Stunning surrounds, yacht crew shenanigans and demanding luxury charter guests have proven the perfect recipe for a hit reality show.
Since “Below Deck” premiered on Bravo in 2013, it’s spawned a number of spinoffs, including the popular Australia-based “Below Deck Down Under,” which premiered last year.
Just in time for the highly anticipated Season Two premiere Monday, TPG had the chance to talk with the show’s captain Jason Chambers and chief stewardess Aesha Scott. They provided some of their best travel tips for those looking to head to Australia and New Zealand … and gave a peek into what to expect this season.
Related: Guide to getting started with points and miles
Captain Chambers’ top tips for visiting Australia
Much of the action takes place on board the 167-foot expedition yacht Northern Sun. However, this season is also set against the gorgeous backdrop of Cairns in North Queensland, providing plenty of inspiration for your next vacation.
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Great Barrier Reef, Australia. REINHARD DIRSCHERL/GETTY IMAGES
Chambers is a native Australian with over two decades of experience sailing private yachts for clients Down Under and beyond. When the COVID-19 pandemic closed Australia’s borders shortly after the filming of Season One concluded, the captain took the time to explore his home country.
“I got in a van and took off up north of Australia and went up into the rainforest for four months and enjoyed that,” Chambers shared.
So, when it comes to tips for exploring Australia above or below the water, he’s your man.
“Fly into Sydney and then go three hours out of Sydney to the Blue Mountains,” Chambers suggested. “Then I’d actually go north all the way up to the Whitsundays, where Season One was filmed.”
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Season Two charter guests visit the Whitsunday Islands just off Australia’s stunning Queensland coast and near the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the Whitsunday Islands are uninhabited and boast lush rainforests, pristine hiking trails and unspoiled white-sand beaches.
Chambers offers more itinerary advice for those wanting to visit Season Two locations and beyond.
“I’d be going into the Daintree National Park there, which has massive, big, beautiful waterfalls,” Chambers said. “Then I’d be flying over to the western coast and coming down through the Outback and finishing down into the middle of Australia, where Uluru is.”
Probably not surprisingly, he also recommends not missing Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system and home to more than 9,000 known species. Season Two charter guests and crew had the chance to explore it.
“We did see two of the most spectacular places — the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, and then we went to the top of the Great Barrier Reef,” Chambers shared. “There’s just reef, and there’s no one. It’s just two islands close to Cairns. The rest is just sand cays and reef protection, so the marine life is amazing.”
If you’re planning a trip Down Under, Chambers suggests giving yourself at least three weeks to take it all in.
“You could spend a year, two years down there in a camper van easy and not see everything,” Chambers laughed.
Related: Review of the InterContinental Hayman Island near the Great Barrier Reef
Travel tips and must-haves from chief stew Aesha Scott
When “Below Deck Down Under” chief stewardess Aesha Scott isn’t catering to demanding guests on a luxury yacht, she fuels her wanderlust by visiting various countries, including the U.S. Originally from New Zealand, Scott says the best way to experience her home country is to truly immerse yourself and get outdoors.
“Come for a long time and hire a camper van or a rooftop tent,” Scott said. “The thing with New Zealand is that [tourism] is all outdoors — hiking and camping and beaches.
As with Australia, a quick trip isn’t the ideal way to visit New Zealand, according to Scott.
“Allow enough time because the North Island and South Island are so different,” Scott said. “The North Island is very tropical with beautiful beaches, really thick bush, just absolutely stunning. The South Island has this beautiful mountain range and is more rugged, isolated, intense and extreme. You really want to experience both.”
Related: RVing in New Zealand
Wherever Scott travels, there’s one thing she always has with her.
“I always like having a really good book,” Scott said. “I’m so on the go and connected all the time that it’s really important to even take half an hour where I can switch off and just be in this world. To me, that’s kind of like my version of meditation.”
In terms of getting the most out of any vacation, Scott suggests you go easy on your itinerary and leave some wiggle room when you’re planning a trip.
“I like to buy my flights as I go and make plans as I go,” Scott explained. “So, in those really enjoyable places, I can stay on longer if I want to.”
“I know it can end up being more expensive because you’re like buying flights last minute, but I hate being on a timetable,” Scott said. “Say, if you’re doing a Croatia trip and you went to Dubrovnik, and you’ve got one day planned there, but you actually really, really love it, and you’d rather have three. What a shame to be like, ‘Well, we’ve already bought our flight to the next place, then we’re going on to the next place.'”
Related: 7 things to know before planning a trip to New Zealand
This season, Chambers and Scott are joined by brand-new “Below Deck” crew members chef Tzarina Mace-Ralph, bosun Luke Jones, deckhands Adam Lukasiewicz and Harry Van Vliet, and stewardesses Laura Bileskaine and Margot Sisson.
Whether you’re a fan of ocean-based reality TV or looking for travel inspiration for your next trip, “Below Deck Down Under” can check both boxes.
Season Two premieres on Bravo on Monday at 8 p.m. EDT and will be available to stream on Peacock the following day. Beginning July 24, two new episodes will air back-to-back each week. And here are ways to save money on streaming services thanks to your credit cards.
If you want to start planning or dreaming about a trip to Australia or New Zealand of your own, here are some resources to get you started: