Category Adventures

Great Overnight Getaway from Tokyo: Karuizawa

The onsen in Karuizawa, an hour out of Tokyo

The mountain retreat of Karuizawa, just an hour by bullet train from Tokyo, offers a delightful overnight getaway from the frenetic metropolis. In winter, it has skiing, snow shoeing, and steaming onsen baths. In summer it offers a wonderful respite from Tokyo’s heat. And year-round it has great shopping, walking, restaurants and other adventures.

Karuizawa,  has long welcomed travellers. From the early 17th century, when Japan was ruled by the Edo (Tokyo)-based shogun, Karuizawa was a post town along the busy Nakasendo highway between Tokyo and Kyoto.

You can still explore the long narrow post-town street once lined with wooden restaurants and inns catering to samurai lords and merchants. These days the offerings lean more towards trinket-filled Japanese souvenir outlets, bakeries and sweets shops.

What distinguishes Karuizawa from other post towns is…surprisingly…how it became a getaway for Westerners in the late 19th century.  After first coming in 1886, Canadian-born missionary Alexander Croft Shaw recommended what he called Happy Valley to fellow missionaries and other foreigners as a wonderful place to escape Tokyo’s summer heat. Soon an entire community of western-style houses was built among the larch and fir trees.

A ret...

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Photo Friday: Icy Bay in Alaska

Icy Bay in Southeast Alaska

I took this image for Photo Friday at Icy Bay, which is a remarkable landscape in Southeastern Alaska that is rarely visited because it is so inaccessible and remote.

I was lucky to fly there in a tiny three person Super Cub plane, courtesy of Ultima Thule Lodge, which is located deep inside Wrangell St. Elias National Park. We flew across the Bagley Ice Field, which is the largest non-polar ice field in North America and then flew out over Icy Bay to see hundreds of seals sunbaking on the small icebergs that dotted the bay.

Several glaciers spewed into the icy water from the ice field and their jagged blue cliff faces extended more than three kilometers across the bay. The landscape was eerily silent, except for the cries of a few large birds. That was until a chunk of ice, the size of a city skyscraper, broke off the glacier and crashed into the bay with the sound of an enormous explosion. Sensational.

If you would like to read more about my adventures in the world’s largest protect...

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The Best Farm-Based Cooking Class in Tasmania

Rodney Dunn teaches at Tasmania's Agrarian Kitchen

Locavores strive to eat food grown within a hundred mile radius, but The Agrarian Kitchen goes one better by creating Tasmania’s first hand’s-on, farm-based cooking school, where many of the ingredients are found just outside the kitchen door.

The ...

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Photo Friday: Walking California’s Point Reyes National Seashore

Walking along the Point Reyes National Seashore

I took this picture of a couple of avid walkers of a certain age along the Tomales Point Trail on the Point Reyes National Seashore in West Marin.

This spectacular stretch of wild coastline offers one of the world’s great day walks from historic Pierce Point Ranch to the end of Tomales Point with its stunning views over both the Pacific Ocean and the entrance to Tomales Bay, which is right on the San Andreas fault line above San Francisco. Along the way you will see waves crashing along cliffs and windswept beaches and small herds of native tule elk grazing on the lush green hillsides. In springtime, entire hillsides are blanketed with California poppies, wild iris and mustard flowers while overhead hawks and kestrels ride the wind currents looking for small animals.

This landscape could so easily have been destroyed if it were not for a broad ranging group of conservationists, farmers, ranchers, widows, politicians and volunteers who fought a hard-won battle between 1950 to 1970 to p...

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The Best Authentic Dude Ranch in Wyoming

Letting the horses out of the coral at HF Bar Ranch

Letting the horses out of the coral at HF Bar Ranch

The HF Bar Ranch, 9000 acres spread beneath the pines and aspen of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, is the second oldest dude ranch in America. Offering a classic dude ranch experience that has filled the hearts and souls of thousands of families since it started taking guests back in the early 1900s, it wins the award as the best authentic dude ranch in Wyoming.

Jodi Foster comes every year to chill.  US Supreme Court Justice, Harry Blackman, wrote a letter when he was in his 80s to say his summer experiences here changed the course of his life. Wrangler Stephan, who’s been making the trek from Luxembourg with his family since he was seven, isn’t planning to leave any time soon and you can see why as he drives off in his Chevy pickup.

What are dude ranches?

