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How To Prepare For Your Gap Year In Australia

Prepare For Your Gap Year In Australia!

Travelling to the land Down Under? An absolute must. Getting to work and travel here for a whole year? Sign me up! Here are some tips to help you prepare for your gap year in Australia, AKA the best year of your life!

Apply for your visa

This is step one! To live and work in Australia as a foreigner, you’ll need to apply for a visa before you arrive. More specifically, a Working Holiday Visa. Leave enough time to apply, but once you’re approved, it’ll be hard not to hop on a plane straight away!

Applying for a visa for the first time can be a big task. Not to worry though! We’re here to offer you pre-departure support. Check out our Working Holiday Visa page full of all the info you need so you can spend less time applying and more time bragging about your gap year to your friends and fam. When you’re ready to apply, get in touch with the Ultimate crew to find out how to take this first step!

Work hard, travel hard – the perfect combo

Want to do something you’re truly passionate about? Want a job with amazing pay? Want more flexible hours so you have more freedom to explore the country? Australia is a backpacker’s dream with plenty of jobs for visitors – be it short-term/casual or long-term/full-time positions. No matter your preference, our in-house backpacker employment agency is a great source for finding what kind of job works for you (pun intended)!

Don’t sweat the basics

This includes everything beyond visa – flights, housing, medical/travel insurance, Australian bank account, tax file number, Australian phone number, etc. Luckily, Ultimate makes taking care of these travel logistics as easy as possible!

Discounted flights? Fill out this form to find out about great quotes.

Great, comfortable housing? Not only do we set you up with housing during your first week, but we’ll help you find a place to call home while you’re here.

Insurance? Check out some great provider options for backpackers here.

The other necessities? We’ll help you sort out the rest when you arrive so you can focus on the fun!

Prepare for your gap year in Australia. You won't regret the adventures!

Pack smart

Packing for your gap year in Australia varies depending on the time of year you’ll be here, but the key is to pack lightly! You’ll be surprised to find that most of Australia is quite warm, even in the winter, so don’t go too crazy with winter coats and boots and add unnecessary weight to your bag. For those warmer months, which are opposite of the Northern Hemisphere, don’t forget to bring a bathing suit! Australia has plenty of beautiful beaches – some of the most beautiful in the world! And remember, anything you don’t need or have forgotten is very easy to find in Australia. While you’ll want to bring your can’t-live-without belongings, you can leave most of your toiletries at home and buy them here.

Sleep, eat, travel, repeat!

Australia is a huge country with loads to see and do. The key is to be flexible! You’ll find out about so much more to do once you’re here that your plans might change. Here at Ultimate we are experts in travel, and are more than happy to help you plan your adventures. Our UltimateOz and Ultimate East Coast trips show you all the amazing sites around Sydney and eastern Australia. As an added bonus, we offer Ultimate Family tour discounts to anyone who has travelled with us before!

Prepare for your gap year in Australia, you'll have adventures you never thought possible!

Brush up on the local culture

Even if you’re coming from the U.S., England, or another English-speaking country, culture shock is a very real thing everywhere you go. As you prepare for your gap year in Australia, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the Australian ways of life so you’re more comfortable when you arrive. Of course, the best way to enjoy any culture is to embrace it, so start practicing your Aussie accent and slang (step one: AVOID “put another shrimp on the barbie”)!

Get ready to meet loads of amazing people

Worried about making new friends in Australia? We don’t blame you! It can be hard to adjust to a new environment. But the great thing about this country is there are so many others here for the same reasons you are: adventure, exploration, a change of scenery, a fresh start – the list goes on! Even though you’re in a new and unfamiliar place, jump right into activities you love and you’re bound to meet loads of people. Ultimate tours in Australia are a great way to meet like-minded travellers, form life-long bonds, and make unforgettable memories when you first arrive!

Prepare for your gap year in Australia. You'll meet loads of like-minded people and see all the amazing sites!

Most importantly, get excited!

You WILL have the time of your life in the land of Oz! It is an experience like no other, and there is so much to do and see! Ultimate is here to help you prepare for your gap year in Australia, welcome you to Oz and help you every step of the way!

Prepare for your gap year in Australia. You'll meet friends for life!

Ultimate is happy to help you plan your dream Aussie experience before and after you arrive! Get in touch with our travel crew to talk about your options.

Are you a backpacking socialite? Meet others travelling to Australia at the same time as you, and don’t forget to check out our Facebook page & Instagram feed for travel inspiration!

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7 Reasons You NEED To Do Surf Camp Australia

Why You Should Go To Surf Camp Australia

Is it just me or is “surfing” one of the first things that pops into your head when you think about Australia? Not that Australia is the only country where you can surf, not even close! But it just has that vibe, you know? Warm weather, tropical beaches, blue water, blonde-haired surf dudes and chicks, Rip Curl and Billabong… Surfing is just Australian culture. If you don’t go surfing once when you’re traveling in Australia, you’re definitely missing out!

1. The best way to learn how to surf

This wasn’t my first time trying to stand up on a surfboard, but I was probably one of the few people that had tried surfing before Surf Camp. I was super stoked that I was surrounded by people that all came to try surfing for the first time. You don’t feel like you’re better or worse than anyone. Everyone is on the same level, a.k.a. the beginner’s level and the only reason why you’re together at Surf Camp Australia is to learn how to surf, have a great time and make memories.

Since I only have weekends off, I did the Weekender / 2-day Surf Camp. Over the whole weekend, there were 3 full surf lessons, which is very intense..but amazing!

2. The itinerary: Sleep, eat, surf, eat, surf, eat, party, sleep and…Repeat!

Saturday you wake up early, have a big breakfast and head straight to the beach. After a super fun introductory surf lesson, you head back to camp and lunch is served. There is another surf lesson that same afternoon and then another one Sunday morning. In less than 2 days, everyone in my group was able to stand up on their surfboard and catch some kick ass waves. Surf Camp managed to turn us all into actual surf dudes and surf chicks in only 2 days! “Gnarly, dude!”

Learning to surf at Surf Camp Australia

3. Amazing instructors

Every experienced surfer can make it look so easy, but it’s actually a very difficult sport. It can be quite exhausting and everything depends on what mother nature decides to do with the weather that day. There are 3 factors that determine whether you’ll have an easy or hard time surfing: waves, wind and tide. Luckily, there are plenty of professional surf instructors at Surf Camp to teach you how to surf in different weather conditions.

4. Group and individual help

That’s what I liked the most about Surf Camp! You’re at camp with a big group, but you still get individual help during the surf lessons. When I was at Surf Camp, my group consisted of 50 people! It was great to be able to meet so many people and I felt like I became part of a big family of beginner surfers. But 50 people is quite a big group to learn how to surf. So to make the surf lessons more productive, they put us into much smaller groups, of about 10 to 15 people.

For each small group, there were 2 surf instructors, which is why everyone at surf camp had the chance to receive some individual help each surf lesson. The surf instructors go into the water with the group without surfboards and help you pick the best wave and get onto your surfboard. Too bad I wasn’t able to do the 5-day Ultimate Surf Camp, because I definitely would have become a professional surf chick if I would have had more time to practice!

The instructors at Surf Camp Australia are awesome!

5. The real Aussie experience

When you arrive at Surf Camp Australia, it looks like you’re stranded in actual surfer’s paradise. Everything is colourful. There’s sand everywhere, palm trees, fun surf quotes in the cabins – an instant feeling of holiday and summer! But it’s mostly the instructors and people that work at Surf Camp that make you feel like you’re in paradise. They live and work at Surf Camp every day and the only thing they want is for you to have a good time. The atmosphere is great, peaceful and super laid-back. All of them use Aussie slang, make Aussie jokes and they make you do the shaka sign probably every 5 minutes! In other words, it’s the actual Aussie experience and it’s awesome!

Learn to surf Aussie style at Surf Camp Australia

6. The best food you’ll ever have

You know that feeling of terrible hunger you get after you go swimming? Well… imagine that feeling, but 10 times worse. Surfing takes up so much energy and you’re literally starving when you’re done with a surf session and you get out of the water. Luckily, the kitchen team at Surf Camp Australia are life savers (aka incredible chefs) and every time they manage to make the best food ever.

When I was at Surf Camp, they prepared the yummiest meals for us. Hamburgers, ham rolls, pasta bakes with delicious barbecue meats,… It was heavenly! Not only is it the best food you’ll ever have, it’s also the most food you’ll ever eat in a couple of days. The last thing they want is for you to starve, so they will make so much food, your plate will be overflowing and you won’t be able to carry it back to your seat!

The food at Surf Camp Australia is awesome

7. Surfing in Spring, Summer and Autumn

It’s autumn in Australia right now and when I was at Surf Camp, which is 2 hours south of Sydney, the temperatures were quite low, around 20C degrees. You couldn’t really walk around in shorts and we had to turn on a heater in our cabin at night. Now you’re probably asking yourself, why would you go to Surf Camp in 20C degree weather? That’s way too cold!

But I can honestly tell you, the weather conditions were perfect. The sun was out and there wasn’t any wind. They actually made everyone put on sunscreen because even though it’s not the middle of summer, we would definitely get sunburned. Also don’t forget that if you go surfing, you have to wear a wetsuit. It protects your skin from scratches and rashes from your surfboard, and it also makes you stay super warm when you’re surfing in the Pacific.

In other words, if you’re thinking about doing Surf Camp Australia, I only have 2 tips for you:

  1. Don’t think about it, just do it! It has definitely been my best and most fun weekend in Australia so far. I loved it so much, I might actually go back next month.
  2. Two days is just way too short. If you have the time, do the 5-day Surf Camp. You’ll be able to have the full experience, make a lot more friends and for sure be a better surfer after 5 days than in only 2 days.

And just so you know, Surf Camp doesn’t only include return transfers from Sydney, your accommodation, all meals and surf gear. You’ll also get free photos and videos of you surfing & extra freebies such as an awesome Surf Camp t-Shirt, cap and a $20 Rip Curl voucher!

Want to learn how to surf? Check start dates and book your Surf Camp adventure here!

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What NOT To Do On Your Gap Year In Australia

Learn What NOT To Do On Your Gap Year In Australia!

Want to fit in in the Land Down Under? Here’s some helpful hints on what NOT to do during your gap year in Australia, so people will think you’re a legitimate Aussie!

Don’t say “Put another shrimp on the barbie”

Whilst we foreigners think saying ‘put a shrimp on the barbie’ in Oz is extremely witty/funny/best thing we’ve ever said, Aussie locals not so much. Aussies actually call them ‘prawns’ so best just to avoid all together if you want to make Australian friends. Too easy mate!

Don’t be scared of Aussie sarcasm & swearing

Aussies are well known for their sarcasm, self-deprecating sense of humour and swearing. Aussies like to take the piss out of each other, so don’t be alarmed if a bit of banter comes your way or someone drops the C-bomb around you – most of the time it’s nothing personal and is actually used as a term of endearment in some cases! You’ll soon pick up the the local slang on your gap year in Australia so you can give as good as you get. Before you know it, you’ll be a “real” Aussie, with the sarcastic sense of humour to match – just remember to keep the profanities at bay when you’re back home in Grandma’s house!

via GIPHY

Don’t say NO

Australia has so much to offer and now is the time to enjoy it all. The outdoor activities are endless, with everything from skydiving to bungy jumping and swimming with whale sharks on offer. At the time you might put these things off ’cause you’ll ‘do them later’ or because you don’t want to spend your cash but I promise you won’t regret it. Luckily in Australia, there are so many activities and things you can do for free as well so you can balance out the spends. You’ll be leaving Oz with a lifetime of memories and stories to tell. Just. Say. Yes.

Don’t surf without knowing the etiquette

Australia has a big surfing culture and it’s the ULTIMATE place to give it a try. Those catching waves for the first time must be respectful of other surfers by following ‘The Surf Code’. For example; the person closest to the peak of the break has the right to ride the wave. You shouldn’t hang out on your board as a rough board can be very dangerous for other surfers. DO NOT drop into someone else’s wave and paddle outside of the zone where the lineup of surfers might be coming. Amongst many other things, give other people your turn – there’s nothing worse than a wave hog! 

Why not join our UltimateOz Surf Camp when you first get to Oz, where you’ll be taught all this as well as how to ride the waves like a pro and be saved the embarrassment of being ‘THAT surfer’ in front of your new Aussie mates? 😉

Learn to surf in Australia on the UltimateOz Surf camp

Don’t take beach safety signs lightly

I’m sure you will have heard that there are things in Australia that want to kill you….well whist that’s not technically true (don’t swim in the croc’s home and I promise it won’t eat you!) it’s actually beach safety that’s one of the most important things to learn when you get here. Australia has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, all with safety signs, so you can swim safely. Read them! Swim between the flags where the currents aren’t too strong, pay attention to beach signs and if it says don’t swim…don’t swim!

Don’t go to Fraser Island without knowing driving rules

One of the most famous travel destinations for backpackers in Australia is Fraser Island. It is PARADISE! There are plenty of tours you can go on that help coordinate you where to go. Fraser island is an amazing place you definitely don’t wanna miss out on during your gap year in Australia, but just make sure you’re on a good quality tour with an experienced 4WD driver who can handle any challenging conditions on the island. Get in touch with the Ultimate crew for information on recommended Fraser Island tours.

Drive around Fraser Island safely on a guided group tour

Don’t use the word “root”

As with many other words, the word ‘root’ has a different meaning down under than it does elsewhere. Be careful…just saying!   

Don’t just ask for “a beer”

There are ‘heaps’ of slang words you need to learn before you leave your home country for the land of the koalas and kangaroos. Some of the slang will just confuse you, but try to get familiar with some of the words and you’ll be speaking like an Aussie in no time.

Let’s start at the bar… A Brownie is a bottle, a Tallie is a long-necked bottle, a Stubby is a small-necked bottle, a Tinnie is a can and a slab is a case of 24 cans. When it’s your turn to buy a round, just say “my shout” and when it comes to the size of the glass choose to get your tipple in a pint, a schooner, a middy or pot!

Don’t underestimate distances

Australia is a huge country. When you compare countries like England with Australia for size and realise that you can fit England into Australia almost 60 times, you realise it may be time to re-think that ‘short drive’ through outback Australia.

When you’re planning a road trip, I recommend looking at the map and figuring out how long it will take you to drive. Give yourself lots of time to travel on the road from place to place, so you can take it all in and not rush your trip. For example, we recommend travelling the East Coast of Australia in 4 weeks to give you enough time to stop off at all the amazing places along the way! Driving through the Outback? You’ll need plenty of water, supplies and petrol! Got lots to fit in to a short amount of time – no wozzas – you can always save some time with a couple of flights in between! Want some advice on where to travel with the time you have? Just get in touch with the Ultimate crew for information and advice!

Don’t be afraid of change your plans

Life happens and plans change so be flexible! You will meet some amazing people during your gap year in Australia, so it would be a shame to have to leave them just because you have a schedule to follow. Whilst it’s good to have a plan just remember..the more flexible you are, the more you will enjoying your backpacking adventure around this lovely country.

Get in touch with the travel crew to talk about your options. With open dated and flexible options available, you’ll be able to plan your travels with a bit of flexibility.

Not sure where to start? Meet others travelling to Australia at the same time as you and check out our Facebook page & Instagram feed for travel inspiration!

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Why Skydiving Is A MUST DO On Your Gap Year

Those Who Don’t Skydive Will Never Fly!

There are only so many times I can hear stories of other backpackers going skydiving before booking another one myself! I was lucky enough to do a skydive in Taupo, New Zealand a few years ago but couldn’t resist doing another one in Sydney. That amazing adrenaline rush is truly addictive and I’d heard about how good the Sydney skydive is, with amazing views of the coastline. Here’s why skydiving is one of the best things you’ll do on your gap year…

Getting ready

Skydiving over beautiful Wollongong is a memory that will last a lifetime. The views of the coastline were as breathtaking as I knew they would be, reaching as far south as Manly, and the feeling of jumping out of a plane at 4,000 meters was incredible. It all took my breath away!

It was Friday morning and time for me and my best friend to go skydiving. It was her first time skydiving and she was surprisingly calm. Maybe she’d heard from me how the feeling of flying takes over from being scared. We just couldn’t wait to jump! The bus picked us up from WakeUp hostel in Sydney and drove us to the site of the skydive, Wollongong, only one hour away from Sydney.

Once we arrived, we got assigned to one of the crew at Skydive Australia who gave us a safety briefing, and gave us our skydive overalls to wear…sexy! I was jumping with a Swedish skydive instructor who had been jumping for almost 23 years – what a job! He was great and made me even more excited to jump.

The crew at Skydive Australia were awesome!

Up, up, and away

It doesn’t really hit you that you’ll be jumping out of a plane at 4,000 meters until you’re actually up in the air and the plane just keeps going higher and higher! After 15 minutes we looked out from the window and realised how high it was! It was time to open the door and start jumping! The door on the plane lifted and there was a light that turned from red…to amber….to green – AND JUMP!

Skydiving in Australia is the best experience

Now I’m freeeee, free fallin’!

Since they’re such different feelings, it’s hard to tell people if the free fall or parachute part was best. When I first jumped I had that ‘OMG’ experience – I had no control and no time to think anything apart from ‘WOW..this is amazing!’ It is an absolutely breathtaking experience and one unlike any other! Most people think it feels like falling, but I would describe it more as flying. It really a unique and incredible moment.

Jumping out of the plane for my skydive was amazing

Cruising back down

After around 45 seconds of free fall that literally flies by, the parachute opened and we started drifting through the sky. This part is more relaxing and I had more time to enjoy the beautiful views over the coastline. After taking a minute to relax from the free fall adrenaline rush, my instructor asked me if I wanted to take over the control, to which I of course said yes! He taught me how to pull left to spin left, right to spin right, and push hard down to slow down (which I did just once to try as the rest of the time I wanted to go as fast as possible)! I asked my instructor to take over the control again a couple of times – it’s intoxicating and just so good! Straight after landing, I just wanted to do the whole thing again!

An unforgettable experience

Knowing we were in good hands made the whole experience even more enjoyable. We both had really great instructors who had so much experience, not only in skydiving, but also in helping people prepare for what’s going to happen, what to expect when jumping and also what to avoid. In my case, I told him to make this jump as crazy as possible, which I never will regret!

The good news is that whilst it’s hard to remember a thing about the free fall, as it all happens so quickly, they film the whole thing. I bought the video and photo package so I can go back through the pictures and re-live my jump!

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing…Keep calm and go skydiving!

There’s only so much I can do to explain to you how amazing skydiving feels. So I guess the only way to truly understand the feeling is to do one!

Amazing views during my skydive

Thinking of doing a skydive? You won’t regret it!  Speak to the Ultimate Travel crew for recommendations and travel discounts.

Planning a gap year to Australia or New Zealand and not sure where to start? Check out our UltimateOz gap year arrival package! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for travel inspo and pics!

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Top 5 reasons why you NEED to visit Fraser Island on your Aussie gap year!

Why you should visit Fraser Island

When I first left Sweden to travel to Australia, I was told Fraser Island was the place to go so I had pretty high expectations to begin with…and it definitely didn’t disappoint!

I loved everywhere I travelled in Australia but my time spent on Fraser is definitely one of the main highlights! Here’s why I think EVERYONE needs to visit Fraser on their Aussie gap year…

Drive a 4WD on the world largest sand Island!

There aren’t many islands in the world you can road trip around, especially the largest sand islands in the world! 4WDing on Fraser Island lets you explore the island with the fun and freedom of seeing the best spots! Fraser Island is known for its long white beaches (basically its motorway!), rainforests and some amazing crystal clear freshwater lakes. 

I visited Fraser Island on a group tour which for me was the perfect way to explore it! You can take it in turns driving along the sandy beaches, crank up the music and meet other backpackers – the dream roadie! I will never forget the feeling I had driving around in the sand with my group of 6 in the back of the car. I’ve never laughed so much and all the beautiful places we visited were just amazing. 

There were only 4 people including me in my group who had a drivers license, which meant more driving time for us, LUCKY ME! Although saying that those without their drivers license got to chill in the back, drinking beer and goon and taking in the views which doesn’t seem like a bad alternative! 😉

We spent the 2 days following our tour leader, who led the 4WD’s around the island, stopping off at Fraser Islands most picturesque spots along the way – absolute paradise!

4WD around Fraser Island

Champagne Pools – Fraser Islands natural ocean Jacuzzi

If you’re a water lover, Fraser Island is the place to go! This beautiful island has more than 100 different freshwater lakes that are safe to take a swim in. When I booked my trip to Fraser, I knew there were some different freshwater spots, but not that there was one place where I could swim, named after my favourite drink, Champagne!

It’s easy to understand why the Champagne Pools is a favourite spot in Fraser. You can sit in the rock pools, relaxing and watching the waves crashing over the side of the rocks, settling into a fizzing foam – hence the name! Once you’ve been here it’s safe to say you’ll be saying a toast to Fraser Island’s very own, Champagne Jacuzzi!

Champagne Pools, Fraser Island

Three Words: Crystal Clear Lakes

When you think of swimming in lakes, some of you may be imagining wading through a brown bit of water with no idea what’s lurking underneath – well not at Lake Mckenzie!

Frazer’s freshwater lakes are set, in the top of the sand dunes, through rainforest, high above sea level. Of all of the lakes on Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie is most peoples and my personal favourite, and when you see the pics you’ll understand why!

If you can tell me a lake more unique and beautiful than this I’ll be surprised as Lake Mckenzie is just amazing. Our tour guide told us to brush our teeth and scrub our bodies with the white sand, and so we did. The sand is made of 100% pure white silica so is ideal for a bit of exfoliation and natural teeth whitening! It was definitely a spa experience on another level and one I didn’t think I’d be getting on an island! 

Eli Creek, another fave is the largest freshwater creek on the Eastern coast of the island –  It’s an area of exceptional and pristine beauty.  The blues and greens of the lake are so spectacular, me and my friends thought we were in a tropical jungle! Eli Creek is an ideal place for swimming or even better for the lazy swimmers amongst us! The water flow helps you float down the lake so you can just lie back and enjoy the blue waters, the white sands and the amazing nature.

Chilling with mates at Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

Camping – “what’s happens when you camp on Fraser Island, stays on Fraser Island”

Fraser island an awesome place to camp, especially if you’re on a trip with heaps of other backpackers like I was. We slept in a big camping area in tents for both nights of the tour. The best thing about being in a big group is that there are so many nice people to meet and hang out with. I’ll never forget the fun we had in the evenings during our Fraser trip – actually, I’ll tell you the truth that some parts are a little bit cloudy…too much fun and too much goon! 😉 We spent the evenings enjoying dinner together around the camp fire, chatting, playing drinking games, listening to a guy play the guitar, dancing and singing… yes it was exactly as crazy as you imagine!

If you prefer a little comfort, there are some awesome tours you can do that include resort accommodation for the evening where you still get to hang out with new mates and have fun on the island, just with a little extra comfort!

Meet the locals 

Have u heard about Australia’s native ‘dog’, the dingo? Dingoes are the infamous local residents of Fraser Island and they need to be treated with respect but also with caution – no rolling around in the sand play fighting with these pooches! Dingoes are wild and as any wild animal can be, they can be dangerous. Fraser Island is one of the opportunities you’ll get in Oz to see these animals in their natural habitat so keep your distance when you encounter them in the wild.

Fraser has got some amazing wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies, emus, turtles and native birds. Indian heads, a lookout at the Northern end of the famous 75 mile long Eastern surf beach has an amazing vantage point over the island offering panoramic views of Fraser’s awesome beach and is also a pretty good wildlife spotting area! We were lucky as the weather up here when I visited was so clear and I saw so many things. The wonderful view over Manta Rays, Sharks, Dolphins and Turtles swimming in the water below was one of those unforgettable travel moments – amazing!

Having fun with friends in Eli Creek, Fraser Island

Top secret…

The worst question you could ask me when I’m travelling? “What was the best thing during your travels in Australia?”

It’s the most difficult question to answer as every place/experience and moment has been unique but this time I hold my hands up and say: My best memory from travelling the East coast of Australia was definitely Fraser Island!

My last tip – Don’t forget to bring your waterproof/sand proof camera! You’ll need a sand proof cam for fairly obvious reasons and even though you’re not likely to forget Fraser Island any time soon, I promise that the pics will come in handy when you try to explain to your friends and family how amazing it was! Anyway it’s time to set a new ‘like’ record on your Insta feed isn’t it?! 😉

Thinking of travelling to Fraser Island during your gap year in Oz? Check out the Ultimate East Coast package or get in touch with our travel crew to organise your Fraser Island Adventure.

Check out our Instagram & FB page for travel inspo and get in touch to start planning your trip today! 

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Changes to Backpacker Tax in Australia

Backpacker Tax: What you need to know

Okay so backpacker tax isn’t the most exciting thing to read about on the internet, especially when there are so many other ways to spend your time…like planning your next adventure and watching compilation videos of cute kittens, but if you’re a backpacker planning a gap year in Australia there have been some recent and important changes that should be aware of. These changes will affect how much you’ll be taxed on your earnings and most importantly, how much money you’ll have to play with when you get here!


You may or may not have heard about the recent proposals by the Aussie government to up the backpacker tax to 32.5% on every dollar by the end of the year. After months of government reviews, petitions and concerns from those working in the tourism industry and the agricultural sector, Scott Morrison, Australian treasurer has announced some important updates. Here’s what went down..

  • From January 2017, Working holiday visas will now be available to those aged 18-35 which gives people over 30 another 5 years to take advantage of the working holiday visa program and start living the Aussie dream!
  • Working holiday visa applications will also be $50 cheaper.
  • Backpackers on working holiday visas will be taxed at a rate of 19% on their earnings up to $37,000/tax year (as opposed to the 32.5% tax rate that was proposed earlier in the year).
  • As compensation for the reduced working holiday visa fee and lower than proposed tax rate, the Aussie tax office will be implementing a $5 exit fee along with a 95% tax rate on Superannuation.

The changes have been put in place to encourage backpackers to travel to Australia as they are an ‘important source of labour for the agricultural sector’ and Tourism Australia have been given $10 million to promote Working holiday visas in Australia.

Luckily, with an above average minimum wage of $17.70, Australia is still a great choice and affordable destination for backpackers planning their gap years!


What do you think about the changes to backpacker tax? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! Planning your gap year? Check out UltimateOz, our 7 day gap year arrival package. Download your FREE brochure and get in touch if you have any questions!

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The Great Barrier Reef: What’s the best way to experience it?

The Great Barrier Reef: Australia

The iconic Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s greatest natural wonders. It’s the largest coral reef in the world with over 3000 individual reef systems, an abundance of fish, turtles, sharks, jellyfish and dolphins – basically, if you want to find Nemo (or Dory!), you’ve come to the right place!

It’s also home to hundred’s of tropical islands stretching over 2300km along the East coast of Australia including Fitzroy Island, Green Island and Daydream island…dreamy!

Fun fact: The Great Barrier Reef is so big (in true Aussie style!) that it’s the only living thing on Earth you can see from space!

As a backpacker on your gap year, travelling around Oz you’re probably wondering what’s the best way to experience the beautiful Great Barrier reef to get the most out of it (and your hard earned cash!) Having been lucky enough to visit the Great Barrier Reef a few times, here’s what I’d recommend…

Fitzroy Island

This place is PARADISE! About an hour away from Cairns marina by boat, Fitzroy is the perfect option for people who are limited on time and want to experience the reef AND a paradise island in one day.

Here, you can snorkel right off the beach (I’d recommend Nudey beach-nope not a nudist beach! 😉 ), and as the water is so clear you can see so much of the amazing coral, fish and turtles. If you fancy exploring the island there are lots of walking tracks you can follow (approx 20 min-2 hours) including an awesome walk up to the lighthouse and summit of Fitzroy Island – the views are well worth the walk! The glass bottom boat is also a great way of seeing and learning about the Great Barrier Reefs coral and fish species.

Fitzroy island is paradise on earth!

I booked a day trip with Raging Thunder which included my snorkel gear for the day, a glass bottom boat tour, return transfers from Cairns and beach hire equipment including kayaks, paddleboards & their ocean trampoline! I’d highly recommend this tour to any backpackers looking to visit Fitzroy Island. Not only did all the inclusions make for a stress-free and fun day on Fitzroy but the staff were amazing, knowledgeable and so friendly! I even had the option of returning to Cairns on the 30 minute ‘Thunderbolt’ (jet boat) which was great fun!

Overall, an awesome day on a beautiful island and a must-do for anyone visiting the reef from Cairns!

Raging-Thunder Beach shack

Snorkel day trip

Snorkel or dive trips from Cairns are great for anyone wanting to experience the reef from the water. Most day trips depart from Cairns marina and take about 90 minutes. This is the way to go if you’d like to experience diving in the world’s largest reef! These day trips offer snorkel, introductory and certified dive options so even if you’ve never dived before, you’ll get the chance to try it out with a small group and a trained dive instructor before committing to (and spending your money on!) doing a dive course. Exploring the reef from the bottom of the ocean is such an amazing, exhilarating, (nervewracking!) experience – but one I’d recommend to everyone!

On the way out to the reef, you’ll be given a safety talk (if you’re diving) and told all about the reef, the coral and all of the marine species you’ll likely come across during the day. Fancy a lazy day? Book onto a snorkel day trip for a relaxing day of snorkelling, learning about the reef and sunbaking on deck!

Done a dive and loved it? Or already a certified diver? Get involved in an overnight Great Barrier reef tour!

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Whitsunday Islands

Airlie beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, located right in the centre of the Great Barrier Reef stretching down the coast. Trust me when I say, The Whitsundays are NOT to be missed! I had the best 3 days of my entire East coast trip (which is a big shout!) cruising around the Whitsunday Islands on a sailing yacht, partying with other backpackers and snorkelling in crystal clear waters. Sleeping on the deck of a boat, star gazing in the middle of the the Great Barrier Reef at night and spending my days on some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen (seriously, Google Whitehaven beach!)

There are so many different options to choose from whether you’re looking to spend a couple of nights on an adventure sailing boat, a relaxing time on a luxury catamaran (at backpacker prices), adventure on a big traditional tallship or if you just want a bit of a piss up in paradise!

Whitsunday Islands

Sadly our beautiful reef won’t be around forever due to climate change (among other things) and whilst preservation efforts have been put in place to protect the Great Barrier Reef, my advice to you is to make the most of it’s beauty now, experience it as many different ways as you can (responsibly!) and enjoy it while you still can. We only work with operators who are eco-certified and who encourage sustainable diving and snorkelling and support marine conservation initiatives.

Still not sure how you should experience the Great Barrier Reef? Get in touch for tour recommendations from the Ultimate crew and help planning your trip!

Ready to start your trip to Australia? Check out our Ultimate East Coast package which includes your Whitsunday Islands & snorkel trip from Cairns! Fitzroy Island with Raging Thunder upgrades are available.

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Backpacker Tax Refund Made Easy

Backpacker Tax Refund Ultimate Travel

The top 7 tips to claim your tax back

All of you working holiday’rs probably experienced the biggest culture shock coming to Australia…Some of you might have travelled through SE Asia before coming here,- shock free -, but then you received your first payslip in Australia … The amount of tax Australia’s government charges you! Aww lawdy. I needed an entire bag of goon and some comfort food to recover from that one!

But you’re done with sleepless nights, because we’re close to the best day EVER! TAX BACK DAY (Hallleelujah!). I can imagine you’re confused about how and when to claim your Tax back. I mean, I was! So to make it an easy struggle for you guys, I wrote down a few facts that will help you with this confusing, serious business…

Tax Year in Australia

Australia has its own unique financial year. It doesn’t start on 1st January and ends on 31st December. The land down under has its own special financial year, from 1st July to 30th June to be precise.

When can I claim my Backpacker Tax Refund?

The concern I had was… When do I claim my Tax back? Do I have to do it before the end of the year or after? Here’s what I found out…

You can claim your Tax back from 1st July until 31st October. So now, July 2016 you can start claiming back your Tax for financial year 1st July 2015 to 30th June 2016. But, there is an exception to the rule. For us, backpackers that are leaving Australia permanently, we can claim our tax back before the end of Australia’s financial year. An important aspect to take into consideration, you have to be in Australia for at least six months before you can apply for that tax back. It doesn’t matter how many months you’ve worked but the period of time being in Australia does matter… At least six months, that’s the only thing you need to remember!

Do I have to declare my tax or lodge a tax refund?

If you’re in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, you are eligible to claim your Tax back. Actually, you are legally obliged to file your tax application at the end of the financial year. I know, it might seem like a big burden but if you know that the average Australian refund is AU$2600, do you still think it’s not worth your time?

Claim your Aussie tax refund!

What do I need to claim back my tax?

You’ll need your PAYG (Pay As You Go) or final payslip in order to apply to get your Tax back. The final payslip is a summary of all the payslips you’ve received during your period of working. Don’t worry; it’s normal that you don’t have it yet. Your employer will be able to provide this to you at the end of the tax year.

What else do I get?

You might not know about this one but you can claim back more money… YOUR SUPERANNUATION!  It’s a type of long- term saving plan designed to help Australian people in retirement. You might think… “I’m a backpacker in my 20’s, why would I pay for my retirement in Australia?” Well, here comes the good part… it doesn’t come out of your wages, it’s an additional cost paid by your employer,  and you’re the lucky one that can claim it back when you leave Australia!

HELP!

If you are still confused and need help with claiming your Tax back, feel free to contact us! We here to give you help and advice on anything ‘Working Holiday’! Want to know how much tax back you’ll get? It’s easy! Calculate your possible tax refund here.

Seeing that money go into your bank account is the best feeling and what better way to spend it than on your next adventure! Check out what other travellers get up to for some inspiration!

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My Top 10 Tips for a Backpacker Travelling Australia

My Top 10 Tips for a Backpacker Travelling Australia!

As a backpacker travelling Australia,  I am always looking for tips to make my time out here easier, cheaper and more fun – so here are some of my tips to save you money and help you get the best of your time out here in Oz.

Keep your travel dates flexible!

I know this can sound scary, but personally I think it’s the one of the best options when you come out here is to be flexible. It is a great idea to have a general idea of what you want to do and even book your trip so you can budget properly, but don’t set dates. You never know, you may come out here with the intention to start travelling the East Coast at the end of your first month in Australia, but end up meeting people in your first week and want to head off earlier with them.

Keep your travel plans flexible

Go it alone!

So, if like myself, all your friends back home would rather start working and being proper grown-ups, go travelling alone! I did a group tour when I first got here and I can honestly say it’s the best decision I ever made. I’ve made some of the best and closest friends whilst travelling. In fact, I still speak to the people I met on my very first day in Australia in my hostel in Sydney!

Cure your hangover the backpacker way!

The ONLY way to cure a hangover (no it doesn’t include a bloody Mary although that does help!) is to get up and do something adventurous. Let’s face it, there will be lots of drinking opportunities as you travel so you might spend the majority of your days feeling a bit worse for wear but get up and go explore! Also, I find being in water the perfect hangover cure- so refreshing!

Do the 'hair flick' at Millaa Millaa falls in the Atherton Tablelands

If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

As a backpacker, I love a good freebie. Who can say no to free wifi or a cheap meal? Most hostels have great cheap meals  and drink deals. Happy hour is my favourite time of day – I recommend downloading ‘The Happiest Hour’ for all the happy hours and cheap deals near you.

Be a patient backpacker!

Yes, your bus might be late, or has decided to take a detour, or you might have taken a wrong tour in your campervan but it isn’t the end of the world. Use it as an opportunity to explore something off the beaten track that you wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise. Don’t sweat the small stuff and you’ll enjoy your trip even more! 

Ear plugs are your friend!

Believe it or not, you may actually fancy a decent night of sleep during your travels, especially if you are getting up early the next morning for your skydive or scuba dive. These bad boys are handy when you have a snorer in your dorm.

Write your travels down

I found that I had to write down what I’d done during my trip or I knew I’d forget with time, whether it be in a book or on my phone. It also helps if you’re trying to remember that awesome bar you want to recommend to your new friend.

