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New Zealand, Australia, & Fiji! SCUBA, sailing, home exchanges…

Here We Go “Down Under”!

Have you been down under? Is Australia, New Zealand or Fiji on your bucket list? They are on ours! We’ve dreamed of diving the Great Barrier Reef, wandering the lands of The Lord of The Rings, exploring the rainforests and reefs, plus seeing koalas, kangaroos, penguins and Tasmanian devils. Our five month, twelve home exchange adventure begins in just a few weeks!!

UPDATE! We’re here! When we stop having fun long enough to write about our fun we post on Facebook and Twitter as we go! Also, here are the stories / photo galleries posted so far from this journey:

New Zealand, Australia & Fiji plans! (If YOU have suggestions for the rest of our trip, please comment!)

Tips to Organize Multiple Home Exchanges

7 Things we LOVED about Sydney (and 5 things that surprised us)

Tongariro Crossing – 12 miles, 7 hours, 1 life experience OR All Doom, no gloom

Bay of Fires Sizzles! (Tasmania)

Don’t pinch us – if this is a dream we don’t want to wake up!


Tom and Sheila’s magical New Zealand / Australia / Fiji odyssey

1) Sydney home exchange (AUS) – Jan 5-19
2) Christchurch home exchange (NZ) – Jan 19-25
       Queenstown /Doubtful Sound /Fiordland south island road trip (NZ) – Jan 25-Feb 1
3) Taranaki home exchange (NZ) – Feb 1-8
4) Taupo home exchange (NZ) – Feb 8-18
     Sailing charter, Auckland (NZ) – Feb 19-26
5) Gulf Harbour home exchange (Auckland, NZ) – Feb 26-Mar 5
6) Hobart home exchange (Tasmania, AUS) – Mar 5-17
7) Torquay home exchange (Melbourne, AUS) – Mar 17-26
8) Perth home exchange (AUS) – Mar 26-Apr 8
9) Clear Island Waters home exchange (Brisbane, AUS) – Apr 8-22
10) Redland Bay home exchange (Brisbane, AUS) – Apr 22-29
       Drive coastal road Brisbane to Cairns, stopping in Whitsundays (AUS) – April 29-May 2
       Liveaboard scuba dive boat, Great Barrier Reef (from Cairns, AUS) – May 3-6
11) Innisfail home exchange (Cairns, AUS) – May 7-17
12) Savusavu home exchange (Fiji) – May 17 – Jun 2

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How did we organize a five month trip with twelve homes in different cities in three countries?

Our odyssey evolved through luck, good timing, and using the many tools available on homeexchange.com. It started with one offer from Brisbane, then a couple more from other Aussie cities wanting the same timeframe. As our dream of spending 4 – 6 weeks in Australia became a real plan for 2017, we happily accepted those offers and decided to try to add Tasmania and New Zealand by sending out offers of our own. Success! Just when we thought we were all set, a family from Sydney wrote that they needed an emergency replacement exchange for their Colorado ski trip. Their airfare was already purchased and could we help? Sure! For a grand finale, a couple from Fiji was looking for a last-minute exchange at the exact same time that we were going to be away at a non-simultaneous exchange in Norway last summer. That was the perfect icing on our multi-layered Oceanic cake. 

So, for 4 1/2 months of our 5 month adventure we will stay in a local’s home in exchange for them staying in our home. The other 2 1/2 weeks we’ll be staying on a scuba diving live-aboard, chartering a sailboat and staying at bed and breakfast inns on various road trips.

The real topper has been how genuinely friendly ALL the people have been! And remarkably, not only those we’re exchanging homes with. Several who weren’t interested in exchanging have offered local advice and even dinner invitations! We’re betting that time with locals will be as memorable as the penguins, koalas, kangaroos and scuba diving!

How can we afford this?!?

