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What It’s Really Like Driving Around Iceland

Here’s what you need to know before embarking on an Iceland road trip:

(here’s a vlog of our whole trip on YouTube)

It’s a good idea for everyone. Iceland is a great destination for basically any type of traveler. It’s great for experienced travelers because it has so much to offer that you just can’t find in other places. It’s perfect for less experienced travelers because it’s really easy to navigate (they speak English, have lots of wifi available, and it’s really safe). It works for couples, groups of friends, families, and solo travelers. They even have handicap access at most of their popular sights!

Gas is expensive. Iceland in general is expensive, so the budget travelers out there will have to do some extra planning and research to cut down on costs anywhere possible. Gas costs will be unavoidable on a self-drive tour so factor accordingly. We rented an eco 4WD car and spent AT LEAST $30 per day on gas. We were driving about 4-5 hours each day.

Rent a car you feel comfortable driving. Icelanders typically drive manual cars, so if you require an automatic make sure you specify with your rental company ahead of time. I also highly recommend getting a car with 4WD because the weather can be so unpredictable and powerful. We went in May and just barely missed a snowstorm that led to a major road closure. You don’t want to get stuck in a bad situation, especially in the more remote areas. Also, you will be driving on a lot of gravel roads, so 4WD helps.

The max speed limit ANYWHERE is 90 km/hr. That’s right, you aren’t allowed to go faster than 56 mph. Anywhere. Even though there’s hardly any cars on the road. It might be tempting to speed, but beware– there are speed cameras out to get you. The limit also makes sense because the roads hardly ever have guard rails, and they quite often turn into one-lane bridges.

They drive on the right side of the road and have lots of roundabouts. Just FYI.

Drinking and driving is not allowed at all. No one drink exception. You can’t drive at all after having any drinks. So plan accordingly.

Your car will get messy. Thanks to all the gravel roads and crazy weather. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the dirt, most gas stations have a washing station if you know what to look for (brooms with water shooting out of them).

Get a Garmin or navigation system with Icelandic letters. Unless you’re comfortable using a map, Garmin will be your best friend. Our rental company included one in our package which we used religiously. Even though everyone speaks English, the signs are all in Icelandic, and Garmin can’t find locations using just the English alphabet.

It’s the best way to explore at your own pace. We loved having the freedom to make random stops and to stay somewhere as long as we wanted. It was also nice to be able to wait until the hoards of tour buses left the scene at the popular stops. We were on our own schedule, which is one of the best feelings you can have while being on vacation.

The scenery is incredible. We drove for 10 days and not one day looked the same as another. Even my wildest imagination couldn’t have dreamed up the combinations of landscapes we saw. Iceland, you are so strange and beautiful!

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Have you ever road tripped around Iceland??

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Street Art Spotlight: Reykjavik

Those of you who know me know that I’m a sucker for street art, so it comes as no surprise that one of the things I was most excited to do in Reykjavik was hunt down theirs. And this city brings it. Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and the world’s most northern capitol, is such a great city to explore because it’s small and walkable without being boring. When I went in early May they had even set up a display on the main road showcasing artwork from local kindergarteners–they start them young and value creativity, and after seeing that, everything in the city made more sense to me. From photography, pottery, and design stores to concert halls and colorful rooftops, art feels like it’s literally everywhere in Reykjavik! Wandering around this city brought me so much joy, so I wanted to share some snaps with you 🙂 I’ve also uploaded a 3 minute vlog to YouTube if you’d like to see more of what we got up to!

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What city do you love for its street art??

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5 Things To Do in San Diego When it’s Raining

San Diego = outdoor living. From hiking to surfing to beach hopping, you’ll best experience this city outside. It seems like every restaurant has an outdoor section, and even the malls are mostly outdoors. This works well the majority of time but not so much on the occasional rainy day. I’ve struggled quite a bit trying to come up with things to do in San Diego when it’s raining, so I figured I’d share my best ideas and hopefully save you some time brainstorming 🙂

Experience the indoor sections of breweries: I usually bypass the indoor sections of breweries and head straight outside for the sunshine (can you blame me??). However, the brewery game in San Diego is strong, and their indoor sections are impressive and worth spending time in. If you come to SD and don’t drink any craft beers, you’re doing it wrong. Check out Ballast Point in Miramar which is nautically designed to look like you’re underwater below a ship. Or visit Culture in Ocean Beach or Solana Beach which always has neat local art on display. Green Flash is another favorite (we always take our guests). The options are really endless and can get you through many hours of rain–just make sure to Uber or have a designated driver!

