Oz Experience

Australia - it's a pretty special place. Every time I come back here it feels like I'm back home, which is crazy considering my home is the smallest, most English village in the universe. There's some sort of magnetic pull, or maybe it's just the Tim Tams... But either way I can never get enough. So, when I got the chance to scoot up the East Coast again I jumped at it and thanks to Oz Experience, I could really see the highlights all over again.

But what is the Oz Experience? You may be thinking it's something like the Kiwi Experience, and while it used to be, it's now been recreated in partnership with Greyhound Australia to make it even more flexible for us travellers. Using the public bus network, the Oz Experience allows backpackers to have unlimited use of any Greyhound buses going in one direction (up or down the coast, then up or down from Adelaide to Darwin via the Red Centre depending on the pass you choose) for up to 6 months. If you just want to hit the main towns & cities - easy, but if you want to visit all the tiny 'off the beaten track' destinations it's easy too. As long as a Greyhound bus goes there, you're good to go.

What makes the Oz Experience different from just the Greyhound bus only pass though is that they throw in all the bucket list activities along the way. By packaging it up they managed to get it to you at a hefty discount compared to booking everything one by one. To keep it flexible, all the activities are open dated, which basically means you can book in the date of the trip only a few days before it starts without having to go into any of the many travel agents in each town you travel through and potentially get ripped off. 

They have loads of different passes to pick from, and I went for the Beaut pass which goes from Brisbane - Cairns. Since I was going in the Aussie winter, I wanted to stick in Queensland to get the sunshine. With this pass, I had all the below inclusions thrown in for $1599 RRP Australia dollars, which is currently around £998 for my fellow Brits. 

  • Unlimited travel on Greyhound in one direction
  • Fraser Island 3 Day / 3 Night trip with all meals included
  • Whitsundays Sailing 2 Day / 1 Night trip with all meals included
  • Magnetic Island 1 Night Stay at Base with Ferry Crossing 
  • Full Day Great Barrier Reef Snorkel trip with BBQ lunch
  • Full Day Atherton Tablelands Trip 

The greyhound Australia fleet is a little different to what I was expecting. We've all watched American TV shows and have seen how they represent the Greyhound buses, they're not so pleasant to say the least. However, these buses in Australia are seriously something else. Leather seats that reclines, and additional leg room. You get a foot rest, a personal charging spot and wifi. Since it can cost upwards of $4 / day for wifi in a hostel, you can just take advantage of the free stuff on the coach saving you some cash later on. They also have onboard facilities in you just can't hold in your pee until the next rest stop, so no uncomfortable shifting around while you wait!

As Australia is pretty big, this perhaps isn't so great for someone who is short on time. The greyhound buses are insanely comfortable for a backpacker bus, but when the distance between Brisbane and Cairns by road comes to approx. 1692KM it does regularly include some 6 hour + drive times. I took just under 3 weeks to go between the cities with stops which felt pretty fast but I still saw loads but I would say it's the min time for the route. So if you're going to be less than that and have a large budget you may want to consider flying between. However, with buses more comfortable than planes why would you want the hassle of flying?

Other than time, there aren't many other limitations to the Oz Ex passes in my opinion from what I've experienced. The price tag is high I won't deny it, but unfortunately Australia is an expensive place to travel anyway, and by paying for everything upfront it makes it easier to manage the budget when you're away. It also brings the total price down by around 30% RRP by it being all packaged up. Basically - get your asses to Australia and check out why I love it so freaking much!

Barefoot Tours - Atherton Tablelands

The man, the myth, the legend -  we were met my Barefoot Tours owner himself Captain Matty who picked us up outside our hostel ready to start the day. Now when I say picked us up, he literally picked each and every one of us up in a bear hug before hopping onto the bus ready to head on out of Cairns and up into the Tablelands. The trip consists of 5 main stops for swimming and cooling off, with a number of additional stops along the way to check out some of the hidden gems along the way. With even an average winters day here being 25-28 degrees, you'll find yourself wanting to jump into the icy water to cool off. 

Cathedral Fig

The windy road up to the first destination included a stop at a view point to look down at all the tiny people left in Cairns before moving onwards. It's about a 45 minute drive out of town, however not for those who are perhaps slightly hungover. With the road going round and round for a good half an hour, you may feel a little queasy without the help of residual alcohol. 

