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Western Australia’s South West is such an incredible place to explore with its stunningly breathtaking coastline, gorgeous forests and wineries that are world-renowned for their excellence. The South West is also a unique biodiversity hotspot (there are only 34 hotspots in the world) and in spring, this area just comes to life with the colour of wildflowers.
The Cape to Cape track gives you a chance to experience all this and so much more. You’ll explore nearly 130km of coastline, starting your journey at either end as the track runs between the two Capes (hence the name), Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin.
The Cape to Cape is a unique hiking trail located in Western Australia.
What you will experience on this track
While you hike, you’ll experience spectacular rugged coastal terrain, white sandy beaches, plenty of coastal heathlands that just burst with blooms in spring. Then the contrast of the ocean is the beauty of the Karri trees when you enter the Boranup Forest.
If you are hiking in the month of May and September, you will have the chance to see the migrating whales of the southern right and the humpback. There are also plenty of dolphins that love to share the waves with the local surfers in the water. I find it just a glorious thing to look over the ocean while sitting on one of the many bench seats perched on the cliffs along the track. The sunsets are like no other as it slowly sets over the ocean with the glow of reds and oranges. At times its so intense, it can resemble a painting.
In May/April of every year, there is the famous Salmon Run as they head north. This is so spectacular to witness as the beaches become alive with excited fishermen and women.
Then you have the wildlife on the land – the kangaroos, wallabies, possums, quendas, and the countless birds of all kinds.
You can expect some spectacular views as you walk along this track.
How long does it take to walk?
This is a track that you can experience in sections from day walks to walking the full track over a period of a week. I have now walked this track myself 5 times, 3 sectionals and 2 full end-to-end trips and I personally feel this track is worthy of your time.
To be able to spend a moment sitting up high on the cliff-side while staring down into the ocean below is something we never do in our hectic day-to-day lives. Playing in the rock pools along some of the beaches will bring you back to being a carefree child and taking the time to smell the wildflowers is a saying that’s not to be ignored.
This track has so much to share and should be explored in an enjoyable way that isn’t rushed. With the total km just shy of 130, and campsites and towns along the way, you can tailor your walk to suit you.
Take your time to hike this track, so you can enjoy it to its fullest.
Campsites along the way
There are four Cape to Cape campsites and three National Park sites, plus there are a few caravan park sites along the way. You will find that there is a water tank at most the campsites along with picnic tables plus drop toilets.
If you’re planning to hike the track during peak season, it is recommended to pre-book the National Park’s campsites, which costs a small fee to stay there. On the other hand, the four Cape to Cape sites are free but there is no booking system, so first come first served. As this track runs through National Park, there is no wild camping available.
During the busy season, book ahead to secure your campsite.
Other accommodation options along the Cape to Cape
If camping is not your thing, then that’s alright, as there are a lot of accommodation options in the South West. There are also many tour companies who will organise you a place to sleep each night and give you a drop-off and pick up service for the track.
Local visitor centres at Dunsborough, Margaret River and Augusta can help you out with this. There is also information on these services with the Friends of the Cape to Cape here.
If you don’t want to camp, you can organise other accommodation for this trail.
Wooden posts with a metal Cape to Cape symbol attached can be found along the way. Occasionally you find wooden signs with the words ‘Cape to Cape Track’ written on it and the symbol is also attached to some of the rocks along the beach areas.
The trail will have markers that will keep you on the right path.
Mosquito net (can be handy even when the March flies are out)
Disposable hand warmers (get the biodegradable ones)
Sit-a-pon (waterproof mat to sit on)
Sandals for camp (Crocs)
Sarong (this is my multipurpose must-have item)
My Sea to Summit Specialist Duo tent set up on the track.
Water along the way
The campsites have rainwater tanks, however, do be aware they can run dry especially in the warmer seasons. So, be sure to stock up on your water supply in each town and carry enough for each day. Water from the tanks is advised to be treated.
Stay hydrated along the trail by filling up on water in each town you come across.
Food along the way
When I am camping, I always dehydrate my own meals at home before I leave but if you don’t have the time or own a dehydrator then you can always find some other choices like the Back Country Cuisine range. Or, there is the option to check out the local supermarket for some easy lightweight meals.
You will enter into a few towns which is a great time to get re-stocked and have a yummy meal. However, be aware the supply is limited. And, always check the hours these places are open as you may be excited for a burger only to find the shop closed when you arrive, and you are left hungry (this is what happened to me!).
Cooking on the trail
As you are walking through a National Park, open campfires are notpermitted, so you will want to carry a fuel stove. I carry my Minimo Jetboil and the gas cylinders are easy enough to get at the local stores. Keep in mind that if you’re travelling from interstate or overseas that gas cylinders are not allowed on planes.
There will be opportunities to eat meals in the towns, but you will need to bring some of your own food.
What fitness level do I need?
For anyone wanting to walk the Cape to Cape, I’d recommend you’re relatively fit as this track can be demanding at times. I will not lie, this trail can be a challenge for your legs. You’ll be walking through a fair amount of soft sand, climbing up and down soft sand dunes, over large rocks and rocky paths as well as along 4WD tracks and narrow paths. You will have a few ascents and descents though nothing too high.
Expect to hike on sand, so ensure your body is up to the challenge.
What’s the best time of the year to hike the Cape to Cape track?
I have walked this track all times of the year and it certainly gives you something different every time. My favourite time is certainly springtime. Not just because of the wildflowers, but because spring in Western Australia is the perfect hiking season.
The weather on the coast is a lot friendlier with mild days. Winter can get really wild and woolly as well as being very wet and cold and it can also get a little dangerous along some of the beach passes.
Late autumn is great as the weather cools off whereas early autumn it can still be a little too hot. Summer is great to visit the South West but not necessarily to hike the track as it is just too hot. Also, there’s a high risk of fires and a lack of water.
To stay up to date with the weather on the track, check either BOM or Weatherzone. And, for alerts, check here.
Spring is a great time to hike this track, as you’ll have relatively clear skies and mild conditions.
Maps and Guidebooks
You should always carry up-to-date maps and guidebooks when hiking and the Cape to Cape is no exception. Whatever your preference for navigation is, I highly recommend you carry more than one option for your safety.
Maps are available from most hiking/camping stores and visitor centres in WA and online from friends of the Cape to Cape.
For guidebooks there are two available, ‘The Capes’ guidebook which has just been released and is a small pocket-sized hiker friendly book. This is available from here as well as various visitor centres throughout the South West. The other is ‘The Cape to Cape Guidebook’ also available from this site and various visitor centres throughout the South West.
If you are into apps, there are a few for this trail available. I can recommend the Guthook app as this has had great reviews.
You’ll need a guidebook and a map to hike this trail.
Safety on the track
Always remember your safety is your responsibility. It is extremely important for you to take the appropriate measures to ensure your safety whilst hiking. This is so you can have an experience you want to remember, not regret. Also along the way, you’ll find phone reception but more on the northern end than the southern, so it’s best not to rely on it.
Always tell people of your whereabouts and intended return. Give them your itinerary and contact them when you return home.