The only way we could possibly manage this five month / three country / 8 flight adventure financially is via home exchange. Everyone understands the dramatic cost savings for lodging (and usually car rental too), but we love the additional benefits: a kitchen, washer/dryer, entertainment systems, wi-fi and space for both of us to work, sightseeing advice, and living like a local in a home with personality. Tom is even exchanging golf clubs at several homes! Lifelong friendships are an additional bonus! It will be a fantastic journey and would not have come together without homeexchange.com. 

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Home exchange logistics

We’ve had 20 home exchange experiences so far and this will be the first time we’ve organized so many on one trip. These exchanges will be a mix of simultaneous, non-simultaneous, and hospitality. Some are in the heart of cities or suburbs; others are along beaches or rural settings. Most include a car and we include our car for their stay in Colorado. You wouldn’t believe the spreadsheets we have created to track all the details, including phone numbers, addresses, directions, special requests, and when they will be visiting our home. Are you curious about how home exchange works? Read our stories here.

Remember that our home in Colorado has the opposite seasons to all these “down under” locations which added a challenge for scheduling. Most don’t want to come to Colorado in our winter unless they are skiers. So that is why most of the exchanges are non-simultaneous. Two of the homeowners have already stayed in our home while we were in Scandinavia, some will be here while we’re in their homes and others will schedule their Colorado visit later. Pretty cool, eh?  For our trip, we are hitting the southern locations in January through early March and then moving north later in the trip to follow the best weather.

We’ll share fun photos, videos, stories and reviews along the way, so please join us on your favorite social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and here at Romancing the Globe Travel Blog. Add your suggestions! 

Your advice, please!

Suggestions for excursions or experiences?

National Parks, Tours, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Museums, Coastal small towns, Great Ocean Road, Beach cafes, Wineries, lodging in Whitsundays, Australia and lodging near Queenstown/Fiordland, New Zealand.

Suggestions for golf courses?

Especially in the Brisbane, Sydney and Perth areas where we have the most time. New Zealand, too!

Suggestions for SCUBA diving?

Great Barrier Reef, outer islands and also the west coast north of Perth, Ningaloo Coast. Live-aboards?

What local non-profit organizations do you know about?



We’ve been invited to be Ambassadors for Visit.org so we keep our eyes open for non-profits that have a good reputation for doing great work in the community and allow visitors or volunteers, but don’t exploit children or animals.

We’re interested in visiting or learning about animal rescues / nature conservations, etc. and local non-profit organizations that support animals, humans, nature, or indigenous culture awareness.

Please, let us know if you’re aware of any.


What lesser known areas should we visit?

Your suggestions changed our plans to include Tasmania and fly to/from Perth rather than drive. Thanks!

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New Zealand, Australia, Fiji images

Follow us on Pinterest to see all the inspiring images we’ve found!

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Thanks so very much!

Sheila and Tom


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  2. Jacky Hall
    March 25, 2017 at 5:17 PM — Reply

    Hi Tom and Sheila,
    We are looking forward to your stay with us in April and wondered if you knew about the volunteering program offered Currumbin Wildlife Santurary on the Gold Coast. See http://www.currumbinsanctuary.com.au, just take the link ‘Join Us’. They offer opportunities to volunteer for the day. The sanctuary is easily accessible from where you are staying on the Gold Coast or our place in Redland Bay.
    Happy travels,

  3. Koert Voorhees
    March 20, 2017 at 11:28 AM — Reply

    We are watching! Koert and Connie, parents of Cassie, Beth and Jacques.

    • Avatar photo
      March 20, 2017 at 10:09 PM — Reply

      Hi Koert and Connie! So glad to know you’re along for our fun adventure. Today marks the halfway point for us – 11 of 22 weeks! So excited to see Beth in a few days! That will be a huge highlight of this stay in beautiful Australia 🙂 Hugs!

