“You’ll never never know, if you never never go”

G’day!
It’s getting colder down south here in Land Oz which brings to mind the warmer climate of the northern regions. So if you’re in a place that’s just a bit too chilly/freezing/sub-zero/glacial for your liking and want ideas to escape to or just daydream of being somewhere warm today in nature’s paradise, I introduce you to Darwin in the Northern Territory.

Known as the “Adventure Territory”, you can spoil your sense of fun in the tropical capital city of Darwin and its surrounds. If you can’t handle humidity, the ideal time to go is during the ‘dry’ season from May to October when the weather is warm (temperature in the mid-30’s), dry and sunny during the day and cool at night. The rest of the year is high humidity, storms and monsoonal rains.

Having travelled to Darwin on the cusp of ‘wet’ season to ‘dry’, I did get to experience my first Aussie tropical storm and I remember thinking during a downpour one evening “When it rains cats and dogs, it sure does rain cats and dogs here!” The rain drops were the biggest I’d ever seen and the without doubt, the heaviest. I also cannot forget Mother Nature’s spectacular lightning ‘show’ of the storm that lit up the night sky ever so brilliantly! I only wish I had taken photos!

Originally a pioneer outpost, Darwin is the smallest and most northerly of the Australian capital cities with a population of just over 136,000. Its location on the Timor Sea makes it a significant gateway to South East Asian countries such as Indonesia and East Timor. Explore beyond Darwin and your adventure truly begins with the ecological beauty of national parks such as Kakadu (World Heritage listed), Nitmiluk and Litchfield.

So let’s head to Litchfield National Park and revel in its natural beauty. It’s an awesome destination for walks, pockets of rainforest, historic sites, pandanus-lined rock pools and fascinating termite mounds. My favourite though would have to be the waterfalls! BUT what’s better than a waterfall? A waterfall you can swim up to! Litchfield National Park is south of Darwin and takes under two hours drive.

Cathedral Termite Mound

Termite mounds are scattered throughout the landscape at Litchfield National Park

Termite Mounds
These mounds feature prominently in the landscape at Litchfield and there are thousands of them! You’ll see two types, Magnetic (thin in appearance and stands up to 2m high) termite mounds and Cathedral (rounded and stands up to 4m high) termite mounds. They are very cleverly built north to south to only allow the least possible surface area to be exposed to the sun and therefore provide just the right amount of warmth and humidity for the termites, who are major contributors to the environment in this region. By searching for grass underground, the termites create channels that allow the soil to preserve dampness for longer as well as allow moisture into the ground with the first rains of wet season.

 

Florence Falls at Litchfield National Park

This magnificent double waterfall is one of numerous within Litchfield National Park

Florence Falls – A spiritual place
To reach this gorgeous double waterfall, there’s a 160 step staircase to walk down to the swimming hole for a refreshing swim. The viewing platform at the top of the falls provides a panoramic view of the open valley and waterhole below. The location is stunning amidst monsoon forest which contrasts with the dry sandstone plateau. The water is crystal clear and is available for swimming all year round.

 

Wangi Falls at Litchfield Nationaal Park

One of the most popular waterfalls to swim

Wangi Falls
This is one of Litchfield’s most easily accessible waterfalls and also one of the most popular. This place is most spectacular during wet season when the water levels increase making the falls much heavier. It’s open all year round but swimming isn’t always possible due to the water level. Similar to Florence Falls, Wangi Falls is surrounded by lush monsoon rainforest. There is a kiosk and picnic facilities which is very handy.

 

Buley Rockhole at Litchfield National Park

Relax in the cascading waterfalls

 

Buley Rockhole
This one would have to be one of my favourites though it can get very busy. There are numerous rock pools to try out and I just love the low lying cascade of waterfalls where you can find your own spot to soak in and enjoy the cool water roll over your shoulders with a massaging effect. Just take a look at this guy relaxing in the foreground of the picture! It’s such a fun place to explore and the bush surrounds adds to the visual splendour.
Next time though, I’d like to go during wet season when there is a proliferation in animal and plant life. And I won’t forget to take photos of the lightning storms!

The Northern Territory has a fabulous old slogan and pardon my use of the antiquated saying but it’s one that many people remember and is perfectly fitting for this awesome industry we’re in … “You’ll never never know, if you never never go”.

GOLD Fever!

G’day!

Let me tell you about a place that’s a lot of FUN for little kids AND big kids …

It’s a place where you can literally step back in time and appreciate what was once the region’s “gold era”.

Welcome to Sovereign Hill … an open air museum located in a suburb of Ballarat (approximately 105km WNW of Melbourne).

Main Street at Sovereign Hill

The hub of Sovereign Hill, Main Street

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

HISTORY
The concept of building Sovereign Hill was initially put forward in Ballarat in the 1960s. The idea was to preserve the historic buildings and reconstruct the diggings that made this provincial city flourish. Consequently, the first ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851 is what has been recreated at Sovereign Hill.

