Lodge Review: Knotts Crossing Resort, Katherine

When planning this trip, I was really torn between staying out at Katherine Gorge in one of the caravan parks or in town.  The deciding factor came down to price (town is much cheaper) and the fact that the Gorge is only a half hour drive from town.  Even better, Knotts Crossing Resort is out on the main road heading towards the Gorge, plus I stumbled on a special rate that included breakfast.

After checking in, they told me how to find the car park closest to our room.  The grounds are very nice, full of trees and birds of course!

Our room was in this block fairly close to reception and the swimming pool.

The rooms are neatly furnished with a double bed and 2 bunks which is standard for a caravan park.

I found that if I lie on the bed near the open door I can JUST barely connect to the wifi.

A nice little swimming pool, we didn’t have time to use it though.

We were happy with Knotts Crossing Resort as a budget option in Katherine and would stay there again if we went back.  Be on the look out with online booking sites for special deals like the one we got that includes breakfast.  They were happy to pack a breakfast for us to take to Katherine Gorge as a picnic, the 2nd morning we got up early and ate at the buffet which opens around 6am-ish.

Lodge Review: Victoria River Roadhouse, Northern Territory

About 200 kms west of Katherine on National Highway 1, the Victoria River Roadhouse is a welcome sight after almost 3 hours driving in the heat of the day.  This was the first place we really felt the Territory’s Outback experience.

The main building houses the reception, petrol pumps, restaurant, bar and shop and the campground surrounds the main building.

The cabins are off to the left surrounded by trees which attract Corellas, Cockatoos and Red-collared Lorikeets.

The rooms are fairly typical of an outback roadhouse – simple decor but functional.  The tv only has 1 channel which is controlled by reception and shows the same in all cabins.  No wifi.

The restaurant is HUGE considering the location, maybe they get busloads of tourists at times.  We had hamburgers for lunch as the restaurant closes at 7pm and I wasn’t sure we would be back from birding by then.  We had sandwiches and noodle cups to eat for dinner.

They have some interesting souvenirs for sale and some camping supplies.

I was soooo tempted but the budget didn’t allow.

Plenty of space for caravans and tents.

The truth is they pretty much have a captive audience as there is nothing else for at least 50 kms but it’s a decent place and there are some nice birds to watch around the grounds, even out the window of the restaurant!  The top bird here is the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren as we will see in another post.

They don’t have online booking or even a dedicated website so you’ll have to call.  Trip Advisor has some reviews.

Victoria River Roadhouse Hotel/Motel
Victoria Hwy, Victoria River NT 0852
Telephone: (08) 8975 0744
Facsimile: (08) 8975 0819

Lodge Review: Lazy Lizard Tavern and Caravan Park, Pine Creek, Northern Territory

The Lazy Lizard located in the heart of the historic Pine Creek in Australia’s Outback Northern Territory was my first choice as a perfect base for birders.

Approaching from the northern entrance to Pine Creek, it’s very easy to find.

DSCN5609 DSCN5610 DSCN5794

Lazy Lizard is typical of Aussie caravan parks and caters for everyone from tent campers to caravanners to people who want a small cabin.  We chose the latter.DSCN5795

Petrol is costlier here as it is trucked in from Darwin but you will probably need to top up (we did anyway) especially if you plan a side trip to Copperfield Dam and Edith Falls.DSCN5796

General layout of the grounds.DSCN5797

We were in the 2nd cabin from the left.DSCN5798

BBQs are available to cook your dinner – a fun part of the Aussie camping experience!DSCN5799

Caravan spaces further down.DSCN5800

Cool pool to chill out during the heat of the afternoon……………..DSCN5804

………………..with Cockatoos watching the humans below.  I was actually sitting in the pool when I took these shots!DSCN5803 DSCN5808

The Lazy Lizard has tourist information on display…………DSCN5612

……………a small general store……………..DSCN5613 DSCN5614

…………..and souvenirs.DSCN5615

Our cabin was very close to the swimming pool.DSCN5616 DSCN5617

The cabins are named after lizards.DSCN5618

Furnishings are simple but comfortable and provide all you need.DSCN5620

There’s a small kitchenette and a tv.DSCN5621 DSCN5623

Shower/ensuiteDSCN5624

We really liked the Lazy Lizard for its small outback town personality.  You can get half an hour free wifi near the bar, after that you need to sign up and pay.  Or you can go to the Railway Resort, order something and use their wifi.

