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April 12, 2011

Forgetting How to Tell Time at Cheeca Lodge

By Heather Chamberlain

The sun is setting behind us as we make a sharp left turn into the hotel entrance, and we are immediately transported into a tropical oasis. We are greeted by rich emerald plants and arched palm trees that seem to bow to us as we drive down the narrow path. Just an hour ago we were wedged in traffic, being hypnotized by the constant glare of flashing red lights. Now we are being guided by the tiki torch lights that line

the entrance of the Cheeca Lodge Resort & Spa.


This historic resort sits on 27 acres of ocean-front property in Islamorada, known as the “Village of Islands,” in the Florida Keys. Cheeca Lodge sets itself apart from neighboring establishments by taking the traditional “keys” style to the next level. The interior décor has an elegant West Indies motif of dark mahogany furnishings, palm tree lamps and exotic flowers. The exterior design is of interwoven paths that lead to secret lagoons with inviting waterfalls.

Luxury radiates from every inch of the property, starting with the automatic French doors that sweep you into the lobby with its panoramic view of the ocean. Welcome to your tropical playground! By the time you are done sipping your complimentary champagne at check-in you will have forgotten all about work and the stress you have left behind. Within minutes of your arrival you will be transformed into a deep state of utter bliss and relaxation.

Cheeca Lodge boasts all the amenities and activities you need so you never have to leave the resort. It is well-equipped for both idle and active visitors. If you are there to rest and unwind, then the ocean-side pools, secluded lagoons, and lavish spas are at your service. Most guests tend to gravitate towards the tiki hut that offers a full service bar and a picturesque view of the ocean. You could spend hours there listening to the chatter of seagulls, sipping creative cocktails, and snacking on the fresh catch of the day.

If you are feeling guilty about your multiple afternoon naps by the pool, you can walk a few steps to the rectangular hut on the beach that offers water activities including sunset cruises, eco-tours, boat charters, kayaking, and fishing. You can also occupy yourself with the resort’s 9-hole golf course or play a game of tennis surrounded by an audience of jungle-like plants. Don’t worry if you forgot your racquet -- the resort rents out all necessary equipment at no charge.

Cheeca Lodge has mastered the art of relaxation. This quickly became apparent to us as we sat at the tiki bar and chatted with a couple from England who had been at the resort for almost a week. When I asked for the time, one of them looked at me with a blank stare and replied, “We haven’t looked at our watches all week. I think we forgot how to tell time.” Now that is a sign of a good vacation.

You can find out more about Cheeca Lodge Resort & Spa at www.cheeca.com. Standard rooms start at $284 and are not inclusive of the resort fee of $39 per day plus a 12.5% tax per room.

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Maui -- The Ziplining is Great and They Have That Big Mountain, Too

By Bob Starink

What do you choose to do when you only have two days on the island of Maui? We decided on ziplining and riding Haleakala.

The ziplining industry has exploded in recent years. There are now ziplines in nearly every holiday destination in the world, and what was the longest zipline on Earth last week may have that title usurped this week. There are four zipline companies on Maui alone. We chose Flyin Hawaiian, located in Wailuku, near Kahului.

Flyin Hawaiian features eight separate lines spanning close to 13,123 feet and attaining speeds of up to 50 mph, with the full experience taking about five hours. The cost per person is $200.


The guides are very competent and highly amusing, adding to the fun of the day. Afraid of heights? You really don’t notice it, and the way the harness has you sitting upright, there isn’t any fear of falling either. You fly along, feeling exhilaration as you enjoy the rides and the views, with the mountain valleys to the right and the Maui coastline to the left. One of the shorter lines is traversed backwards. The longest line flies over three ridges.

See www.flyinhawaiianzipline.com for more details.

Haleakala is an extinct volcano towering over the island. Maui Downhill is one of several companies offering guided bike tours of the mountain. Their signature sunrise tour is $149 per person and includes breakfast, bike and accessories, entry fees and hotel pick-up and return.

As we were staying in Ka’anapali on the northwest coast of Maui, we had to be picked up for the Haleakala sunrise tour at 2:30 a.m., so very little sleep was had. Company mini-buses converge in the darkness from all over the island at their base office in Kahului for orientation and a hot drink.

Soon a convoy departs for the silent climb to the Haleakala summit 10,000 feet above sea level.