Travel off the beaten path

As much as I love doing the popular tourist things (there’s a reason they’re so popular!), I love finding new places to explore and things to do. Grab a map (by map, I mean Google maps – obv!) and find somewhere you haven’t heard of. Hike through national parks and watch the sunset from a secluded beach. Australia has some amazingly beautiful areas that you wouldn’t see unless you’re prepared to go off the beaten path a little! 

Switch off

Turn your phone off and step away from Facebook. Sometimes I feel like people are too busy trying to get that perfect photo for Instagram that they aren’t experiencing where they are fully.

Say YES!

This is my own personal travel mantra. I say yes to as much as possible! I’m all for trying anything once (tell that to the deep fried crickets I ate in Cambodia!). So far the only thing I’ve not said yes to yet is Skydiving and Bungy, but unfortunately my fear of heights wins there! Say yes to as much as possible and have no regrets, this way you get to experience so much and make the most out of your time travelling.

Want to travel Australia but not sure where to start? The crew here at ULTIMATE love talking about our travels and experiences so get in touch for help planning!

Ready to start your trip to Australia? Check out our UltimateOz package & Ultimate East Coast package!

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My Mini Guide To Travelling The East Coast

The East Coast of Australia; 4000km of goon-filled fun and frolics. I’ve compiled a guide for the Ultimate East Coast Experience to help you navigate your way through the coast!

How much time will I need?

There’s no right or wrong amount of time to travel the East Coast in. The most common amount of time is 4-6 weeks, as this gives you plenty of time to see all the main highlights without feeling rushed.  I decided to slow mine down even more and spent about 2 and a half months doing the East Coast, as I thought this is probably a once in a lifetime trip, and probably isn’t something I’d get the chance to do again in full. (1.5 years down the line and I’ve revisited my favourite parts of the East Coast and still have more plans to see more of it!) 

Ways to travel

There are many different ways to travel up the East Coast. The main three ways are Campervan, Guided Tour and Hop on Hop off Bus. I decided that hop on hop off bus was the way for me, as it meant I didn’t have to worry about the stress of driving, paying for petrol and finding places to park – parallel parking definitely isn’t my forte.  I chose to travel by Greyhound, which meant I could just sit back and relax, and hop off whenever I wanted. 

Byron Bay

This has to be one of my favourite spots along the East Coast. This beach side town is the perfect spot for surfing, and if you time it right, you could be surfing with the dolphins if you head out early morning or early evening. It’s definitely a surreal experience. If surfing isn’t your thing, try kayaking with dolphins for chilled experience.

Another activity (which just so happens to be free!) to do in Byron Bay is the Cape Byron Walk to the lighthouse. I highly recommend doing this at sunrise or sunset (I chose sunset as I’m not an early riser) as its hell in the heat of the midday sun! You will also see possibly one of the best sunsets ever – definitely one of the best I’ve ever seen, the colours were incredible!  You also get to the most Easterly Point of Australia which is pretty cool (and possibly another to tick off the bucket list if that’s your thing?).

Most Easterly point of Australia

Noosa & Fraser Island

Fraser Island (also known as K’gaari) is the largest sand island in the world, with the beach on the island being 90 miles long! There are some awesome trips that go out to Fraser Island. I myself did a camping trip – which I must admit I wasn’t so keen on the idea of camping at first (the princess in me did not like the sound of sleeping on the ground with the spiders…), however, it was so much fun! If I were to do it again, I’d like to try a tour with cabin accommodation instead of tents such as the Nomads Fraser tour – however fun camping is, a run in with a rogue Huntsman spider has put me off for the time being! Keep an eye out for Dingos whilst your there too as they are Fraser’s local inhabitants!

Noosa itself is a great little town too. Australia Zoo AKA home of the Crocodile Hunter (how Aussie!?) is roughly an hour away from Nossa so make sure to check it out – even if you just want to hold a Koala as they are ridiculously cute! I am not ashamed to say I have done this 3 times! You can also stand up paddle board here too which is super fun and you might even spot some cool wildlife whilst paddling around.

Cuddling a koala

Airlie Beach & the Whitsundays

When you’re visiting the East Coast- this is a must see! The Whitsunday Islands is definitely my #1 favourite place and top experience along the East Coast. What could be better than sailing around a selection of the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays on a boat whilst drinking a cold beer? I can honestly say I saw more fish here than I think I’ve ever seen and the colours are unbelievable, so definitely snorkel if you have a chance to here! Whitehaven beach is also out of this world!

Fun on Whitehaven beach

Magnetic Island

Again, another one of my favourite places along the coast – I have a feeling I’ll be saying that about a lot of places!  This island has such a chilled out vibe. I would definitely recommend heading out on the Forts Walk across the island, the view from the top is unreal, and you literally have a 360 degree view of the whole island! There are also loads of wild koalas that line the trees along the walk, so definitely keep your eye out for those. Also..where else can you drive around in a barbie car!? My life is complete.

Magnetic Island barbie car

Cairns

Home to the thickest part of the Great Barrier Reef; a touristic hotspot for snorkelling and scuba diving, Cairns is also the party central and adventure activity capital of the East Coast. With backpacker bars aplenty, you’re definitely in for a cheap night out! If there’s just two things you do during your time in Cairns, make it snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and chasing waterfalls (sorry, couldn’t resist!) My personal favourite had to be Millaa Millaa falls in the Atherton Tablelands. Anyone remember Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl video? Well that was filmed right there during the Waterfall scenes, along with the herbal essences adverts. Make sure to get that perfect hair flick photo!  

Millaa Millaa falls

Last but by no means is least – the Grand Finale of most people’s East Coast Adventure, snorkelling or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Having snorkelled my way up most of the Coast, I decided to give scuba diving a try whilst in Cairns, and I can honestly say although terrifying, (picture me clinging onto the side of the boat trying to force myself to dive down) is amazing! From sharks and turtles to rays and rainbow fish, it’s definitely an experience I would recommend to everyone!

 Fitzroy Island

 

Want to travel the East Coast of Australia but not sure where to start? Get in touch for help and advice or check out the UltimateOz 28 day East coast package!

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15 Instagram Pics That Will Make You Want to Travel Australia

Australia: The land of stunning beaches, amazing wildlife, breathtaking national parks, cool cities and BBQ’s on the beach! All the things you must see in Australia.

Having lived in Australia for 5 years now, I can safely say that life is just better in the land down under! I’m lucky enough to have had the chance to travel Australia and see some of the amazing places this beautiful country has to offer. These Instagram pics have inspired me to pack my bags and head off on another Aussie adventure!

Whitehaven beach, Whitsunday Islands, QLD

The whitest sand in the world and clear blue waters = absolute paradise!

Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Swimming with whale sharks is next on the bucket list for me! You can find them on the Ningaloo Reef along with turtles, dolphins, manta rays and heaps of other marine life.

Gunlom Falls, Kakadu National Park, NT

Gunlom Falls is one of my fave spots in Australia. Looking out at Kakadu National Park (which is the same size as Belgium!) from the plunge pool is incredible!

Byron Bay, NSW

Surf, sun, dolphins, and a chilled out hippie vibe..Byron is just amazing.

Double Shakas! #GoPro #LiveUnbound #Freedive #ByronBay #Shaka

A photo posted by KYLE TAYLOR (@kylextaylor) on

Sydney Harbour, NSW

I’ll never get enough of this view!

Lucky Bay, Esperance, NSW

Because there is nothing more Aussie than an amazing beach and the chance to get up close with kangaroos..all that’s missing is a good old Aussie BBQ!

Uluru, Red Centre, NT

Because where else can you sleep in a swag (tent like sleeping bag) in one of the oldest sacred aboriginal sites in the world and star gaze all night?!

Night of day…it’s a stunning photo opp!

A photo posted by Uluru Adventures (@uluru_adventures) on

Glasshouse Mountain, Sunshine Coast, QLD

Just look!

Litchfield National Park, NT

Home to some amazing plunge pools, waterfalls, historic sights and termite mounds, Litchfield National Park, Kakadu’s smaller next door neighbour is not to be missed!

What a lifeee! 🎥 @becnef

A photo posted by KYLE TAYLOR (@kylextaylor) on

Lake Hillier, WA

A pink lake? Say whaaaaat!? Whilst noone really knows for sure why Lake Hillier is pink, scientists believe that the colour comes from dye caused by bacteria in the salt crusts. Either way, how many people can say they’ve visited a beautiful pink lake?

Lake Hillier / Pink Lake –Western Australia, Australia

A photo posted by @weareplanetearth on

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, VIC

The beautiful coastline between Melbourne and Adelaide AND the beautiful sunsets over the twelve apostles make for a popular tourist destination and an awesome road trip opportunity!

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

A photo posted by Sarah Girsang (@sar_gir) on

Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef, QLD

<3

Lake Mckenzie, Fraser Island, QLD

In the middle of the world’s largest sand island lies Lake Mckenzie with the clearest waters and some of the world’s whitest sand – swim, sunbake and explore the area before hopping back in your 4WD to cruise around the island. Fraser Island, one of my fave East coast Oz spots is a MUST VISIT backpacking friends!

Great Barrrier Reef, QLD

In Northern Queensland you’ll find the Great Barrier Reef, the only reef in the world visible from space! Go snorkelling, diving or take a helicopter ride to see some of the world’s most beautiful coral and diverse marine life!

Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu National Park, NT

Visiting Kakadu’s waterfalls make’s you realise just how big this National park really is!

Have we missed any? What is your favourite place in Australia? Let us know in the comments below!

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My Ultimate Travel Experience ‘Down Under’!

I  wanted to travel to Australia for such a long time, but never took the step to book a flight and come here. When I started studying Tourism Management in Belgium, I had the opportunity to apply for an internship at Ultimate Travel in Sydney.

I got excited immediately, because that was the incentive that I needed to start my travel experience ‘down under’! It took me a while to realize that I was going away for a year, but when I booked my flight and my visa got approved, it all sunk in. I kept thinking “What if the internship is not as fun as it sounds?” or “What if I don’t make friends?” But once I got over it, I couldn’t wait to leave!

Jana-1

“I started researching the travel side of my trip and changed my mind on where to go with every picture that I saw. All the beautiful beaches or the stars in the outback, I just added them to my bucket list. I bought a giant plastic map of Australia and hung it in my room. I started to draw circles around the places I wanted to see and soon, the map was almost black!”


“They’ve become my family here and I made friends for life!”


After a very long but comfortable flight, I arrived in Sydney. Everything was taken care of by Ultimate so I didn’t need to worry about accommodation or transport. When I finally met everyone from the company, they made me feel welcome immediately. Now, after almost 3 months, they have become my family here and I made friends for life! I never had a boring moment or felt alone since I arrived. I never experience the same day twice! That is one of the best feelings for a solo traveller. I enjoy working with everyone at Ultimate every day. I’m not just an intern here, I’m respected as a co-worker what makes it so enjoyable working here! I’m going to be really sad when I have to leave and I am terrible at saying goodbye but I know that they will support me with everything I do.

Tour-guide-2

Tour-guide

The only bad experience I have had since I arrived was my jetlag in the first few days. I was always tired and wanted to sleep, but I also wanted to explore the city! After overcoming that, I did some awesome trips.

During my internship, I also worked as a tour guide and went all over Sydney with the Ultimate groups. Doing the Sydney Harbour cruise and going to Port Stephens on a trip were some of the highlights during the week. I loved going to Basecamp there and petting a kangaroo, going sand boarding, enjoying the beautiful scenery and the beach when there was some free time! Finishing Basecamp on a dolphin cruise was just amazing as well.


“These are all memories I’ll keep forever.”


I still remember the first time I did the beach walk from Coogee to Bondi. The weather was really nice and the views were incredible. I was amazed by the entire scene. Just like the Blue Mountains trip that I did … from what I’ve seen so far, it’s such a beautiful and diverse country. There is something to do for everyone!

One of my favourite activities that I did during my time here was Surf Camp. When you are in Australia, you just have to learn how to surf! You feel like a local when surfing. It is a part of their lifestyle because they live so close to the beach.

But what are the travel options when you want to visit so many places on your own? My original plan was to look for a travel buddy and buy a van, but Ultimate Travel offers so many cool trips to the places I want to go. And the trips are in groups, so that would make it even easier to meet people! I didn’t book any travel plans in advance because I knew that I would have time to figure it all out when I arrived – it’s a good thing because I still change my mind about my travel plans every day … but that is what I love about travelling!

Jana-4

The places I really want to visit the most in Australia are the Whitsunday Islands, Fraser Island and Ayer’s rock. I can’t wait to see the Outback and drive the Great Ocean Road! I would love to learn more about the Aboriginal community and about the Australian wildlife. Kayaking with dolphins, hugging a koala, doing a sky dive at mission beach and scuba diving in the barrier reef are also on my bucket list! Hopefully I will experience all of this, with awesome people that I know I will meet on the way!

The time that I have to leave Sydney is coming soon so I have to have some kind of a plan. Luckily, my awesome colleagues have travelled Australia so they can give me some great tips!

Cheers, Jana 🙂

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Kakadu, Crocs & Australia’s Northern Territory!

From the vast areas of bushland, swimming holes, amazing waterfalls and Aboriginal history in the National parks to the beaches and tropical city of Darwin, NT’s capital city, it’s safe to say that travelling to Australia’s Northern Territory will give you an insight into the ‘real’ Australia!

ULTIMATE travel legend, Max flew up to Darwin last week with Topdeck to discover the Northern Territory. We caught up with him to see what he thought of the trip!

Tell me about your trip up to Australia’s Northern Territory…

I flew into Darwin then started a 5 day tour around Katherine, Litchfield and Kakadu National park. I got to see some incredible sights and it was overall an awesome trip! Our first stop was Katherine Gorge and later that day, Edith falls. We canoed through Katherine gorge which was amazing! There are high cliffs either side of you and the scenery is beautiful. The weather was amazing too – about 36 degrees most days! We also did a bit of cliff jumping into the gorge – crazy fun! It was a great start to my trip at Australia’s Northern Territory and a great way to get to know everyone on the tour too!

Katherine Gorge is a beautiful part of the NT
Litchfield National Park

What do you recommend about Darwin? Would you recommend it to other backpackers?

Before I got to Darwin I didn’t think it would be as good as it was!  I’d heard it was quite small so I just assumed there wasn’t much to do and that it would just be ‘the gateway’ to the National Parks in the NT. It was small but what was there was really cool and I loved it! Darwin is a proper little backpacker town! There’s a long strip with a load of bars and backpacker hostels where we spent most of our time. I liked that everything was in one location so it was so easy to get to everything and get out to the bars in the evening! I stayed at Melaleuca backpackers which was right in the centre of Mitchell Street (the strip.) It’s such a cool hostel with a rooftop pool and bar – the perfect place to chill in the heat!

Luckily, I was in Darwin on a Thursday evening so I got to check out Mindil beach sunset markets. There are hundreds of stalls selling clothes, jewellery and other bits set up right on the beach but the best part for me was all the food! Paella, Chinese, Thai, Pizza, Seafood..you name it, the markets have got it! We sat on the beach eating our food and watching the most incredible sunset I’ve ever seen! If you haven’t been to Darwin, just go!

Mindil beach sunset markets in Darwin is a popular place to watch the sunset
Mindil markets in Darwin is a popular place to watch the sunset

You mentioned seeing crocodiles in the wild…What was that like?

I was lucky enough to take part of a tour at Crocosaurus cove in Darwin where we got to feed crocs and hold pythons, both of which were pretty scary but a cool experience! Seeing the crocs in the wild was something different all together though! We did a crocodile cruise where I saw a croc feeding on a barramundi. It was insane to watch! The crocs jumped up so quickly, the barramundi had no chance! It was pretty scary seeing them in their own environment. It’s coming to the end of the dry season so all the crocs live in the East Alligator river (named by a confused Englishman who thought they were alligators!) in Kakadu waiting for the wet season to arrive where they will migrate to other watering holes. Definitely an experience I won’t forget!

Croc at Australia's Northern Territory

Do you think it’s a good time of year to travel to the Northern Territory?

100%. The weather was warm and humid but it never felt uncomfortable and with all the swimming we were doing, it was perfect! Also, because it’s coming to the end of the dry season, we got to see the crocodiles! During the wet season some water holes are closed off so the tour itineraries change but with so much to see in the area, I’d say it’s actually good to go any time of the year! Experiencing the Northern territory mid wet season would actually be quite an experience I think!

Wet-season at Australia's Northern Territory

What kind of tour would you recommend to backpackers planning a trip?

I’d definitely recommend Topdeck to other backpackers. If you want to travel with like-minded people of the same age with an awesome tour guide thats really experienced at what he does, it’s the perfect tour. Also, the perks of staying in amazing accommodation whilst still getting to see all of the unique sights was a big plus for me.

I think the tour guide really made the experience too. He encouraged us to go to different and more secluded places so we really got the feel for the area, off the beaten track! Some of the places were harder to get to but were well worth it. I really noticed our guide went the extra mile to make it a unique and special experience for everyone there.
Learning about Aboriginal culture in Kakadu
Termite mounds and waterfalls in Kakadu National park
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26 Reasons you should take a year off and travel to Australia!

Australia: The land of kangaroos, the outback and ‘G’day mate’! Whilst some of the clichés are true, (yes, people do actually say ‘G’day’ here!) there is so much more to this amazing country than stereotypes and funny accents. If you’re on your gap year and Australia isn’t on your list, you’re missing out big time! Here are some of the many, many reasons we love Australia! (We could have gone on forever!)

1. Australia is home to some of the best beaches in the world!

Australia has some of the world's best beaches

2. Australia has some pretty beautiful neighbours like New Zealand, Fiji and Southeast Asia.

3. Because where else can you kiss a kangaroo?!

Kiss our kangaroo at UltimateOz basecamp

4. In Australia, Christmas day is usually spent on the beach!

Spend christmas on the beach in Australia

5. You’ll meet loads of other backpackers..

Backpackers doing the Coogee to Bondi beach walk

6. And some of the world’s cutest wildlife!

Australia has some cute wildlife | Ultimate Travel

7. including the happiest animal in the world: The Quokka..

The Quokka is the happiest animal in the world!

8. You’ll get to witness the best firework display in the world on New year’s eve!

9. As a backpacker, the wages are high and the job opportunities plentiful..

10. and you might even get to work somewhere with a view like this!

11. The sunsets you’ll find here are stunning.

East Coast Australia sunset - Ultimate Travel

12. The cities are beautiful..

13. and the national parks aren’t bad either!

14. Travelling to Oz is the perfect excuse for a roadtrip..

15. and if you want to, you can get away from it all….for days!

16. You can experience the oldest known culture on Earth.

17. and one of the world’s oldest rainforests.

18. You’ll also find some of the most beautiful reef in the world..

19. And you’ll get to swim with some friendly marine life including turtles and maori wrasse. You might even find Nemo!

20. Because drinking and socialising in the sun is a big part of Aussie life..

21. and who doesn’t love a BBQ on the beach?! Put another shrimp on the barbie!

22. There’s no better place to learn how to surf..

Learning to surf at Surf Camp Australia

23. And if you fancy a change from the beach you’ll find man made swimming lagoons everywhere!

24. Because Aussies take their food seriously. If you like breakfast, good coffee & seafood, you’re in the right place!

25. Aussies don’t sweat the small stuff!

26. Because life is just better down under!

What is it about Australia that you love? What are you most looking forward to seeing in Oz? Tell us in the comments below!

Tag #myultimatemoment on Instagram (ultimate.travel) & follow us on Facebook for blogs, travel inspiration, videos, photos & more.

Planning a trip to Oz and not sure where to start? Download our brochure for info on our gap year adventure package and to chat to others travelling to sunny Australia.

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Important Update: 2nd Year Visa Changes!

On 1st May 2015 it was announced by the Assistant minister for immigration and border protection that volunteer work will no longer count towards 2nd year visa working holiday extensions.

We can now confirm that the visa changes will be effective from the 31st August 2015. From this date, any unpaid regional work completed will not count towards your 2nd year visa extension.

What do I need to know?

  • From 31st August all specified regional work you do will need to be paid to count towards your 88 days of regional work. You will need to prove this with payslips from your employer when you apply for your 2nd year visa.
  • During your working holiday visa, you can still do volunteer/WWOOF work but you will not be able to count those days towards your application for a 2nd working holiday visa.
  • Any volunteer/WWOOF work completed before the 31st August will still count towards your 2nd year visa application.”For example, a participant applying for a second Working Holiday visa on 30 September 2015 will only need to provide pay slips covering any specified work performed between 31 August and 30 September. The participant can include specified work they have undertaken before 31 August 2015 in their application without needing to provide pay slips for this work.”

How does this affect people doing volunteer work now?

The department has acknowledged that some people will be in the middle of doing their WWOOF work and will be unable to provide payslips. In this case your WWOOF host can write you an explanatory letter which can be added to your application however the department will assess these on a case by case basis so it is in no way guaranteed that you will be able to use these days for your application!

The department of immigration and border protection issued this statement: 

“All Australian employers must provide their employees with pay, conditions and workplace entitlements in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009 or relevant state legislation. This includes Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) agricultural work.

From 31 August 2015, all applicants for a second Working Holiday visa must provide pay slips as evidence of appropriate remuneration with their application. This will help us ensure that work undertaken by Working Holiday visa holders is performed in accordance with workplace law. All Australian employers are legally required to provide their employees with pay slips.

Work performed before the commencement date will not require pay slip evidence.”

Moving forward..

Our advice if you’re currently doing volunteer work is to bear in mind that any work carried out from the 31st August won’t count towards your 2nd year visa so if you only have a certain amount of days left to complete your farm work, don’t leave it too late!

** UPDATE – May 2016**

“Note: These temporary transitional arrangements will conclude on 30 November 2015. All specified work performed from 1 December 2015 onwards will need to be paid work with pay slips provided as evidence, regardless of whether a participant commenced working for their employer before 31 August 2015.”

If you have any questions regarding your 2nd year visa, get in touch! If you wish to apply for a second working holiday visa and you’re looking for your farm work, take a look at our Guide to Farm Work in Australia. It has everything you need to know about the when, where and why!

For more information regarding 2nd year visas check out our website, Travellers at Work.

 

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Surf Camp: Learning to Surf, the aussie way!

It’s that time of year again! Here in Sydney we’re putting our scarfs and coats away and getting the bikinis and swimmers out ready for another beaut summer by the beach! With the temperatures rising there’s no better time to learn how to surf ready for the warmer months! If you’re looking for a week of fun, meeting new people and beers on the beach, all whilst learning to surf, the aussie way (& making your mates at home jealous with your surfing pics!) Surf Camp is the place to go! ULTIMATE ledge Craig went to Surf Camp for the weekend. Here’s what he thought of the 2 day weekend Surf Camp:

So why Surf Camp?

I’d always wanted to learn how to surf and thought what better place to do it than Australia! A few of my mates had done the 5 day Surf Camp and recommended it so I thought why not!? I work during the week so I decided to book onto the weekend Surf Camp and get out of Sydney for a couple of days!

Surfcamp is back for the summer!

How did the weekend kick off?

So we all got picked up outside of Wake Up on Friday night.. it couldn’t have been easier. We popped into Side Bar for a quick beer then hopped on the bus down to Surf Camp. Great way to start the weekend. Met so many people from all over the world including some local Aussies who are a bunch of legends!

You'll meet lots of people at Surfcamp

What was the highlight of the weekend?

Being my first ever surfing experience, standing up on the second attempt was definitely a highlight! Such a great feeling!  From there it was plain sailing and eventually turned pro by the end of the weekend. 😉 Without the lessons I don’t think this would have been possible. Top marks to our instructors – they were so helpful, always there if you needed them and a right laugh!

learning to surf, the aussie way

What advice would you give to others going to Surfcamp?

Make sure you visit the local pub and join in on some limbo! You might be tired after a day of surfing but it’s well worth it – it’s a great place to get to know other backpackers!

The camp was awesome!

Was it long enough?

Personally I don’t think it was long enough. I did the weekend Surfcamp as I had work commitments but if I was to recommend it to friends, I’d say go on the 5 day trip for sure! The weekend was plenty of time to learn how to surf however it was such a great time I wanted to stay longer. Also, I think if I’d stayed a bit longer, I would have had time to learn some more tricks!

The beginners beach at Surfcamp

What was the camp like?

Such an amazing place! The camp is just a short walk away from the beach (7 mile beach.) It’s a beginners beach so the waves aren’t too big which was perfect for me as a first timer! You can still ride the waves without getting taken out! Some of the instructors mentioned that in the summer, they often see dolphins just off the beach and some people get to surf with them! The food was amazing too. They always kept us fed and full with meals 3 times a day and there was never a shortage which is great!  All of the staff we’re very friendly, helpful and a little crazy (in a good way!) The staff make the trip even better. Even if you’re travelling there alone, the staff will make sure you’re involved and have a great time!

Learning to surf, the aussie way

What did you do in the evening?

 After dinner on the Saturday we had such a funny night playing drinking games with new faces and the instructors! Luckily we woke up on Sunday with no hangover to catch some serious waves -we went further out to catch the big guns…awesome!!

Did you think it was value for money?

Yes, I really did. All of the accommodation, surf lessons, equipment and travel is covered so the only thing I spent money on was a couple of beers! We also got a Free T Shirt, Trucker hat,  & a $20 Rip Curl Voucher. Also, throughout the weekend there were photographers taking shots of us surfing which were then played on a TV during dinner and uploaded to Facebook. It was a laugh seeing the best ‘wipeouts’ from the day!  I’ll definitely be recommending Surfcamp to my mates!

Surfcamp freebies!

Surf Camp includes return transfers from Sydney, your accommodation, food, surf gear, photos, videos & extra freebies!
Want to learn how to surf? Get in touch to for discounts! ‘Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

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How to travel Australia on a budget

Australia has it all! Sunshine, amazing beaches, bustling cities, wildlife, beautiful national parks…the list goes on! So how can you make sure you’ve got enough money to see it all? If you hadn’t already heard, Oz can be pretty pricey for backpackers but don’t let that stop you! If you’re travelling on a budget, there are ways to save money along the way..

1. Two words: Happy hour!

Even if you’re not a big drinker the price of alcohol in Australia can be a bit of a shocker when you first get here! Finding out which of your local pubs and bars do happy hour prices on drinks will save you lots! Look out for hostel bar meal deals where you’ll get a drink free along with your meal!  On a night out? Keep it cheap by pre drinking before you go out (take it easy, you do want to make it out!) or if you’re in a city, book onto a bar crawl with drink specials. Party nights such as Ultimate Party organise your entry into 3 bars, 1 nightclub and give you 3 free drinks..all for $15 – bargain! Get in touch for info!

Top tip: Ask for a local tap beer in a bar instead of buying bottled or imported beers to keep the price down!

2. Food

Eating out in another sure-fire way to dissolve your daily budget. Instead of eating out, pop to supermarkets such as Woolworths, Coles or Aldi to pick up dinner with your new mates. Make use of your hostel kitchen and group up to share dinner (& the costs!) with others to keep it cheap. As a backpacker you’ll soon discover there are hundreds of great different pasta combos you can eat if you get bored of beans on toast & pot noodles! Australia also has heaps of food courts that offer half price meals after a certain time to avoid waste so get in there early evening for a cheap bite to eat!

Top tip: Get to know your local specials on food! Most pubs have discounts on meals certain days of the week…anyone fancy a $10 steak?

3. Booking your travel

To get the best deal, it’s best to book in bulk! If you know for example that you’re going to be travelling the East coast, it’s worth sitting down and talking through the tours & trips available to you at your budget with a travel agent. Booking your trips as a package, allows the travel agents to give you the biggest discounts possible. There are heaps of different options to suit every budget so choosing the best quality trips for the cheapest price can be tricky without help. It’s important to talk to a travel agent you trust, who will focus on what you want rather than just trying to sell you everything and anything! Need help organising your travel? Get in touch for help and support!

Top tip: Make sure there are no sneaky local fees added to your trip that you don’t know about! The package you see advertised in the window may seem like a great deal but with lots of local fees to pay and poor quality trips with no food inclusions, you could end up out of pocket!

4. Work

If you’re in Australia on a working holiday visa, you can legally work for your entire stay in Oz…but where’s the fun in that!? Picking up casual work between travelling is great for those on a budget as it means you can fund your travels as you go. Just finished your East coast road trip? Go and work on a farm near Darwin for a couple of months then move on to the next bit! The wages in Oz are pretty good so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to save quite a bit whilst you work. If you’re doing regional or au pair work you may even be offered free accommodation & food in exchange for your work- great if you’re on your last pennies!

5. Accommodation

The bigger the dorm, the cheaper it will cost you. Save yourself a couple of dollars per night and book into a bigger dorm. Try a 16 bed dorm in Noosa or a teepee in Byron Bay to get more for your money! If you’re staying anywhere for longer than a couple of months, it’s worth looking for an apartment to rent. If you share a room with others, you’ll pay much less than booking into a hostel and you’ll get the added bonus of being able to unpack your backpack for a while – the ULTIMATE backpacker comfort!

6. Make the most of Oz!

Not everything in Australia costs money. There are thousands of beaches, awesome national parks and walks you can do (The Bondi to Coogee walk in Sydney is one of my faves!) and best of all…they’re FREE! If you’re low on money, make the most of this beautiful country and do some exploring! Chat to locals for ideas and directions to make the most of the free activities on offer!

Top tip: Keep an eye out for transport specials. In Sydney for example you can travel anywhere on a Sunday for $2.50! Take the ferry over to Manly or hop on the train to the Blue Mountains!

Interested in travelling to Australia? Get in touch for help, advice and arrival packages!

Check out our blogs for tips on travelling to Australia and share your budgeting tips with us in the comments below!

‘Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

Planning a trip to SE Asia? Check out our ‘How to Travel SE Asia on a budget’ blog!

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Cairns: The ULTIMATE backpacker destination in Oz?

There’s no doubt that Cairns is one of the most popular destinations for backpackers in Australia and I can see why! Cairns has got a bit of everything: The world’s oldest rainforest, great nightlife, stunning beaches, heaps of adventure activities (it’s the adventure capital of Oz!) and a tropical climate to enjoy it all in! Cairns is also the gateway to the world’s largest reef (so large it’s visible from space!), the Great Barrier Reef!

Ultimate Travel legend Max has spent the last 10 days visiting Cairns to find out more about this cool little city up in Northern Queensland. Here’s what he has to say:

What was the highlight of your trip?

I would say the highlight of my trip was swimming with turtles on the Mackay & Udine reefs. I’d never seen turtles up close like that before and being able to swim with them was amazing! The reef I went to on the snorkel trip had so much marine life – it was awesome!

 

Swimming with a turtle in Cape tribulation

What do you think of Cairns as a city?

I love that cairns isn’t too big or too small. Everything is in walking distance and you have all the main shops, restaurants, bars and clubs right in the centre so you don’t miss out on anything. It’s got a real tropical feel to it too. The weather was amazing when I went which was such a nice change from the winter temps in Sydney! Also, at night hundreds of fruit bats fly over the city which was amazing to see. I’ve never seen anything like it so it was definitely memorable!

 

The beautiful lagoon in Cairns

How long did you spend in Cairns? Where did you stay?


In total I spent 7 days in Cairns. I stayed at Nomads Serpents which was great. It has a proper chilled out but sociable vibe to it. I spent my time at the hostel relaxing by the pool getting a tan and playing volley ball and table tennis. They have a bar right near the pool with amazing food so you can grab a beer and chat to the other backpackers too which was great.

 

Chilling at Nomads Serpent

Did you go anywhere else?

Yeah..I went on a 2 night trip to Cape tribulation which is about 2 hours drive from Cairns in the Daintree Rainforest. I love Cairns but it was great to get out of the city and see another part of Northern QLD. In Cape Trib, I stayed at Cape Trib Beach house which was incredible. It’s right on the beach (literally a 30 second walk!) and you have the option to stay in dorm rooms or private rooms. I was lucky enough to stay in their St Crispin accommodation – well worth the upgrade! The bar/restaurant at Beach House does amazing food too. It’s safe to say I ate well during my stay!!

 

The beach at Cape Tribulation

Did you do any activities in the Rainforest?

During the days I did Jungle Surfing (zip lining through the jungle!), horse riding on the beach and kayaking. I also went on a snorkel trip with Ocean Safaris which is when I got to swim with the turtle – that was such a great tour! I spent the evening in the Beach house restaurant eating calamari, steak and having a few drinks! After dinner the staff at Cape Trib beach house got a small fire going on the beach so I sat round chatting to other people on the tour. The view of the stars from the beach was incredible cause the sky was so clear!

 

Zip lining through the rainforest

Did you see any wildlife?

I spotted a few crocs on the Active Tropics Cape Trib tour! One of the biggest crocs, Scar face is around 85 years old!

 

Crocodile spotting in Cape tribulation

What else did you get up to in Cairns?

I did white water rafting, did a day trip to the Atherton Tablelands, went diving, chilled by the lagoon, went fishing and explored Cairns – it was an action packed, fun holiday!

 

White water rafting in Cairns

Your diving pics looks amazing. What was it like?

I did a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef with Deep Sea Divers. I booked on to do an Introductory dive as I had never dived before and I’d heard how amazing it is! All of the staff were really great and made everyone feel so comfortable. They ran through all of the safety aspects with us then showed us what to do before putting our gear on. We went down in groups of 3 or 4 with an instructor so I felt safe the whole time. Being underwater with all that wildlife was amazing. I met Wally, a massive Maori Wrasse, found Nemo and saw a reef shark! It was amazing – I can’t wait to go diving again!

 

Meeting the locals in the Great Barrier Reef

What is the nightlife like in Cairns for backpackers?

The nightlife in Cairns is as crazy as Sydney! The main bars I went to were Woolshed and Gilligans. I think Woolshed is a great bar to start out at then head to Gilligans which is more of a club. They had loads of drink specials too (between $5-$8) so it was a great night!

 

The beach in Cape Tribulation

Is Cairns good for backpackers on budget?

Yes, definitely! It’s a lot cheaper than Sydney. You can book a week in a dorm room at Nomads Cairns for $120! Food prices are about the same as other cities but everywhere had drink specials on so it all balanced out in the end.

 

Cairns is a beautiful city

Would you recommend other people to visit Cairns? How long do you think you would need?

I personally love Cairns and with there being so much you can do in the town it’s hard to get bored. Saying that, for me the highlights are on the trips outside of Cairns like the rainforest and the Atherton Tablelands. I’d say you’d need at least a week if you want to do Cairns properly and see other parts of Northern Queensland whilst you’re up there.If you can stay for longer than a week, you’ll definitely still find things to do..even if that just means chilling by the lagoon on the esplanade!

Where is next on your bucket list?

I’ve got a trip to the Northern territory with Topdeck booked later this year. I’m doing a trip to Kakadu and Litchfield national park and will get to spend some time in Darwin too. I went to Uluru last year and had a wicked time so I’m looking forward to seeing another part of the Northern Territory. I’ve heard amazing things about Kakadu NP and doing the tour with Topdeck will be awesome!

 

Darwin, Litchfield and Kakadu are amazing to visit in Australia!

A massive thank you to Deep Sea Divers Den, Foaming Fury, Active Tropics, Waterfall Wanderers, Ocean Safari and Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours for having me on your tours (I had an awesome time!) & to Nomads Cairns and Cape Trib Beach House for giving me a place to rest my head after a fun day of activities!

Fancy a trip to Cairns? Get in touch with Max for suggestions and to book your trip/accommodation!

‘Like’ us on FB for travel inspiration, photos, videos and more blogs and follow us on Instagram (ultimate.travel) for travel pics!

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Jess joins the UltimateOz crew!

Welcome Jess, the newest addition to our Ultimate family!

Jess has joined the UltimateOz crew as a tour leader over the summer months! She’s friendly, always has a smile on her face and let’s face it…she’s a bit of a ledge! Say ‘Hiiiii Jess!’..

Getting into the Aussie spirit!   Working as a tour leader for UltimateOz

Jess & her Aussie adventure so far..

“I arrived in Australia in November 2014 and had an amazing first week with Ultimate Oz! I made some friends for life, and actually still live with a girl I met that week! I had already travelled around and worked in America so Australia seemed like the logical next place as I was too nervous to go travelling in a non-english speaking country alone.

