Great Southern

April 22, 2021

PhotographyBobby Bense/Helen Janneson Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

Location – Albany, Western Australia

Where to stay – Private Eco friendly Cottage | Lodge | Homestead

Where to visitFrenchman Bay | Goode Beach | The Gap & Natural Bridge | Bald Head walk | Little Beach | Albany town

Everything about this trip was unexpected. It took us to breathtaking, wild places we never imagined.

We went to Albany with very low expectations, having only briefly visited once before on a somewhat dreary day. When I started looking for holiday spots everything was pretty much booked out. I didn’t realise at the time that I was actually booking us into the most incredible stay ever!

We arrived to this stunning bush property, 650 acres of land and coastline to explore before us, an actual private retreat. There was a private beach, private lagoon, private lake! It was pure paradise with so much space, wildlife and wilderness to explore.

There are 3 accommodation options starting with a budget friendly, eco friendly cottage overlooking the lake and the ocean. It boasts spectacular sunset views, daily kangaroo visits, and if you look up you might even spot a sea eagle. It accommodates 4 people and has everything you need for a sustainable, comfortable, self contained stay.

This lodge is pure luxury. It has space to accommodate multiple families, 10 people in total, and has 360 degree panoramic lake and ocean views. It’s the ideal place to stay with family friends. And that bath view is spectacular!

The last option is Maitraya Homestead, built on the cliffside overlooking the ocean and your very own private beach directly in front. It can accomodate up to 16 people and is ideal for weddings, reunions, birthdays, retreats and special occasions. The homestead is full of character and history, complete with it’s own atrium and indoor swimming pool. The fabulous Lady Gaga also stayed here and they have a music room in honour of her.

Our days were very full exploring the grounds of Maitraya, stand up paddle boarding and kayaking daily on the lake, swimming in the private lagoon, and wandering the majestic coast line. A trip to Albany wouldn’t be complete without witnessing the natural marvel that is The Gap. An absolutely astonishing spot where you can experience the true power of nature. The 25m granite rock, once connected to Antartica, formed around 1300-1600 million years ago. The viewing deck is not for the faint hearted. It definitely made me squeamish at times.

What I loved most about our location was the vicinity to Little Beach, in Two Peoples Bay Reserve. You’ll need to pay a small fee to enter, but it’s worth it. Pack for the whole day, you won’t want to leave. It’s tempting to spend your day at the main beach, but beyond the beach, is an even more amazing beach that is a little more private, a little less wavy, perfect for swimming and rock jumping. Around another bend was a whole lot of rock pools with a big turquoise lagoon. We were completely surprised by this beauty, and that it wasn’t overcrowded. It’s always worth taking those extra steps to see what’s around the next corner.

I highly recommend a visit to the Great Southern. We only saw a handful of spots in this region, but we explored and enjoyed them thoroughly, knowing we will revisit and discover something new next time.

With love and gratitude, Helen xx

Copyright text and images Helen Janneson Bense 2021

When the stars aligned

April 14, 2021

It’s only now that I can look back and realise that the day I met my beloved Bobby, we were cosmically destined for one another. We lived oceans apart, yet everything aligned time and time again to bring us together.

Our first meeting was in a café in San Jose, California. I was saying goodbye to some old friends and Bobby was our waiter. A mutual friend introduced us and mentioned that Bobby had just booked open-ended travel to Australia and that we should  connect when I return. 

I agreed, and in the true spirit of those pre mobile phone days, I handed my email address on a tiny ripped piece of paper to this mysterious and ridiculously handsome guy.  

A week later, at a bar in San Jose, as I celebrated the end of my 6 month USA road  trip, our paths crossed serendipitously once again. And lucky they did, as he lost that tiny piece of paper with my email on it. I once again wrote it down on another equally small piece of paper. He vowed he would not lose this one and still to this day it holds a special place in his wallet.  

