Tuesday, 6 April 2010

AJ's Golden Day #ExperienceGC

As requested by Fran from STA Travel Buzz; How would I spend a day on the Gold Coast?


This wasn't asked for but why the hell not! Make the most of any day! (Especially on the Gold Coast)

I would wake up early specifically to catch the sunrise over Burleigh Heads (10 min south of Surfers Paradise). Hire surfboards from the Burleigh Heads Surf club with a bunch of friends that I had made along my travels and ride some waves in the world class surf spot.


After an epic morning of Surf I would take myself and my new found friends on a 30 min bus journey out of Surfers Paradise to the thrilling Wet n' Wild Water Park!

This place is probably "the" best water park I have ever visited, you could do all the rides 3 times and that still wouldn't be enough. It's an awesome place to go and have a good laugh with your friends. A fun, exciting way to spend your afternoon.

Fancy a race anyone?

One particular ride you have to try is the "Tornado", you basically get shot down a very steep ramp in quad rubber ring with three of your buds into a massive cone where you get tipped nearly vertical on the slippery slope before falling into a somewhat plug hole... (any thrill seeker will love this!)
It's addictive... we did this over and over all day long!
The Tornado - I'd want to go on this over and over again.

From my understanding STA Travel can organize a 3 park pass that will get you into this fantastic water park as well as the nearby Movie World and Sea World. Click here for more information.


Well for the evening i'd head to the chilled town of Byron Bay. I'd experience the perfect Australian sunset by playing ultimate frisbee with friends and chilling on the beach. This is truly amazing when the sunset is accompanied by the local bongo player [check out the picture].

As a backpacking student on a budget the most amount of food for the smallest price is needed and for this I would head for Cheeky Monkey's located in Byron Bay. Here, I know for a fact that you can pick up Thai noodle rice and Steak and Chips for as little as $5 AUS!!

All this at Cheeky Monkeys $5!!


I would continue from dinner into the evening at Cheeky Monkey's playing the entertaining games for free drinks and meeting other backpackers that were traveling through, sharing our travel stories with one another.

Cheeky Monkey's Bar - Backpackers Bar in Byron Bay

Cheeky Monkeys do games to win free drink every night, we usually did :)

This place really kicks off around 11 o'clock, the tunes get pumping and dancing on the tables becomes a necessity until the early hours of the morning... an experience that is unforgettable (unless you've had a bit too much to drink).

STA Travel Tour

The STA Travel Tour I would undoubtedly choose would be the 4 Wheel Drive - Eco. Day Trip on Fraser Island.

Fraser Island was definitely on of my favorite moments of my trip and would highly recommend it to anyone, I'd do anything to go back to the idyllic island it is. It's truly beautiful with it's incredible freshwater lakes, massive sand dunes, miles and miles of stunning beaches and of corse the dingos.

If you would like more information click here. I don't get why you wouldn't want to!

If you'd like to see more my photo albums on the Gold Coast are here:

Surfers Paradise, Miami and Burleigh

Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island

Byron Bay

and here's a link to the blog:

Brisbane and the Gold Coast

What more could you want from a trip?

I'd love to visit the Gold Coast at some point in the near future so I can make this Golden Day a reality....

Monday, 5 April 2010

Peniche, Portugal - A Surfers Retreat.

When you hear of someone going on holiday to Portugal, your first assumption is that they're heading to the Algarve to for a relaxing holiday on the popular beaches. We decided to do something a little different, instead we set our sights on the mid-west coast, to the area of Peniche. Heard of it? Probably not as it is uncommercialized and is not set up for large amounts of tourists.

Peniche's economy has for hundreds of years relied upon the fishing industry and still does to this day. However it is better known by the surfing world by its consistent surf spots with some of the best waves in Europe. Peniche can be surfable 320 days out of 365 days of the year which is truly amazing and exactly what we needed as we'd been unlucky when organizing trips in the UK and only getting little or no surf.

Getting there and back!
When booking flights for this excursion I took the usual route of searching through flights on STA Travel [I should seriously change it to my homepage now] but unfortunately with the flights available it was too expensive to transfer the surfboards over. Instead we booked with Easyjet who let us transfer our Surfboards for £18 each way which believe me, thats a bargain.

I would suggest to anyone to organize your transfer to your initial accommodation before you leave [one less thing you have to worry about], Peniche Surf Camp sent a minibus to collect the 7 of us with our boards at Lisbon Airport for the 1 hour journey to our apartment.