The Annapurna Circuit is one of the most popular hikes in the Nepalese Himalaya, encircling 3 of the 10 highest mountains in the world and quite a few very bloody high peaks to boot. The full trek is roughly 220 km from start to finish and will take 3 to 4 weeks to complete.
The circuit is classified as a teahouse trek, which means that each night you’ll stay in a hotel in the many villages dotted along the trail, no camping required.
The circuit starts at 820m and then rises to Thorung La, which at 5416m is one of the highest mountain passes in the world. The altitudinal range means that you can traverse temperate forest one week and alpine desert the next.
Annapurna Circuit in Nepal is classified as a teahouse trek, so no camping is needed.
How to get there
Malaysian and Singapore Airlines fly to Kathmandu from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore respectively. From Kathmandu, you will need to find your way to the trailhead at the mostly unremarkable town of Besisahar.
A public bus is one option. The pace is ancient but it’s also the cheapest. Also, consider the more comfortable Greenline tourist bus. You’ll get free WI-FI and water, and also a catered lunch stop for about A$30-35.
Tip: if you take the Greenline, you’ll need to get off at the bustling highway town of Dumre and arrange further transport to Besishahar.
The most expensive is a private vehicle, which would be the quickest option.
Whichever you go with, the 173 km journey will take at least 6-7 hours. The roads are busy with various forms of transport and accidents on the narrow mountain roads are common.
You’ll need to be reasonably fit to hike the entire length. Sure, you won’t need to pack the crampons and ice axes, but there are many steep ascents and descents with areas of uneven ice and snow-covered terrain.
Be prepared for and understand the effects of altitude on the body before you decide to do this trek. Altitude sickness can ruin your hike, even if you consider yourself reasonably fit. It’s best to visit your doctor to ensure you’re in good health before you book your trip.
Nevertheless, some long distance hikes with a loaded backpack over hilly terrain would be ideal preparation. You can read more about training for a multi-day hike here.
You’ll need to be fit enough to tackle a typical long distance hike at a high altitude.
To porter or not to porter?
Whether you hire a porter to carry your stuff will be dependent on your budget, fitness level and the type of experience you want to have.
For those that want a walking guidebook, hire someone that knows the names of the various summits and the history behind them. I used a porter on this trek, and I think mine got sick of me asking!
Porters will also gladly arrange meals, accommodation and transport for you and are great company too.
Whether you hire a porter or not depends on the kind of trip you want to have.
When to visit
Winter is the dry season in Nepal (December to February). Skies are usually bright, clear and sunny.
Their winter is very cold, but with proper clothing and equipment, you’ll be comfortable to enjoy the starry skies and mountain peaks. A small price to pay for a bit of frozen toothpaste!
You’ll also enjoy relatively snow-free trails, as the circuit receives most of its precipitation during the summer monsoon.
The monsoon season (June to September) is not recommended if you want clear, unobstructed views of the mountains. But the landscape will be a verdant green and the waterfalls are at their majestic best.
Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) offer the best compromise but be prepared for crowded teahouses, long waits for food and less solitude with nature.
Do I need a visa for Nepal?
Yes, Australians need a visa to enter Nepal. If you’re travelling to Nepal for tourism you can get one upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport which you can pay for in major currencies.
The dry season is a good time to visit, as you’ll still get clear skies.
What to bring
Gear will depend on the time of year, but this is a rough guide:
Merino base layers, a fleece jumper, wind jacket and down jacket, especially if trekking between October and April. Softshell pants are optional – I saw a guy hiking in jeans!
Make sure you bring the guidebooks that you can navigate.
Costs for food and accommodation
Over the three weeks of trekking, I averaged A$25 a day for food and accommodation at the time of writing this. This does not include porter fees, any souvenirs you want to pick up, or transport to and from the trail. Bring cash with you to pay for things along the way. Meals and snacks are available along the trek, but you can bring your own snacks if you don’t mind carrying the extra weight.
Permits you’ll need
You will also need to purchase the Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) and Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) permits in Kathmandu before you set off. Both will set you back about A$25 if trekking individually, or about half that if trekking in a guided group.
Food and accommodation will set you back around A$25 a day.
Suggested itinerarySegment 1 – Besisahar to Dharapani (40 km)
The start of the trail! From a starting elevation of 820m, follow the Marsyangdi River steadily upwards through quaint, rural villages and farmland. Settle into a routine of dhal bat (rice and lentil soup), milky coffee and school children holding your hand as you walk.
Opt to stay in Upper Chamje and order the Snickers roll (basically a Snickers bar cooked in hot pastry) and relax among the simal trees and waterfalls. You won’t be disappointed!
Nearing Dharapani (1900m), the canyon walls narrow and you will truly feel like you are up in the Himalayas.
The start of the journey will take you through farmland and small villages.
Segment 2 – Dharapani to Manang (50 km)
Shortly after Dharapani, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna Massif, including Manaslu (8163m), eighth highest in the world.
There is a definite chill in the air as you pass through the ancient villages of Thanchouk (2400m) and Koto (2600m), unchanged for centuries.
The first glimpses of the snow-capped peaks.
After stocking up on any essentials in the regional capital Chame (2670m), I recommend the upper route to Manang (though there is a lower). It is one of the most beautiful sections of the circuit, with panoramic views of Annapurna II (7937m), Annapurna III (7555m) and Gangapurna (7454m).
After a lung-busting 300 metre ascent, stop for some momos (Tibetan dumplings) in Ghyaru (3730m) and overnight in the ancient village of Ngawal, huddled against the mountains on a wind-swept plain.
Manang (3500m) is one of the bigger towns on the trek, and you’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of accommodation. Absolutely stay here for 2 nights for acclimatisation, especially if you opt to take the lower route from Chame.
Eat some delicious momos (dumplings) along your way.
Segment 3 – Manang to Muktinath via Thorung La (31 km)
The stretch of scenery between Manang (3540m) and Letdar (4200m) is absolutely exemplary, and the type of epic mountainscapes that inspired me to hike the Annapurna Circuit.
Higher up, there is a conspicuous lack of trees, people, flowing water and oxygen. Some parts of the trail look like the surface of Mars.
The higher you get, the less plant life you will see on this trek.
Indeed, the lonely outpost of Gunsang (3950m) is the last permanently inhabited village before the other side of the pass.
You’re almost at the top! The night before crossing Thorung la, you can either stay in Thorung Phedi (4450m) or High Camp (4925m). I recommend staying in High Camp if you are feeling good, as this way there is a shorter 600-metre climb to the pass the next day.
This part of the trek showcases some incredible mountain scenery.
Segment 4 – Muktinath to Tatopani (62 km)
Muktinath (3760m) is the perfect place to rest your weary bones after a 1600 metre descent from Thorung La. In addition to being an extremely auspicious pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus, many trekkers will end their journey here and Jeep it to Pokhara.
But the Annapurna Circuit has still much to offer! Kagbeni (2810m) is a small, almost medieval village with rustic mud houses and narrow, cobbled alleyways. Kagbeni deserves at least 2 nights to explore its unlimited charm.
After Kagbeni, you will gradually lose altitude and enjoy the soupy, oxygen-rich air. The village of Marpha is another highlight, with its white-washed walls, famous apple pie and a prominent Buddhist monastery.
