My Top 20 Travel Experiences Of 2016

Wow… 2016 has been such an incredible year! I have traveled to a bunch of new destinations and returned to some of my favorites. I initially listed close to 40 top travel experiences but somehow managed to cut it down to 20… I hope you enjoy this recap!

Spirit Island

1. Canoeing to Spirit Island – Canada

Back in August I canoed out to Spirit Island in Jasper National Park with a bunch of friends. We paddled under the full moon, watched the sky fill with stars, listened to howling wolves in the distance, and witnessed the most gorgeous and peaceful sunrise. We were all pinching ourselves to check it wasn’t a dream… read more about it here.

Kauai Heli Tour

2. Helicopter tour around Kauai – USA

I was lucky enough to travel to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Kauai in October this year. My husband, our friend Chelsea and videographer Bryce had a private tour of the island with Jack Harter Helicopters. The views were absolutely INSANE but my favorite was when we hovered above the Na Pali Coast… talk about jaw dropping! Check out my blog post and video of the trip here.

3. Returning to Banff & Yoho National Parks – Canada

I first travelled to the Canadian Rockies in the summer of 2012. Ever since then I had been itching to return and I was stoked to add it to my 2016 adventures. I spent 2 weeks exploring Banff and Yoho National Parks with some awesome people (read about the road trip here). The experiences that stand out the most were canoeing on Emerald Lake, watching sunset at Peyto Lake, returning to the iconic Moraine Lake, catching an epic sunrise in the mountains, and sipping tea at the Lake Agnes Tea House.

4. Exploring Yosemite National Park – USA

I was lucky enough to travel back to Yosemite twice this year, once in winter (read more here) and once at the start of summer (read more here). Both visits were absolutely magical and proved to me that Yosemite has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Add this park to your bucket list if it’s not already there!

5. returning to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park – New Zealand

I was 11 years old when I first visited this beautiful park. My only memory is sitting in the hotel cafe, looking up at Mount Cook and thinking it looked SO huge. Going back this year was an amazing experience. I particularly loved exploring the Hooker Valley Track and Tasman Glacier. You can read more about the trip here and here.

6. Backpacking in the Wind River Range – USA

This largely unheard of mountain range has been on my bucket list for a couple of years. I was super excited to finally road trip through Wyoming in August and camp in this beautiful wilderness area. My husband and I pitched our tent in the Cirque of the Towers area for 2 nights and took in the 360 degree mountain views. It was the perfect start to our summer road trip through the Rockies.

7. Encountering the beauty of Wanaka – New Zealand

I love this little town on the South Island of New Zealand. Wanaka is surrounded by snow capped mountains, gorgeous lakes and it’s close to numerous national parks. My husband and I hiked up Roys Peak and Coromandel Peak to take in the views at sunrise. I was really psyched to see the town and surrounding areas from above… though I wasn’t so happy with the 3am wake up calls! Getting to see the famous “Wanaka Tree” was also a highlight. Read more about my road trip here.

8. Camping by the Alabama Hills – USA

Back in February my husband and I camped by the Alabama Hills in California. We slept with the rain fly off our tent and had the most amazing views of the stars. There was a wildfire in the distance and once it was dark it looked like a glowing red volcano over the hills. It was so peaceful and silent out there – definitely a night to remember. Read more about my California road trip here.

9. Adventuring around Lake Pukaki – New Zealand

Lake Pukaki is ridiculously blue… more like Gatorade than water. It’s surrounded by mountains and majestic Mount Cook can be viewed in the distance on a clear day. I loved driving alongside the lake as we headed into Aoraki Mount Cook National Park… you can’t really beat views like that! This post has more details about my New Zealand road trip.

10. Exploring Grand Teton National Park – USA

I have visited Grand Teton National Park 5 times now, 2 of those being in 2016. I seriously don’t think I will ever tire of seeing this stunning mountain range. This summer I had a blast camping by the park and swimming in chilly alpine lakes… yes I did hike 7 miles with an inflatable tube (totally worth it!) Read this post for more info on my summer road trip through the Rockies.