We stayed in a town neighboring Peniche called "Baleal", here there are a couple of surf camps that you can stay with. We rented a 10 person apartment for the week from Peniche Surf Camp [click here for the website].

If you're not coming with a bunch of friends I'd recommend checking out the backpackers hostel in Peniche centre [click here for the website]

Exploring Peniche
During our stay we picked a day of small surf and hired bikes for the afternoon (cost: 5 euro) to cycle over to the peninsula and explore Peniche and find the much talked about Supertubos!

Peniche itself is a small fishing town entirely populated by fishermen, fish factory workers and agricultural farmers. We spent the day exploring the harbour, and the lanes. It is much smaller than you would first think but is a simple charming little town.

Within the town centre we stumbled upon the town's most historic building, the fortress that was built to defend Portugal in the 16th century, It was a really interesting place to check out, not another tourist in sight...

Night Life
We didn't head into Peniche at all for the nightlife for what we could tell, there wasn't much.
Instead we chose to stay close by in Baleal, here we discovered by far the best bar in town... "Bigodes Bar" where we spent most of our nights. 1 euro beers, 1 euro shots, a mixture of locals and traveler's... the perfect place to hang out in the evenings. Note: This is not the place to go if you want clubs and parties on the beach, but its still a lot of fun!

The bar was a true surfer bar with broken boards on the walls, surf movies playing 24/7, guitars for all to play and a completely chilled vibe... The mustache bearer, barman and owner Chris Spaanenburg was a complete legend, if you ever get the chance pop in and have a chat with Chris, he's got some awesome stories about the region. [for Bigodes Bar facebook group click here]

I have to give a special mention to the "Bigodes Burger". For 5 euros you get a burger with the nicest bread, egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese and crisps... and on top of that a pint of local beer. It is honestly the nicest burger I have even had, you may have heard of or even tried the famous "Fergburger" from Queenstown, New Zealand. This completely blows that out of the water. Amazing.

If you don't fancy heading to the bars, chill out with a couple of beers on the beach by the fire...

After a day of surfing you need a hearty meal, other than grabbing the legendary beer and a burger from the local surf bar we had the opportunity to try some of the local cuisine.

One particular restaurant located on the beach itself served some of the best food I have ever tasted... All of us decided to have freshly caught fish from the local area and the swordfish was probably the best seafood I have ever tasted (the others definitely agreed)!
Unfortunately being poor students as we are we couldn't afford 15 euros for a meal each night so we cooked ourselves Seafood Paella and BBQ's back at the apartment. Group meals on a budget, sorted...

Well, it speaks for itself really.. Peniche has some amazing locations that will produce the perfect surfing waves. We we're lucky enough to be staying 5 minutes from a beach called "Lagido" which was very consistent and so much fun to surf. All 7 of us caught the best waves we've caught here [ it's a shame we didn't catch them on video, its pretty tricky taking surf footage but what we did get is shown below :) ].

Surfing abroad is a much more enjoyable experience than surfing in the cold English waters, instead we were lapping up the sun playing about in the sea all day...

We made an extra effort to spend a day to find "Supertubos", the most popular wave in the region. On a good day it has a very fast and powerful (hollow) waves, which is one of the best in Europe, some call it the "European Pipeline". This beach is strictly for professionals, a lot of boards get broken here. Unfortunately when we visited it wasn't kicking off, but it was still pretty damn cool.

Another Surfboard was born...
One rainy morning we decided to take a break from the waves to visit the Fatum Surfboard factory.

We met the Fatum shaper "Gero" who took us around the process of making one of the very stylish Fatum boards. Gero explained how the boards were made from the foam blanks to the final product. It was fascinating.

This place really got me thinking into the possibility of making my own surfboard, which is something I really have to try at some point..

The Shaping Room inside Fatum Surfboards.

Click here to check out what surfboards Fatum produce.

Flights: £170 inc Surfboard Transfer
Accommodation for 1 week: £150 inc. transfers to and from Lisbon Airport

My time spent here, absolutely priceless and would recommend it to anyone that can surf, would like to learn to surf or just loves hanging on the beach in the sun.

Next time I'm going to have to rent a car, travel down the coast, find some surf spots of my own and make my way into Morocco. (another one for the bucket list)

Oh and by the way I am in the process of putting together a full length Peniche Video. Excited?