this amazing part of the world. Be prepared to only pick a few must do Big Sur attractions and accept you will miss lots of sites. 
  • Big Sur can often have fog well into the mid-morning. If you only have one day, you may miss some of the great lookouts. 

If we were not as restricted with time, we definitely would have loved to make our Big Sur vacation a 3-day long trip. 

  What is there to do in Big Sur for kids?

If a road trip with kids doesn’t seem like your idea of a good time then let Big Sur change your mind. There are so many things to stop and explore that you really don’t have to drive in long stretches. Some of our children’s favorite Big Sur things to do were:

  • Collecting sand dollars on the Big Sur beaches like Sand Dollar beach.
  • Seeing the Elephant seals at Piers Blancas
  • Playing with purple sand at Pfeiffer beach 
  • Spotting wildlife like eagles and Coyote
  • Enjoying spectacular views on some of the easier, child-friendly hiking trails on Big Sur

So, what is there to do in Big Sur for a day? Keep reading to find out what we managed to fit into our Big Sur day trip.

 

Big Sur Drive

Most images we see of this stretch of Highway One between San Simeon and Carmel-by-the-sea called the Big Sur, are of deep blue skies and striking turquoise waters.

Which is a little bit ironic considering I have been told you are guaranteed to have some mist during your visit, especially in the early morning.

We took our Big Sur road trip in late August which is a little outside of the recommended best visiting times of Spring and Autumn.

I was disappointed when I first saw the clouds and mist but soon realized that these amazing moody skies added such a great atmosphere to our drive and made those deep aqua’s of the Pacific ocean shine even brighter.

Amazing scenery around every bend along The Big Sur, California.   Where To Stop On Big Sur

Our first stop was to see the Elephant Seals at  Piedras Blancas, near San Simeon.

These things are HUGE, noisy and rather smelly. The kids loved them and it was one of their favorite Big Sur attractions.

Depending on what time of year you visit the colony you might be lucky enough to see the massive blubbery males fighting to impress the ladies of their harem or pups being born. 

Just seeing these immense creatures move is something else.

There is easy signage for this site and parking is very close to the walkway area. You can stroll up and down the wooden promenade taking in the views while watching the seals go about their business.

If you are visiting Big Sur with kids then we think this is a must stop destination. 

For more on the elephant seals find some great information here.

Up close and personal with the Elephant seals at Piers Blancas.

This wasn’t the only sea life we encountered on our trip. We saw sea otters rafting amongst kelp beds and seals bathing on rocks. If you are there at the right time of year you might also be lucky enough to see whales as they migrate past.

If you would love to see more wildlife in Big Sur, check out this great guide. It also shows some great Big Sur hiking trails.

Best Hikes In Big Sur

Have you ever been somewhere that just seemed like it couldn’t be real?

McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is one of those places.

As you enter the park ( There is a fee, but we felt it was much safer to park inside the park then save on a few dollars and park at the edge of the highway. For details check here ) and enter in the South parking lot you are immediately in a different environment from the breathtaking coastal views.

Tall trees surround you and the air is cooler.

The falls are along a short, easy access 1km (.6mile) trail. You walk into a tunnel that cuts under the highway then come out to find a view you will treasure forever.

Water cascades year round nearly 25 meters (80ft) down to the beach below. Magically for us, the sun seemed to come out just as we visited the falls before disappearing again as we left. This was my personal favorite of our Big Sur activities.

If you are lucky enough you can also see whales and condors from this beautiful spot.

McWay Falls in Julia Pfeffier Burns State Park looks surreal.

There are many other trails to explore in the park which we, unfortunately, didn’t get to try out as we only had one day to enjoy the area. It is also worth noting you will not be able to get to the beach from taking the short trail we took.

Big Sur Beach

Our next stop took a little finding.

Pfeiffer Beach is not well signposted, but if that keeps it secluded that’s okay by us.

To get there take a left onto Sycamore Canyon Road. As this is not signposted the name’s not going to help much. Instead, look for a sealed road between the Big Sur Station and the Post Office.

We managed to find it with only one drive by and turn around. It is well worth heading off the beaten track for, trust me.

The road down to the beach is small and windy which helps build up the suspense until you hit the car park. Spaces are limited so fingers crossed you hit a quiet time.

One of the first things that we saw when we got to the beach was the famous arch rock formation. This landmark is just stunning and a popular spot to take some great photographs.

On the initial view of the beach, I was thinking we had been a little duped as I couldn’t spot any purple sand!

It only took a little walk along this rugged stretch of sand to find some though. And it really is purple. All those images haven’t been photoshopped.

The purple is from the manganese garnet that is on the surrounding rocks. This washes up on the beach and you can discover it on various parts of the beach not far from the water’s edge.

Our kids had a great time playing in the sand and dragging washed up kelp around. The ocean is rough here though and I wouldn’t recommend letting children swim. 

On the upside, there are bathroom facilities near the car park!

There are a few Big Sur beaches but we think this purple sand beach is worth a visit. 

A note to those traveling in Rv’s and Trailers, unfortunately, the road to Pfeiffer Big Sur is not for you guys.

The sand really is purple on Pfeiffer beach Big Sur California   Big Sur Bridge

If you have seen images of Big Sur, chances are they were of Bixby bridge.

This marvel is one of the worlds highest single-span bridges and stretches over Rainbow Canyon and no Big Sur itinerary is complete without seeing it. 

You can stop on either side of crossing this bridge and get the iconic shot.