11. Road tripping along the Great Ocean Road – Australia

I grew up in Melbourne so was naturally pretty excited to head back to Australia late this year. One of my all-time favorite locations down under is The Great Ocean Road, particularly the Twelve Apostles and surrounding areas. I will post posting a more in depth guide to this area shortly!

12. Hiking Mount Amos & seeing Wineglass Bay – Australia

My husband and I hiked up Mount Amos three times to try and catch the perfect sunrise. The early rises were totally worth it for this epic light and view of Wineglass Bay! Stay tuned for a Tasmania road trip post featuring this gorgeous national park.

13. Experiencing winter in Colorado – USA

It was such a treat getting to experience an entire winter in Colorado. My husband and I went snowboarding in the most insane powder, winter camping in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park, snowshoeing to frozen lakes, and sledding in Boulder. This Aussie girl was like a kid getting to play in snow for the first time!

14. Walking the Three Capes Track – Australia

In November this year I completed a 4 day coastal trek in Tasmania – the Three Capes Track. It was such a special experience to share with my family and the perfect way to see the Tasman Peninsula. I recently posted an in depth review and guide – check it out!

15. Road tripping along the California Coast – USA

In February, my husband and I road tripped down the west coast of America. Two of my favorite stops were in California, namely Big Sur and the Cypress Tree Tunnel at Point Reyes. The theme of our road trip was gorgeous golden light and foggy mornings – read more about it here.

16.  Hiking in Cradle Mountain National Park – Australia

This part of Tasmania is so rugged and beautiful – I’m so glad I got to visit again in November this year. My favorites hikes in the park were Cradle Mountain Summit via Marions Lookout, Mount Campbell and Dove Lake Circuit. Another highlight was taking a break at cute little Kitchen Hut before tackling Cradle Summit.

17. Catching sunrise at Nugget Point – New Zealand

I wasn’t expecting Nugget Point to be quite so breathtaking. My husband and I visited at sunrise back in September this year and really enjoyed the area. We climbed up the hillside and took in views of the lighthouse and all of the “nuggets”. There were loads of seals and sea birds in the area, plus the odd penguin if you visited at the right time.

18. Fun with friends in The Rocky MountaIns – USA & Canada

I shared so many laughs, hikes, canoeing trips and ice cream stops with friends this summer – it really made my Rocky Mountain road trip so memorable. One hike in particular stands out to me… a bunch of us were walking to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. We were chatting away, sharing stories and having a great time. Then the heavens opened and it started pouring rain. We hiked on through it and were greeted to the most insane rainbow when the trees cleared out to Avalanche Lake. We spent the next 30 or so minutes taking sitting photos and playing by the water. Adventures are way more fun when spent with like-minded people!

19. Hot Spring dips in California – USA

My husband and I made a last minute decision to take an early morning dip at this hilltop hot tub in California. It was so lovely having it all to ourselves and bathing in the warm morning sun – the perfect way to relax during a busy road trip!

20. Exploring Grampians National Park – Australia

This little national park in Victoria is definitely a must visit if you’re in the area. In late November I spent 2 nights exploring the Park’s various hikes and views with my husband – stay tuned for a more in depth blog post soon!

What were your top travel experiences of 2016? Let me know in the comments section below!

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Wow… 2016 has been such an incredible year! I have traveled to a bunch of new destinations and returned to some of my favorites. I initially listed close to 40 top travel experiences but somehow managed to cut it down to 20… I hope you enjoy this recap!

Spirit Island

1. Canoeing to Spirit Island – Canada

Back in August I canoed out to Spirit Island in Jasper National Park with a bunch of friends. We paddled under the full moon, watched the sky fill with stars, listened to howling wolves in the distance, and witnessed the most gorgeous and peaceful sunrise. We were all pinching ourselves to check it wasn’t a dream… read more about it here.

Kauai Heli Tour

2. Helicopter tour around Kauai – USA

I was lucky enough to travel to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Kauai in October this year. My husband, our friend Chelsea and videographer Bryce had a private tour of the island with Jack Harter Helicopters. The views were absolutely INSANE but my favorite was when we hovered above the Na Pali Coast… talk about jaw dropping! Check out my blog post and video of the trip here.