We were warned about its being cool at that altitude, but nothing could prepare us for the icy cold when we exited the bus. For this tour you have to be dressed for bike riding, so it’s not practical to bundle up too heavily, but the tour wind jackets weren’t helping much.

Arriving way too early, we then had to try to avoid hypothermia for over an hour before anything happened. Fortunately the park kiosk opened soon after we arrived, so we were able to take some cover inside. Even though there was no heating in the kiosk, at least it was out of the chilling breeze.

As the sunrise progressed, I would rush in and out of the shop retreat to take photos. The sun rises over the crater, which is all great unless you want to take a picture inside the crater itself.

Then there’s a giant sun blinding the scene.

When everyone is done snapping photos, the bus takes us all to another lookout before descending to 6,500 feet (outside the National Park) where the bike ride begins.

Safety is not an issue, with guides riding at the front and at the rear and the company bus at the tail controlling the traffic. There’s no huffing and puffing as the ride is downhill all the way along the switchbacks that lead down the mountainside. The ride is scenic and fun. Stops along the way are made for photos.

The whole tour is eight to nine hours, so you get back to your hotel before noon, allowing some time for shopping or swimming.

There are other biking options at other times of the day, with and without a trip to the summit, so if you don’t feel like getting only three hours sleep or freezing in the pre-dawn temperatures, Maui

Downhill still has the tour for you. See www.mauidownhill.com for full details.
If you go:

There are some impressive resorts on Maui. For the economy-minded, consider the comfortable Ka’anapali Ocean Inn with rooms starting at $100. Looking for a place to eat? The Melting Pot in Lahaina is highly recommended. It’s a fondue restaurant and the full three courses of cheese dipping, main meal (where meats and vegetables are cooked in a special broth at the table) and chocolate fondue dessert are an almost-impossible challenge to get through.

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Boaties Bonanza

By John Kingston

Hobart, the capital of Australia’s island state, is a small, comfortable city (pop. 250,000). Hobart enjoys a benign, temperate climate, and has the highest recorded annual sunshine hours of any Australian capital bar one. The weather is controlled mainly by the seas surrounding the island. Mt. Wellington, at a tad over 4000 feet, is an imposing backdrop. The summit is reachable by car in about half an hour from the city center. Be warned, though -- it can get a little chilly.

Also about half an hour away, at Franklin, is the Wooden Boat Building School on the banks of the Huon River. Boats are built mainly on commission using iconic timbers found only in Tasmania. The world-renowned huon pine, celery top pine, king billy and other Tasmanian timbers are revered by boat builders.

Also south of Hobart are the extensive, enticing, but little-known cruising waters of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, embracing the wide estuaries of the Derwent and Huon rivers, all protected by the 33-mile-long Bruny Island to the east. In fact, if you choose to, you could cruise up the Huon for about 25 miles and visit the Wooden Boat Building Centre that way. Why not fire up Google Earth, type in Hobart, Tasmania, and then broaden your view a bit? You’ll see what I mean.

Every two years, Hobart hosts the Hobart Wooden Boat Festival, the biggest and arguably the best -- certainly in the southern hemisphere -- boat show. Now, you are too late for the 2011 festival (Feb. 11, 12, 13, 14) but give thought to arranging to visit Hobart for the next festival in 2013. It is not too soon to start preparing.

This year more than 100,000 visitors saw over 500 wooden crafts -- local, interstate, and international -- ranging in size from the smallest dinghy to ships such as the 174-foot Princess Iluka, built from huon pine in Hobart but now based in Brisbane, Queensland, and the recently restored steam yacht Preana. There are boat building displays, historical movies, models, and trade and equipment arenas, plus plenty of food and refreshments.

While looking at one outstanding example of the shipwrights’ skills my wife made the comment, “That is too good to put in the water; it should be in someone’s lounge room.” I could do nothing but agree. Such is the quality of workmanship on display.

Over the four days of the festival there are ongoing programs to keep everybody entertained. In the dirty boat building competition, teams are given the raw materials to build, paint, and sail a boat over the four days. The culmination of this activity is to triumphantly (or otherwise) sail your masterpiece in Constitution Dock on the last day.

Amazingly, due to enthusiastic local and government sponsorship, entry is free for all four days, which is a real bonus. There are different activities programmed for each day, so you can easily occupy yourself for the length of the festival.

Seldom can one see such a fleet of wooden vessels so easily in such a pleasant spot.

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About April 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Travel Post Monthly in April 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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