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I love looking back at our year and celebrating and reflecting on what we did, places we visited and lessons learned. Sometimes it takes a look back to truly appreciate and absorb all that we did. Last year, I started the tradition by writing a 2016 year in review and here we are a year later, this time looking back at 2017.
This year I wanted to share our best travel moments, memories and experiences from 2017. We were lucky enough to have a full travel calendar rich with trips abroad and lots of exploring in Australia.
Most Unforgettable Trip
Visiting Papua New Guinea in October was an absolutely amazing experience. It is a country I never thought we would visit, by cruise ship much less, but it such a fascinating opportunity to experience the tribal culture of the small PNG islands we visited. The beaches and underwater marine life were pristine and another highlight.
Most Thrilling Experience
With the kids getting older, we are able to participate in more and more adventure activities. The most thrilling was canyoning in the rainforest of far north Queensland. Paul, Ella and Gavin climbed waterfalls, descended canyons and zip lined over water holes.
We aren’t luxury travelers and while we did stay at a few luxe places, our fav hotel of the year was Cape Trib Beach House in far north Queensland. We loved our rustic cabin in the jungle with a pristine beach, great traveler culture and nightly bonfires.
Most Unique Stay
One of the things I was most looking for on our trip to Japan was staying at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. In Kyoto our stay at Gion Shinmonso was such a neat cultural experience. We slept on tatami mats, wore yukata robes, bathed in the onsen and ate traditional kaiseki meals served in our room.
Nothing says summer in Canada like watching the sunset over a beautiful lake. We are so lucky that our good friends invite us to their cottage each summer in Haliburton, Ontario. As the sun sets, the kids have one last swim, the adults enjoy a glass of wine on the dock and all is right in the world.
We are big fans of open air museums where you can really explore and experience history. In 2015 we loved both Zaanse Shans and the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam. This year our fav was Port Arthur in Tasmania. Here we learned about this historic convict site by wandering the buildings and reading the accounts of men that spent time there. Our kids were curious and interested in each building and each story they heard, showcasing the amazing opportunity to learn through travel.
We have really ramped up our hiking this year as the kids get older and it was really hard to pick just one hike. When the kids and I were in the Canadian Rockies we did the hike up to Lake Agnes Teahouse, but then I pushed them to continue up to the Beehive. We trudged through snow in sandals, but were rewarded with beautiful views over Lake Louise.
On our trip to Japan we saw many temples and pagodas and each of them were incredibly beautiful and special. However, my favorite was Kinkakuji, the Golden Temple in Kyoto. While it was full of tourists, it still had this incredible sense of zen.
Best Swimming Hole
While in far north Queensland, we stumbled upon Josephine Falls and never made it to our intended destination of the Atherton Tablelands. The falls and swimming hole are a local favorite and we had so much fun swimming in the jungle, enjoying the natural rock slide, and swinging on mammoth vines.
Once again we were spoiled for choice in the beach department. We think there is something really special about Apollo Bay, on the Great Ocean Road. Maybe it was because we visited with my brother and his family, but we think even in chilly spring weather, it is a spectacular place.
Best New Skill Learned
Living in Australia, we knew we needed some exposure to surfing. The kids took a surfing lesson on Bondi Beach in Sydney and it was so great to see how quickly they got the hang of it. I think there will definitely be more surfing in their future!
Best National Parks Visited
We loved Banff National Park in Canada, but this year we discovered some wonderful National Parks in Australia. We loved all of them, but Wilson’s Promontory and the Grampians were both tops. One, a coastal area with beautiful beaches, a fantastic tidal river and wombats that visit the camp site each night. The other, inland in the mountains and offers amazing hikes, stunning views and emus that wander the camp sites.
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef was a great bucket list item to do together as a family. After all the time we spent snorkeling in the Bahamas in 2015, it was great to see the kids back in the water and so comfortable. While parts of the GBR are really suffering due to climate change, we were able to experience a really healthy part of the Reef.
Snorkeling the pristine waters of Papua New Guinea was even better. We saw incredible diversity of coral and marine species as we spent hours in the water.
Most Iconic Destination
Visiting Sydney as a family was something we had to do living in Australia. The kids loved seeing the Opera House and Harbour Bridge and taking the ferries around the Harbour. It really has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Best Local Find
We love celebrating and learning about different holidays around the world. We had experienced Chinese New Year in Malaysia and were keen to join in the festivities here in Melbourne. They have the longest dragon in the Southern Hemisphere and we had a great day taking in the dancing, fire crackers and fun atmosphere.
Best Day Trip
The Peninsula Hot Springs on the Mornington Peninsula is only an hour drive for us and we had such a great day soaking in the mineral springs, followed by lunch at a local winery.
Best Wildlife Experience
Our kids are a little burned out from seeing Aussie animals and if I even suggest a visit to the Zoo, they are very explicit in their response. However, our visit to see the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island was something the whole family enjoyed. We loved how this huge tourist attraction is done so sustainably and it was incredible to see the fairy penguins waddle ashore.
You have heard us rave about playgrounds in Australia and how interesting they are. We found our favorite one at Darling Harbour in Sydney where the fun water play area, huge climbing pyramids and ziplines engaged the kids for hours.
We know we are so lucky to have the Great Ocean Road at our doorstep, living in Melbourne. I have yet to tire of this drive with its beautiful orange cliffs, glorious beaches and the opportunity to see koalas in the wild.
We have spent many nights this year in our little tent. Just before Christmas we got away for a few nights camping at Mount Buffalo National Park and loved our campsite at Lake Catani. While the snow gums and wombats were different, it reminded us of lakes in Canada. There is just something special about waking up each morning to a view of the water.
Best Theme Park
We are huge Disney fans and so we jumped at visiting the very unique Disney Sea park in Tokyo. We sweated through a very hot day to enjoy the incredible “theming” of the park and its magical rides. Visiting a theme park in a foreign country is actually a really interesting cultural experience.
Coldest Water Encountered
White water rafting the Kananaskis River in the Canadian Rockies was where we encountered the coldest water of the year. Thankfully we had wetsuits to keep us warm in the chilly ice melt.
Breakfast – nothing beats a Melbourne cafe breakfast. Poached eggs and avo on toast = heaven!
Lunch – hawker food in Singapore. It’s a toss up between char kway teow and an Indian thali.
Dinner – the freshest sushi we have ever had in Japan, all custom delivered to our table with an automated conveyor belt.
We had our first cruise together as a family and we were surprised how much we enjoyed it. We loved the kids club, restaurant meals 3 times a day and being pampered. I think it is definitely something we will do again!
When flying from Australia to Canada, Paul had a 12 hour layover in Hawaii that he made full use of. We have never been there before and instead of hanging out in the airport, he visited Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head and the Pearl Harbour Memorial.
We were so fortunate to have had so many amazing travel memories from 2017. It will definitely be hard to top that in 2018! What were your travel highlights of the year and what do you have planned for 2018? We would love to hear in the comments!