3. Returning to Banff & Yoho National Parks – Canada

I first travelled to the Canadian Rockies in the summer of 2012. Ever since then I had been itching to return and I was stoked to add it to my 2016 adventures. I spent 2 weeks exploring Banff and Yoho National Parks with some awesome people (read about the road trip here). The experiences that stand out the most were canoeing on Emerald Lake, watching sunset at Peyto Lake, returning to the iconic Moraine Lake, catching an epic sunrise in the mountains, and sipping tea at the Lake Agnes Tea House.

4. Exploring Yosemite National Park – USA

I was lucky enough to travel back to Yosemite twice this year, once in winter (read more here) and once at the start of summer (read more here). Both visits were absolutely magical and proved to me that Yosemite has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Add this park to your bucket list if it’s not already there!

5. returning to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park – New Zealand

I was 11 years old when I first visited this beautiful park. My only memory is sitting in the hotel cafe, looking up at Mount Cook and thinking it looked SO huge. Going back this year was an amazing experience. I particularly loved exploring the Hooker Valley Track and Tasman Glacier. You can read more about the trip here and here.

6. Backpacking in the Wind River Range – USA

This largely unheard of mountain range has been on my bucket list for a couple of years. I was super excited to finally road trip through Wyoming in August and camp in this beautiful wilderness area. My husband and I pitched our tent in the Cirque of the Towers area for 2 nights and took in the 360 degree mountain views. It was the perfect start to our summer road trip through the Rockies.

7. Encountering the beauty of Wanaka – New Zealand

I love this little town on the South Island of New Zealand. Wanaka is surrounded by snow capped mountains, gorgeous lakes and it’s close to numerous national parks. My husband and I hiked up Roys Peak and Coromandel Peak to take in the views at sunrise. I was really psyched to see the town and surrounding areas from above… though I wasn’t so happy with the 3am wake up calls! Getting to see the famous “Wanaka Tree” was also a highlight. Read more about my road trip here.

8. Camping by the Alabama Hills – USA

Back in February my husband and I camped by the Alabama Hills in California. We slept with the rain fly off our tent and had the most amazing views of the stars. There was a wildfire in the distance and once it was dark it looked like a glowing red volcano over the hills. It was so peaceful and silent out there – definitely a night to remember. Read more about my California road trip here.

9. Adventuring around Lake Pukaki – New Zealand

Lake Pukaki is ridiculously blue… more like Gatorade than water. It’s surrounded by mountains and majestic Mount Cook can be viewed in the distance on a clear day. I loved driving alongside the lake as we headed into Aoraki Mount Cook National Park… you can’t really beat views like that! This post has more details about my New Zealand road trip.

10. Exploring Grand Teton National Park – USA

I have visited Grand Teton National Park 5 times now, 2 of those being in 2016. I seriously don’t think I will ever tire of seeing this stunning mountain range. This summer I had a blast camping by the park and swimming in chilly alpine lakes… yes I did hike 7 miles with an inflatable tube (totally worth it!) Read this post for more info on my summer road trip through the Rockies.

11. Road tripping along the Great Ocean Road – Australia

I grew up in Melbourne so was naturally pretty excited to head back to Australia late this year. One of my all-time favorite locations down under is The Great Ocean Road, particularly the Twelve Apostles and surrounding areas. I will post posting a more in depth guide to this area shortly!

12. Hiking Mount Amos & seeing Wineglass Bay – Australia

My husband and I hiked up Mount Amos three times to try and catch the perfect sunrise. The early rises were totally worth it for this epic light and view of Wineglass Bay! Stay tuned for a Tasmania road trip post featuring this gorgeous national park.

13. Experiencing winter in Colorado – USA

It was such a treat getting to experience an entire winter in Colorado. My husband and I went snowboarding in the most insane powder, winter camping in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park, snowshoeing to frozen lakes, and sledding in Boulder. This Aussie girl was like a kid getting to play in snow for the first time!

