Every day around dusk the world’s smallest penguins waddle up on a stretch of coast near Oamaru, New Zealand
Is it possible to dislike penguins? There’s something universally adorable about them. Maybe it’s their waddling. Or their tuxedo outfits. Or how they are portrayed in popular culture, as in the wonderful March of the Penguins documentary.
Most penguin stories, including March, take place in Antarctica. However there are several other places on the planet to see wild penguins. At a few of those you can hop in the water and swim along side these friendly, feathered creatures. Here’s a look at our favorite:
Technically, a “swimming hole” is any deep place for swimming in a stream, lake or river. But for this post — where are share our picks for the world’s best, coolest and most picturesque swimming holes — Spot Cool Stuff’s travel editors decided on a more ridged set of criteria:
First, we considered only swimming spots that were inside some sort of hole in the earth. That is, our swimming holes had to be substantially surrounded by rock. So somewhere like Idaho’s Redfish Lake, which a popular travel magazine named as one of their best swimming holes, wouldn’t count for us because, really, it’s just a regular lake.
Second, we decided to count only naturally occurring swimming holes. Sadly, this eliminated a very cool hidden swimming spot in Mexico that was created by a giant bomb — check back for our post on that later.
Finally, we only considered swimming holes that offered temperate waters. Because, well, we are cold water wimps. Spain’s wonderful, meadow-surrounded Playa del Gulpiyuri is unfortunately ruled out of contention on this count.
So what swimming holes made the cut? Read on . . . .
Spot Cool Stuff loves visiting color-bending locales. Like the black, green and red colored beaches of Hawaii. And the pastel-colored mountains of China. And lakes — of pink water?!
A select few lakes in the world — we’re featuring four below but there some two dozen others — have a hue of Pepto Bismol. That’s (usually) because their waters contain a large number of algae that excrete carotenoids. Algae are not the only life forms produce carotenoids. If, on trivia night, you are asked why salmon is pink or why lobster turns red when cooked, “carotenoids” would be your answer. But no animal can make carotenoids in the quality or at a level of pink-ness that the dunaliella salina algae can.
In case you are wondering, these pink lakes are all safe for swimming. (Indeed, both local folklore and some scientific studies have found that carotenoid-rich water is good for you). However, these lakes are also very salty — salt being a byproduct of all that carotenoids production.
There are 908 islands scattered around the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Australia’s Queensland State.
Of those, 74 islands make up the Whitsunday Archipelago, a national park and one of Australia’s top tourist destinations.
Of those, 11 islands are inhabited.
And, of those, only 1 island has luxury resorts, gourmet restaurants and a sophisticated, yet laid-back, vibe:
When it is time for vacation and you go online to research ideas, it often happens that small things can make a big difference in choosing your destination.
Take, for instance, the tiny glowworm. The unusual creature is only about the size of a small mosquito. But when gathered in a large group, the glimmering effect the glowworms create can be worth traversing the globe for.
And you likely will have to traverse a large portion of the globe to experience the glow of the glowworm, unless you happen to live Down Under. That’s where the majority of glowworm habitats are located.
The very best place to go glowworm gazing? That’s inside the appropriately-named Glowworm Cave in Waitomo, New Zealand.
Spot Cool Stuff loves finding good bakeries on our travels. Spontaneously coming across one while exploring a village or city neighborhood can make an ordinary walk special. But some bakeries are special in their own right and worth purposefully seeking out — either for the quality of their baked goods or for their interior design or for the atmosphere of being there or for some combination of all those.
Below is our review of eight such bakeries. We hesitate calling them the “best,” since the world has many bakeries and we’ve only been to a relatively small handful. But each of our selections has some superlative feature that’s well worth a detour when traveling nearby.
These days, most airlines are struggling financially. But then, let’s face it, most haven’t done much to endear themselves to their customers, churning out a bland product and then pairing it with a confusing price structure and a level of service that ranges from uninspired to maddeningly inept.
Unfortunately, it is hard for the modern global traveler to avoid commercial aviation service. Which is why Spot Cool Stuff is so thankful that there are at least a handful of cool international airlines. We’d put Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines at the top of that list. Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways have some game too. And soon, their ranks might be joined by a new airline. Or, more accurately, a new old airline: Fiji Airways.
The last time Spot Cool Stuff flew into the international airport in Christchurch, New Zealand there was a big sign in the customs area that read WELCOME TO MIDDLE EARTH.
That was in 2003. The third installment of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was selling out in theaters worldwide. Word had spread that the filming location of Middle Earth in the three Rings movies — all the outdoor scenes from the volcanic landscape around Mordor to the lush green elven forest — were filmed somewhere in New Zealand. In fact, even the rings used as props in the movies were made in New Zealand†. And suddenly, New Zealand, on the fringe of the planet’s populated masses, became the center of travel for fantasy fiction lovers everywhere.
Then the hype around the movies faded into shadow (as they say). But its power is about to reemerge.