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How to Travel the Great Ocean Road, the Ultimate Australian Road Trip!

 

One of the most iconic road trips in the entire world, Australia’s Great Ocean Road is up there with America’s Route 66, South Africa’s Garden Route and Scotland’s North Coast 500 as being an itinerary that’s on everyone’s bucket lists. Starting in Melbourne, Victoria and finishing in Adelaide, South Australia, the Great Ocean Road spans a distance of 243 kilometres, boasting fantastic coastal views and offering some epic scenery along the way. Listed as an Australian National Heritage Site, and the largest war memorial in the world, the Great Ocean Road is a sight not to be missed during your time Down Under. I kick-started my own Australian adventure there back in March with a three day Groovy Grape Great Ocean Road & Grampians tour booked through trendy travel company Ratpack Travel, so here’s my highlights from that tour, and my guide on how to plan the perfect Great Ocean Road itinerary…

 

Day One: Melbourne – Twelve Apostles

 

 

A 6am start is never fun, especially when you’re struggling with jet-lag, but after a couple of nights in Melbourneย travelling solo I was ready to embark on my first tour to kick-start my time in Australia, so I joined the rest of my new tour mates onboard the Groovy Grape mini van. After heading out of Melbourne, our first stop was the seaside resort of Torquay, the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road, and the home of global surfing brands Ripcurl and Quiksilver. Next up was Bells Beach, the setting for the final scene of hit 90s movie Point Break, and soon after we were on our way to the beach village of Apollo Bay and the pretty town of Lorne, which was our lunch stop. After lunch we headed back on the road and stopped off at the famous Great Ocean Road sign, where the iconic Memorial Arch is located. The road itself was painstakingly laid by hand and was worked on by 3000 soldiers who returned from the war and began the construction in 1919. Some soldiers even lost their lives building the road, which is now the largest war memorial in the world.

 

 

Our penultimate stop of the day was the Great Otway National Park, home to some of the oldest rainforests on the planet, where we roamed through trees and admired the sights. The Mait’s Rest Rainforest was a real treat and one of my favourite stop offs; it was pouring down with rain whilst we were there but I think that actually made it better! Our final stop of the day was the one I was most looking forward to: The Twelve Apostles, even though there are only 8 now due to erosion but supposedly there were never 12 in the first place! Anyway, we arrived just before sunset to catch a glimpse of the famous limestone stacks whilst it was still light and the views were amazing. The site itself was pretty crowded, but the boardwalk allows you to get around as slowly or as quickly as you like, and you can get some fantastic photos without feeling the need to rush. Our first night on tour was spent in shared accommodation (13 people in one room) at a local hostel, where we were treated to a delicious home cooked meal by our hosts.

 

Day Two: Twelve Apostles – Grampians

 

 

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep (I wasn’t expecting much after my first experience of sharing a room with 13 people!) we were soon back on the road ready for day 2 of our tour. Our first stop was sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge which was INCREDIBLE. I had a real ‘pinch me’ moment here, as I had zero expectations from this place, and watching the waves crash against the rocks whilst feeling the wind in my hair and the golden sun on my face as it rose above the sea was truly breath-taking. We then made our way along the Shipwreck Coast, stopping off at the Bay of Martyrs, The Grotto and London Bridge all in quick succession. Lunch was eaten at the spectacular Tower Hill Reserve, home to a dormant volcano which was active 30,000 years ago, and is now a nature park teeming with Aussie wildlife including emu’s, koalas, kangaroos and echidna’s.

 

 

After a long drive we reached our next stop, the magnificent Grampians National Park, where we paid a visit to the Brambuk Cultural Centre to gain a good understanding of the local Aboriginal history. We then trekked towards the Mackenzie Waterfalls, which were incredibly powerful and a real sight to behold; it was also here that I saw my first ever wild kangaroo, just bouncing around in front of me! We then headed to the Reeds Lookout Point for sunset in the heart of the Grampians, which offered panoramic views out to the surrounding mountains and dramatic landscapes below. Dinner and accommodation was in a shared wood cabin on night 2 and it was a really peaceful place to unwind after a busy day on the road.

 

Day Three: Grampians – Adelaide

 

 

Our third and final day saw us get up at the crack of dawn, ready for a two hour sunrise hike right in the middle of The Grampians.ย  We hiked a mountain called The Pinnacle, which was pretty tough going as some of the rocks/boulders on the main path were quite big, and the altitude was high so I struggled a little with my breathing. Any worries I’d had soon vanished though as I made it all the way to the top of The Pinnacle where my group and I were rewarded with the most spectacular views over the Grampians below. This was my first hike of many during my time in Australia and it was a really special time for me. I really enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone and reaping the rewards at the end.

