Great Aussie Destinations

“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!

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?

Part I: A Weekend on Australia’s Island State … Tasmania

On the summit of Mt Wellington in Hobart, Tasmania

Mt Wellington, Hobart

Overnight bag. Check!

Boarding pass. Check!

Five senses. Check, check, check, check, check!

We’ve set off to explore the country’s smallest (island) state … Just how much did we pack in on a weekend mini-break? Read on my friends!

It’s VERY early Saturday morning in Hobart town and there’s no contemplating our whereabouts but to be at Salamanca Market. Only open on Saturdays, this is an absolute MUST-DO! Originally a warehouse and storage area in the 1830s, you can easily spend half the day wandering through the 300 stalls, galleries, boutique shops, cafes/restaurants and being entertained by talented buskers.

But first, to fuel our bodies and our unique breakfast venue of choice at Salamanca Square certainly ticked our sense of taste. Don’t be put off by their unusual name but Machine Laundry Café is a hidden gem highly rated on Tripadvisor and was well worth the wait for a table to enjoy their extensive menu, generous servings and friendly service. Oh, and great coffee to boot (you might even come across some feedback that says “A bowl of coffee? Yes please!”)!

Tummy rumbles gone, we explored what the markets had to offer. Local produce is always a drawcard for me so I couldn’t resist buying a few small bottles of jam and honey to take home.

Next destination … Mt Wellington and what a vista from the summit! A pleasant half hour journey from Salamanca Place, Wellington Park connects the city to the bush and the mountains to the waterways. We were lucky enough to be there on a clear day with panoramic views of Hobart, surrounding suburbs and brilliant harbour! Weather conditions change quickly on the summit with temperatures often below zero so be well prepared for your visit. Sense of sight … tick!

There was no stopping for lunch only because we were still full from breakfast!

The remainder of our Saturday afternoon was spent leisurely at Australia’s largest privately owned museum, the Museum of Old and New Art (a.k.a. MONA). Officially opened in January 2011, MONA alone would satisfy all your senses in one visit. You’re in for a gallery experience unlike any other as you take in MONA’s unique architecture and frequently updated collection. My favourite part? Enjoying a glass of wine and listening to live ‘MoFolk’ music on the lawns in the sunshine (on not so nice days, the music sessions get brought indoors to the museum). Sense of sound … tick!

After a BIG day of walking and exploring, we still didn’t mind taking a stroll from our comfy accommodation to Battery Point, one of Hobart’s exclusive and historic little pocket. Step back in time as you admire a bygone era of stunning sandstone buildings. At Kathmandu Cuisine we appreciated a candlelit, relaxing and flavoursome meal where the friendly and attentive staff made sure we enjoyed our dinner. After our three course dinner (good to indulge every now and then), we were more than ready to hit the sack in our newly refurbished Executive Room at Travelodge.

Well folks, that was day one of our ‘Tassie’ weekend adventure.

Like to know what we got up to on our second day? Here’s a snippet … roadtrip, beaches, midlands, bushwalk, more beautiful, historic towns and plenty of photo stops!

Keep an eye out for Part II!

Challenges for Desert Daredevils

Experience the ultimate adventure holiday with these challenges from Lonely Planet, which all take place in deserts around the world:

  • The best way to see the extraordinary terrain of the Gobi desert is from the back of a horse. Mongolia used to have the largest herds of horses on the planet; go in July to see the Naadam festival too.
  • Cyclists will relish the opportunity to take on Abu Dhabi’s Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road in one exhilarating 11.7km sprint to the top. With 1219m of elevation it’s certainly a challenge, but the subsequent descent makes it worth the effort.
  • Explore the Arabian Peninsula by camel and let your expert guide teach you the survival techniques needed to thrive in the Empty Quarter’s unforgiving conditions.
  • The Simpson Desert Challenge is a 570km course for cyclists. You’ll encounter cattle stations, sand dunes and punctures, while battling South Australia’s fierce heat in this 10-stage desert race.

An Idyllic Australian Destination

Jane E Fraser, a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland, is absolutely clear that the Great Barrier Reef’s southern end is deserving of far more attention than it receives.

The writer vividly describes amazing wildlife that is seen shortly after leaving the shore – an enormous sea turtle and a huge manta ray, just for a start.

Click Here To Read More

Gray Line’s Great Ocean Road Day Tour for Cruise Passengers

A visitor from Sweden once asked an Australian tourism website if he could walk from Perth to Sydney. Maybe, he suggested, he could follow the railroad tracks? Certainly, the website responded, it’s only three thousand miles, just be sure to take plenty of water. And they meant a lot of water – according to Google, the most direct route from Perth to Sydney would take 745 hours to walk, or 31 days non-stop, including a well-deserved break on a ferry across the Spencer Gulf.

Visitors and Australians alike are routinely taken aback by the vastness of Australia. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in a country whose smallest state is roughly the size of Ireland, and whose largest cattle station is roughly the size of Belgium. The question for travellers is often how to maximise their time in Australia, and cover as much distance as comfortably as they can.

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The Best of Australia’s Big Cities

Australia is such a large and diverse country that many visitors coming from overseas have a hard time deciding where to start their adventures. Whether you’re coming to Australia for a holiday, to backpack around, or to do business, then you absolutely must check out some of the following Australian cities.

Sydney

If you want to find the best mix of business and pleasure, then Sydney is the city for you. Here you will find a relaxed outdoor and beach lifestyle mixed with a bustling art and culture scene, fantastic food and wine, plenty of nature and cosmopolitan shopping. If you only have a short time to visit, consider checking out the Sydney Harbour, from where you can see Circular Quay, the iconic Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge as well as the Royal Botanic Gardens. For a closer look at the natural beauty of the city, consider one of the many coastal walks that will take you past golden beaches, dramatic headlands, sandstone cliffs and national parks.

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The Real Outback in Kakadu

While you have probably seen countless images and videos that showcase the natural beauty of the Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park, there is nothing like actually seeing it with your own two eyes. Australia’s largest National Park shelters a variety of habitats and wildlife, rugged escarpments, lush rainforest, cascading waterfalls, sparkling waterholes, and stunning rock art galleries that are around 50,000 years old. Since there are hundreds of square kilometres of park to explore, the following are the main areas you absolutely must experience while visiting.

South Alligator Area

The main thing that people come to see in the South Alligator Area is the Mamukala wetlands. About 65 kilometres into the park you will see a short track that leads to an observation area on the edge of the wetlands. The best time to visit this area is towards the end of the dry season (September and October), because many birds will be congregating. There are a few walks you can do around the area, such as the Gu-ngarre walk that takes you through woodland, monsoonal forest and along the edge of the Anggardbal billabong.

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Australian Destinations for the Avid Food Lover

Australia is a foodie’s paradise, as there are many influences from Europe, Asia and the South Pacific, and plenty of fresh and local ingredients to complement the world flavours. There is a broad spectrum of vibrant food destinations in Australia, from rural producers and regional restaurants to fine dining in the city and artisanal producers. Gourmet travellers are in for a real treat, as there is a range of mouth-watering food and wine to be enjoyed all over the country. The following are just some of the regions every food lover must visit.

Tasmania

Tasmania has been making a name for itself as an exciting culinary destination. Known best for its apples, Tasmania is also filled with wild mushrooms, berries, farm-fresh cheeses, specialist honey, salmon and rock lobster. The food industry here is sometimes described as “paddock-to-plate”, as much of the food is grown, produced and enjoyed in this small island state. Visitors are treated to cool climate wines, boutique beers, and more food and wine festivals that you could possibly attend in just one visit.

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