There are quite a few birds to be found on the grounds which will be in the next post!

Hotel Review: Hi Way Inn Motel, Darwin

Our needs were simple for this overnight stop.  We would be checking in around 2am and getting up at 6am to head out to Howard Springs.  We just needed a cheap place to lay down for a few hours.  The Hi Way Inn Motel is an easy drive from the airport and I had already programmed it into my personal GPS so we had no trouble finding it.  They are well used to late night arrivals and I had called that morning to remind them we were on that late Jetstar flight.  All went smoothly and we were quickly checked in, the even gave us a couple bottles of mineral water as nothing had been open for us to buy anything when we arrived.

Exterior photo taken in the morning after check-out.  It was dark when we arrived.

DSCN5523

Lobby area.  You can grab some tourist info here and some free maps.DSCN5524

Simple room but clean, wifi worked well.DSCN5519 DSCN5520

It had one queen bed and one single, fairly small but like I said we weren’t here for long.DSCN5521 DSCN5522

They do have a pool if you find yourself here for a longer stay.  DSCN5525

The location is perfect to hit the highway heading south.  Most rental car companies don’t allow you to drive between dusk and dawn in the Territory so you will need a place like this for the first night if you arrive at night.  You can easily book this hotel at any of the usual OTAs such as Hotels.com which is what I did as I needed one more stay to make 10 stays for a future free night.  Both the night clerk and the morning clerk – a French working holiday visitor were very friendly and helpful.

Hotel Review: Intercontinental San Juan

This would be our last night in the Caribbean after the most amazing birding adventure ever, the next day we would be off to mainland USA to see family.  I wanted something special, preferably free on hotel points – and I got exactly what I wanted.  Intercontinental San Juan was a spectacular finale to our epic trip and even came with some surprise birding but you’ll have to read the whole review first.

It was raining as we finally arrived at the hotel after a long and busy day so I wasn’t thrilled with the self-parking being across the street.

DSCN4515 DSCN4514

The lobby is beautiful and elegant and the check in staff were very friendly and helpful.DSCN4516 DSCN4517

The room was large and very clean with nice amenities in the bathroom.  The wifi worked brilliantly as well.DSCN4518 DSCN4519

Maybe the carpet is old-fashioned but the beds were very comfortable.DSCN4520

And the view was awesome of the pool and the sea just beyond.DSCN4521 DSCN4522 DSCN4523 DSCN4524

Speaking of the pool, I knew where we were heading to relax and rejuvenate!  The small pool in front is a jacuzzi and some of the jets were very good back massagers!DSCN4525 DSCN4526

There are several restaurants, this one overlooks the beach.DSCN4528 DSCN4529 DSCN4530 DSCN4531 DSCN4532 DSCN4538

After sunset, we could see the city lights down the road.DSCN4539 DSCN4540

As I was walking back to the hotel, I could hear the distinctive and iconic Coqui frogs.  I searched in vain, never got to see one, even enlisted a few hotel staff but they couldn’t find one either.  This is what they look and sound like.

The next morning, I went back to the beach area and heard a familiar sounding squawk.  I looked up in the palm trees and lo and behold – a family of Quaker Parrots in a huge nest!DSCN4550 DSCN4551 DSCN4553 DSCN4552 DSCN4561

The perfect way to say goodbye to our Caribbean adventure!

These rooms usually go for $160-200 or 50,000 IHG Rewards but I used my annual Chase certificate so for a $49 annual fee, I got an amazing deal and we loved the hotel and would go back anytime we were in Puerto Rico.

Hotel Review: San Miguel Plaza, Puerto Rico

This may hold the record for the shortest (legit) hotel stay ever!  Due to Liat’s late arrival, then the formalities of entering the USA at SJU, getting the rental car, then trying to navigate to the prepaid hotel.  Of course I got lost a few times and had to stop for directions a few times so it was around 2am when we finally checked in to the San Miguel Plaza Hotel in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.  Why did I choose this out of the way place?  Mostly because we needed to get to Rio Abajo early to see the Puerto Rican Parrots and I wanted to avoid driving in traffic.