 

 

We didn’t do much else on our last day, other than having lunch and spending lots more time on the road driving before we reached our final destination and cruised into the vibrant city of Adelaide. Groovy Grape offer a very ‘hands on’ kind of tour experience, so breakfast, lunch and dinner was always made and served by all of us in the group, taking turns to do different jobs each day. We were also responsible for washing up and tidying away after meal times, and for sorting out all our linen etc too at our accommodation stops. This style of trip is pretty basic and doesn’t offer any luxuries so it may not suit every style of traveller, but your food is included, your accommodation is clean and tidy and your tour guides are excellent. I’d really recommend Groovy Grape for those travelling Australia on a budget, and don’t forget to contact Sammy at Ratpack Travel for all your Aussie needs!

Just FYI, here are the inclusions that were covered in this trip:

  • 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners
  • 2 nights dorm accommodation (shared with the entire group)
  • All national park entry fees
  • All transport from Melbourne – Adelaide, or in reverse from Adelaide – Melbourne

NB. I received a small discount off this tour from Ratpack Travel in exchange for social media content and this blog post but, as always, all words are of course my own.

 

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Last night my Great Ocean Road tour came to the end ๐Ÿ˜ญ I've had an amazing three days travelling from Melbourne – Adelaide with some lovely people from my tour and have seen some INCREDIBLE sights ๐Ÿ˜ On day 1 we ticked off Bells Beach, Lorne and Apollo Bay, wandered through the Maits Rainforest & watched the sun set over the 12 Apostles. On day 2 we saw sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge, made our way to London Bridge & The Grotto, had lunch inside a dormant volcano (whilst emus strolled by!), marvelled at Mackenzie Falls and I saw my first ever wild kangaroo! On day 3 we took a difficult 2 hour hike up to the top of the Pinnacle, in the heart of the Grampian Mountains, and were rewarded with the most incredible views from the top before crossing the Victoria/South Australia border and cruising into Adelaide. What an adventure it has been! ๐ŸŒŽ I booked my trip @groovygrapetours through the fantastic team @ratpack_travel – go check them out for all your Aussie tours and itineraries! #JessDoesAustralia #Days2-5

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6 Weeks Down Under: How I Went Travelling Around Australia

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Swapping Scotland for Sydney ๐Ÿ˜Ž Some of you may have noticed on my Insta feed that I've been reading a fair few travel guides lately, and that I've been on an awful lot of trips too, but there's one travel company who have really helped me whilst I've been away, and that company is @marcopologuides ๐Ÿ“š I absolutely love their travel guides, so it gives me great pleasure to finally let you know that I am one of their Brand Ambassadors for 2019! โค๏ธ I'll be putting some of their brilliant guide books to the test on my upcoming travels and telling you all about them in my blog posts too๐Ÿ’ป First up is a round up of my epic 6 week Australian adventure which is now LIVE on the blog – go check it out for all your Aussie travel tips and to relive my wonderful experiences! (Link in bio)๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Stay tuned for more epic travel guides coming soon to Journeys with Jessica – i can't wait to share more of my adventures with you! ๐ŸŒŽ #ad #brandambassador #gifted

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If you’ve been following me on social media over the past few months you’ll know that I’ve recently returned from the trip of a lifetime travelling around Australia, where I spent 40 wonderful days exploring this beautiful country, taking in 10 cities, 5 states and covering thousands of miles of land. I planned my trip totally on my own, but had the help of my trusty Marco Polo Australia Guidebook with me all the way. Here’s my full itinerary in detail, and a breakdown of all six weeks so you can see how I planned my trip, and just how much I fitted in during my time travelling around Australia!

 

Week 1: Melbourne – Adelaide

 

 

I kick started my tour of Australia with a couple of nights in Melbourne on my own, staying in a private room at the Melbourne Metro YHA, which was brilliant FYI. After a 24hr flight and HORRENDOUS jet lag, it was sooo nice to have my own room and just take things at my own pace for a few days whilst I started to adjust to life in Australia. You can read all about my time in Melbourne here. On my last day in the city I had an early 6am start as I embarked on my tour of the Great Ocean Road down to Adelaide. I booked this 2night/3day Groovy Grape tour through Ratpack Travel, a trendy travel company based in Byron Bay.

 

 

As I’ve mentioned, this tour was operated by Groovy Grape and there were 15 of us in total. Most of the group were solo travellers like me, but there were a few couples as well. There’s a fair amount of walking to do on this tour, including hiking the Grampians and trekking down to Mackenzie Falls, so you need a moderate level of fitness but it wasn’t too taxing. You can read my full review of this Great Ocean Road tour in more detail here, but my highlights included watching the sunrise over Loch Ard Gorge, visiting the Twelve Apostles and having lunch in the Tower Hill wildlife reserve, which is an active volcano!