About a month after I returned home I received an email from Bobby updating me on his travels. I passed on my new home number and said when/if you make it to Melbourne, let me know and I’ll show you around. 

One day out of the blue, Bobby called on my home phone. He let me know he’d made it to Victoria and that he was hanging out at a little café called Leroy’s in the town of St. Kilda. He wondered if I was anywhere close to this place and if we could meet up. Little did he know that this was where I was living and that he was at my new local coffee spot! Both of us were amazed as I mentioned that I was only a 5-minute walk away. It also happened to be my only day off work for that week. And it also happened to be Valentines Day, yet neither of us realised this until much later.   

As we stared at each other over coffee, I couldn’t help notice the intense reaction I was having to him. I had never felt so affected by another person before. It was like strings of energy were pulling us closer together and sparks were flying everywhere. The moment I mentioned going for a walk, he agreed almost too quickly. 

Years later we talked about how overwhelming that moment was for us both. I was overheating; my heart racing and I could barely hear what he was saying. I felt like I was both floating, yet tethered to him in some way.  That connection is what has grown into the deepest love I’ve ever known. 

This was the beginning of our relationship. We faced many challenges over the years with long distance, different time zones, visas, families, and navigating a path for ourselves, knowing we wanted to find a way to be together. Every day as we talked on the phone, we embraced the uncertainty and focused on the connection and love we had, knowing a way would become clear when the time was right. And it did. 

Even when things were so uncertain, we held on to the hope in the certainty of our love. 

Bobby was able to finish his studies thanks to an international program here in Western Australia. He moved countries so we could give our love a chance. I moved  from Victoria having never stepped foot in WA. 

We have clearly both fallen more in love with one another over the years, married, had 2 beautiful children and are so grateful that we ended up in this incredible part of Australia, that is now our home.  

I love capturing photos of our relationship together. Every chance we have had to travel and explore, we ensure we have our Fujifilm instax mini LiPlay along to capture all these precious moments. For older memories, we print our photos with the instax mini Link right from my phone. It’s always such a gift for us to print our memories and reflect upon creating this magical life of love together. 

Infinity Chalet

March 8, 2021

PhotographyBobby Bense/Helen Janneson Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

Location – Margaret River, Western Australia

Where to stayInfinity Chalet – just a 3 hour drive south of Perth

Outfit Details – One piece (similar) | High Low Skirt (similar) | Jasmine Strappy Mini Dress

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a bestie adventure, or solo retreat then look no further than this immaculately and luxuriously appointed chalet. Every attention to detail is considered and you will leave feeling well rested, rejuvenated and content.

Infinity Chalet is perfectly situated on the picturesque Margaret River, a short drive to the river mouth and the breathtaking Surfers Point. A wonderful spot for the whole family, with swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, rock pool exploring and surfing.

We decided to do some off road exploring on this trip and discovered some of the most secluded and exquisite rock pools and beaches. We couldn’t believe there weren’t any crowds as it was the height of summer school holidays. It just goes to show there is a little slice of paradise for everyone here in this region. I’m not going to geotag and share the exact location of these spots as I feel they are most likely some local gems. I will say that it is worth exploring those off the beaten path tracks and always walking around that next corner.

After our days of exploring we welcomed the comfort and luxury of Infinity chalet. We loved the steam shower and stunning spa bath with that amazing sunset view. We spent our evenings unwinding with a plant based, sunset picnic overlooking Margaret river, enjoying the peaceful vibes of the fireplace before melting into their luxurious king bed.

If you can’t already tell we really loved our stay here. It was faultless and I look forward to the next visit.