In Kalopani (2530m), there are several more fancy teahouses where you can enjoy such luxuries as iced coffee, cocktails and fast-ish semi-reliable WI-FI. Go on, you’ve earnt it!
Kalopani is also one of the only places on the circuit where Dhaulagiri (8167m) and Annapurna I (8091m) can be seen simultaneously.
Kagbeni is a small village you should take the time to explore on your trek.
Segment 5 – Tatopani to Naya Pul (28 km)
Tatopani (1190m) will probably feel quite warm compared to the last couple of weeks trekking. The town is famous for its hot springs, making it the perfect place to soothe tired muscles.
But, you aren’t quite done with climbing just yet. Ghorepani (2860m) is a hard slog up multiple flights of stairs, but it is set amongst the misty forest, ferny canyons and superb rhododendrons (best-seen flowering in spring).
Instead of going directly to Naya Pul from Ghorepani, take the forested ridge to Ghandruk, a quaint old village where’ll you be afforded incredible views of Machhapuchhre (6993m) and many peaks of the Annapurna Massif.
You’ll have some spectacular views of Machhapuchhre from the village of Ghandruk.
Why you should do this trek
The Annapurna Circuit has to rank as one of the best treks in the world, mostly because it offers relatively easy access to some of the highest mountains in the world. The trek is light on the wallet, especially if you intend to walk unassisted, and the depth and range of scenery is unrivalled.
Is Annapurna Circuit on your bucket list? If so, why?
There’s no doubting that Australian’s love to travel. Filling our passports with stamps from far-fetched places.
Usually, we do the ‘mandatory’ Europe, Asia and North America trips, then start to get curious about the less-known, but equally beautiful countries. Guatemala is a perfect example.
This Central American beauty is just south of Mexico. If you surf or you’ve got some wave-loving mates, you’ve probably heard good things about Costa Rica and Nicaragua. But the sweet, Spanish colonial feels of Guatemala shouldn’t be skipped (and I’m going to tell you why).
Guatemala is a mystery to many. Volcanoes, rainforests, ancient Mayan sites, palaces, museums, lakes, coffee fields, villages and my favourite, the little town with a delicious heart, Antigua.
Wander the quaint colonial streets of Antigua.
Antigua, west of the capital, contains preserved Spanish colonial buildings. Lake Atitlán, formed in a massive volcanic crater, is surrounded by coffee fields and villages. The only thing that I felt was missing from my 10 days in Guatemala was the beach.
Let me give you a quick rundown on the main things you need to know about Guatemala.
Preparing for my first time in Central America
After you’ve visited over 50 countries, travelling to a new one didn’t quite carry the same lustre. But, stepping foot on a new continent flashed me back to my first overseas trip (Malaysia and Thailand… at 19).
Central America was always an “I’ll get there someday’ kind of place” until one of my best friends moved to Antigua, Guatemala. She kept sending me photos of her rustic little hippie heaven in a terrace, looking out to a volcano (as you do) in the far distance. Photo by photo, she won me over and I booked a flight.
You might be able to catch a glimpse of a volcano from where you’re staying!
It’s Guatemala go-time!
Do Australians need a visa to travel to Guatemala?
Easy! Australia is one of the lucky countries that can travel to Guatemala and stay for 90 days without a visa. Depending on how long you can take off, I’d suggest visiting for at least a week, preferably 10 days.
Customs will probably ask to see your return ticket, so make sure you’ve got this before arriving into Guatemala.
Flying to Guatemala
I flew from Vancouver to Mexico City, then down to Guatemala City. The flights are usually cheaper when you land in bigger cities, so keep this in mind. Panama City is also another popular international hub.
Aussies don’t need a visa for visiting this country, making it easy to enter.
What vaccinations do you need to travel to Guatemala?
Smart Traveller suggest organising the following vaccinations before you visit Guatemala. They include typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and influenza. I found Guatemala to be clean and safe, but it’s best to be covered.
If you’re a frequent traveller like me, you might already have had these shots for previous trips. If you’re not sure, the best thing to do is to visit your doctor to check your vaccination history.
Transport and getting around
When travelling longer distances, take a taxi. For example, I paid AU$50 to get a private taxi from Guatemala City (airport) to Antigua. It was around a one-hour drive. But for short five or ten-minute rides in town, we took a tuk-tuk for no more than $5-10.
There are a few ways to travel around when you’re there.
What language do they speak in Guatemala?
The local language is Spanish and while you’ll get by just fine speaking English, take this opportunity, and courtesy, to learn a few basic words and phrases.
What travel insurance do you need?
Don’t forget to tell your travel insurance company you’re visiting Guatemala. Check your cover for adventure sports, such as hiking a volcano. I personally use and recommend World Nomads.
You’ll probably be hiking up volcanoes, so make sure your insurance covers that.
What’s the currency, and how far will your Australian dollar go?
As for money, the currency is the Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ). AU$1 is worth just over 5 GTQ and your money will go far here. We’d wander the charming cobblestone streets of Antigua every morning and spend no more than $6 for a nutritious, organic brunch (including a coffee). Think Bali prices or even a little less.
You can get a delicious brunch at a cafe for very little in Antigua.
When’s the best time of the year to visit?
The best time of the year to visit Guatemala is their dry season – between November and May. But don’t worry if you can only get holidays from April to October. Another one of the delightful things about this country is its year-round spring-like climate.
The climate is very mild all year round.
What are the accommodation options in Guatemala?
When it comes to accommodation, Guatemala has a range of options. There’s quaint hotels, adorable guest houses, Airbnb, and of course, hostels.
You can book a whole house for less than $50 a night or stay in a 16th-century colonial mansion for around $200.
There are a variety of places you can stay in, but I suggest Earth Lodge.
Cities to visit – Antigua
Elevate every sense at 6,000 feet up in the mountains above Antigua. Start your day with yoga, followed by a hammock hang gazing out over the avocado farm and, yes… more distant volcanos. Lodge in a treehouse, eat home-cooked meals, brush up on your Spanish and end your day with a Maya sauna. Truly mesmerising is an understatement. Trust me.
If you’re a lover of adventure and history, Guatemala will be one of those super-pleasant surprises.
The bohemian, UNESCO World Heritage listed, Antigua holds a special, unexpected, place in my heart. It’s a small town that’s magical enough merely with its location.
If you’ve never visited South America, Guatemala is a great place to start.
Things to see and do in Antigua
Three volcanoes – Acatenango, Fuego and Agua embrace the township, so even walking along the colourful cobblestone streets is a surreal, visual experience.
Wander Mayan craft markets, sipping on local coffee, learning how to make chocolate (cocoa is famous here), and dining in one of the many garden terraces and ancient buildings. Bella Vista is one of my favourites.
If you’re aiming for 7 or 10 days in Guatemala, base yourself in Antigua. Spend three days exploring this heavenly town (ensure you save all your energy for your must-do volcano hike).
Hike one of the volcanoes in Antigua.
Acatenango – the most beautiful volcano in Central America
Acatenango has been voted the most beautiful volcano in Central America. Experience this majestic wonder at sunrise and sunset, 3,776 metres above sea level. I recommend the two-day trip.
Visit Lake Atitlán
And just in case one of the famous volcanos isn’t enough, there’s Lake Atitlán. Hop in a car and drive three hours to, I believe, the most beautiful lake in the world. Yep, you read that right.