Since being here, I have lived in Sydney and Melbourne. In Melbourne I lived right next to the beach near St Kilda and worked as a waitress in the evenings. Mornings off were spent at the beach sunbathing or kayaking (living the dream hey!?) and I even got free dinner when I finished work –  awesome!

I also did my regional work in NSW on a horse breeding farm near Tamworth for 3 months to gain my second year visa, which I loved!! It was so much fun and working with animals was amazing. I’d definitely recommend everyone to do some regional work in Australia. Not only is it a great experience (how many people can say they worked on an aussie farm in the outback!?) but it also allows you to apply for your second year visa to spend some more time in Oz! Check out this blog for info on second year visas and how to get yours!

Working on a horse farm is a great way to get your second year visa   The countryside in regional NSW is beautiful   Working with animals is great!   Regional NSW has some great sunsets

After doing my regional work, I did a road trip on the Great Ocean Road in a campervan (absolutely stunning beaches!) and spent 6 weeks travelling up the East Coast on the Loka bus to Cairns. I loved doing the East Coast with Loka as it made it so easy to make friends at every place I stopped. My favourite moment of the East Coast was doing my open water dive course on Magnetic Island. Maggie is absolutely beautiful and I definitely learnt a new skill that I want to turn into a hobby! You can also hire little pink and white ‘barbie like’ 4×4’s to drive around the island. There is so much to see on the East coast so if you’re planning a trip make sure you give yourself enough time!!

Cuddle a koala on the East coast of Australia!   Hire a 'barbie' car in Maggie Island!    The East coast of Oz is a great place to surf!   The Whitsunday Islands are a East coast highlight!

I came back to Sydney to work for UltimateOz, hoping to make Sydney feel like home for the newbies arriving now in the same way my group leaders did for me when I first arrived. Meeting new people every week is so awesome! So what’s next for me? Who knows?! My bucket list of places to visit has doubled since being in Australia. Thailand, Bali, Fiji and Western Australia are top of my list right now and once my second year visa is up I may travel over the pond and work my way around New Zealand! I also really want to cage dive with sharks so I’ll have to fit that in somewhere!”

Want some help planning your trip? Just get in touch with our travel team for help, advice & discounts on travel!

Meet the rest of the ULTIMATE crew here and keep an eye out for crew updates & stories!

Like us on FB for travel inspiration & follow us on Instagram for travel pics & vids!

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The ULTIMATE Internship in Sydney

Being an Ultimate Intern described in one word: AMAZING!

When I came to Australia on my own I was a bit nervous and worried that I might not be able to handle everything, including the foreign language, the new people and the new city in general. There was no need to at all! Already after the first week I knew I was having the time of my life! And I still do!

How to describe the internship at UltimateOz? Well, first of all, get rid of the boring image of interning in an office, where everyone is wearing a suit and is sitting next to each other in a small room focused on his computer. As an intern at UltimateOz you’ve got your own desk right behind the travel agents and get in contact with the customers every day!

The UltimateOz office is fun!

Usual tasks are for example applying for Tax File Numbers and bank accounts, managing all the mail of our customers and working on our facebook page. Furthermore we have to do various bookings for the UltimateOz programme in Sydney, the Outback Range, Surfcamp or other tours and trips for our customers all over Australia. What I was afraid of the most in the beginning was answering phone calls. 😮 Especially when talking to other companies, where the people had a hard (Australian) accent or when it was pretty noisy in the office, I struggled to understand them. However, so far I feel at least much more confident than in the first weeks and I even did bookings via the phone or Skype! (proud of myself!)

Furthermore you can try yourself out in group leading! Going along with our customers having the time of their lives is just awesome! We start with a city walk checking out the best places in Sydney, followed by a pretty cool harbour cruise with a real Aussie barbie.  Then we’re heading off to basecamp, including fun activities like sandboarding and a dolphin cruise. There’s just one rule: What happens at basecamp stays at basecamp! 😉 Saturday means party time, but before the great pub crawl, we do the Coogee to Bondi beach walk to catch some breathtaking views!

The UltimateOz staff are always playing pranks on others.

 

You really take part in the daily business work with everyone else of the awesome crew and help them out with special tasks – instead of making coffee (we’ve got the coffee run for that!). From time to time you might end up tethered at your chair with cling wrap and a cardboard box over your head, but it could definitely be worse!

Every couple of weeks you get the chance to check out new trips and tours like OzSnow, Surf Camp or a part of an East Coast Trip! Can you think of better team building session spots?

Due to the location of our office right at Central and Railway Square, there’s a lot happening every day. Last week there was a film set in front of our door; Hollywood is calling! Moreover we often see people promoting new stuff, which usually means free food! Now we’ve got breakfast cookies for the rest of the year!

Overall my experience as an intern for UltimateOz was definitely the best way to spend my semester abroad, which is part of my tourism management studies back home in Germany. It has been 4 month full of fun, new experiences, new things to learn and loads of awesome people and friends for life!

After my internship, first I will travel to Cairns; do the skydive and go snorkelling. (already so excited! :)). Then I’ll fly to Alice Springs to start a tour through the outback via e.g. the Ayers Rock, Coober Pedy, Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne!

Then it’s time to say goodbye to Australia, but one thing is for sure: I’ll come back! 🙂

Nadine – ULTIMATE intern

 

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8 Things to do during Sydney’s winter months

Winter is coming. In fact as of 3 days ago, winter is officially here! It’s that time of year again where we dig out our coats, gloves and scarfs from the bottom of our cupboards. BBQ’s by the beach become a distant memory and we start swapping cold beer for mulled wine and hot chocolate. Luckily for us, Sydney has got heaps of activities to offer to keep us busy in the colder months.

1. Christmas in July

If you’re from the northern hemisphere and you’ve spent Christmas in Sydney you’ll know that Christmas just isn’t the same here. Spending the day on the beach in the heat enjoying an Aussie BBQ just doesn’t feel like Christmas should: spending the day at home with family, in the cold, drinking too much wine and lying on the sofa in a food coma. This is where Christmas in July comes in to it! Sydney will turn into a real winter wonderland during the coldest months this year so we can enjoy the festivities, in the cold, the way it should be! Wrap up, hire some ice skates and workout on one of the ice rinks at Bondi Beach or Sydney’s winter garden in Darling Harbour. Can’t get enough of that Christmas feeling? Market stalls will be set up around the ice rinks to guarantee the ultimate cosy Christmas atmosphere. Nothing better than celebrating Christmas twice in one year with a hot cup of mulled wine! You could also take the train to the Blue Mountains where the famous Yulefest was born twenty years ago. Join one of the many fundraising events or organise a roast dinner with your friends!

2. Eat & Drink

It’s the perfect time of the year to indulge in hot, comforting meals. Eat your way through Saturday night’s hangover with one of Sydney’s amazing Sunday roast dinners. My personal favourites include the Anchor in Bondi and The Riverview hotel in Balmain – great meat, veg, yorkshire puds and gravy- yum! The Taphouse in Darlinghurst is also running Smokin’ Sundays winter warmer, the last Sunday of every month. Head down to enjoy spiced cider, mulled wine and beer by an open log fire!

3. Beach Walks

It might be a bit colder, but it will never be too cold for a beach walk! The Coogee to Bondi walk is one of Sydney’s most famous coastal walks and is well worth doing. A six kilometre long stroll along five picturesque beaches with the possibility to spot whales, what more could you want? On a sunny day you could even have an Aussie barbie using one of the public barbecues at Tamarama, Bronte or Coogee beach! Just catch a bus to Bondi or Coogee and walk all the way back, it’s as easy as that!

4. Vivid Sydney

Head down to circular quay to check out Sydney’s annual light festival. See the opera house, Museum of contemporary art and Circular Quay office blocks lit up with light installations and don’t miss BBC Earth’s light installation narrated by Sir David Attenborough. Hurry though- Vivid ends on the 8th June!

5. Imax Cinema

One thing you definitely have to do during winter is pay a visit to the IMAX! It’s the biggest screen in the whole world; you won’t know where to look! They show the world’s best movies here and even though it is quite expensive (approx $33) it’s well worth the visit!  There are places like the information centre around the corner and Grill’d (a hamburger restaurant in Darling Harbour) which offer some good discounts. Don’t forget to check out Groupon too – they offer cheap tickets every now and then!

6. Sydney Attractions

If you haven’t already been to Sydney’s main inside attractions, winter is the perfect time to do it! Check out the attractions in Darling Harbour: admire some beautiful sea creatures at Sydney Sea Life, meet one of your favourite celebs at Madame Tussauds or check out some Aussie animals in Wild Life Sydney Zoo. You could also hop on the ferry over to Manly to check out the Sea Life centre over there or head up to Sydney’s tower eye at Westfield for panoramic views of the city (perfect on a clear winter’s day!) Our travel team can help you book Sydney’s best attractions at discounted rates so get in touch for info! If you’re feeling lucky, go and put some money in one of the slot machines at The Star, Sydney’s casino! It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and serves you all entertainment you could ever wish for. When all bars have closed, this is the place to be! You don’t necessarily have to gamble all your travel money; just enjoy a drink watching a sports game on one of the TVs. Want to do some shopping? Try out Westfield in the middle of the city or in Bondi Junction, World Square or Broadway Shopping Centre.

7. Sydney Day Trips

Winter is the perfect time to head a bit further afield and go on day trips. You could spend the day in NSW’s wine region, The Hunter Valley, tasting the local wines, chocolates & cheeses and explore the Hunter Valley village. You could even head to the wildlife park to see some of Australia’s wildlife including koalas, kangaroos & emus. Another day, wrap up warm and visit the famous Blue Mountains. Take a bush walk through the national park to keep warm and explore the local village, Katoomba. Get in touch with the ULTIMATE travel team for day trips this winter!

8.Australian Culture

Did you come to Oz to get to know this beautiful country better? Expand your background in one of the numerous museums all around the city. History buffs should wander around in the Australia Museum or Nicholson Museum. If you’re an art lover don’t miss out on the Museum of Contemporary Art. More into small and cosy museums? Give Sydney Jewish Museum or Hyde Park Barracks Museum a try! Oh and don’t forget the Museum of Sydney itself of course!

Hope this gives you some inspiration & ideas on what to do in Sydney this winter. If you’ve got any other suggestions for fun winter activities in Sydney, we’d love to hear from you! Check out our Ultimate Travel Facebook for blogs, travel inspiration and photos and follow us on Instagram for travel pics! Tag #myultimatemoment to your Instagram pics – we will repost our faves.

– Freya, ULTIMATE intern 🙂

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2nd Year Visa Changes

If you’re reading this, the chances are that you’ve arrived in Australia on your first working holiday visa, fallen in love with the place and wondering how you can spend more time in this amazing country. If the idea of heading home after a year in Oz scares you, luckily there is a way to stay for another year: the Second working holiday visa. To obtain your 2nd year visa, you’ll need to complete 3  calendar months (or 88 days on and off) working in a designated regional area doing what the department of immigration class as ‘Specified work.’

Most backpackers work on farms, fruit picking and packing, carrying out general farm work or mustering cattle. You can also carry out construction or mining work or volunteer with programs such as WWOOF (Willing workers on organic farms), where you work approximately 4-6 hours per day in exchange for food and accommodation. Volunteering has been a popular way for backpackers to gain their 2nd year visa: it’s a great way to learn the skills necessary to work on a farm and with lots of casual short term jobs with host families available, it’s a great way to travel around while you work.

Second Year Visa Changes

Despite the popularity in backpackers volunteering to gain their 2nd year visa, on the 1st May 2015 the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, announced that soon, volunteer work will no longer count towards 2nd working holiday visa extensions. This means that any work done through the WWOOFing association or any unpaid regional work will no longer be counted towards the 3 months or 88 days work needed to apply for your visa.

Minister Cash said the changes address a concern that some employers are exploiting the second Working Holiday visa initiative by encouraging Working Holiday visa holders to work for less than the minimum wage. He said, “The current arrangements can provide a perverse incentive for visa holders to agree to less than acceptable conditions in order to secure another visa.”

The department of immigration are now in the process of implementing the changes to the 2nd year visa that are said to be ‘phased in’ over the next few months however no official date has been set for the changes. To keep up to date with these changes, we would suggest keeping an eye on information posted on the WWOOF site.

How will the changes affect you?

Those seeking to apply for a second Working Holiday visa will be asked to produce an official payslip from their employer, demonstrating they have completed their regional work component. If you’re currently doing volunteer work to gain your visa extension, our advice is to bear in mind that you may need to complete paid regional work to make up the 88 days needed before applying for your 2nd year visa. These changes won’t impact on current visa applications.

If you wish to apply for a second working holiday visa and you’re looking for your farm work, take a look at our Guide to Farm Work in Australia. It has everything you need to know about the when, where and why!

For more information regarding 2nd year visas check out our website, Travellers at Work. Completed your regional work and need to claim your tax back? We recommend registering with Taxback.com now to avoid the rush at the end of the tax year in June!

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ULTIMATE’s Top Adrenaline Activities!

If you’re anything like us here at ULTIMATE, you love a bit of thrill seeking during your travels. There’s no better way to get your heart pumping than rafting through river rapids or jumping out of a plane at 14,000ft. If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie here are some activities to cross off your list this year!

Here are some of our experiences with some amazing (pretty terrifying) adrenaline activities:

Skydive – (Ultimate recommends Mission beach, Australia)

“What a feeling! Falling through the sky at 14,000ft with someone and a parachute strapped to your back doesn’t happen (to most of us!) every day! It’s without a doubt one of the most amazing feelings in the world and I’d recommend it to anyone! For me the scariest part was waiting to jump in the plane beforehand. Luckily I was the first out and as soon as that door was opened, I was ready to jump! The free fall was such an incredible feeling! It almost feels like you’re floating rather than falling. Once the parachute has opened (aaannnd relax!) you get to enjoy 5 minutes of floating down, checking out the beautiful scenery and thinking about what you’ve just done! Like most things great in life the whole experience goes way too quickly so get the photos and videos to watch back!” – Holly

Australia

Canyoning & Abseiling (Ultimate recommends Da Lat, Vietnam)

Da Lat in Vietnam has some of the worlds most beautiful waterfalls. You can hike through the jungle to see the waterfalls from a far or if you prefer you can abseil straight down them!

“You hear stories from people on the way and you might even see some of their pictures, yet you can’t quite figure out what to expect from ‘abseiling a waterfall’. The truth is: it’s freakin scary, but I loved it so much, I have done it 3 times now and would do it again anytime. The worst part is standing right on the edge of the cliff, waiting until it’s your turn and seeing the horrified look in everyone’s face in front of you while you are trying to build up the courage to just do it. You’re basically volunteering to face death several times on that one day – kinda a dumb thing to do if you think about it. Though, once you’ve taken the first steps down the cliff, the water is pounding against your legs to a point where you are about to slip any moment now, the adrenaline is rushing through your body and you start to feel invincible. You finally let go of the ropes, take the plunge into the river beneath you and already think: I need to do that again!” – Dirk

Vietnam

Bungy Jump (Ultimate recommends Cairns, Australia & Queenstown, New Zealand)

Could you jump off a ledge with a Bungy cord strapped to your ankles? Bungying is one of those things that you don’t just do the once! Once you jump you can’t stop!

“I was shitting myself for weeks leading up to the jump. We arrived at the site on the day and it was beautiful and scary at the same time.  It is set in a valley so you jump from a cable-car which is connected by cables to the mountains on either side, it is 134 metres from the ground.  Inside the cable-car the floor is perspex so you can see right down to the bottom of the valley that you are jumping in to!  They get people to jump in weight order so there were a few bigger guys before me – this calmed my nerves a bit because they all came back up saying how amazing it was (and none of them died!).  It came to my turn and I sat in the chair to have all of the safety stuff put on me.  As this was happening the guy who had jumped before me was being pulled back up after his jump, he looked terrible.  His legs had turned to jelly and he was crying – this didn’t help me!  I shuffled over to the ledge and prepared to jump, I kept telling myself not to make any noise because I was afraid I would squeal or sound really stupid.  It turns out it’s impossible to not make any noise and I think I made a kind of mooing sound like a cow!  The freefall is around 9 seconds and this was one of the most amazing feelings of my life – like nothing else I have ever experienced.  When I bounced back up and started to head down for the second time it felt for a couple of seconds like I was hanging in mid air – I actually instinctively swang my arms around and tried to fly!  I bounced a few more times and then pulled the chord so I was in a sitting position and enjoyed the relatively leisurely ride being pulled back up to the top.  As soon as I got back up there I turned to my mate and said “we have to do this again – higher!” – Danny

White Water Rafting (Ultimate recommends Tully River, Australia)

“Rafting was an incredible experience! I did the ‘Xtreme rafting’ on the Tully River in Northern Queensland. I had no idea how much fun it would be but I can safely say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done! I felt like I was on the best roller coaster in the world, blasting down the rapids,  twisting and turning all the time – it’s definitely not for the faint hearted! The staff and instructors were brilliant providing making us feel as safe as possible with non stop laughs along the way. They really do try and make it the best experience possible for you. The trip I did was a day trip which I’d definitely recommend as you get lots more rafting in and when you’ve started you won’t want it to end! The best part of the day for me was blasting down a rapid with the instructor shouting “Back Paddle, back paddle” then bumping into rocks and dropping down the rock face below you. It was a crazy amount of fun and I’d recommend it to anyone!”  – Max

Shark Cage Diving (Ultimate recommends Port Lincoln, Australia)

Port Lincoln in Australia is one of the only places in the world you can experience cage diving with Great White sharks! You’ll be lowered into the ocean with only a metal cage between you and great whites. Put it this way…it’s the closest you’ll ever come to a Great White Shark without being eaten! Game?

“Duunnnn Dunn… Duuunnn Dunn… I’ll never forget the day I encountered the real life Jaws! Diving with sharks was an item on my lifetime bucket list, and although I was super excited, I couldn’t have been more terrified. Being in Australia, you always fear that you may see a shark in the water, and here I was choosing to be with one! This being said I flew down to Port Lincoln for the weekend, one of the few places in the world that you can cage dive with Great Whites. Although I was quite nervous, the staff couldn’t have been better and made me feel really comfortable. We set off early in the morning and the next thing I knew, they were gearing me up to hop in the cage. A fun fact, rather than using bloody “chump” as they call it to attract the sharks, they used the sound vibrations of playing ACDC  – how cool is that! Peering over the side, I could already see the shadow of what appeared to be a 5m Great White. Feeling rather nervous, I took a deep swallow and hopped into the cage and there he was, Bruce smiling right back at me. Once in the water, the fear left and I was amazed to be that close to such a large creature. It was absolutely insane and definitely an experience I won’t forget!” – Becca

Diving (Ultimate recommends The Great Barrier Reef, Australia & Koh Tao, Thailand)

Thailand has got some amazing snorkeling and diving spots, especially along the West coast. Kao Tao is popular for diving due to it’s shallow waters and lots of coral.

“Absolutely the BEST part of my time spent in Thailand. If you’re considering scuba diving, better yet getting your open-water certification, Koh Tao is THE place to do it. Not only is it one of the cheapest and most popular places to do it, the island provides some of the best dive sites in the world. Plus, it’s absolute paradise. Palm trees, sunsets, beach parties – not much to complain about. And trust me when I say, there is no cooler feeling than being able to breathe underwater. My dream of becoming a mermaid was finally complete. After completing the 4-day open-water course, I could officially call myself a certified diver. I loved diving so much, I even went on to get my advanced certification with heaps of friends I met from my original dive group. Exploring a shipwreck 30m below surface, diving in complete dark with nothing but a torch, finding Nemo – doesn’t get much better. Eat. Sleep. Dive. that should be the island’s motto.” – Becca

Thailand

Cage of Death, Darwin, Australia

“The cage of death was such a weird yet amazing experience! Me and my travel buddy were lowered into a massive tank inside a glass cage with two of the largest saltwater crocs in Australia, William and Kate! One of the ‘friendlier’ crocodiles swam straight over to us and at one point it’s teeth were literally 10cm away from me with just the glass between us! To make the crocodile jump up, chicken was dangled into the tank by the crocodile handler and fed to the crocs in front of us. I couldn’t believe how high the crocs can actually jump out of the water and seeing how powerful their jaws are as they snapped down on the chicken was unbelievable. Being so close to such big crocodiles was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity! If you’re travelling to Darwin, the Cage of Death is not to be missed!” – Holly

Australia

Done a Skydive? Been tubing in Thailand? Share your experiences with us in the comments below! If you’re interested in any of the above just get in touch – we will give you the details!

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East Coast VS West Coast Australia

If you’re planning a gap year and wondering how to fit in all the amazing places Australia has to offer, you’re not alone. It’s a big country! But with some careful travel planning, there’s a good chance you’ll have enough time between work to travel the East and the West coast of Australia.

The East Coast (between Sydney and Cairns) and the West Coast (Perth to Broome for the sake of this blog) offer two completely different travel experiences. If you have to decide between the two (sob), keep reading to decide for yourself which side of this massive country you’d like to explore more!

Weather

The weather in Australia was (amongst many things) a big draw for me when deciding where I wanted to travel and whilst Australia is known for non stop sun, there are seasons here like anywhere else! If you plan carefully you can ‘follow’ the sun and avoid the wet season here in Oz as much as you can. For me, the West coast wins hands down when it comes to weather. That’s not to say that you don’t get great weather on the East coast but WA is renowned for A-M-A-Z-I-N-G hot, sunny days. Perth boasts more sunny days per year than any other Australian capital and with all those beautiful beaches to enjoy it on, it’s a great place to head to if you’re a big beach lover! During the ‘wet season’ which runs from November to April, you can expect hot, humid days with heavy rainfall on the East coast of Australia in northern Queensland. This area is also prone to cyclones in the wet season so it’s best to avoid it if you can and travel smart. The best time to visit northern QLD is from April to November but don’t be completely put off from visiting northern Queensland during the wet season. It doesn’t rain every day and when it does you’ll get heavy showers for a few hours followed by sunshine. It’s an amazing place and if your trip does fall in the wet season you’ll get to experience the Daintree Rainforest in all it’s glory!

Timeframe

Australia is massive. You might have heard that you can actually fit the whole of Europe or North America inside it! Western Australia is the largest state in the world (1/2 the size of Europe!) and QLD comes in close second so it’s no surprise that you’ll need a good few weeks to travel either coast properly. If you’re travelling overground on a bus, train or driving yourself, I’d suggest between 4-6 weeks to travel the East or West coast. Giving yourself a month or more to travel means you’ll be able to see everything properly and not rush. There are so many amazing things to see and it really is the trip of a lifetime so it’s worth doing it properly! If you’re limited on time, organised group tours are a great way to go. You’ll be able to travel either coast in about 14 days where you’ll see the highlights and have an experienced guide with you along the way.  I know people who have spent months on both the West and the East coast, stopping to work along the way so if you’re planning a longer trip that’ll work too!

The Ultimate East coast package is a fully flexible 30 day package that can be extended if you’re planning to travel for a bit longer. Check it out here. We also have lots of amazing tours on offer and great deals on campers if you want to do a road trip instead so get in touch with our travel agents for help and advice!

Australia

What to do

Apart from spending your days chilling at the beach, visiting national parks and firing up Aussie BBQ’s on the beach (It’s a tough life!), there are so many other things you can do on both the East and West coast of Australia.

WA is perfect if you want to get off the beaten track a bit more. The Kimberley’s, a region in the north of WA, is the world’s largest wilderness area covering 423,000 square km and with a population of only 30,000 people so you’ll really be able to experience the Aussie outback! Along the coast you’ll find National parks to hike and camp in, lots of beaches to chill at and the amazing Ningaloo Reef. WA also has some of the best surfing in the world so if you’ve surfed before, get to Margaret River to try out some of the world famous waves. One of the most popular activities on the West Coast is swimming with the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark! You can do this during Whale Shark season which runs from April to June – definitely one for the 2015 bucket list! There’s also skydiving, water skiing, swimming with mantarays, sandboarding, diving and feeding wild dolphins at Monkey Mia amongst many other things!

The East coast is jam packed with places to visit and activities to do from Surfcamps and Cattle station stays to Castaway Island and Hunter Valley (wine region) tours. It’s also home to the famous Whitsunday Islands and Fraser Island, both ‘must-sees’ on the East coast! If you’re into high adrenaline/extreme activities such as Skydiving, Bungy jumping and white water rafting, you’ll love Cairns, the adventure capital of Australia. Cairns is also the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef so if you’re looking to try out some diving or just want to snorkel in the world’s largest coral reef, you’ll be coming to the right place! In the surrounding area of Cairns you’ll find the beautiful Daintree rainforest, the Atherton Tablelands and some lovely little towns such as Kuranda and Port Douglas.

It’s safe to say that whether you travel the East or West coast, you won’t run out of things to do!

Wildlife

Who came to Australia to see kangaroos in the wild and cuddle a koala? Whilst there is more to this beautiful country than cuddling cute little furry things, getting close to Aussie wildlife is an experience and an inevitable part of your trip down under. Did you know there are more Kangaroos than people in Australia?! You’ll come across heaps of Aussie wildlife all over Australia, some of them cute…others, not so much! Head to Queensland to cuddle a koala in a nature park (not a good idea in the wild!), head to Port Macquarie on the East coast to visit the koala hospital and to the West coast to spot big red kangaroos in the wild. Be prepared to spot the swarms of fruit bats flying over the town in Cairns in the evening and keep an eye out for wombats (cute!) on the road at night.

Beaches

Australia is home to over 10,000 beaches and both the East coast and the West coast have some of the best! WA has more beaches than any other state so if you’re a beach babe/dude head over to the West coast. Perth alone has 19 beaches close to the city so you can spend your days lazing in the sunniest city in Oz! The Coral coast, home to the Ningaloo Reef, is another great beachy location where you’ll find unspoilt, uncrowded and untouched stretches of white sand.

The East coast of Australia has some amazing beaches too! The famous Whitehaven beach in the Whitsunday Islands was voted one of the best beaches in the world. It has got the worlds whitest sand, sand so fine you can clean your teeth with it! Stretching along 57km of coastline, The Gold Coast (just south of Brisbane) is also well known for it’s stunning beaches, surfing and sun (along with one of the biggest party scenes on the coast.) As you travel up the East coast, you’ll find less and less beaches off the mainland and it’s not advisable to swim in some of the beaches that are there due to stingers and even the odd croc in far north Queensland! Cairns for example has no beach but does have a big man made lagoon you can swim in for free and cool off in the sun.

Party Scene

If you’re looking to party your way along one coastline look no further than the East coast to satisfy all of your partying needs! The East coast is home to the famous ‘Full Moon Party’ on Magnetic Island, the backpacker party capital Cairns and lets not forget the famous party cruises that take place in the Whitsunday Islands.

Perth on the West coast is a relatively small city compared to others in Australia and whilst you’ll get your choice of clubs and pubs to party in the city you can’t bank on having a crazy all nighter with heaps of other backpackers like you can along the East coast.

Overall the West coast is a bit less ‘travelled’ than the East coast so it’s great if you’re looking for a bit of an Aussie outback adventure. The East Coast accommodates for heaps of backpackers every year so you’re guaranteed to meet people and there will always be something going on somewhere!

So really, it’s actually difficult to choose between the two … they both offer different experiences in parts and have similar experiences available in others. It comes down to personal preference! If you don’t have time to travel both, and you still can’t decide, why not talk to our Travel Crew .. they can answer any questions you have as they’ve all travelled Australia (they may even give you some handy insider info on a few hot spots!)

If you’ve travelled Australia and have any help and advice for fellow backpackers, feel free to comment below!

Follow us on Facebook for more blogs and travel inspiration and check out our Instagram page for travel photos.

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Alex does the East Coast!

Say Hello to the newest member of our Ultimate family…Ultimate legend, Alex (Swit-Swooo!!)

Australia

Alex is currently sunning himself in Cairns after doing what looks like an EPIC trip from Sydney all the way up the East Coast of Australia over 4 weeks! He’ll be joining us as of next week as an UltimateOz tour leader after doing the UltimateOz package himself 6 weeks ago.

We caught up with him to find out a little more about him and to hear what he thought of his East Coast trip…

Alex, the pics you’ve taken during your travels look amazing! I see you’ve just done your Mission beach Skydive. How was it?

WOW, is all I have to say about that skydive.. That feeling of sitting on the edge of the plane and then JUMPING! ….next level amazing! Haha, I’m still glowing from how sick that was! Won’t be the last time I jump, that’s 4 sure!!

Australia  Australia

What made you decide to come travelling in the first place?

I love to travel! Exploring beautiful places, seeing new things, meeting new people, discovering new energy – I’m inspired by that! Lately it feels my skin is the only thing keeping me from going everywhere at once! I love learning, and I believe travel is one of the best forms of education you can give yourself!

Tell us about your experience in Australia. What have been the highlights for you so far?

My Australian experience has been AMAZING! I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the east coast for months on the LOKA bus, which has so many sick stops! Hmm, highlights… Skydiving, Fraser Island, sailing Whitsundays, Surfing Byron Bay, SCUBA diving the Great Barrier Reef – I’d have to say the biggest highlight are the friends I’ve made IN all of those highlights!

Australia  Australia

What made you want to be part of the ULTIMATE team?

After I did the intro week at UltimateOZ, I found myself so impressed on how everything was handled within the week, and also behind the desk as I booked my east coast adventure. I’ve always loved being active outdoors, and helping people – being a group leader is a lot of that! The staff are energetic and positive – you could say it’s the ULTIMATE job!

Australia  Australia

Tell us something about yourself. What are your main interests? Tell us a secret!

I love dancing, my family, old school music, architecture, wakeboarding, any kind of sports in water! I dislike grape fruit, mineral water, and people who litter! I thought about being a politician once but there are WAY too many incriminating photos of me out there! I was in 4 Jello commercials with Bill Cosby when I was 6, haha just kidding! No party tricks really – I play guitar… Oh, and can crush anyone in a beer chugging comp.

Australia  Australia

Where is/are your favourite place/places on the East Coast so far? Is there anything you’d definitely recommend to people looking to do the east coast?

That’s a tough question, all the locations along the East Coast are so unique in their own way! The chilled out barefoot surf vibe of Byron Bay, or the hustle and bustle of Brisbane, they all offer something worth experiencing – I’m not sure if I have a favorite! But there are a few must do’s while on your east coast adventure. I HIGHLY recommend experiencing Fraser Island, and sailing the WhitSunday Islands! Skydive over the Great Barrier Reef too if you can, UNREAL!

Australia  Australia  LOVE McKenzie

Australia

Any funny stories you can tell us about your East Coast travels?

Hahahaha, yes! So, chillin in Airlie Beach crushing a 6 inch sub, while being distracted by some girls in bikinis by the lagoon and a kookaburra bird decides to swoop down and thieve my sub right out of my hand, and it’s wing gave me a snack in the face as it took off, must have been his way of saying thanks bro, I’m takin dis!! I’m talking I had one bite, this sub was half the size of the bird! I was so shocked I started laughing so hard. I wasn’t even mad, it was amazing. Everyone saw it, including the girls – It sparked a comical convo with them, and I swam with those bikinis all day… Worth it!

Australia  Australia

Is Australia how you imagined it would be? Has is it met your expectations so far? How is it different from other countries you have visited/your home country?

Oz is everything I thought it was going to be and MORE – It has far surpassed my expectations, legit! It reminds me of home in Canada a lot, it’s big, clean, full of cool stuff, amazing places, and nice people! Australia is like a sunny Canada, and Canada is like a snowy Australia!

Australia

What are your plans after you have worked for ULTIMATE?

After working with ULTIMATE, I have to complete my farm/regional work so I can come back to beautiful Australia on a 2nd year working visa and hopefully continue working in the tourism industry – or hop back into Architecture.

Australia

Do you have a travel bucket list? Where would you like to go in 2015?

Definitely have some places I still need to check off the bucket list! 2015 is all Oz baby. 2016 will start in Oz and finish in New Zealand! 2017 will be a roller coaster through Europe and also finish the countries I didn’t see in SE Asia! Sky’s the limit, push those dreams!!

Australia

What advice would you give for people looking to travel to Australia!

Pack as light as possible, unlock your cell phone before coming, have a healthy amount of cash saved, bring a positive attitude, and honestly let UltimateOz take care of your first week here, it makes for such a great start! Fasten your seat belt and get ready for a life changing trip! If you’re looking for that one person who is going to change your life – take a look in the mirror!!!

Thanks Alex – We can’t wait to have you on the team!

Australia

If you’re planning a trip along the East Coast of Australia, check out our 30 day East Coast package or contact our travel agents for help & advice. Haven’t arrived yet and interested in UltimateOz Sydney? Check out the itinerary here.

Like us on Facebook for travel pics & inspiration, blogs and ULTIMATE stories! Add us on Instagram and remember to tag #myultimatemoment to your travel pics. We will regram our faves!


 

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A Week In The Life Of An UltimateOz Tour Leader

Tour Leader Sarah at BaseCampHey Guys,

I’m Sarah, one of the UltimateOz tour leaders!

For anyone looking to come out to Australia to travel and work, UltimateOz is definitely one hell of an awesome way to get you started! Every now and then, someone writes a blog post about their week with us or even makes an amazing video montage. However, have you ever wondered what’s it’s like on the other side? The tour leaders view?

Having worked as a group tour leader with UltimateOz for a while now, I get people saying to me every week “man, you have the best job!!” or “doesn’t your job get boring doing the same thing every single week?”

Well, hopefully this will give you a bit of an insight into our world. The UltimateOz tour leader world. So here it is…

A Week in the Life of an UltimateOz Tour Leader.

At the moment, while it’s Summer, we have two groups a week that start with us. There are six of us who lead the groups so three of us start with the Monday group and the other three start with the Thursday group.

I always find the first day the most nerve racking. Until we meet the groups, everyone is just a name on a list and we have no idea what anyone is like. It’s like being given a box of chocolates without the card to tell you what’s what.

After we pick the group up from Wake Up hostel, we bring everyone over to the UltimateOz HQ to go through the itineraries for the week before we head out on the City walk. By this point, we’re already starting to see who the jokers of the week are!

Party Night with UltimateOz!Usually by the welcome drinks in Side bar on the first night you can start to see some good friendships forming. Quite a few people usually find each other online before they get here using our ‘Meet your group’ service, so a lot of people will have already spoken a lot online or even met up back home before they come out here. In every group there’s always a few shy or nervous people who take a little longer to relax and get speaking to people. I totally relate to these guys!! I mean, you’re in a brand new country, on your own, and you’re thrown into a large group of people from all over the world!! I’ve been there myself, and it IS terrifying!! This is where we step in. As group leaders we want everyone to have a good time and not worry about anything. Sometimes people just need a little longer to feel at ease but normally after a few conversations people are happy to open up and get chatting to the rest of the group.

The welcome drinks can go one of two ways…

1- Everyone is tired from the long flight, or aren’t interested in partying so head to bed around 10 – 11 pm. Job done, we go home and get an early night.
2- Everyone is tired from the long flight but are way too excited about their first big night out in Sydney so go absolutely crazy and start ordering in the Jagerbombs. Job done, everyone’s having an awesome night and we party on with them till the early hours!

UltimateOz does Rockfish

Depending on which way the night went, the next morning we find that people are either fresh for the Harbour cruise, or hungover!! I really think that the Harbour cruise is one of my favourite parts of the week. As far as jobs go, taking people on a boat around Sydney harbour, cooking a barbecue off the back of the boat and taking pictures of people and jumping off the top of the boat to have a swim is one hell of an amazing job to be doing! Seeing people having an amazing time on the harbour with new friends after arriving in the country only a few days ago is such a good feeling! I do get slightly sea sick in rough water though … usually I’m fine because we’re in the harbour and it’s pretty calm until I have to go and do the washing up in the kitchen underneath the deck.. The windows down there are at sea level so any slight movement feels like the whole boat is rocking. I’ve learnt to become a master at speed dish washing!

 

So, Day 3, in this case Wednesday means only one thing…. BASECAMP!!!!

Basecamp is by far the best part of the week! For both me and the group! For them it means sandboarding, seeing an amazing view from Tomaree head national park and going on a dolphin cruise, and for me it means getting to do all these awesome things on a weekly basis!!!