  4. Marion Lynch
    November 19, 2016 at 8:45 PM — Reply

    Hi Sheila,
    here are my suggestions for Melbourne :).
    You are staying in Torquay and you may already know that if you want to get to the other side of the bay you can get a ferry from Queenscliff across to Sorrento so you do not need to drive 3 hours to go to the Mornington Peninsula.
    There is a wonderful zoo at Werribee on your way into Melbourne that is open range (my attempts at putting links here are not working for some reason – I will email them to you) and it had so many wonderful things such as giraffes that put their head through the safari bus window to try to lick us with their long purple tongues and to see their huge eyelashes close up was pretty amazing.
    The other thing you could do is come and stay with us for a couple of days and we can go to the Dandenong Mountains where they have beautiful gardens and forests of fern like trees. The sanctuary at Healesville has a platypus house and a birds of prey exhibition that is really worth seeing – that is an hour or so directly to the east from here.
    We also recommend that, if you are into history, you could do a walking tour of Melbourne and see it as it was when it was first established and how the city was built in the Gold rush era of the mid 1800’s, when both David’s and my ancestors came to the colony to find their fortunes. I would love to guide you if it fits in – there is an app from the Museum that helps – and then I also suggest one of my favourite places in town, the wonderful old world Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the heritage listed Block Arcade in Melbourne.
    Then there is Ceres, the interesting environmental park in Brunswick just to the north of Melbourne city area that has community ovens and gardens and all the “bohemian” area where artists and young alternative folks abound. We sometimes go to gigs around there.
    Then there are the art galleries and the museum and we always have some type of amazing international travelling exhibitions and shows playing.

    • Avatar photo
      December 8, 2016 at 11:57 PM — Reply

      Wow Marion! This is a great variety of fantastic ideas. Love your descriptions 🙂 Super bonus will be meeting you and spending time exploring with you! Really looking forward to it!

  5. August 25, 2016 at 6:40 AM — Reply

    Sooooo envious! We spent only a week in Sydney and we can’t wait to go back for a long visit to Australia. We did the Sydney Boutique Wildlife Tour to see kangaroos, wallabies and koalas in the wild. You might think you’d see them everywhere, but locals told us they had never seen a koala in the wild, but we did! If you want more information check out our blog.

    Can’t wait to read your posts about your trip!

    • Avatar photo
      August 28, 2016 at 12:51 PM — Reply

      Hey Marvin & Mona, we got so distracted on your website reading your stories that it’s now 3 days later! Glad you had such great experience 🙂 That’s one of our challenges is wondering how much time to spend in organized parks in some areas while in other areas the animal sightings might be commonplace. I’m so incredibly excited! Sheila

  6. May 28, 2016 at 11:35 PM — Reply

    That’s an awesome trip that you’re preparing! I have been in Australia for 4.5 years (1 year in Sydney, the rest in Brisbane). Here is my input with some tips of trips that I loved (+ a few things that are on my list because I’ve heard so many people talking about it). I’ve added link to my blog for more info 😉

    A) Sydney area
    – The Blue Mountains: I’ve been there many times and I really loved abseiling/canyoning there. http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/blue-mountains-canyoning/
    If you like caves, maybe have a look at the Jenolan Caves nearby.
    – The Royal National Park (South of Sydney) has great hikes (I did a combo kayak+hiking once and it was an awesome day, sorry I don’t have the details)
    – Port Stephens (North of Sydney) is beautiful, relaxing with many things to do and see.
    – Go up the tower of the Harbour Bridge, the view is perfect: http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/sydney-best-view/
    – The Reptile Park (north of Sydney), to learn more about Australian fauna http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/reptile-park-australia-wildlife/

    B) NZ North Islands
    – Poor Knight Islands: I see you like diving. We loved exploring the Poor Knight Islands. Very different from the coral reef. http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/diving-the-poor-knights-islands/
    – Duke Nose hike: This is really off the beaten track (remote). Very beautiful with a bit of challenge. http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/dukes-nose-whangaroa-harbour/

    C) Tasmania
    In the Top 3 of my favourite places in Australia. Freycinet National Park, Bay of Fires and Cradle Mountain are scenic areas. My 8-day itinerary: http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/tasmania-8-day-itinerary/

    D) Melbourne
    – Wilsons Promontory National Park: I haven’t been there but a colleague swore to me it was the best hike she has done around Melbourne…
    – The Grampians: Same, I haven’t been there but I heard/read a lot about it.
    – Philip Island: for the penguins 😉
    – The Great Ocean Road is a must do! If you have the budget, the helicopter tour is one of my best memory ever.