Explore the waters of Lake Atitlán in Antigua.
Experiencing the Guatemalan highlands
In the Guatemalan highlands (in a volcano crater), the lake is an incredible spectacle. Experience the indigenous world of the Mayans, kick back and relax, go scuba diving and learn some Spanish. Stay at the lake for a couple of blissful days, before you head back to Antigua.
If you’re lucky enough during your trip, you’ll see Feugo going off (safely) in the distance. I glimpsed the fire red lava on a warm November night – in the company of good friends, looking out to a clear star-lit sky.
The last thing you’ll be thinking about when you’re in the middle of a 14-day trip is how you look (or smell) but maintaining good hygiene when on the trail or at the campsite is not just about looks, it’s also important for your health.
Leaving no trace behind should be the most important consideration when heading into a pristine environment, and that includes your personal hygiene practices. If you need a refresh of the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, then check out this guide here.
In this article, we’re going to take you through the essentials you’ll need, what you should avoid doing, what options you have for showering, washing your hands and cleaning your clothes while you’re in the middle of your adventure.
Ensure you have the right gear with you to keep clean and leave no trace.
Heavily scented products, as this can attract bugs
Soaps or washes that contain phosphates
Bulky products that produce waste
Here are some of the essentials you could bring to keep clean when outdoors.
Brushing your teeth
While brushing your teeth is a pretty straightforward activity, there are a few things to consider when you’re out on the trail.
If you don’t mind carrying the extra weight, a toothbrush shield helps to keep it clean. Try using a smaller amount of biodegradable toothpaste than you usually would, swish your mouth with a small amount of water and spray it over a wider area, so it’s not concentrated in one spot and minimises the impact on the environment.
Or alternatively, you can spit the residue into a hole that you’ve dug.
Washing your hands
Hand sanitiser is going to be your best friend when out on the trail as you won’t always have ready access to soap and water to wash your hands.
When you’re amongst a group of people, germs can spread pretty quickly which is why it’s essential to sanitise your hands every time single time you go to the toilet or prepare food.
Wash your hands or use sanitiser to keep germs from spreading. Image: Sea to Summit
How do you bathe when hiking or trekking?
To maintain good hygiene when away from the comfort of a running shower, there are a couple of different options you can do on a lightweight adventure.
While it is tempting to skip the wipe or wash after a long day out and about, keeping clean will help keep your clothes and bedding in better condition as the oil, dirt and sweat won’t get on your mat, sleeping bag or pillow. Trust us, your down sleeping bag will thank you for it as you won’t have to wash it as often.
1. Use a portable pocket-sized shower
If you’re happy to carry the extra weight, there’s the option of a Pocket Shower which is a more luxurious option when you’re travelling light.
This is essentially a dry sack with a shower head built into the base that can be adjusted by a twist mechanism. All you do is fill with water, put out in the sun to warm up, and then hang up which provides an 8 and a half minute shower. Then once you’re done, you can dry off with a compact microfibre towel.
This option probably isn’t going to be suitable for every trip, but on a particularly warm and sweaty adventure, you might appreciate washing off with this portable shower.
If you can spare the space and weight, a pocket shower is an option for keeping clean. Image: Sea to Summit
2. Take a sponge bath
Firstly, if you’re going to be attempting any sort of shower even if it’s just with a washcloth and water, you’ll need to be at least 60 metres (200 feet) from any water source in the area.
Heat up some water and pour it into a portable sink, add in some biodegradable body wash, grab a washcloth and get started. Once you’ve finished, make sure you dispose of the water 60 metres from a water source. A squeezy water bottle comes in handy here as you’ll be able to rinse those hard to reach areas.
A washcloth, portable sink and biodegradable wash is another option for staying fresh. Image: Sea to Summit
3. Use wipes
Wipes are great when you either can’t spare the water, or you’re just plain too tired after a long day to attempt anything else.
You want wipes that will remove salt, sweat and oils from your body, so depending on your preference you might want to try unscented baby wipes, or something a bit thicker like Wilderness Wipes from Sea to Summit.
Even though you won’t be burying them, consider a compostable option for when you get home and need to dispose of them.
When you’re really exhausted, or water is limited, wipes will get the job done.
4. Wash off in a lake or river
If you are going to wash directly in a lake or river, don’t use any soap at all even if its biodegradable. Also, if you’ve smothered yourself in sunscreen and insect repellant, this will wash off into the water and can also cause contamination, so it might be best to collect water to wash with and then scatter it instead. Keep in mind that other people might be using the river to collect drinking water from, so consider that before you jump in.
While we all kind of know that phosphates aren’t great for the environment, but what you might not know is why. Phosphates increase algae growth, which decreases oxygen in the water making it harder for fish and other aquatic life to survive.
So, when you’re choosing a biodegradable soap to use (not in a lake or river, of course) when camping or hiking, choose one that is also phosphate free.
If you bathe in a river or lake, be considerate of the environment. Image: Sea to Summit
Washing your clothes when hiking
On a lightweight trip, you’re not going to be carrying a whole wardrobe of clothes. You’ll likely have a couple of pairs of socks, underwear, and a spare set of clothes that you’ll rotate.
A great way to get your clothes clean, that doesn’t use a lot of water is a Scrubba Wash Bag. This is essentially a portable mini washing bag. You just add a couple of garments, biodegradable washing detergent and water, push out the excess air, seal it up, agitate for 3 mins, rinse and dry – and your clothes are ready to wear again.
You could also use your dry bag to wash your clothes or a portable sink – as both will get the job done in a similar way and are multi-purpose to save on weight. When you’re all done, just make sure that you scatter the greywater the correct distance away from water sources.
Fresh clothes will help you maintain good hygiene on the trail.
Feminine hygiene – dealing with your period when hiking
For all the ladies reading this, you’ve got a couple of options here. The most efficient and environmentally friendly choice is a menstrual cup. Keep in mind that your hands need to be very clean when using and emptying it. You should also dispose of the contents of the cup like you would when going to the toilet.
Secondly, you could use standard disposable feminine hygiene products, just make sure you have a way to carry them out with you – a Ziploc bag is usually best for this. You can also cover it with duct tape for more discretion.
Make up a little kit with all your hygiene products in it, that way it’s easy to locate in your rucksack with minimal stress in the critical moment.
Keep everything you need in one bag, so that it’s ready to use.
Keeping your feet clean and dry
Making sure your feet are dry and clean before you change your socks will help to prevent any nasty bacteria from breeding. It’s also a good idea to dry out your boots at night, just make sure that if they’re leather you don’t leave them out for long in the sun as they can shrink!
Maintaining good personal hygiene that doesn’t leave any trace behind is super important for your health, and for the environment. We hope these tips have pointed you in the right direction, so that next time you head away you can keep it clean, and keep it green.
How do you keep clean on your lightweight adventures?
The word camping means very different things to different people. For some, it’s a hiking bag with the very basics for survival and a few days out in the bushwalking different trails. For others, it’s towing a giant 5th wheeler caravan behind their American dual cab with satellite TV, coffee machine, diesel heater and all of the rest of the camping luxuries many people have in their home.