UltimateOz group at BaseCampWhen we get to our accommodation at Basecamp it feels like home!! I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of being at here, cuddling Josie (the resident and adorable kangaroo) and relaxing in the Aussie bush!  I love seeing peoples faces when they first get here – it’s hard to explain but it’s just got such a great feeling about it and for most people it’s the first time they’ve seen the Aussie bush. It makes such a difference to the hustle and bustle of Sydney (however much we love it!) One of the things I love most about Basecamp is how everyone gets chatting to each other! Until this point in the week people will have made one or two friends in the group.. but at Basecamp, these friend circles expand massively!! I love seeing the quietest person in the group really come out of their shell and make a good bunch of friends.

As I mentioned, Basecamp is the most exciting, activity filled part of the week! For us, the group leaders, it can get quite tiring as it’s pretty much non stop, but the fun makes up for it 100%!  On a night, we get the groups playing games, have some food and those who want to, have a few drinks. We take everyone down to the beach and set up a fire for a beach party! You can’t beat dancing on the beach to good tunes with new mates! The sky is so clear at Basecamp and the stars are incredible! As a tour leader it’s my responsibility to look after people and make sure that everyone is safe and having a good time. It’s completely understandable that some people get a little too excited, maybe drink a little too much and say: “Let’s go for a midnight swim in the ocean!!!!” That’s why I’m there- so that people can have fun but they’re not alone in a foreign country without anyone to keep an eye on them and above all they’re safe!

These nights are usually so much fun that nobody wants to sleep.. try getting to bed at 4am and getting up the next morning at 8am to wake everyone up! I think I’ve learnt to survive on 4 hours sleep per night by now! Don’t get me wrong, it can be tiring, but as I’ve said before, the fun makes up for it! It’s not like I have to go and sit in an office for 8 hours…we’re about to go sandboarding! Who can’t get excited about that- however tired or hungover you are!?

Sandboarding at BaseCamp

The last day at Basecamp is the dolphin cruise. I’m pretty sure my friends back home in England are starting to hate me, as every single dolphin cruise I’ve been on for the past month I’ve sent them all a snapchat of the amazing weather, the beautiful views and, of course, some dolphins swimming past with the caption reading “Working hard again!” It’s on days like these where I really have to pinch myself and remind myself just how lucky I am to have such an amazing job!!

After the bus trip back to Sydney (usually spent catching up on an hours sleep) I normally chill out and relax on the couch in front of the TV and have an early night – Running on a total of 7 hours sleep in 2 days really catches up with you so it’s time to recuperate!

Saturday is spent taking the group on the Coogee to Bondi beach walk. Getting the group together and on the same bus can take a bit of extra organisation but once we arrive in Coogee ready to start the 6km walk and people have had time to grab some brekkie, everyone is in good spirits!  All we need to do is take a nice leisurely walk along the coast stopping at some amazing view points. The coast is gorgeous and visiting 5 beautiful beaches along the way makes me feel so lucky to be here! Again, sometimes I find it hard to believe that I’m actually getting paid to do something which most people look forward to doing on their days off!

Party Night with UltimateOz!In the evening, it’s the party night, the bar crawl!! It’s so much fun and even though I don’t have to go for ‘work’, I still go every week! It’s the perfect opportunity to have fun with the group. I love the end of the week when people who, at the start of the week were nervous to talk to people, have now made a great bunch of friends who they’re partying with and making plans with for the rest of their time here.

 

UltimateOz at BaseCampI always think that if everyone in my group leaves the week having had a great time, with at least one or two good friends, then I’ve done my job right. I tend to keep in touch with people I’ve met in the groups too- they’re part of the Ultimate family now and meeting new people is one of the best things about the job!

So yeah, that pretty much sums up a week in the life a group leader for UltimateOz.

“If you do a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life!”

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Chinese New Year in Sydney

Sydney- You’ve done it again! What an awesome city we live in! This year Sydney is hosting one of the biggest celebrations of Chinese New year in the world (outside of China) so get ready for a month of parades, Chinese food, traditional dancing and art exhibitions!

The festivities are kicking off this Friday starting with the official (free) launch with the Lord Mayor of Sydney at Dawes point from 7pm. We’re really looking forward to seeing the ‘Terracotta army’ exhibition inspired by the ancient Chinese Terracotta warriors glowing against Sydney harbour. There will be food trucks, traditional drumming and lion dancing (traditional Chinese dancing in case you were wondering!) If you miss the launch check out the Terracotta Army exhibition anytime from dusk til midnight from Friday until Sunday 22nd Feb.

This year it’s the year of the sheep, a particularly lucky year in the Chinese calendar and also my birth year so I’m excited to get involved in the celebrations! Here’s are the events I’d recommend checking out over the next month..

If you’re wondering what to do for valentines day this Saturday and you enjoy Asian grub, head to Sydney’s Chinatown, Thaitown and Koreatown* for the Chinese Lunar Street’s festival. The streets will be set up with outdoor tables with restaurants offering traditional dishes from China, Thailand and Korea. After you’ve had a bite to eat, head to the Chinese garden of friendships in Darling harbour for the twilight tea party (7pm-11pm) to check out contemporary Chinese art and calligraphy.

If you’re a foodie don’t miss the Lunar markets in Pyrmont from this Thursday until the 22nd Feb from 5pm most days.

The highlight of the month ( I believe!) is the Chinese New year twilight parade which kicks off at Sydney’s Town hall at 8pm on Sunday 22nd Feb. Head down to follow the lanterns, floats and light projections through Chinatown ending up in Darling Harbour for the fireworks- it’s all free!

Chinese boat racing is coming to Sydney! Head to Darling harbour on the 28th Feb and 1st march at 9am to check out the 12 metre long boats racing (an ancient Chinese tradition.)

There are loads more free events and exhibitions going on to celebrate Chinese new year so check out the official website for more details.

Happy Chinese New Year, enjoy the food and celebrations!  See you all at the parade!

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*Chinatown: Sussex Street, between Goulburn and Hay Streets

Thaitown: Campbell Street, between George and Pitt Streets

Koreatown: Pitt Street, between Central and Liverpool Streets

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Why You Should Do Your Farm Work

If you’ve come to Australia on a working holiday visa, we’ve every confidence that you are going to fall in love and not want to leave … so, you’ll probably be wanting to do some farm work so that you qualify for a second year.

I know what you might be thinking (if you’re anything like I was)! Ugh … farm work! But it’s actually not as bad as it sounds, I promise!

Even though three months/88 days on a farm might sound like it is your worst nightmare, there are a lot of good reasons to get it done, the second year being only one of them!

A new experience!

A lot of people who I met doing my farm work had never even stepped on to a farm before they arrived! It’s something new and different that you’ll probably only get to do this once … you didn’t come all the way to Australia to only do what you would normally do at home! You came to try new things, go to new places, meet new people from different walks of life to yourself. Working on a farm is a great way to tick all those boxes!

Farm Work in Australia

Money, money, money!

Farming is a GREAT way to save for whatever new adventures you have planned. Most of the time, you are in a small town, or sometimes, the middle of nowhere, working most of the day and most of the week and you don’t really get the chance to spend what you are earning! When I did my farm work, all I had to pay was my rent and buy food/drink … I didn’t have much time for anything else. The money that I saved during my farm work funded the whole of my East Coast trip, including all my activities and meant that when I got to Sydney, I didn’t have to stress about finding work immediately, because I was still ok for a couple of weeks!

Personal reasons to do farm work!

Remember what you’re doing your farm work for!

The second year visa!

It goes without saying that if you do fall in love with Australia and decide you want to stay longer or come back for another year at a later date, then you pretty much have no choice … regional/farm work is one of the only ways that can happen! Not all good things come for free eh!

The friends you make!

When I did my farm work, I lived in a working hostel with about 50 other people. We were a family! We worked, lived, ate together, we got each other through when farming got hard and we were exhausted, or when we were missing home, and we shared some very fun times! The friends I made while doing my farm work made the experience what it was and I’ll always remember them, whether we have kept in touch since or not! I now actually live with my best mate who is one of the girls I did my farm work with … we’ve known each other for nearly two years! But we never would have met if it wasn’t for our farm work!

Farm Work in Australia

Great friends and great memories!

 

I’m not going to lie, farm work was hard, a lot of the time. It was long hours and sometimes we went days without a day off (I think the most days we did in a row was 19! (And there were other farms that beat that!) But what I got from farming was well worth absolutely all of it! I got to stay in Australia (and went on to get sponsored,) I met some awesome people, and most importantly (or not) I now know just about everything there is to know about melons! Like, literally everything! Haha. At the end of the day, it is what you make it, so you may as well embrace it!

If you’re thinking of doing your farm work, it can be a bit daunting when you start to look for somewhere. I have a few tips for you:
• Try and get a job that offers an hourly rate rather than a piece rate – you’re more likely to earn more!
• Be wary of bogus job ads – If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!
• Be open minded about what you do – you may not like cows but cattle mustering might turn out to be something really fun!
• Don’t give up! The first couple of weeks were really hard for me, and they probably will be for you too – stick with it, it gets easier!

Embrace it - you'll have more fun!

It can be fun if you let it!Farm work in Australia

If you are looking for farm work, contact the team in the office and they may be able to point you in the right direction of a few places! There’s also this really handy guide we made, about what is happening in each state depending on the seasons:

Ultimate Guide to Farm Work in Australia

Any questions – give us a shout! We’re here to help!

Good luck!

Gayle xx

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Sydney Markets

Sydney is a beautiful city and has a lot to offer! The shopping is great and you’ll be able to find pretty much anything you’re looking for somewhere in Sydney, whether that be in the Westfield buildings in the CBD or in Bondi Junction, or the beautiful cobblestone laneways in the Rocks. Saying that, some of the shops can be a little pricey so if you want to pick up some bargains make sure you check out these Sydney markets:

The Rocks Markets

More of an ‘upmarket’ market the Rocks markets offer one-off jewellery, original artworks and hand made designer clothing (made by the stall owners themselves!) It has a relaxed atmosphere where you can wander through the lanes and browse through all of the stalls at your own pace and is well worth a visit if you’re looking for a chilled afternoon in the sun close to the many bars and restaurants in the Rocks and Sydney’s Circular Quay! The markets are open every weekend (Saturday & Sunday.) If you’re a food lover check out the Rocks Friday foodie market every Friday in the same location!

Sydney Fish market

Visit a fish market you say?! Sydney fish market is the 3rd biggest fish market in the world in terms of variety and is well worth a visit whilst in Sydney. If you’re not a big fan of seafood, it’s still pretty cool to check out all of the different varieties of fish including shark, eel, tuna and oysters. If you’re a fan, grab a seafood platter find a seat outside in the sun (whilst trying to bat the seagulls away!) Catch a demonstration or even better; book yourself on to a cooking class to create your own fishy dish! Sydney fish market is open every day from 7am apart from Christmas day.

Bondi markets

Bondi is not only home to one of the world’s most famous beaches and the beautiful lifeguards of Bondi rescue but also to an awesome little Sydney market! Pick up original designer clothing, exotic imports, hand made jewellery, arts, crafts, homewares, retro furniture, vintage clothes and in true Bondi style..a little something for your pooch! Located right on the beachfront, make sure you check out Bondi markets before your beach session! The markets are open every Sunday from 10am-4pm. For food, also check out the farmers markets in the same location on Saturdays!

Paddy’s market

Paddy’s markets in the centre of Sydney’s China town district are the biggest in Sydney. There’s a food market where you can pick up fresh Asian groceries and a larger underground market area where you can pick up almost anything! Stalls are laden with trinkets and Australian souvenirs, fashion, CD’s, gifts and gadgets. Even if you’re not looking to buy, check out the markets for the experience and try not to get lost- it’s pretty big! Paddy’s markets are open Wednesday to Sundays from 10am-6pm.

Balmain markets

Sydney’s 3rd Oldest market (established in 1977) is not to be missed! Located on Balmain’s highstreet in the courtyard of St Andrew’s church, the Balmain markets are small but well worth a visit! Find art, furniture, handicrafts and jewellery here along with fashion and vintage collectibles. Check it out every Saturday (weather permitting) from 8.30am- 4pm.

Paddington market

Check out Paddington markets located near Sydney’s famous Oxford Street to pick up fashion accessories, textiles, records, jewellery and Aussie made goods. It’s also home to a big collection of health and beauty products and some great homewares. Not looking to shop? Wonder around the food stalls and pick up some Turkish and Himalayan cuisine, chocolate and breads. The markets are open every Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

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6 things to keep in mind before starting your Ultimate trip in Oz

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already booked your 7 day Sydney package with UltimateOz- great choice! 😉 This means that we will be organising all of the boring bits for you (bank account, tax file number, SIM card etc) so that you can enjoy the fun bits! Yay!

We are here to support you with anything you may need, not only during the UltimateOz week, but throughout your time in Australia! Saying that, it’s good to be prepared so we’ve put together 6 things to think about before starting your working holiday visa in Australia:

Plan your year

It’s great to leave your options open when travelling- you never know who you’ll meet during your travels and what awesome opportunities may come up along the way! This being said, having a rough plan can help you make sure you’re spending your time down under in the best way possible whilst saving some of your hard earned pennies! When booking trips and tours, you’ll get the best deals if you book a travel package before you get to Australia. For example if you’ve always dreamed of doing a skydive and the famous East coast of Australia is high up on your bucket list, you’ll be better off booking an East coast package that includes your travel, accommodation and your tours in advance rather than booking and paying for them separately as you travel.With these pre-paid packages you can still travel flexibly- tickets are valid for a year so you can just book as you go- sweet! Check out the 30 day Ultimate East Coast package online.

A little word of advice..Roughly planning your trip before you start will also help you avoid this common scenario: Spending all of your money within the first 2 weeks of your trip, boozing your way around Sydney backpacker bars leaving you with no money to travel after- Fail! It’s happened before..let’s not let it happen again! 😉

The UltimateOz travel and work info session, during your first week with us, will also give you travel ideas and our lovely travel team will be here to answer any questions you have! Get in touch if you need help planning or want to chat!

Finding work in Oz 

Luckily, there are lots of great backpacker jobs available in Australia including fruit picking/farm work, bar/restaurant and cafe work, office/admin roles and construction. With a good resume, a well written cover letter and a good attitude; your chances of finding work quickly are good- phew!

If you’re looking to start work as soon as you get here, start writing your CV before you arrive. This way when you get here, you can focus on having fun, chilling at the beach, meeting people and settling into Sydney life instead of writing your CV! Keep it on a USB or send yourself an email with the document attached so that you can find and edit it when you get to Sydney. As part of the UltimateOz package, you’ll get a 12 month membership to our online jobs database, Travellers at work and of course the legendary Travellers at Work team will be here to give you all of the help and support you may need to search for a job in Australia. It’s a good idea to check that your last employer is happy to provide you with a (good 😉 ) reference whilst you’re in Australia and that they’re happy to receive emails/phone calls from your potential Aussie employers. If not, maybe they will be happy to write a letter of recommendation for you instead. Check out the Travellers at Work website for hints & tips on writing your CV.

Suitcase or Backpack?

Not sure whether to bring a backpack or a suitcase on your gap year? You’re not alone! A lot of the time the answer just comes down to personal preference but there are some factors worth thinking about before you choose! Think about what type of travelling you’ll be doing when you get here. Are you planning on living in one place for a while? Or will you mostly be travelling around? Remember that what you bring with you is yours to carry (or drag) around for the duration of your trip so ladies leave as much of your wardrobe as possible at home! 😉 Whichever type of luggage you decide on, above all try to travel light! Travelling through Asia before you get to Oz? Read our packing tips for Asia blog.

Keep in touch

Do you want the good or the bad news first? The bad news.. It’ll cost you around $3 per hour to use the internet at an internet cafe in Sydney. The good news? Wifi with UltimateOz is FREEEEE! Included in your package, you’ll get free wifi access at the UltimateOz HQ for the duration of your trip so just bring your tablet or laptop in to the shop during office hours and we’ll hook you up! If you haven’t already, set up a Skype account to keep in touch with friends and family at home for free! It’s also worth getting your phone unlocked (to accept an Australian phone SIM card) before you arrive in Sydney. It’s generally cheaper to unlock your phone in your home country (It costs approximately $100-$150 to get it done in Sydney.) Lots of phone top up options include internet access so if you haven’t already, download Viber, Whatsapp and Facetime (for iPhone users) to stay connected with people at home!

Money, money, money

We will have your bank account set up and ready to use when you get here so you don’t need to worry about a thing! We do recommend transferring your money into your Aussie bank account before you arrive so that you can use it straight away and to avoid international bank charges when using your card abroad. If you can, transfer your money over to your Aussie account in one go to avoid being charged by your bank for multiple transactions and remember that International transfers usually take between 3-5 days to complete so if you leave it until the last minute just bring enough cash with you to last you until the money has been transferred. It’s also worth letting your bank know where you’ll be travelling- If you do need to use your card from home, the bank won’t flag it as a suspicious transaction and block the payment leaving you borrowing money off your new friends!

Which documents will I need for my year down under?

Not many! Aside from the obvious (Passport and drivers license),  and thanks to the beauty of modern technology, you won’t need to bring all of your documents to Australia with you! Bring a copy of your passport and drivers license along with your flight details, tickets and travel insurance and scan any other important documents (such as health card) to your computer. Email the documents to yourself so that they can be found easily if needed!

You won’t need your counterpart driver’s license or your birth certificate so they can be left with someone from home. Bear in mind that to apply for Medicare (Aussie health service) you’ll need a copy of your passport and a printout of your visa so if you want to be extra prepared, bring extra copies!

Looking forward to seeing you all in then near future!

Remember that we are here (and happy) to help you and if you have any questions just get in touch!

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Ultimate Guide to the Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is the race that stops the nation. If you’ve never been in Australia for Melbourne Cup Day, be prepared for November 3rd as the entire country will slam to a halt and turn on the TV for the gem of Australia’s horse racing calendar!

The two mile race at Melbourne’s famed Flemington race-track has been run since 1861 and features a prize purse of over $6 million – not bad for about 3 minutes of work! The Melbourne Cup is second only to the Dubai World Cup in terms of prize money so this is about as big as it gets in the horse racing world!

24 horses and jockeys take to the start line and the runners and riders will be announced on Saturday November 1st. You can float a wager now, if you’d like but it’s probably a good idea to wait and see who’s running!

Trainers, horses and jockeys come from across the globe to take part in this esteemed flat race so expect to see Irish, English, French and Japanese interests represented somewhere along the line. Last year, former England and Liverpool striker Michael Owen had a horse in the big race!!

Tuesday November 3rd is the date to remember as the Melbourne Spring Carnival will be well under way. The Melbourne Cup begins at 3pm and is the seventh race out of ten on the big day.

Expect offices across the country to empty out while bars all over Australia boom! If you’re working over here, you’ll no doubt be offered a punt in the office sweep so try and pick a winner!

If you happen to be in Melbourne on the day of the race, why not take a trip to the track and chance your luck?! Over 104 000 people attended race day last year making the Melbourne Cup one of the biggest horse racing events in the world – even outside of horse racing it’s rare to get over 100 000 people at a sporting event!

It’s all a bit of good fun but Australian’s drop about $100 million on bets on the big race each year! Get down to your local bookies and put $5 on something you like the look of – who knows what could happen!?

The other big aspect of the Melbourne Cup is the fashion. Expect to see fascinators galore if you’re watching the coverage on TV or heading to the race track. Ladies and gents throw on their glad rags and get to betting – until the end of the day when you’ll see a bunch of guys with untucked shirts and jackets strewn across shoulders and girls carrying their painful and expensive high heels on the waltz home.

Pretty much every bar, club, restaurant (basically any venue with a TV) will be showing the Melbourne Cup so keep your eyes peeled on your favourite bar and see what they’re offering. If you feel all flush with cash, pick somewhere fancy and go all out with a champagne reception alongside the drinks!

Whatever you’re doing on Tuesday 3rd, make time at 3pm for a true Australian experience. The nation does stop for a couple of minutes each November and it’s your turn to join the party!!

Interested in heading to Melbourne for the big race? Fancy getting out here in time for next year’s big race? Get in touch and we’ll  get you sorted with an UltimateOz experience of a lifetime!

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Is The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb Worth it?

In a word – yes. In several hundred other words, I’ll explain why.

I turned 25 recently (thanks for all the cards guys…) and for my birthday, my significant other surprised me with a the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb experience!

We’ve both lived in Sydney close to a year now and see the bridge a lot. We’ve seen the little dots of people zipping up and down the bridge at all hours of the day, in all kinds of weather and have had a kind of muted desire to get up there ourselves.

I love Sydney Harbour. I think the day you get bored of seeing the Opera House and the Bridge, that’s when you’re done in Australia (I’m still not bored, so I’ll stick it out).

When it was announced that on the morning of September 28th (keep it in the diary for next year, kids) we’d be heading up the Bridge ourselves, I kind of didn’t know what to think.

I’d seen the price of the climb and, thankfully, we were going out of season so it is much less expensive than it could be. We also opted for a day-time slot rather than the more expensive dawn or dusk options.

You'll need these if you want to head up the Bridge!

The hot tickets for the Bridge Climb

We’ll get the prices out of the way first so you know what’s going on. A daytime climb depending on the time of year you go sets you back $248-$268, a twilight climb is $308-$348, a night climb is $218-$228 and a dawn climb is $348-$358.

It is a big chunk of money. Luckily, we had it thanks to a couple of jobs that pay us pretty well (I’d still take a pay rise though…) and a house-share which doesn’t set us back too much money.

You’ve got to arrive for your climb and hour before your designated time, you check in with the lovely ladies at reception and then wait for a bit.

One thing to remember, and the first thing you’re asked to do when you arrive is to puff a breathalyser test. You can’t climb the bridge with alcohol in your system so if you plan on hitting the bridge – lay off the goon the night before.

You’re then taken through the motions of getting ready to climb. You have to wear a very trendy jumpsuit, put clips on your sunglasses so they don’t fall off and are given a lovely baseball cap to wear if you so desire.

Doesn't everyone look good in a jumpsuit?

The Bridge Climb jumpsuits – the spring/summer collection.

After the awkward ‘tell us a fact about you’ ice-breaker, you and your group head to the bridge simulator.

How awesome does a bridge simulator sound?! It’s actually a couple of ladders and a bit of scaffolding that your guide gets to demonstrate the correct ladder technique on!

Once we were fully ladder qualified it was time to clip in and get walking.

Our group of about 20 was a mixed bag. At 25, I was the youngest so that gives you a bit of an idea of the crowd to expect. As you walk underneath the bridge itself to start with, your guide tells you a bit of the history of the area and how the bridge was constructed. All good pub quiz knowledge.

Then come the ladders. Fresh off our training, we head up…and up…and up…

The first ladder is about 50 metres off the ground (you’re walking below the road at this point) and by the time you finish you’re on the bridge proper as the traffic flies by.

Once the set of four ladders are out the way, the views starts to unfold. You head north up the bridge, stopping along the way for some photos that your guide takes and continue with a bit of the history of the city itself.

The view is spectacular the whole way. I love a tall building whatever city I’m in, I always want to head up the highest point and check it out. While the bridge isn’t the highest point in the city it’s the feeling of being somewhere you probably shouldn’t be that makes the view so special.

I’ve never been on top of a bridge so I can’t really compare it to my previous bridge climbs but in comparison with say, the Westfield Tower in Sydney, it is totally different.

The Westfield is a bit dull. It’s the same old tall building schtick. You go up in a really quick elevator, have a look around, marvel at people actually paying for those binocular things and then head back down.

It happened to be an absolutely glorious day when we took our climb so that helps but we could see for miles whichever way we looked.

The view from the afternoon.

It never rains in Sydney (note: it sometimes rains in Sydney).

The peak of the bridge is 138 metres above the harbour and it gets pretty windy even on a relatively calm day like the day we reached the summit. The flags wave triumphantly above you and the view makes you gasp.

The Opera House is the standout of course but the city gleams behind you and the traffic whizzes below. The harbour, it’s expanse of blue dotted with sailboats and ferries is way bigger than you think and you can even glimpse the Blue Mountains in the distance.

It’s tough to describe what is so good about the Bridge Climb. Once you’re at the top you realise what you’re doing. The bridge itself is such a feat of engineering (3 million steel rivets by my count) and you get a feeling of the huge nothingness that the first European settlers much have sailed into.

When we were at the top, some guy proposed to his girlfriend (she said yes, everyone cheered, other boyfriends felt uncomfortable) before we head directly over the bridge and on to the other side for the descent.

You try and savour every moment while you’re up there and you do get a fair amount of time at the summit before plodding off to take a few more photos on the way back down.

Then come the ladders. It’s time to go down them and it takes a few in our group a while to navigate – they should have paid attention in ladder school – before we are eventually back on terra firma and we get to take the jumpsuits off.

The photos are all available for purchase (obv.) and they are a bit of a rip off at $15 a pop but how often do you get a snap at the top of a world landmark?

That’s the thing about it, you are up one of the most recognisable structures in the world, looking over one of the most recognisible places in the world and both are truly unique. The Hancock Tower and the Empire State Building give you an idea of the sprawl of their respective cities, the London Eye gives you a different perspective on the Thames and its surrounds but the bridge climb and Sydney itself are one-of-a-kind.

It is expensive, you’ll get no argument from me on that front, but it is definitely worth it just so every time you see the bridge you can think ‘I’ve been up that!’

If you’re pockets aren’t that deep, make sure you check out the pylon on the bridge (one of the big granite blocks at either end of the bridge). The easiest one to access, city side near The Rocks, is also a viewing platform which gives you an idea of the view you get up the top for $12.

It isn’t the same though. Nothing is the same as walking up those many steps to the peak of the bridge and gazing out over one of the greatest cities in the world.

Do it.

If you want to book a Bridge Climb with UltimateOz, get in touch with us and we’ll see what we can do!

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Working Holiday or Tourist Visa In Australia?

I’ll apologise right away for the following obvious statement…if you are planning your trip to Australia with UltimateOz, you’re going to need a visa to get in the country.

Get that, visa = entry to Australia? Good.

Now, which visa should you get, a working holiday visa or a tourist visa? I’m glad I asked as both visas are a great way to get into Australia and take a look around. The most important thing to stress here is visas aren’t set in stone.

You are probably able to get either a tourist visa or working holiday visa of some kind to get into Australia but it depends on the country your passport was issued by so run that by the Department of Immigration before you book anything!

Now we’ve got the legal bit out the way, we can get on with the comparison – should you go for a working holiday or tourist visa in Australia?

Who Can Get Each Visa?

A tourist visa is pretty much open to anyone who wants to come to Australia but there are different classes of tourist visa for different nations. Pretty much every country in Europe can get an eVisitor visa (subclass 651) when they come to Australia – you apply online (or with us) and it is all taken care of.

Other visitors – take note those from the America’s – have to get a different visa but it is still pretty stress free. The Electronic Travel Authority visa (subclass 601) is an online form, costs $20 and takes about a day to be processed. This is the one for Canada/United States so take a look.

With working holiday visas, it’s a little different. Again, there are two visa options the subclass 417 for the majority of Europeans (Canadians and Japanese too) and the subclass 462 for the United States and a few others. Check the full list of countries here and keep update with any changes via the Immigration website.

The 417 visa is an online form that you can complete at home or in Australia (but you must have an eVisitor if you want to apply from inside Australia).

Do I have to Send My Passport Away or Have an Interview?

If you’ve been through the rigmarole of getting a visa for another country (I’m looking at you America) then you might be worried that it’ll take ages to get your Australia visa. Worry not, as the system is pretty much all online and can be sorted in a matter of days.

If you want to head to your nearest Australian embassy or immigration office then that is an option (as is a postal application) but online is much easier and quicker.

Each visa has certain requirements that need to be met before you apply and a list of documents for each visa can be found on the Department of Immigration website. Once you’re application is lodged the visa should be confirmed in a matter of days although the Department of Immigration ask to leave about two weeks for the application process just in case.

After your application has been lodged, you’ll get an email decision and your visa is automatically updated to your passport electronically and you’re good to go! You can print your visa decision if you want, just to make sure you have a physical copy of something but you won’t get a visa stuck in your passport like other countries.

How Long Are They?

Well, a tourist visa gives you three months in Australia and a working holiday visa gives you (at least) a year but that depends on the visa you get.

A 417 visa lasts a year but you can complete three months of regional work to get a second year visa, the 462 visa doesn’t offer this option. Your second year visa can be taken immediately after your first year or anytime before you turn 31, it’s up to you!

What Do They Let Me Do?

The biggest difference (aside from how long you get in Australia) is that on a tourist visa you can’t work and on a working holiday visa…well, the clue is in the name!

You can only work for six months for one employer and you can study for up to four months too (if you want to), they are the main rules around your working holiday visa no matter what country you’re from.

Your working holiday visa also allows you to enter and exit the country as many times as you like during the period of your visa whereas a tourist visa has to be renewed every time you want to leave and re-enter.

How Much Are They?

Good question! The visa prices change all the time so it’s tough to pinpoint an exact price.

The eVisitor visa for a tourist from the European Union is free of charge if you do it yourself and an ETA Visa is $20.

Working holiday visas are more expensive. If you do the visa yourself on the Department of Immigration website, it’ll set you back $420. You can ask us to take care of it for you when you book your UltimateOz trip by selecting the visa addon for your UltimateOz tour – this takes the hassle and paper-work out of your hands and leaves it with the experts!

How Many Times Can I Get Them?

You can get as many tourist visas as you want, there is no limit but it will look a bit dodgy if you keep dipping out of the country every three months and heading straight back in.

With your working holiday visa you get one unless you do the regional work. The option of the regional work is only there for those on the 417 visa not the 462 – so if you’re American…sorry.

With each visa option, you get a year to enter the country and as soon as you enter, your visa begins.

Which Visa Is Right For Me?

At the end of it all, it depends what you want to do in Australia. If you want all the benefits of living and working in Australia for a prolonged period of time, then you’re all about the working holiday visa.

If you are stopping in Australia for a couple of months on a round the world trip then the tourist visa will be just fine for what you need and if you love Australia, you can always come back for a year or two on your working holiday visa!

The important thing with a working holiday visa is not to waste it. If you’re only coming to Australia for a month then what’s the point in wasting a year long visa? You may think you’ll find work right away (and you might) but imagine someone turning up in your home country for a month, expecting to work before they move somewhere else. Seems a bit far fetched! You only get one shot at your working holiday so weigh up all of your options before deciding what to do!

If you’ve got any other questions about your visa for Australia or about living and working in Australia in general, let us know by email, in the comments below or on Facebook!

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Where Is Your Dream Destination?

A new poll conducted by MasterCard has shown that Australia is the dream destination for British travellers but nearly 90% said they’d never make it Down Under! Why not?!

Australia has always been an ideal place for Brits looking to travel. It is pretty much the total opposite of home without a language barrier. It’s a country that is well-travelled and squarely on the beaten track but it offers wilderness alongside the usual tourist spots like no other country.

It may be a long flight (it feels every minute of it too) but that shouldn’t stop you from making a go of it Down Under. Once you’ve done the flight, the fun begins!

90% of those asked in the MasterCard survey said they would never make it to Australia! If you’re dream destination is Australia (or Thailand and Vietnam) Ultimate Travel make it easier than ever to explore the world.

Our team of experts make travelling through Australia an amazing, life-changing experience that is perfectly tailored to suit you. Want to explore the remote parts of the country like Kakadu or Western Australia? We can help you. Prefer to stick where the party is on the East Coast? We can help with that too!

Australia is, rightly, considered a dream destination. I’m British and can see why so many people love the idea of Australia but the reality is so much more than expected.

Australia is such an amazing country that just blows my mind. Spend a Sunday sitting on Bondi Beach and compare it with whatever you’d do on an average Sunday at home. Explore Melbourne one Saturday and see how it stacks up with a city break anywhere in Britain.

It’s a bit of an unfair comparison but Australia trounces Britain every chance it gets!

Home will always have that special place in your heart. It’s your family and friends, your favourite bar or restaurant and those awesome home comforts but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Think about what you want to tell your kids in 30 years time. Either you stayed in the same place for your entire life or you had a couple of months or years exploring the other side of the world. Meeting heaps of new people, experiencing all kinds of new things, jumping out of planes, scuba diving one of the natural wonders of the world….come on!!

Sorry to get a little carried away there but I’m a bit of an Australian-evangelist! No matter what you come to Australia for, whether it is a month long adventure or two years of living and working, your dream is much closer than you realise.

Save the money, book the time off, research as much as possible and ask us as many questions as you like! Make your dream a reality with Ultimate Travel!

Where is your dream destination? Dreaming of a life Down Under or an Ultimate Trip to Thailand or Vietnam? where do you think we should fly the Ultimate banner next?? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook!

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How To Save Money In Australia.

Once you’ve arrived in Australia, you’ll quickly realise it’s a pretty expensive place! Don’t worry though, with our help you’ll learn how to save money in Australia and getting ready for your next big adventure!

This is the boring bit of travelling but it has to be done. If you want to dive on the Great Barrier Reef, jump out of a plane, bungee jump, rent a campervan for an epic road-trip – whatever it is – you’re going to need money!

Saving starts before your trip begins so start making sacrifices at home for the good of your trip abroad! Think about it, don’t go to your local and spend the money on booze in Australia! You do not need those jeans but you do need to see the Great Barrier Reef!

When you get over here though, there are a few things you can do to get yourself in the best position possible for the rest of your time in Australia.

Get a Job

It’s an absolute pain (and painfully obvious) but it has to be done. Our amazing TAW service can help you find work quickly right the way across Australia and in a whole heap of different industries.

Whether you just want a job for a few weeks or whether you are after more meaningful work, TAW can help you out. Our awesome TAW staff can go over your CV, help with job applications and cover letters and tell you all you need to know about your visa, your farm work, your tax and how to claim it back!

The Farming  Question

If you’re in Australia on a working holiday, I’m sure you’ll have given your farm work at least some thought. For the uninitiated, if you work for three months in agriculture in a specified area of Australia, you are able to apply for another working holiday visa to be used anytime before you turn 31.

Farming is the easiest of the specified work to find and can be a great opportunity to save some money but it is really tough work.

Many farm jobs include accommodation, food and wages and because of the location – make saving much easier. It is harder to spend your money when you live on a farm an hour and a half away from the nearest shop!

Be wary with some farmers and their promises though. A lot of them will want you to work cash-in-hand (which is illegal) and may not pay you on time or at all. There are millions of great farmers in Australia to work for so just keep your wits about you and you’ll be saving heaps.

Buy Groceries

If you are back in the city or need to buy your own food on the farm don’t fall into the eating out trap. I’m not talking about Michelin starred restaurants but three kebabs a week and a pizza can soon add up.

Get to Coles or Woolworths armed with a shopping list and start saving money! Make big batches of stuff – a massive bolognaise will last you ages and work for lunches and dinners!

When you’re at the supermarket, head for the deli counter. Your jaw will hit the floor when you see how much a packet of 2 chicken breasts can cost in Australia and if you hit the deli up for the same weight in chicken thighs, you’ll save a fortune! Don’t be put off by the price per kilo, it looks expensive but it is well cheaper than the alternative.

Share A Place

The accommodation question is always an interesting one. Once you’ve finished your UltimateOz trip, it is highly likely that you’ll either live with or travel with someone that you met on your group – trust us, it happens every single week of the year!

If you come into Ultimate Travel HQ in Sydney or get in touch with us online, we can sort you out with a bunch of viewings with our mates over at Furnished Property. These guys are shared accommodation specialists and they can normally find you short-term leases which when you split between a few of, work out a pretty cheap rent. Plus, as their name suggests, they specialise in furnished property so there is no need for you to go and waste money on stuff you’ll only need for a few months.

Hostels are amazing but the bills soon add up when you’re staying there. It isn’t just the fees though, it’s the temptation. How many times have you been sitting in your hostel room when someone has suggested a night out and you’ve gone for it!?

These are always amazing nights out but not the best way to save your cash for a big trip!

Book Travel in Advance and Altogether

Once you’ve done the boring work and saving bit, it’s time to spend the money!!

Whether you are looking at doing a little trip of the whole East Coast, the best way to save money is to book in bulk and with as much time in advance as possible!

UltimateOZ can get you the best rates around on Greyhound tickets, hostels, campervans and every amazing experience you can think of. whether you want to do some white water rafting or a scuba diving course – we’ve got you covered!

