Real Honeymoon: Ireland, France & Italy

That’s right, this week we finally have a wonderful new Real Honeymoon post to share! This week’s post was sent from Caitlyn and Jason who recently honeymooned across three countries in Europe. Read all about their amazing trip below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Jason and I adventured through Europe for our two-week honeymoon, visiting Dublin, Bordeaux, Paris, and Venice and taking many day trips from each city. We left June 19 and returned July 4. Small piece of advice: avoid the middle of the summer. It. Was. HOT.

How long was your trip?

Two weeks – Saturday to Saturday. We highly recommend returning on a Saturday – everyone can use a Sunday to unpack, do laundry, and brace yourself for Monday morning work emails.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations?

Jason and I took a long time to decide where to spend our honeymoon – when else do you get to take two weeks off work?! We definitely don’t consider ourselves “beach people” so a tropical location was quickly ruled out. Other places we considered were Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, but ultimately decided that we wanted our honeymoon to be a little more romantic than how we envisioned those destinations. What can I say? We’re newlyweds! Jason had never been to Europe and I knew the atmosphere was perfect for a romantic, semi-adventurous (but also relaxing!) trip. So, off to Europe we went.

We chose Dublin because Jason is a huge whiskey and beer enthusiast. From the Irish Whiskey Museum and the Jameson Factory to the endless amounts of ice cold Guinness (please note, my husband would like to specify the Guinness was not actually ice cold – I disagree…#marriage), we definitely had our fair share of cocktails. We stayed at The Arlington – located the perfect distance from pretty much anything you’d want to do – just a short walk to pubs, museums and everything else. If you don’t mind a slightly older hotel, we highly recommend The Arlington.

Ireland honeymoon


While we were there, we took a day trip to the other side of the country to experience the insane beauty that is the Cliffs of Moher – and I mean INSANE. The most breathtaking scenery you can imagine. From the moment we hopped on the bus, we were hooked. Every nook and cranny of that country is a shade of green you’ve never seen … and never want to unsee.



Our next stop was Bordeaux, a small town in the south of France known for its red wine and gorgeous châteaux. Jason and I love wine and absolutely couldn’t wait to get here. Every day we took a trip to a different region to learn about (read: drink) Bordeaux wines. While visiting château after château is definitely recommended during the day (our favorite regions were Saint-Émilion and Médoc), take some time to walk along the river and enjoy the view. The river walk was renovated from parking spots to beautiful gardens and bike paths – a great spot to enjoy an after dinner treat. This was my favorite hotel of the trip – La Maison du Lierre – a small bed and breakfast that was straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog. If you stay here, make sure to have breakfast on the patio – it’s so quaint you almost forget you’re in the middle of a city.

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Weekend in Austin

My husband and I spent last weekend eating, walking, and (at least for Aaron) running through Austin, Texas. It was my third visit to Texas’ capitol but Aaron’s first, so we wanted to make sure that we hit the city’s best highlights during our short stay.

Greetings, y'all!

Greetings, y’all!

We didn’t do a lot of planning in advance for this trip; just some “Best Austin BBQ” Google searches and one Facebook post:

Austin recs

We received tons of great recommendations from friends who recently visited on lived in Austin, so we consolidated those notes and made a tentative game-plan. While we are in no way claiming to be Austin experts, below is a list of the places we checked out and would recommend to other visitors.


– We arrived in Austin around 9:30 pm and asked our taxi driver to make a pit stop at Torchy’s Tacos on our way downtown. Even though one friend told us to skip tacos altogether and just focus on BBQ while in Austin, that friend was DEAD WRONG because Torchy’s tacos are not to be missed. They have an excellent secret menu, too.