Camping has changed a lot over the last couple of decades, and I firmly believe there is no reason why you should be roughing it. Yep, things might not be as easy and simple as when you are at home, but you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable or like you are missing out.
It’s funny when you mention camping to various people – some jump with enthusiasm and others look at you with a ‘are you mad’ look. Horses for courses I say, some people love camping and others don’t. The unfortunate thing though, is that often those who don’t enjoy it have had a bad experience, or roughed it in the past and have been put off.
We’ve refined our campsite setup over time to be comfortable and easy to use.
I’ll make a bold statement here – if you have good quality gear, and you use it correctly when camping, there’s no roughing it involved. I promise. Like everything, initially there’s an adjustment period where you learn what gear to get and how to use it, but take your time and you’ll have an enjoyable experience.
We live in a country where camping options are just about unlimited, and you can camp in some of the most incredible places in the world. There’s a reason why so many tourists flock here, and many of them choose to travel around and camp.
There are so many different things today that can make your camping super comfortable, but let’s break them down into the important factors.
The gear we use allows us to camp comfortably wherever we are.
What do you need to camp comfortably?
1. A good night’s sleep
It doesn’t matter where you are, a good night’s sleep is a must for an enjoyable day. When camping, it’s especially important, as you are often in bed for longer. A lot of people will go to bed early and get up early following the sun.
In order to get a good night’s sleep, you need to be comfortable, warm and dry. That means a mattress and pillow that you enjoy laying on, the right bedding for the temperature and a tent, swag, camper trailer or caravan that is going to keep you dry. I’ve had some truly awful sleeps when camping in the past, and it all comes down to gear that just wasn’t up to scratch.
If you are looking at making your camping more enjoyable and don’t always get a good night’s sleep, one of the best upgrades you can do is upgrade your sleeping equipment.
The best upgrade I did was swapping out my camping mattress to a Blackwolf Mega Deluxe, followed closely by ditching the sleeping bag and moving into a camper trailer with a queen innerspring mattress, sheets and doona.
In our camper trailer, we sleep on a very comfy innerspring mattress.
2. A comfortable place to sit
Camping chairs have come in leaps and bounds. While some of the old fold out chairs worked, they weren’t the most enjoyable things to use! Today though, you can get everything from recliners to moon chairs and even chairs that have inbuilt warmers.
Seriously, Explore Planet Earth are selling their USB powered Lava Heated Chair. You can laugh all you want, but on a cold night when there is a fire ban you won’t be laughing when you are the one with a heated chair!
It makes a huge difference to your comfort levels if you can sit on a quality chair.
3. Physical comfort and entertainment
Throughout the day, you’ve got to be comfortable, and have something to do. Australia has a lot of places that get extremely cold, or extremely hot. Having the right clothing and activities planned to match the temperature is a smart move. I’ve been camping when it’s freezing and misjudged the clothing to bring, and it isn’t much fun.
Likewise, hot weather can be extremely unpleasant if you don’t have the ability to sit under some shade or cool off in a water source. Lucky for us, we have one of the biggest coastlines in the world and plenty of stunning freshwater bodies.
Before you head off, make sure you find out what is in the area that you can go and see, or do to stay entertained. A lazy day around camp is great from time to time, but you’ll probably get bored of it after that!
It’s great to camp near freshwater to cool off in – you’ll stay comfy and entertained.
4. Ease of use
I mentioned earlier that camping can be a bit more awkward, and that’s just the nature of it – you are going back to basics. You can’t take everything with you that makes life easy at home.
Having hot water on demand might not be part of your setup (although it could be!), but being able to warm up water easily for dishes, or setting up your campsite for a night needs to be relatively easy. The moment you start struggling, it takes away from the enjoyment.
When I head away camping, I always make a note of things that are difficult or awkward, and when I get back changes are made, or new gear is purchased to make it easier for next time. The more you camp, the better you become at it and the more comfortable/enjoyable it becomes.
Make sure your setup is easy to use, so everyday tasks aren’t as difficult as they need to be.
5. The right gear
With all the amazing camping gear on the market today, I have a lot of respect for those who did it tough in the years gone by. Fridges, 12V lighting, diesel heaters, electric blankets, inverters, super-fast gas burners and quick pitch tents make camping insanely easy today.
Whilst it can be expensive to set up, it practically guarantees an easy and amazing camping trip!
Quality 12V lighting is an investment, but very worthwhile.
6. Great food
I’ll let you in on a little secret… food when camping always tastes better. If you make a meal that would be tasty at home, you’ll love it when away. Cooking on a fire is one of the best things you’ll ever do, with some truly delicious food.
Not only do you want it to taste good though, but it should have some nutritional value too. Packet Mee Goreng might taste okay every now and again, but it’s not the healthiest thing for you over and over, and you’ll soon get tired of it. Keep it simple, healthy (relatively!) quick to make and limit the number of dishes you need to cook it.
Who’s roughing it when you eat a meal of freshly caught Crayfish?
7. Good hygiene
Don’t go camping without ensuring you are going to be hygienic. This means a way to cook, wash your dishes, drink clean water and go to the toilet without spreading bugs around while you do it.
This is usually as simple as taking quality drinking water with you, having the ability to boil water, knowing how to go to the toilet in the bush and taking soap or hand disinfectant that’s easy to access.
You can get very ill from poor hygienic practices, and if this happens when camping it’s not the nicest place to be.
There are lots of campgrounds that have toilets now, which makes hygiene easier.
8. Camper trailers and caravans – the most comfortable camping you’ll do
A lot of people new to the camping game start off with a tent or swag. Don’t get me wrong, you can be incredibly comfortable in both with the right setup, but there is a reason so many people are buying camper trailers and caravans. They have everything you need, all packed into one unit.
Obviously, these come with some compromises too, like size, weight and cost, but in terms of comfortable camping, it’s about as good as it gets.
Despite the extra weight and size, a caravan or camper trailer has everything you need.
9. The right location and weather
It’s hugely important to pick the right camping destination and ensure it suits the weather. Australia’s coastline can be absolutely magnificent, or it can be blowing a gale, raining and miserable. Aim to be prepared for the weather you are going to, or pick a location that ensures the weather is going to be mild.
If there’s a way to make your camping trip unenjoyable, it’s staying somewhere unprepared for the weather that comes your way.
Choose your spot based on the weather conditions to ensure a comfy stay.
10. Being able to relax
Camping is all about getting away from the hustle and bustle and taking some time to relax. There’s no better place to do it than the thousands of camping locations within Australia. Sit back with a drink, soak up the views and enjoy the company of your friends and family.
The fact that you aren’t busy running around trying to get things done at home is going to make your camping trip far more enjoyable right from day dot.
Take the time to relax and enjoy the experience.
My comfortable camping setup
Like many people, I started off with a cheap swag and not much else, then slowly upgraded. I now head away with the family in a well setup 4WD and camper trailer.
Compared to many out there it’s a fairly simple setup, but it allows us to camp easily and in comfort, even with a 2-year-old boy. It’s taken many years to refine and set up this way, but I love it.
Who’s got their camping setup nailed, so you can head away easily and comfortably?
