Hamilton Island and Great Barrier Reef are bucket list destinations

One of my dreams when I got to Australia was to swim and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the world. I was ecstatic to do that on a recent trip to Hamilton Island in Queensland, about a two-hour plane flight north of Sydney.

Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef

Hamilton Island is often called one of the most beautiful places to visit in Australia by travel sites, and I totally understand why. Staying on the island, where golf carts dominate the transportation and only about 1,300 people live, is a little slice of heaven. Jungle-like scenery, an abundance of cockatoos and sea birds, turquoise waters, gorgeous yachts at the marina, never-ending beaches and a generally happy atmosphere everywhere you turn makes you never want to leave.

Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef

Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef

Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef

I stayed at the Reef View Hotel, where indeed, the room had a beautiful view of sparkling waters and pristine sands. The privately owned island has several diverse restaurants, serving pizza and Italian, fish and chips, pub food and more. The Bommie Deck at the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, where Taylor Swift performed last year, is a fun place to get a cocktail because of the stunning marina views.

Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef

I enjoyed the rowdy trivia night at the Marina Tavern, which served great pasta for a pub. The veggie burger and wedges at Popeye’s Fish and Chips were massive and delicious, and I enjoyed the saganaki and pizza at Manta Ray. The Ice Cream Parlour on the island serves tasty sundaes, and TAKO, a Mexican spot, has winners with every dish. Try the haloumi quesadilla, jalapeno poppers, black bean tacos and chips.

Tours are really fun at Hamilton Island when you’re not doing water sports on the beach. The all-day tour to the Great Barrier Reef was a blast. It’s about two hours away from the hotel and serves a delicious tea and buffet lunch on the boat. Once you get to the Reef, grab a wet suit and some snorkeling gear, and dive in. You’ll be surrounded by colourful fish and coral.

Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef

I wasn’t planning on going scuba diving. I’m not certified and have never been. I was interested to hear about the scuba introduction, which you can do even if you don’t know how to swim. An instructor holds your hand the whole time and guides you through. Daring to do it, it was definitely a new sensation to breathe while fully submerged in water. It’s a little odd at first, but once you get going, it’s absolutely amazing. I would tell anyone to face their fears and do it. Being so close to fish, clams and coral is something words can’t do justice.

Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef

The Reefworld tour also included an underwater boating experience which was really fun because it gave a great view of the reef. The pontoon we were on also had an area where you could walk down and see the sea. To get an up-close view of a sea turtle was exciting. The staff on board were so friendly and accommodating. From beginning to end, the tour was a blast.

Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef

I also took a half-day tour to Whitehaven Beach, about a half-hour boat ride from Hamilton Island. The sands were pure paradise, so lovely to walk on. The water was crystal clear and fun to swim in. It was one of the most serene beaches I’ve hung out on.

Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef Whitehaven Beach

If you have the chance to go to Hamilton Island, jump. If you love island life and places like Hawaii and Bali, this picture-perfect destination won’t disappoint.

Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef Hamilton Island Great Barrier Reef

Learn more about Hamilton Island here.

Singapore has everything you could want in a vacation

I was recently privileged to visit Singapore for the first time. It’s about an eight-hour plane flight from Sydney, Australia, and was so incredibly fun. I stayed in Sentosa, which has basically all the entertainment you could want in one centralized location: an aquarium, a Universal Studios theme park, zip lining, beaches, a giant “merlion” you can walk up, tons of restaurants, a casino and so much more.

Singapore Nicki Escudero

I loved taking the sky tram to get everywhere (plus, the island is great for gaining steps for your Fitbit.) The tram was a wild ride that had me screaming the first time I went up, but I quickly got used to floating in the sky, especially with the amazing view.

Singapore

The first day, I wandered around without a plan, found a sky tram and hopped on. I inadvertently took one that took me away from Sentosa to Mount Faber, but it was delightful because I stumbled upon a gorgeous hike in an area populated by wild monkeys. Sadly, I didn’t see any monkeys, but there were tons of butterflies and beautiful birds.

Singapore

That night was dinner at a Palm Beach Seafood in the city, which is famous for its spicy chili crab. It was so incredibly sad to see live marine life crawling up the sides of tanks trying to escape their fate, but if seafood is your thing, I heard the crab was great. I had the noodles, bread and veggies, which were good.
Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant Singapore

The restaurant was across the street from the Marina Bay Sands, which puts on a stunning laser light show at night, which beats anything you’d see in Vegas.

Marina Bay Sands laser light show Singapore Nicki Escudero

I’m a huge baby when it comes to going into cold water, so I was thrilled the water at Sentosa Beach in March was warm enough to swim in. It was so cool to walk to the southernmost point in Asia from Sentosa, too. The bridge you take to get their wobbles, which adds to the excitement.

Southernmost point in Asia Singapore

Back to that giant Merlion. You’ll find the Merlion symbol all over Singapore, as it represents good luck. You can head to the top of the 10-story creature on Sentosa after you watch a video about the merlion’s history. I accidentally walked all the way up after seeing an open-door instead of taking the lifts. The views are just as great in the sky tram, but it’s a fun activity for kids, for sure.

Merlion Singapore

Exit the Merlion, and you’ll encounter a gorgeous orchid garden. I really loved the inclusion of both city skyscrapers and beautiful nature-filled spots in Singapore. Whatever you’re into, including luxury shopping, the country has it.

Orchid garden Singapore

Going to Little India, Chinatown and the Singapore markets away from Sentosa was really fun. The homemade wares and fashion were so fun to peruse, and they’re great places to score affordable souvenirs.

Chinatown Singapore Little India Singapore

I loved all the water sights, friendly people and fun things to do and see in Singapore. Everywhere you turned, there was something interesting to see. I’d recommend it as an Asian destination, for sure.