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Six Best Adventures on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast

Six Ways to Experience Kauai's Spectacular Na Pali Coast

 

Kauai is the northernmost and oldest island in the Hawaiian chain. It is draped in emerald valleys of tropical rainforests, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs often sporting dramatic waterfalls. And Kauai’s Na Pali Coast offers one of Hawaii’s most iconic landscapes, 26 kilometers of sheer fluted cliffs, some up to 1200 meters high, dropping straight into the Pacific Ocean. Na Pali, means ‘the cliffs’ in the Hawaiian language, and they are the must-do adventure when you are visiting the ‘Garden Isle’. This coastline is completely wild…there’s no development, no phone reception and no roads. The roads end at the northern and southern entrances to Na Pali so you must explore it via boat, on foot or from the air. Along the way depending on the seasons you may also see spinner dolphins, bottle-nose dolphins, whales, green turtles and even monk seals.

Last year one of my daughters and I kayaked along the coastline in what must be one of the world’s great one-day kayaking trips, often nicknamed the ‘Everest of kayaking trips’!  We also enjoyed a 13 kilometer round-trip day hike along the coast and up to the Hanakapai’ai waterfall.

There are, in fact, six different adventures you can enjoy along the Na Pali coast. Here is the lowdown on how to do it.

Sailing

The best sailing experience...

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Photo Friday: Indonesia’s Komodo Dragons

Three Komodo dragons at the UNESCO World Heritage Komodo National Park

I took this Photo Friday image of these three gigantic komodo dragons on UNESCO World Heritage-listed Komodo Island in Komodo National Park off the coast of Flores Island in Eastern Indonesia. They are found only on four volcanic islands that rise Jurassic-park-like from the sea.

Three of them are sunbaking at a waterhole when I visit. Each is three-meters-long with prehistoric claws, beady eyes and scaly skin, which looks like woven metal armor. It feels like I’ve done a Dr Who and dropped into a dinosaur convention. Our diminutive guide is armed with nothing but a pronged stick. One heaves itself up and lurches towards me, so close I can hear its guttural hiss. A foot-long pink forked tongue darts in and out of its mouth. Meanwhile, saliva is drooling from the other two. Even DreamWorks couldn’t have come up with scarier looking creatures. Suddenly, my walk in the Komodo Islands National Park doesn’t feel like…well…a walk in the park anymore...

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Melbourne’s Best Weekend Getaway: Mornington Peninsula

Millionaire's Walk in Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula

Millionaire’s Walk in Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula

About an hour’s drive from Melbourne and wedged like the boot of Italy between Port Phillip and Westernport Bays, the Mornington Peninsula can make you wonder, at times, whether you are in Australia. Great swathes of blue water peak out between horse studs, alleys of pines and vistas of vines making it feel like a playground more Mediterranean than Melbourne.  But then those rolling green hills dotted with sandy bunkers could easily be in Scotland. Yet one glance at koalas lazing in aromatic gum trees and sun-drenched beaches with brightly colored bathing boxes and you realize you are in in the middle of one of Australia’s most appealing holiday destinations. Up until now, it has been a well-kept secret amongst Melbourne’s savvy insiders, but the Mornington Peninsula has so many world-class wineries, restaurants, beaches and gardens that it’s time the rest of the world discovered what it has to offer. For most of the p...

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Australia’s remote castaway tropical island: Haggerstone

Haggerstone Island mfp

Not a skerrick of pretension can be found anywhere near the jungle green mound that is Haggerstone Island, sitting peaceably in its own reef just 80 kilometers from the tip of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. Those in the know ditch their shoes along with their big city stresses and fly 2 ½ hours from Cairns over virgin rainforest and an aquamarine sea dotted with lily-pad-like reefs.   The airport is a clay landing strip on nearby Hicks Island.  Baggage handling is by tractor. The destination: a remote, castaway tropical island paradise.

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Walk the Amalfi Coast

walking the amalfi coast mfp

A sunny day on the Amalfi coast…steep, craggy limestone hills rise like an ancient dragon from the indigo depths of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Alas, most visitors miss the magic, trapped as they are in a cacophony of honking horns and diesel fumes, kitschy limoncello souvenir shops, and serpentine traffic jams on the cliff-hugging roads.

Positano Walking Adventures

Enter the PositanoFrank Carpegna-Walking with the Gods…the perfect way to slow down and smell the rosemary, while marveling at a culture and a cuisine hewn from a landscape as harsh as it is breathtaking.  By walking on paths that have been used for centuries by monks and farmers you not only feel the majesty of place in your pounding heart but also carve a monstrous hole in your stomach.  All the better to be filled with mountains of made-this-morning fusilli tossed with everything fresh from the garden which goes down very easily with the Tears of Christ wine grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius...

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