 

Week 2: Adelaide – Alice Springs

 

 

Upon reaching Adelaide I spent 4 nights here with my lovely friend Jess, who I’d met in America three whole years ago! It was the first time we had been reunited since our US trip back in 2016 so I was so excited to get to Adelaide. Jess showed me allll the sights and we spent time wandering around the city itself (I was lucky enough to be there when the world famous Fringe Festival was on!) and we also headed to the German town of Hahndorf where I felt like I was actually in Germany and not in Australia at all. Other highlights included visiting the brilliant Cleland Wildlife Park, where I got the CUTEST kanga selfies, and we also drove to the seaside resort of Glenelg which boasted a gorgeous beach, promenade and plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. I was super sad to be leaving Jess behind in Adelaide but knew we’d be reunited once more in Sydney at the end of my trip.

 

 

In Adelaide I got picked up ready for my new tour, the Adelaide – Alice Springs Overland Adventure which was operated by Intrepid Travel. I’d heard great things about Intrepid but was super nervous about my outback tour as I had never been camping IN MY LIFE and I was about to spend an entire week sleeping on the floor with bugs and spiders ahhhh! I needn’t have worried though, from the minute I walked on board the tour bus to the minute I left all my new friends behind a week later I can honestly say I had the best experience of my entire life on that outback trip! Again, I’ll be blogging about the tour in much more detail separately, but my main highlights (god there were so many) included sleeping in an underground bunkhouse at Coober Pedy, skydiving over Uluru(!!), hiking Kata Tjuta and watching the sunset over the mountains in Alice Springs.

 

Week 3: Alice Springs – Cairns

 

 

After my outback tour ended I spent an additional 3 nights in Alice Springs just chilling out, walking around the town and spending time with some of my tour friends who were staying on in Alice too. I really wanted to spend a day hiking in the Western Macdonnells National Park, but unfortunately I didn’t have quite enough time to do a full day trip and I was exhausted from my tour so I just focused on recuperating in Alice instead.

 

 

My short flight to Cairns went smoothly and I spent 2 nights in the city ahead of my next tour starting. One of my outback friends, Rick, just happened to be in Cairns too, so I explored the area with him and we had a great couple of days wandering around the lagoon and esplanade, hitting up the nightlife and checking out the famous Rusty’s food market (which was recommended in my Marco Polo Guidebook). We also took a day trip to the Kuranda Rainforest after my Cape Tribulation tour was cancelled due to flooding. We got the cable car up to Kuranda village, stopping off at different parts of the rainforest and the spectacular Barron Falls along the way, and then hopped on the express train back to Cairns along the old fashioned railway.

 

Week 4: Cairns – Brisbane

 

 

My 10 day Cairns – Brisbane tour was operated by Topdeck Travel and I was so looking forward to joining another tour, especially as I’ve always fancied doing an 18-35 Topdeck one! The first half of the trip took us from Cairns – Airlie Beach, where we went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef (BUCKETLIST RIGHT THERE), went hiking and koala spotting up to WW2 forts on Magnetic Island, and we stopped off at the stunning Whitehaven beach after our epic overnight sailing on the Whitsundays.

 

 

After Airlie Beach (and it’s crazy nightlife) we headed onto Myella Farm for a traditional Australian farm stay. We got to see how everything works and how well the animals are looked after and we even hung out with the resident baby joeys! Next stop was the beautiful Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, which fast became one of the highlights of my entire trip. We went 4 wheel driving on the sand and river tubing down Eli Creek before stopping off at the Maheno Shipwreck then catching a scenic airplane flight over the island below. Our last stop was Brisbane and I was super sad to say goodbye to my new friends but also excited for the next part of my adventure.

 

Week 5: Brisbane/Gold Coast – Sydney

 

 

I spent the next 3 nights with my lovely friend Amy, another of my Contiki pals who I’d met in America 3 years ago. She showed me everything there was to see in beautiful Brisbane, including the vibrant Southbank and lagoon, the botanical gardens and the magnificent Story Bridge. Brisbane turned out to be one of my fave Aussie cities, and we then went on a road trip of the Gold Coast which I absolutely loved!

 

 

We spent a night at Byron Bay, hiking up to the lighthouse to watch the sunset and enjoying the nightlife on the main strip. We also stopped off at Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta, Tweed Heads, Rainbow Bay and Snapper Rocks so I saw a fair bit of the Gold Coast and really adored my time there with Amy! I then hopped on my last domestic flight of my trip and headed to Sydney for my final week of travelling around Australia.