There’s secure parking under the building.  I always like a red rental car as they are easier to spot in parking lots.

DSCN4407

The room was fine, typical budget room, fine for a night but not for a whole holiday.DSCN4402

View from the room.DSCN4405

Breakfast is included.DSCN4406

Here is the location, which is why I chose this place (out of all the hotels that I could use my Expedia goodwill voucher on).  The yellow blob on the right is San Juan – old city and beach area.  The hotel is indicated in the middle.  The pink circle on the left is where we needed to go to see the parrots at Rio Abajo.  This put us well out of incoming city traffic the next morning.

San Miguel Plaza

We were up very early, I think I got 2 hours of sleep that night but I wasn’t expecting Liat to be THAT late!  Thank God it was the last time we had to fly them!  The hotel was fine for the location but on a future visit, I think we would choose to be near the beach just to the north of Rio Abajo.

Hotel Review – Tamarind Tree, Dominica

We only had one day and since I had a mission – see the 2 endemic parrots of Dominica, I went looking for a hotel as close as possible to the Syndicate Reserve, where they can be seen.  The Tamarind Tree fit the bill for location and it turned out to be a really nice place with amazing views!

dscn4313 dscn4305 dscn4304

Unfortunately with a late flight we didn’t have time to use the inviting pooldscn4306 dscn4307

The room was large, clean and very comfortable.dscn4293 dscn4294 dscn4295 dscn4296

The rooms open onto a large verandah with tables and chairs to relax and enjoy the view.

dscn4308dscn4298

I loved the artwork in the room!dscn4297

We had dinner in the restaurant which was good.  The wifi works here so I was able to get caught up.

dscn4299 dscn4300 dscn4301

They do have some parrots items for sale.  I was tempted by this huge wooden plaque but it would have been a hassle to carry around.  Now that I am home, I wish I would have bought it!  I was hopeful to find something smaller the next day in the market.  I was not to know there wouldn’t be enough time to shop!dscn4302

This is what I did buy.  It’s actually laminated in plastic and came in a set of 4 so people could use them as placemats but I prefer them as decorative art!dscn4303

A few birds in the garden.dscn4310 dscn4312

Tamarind Tree is on the opposite side of the island from the airport and it takes longer to get there than you might imagine as the roads are all twisty-turny mountain roads.   Don’t let Google fool you, it was closer to 2 hours but we were driving at night so that may have slowed us down.  The ride we got from the airport used the blue route.  The pink route leads to the Syndicate Reserve.  The grey route is where we returned to the airport.  Dr Birdy dropped us at the junction of Portsmouth and the island road and we got a bus.

Dominica map

Tamarind Tree is a great small hotel that would suit birders, but the location may put some people off unless they rented a car as there is nothing nearby.  The views and grounds are gorgeous and it is a great place to relax and enjoy the quiet island lifestyle.  You can book on their website or use a portal like Rocketmiles or Pointshound to score some more airline miles.

Hotel Review: Beachcomber’s St Vincent

The Beachcomber’s Hotel in St Vincent ticks all the boxes for the traveling birder in the Caibbean who also wants a bit of R&R on the side.  It’s conveniently located near the airport and you can get minibuses just outside the property into town.

dscn4147

We arrived at night, walked across the street to the bus stop and got a minibus which let us out at the gate.dscn4148

Night time view of Beachcomber’s.dscn4149

Daylight reveals an attractive garden full of flowers.dscn4249

Our room was on the end with a small table & chairs for our use on the patio.dscn4248 dscn4150

A comfortable king bed with attractive artwork in our comfortable room.dscn4151 dscn4152 dscn4153

This is the entrance to the restaurant with the pool area just beyond.dscn4250

The pool area overlooks the beach.dscn4253 dscn4269 dscn4267a dscn4270 dscn4251 dscn4252

Always time for a bit of birdwatching while sunbathing!  dscn4256

Random lizarddscn4259 dscn4260

Our stay was over a Saturday so we got to enjoy their weekly BBQ.  They had some traditional Caribbean music………….dscn4265

…………..a salad bar (sorry for blurry pic)……………dscn4264

……..and a choice of meats from the menu.  I had the ribs and my husband had the fish.dscn4261 dscn4262 dscn4263

We had a great albeit short stay here and found that the Beachcomber’s was a nice all-rounder at a very reasonable price.  They average 4 stars on Trip Advisor although I gave them 5 as we were very happy with our stay.  You can book direct on their website or use online booking portals such as Rocketmiles, Pointshound or similar to maximise your benefits.