    E) South Australia
    This one was on of my favourite road trip ever (from and back to Adelaide). In 4 days, we snorkelled with sea lions and dolphins, saw a huge salt lake with stunning colours and visited wineries. http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/south-australia-4-day/

    F) While around Brisbane
    – Byron Bay (2 hours south): Julians’ Rock which is a nice spot for diving http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/julian-rocks-diving-byron-bay/
    – Rainbow Beach (3 hours north): Wolf Rock is a great diving spot (advanced only) and there are so many things to do in Rainbow Beach (easy surfing, paragliding on the dunes, amazing sand formations with different colours…) http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/rainbow-beach/
    – Noosa everglades (2 hours north): the overnight kayaking is a great experience for those looking for remoteness and nature http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/noosa-everglades/
    – Fraser Island (need at least 3-4 days from Brisbane to do a tour) is called K’gari in aboriginal which means Paradise. It’s the biggest sand island in the world. I love it. http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/fraser-island-kgari-australia/
    – Stradbroke Island (need to catch a ferry): I love this island as a quick escape from Brisbane city. I always take my visitors there. You might be able to dive with Manta Rays there, they say the season is from November to April… http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/stradbroke-island/
    – Springbrook National Park (1.5 hours south): my favourite hikes near Brisbane http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/springbrook-national-park-brisbane/

    G) Great Barrier Reef
    – Lady Elliot Island (the most southern point of the Great Barrier Reef): It’s not near Cairns but we love Lady Elliot Island. Manta Rays, Turtles, lagoon, ocean… I want to go back so badly! (but it’s not cheap at all – you have to fly there) Perfect for snorkelling. Great for diving too! I really love it. http://www.myfavouriteescapes.com/lady-elliot-island/
    – Cairns: If you want to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef from there, I recommend taking a live-aboard that goes to the Outer Reef. The Outer Reef is a lot better. The road from Cairns to Port Douglas was beautiful.
    – Heron Island (on the Great Barrier Reef, south of Cairns): we caught a boat from Gladstone to go there. It was my first dive ever so hard to compare it with the other places I visited as I was completely overwhelmed and excited so I may be biased! But well, I loved it and it’s on Cousteau’s top 10 so I believe it’s because it was great 😛
    – I have been advised a few times to skip Lady Musgrave.

    Ok, sorry it’s super long but I hope it will give you ideas and inspirations! Don’t hesitate to shoot me a comment on a blog post if you need further details.

    • Avatar photo
      May 29, 2016 at 9:24 PM — Reply

      Oh wow, oh wow!! Eloise, I am so excited to read all these stories and your tips! Thanks SO much! Will definitely follow up!

  7. January 23, 2016 at 4:22 PM — Reply

    Tasmania is amazing! It is a nature lover’s paradise and the food is fantastic! Hiking is a bit of a highlight there, lots of great wineries, food producers, whiskey. You can whitewater raft the Franklin River. Since you are into golf, you might want to check out Melbourne, lots of great golf course there and around, especially on the Mornington Pennisula (also great for diving and wineries/food).

    • Avatar photo
      January 24, 2016 at 1:18 AM — Reply

      Elizabeth, thanks! Tom was less keen than I on the Tasmania stop, but he’s been learning more and your note helped heaps! Sounds perfect for us and I like what I’m reading about Mornington Peninsula, too. We have 3 months to explore (maybe more, if we figure out the visa extension) and it’s going to be filled! Really liked your Melbourne story and commented on it. Tom will definitely have his golf clubs (mostly in the Clear Water Island and Perth areas, we think, and now probably Melbourne). Right now our biggest gap in planning is that area: Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, Sydney, Tasmania. But, it’s coming together! Thanks for your input 🙂 Sheila

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