 

Stopping at either end of the famous Big Sur Bixby bridge makes for a stunning photograph.

We also stopped at lots of small lookouts to get amazing photographs and check out the wildlife.

My son was even lucky enough to get up close with a coyote. Around every bend, there will be a new view that will take your breath away.

We were lucky enough to spot some local wildlife on our Big Sur road trip.

Of course, these are only some of the attractions to see. There are lots more places to explore and amazing walks to take. Why not get planning your trip now?

If you don’t want your road trip to end, why not drive up to San Francisco?. You can find over 60 awesome things to do in San Francisco here or Learning Escapes has some great ideas for 24 hours in this amazing city here.

Are you planning an adventure to the Big Sur? What stops are you planning on taking? Make sure you share with our readers below if you have an awesome location.

 

When should I visit Big Sur?

The best time to visit Big Sur between mid-September and mid-October. 

Peak season is April to October and it can draw big crowds. Making accommodation and parking more difficult.

Locals say Fall is a great time to visit as there is less likely to be fog and it hardly rains at that time of year. 

If you want to see the Gray whales they pass the coastline from December to April.

A point to remember before planning your trip is that a lot of the Big Sur businesses will close during the off-season. 

  Is Big Sur closed?

Big Sur can often have road closures so make sure you check BEFORE you leave on your road trip. 

A great place to check for Big Sur closures is here

National Parks and other attractions can also close so be sure to research before you leave. 

Best Places To Stay In Big Sur

To make the most of your day trip we suggest staying in Big Sur or close by. Here are some great places to stay in Big Sur

 

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  Cruise along a California coast road trip of a lifetime. Make the most of your Big Sur day trip and discover what to do in Big Sur. 

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The post The Most Stunning Stops For Your Big Sur Day Trip appeared first on Travel With Meraki.

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From where to stay in Samoa, to the best beaches in Samoa, discover all this beautiful South Pacific Nation has to offer.  Savaii Samoa  

Arriving in Samoa in time to watch a luminous tangerine sunrise is the perfect way to start a holiday. Hearing the harmonic tunes of ukulele and pitch-perfect voices like honey singing you a welcome is the icing on the cake.

Talofa, you have arrived in paradise.

I admit to being slightly anxious about having to get to the largest island in Samoa, Savai’i by catching the car ferry.

Walking onto the ferry with our luggage and three kids under 5 was a bit of a challenge and took a little coordinating.

It is also important to note there are two car ferries. The larger ferry which leaves ‘Upolu at 8 am, midday and 4 pm, and from Savai’i 6 am,10 am and 2 pm is the more comfortable option when experiencing Samoa with kids and takes around 90 minutes.

We’ve landed in paradise. Samoan Welcome

Our first true experience of fa’a Samoa ( the Samoan way) was on our arrival in Savai’i.

Having caught an earlier ferry than expected our hotel transfer was not waiting for us as expected at the port.

When the taxi drivers began circling we were waiting for the usual offers to take us to ‘the best hotel on the island’.

Instead, they politely asked which hotel we were staying at then rang the hotel for us to organize our transfer to pick us up early. We later learned this was typical kindness and care shown by the Samoan people who believe in the community over the individual. 

  Samoa Facts
  • The Samoan archipelago is divided into two island groups. Samoa and American Samoa. Even though they are only around 100 kilometers apart they are on different sides of the International date line. 
  • The capital of Samoa is Apia on the island of Upolu. It is also the only city in the country. 
  • According to local legends, the island of Savai’i is Hawaiki, which is the homeland of all Polynesians.  
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, lived and died on Samoa. You can visit his former home which is now a museum.
  • More Samoans live outside of Samoa than on the islands. 
  • There are 9 islands in Samoa, 4 which are uninhabited. 
  • The only native mammals are bats like the flying fox. 
  • There is a third gender in Samoa, Fa’afafine. This is an ancient tradition where Samoans identify as non-binary. 
  • In 2011 Samoa went from being the last country to welcome each new day to be the first, as they crossed the international dateline
  Samoa Paradise Le Lagoto Resort & Spa

Samoa accommodation is available to suit everyone, from family-friendly resorts to beach fales.

As much as we would have loved to stay in one of the divinely basic fales, practically took hold but luckily we stayed in the equally divine Le Lagoto Resort & Spa which we think is one of the best resorts in Samoa.

This place just blew us away. Le Lagoto Resort & Spa

Want your own slice of paradise? Book your stay now

Our children roaming free on the beautiful beaches of Savai’i.

The first thing you glimpse as you step from the foyer is the hotel’s one and only restaurant where you will be forced to eat for your whole stay watching over the beach as the turquoise blue waves lap onto the sand.

It’s a tough gig.

All the meals come with a view at  Le Lagoto Resort & Spa.

As a larger family, we stayed in the older house rather than the smaller beach bungalows.

This was a little bit run down compared to the gorgeous bungalows but had plenty of room for the kids to play and was comfortable with a “home away from home” feel.

We had a garden full of hermit crabs to enchant the children, gorgeous views and were now some of the first people in the world to see the sunrise for the day.

 

The larger family accommodation at Le Lagoto Resort & Spa.

The food at Le Lagoto was delicious although like most Pacific Nations more on the expensive side.

As usual, I brought a small suitcase just of snacks for my hungry horde, then splashed out on main meals.

Included in our room was a Tropical Breakfast full of mouth-watering seasonal fruit and a different main each day. This varied from fluffy pancakes to omelets.

fa’a Samoa ( the Samoan way)

Every evening you are here you will hear the blowing of the conch shells.