The creeks and rivers on the mudflats below look like limbs on a leafless boab tree. The hills and ranges are like tessellated lines across the landscape with remarkable regular buttresses and narrow gullies. What a visual feast this short journey is on the way to Horizontal Falls, one of nature’s true wonders.
Recently we made the journey up to the Kimberley Region in Western Australia, where we then flew to Talbot Bay which is where Horizontal Falls is located.
Flying or boating in
A seaplane flight from Derby transported us into remote Talbot Bay. Flights also come from Broome or Cape Leveque. The only other way in is by boat. The bay is one of many in the Buccaneer Archipelago, a maze of between 800 and 1000 islands. There is no official count.
The seaplane lands gently on the smooth waters and taxis across to a large floating “houseboat” complex. This is surrounded by powerful boats and a number of helicopters. This is the platform from which we are soon to see the incredible Horizontal Falls.
We caught a seaplane from Derby to the remote Talbot Bay.
The phenomenon of Horizontal Falls
With massive tidal movements of up to 10m, water is funnelled from the bay through two parallel narrow gorges around 300m apart, which are part of the McLarty Ranges. The effect of all this water trying to go through the wide gap of 20m and the narrow gap of 10m is for the water to literally pile up on itself and create up to 4 or 5m height differences either side of each gap. This phenomenon is known as Horizontal Falls. The power and speed of the water really has to be seen to be believed. It is just awesome.
The twin gaps are part of the McLarty Ranges, which have two ridges running parallel approximately 300 metres apart.
Boats with up to 4 x 350 horsepower motors, piloted by very experienced drivers are used to take you to the falls, and if conditions are right, through one or both. The state and size of the tide means that sometimes only the wide gap is feasible, with conditions too dangerous to tackle the narrow gap.
When we visited, we stayed the night so were able to experience the incoming and outgoing tides, which meant we got to tackle the narrow gap.
A quieter time in the wide falls.
The power of the water
In a demonstration of the power of the water, our skipper backed the boat down into the flow through the wide gap. He then held the boat stationary with the motors driving ahead against the current. He casually mentioned that the 4 motors were effectively running at 25 kilometres per hour to hold us there. With a quick nudge, we then surged forward out of the maelstrom and flew out onto the smooth waters of the bay.
A boat that takes you through the gap in the falls.
Of course, going up the fall on an outgoing tide means you have to come down to return to the safe haven of the bay. The drop when we went through was a bit over 2 metres and the adrenaline rush was, dare I say it again, awesome! This was heightened by the spinning whirlpools, bubbling eruptions and white standing waves that were constantly forming and foaming.
All this occurring in water 40m deep! The quantity of water involved is mind-numbing. Adding to the drama, there are times in each tide where the water is actually flowing in through the wide gap while water is still flowing out of the last bay through the narrow gap.
Going through the gap is definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
Helicopter ride over the falls
After a number of rides into the wide gap, our journey then took us to a small houseboat tucked away in the entrance to Cyclone Creek, a well-protected and secluded area off Talbot Bay.
During the heyday of the pearling industry in the 1880s, the pearling fleet used to use this creek to safely ride out cyclones. From here, we were taken on an exhilarating helicopter ride over the falls and the ranges.
This was at times a heart-pumping experience with the helicopter suddenly rising up over ridges and sneaking through gaps that looked way too close. Not only did we get a fabulous overview of the water pouring through the two gaps but also the bays and lagoons behind each fall.
You can also go on a helicopter ride over the falls.
Watching the sunrise at Cyclone Creek
The following day in the early morning darkness we clambered aboard a small boat and cruised further into Cyclone Creek to watch the sunrise. The cliffs surrounding us simply glowed in the dawn light. It was a beautiful start to the day.
We hopped into a boat to catch the sunrise here at Cyclone Creek.
Riding through the narrow gap in the falls
After a much-needed breakfast and coffee, we were packed into a smaller, faster boat for another ride through the falls. This time things were quieter, so we were able to go through the narrow gap. In a word squeezy.
Even in the calmer conditions of the day, this was no place to get complacent about driving or the tide. There’s a scar on the wall which was a testament to the inexperience or inattention from the driver of a private boat years before. In that instance the boat was lost, but luckily no lives.
A smaller and faster boat takes you through the narrow gap in the falls.
Flying across the Kimberley to Derby
Shortly after, we sped across the smooth waters of Talbot Bay back to the home base. Here we loaded our bags into the pontoon of the seaplane and flew across the incredible Kimberley landscape to Derby. An end to an amazing and worthwhile adventure.
When the adventure was over, we got back into the seaplane to get back to Derby.
Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures
A number of extended Kimberley cruises take their passengers to see the falls but Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures provides the means for most people to access this area. They offer a wide selection of choices the traveller can make, depending on the budget.
It’s best to check in with the tour company if you’re interested in visiting the falls, the start of the tour season can also vary slightly. They’ll be able to tell you when the best time to see the tides is.
No matter how long you’re at Horizontal Falls, you’ll be blown away by the magnificent scenery and incredible power of the water.
Horizontal Falls is just one of the incredible places to visit in the northern part of Western Australia. Where else have you been in the Kimberley?
Mount Remarkable National Park is one of my favourite places on Earth. The camping is brilliant and the hiking is even better!
I’m going to concentrate on the Mambray Creek part of the park and the hiking you can do from there. You can either drive in and do a day hike or you can camp at Mambray Creek and use that as your base for longer hikes.
To access Mambray Creek you take the Mt Remarkable National Park turn-off from the Port Augusta highway in-between Port Pirie and Port Augusta.
The hikes here range in length and difficulty from the Wirra Water Loop, which is 1.6 km, and takes about 30 minutes to the Black Range Trek taking one day (one way) and is 22 km.
Here I am about to start off on one of my favourite hikes in the park – Hidden Gorge.
1. The Baroota Hike – a bit of history
One I’d recommend starting with is the Baroota Hike. This trail follows the Mambray Creek Walk but then breaks away with its own rugged trail that ends at the Baroota Cemetery. For some more history on the way back, I’d recommend the short detour to the old Baroota homestead ruins. I love reading about life back in those days and how tough those people were. I have so much respect for them!
The Baroota Hike is a linear trail 6 km long and takes about 2 hours return, maybe a little more if you read all the signs and really take it in. It can be done any time of day but mind the spiders at night and any time of the year. Expect some water during mid-winter to early spring with some crossings getting your feet wet.
The Baroota Homestead Ruins are a great detour to take.
2. Daveys Gully Hike – short but sweet!
Another short but fantastic hike is the Daveys Gully Hike. It’s only 2.4 km, taking about an hour, but has some of the best views there is in my opinion! I personally like to do this one just before sunset to get some great photos of the sun going down behind the Spencer Gulf. Stunning!
Daveys Gully Hike has some fantastic views and is easy to fit in as it’s short.
3. The Wirra Water loop – the best place for phone reception
There is no mobile reception at the campsites (which is why I like it there so much) but if you do need some and don’t feel like hiking a mountain, you can do the Wirra Water Loop trail (which is the shortest trail there). I slow down while I’m in the reception zone until I’ve said what I needed to say and then I follow the loop back to camp. Easy.
The awesome River Red Gums that you can actually walk through on the Wirra Water Loop.
