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Seven Picture Perfect Places to Visit in The Lake District

 

Wandering around Derwentwater Lake in the Lake District. The Marco Polo guidebook in front of the lake.

Ah the lovely Lakes, one of my favourite parts of England, and one of the most beautiful parts too. I started visiting The Lake District when I was a little girl, probably aged 6, when my parents would take me and my sisters away on our first family holidays. I didn’t go abroad until I was 8 years old, so spent a large chunk of my childhood exploring all over the UK, but The Lakes were always very special to me. From Keswick and Kendal to Grasmere and Glenridding, there’s something for everyone and plenty of things to see and do in The Lake District for families, couples and groups alike. My most recent visit was just a few weeks ago, where I spent some time exploring Cumbria with my fantastic Marco Polo guidebook, which was an absolute god send, with pull out maps, hotel and restaurant recommendations as well as plenty of suggested road trip itineraries and suggested walking routes. To help you plan your visit, I’ve put together a list of some of the most picture perfect places to visit in The Lake District…

 

Ullswater

 

 

Listed as England’s second largest lake, Ullswater is one of the most visited parts of The Lake District. Set amongst some of the finest fells, trees and hills in Cumbria, Ullswater is also the setting for one of William Wordsworth’s most famous poems, ‘Daffodils’. You’ll find plenty of things to do on the lake, from sailing and kayaking to swimming and fishing, and you can even hop on board one of the well known Ullswater Steamers, where a one hour boat ride will take you to all corners of the 8 mile lake. If hiking is your thing you’ll be spoilt for choice with tonnes of popular walking routes nearby, or why not climb Helvellyn mountain for something a little more challenging?

 

Coniston

 

 

Turn to page 50 in your Marco Polo Lake District guidebook to discover everything there is to see and do in pretty Coniston. The village is located in between Coniston Water and Coniston Old Man (a mountain), in the Southern part of the Lakes, and is popular with tourists at any time of year. The Ruskin Museum is a well-known attraction, where you can explore the life of local writer John Ruskin who was born in the Lakes.Β  If you’re visiting during summer, why not board one of the Steam Yacht gondola’s to enjoy a smooth ride across the water? The 19th century Furness Railway originally launched the route as an addition to their railway line, allowing passengers to travel by boat instead of train to experience all that Coniston Water had to offer.

 

Keswick

 

 

Without doubt Keswick is one of the Lake District’s most visited towns, attracting coach loads of tourists from all over the world desperate to explore one of England’s prettiest areas. The summer months are notoriously busy, so it’s probably best to avoid visiting at this time of year if you can, but as the resort is so popular you’ll find it’s got plenty of things going on throughout spring, autumn and winter too. It’s a haven for shoppers, with high street stores and independent little boutiques selling everything you can think of, and there are tonnes of eateries to choose from, with cafΓ©’s, pubs and restaurants all waiting to welcome you into their doors. Keswick is a great place to base yourself for your Lake District adventure as you can explore many of the other surrounding towns and villages from here too. For an idyllic walking route, turn to page 97 of your Marco Polo guidebook and read itinerary number 4, ‘A Walk Through Keswick & Surrounding Area’. This 1.5hr walking route will take you on a round trip of the town, passing Derwentwater, Friars Crag and Castle Head along the way, giving you the perfect start to your time in Keswick.

 

Grasmere

 

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Lush green mountains, sunny blue skies and glorious countryside views, this is what I love most about the beautiful #LakeDistrict β›° I didn't go abroad until I was 8 years old and spent many half term holidays up here with my sisters, so Lakeland is a huge part of my childhood and I have fond memories running up and down hills, chasing sheep in fields and having fun with my family ❀️ One year we even ended up getting lost on a mountain when my mum thought we were following yellow arrows on stones and sticking to a proper pathway but it turned out to just be yellow MOSS that she was following and we had been going round in circles for 8 hours!! πŸ˜‚ A phone call to Mountain Rescue got 3 kids, 2 adults and 1 dog back on the straight and narrow but it took us forever to get off that bloody mountain and I never wanted to see another one for weeks after that πŸ™ˆ Luckily I started to love them again as I got older, and now they hold a special place in my heart and help me to appreciate all the natural beauty we have right here in England πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ Do you have a silly travel story? I'd love to hear them on this chilled Sunday evening! ✨