 

Week 6: Sydney/Umina Beach – Bondi

 

 

I reunited with my friend Jess and more of my Contiki pals Tamara and James in Sydney which was amazing and we spent 3 nights exploring a city I have wanted to visit for sooo long. We did all the typical touristy stuff like the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Darling Harbour as well as the quirky Paddys Markets and we even hopped on a ferry over to Manly Beach for an afternoon. I really loved my time in Sydney and feel like I saw such a lot there during my visit. After leaving Sydney, Jess and I headed to nearby Umina Beach to stay with Tamara for a few nights. We really enjoyed the laid back vibe in this pretty area and took a day trip to Palm Beach, where the long running TV soap Home and Away is filmed. We enjoyed seeing different parts of the set and hiked up to the lighthouse for spectacular views over the bay below.

 

 

After Umina we headed to Bondi Beach for 2 nights and I was pleasantly surprised by this place; it wasn’t what I expected at all! It wasn’t particularly touristy (probably because we were there before the weekend rush) and I really liked the beaches of Clovelly and Tamarama as well as Bondi. Jess and I met up with another of our Contiki pals, Matt, and the three of us spent an afternoon hiking the epic Bondi to Coogee coastal path (recommended in my Marco Polo Guidebook) which was amazing and boasted some incredible views along the way. Bondi was the perfect place to spend my last few days in Australia and it was so beautiful I just didn’t want to leave!

 

Ahh writing up this post has brought back sooo many wonderful memories from my Aussie adventure. What an absolutely AMAZING time I had on the other side of the world; I would go as far to say that this trip was totally life changing for me and I had the most incredible experience travelling around Australia! I hope this posts helps you if you’re thinking about planning your very own trip Down Under. Let me know if you need any tips as I’d be more than happy to help and share more knowledge from my own experience, but the Marco Polo Australia Guidebook will work an absolute TREAT as well!

NB. This post was sponsored by Marco Polo Guides as I am one of their brand ambassadors for 2019, but all words and photos are of course my own.

 

What It’s Really Like To Do A Travel Writing Internship: My Experience at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

 

It’s 2:30pm on a sunny Friday afternoon in February. It’s 15 degrees, unusually warm for this time of year given that we’re still in winter, and I’m sat on a rooftop terrace overlooking London’s epic skyline. Balancing my Uncle Ben’s rice pot in one hand, and my paperback book in the other, I’m savouring one whole hour of ‘me’ time whilst on my lunch break at the end of my first week as an intern. It’s a funny word, intern. It sounds alien, strange even, and makes me think of a character in some trashy American sitcom.

 

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This is the face of a girl who's just finished her last Monday at work! ๐Ÿ˜ฌ๐Ÿ˜ฌ Really excited to share some news with you all… ๐Ÿ™ˆ 1. I'm quitting my job (again) sorry mum ๐Ÿ˜‚ 2. I've been offered an internship at the Sunday Times Travel Magazine to see how the world of journalism works! Roll on 2 weeks in London for lots of learning ๐Ÿ’ป 3. In March I'm off to travel round Australia all by myself! This trip is an absolute dream come true and I can't wait to spend 6 weeks exploring the other side of the world ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ After that I've got trips to Scotland, Spain, Italy & Greece lined up between May & September so I've got another busy year of travel coming up and I couldn't be more excited! ๐ŸŒ I've taken another leap of faith to give myself a better and brighter future and I'm soooo ready for my new chapter to begin!! 2019, let's do thissss ๐Ÿ™Œ #MondayMotivation #NewBeginnings #BringItOn

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At 26 years old, I’ve become an intern for the first time. I’ve done work experience in the past (as a shy 16 year old at an estate agents whilst doing my GCSE’s) but I never thought that I’d be in a similar position a whole ten years later. The truth is, I’m at a weird stage in my life. I’ve just quit my full time job at a luxury travel company in order to take a leap of faith, step into the unknown and trust that it’ll all be ok. Last week I returned from my epic trip to Australia, where I was on a 6 week adventure to try and ‘find myself’. It’s something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and I finally had the courage (and money) to be able to do it. Before that though, I pushed myself out my comfort zone in a totally different way. My two week internship was at the Sunday Times in London, working on their travel magazine department. I applied for the position after seeing an advert on Twitter, and didn’t expect to hear anything at all until I got an email back asking when I could start! I was so excited, and completely nervous, but really looking forward to trying my hand at something new, and gaining an insight into the world of travel writing on a professional level rather than just in the blogosphere.

My first day didn’t get off to a great start. My train from Oxford was delayed after an attempted suicide on the line (poor soul) and it took me over 3 hours to get to London Bridge, where the office is based in the News Building, right next to The Shard. When I eventually turned up I was a bag of nerves; late, sweating, lost because Google maps had me running round in circles. It wasn’t ideal, but as I straightened myself out in the bathroom mirror and topped up my make up, I started to breathe and calm down; ‘you can do it Jess’ I whispered to myself, encouraged by a text from my mum wishing me luck.