– Once we had secured our tacos, we checked into InterContinental Stephen F. Austin. The hotel was in a perfect location for the Austin Marathon (our whole reason for this particular Austin visit), but the downsides were the extra charge for in-room wifi and the lack of an outdoor pool.*


– We wanted to start the day with a breakfast for champions: the “Don Juan” breakfast taco from Juan in a Million. Holy moly that thing was good, and just one of them can easily feed two people. (Pro tip: ask for extra tortillas.) Don’t be discouraged by the crowd waiting outside the restaurant; the line moved quite quickly and we were seated in under 15 minutes.

juan in a million

– After breakfast we took a cab to the South Congress neighborhood (ask to get dropped off at Doc’s then walk south.) We grabbed iced coffees at Jo’s then wandered around the eclectic shops. It was especially fun ducking into Allens Boots and ByGeorge — those two stores couldn’t have been more different, but both were awesome! Our only regret was being too full from breakfast to try any of the cafes or bars in the neighborhood.

Had too much fun at Allens Boots. They even had U of M ones!

Had too much fun at Allens Boots. They even had U of M ones!

– The marathon expo was on our way back downtown, so by the time we walked over there and got Aaron checked in he had worked up enough of an appetite to justify a root beer float from Sandy’s. The perfect treat on a hot day.

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– We lucked out with gorgeous weather, so we walked all the way through downtown to the Capitol Building, then continued north to check out the University of Texas at Austin campus. I love seeing new college campuses, but man they can make you feel old! Also, it didn’t feel right being surrounded by so much burnt orange.

My best "Eyes of Texas" impression

My best “Eyes of Texas” impression

– From campus we took a taxi back downtown so we could walk through 6th Street before the evening’s debauchery began. We walked through the Red River district over to Rainey Street which used to be one of my favorite spots in town. Now, sadly, there are new condo buildings being constructed all around the quaint old houses and food trucks, killing the easy-going vibe. Nevertheless we still enjoyed a beer and some snacks at the Banger’s beer garden.


– After Rainey Street we made our first bad decision of the trip: BBQ at Stubb’s. Fine music venue, not great BBQ.

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Real Honeymoon: The Maldives

My friends Cara and Eric went on a quintessential tropical honeymoon in the Maldives last year. While the Maldives can certainly be one of the world’s most expensive vacation destinations, Cara and Eric were smart about splitting up their trip between two differently priced resorts, and the result was perfection! Read all about their incredibly gorgeous Maldives honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Eric and I decided to honeymoon in the Maldives, which is a grouping of 26 atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  The Maldives is basically as far away from San Francisco as you can possibly get.  We went for two weeks directly following our labor day weekend wedding [September 2014].  We stayed at two resorts, to break up the trip (and the second hotel allowed us to not break our bank account).

Maldives honeymoon

Tennis in the Maldives

yoga in paradiseResort #1: Anantara – Dhigu
Amazing customer service.  Over water bungalow is a must.  We went with the half board, which consisted of a fantastic breakfast buffet (could not get enough of the local  fresh fruit) and  a 3 course dinner at all restaurants on the island.  Water surrounding hotel is a like a lagoon, so there are no waves and allows for a safe haven for baby sea life – including friendly reef sharks!  The resort supplies you bikes you can take around the island and had they had a fantastic spa that we would highly recommend.  Not as much of a water activity focus here, but there are islands you can swim or kayak to within the resort that allows for great snorkeling.

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Resort #2: Kuredu Island Resort 
This was more of a party resort – which we later discovered when we arrived.  We did the all inclusive option, which allowed us access to 3 buffets per day and all the drinks we wanted!  The water there was rougher, so we spent more time in the resort pools.  The activities were plentiful, giving options for diving, snorkeling, tours and tennis.  They also throw a white party every Friday, which I judged at first, but ended up closing the place down.


How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

I had some big dreams for our honeymoon and one requirement: I wanted to stay in an over-water bungalow.  Surprisingly, there are not many places in the world where these villas exist, so this limited our selection right off the bat.   We created a short list of destinations and compared average hotels costs and airline costs.

10355441_10100339553493944_3809910131736898347_oUltimately, we decided to splurge on a “once in a lifetime experience.”  Our close friends did their honeymoon there the previous year and raved about the location, so we also felt comfortable staying in a resort that someone was able to vouch for – because who wants a bad honeymoon experience?

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The best part about our honeymoon was…

The water.  It was crystal clear, allowing us to see all of the baby sharks, fish and sting rays that swam by.  At night the hotels would put lights on in the water, which would attract all types of fish and allow for viewing at dinner.  The snorkeling was amazing, I have never seen so many different types of fish in one place.

