We had a four week trip around Australia visiting the outback and every capital city bar Brisbane and Hobart. Every state except Tasmania was also visited.
by catsholiday on September 26, 2010
ULURUThis has to be one of the world’s most recognisable sights and probably Australia’s most famous tourist magnet. It is indeed an amazing geological feature. As you approach you see this lump of rock rising up 1100 feet from the flat desert of the outback. This huge red rock can be seen for many miles around. It is the fact that this is such an amazing sight and also the fact that it almost changes colour at sunrise and sunset that brings thousands of tourists to see it each year despite the fact that it is in the middle of nowhere. Uluru is an important spiritual place for the aboriginal people of the Anagu group.Getting thereThe drive is about a 6 hour from Alice Springs, first along the Stuart Highway and then along the Lassetter Highway.We left Alice Springs at 8am and our first stop was the Camel farm where we made use of the toilet facilities and a couple of people had a camel ride. Camels were introduced to Australia for outback exploration and have thrived since this time as the conditions are perfect for them. We stopped At Mount Ebenezer’s roadhouse for lunch. This is about the only place to stop on the road between Alice and Yulara, the base from where you visit Uluru. It is a fairly basic eatery with a huge area for sitting and a reasonable selection of food and drinks. It was baking hot inside but no flies however there was a little breeze outside in the shade so we sat out there and enjoyed the slight breeze.It is also possible to get to Ayres Rock by air. There is a small airport not far from Yulara and just outside the Aboriginal controlled area. Flights are available to and from a number of cities in Australia .Where to stayWhen we arrived at Uluru we went straight to our hotel The Outback Pioneer to check in and have about an hour to relax, shower or whatever before we met again for our bottom of Uluru tour. This is one of a number of hotels on the resort near Uluru. Uluru itself is a sacred aboriginal site and no development is allowed close to the rock. In order to accommodate the thousands of tourists who come to Ayres Rock each year there is this hotel complex located outside the Aboriginal people's area. The resort area is known as Yulara and it is a couple of miles away from the actual Rock. Wow it is hot!It was so hot when we were there that the heat hummed around you and even the breeze was a hot wind. The heat melted the soles of my shoes and the tarmac was soft. We were going to go for a swim but in the end we just stayed in our room cooling off until it was time to go out for our walk around the rock. To climb or not to climb?There is a path all around the rock and this is about a 9 km walk. It was so hot that we didn’t do the whole walk but we did go and see some interesting caves and aboriginal drawings and despite the awful flies and the heat it is well worth doing. We left at about 4pm and it was still boiling hot when we stopped at the base of the Uluru climb and took some photos.Some people like to climb the rock however personally I feel that as the aboriginal people do not like people climbing it that I would not choose to do it. It is an Aboriginal spiritual place the local people do not like tourists climbing all over it. People say that people should not climb the rock as it is dangerous and there have been a number of accidents and some deaths over the years. However I feel that tourists should respect the local people’s feelings and not climb the rock as they are crossing ancient Aboriginal paths, and it is a Aboriginal spiritual place. Having said all that it is still possible to climb the rock but apparently it is not an easy climb. There is a chain set into the rock to help people up and down but there is not much else and not many resting places. It is like walking up a slightly curved wall. Thos wanting to climbs must start early in the morning so that the summit can be reached before it becomes too hot. The climb is closed by park wardens after a certain time and is in fact only open if the conditions are suitable for climbing. Sunset There is a particular place where you can park to watch the sunset away from the rock so that everyone can watch the spectacle without people getting in the way and spoiling your photos.We weren’t alone but each coach party had its own little area, with table of food and camping stools for those quick enough. We managed to pilfer some cold beer and replace it with our warm ones and then made our way to the spot we chose for photos. The food was all laid out and there were plenty of dips, cheese, fruit, crisps etc to keep us going. I had a few glasses of wine to enhance the atmosphere and we took hundreds of photos. It was very special and everything that we expected and more. It is hard to do this experience justice as the colour of the rock changed through various shades or red until the sun disappeared behind it completely.Then again very early for sunrise:We got up at 4.30am so that we could enjoy the Rock at sunrise. It was of course totally dark at first but we watched for about an hour and enjoyed the colour changes over the Rock and I kept going off to see how the Olgas were looking too. It was quite atmospheric and another special time. It was much cooler and the flies hadn’t woken as yet.The Aboriginal Culture CentreWe went to the Aboriginal Cultural Centre for breakfast. The building itself resembles two snakes, Kuniya and Liru, whose stories are based around Uluru. It was beautifully done with Aboriginal stories and beliefs as well as explanations of bush tucker and weapons etc which was very interesting. There are displays explaining the Aborigine way of