With love and gratitude, Helen xx

Copyright Images & text 2021 Helen Janneson Bense

The Staycay

February 17, 2021

PhotographyBobby Bense/Helen Janneson Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

Location – Cottesloe, Western Australia

Where to stay Golden Sands Beach Apartment | Cottesloe Beach House | Cottesloe Aqua Retreat |The Mariner

Outfits – Honey Strappy Midi Dress | Sydney one piece | Boho Skirt (Similar)

Picnic – The Throw Down Dreamy Summer cushion/rug

I’ve underestimated the true value of the staycay up until this past summer that is. It might be the fact that international borders are closed, interstate borders are in a constant open/close flux, and that we are looking to our own backyard for experiences. But I also feel it’s more than that. We were literally transported to a tropical paradise over the summer holidays and we were only 20 minutes from home.

Having lived in Perth for 14 years now we have come to know many of the local treasures. During our most recent stay in North Cottesloe, we were kind of shocked that we don’t spend more time here. The white sand and the crystal clear water are reminders of Wadjemup/Rottnest Island, which was once part of the mainland around 7000 years ago.

Over the past few years we’ve stayed in a few different apartments along the Cottesloe coast, all with varying budgets. Every experience has been amazing. The beach is simply stunning. We really loved our stay at Golden Sands Apartment, ideally located across the street from Peter’s pool – a turquoise lagoon, perfect for snorkelling, swimming and stand up paddle boarding.

The sunset views from the balcony were so peaceful after our long sun kissed, salty days frolicking in the ocean. There was a pinch me moment on our final day realising just how good the staycay is on so many levels. It’s affordable, accessible, relaxing, easy, has a lower carbon footprint, and best of all, you can still catch up with all your friends down the beach. Be amazed and allow yourself to be transported to paradise, at a fraction of the cost and energy of flying, and without the health safety concerns that have become our new normal.

Perthians, have I inspired you to book a Cottesloe staycay? And for those looking to visit Perth when the borders allow, make sure you book a Cottesloe trip. It’s definitely one of my favourites beachside spots to enjoy in the Perth metro area and these apartments are all so ideally located.

With love and gratitude, Helen xx

Copyright images & text 2021 Helen Janneson Bense

Esperance

November 9, 2020

PhotographyBobby Bense | Helen Janneson Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

Location – Kepa Kurl/Esperance, Western Australia

Where to stayWave Rock (half way point between Perth and Esperance | West Beach | Blue Haven

Outfit Details

Dresses – Indigo Maxi | Serene Maxi | Salsa Leora Maxi | Top/Skirt set (similar)

Jackets – custom art by Deadly Denim X Cungelella | Unreal Fur (Faux) jacket (similar)

Swim – One piece

Bag – Miomojo Giorgia Bucket Bag (vegan, cruelty free, sustainably made from apple skin) Can also be used as a backpack

Picnic rug – The Throw Down Traveller Throw

As we set off on this unfamiliar journey, to this pristine, remote part of WA we’ve longed to visit, our hearts yearned for the wild, for the joy that comes with deeply connecting with nature. It’s a connection we all need to thrive and survive in this world. Being in nature is where we come home to ourselves, our very existence intertwined. It was a reminder of how we must treasure and protect our wild places and it’s vital biodiversity.

Our first stop on our road trip was Wave Rock. In the middle of what felt like nowhere is this 2700 million year old, 15 metre high, wave shaped granite rock. Viewing this ancient and sacred place at sunset was breathtaking, with colour and light dancing upon the wave. Wave Rock known as Katter Kich by the Indigenous Ballardong People is known as a keniny (dancing) ground. Nearby are a collection of 450 ancient rock paintings telling the story of a local Aboriginal legend at Mulka’s Cave.

We stayed in a lovely, simple cottage right by Wave Rock surrounded by wildflowers and the most amazing natural salt water pool. It was so perfect after a long drive to float and soak up the natural salty goodness.

After a wonderful nights sleep we rose with the sun and made our way to Esperance. This coastal town is known as Kepa Kurl to the Noongar People. Kepa means wave and Kurl means boomerang; “where the wave lies like a boomerang”. I spent hours watching the waves here and noticed incredible patterns and shapes that are so unique to this part of the world. The landscape even shows climate change since the days of the Ice Age. It’s quite a spectacular and majestic sight as you drive along this coastline. You’ll be struck with the vivid crystal clear turquoise blue of the waters. It surely is the clearest water I’ve ever seen, and that includes the Maldives!