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If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Nothing really.  One thing to keep in mind is when you are booking your travel is account for travel back to the airport from your resort.  We had to take a seaplane from Kuredu and the last one the resort had out was at 4pm, while our flight was at 10pm out of the Maldives airport.  Spending 6 hours at an airport where alcohol is illegal and the fine dining was Burger King left more to be desired.

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Real Honeymoon: Bali

High school sweethearts Johanna and Arthur were married at one of my favorite places in wine country, then jetted off to Asia for additional wedding celebrations with their families. To cap off the festivities, they went on a spectacular honeymoon in Bali. I have a particular fondness for Bali honeymoons (ahem), but I think you’ll love reading about their trip, too:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We both have quite a lot of family who live overseas, so shortly after our wedding in the fall, we planned to also do dinner banquets in Hong Kong and Taipei during the holidays for our families who couldn’t come to the wedding.

Since we were “in the area” for our families, we wanted to go someplace close by in Asia for our honeymoon. We wanted to go somewhere that would be a good mix of tropical, relaxing (but not boring!), fun to explore, and lastly, someplace new for us. After running through a bunch of location ideas, Bali was definitely our top choice! Our itinerary was a bit different from what most people do, since we didn’t go to the southern part of the island where a lot of the water sports are in Seminyak and the party area of Kuta. We spend most of our time in the cultural center of Ubud, which is in the middle of the island, and also in the more remote western coast, in Manggis.


In Ubud, we stayed at Amandari, and at Amankila in Manggis. They are part of a larger hospitality group called the Aman Resorts. We loved the properties and the hospitality at Aman, it’s very warm, welcoming, and well run. The properties themselves were gorgeous. Amandari was built to resemble a Balinese village, and Amankila was built in homage to one of the water palaces in that part of the area, so it was a really unique experience.

How long was your trip?

We were in Hong Kong and Taipei for 2 weeks (or, as Johanna’s coworkers called it, the second and third weddings!), and in Bali for a little under a week.


How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to travel throughout East Asia quite a lot, so we both really wanted to go somewhere new in Southeast Asia. We wanted to go somewhere that had a good mix of culture, exploring, and relaxation, and we really found Bali to be that perfect fit. The history of the island, religion, art, and plethora of outdoor activities just made for a super fun and well rounded trip for us.



The best part about our honeymoon was …

This was definitely was biking through the terraced rice fields that Bali is known for (the island is 20% rice fields!), jungle, and villages, and somehow ending up a coffee shop; and taking a Balinese cooking class. We were able to go to the street market to learn about/buy all of the ingredients for the day, try our hand at bargaining down the prices at the market, and then go to our guide’s family home to cook in his courtyard underneath a mango tree, and eating our meal in the middle of the jungle overlooking a river. And now I can make Balinese curry at home!


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Real Honeymoon: New Zealand

My good friends Becky and Niall had a legendary wedding in Ireland in 2013, and they went on an equally amazing honeymoon in New Zealand the following year. It was well worth the wait! Read all about their incredible trip below, and remember that it’s never too late to honeymoon.

When and where did you honeymoon?

New Zealand, Oct-Nov 2014.

  • 1 night in Auckland. Visited the SkyTower, took ferry to Devonport (Lorde’s hometown), and watched the Giants in the World Series!
  • Flight from Auckland to Wellington, then Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton.
  • 2 nights in Blenheim (Marlborough Wine Country). Stayed at the Marlborough Vintners Hotel (highly recommended). Did bike tour to visit three wineries: Hans Herzog, Cloudy Bay, and Wairau River Wines.
  • 2 nights in Abel Tasman area at an amazing Airbnb (cottages on an organic farm). Highly recommend the guided day kayak + hike trip in Abel Tasman National Park with Marahau Sea Kayaks.
  • 2 nights in Hokitika. Visited the Hokitika Gorge and the Glow Worm Dell.
  • 1 night at Frank Josef Glacier. Did the Glacier Valley trail walk and visited the hot pools. Stayed at the Rainforest Retreat.
  • 1 night in Wanaka. Hiked Mount Iron and visited lots of local watering holes.
  • 1 night in Te Anau. Hiked the Rainbow Reach trail (park of the Kepler Track).
  • 1 night in Milford Sound on an overnight cruise. One of the best nights of the entire trip! Can’t recommend it enough.
  • 3 nights in Queenstown at the Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel. Love love loved it! Did the 5+ hour hike up Ben Lomond from the top of the gondola (tough but worth it!). Food highlights were Fergburger, Fishbones, and brunch at Vudu Cafe.
Taking a break from kayaking in Abel Tasman