Once up on the Tablelands, the beautiful green pastures just roll on by. Doesn't quite feel like you're in Australia anymore up here. Of course, that only lasts a few minutes until you reach the Cathedral Fig tree found just a short walk from the main road. Looking like something out of Avatar, it's a pretty special stop to check out. Over 500 years old, the strangler tree is the perfect place for a cheeky snap and some shade from the sunshine.

Lake Eacham

The first swimming spot of the day, super quiet with few other visitors there's space to spread out on the grass in the sunshine and take a dip. With a swimming platform in one area, and steps down to another there's plenty of room. If you're not quite in the swimming mood yet though, not to worry as you can pass the time turtle spotting on the waters edge. Keep an eye out while you're swimming though, rumour has it you might see a crocodile if you're lucky.

Here is where morning tea is served, along with the most incredible fruit platter for the health nuts and cakes for those of us who have delayed the summer body for yet another season. Matty was proud to make sure it was known he always buys as much local produce as possible, from only the local suppliers to keep the money in the region. Bread from the local baker, fruits grown throughout the Tablelands. It was seriously awesome to hear how a small company was happy to pay a little bit more to their suppliers to keep it local than to go to the big supermarkets that don't always support the surrounding area. 

Millaa Millaa Falls

When you picture a waterfall in your head, this is pretty much what you think it will look like. Tall, loads of swimming space and the perfect place for the 'profile picture' that dreams are made of. Also home to where the famous herbal essences advert was created, it's near criminal to come here without giving the hair 'swoosh' a try. The water is pretty cold though I might add, so for girls you may want a bikini or swimsuit with a little padding to stop the awkward obvious nip moment. Have a swim, jump off some rocks, grab that perfect picture and be ready to lie in the sunshine for a little warm up before heading off to stop 4! Also, keep a keen eye out as sometimes you may spot a rare platypus in this area. 

Dinner Falls and The Crater

Another beautiful waterfall stop, with a short walk to a number of view points. For these agile on their feet you can climb over the rocks and get pretty close to the falling water as well, but make sure you have shoes with good grip or you may regret it. Here we stopped for lunch (included in the price), which consisted of more sandwiches, cake, fruit and other delicious treats. As you can imagine, this was all polished off pretty fast when you've got a group of backpackers faced with free food.

Josephine Falls

The best of them all! Here you can use the waterfall as a natural waterslide as it's so smooth! It can be a little bit of a mission to get into the water here, with either a jump between a few rocks or a careful climb. Luckily, we had Captain Matty to 'accidentally' push us in to make sure we avoided the rocks on either side. With the water being super cold as well, I can't imagine slowly climbing in would be much fun either. A quick swim across the pool gets to you to the best way to the waterfall, then just gather with a group or go solo, get on your butt and slide on down!

You can only swim in certain areas of the falls though, so please remember this! Part of the falls is sacred to the local aboriginal people and treating this with utmost respect it important. The team at Barefoot want to be able to keep bringing us lovely tourists here, and can only do so if we all keep our cool. Also, with strong currents & raging water, you wouldn't really want to take a dip in the other areas either! Enjoy the below 'in action' shot of us - thrilling stuff right here.

Basically, it's not your typical day out in terms of the 'must do in Australia' list. However, I think that's what makes it so great. It's a very chilled out, fun and adventure filled way to spend your day tailor made for backpackers & the understanding that anything too engergic may not be possible with the residual alcohol in your system from the night before at Gilligans. We had one of the best days, and Captain Matty seriously wanted everyone to have a good time, make some new friends and remind us ladies to steer clear of the dive masters (sadly, he didn't give me any advise on the skydive instructors though... opps!) 

Jungle Surfing in the Daintree

So I pretty much adore Australia, always have and always will. Maybe it's because us Brits just aren't used to getting any sunshine, so simply the vitamin D hit alone makes this place addictive. Either way, I was pretty excited to get up to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation as I hadn't made it up here last time. 

Being the oldest naturally ongoing rainforest in the world, it's a fairly special place and because of this, has world heritage listings and is recognised by UNECO etc. so is certainly a bucket list destination. A short drive from Cairns is the best way to reach it, and the team at Jungle Tours are great at helping get you there if you're not a local or don't have a car. 

Our day started with an early morning drive along what's known to be one of the most scenic highways in all Australia, rivalled only by the Great Ocean Road. This short 90 minute journey travels along the coast between Cairns and Port Douglas, and it's named the Great Barrier Reef drive for good reason! Being able to see so much ocean and rainforest from one road is fairly awesome. 