 

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First day of my internship at The Sunday Times = COMPLETE! โœ… The day started horrendously when my train was delayed because of an attempted suicide and it took over 2 hours to get to London! ๐Ÿ˜ฉ Then I got lost and couldn't find the office (google maps is a liar) and I walked round in circles for 20 mins on what should have been a 3 min walk ๐Ÿ™ˆ Then when I finally turned up all hot and sweaty (and late) my friggin suitcase got stuck in the posh carousel door that twirls round and I got stuck with it and it was SO EMBARRASSING ๐Ÿ˜‚ I'm not sure I'm made for London life but on the plus side I got to do some writing for the magazine today and tomorrow I'm doing some Instagram work with them so it's not all bad! ๐Ÿ˜ Time to settle down in my cosy room and get a good nights sleep before day 2 begins tomorrow! Ya gal needs to catch some Z's ๐Ÿ˜ด I hope your Monday was less stressful than mine! ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ˜‚ #internshipproblems #notcutoutforthis #londonlife

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Week one has certainly been an eye opener. It’s so different to anything I’ve ever done before and not what I expected at all. I’ve been fact-checking, reading, researching and writing and I’ve actually taken on more responsibility than I thought, after having visions that all I’d be useful for was doing a bit of proof reading and making the tea. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times where I’ve had barely anything to do and have been twiddling my thumbs but, for the most part, I have been a busy bee and have been getting totally stuck in.

Fact checking can feel like a chore at times, constantly having to read and re-read every word and every sentence to check that a) it’s correct b) it’s relevant and c) there are no grammar issues. It can be very repetitive, scanning through reams of text and analysing every single word, as well as ringing phone numbers and checking websites to make sure they’re correct. Although it’s tedious, fact-checking has been useful and has helped me understand just how much work goes in to a travel magazine, and how accurate you have to be before anything even goes to print.

I struck lucky on the third day, when I was asked to write a piece for the Take Me There section of the magazine, which is the part where words are needed to complement eye-catching images that take up the entire page. I was tasked with writing a piece about Gdansk, a destination I’ve never even been to. Although I was super excited, my hands were trembling as I took to the keyboard. Usually I can bash out a paragraph of text in less than 20 minutes, but when you’re writing for a magazine, and you’re trying to impress people, things become a whole lot scarier. It took me around 4 hours to put that paragraph together, and I had to re write it twice after my feedback was that my writing was ‘solid’ but a little ‘guide booky’. Finally, after 3 attempts, my piece was approved and sent off to the publishing team ready to appear in the May issue of the magazine! I couldn’t believe it! I was thrilled that the team had even liked my writing, let alone approved it to be published, and getting a by-line in one of the UKs biggest travel magazines will surely give my CV an added boost.

 

 

By the end of the second week I’d done even more fact checking and researching, as well as putting together some ideas for the next issues Take Me There section. I’d also spent a few hours going through the magazines’ Instagram account and giving it a little critique, sharing my feedback and passing on some ideas of how to improve it. This is something I really enjoyed, and it made me realise just how much I love social media, although I’m not sure I could do it as a job! The rest of the week was spent assisting the team with anything they needed and I got a real feel for magazine and editorial life. Unfortunately I had to cut the internship short by a couple of days due to issues with my commute from Oxford, but I still feel I had a good amount of time in the role.

Overall I had a great experience interning at the Sunday Times Travel Magazine. I got a real insight into the world of professional travel writing and now have a much better understanding of how editing, publishing and production works. It’s also made me realise two important things:

  1. I don’t ever want to live in London. Nobody talks to each other, everyone’s rushing around in a hurry and in truth I found it a little lonely. Sure I love visiting London, but gimme back my countryside life any day of the week, I am so not a city girl!
  2. I don’t actually want to go into journalism. I love writing, but I love blogging more. I love the freedom and creativity that comes with blogging, and I love the voice it gives me. Journalism is very strict and formal and I just don’t think it suits my style and my creative streak, but it’s not a bad thing, I’m glad I’ve discovered this now rather than paying to do a journalism course or taking a job on something I wasn’t sure about.

Have you ever done an internship before? How did you feel about it? I’d love to know what career breaks you’ve taken before. Big thanks to Alex and the rest of the Sunday Times Travel Magazine team for looking after me during my internship!