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I’ve been to Grasmere many times and really enjoyed it, but my most recent visit made me fall in love with this tiny village even more. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel called The Lancrigg, which was secluded enough to feel like you’re staying in a remote hideaway, but also just a short walk into the village with all its amenities, including restaurants, shops and cafe’s. Grasmere boasts many walking routes, with a mixture of smaller fell walks, winding hills and impressive mountains to climb, most notably Helm Crag being the one which attracts keen hikers. The famous poet William Wordsworth spent his entire life in the Lake District, and you can visit his grave right here in Grasmere, where he is buried alongside his sister, wife and children in the graveyard of St Oswald’s Church. Did you know Grasmere is also famous for its gingerbread? Me neither, until I read about it in my Marco Polo guidebook! Check out the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop located just next to the St Oswald’s Church, and take some of this delicious cake home with you.

 

Wastwater

 

 

At a depth of almost 260ft, Wastwater is the deepest lake in England, and it sure is proud of its best known asset. Tourists and locals alike spend many a summers day walking around the lake and enjoying the spectacular scenery, with only its resident sheep for company.Β  Flanked by the mountains of Yewbarrow, Lingmell and Great Gable, Wastwater has an epic backdrop and commands stunning views from every angle. The tiny village of Wasdale, with it’s well known pub The Wasdale Head, makes the perfect base for those keen to explore the local area. Mountain enthusiasts, or those taking part in the popular Three Peaks Challenge, will want to tick off Scafell Pike whilst they’re in the area. At over 3200ft tall, climbing England’s highest mountain is not for the faint hearted, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic mountain views once you reach the top and it’ll certainly be a day to remember.

 

 

Lake Windermere

 

 

Although Wastwater is classed as the deepest lake in England, beautiful Windermere is holds the record for the largest lake in England, making it one of the most popular parts of Lakeland. This place is absolutely perfect for families as there are plenty of child-friendly activities and attractions for all ages. I’ve spent so many summer holidays taking a boat across the lake, checking out the fantastic aquarium and visiting the World of Beatrix Potter, a fantastic museum located in nearby Bowness dedicated to the woman who created Peter Rabbit, with scenes and figurines from the iconic children’s books. If you’re looking for something more physical, Lake Windermere itself is a haven for water sports, with a whole host of activities on offer and the opportunity to hire rowing or electric boats, yachts and even go sailing. Summer is super busy on Windermere, and accommodation gets booked up fast, so I’d recommend visiting outside of peak season to get the most out of your visit, and to avoid the crowds!

 

Derwentwater

 

 

I actually stayed in Derwentwater on my most recent visit to the Lakes, just a few weeks ago, so I’d recommend staying at The Derwentwater Hotel in Portinscale and basing yourself there for a couple of nights whilst exploring everything the area has to offer. The hotel is set in sprawling 18 acre grounds with fabulous views over to the hills and the famous Derwentwater Lake in the background. We only spent 1 night in Derwentwater but that was definitely enough time to check out the local area. We took a walk around the lake, stopped off for brunch at one of the cute nearby cafe’s and wandered down to the pretty Derwentwater Marina where you could rent boats, kayaks and even stand up paddle boards! If you have more time to spare and fancy venturing a little further afield, why not visit Keswick? It’s 2 miles away and would probably only take 25 mins to walk there, or you could hop on one of the local buses to get you there in a flash!

 

There are so many other towns and lakes that I could have included in this list, but these are some of my favourite, and are well worth seeing during your visit to The Lake District. Using your Marco Polo guidebook you can easily plan a week-long road trip, or pack lots in to a weekend break, ensuring you see as much as you can during your time in Cumbria. If you’ve got a trip lined up soon let me know where you’re planning to visit and I can give you some top tips! But for now I’m off to reminisce about my recent trip and plan my next visit to the lovely Lake District too…

 

Wandering around Derwentwater Lake in the Lake District. Jess holding the Marco Polo guidebook in front of the lake.

