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Thursday 22 September 2022

Our Big Summer Adventure: Fiji, Australia and a USA Road Trip

Summer break has been and gone and we’re back into the full swing of the school year. Our big Summer adventure is still on my mind though and I have a ton of fun stuff to share with you.

If you’re following along on Instagram you will likely have already seen a few of my favorite moments from our Summer break trip to Australia and Fiji. Today I’m sharing all of the fun! Well, maybe not quite all of it because we were away for an entire month. More of a highlight post with a run down of all the places we went. I’ll be sharing more in-depth posts about some of our bigger adventures in the future.

Our Summer adventure was a pretty big one with two international destinations and a Western USA roadtrip. We started with a two day drive from Colorado to Los Angeles, flew to Fiji, spent five days soaking up all the tropical island vibes before flying on to our home city of Adelaide in South Australia, took a road trip to Melbourne, road tripped back to Adelaide, spent a few weeks catching up with friends and family, flew back to Los Angeles, and then spent three days driving back to Colorado with a stop over in Las Vegas. As you can imagine, we were exhausted by the time we got home. I bet you’re tired just reading that, right?!

This post is going to be a long one, so get comfortable and prepare for the onslaught of photos! Let’s go…

So, you might be wondering why our trip to Fiji and Australia included a USA roadtrip. Well, there are a few reasons for this. First of all, our flight to Fiji left from Los Angeles, so we needed to make our way there at the start of our trip. I originally planned for us to fly to Los Angeles a day or two before our international flight, but with all of the flight delays and cancellations that had been happening over the Summer I was a little worried that we might end with cancelled domestic flights. As the flight to Los Angeles would’ve been a separate booking from our international flight (Fiji Airways has no code share flights from Denver) there would’ve been no priority should we need to rebook.There was also the cost of the domestic flights to take into account. I was able to find $99 one way flights, which was pretty cheap, but if we found ourselves with a cancellation and needing to book new flights last minute, we’d most likely be looking at much pricier flights. So, even though it was two solid days of driving and gas prices were kind of high, taking a road trip felt like the safest option. Plus it meant we’d get to add in a few stops we’d been wanting to make.

Days 1 & 2
The first two days of our trip weren't especially exciting given that we spent the entire day driving, so I’m lumping them in together here. On the first day we drove from home in Colorado to St George in Southern Utah where we stayed overnight. For the most part we only made stops for food, bathroom breaks and to stretch our legs. Day two was more interesting with stops at the Seven Magic Mountains just outside of Las Vegas and the World’s Tallest Thermometer in Baker, California. We made it to Los Angeles late in the day and headed out to dinner in Venice before heading back to our hotel for the evening. While Kim, Lola and Mathilde hung out in the hotel room Ava and I went out for a ride on the rental scooters that can be found dotted all around Los Angeles.

Day 3
The day of our flight! It also just happened to be Fourth of July! As our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave LAX until 11:50pm we had the whole day to hang out. We spent much of it on or by Venice Beach. The kids played in the waves, we watched skateboarders and a bodybuilding competition, walked along the canals, and we ate freshly cut mango and deep fried Twinkies. Oh, and we got sunburnt. Oops! Poor Lola ended up looking like a patchy lobster by the end of the day and spent the next week and a half peeling skin from her face and all over her body. Must not forget the sunscreen.

Day 4
The magical day that disappeared! Due to crossing the International Date Line July 5th just completely disappeared. But don’t worry, we made up for it on our flight back three weeks later!

Day 5
Our first day in Fiji! Our flight touched down in Fiji’s capital of Nadi early in the morning and we made our way straight to our hotel for breakfast. I had originally looked into taking a resort vacation while in Fiji, but ultimately we decided to stay in a centrally located hotel in Nadi and take day trips instead. It felt a slightly more authentic experience and it was definitely cheaper than a resort. Next time we might go with a resort stay though seeing as it’s something we’ve never done before. Anyway, as we were all pretty tired from the flight we had a pretty chill day. We played in the hotel pool, relaxed in hammocks under palm trees, ate Fijian cuisine at a nearby restaurant, and stocked up on Twisties at a local supermarket. The time difference got to everyone late in the afternoon, and apart from myself, the rest of the family were fast asleep by 5pm! That’s got to be a first!