 

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That's a wrap! My internship at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine has come to an end ๐Ÿ’ป I've had a great couple of weeks learning about the world of journalism and I even got to write an article that got approved and will be published in the May issue of the magazine which means… MY NAME WILL BE IN PRINT! ๐Ÿ—ž It's been a great experience but I can't wait to come home – I'm not sure London life is meant for me as I've spent the majority of the time getting lost and ending up in places I didn't even know existed, and no one smiles or talks on the tube which makes it soooo lonely ๐Ÿ˜ญ Until next time, London, I won't be back for a while! ๐Ÿ‘‹ Ps. Omg forgot I'm there Tuesday to fly to Australia ๐Ÿ˜‚โœˆ๏ธ #whatislife

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Hostel Review: Wombats London City

 

 

 

 

Whilst on my recent internship at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, I had the pleasure of staying at Wombats Hostel for a couple of nights during my two weeks in London. I was in need of somewhere to base myself for the first week, and on the first two nights I didn’t want to have to worry about finding a friends to stay at, or having to get the train to and from Oxford each day, so I booked myself into Wombats ready to embrace London life. Wombats have a series of budget hostels across Europe, from Vienna to Berlin, with a variety of rooms and locations to suit everyone. Whether you’re travelling as a group or riding solo, Wombats is the place to be. Here’s the lo-down of this quirky hostel, and everything you need to know about what to expect from your stay…

 

The Locationย 

 

 

Set in a historic building ย that has been a hostel since the Victorian era, this place was first used in 1865 as a base for sailors before their overseas trips. Situated on Dock Street near Wapping, just 5 minutes from the historic St Katherine’s Docks, Wombats London City is perfectly positioned to explore everything that the Great British capital has to offer. After an easy 25 minute walk you’ll reach the likes of The Shard, City Hall, the Tower of London and of course the iconic Tower Bridge. I was working in offices at London Bridge, right opposite The Shard, and chose to walk each day so I could really get to know my surroundings and it was so much better to soak up the fresh air and riverside views rather than commuting by tube. If you do need to use the tube during your stay though, you’ll find Tower Hill is the nearest station, just an 8 minute walk away.

 

The Rooms

 

 

I stayed in a private, en suite double room which was comfy, clean and had everything I would need for my two night stay. I couldn’t believe it was a hostel as it totally had the feel and style of a hotel, but without the expensive price tag! The double bed was comfortable and there was plenty of floor, wardrobe and draw space to use. The bathroom was clean and modern with the most incredible rainforest shower which I just didn’t want to leave in the mornings! I definitely felt that my room gave me a little bit of luxury, and total privacy, which was really important to me for this particular stay. Obviously I can’t comment on the dorm rooms, but I’m sure they were of a similar quality throughout, minus the privacy of course. Wombats offer a variety of private and shared rooms at an unbeatable price.

 

The Staff

 

 

The staff at Wombats were so fun and friendly and really made me feel welcome throughout the duration of my stay. I didn’t check in until after 9pm as I’d had a long day at the office and then met a friend for dinner, but despite my late arrival everything went smoothly and I was shown to my room right away. I was presented with two breakfast vouchers and two drinks vouchers to redeem during my stay, and was told where to find the communal areas such as the bar, kitchen and dining area. Everyone was super friendly and I really felt that I was looked after during my stay.ย 

 

The Facilitiesย 

 

 

 

This hostel has everything you’d need for a comfortable stay and offers plenty of things to do whilst on site. The breakfast area doubles up as a bar in the evening, with comfy futons, plenty of chairs and a big screen for watching sports events with fellow guests. There’s a communal kitchen for those of you who want to cook instead of eating out, and there’s also a courtyard patio and a pool table. I didn’t spend much time in the communal areas as I was staying for business not pleasure (sadly) but I had breakfast both mornings and used the kitchen to cook a meal on one of the evenings and found both areas to be absolutely fine. There were plenty of people around, but I didn’t really stop to chat or get to know any of the other travellers as I was short on time what with having to get to and from work each morning and evening. There was a good atmosphere in and around the hostel though, with plenty of groups and other travellers staying, so I think the bar would have been a great place to meet new people if I’d had the time to check it out properly.

 

 

As you can see I had a great stay at Wombats London and would definitely recommend this hostel to anyone looking for budget friendly accommodation in a fantastic central location. Having a private room was brilliant whilst I was doing my internship as it gave me somewhere relaxing to come back to after a busy few days of office life. I would most definitely stay at another Wombats if I ever needed accommodation in any of their other European cities and I wouldn’t hesitate to book their London hostel again.ย 

Thank you Wombats for an awesome stay!

 

NB. My 2 night stay was provided complimentary to me on a B&B basis as I was a guest of Wombats for the purpose of this review but all thoughts, opinions and photos are of course my own.