 

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One Week in California: The Ultimate Multi-Centre Holiday

 

We all know that the USA is mind-blowingly huge, with plenty of incredible states, cities and towns just waiting to be discovered. It’s impossible to see it all in one go, but it is possible to choose one state and focus your time on that by booking a multi-centre holiday instead. Without doubt, one of the most popular US states to visit is California; with it’s glorious beaches, vibrant cities and bucket-list tourist attractions. Whether you’re looking to tick off the original Disneyland, make your way to Hollywood or take a ride over to Alcatraz, California offers something for everyone. With this in mind, I’ve joined forces with the wonderful team over at TravelPlanners to show how multi-centre holidays are a great way to travel, and I’ve included three of my dream destinations. Here’s how you can create your own itinerary and have the trip of a lifetime over in sunny California too…

 

San Diego – 2 nights

 

Fly to San Diego airport, hire a car and let your Californian road trip begin. In this super cool city, that’s thriving with nightlife and an abundance of things to see and do, there are attractions which will appeal to all ages. San Diego is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and boasts numerous beaches as well as its famous natural deep-water harbour. For those looking for an active start to their multi-centre holiday, why not check out one of the many green parks that are dotted across the city? The Sunset Cliffs nature reserve is worth a visit, with glorious walks, stunning coastal views and fantastic beaches to enjoy, but Balboa Park is arguably the most popular, with beautiful buildings, neatly manicured lawns and spectacular fountains. Spend your first night in San Diego checking out the bars and restaurants in the Downtown or Pacific Beach areas as you immerse yourself in ‘Navy Town USA’.

 

 

 

 

If you’re into your history, a trip to the USS Midway Museum on day 2 is an absolute must see. Enabling visitors to follow in the footsteps of former soldiers, this interactive museum offers an eye-opening insight into what life was like on board 20th century America’s longest serving US Navy carrier. Spend the afternoon chilling out at La Jolla, meaning ‘The Jewel’ in Spanish, and discover why this place is such a gem. Perched on rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean, La Jolla is the perfect place to swim, surf and kayak in the sea or just relax on the golden sandy beach. Other attractions include San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Legoland California and Coronado Island, a small peninsula between San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean that boasts its own beach, hotel and a funky Downtown district.

 

Los Angeles – 2 nights

 

Check out of your hotel and get straight on the road, heading 120 miles north towards the city of stars, Los Angeles. Most people choose to do this three hour drive all in one go, or with a couple of comfort stops, but if you do want to break it up and see some more of California, I’d recommend stopping at Anaheim for 4 or 5 hours. Home to the original Disneyland, this magical theme park should be on everyone’s bucket lists, especially because no visit to the States is complete without a trip to Disney, right?! Depending on how early/late you get to LA, spend your first afternoon/evening doing the famous Hollywood sign and visiting the iconic Walk of Fame, looking out for the stars of your fave A-listers along the way. Afterwards, why not wander down Rodeo Drive for the ultimate shopping experience, or spot Beverly Hills from afar? You’ll feel just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

 

 

LA is incredibly busy, and with so much going on at all times of day, it can be a little overwhelming. If you’re looking to recharge your batteries after a busy day of sightseeing, why not head to one of the city’s many beaches? Santa Monica pier is packed with carnival rides, food stalls and has glorious mountain views. Continuing on from Santa Monica Beach, Venice Beach is fast becoming the hottest place in LA, with insta-models working out at Muscle Beach, volleyball or basketball nets up for activity lovers, and a fantastic boardwalk that enables you to walk the entire stretch of sand whilst soaking up the Californian vibes. If you’re a foodie, Downtown LA is a great place to go for an evening meal; there’s plenty of restaurants offering all types of cuisines, with Chinatown and Little Tokyo particularly popular with locals and tourists alike.