Day 6
Thanks to the jet lag and our early evening, we were all up nice and early. Mathilde and I sat on the balcony eating Twisties while we watched the sun rise. This ended up becoming our morning routine for our entire stay in Fiji. After breakfast we were met by our driver Lui for our first day of exploring Fiji. The day’s tour included visiting a traditional Fijian village, exploring the beautiful Garden of the Sleeping Giant, and everyone’s favorite, a visit to Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool. In the Fijian village we learned the history and traditions of the Fijian people, visited the village church, saw the chief’s home, and checked out artifacts including a neck breaker - which Mathilde desperately wanted to take home. At the Garden of the Sleeping Giant we strolled among lush tropical gardens and hiked to the top of the hill for views over the island. The highlight of the day was definitely our visit to Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool. Here we covered ourselves in mud from the mud pool, let it dry and then soaked in a series of hot springs. The first few hot springs were pretty muddy but as we washed the mud off and moved on the hot springs became clearer, until we got to the last one which was crystal clear. After rinsing off all the mud and soaking in the hot spring we had a delicious lunch of tuna and potato roti (so good - I need to find the recipe!) before moving on to the last activity for the day: massages! 

Day 7
Our island adventure! Our day started with an early shuttle to Port Denarau where we took a day cruise with Captain Cook Cruises to Tivua Island. The cruise took about an hour during which time we breathed in the fresh ocean air as the boat cruised along the waves. The crew sang Fijian songs and we ate lamingtons and biscuits. When we arrived at the island we found ourselves a bure (beach hut) for all our stuff and then hit the water. We mostly stuck to snorkeling in the warm turquoise water, checking out small sharks and fish as they swam by. We planted coral on an artificial reef (to be placed in the ocean to encourage new coral reef growth), and we relaxed under the swaying palm trees. Kim, Mathilde and I all headed out to the deeper water by the end of the pier to snorkel where there was more sea life to spot. Mathilde also took a scuba diving lesson which was absolutely amazing. She had the teacher to herself and he took her diving by the end of the pier. The oxygen tank was longer than her entire torso so she looked a little hilarious but she loved it. On the boat ride back to Port Denarau Mathilde was awarded a PADI certificate for her scuba diving class along with a gift pack and a log book to log all of her future dives (to go toward certification). I’m not sure where she’s going to scuba dive in Colorado, but apparently there are more certified divers here than in any other US state so I guess she’s in good company! 

Day 8
Another day of new experiences for us all. Our driver Lui picked us up in the morning and took us to Sri Siva Subramanaya Hindu temple in Nadi. Fitting in cultural experiences is always one of my favorite things when we travel so I'm glad we were able to visit the temple for something a little different from the usual Fiji tourist experience. After a guided tour of the temple complex we made our way to Sleeping Giant Zipline. Now, we've all been on plenty of playground ziplines before and the kids did a little ziplining as part of Tree Climb in Adelaide during our previous visit, but this was our first time going on a proper zipline above the jungle and over water. It was so much fun and I can't wait to do it again! The park has seven different zips that took us over jungle, rivers and waterfalls. It was such an exhilarating experience and we enjoyed it so much that we went back for a second round. After our first round of ziplining we had lunch (which was included in our tour) and then took a hike to nearby waterfalls where we took a dip in the clear pools at the bottom. The water was freezing but after hiking through the hot and humid jungle it was so nice to cool down. We hiked back to the ziplines for our second round of zooming above the trees before heading back to town for dinner.

Day 9
Our last day in Fiji. As it was a Sunday quite a few places in Fiji were closed, so we decided to have a quiet day hanging out at our hotel. The kids played in the pool, we relaxed in hammocks and I got everything packed up and ready for our early morning pick up the following day. The girls and I headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner and one last delicious tropical juice. Seriously, Fiji has the best fruit juice! 

Day 10
Our travel day to Australia. The day started off a little stressful when the car that the hotel had booked for us didn't turn up at 4:30am as planned. We waited until almost 5am and there was still no car. The hotel staff didn't seemed too fussed (no one in Fiji ever seems fussed!) but working on island time doesn't really fit in with strict airport check in times! Luckily they managed to get two taxis for us and we made it to the airport in time. Nadi airport is pretty tiny so checking in and making it to our gate took no time at all. In fact, I think our flight was the only flight leaving so the airport was very quiet. Our flight to Adelaide was a fairly short one and as it was pretty empty we were able to spread out a little. We arrived in Adelaide before noon and were met at the airport by family. After lots of hugs we made our way to Kim's Mum's house (where we stayed at the start of our time in Adelaide) and then headed out to lunch in Glenelg with my parents, Kim's Mum and Kim's niece.

