About Kelli Mutchler
Kelli Mutchler left a small, Midwest American town to prove that Yanks can, and do, chose alternative lifestyles. On the road for five years now, Kelli has tried news reporting and waitressing, bungy jumping and English teaching. Currently working with Burmese women refugees in Thailand, she hopes to pursue a MA in Global Development. Opportunities and scenes for international travel are encouraged on her blog, www.toomutchforwords.com.
Latest Posts by Kelli Mutchler
In 2002, Kaikoura, New Zealand, became the world’s first Green Globe certified community. Previously known for the pods of dusky dolphins that cruise the nearby coastline, visitors now flock to this South Island town for the beautiful, environmentally proactive experience at Hapuku Lodge.
Sustainability and conservation are two concepts dear to Kiwi hearts, and guests will discover from the moment of their arrival that Hapuku is less about high prices and more about comfortable, native hospitality – with a green twist.
The Lodge itself, from the youthful tree house rooms to the furniture within them, was predominately hand-made and locally-sourced. Ingredients in the kitchen are regionally-produced, or grown in the chef’s own, organic, garden. All waste is composted.
Hapuku encourages guests to explore and appreciate the area’s unique, indigenous flora, and is responsible for replanting over 11,500 native plants and trees – one for every guest night at the lodge.
Perhaps the best immersion opportunity is a night in Hapuku’s tree house rooms, towering 30 feet from the ground in the branches of New Zealand’s Manuka trees.
From either the one or two-story leafy accommodation, guests can see the Kaikoura coastline – and maybe even spot some passing sea life!
Seal swimming, sea kayaking, deep sea fishing and albatross encounters are just a few of the marine activities guests can participate in. Nearby attractions also include Maori culture tours, wine tours and night sky tours, as well as hiking, biking and golfing.
For rates and reservations, contact Hapuku Lodge online.
Australia may be the world’s biggest island, but citizens of its six states and two territories will tell you how different each region is. Along its coastline, hundred of smaller islands offer guests the opportunity to dive into the country’s unique land and sea life, while getting a glimpse of its distinctive local customs and communities. Accommodation at any of these five resorts will highlight a special part of Aussie hospitality:
1. Hotel Rottnest, Rottnest Island, Western Australia - “Rotto”, as the locals call it, is a small community located off of Perth and Freemantle. First inhabited over 6,500 years ago, the island’s blend of Aboriginal and European history makes it an ‘A’ Class Reserve. Guests must pay an entry fee to this protected site, which is included in the cost of a ferry from the mainland. Once on the island, guests can swim and snorkel in its clear waters or wander the walking trails in search of the indigenous quokka. This cute marsupial inspired Hotel Rottnest’s nickname, the “Quokka Arms.” Bookings for a room with a sea view over Thompson Bay begin around 300 AUD, with the option to add on a bottle of Australian wine as a welcoming beverage.
2. Kangaroo Island Seafront Resort, Kangaroo Island, South Australia - Over 4,000 Australians call Kangaroo Island, or “KI”, home; so, visitors will be surprised by a thriving social, cultural and entertainment community in the islands main towns. Due to its size and relative isolation from the mainland, Kangaroo Island is also home to a range of unique flora and fauna – from Tammar wallabies to koalas and sea lions – and over one-third of the island is Conservation or National Park land. Kangaroo Island Seafront Resort is built in Penneshaw, with 12 seafront rooms booking at a rate of 245 AUD a night. Guests can take in the panoramic view from their private balcony, join an eco-tour to learn more about the island’s unusual wildlife or sample the local delicacies: King George whiting, sheep’s cheeses, honey and a range of experimental wines.
3. Qualia, Hamilton Island, Queensland - The Whitsundays are a string of 74 tropical islands scattered along the Great Barrier Reef. Besides the distinction of being part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Qualia has the additional recognition of being ”Best Resort in the World for 2012″ by the Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards. The luxury resort’s name is Latin for “a collection of deeper sensory images”, something guests will find as they relax under a drenching yellow sun, or swim in perfect indigo waters. With exclusive access to Pebble Beach, guests can enjoy some of the island’s best snorkeling, swimming and tanning spots. If that’s not enough isolation, the resort offers boat drop-offs to private beaches on other nearby islands, as well as personal use of kayaks and catamarans. The spa also uses a range of natural Australian products to rejuvenate guests. Rates begin at 975 AUD for a room in the Leeward Pavilion and range up to 3650 for booking the hidden Beach House.