 

San Francisco – 3 nights

 

After a busy few days, and a huge 420 mile drive, you’ve certainly saved the best til last with super cool San Fran! Before you get there it’s definitely worth breaking up the journey with stops at the likes of Malibu, Santa Barbara and Big Sur (maybe a few hours in each/an overnight stop to do them all!) Once you’ve arrived in SF, three nights here is a good amount of time to see pretty much everything on offer, but you could easily spend longer exploring California’s 4th largest city. On your first day you’ll want to see some of the sights, so head over to the Golden Gate Bridge to take in one of the most photographed landmarks in the entire world. Next up is Fisheman’s Wharf, with Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square to the East and West of the Wharf respectively. Both areas boast trendy shopping and eating areas, as well as rides, aquariums and San Fran’s iconic sea lions. Head to the Richmond neighbourhood or the Marina for the best restaurants/bars to soak up the lively nightlife that this city has to offer.

 

 

Spend your second day hopping on a ferry over to one of America’s most notorious islands; Alcatraz. A former federal prison, Alcatraz is located on a rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, and is one of the city’s most visited attractions. Self-guided or audio tours are essential to getting the most out of your visit, and don’t miss the hospital area too for an insight into the medical care during the prison’s working days. On your third and final day why not head to Union Square to shop and people watch, and if you’re there during the Christmas holidays you can go ice-skating too! For something different, I’d recommend catching a ferry from Pier 41 and heading to Angel Island, famed for its history as a civil war fort and, more recently, its Immigration Station Museum. For a once in a lifetime experience you’ll want to go hiking right to the top of Angel Island, where breath-taking views over San Francisco Bay below will be waiting for you with open arms.

 

As you can see, I’ve based this itinerary on a one week road trip, but you could adapt this to 10 days or 2 weeks to spend more time in each destination, and to include more cities along the way too! Despite starting my own American adventure in Los Angeles three years ago, I never got to explore the area or see anything of California at all, so these three cities are at the top of my US bucket list and California is certainly a state I want to explore properly one day! Have you considered taking multi-centre holidays before? I think they are a fantastic way of seeing so many cities in such a short time and I’d recommend this style of travel to anyone looking to make the most of their epic US road trip!

NB.Β  This post was brought to you in collaboration with TravelPlanners but, as always, all words are of course my own.

 

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Why Cruising is my New Favourite Way to Travel

I know what you’re thinking… cruising is for old people, right? WRONG! Cruises are so much fun, they’re so exciting and they are SUCH a great way to travel to new places. I embarked on my very first cruise last summer when I spent a week sailing round the Med with my family, and I had one of the best weeks of my whole life – you can read more about that trip right here. I loved just waking up in a new destination each day and couldn’t wait to get off the ship at each port and explore a new city. Days at sea also give a totally new meaning to the words ‘ultimate relaxation’ and I certainly got my money’s worth at the epic food buffets! Here’s why cruising is my new favourite way to travel, and why I think you’ll fall in love with it too…

 

The ship feels like a gigantic hotel

 

 

I know most people will say that some of these pointers will vary depending on what ship, cruise line and what destinations you choose, which is of course absolutely correct, but I can guarantee that pretty much every single cruise ship you’ll ever go on will ALWAYS feel like a gigantic hotel! With hundreds of rooms, multiple floors, hoards of bars and restaurants and plenty of shops, your cruise ship will feel like the biggest all inclusive hotel you’ve ever seen – and then some. At first you’ll get lost trying to find your room and won’t be able to remember which bars are in which direction but trust me, that’s all part of the fun, it’s like discovering a new hotel or resort every single day, but the best bit is that you’re staying in one place the entire time!