Missionaries who visited in the 1800s were enormously influential and Samoa is now a devoutly Christian culture. The shells are blown around 6-7pm and mark the evening prayer curfew.

Listening to the harmonious and powerful voices of the locals sing the Vespers was a haunting way to welcome the evening.

Please show your respect during your visit and avoid walking through villages at this time.

Being devout Christians, Sunday is a day of worship.

All stores will be closed as this is a day to be spent with family and no work is to be done.

You can still visit most attractions but if you go through a local village show your respect by keeping the volume down and traveling slowly.

Savai’i may be the larger of Samoa’s islands but it is least populated.

Here you will find an unpretentious way of life that is still deeply traditional. They respect their 3000-year-old culture, their environment and live in harmony with each other and the world around them.

Samoan mythology tells that they were descended from the gods, sent from heaven to inhabit the emerald and aqua isles of Samoa.

Experiencing one of the most authentic cultures in Polynesia it is easy to believe these tales. Samoans are such genuine people with big smiles and hearts that match. 

And they adore children! Even cranky overtired ones.

What to do in Samoa

 

Savai’i Island Tour

Although you can hire a car to see the Samoa attractions we decided to take a private tour of the island through the hotel.

The whole island is encircled by a paved road, making it easy to explore. 

If you do this solo remember a lot of the island is still owned by the locals. Make sure you ask permission and be prepared to pay a small fee for some of the sites.

Village Life In Samoa

We drove through gorgeous brightly colored villages that are cared for with evident pride. Each village you pass seems to have chosen its own candy store hue as its theme.

In the villages, you will see at least one traditional fale. These oval-shaped buildings are often the village meeting house. The more impressive the fale in a village, the higher the position and power of its inhabitants.  Each thick pole holding the thatched roof up, holds its own significance. Sitting with your back against one of these poles shows your ranking and importance within the village descending from the chief, or matai down.

The open walls of the fales let in the cooling breezes off the Pacific Ocean as well as allowing nosey tourist to see the huge flat screen TVs looking out of place in these traditional buildings.

If a local invites you into a village please ask your host what traditions and protocols you need to follow.

When entering fales you will need to remove shoes and show respect by not standing when elders are sitting.

Another thing to remember is to not point your feet at people while you are sitting.

If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Samoa then you will love the fales. There are opportunities to stay in some great spots. Facilities are basic so it is for the adventures souls.

A beach fale in paradise, Savai’i, Samoa.

During our tour, our guide told us tales of adventure, love, and history.

We learned about Mata o le Alelo Pool, which is the site where the first coconut grew.  Legend tells of it growing from the head of an eel. The guide assured us that Samoa was the first nation to have coconut trees. These traveling over the seas from Asia.

Natural wonder at Sea Arch, Savai’i   Alofaaga Blowholes Following our guides to the Alofaaga blowholes.

The children jumped up and down when they saw dolphins at Sea Arch and sharks at Lovers Leap. Each destination coming with its own local tale.

Their favorite stop was the Alofaaga Blowholes. Here our guide and driver entertained us and some passing backpackers with a show of throwing coconuts into the blowholes. Watching them shoot up like rockets up to 30 meters in the air caused fits of giggles.

Our children..and a couple of random backpackers loved watching the coconuts fly so high. The dramatic landscape at Alofaaga blowholes. Afu Aau Falls Azure waters in the swimming pool of Afu Aau Falls.

We had a refreshing quick dip in the azure and deep turquoise waters of the Afu Aau Falls.

You must take a dirt road up to this location and once there you seem lost to civilization. The roar of the falls tumbling into the fresh-water swimming pool and lizards chirping in the lush vegetation near the pool chasing away any remaining stresses of life.

At least that’s how I would imagine it to be. Unfortunately, the falls had dried up for our visit. The pool was still a place that left you speechless.

Saleaula lava fields Lava pouring through the doors and fields at Saleaula Lava Fields. Saleaula lava field.

Our next stop was the Saleaula lava fields.

While wandering through a local church that has black lava pouring in through the front door and windows in shiny ripples, listening of the eruptions of Mt Matavanu from 1905-1911 the hairs rise on the back of your neck. Tiny bright green plants pop up around the fields forcing new life between the gaps of these black waves.

New life at the Saleaula lava fields.

50 square kilometers of land and 5 villages are buried by these lava fields, all except for the Virgins Grave. Following a lava path to the grave, the guide told us legend states this spot was untouched through all of the eruptions because the lady buried here was pure and good.

Our guides showing us through the Saleable lava fields. Travel Responsibly

We ended our tour with a trip to the turtle enclosure in Satoalepai. I had no prior knowledge of this attraction before we visited and I have since done some research. The center says its focus is on conservation, from other articles this seems debatable.

While we were at the center all the animals seemed well cared for. They were however still in captivity, seemed overly unconcerned about contact with humans and were being fed fruit rather than their natural diet.

Not feeling like I know enough about this topic I will let you make your own opinions. If we were to travel to Samoa again I would not visit the center as we are working hard to try and travel more responsibly as a family.

If you would like..

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Create the perfect trip itinerary by using social media as a vacation planner.

Planning an adventure is one of my favorite past times.

I’ve even been known to plan my journey for trips I may actually never get to take.

Other than flicking through amazing books like Lonely Planet’s collections, social media is one of the easiest ways to research your next big trip and create an online travel itinerary.

How To Plan A Trip

Social media is a double-edged sword.

We hear so much about how it is addictive and destroying real-life interaction.