Taking a break from kayaking in Abel Tasman

Hiking in Fiordland National  Park

Hiking in Fiordland National Park

How long was your trip?

2 weeks.

Milford Sound at dawn

Milford Sound at dawn

Natural rock wonder called Punakaiki or Pancake Rocks. Blowholes have formed inside the flattened rock formation.

Natural rock wonder called Punakaiki or Pancake Rocks. Blowholes have formed inside the flattened rock formation.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination?

So as background, I’m from the SF Bay Area and we live here now, but my husband Niall is Irish. We met in Ireland and I lived there for 3 years. When we got engaged in San Francisco, we both knew right away we wanted to have the wedding in Ireland, both to accommodate elderly family on Niall’s side and because, well, it’s just an amazing place that is dear to our hearts. Given the wedding was a destination from our home in California, we were a bit maxed out on wedding planning to even think about a honeymoon. We ended up spending one week in the West of Ireland (Galway) after our wedding, but we considered that a somewhat faux or  ‘group’ honeymoon because it included friends and family.

So… it was always in the back of our minds that we needed to take a proper honeymoon just the two of us. We considered all the regions & places in the world that neither of us had been to, and New Zealand kept rising to the top of our list. Given we are both light-skinned and get sunrash after 10 minutes of being at the beach, New Zealand’s fall climate was a big pro too. And last but not least, we love hiking, walking, animals, and wine, so New Zealand offered all those things in spades. Basically, it ticked all the boxes so we bit the bullet and booked the trip!

Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay Winery in Malborough

Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay Winery in Malborough

Insanely beautiful scenery along the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown

Insanely beautiful scenery along the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown

The best part about our honeymoon was…

We both loved the day trip we did kayaking + hiking in Abel Tasman National Park. It was out of our comfort zone because neither of us had ever done sea kayaking before, but wow it was just spectacular. First of all we got super lucky with the weather that day because the days leading up to it were a bit ‘changeable’ with periods of torrential rain and wind and then sunny moments. But on the kayak trip day there wasn’t any rain at all. And it was truly magical to be in a remote corner of the world, and even remote by New Zealand standards, out in a kayak just chilling with nearby sea lions swimming around.

Another reason we loved Abel Tasman area was where we stayed… 2 nights at a lovely AirBnb called Matahua cottages. We stayed in a private cottage on an organic farm overlooking a quiet inlet bay. It was only 5 mins drive to a little village area called Mapua with delicious seafood restaurants.

View from the cottage

View from the cottage

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I would try to go for an extra week if possible. Two weeks was a good chunk of time, but we really were pushing ourselves to see and do a lot. In the 2 weeks there we stayed in 9 different places, which is kind of crazy in retrospect. I love that we saw so much and really journeyed our way from Auckland to Milford Sound with stops along the way… but it also became exhausting at one point after we had 4 nights in 4 different places. By the time we got to Queenstown where we stayed our last 3 nights we were so glad to just stay in one town for a few days.

Showing their Bay Area pride at the Ben Lomond summit above Queenstown

Showing their Bay Area pride at the Ben Lomond summit above Queenstown

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Getting Over Post-Vacation Blues

It’s been a month since I got back from my Australia trip, and I’m still dealing with serious post-vacation blues. After three weeks of warm weather, gorgeous scenery, and being surrounded by friendly, happy locals, my transition back to reality has been a bit rough. But before I go on, let me quickly acknowledge two important things:

1) Yes, I realize that not everyone gets to go on vacations to Australia, and complaining about how hard it is to come back home after a trip like that is not going to garner a whole lot of sympathy from others. Believe me, I get it.