 

Your all inclusive package will be worth it

 

 

I have to say, I never usually opt for all inclusive when I’m abroad and always go for self catering, but with a cruise you don’t really have a choice! Every guest receives some type of meal plan with their cruise, whether it’s half board, full board or all inclusive, and this obviously depends on which cruise line/ship you choose. Some companies may offer an upgrade from full board to all inclusive, which I wouldn’t usually pick, but ours was free when we booked as we were eligible for a special offer, so naturally we said YES! This actually made a real difference to our stay as we didn’t pay a single penny for any food and drink consumed on board, even branded drinks and cocktails were included within our package, and you could literally have as much as you wanted – result! Some of the restaurants on board some of the biggest cruise ships out there are totally out of this world, and you’ll want to try as much of the food and drink as you can whilst you’re on your cruise to get the most out of your experience – just be prepared to come home a few pounds heavier after all that over indulging πŸ˜‰

 

The sail in’s/ sail away’s are amazing

 

 

This was without doubt my favourite part of cruising. The sail away on our first night was so much fun and we had a live band playing party music as we left Croatia, with the bright lights of Dubrovnik glittering in the distance as we made our way further out to sea. Sailing in to a new destination every day was also super exciting, and I got up at around 5:30 each morning so that I could head up to the top deck and be one of the first on board to take in the epic sights. I’ve never really experienced anything like it before, just breathing in the fresh sea air and enjoying the panoramic views that were ahead of me. One of my favourite sail in’s was Kotor, Montenegro; it was an early one (6am) and there were only a handful of people on the top deck watching with me and my parents. The turquoise waters glistened below and the enormous mountains provided the most amazing backdrop whilst we glided into the tiny port. It was at that exact moment, just 2 days into my trip, that I realised cruising was such a special way of travelling and that I’d totally fallen in love with it.

 

There’s excellent entertainment on board

 

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* (link in bio) Top 10 Tips for First Time Cruisers in Their 20s 🚒 My first post from my recent cruising adventure has just gone live on the #blog, and I'm sharing my top tips for first time cruisers, especially if (like me) you're in your 20s and you have NO IDEA what to expect from a holiday at sea 🌊 This post will talk about all things cruising, from choosing your favourite cabin type to watching different entertainment on board, and I hope it's useful to those of you who want to know a bit more about ship life βš“οΈ I also try to dispel the myth that cruising is just for old people, so hopefully this post helps you see why it is fun for all ages! I can't wait to book my next one, and I'm a total cruise convert now! 🚒 #allaboard #newblogpost #happycruising

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Again this depends on which cruise line and which ship you choose, but cruising nowadays has such a big focus on the entertainment factor that you’re bound to find something which appeals to everyone. From West End style shows and world class magician experiences to dance extravaganza’s and Cabaret performances, the entertainment on board cruise ships has never been better. Most ships will offer jam packed programmes every night of the week, with shows to cater for all tastes and ages, whilst the cruise teams will also have entertainment throughout the day too. We often took part in the trivia quizzes, bingo and interactive games during the day and went to at least one show every couple of nights. You can be involved as much as you want, or if you prefer just to sit back and relax with a glass of wine whilst listening to some live music, you can of course do that too.

 

Both the sunrises and the sunsets are unreal

 

 

Along with the sail in’s and sail away’s, I think this was my other favourite part of cruising. Being in the middle of the ocean you are in prime position to see the best sunrises and sunsets in the world. There’s nothing in the way, there’s no light pollution when you’re at sea, and the reflection of the water just makes it that bit more special. The sunrises are amazing during the sail in’s, especially if you’re a bit far away from port but can see it in the distance. I know not everyone wants to wake up early on their holiday though, so don’t worry, the sunsets are just as spectacular and you definitely won’t want to miss out on golden hour. We sometimes just spent ages on the top deck watching the sun cast it’s golden shadow across the water, waiting for the pink skies to go dark, and it was truly mesmerising.