And so on Sunday, 29 November 1970, Sovereign Hill as we know it today, was officially opened.

The town of Ballarat is also significant for the Welcome Nugget (not to be confused with the Welcome Stranger which is the largest nugget ever found in 1869 further north of Ballarat near a town called Dunolly). The Welcome Nugget is the world’s second largest gold nugget, weighing in at 69kgs and containing 99% pure gold unearthed in the Red Hill mine in 1858. At the time of discovery, the Welcome Nugget was worth approximately 10, 050 pounds but it is now worth over US$3M in gold (or even more as a specimen).

Welcome Nugget Replica

Replica of the Welcome Nugget, the world’s second largest gold nugget found in Ballarat, Victoria Australia

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

To find out all about the discovery of the Welcome Nugget, you can actually take the self-guided tour of the Red Hill mine which has been recreated at Sovereign Hill.

Gold Panning

Try your luck at panning for gold at Red Hill Gully diggings, Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

TODAY
Sovereign Hill is Ballarat’s most famous attraction and also one of Victoria’s most popular. The experience here is completely immersive, interactive and put simply, so much fun! The main attraction is the gold diggings which feature a winding creek where you can pan for real gold (and keep it)! But what really brings all this to life are the costumed staff and volunteers going about their daily routine of working in a fully operational replica township and who are more than happy to pose for a photo with you making for an extra memorable visit.

Gold Museum

Gold Museum at Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Gold Museum, located on the same site as Sovereign Hill, is also worth a visit. The museum displays an impressive exhibition of gold and extends Sovereign Hill’s story of Ballarat. The building itself is quite striking with its glass façade that lets the sun in to shine on the gold collections.

There are plenty of exciting attractions to visit in this region and Sovereign Hill in Ballarat is just one of them. To find out more about this area, here are a couple of links (including one where you can join our day tour if you’re not up to driving there yourself):
•    http://visitballarat.com.au/things-to-do.aspx
•    http://www.grayline.com.au/australia-sightseeing/melbourne-day-tours/sovereign-hill-tours

Always welcome any comments you may have!

Your Taste Buds Will Love the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (27 FEB to 15 MAR)

 

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC


Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC Immersery: Festival Kitchen, Bar and Raingarden
Copyright: Tourism Australia
Photographer: Ellenor Argyropoulos

It all started quite humbly 22 years ago (with a program of only a dozen events) as the brainchild of advertising veteran, Peter Clemenger, who had recognised that Melbourne was in dire need of reinvigoration. Fast forward and those events have grown exponentially in festival history to over 200 annually.

The well regarded and much anticipated Melbourne Food and Wine Festival draws in thousands of enthusiasts eager to partake and indulge in hosted experiences throughout the city and sprawling out into regional Victoria. One-off events is the mainstay of the program and offers diversity making the festival unique and extremely appealing. It’s a joyful celebration and festival go-ers are encouraged to be adventurous in their palate and spirit.

 

 Bank of Melbourne World's Longest Lunch, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC


Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC
Copyright: Melbourne Food and Wine Festival
Photographer: Daniel Mahon

Bank of Melbourne ‘World’s Longest Lunch’ will launch the celebration on 27 February at Fitzroy Gardens. Last year the festival set a record in its history with this event hosting 1,504 diners on a 530m long table situated along the banks of the scenic Yarra River. What a sight it was!

What we love about this festival is the genius creativity born from the collaboration of world renowned international chefs with our very own leading local chefs. The festival has been fortunate to have hosted the who’s who of the culinary world such as Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthall and Anthony Bourdain.

A bonus is that not all events require you to purchase a ticket. There’s at least a dozen celebrations that are hosted complimentary … so why not check out the Festival Artisan Bakery & Bar, Open Kitchen and Crown’s Alfresco Kitchen at Southbank or Fed Square Harvest at Federation Square and Grazing by the River held at South Wharf. Paid events range in price to cater for those on a tight budget to those who can afford a little more depending on the experience and exclusivity of the event. Whatever your budget, there will be a hosted food and wine experience waiting for you!

 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC


Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC Immersery: Festival Kitchen, Bar and Raingarden with Dan Wilson
Copyright: Tourism Australia
Photographer: Ellenor Argyropoulos

If you’re a local, the festival is a premier event to attend, offering gastronomic delights that you’ll not be able to experience any other time of year. And if you’re an international visitor, the festival is guaranteed to heighten the fun factor of your Melbourne stay.

There’s only a couple of weeks til the festival kicks off. Don’t miss this exceptionally enjoyable culinary exploration for your taste buds and get amongst it … there’s 316 events for you to choose from, explore and experience!

Explore Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula

Traditional and colourful bathing boxes are an icon of the region.