2) I also recognize the fact that I came home to 60 degree “winter” in San Francisco, not two feet of snow in New England. Sure, I had to stow away all of the sundresses and shorts I wore during my trip, but I also didn’t have to step off the plane and face a polar vortex either.

This post, however, is not supposed to be about me feeling sorry for myself. Rather, I hope it’s helpful for when you too get a case of the post-vacation blues. And with the extra expectations of honeymoons in particular, lots of couples have an even tougher time transitioning back to “real life” when they get back home.

So, below are the things that I recommend doing after you get back from a great trip to ward off the blues. I hope they’re helpful for you as well:

  • Try to focus on the things back home that you missed the most during your trip. For me, it’s usually thinking about how much I missed my dog, having groups of friends to go out with, and Whole Foods.
  • Recreate your favorite meals from your trip at home, or go out to eat at restaurants that serve them. I’ve been on a laksa and noodles kick since getting back from Australia, so I’ve been visiting different Asian restaurants around SF and (gasp!) even experimenting in my own kitchen.
  • Hit up World Market or BevMo to purchase your favorite international beverages and snacks. Sadly you won’t be able to find Tim Tams in the states, but you can buy these identical Arnott’s biscuits instead. Yeah, you’re welcome ;)

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Real Honeymoon: Vietnam & Sri Lanka

I’m excited to share our first real honeymoon of 2015! There are several more in the pipeline, so make sure to come back to the blog in the next few weeks to read those as well. This week’s real honeymooners Gaya and Tim recently got back from an exciting honeymoon in Vietnam and Sri Lanka where they spent time with friends and family who live there. Read all about their trip and check out the gorgeous photos below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Our honeymoon started on Dec 15th – Dec 22nd [2014] in Vietnam, then Dec 22nd [2014] – Jan 2nd [2015] in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Elephantride

Riding elephants in Sri Lanka

Friends in Sri Lanka

Honeymooning with friends in Sri Lanka

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 3 nights in Ho Chi Minh City (stayed with friends)
  • 1 night in the Mekong Delta (at a homestay)
  • 2 nights in Hoi An (at a homestay)
  • 3 nights in Jaffna (stayed with family)
  • 2 nights in Trincomalee
  • 1 night (but recommend 2) in Kandy
  • 1 night Nuwara Eliya (recommend staying here or here)
  • 1 night (but recommend 2) in Bentota
  • 3 nights in Colombo
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Vietnamese food… yummmm

Sri Lanka seafood

Sri Lanka seafood

How long was your trip?

Our trip was approximately 3 weeks.

Hanging out with friends in Vietnamese rice paddies

Just hanging out with friends in Vietnamese rice paddies

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

Tim and I are both Sri Lankan, but he has never visited and I haven’t been since I left, which was close to 25 years ago. We knew that Sri Lanka would always be our honeymoon destination.  Vietnam was nice as well. We have some friends that live there and we thought this would be a good opportunity to go and visit them.

Traveling around Sri Lanka with friends

On the road in Sri Lanka

The best part about our honeymoon was…

This is such a hard question to answer; there were sssoooo many great parts of our honeymoon. Vietnam is such a magical country, rich with culture and a heighten sense of movement. Sri Lanka is just absolutely beautiful, only 25,332 sq miles in total area, and every area, every mini city is so different from the last. We also were fortunate enough to travel with some friends for portions of our trip. But if I had to pick just one part, it would have been the history that I was able to discover in Sri Lanka.



Sri Lanka dancers

Sri Lanka dancers

Sri Lanka tea estates

Sri Lanka tea estates

Hot springs in Sri Lanka

Hot springs in Sri Lanka

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Christmas in Byron Bay

When I told my Aussie friend Emily that we were coming to Australia for a few weeks, she immediately said we’d have to visit Byron Bay. (She said that anything further north at the end of December would be too hot and humid, so we appreciated her rec!) A quick flight from Sydney, Byron Bay is a very popular holiday destination for surfers, yogis, backpackers, and new-age hippies who want to pretend that it’s still the 1960s. It’s also just an overall wonderful place for families and couples as well. The area has actually modernized a lot since my last visit in 2005, but the gorgeous scenery and laid-back vibe are still there.