 

You can wake up somewhere new every day

 

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Don't mind me, just posing in front of expensive boats like it's the most normal thing in the world πŸ™‹ I'm currently writing up my #travel guide to #Kotor and can't wait to share it with you all! This pretty city is fast becoming the new go-to place for a European break in 2018, and with cute cobbled streets, an ancient old town and a glamorous waterfront like this, it's not hard to see why! 😍 I LOVED my time in #Montenegro when I visited as part of my recent #cruise and am already planning a return trip to explore more of this gorgeous country 🌍 Have you ever been to Kotor before? On this miserable windy day in England, I know where I'd rather be rn ✈️ #TBT #VisitKotor #VisitMontenegro #MarellaCruises #GoMontenegro #Insta_Montenegro #MontenegroWildBeauty #KotorMontenegro #KotorBay #CruiseLife #Europe #TravelGuide #TUI #ThrowbackThursday

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One of the best parts about cruising is that all the travelling is done for you while you sleep! Most ships do all the travel between their guests going to bed at night and then waking up the next morning, meaning you’ll go to sleep in one destination and wake up in another, amazing huh?! I absolutely loved this element to cruising as it meant I could really maximise my time in each port and wasn’t tired after a long travel day. Plus you don’t feel a thing whilst your sleeping and you don’t miss out on any sights either as you’re literally just in the middle of the sea for hours. Some of the destinations I went to in the Med would take DAYS to travel between if I was on land, so I realised just how handy cruising could be and how much time it saves doing it all by boat!

 

You can see why I had such a great time on my cruise now, right?! I just loved every single second on board that ship, and I’m already dreaming about booking my next cruise so I can tick some brand new cities (and countries) off my ever expanding bucket list. With thousands of different ships, itineraries and routes offered across the globe, and with plenty of places online to find a great cruise offer, there’s never been a better time to go on a cruise! Have you ever been on one before? I’d love to know what you thought of it!

NB. This post was brought to you in collaboration with Rol Cruises but, as always, all words are of course my own.Β 

 

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Doing the Titanic pose all by myself cos this Rose doesn't need a Jack in her life 😎 I've been home for just 24 hours and I'm already missing being at sea 🌊 Words can't describe the amazing experience I had on my first ever cruise 🚒 I was so nervous before going as I suffer so much with travel sickness (ironic as I'm a travel blogger) but luckily I was absolutely fine and kept well the entire time! It's only now that I'm home I'm suffering with motion sickness despite being back on land! What is THAT all about?! 😩I think it means I need to book another cruise asap, I'm a total convert now and loved waking up in a new place each day, but my favourite thing was spending hours looking out at the blue waters, with nothing but the ocean staring back at me 🐬 Can I go be a mermaid again please? #cruiselife #titanicpose #takemeback #marellacruises

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How to Spend a Week in Florida: Top Attractions and Must Sees

 

The sunshine state of Florida lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean in the south eastern region of America and is one of the most visited states in the whole country. Brimming with gigantic theme parks, designer shopping malls, gorgeous sandy beaches and vibrant cosmopolitan cities, Florida offers something for everyone and is popular with families and tourists from all over the world. During my 4 week tour of the US back in 2016, I was lucky enough to spend seven glorious days exploring Florida and found plenty of things to see and do in this wonderful state. Here are the top sights and biggest Florida attractions that you absolutely won’t want to miss during your visit…

 

Walt Disney World, Orlando

 

 

No list of Florida attractions is complete without the absolute ICON that is Walt Disney World; the place where all your magical dreams come true (cheesy, I know). I am a huge Disney fan and have wanted to visit ever since I can remember, so I was totally overwhelmed when I entered the Magic Kingdom and saw Cinderella’s castle for the first time! I only had one full day at Walt Disney World so decided to focus solely on Magic Kingdom, but you can of course head to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and the Typhoon Lagoon waterpark to get an added Disney fix and to make the most of all the epic parks on site.

 

South Beach, Miami

 

 

One of the most famous stretches of sand in the world, Miami’s South Beach is an absolute must see during your time in Florida. Perfect for water sports, celeb spotting and sunbathing, South Beach is a great place to chill out in a city which is always buzzing. If you’re looking to escape the sun, why not head to the nearby Lincoln Road Mall? This open air mall is completely pedestrianised and is brimming with big name fashion retailers, luxurious boutique stores and quirky cafes and eateries. The Art Deco scene in Miami is pretty big, so it’s worth checking that out too whilst you’re visiting South Beach. Nightlife in Miami is on par with the likes of Vegas and NYC and, as with any major city, Miami’s glamour comes at a price so be prepared to spend top dollar on drinks and club entry.