Mornington Peninsula is a favourite among locals and it’s easy to understand why. With such diversity in offerings such as pristine beaches, picturesque wineries, boutique shopping, coastal walks, health and wellness pampering, gourmet eateries, intimate galleries, marine activities, history and heritage, family activities and fantastic variety of tours.
It’s such a lovely region to visit year round but of course being on a peninsula, it is especially busy during the warmer months. There are numerous beaches to check out from the calm waters of the front beach in Sorrento to the wave crashing, great surf conditions of Rye Ocean Beach.

T'Gallant Winery

Picturesque vineyard of T’Gallant Winery on the Mornington Peninsula.

When it comes to nature trails, two spots come to mind worth doing … Millionaire’s Walk in Sorrento. An easy 1.5km return cliff top walk with stunning ocean vistas, you’ll walk past some of the most magnificent properties of which many have their own private jetties with gorgeously built boat houses! Located at the very tip of the peninsula, Point Nepean National Park is most significant for its role in shaping the early settlement, quarantine and defence of the state of Victoria. Here you can explore historic Quarantine Station, military forts and tunnels or just enjoy the spectacular coastal environment.

Peninsula Hot Springs

Peninsula Hot Springs – first natural hot springs and day spa centre in Victoria.

For some luxe pampering, a favourite place is Peninsula Hot Springs. This was the first natural hot springs and day spa centre in the state. There are two bathing facilities to cater for everyone, Bath House and Spa Dreaming Centre. The Bath House has over 20 bathing experiences from cold plunge pools, reflexology walk, massaging thermal mineral showers and Turkish steam bath to name a few. The Spa Dreaming Centre is more exclusive for guests 16 years and older. The emphasis here is on tranquil spaces, private pools and spa treatments to revitalise body, mind and spirit.

Golf enthusiasts are well catered for with numerous world class courses to tee off. Here are a few to look into; Moonah Links Golf Course, Eagle Ridge Golf Course, Dunes Golf Course and St Andrews Beach Golf Club.

The easiest way to get to the peninsula from Melbourne CBD is to self-drive (suggest the scenic way along the bay) or join an organised day tour (so you won’t have to worry about navigating the roads). Whichever you choose, you’ll not be disappointed spending the day in this stunning region.

Have you visited Mornington Peninsula? If so, what were the highlights for you?

Top 10 Alternative City Things to do in Australia

It’s all too easy to come to one of Australia’s many great cities and tick off the sights from the travel agent brochure or use a ‘bible’ such as a Lonely Planet Guide to steer you way to the ‘must see’ spots. Yes, there are some iconic sights and attractions that first time visitors shouldn’t miss but you’re looking for something a little different or you’re lucky enough to come back for a second or third visit what then?

Thankfully there are some great alternatives to the major city sights where you’ll get an alternative view of things or get to rub shoulders with locals and get a feel for what it’s like to live in one of our great cities rather than just being a visitor in one. So if you’ve seen the big landmarks and paid to enter the main attractions we’d like to suggest some alternatives for you to try on your next trip!

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Hop, Skip, Jump from Melbourne CBD: Get to know our “inner side”!

G’day!
Take a little break from what you’re doing right now and join me in getting to know some of Melbourne’s funky inner suburbs.

These inner city suburbs I’m about to introduce you to are a stone’s throw from Melbourne CBD making it so easy to access by public transport, on foot, by bicycle and of course, by car if you have it available to you.

Let’s head north and make our way clockwise around Melbourne town …

Painted seat located on the street in Fitzroy

Fitzroy: A taste of the alternative

Fitzroy: Alternative culture, night life and plethora of eateries
Fitzroy (2kms NE Melbourne CBD) exudes all things hip and kooky. Wander along Brunswick Street, Fitzroy’s main drag, and you will instantly feel the alternative vibe with its numerous vintage clothing stores, second-hand bookshops and bountiful cafes, restaurants and pubs. If you’re lucky, you may catch ‘celebrity’ black Elvis rock-n-rolling away on the street … always entertaining to see. Dare to step out of your culinary comfort zone? Vegie Bar is a long standing institution much loved both by the health conscious and the hungry for its satisfying comfort food. On weekends, enjoy Rose St. Artists’ Market, the most exciting and unique place for you to find all kinds of handmade treasures.

Shopping in Richmond

Richmond: Top-to-Toe shopping experience

Richmond: Shopping, sports bars and live band venues
3kms SE of Melbourne CBD is Richmond and I have to admit that I did once shopped til I dropped (I guess I may now have also given away my gender!) along the infamous Bridge Road shopping strip … a top-to-toe fashion experience! With major sports stadiums and arenas nearby, there are also a handful of bars and pubs that are a draw card for sports fans (we do love our sports in Melbourne!) and for those who love to see live bands, legendary rock venue the Corner Hotel always has a fabulous line up.