Lodge Review: A Peace Of Paradise, St Lucia

A Peace of Paradise is a charming little B&B located on the eastern side of St Lucia in a tropical rainforest setting and very close to the prime birding spots.  If you aren’t planning to rent a car (you probably won’t need one), then it is best to have them pick you up on arrival at the airport as it is a bit tricky to find the first time.  It’s just past the Fox Grove Inn and up the hill a bit.

dscn4026 dscn4025 dscn4024

The lodge is a beautiful house situated on a hill overlooking the rainforest with a beautiful verandah to relax and enjoy the view.dscn4022 dscn4014 dscn4013 dscn4012 dscn4011

The rooms are clean and cozy with windows on to the verandah.dscn4010 dscn4009 dscn4008

The one thing you need to be aware of is that the power points are different than the USA type which is more common in the Caribbean Islands.  If you don’t have one like that pictured below, ask the staff to loan you one so you can charge your camera and devices.dscn4021 dscn4016

We were only there one night and checked out early but they still left some bread, jam & juice in the fridge for our breakfast.  Birding trips start very early.dscn4015

A Peace of Paradise is a great place to stay if you aren’t into beaches and want a more relaxed Caribbean style experience.  The prices are very reasonable and they can organize your birding trips for you, also some nice hikes in the rainforest.  It’s one of the closest properties to Des Cartiers Trail where you can see St Lucia Parrots!  It is somewhat isolated from shops and restaurants (except for the neighboring hotel) so you may want to stick up on snacks and drinks before you check in.

Lodge Review: Asa Wright Nature Centre, Trinidad

To be specific, I am reviewing the public areas accessible on a day visit but just want readers to be aware they have accommodation as well.  Asa Wright Nature Centre is a gorgeous eco-lodge situated in a beautiful rainforest habitat and is one of the highlights of birding in the Caribbean.  There are two ways of visiting AWNC, as an overnight guest or as a day visitor.  While I would have much preferred to stay overnight and wake with the birds, I wasn’t in a financial position to overlook the benefits of using Club Carlson points for a free stay at the Radisson.  Any other time, we would have stayed at AWNC, booking instructions are here.

The next best thing is making a day visit.  They allow  day visitors during the hours of 9am – 5pm. Guided walks with their professional naturalist guides are conducted daily at 10:30am and 1:30pm. The walk lasts about 1.5 hours.  I’ll post about that separately as there are way too many photos.  For now, lets see the public areas of the lodge.

It takes about an hour to drive from the airport or as we did from the Aripo Livestock Station.

dscn3855

Driving onto the property, we passed several hiking trails and some beautiful scenery.  Cabins are scattered around the property.dscn3857 dscn3860 dscn3862 dscn3863

There is a car park for day visitors and then you check into the reception, pay the fee, then proceed to the fabulous Asa Wright verandah.dscn3864 dscn3865 dscn3866 dscn3868 dscn3870 dscn3871

And here it is, where all the hummingbird action is found!  Just sit back, relax and enjoy the spectacle!dscn3872 dscn3873 dscn3946

There is a set lunch menu each day which you can pay for separately if you wish or order sandwiches if you can’t tear yourself away from the verandah.dscn3948 dscn3949

The gift shop has some nice handicrafts & other bird themed gifts. dscn3950 dscn3951

I bought this hummingbird necklace.dscn3953

Example of postcard available – Tufted Coquette, meet them in person on the verandah!dscn3954

It was tough to tear ourselves away, it is such a beautiful, relaxing place but we did have a flight to catch so no choice but to say farewell earlier than we would have liked.dscn3955