14. Walking the Three Capes Track – Australia

In November this year I completed a 4 day coastal trek in Tasmania – the Three Capes Track. It was such a special experience to share with my family and the perfect way to see the Tasman Peninsula. I recently posted an in depth review and guide – check it out!

15. Road tripping along the California Coast – USA

In February, my husband and I road tripped down the west coast of America. Two of my favorite stops were in California, namely Big Sur and the Cypress Tree Tunnel at Point Reyes. The theme of our road trip was gorgeous golden light and foggy mornings – read more about it here.

16.  Hiking in Cradle Mountain National Park – Australia

This part of Tasmania is so rugged and beautiful – I’m so glad I got to visit again in November this year. My favorites hikes in the park were Cradle Mountain Summit via Marions Lookout, Mount Campbell and Dove Lake Circuit. Another highlight was taking a break at cute little Kitchen Hut before tackling Cradle Summit.

17. Catching sunrise at Nugget Point – New Zealand

I wasn’t expecting Nugget Point to be quite so breathtaking. My husband and I visited at sunrise back in September this year and really enjoyed the area. We climbed up the hillside and took in views of the lighthouse and all of the “nuggets”. There were loads of seals and sea birds in the area, plus the odd penguin if you visited at the right time.

18. Fun with friends in The Rocky MountaIns – USA & Canada

I shared so many laughs, hikes, canoeing trips and ice cream stops with friends this summer – it really made my Rocky Mountain road trip so memorable. One hike in particular stands out to me… a bunch of us were walking to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. We were chatting away, sharing stories and having a great time. Then the heavens opened and it started pouring rain. We hiked on through it and were greeted to the most insane rainbow when the trees cleared out to Avalanche Lake. We spent the next 30 or so minutes taking sitting photos and playing by the water. Adventures are way more fun when spent with like-minded people!

19. Hot Spring dips in California – USA

My husband and I made a last minute decision to take an early morning dip at this hilltop hot tub in California. It was so lovely having it all to ourselves and bathing in the warm morning sun – the perfect way to relax during a busy road trip!

20. Exploring Grampians National Park – Australia

This little national park in Victoria is definitely a must visit if you’re in the area. In late November I spent 2 nights exploring the Park’s various hikes and views with my husband – stay tuned for a more in depth blog post soon!

What were your top travel experiences of 2016? Let me know in the comments section below!

Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand ✈ Let's get lost!

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15 Comments

  1. Jackie on December 28, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Fantastic post Renee!

    • Renee Hahnel on December 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      Thank you!

  2. Sarah on December 28, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    So good!! Thank you for constant the inspiration!

    • Renee Hahnel on December 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      Aw thanks so much Sarah!

  3. Caroline on December 28, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    It was great reading about all your travels this year – keep it up!

    • Renee Hahnel on December 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks Caroline, I really appreciate your support!

  4. Steve on December 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    My favorite destination this year was a small road-trip up to Sedona. Thanks for the inspiration Renee, can’t wait to see what you get up to next year!

    • Renee Hahnel on December 28, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks for following along Steve!

  5. David on December 28, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Love your work Renee !

  6. Krista on December 31, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    I had no idea that Spirit Island was a place in Canada… I HAVE to go! I’m absolutely dying to go to New Zealand as well! Your photos are just so beautiful and make me happy!

    • Renee Hahnel on January 3, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      Thanks so much Krista! Spirit Island is absolutely insane! You can visit on a boat tour if you don’t have the time to paddle out there 🙂

  7. April | April Everyday on January 2, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Wow! I can’t get over how many amazing places you’ve visited this year! Canada (Banff especially) is so high on my bucket list right now, along with Yosemite and Hawaii!
    I can’t wait to see where you go this year!
    xo April | April Everyday

    • Renee Hahnel on January 3, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      Thank you April! Canada, Yosemite & Hawaii are all must see’s in my opinion!

  8. Lilly on June 30, 2017 at 7:45 am

    I’m so inspired by your photos! This is one of my dreams to travel the whole world just like you. I have a quick question. how do you guys take photos of you from the top of the mountain looking down on you? is there someone else traveling with you to photograph from the top or do you shoot it with drone?

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Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand ✈ Let's get lost!

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