From here, the guys dropped us for an hour visit to Wildlife Habitat which is a wildlife refuge just outside the picturesque town of Port Douglas. Here you have the chance to feed the kangaroos and wallabies, and walk around in the exhibits with the wildlife, allowing you to pretty close most of the cute creatures Australia has on offer. Of course, the crocodiles and cassowary birds are kept at a slightly further distance!

After a cheeky morning tea and cakes, we headed north again to catch the Daintree River Ferry to the world heritage site. Sadly, a lot more stunning rainforest would be around today however early settlers to Australia cut down huge sections of it to farm land with sugar cane & cattle. While it's so great to now have protection, it does mean the scenery drastically changes at this point from open fields to the rainforest, rather than how it would have naturally been slightly more gradual. The ferry is very much a car ferry, so no getting off to walk around here! Within 5 minutes we'd already reached the other side and were off again to the sound of the Lion King soundtrack towards our lunch stop. 

Lunch itself is included and was actually seriously good! No packed lunch here but instead we were dropped at a cafe within the forest (felt like the middle of nowhere in the best way). Here we had a huge choice of options of sandwiches which were freaking HUGE! I think I'm still full over a week later... Absolutely delicious and set us up nicely for the main event, Jungle Surfing!

Sadly, as exciting as it would be to take on the jungle canopy on a surf board, this isn't exactly what we were doing - we were zip lining. The guys have set up a number of zip lines along the canopy up in the top of the tree tops so you can see more than just the forest floor. A serious highlight is on platform 3, where you can actually see out to the Great Barrier Reef from up high. The rainforest is the only place in the world where you can see two World Heritage sites at the same time, and be within 100 miles of the two most biologically diverse places at once - pretty awesome my fellow nerds!

After being hung by my legs off one zip line, and accidentally almost kicking my photographer off the platform, I think it was pretty safe to say while I hadn't had enough, the guides may have had enough of me! It was a seriously great activity, having done a number of zip lines before the lines weren't too fast or long so not the most adrenaline filled activity. However, being able to have seen the world's oldest rainforest from that angle can't be beaten!

My only slight disappointment was that being up in the treetops for quite a long time in humid conditions without access to water wasn't the greatest, so I'd recommend bringing a water bottle with you. Also, (rant time, sorry kids), it really pisses me off when companies charge you for pictures they take of you during the day. Here, the team kindly took snaps of everyone at they hang through the trees and try all the activities grabbing some awesome action shots that you can't always take of yourself. But sadly, they wanted $20/image OF MYSELF that they took. I know this is becoming standard practise with tour operators but I really think it's wrong. Since the day trip already costs $252 Australian Dollars RRP (£152 British Pounds) for just one day, it should include as many damn pictures taken of me that I'd like.

The final activity of the day was the Daintree River Cruise to check out some of the local reptiles, pretty exciting stuff. Along the coastline up in Northern Australia, you're unable to swim in the sea due to the salt water crocodiles, and the same is said for most of the rivers. After taking this river cruise it does become kinda clear why. They literally pop up all over the place, and as the water is so murky, there are likely quite a lot more below the surface. Seeing these living dinosaurs in the wild is always fairly special, so it's a really awesome way to end a really great day in the Daintree before the drive back to Cairns. Sadly I didn't have time to spend a night in the rainforest here, but it's safe to say I'll be back to Cairns and the surrounding area very soon thanks to a special someone. 

Huge thanks to the team for taking us out, the guides with Jungle Tours are probably some of the friendliest I've had with a genuine desire for everyone to really love their little corner of the world. 

Olympus Tours - Dominican Safari

While I adore hitting the beach as much as anyone, I can't hack it for more than a few days without going stir crazy! With that in mind, I always have to find an island which has loads going on nearby to give me some things to try out while having a relax and the Dominican Republic has not disappointed. During my time here, I've hooked up with Olympus tours who run Punta Cana Tours to try out their famous Supreme Safari which shows off the local flair of this beautiful island nation. 

The day started with a ride in a super truck, the best way to describe it is for you to picture a monster truck with a trailer on the back for us to see the view. Heading further away from the beaches towards the lesser beaten track of the tourist trail, our first stop was a local ranch. Here we had a chance to hop onto horseback and meander down to see some of the fruit trees growing in the fields including mango's and many others! Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried my Spanish isn't what it used to be so I couldn't quite catch the names of the other exotic fruits, but most were one's I hadn't seen before which is always a treat!

