Flying South with the Freebird Club
Melbourne has been ranked the world's most liveable city for six years in a row, so who wouldn't want to go and live like a local! Need I mention beaches? St Kilda is one of the most popular and is, like most of the beaches here, a beautiful, sandy expanse, where people come to swim, sunbathe, and promenade, taking in the view of the city skyline. This is a great place to experience the spectacular sunsets.
Aussies really appreciate the outdoor life so you can certainly experience it in lots of ways in Melbourne. Parks, botanic gardens, the Australian Rainforest Park, or spend the day in the National Herbarium. The city is like one big garden if I'm honest, it's just so green. Visit the South Walk Promenade and see the "Polly Woodside", a ship launched in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1885, which sailed 1.5 million kilometres around the globe. If you are looking for a buzz, Federation Square is a must see. Since opening in 2002, ten million people have visited this piazza which is the venue for more the 2,000 events each year. Other attractions are Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Gaol, home (for a time) to the infamous Ned Kelly. There is so much to do in Melbourne, I have only scratched the surface. We have someone special waiting to tell you about the real Melbourne. Check out Dale's stunning place, and drop her a line if you would like to get the lowdown on this really beautiful and vibrant city.
Home to five million people, Sydney is a multicultural city where 250 different languages are spoken. I would recommend you send a message to local Freebirds Louise or Gill to organise a stay in their lovely homes during your trip to this fantastic city. Louise is even happy to act as yout tour guide! Visit one of world's most iconic buildings; the Sydney Opera House which is situated in the middle of the world's largest natural harbour. The harbour is a playground for swimmers and lovers of sailing, walking and picnics. The islands in the harbour - Fort Denison, Shark, Clark, and Cockatoo, have great cultural and historical significance, connecting the city to its Aboriginal past and the city's ties to defence and correctional facilities.Similarly to Melbourne, Sydney co-exists with nature and offers many parks and walkways to enjoy. No visit here would be complete without a visit to Bondi Beach. In January, Fort Denison offers a superb vantage point to attend the Sunday Sunset sessions. Take a water taxi from Circular Quay and soak up the atmosphere while enjoying the superb food on offer, from the freshest of fish to a wide variety of ethnic dishes served in the outdoors to the accompaniment of live music. January is also the month of the Sydney Festival. There is a huge array of events to enjoy (many are free) in a city which knows how to party. Check out Flickerfest, Australia's leading short film festival with entries from all over the world. It really is hard to get to grips with all this city has to offer, but we have two Freebird hosts just itching to welcome you and show you the real Sydney.
I'm heading up the coast now, next stop Brisbane - the capital of Queensland with a population of 3.4 million. Send our local Freebird Lesley a message and arrange a stay in her lovely home. She'll give you the latest on what's happening in the bayside city too. Tourists flock to this city as it is the gateway to the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. Beautiful beaches abound! Australia has a wonderful lust for life and so its hard to keep away from the great outdoors. With a climate that is subtropical all year round, staying indoors is really not an option. Cycle up the Brisbane river and take the City Cat back down. Walk through the botanic gardens and dine alfresco on Eagle Street pier. Maybe enjoy a cool beer or glass of wine and watch the world go by. For the culture vultures among us, the South Bank is for you, home to great markets, bars, theatres and restaurants. I'd recommend a day trip to Moreton Island, just outside the city. Here you can hand feed dolphins, snorkel in crystal clear waters and sample some local wine. If you have any energy left afterwards, hike through some of the beautiful natural parks. I'm really only skimming the surface with what you can do, but you'll have Lesley, our expert to guide you during your stay.
A hop, skip and a jump away and I am in New Zealand - the North Island to be precise. 2-and-a-half-hours drive southeast of Auckland will bring you to Tauranga, a city in New Zealand’s sunniest region. It’s easy to see why Captain Cook christened the area the Bay of Plenty. The warm weather alongside the arable soils provide the world with manuka honey and fresh fruits, including kiwi fruits. Tauranga is one of the fastest growing cities in New Zealand and I can see why. It’s a wonderful place to visit where you can easily enjoy the restaurant and café culture in maritime surroundings. Tauranga has a busy port, so you can’t help but feel connected to the ocean here. It’s in the city’s DNA! Beyond views of the water include luscious hills and palm-lined avenues. I recommend a trip to the Historic Village, and perusing what there is on offer. It’s like stepping into the past. When you’re staying with active Freebird Annemiek, in her charming home, take a trip to Mount Maunganui, a short walk from the port. Take in a walk on the beach, and maybe a dip in the warm waters on these fantastic beaches. Take a cruise to White Island, the island’s only active marine volcano - a must see! The area is rich in history too, so I advise learning about the wonderful Maori people who first landed on New Zealand from Polynesia in the early 1300s.
Last but not least is Dunedin. What can I say, Dunedin is a wonderful city located at the bottom of the South Island. Dunedin is a very welcoming and friendly city and the locals apparently talk about the weather as much as the Irish! Diane our friendly Freebird host lives here, and will happily show you the best spots to visit. The vibrant city rests along a beautifully rugged coastline. Secure in its surroundings, Dunedin exists amongst an abundance of wildlife, so it has a truly unique feel to it. Many places in New Zealand, like Tauranga, kept their Maori name, but this spot was named after Edinburgh (Dunedin is the Scots Gaelic for Edinburgh). Keep an eye out for other Scottish Influences, especially if you enjoy a tipple of whiskey! A relaxed atmosphere fosters a creative spirit with lots to buy from local designers, lots of tasty food you’ll certainly write home about, plenty of cafés to watch the world go by, and a lively nightlife. Dunedin is also home to New Zealand’s only castle, Larnach Castle dating from the early 1870s. The garden’s here is a must. Dunedin is a walkers’ paradise, so if you enjoy moving about on your feet, you won’t grow bored here!
Be as free as a bird!
The Freebird Club Team
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