4. Crab Claw Island Resort, Crab Craw Island, Northern Territory - Territorians are proud of their no-frills state, settled by remote Aboriginal communities, cattle stations and Outback pioneers. Crab Claw may not have the pretty name or popularity of a Whitsunday island, but it offers guests a chance to experience a different side of Australian resort hospitality. Elevated cabins connect to a stilted restaurant by forested walkways. Enjoy menu meals in the open dining area; or, for those with a lucky fishing rod, the chef will prepare your own catch for dinner. Surrounded by nature, guests can fish, go mud crabbing, bush walking or bird watching from their private room balconies. Accommodation choices include a beach-front cabin, or hideaway retreat cabin in the palm garden. Contact the resort directly for booking inquiries and quotes.
5. Arajilla Resort, Lord Howe Island, New South Wales - Natural relaxation is the concept surrounding this eco-sensitive spa and resort. With limited wifi availability and abundant environmental distractions, Arajilla is a haven for nature lovers and bird watchers. 14 types of seabirds migrate here to breed, and the island is home to over 130 species, including the endangered Lord Howe Island woodhen. If guests prefer the sea to the sky, they can participate in fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and swimming activities. Accommodation for tourists is limited by the island’s 400 beds, making it a stay even more exclusive. Yoga courses, spa treatments, picnic baskets and bicycles are a just a few of the guest benefits. Arajailla is family owned and operated, with off-peak reservations starting at 615 AUD.
To look at the frozen bloody stump that once propelled Australia’s icon across the Outback is to seriously consider vegetarianism.
And that’s a dramatic statement, given my current location. Down here in rural South Australia, scotch fillet and beef schnitzel are the most popular items on the Nundroo Roadhouse menu. Chips are considered a vegetable, and vegan is a term I have yet to hear.
With over 29 million cows in the country, it is easy to see why certified Aussie Angus steak dominates the palate. Ranching is a massive and proud industry; yet, by current environmental standards, we should be eating more kangaroo. Roaming “The Centre” in uncountable numbers, ‘roos produce less methane, graze more sustainably and cause less ground damage than their bovine neighbors.
Aboriginals have been eating them for years. The indigenous cooking method roasts the tail over a fire, or hot coals, until all fur is burned off. But the lingering stench, I was warned, would turn a foreigner’s hunger off.
So Chef Ceaser skinned ours first, carefully removed the sinew and turned it into a sweet and sour soup.
The result tasted like Australia itself: a solid broth with an infusion of ethnic spices, and a kick as strong as that from the feet of a giant Red ‘roo. Distinctive and powerful.
“Bush tucker” – food that is found and/or eaten in Australia’s remote locations – has just recently made an appearance in most big-city restaurants. From Witchetty Gub to quandong pie, what’s the wildest dish you’ve eaten in Oz?
The Berkeley River Lodge gives new meaning to the concept of “Outback Australia.” Perched on the dunes of the Kimberley region’s northern coast, the resort is so remote that it can only be reached by sea or land.
Surrounded by untouched bush wilderness, guests wake up to native birdcalls and a sunrise over the East Timor Sea. Each daily activity is an adventure, whether guests choose to Heli-fish along the Berkeley River, explore clear water gorges, or take a helicopter tour over the Kimberley. Stroll the beach to witness dugongs, dolphins and turtles; or, take a guided tour to some of the world’s oldest Aboriginal rock art.
Further highlighting Berkeley River Lodge’s unique location, the Dunes Restaurant’s multi-course degustation menus feature Australian food, or ‘tucker’: from New South Wales Angus steak to Tasmanian salmon, regional cheeses and national wines.
Rates begin at 1,075 AUD (Australian Dollars) for a single traveler or 825 for a twin share. Packages can be arranged for 3,4 and 7 night-stays, including a scenic float plane transfer to the Lodge.
The Berkeley River Lodge is a recent winner of the Western Australia tourism award for New Tourism Development. Closing for the summer on November 30, 2013, the resort will reopen on March 1, 2014.
When Alex Garland wrote his travel classic, The Beach, he wasn’t dreaming of a Thai island; instead, he was describing the soft white sands of the Philippines’ Bacuit Archipelago.
A night at Miniloc Island Resort, which is tucked under the limestone cliffs of Bacuit’s Miniloc Island, offers guests the chance to experience Garland’s famous paradise.
Miniloc Island Resort is only accessible by boat. Guests must first fly onto the nearby island of Palawan, then catch a second flight – or, make the 8-hour bus trip – to El Nido town. From there, a final 45-minute boat ride adds to Miniloc’s sense of watery isolation.