There is a whole generation that is going to have selfies taken in bathrooms to look back on in their old age.

Awesome photo’s have us yearning to experience the life that influencers are supposedly enjoying. Although these are so often extremely staged and far removed from real life.

Most of us that use social media to engage are just as guilty of this. I only put up my most beautiful pictures from my travels. Not the temper tantrum my kid has just had at the airport or us all sick from eating something a little too exotic.

Social media can be beautiful too.

I have made some amazing friends on Social Media and I use it as one of my main tools as a vacation planner.

I’ve discovered places I’ve never heard of and had advice shared by people who have the experience where I want to go first hand. Making it the perfect tool to plan a trip.

Here’s how to make the most of your social media to create a travel itinerary.

Plan My Trip Pinterest

This is usually the first place I go to when I start thinking about a trip itinerary.

Just type in the country, location or what you need to know in the search section and away you go. Your own trip creator.

Even better is when you follow some great accounts who inspire you to travel to somewhere you would never have considered before.

Top Tips for using Pinterest as an itinerary planner  
  • Find accounts who inspire you and travel how you do. Follow them.
  • Find boards filled with things you love and places you want to see. Follow them too.
  • Create your own board/boards and start collecting pins that inspire you. If you don’t want others to see this just make your board secret. It such an easy way to keep all your info in one easy to find again location. You can keep all your pins on one board like “Scotland” or a few boards that go more in depth. “Places to stay in Scotland”, “Hikes in Scotland”
  • Make sure you do a little research on your pins. During my most recent Europe trip planner for Scotland, I’ve seen some amazing images of the Fairy Pools on Skye, all lined with purple trees. If you look a little harder you will find the same image, without the photoshopping with lush green trees… of a river in New Zealand.
  • A great place to start are those pins that show “top ten places to visit” or “ secret locations in”.  Check out the articles linked to these pins then look further into the locations that spike your interest.
  • Make sure you scroll down after clicking on a pin, you can discover some great finds in the “related pins” section.
  • You can pin directly from websites to your board when researching with the Pinterest browser button. I used to have lots of tabs open on my laptop or scraps of paper floating around my home with websites written down. Now I can just click on the pin I saved and read the article when I am ready.
  • Remember Pins are linked to articles. Take the time to read the ones that interest you and you will probably learn new things about your destination.
  • Use Pinterest as a trip organiser, from where to find great flight deals or how to pack your luggage for the trip
Pinterest Accounts/boards we love

Travel With Meraki

Wanderlust

Lonely Planet 

ytravelblog

Instagram

This is my personal favorite social media platform.

I love that the images you find here are some of the most up to date pictures you will find on any search engine and the Instagram community are always so happy to share tips and thoughts with you.

Follow us on Instagram here

Top Tips for using Instagram to plan your trip
  • Use the search function on your Instagram account. Each tab can help you in a different way.
Places Tab

You could type in a larger search like “Iceland” to get an overview of places that capture your interest then narrow down your search from there to more specific like “ Reykjavik”. It’s like your own personal itinerary maker.

When someone Geotags their image it will come up in your search.

I love this option because not only will you see a place at its best from professional photographers and travelers but you will also get a glimpse of the more natural and everyday side of a destination from other accounts.

Clicking on locations Geotag will bring up a handy map too so you can see where the site is and what’s nearby making it perfect as a journey planner and to help me map my trip.

Tag Tab

Here someone may use the #Iceland but show you a really cool spot to eat or hike or show you a place you have never heard of before from other searches. This is a great option when using Instagram as a travel planner to discover exciting new things about a destination

 

Accounts Tab

If you type in a pace and head to the Account Tab you are likely to discover such inspo treasures as official tourism boards and locals that are passionate about their home.

These accounts are a great source for information about events and local secrets in the areas you want to visit. Make sure you follow the ones you love.

Finding out where residents love to eat and what festivals are on is a great way to experience an area more than the average tourist.

  • Join the convo.

Instagram is a fantastic place to ask questions and have access to thousands of well-informed people.

You could ask a question on the comment section of a photograph you love or if you’re a little shy write them a personal message.

Alternatively, you could create your own post asking for information and advice about a location. Make sure you ask a clear question in your caption and use relevant hashtags to attract attention to the post.

  Instagram Accounts we love

travel_inhershoes

Stellerstories

Traveljunkiediary

   Facebook

As we all know people love to share pictures from their travels and Facebook is one of the most common methods to share.

Through personal photographs and shared content, Facebook can give you some great inspiration for travel destinations and the perfect vacation itinerary.

How to plan a vacation with Facebook 
  • Follow the pages of travelers. This might be big sites like Trip Advisor or Expedia or more local pages. 
  • Join groups dedicated to Travel or a specific area you are interested in.
  • Search for the destination you are interested in and click on the tabs to find Groups, Events, Videos and more for the location you are dreaming of. I’ve discovered photo tours, festivals and seen some amazing videos by using this function, making it a great itinerary planner.
  • Ask. By asking a question on your Facebook you may find out great uncle Vern is an expert on the area…or the guy used to work with at your last job just visited there and knows the best places to eat. Chances are if a direct friend doesn’t know they may have a friend who does.
 Facebook pages we love

Secret Flying

Intrepid Travel

World Nomads

There are so many platforms available but some platforms you may want to check out are YouTube and Twitter. 

Happy Planning.

Travel With Meraki – Remember that there are real people behind these social media profiles. Interact with the community and learn some amazing local knowledge as well as make some global friends.