See a movie at a luxury theatre: Rainy days are perfect movie-watching days, and they’re a great excuse to spoil yourself and go to a luxury theatre. Click the link to see what and why I recommend.

Cheer on the San Diego Gulls: The Padres play outdoors so that won’t work, but bad weather won’t have any effect on your night at the Gulls game. It’s B-league hockey at its finest, with $2 beers every Friday and lots of fist fights.

Museum hop in Balboa Park: Bring an umbrella because there are some uncovered areas, but you won’t have to do much walking in the rain since most paths are covered. Stay dry while experiencing as many museums as you can handle–there are a ton of options! Click here to decide which one(s) you want to visit.

Spa day twist–float in a sensory deprivation tank: The weather might keep you indoors, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to try something new. While escaping the rain, why not escape everything… like all your senses. I tried this a few months ago at Flot SD after reading about it in San Diego Magazine. It’s a relatively new fad going around that sounded so interesting I had to check it out for myself. It’s basically really salty water that causes you to float in a dark, quiet tank. You can’t hear anything or see anything, and floating in zero-gravity conditions is such a strange sensation. During my float, the way time passed was SO WEIRD! I thought it could have been hours that went by or just 30 seconds. Insider tip: use the earplugs they have available. I got water in my ears that lasted a few weeks after and probably impacted my thoughts on the experience as a whole. However, I do recommend trying this at least once… I haven’t rushed back a second time yet, but it was also such a unique experience that I find myself thinking about it again and again. Bonus: Flot SD is in a really cute neighborhood 🙂

What do you like to do in San Diego when the weather isn’t cooperating?

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Why I Don’t Want to Tell You Where We Stayed in Big Bear

Ollie and I visited Big Bear to celebrate our wedding anniversary in early April. We couldn’t believe it took us almost 2 years of living in Socal to make it up–we had THE BEST time. We left feeling like we found a whole other world (even though it’s only 2.5 hours from San Diego) and daydreamed about whether or not we could ever see ourselves living in the mountains.

Skiing was the main reason we chose to visit Big Bear–something we both had never tried but on our “Make Happen ASAP” list. Our anniversary was the perfect excuse to escape for the weekend, experience something new, and splurge just a little bit on accommodation.

I don’t want to spill the beans on where we stayed because we loved it so much and don’t want word to get out but… if you scroll through this post you’ll see pictures of the property that will give it away 😉 Less than 24 hours into our stay we were already planning a return visit.

What made this bed and breakfast so great? To start, it was really charming and dreamily surrounded by pine trees. There was a jacuzzi tub and homemade bath salts as well as a fireplace, which added up to total relaxation and coziness. The highlight of this place, however, was definitely the food. The owners are a husband-wife power duo. Just to give some background: Johann is a former CEO who left the corporate world to pursue his passions including cooking. We were treated each morning to the tastiest homemade breakfast ever, and the daily happy hour included South African wines and impressive hors d’oeuvres. I could go into a lot more detail about the owners, the food, their future plans for the property, and the conversation, but it’s something you should definitely experience for yourself. Just don’t tell too many people so they don’t jack the prices up 😉

Despite how much we loved our accommodation, we did manage to get out and explore a bit. We had a blast skiing for the first time at Snow Summit. We drank craft beers at Big Bear Lake Brewing Company. We ate at 752 Social and Fire Rock Burgers and Brew. We went on a hike and breathed in fresh mountain air while admiring gorgeous views of the lake. In general, we got a chance to slow down (except when we were speeding down the slopes hehe), relax, and enjoy each others company.

Big Bear, you stole our hearts and we can’t wait to see you again! Here are my favorite photos from the weekend (see more on Instagram: @thedaydreamernextdoor)

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Have you been inspired to visit Big Bear and stay at our “secret” bed and breakfast?