From here, we also had the opportunity to see how cigars are made and learnt all the differences between them. Of course, we learnt that the Dominican cigar is much superior to the Cuban cigar but I'll have to wait until I reach the shores of both islands to be able to compare for myself! This stop also included a visit to a local art gallery, where you could purchase beautiful canvas's of typical Dominican artwork such as beach-scapes and interpretations of workers on orchards, sail boats and more. I can't help myself when there's a chance to bring something beautiful back with me, so I purchased rather a few which were rolled up for me to pop in my suitcase and re-canvas back home for my wall along with others from around the globe. 

Nest stop was over to Basilica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia which is found in the town of Higuey in Punta Cana. This catholic cathedral is really something else and was the true highlight of the day for me! With my global treks I get to see a lot of places of worship and some truly stand out, with the Basilica here joining that list. As you can see from the photographs, it certainly has a presence in this small Dominican town as it towers over! We could even see if from the mountains that we travelled up next.

With a quick stop at a local foot market to see fresh food stalls containing fruits, vegetables, meat and even a few locals playing a rather rowdy game of dominoes, it was onwards and upwards off the roads and into the countryside a little further. 

During the trip, the guides really enjoyed talking to us about all the communities we visited, and gave us every opportunity to support them through purchasing their herbal medicines, homemade cooking products and tips for leading the horses if you required it! By doing this, it meant that we could give back to not only the tour guides, but to a number of small & isolated villages which struggle more to gain from the biggest import the island has; tourism. This was highlighted on our next destination when we visited a small village to meet and chat with everyone!

This was the village we stopped to dine in on a local lunch of Dominican specialities which shouldn't be missed while overlooking a river below and enjoying the view of never-ending mountains and jungle. 

Once fed, it was onwards to our final village stop through coffee and sugar plantations, with some hefty off road driving which couldn't have been more amusing! With an open bar onboard, I'd recommend bringing an empty bottle with you to get a bartender to top you up in as the open glasses meant spilling delicious rum everywhere.

In this village, our guide Jonathan coached the local girls on how to talk to a group trying to help them boost confidence and join the tourist trade so popular here, and it was heartwarming to see! They talked to us about what they grow, and how they turn it into products to sell such as vanilla essence, chocolate and coffee. 

After waiving goodbye to the kids and their pet iguana, it was off again to the final stop on our off-roading tour - the beach! Unfortunately for us, the rain hit hard just as we arrived and with the winds came some strong waves so after a chance to stroll around we hopped back onto the truck after getting slightly soaked to head back to our accommodation for a cocktail or two!

Oh! So Croatia



I think the question is can I rave about Oh! So Croatia anymore than I already have on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram? Probably not but I'm going to try. This trip was the perfect combination of culture, beaches, national parks and partying. It works SO well because the owner, Nina, is a backpacker herself and understands how to do it right - she's created a trip that she would pay for and enjoy as a traveller. It's not the famous Croatia sailing holidays, but I actually found this a bonus as you could see the country around you and not just the beaches while drinking 24/7 (although, the bus comes with free beer and cider so if you want to be intoxicated throughout the journey you are entirely welcome). It also has a price tag of around £500 LESS than your average backpacker sailing trip in Croatia so can I hear you say bonus?

The passes are designed to be hop on / hop off and is super easy going, you can start and end in any of the cities listed on the map below. The point is that it's designed to be as flexible as you want it to be, which can only be a plus in this day and age with so many plans and schedules to keep. If you can't get to Zagreb for the start of the trip, no worries you can join in elsewhere when it suits you. It also means you get new people joining all the time which always equate to new friends!


This trip isn't designed as a guided tour, where someone holds your hand the whole way. You don't have to think about any travel within the country as it's included, and a lot of activities are available to do with the group, but there isn't a tour guide. You have a tour buddy who can help and advise you on anything Croatian, but they are not there to take you around every city and every restaurant so expect a lot of time when you'll be without a guide. The groups will always be at least 15 though so you'll never have to be alone if you don't want to - perfect for solo travellers and for me personally, I prefer this style a lot more!

It's a also a backpacking trip at the moment guys, so it's hostels and shared bathrooms. You can have a private room in most locations but it isn't guaranteed so be happy to share your space like in any hostel or backpacking trip.