More Travel Tips

PIN FOR LATER!

 

How to use social media as a vacation planner for the best trip itinerary.
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The post How to Use Social Media As A Vacation Planner appeared first on Travel With Meraki.

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Find the truth behind family travel and flying with a toddler. It won’t be easy, but travel with kids may just be your most rewarding adventure yet. 

This is not an article on how to make travel with children easy.

Travel with children is not easy.

There’s no magical item to stash in the baby travel essentials that will ensure a 24-hour flight will be a joy, sprinkled with fairy dust and giggles (despite all those tips for flying with a toddler on packing Homemade playdough or a new toy for every hour of the flight).

Well, perhaps the air hostesses can provide that from the drink cart. However you’re a responsible parent now so it’s only an option for all those other passengers onboard.

Yes, those ones who sat glaring in your direction at the boarding gate while chanting the mantra in their heads…please not near them…please not near them.

Keeping them entertained is one of the hardest challenges when flying with children.

International travel with kids is hard. Local travel with kids is hard. 

With one child, travel is hard. With two it is hard and if like our family, the rug rats outnumber the grown-ups, it’s hard.

Traveling with baby and toddler is enough to test anyone’s sanity. 

How to travel with kids is a whole new ball game from normal parenting and far removed from your backpacker days.  But you can travel the world with children and there is so much you will all gain from family travel.

Travel With Kids

Travel with children usually means, forget the light packing, leisurely sightseeing, impromptu day trips to that cute monastery and not booking accommodation.

It’s not as much fun crashing on the beach if you can’t find a suitable place to sleep with the family as it was when it was just you and your partner. Trust me.

You have to forget about the way you used to travel. The way you packed, the type of accommodation you used to stay in, the sort of activities you did…everything.

You have to start the travel experience all over again.

Instead of wondering if you really need 5 pairs of shoes for yourself, you will be worrying about the right travel car seat for a 2-year-old and how many outfits your offspring are likely to go through in a day. 

All this may have you thinking your next holiday will involve going to your local caravan park. Pretending you are miles from home but in reality close enough to go back home. You know… just in case you need to get another pair of shorts when your child has decided that three pairs in one day is just not sufficient. Or you foolishly brought the teddy that was their favorite last week, not this week.

Before you book in down the road though.

Yes, travel with children is hard work, and sometimes you will seriously question your sanity. The thing is though. Travel with children is also one of the most amazing and rewarding things you will ever do with and for your children.

You will get to see the world through a whole new pair of eyes ( or three in our case ).

You will travel slower and take more time to really enjoy what you experience and see.

You will do things that you would never even have considered with travel sans children.

And it is beyond fantastic.

  Accept There Will Be Tough Moments

A few years ago we added Scandinavia and the Baltic to our growing list of family travels.

My eldest son was seven. I was especially excited to take him to Russia as he has had a bit of a thing for the country for years.

He’s been able to point it out on a map since he was three. When my husband and I managed to sneak a romantic weekend away to Melbourne once, he was informing everyone we’d escaped to Russia.

To be able to take him there and watch him soak it all up, comparing what he thought it would be like to the reality filled me up like a soap-bubble.

Traveling to Europe with kids from Australia is a bit of a mission.

I know the 24-hour flight was long and filled with “why am I doing this” moments. Especially as my five-year-old son did not cope well with being confined in one spot for too long.

In true Gemini form, he will be okay one minute then all hell breaks loose.

On the last flight to Europe, a very kind air hostess took him from me during one of these episodes and went for a stroll around the plane ( coming back with photo’s of him giggling surrounded by all the aircrew).

I’d like to think she did it when she saw the desperation in my eyes but it was probably more to do with keeping all the other passengers aboard from staging a mutiny. So maybe I am not the place to come for tips for flying with kids!

The best places to travel with children?

Don’t think you need to plan all your trips for kids around their needs. Going on a family vacation that has something for every member of the family…including the grown-ups is a great way to teach children about compromise, patience, and empathy. 

A New Way To Experience Travel Visiting places with a harrowing history like the Berlin Wall can be a great learning experience for kids…and parents.

 

During the six weeks we were away we had the usual whingeing, whining and tears ( and that’s just from me) but we also had some amazing family moments. 

I get all teary when I remember my children bouncing up and down with the excitement they couldn’t hold in their little bodies as we visited Santa in Lapland

I really looked at the little mermaid statue in Copenhagen when my four-year-old daughter shouted “Look, mummy, a real mermaid” instead of quickly taking a photo and moving on to the “next thing to see”.

I learned what a Viking toilet was like instead of learning about their migration across Europe ( the word poo in our home causes hilarity for hours).

And we have stories to tell around our dinner table for years to come about how we ate that weird tasting fish or saw the Berlin Wall.

Travel for children is all about adventure and learning. Not ticking off must-see items. 

It is also a chance for you and your children to really connect. To discover more about each other and yourselves. A chance to learn and explore.

Not only because you are all in a new environment but because you don’t have all the trappings of home around you.

Simple things like the children not having access to toys can make a huge difference and helps them to expand their imaginations and fight boredom.

Want to know more about why children not having toys is such a great thing? Click here to find out why not having toys can be a great benefit to children.

Travel Books For Children

Want your child to learn about a destination before you go? There are some amazing travel books for children. You can get destination specific or just spark their imaginations with some books like these below which are our own families favorites.

Discovering more about the locals

Another bonus of exploring travel destinations with kids is making friends with the locals.