 

 

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How to Spend a Weekend in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

 

 

Despite having visited Somerset a few times before, it took me until the ripe old age of 25 to visit Cheddar Gorge for the first time, and my first thought upon arrival into this pretty village wasโ€ฆ WHY ON EARTH HAVENโ€™T I BEEN HERE BEFORE??!! I spent a weekend in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset for a festive getaway with my family to see out 2018 and welcome 2019 in style. We stayed at Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa, located about a 5 minute drive (or a 20 minute walk) from Cheddar Gorge. Our resort was in the perfect location from which to explore some of Somersetโ€™s best loved highlights including Wells, Axbridge, Weston Supermare and the Mendip Hills. We had a lovely 4 days relaxing in our lodge on the resort and seeing some of the nearby area, so I thought Iโ€™d put together a weekend guide for you all as Iโ€™d love to start sharing some more UK content on my blog! Hereโ€™s what we got up to, and how I would recommend you spend a weekend in Cheddar Gorge tooโ€ฆ

 

Visit the Gorge and Caves

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) A travel guide to Cheddar Gorge, Somerset ๐Ÿง€๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง ๐ŸŒŸ If walking, caving, rock climbing, hot tubbing, cheese tasting and pub lunching sounds like your kind of thing, you will feel right at home down in Cheddar Gorge. ๐Ÿ˜ I spent the last few days of 2018 indulging in some fresh air and taking part in some outdoor activities whilst spending quality time with my family before seeing in the new year from our little cabin in the woods. ๐Ÿก This post tells you all you need to know about pretty little Cheddar, and what you can expect from your trip there too. Have you ever been before? I'd love to know what you thought of it! ๐ŸŒ #VisitSomerset #LoveSomerset #Somerset #IgersSomerset #Cheddar #IgersCheddar #CheddarGorge #VisitEngland #VisitBritain #LoveGreatBritain #England #UK #BBCBritain #UKPics #GBPics #England_Insta #WeLoveEngland #Travel #TravelBloggersofIG #Wordpress #NewPost #Travelgram #InstaTravel #InstaGo #GirlsLoveTravel #DarlingEscapes #TravelPhotography #DarwinEscapes #CheddarWoods #WeekendAway

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The main attraction, and the main reason for most peopleโ€™s visit, is the wonderful Cheddar Gorge and Caves. With over 500,000 visitors per year, this exhibition is listed as a world famous Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is Britainโ€™s biggest gorge. Dramatic cliffs reaching a depth of over 450ft and eerie caves filled with pre-historic stalactites make for a fascinating discovery, and the interactive audio guides make it easy to navigate yourself around the caves. We loved Goughโ€™s Cave and the Aladdinโ€™s Caves as both were truly stunning and filled with ancient stalactites and stalagmites! Your ticket price includes access to the caves as well as entrance to the Museum of Pre-history (located opposite the caves), Jacobโ€™s Ladder, the interactive Dreamhunters exhibition, and the cinematic Beyond the View experience. We did all four of the individual experiences and really enjoyed them โ€“ it took us around 4 hours to do everything, but you could spend as little or as long as you wanted on them! We particularly liked the Dreamhunters exhibition which allowed you to walk through Coxโ€™s cave and follow the story of early man as he battled through the ice age some 1.2 million years ago.

Open all year round (apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day), tickets for Cheddar Gorge and Caves can be purchased on the gate or online in advance โ€“ save 15% off your ticket price if you book online! The full prices are ยฃ19.95 for adults, ยฃ14.95 for kids and under 5s go free.

 

Climb Jacobโ€™s Ladder

 

 

Included as part of your Gorge and Caves ticket, climbing Jacobs Ladder is an absolute MUST when youโ€™re here to spend a weekend in Cheddar Gorge. Itโ€™s a steep 274 steps to the top, but if you can make it that far, the views of the surrounding Mendip hills and the famous gorge below are well worth the climb. I would recommend stretching yourself that little bit further (just 48 more steps!) and climbing up the Lookout Tower too if you can manage it. Sadly it was closed for refurbishment when we went, but Iโ€™ve heard the panoramic views from the top are INCREDIBLE! The clifftop walk at the top of the ladder takes you on a 3mile loop around the top of the caves and is not for the faint hearted, but the views and fresh air alone are totally worth it; on a clear day you can see across the gorge and surrounding countryside for miles!

 

Walk around the Mendip Hills

 

 

Walking/hiking is one of my favourite things to do, especially when Iโ€™m away, so Iโ€™m pleased to report that Cheddar Gorge has a number of walks and trails that you can follow to keep your legs exercised during your trip. We did loads of hikes around our resort as there were nature trails and woodland walks to follow, and we also did a big loop around Cheddar Gorge itself too. The clifftop walk that can be completed after climbing Jacobโ€™s Ladder will give you some stunning views of the gorge and surrounding countryside below, but I really enjoyed wandering around the Mendip Hills as well. The natural stone walls which make up the gorge are fascinating to look at, and to walk around, but beware for the free roaming goats that can be found dotted around the caves!