4. Mt Cavern – my next favourite hike
Unfortunately, my favourite hike for measuring my fitness level, Mt Cavern, is still closed indefinitely. It’s a shame because that trek is brutally great! Keep an eye on the National Parks South Australia website here for the trail closure to disappear. The trek information has been removed from their site but you can read about it more here.
The Mt Cavern hike is closed at this point in time, but check back in with the NPSA website for updates!
5. Hidden Gorge – a brilliant day hike
The next hike I want to talk about is a great and fun hike for the whole family. The kids will probably find it easier than the less-fit parents but still one to try anyway!
Don’t let the 18 km of the Hidden Gorge hike turn you off! All you need is time. If you’re not super fit then allow all day to complete the trail. It’s worth it! The views and other things to see on the trail like all the different birds, reptiles, kangaroos and if you’re lucky, the yellow-footed rock wallaby will surely distract you from the overall distance.
This hike can be quite dangerous to do when there’s water laying around (which is early winter to early spring) so keep that in mind. There are some tricky sections where it’s too slippery to stand, so you’ll have to crawl or slide your way through. A great adventure to be had!
The first time I did this hike it was the first trip I ever did with my big pack which weighed about 17 kg, as it’s the shortest loop trail you can turn into an overnight hike. There was water everywhere, which I didn’t expect, and I didn’t have trekking poles back then for stabilisation while crossing streams carrying that much weight. I ended up very wet but I survived, so be careful.
A fantastic day hike that’s suitable for the whole family is Hidden Gorge.
6. Sugar Gum Lookout – a bit of a workout
If you are wanting a fairly short but reasonably hard hike there’s Sugar Gum Lookout. At 8 km return, it’s not too strenuous length-wise but there’s a bit of a sudden climb up to that lookout that could be a challenge. Of course, you could make it a challenge by running up which I don’t think I’d ever do in my life but each to their own!
Allow 3 hours for this one because you have Scarfes Hut to check out at the bottom of the climb with a sign that’s worth reading.
If you take your time, Hidden Gorge is well worth the effort.
7. Keen for an overnighter or two? try the Black Range Trek
There’s the Black Range Trek – Mambray Creek to Mt Remarkable, which passes Sugar Gum Lookout. I’d definitely recommend doing this one over two nights. I did it overnight and I could barely move the next day! Having said that I’m not the fittest person and I forgot to stretch afterwards.
It’s a 20 km trek and they say one day one way, but I think if you intend to return you should plan for two nights on the trail. Your first stop could be at Greys Hut which is over halfway to Mt Remarkable and your second stop could be at Sugar Gum Dam Camp, which is over half of the way back.
That’s what I planned on doing, however, I was making good time on day two so I worked out that if I kept on going I would make it to the trailhead on sundown. I got to my car just after dark, hurting all over after hiking 30 odd kilometres for the day. Keep in mind that it’s mountainous terrain too. Not an easy, flat, 30 km!
National Parks SA also recommends using a topographical map which could help as there are some tricky parts where the trail disappears and the way you’re meant to go isn’t obvious.
When hiking Mambray Creek to Alligator Gorge, watch out for Narrow Nosed Planigales.
8. Mambray Creek to Alligator Gorge and back
Another option for an overnighter (again, I’d recommend two nights on the trail) is Mambray Creek to Alligator Gorge and back. It’s one day one way, 22 km. I’ve done it spending two nights on the trail and as an overnighter. If you enjoy using your gear, and time is on your side, why not make it more comfortable and spend the two nights out there.
I’ve found that Longhill Camp is a good stop for the first night as it’s almost at Alligator Gorge which gives you most of day two to explore the gorge (there are a couple of good hikes to do there) and time to get to Kingfisher Flat for night two. That leaves a fairly short and relaxing hike back to Mambray Creek trailhead on day three.
If you do camp at Longhill Camp, maybe sleep with your pack in the tent. There are these crazy little critters called Narrow-Nosed Planigales. They’re the size of a mouse but Australia’s smallest carnivore. They’ll chew through your bags to get to your food! I had them crawling all over and inside my pack before I brought it inside with me. Then I had them crawling all over my tent but they didn’t get inside. Creepy critters!
There are so many great hikes to do in Mt Remarkable National Park.
Gotta love Mt Remarkable National Park!
I’ve just mentioned my favourite hikes but there are a lot more to do in Mount Remarkable National Park, so what are you waiting for? Get out there and check them out!
If you want to know what I take on an overnight hike, check out my guide here. Happy hiking!
What’s your favourite place to hike in South Australia?
I don’t think there are many better places to be in the European summer than the sun-drenched shores of Portugal. Here, the days are long, there’s always plenty to see and do and the friendly, chilled out locals make any length of stay a pleasure.
Portugal has it all – sophisticated cities, lovely golden-sand beaches, superb wine country and impressive hiking in its mountain regions.
How affordable is Portugal?
One of the best things about this welcoming nation is its affordability. A glass of the local beer (Super Bock) won’t cost you much more than a dollar and a decent three-course dinner (with wine, of course) can be had for $15-20 if you eat where the locals eat and avoid the touristy restaurants.
A beautiful stretch of beach in Carvoeira, Portugal.
How do you find a place to stay during peak season in Portugal
There are some brilliant hostels, guest houses and Airbnbs in every part of the country too, so finding accommodation is a simple matter of planning ahead.
If you’re intending a longer-term visit, apartments in some of the most stunning parts of Portugal can be rented for a few hundred dollars a month. Even in the peak season (July-August), you can normally find a place to stay.
Which is cheaper – Portugal or Spain?
Many people believe Spain is the cheapest place to travel around in Western Europe. But, having spent a lot of time in this part of the world, I’d say most parts of Portugal work out around 10-15% cheaper for everyday expenses compared to Spain. I’ve had some great lunches for less than $5.00 (including a drink) here.
If you want to cater for yourself, you’ll save heaps by hitting the local farmers’ markets, where $15 will buy you as many seasonal fruits and veggies as you can carry.
The view of the Douro River in Porto.
First, find your favourite city…
Even if you’re ‘not really a city person’, you’ll love the city life here. In cosmopolitan Lisbon, jump on a tram in the late afternoon and glide through history-rich streets until you find that perfect restaurant overlooking the bay.
Visit the extraordinary castles and forested parks of Sintra, where there seem to be brilliant views from every vantage point.
At Cascais, stroll along the esplanade and enjoy the family-friendly beaches, where sunbathers from all over the world share the sand with Portuguese kids building massive sandcastles.
I’d recommend walking around and taking in the sights of your chosen city.
My favourite city – Porto
If I had to pick a favourite Portuguese city, it would probably be Porto. Situated at the mouth of the Douro River, its charms include a wealth of ancient churches, museums, palaces, cathedrals and fortresses to explore. A boat cruise up the river on a wine-tasting tour is a must-do in Porto.
But some of this city’s simplest pleasures are free, like strolling through the hills and across the picturesque river bridges on your way to a riverside tapas bar. It’s an ideal base for day trips too. I can recommend checking out the pretty towns of Guimaraes and Braga as well as a train trip through the lushness of the Douro Valley on the way to Pinhao.
