“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”.

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!

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!

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!