You can book tickets open-ended if you do want to have more flexibility but the sooner you can hone in on your plan the better. By booking all of your hostels, experiences and tours together you are given a great bundle rate.

Australia is a great place to live, work and travel plus you can save some money to fund your next travelling adventure! Get in touch with us and we’ll help you organise the best time of your life!!

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Whale Watching in Sydney

So we all know that if we hop on a boat and take a trip out on to the water this time of year, there’s a chance we could see some whales. If you haven’t done a whale watching cruise yet, be sure to add it to your Australia bucket list (and be quick – they aren’t around for much longer after this month!)

I actually had the opportunity to get out and see some whales this weekend and it was such a great experience, I would recommend it to everyone!

We did our whale watching with Sydney Adventure Cruises. Once we left the harbour, it didn’t take long for us to find a good spot where a mother and calf were hanging out. To begin with, they were being a bit shy and, although we saw the odd fin, we didn’t see much more. The girl who was doing the commentary said that they were spending an unusual amount of time under water compared to what they’d seen the rest of the week … typical!

After about an hour though, well it all got a bit exciting! They were coming up for longer, we saw them slapping their fins down and eventually, they got a bit excitable and started jumping in and out the water … a lot! It was amazing!

I did try to take some pictures but felt like an amateur with my camera phone next to all the others who had their big cameras with their wide lenses and fast shutter speeds. So, when I thought I was getting the whale jumping, by the time my phone caught up, I was just getting the splash back! Because of regulations, the boat has to stay 400m away from mother and calves so even though I could see perfectly, it didn’t show up well on screen. Add to that the fact that I couldn’t keep the phone steady because the boat was rocking – well, all I’m saying is not to expect miracles with a camera phone! I did film the whales for a little while and can get some screen shots from the video but eventually, I decided it was much better to look with my eyes and remember it firsthand rather than through a lens!

Things to remember …

Even if you don’t get sea sick, take a tablet just in case! My friend felt quite ill once the boat stopped and I felt a bit queasy (and we had both taken sea sick tablets). There were a few people dotted around who were looking a bit worse for wear! One poor teenage boy barely made it to the sick bag that his mum was frantically pushing towards him (although thank god he did! He was stood right next to me and that could have been disastrous!). When the boat is moving in and out of the harbour, it isn’t too bad but once you stop, depending on the conditions, the boat can get quite rocky. There’s some big waves out there, sometimes they are not your friend!

The good news is, the staff on the boat are ready for this! Take their advice, stay on the lower level of the boat, focus on the horizon, get some fresh air and they’ll give you a ginger beer if you really are suffering. If worse comes to worst, they have enough sick bags to last you a lifetime … don’t be embarrassed and go and hide in the toilet if you do get ill, no one can help you in there and it will only make you feel worse (not to mention it could lead to a line of frustrated fellow whale watchers who are bursting for the loo!)

It’s a good idea to take a jumper or cardigan or some sort … even on a sunny day. It can get a bit windy out there and if you’re there in just your shorts and vest, you may get a little cold. It was 28 degrees when we did it, I took a light cardigan and was still a bit chilly at times.

It goes without saying that you should take sunscreen! I know, I know, I just said that you may get a bit chilly … but that doesn’t mean the sun isn’t beating down on you, it’s just you may not feel it. And that’s the worst, because you don’t think you’re burning but by the time you get to shore, you resemble a tomato, and that is never a good look!

All in all, we had a great time! The staff were great and full of interesting facts, the weather was awesome and we saw a mother and baby have some fun in the water … you can’t argue with that eh! It really is incredible to see these animals in their natural habitat!

There’s so many cool things you can do in Australia, and whale watching is up there on my list of favourite things I’ve done so far! However, my experience wasn’t quite as epic as the one had by this couple on the Gold Coast a few weeks ago! They actually got to swim with a baby humpback whale and it’s mother,  even taking the ultimate selfie … there’s not many people who can say they have swam with whales! Check out the video below – doesn’t it look awesome?! I’m sticking this on my bucket list for 2015 for sure!

Have you been whale watching? Tell us about it! We’d love to see your pics!

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Check Out Art And About Sydney!

Sydney has celebrated some awesome public artwork over the last couple of weeks with Art and About, it’s your last weekend to check it out so get out there and see what it’s all about!

Art and About is yearly festival of crazy art in crazy places. Every public space you can think of becomes open to artistic expression. Whether it is above a building or down an alleyway, on the side of a fountain or in a car park – Sydney is taken over by amazing artwork.

Melbourne normally gets all of the artistic praise when it comes to Australia but Sydney has been buzzing with visitors over the last two weeks wanting to  get a glimpse at some amazing art.

Take a walk down Pitt Street and look up. You’ll see some mammoth graffiti that’ll make for an awesome Instagram. The work – called Here, Now by artist Numskull – is in an amazing location on the corner of Park and Pitt Street and with the surrounding buildings, makes for an impressive sight.

While you’re down there, take a wander through Hyde Park as the cities green space has been taken over by photographers, dancers and shopping trolleys….yes, shopping trolleys!

Trolleys by Shaun Parker & Company is an amazing choreographed routine which is part ballet, part spectacle and part trolley! Dancers take over five shopping trolleys and do some moves you’re going to want to try next time you’re in Coles or Woolies. This is definitely not to be missed just for the wow factor.

Hyde Park also features a couple of photography exhibitions that give you a glimpse at the diversity of Australian life. the park is also home to Neon Nomads – a bunch of neon tepees that flash different images and movies across them. It might sound a bit weird (frankly, it is a bit weird) but it’s pretty cool to check out at night.

The Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park (which you’ll remember from your UltimateOz walking tour!) is home to another strange display of public art called Bodies in Urban Spaces. basically, performers lie, crouch, and squeeze into awkward little places around the fountain and lie there…and stay there…and that’s about it!

Apparently this plays with our perceptions of space and it is pretty crazy to see how brightly coloured people fit into tiny spaces and it does make for a great photo!

The future is here too – you can see a demonstration of 3D printing at the Library of New South Wales and see what the future holds for all of us (hint: 3D printers are going to be big).

Whether you are walking along George Street looking at the banner gallery attached to each lamp post or you take the time out to visit some of the other exhibits, Art and About gives you an idea of what an amazing city Sydney is.

There is no better way to experience the best city in Australia than with an UltimateOz tour. If you’re heading to Australia or are already here – get in touch and we’ll set you up with the best trip of your life!

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Australian Working Holiday Myths

So, you’re thinking about a working holiday visa in Australia?! That is an excellent start but don’t be put off by the many Australian working holiday myths!

You might have heard from a friend of a friend whose cousin moved to Australia in 1998 that certain aspects of the visa are true. Don’t trust the word on the grapevine (the grapevine lies!) everything you need to know about the working holiday visa can be found on our site or by asking one of us!

There are certain myths that surround the working holiday visa and we at Ultimate Travel have decided to debunk them left, right and centre!

The Government Are About to Update the Visa So It’s Two Years Automatically

This is the dream but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.

By completing your farm work, you can stay for a second year visa, but the government has no plans to update the visa regulations so the 417 visa is an automatic two year visa.

The Government continues to update the countries that can apply for a working holiday visa (Poland and Uruguay, welcome to the club!) and the visa may change in the future but it isn’t on the immediate horizon.

Keep your eyes peeled on the Department of Immigration website though, all changes will be announced there.

I Can Get More Than One Visa

ONLY if you do the farm work!

If you don’t want to do the farm work, then you’re limited to just one where working holiday visas are concerned.

With 3 months of regional work completed, you are eligible to apply for the same visa again to be used straight off the back of your first one or any time before you turn 31.

Government proposals hope to change this by allowing backpackers to take one working holiday visa before they turn 25 and another after but this is still in early stages though so isn’t on the cards for the near future.

If I Claim My Superannuation, I Can’t Come Back To Australia

If you don’t know what superannuation is, it is basically a pension that your employer has to pay into on your behalf so you lose 12% of your wages into an account that you can’t access. It is a great idea if you plan on retiring in Australia but if you are just here for a working holiday, it can be annoying.

Don’t worry though, once your visa expires and you leave the country, you can apply to get your superannuation back! A lot of people seem to think that once you’ve closed your Super account, you can’t come back to Australia and this isn’t the case.

Any employer is legally bound to pay into your Super account and if you come back to Australia on a different visa, you are fine to open up a new one and start working again. Of course, it has to be a visa that allows you to work but you’re all good to start earning once again!

I’m only a Backpacker, I won’t pay tax

This isn’t true. You’ll pay tax if you are working in Australia but you’ll be able to claim it back at the end of the tax year.

When you arrive in Australia with UltimateOz, we’ll sort out the basic things you need before you start working – namely a bank account and help with your application for a tax file number. If you are from the UK a tax file number is then same thing as your National Insurance number, from the States it is the same as your social security number.

A tax file number gives you the right to work in Australia, and more importantly, puts you on a lower tax bracket. You can work for one month without a tax file number but you’ll be taxed about 50% of your wages. Nobody wants that!

Once you’ve got your tax file number, your tax rate drops to around 29% (depending on earnings) and as mentioned earlier, you’ll be able to claim some, if not all, of your tax back at the end of the tax year in July (again, depending on how much you earn).

Got any more questions? Get in touch with us and we’ll do our best to help you out!

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It’s NRL Grand Final Weekend!

Last week it was Australian Rules, this week it is rugby league as the South Sydney Rabbitohs take on the Canterbury Bulldogs in the 2014 NRL Grand Final!

If you watched Sydney humiliated in the AFL Grand Final last week, get ready to learn the rules of another sport albeit one that is much more friendly to Sydney fans!

AFL is a sport Victorians love whereas rugby league is a sport celebrated by New South Wales locals with two Sydney teams contesting the final at Olympic Park this weekend.

So, what do you need to know going in?

Well, if you’ve ever seen rugby union, you’ll know the basics. The ball can only be passed backwards (using your hands) but can be kicked forwards.

For points, four points are given for a try – like a touchdown only a player has to put the ball on the ground over the try line rather than just cross the line – and two points are given for a conversion which is a kick through the posts after a try.

If a penalty occurs, the team is given the option of taking a kick at goal from the spot of the foul (worth two points) or carrying on with the game.

The biggest difference between league and union is in game play. In league, every time your team has the ball, you have six tackles to score. Similar to the four downs in American football, teams often kick on the fifth tackle to get the ball further down field. It sounds like a strange rule but once you start watching the game -you’ll know exactly what’s going on!

For the teams involved it’ll be a momentous occasion. South Sydney haven’t been involved in a Grand Final since 1971 – it’s been a very long time between drinks for Rabbitohs fans – while the Bulldogs last won the Premiership in 2004.

The Rabbitohs have been the bridesmaids for a long time and it would be a great story if they could finally break their curse. Owned by Hollywood superstar Russell Crowe, the Bunny’s have a huge following all over Sydney.

The Bulldogs will go in as underdogs for the Grand Final but it really is anybody’s guess for the winner!

There is a big English connection for this game too as both sides rely on Englishmen to dominate. The Rabbitohs have a family – the Burgess’ boys – of four brothers that play in the green and red. The Bulldogs have a formidable force in James Graham who you won’t miss with his shock of ginger hair running through the opposition!

You probably don’t live in South Sydney or Canterbury so how do you pick a team? Well, do want want the side that hasn’t won for 40 years but are favourites for this game, or do you want the underdogs here but a side that won it quiet recently? It’s entirely up to you but pick one and start backing them!

Get to the pub on Sunday evening and start cheering on your new favourite team! Remember, it’s a bank holiday on the Monday after so you’ve got no excuse to stay away!!

AFL Grand Final – What You Need To Know!

It’s that time of year sports fans. The season for the Australian Football League (AFL, Aussie Rules, whatever you want to call it) is drawing to a close with one of the biggest events in the Australian sporting calendar set for September 27th – it’s AFL Grand Final Day!

Held at the awesome Melbourne Cricket Ground and always a sell-out, expect to see over 100,000 screaming footy fans as the Sydney Swans take on the defending champion Hawthorn Hawks in a re-match of the 2012 Grand Final.

If you’ve never watched AFL – prepare to be confused.

It doesn’t look like football or rugby or American football. It kind of resembles Gaelic football but not quite. If you follow our guide to understanding some of the easier rules in play – you should be fine!

Firstly, the game is played on a cricket pitch with 18 players on each side and four subs. When you see the size of the pitch, you’ll understand why they have so many players! The positions vary but they fall into either forwards, midfielders and backs (or defenders) and on average, a midfielder runs about 15 kilometres a game!

The pitch is laid out with a semi-circle 50 yard line at either end where four goal-posts stand. There is a goal square that kind of looks like an 18-yard box in soccer but isn’t as important. There is a centre circle inside a bigger centre square but that doesn’t matter too much either.

Points are scored by kicking the ball (like an egg rather than a soccer ball) through the goal posts. The four posts stand together, two bigger ones in the middle and two shorter ones on the outside. A kick down the middle, bigger posts (called a goal) is worth six points. A kick either side through the smaller posts (called a behind) is worth one.

When you’ve got possession of the ball and are running with it in your hands you have to bounce it off the floor every 15 metres – which looks pretty strange during the game. The ball moves faster than the man, so expect a lot of kicking. You can also pass with your hands if you’re in close quarters but kicking is still the go to option.

Like rugby and American football where you can call for a mark or fair catch when someone kicks the ball to you, in AFL anytime you catch the ball from a kick, the play stops and you’re given a free kick.

This is important. You’ll see players jockeying for position in front of the posts so they can catch a kick and get an easy goal for their sides.

It is a much more fluid sport than American football or rugby but it can get scrappy although the umpires get sorted quite quickly.

The funniest moment in an AFL game has to when the umpires throw the ball in from the sideline. For some reason, they do it backwards and really get into it, keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see what I mean!

There are a load of little fouls and other rules that you won’t really need to bother with for one game and you’ll pick up the gist of the sport quite quickly.

One thing that isn’t quick is the game itself! Four quarters of 20 minutes each (with stoppage time) with six minutes break in-between the first and third quarter and 20 minutes at half time.

Now we’ve got the basics out the way – who should you be cheering for?

Well, this one is pretty simple to decide – do you prefer Sydney or Melbourne? Hawthorn are based in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs while the Swans play their home games at Sydney Cricket Ground.

If you love them both the same, Hawthorn are defending champions and Sydney won it the year before so neither are an underdog really. Sydney won the league this season and go into the Grand Final (like the Super Bowl or the Play-Off Final) as favourites but it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Hawthorn win again.

The Swans crushed their semi-final opponent, North Melbourne Kangaroos, 136-65 while the Hawks had a close call with a 97-94 win over Port Adelaide Power.

Sydney’s man to watch just so happens to be an ex-Hawthorn Hawk by the name of Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin. The forward left the Hawks at the end of last season following their Grand Final win and is looking for another title this season with Sydney. Keep your eyes on number 23 of the red and white Sydney Swans – he should have a very busy afternoon.

On the other side, Jarryd Roughead is the man to watch for the Hawks. Another forward, this time playing number 2, Roughead and Franklin used to be a dominant force up-front before they split last season. Roughead now carries the load and has thrived this season with 70 goals.

Franklin led the league in goals this season with 75 and Roughead finished second so expect this pair to trade blows.

Even if you couldn’t care less about AFL, the Grand Final is something to see. The sheer size of the crowd is one thing and the atmosphere inside the stadium and inside the pub will be electric!

Take your pick of some of the best pubs in Sydney – The Golden Sheaf (Double Bay), The Courthouse (Newtown) and The Cricketers Arms (Surry Hills) are our pick – and settle down for some serious AFL action!

Kick off is at 2:30pm, perfect time for some afternoon beers and a bit of fun!

Wear red and white for the Sways and cheer on the Sydneysiders!!

If our guide to one of Australia’s favourite sports has peaked your interest, get in touch with us and we can get you over here to check out the real thing!

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The Most Liveable Cities in the World Are in Australia!

Australia is at it again – with four of the most liveable cities in the world according to The Economist Intelligence Unit Livability Rankings 2014 – and the number one city yet again! Congratulations Melbourne!

The Economist ranks pretty much every major city in the world and lists them from most liveable to least liveable based on stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

For the fourth year running, Melbourne topped the list!

Australia had the most cities in the top ten, with Adelaide ranked 5th, Sydney 7th and Perth 9th! To put that into perspective, the entirety of Europe had two cities in the top ten – Vienna and Helsinki.

London and New York rank 55th and 56th respectively – so what are you waiting for?!

Melbourne is an amazing city famed for its sport, culture and nightlife and is one of the best places to visit while in Australia with UltimateOz! With a great transport system, high wages and smaller size – Melbourne is a great place to work and save a bit of cash whilst also having all the fun of an Australian lifestyle!

It seems that no matter where you choose in Australia, you’ll be living in one of the most liveable places in the world! Outside the top ten, Brisbane ranked 20th which is still pretty damn good!

Sydney, our home-base, came in a respectable 7th and is the perfect blend of city and beach life. There is no city in the world quite like it with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world right on its doorstep and an amazing, vibrant city life that exist hand-in-hand.

Perth, another top ten city, is an up-and-comer on the world stage and offers great wages and a different kind of Australian lifestyle! The West Coast is much more rugged and under-explored compared with the East side so if you pick Perth as your base, make sure you get in touch with us to help you decide on your Western travel options!

Adelaide is one of the forgotten cities of Australia but is rising up world rankings. Named by Lonely Planet as one of the cities to visit in 2014, Adelaide is a cool, chic city with a laid-back vibe.

With the UltimateOZ Great Ocean Road Trip, you can spend time in both Adelaide and Melbourne while exploring one of the most beautiful stretches of coastal road in the world! What more could you ask for?!

Whatever Australian city you choose to explore (and we recommend you explore as many as you can!) you are sure to have an amazing time!

What are you waiting for, get over here and see what all the fuss is about!

Get in touch with us if you have any questions about your time in Australia! Whether you need advice on which city to explore first or are looking to book a trip months after you’ve arrived – we can help you find the best deal!

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Ultimate Guide: Campervan Tips!

You’ve done it. You’ve booked your campervan and are ready for the roadtrip of a lifetime! What next?!

Our guide to campervan tips, that’s what!

Well, as seasoned professionals of the road, we thought we give you some of the best tips we could think of when it comes to campervanning in Australia. Some are a little more obvious than others but all of them will help you have the most amazing time no matter how long your journey is!

If you are still debating whether or not to choose a campervan or a bus ticket, take a look at this blog for the lowdown on both.

If you’re sold on the campervan than look no further than this Ultimate Guide to campervanning!

Maximise Space

With any campervan you hire – whether it’s big or small – will have a finite amount of space. Whether it’s just a couple of travellers or a bigger group you might not be able to fit everything you want in the van.

When you pick up your van or during the first couple of days of the trip, have a good rummage around and make sure you are using all the space you’ve got available. Underneath beds, in between seats, in the boot of the van – make sure you’re organised and know where everything is.

It’s not the most fun thing to do but if you can find little nooks to store your stuff (and then be able to find it easily) it’ll speed up the process when you find a place for the night or when you are cooking your lunch or dinner.

Plan Your Shop

Another tip that isn’t exactly fun and spontaneous but will save you money and keep your storage under-wraps is a shopping list. In your first shop, get the basics – whether you want cereal for breakfast or sandwiches for lunch, get the things you’ll use over the whole trip.

Australia’s amazing beach-side (free) BBQs will become your best friend during the trip so get a spray can of olive oil or cooking oil so you can use them with ease.

Plan your meals based on your fridge space. Don’t stock up on steak to BBQ if it’;s going to go off by the time you get round to using it. Stay stocked up for a couple of meals in advance and make sure you’ve got your favourite driving snack on hand!

Where you can, buy big. If you are going to want a beer once you’ve finished your driving (obviously, be careful and DO NOT drink and drive – that’s really dumb) buy a crate of beer and find it a storage place. Same with anything else you love that’ll keep for a while.

When shopping, head for the deli counter too – it’s way cheaper than buying meat in a package and the majority of big supermarkets have them.

Fuel Dockets

When you do shop, keep your receipt. You aren’t going to need to take anything back but when you spend over a certain amount, your receipt has a voucher for money off your petrol which will come in very handy!

Whether it is 4, 8 or 10 cents off a litre it’s still a saving and will allow you to spend more on the fun stuff rather than the boring fuel!

There will be vouchers for other stuff as well, whether it is groceries or booze so check your receipt before you chuck it away.

Camps Australia Book

A little bit more planning ahead but again, it can lead to savings during your road trip. The Camps Australia book and app are an amazing way to find free and cheap campsites all over Australia.

Whether you are driving the East or West Coast or anywhere in-between, Camps Australia will find you your nearest campsite and give you an idea of what to expect when you get there.

The books retail for about $50 9take a look on eBay and Gumtree for cheaper options) so you’d only need to spend two or three nights at a free campsite to pay off the book!

Get a Map!

Do not rely on your phone! You are probably on a pay-as-you-go phone so only get a little bit of data and get charged a fair bit when you go over the allowance so buy a map and save your internet for posting pictures to make everyone jealous!

A old school map gives you a chance to see what is around you as well. With your phone GPS you get the road you are on and which way to turn but not much else!

Follow The Signs

We aren’t talking about directions for this one but if you drive past something cool – stop the van!

The beauty of a campervan trip is that you can see a brown, tourist information sign and go and explore! It could be waterfalls or boulders or an awesome National Park or beach but you’ll never know if you don’t go!

Whichever stops you take along the way, try and find a tourist information office and pick up some leaflets. There might be an awesome tour of the area you’ve never heard of, or a cool place to pull over and take a few photos.

Look Out For Big Things

This isn’t about hitting some road-kill (but do look out for kangaroos early evening and morning) but the Australian Big Things that are dotted across the country.

Whether it is a 10m tall mango in Bowen, QLD or the 35 tonne prawn of Ballina Australia has a load of weird and wonderful things dotted along the road side that you’ve just got to get a photo of! Read our guide to some of the best big things in Australia here.

Plan…But Not Too Much

We’ve covered the boring plans to be made but don’t go too over-board with it – stay loose and see what comes! You’ll have places that you definitely want to stop at for a couple of days but you’ll like more places than others so adjust your plans accordingly.

If you love Noosa, stay an extra day! If you’re not a big fan of Byron Bay, move on and find somewhere you love! That is why you’ve got a campervan in the first place, the freedom of it all!

A campervan trip anywhere in Australia is an incredible experience that is not to be missed!

If you are interested in booking a campervan for you and your mates in Australia, give us a shout and we’ll get you the best deal out there!

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The Ultimate Guide: Campervan or Bus?

When you arrive in Australia, you will soon realise that there are many ways to experience your time Down Under.

Hostel folk will always tell you that their way was best – “You have to travel first…” “No, get a job and save some money first…” “Farm work first, then fun stuff later….”

While advice is nice, pay as little attention as possible to anyone who tries to tell you how to travel. It is entirely up to you, there is no right or wrong way to go about it and whether you decide to work in the city or the country first and then head off or vice versa is totally fine!

People travel in different ways, they enjoy seeing and experiencing different things and like staying longer in different places so don’t worry if that noisy guy at the hostel bar thinks you’re mad for wanting to work first and travel later!

With that being said, we at Ultimate Travel like you to be able to make as informed a decision as possible when it comes to travelling in Australia.

There are two main options for your travelling delights – campervan or bus (more specifically, the Greyhound). With the Ultimate Travel East Coast Package, we take care of pretty much everything you are going to want to do throughout your time on the East Coast. Make sure you have a look through the package as, by booking up in advance, you can save heaps of cash!

Both campervans and buses have their merits and they suit certain people perfectly. A 6 hour bus ride may be your idea as hell, just as sleeping each night in a van may be too, so we’ll try and break down the pros and cons of each and see what you think!

Remember, it is up to you and just get travelling! If you need any more information about either campervan travel or Greyhound tickets – get in touch!

Basics

Obviously, the only thing you need to get on the Greyhound is the money for the ticket! There is a luggage allowance of 20kgs which you should bear in mind too but luggage on the Greyhound is a bit of a grey area. They aren’t like an airline and don’t take the luggage allowance too seriously but if you turn up with two surf-boards and 12 bags – you’re going to get charged more! Other than that, you are good to travel anywhere in Australia via Greyhound.

When travelling the East Coast, a Kilometre Pass offers the best value for money, outside of our Ultimate East Coast trip, and let’s you travel between Sydney and Cairns effortlessly!

With a campervan, you’ve got to be able to drive! You do not need an Australian driving license but you do need a full driving license from your home country – if you are on a provisional license then you will be unable to drive unfortunately!

There are different insurance options which are long-winded and can be explained far better in person so if you need any more information on that – get in touch!

Just a little road trip primer – Australia’s drive on the left hand side of the road and their speed limits are in kilometres per hour, rather than miles as are the road signs. You will be looking at 100-120kms/h on highways and 40-70 on other roads but make sure you keep your eyes open for speed limit signs as you’ll still get fined even if you are a traveller!

Comfort

With the Greyhound comfort comes with experience. Your first bus journey is likely to feel pretty painful, especially if it is a long one! Make sure you check out our guide to surviving the Greyhound before you even think of setting foot on the bus!

Once you are used to the Greyhound seats and know what you need to make each journey as comfortable as possible, you should be fine. The beauty of the Greyhound is you’ll probably be sitting next to or near someone in your exact position – heading north to Cairns or south to Sydney or Melbourne.

There is a kindred spirit with travellers and you’ll pick up friends and knowledge as you head further along the road.

With a campervan, driving comfort is great! You’re either driving or sitting in the passenger seats, messing about with the radio and trying not to get lost!

The comfort issues come when the journey ends! Depending on the van you choose and the number of people you travel with, it could be a tight squeeze when you bed down for the night. Bear in mind when you are booking your campervan that you are going to get very close to whoever you choose to hit the road with…

Heat is a campervan problem that is difficult to get around. You can open as many windows as you want but getting the airflow through the van is tough. You’ll get used to the campervan quite quickly though and it becomes more bearable as the trip continues.

Campervans offer a lot more comfort for the actual travelling part of the journey but the bus offers the chance for more comfort once you arrive.

Freedom

One of the best thing about having a campervan is being able to stop and go as you please. If you drive past a cool sign and checking it out, you’re free to do so! Fancy an ice-cream or need a bathroom break? You’re in charge!

The bus isn’t exactly like that. You stop when the driver stops and you are limited to the Greyhound schedule. There are a heap of buses that leave each stop on the Greyhound map and there is extensive coverage right the way across Australia with a big focus on the East Coast – so you’ll be fine getting to all the major stops – but it is only the major stops that you get to explore.

If you do love the freedom to see a tourist information sign and turn off to find something a little more secluded then you’ll love a campervan but if you want to hit the big stops up the coast, a Greyhound is a great way to do it.

Accommodation

With the Greyhound, you’ll either be staying in hostels or sleeping on night buses. As I’m sure you all know, hostels are awesome! We can help you out with any bookings or any hostel recommendations you need.

Overnight buses also offer the chance to save a night on hostel costs and keep moving along the way. These are only available for the long journeys, which we’d recommend avoiding if you have the time to do so, so bear that in mind.

With the van, you’re accommodation is slightly different. You’ll be sleeping in the van obviously, but you have a variety of choices of where you stop.

Certain hostels offer really cheap parking where you can stay overnight, plug in and charge and have all the best of the hostel atmosphere. Campsites and caravan parks are a little quieter and more expensive but you can still meet fellow campervan travellers and enjoy some luxuries like a pool, a kitchen area and a game room – if you so desire.

There are certain road-side or beach-side stops you can stay overnight for free. These are sign-posted and and will often be filled with fellow travellers so keep your eyes peeled!

The beach side locations are awesome as they have bathroom facilities, showers and most of the time, free BBQs that you can use to cook your meals. Not to mention that you wake up at the beach!

I don’t want to sound like anyone’s Mum or Dad here but be careful. Make sure you lock your doors at night just in case and remember, you can’t just stop anywhere and sleep. Airlie Beach, for example, is very strict about campervans staying overnight in car parks and setting up camp anywhere they shouldn’t be. If you get caught trying to bunk a night somewhere around Airlie, you could be in for a hefty fine!

People

It is much easier to meet fellow travellers if you get to stay in hostels which makes it easier to meet people travelling by bus.

That isn’t to say that if you are in a campervan, you are on your own – far from it! You’ll see a tonne of campervans going both ways on the Pacific Highway and every stop you make, it is almost a certainty that there will be some other van nomads somewhere near by.

Much like a hostel, you just have to have the guts to start a conversation. With the campervan, you are able to meet people you wouldn’t normally get in hostels whether they are Grey Nomads (pensioners on road-trips around Australia) or groups of Aussies on holiday at different sites along the coast – you will have a different experience to the usual hostel life.

Experience

In terms of experience, it is a case of what you are hitting the road for.

If you are travelling the East Coast to hit the big spots, move on, go out, meet people similar to you and repeat then you will be fine on the bus. If you are looking to save money, have more of a structured arrival and departure pattern and spend time in some of the best hostels in the world – the bus could be for you too.

You may like the idea of managing your own time, stopping where and when you want and living out of a van for as long as you can! A massive part of the van experience is your co-pilots. If you are in a couple or have a group of close friends that you desperately want to travel with, then the van is a great way of splitting the cost of travelling and spending time with people you already love!

When it comes to the two coolest trips on the East Coast (Fraser Island and Whitsunday Islands) both are easily accessible by bus or by van. You’ll have to find somewhere to park your van before you go on the trips – there is secure parking near each departure point – but you are good to go either way.

With the bus, any side trips you want to go on will cost more just because you can’t drive yourself there. With the van, your only cost will be a map and petrol if you want to go somewhere without an official tour group.

Price

The big question really – how much does it all cost!?

Well, with a campervan it varies week to week, even day to day. To get the best rates, try and plan ahead and get in touch with one of our travel gurus as soon as you know when you want to go. We can talk you through the different van options available, the different companies to use and the different types of insurance cover you can buy. Even if you leave it until the last minute and want to book a van to leave in a couple of days, we’ll do our best to get you the best deal we can!

Another thing to remember with the van is the cost of petrol. While petrol isn’t astronomical in Australia it can soon add up. From personal experience (and this shows the nerd in me) I spent $536 on petrol from Cairns to Sydney in November 2013 travelling for a month. If you split that between two, three or four people – it is entirely manageable.

While you don’t have this cost on the bus, you do have hostel costs which soon add up. You will probably need to pay for the majority of campsites you use along the coast if you do choose a campervan but at least you have the option of free accommodation.

You’ll need to buy food for both and both options allow you to cook rather than eating out which saves a lot. With the campervan, you are able to buy food without worrying about the hostel fridge getting cleaned out but the fridges or coolers in each van vary in size as does how long the battery lasts without being charged up.

With everything that you get included with the UltimateOz East Coast package it is definitely worth considering if you want to travel by bus. You are given extra savings by booking all of the stuff you want to do in one go rather than breaking it up into chucks. You can add and take-away things you want to do or don’t fancy and add days on to your package but for that, you need to speak to one of us!

Decisions

Hopefully, this has given you a bit of a balanced view of the ways you can travel Australia!

The campervan or bus debate will long rage on and you’ll hear conflicting stories from both sides of the battle! Some will say the only way to experience Australia is driving it yourself, while others will tell you how much fun they had travelling by Greyhound not worrying about getting lost!

As I said earlier it doesn’t matter how you travel just as long as you do it! Whether you want a van or to jump a bus it is entirely up to you and remember we are here to help you every step of the way!

Let us know your best and worst bits of travelling by either campervan or bus! What would you do if you were travelling and if there are any questions left unanswered then fire away!

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How To Find Your Regional Work in Australia

Now that we’ve answered all of your questions concerning your regional work, it is time to help you try and find some work!

There are many options for your regional work but by far the most popular is the farming route.

If you are a skilled construction worker, that could definitely be an option for you but you will need a white card before you can get on a building site. Building work can also be a little bit sporadic so remember it is only the days you work that count if you aren’t working full-time hours.

Firstly, take a look at the Ultimate Outback Ranch package which gives you training as well as access to a host of job contacts across Australia!

The Outback Ranch course is an amazing experience that allows you to learn the ropes of farm work so that you become more attractive to employers looking for station hands.

You learn how to herd livestock, there are riding classes, lassoing and sheep shearing plus much more!

Next, you have a membership for TAW. If you arrive in Australia on one of our Ultimate adventures then you are likely to have a TAW membership included in your costs (check specific packages for more details).

TAW (or Travellers at Work) is an online job agency specifically designed for backpackers. They share an office with us at UltimateOz and are experts at finding work for backpackers in Australia!

Everything with TAW is online so head to the website to check out the jobs list before you become a member – you’ll see that there are lots of jobs all over the country and they are updated each day so make sure you keep checking the site!

Our awesome TAW representative can help you build a successful CV and cover letter and can help guide you on all things regional work (or any kind of work) related. As our site is built for backpackers, many farmers and regional employers use the site regularly to find workers so keep your eyes peeled and get in touch with TAW if you have any, more specific questions!

There is also the Harvest Guide which you can pick up from or UltimateOz shop or download here. The Harvest Guide is a government run job seeking platform which can be of use when finding farm work.

It is a nationwide organisation but can also be used by Australian’s looking for work so you may find it more difficult to find work via the Harvest Guide than the backpacker-driven TAW. Worth a shot though!

Then there are other sites such as Gumtree which can also be used to source work. If you’ve spent time in Australia, you’re probably aware of the negative reviews surrounding Gumtree and these are true to an extent.

Be careful, don’t believe everything you read and try not to be an idiot and you should be fine with Gumtree! I’ve found work using the site and nobody tried to kidnap me while I was doing it so that’s got to be a bonus! Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!!

Word of mouth is probably the best way to find regional work in Australia! Stay in touch with people that are over here, strike up conversations in hostels and see what others have done. The best thing about this is that you’re talking to someone who’s actually worked where you are going and can give you the skinny on the area and the boss!

If you’ve got family or friends (even Facebook friends that you never talk to and are probably on the way out in the next friend cull) get in touch with them and see where they did the regional work! Chances are, if they spent a lot of time there then they either loved the work, the place or the people and the feelings are probably mutual!

If you fancy a more holistic approach to the whole farm work idea and don’t want to be chasing wages WWOOFing is for you.

As a Willing Worker On an Organic Farm, you are not paid for your work but are given room and board in return for your graft. It sounds a bit rubbish but it can be really fun and the people you work with are probably going to be nicer than the average farmer because they know you aren’t getting paid.

To become a WWOOFer, you first need to buy a WWOOF book so come to the UltimateOz office and we can sort you out! The WWOOF book is full of contact details for farmers across Australia and also covers your insurance while you are working on each and every farm mentioned in the book.

Working hostels are probably the most common option for completing regional work and there are good and bad things to consider with these.

Firstly, if you’ve got the name of a working hostel do a quick Google search before you decide anything. If people are going online it is more than likely that they want to moan (no-one is bothered about writing good reviews) so bear that in mind but if there are hundreds of negative comments maybe think twice about going!

Working hostels are a great way to meet backpackers in the same situation as you, looking to get their regional work sorted and get on with their time in Australia and can be fun places to stay whilst completing some pretty boring work.

These hostels organise the work for you with farmers in the area and organise transport and accommodation and take a cut of your weekly wage.

One thing to remember with all aspects of regional work – seasons change. If you are looking at the farm side of regional work then bear in mind that crops come and go and the harvest moves right the way across and around Australia. The Harvest Guide has a great seasonal calendar which gives you an idea on what if going on in each area at what time which can help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to seasonality.

If you are looking for construction work (the second most popular option) take a look here to book onto a white card course. A white card course gives you the health and safety training that you need to work on any building site in Australia. IF you want to come to the UltimateOZ shop or get in touch with us, we can chat through all the options available.

There are many ways to find farm work for your second year visa. The important thing to remember is that you’ve got to find the work! Don’t sit back and wait for it to come to you, use as many options as you can and get ready for your time in the Outback!

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Regional Work in Australia – FAQs

If you are in Australia on a 417 working holiday visa (the majority of European nations) then it is highly likely that you are able to complete 3 months of regional, specified work to gain another 12 month visa to stay in Australia!