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How To Spend 4 Days Adventuring Through Arizona

With its picturesque canyons, winding rivers, impressive peaks, desert landscapes, and national forests, there is a lot of diverse ground to cover in Arizona, which makes it a great road trip destination. I’ve put together a sample itinerary for how to spend 4 days exploring the Valentine State (AZ became a state on Feb 14, 1912) by car, which you can watch on the vlog here. I’ve also included a cost breakdown at the end.

Day 1: Fly into Phoenix Airport and grab your rental car. Prepare for your longest drive of the trip–318 miles to Monument Valley (~5 hrs). To break up the journey, stop in Sedona for pizza with a view at Hideaway House. Continue onto Goulding’s Lodge just across the border in Utah for your first night. It’s about 10 minutes outside of Monument Valley but half the cost of staying at the hotel on the reservation. Get a good night’s rest because the next 2 days are full of exploration.

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Day 2: Wake up before the sun to tour Monument Valley with Navajo Spirit Tours. Take in the sights and learn about the Navajo way of life from your local guide. I recommend paying for a tour if you want access to the restricted sections of MV and if you’re interested in talking to a native.  Learning about the Navajo culture added a lot of depth to my visit and was definitely worth the cost. Our guide could trace his ancestors back 18 generations (~500 years), and we saw ruins that were about 3,000 years old! Give yourself approximately 3 hours for this part of the day.

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Next, make the 2 hour drive to Page, AZ to see Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Both these sights are better to photograph when the sun is higher in the sky, so definitely keep that in mind. My friend and I went in February when the sun doesn’t get high enough to cause the famous sun beam in Upper AC, so we opted to tour Lower Antelope Canyon instead. Give yourself an hour and a half total for AC and at least an hour for HS Bend. After an exhilarating but exhausting day of sightseeing, check into your hotel to prepare for day 3! I stayed at Holiday Inn Express Lake Powell.

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Day 3: It’s time to head to the Grand Canyon, which will take about 2.5 hours. I recommend stopping by the visitors center upon arrival to chat with the park rangers. They can help you decide on the best plan for you based on your interests. My friend and I were all about the views, so we spent most of the day admiring the canyon from the various lookouts. We did make some time to learn a little bit about the fascinating geology to help us comprehend what we were seeing. I’ve posted my Grand Canyon photos and review here.  We stayed in the park at Yavapai Lodge which was nice but not necessary if you have a car.

Day 4: Before heading back to Phoenix, catch a final glimpse of the Grand Canyon at sunrise. Then you have 3.5 hours to reflect on the awesomeness of Arizona as you drive back to the airport to fly home. Unless you’ve decided you’re never going home 😉

Cost Breakdown (we went in late February): Accommodation = $126 each, Rental Car = $180 each, MV Tour = $95 each, AC Tour = $26 each, Gas = $18 each, Souvenirs = $30, Navajo Entrance Fee = $20 per vehicle up to four people, Grand Canyon Entrance Fee = $30 per vehicle, and I spent $76 on food.

Where else would you add on to this Arizona road trip??

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Here’s Why You Should Visit the Grand Canyon in February (with photos)

When my eyes laid sight on the Grand Canyon for the first time (and to be honest, every time at all the different viewpoints), my mind could not comprehend its beauty and size. It was instantly clear why so many people flock to visit from all over the world, and to this day, I still can’t put its vastness, colors, and geological significance into words. So I’m not going to try. I’ll just say: go see it for yourself.

I went at the end of February with a friend and highly recommend visiting around that same time. Sure it was a bit nippley, but it was crisp & clear and the hoards of spring & summer tourists hadn’t arrived yet. At one viewpoint I had the platform all to myself. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip and made the canyon feel that much more grand. Having to deal with extreme heat and tons of people would definitely have had an impact on the trip, so I couldn’t have been happier with our decision to go in February. Just make sure you bring a warm jacket, hat, scarf, wool socks, and gloves.