 

Kennedy Space Centre, Titusville

 

 

To infinity, and beyond! Nope, we’re not talking about Disney again, this time it’s the Kennedy Space Centre in Titusville. If galaxies, planets and spaceships are your thing you won’t want to miss out on a visit to NASA HQ during your time in Florida. The centre is huge and they have done a great job of preserving real life rockets and other space related artefacts. Some of the talks and interactive exhibitions are super informative, the shuttle buses are handy and the centre is easy to get around, especially if you’re travelling with children. There are some great photo opportunities along the way, and I’d recommend spending at least a few hours here to really get the most out of your visit.

 

Universal Resort, Orlando

 

 

Another theme park has made this post, and this time it’s Universal, which is definitely on the ‘most visited’ list of top Florida attractions. With its big thrill rides, fantastic character interactions and a whopping three theme parks all on one resort, Universal is a hit with visitors of all ages. Kids will love the Shrek and the Despicable Me rides, whilst older ones will find the Transformers and Jurassic Park sections much more enjoyable. Thrill seekers won’t want to miss the Volcano Bay water park, with enormous slides, coasters and rapids. The Islands of Adventure park is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with life size recreations of the Forbidden Forest, Hogwarts Castle and the Hogwarts Express just waiting to be discovered.

 

Everglades National Park, The Everglades

 

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β€œThe Everglades is America’s largest subtropical wilderness and the largest protected stretch of mangrove coastline in the Western Hemisphere. There are nearly four million acres of contiguous public conservation lands in the Everglades of South Florida, often quite close to cities like Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers and Naples. I captured this photography from a Cessna 177 airplane near Everglades City, which is one of my favorite basecamps for Everglades adventure. Its where Everglades National Park meets Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and wild lands and waters extend for dozens of miles in every direction. For those who want to immerse in the Everglades, the 99-mile Everglades Wilderness Waterway included marked paddling trails and camping sites that connect through the mangrove fringe from Everglades City to Flamingo (closer to Miami). Everglades National Park has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site and a Wetland of International Importance, one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists.” β€” Carlton Ward. Photo by @carltonward #EvergladesNationalPark #Everglades #Mangroves

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Spending long days at theme parks certainly takes its toll, so it’s nice to break up the intensity with something a little more laid back. I say laid back, coming up close and personal with alligators is not for the faint hearted, but on your visit to the Everglades National Park at least you’ll be swapping rollercoasters and log flumes for boat rides and swamps! Listed as a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance, the Everglades are one of Florida’s best loved natural beauties. Visitors can hop on a tram and ride the 15 mile Shark Valley Loop if they’re on the lookout for gators, or for something a little more tame, why not hike along the 2 mile boardwalk into the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to view the largest collection of old growth Cypress trees in the world.

 

SeaWorld, Orlando

 

 

Home to every kind of marine animal you can think of, and with a whole host of shows, exhibitions, thrilling rides and interactive displays, SeaWorld and it’s neighbours, Discovery Cove and Aquatica, combine to make a huge entertainment complex and are high on the list of top Florida attractions. Thrill seekers can take on the high speed Manta, Kraken and Mako rollercoasters whilst the Infinity Falls rapids are super popular too. For animal experiences, head to the underwater viewing or aquarium areas to see dolphins, sharks, turtles and sting rays up close. Arguably the best time to go to SeaWorld will be when they host their huge events, including their fireworks display on 4th July, or their Halloween Spooktacular which runs on weekends from 21st September – 27th October.

 

Have you been to the sunshine state before? How many Florida attractions did you visit? I’ve only been to half of the ones on this list, so I think that’s an excuse to go back soon, right?! πŸ˜‰

NB. This post was brought to you in collaboration with ATD but, as always, all words are of course my own.

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6 Weeks Down Under: How I Went Travelling Around Australia

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Swapping Scotland for Sydney 😎 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 πŸ“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! ❀️ 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 tooπŸ’» 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)πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί 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! 🌎 #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.