On the island, 50 palm-thatched huts with woven Filipino walls, or sawali, line the beach. Guests may also book into a stilted cottage over the sea, or a cliff cottage with narrow, winding stairs that lead up to the isle’s most dramatic views.
No matter where you choose to sleep, every inch of the resort is focused on its bright blue front yard. Activities include snorkeling and swimming in the colorful, offshore coral gardens, kayaking or joining a sunset cruise. The resort also offers PADI certified dive courses for guests wishing to explore further underwater at any of the island’s 20 dive sites.
On land, guides organize daily eco-tours through the surrounding caves and native forests. A weekend Be Green Happy Hour at the bar is complimented with educational presentations about the island’s unique environment.
Rates begin at roughly 360 USD, or 15,500 Philippine Pesos per night. For an additional fee, Miniloc Island Resort will arrange the flight from Manilla to Palawan.
From our room, the passing road trains sound like swooping aircraft, not the earth-bound rush of mighty 18-wheelers bearing their goods eastward. The highway sustains life out here. It is a straight and lonely stretch of asphalt – or bitumen, the Aussies would say – stubbornly crossing the barren Nullarbor Plain. It’s the unpredictable suicide route of too many short-sighted wombats; the stark yet exotic touring line for patient road trippers; the demarcation zone between roadhouses, these isolated outposts of civilization.
150 kms from Nundroo Hotel Motel to Nullarbor Roadhouse. In the other direction, 150 kms to Ceduna. Instead of losing my mind to extreme loneliness, I’m surprised by a sense of gumption. Like pioneers, we’ll refuse to let the environment wear us away…
We were stuck in the doldrums. Drifting aimlessly between breakfast and bedtime, numb hands and mind focused only on my e-mail inbox. For seven weeks, Hadyn and I waited, responded to messages, waited more. The whole of our future hung on the confirmation of a de facto Australian visa, and any ensuing employment.
Something about the mere word, waiting, can cause us to lose our sense of direction. Especially when it freezes us in a foreign part of the world.
And though it’s easy to lose sight of a destination, or a sense of purpose, there’s only one way out of the doldrums: become a tourist again.
“Today’s catch: Cod, Turbot. All fresh, none of that frozen crud!”
So this afternoon, I did something I’d missed on all previous visits to Queenstown. Camera held obviously before my right eye, I got lunch from Aggy’s seafood shack. Just plain fish and chips, though the menu’s ‘Wild Foods’ options – muttonbird, abalone patties, kina – tempted.
Aggy didn’t smile when I ordered, he merely nodded and turned back to the fryer. In front of the queue, I took clumsy photos of the diners, the chalkboard menu, the dark-haired back of Aggy’s head. Just like a visitor. Then, Styrofoam square in hand, I fought off flocks of seagulls and finished my food on the beach wall. The birds screeched, passerby stared, and one Chinese man took obtrusive photos. It was such a relief, this one-hour excuse from being a local…
Swarmed by new friends as I defend my lunch on Queentown’s beach.
Regardless of the reason – anticipating an extension visa, recovering from food poisoning, preparing for the next outward ferry – you must step out onto familiar surrounds like they’ve never been seen before. Don’t hide your camera like a local, but hang it proudly round your neck and explore the once-boring setting with new eyes. Force a bit of wind in your sails and glide outside your current sticking point.
Even under a doldrum-inspired cloudy sky, Lake Wakatipu stretches majestically onward.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner
Australia’s architecture is determined by the tyranny of its distances. 4,100 km (2,547 m) between coasts create a country of stylistic opposites. From the colonial domes of Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station…
…to the adolescent grey growth of Perth’s Central Business District…
…and all the lonely places in between…
It is a land of unimaginable extremes. Structures are designed for survival, as are the people who inhabit them. Australia is – for all its stereotypes – an undefinable mix.
At least, this is the Australia I remember. The Australia I’m returning to.
Tomorrow morning, we will perch gingerly in a teeny regional plane (I’ll perch; he’ll shake his head at my nerves and fervent ‘Hail Marys’) and watch South Australia expand below us. Adelaide to Ceduna, then by car to Nundroo, our newest home. This roadhouse along the Eyre Highway has two full time residents, a swimming pool, and the world’s largest population of Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats. My only expectations fall somewhere between absolute freedom (no wifi, no cell service) and complete, sanity-depraving cabin fever (no wifi, no cell service).
Stay tuned for our adventures, as we learn to live in isolation with the coastline, passing backpackers and a host of foreign marsupials!