 

Albert Park Lake with city in the background

Albert Park: The lake is home to Australia’s F1 GP

Albert Park: Albert Park Lake, Australian F1 GP, terrace homes, parks and gardens
Head south 3kms from Melbourne CBD to picturesque and leafy Albert Park, one of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs. I just love walking around this area and admiring the charming heritage homes and delightful Victorian shopfronts of Bridport Street and Victoria Avenue with its collection of upmarket retailers and cafes. Perfectly suited for an active outdoors lifestyle, enjoy the beachfront, parks and gardens, an inland lake that is home to Australian F1 Grand Prix, Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC), a golf course, soccer stadium, sailing clubs and several sporting ovals. Before we leave Albert Park, allow me introduce you to a legend … Andrew’s Hamburgers, burgers made old-fashioned home-style that is big and fresh and many agree, is absolutely worth the journey from even across town to try. The chips are just as amazing too! Let me know how you liked it … bon appetit!

Art Deco Sun Theatre in Yarraville

Yarraville: Restored art deco Sun Theatre on Ballarat St

Yarraville: Endearing village life and architecture
Our next destination is a little further and completes our circuit. Yarraville is 8kms west of Melbourne CBD and is a hidden gem even for many Melburnians. The west has always had a reputation for being a tad on the rough side but Yarraville has transformed into having a wonderful community spirit. Yarraville Village has a charming village atmosphere where you will find the beautifully restored, iconic art deco cinema Sun Theatre and adjacent Sun Bookshop. Coming here, you can’t help but slow the pace down, enjoy its quality village life and notable examples of Edwardian and Victorian architecture of which many house the neighbourhood’s epicurean cafes and restaurants, eclectic bookstores and boutique shops.

Melbourne from the air

Aerial view of Melbourne with Albert Park Lake in the foreground

Going out and exploring just beyond the Melbourne CBD to these wonderful inner city suburbs will not only enhance your experience and knowledge of our eclectic and absolutely fabulous city but also complement some of the day tours we have on offer.

Which part of Melbourne has been memorable for you? Got any ‘secrets’ to share? We would love to hear your comments and suggestions!

Popular Day Trips from Melbourne

Melbourne has plenty of great spots to day trip to just outside the city. If you feel like breaking free from the CBD for a few hours or the whole day, here are some of the best day trips that Melbourne has to offer.

Yarra Valley Wineries

Here you’ll find some of the world’s finest wineries including Domaine Chandon. Many of the wineries here offer tours, tastings and lunch. For wine lovers and foodies alike, a trip to the Yarra Valley is a must on your holiday ‘to do’ list.

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Melbourne in June: Winter fun for everyone

Melbourne comes alive during winter. There’s places to go, people to see and so much to enjoy. Here we’ve collected a list of some of the greatest activities to enjoy on your next trip to Melbourne in the coming months.

Celebrate the Queen’s Birthday at the races

Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre will be hosting it’s Melbourne International 3 Day Event comprising of dressage, cross country and showjumping. Concerned about outdoor events during winter? The dressage and showjumping events are both held indoors. The cross country is held in the picturesque surrounds of the State Rose Garden and formal grounds of Werribee Park Mansion. There’ll be a range of marquees with food and wine too. It’s the perfect way to spend a three day weekend.

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A Guide to St Kilda’s Film Festival 2014

The St Kilda film festival has one main focus, which is to promote and screen the best of the Australian Short Film Industry. Every year the top 100 short films are selected out of hundreds of entries to be screened at select Melbourne locations, which are as unique as the films they showcase. In 2014, these include The Astor Theatre, Palais Theatre, The St Kilda Town Hall and Forum Hall at The All Saints Church.

The film festival was originally started over 30 years ago by the St Kilda council in 1984, and is officially Australia’s oldest film festival. Instigated by Councillor Mary Lou Jelbart, the short film festival grew quickly in scale and reputation to become one of Australia’s most prestigious and recognised short film competitions. In fact, winners of the St Kilda Film Festival now qualify for consideration in the Short Film Category of the Oscars, and is also accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences.

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Good Beer Week in Melbourne

Kicking off on the 17th of May, Melbourne’s Good Beer Week is an annual celebration of the humble hops which lasts through til the 25th of May. With over 100 different events throughout the city and regional Victoria – spaced out over nine days – even the fussiest palette is guaranteed to find something to enjoy about Good Beer Week.

This innovative idea came from group of local (and passionate) beer lovers who wanted to showcase not only the best Melbourne beers, but also the best of Victorian breweries. Featuring samples from new micro-breweries, restaurant and tavern favourites, Good Beer Week is all about tasting the best of Victoria’s beers in the most fun locations.

For the Foodies: If you prefer to have a bite to eat with a beer that perfectly complements your food, the Foodies section is for you! Excellent food paired with even finer beer makes for a perfect night out.

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