People love children and you will find that locals will offer a much bigger and fun welcome to your family. Like the amazing lady on the Isle of Skye who let us feed her sheep and cooked muffins for the kids.

We have learned new customs and language skills all through people interacting with our children. As parents, we get such joy out of watching our children say thank you in another language and learning all about this great big world they live in.

It still amazes me to see a group of children playing and having so much fun without being able to understand a word they say to each other. It is one of the best travel with kids benefits. Learning tolerance and understanding of how others live. 

So next time you see an article on how to make travel with children easy, by all means, read it.

Every little thing that helps you survive is worth it. But please don’t expect it to be easy.

Instead expect it to be eye-opening, hard work and above all amazing.

Running wild in Norway

Want to see why other families choose to travel with kids? Head over to this great post.

Planning ahead is a great way to make sure you have the best time possible when finding places to travel with kids and travel hacks. 

From packing the right gear for family travel to following a few tips for flying with a baby or how to keep a toddler entertained during a flight from others that have been and done it all before you. 

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More Family Travel Inspiration

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What is your favorite part of family travel? We would love to hear your travel with kids stories. 

The post Family Travel, the Truth. appeared first on Travel With Meraki.

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Heading out on a Big Sur Road Trip? Follow these easy travel tips before visiting Big Sur to make your trip one to remember. 

 

The Big Sur drive is much more than a location you will find on a map.

This awe-inspiring stretch of coastal road in California, USA is about beauty, journeys and soul-searching.

It has been an iconic getaway for artist and dreamers alike throughout the years.

Whether your visit is for sightseeing or finding yourself here are our top tips to help make your Big Sur vacation one you will never forget.

Big Sur Road Trip   1- Pack for all weather

 

Just like most coastal areas, Big Sur weather can vary quite considerably.

Although it rarely rains in summer there is often a cool fog that can come during the nights and early mornings which doesn’t lift until near midday. This can make seeing all those gorgeous coastal viewpoints disappointing. 

Winter brings storms and rain. All these weather conditions make for a great atmosphere and as they like to say in places where it rains a lot…

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing”

Make sure that you pack plenty of layers instead of bulky items and a light raincoat just in case.

We also suggest packing good walking shoes if you plan to explore some of the Big Sur national parks and hikes. 

Get the latest Big Sur CA weather here.

2- Plan your meals

 

Food can be expensive and far between on this California coast drive.

If you want somewhere with a gorgeous view and are not concerned about costs, head to Nepenthe Big Sur. Just make sure that if you are planning to eat during popular times that you book ahead.

You can also eat more modesty at somewhere like Gorda.

We packed plenty of snacks before we started our road trip and then splashed out on lunch. This was a once in a lifetime visit for us so we wanted to make the most of it.

3- Fill up before you hit the road

 

Petrol is very expensive. Be smart when visiting Big Sur and make sure your tank is full before you start your journey.

4. Plan your accommodation

Big Sur vacation rentals can be limited in this area and costly.

It is possible to spend a whole day exploring the Big Sur and stay at one of the nearby towns at the end of your trip for a cheaper option.

Places like Carmel, Monterey and Pismo Beach have plenty of accommodation options for all budgets.

Find the best places to stay in Big Sur here

A fantastic spot to find a variety of fresh seafood. Fishermans Wharf, Monterey, California

If you really want to stay on the Big Sur why not check out Airbnb or camping options. As this is such a popular tourist spot it is strongly recommended that you book in advance.

This is a great option if you want to take your time and really explore everything Big Sur has to offer. 

5- Know Your Destinations

 

GPS and phone service can be poor to non-existent on the Big Sur coast.

Don’t think you will be able to rely on google maps to get you to that amazing beach you’ve heard of.  

Make a rough itinerary of your destinations so you don’t miss them, always leaving room to get a little lost of course. You never know what you might discover!

Want to know what is Big Sur known for?

Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach is one of the highlights along the Big Sur. 6- Lastly. TAKE YOUR TIME

The Big Sur is awesome.

Stop and breathe it in!!!!

You can do Big Sur in one day but if you take 3 days you will really get to explore and see all that this stunning coastal area has to offer. Just be sure to pre-book accommodation if you are traveling in the peak season. 

Big Sur Information How To Get To Big Sur

Big Sur is part of the Central Coast of California. Big Sur highway 1 lies between Carmel and San Simeon and is around 90 miles long. 

There are a few different ways to explore Big Sur. It’s a great idea to work out the Big Sur directions you want to take before you head off on your road trip. 

For a rough idea here is a Big Sur map. 

You can reach Big Sur by train and bus from the major towns but to really enjoy all that a Big Sur road trip has to offer we suggest hiring a car.

Find the best deals on Car Hire prices here

 

When should I visit Big Sur?

The best time to visit Big Sur between mid-September and mid-October. 

Peak season is April to October and it can draw big crowds. Making accommodation and parking more difficult.

Locals say Fall is a great time to visit as there is less likely to be fog and it hardly rains at that time of year. 

If you want to see the Gray whales they pass the coastline from December to April.

A point to remember before planning your trip is that a lot of the Big Sur businesses will close during the off-season. 

Is Big Sur closed?

Big Sur can often have road closures so make sure you check BEFORE you leave on your road trip. 

A great place to check for Big Sur closures is here

National Parks and other attractions can also close so be sure to research before you leave. 

Big Sur activities

There are so many things to do in Big Sur. Check out a few on our Big Sur attractions here. 

More US Destinations You Will Love

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Have a Big Sur Road Trip to remember by following these easy travel tips before visiting Big Sur.  