Esperance really is a nature lovers paradise. If you love the beach, ocean, surfing, wildflowers, wildlife and hiking it’s your place! I’ve put together a list here of must visit beaches as we spent every waking hour exploring. We stayed in the most amazing Airbnb overlooking West Beach. We could hear the waves from here and watch the sunrise and set from every window. We even had a bedroom ocean view! This is a great beach for surfing, swimming and whale watching. Even though the water was pretty cold when we visited we still enjoyed swimming in the protected lagoon with our wetsuits on. In summer I’m certain you won’t need a wetsuit.

First and number one beach stop is Lucky Bay and Hellfire Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park. Lucky Bay is known as one of the best beaches in the world and it has very friendly wild kangaroos visit the beach daily. The sand really is so white it could blind you, and the water so turquoise and clear. The biggest attraction here is of course the kangaroos. My experience here brought mixed feelings about this. While it’s so cute to see them, some of the tourists hovering, grabbing and touching the kangaroos was distressing to see. My children stayed completely away in protest out of respect for the kangaroos, choosing not to have a photographic memory, but instead to enjoy seeing them and allowing them to move about in peace. If you find some patience and allow them to move freely they will come and investigate you, generally searching for food. It’s absolutely vital for the sake of their health and wellbeing you do not ever feed them. Luckily we didn’t see any of this happening while we were there. As far as timing to see them I think it’s just up to luck and patience. I read a lot of conflicting information and many other friends shared their experiences. Every single one was different. We arrived at Lucky bay around 8am for a beach day of kayaking, exploring and hoping we’d see some kangaroos. It was around 2pm when a couple ventured onto the shores, focused mostly around the pop up food truck.

Besides the kangaroos, this spot is absolutely stunning to walk around the rocks, take a kayak out to explore the bay and laze on the beautiful white sand. Close by is Hellfire bay which has the most incredible blue waters. I watched the waves for an hour while my family when on a bouldering expedition. It’s a nice quiet beach with picnic tables in the shade to enjoy lunch.

West of Esperance, and just minutes from our Airbnb was Blue Haven beach. This beach is very calm, protected, so blue, and perfect for dolphin spotting, swimming and stand up paddle boarding. You just need to be able to get your board up and down those stairs. It’s a mission, but definitely possible. And worth it once you’re out in that beautiful water.

From here it’s so fun to beach hop. You’ve got Twilight beach which is so fun for some rock jumping into the pristine waters. Make sure to take a drive further along this coast to 10 and 11 mile beach. 11 mile beach was one of our favourite spots with a huge lagoon on either side of the stair entrance. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset from. Another amazing spot for sunset is the Rotary Lookout overlooking West Beach. A beautiful spot for exploring the wildflowers during Spring. Bring a picnic rug and soak up those expansive views.

We still have many spots to visit. Next time we’d love to hike Frenchman’s Peak in Cape Le Grand National Park. When tours are up and running again we’d like to take a scenic flight to Middle Island and see the Pink Lake from above. We are yet to explore more of 10 mile beach, Wharton beach and Wylie Bay. Sadly a local surfer was lost at Wylie as we were on our way there. Out of respect we stayed clear of this area. It was a tragic loss for the town and his family.

If you’ve been to Esperance and have any other must see spots please leave them in the comments! It’s a true natural, wild wonder of our world and I hope it always stays that way.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

Retreat at Smiths

October 3, 2020

PhotographyBobby Bense & Helen Janneson Bense

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

LocationSmiths Beach Resort | Yallingup | Castle Rock – Western Australia

Bare & Wilde Love & Light Wellness Retreat – Email HERE to find out about the next one

Outfits – Rihanna Maxi Dress | Salsa Leora Dress |Matching Hi Lo Skirt + Swimwear |Embroidered Paradise Dress | Seaside Long Dress

Picnic Setup – Namastay Tipi Picnics | Plant Based Food by Valerie Gamer and Jessica Lowe | Vegan platter Lamonts

A retreat at Smiths Beach was an idea that instantly felt right. Having spent so much time at this beach and this immaculate resort, it’s become a home away from home. It’s tranquillity and back to nature environment is something I’ve really needed this year, like so many of us.