Practical info: I visited the South Rim since the North Rim is closed during winter. The South Rim is about a 3.5 hour drive from Phoenix. I was super impressed with how user-friendly the national park is. There are free shuttle buses that take you around to most of the viewpoints, coming by every 15 minutes. If you go before March, you will need a car to drive the red route to Pima Point as the shuttles do not run there during low season.

Four hours or so is enough time if all you want to do is marvel at the canyon from the various viewpoints. If you want to do any hiking, you’ll need a full day minimum. You could fit the Canyon in as a half day stop during a road trip; however, my friend and I opted to stay the night in the park at Yavapai Lodge. Despite its outdated decor and lack of wifi, we were really happy with the convenient location and price.

Here are my favorite photos of the day 🙂

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We visited the Grand Canyon during a 4 day road trip throughout Arizona. Watch the vlog to see it all in action.

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3 Unique Spots for Your Next San Diego Brunch

Not like the weather is ever horrible in San Diego, but all the rain we got this winter has kept us indoors more than usual. However, we’ve reached that time of year when each day is getting better and better. San Diego has so many great brunch options to enjoy year round, but as we see more sunshine, the urge to go increases. If you’re looking for something different to spice up your weekend brunch, I highly recommended the following 🙂

1 . Karl Strauss: Brunch at a brewery

San Diego is home to over 100 breweries, some of which serve delicious food as well. Karl Strauss takes it a step further and puts on an amazing Sunday brunch. For the price, we can’t believe how good the spread is. You also get your choice of bottomless mimosas, a beermosa, or a beer flight. The service at Karl Strauss is consistently impressive, and each time we’ve gone they have brought out complimentary tasters of their beers as well. The location in Mira Mesa is my favorite because you can sit outdoors overlooking a beautiful Japanese coy pond while enjoying the live music.

Priced at $27 for a 2 hour slot

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2 . Flagship Cruises: Brunch while boating around San Diego harbor

In my opinion, one of the best ways to experience San Diego is from the water. Why not do that over brunch? We did this cruise last year for Easter and loved it so much we’re doing it again this year. You can’t beat the skyline views, cruising under the Coronado Bridge, and feeling the wind in your hair when you take your drink outside to enjoy the deck. My family and I were very happy with the food and probably went up for more 5 or 6 times haha. Bottomless mimosas are also included. Honestly, I don’t want anything to do with a brunch that doesn’t have bottomless mimosas. 😉

Priced at $75 for a 2 hour cruise that boards 30 minutes prior to departure

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3 . Hotel Del Coronado: Extravagant brunch with a side of history

The Hotel Del is one of the most iconic buildings in San Diego. It has hosted 16 US presidents ranging from FDR to Obama, and it’s where the movie Some Like it Hot starring Marilyn Monroe was filmed. Built back in 1887, it is now a National Historic Landmark and is worth checking out for that reason alone. If you plan to visit the Del you might as well experience The Crown Room Sunday brunch, too. The selection is insane and features several high end cuts of meat, seafood for days, and multiple alcoholic beverage options. Afterwards you can walk along the beautiful beachfront and work off some calories.

Priced at  $96 for 3 and 1/2 hours

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Where’s your favorite place to brunch in San Diego??
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Summer vs. Winter: NYC Edition

I was lucky enough to visit NYC twice in 2016, experiencing both its summer and winter. I realized there were similarities between both trips, the slight difference being the levels of foliage and layers of clothing. 😉 If you are trying to decide between a summer or winter holiday in the city that never sleeps, I hope the following comparison will help you decide!

Summer version: rooftop bar hopping

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Featured bars: Le Bain and Wythe Hotel. Nothing shouts summer like drinking outdoors.

Winter version: Stone Street bar hopping

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Featured Bars: Fraunces Tavern and random lovely bars of Stone Street. This was a highlight of my winter trip and might need its own dedicated post. I mean I drank at the same place George Washington did back in the day (and got a selfie with him hehe)! Nothing feels better in winter than drinking alcohol in cozy settings.

Summer version: views from the top of the Freedom Tower

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Winter version: views from an office building in Times Square

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You can’t visit NYC, arguably the most impressive city in the world, without marveling at its skyline from above. Doesn’t matter when you visit, it’s breathtaking every time and I love finding new viewpoints to take it all in.

Summer version: exploring the High Line

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Winter version: exploring the festive streets around Fifth Ave

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The energy in NYC is undeniable. There’s always something going on no matter how hot or cold it is–from markets to window displays to public art–it’s all worth exploring!

Summer version: picnics in Central Park

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Winter version: walking past the frozen lakes and twiggy trees of Central Park as you make cover for somewhere warmer to eat

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Central Park is quintessential NYC and is an important part of any summer or winter itinerary.

You might be wondering what made the cut on both trips?… Brunch at Jacob’s Pickle and drinks at Pier A overlooking the Statue of Liberty. Because some things do not change despite the weather–and that’s our love of carbs and freedom.

Summer Version:

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Winter Version:

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Moral of the story…NYC is amazing year round and you will be impressed any time you decide to visit! So book that ticket sooner rather than later 🙂

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Port Douglas Photo Diary

As the plane starts its decent and we head into the clouds, I wonder what the world will look like below them. After day dreaming about the Great Barrier Reef for such a long time, it’s surreal to be on my way there. My first glimpse of Tropical North Queensland is bright turquoise and green, and I understand after just a few moments why it’s a wonder of the world. I’ve arrived in paradise.

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All underwater photos courtesy of Wavelength Reef Cruises.

For a written, day-by-day itinerary click here.

To see my review of our stay at the Sheraton Mirage click here.

Need help packing for a trip to the GBR? See what I brought and recommend here.

Check out my Port Douglas vlog to see highlights of the hotel, helicopter flight, and more!

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What to Wear When Visiting the Great Barrier Reef

Here’s what I packed for 4 days/3 nights in Port Douglas, which is quite warm pretty much all year round:

3 bathing suits…our hotel had about FIVE ACRES of pool, so I knew I’d be spending a lot of time in a bikini. You can definitely get away with only packing one, though! The brands pictured are SeaFolly, Triangl, and Urban Outfitters.

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One cute, summery dress for dinners out…this dress is by Mumu.

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I only wore 3 of these shirts. I wore the black, striped one from Old Navy with a denim skirt for wandering around town. I wore the flowy, white one from Free People with denim shorts when we went on the scenic helicopter flight. I wore the white graphic tank from Urban Outfitters with my high-waisted SeaFolly shorts on our final day when we walked on the beach for one last time and flew back to Brisbane. Last but not least I wore the black, low back cover up dress from Roxy over my bathing suit when we went snorkeling on the GBR.

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Here are the bottoms mentioned above: from SeaFolly, Zara, and H&M. I could have gotten away with packing way less since they are all denim and look similar. But I wasn’t backpacking, so I didn’t have to worry about packing light 😉

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For shoes I had my leather Steve Madden sandals and black Reef flip flops, both of which go with basically anything. The Steve Madden ones made me feel a little more dressed up. I only wore my Birkenstocks once on the first day, so I definitely would have been fine not bringing them. We didn’t end up doing any long walks or hiking, so if you have something like that planned, bring better walking shoes. (I own two completely different pairs of Tevas that would have worked.)

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Don’t forget to accessorize and pack your favorite sunglasses, you’ll definitely need them! Another thing you can’t go without is sunscreen–and lot’s of it.

If you want to see what I got up to in Port Douglas, check out my vlog here!

To read our day-by-day itinerary click here.

You can see my review of the fabulous Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas here if you’re trying to decide where to stay 😉

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Staying at the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas

When planning our trip to the Great Barrier Reef, Ollie and I knew it was going to be the only true vacation of our year. We wanted to treat ourselves and stay somewhere nice. Well, nice is definitely an understatement for the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas, which far surpassed our expectations and offered all the relaxation and beauty we had hoped for. I highly recommend visiting in low season if possible. We went at the end of November when the hotel was only at 30% capacity. We basically had the whole of this stunning property to ourselves, and that felt pretty damn special. The hotel just finished renovations 2 months prior to our stay, so everything was updated and new. It was done very well, and we were all impressed. We stayed in a garden view room, which was so lovely, and our friends stayed in a lagoon room and had access to the pool straight from their balcony.