The post 6 Easy Ways to Make Your Big Sur Road Trip Amazing appeared first on Travel With Meraki.

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Discover why you need to cycle along Fernleigh Track next time you visit Lake Macquarie and Newcastle. 

Ever since I spotted a magical image of the Fernleigh Tunnel on Instagram, Fernleigh Track has been on our must-do list.

Fernleigh Track A place with a past

The Fernleigh Track is a shared pathway created along the former Belmont Railway Line between Newcastle and Lake Macquarie in NSW.

The Fernleigh Track is a disused rail track turned into a shared pathway from Belmont to Adamstown

Opening in the 1890’s the line was used to haul coal from Lake Macquarie mines to the Steelworks and Port of Newcastle.

After the last coal train made its final journey in 1991 the line was closed and left in disuse until 2003.

From 2003 to 2011 the councils of both cities have cooperated to create this amazing trail.

Nearly 16km (10 mile) long, the pathway passes through a variety of landscapes between Adamstown and Belmont.

With easy accessibility and parking along the track it is possible to pick sections to explore if the whole length seems too much.

Adamstown to Kahibah

We chose the section between Adamstown and Kahibah to visit as we wanted to experience the Fernleigh Tunnel.

This section is only 3.5km.  We had quite a large group including younger children, but it catered for everyone with some of us cycling while others strolled.

Due to the past nature of the line, most areas are either flat or have gentle slopes which is great for the children.

Leftover industrial features transport you back in time and give you a glimpse of the area’s heritage.

The children skipped along lengths of track and sleepers lay hidden; overgrown with lush foliage.

Other relics such as the old Kahibah station provide a crossroad for the Great North Walk.

We wandered through dense bushland in Glenrock State Park, allowing a glimpse of an area that has been traditional land for the Awabakal people for over 6,000 years.

Here we saw an abundance of birds and bugs as well as a huge goanna resting on a tree.

Our favourite part was, of course, the former rail tunnel.

Echoes created in the 181-meter have the children giggling the whole length while we enjoy a cool respite to the warm day.

The track is perfect for children with its gentle slopes and the Fernleigh Tunnel.

A great detour is a great side trip to Redhead Beach. A local advised the cafe there serves good coffee and food.

More to Explore

Further along the track, there are the Jewels Wetlands to explore and more urban areas.

After having such a great time on our small adventure, we can’t wait to visit these other areas in the near future.

For more information on the Fernleigh Track head here

Walking through the Fernleigh Tunnel, NSW, Australia

If you have time make sure you visit the beautiful port town of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. There is plenty to do in both of these fantastic areas, from stunning beaches like Nobby’s to sailing on the lake.

Fernleigh Track Information Where is the Fernleigh Track?

Fernleigh Track lies between Adamstown Station, Park Avenue and Railway Parade, Belmont. 

You can start at either end or even just pick a small section to visit. You can find parking and facilities along various points of the walk. 

How Long Is Fernleigh Track?

The full length of the Fernleigh track is just under 16km. If you wanted to do the whole track we would suggest allowing at least three hours. 

Fernleigh Track Bike Hire

Most people take their own bikes but you can hire bikes at locations in both cities, although not right near the Fernleigh track, unfortunately. 

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The post Exploring Fernleigh Track appeared first on Travel With Meraki.

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Discover the beautiful Somersby Falls, Central Coast.  One of our favourite waterfalls in Australia.

Bellbirds whoop and you feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of coast life as soon as you enter the cool, lush rainforest that is home to Somersby waterfalls. 

Located in Somersby, Australia it is a beautiful place to spend a few hours if you are staying on the Central Coast.

Somersby Falls, Central Coast A Great Rainy Day Activity

Somersby Falls is one of our favourite places to visit on the Central Coast. If the Somersby weather is putting on a show it can get quite busy on warm, summer days as locals cool off in the waters.

We think the best time to go here though is when the rains hit or just afterward. 

Perhaps not the best time if you want to make the most of the free barbeques and picnic tables. It is, however, the perfect adventure to see the falls at their best and most impressive. 

Located in Brisbane Water National Park, on the beautiful Central Coast, NSW. It is only a 500-metre round trip to visit both waterfalls from the picnic area.

You can do this walk in as little as 20 minutes, but we recommend longer to explore and have fun.

Although only a short distance, the track has been graded as a medium to difficult by National Parks.

Even in dry weather the steps down to the falls are steep and can be slippery.

Having said that our three children have managed the walk many times from a young age, just needing a helping hand occasionally.

Our children have been enjoying Somersby Falls from a young age

With original names like the Top and Bottom Falls, Somersby waterfall and surrounding rainforest hold lots of things to investigate and explore.

Wildlife is abundant here too.

We have been lucky enough to see bush turkeys, lizards and even a snake basking in the sun on a rock during our trips.

The Top Falls – Somersby NSW

The Top Falls are only 100 metres from the start of the bush track.

This is the largest of the two falls, there are no fences so you are free to clamber along the falls…and like our children love to do, go for a splash.

  The Bottom Falls – Somersby

This part of the walk is more challenging but worth the effort.

We usually find that fewer people explore the lower falls.  Giving lots of opportunities for the children to roam free and find all sorts of treasures from frogs to huge puddles to splash in.

Clothes that they can get wet, a change of outfit for the car trip home and gumboots are a must.

It is also important to watch children carefully at all times. As stated before there are no safety fences and some of the drops are very deep.

Somersby Falls is a great outdoor activity for all ages.