So I chose to start in Zagreb, the capital city and at 8am we were introduced to the bus and the group to start our Croatian Adventure. From here we travelled an hour or so to a beautiful vineyard for a morning of wine tasting and a Croatian style breakfast - safe to say we all got chatting once the booze started flowing. The vineyard, Vuglec Breg, was stunning and it's awesome that Oh! So Croatia can arrange this exclusive private visit for every group as it's really rather swanky. Your eyebrows may shoot up at the thought of morning drinking, but hey - you're on your holidays so pipe down and have a glass!

After getting really rather drunk, we hopped back on the bus to head down to the world famous Plitvice Lakes National Park. This is pretty special and definitely isn't one to miss when in Croatia if you can help it. The scenery is spectacular, with vast lakes in the middle of dense woodland complete with waterfalls and varied wildlife. Unfortunately, you can't swim in the crystal clear waters of the park but it's still make sure you spend a few hours walking around, it’s the oldest national park in Europe and you only need to look at the pictures to understand why it's worth your while. Rent a boat and row around a few of the lakes or hop on the mini ferries that laze along the river to rest your feet after walking around. 

This brought to a close our first day and we drove to the town of Novalja on Pag Island, famed for party beach Zrce. Now this is a sure place to go if you like to party all night as it doesn't really kick off until 1am, and you'll want to hit the supermarket before you go as it's not the cheapest place to get alcohol in Croatia (however keep in mind that your average G&T will only cost you £1.50 in country, but - as always, it's even cheaper buying beforehand). Your bus buddy will either come with you to party all night long or may help organise some taxis for you while they take a break, but you'll be in a large group so you'll be safe no matter what. They'll always recommend which clubs to hit and will make sure you're ready for a wild night!

Pag island is pretty dead vegetation wise and is mainly covered in rocks - the locals refer to it as a moonscape which I would say is fairly apt! While here with Oh! So Croatia, you'll have a chance to see the beautiful beaches it has to offer, quad bike it's vast landscape to get to even more beaches and party like crazy if you want to! You also get the option to head to a traditional restaurant to eat some incredible octopus baked in a traditional Croatian style, followed with a shot or two (or ten if you want) of Rakia, a very strong local drink! But if you're a veggie or not a fan of seafood, don't sweat it as they also offer other meats, salads and local cheeses!

After a few days on Pag, the bus took us down to Zadar for a few hours roaming the old town before relaxing a little longer on another beautiful beach. After dining while the sunset, we meandered down to Šibenik! This was to be our base for the next few nights and from here we could chill out at a range of beaches, kayak to islands or take time to party all day by the pool, complete with DJ and a waitered drinks service (all this while backpacking - SCORE). We also spent a day at Krka National Park, another beautiful nature reserve complete with waterfalls and a snake or two! Unlike Plitvice, you can swim here among the waterfalls and relax in the clear waters of the Krka river. But don't worry, the snakes don't hang out in the lakes where you can swim! 

Our final day was spent travelling to Split via Trogir. Trogir is another stunning little seaside town which has a magical old town, complete with a harbour full of yachts that's not to be missed! As always you can hop on a boat and see the crystal clear waters all around you, or just relax with a drink in the bar. You can also check out the Kamerlengo Castle and  I can highly recommend doing your souvenir shopping here as it'll be cheaper than Split but still excellent stuff!

I would love to tell you more about Split but unfortunately I had to head back home before having a proper explore. I will definitely be back though and I plan to hit Hvar, Brela and Dubrovnik - I’ll let you know when I have more inside info next year.  

Croatia as a country has known some hardships, the war that broke up Yugoslavia devastated the people here. They've been working hard over the past few years to rebuild themselves as a top tourist destination so they can share their beautiful country with us. I had a chance to speak to some Croatian nationals who told me about their childhood that consisted of hiding in the basement regularly to hide from bomb drops and gunfire. Visiting Croatia now however you couldn't feel safer and it really is a gorgeous country with charming locals! I love that by travelling with Oh! So Croatia, we're supporting a Croatian company and the local tourist industry, being shown the true Croatia by Croatian nationals. 

There are a range of trips you can do with oh! So Croatia but unfortunately I only had 8 days so I started at the beginning and ended in Split.The passes however, run all the way down to Dubrovnik and you can get involved with other awesome activities such as white water rafting! I seriously recommend you check it out so follow the link to Oh! So Croatia and book. I really didn't have enough time on this trip and it's the best way to see Croatia in full, from national parks to party beaches and the true Croatian countryside! 

Photographs by Talento Productions

This post was not sponsored by Oh! So Croatia and has been written to share a good experience with readers. Where sponsorship has been provided for a review, this will be fully disclosed.