I love preparing for a holiday by researching a destination. The internet, magazines, friends and social media can tell you a lot about where you are going. This is great if you want the facts and figures, the must see and do’s, best places to stay and experiences to try. Even being armed with all of that, there is still one ingredient that can make a holiday tip over into the ‘best experience ever’ category. That extra something is…ask a local!
I have been given some incredible tips on sights to see, beaches to visit, roads to take, free camps to stay at and more just by speaking to the friendly locals and picking their brains. I’ll ask, ‘where do you stay when you go there?’ or ‘what’s your favourite place to go for a meal?’ Questions like these can be a real insight into bypassing the heavily advertised tourist spots and finding quieter lesser known places.
From an impromptu ‘come and join us for a drink if you want’ at one caravan park, we learnt from locals which wineries they loved going to in Margaret River for the atmosphere and setting as well as, of course, for the great wines. By chatting to people and letting them know what you are looking for they can put you straight on to the places to see.
It was also by talking to staff at the very welcoming Brewhouse in Margaret River, and explaining where we were headed on holidays, that we were given the tip to stay in the Cape Range National Park near Exmouth.
One of the staff members in particular was so helpful in fact that she even told us down to the campsite number where the best spot in her opinion, was. So filing away the tip, it came out again when we arrived in Exmouth and wow were they right! Would we have found it by ourselves? Possibly, but a helpful tip put it front and centre on our itinerary as a must see because if the locals head there on holidays it’s got to be good.
Another example of listening to the locals was when we visited Kalbarri only to find that the usually blue and peaceful river was flooded and dirty brown. Ask a local, ‘where’s a nice, safe place to go swimming around here at the moment?’ Blue Holes was the answer. So with days in the high 30s and oppressive humidity we sought out this little paradise of a beach, complete with white sand, and coral outcrops to snorkel around. The close to shore reefy rocks also made the water completely calm despite big waves breaking out the back. Another big tick thanks to friendly folk, proud of what their region has to offer.
The local tourist information centre is always a great place to start if you’ve never been to a place before, but even here we tend to chat to the staff rather than just grab the brochures on offer. In bigger cities and towns especially, there can be plenty of options for drinking and dining for instance but if you let them know specifically the type of establishment you’re after, they can pretty much tell you exactly where you need to go, or just as importantly, where to avoid.
Sometimes of course it’s nice to take a hunch on a place and then the satisfaction you get from stumbling upon your own gem is wonderful.