It is also the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch at the Somersby Falls picnic area. There are no nearby cafes or places to purchase food and water so make sure you pack all your supplies. As well as picnic tables you will find free BBQ facilities. 

If you love photography it is a great place to experiment with some long exposure shots with your camera. Make sure to bring your tripodand ND filtersalong to get the perfect captures.

Travel With Meraki – Make the most of an unperfect weather day by visiting somewhere fun like a waterfall. And remember what the Scandinavians say “There’s no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing”

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Plan Your Trip To Somersby Falls Where is Somersby falls NSW? 


 

Somersby New South Wales is about an hour north of Sydney. 

Located near Gosford. Exit the M1 at the Gosford Exit. Then turn onto Wisemans Ferry Rd. Take the second left which is Somersby Falls Rd and follow until you reach the picnic area.  

Somersby Falls Info

The carpark is open at 9 am daily.

During daylight savings, it stays open till 8 pm, all other times 5 pm

Although entry into the National Park is free, there are parking metres for the car park which was AUD$8 at time of publishing. 

Alternatively, you can park on Somersby Falls Rd and walk in.

What to do in Central Coast

Other things to do on the Central Coast include the Reptile Park Somersby and Girrakool Loop walk. Or you could explore the other waterfalls at Central Coast NSW like Strickland Falls.  

Somersby accommodation

Looking for somewhere to stay during your visit? Check out great deals for accommodation on the Central Coast here.

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 Somersby Falls, a local favourite on the Central Coast, NSW.

The post Making a splash at Somersby Falls appeared first on Travel With Meraki.

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Could taking photos be the secret to finding happiness? Here are some simple life lessons learned from photography.  

I’m guessing that over your life you have taken a lot of photographs.

I’ve been taking photos for many years. Ever since I got a free Kit Kat camera at the age of 7.

It’s only recently, though when I realised photography is my therapy that I understood the life lessons photography has given me.

I’m not one for self-help books but one day when I was talking to my kids about learned life lessons, I started using how I created my images for life lessons. 

It doesn’t matter if you are a professional photographer, someone that loves photography as a hobby, or you snap images on your smartphone, anyone can learn these life lessons from the simple art of photography. 

Life Lessons Learned

 

Gratitude

Stopping and looking at a situation through your lens. Then planning the image you are going to create is how photography makes us look for the beauty in everything.

The mundane, the sad, the unexpected and the everyday.

For everything that happens in life, we can learn to be thankful.

One of the things to learn in life is that even in something that seems to be disastrous there’s a part we can be grateful for, even if it takes a while to think of it. Looking for things to be grateful for is an amazing life skill to have. 

 

  Mindfulness

When you are taking a photo, you are in the moment.

Not worried about what has happened, how you are going to lose 5 kilos or what your five-year plan is.

All that matters is what is in that frame. 

Connection

Life is about sharing.

Taking an amazing photograph doesn’t mean too much until you share it with others.

There is also a special connection you get from others when you take their photo.

The best portrait photographers seem to capture a little piece of a person’s soul and show you that through their photograph. Next time you take a photograph of someone, see if you can capture a little piece of their personality and watch your connection grow. 

Giving

Have you ever given a photograph to someone, either as a gift or because it’s of a subject that is close to their heart? 

Giving brings such joy to both the person receiving and the person giving…do it more often. There’s too much take in the world.

Even the act of taking a photo for someone is giving. If you have ever seen someones face light up after you have managed to capture them perfectly, you will know what I mean.  

 

  Forget the Ego

When you take yourself out of the image and show the subject for what it is rather than for what you see it, that’s when the magic happens.

And one of the greatest life lessons… that includes selfies!

  All emotions make up life

It’s full of the good, the bad and the ugly.

How boring would photography be if it was just full of smiling faces? 

Images that show feelings other than happiness are some of the most beautiful and moving.  Accept emotions for what they are.

And while we are on smiling….

Ever try to make a child smile for a photo?

Life lesson – don’t try and fake it, or push it. Go for what is natural.

Sometimes the best photos of a person are of when they aren’t smiling, but engrossed in an activity they love. 

Life is about heart

You can know every technical detail about your camera and taking a photograph….that doesn’t mean you will take a good photograph.

It needs to have heart. The same goes for life.

Be prepared….but go with the flow

What?

Seriously, nothing is worse than seeing the photograph opportunity of a lifetime and not having your camera.

The flip side being, no matter how much planning you do or whether you have all the right equipment with you…sometimes the sunrise is a dud. 

Let it go! And go back to lesson 1.

Sometimes going with the flow creates amazing moments. Dangar Island, NSW.   Look for a different angle

What are the most amazing photos of the everyday or over photographed subjects?

The ones that are taken from a different angle.

Same goes with obstacles in life. One of my favorite lessons learned. 

  Photography is all about the details….and the bigger picture

Make sure you take both into consideration for life too.

Pay attention to the details, while making sure you take in the bigger picture. Bogon Beach, NSW.

And lastly…but most importantly.

Love really does make the world go around

It may be corny and an overrated saying, but it’s true.

Wedding photos, family portraits, photojournalism showing people helping others in times of hardship… even travel photography.

It’s all about love.

Love for each other, our world, for this beautiful gift of life.

 

Want to improve your Photography Skills?
Find a local photography tour near you. Click to search.
What are some of the best life lessons you have learned from photography? We love to hear from you so share your life lessons learned in the comments. 

The post What photography can teach you about life. appeared first on Travel With Meraki.

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