Awesome!

We get a lot of questions about all things regional work and wanted to lay out some of the most common ones so that people everywhere could brush up on their knowledge!

If you want to extend your stay in Australia, this is the way to do it as you can apply for the 417 visa again after you’ve completed the work. Who wouldn’t want an extra 12 months in this amazing country!?

So, without further ado, we’ll get down to brass tacks and answer some questions on regional work in Australia!

Where is Regional Australia?

Basically, imagine a bubble around Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. As long as you aren’t working within that bubble, you are in regional Australia.

The Department of Immigration gives you a handy list of all the areas that fall under regional Australia here. Make sure you check back to see if the list has been updated before you head out to your post-code of choice to complete your work.

If you complete any work in an unspecified area, even if it is specified work, it does not count as part of your regional work for a second year visa. The work has to be done in an area outlined by the Department of Immigration and in an industry specified by the Department too.

What is Specified Work?

There are five main areas of specified work, outlined by the Department of Immigration – Agriculture, Construction, Forestry and Tree Felling, Fishing and Pearling, and Mining.

If your job falls under any of these sections then you may be completing specified work. Bear in mind that all roles within these industries do not count as specified work. If you are a cook on a mine or a child-minder on a cattle station, for example, you are not completing specified work.

Do I have to do three months straight or can I break it up?

You can do either – if you want to hammer out three months straight then go for it but if you want to break up the work, travel around a little bit then that’s fine too.

Just make sure that each stop along the way is in one of the regional postcodes and counts as specified work. If you aren’t sure, get in touch with the Department of Immigration directly and they should be able to help you out.

If you do decide to break up your three months then it becomes a countdown of 88 days worked. If you opt to go for three months straight and start tomorrow, you finish in three months from that first date worked.

What Does Getting Signed Off Mean?

If you’ve spent any time in an Australian hostel, anywhere in the country, chances are you’ve heard the phrase signed off when talking about regional work. Well, what does it mean?

Put simply, when you are completing your regional work, you can download and print a government form to prove you are actually doing the work which your farmer or employer then signs for you.

The form is really straight forward and gives you a lot of handy information that can help you when you decide to do your regional work so it is definitely worth a look over and make sure that you print one off before you head to your first regional destination.

If you are already at the farm and haven’t got a form printed – don’t fret! You need to be able to prove your time living and working in regional areas so any kind of evidence helps. Whether it is a receipt from the local pub, travel tickets, bank statements that show ‘Bob’s Bananas’ has been paying you once a week for the last six weeks – everything counts as evidence.

The government form is the best kind of evidence as the farmer signs an official document. If you can’t get this document, try and get your boss to write you a bit of a reference with the dates you started and finished your regional work, the actual number of days you worked and make sure you get their Australian Business Number (ABN) as you will need this when applying for your next visa!

Actual Number of Days? What’s that? Do Weekends Count?

Actual number of days is just a posh way of asking how long you were at each regional stop you took. If you work full-time hours for the industry you are in (more than likely 40 hours a week plus, spread over five or six days) then, yes weekends do count against your total.

If you do spread out your regional work, completing a couple of weeks here and there throughout your first year in Australia then the actual number of days will become important to you. Then you are on the quest for 88 days! If you work full-time hours, Monday to Friday on a pecan farm in a regional postcode then Saturday and Sunday are included off your 88 days.

If you work Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a construction firm in Darwin then you only tick off three days from your 88.

If you work a double shift on the same day, that still only counts as one day worked so don’t be fooled into thinking if you smash out loads of hours in three days then take the next five off that they are covered in your 88!

Is There Any Way Around the Regional Work?

Legally, no there isn’t. Unless you can get sponsored by a company or the state to keep you in Australia for an extended period – the farm work is your only hope.

Don’t worry too much about it, you may hear some horror stories but it isn’t that bad. You may even enjoy the work or seeing a new side to Australia!

What Happens When I’ve Finished My Three Months Work?

If you’re anything like me, you get absolutely hammered and head for the nearest city as soon as possible!

In all seriousness, once you have finished your regional work it is time to get your second year visa!

You’ve got two options really, if you want to stay in Australia for another twelve months right after your first twelve months end you apply for your visa while you are still in Australia. You apply for your visa online so make sure you have all the documents and evidence you need before proceeding with your application.

You’re going to need an ABN number for each company you worked for, the postcode you worked in, how long you were at each place and the actual number of days you worked on each place. Once you fill out the online form, you send it to the Department of Immigration who check over it and will get back to you in the next couple of days with more information.

More often than not, the government will ok your application and your visa will start as soon as your old one ends. If the government require more evidence of your regional work then they’ll give you an address to send everything too (make sure you get photocopies before you send anything) and you will go from there.

As long as you did your farm work, you’ll have nothing to worry about. If you try and get around the system, you’re probably going to get caught and deported and you won’t be allowed back in Australia for the foreseeable future.

If you want to go home first, go and travel somewhere else or just want a break from Australia, you can apply for your visa outside of the country but you have to be outside of the country when your visa is issued. If you do this option, it is more likely that you’ll face a little bit more scrutiny than carrying over your visa so make sure you have all your evidence with you when you submit your application but also when you arrive back in Australia to start your second year.

Remember, you have to be back in Australia before you turn 31 or your visa is no longer valid. The same rules apply to your second visa as did with your first.

During my Second Year, Can I do More Farm Work for Another Visa?

No. You can do more farm work if you loved it and want to get paid to do it but you won’t be able to apply for another visa if you’ve already done it once.

Tell me your horror stories!!

Having completed my regional work, I can tell you that it wasn’t for me. I’ve met people who absolutely loved their time in regional Australia but I’m a city boy at heart and always will be!

That isn’t to say I didn’t have fun, it just wasn’t my idea of the best time in Australia! I spread my regional work over a six month period and stayed in New South Wales to complete the lot even though it is more common to head to Queensland to get the work done.

I started on a vineyard, moved onto a horse racing stud and then finished on a cattle farm – and I’d probably rank them in reverse order. The work, the people and the places got better as they went along and I ended up really enjoying my time on the cattle farm!

The vineyard was awful but that had more to do with the people than anything else (honestly, the worst people I’ve ever met so I reckon that was more unlucky than a state of things to come).

The stud was really interesting as I know nothing about horses but can now tell you a fair bit about the process of breeding race horses and the cattle farm taught me everything I’ll ever need to know about Angus beef!

You’ll see spiders, probably snakes and more weird Australian’s than you’ll know what to do with but it is definitely an experience! It isn’t something I’d rush back to but it gets you another visa and that’s all that really mattered to me.

I did some WWOOFing and it was great if you can find the right host family but I’d keep it as a last resort if you are running out of time to complete your farm work or already have enough money saved up from working in the city or from home. If you love the idea of organic farming and organic produce then it is definitely something to check out though.

A lot of people have the misguided idea that by doing their farm work they will earn a fortune. This isn’t always the case and farm work can be quite difficult to find. If you don’t put the work in and just sit around waiting for something to happen, there are another million backpackers out there that will do your job instead.

The regional work is a good way to save because there is nothing you can spend your money on but don’t turn your nose up because you are expecting $700 a week with your accommodation and food included because some guy from Birmingham told you about it at Side Bar.

At the end of it all, you are doing this for the visa so keep that in mind. It is another 12 months in a country that you obviously love (or more importantly, away from a country that you don’t) and as long as you can keep the end goal in sight you’ll be fine!

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How Much Money Should I Take To Australia?

If you are planning on coming to Australia on a working holiday visa then you’ve already made one of the best decisions of your life but you’re probably stressing out over one simple issue: “how much money should I take to Australia?”

When applying for your visa, the Department of Immigration suggest that you have “about $5000” which isn’t exactly precise. Is $4500 enough or does it have to be over $5000 or what?!

The easiest answer is, the more money you have then the better your entry to Australia will be. If you can save up long enough to pass the $5000 guideline then you’ll be very comfortable when you arrive in Australia but try and get as close to $5000 as possible if you want the least amount of fuss entering Australia and living your first few weeks here.

One of the contributing factors will be whether you plan to travel first or work first once you arrive. If you plan on travelling straight away, you’ll be spending money before you get a chance to replenish. If you work first, then you can continue to save during your time in Australia.

No matter what anyone says on a forum or blog (like this one) there is no right or wrong way to travel. In Australia or anywhere else. People will tell you to go alone, go in a group, go to Sydney first, travel the East Coast first, get a job straight away, go and do you farm work ASAP…..

Whatever you decide, you have made the decision and you live with it. There is nothing wrong with seeking help and advice but, ultimately, it is up to you! Plans can change, pretty easily, so make sure you keep your options open from the outset.

I’ve heard stories of people landing in Australia with less $500 to their name and if, upon your arrival, you are asked to prove your funds you could be sent home from Australia before your adventure begins. The Department of Immigration guidelines may seem strange but if you can’t prove that you can support yourself in Australia, you risk being sent home.

To prove your worth (in bank account terms, not like some medieval knight or something) you have to get a printed bank statement from your financial institution of choice. It is best to have a statement from the seven days before travel so if you are called upon to prove your funds, you have them right there.

If you have access to a quick loan from the bank of Mum and Dad (or any other loving family member) you can pop the money into your account, get a bank statement printed and then transfer the money back once you’ve received the statement. You prove your cash, then give it back basically.

Strictly speaking, this may not be entirely the spirit of the law and you will have to be able to survive in a pretty pricey country. Once you arrive in Australia, the money starts to seep away faster than you’d think so make sure you’re prepared for all eventualities.

As an example, if you are looking at the cheapest hostel you can find in Sydney you are looking at $23 a night. That would be $161 for one week of (not the best) accommodation. Then you’ve got to pay for your food and fun stuff to do so the bargain basement you could probably get away with $200-$250 a week just to live in Sydney.

Sydney is an extreme example (it’s more expensive than the rest of Australia) but it gives you an idea on what to expect upon your arrival and how much money you will need if you plan on staying in Sydney. Plan accordingly for any of the major cities – Perth is a similar price to Sydney and Melbourne isn’t much cheaper. Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide and Darwin offer a little bit of relief but not too much.

Don’t let this put you off, pretty much everyone in the UltimateOz office is proof that backpackers can find work and love their time living, working and travelling in Australia!

Just be realistic. If it takes you three weeks to find work, will you be able to afford it? If you want to travel, how much is it going to cost right off the bat? If you want to do your farm work, how are you going to find it and how much money will you need to get there and stay there?

Many backpackers arrive in Australia with the misguided dream of finding work 20 minutes after they land and earning a fortune. The wages are higher and it is a little easier than finding work in Europe but it isn’t easy and you won’t walk into a job.

At Ultimate Travel, we give you the best chance of finding work with our TAW service and our helpful, informative staff who have been there and done it! We can help you find work, help to guide you with your CV and cover letter but, it is still up to you to put in the hard yards!

Australia is a country that will surprise you due to its expense. If you have just come from South East Asia (Ultimate Thailand, anyone?), you’ll fall off your chair every time you order a beer! If you plan ahead, are realistic and start saving now you’ll be absolutely fine when you arrive in Australia!

Get planning for the best trip of your life!!

How much money did you arrive in Australia with? What would be your top-tips for backpackers looking to head to Australia on their own adventure? Let us know in the comments section or on Facebook!

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Shark vs Crocodile! Only in Australia!

Australia is famous for its glorious beaches, amazing people and incredibly deadly animals.

Whether it is a snake, spider shark or croc, pretty much every animal in Australia wants you dead. Except for Quokka’s – they’re cool.

On a recent trip to Darwin, one lucky tourist was able to take some incredibly rare photos of a 5.5m crocodile munching on a bull shark.

Just let that sink in. 5.5 metres of dinosaur WITH A SHARK IN ITS MOUTH!

Have a look at some of the pictures for yourself – they are truly stunning!

The crocodile, known locally as Brutus, is an absolute beast! According to those on the boat, they had seen him earlier on in the cruise lounging around and as the boat trip returned through the Adelaide River they saw him with something in his mouth.

The captain slowly took the boat closer and it soon became apparent that the crocodile was grappling with a bull shark!

The more details the better the story – Brutus only has three legs after losing one of his front pair in a fight…apparently with a shark! Brutus may have lost that round but he got his own back last week!

Darwin is an amazing place to visit during your time in Australia. You can take river cruises similar to the one with Brutus or you can jump in the water with a giant crocodile at Crocosauras Cove!

One of our travel gurus Holly was able to visit Darwin recently and absolutely loved her time there and was brave enough to take to the water in the ‘Cage of Death’ and absolutely loved it!!

If you’d rather see the losing half of the battle you have to head to South Australia for the chance to cage dive with great white sharks!

Both experiences are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see the biggest, scariest animals in Australia.

If you get the chance to head to Darwin, it is highly unlikely that you’ll spot a crocodile and a shark having a fight but it is possible. As long as neither of them decide to start eating you…it’s a bonus!

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The Ultimate Guide to Aussie Slang!

G’Day Mates!

If you are on your way to Australia, you probably know the basics of Aussie slang – basically, what g’day means! The Australian’s talk in a language all of there own, there is some slang that is recognisable to the UK but others just seem to come out of nowhere.

It isn’t all drongos and galahs, even if Neighbours and Home and Away  say it is. You can still call a toilet a toilet and not a dunny, no-one ever says ‘put another shrimp on the barbie’ unless they are foreign but you will hear ‘no worries’ a lot!

So, to give you a fair go when you get to Australia and so you can speak as the locals do, we’ll give you a rundown of some of the biggest words to watch for when you arrive Down Under!

Goon

You’ll get to know this about 20 minutes after you check into your first hostel in Australia. Goon is what you’ll be drinking for the next 12 months – goon is wine in a box. You’ll get used to the sight of the silver space bags no matter where you are in Australia – the wine is cheap, sometimes it tastes ok, and it certainly does the job!

Beware the goon hangover though and take this as your official warning….

Schooner/Midi/Pot

Another one you’ll figure out pretty quickly – if you turn up at a bar and order a pint, you may get a funny look. Pints aren’t readily available Down Under, some bars have them and some don’t but the schooner is the next best thing. It is a little smaller than a pint but a nice measure nonetheless.

This is where it gets a little more confusing! If you are in Victoria you may be asked if you want a pot –  a smaller glass that has no reason to be used with beer. Same as a middy in New South Wales, they are an almost pointless drink so I’d steer clear.

In Victoria, they also offer a glass, which is smaller than a pot and equally as pointless unless you just want a taste of beer rather than an actual drink of it. In Adelaide, they call a middy a schooner and a schooner a pint which makes very little sense but go with it if you are in South Australia and if all else fails just ask for the biggest glass they’ve got!

Anything with an “-o” on the end

Whether you are enjoying an avo (avocado) in the arvo (afternoon) because your a vego (vegetarian) or you need to pop to the bottle-o (bottle shop/where they sell booze) because the relos (relatives) are on their way round – if you stick an ‘o’ on the end of a word, you’re as Australian as they come!

Thongs

Simply put, thongs are flip-flops or sandals. If someone comments on your lovely thongs, they aren’t coming on to you or being inappropriate – they are just commenting on your shoes.

Fair Dinkum

Fair dinkum is a strange one but an awesome little Australian-ism! It basically means fair enough or can be used as a statement of shock. It is kind of a statement of truth, like saying “honestly,” or a way of saying “no way!” It’s tough to explain so I’ll give you some examples:

You: Did you know more than 85% of Australians live within 50kms of the coast?

Bruce The Aussie:  Fair Dinkum!?!

*

You: Bruce, are you lying to me?

Burce the Aussie: Fair Dinkum, I swear!

Just throw a couple into conversations with Aussies and see if they pick you up on it.

Esky

Not a native of the frozen tundra but an ice-box or a cooler – whatever you call them in your home nation. It keeps your beers cool during a hot Australian summer and is one of the signs of a true ‘Strayan!

Hard Yakka

This is Australian for hard work and if you are looking to do your farm work – get used to some good, hard yakka!

Jackaroo/Jillaroo

These will come up when you are looking into your regional work too. Basically, an Australian cowboy or cowgirl, a jack or jillaroo is a worker on an Australian cattle ranch. It is a pretty cool job that you’ll never get to do elsewhere unless you plan on making a career of cattle-mustering!

Bogan

A bogan is a bit of a bumpkin, a chav, a redneck – whatever the common phrase is in your home country. Not from the city, probably has a mullet and loves the phrase ‘un-Australian’ bogans aren’t the best and you probably won’t meet that many. Just be aware of it incase an Aussie calls you a bogan and you have to think of a suitable response.

Footy

Another more confusing one, footy has a fair few connotations depending on what state you are in and who you’re speaking to. In New South Wales, it means rugby league. The NRL is a big deal in New South Wales, 10 of the 16 teams are a drivable distance from Sydney with another team a little further afield in Newcastle so it is pretty much rugby league or bust in NSW!

In Victoria, footy is AFL or Australian Rules. AFL is a crazy sport that resembles nothing else in the world, played on a cricket pitch with a rugby-shaped ball and some rugby-like rules, 18 players run incredible distances during a game of 20 minute quarters with roll-on, roll-off substitutions. You kick points through two sets of goals (6 points down the middle, one either side) and have to bounce or kick the ball every 10 metres.

In some circles footy may also refer to rugby union but not all that often. Oh, if you are talking to a Brit, it means soccer. Got all that?!

Barrack For…

Another sport-related term, this means who do you support. Wherever you are going to settle in Australia, you have to pick a team! Whether you stay in Sydney and barrack for an NRL team or you’re in Victoria and it is all about the AFL for you, pick someone and go to a game!

Heaps

Australian’s love a good heaps, which just means lots of or loads. By the time you leave, you’ll be using heaps, well, heaps!

Bloody Oath

This is an alternative to the all too cliche ‘flamin’ right,’ and is a bit of an UltimateOz motto. If you ever head into our Sydney office see if one of our travel gurus will give you a demonstration….

What is your favourite Aussie slang? Anything we have missed that you’ve picked up during your travels in Australia? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments section below!

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Surf Camp is Back!

After a winter break, the good people at SurfCamp are opening their doors once again this week to give you the quintessential Australian experience!!

The water may still be a little brisk but it’s got nothing on the water in this clip as these insane surfers travel to the Arctic for a wave!

Yes, the freaking Arctic! They are in water that is just above freezing (not by much) and have to wear some seriously thick gear to survive the cold but the footage they get is awesome!!

The Aussie SurfCamp is a little more tame but still an amazing way to experience the coolest sport in the world.

Leaving from Sydney, you head south on a two hour, air-condition and comfortable coach for a week in the water! The surf lessons are as practical as possible – you spend the majority of your time over the week in the water learning how to get up on a board, ride a wave and do it all over again!

You start on the beach and learn the basics and then it’s time to get wet! You are supplied with a bunch of awesome surf gear including your wetsuit and specially designed beginner boards to make your time in the ocean that little bit easier.

You may think that you can learn the same things on a beach in Sydney or on a day-long course. When was the last time you learned a new skill, a new sport or a new hobby in half a day? Especially one that takes place in the ocean and a skill that isn’t really related to anything you’ve done before?!

Surfing is amazing and the longer you can do it, the better you become and the frustration levels lower. The amazing coaches at SurfCamp give you so much tuition that they’ll have you standing up in no time at all!

If you haven’t got a week to spare (and who are we kidding, you probably have) then there are weekend options too which give you a chance to experience surfing with highly-qualified instructors and be back in Sydney in time for work on Monday morning.

The guys and girls at SurfCamp are serious surfers – they love the sport and they love spreading the joy to new surfers every week! Once you’ve got a taste, you will not want to stop! The feeling of standing up on the board the first time, and then getting more and more confident throughout your lessons is absolutely amazing!

During your time at SurfCamp, you stay minutes from the beach in awesome, comfortable cabins with internet and a pool. The hot showers are amazing after long day in the ocean – even at the height of summer they are a great way to wash the salt off but in the cooler months they are a Godsend!

So you’ve got awesome surf, great gear and a comfortable place to stay. Then you’ve got the food. It’s a sure-fire way to build up a massive appetite, all this ocean fun, and the food at SurfCamp is fit for a king!

The food seems to be never-ending. Plate upon plate rolls out of the kitchen in all its delicious glory. Obviously, give it an hour before you jump back on the board or you’ll get shouted at by your Mum but apart from that – gorge!

The nights at SurfCamp match the days for fun. You’ll be pretty tired when you have the first day in the surf but you’re a backpacker, soldier on! You’ll get to meet your group and your instructors over a few beers across the nights at SurfCamp and you seriously will not want to leave!

The legends at SurfCamp snap photos and videos of you and your new-found surfer buds throughout the whole week and show off the best (and funniest) every night.

Eventually, when you head home from Australia, everyone you know is going to ask you if you know how to surf. UltimateOz SurfCamp is the perfect place to learn or develop your skills, on a gorgeous, almost deserted beach with some awesome people.

This is an experience not to be missed. As the weather and water slowly heat up, you’ll want to spend as much time as possible by the beach and once you’ve been to SurfCamp, you can look as cool as any Aussie with a board under your arm.

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Should I Travel Alone or In A Group?

It seems to be an age old argument with Australian working holiday travel – should I travel alone or in a group?

Well, I’m glad I asked.

There are positives and negatives for both options and, ultimately, it is a personal decision whether you travel alone or with a more organised group.

When making this decision, that could completely shape the adventure you are about to embark on, you have to consider many things.

This isn’t a post trying to change your mind. If you are dead set on coming to Australia alone, I’m sure you’ll have an absolute blast! If you are thinking of coming to Australia as part of a group, here is why we offer a service that you won’t soon forget.

Relax!

The beauty of an UltimateOz tour is that it’s hassle free. Especially when moving to Australia long term, there’s a lot of niggly paperwork and processes to go through. If it’s your first long-term trip abroad, it is much more reassuring to have an experienced guide.

You will have nothing to worry about, we do this stuff for a living. You’ll arrive in Australia and we already have the information we need to get the paperwork you need sorted.

Booking your arrival week in Australia with us allows you to take a load off. If you are planning on staying in Australia for a prolonged period, we can help with all the boring bits that everyone would rather not have to go through. We apply for tax file numbers (which let you work in Australia), bank accounts and mobile phone numbers so as soon as you arrive in Australia you are ready to hit the ground running.

It is a strange thing moving to a country thousands of miles from home on your own. Some people thrive in the uncertainty, the not knowing what comes next. Others like a little more structure and that is what we offer.

We provide the tour, we aren’t an agency so you know what you are getting with us and you know where to look for any other help and advice that you need. There is no need for the middle man and you can contact us directly.

We are here for however long you’ll be here. If you finish your UltimateOz week and want to move to Melbourne, we are a phone call or email away. Want to head north, look for farm work or find a place in Sydney? Give us a shout. Even if you just want to come in for a chat and some wifi head to our shop and relax.

Speaking of WIFI….

It’s a tough mother to find in Australia. Aside from the fried goodness of McDonalds, free wifi is difficult to come by but UltimateOz travellers are given access to free wifi in our shop.

Of course, no-one books a life-altering trip just to spend time checking your Tweets, but it is nice to know you’ve got somewhere to fall back on wifi if you need to email your mum every once in a while so she’s knows you are still alive.

Did We Just Become Best Friends?!

UltimateOz is a great way to meet people. Whether you’re the most confident person that walks into a room or a little on the shy side, our groups are a great way to get together with like-minded people.

Having moved to Australia from England a year and a half ago, it was more difficult meeting people than I had expected. You have hostel buddies, people you make idle chit-chat with over breakfast or go out for a few too many beers with, but friendship is harder to find.

With UltimateOz, you can meet your group before you leave for Australia using our Facebook Groups. Everyone is in the same situation before they leave for Australia and by meeting the group first, you can see where people are coming from and where they have been before.

The group size of UltimateOz is kind of a perfect middle ground. The groups aren’t too big or small, you can get to know everyone during the week and spend enough time together to get to know one another well.

No two groups are the same so don’t think you are too young or old to come and enjoy an Ultimate week in Australia. As long as you are fun, open-minded and willing to meet other people then you are good to go!

When the week is over, many of our group members either travel together or move in together in Sydney. Whether you want to travel by campervan or Greyhound, we can help you and there is probably someone in your group that wants to do something similar.

UltimateOz Basecamp!

The best thing about the UltimateOz experience is that you are able to see more than just Sydney. While Sydney is an incredible city, one that has a habit of drawing you in, it is good to get a feel for somewhere else in your first week in the country.

After each group draws to a close, 9 times out of 10 the highlight has been UltimateOz Basecamp – our secret hideaway where you spend 2-nights during your first week. It’s paradise! Golden sands and crystal clear waters, dolphins playing in the water and koalas sleeping in the trees – its awesome!

While Basecamp only lasts a couple of days, it gives you a taste of what is to come on the East Coast of Australia, and it is close enough to Sydney that you won’t spend a day on the coach to get there and back.

Us Vs Them

In case you haven’t already Googled this – we aren’t the only people offering a welcome week in Australia. Let’s get down to brass tacks, why should you choose UltimateOz over competitors?

It all boils down to what we offer and how we provide the service. When in Sydney, you stay in the best hostel in the city (WakeUp!) and then head off on the amazing Basecamp in Port Stephens.

We focus on group activity. Many providers of similar tours have a heavy focus on the paperwork side of things – they help you get settled and then leave you to it. While we are fine with this if it is your choice, we want to give you a first week in Sydney that you’ll never forget and the reviews speak for themselves!

The job service we provide (more on that later) is an award winner and helps thousands of travellers a year find work right the way across Australia. We also have staff dedicated to help finding you work – they will help with your CV and applications making you the strongest possible candidate for any work you go for.

If you are just here for the fun times and travelling, we are more than capable of helping with that too – discounts anyone?!

Experience

UltimateOz has been around for 22 years and has seen the changing tourism industry in Australia. The company is not just a flash in the pan, make money quick deal, we really know our stuff.

One of the best things about UltimateOz is that we have been there, and done it all. I’m a backpacker myself and have been in Australia for just over 12-months. The rest of our work and travel gurus are a mixture of working holiday visas and sponsored workers from across the globe with a couple of Aussies thrown in for good measure!

We’ve all had to make those tough decisions – To farm or not to farm? Where to go and when to go? Where to live and how to find an apartment? How much tax should you be paying and how do you claim it back?

Our experience is here, so use it!

Whether you want to work first and then travel or vice-versa is completely fine. There is no right or wrong way to travel, Fraser Island will still be there in 3 weeks or 3 months. Do what is right for you and let other’s do the same.

A word of warning, you will get those massive pangs of Facebook jealousy. If your fellow UltimateOzers head straight up the Coast and you decide to work in Sydney for a few months, they’ll be exploring tropical paradise and you’ll be working a normal job.

Don’t let this put you off Sydney, Melbourne or any other Australian city though. Each has their own character and are filled with things to do and see – it just probably won’t sound as impressive as scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef!

Working

We help to prepare you for your time in Australia with our work and travel information talk. This gives you all the different options at your disposal, whether you want to hit the road or stay a little while, we have all the information you need.

If you’re heading to Australia looking for work, we’ll help you with your CV and job applications, and you’ll have access to our extensive backpacker job database. Many people arrive in Australia expecting work easily, and we don’t want to sugarcoat this: it is more difficult than people expect to find work in Australia, so a little help is always handy.

Don’t let this put you off, hundreds of thousands of travellers find work in Australia each year (myself included), just remember that it isn’t easy finding work. With our TAW service, we can help you along the way wherever you want to settle in Australia.

My Story

In the interests of full disclosure, I came to Australia without a tour group. I have family in Sydney and my interest in Australia was from a ‘living somewhere else’ mindset than an ‘let’s put the backpack on and see where I end up’ way of thinking.

I’d been to Sydney before and I absolutely love it, so I wanted to spend as much time as possible in the city. I’ve traveled the East Coast, done my farm work and am on my second year visa. I’ve been to Melbourne a few times too and I loved it there as well and a trip to Tasmania is on the horizon.

For me, with my mindset and family connections, it was a no-brainer to come alone. I wouldn’t change my decision but having worked at Ultimate Travel for over 6 months, I have seen how awesome the UltimateOz experience is. You might think that this is only a week long experience but it totally isn’t.

People stay in touch with us right the way through their time in Australia, whether they need help with travel plans or finding work or they just want to chat through their options with someone who has been in a similar position.

If you do decide to embark on your adventure alone, we’re still here to help! Come in to our shop and say hi, ask us questions on Facebook and Twitter, follow us on Instagram. We are here to help and we actually mean that!

If you arrive in Australia and all isn’t going well, don’t hesitate to contact us! We can help you with the paperwork, the tough decisions and the fun stuff too!

Whether you come alone or with us or anyone else, Australia is a great place to live, work and travel. The UltimateOz group gives you the best of all three (and wifi to boot), so what are you waiting for?!

Make a decision and get the hell over here!!

A weekend in the snow with the Mojo Snow crew!

Hey Everyone,

Gayle here, fresh from the Snowy Mountains after an awesome trip with the guys at Mojo Snow (the guys that bring all you surfing legends Mojo Surf) to Perisher! You heard from Jordan last week about how some of our team got on with their weekend in the snow at Thredbo a few weeks ago … well the rest of the Ultimate Travel crew didn’t want to miss out on all the fun and it was our turn the weekend after!

For the week before we went, the office was getting very excited about the huge amounts of snow that had been sent Perisher way (there’s a great website that has lots of snow cams for you to see how much has fallen – download the app if you can)! Most of the group that went to Perisher this year had been before, but there were a couple, myself included, who had never been skiing or snowboarding, so the build up over the week really added to the excitement and anticipation!

Our trip started with a long journey from Sydney to Jindabyne. It takes about 6 hours to get there, if you’re lucky with traffic, so make sure you’ve sorted out all your coach journey essentials (which we covered in a previous blog). Bear in mind that when they say it is 3 hours before we stop, they mean it! This includes toilet breaks! So don’t overdo the liquids – it can be a very tense last 40 minutes to the next stopping point – and yes, I am talking from personal experience!

Ultimate Travel on the way to the snow

Ultimate Travel on the way to the snow

We got to where we were staying at about 1am and even though we knew it was an early start for breakfast and the coach to the mountains, that didn’t stop us from messing about in the room. Luckily, we were far too excited in the morning to realise how tired we were! After a great buffet style breakfast, we find ourselves on the bus again and making our way to the mountain. It took a while to get there because the snow was so heavy and we had to stop to put the chains on the tyres, but the drive up to the mountains is so lovely!

Finally, we’re on the mountain, and as soon as you pull up, you’re off to get your gear and get started. I was booked on to a lesson with a couple others from our bus so we said goodbye to the rest of the group and shuffled off excitedly (and a little nervously) to the meeting point.

Ready for my first snowboarding lesson

Ready for our lessonBajju's first snowboarding lesson

Our lesson was awesome! The instructor we had, Brody (great name dude!), managed to make falling over, cracking your head, tumbling down the mountain and such like, a hell of a lot of fun! He was really patient when people just didn’t ‘get’ a particular part of the lesson. I discovered that I actually can’t get up on my board if I’m facing down the mountain and he spent a lot of time helping me with that. I also struggled with them bloody T-bar lifts … no worries, Brody to the rescue!

Once our lesson was finished, it was lunch time, we went from where we were in Smiggin Holes to meet the rest of the group in Front Valley, where there’s a food court style meeting area. Once refuelled, we headed out with our group for the afternoon …

That’s when it got serious!

We snowboarded until we literally could not snowboard anymore! And I found that things I struggled with in the lesson, suddenly all came together. I still couldn’t get up when facing down the mountain but I impressed myself with how quickly I progressed while going down the mountain backwards!

Be prepared to fall over though – a lot! I took more than my fair share of less than fun tumbles! And make sure you can laugh at yourself because it is inevitable that you will stack it every time you try and get off a chair lift (if you’re new to it anyway!) There was always some young child waiting to have a good giggle at my expense at the top of the mountain as I squealed my way off the chair lift after they had just made it look so effortless. Luckily, although I did come away with a few bruises, my ego took the brunt of them! There were no serious injuries for our group at all! (If you, or anyone you’re with does get hurt while on the mountain, remember these simple tips for first aid.)

At the end of the day, we headed back to our accommodation, which was basic but cosy at the same time. Dinner was included and we got to choose and cook our own steak before heading to the buffet to pile lots of yummy veg and salad options on to our plates. Then off we went to the pub. There was only one bar but it was a really nice one with great music and a couple of pool tables! Add to that all your new friends and you have a great recipe for a really fun evening. The Ultimate Travel crew represented in true Ultimate style… but I can’t tell you about that! (What happens on the mountain and all that jazz …)

The Ultimate Crew having some well deserved beers

Some well deserved beers!

The second day was very much an ‘eat, sleep, repeat’ affair except for the amount of time we had on the snow. We understandably had to cut the day a bit shorter so that we could make our way back to Sydney. There were a couple of sore heads and many, many, many sore muscles! (Mainly mine!) Today, a few of us made our way to Blue Cow which is the highest run of them all. The temperature at the top was -4 degrees with a wind chill factor of -7 … a far cry from the weather that you’ll find on your way down the East Coast!! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go down Blue Cow because strong wind meant that all the chairlifts were shut and I didn’t want to get stuck down the mountain with nothing but the dreaded T-bar to get back up with … it would have been a long walk! But the other three who I went across with were all more experienced than me so they gave it a go …

I have to say, by the end of the second day, my whole body was screaming at me, I was tired and so so cold but I was already thinking about how soon I would be able to go back! We had so much fun with the Mojo crew and the rest of the group, from the moment we got on the bus to the moment we arrived back in Sydney. The guys from Mojo were energetic, entertaining and lovely the whole time!

I never thought I would have my first snow adventure in Australia – just goes to show, we really do have it all here!

Ultimate does Perisher

The Whole Group

Check out our snowboarding legends’ efforts in the videos below!

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How To Spend Your Tax Refund?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…no, not Christmas – tax refund time!

If you are a backpacker and have been in Australia for more than six months and have paid tax, obviously, it is time to organise your tax refund!

Tax refund you say, what exactly is that?

Well, it is quite simple really. As a backpacker in Australia you are eligible to claim any tax you have paid to the Australian government during the last tax year. The average tax refund for a backpacker in Australia is $2600.

Let that sink in for a minute….$2600……

Imagine what you could do with $2600!!!!

Tax is one of those scary words that makes you feel like you’ve done something wrong even when you haven’t – like ‘airport security’ or when your Mum used to shout at you and say your middle name – but tax doesn’t have to be terrifying!

We at UltimateOz highly recommend (and use ourselves) Taxback.com. As a tax refund service for backpackers they are second-to-none. They deal with thousands of backpacker returns each year and this year are sweetening the pot even more. This year, those wonderful people at Taxback.com are giving three lucky people the chance to win $1500!

What to do with all this hard earned cash – well, you came to the right place for inspiration!

1) Ultimate Thailand

How about a little plug…I mean, an awesome trip to Thailand!?

Seriously though, Ultimate Thailand is an amazing experience in one of the best, most hospitable countries for travellers.

Now that the military situation has calmed down, you have nothing to worry about on a trip to Thailand and our Ultimate Thailand trip gives you a ‘best of’ tour of one of the most fun countries anywhere in the world!

Fancy a few days in Bangkok? Done. How about a trip to the jungle? Got it. Some of the most amazing beaches in the world? Check. Full Moon Party? Of course!

For $849 for the tour, with flights on top, you could have an amazing, 10-day tour of Thailand and still have over $1000 to spend while you are there or when you get back!

2) Fiji

How does a trip to paradise sound?

No seriously, Google ‘Fiji’ right now and have a flick through some pictures. I’ll give you a couple of minutes….

Ready?

For flights to Fiji, keep your eyes on the usual sites and find the cheapest fare you can. Once you’re over there, you can choose from a few tours you can book directly with us at Ultimate Travel.

Awesome Adventures offer an amazing experience and we at Ultimate Travel get some great rates on one of the best tours Fiji has to offer. Spend nearly two weeks travelling to six, gorgeous islands, meeting locals and travellers alike and snorkel and scuba-dive to your hearts content.

If you head there from May to October, you have a great chance of swimming with manta rays too which is an unbelievable experience. The rays are huge, graceful and like nothing you’ll ever see gliding through the water.