My favorite things about the hotel were the pools, swim up bar, and beach access. My husband’s favorite things were the breakfast buffet, comfy beds, and the “never-ending pool that wraps around the hotel.” He’s not exaggerating- there is almost 5 acres of pool at your disposal. We made it a goal to swim in all of them and ended up spending about 6 hours doing a pool crawl that day-I’m not complaining! To have a well-rounded review, I need to mention a couple cons of the stay. The bathroom did not have a door, only a window shutter (which looked nice, but didn’t offer much privacy). And the last “con” I can think of (which could have been easily avoided if I read this blog beforehand hehe) is that the hotel is about a 5 minute drive from Macrossan Street. If you plan on spending time there, you can take a convenient shuttle into town for $5 per person per way. This adds up fast if you go back a forth even a few times. Some of the shuttles offer a 3 day unlimited pass for $25. If I knew about that on day one I could have saved myself a lot of money.

Being the travel lover that I am, I could never understand why some people choose to spend their only vacation each year going back to the same place over and over again. After my stay at the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas, I now understand. I think I’ve found the place I could return to time and time again. It was just SO NICE, and there’s so much to do in the area. I can’t recommend a trip to Port Douglas enough. And if you decide to go, you know where to stay!

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Check out my Port Douglas vlog to see live footage of the hotel and what we got up to when we were out and about.

For a day-by-day itinerary of our visit click here.

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3 Days in Port Douglas: A Sample Itinerary

Oh, Tropical North Queensland, you have my heart. Here’s my advice for how to spend 3 days in beautiful Port Douglas, based on what we got up to during our visit.

Day 1: Arrive at Cairns Airport and take the 1 hour, very scenic shuttle to your accommodation in PD. Explore and taste your way through Macrossan Street, the main street in Port Douglas. Step back in time and experience a true Aussie pub.

We stayed at the Sheraton Mirage. I recommend booking your shuttle in advance. I used this website and was very happy with the service. Our favorite spots on Macrossan Street were Ironbar and Court House Hotel. We also liked the happy hours at Paddy’s Irish Pub and Rustle & Hum Backpacker’s. A few of the pubs are inside historic Queenslander buildings–some built in the 1800s. I definitely felt like I was in Australia!

Day 2: Rise and shine–it’s time to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef! Then treat yourself to craft beers on the pier at Hemingway’s Brewery.

We did a full day tour with Wavelength Reef Cruises that went from about 7:30 am-4:30 pm. When visiting one of The Natural Wonders of the World, you want enough time to take as much of it in as possible. I couldn’t have been happier with our day. There were several marine biologists on board to answer questions and share interesting facts (like how blue coral is stressed and not healthy-it should be khaki, brown, burgundy, or dark green). The lunch was delicious. We got an hour to snorkel at three different sites, seeing various reef and fish at each. Wavelength knew where to go and took us to spots no other boats went to, so we had it all to ourselves. Another thing I loved was they had a staff member taking photos throughout the day that could be purchased at the end, so I didn’t feel the need to dish out $300 to buy a GoPro before the trip–and I still got the underwater photos I wanted.

Day 3: After experiencing the GBR from the water, you have to see it from the sky! Then, end your holiday on a relaxing note and spend time at Four Mile Beach or in the pool.

We decided to cross something off our bucket lists and go on a scenic helicopter flight over the reef and the rainforest. GBR Helicopters took us out for an amazing hour over Mossman Gorge, the Daintree River, and the reef (even over the infamous reef where Steve Irwin was killed). It was such a special and unique way to spend the morning-we saw turtles and sharks and sting rays and dugongs galore. After touching down, we opted for lunch on Macrossan Street before returning to our hotel. We then proceeded to spend SIX HOURS in the pool, oh happy days. The Sheraton has about 5 acres of pool, including one with a swim up bar, so we stayed entertained and relaxed the whole time.

In my opinion, Port Douglas perfectly mixes slow-paced and adventurous holiday options. There was so much more we could have done, such as visit Mossman Gorge by foot and drive up to Cape Tribulation. Looks like we’ll have to go back 🙂

To see this all in action check out my Port Douglas vlog!

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