Days 11 - 13
I'm lumping these days together because most of our time was spent catching up with friends and family, eating favorite foods, and visiting favorite places in the city. We checked out the Yayoi Kasuma exhibition at the Art Gallery, marveled at new sculptures in Rundle Mall (including an original Salvador Dali), ate rainbow food with friends, did lots of shopping, and the girls got their ears pierced. 

Day 14
Another travel day! This time it was a road trip to Melbourne where we would spend the next few days. As the drive takes about 9 hours it was a pretty boring day. We made stops in Coonalpyn to check out the painted silos, Bordertown for lunch at the bakery, and at the Giant Koala for, well, crazy pics with a giant koala! We made it into Melbourne in the evening where we met up with my sister and went out for a late dinner.

Days 15 - 17
Just like our time in Adelaide, our time in Melbourne mostly consisted of meeting up with friends and going out to eat. We also went to see Hamilton, visited the iconic beach huts in Brighton, checked out the murals in AC/DC Lane, Hosier Lane and Duckboard Place, took lots of tram rides, explored the city, and did lots of shopping. 

Days 18 & 19
For our drive back to Adelaide we decided to take the scenic route along the Great Ocean Road. We spread the drive over two days and stayed in Port Fairy, Victoria for the night. On the first day we headed to Lorne where we stopped for a bakery lunch - which we had to eat quickly before the flocks of fearless cockatoos managed to steal it from us! We headed along the coast making various stops to take in the views including at Kennett River to spot koalas in the gum trees above and the iconic Twelve Apostles. The second day of our drive included stops in Mt Gambier to check out the Umpherston Sinkhole Garden and the Blue Lake, followed by a stop at the Big Lobster in Kingston. We had planned to stop in my hometown of Meningie along this drive, but it was dark by the time we reached it so we continued on through to Adelaide. 

Days 20 - 26
The rest of our time in Australia was spent in Adelaide where we stayed with my parents. We checked out the Illuminate Adelaide lights festival with friends, we spent a day in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills where we ate the best German sausages and Australia's longest hotdog, we went peddle boating on the Torrens River, we had a big catch up with friends at Pirate Life Brewery in Port Adelaide, went to friends' houses for dinner, did even more shopping (lots of stocking up on Aussie goodies), caught up with Kim's sister who came down from Queensland, and we took an overnight trip to the Murray River with my parents and my brother's family. It was so good to catch up and spend time with friends and family.   

Day 27
Time to say goodbye to Australia. Our flight back to the US took us via Fiji again, but this time we just switched planes and continued on our way to Los Angeles. Thanks to the time zone difference, we arrived in Los Angeles just an hour after we left Adelaide. Aren't time zones crazy? After checking into our hotel in Los Angeles we headed to Manhattan Beach for a late lunch followed by some beach time until the sun set. We then checked out Rendondo Beach Pier.

Day 28
We started our drive back to Colorado with a stop at the first ever McDonald's. This location no longer serves burgers but rather is now a museum filled with McDonald's memorabilia from over the years. It was a pretty fun place to stop for about an hour and best of all, it's free! We then continued on to Las Vegas only stopping to check out the World's Tallest Thermometer again. The kids are obsessed with that thing for some reason! We arrived in Las Vegas late in the day and after checking into our hotel we made our way to Meow Wolf Omega Mart. This was the third Meow Wolf that we've visited and just like the other two it was so much fun to explore. I'll be sharing all about it soon. We then hit up a late night sushi train restaurant for a very late (11pm!) dinner before heading back to the hotel.  

Day 29
Rather than continuing straight on to Colorado, we spent the day checking out Las Vegas. Jetlag hit us hard this time so we spent pretty much the whole morning in the hotel before heading out at lunch time. We checked out the lights and sights of Fremont Street and then headed to the Strip where we spent time at New York New York, Bellagio and Paris. It was like a little mini international vacation! I had really hoped that we could go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower this time seeing as the weather had prevented this on our last visit, but unfortunately there were strong winds predicted and the tower was closed. The giant ferris wheel and Stratosphere tower were also closed for the same reason. Instead we headed back to our hotel for a swim followed by a delicious Thai dinner and a visit to the M&M Store.

Day 30
A whole month! Our last day was spent driving from Las Vegas all the way back to Boulder. It was a pretty long (and boring) drive and we only made a few stops to eat, stretch our legs, and take bathroom breaks. One bathroom break came with this stunning view below. By the time we made it back home it was after 10pm. And that was it. Our big vacation was over.

If you've made it this far thanks for reading! I know it's a super long post. I plan to get some dedicated posts up for many of the locations we visited, so stay tuned for more!

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