Main Beach


Lots of pretty street art in Byron Bay


Do you want to build a sandman?

To get to Byron Bay from Sydney, you can either drive up the coast for nine hours, or you can do what we did, which was a one hour flight into Ballina Airport, then the $16 Xcede shuttle bus into Byron. (The alternative is hiring a $95 taxi at the Ballina Airport for the 30 minute drive to Byron, or just renting your own car.)


Happy as a kid on Christmas morning!


Walk from Watego to The Pass

Byron Bay gets packed over the Christmas holidays, so we booked our hotel months in advance. We absolutely loved our stay at Aaron’s at Byron (can you guess who picked the hotel?). Its sister property (Aabi’s at Byron) is supposedly fabulous, too. Just a short walk from the center of town, Aaron’s had everything we needed: modern and spacious rooms, nice pool and spa, and even a communal kitchen and BBQ… that we never used. But we liked knowing that we could’ve cooked if we had wanted to!


The beautiful bay

Hello, wallaby!

Hello, wallaby!

We spent our four relaxing days in Byron visiting the various beaches, hiking up to the lighthouse, and trying the local restaurants. In the evenings we met friends from Sydney at the Beach Hotel (“the Beachie”) for drinks in the beer garden.

At the top of Cape Byron

At the top of Cape Byron


Eastern most point of Australia’s mainland

Cape Byron lighthouse

Cape Byron lighthouse

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Overnight Trip to Jervis Bay

When planning out the final days of our Australia itinerary, we were deciding between a few different options: an overnight trip to the Blue Mountains, wine tasting in Hunter Valley, or spending a night near Avalon and exploring Sydney’s northern beaches. They all seemed fine, but I thought we could find something else that was even more exciting.

Luckily, I somehow came across this blog post about Hyams Beach and immediately thought to myself, “Yes! I want to go to there!” I showed the gorgeous beach pics to Aaron, and he was on board right away as well. Jervis Bay was the perfect destination for our quick getaway from Sydney.

Biggest dilemma in Jervis Bay: which beach is the best?

Jervis Bay, where your biggest worry will be choosing a favorite beach

Since we got a bit of a late start on planning and it was right before Christmas, most of the accommodation in the area was already booked up. Had it been available we probably would have stayed at The Huskisson, but we settled for an Airbnb room in Sanctuary Point that worked out just fine.

Our Airbnb host told us to park there, I swear!

Our Airbnb host told us to park there, I swear!

The towns in the area are a bit spread out, so we were glad that we hired our own rental car in Sydney* rather than taking a shuttle from the airport. Without traffic, the drive between the Sydney airport and Jervis Bay should take about 2 1/2 hours, but we made stops in Gerringong and Berry along the way.

Quick stop in Gerringong

Quick stop in Gerringong

Jervis Bay is famous for dolphin and whale tours, beautiful camping sites, and sprawling national parks. Both nature-lovers and beach bums alike love it there, and for good reason. I actually did a day trip to Jervis Bay back in 2005 as well, but we had dreary weather and the only thing I remember about it was collecting shells on a pretty but gloomy beach. We may have done a dolphin boat tour as well, the memories are very blurry. Little did I know, Jervis Bay is home to some of the most stunning beaches I’ve ever seen anywhere. What a difference good weather makes!


Deep thoughts in Jervis Bay

We only spent one night in Jervis Bay, but we made the most of our time there and attempted to visit as many beaches as possible. One of the best ways to accomplish that is by doing the beautiful White Sands Walk. Although it was impossible to choose a favorite, our top five beaches in Jervis Bay were:

  1. Hyams Beach
  2. Hole in the Wall
  3. Cave Beach
  4. Greenfield Beach
  5. Blenheim Beach

Hole in the Wall


Hole in the Wall


Blenheim Beach


“Hi, Mom!” at Hyams Beach


Cave Beach

Selfie at Greenfield Beach

Selfie at Greenfield Beach

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