The retreat was above and beyond everything we needed. We feasted, we shared, and we connected, with ourselves, with nature and one another. There is something so powerful about women sharing. When we create safe spaces, free of judgement, and find the courage to share, we instantly give permission for others to share. We begin a circle of hearing one another with compassion and empathy. The healing power of sharing in this way is immeasurable and incredibly profound. I always walk away from these experiences feeling empowered by the bonds of sisterhood, and awakened to my own inner courage to face my fears and step into discomfort. What I always discover is that on the other side of discomfort is absolute peace and joy. I’m learning how to make friends with my uncomfortable feelings, allowing and embracing my anxieties and fears. I loved being able to facilitate a safe sharing space and look forward to doing this more within our community.

Our days were filled with retreat activities from beach walks, meditation, aromatherapy, plant based cooking, abstract art, feasting, hiking, yoga, creative conversations, sharing sunsets and sound healing with the amazing Julian Silburn. Julian’s healing magic is something I hope everyone gets to experience. He truly is a modern day shaman.

I am so grateful to our amazing, talented chefs; Valerie and Jessica who created plant based deliciousness for us all, and shared their inspirational journeys. We enjoyed the most beautiful array of wholesome, real, soul foods, all presented so beautifully. It was nourishing and healing on all levels.

During our wonderful retreat we stayed in the amazing 3-bed ocean view villa with breathtaking ocean views overlooking the pool. Each evening I’d watch the sunset from the comfort of my villa, enjoy a long luxurious bath, sip on delicious tea by the fire, and melt into a deep sleep in the most peaceful bed. Smiths Beach Resort really is the perfect place for retreat and relaxation.

After the retreat my family and I stayed on for a few more days to explore some local spots. We hiked the Cape to Cape trail once again, though this time we had an entirely new experience. We encountered a colourful array of wildflowers, a very friendly echidna and a bobtail lizard. The trail hugs the coastline and all paths lead to turquoise water. We always stop at our favourite lagoon, the Aquarium, for a snorkel and to enjoy the views. All you need are good walking shoes, lots of water, some nutrient dense snacks, wetsuit, towel, warm clothes, snorkel gear and first aid is always important whenever you travel remote. And don’t forget your camera because there are so many spots to take photos along the walk and when you arrive at the beach.

Another amazing spot we enjoyed was Castle Rock in Dunsborough, a 20 minute drive from Smiths Beach Resort. The weather was in our favour this day. Calm seas, crystal clear water, and sunshine made for the perfect combination for some stand up paddle boarding. While I paddled and looked for whales, my family enjoyed climbing all the giant boulders. They are all really into bouldering, something they do multiple times per week at home, so this was such a happy spot for us all. And while I didn’t see any whales, the views, the warmth, and the family connection were all filling me with so much gratitude for this day.

In between sunsets, hikes, supping and climbing, were all the quieter moments; moments of connection like preparing food together as a family, playing cards by the fireplace, sharing jokes, and braiding each others hair. It was so wonderful to enjoy this slow time together in the luxurious ambience of Smiths Beach Resort.

I’m filled with the deepest gratitude as always to the wonderful Smiths Beach Resort for hosting us. It’s always a phenomenal experience staying with you and we love you! Thank you to the amazing Amy from Bare and Wilde for organising and holding space for such a smooth, healing, empowering and relaxing retreat. My heart is overflowing with love. Sending a huge wave of love vibes out to you all :)

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

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