3) Nullarbor Traveller

This one is certainly off the radar a little. Australia has its highlights – the East Coast, Uluru, The Great Barrier Reef etc – but it also has its unsung heroes, and this journey from Adelaide to Perth (or vice versa) is about as unsung as it gets.

Very, very few people travel the south west of the country, around the Great Australian Bight and along the longest straight road in Australia across the Nullarbor Plain – which literally translates to treeless land.

It might sound a bit boring but this tour is an unbelievable experience. Swim with dolphins, tuna, seals and great white sharks, take a trip across a coastline as beautiful as the Great Ocean Road with a fraction of the tourists, see some of the most remarkable beaches and natural landmarks in Australia and see somewhere that 90% of backpackers wouldn’t even dream of visiting.

Nullarbor Traveller have various options for exploring this amazing area. If you are looking for the trip of a lifetime that is a little more off the beaten track then this is definitely the best thing you can spend your tax refund on.

4) Skiing…With a Difference

We could rave about how awesome a weekend ski trip from Sydney is, but we’ve already done that so we’ll show you something a little different.

This one is a a little further afield than the snowfields of New South Wales and Victoria as it takes in the South Island of New Zealand. On the Haka Tours Snow Safarirel=”nofollow”, you’ll take in six mountains over seven days in an ultimate skiing adventure.

If just hitting the slopes is not a big enough thrill for you, how does heli-skiing sound?! Haka Tours offer a great rate for heli-skiing which ticks the adrenalin and awesome boxes. You can also do the usual/unusual New Zealand stuff – bungee jumping, canyon swinging, paragliding etc – and the guides hunt out the best powder on each mountain.

The views are incredible, the slopes are incredible – the whole damn thing is incredible!!

5) Northern Aboriginal Experience

When travellers come to Australia, it is rare that they get to experience a true, Australian way of life. I’m not talking about doing some farm work in the Outback, spending time at a cattle station or in a small town, I’m talking about an indigenous experience with an Aboriginal tribe.

G Adventures offer an amazing experience north of Cairns where you get to see the history and culture of Australia’s first people. You spend your three day tour learning about the Aboriginal way of life, their history and culture and the skills they have utilised to survive in Australia for thousands of years.

The highlight of the first day of the tour is a spear-fishing experience with your Aboriginal guides as you eat what you catch before bedding down under the stars. Other amazing, truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences on the tour include a meeting with an Aboriginal elder who will detail the history of his tribe and explain the creation story of the Aboriginal people – known as ‘Dreamtime.’

You will also learn about Aboriginal art and survival techniques and have a four-wheel drive experience through the rainforests of Far North Queensland. This is really more of an experience than a tour and is a phenomenal way to see a side of Australia that seems to be slowly disappearing.

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How about it then? Fancy an adventure courtesy of the Australian tax man? Of course you could be really sensible and save the cash, pay off the inevitable travelling debts…but who wants to be sensible?!

What will you do with your tax back? Got any trips planned or doing something a little more responsible? Let us know in the comments below and on Facebook!

P.S. Let the Ultimate Travel crew know if you are one of those lucky three winners!

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A Weekend in the Snow at Thredbo!

It’s pretty much the total opposite of everything you expect when you think of Australia but the snow has arrived and it’s time to get the skis on!

There are ski resorts in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory with several easily accessible from Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

We at Ultimate Travel want to make sure that you get the best of every experience you undertake in Australia so what better way to find out if you should embark on an Australian skiing trip than to take one ourselves!!? Well, taking two!

We hardy Ultimate Travel lot only do these things in your best interest and can honestly say that a winter weekend away to the slopes is one of the best things you can do whilst you are in Oz!

A few ski companies travel between Sydney and the snowfields of New South Wales but by far our favourites are Oz Snow and Mojo. We travelled with both of these great companies and had the best weekends possible!

As we work to the bone during the week, we travelled down to the Snowy Mountains on Friday night but if you are more flexible with your travel plans, head down during the week and save yourself some money and enjoy the slopes when they are way less crowded.

We went with Oz Snow first so we’ll tell you all about that one to start!

We left Central Station at about 5pm on Friday night and made our way down to Jindabyne, where we’d be staying for the weekend. It is a looong coach trip, about 6 hours traffic and weather dependent, so make sure you are prepared.

The coach makes two stop offs, the first one ten minutes into the journey for a quick run to the bottle shop and the second about mid way through for a McDonald’s – only the essentials!

Once you arrive at the Snowy Valley Resort, you are quickly ushered into the ski hire area to collect your boots and gear before checking into your room for a nights sleep. The rooms are pretty nice, we stayed in a six bed share but there is also an option for a private, double room too. Most importantly, the rooms stay warm and have pretty good heating for when you need it most!

The next morning, breakfast is served from 6am until the bus leaves for the slopes at 8am. You can choose between a Perisher or Thredbo lift pass and this weekend, we chose Thredbo. Once we arrived at the slope, those that had lessons headed to meet their instructors whilst the more experienced headed to the slopes!

We were there early in season and only two lifts were open to the public. This has changed over the last couple of weeks as both Perisher and Thredbo have had a huge snowstorm with over a metre of snow covering both resorts.

Whether you have enjoyed winter sports before or whether this would be your first time, a weekend in the snow in so much fun. Starting with a lesson, which ranges from absolute beginner to those with more experience with a little less confidence, you will be well on your way to mastering the art of either snowboarding or skiing.

You will fall over (many, many times) but that only makes your success even better! Personally, I’d had an hour on a snowboard before heading to Thredbo. I had a great lesson with an incredibly patient instructor and then went for it with the more experienced members of the UltimateOz crew and never looked back. I wasn’t doing backflips or anything, but I had prolonged periods of balance which I was proud of!

The snow fun may be the reason you choose Thredbo but the River Inn is why you stay. Ah, the joys of aprés-ski! We head for lunch at the River Inn and some of us make it back onto the slopes after but others just cannot get enough of the atmosphere!

Once the stragglers return from their afternoon enjoyment, the fun begins! A band starts playing early in the afternoon and, it might be the booze talking, but they are really good. They play some solid hits and the drinks flow into the evening.

Sadly, our bus is leaving for our trip back to the resort. That merely puts the fun on hold as we get back, get some food and clean ourselves up before heading to the on-site club for happy hour!

A great night was had by all – or we’re pretty sure it was, we can’t really remember.

The next morning, we drag ourselves up for breakfast before heading back to the slopes. The Snowy Valley Resort has a pool and jacuzzi too, so if you need a little bit of a relax, they’ve got you covered.

The temperature dipped considerably overnight and the higher runs have frozen over which is a real shame but there is still fun to be had. The beginner slope is still open, which gives some much needed practice time! It is a stunning day though, blue skies without a cloud in them, perfect weather for an explore around Thredbo.

Some of our group head to Australia’s highest restaurant, The Eagles Nest, and the spectacular views on offer.  After a heap of photos and some Frozen inspired fun, we meet the rest of the group in the River Inn for a final beer.

It is back on the bus for the dart back to the Snowy Valley Resort, a quick change and a sausage sizzle and back on the bus as soon as possible for the long journey back to Sydney. The way back is a lot quieter than the way down as sore heads are rested before we arrive back at Central at about 10pm.

The snow, the trails and the runs might not be as spectacular as the Alps or Aspen but it is a seriously fun couple of days away. We took some absolute beginners and some seasoned pros and both loved the trip with no injuries to report – apart from some serious hangovers.

Australia may not be famed for its snow but for a traveller based in Sydney or Melbourne the winter fun of the ski slopes should be taken into serious consideration. The Oz Snow crew are amazing and if you are interested in booking a trip – get in touch with us and get ready for one of the best trips you’ll have in Australia!

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State of Origin – Which Is Better NSW or QLD?

If you are in Australia at the moment, you’ve probably heard State of Origin mentioned on the TV, in the news or in the pub.

Well, what is it?!

State of Origin is an annual series of rugby league games played between New South Wales and Queensland. They play three games a year in all, first to two wins the series, and New South Wales haven’t won a series in eight years….until now!

New South Wales beat Queensland in the first game at the end of May in Brisbane and completed a series win with a hard-fought win in Sydney three weeks ago. The teams will play the final game of the series in Brisbane today as New South Wales will go for their first whitewash in 14 years.

Now that the rugby league is out of the way, we can get down to the serious question – which state is better, New South Wales or Queensland?!

The Cities

Sydney certainly takes some beating. With the harbour as one of the most recognisable and beautiful places in the world, never mind just in Australia, New South Wales have an immediate advantage.

Brisbane is a great city, perfectly positioned on the coast. Close enough to great places like Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast it is probably Australia’s most underrated city but it can’t topple Sydney.

Cairns isn’t really a city, more of a big town, which is the same as other stops like  Newcastle, Townsville and the other bigger stops in both states.

You just can’t look past Sydney for this one though, whether it is Bondi or Newtown that takes your fancy, it is one of the best cities in the world to visit and to live in.

NSW 1 – 0 QLD.

The Beaches

Now it gets interesting.

New South Wales boasts one of the most famous beaches in the world in Bondi and some of the most beautiful coastline you’ll ever see.

The south coast of NSW, around Jervis Bay has some of the whitest sand you are ever likely to see and further north Byron Bay is an iconic stretch of surf known the world over.

If you want to talk beaches in Australia, the conversation has to include Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands. If you haven’t been (why the hell not?!) – close your eyes and think of paradise. That’s it.

Whitehaven has the world’s whitest sand (officially) and crystal blue waters that will leave you speechless. Queensland has much more than Whitehaven though.

The Sunshine Coast is an absolutely gorgeous stretch of coastline highlighted by Noosa. Magnetic Island has some seriously underrated beaches too, and the water is warm!

The jewel of northern Queensland has to be Mission Beach, an almost untouched stretch of sand that also happens to be one of the best places in Australia to sky-dive!

Sorry Bondi, Queensland takes this one.

NSW 1 – 1 QLD

Landmarks

Sydney Harbour crops up again here. the Bridge and Opera House are two of the most iconic landmarks in Australia. Sydney also has its fair share of other icons from the Sydney Cricket Group to the Westfield Tower.

Elsewhere in NSW, the Lighthouse at Byron Bay is the most easterly point of the continent and is an amazing sight to behold. The Blue Mountains, and their Three Sisters, are also a beautiful place for a few photographs. Not to forget the original ‘big thing’ – The Big Banana of Coffs Harbour!

Queensland has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty but not much of the man-made variety. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most famous landmarks in the world and stretches nearly the entire way along the Queensland coast.

Further north, the world’s oldest rainforest can be found as the Daintree skirts along the tropical coast north of Cairns.

The Q1 Tower in Gold Coast offers stunning views of the beach from one of the highest residential buildings in the world and further inland, the Glasshouse Mountains are a strange sight to behold.

Even with the Barrier Reef, the edge has to go to New South Wales. Sydney tips the scales while Byron and others make it a winner.

NSW 2 – 1 QLD

Party Scene

Another tough one to call. Queensland has Airlie Beach, set in paradise with more pubs, clubs and bars than you’ll know what to do with – Airlie is a great place to throw a few beers back. Once you’ve had your fun on a boat in the Whitsundays, your end of cruise party is the perfect opportunity to get a little bit messy!

Cairns is another underrated night out, thanks in large part to Gilligan’s – one of the best party hostels in Australia. Cairns is pretty small so it is really easy to get around and hit up a few bars on any night you please. There is always something going on.

Brisbane isn’t as famous as Sydney and Melbourne for its nightlife but has a good small bar scene with some decent cocktail bars.

As you’d expect, Sydney is a great night out. Whatever you’re after – a few quiet drinks, some cocktails or a full-blown night on the tiles – Sydney has you covered.

Outside of Sydney though, Byron Bay is the only really good place with a distinctly different feel than anywhere else in Australia. Advantage Queensland.

NSW 2 – 2 QLD

Cool Stuff To Do

The Great Barrier Reef has already been mentioned and it is an unbelievable place to visit. Whether you snorkel or dive, or just go out on a boat trip, the Great Barrier Reef is incredible.

While you are in North Queensland, why not get the pulse racing with a bungy, sky-dive or canyon swing?! Maybe even head inland for a look at the rodeo, a real outback experience!

Fraser Island and the Whitsundays are also definite must-sees. Whether you go for an overnight option or just a day trip, we would definitely recommend more than a day trip, neither can be missed.

In New South Wales, Byron Bay is the first stop from the north. As mentioned earlier, it has the most easterly point on the mainland and has a great culture and feel – thanks to the hippies! The surf is amazing too and, for some reason, the sunsets in Byron always seem to be a winner!

The northern coast of New South Wales is filled with amazing little beach towns, with gorgeous white sand and blue water. Port Macquarie and Forster are cool little towns that give you an idea of what small-town Australia is really like and both boast some beautiful beaches and outstanding coastal scenery.

Wine regions abound in New South Wales with the Hunter Valley the most famous, and easy to access from Sydney, but there is also Orange and Mudgee for the wine lovers.

Inland, the Western Plains Zoo (the big brother of Taronga in Sydney) gives a safari experience in Australia which is pretty awesome! You can stay in African inspired safari tents and wake up surrounded by giraffes, zebra and antelope which is amazing.

Then there is Sydney. With the Bridge Climb, Opera House tours, Darling Harbour, fireworks all the time and everything else you’ve already read about!

Further south and you are driving a less adventurous version of the Great Ocean Road on the south coast and you can even hit the slopes for a bit of skiing near the Victorian border!

Both Queensland and New South Wales offer such varied experiences that it is impossible to pick a winner in this one which means we’ve got a tie!

NSW 2 – 2 QLD (How very diplomatic of us!)

What state would be your winner? Does Queensland take the cake or New South Wales? What about outside of the State of Origin clash? Victoria or Western Australia take your fancy? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Seven Natural Wonders of Australia

When you come to Australia, you don’t just want to take the standard photos.

“Here I am with the Opera House.”

“That’s me next to a kangaroo/holding a koala.”

“I don’t remember taking that photo, I think goon was involved.”

The bog-standard snaps of your amazing Australian adventure just will not cut it, you’ve got to go the extra mile and these seven natural wonders of Australia are the perfect places to pack an album, and learn something about yourself in the process.

Australia is one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth. When many think of the country, they see red dirt, desert and not much else but Australia offers so much more, so much in fact that keeping this list to seven places is nearly impossible!

There are several, incredible parts of the Australian landscape that couldn’t make the list. From the Pinnacles desert of Western Australia, as the rock formations rise out of the sand, to the pink lake of Lake Hillier.

Kangaroo Island in South Australia is another amazing place. Packed with native species such as fur seals, koalas, platypus and (obviously) kangaroos, the island is a haven for nature off the southern Australian coast.

The Bungle Bungles of the Northern Territory are as cool as they sound. A crazy rock formation in that makes the ground look like it is a moving wave – it is another site not to be missed.

So, what did make our list of the seven natural wonders of Australia? Without further ado….

1) The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

It had to be number one. It is the largest living thing on Earth and stretches nearly the entire coast of Queensland. The Reef is home to thousands of species of fish, mammals and coral and is one of the best diving sites in the world.

The Great Barrier Reef is accessible from several stops on the Queensland coast with Cairns being the easiest spot to take a dive or snorkel trip. A full day on the reef is a must-do, and if you get the chance to scuba dive – even if you have never done it before – you have to give it a go!

2) Uluru, Northern Territory

Another must on any list of natural wonders in Australia, Uluru is one of the most sacred sites in Australia for many Aboriginal groups and really is a sight to behold.

The biggest monolith in the world is one of the lasting images of Australia and a trip to Uluru offers an outback experience that is totally unique to Australia.

A trip to Uluru has to be taken for a minimum of three days and the longer you can spend there the better as The Rock is only one of the amazing natural sights in this area of the Northern Territory. You need to see Uluru at either sunrise or sunset (preferably both) so bear that in mind on any trip you are thinking of booking and be prepared for your jaw to hit the floor!

One of our travel legends Max recently visited Uluru and you can read all about his trip here.

3) Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

About a fifth of Tasmania is World Heritage listed by the United Nations and over 40% of the island state is National Park or Wilderness. Tasmania is pretty much the epitome of natural beauty.

It is tough to pick just one place in Tasmania to make this list – the Bay of Fires is an awe-inspiring coastline, Wineglass Bay is  world-class and the Franklin River is an adventure in itself – but Cradle Mountain makes the list.

Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park looks like it has come straight from Middle Earth by way of Westeros and it is the start or end point of one of the monster hikes of Australia – the Overland Track. While it may not be everyone’s idea of fun, a 65km hike over a mountain sounds a little too strenuous to me, the Overland Track attracts 8000 hikers a year from the world over. If you don’t fancy a five day slog, there are much smaller walks, with awe-inspiring lookouts to take your fancy.

The pictures of Tasmania speak a thousand words and if natural beauty, great food and wine and a whole heap of animals are your thing – speak to one of our travel experts and book yourself a trip!

4) Daintree Rainforest, Queensland

The most ancient rainforest in the world, the Daintree of Far North Queensland is another spot of beauty around Cairns. A rainforest is a strange thing if you’ve never been to one and definately something worth checking out if you are planning a trip to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef.

Giant trees and lush rainforest skirt the coast with crazy animals like the very rare Southern Cassowary calling the Daintree home – it feels like something out of Avatar!

Port Douglas, an hour north of Cairns, is the perfect starting place to explore the Daintree and many tour companies offer day or overnight trips to the rainforest where you can see some of the rarest creatures in Australia!

5) Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

One of the most exquisite and untouched areas of Australia, Kakadu National Park, is like another world!

The size of a country in itself, Kakadu is a maze of waterfalls, crocodiles and awesome views and has to be seen to be believed!

Trips leave from Darwin and we recently sent one of our finest travel experts to explore the area and she confirmed what we have long though – Kakadu is not to be missed.

6) Twelve Apostles, Victoria

One of the finest road trips in the world can be found on the Victorian coast along the Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles are the highlight of the trip.

Just off the craggy Victorian coast there are actually only eight apostles left so get to Victoria quick before anymore fall! Erosion made the 45m rocky stacks and it is also felling them with no-one knowing how long the other stacks will last.

Several tour companies operate in the Area or you can speak with one of our experts about hiring a campervan and touring the Great Ocean Road with your mates!

7) Fraser Island, Queensland

Ah, Fraser Island. Every backpackers favourite adventure on the East Coast.

The biggest sand island in the world is an incredible place to visit, a big slice of wilderness just off the Queensland coast and a rite of passage for any backpacker.

Whether you stay overnight or just for the day, Fraser Island cannot be missed. The beautiful freshwater lakes of the island, and the crystal clear Eli Creek are highlights and four wheel driving around the island is an adrenalin rush like no other.

If you are camper-vanning down the coast, you can securely park your van before exploring the island as only four wheel drive vehicles are allowed on the island, you’ll find out why as soon as you arrive!

Keep your eyes peeled for dingoes as they roam the island and make sure your camera has a full-battery – you’ll take a lot of photos!

If you want to book any trips to anywhere on the list (and you should want to book all of them!), get in touch with one of our Ultimate Travel gurus and we help you with all your travel needs!

Where is your favourite natural spot in Australia? Crazy for the Blue Mountains or Phillip Island? Let us know in the comments below!

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Australia’s Top Landmark….Is In Canberra?!

Say what?! The best landmark in Australia, as voted for by the users of TripAdvisor, is in Canberra.

You read that right – so, what is Australia’s top landmark??

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra was the only Australian attraction to make it into the top twenty worldwide joining the likes of Machu Picchu, St. Peter’s Basilica and Angkor Wat on the list.

Kings Park and Botanic Gardens in Perth was voted the sixth best park in the world, with Melbourne’s Botanic gardens coming in 20th, in the same survey.

The Australian War Memorial is a very poignant place to visit. The names of almost 60,000 service men and women are etched onto the walls of the memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a thought provoking memorial to the lives of those lost in battle.

So, is Canberra worth a visit for the 17th best attraction in the world?

It certainly isn’t high on most people’s list when they think of Australian places to visit but the nation’s capital does have its highlights.

The National Gallery is an amazing art gallery in a nation not exactly renowned for its artistic collections. The Gallery is a huge, sprawling space with a heap of different collections and works from some of the greatest artistic minds in history.

The Aboriginal art section is definitely something to check out – especially for travellers. Aboriginal art varies from tribe to tribe and based on geography and what the history of each tribe dictates. Aboriginal art is intricate and beautiful, on the whole, with the famed dot paintings a highlight.

The modern Australia art collection is also a good look at the Australian art scene which isn’t exactly well known in Europe. The US and European exhibitions contain major works from Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Mark Rothko as well as many others.

Another highlight – which sounds really nerdy but hear me out – is Questacon, the National Science Museum. Questacon is full of hands-on exhibitions which are really fun.

Whether it is playing musical instruments with no strings, or jumping in a building during an earthquake or watching lightening form in a special viewing gallery a trip to questacon is good, nerdy fun!

In terms of night time entertainment, Canberra is a student town and parties like it. Make sure you head up during term time so you can visit booming bars and clubs like great student towns of home.

Canberra is a purpose-built city. Designed by American architect Walter Burley Griffin, the site of the capital was chosen as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne. As a planned city, it is very picturesque and planned for easy transport.

Lake Burley Griffin splits the city in two with the Australian War Memorial at one end and Parliament House at the other.

Tours run through Parliament House daily and you can explore the seat of Australian democracy on most days – even while Parliament is in session. Old Parliament House has been converted into a museum which isn’t great but if you love politics, check it out.

Lake Burley Griffin offers great scenery for the city and bikes can be hired to explore the capital. Commonwealth Place, at the edge of the lake, has a flag display of every nation that has an embassy or international mission in Australia which is a pretty cool way to test your pub trivia.

On the whole, Canberra isn’t a top destination in but it does have its sights and is close enough to Sydney for a weekend explore. Speak to one of our travel experts about booking a Greyhound to the capital and accommodation and see what you think!

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Sydney Winter Festival 2014

For us hardy, Northern hemisphere folk it is strange to think of an Australian winter. Whenever we think of Australia it is pretty much all beaches, sunshine and outback living! Now that winter is drawing in, it is time to see a different side of Australia. In Sydney, this weekend marked the beginning of the […]

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The Ultimate Trip to Darwin, Litchfield and Kakadu.

One of our awesome Ultimate Travel gurus Holly Walker recently had the trip of a lifetime to the Northern Territory. Flying to Darwin from Sydney, Holly took part in a 4 wheel drive Dragonfly dreaming tour with Wayoutback Australian Safaris.

In Darwin, Holly stayed in the Youthshack hostel before heading into the national parks of Kakadu and Litchfield. Here is a rundown of what she did….

You flew up from Sydney to Darwin, which must be great this time of year as we are just heading into winter but they are just going into dry season?

It was brilliant timing! I left Sydney on a Wednesday and flew the 4 and a quarter hours to Darwin. The weather was absolutely amazing during the day (30-35 degrees) but it did rain for a couple of hours overnight. It’s just coming into dry season so it should stay dry for the next 5-6 months so now is the perfect time to head north.

After you arrived in Darwin and got checked in to your hostel, I hear you did something awesome before the tour even started?

You heard right, this isn’t normally included on the tour but if you were to spend a day either side of the tour in Darwin you could easily fit it in and it was incredible!

We visited Crocosaurus Cove for a ‘Cage of Death’ crocodile experience. This is pretty much as terrifying as it sounds but it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with saltwater crocodiles!

We got into our swimming gear and tried to keep down the butterflies that were careening around our stomachs and headed into the cage! This  involved being lowered into the water in a tank to get up close and personal to the ‘Kate and Will’ two of the resident crocs at Crocosaurus Cove.

That sounds amazing and terrifying all at the same time! What did you do on that first evening, did you meet up with your group?

Yes, we all got together in the evening and we visited Mindil markets in Darwin to have a look around the numerous food, jewelry, trinket and aboriginal art stalls. We chilled on the beach with a few drinks, eating food from the markets whilst watching the amazing Darwin sunset.

Honestly, I’ll never forget that sunset it was truly spectacular. The way the sun dipped into the ocean was like something out of a bad romantic comedy. I took about 400 photos of it so it looks like a flick-book when you go through my Facebook album!

The next day, your big trip began. Can you give us an itinerary of what you did?

We started off the tour in Litchfield National Park exploring waterfalls such as Florence and Wangi falls. We also went to see some termite mounds between swims which was pretty cool.

We stopped off for lunch at a permanent campsite before heading to an indigenous cultural centre (a wooden construction with a cloth over the top for shade), here our aboriginal guide Graham talked us through the aboriginal history and culture.

He told us stories of ‘dreamtime,’ which is the name for the Aboriginal belief system and he discussed the way of life in aboriginal communities. We were also shown basket weaving and spear throwing.

We arrived at our campsite in the Mary River region early evening for dinner, a good old fashioned BBQ, and spent the evening searching for local wildlife, having a few drinks and counting shooting stars which was absolutely beautiful.

The next morning we went on cruise of the a Mary River wetlands. The wetlands are made up of lagoons, canals and billabongs. We saw crocodiles in their natural habitat, as the Northern Territory has the highest concentration of saltwater crocs in the world, a vast variety of birdlife (trying to not be eaten by the crocs!) and lots of beautiful scenery and flora including the beautiful water lilies and lily pads.

We then did some 4 wheel driving along the dirt tracks in Kakadu National Park which was immense! We reached Gunlom falls and hiked up to the top of the waterfall before spending the next few hours relaxing in the infinity pool and other plunge pools overlooking Kakadu. We then headed towards a different campsite to spend the night. Both campsites are permanent with access to hot showers and toilets. All tents were permanent and equipped with beds.

We started off the last day by taking a short hike up to Nawurlandja lookout overlooking Nourlangie and Anbangbang Billabong. We were then given the option of taking a scenic flight (at own expense) over Kakadu National Park to check out Jim Jim and Twin falls before heading to Ubirr for lunch.

At Ubirr we viewed a wide range of ancient aboriginal art and rock paintings which were interpreted by our guide. This was quite a unique experience, having someone who was able to tell us what these paintings mean after thousands of years was a really powerful moment.

We hiked up to the Nadab lookout for panoramic views over the floodplains and into Arnhemland. En route back to Darwin we stopped off at the famous ‘Humpty Doo Hotel’ for a drink to end our top end tour.

Wow. That sounds absolutely awesome! It’s crazy how much you can fit in one trip! I know it’ll be difficult but does anything stand out as your favourite bit?

Gunlom falls infinity pool is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It is a natural rock formation that has to be seen to be believed. Sitting in the cool waters looking out over a the breathtaking view is something I’ll never forget. The photos look awesome on Instagram too!

The Mary River wetlands cruise was great as well, seeing those crocodiles and imagining what was going on beneath the surface! The stargazing at the campsites (I’ve never seen so many stars!) was incredible too. Kakadu and Litchfield are some of the least populated areas of Australia and you really get a feeling for how vast the country is when you are alone with your group in the middle of nowhere!

Nadab lookout overlooking Arnhemland was awesome too and the sunset at the Mindil markets in Darwin was also amazing. As you can tell, it was a trip with a lot of highlights!

It sounds like it! Did anything surprise you? Did you enjoy anything more than you thought or was it all as you expected?

I was surprised how big Kakadu National Park actually is, it is as big as country (Slovenia, to be precise). You can drive along the dirt roads for hours without seeing anyone else!

I also realised how little I knew about aboriginal culture and learnt lots of interesting facts from the aboriginal cultural centre we visited. I was shocked driving past bush fires at the side of the road and to learn that parts of the national park are burnt by local aboriginal communities to maintain the land as well as being caused by the dry heat within the national parks.

I know you mentioned the crocodiles but you must have seen some other cool wildlife while you were in the outback?

I saw lots of crocs in their natural habitat which was awesome. I came across loads of frogs and toads, a huntsman spider, some wild donkeys and a random albino buffalo!

We also spotted two owls at the first campsite we stayed at and I accidentally ate a mosquito (its family nearly bit me to death after that). All in all there was lots of interaction with wild animals and insects!

If you like the sound of the trip that Holly was lucky enough to go on, get in touch with us on bookings@ultimate.travel

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Best Places For Whale Watching In Australia

Australia is one of the premier destinations in the world for whale and dolphin spotting as over 45 species call Australian waters home and they can be viewed year-round. May marks the start of the busiest season in the whale watching calendar as migrating humpback whales head along the East Coast to and from the tropical waters of Queensland.

Along the West Coast, a similar migration takes place. Humpback and Southern Right Whales spend the summer months in Antarctica feeding and then head up to Australian waters to escape the cold.

Every state in Australia is visited by whales of some description. The migrations along the East and West Coast, paired with the Great Australian Bight Marine Park in South Australia which has one of the largest Southern Right Whale breeding populations in the world and is home to Blue Whales – the biggest animal in history. Australia is home to nearly 60% of the world’s whales.

Since commercial whaling was outlawed in 1986, whale numbers have rapidly increased, particularly those of the Humpback, but many are still struggling as endangered species. For the next four months, Australia becomes a safe haven for all manner of whale species and here are the best places in the country to see these majestic creatures:

Sydney, NSW.

The Sydney coastline offers breath-taking views of Humpback whales as they move both North and South from May to November. The Bondi to Coogee walk is a spectacular place to watch these massive mammals breach as their huge splashes are visible for kilometres. Scan the horizon and more often than not, you’ll see a great puff of air, a tail or a spectacular leap.

The entire Sydney coast is perfect for whale watching, whether you head over the bridge to Manly or the Northern Beaches or south toward Wollongong, whales are never far from shore.

Many whale-watching cruises can be organised from Circular Quay and Darling Harbour and many will offer a money-back guarantee in the unlikely event that you do not spot whales. Whale watching season officially begins on May 17th and runs until November so you’ve got plenty of time to see this natural spectacle.

Port Stephens, NSW.

Ultimate Ozers will know the beauty of Port Stephens as it is included as part of the Sydney arrival package and is home to the legendary Basecamp! Made up of 26 glorious beaches and also home to a friendly pod of bottlenose dolphins, Port Stephens is prime whale-watching territory from June to November as Humpback’s make their way to and from Queensland.

Port Stephens offers a paradise that is easily accessible from Sydney. Just a few hours north of the city, Port Stephens is perfect for a winter weekend getaway and with the abundance of whales during the season, you’re almost certain to spot something!

Byron Bay, NSW

Australia’s most Easterly point, Cape Byron, is perfect for coastal whale watching. The rugged Eastern point of the continent offers tremendous views with or without whales but from June to November, you have about a 70% chance of spotting whales from the coastline.

Byron also offers year-round dolphin kayaking which is another once-in-a-lifetime experience. A winter weekend in Byron Bay is high on the list of the best things to do in Australia with its laid back lifestyle, lovely weather and awesome experiences.

Hervey Bay, QLD

The starting point for many a wild adventure on Fraser Island, Hervey Bay is also one of the most consistent whale watching spots in Australia. Hervey Bay is an important pit-stop for migrating whales and is the self-confessed whale watching capital of Australia.

A 14-year study was conducted into whale habits in Hervey Bay and revealed that 7 000 whales stop off in the area each year during the migration period. The best time to see whales is September as mothers with calves stop in the Bay to socialise with other whales. The whales are completely comfortable with the boats that frequent the waters as they travel this coast for decades and boats have to keep a safe distance from the animals.

So, if you are looking at a Fraser Island trip, why not spend an extra day in Hervey Bay and take a trip onto the water?

Exmouth, WA

On the other side of the country, Exmouth is the best place in WA to access Ningaloo Reef and the wonders that lie beneath. Ningaloo is world famous for its whale shark population but for a few months a year, it is also home to one of the largest groups of Humpback whales in the world.

If you time your trip perfectly, you could even spot both whale sharks and humpback whales, as there is a brief cross-over of seasons. Either way, if you sees whales or whale sharks, a trip to Ningaloo will not soon be forgotten.

Great Ocean Road, VIC

Different points of the Great Ocean Road offer different experiences. Warrnambool in Victoria is renowned the world over for its population of southern right whales. The calm waters of Warrnambool offer the whales a perfect nursery and hundreds descend upon the coastline from June to October.

Southern Right Whales come within 100 metres of the shore and specially constructed viewing platforms offer the perfect vantage point to spot mothers and calves, with males staying further out at sea.

Further along the coast in Portland, it is possible to spot the biggest animal in the history of the world – the Blue Whale! With an average length of 30 metres (a bit bigger than a basketball court) and weighing more than 170 tonnes (40 adult elephants), the opportunity to see these animals should not be missed.

To be honest, anywhere along the East or West Coast is a prime location for whale watching in Australia. Get in touch with us at Ultimate Oz and we will see what whale watching tours we can get you booked onto this season!

The Ultimate Guide to Vivid Sydney 2014

The nights are drawing in and the temperature is dipping (highs of 28 degrees today – freezing!) but that doesn’t mean Australia is going into a hibernation, far from it!

May 23 sees the return of one of our favourite yearly activities in Sydney – Vivid!

If you’ve never heard of it before …

Vivid is a spectacular festival of light, music and ideas that runs throughout Sydney. The main highlights are unbelievable as phenomenal projections are beamed onto the side of the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and a host of other buildings throughout the city for just over 2 weeks.

The Opera House sails were officially lit on May 23rd and the festival is now in full swing and we are loving it!!

The city is a hive of activity as thousands of onlookers descend on circular Quay and Darling Harbour to marvel at the spectacular projections.

So what do you need to know? …

First and foremost, you are going to want a good spot for the Opera House projection! set to music, the sails of the Opera house act as a spectacular projections screen as the lights whir through a host of amazing images. From animal prints to psychedelic colours to underwater scenes, it is an unbelievable series that cannot be missed.

Head down to Circular Quay and find a spot amongst the crowds and wait for the wonder to begin. once you’ve gasped at the beauty of the Opera House, head behind Circular Quay train station to see Custom’s House in all its glory!

A library and information centre during the day (head in there during daytime for a scale model of Sydney if that’s your thing) at night, when the Vivid lights are turned on, the building becomes a giant musical instrument!

The colours swirl and change as you select the instrument you and your buddies want to play, then head onto a little stage and your movements control the enormous projection. No two projections are the same and the 3D mapping technology used to create the designs is out of this world!

Keep walking away from the Opera House and you’ll arrive and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The MCA is a perfect blank canvas, a big rectangular block with one of the most dazzling displays of the entire festival.

The organisers arrange world-renowned artists to design and create these one-off light shows and the MCA is a jaw-dropping journey through shape and colour.

Keep walking around the bend until you arrive just before the Harbour Bridge. The Rocks will be booming and has a handful of its own mini displays (want your face temporarily spray painted onto a wall?! Of course you do!), the final display are four giant white rabbits. Don’t ask us what they symbolise, they’re still pretty awesome though!

Head under the Bridge and you can watch the show projected onto one side of the most recognisable landmarks in the world – The Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Is it any different to last year? …

It sure is! This year is bigger an better than ever before! It isn’t just the Sydney Opera House or the Sydney Harbour Bridge that is transformed during the Vivid Festival in 2014. There is also a light and water show at Darling Harbour which is fantastic in its own right. Imagine a 40 metre tall peacock made of light and water and you get the idea. You have to see it!

For the first time since Vivid was launched in 2009 the light show has moved into the city too – namely Martin Place. Not as amazing as the other locations, the Martin Place section has a fantastic falling water effect that boggles the mind. The water and light are used to write tweets, which is pretty amazing!

Martin Place also features a great little food market too where some of Sydney’s best food trucks have set up shop. Messina Gelato (aka the best gelato in Sydney) also has a pop-up shop here serving the craziest sundaes you will ever taste!

The music and ideas section of the festival is a little bit of a sideline but it is definitely worth checking out.

Pixies opened proceedings last week and acts such as Lauryn Hill, James Vincent McMorrow, and many more following over the next two weeks there is something for everyone!

There is also a vast program of lectures and interactive seminars with some of the brightest minds in all kinds of creative industries. From marketing to content creation, education to art take a look at the Vivid website for more details.

Make sure that when you check out Vivid Sydney 2014, you tag your pictures with #UltimateVivid … we will re-post the best photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and the best shot of the week will win an Ultimate Travel SOMETHING!

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What to pack for your trip to Australia

Australia has something for everyone, whether you want to relax on its idyllic sandy beaches, quad bike through the Outback or dive with Great White sharks…the options are endless.

So before you embark on your trip down under, you should ensure that you’ve packed all the essentials that you will need for your trip. As Australia is a modern and westernised country, you will have no issues finding items such as toiletries and even clothing, so don’t worry too much if you leave something behind!

We know that packing all your belongings into a backpack is daunting, stressful … not to mention difficult! (It just won’t fit!!) So, in case you’re wondering what to pack, we’ve put together a list of what we think will be important when you get here, to help you get started:

Sun Protection & Aftercare

This one is a no-brainer, Australia is well-known for its scorching hot temperatures and the sun can be unforgiving during the summer, especially in the Outback! Make sure you pack some sun cream to get you started and some after sun, preferably with Aloe Vera, to soothe your skin. If you run out, you should have no problems picking some more up in one of the stores over there.

A handy little tip … put your after sun in the fridge if you can, it feels so nice on your skin after a day in the sun!

Insect Repellent

Australia may not carry a Malaria risk, but mosquitoes are still a problem that plagues many travellers. And unfortunately, it is not just pesky mosquitoes that are looking to make life uncomfortable for you during your trip.

Sand-flies are also prevalent in Australia and are often found at beaches, lakes and swamps; these little critters can also cause pain and discomfort if they manage to bite you. Packing an insect repellent with DEET can help to repel mosquitoes, sand-flies and other insects, helping you to avoid uncomfortable insect bites.

If you are unlucky enough to attract these creatures, we can absolutely sympathise! There is a really good relief cream called “Itch Eze”, found in most chemists … tried and tested by yours truly and it’s the best we’ve found so far!

Australia Travel Adapter

If you want to be able to use appliances and recharge your mobile phone, camera and other electrical items, an Australia travel adapter is an absolute must have item for your packing list! These adapters have two slanted flat pins, which form an upside down ‘V’ shape.

It is better to get these in your home country as they will not cost as much as if you were to buy them in Australia!

Dry Bags/Zip Lock Bags

This one is for the water sport enthusiasts and those who plan on spending a lot of time at the beach. Storing your belongings in a dry bag or zip lock bag will help keep water and sand off your stuff. (Honestly, it gets everywhere!!) Dry bags are great for storing wet swimsuits separately from the rest of your gear and zip lock bags can be used for items such as phones, documents and guide books that you want to protect from spillages and wet items in your bag.

Travel Towel

This is a popular item on many packing lists, the quick drying, compact and lightweight alternative to standard towels from home. Travel towels take up a fraction of the packing space of a normal towel and they dry much quicker. Some towels on the market also feature a special anti-bacterial coating, which helps to prevent odours from developing when the towel is damp.

Travel towels come in a range of sizes. For Australia, we would recommend packing a giant or body sized towel, so you can use it at the beach as well as back at your hostel.

Photocopies of Important Documents

You should always photocopy your passport and other important travel documents before you leave, as you’ll be in a bit of a mess if you somehow manage to lose them (it’s easily done!). The copies should be stored somewhere different to where you’re keeping the originals. The process of obtaining an Emergency Travel Document can take days and will also tap into your travel fund!

See our past blog for tips on other things to do before you go travelling here

Camera

Another obvious choice for your packing list. You should never travel without a camera, as they help to capture your experiences, so that you can look back on them once you’ve returned home. If you’re travelling with your laptop, you can also upload your pictures to Facebook and other social media platforms, so family and friends can see what you’ve been up to in Oz…and most likely be seething with jealousy!

We would always recommend that you store this in your hand luggage … you don’t want to miss a photo op!

Locks

As with any travel destination, locks for your backpack or luggage are a must. Many padlocks on the market are designed to fit through most luggage zips and are a great way to prevent zips from opening in transit and for keeping thieves out of your bag.

If you get one that has a code, rather than a lock, you won’t need to worry about losing your key – nightmare scenario avoided!

Hopefully, this will give you somewhere to start when packing for your new adventure! Got any questions, (packing related or otherwise)? Give our UltimateOz team a shout, you can email us or pop us a post on Facebook and we’ll be happy to help!

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Local’s Guide to Exploring Sydney

Exploring Sydney While you’re exploring Sydney, the guidebook will give you a great map and show you the way to the icons of the city but it will not share the secrets. For that, you need to get a local to whisper in your ear. We know, we know, easier said than done. How do […]

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Our Aussie East Coast Bus Trip Survival Guide!

There’s no denying the East Coast trip will be one of the most amazing things you do! Ever! But seeing all these incredible places comes at a (small) price … there are some mighty long journeys to conquer on the bus. They’re totally worth it of course, and the excitement of your next destination will […]

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Australia’s Big Things!

Australia is big! Which means we can fill it with big things!  We have the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, the Big Apple in Batlow, and the Big Mango in Bowen. That’s just a few of the more recognisable ones … there’s loads more of these objects, affectionately referred to as Australia’s Big Things, that […]

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We Love Surfing!

This weekend is the quarter finals of the Margaret River Pro Surfing Competition. Some of the world’s best surfers will be watched by thousands as they take on world class waves.

Here at Ultimate Travel, we love surfing! It’s why we have an awesome partnership with Surf Camp – so we can offer a great package that teaches you to surf! For five days, you get to practice your surfing skills with all the new friends you met on your Ultimate Oz week and at the end of the trip, you’ll be a bona fide surfing god/goddess!

Who knows … when you’ve finished, you may even be as good as this guy:

I don’t know about you, but this gives me serious goosebumps!

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A Local’s Guide to Exploring Sydney

Exploring Sydney While you’re exploring Sydney, the guidebook will give you a great map and show you the way to the icons of the city but it will not share the secrets. For that, you need to get a local to whisper in your ear. We know, we know, easier said than done. How do […]

,

What to pack for your UltimateOz Adventure

Australia has something for everyone, whether you want to relax on its idyllic sandy beaches,quad bike through the Outback or dive with Great White sharks…the options are endless.

So before you embark on your trip down under, you should ensure that you’ve packed all the essentials that you will need for your trip. As Australia is a modern and westernised country, you will have no issues finding items such as toiletries and even clothing, so don’t worry too much if you leave something behind!

We know that packing all your belongings into a backpack is daunting, stressful … not to mention difficult! (It just won’t fit!!) So we’ve put together a list of what we think will be important when you get here, to help you get started:

Sun Protection & Aftercare

This one is a no-brainer, Australia is well-known for its scorching hot temperatures and the sun can be unforgiving during the summer, especially in the Outback! Make sure you pack some sun cream to get you started and some after sun, preferably with Aloe Vera, to soothe your skin. If you run out, you should have no problems picking some more up in one of the stores over there.

A handy little tip … put your after sun in the fridge if you can, it feels so nice on your skin after a day in the sun!

Insect Repellent

Australia may not carry a Malaria risk, but mosquitoes are still a problem that plagues many travellers. And unfortunately, it is not just pesky mosquitoes that are looking to make life uncomfortable for you during your trip.

Sand-flies are also prevalent in Australia and are often found at beaches, lakes and swamps; these little critters can also cause pain and discomfort if they manage to bite you. Packing an insect repellent with DEET can help to repel mosquitoes, sand-flies and other insects, helping you to avoid uncomfortable insect bites.

If you are unlucky enough to attract these creatures, I can absolutely sympathise! There is a really good relief cream called “Itch Eze”, found in most chemists … tried and tested by yours truly and it’s the best I’ve found so far!

Australia Travel Adapter

If you want to be able to use appliances and recharge your mobile phone, camera and other electrical items, an Australia travel adapter is an absolute must have item for your packing list! These adapters have two slanted flat pins, which form an upside down ‘V’ shape.

It is better to get these in your home country as they will not cost as much as if you were to buy them in Australia!

Dry Bags/Zip Lock Bags

This one is for the water sport enthusiasts and those who plan on spending a lot of time at the beach. Storing your belongings in a dry bag or zip lock bag will help keep water and sand off your stuff. (Honestly, it gets everywhere!!) Dry bags are great for storing wet swimsuits separately from the rest of your gear and zip lock bags can be used for items such as phones, documents and guide books that you want to protect from spillages and wet items in your bag.

Travel Towel

This is a popular item on many packing lists, the quick drying, compact and lightweight alternative to standard towels from home. Travel towels take up a fraction of the packing space of a normal towel and they dry much quicker. Some towels on the market also feature a special anti-bacterial coating, which helps to prevent odours from developing when the towel is damp.

Travel towels come in a range of sizes. For Australia, we would recommend packing a giant or body sized towel, so you can use it at the beach as well as back at your hostel.

Photocopies of Important Documents

You should always photocopy your passport and other important travel documents before you leave, as you’ll be in a bit of a mess if you somehow manage to lose them (it’s easily done!). The copies should be stored somewhere different to where you’re keeping the originals. The process of obtaining an Emergency Travel Document can take days and will also tap into your travel fund!

See our past blog for tips on other things to do before you go travelling here

Camera

Another obvious choice for your packing list. You should never travel without a camera, as they help to capture your experiences, so that you can look back on them once you’ve returned home. If you’re travelling with your laptop, you can also upload your pictures to Facebook and other social media platforms, so family and friends can see what you’ve been up to in Oz…and most likely be seething with jealousy!

We would always recommend that you store this in your hand luggage … you don’t want to miss a photo op!

Locks

As with any travel destination, locks for your backpack or luggage are a must. Many padlocks on the market are designed to fit through most luggage zips and are a great way to prevent zips from opening in transit and for keeping thieves out of your bag.

If you get one that has a code, rather than a lock, you won’t need to worry about losing your key – nightmare scenario avoided!

Hopefully, this will give you somewhere to start when packing for your new adventure! Got any questions, (packing related or otherwise)? Give our Ultimate Travel team a shout, you can email us or pop us a post on Facebook and we’ll be happy to help!

,

Packing Essentials For The UltimateOz Adventure

Australia has something for everyone, whether you want to relax on its idyllic sandy beaches, quad bike through the Outback or dive with Great White sharks…the options are endless. So before you embark on your trip down under, you should ensure that you’ve packed all the essentials that you will need for your trip. As […]

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What Makes Melbourne So Great?

If you’re backpacking around Australia, you’re very likely to find yourself in Melbourne at some point. Or maybe you’re arriving in Melbourne with our Ultimate OZ Great Ocean Road Package. Voted as the world’s most ‘liveable city’ for the third year running in 2013, there are plenty of reasons why Melbourne should be on your list of places to visit.

So what makes Melbourne so special?

There are Penguins on the beach!

Phillip Island is home to the world famous penguin parade, gather on the beach to watch these cute little critters waddle off into the sunset. You can get up close and personal with other wonderful creatures here too … have a hug with a baby wombat, watch out for koalas in the trees, and give Skippy the kangaroo his dinner. Ultimate Oz offer a great day trip to Phillip Island as part of the Melbourne package that’s available … what a great way to start your Australian adventure!

The Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s must do excursions and it starts about an hour outside of Melbourne! There’s the iconic Twelve Apostles and the London Arch (it used to be the London Bridge), things that everyone has heard of … but there’s also so much more! Check out our blog on how to make the most of the Great Ocean Road!

Everybody needs good Neighbours!

Take a walk down memory lane past Erinsborough High, grab a picture outside Karl Kennedy’s house (you might even meet him!) and explore Australia’s favourite cul-de-sac … that’s right! Ramsay Street is right on your doorstep in Melbourne! Take an official tour for the chance to visit your favourite spots from one of Australia’s longest running shows. If you’re a big Neighbour’s fan, you can upgrade to the Ultimate Fan Tour which lets you explore inside the television studios where you will see the sets for Charlie’s Bar, Harold’s Store and more.

St Kilda.

St Kilda is described as Melbourne’s ‘seaside playground’. There’s an awesome bohemian vibe, lots of beach activities on offer and numerous cool rooftop bars where you can bask in the awesome sunshine with a nice cold beer! This is where you’ll find a lot of the culture in Melbourne, there are a lot of theatres and every year is the awesome St Kilda Festival and White Night, which are definitely worth checking out!

Get lost in the backstreets.

When we say ‘get lost’ in Melbourne, we’re not being horrible, we mean it literally! All the backstreets make up a crazy rabbit warren worth exploring! You’ll find all kinds of wonderful places to drink in, eat at and delve into … but don’t get too attached, it’s unlikely you’ll find them again! The street art in these alleys are something to behold too! There’s a whole gallery waiting there for you, you just need to find it! You can do a guided tour, such as the one by Urbans Crawl, and they will show you all the best spots, but you might have more fun discovering new places yourselves!

This is just a snapshot in to what makes Melbourne the most awesome city in the world to live! There are so many other things, far too many to list in one blog! These five will keep you going until next time though … enjoy and we hope to see you soon!

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Head to the Northern Territory

Do you want to visit one of the world’s best tourist destinations? Head to the Northern Territory! National Geographic has just listed the NT as one of the 20 Best of the World for 2014. Ultimate Oz could not agree more and there’s too many reasons why to mention, so we’ve picked just a few for you:

Darwin

Darwin is a great place to start your Northern Territory adventure. The combination of the night markets, museums, incredible history and breath-taking sunsets all adds up to a blend of culture that will intrigue and excite you.

Why not checkout the Pearling Exhibition or the Military Museum, or many of the other cultural delights on offer, before heading to the Wave-Pool and Lagoon on Darwin’s waterfront. When you’ve dried off from the pool, grab a deckchair and head to the outdoor cinema to catch one of the many diverse range of films on offer.

If you’re sampling the night life on offer in Darwin, there’s a bar to suit any mood:

If you want a bar with a great beer garden, head to Wisdom Bar on Mitchell Street. Head across to Shennanigans Irish Bar, also on Mitchell Street , for a good sing song on the karaoke. The Hippy Club is great for a game of pool and you can grab some good cheap grub at The Blue Heeler. For a nice chilled out glass of wine, head to the stylish and relaxed Monsoons Bar, found in Darwin’s original cinema building.

Beyond Darwin, the culture continues as you head in to World Heritage-listed national parks and rich indigenous lands.

If you get the chance to head to Kakadu, Australia’s biggest national park 3 hours east of Darwin, you’re in for a treat! Take a few days to explore the sights on offer. You can learn the cultural and historical significance of the local Aboriginal rock art before you four wheel drive to Koolpin Gorge or Jim Jim Falls and Barramundi Gorge for a swim. From Kakadu, you can take the Nature’s Way touring route to Litchfield National Park where you will be greeted with rock pools along the Katherine River. Then finish your experience off with a hike up to the top of Gunlom Falls, which you may recognise from the film Crocodile Dundee. After, head to the base of the Arnhem Land cliff to cook a well-deserved meal by campfire before you settle for the evening.

If you want to experience a bit of the outback during your time in the Northern Territory, Alice Springs is possibly the most famous outback town in Australia, boasting a vibrant history, rich Aboriginal traditions and incredible landscapes for you to explore.

Ride a camel through Ilparpa Valley to see the Macdonell Ranges, visit the Sounds of Starlight Theatre and Araluen Cultural Precint or take an Outback Quad Adventure to Undoolya Cattle Station. If you’re in Alice Springs for the last Sunday of August, check out the Henley-on-Todd Regatta … an annual sailing and rowing regatta held on a, erm, dry river bed – it needs to be seen to be believed! You wouldn’t experience this anywhere else in Australia!

For a night out, you cannot go wrong with Bojangles! The seats are saddles, the toilet doors open from the opposite side (confusing when you’ve had a few!) and they have webcams on the bar that link to their website … your friends from all around the world can log on and join in the party with you so make sure you give them a wave!

Uluru

You cannot come to Australia and skip out seeing Uluru … we won’t allow it! Words will never do Uluru justice, seeing is definitely believing! Often described as the spiritual and physical heart of Australia, see the sun rise and set on the magical Aboriginal sacred site and marvel at the colours changing right before your eyes. Home to the Anangu people, you can take a guided tour around the base and view some stunning Aboriginal art. Learn about the captivating history surrounding the tribes of Uluru and why the famous rock is significant in dreamtime legend. You can also visit Kata Tjuta, Uluru’s sister formation, meaning ‘many heads’, which also has a spectacular light display on offer as the sun sets.

There’s all this and so much more in the Northern Territory just waiting for you to see. Why not contact us for help with arranging your trip to all these wonderful places. We can help you build your trip, arrange your travel and accommodation and, because our Ultimate Oz staff have all travelled Australia themselves, you’ll get some great inside tips from people in the know!

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Things to do in Queensland

So you’re thinking of coming to Australia – great! When you’ve finished your UltimateOz Sydney package, you may want to make your way up to Cairns (especially in Winter … that’s where the hot weather is!) You may be asking yourself, “What is there to do in Queensland?”  But, what you should be asking, is what isn’t there to do?! And the answer is simple – there’s not a lot that you can’t do in Queensland! Queensland offers some of the most beautiful things you could ever hope to see … and here is just a few of our favourites!

The Great Barrier Reef

Well, to begin with, we have one of the seven natural wonders of the world right on our doorstep! Whether you dive, snorkel or take a glass bottom boat, the Greta Barrier Reef will take your breath away. There’s more than 1200 miles for you to explore! Want the ultimate selfie? Snap yourself swimming with your new friends – there’s plenty of sea turtles, rays, tropical fish and you’ll probably spot the odd shark along the way too!

The Daintree Rainforest

About 100km north of Cairns, you will find the Daintree Rainforest waiting for you with lots of activities on offer. Fancy surfing through the jungle? Take a Jungle Surfing Canopy Tour and fly through the trees while sitting comfortably in a zip wire harness … the best seat in the house!

Or, if you fancy something a little bit closer to the ground, go croc spotting on a Daintree Wildlife River Cruise or take a walk through the forest at night to see the mysterious locals that only come out to play when the sun goes down.

You can camp, do a spot of off road driving, ride horses on the beach, kayak along the rivers … the possibilities are endless! Whatever you fancy doing, there’s something for everyone!

Atherton Tablelands

Remember Peter Andre’s ‘Mysterious Girl’ video? (No? Google it!) Right in the heart of the Atherton Tablelands is ‘that’ waterfall! Swim up to the waterfall and don’t forget to pose for a pic doing the famous hair flick at Millaa Millaa Falls!

And that’s not all you can do on this tour. Take a day tour around some of the most amazing spots in the area. From waterfalls to volcanic craters and lots of amazing scenery in between you’ll end the day with a huge beaming smile on your face!

Magnetic Island

Everyone who has been to ‘Maggie Island’ remembers their time on the island fondly! So much to do and see packed on to this island, you’ll wish you had an extra day … no matter how long you stay! Have you ever wanted to cuddle a koala? Or hold a baby crocodile? You can at Bungalow Bay Koala Village … if you’re really brave, you can do your own Bushtucker Trial! For those of you wanting a bit of action, there’s  watersport options galore or, if relaxing is your thing, pick a hammock on the beach and watch the world go by. You can take a stroll through the island markets, or head up to Horseshoe Bay to watch the sunset. Take the Forts Walk to see the sights (you might even spot a wild koala or two along the way!) Maggie Island can be as action packed or as chilled out as you like – you really do choose!

Whitsundays

Been wondering what it would be like to sail a maxi boat around the Whitsunday Islands? Or have you been thinking it would be nice to live on a catamaran for 2 nights? Or would you rather sleep on a historical tallship? Whatever tickles your fancy, we can arrange it for you! Take your chosen vessel and visit some amazing spots that the Whitsunday Islands have to offer, including the amazing Whitehaven Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! Snorkel or dive the reef, swim with the turtles and watch out for wild dolphins! Best of all, you’ll share this with your wonderful crew and come back to shore with lots of new friends!

Fraser Island

Three days on this island and you will never want to leave!  Swim in lakes so fresh, you can drink from them! Float down fast flowing creeks, visit the famous Champagne Pools (a natural jacuzzi anyone?), climb to the top of Indian’s Head and look out for rays, turtles and sharks, drive up the beach alongside wild dingoes … and that’s just one day! The 4wd tour allows you to experience some of the best off road driving on offer in Australia and you can camp in the only campground we’ve ever known that comes with its own nightclub! You’ll make friends for life on this trip and you’ll never get tired of reminiscing with them about Fraser Island!

Brisbane

About 300 days of the year are filled with sunshine in Brisbane, meaning you can take full advantage of all the wonderful things Queensland’s capital has on offer! Head to Southbank for Streets Beach, the only beach in Australia that can be found in the middle of the city. Hire a bike and cycle through the Botanic gardens, or take a free guided tour with the people who know the city best! If you’re on a budget, but you fancy seeing some live music, check out The City Sounds, Australia’s largest free live music program. Every week, you can find music to suit every taste, from Alternative to Reggae, Acoustic to Jazz.  Check out their Facebook Page. Once you’ve spent the day exploring, filled your belly in any of the huge number of restaurants/cafes on offer, get your gladrags on and sample the nightlife! From ‘Birdees’ in the Valley to ‘The Junction’ in Brisbane West or ‘5th Element’ in the West End, you’re guaranteed a great night out!

If you’re looking for things to do in Queensland and want to visit any of these places or do any of these things, let our Ultimate Oz team know and we can get it all arranged for you. From accommodation to travel to activities, we’ll help you sort out every last detail! Once you’ve done and seen all this, you really will leave thinking ‘There’s nothing like Australia!’ (That’s if you ever leave!)

 

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Make The Most Of The Great Ocean Road

Make the most of the Great Ocean Road!

If you’re heading to Victoria, you might be thinking of doing our UltimateOz Great Ocean Road package! The Great Ocean Road is a must for those travelling Australia, it’s one of the most popular activities amongst travellers who make their way to Victoria. With 250km of road to travel, from Torquay to Warrnambool, you’ll see some of our famous landmarks (the Twelve Apostles/ the London Arch), you travel through some awesome surf towns, equally awesome National Parks and much more! Be sure to make the most of your trip with the following tips:

Don’t Rush!

A lot of people rush through to get to the Twelve Apostles and they don’t take anything in along the way! Take your time and admire the amazing views. As soon as you start your drive, the coast is in sight, and each corner you turn is a new view to admire. The driving can be quite intense at the start, you are driving down a single lane road with the cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other and lots of twists and turns along the way. But it’s all worth it when you get to Devil’s Elbow, which is just before Lorne and where the hardest part of the drive finishes.

Don’t try and get it all done in one day either!  Stop at everything that catches your eye, explore every town, take part in activities that you wouldn’t normally do. Stay overnight somewhere – do it all properly … who knows when you’ll get the chance again!

Check out the towns along the way!

Each new town you come to has something different to offer. Satisfy your inner surfer by visiting Bells Beach in Torquay, the venue for the annual Ripcurl Pro held over Easter … Lorne will give you the some of the freshest seafood in Australia, straight from the boat and on to your plate … if it’s that chilled out, hippy vibe that you’re after, Anglesea is the town for you! These towns will give you the chance to stretch your legs and take a break from driving so you don’t get too tired!

Go off the beaten track!

We’re big believers here in not just sticking to the tourist spots that everyone goes to see. There’s a reason why those spots are so popular, so they should definitely be on the list but if you’re prepared to deviate away from the crowd, who knows what hidden gems you’ll uncover! Does anyone remember the TV programme called Around the Twist? Fans might want to head towards the Split Point Lighthouse, made famous by the show. You can climb the lighthouse and there’s an adorable tea house you can relax in for a bit too. Or, if you want to zip-line through the trees, there’s The Otway Fly Tree Top Adventure, another not-to-be-missed Great Ocean Road treat!

Be smart, stay safe!

The Great Ocean Road is narrow and windy, with lots of blind corners  and sharp drops. Considering the nature of the road, the speed limit is quite high and if you take one of those corners too fast, you could find yourself in a spot of bother. Only drive as fast as you are comfortable with (the speed limit is there for guidance … if it says 70kmph, and you’re more comfortable at 60kmph then so be it!). Take care when driving conditions are less than favourable … if it has been raining, slow down, leave extra room between you and any car in front and be aware that your stopping distance is longer. If you don’t feel comfortable driving down the road, take the freeway instead. The views don’t differ dramatically so you won’t be missing out as such! It’s all boring and sensible, we know, but it’s important. Use your common sense and finish your journey safely!

Take the ‘silly’ pictures!

It’s a long drive so when you finally get to see what you have driven all this way for, don’t be too cool to goof around and take the silly pictures … you know, you holding one of the rocks up at the Twelve Apostle or surfing the wooden beams that overlook the beach … these pictures are the ones you’ll look back on and remember all the giggles you had, they are your memories, take as many as you can!

Want help planning your trip? Give us a shout and we’ll be happy to help!

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Skinny Sydney 2014

Earlier this year, 750 people made history in Sydney by taking their clothes off and taking a swim in the ocean. Why, you might ask, did this mass skinny dip occur? And why was it a big deal? Well, let us tell you!

Sunday 17th February 2013 saw the launch of Skinny Sydney, the first nude ocean swim in the world! And our Sydneysiders are gearing up to strip off and do it all over again on Sunday 23rd February 2014. Now, before you start adding it to your diary so you can head down and have a good old perv … that’s not (just) what this is about! (Tut tut! Shame on you!)

The event is held as an opportunity to have fun whilst raising awareness of a rejuvenation project taking place across Sydney Harbour National Park. The funds raised from this ticketed event go towards the conservation work that is happening in the Park so that we can all continue to enjoy the coastal walkway that surrounds the Middle Head area, an area that offers some of the most amazing views in the city. This year, the event was a huge success, raising over $10,000 for the cause! And Skinny Sydney, along with their partners, Nudie, want to emulate that success for 2014.

For the second event, there will be two distances available to swim. The Nudie Novice, a 300m swim within the bay, and the Sydney Skinny, a 900m swim. You don’t have to complete it in a specific time and you can take any flippers or floatation aid devices that you wish to take. There will also be a separate festival area which will have food and complementary refreshments available for all.

2013 didn’t just raise a lot of money, it gave those that took part a sense of pride and an opportunity to reconnect with their sense of adventure! There were many who used The Sydney Skinny to ditch their body image worries and celebrate their courage and kindness. As if all this and raising money for a great cause isn’t reason enough, the Skinny Sydney swimmers get the chance to be part of an event like no other in the world. Nigel Marsh, who created the event is quoted as saying;

“I believe that life expands or contracts in direct proportion to your courage. In modern life we are used to monitoring our health, our finances and our relationships. Yet it should be equally important to monitor our sense of adventure. If doing an all ticketed, no spectator, skinny dip in a secluded national park – where everyone gets a sarong before they get out of the water – is outside your sense of adventure, it does tend to raise the all-important question what on earth is in it?”

If you want to take part (Go on! Get your kit off!) you need to be at the following place, at the following time:

Where → Cobblers Beach, Middle Head, Sydney Harbour National Park, Australia
When → Sunday 23rd February 2014 between 8am and 3pm.
Age → The event is for ages 18 and over.
Cost → $35 for swimmers

To book, or to read more about why you should get involved in such a fun and worthwhile event, check out the Sydney Skinny Website. If you do get involved, let us know all about your Skinny Sydney experience on our Facebook Page.

Ultimate Oz … we bring you the Ultimate experiences in, erm, Oz!

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Chinese New Year Celebrations in Sydney

Celebrate New Year … Again!

I know what you’re thinking … we’ve just had New Year, what are you on about, Ultimate Oz?! Well, don’t worry, you didn’t get so wasted on the 31st December that you slept through a whole year and we’re back there again … We’re talking about Chinese New Year!

When Sydney celebrates Chinese New Year, they don’t mess around. For just over two weeks, there are events galore to welcome the start of the Year of the Horse.

See the Chinatown Lion Dances, held on various dates from 18th Jan to 2nd Feb 2014. Watch the colourful and captivating lion dances begin to welcome in the new lunar year at various locations across Haymarket.

Visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship on their open day, to be held on 24th Jan from 9.30am – 4.30pm or see the Twilight Garden on 7th Feb from 6pm – 9pm. If you pop along to explore the Chinese Garden at sunset, you will be greeted by tai chi, music and delicious food to sample.

The festival officially launches at Belmore Park on Friday 24th January … starting at 6pm, this is a night of celebrations! You’ll see lion dancing, get a sneak preview of the Twilight Parade, special performances and an exclusive peek at Compartmentalized which has been described as a ‘breathtaking breakdance, fusing bold moves, drumming and a contemporary soundscape.’

One of the main events across the two weeks is the Chinese New Year Twilight Parade … head to Sydney Town Hall on Sunday 2nd Feb from 7pm and settle down for a spectacular display to last the evening.  Buildings will be transformed with illuminating projections, before an amazing fireworks display scares off any bad luck from the previous year and welcomes in the Year of the Horse! After the fireworks, get a closer look at some of the floats from the parade, which will be found at Darling Quarter.

All in all, the festival will be a fun affair filled with entertainment, food, culture and so much more! If you’re thinking of getting involved and want to keep up to date with what’s going on, check out the Facebook event page for all the latest news! Let Ultimate Oz know what you think about Chinese New Year in Sydney!

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What’s Australia Day All About

Everyone’s talking about Australia Day, ‘the celebration that inspires the nation’, but what’s it all about?

Well, if you want the short version, Australia Day is when we all get together and celebrate just how wonderful our country is … although, every day is Australia Day at Ultimate Oz in that case!

Basically, in 1788, Captain Cook (not to be confused with Captain Hook!) came along and settled with the First Fleet and 26th January became the anniversary of the foundation of a new colony. Over the centuries, the significance of that date has evolved as the country has grown and prospered. Today, the celebration embraces the way Australia has become multicultural, it honours all ethnic backgrounds, all racial differences and all politic perspectives. Modern day Australia day celebrations are about diversity and tolerance in our Australian society.

So whoever you are, wherever you’re from, regardless of why you’re in Australia, you play a part here and Australia Day is your celebration too! There are events everywhere! Why not check out what is happening where you are:

 

 

Our Ultimate Oz crew will be celebrating all things Australian in Ultimate style (obviously!) … What will you be doing?

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Australia Day in Perth

Perth has an array of events promising to make Australia Day one you’ll remember! In and around Perth, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing how to celebrate! You might want to check out these popular events:

Havaianas Thong Challenge

Head to Cottesloe Beach and take part in Western Australia’s attempt to set a new world record – the aim is to create the longest line of giant inflatable Havaianas in the water! All the states take part but it’s all eyes on WA as they fight to retain the title they won in 2013, with a total of 2093 people paddling out on to the water!

Find out how to get involved here.

Australia Day Skyworks

2014 will be a great year for Skyworks as it marks the 30th anniversary of the event. With BYO picnic zones, you can get your favourite people together, chill with a beer and take in the fabulous display that unfolds before you. There will be a Laser and Water Spectacular, a Water Regatta and Langley Park Entertainment Zone … amongst many others!

Have a look at the full schedule here.

If you’re not spending Australia Day in Perth, why not take a look at what is happening in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.  Let Ultimate Oz know what you’re doing for Australia Day 2014 … are you going along to one of these events or are you holding your own? We can’t wait to see all your photos!

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Australia Day in Brisbane

Australia Day in Brisbane leaves you spoilt for choice! With everything on offer, you’ll be in for a jam packed, fun filled day if you want to get to everything. Here’s a snippet of what you could be getting up to but be sure to check local sites for events as there are far too many for us to fit on one page!

Australia Day Festival

Southbank is where it’s at for some of the best Australia Day celebrations in Brisbane. The South Bank Parklands will be buzzing with excitement all throughout the day! There’s the traditional flag raising ceremony , the RAAF flypast and the twenty-one gun salute to kick things off with a bang (literally)!  A day out filled with fun, food and friends, finishing with Fireworks … what more could you ask for?!

Check out where you need to be here.

Australia Day on the Green

Also at Southbank (so handy if you want to pop over to the fesitival at some point)! Head towards QPAC between 12and 7pm for some great Aussie food and a nice cold beer with your friends while you listen to some free live music!

Take a look here for more information.

Aussie Beach Party

If you fancy getting out of the city for the celebrations of Australia Day, head to Moreton Bay for an Aussie Beach Party. Entertainment, food, live music and markets will keep you occupied for a while. Enter the Sandcastle Competition, get a free temporary tattoo (of the Australia flag?) or join the Lamington Eating Competition! All this and so much more!

Take a look at the full program here.

Australia Day Cockroach Races

Looking for something a little quirky and different to do on 26th January? Well, you have that right here! Known to attract crowds of up to 7000 people, the cockroach race is described as ‘historic’! It will certainly make for a different story a new experience (unless you’re a seasoned cockroach race enthusiast?!) Please please please let us know if you go along to this!!

Check this out for more details!

Let Ultimate Oz know what your favourite part of the day was! Have a great time!

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Australia Day in Melbourne

Australia Day in Melbourne is a fun filled affair! There are almost too many events and choosing between them will most likely give you a stress headache! There’s an event on every corner, including:

The Piers Festival!

Start your celebrations early with The Piers Festival, held at Princes Pier, Port Melbourne the day before Australia Day. Here, you’ll find a musical mashup of everything from Jazz to African drumming and an interactive dance program, where you can get involved in traditional dance from Sri Lanka all the way to Albania. Bursting with culture, The Piers Festival has something for everyone!

Want to get involved? Find out more here.

Australia Day Cider Festival!

This does what it says on the tin! Come and sample many cider delights, from French cider, to traditional ciders to apple and fruit wine infused ciders! Sounds tasty! Head down to Brunswick St Cider House between 12pm-1am.

Find out more about what’s on when here.

The Australia Day Big Backyard at Docklands!

So much is on offer here. There will be entertainment along the NewQuay Promenade, a variety of Australian cuisine available from restaurants along the Docklands and some great Aussie music to see you through Melbourne’s celebration of the ‘Great Aussie Backyard’! So if you fancy getting up close and personal with a kangaroo or a dingo while you chow down on some Aussie tucker after you’ve been on the bungee trampolines, rock climbing or through the pitching tunnel, then this is the place for you!

For the first time, the Australia Day Fireworks will be held at Docklands for 2014.You can expect a spectacular display, which will be visible from various locations around Victoria Harbour. Cue lots of ‘Ooohing’ and ‘Aaahing’ amongst the crowds!

Find out more about when, where and what here.

Tell us at Ultimate Oz how you plan to celebrate Australia Day for 2014! And have a great day!

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Australia Day in Sydney

Australia Day in Sydney is always filled with fab events! Theme of the day = FUN! If you’re looking to get involved, there’s so much you can do, including:

The MS Colour Run!

What the heck is a Colour Run you ask? That’s a good question! Turn up in a white tshirt for what will probably be the most fun you’ve ever had doing a 5k! You don’t have to be a superstar runner, just  travel through the course at your own pace. Each time you pass through a Colour Station, you’ll be showered with Rainbow Dust. By the time you finish, your white tshirt will resemble a rainbow! All this fun is extra worth it because it’s for a great cause … you’ll be raising money for Australians who live with Multiple Sclerosis.

Want to get involved? Find out more here.

The Big Issue Street Football Festival!

More than 1000 players. 300 matches. A floating football pitch. Sounds like awesome fun! The Street Football Festival is one of the country’s most significant sporting occasions. Held from 17th to 26th January, you can expect a spectacular climax as part of the Australia Day celebrations on the Harbour. With players from all walks of life, from juniors to government agency teams, pop along and support this program, which supports homeless and disadvantaged people across the country.

Find out more about what’s on when here.

The Rocks Rocks Out!

If music is your thing, head towards The Rocks for some of the best melodies of the day. Whether it’s Indie, Rap or even a bit of Karaoke that tickles your fancy, you’ll find it all and more right here!  Wander through the markets on your way, then grab a beer, sit back and chill.

If you want information about who’s around or what’s on, you can find out more here.

Australia Day Spectacular – Cockle Bay

Finish off the day (or get the evening started!) with the biggest events of the day on Darling Harbour. Expect incredible special effects and a remarkable fireworks display that will make you ‘Oooh’ and ‘Aaah’ long after the last burst of colour has disappeared from the sky.

All this and so much more makes for a day of celebrations to easily see you through to the next big calendar event! This is just a snippet of what you could be getting up to! For more, take a look here.

Let the Ultimate Oz crew know what you get up to! And have a great day!