 

Buy some famous cheddar cheese

 

 

Taking its name from the village, Cheddar cheese originates from Cheddar itself and is famous the world over, with records of cheese making in the village dating back to the 12th century. The caves in Cheddar Gorgeย have historically been used to mature the cheese, and this is still something which is in use today. The caves provide the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese and a section of the Gorge exhibition at Goughโ€™s Cave will tell you all about this method.ย Cheddar cheese traditionally needs to be made within 30ย miles ofย Wells Cathedral in order for it to be classed as official Cheddar from Somerset. Today you can buy Cheddar cheese in just about any supermarket in the world, but youโ€™ll only find the best of its kind down in Cheddar village. There are lots of little shops and cafรฉs in the village selling the cheese, and Iโ€™d recommend heading to The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, the only cheesemakers left in Cheddar, where you can go along and watch the various stages of the cheese being made and enjoy some free tasters too!

 

Where to stay

 

 

We had booked to stay at Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa, a Darwin Escapes/Hoseasons site located just a 5 minute drive from Cheddar village. We stayed in a 3 bedroom Axbridge Premier Lodge with a hot tub, private decking with outdoor seating and a parking space. Although Hoseasons are often known for being overrun with kids, we didnโ€™t actually find this to be a big problem during our stay (despite staying over the New Yearโ€™s period) and found there were plenty of couples and groups of adults staying too. The site itself was equipped with a restaurant and bar serving food and drinks almost all day.

There was a games room with a bowling alley and snooker corner as well as a well-stocked shop selling all the essentials. There was also a spa and gym on site with a large heated swimming pool, sauna and steam room. We booked massages each and enjoyed these on the morning of New Yearโ€™s Eve before spending a couple of hours in the gym and pool area and making the most of our last day of 2018! The grounds were stunning too, with most of the lodges offering views of the surrounding Mendip Hills, and there were woodland walks dotted around the site, as well as a tennis court/football pitch and a trampoline/aero ball section too. Iโ€™d definitely recommend this place for anyone looking for a base from which to explore the area, spend a weekend in Cheddar Gorge and enjoy everything that Somerset has to offer.

 

Where to eat and drink

 

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Isn't this place just GORGEous?! ๐Ÿ˜ Cheesy pun (again) but the pretty little village of #CheddarGorge has got to be up there with one of the most picturesque places I've ever visited in the U.K! ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง As well as being home to one of Britain's most famous caves, Cheddar also boasts plenty of quirky shops, cafes and pubs as well as stunning countryside views just like the one ๐Ÿ‚ Have you ever visited this part of #Somerset before? I'm currently in the process of putting my travel guide together and I can't wait to share it with you all! ๐ŸŒ #WanderlustWednesday #VisitSomerset #IgersSomerset #Cheddar #IgersCheddar #SomersetLife #LoveForSomerset

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Cheddar Gorge is home to an abundance of cute little pubs, cafes and shops all waiting to make you feel welcome. The village itself is pretty small and you can walk from one end to the other in around 15 minutes. As we visited the Cheddar Gorge and Caves first we parked there and started in that area, making our way through the streets and along the river, before ending up at the waterfall which was at the other end of the village. We passed several cafรฉโ€™s, the most famous being The Lionrock Tearooms which can be found directly opposite part of the Gorge which is known as the Lionrock due to its striking resemblance to a rock that looks like a lion! The cute Mousehole Cafรฉ caught our eye as it looked like something out of Disneyland, and we were also told that the Waterfall Cafรฉ is a hit with tourists too due to its riverside location. We were looking for somewhere that did a traditional Sunday Roast after working up an appetite climbing Jacobโ€™s Ladder, so chose the White Hart Inn which was located in a small area known as The Bays, right at the bottom of the village. There were plenty of places to choose from though and youโ€™re certainly not going to be spoilt for choice for somewhere to eat here in Cheddar Gorge!

 

We had such a lovely weekend in Cheddar Gorge and it felt amazing to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019 whilst on holiday and away from home. If weโ€™d have had more time we definitely would have visited the nearby towns of Wells and Axbridge as both looked picturesque and well worth a stop, but we chose to make the most of our time on the resort rather than driving around or venturing further than we needed to. Iโ€™d really recommend Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa for all ages, particularly if youโ€™re travelling in a group, as there was so much going on that you barely needed to leave the resort! I feel like I did everything I needed to in Cheddar Gorge though and Iโ€™m not sure Iโ€™d go back, but I would definitely stop off to visit Wells next time I am passing through. Have you spent a weekend in Cheddar Gorge or other areas of Somerset before? Iโ€™d love to know what you thought of it too!