If you’ve never eaten octopus before, now’s your chance. It’s a specialty in this part of Portugal and is truly delicious. You should definitely try the Iberian Pork and a tasty fish called dourada while you’re here as well.
The picturesque riverside boats in Porto.
Where are the best beaches?
Portugal boasts around 800 kilometres of coastline, with some of the nicest being found along the southern coast in the Algarve region. Hugging the Atlantic, this country is a sun-worshiper’s paradise with heaps of dazzling, blue-sky days. You can also always find your own relaxing stretch of sand as there’s loads of room.
How do Portuguese beaches compare to the rest of Europe?
If you’ve been to other parts of Europe, you may have found some of the beaches there a bit disappointing (especially compared to Australia), with pebbly, crowded and less than inviting shores. But Portugal will definitely restore your faith in the laid-back beach lifestyle.
My stay in the small Algarve town of Carvoeira
I stayed in a small Algarve town called Carvoeira, which has a lovely beach in the heart of town as well as some more private spots within walking distance.
One of the best ways to explore this spectacular stretch of coast is to hop on a boat tour from Carvoeira. These take you right along the base of the cliffs to investigate some of Portugal’s most picturesque sea caves.
Take a boat tour to explore some of the incredible sea caves Carvoeira has to offer.
One thing that surprised me about the beaches in Portugal was how refreshing the water was. In June when the temperature was in the low 30s, I found a dip in the ocean to be bliss.
This entire section of coast is an intriguing mixture of sandy beaches, rocky headlands, scenic sea caves and a smattering of cheap but excellent cliff-top cafes. Further north, you’ll find quality swimming beaches at Baleal (an hour’s drive north of Lisbon) and Praia de Adraga, further up the coast.
If you like your beaches quiet, and free from cafes and other man-made distractions, head to Praia Forte do Paco. Here you’ll find 800 metres of luscious sand dunes, warm, shallow rock pools and an 18th-century fort close by.
Despite the warm weather, the water is very refreshing.
Outdoor activities to do in Portugal:
Portugal has more adrenaline-pumping activities going on than you’ll ever be able to fit into a single trip. With world-famous surf breaks, kayak-worthy rivers and mountainous grandeur, you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied in the great outdoors. Here’s just a small sampling of what you can get up to:
1. Bungee jumping at the Albufeira Marina
This one’s a classic. You ride 40 metres up in the air in a crane and then bungee jump off a platform, dunking your head in the cool waters of the Atlantic before bouncing back up again.
2. Horse riding in the Costa Azul
This is a unique way to experience a gorgeous part of Portugal – gallop along white-sand beaches and through forested hills dotted with cork trees. Local stables (such as Cabalos na Areia) can fix you up with horse treks lasting a couple of hours or much longer – they even offer week-long riding excursions.
Horse riding in Lisbon Costa Azul. Image by Cabalos na Areia
3. Mountain biking in the Lousa Mountains
Near the inland city of Coimbra, you’ll find the enchanting Lousa mountains. There are bike trails that wind through a mixture of rocky terrain, shady forest, river crossings and sand patches, where the creeks are ideal for cooling off after a hard ride.
Over two dozen villages are scattered throughout these hills, so you can stop for a quick bite and a rest along the way. There are popular abseiling and rock climbing spots here too.
4. Surfing safari at Ericeira
Portugal has some of the best surfing waves on the planet. So, if you can find a rental car big enough to store your board, you’ll be in heaven. The right-hand barrel at Ericeira is world famous, but there are plenty of lesser-known gems to discover too.
If you’re a beginner surfer, try Guincho Beach at Cascais or Amado on the Costa Vicentina.
Surfers in Amado beach. Image by Portugal visto do Ceu
5. Kayaking in Douro River National Park
The upper Douro is home to some amazing scenery and plentiful wildlife. This includes wild boar and – if you’re really lucky to see them – some of the rare wolves left in the country.
You can paddle the Tras-os-Montes area on your own or with a guided tour. Either way, it’s a pleasant way to experience the wild side of Portugal. For more on getting started with kayaking, check out this guide here.
6. Hiking in the Serra da Estrela
The ‘Mountain of the Stars’ National Park features some of the finest mountain scenery in Portugal with deep ravines, granite peaks and glacial valleys. This is the perfect place to be on hot summer days – as it’s several degrees cooler than on the coast. For more tips on how to keep your cool when hiking in the heat, check out this guide here.
There are plenty of easy hikes but if you want the ultimate challenge, try getting up to the top of Mount Torre at nearly 2000 metres. Some tracks in this park aren’t as well-marked as others, so if in doubt, take a local guide.
When you’ve worn yourself out hiking, make sure you visit the 13th-Century castle in the charming historical village of Linhares.
If you feel like some fresh air, go for a hike in the Mountain of the Stars National Park.
Here are some expert tips to make your stay in Portugal even better:
Do they speak English in Portugal?
Portugal may be a cheap travel destination, but it’s also an extremely civilised place with excellent infrastructure that’s very visitor-friendly. English is widely spoken, especially in coastal areas and the people are genuinely friendly and helpful to visitors.
Is the Wi-Fi good there?
I was amazed at how good the Wi-Fi was wherever I went in Portugal, in fact, I never had a problem with it.
Tips for dining out on a budget in Portugal
If you’re on a budget, bakeries and local lunch cafes are your friend. Avoid dining in any cities. Central Plaza is where all the tourists eat, so the prices are naturally higher. Wander a few blocks away instead and find a quiet side street with more affordable fare.
Do your shopping at the local markets rather than the chain supermarkets. The prices will be cheaper and the food fresher. Seasonal produce can be incredibly cheap if you know where to shop.
When you’re at a café and the waiter brings olives and bread to your table, just say no. These aren’t free and if you nibble on them, they ’ll be added to your bill, even though you never ordered them.
The best option for accommodation on a budget
Renting an Airbnb room is one of the cheapest ways to get good accommodation in Portugal. It’s also a terrific way to interact with the locals too. A shared room can often be found for less than $20 AUD per night, even in summer. Staying at a Pensão (family-owned inn) is another way to save some bucks.
Airbnb’s are an affordable accommodation choice when visiting Portugal. Image by Airbnb.
What’s the best day to do tourist activities?
Hit the museums on a Sunday. Many of the country’s museums are free on Sundays, so this is the day to fit in your museum-hopping.
Don’t forget the islands
Don’t forget about Portugal’s beautiful islands. The Azores and the sun-soaked island of Madeira offer a whole other side of Portugal that many visitors never bother to experience.
Make sure you get out there and check out island life for yourself. The pace is slower, the breezes sweeter and the water is just fine!
Getting around Portugal on local transport
Buses and trains between cities are comfortable and inexpensive here. You’ll also find a fair few bicycle hire centres in the more bike-worthy cities. The most expensive way to get around is by taxi, so avoid them when you can. Instead, buy a city metro ticket for about $3.00 AUD instead.
I found most cities and towns throughout Portugal exceptionally walkable. Just make sure you’ve got a good grip on your shoes – cobblestone streets can sometimes be a bit slippery after it rains.
So that’s all the tips and advice I have about visiting Portugal. Hopefully, this has inspired you to book your next holiday on their sandy, sun-drenched shores.
Are you planning a European adventure soon to escape the cold?