life, the significance of the rock and much more. As always there is the inevitable gift and souvenir shop. The cultural centre is definitely worth a visit. The Olgas A few miles from Ayres Rock, there is another formation known as the Olgas They consist of a number of large rock formations that look like they hav been thrown by a giant in a temper there are 36 domes in total. The largest dome is called Mount Olga and over the years the name has come to cover all these large rocks. Like Ayres Rock these rocks have the distinctive red colour. Geologists believe that millions of years ago the Olgas were a single large domed rock bigger than Ayres Rock but large cracks formed and they became into these smaller lumps of rock. In conclusion:Most Australians visit the red centre and Ayers Rock in their winter which is our summer. This way they can avoid the worst of the flies and the weather is a bit cooler. We went in January and it was VERY hot, about 40+ degrees at about 3 o clock in the afternoon. By 6pm it was still extremely hot but at least the pesky flies had gone. If you have a problem with the heat and want to see this wonder of nature then I would suggest going in August rather than January.You need a hat and decent shoes if you are going to walk any distance as the ground is rough and very hot so the heat actually seeps through the soles of your shoes. You need sunscreen, the fly net and plenty of water as it is so easy to dehydrate in this hot dry environment.Having said all that I am so pleased that I finally managed to see this amazing place. I had wanted to when I lived in Australia but somehow we never had the time or money to go. So finally twenty years kater I have achieved that ambition.Thanks for reading
by catsholiday on September 23, 2010
Mount GambierThe City of Mount Gambier is situated half way between Adelaide and Melbourne, just within the border of South Australia. This amazing city is built around the slopes of an extinct volcano 27.37 kilometres from the sea. It is known as a city of craters, lakes, sink holes and caves and the largest lake is quite the most stunning blue I have ever seen.We left Warnambool at 7.30 and our first stop was Mount Gambier where we visited a sink hole – a cenote that had lost its roof and had no water in it but a beautiful garden we also saw a little possum in the limestone holes. Apparently the possums all come out at dusk and this is the best time to see them so we were lucky to catch this little fellow before he went to bed. "sunken garden".This cave hole was originally planted by James Umpherston around 1886, it is open at all times and entry is free. It is known as Umpherston Sinkhole was formed when the top of the cave fell to the cave floor creating terraces and the perfect environment for its beautiful sunken garden. It is also surrounded by a beautiful park or garden and we enjoyed being serenaded by the most tuneful magpies while we walked around the area. Looking down from the top into the sunken garden was amazing with all the haging plants dripping down the sides it was a lovely sight. The history of the name:Mount Gambier's mountain was named after Lord Gambier R.N in 1800 by Lieutenant James Grant on board HMS Lady Nelson. However it was not until 1839 that Stephen Henty from Portland became the first white man to see the beauty of this Blue Lake and he returned with cattle in 1841. The Aboriginal people of this areaThe area rich is in resources and Aboriginal people have lived here for at least 20 – 30,000 years. Around the Mount Gambia area there are many caves which have ancient examples of engravings and drawings made by some of the early inhabitants.There are many different versions of the name of the people of the Mount Gambier region. Booandik, Buandik, Boandik, Bunganditj and Buanditj are some of the variations used.The wonderful aboriginal legend explains the volcanic activity and geological landscape of the Mount Gambier area.Story TimeThe Craitbul Story tells of an ancient giant of the Booandik People who was cooking in an oven he made on Mount Muirhead when he heard the groaning voice of the bird spirit "Bullin" warning them of the evil spirit "Tennateona".They rushed away from and settled to build another oven at Mount Schank when once again they were frightened off by the threat of the evil spirit. They gathered up their stuff and moved to Mount Gambier. Here every time they dug an oven the next day the water rose and the fire went out. They dug four times the Valley Lake, Blue Lake, Browne’s Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake. Finally Craitbul and his family settled in a cave on the side of "Berrin’s " Peak.The secret is in the limestone The lushness of the Mount Gambier area is not only due to its annual rainfall. Its has the most amazing abundance of underground water which is stored in the large block of limestone beneath the earth’s surface. Rainfall soaks down through the surface into the limestone which acts like a huge sponge. This allows the area to be a lush green fertile area for farming.The Cave GardensRight in the middle of the town is another cave garden which is also free to enter known as the Cave gardens and this sinkhole was the original source of water supply for the early settlers. Not only is this a beautiful garden but it is also a very useful drainage system for the town as it takes storm water run-off from the streets down under the city into the underground water system. The Cave Gardens are famous for their roses and there were several benches suitable for a picnic. You can walk down into the cave and then go out onto the suspended viewing platforms for views into the cave. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and so we sat on a bench and enjoyed a drink and a relax after we had explored all that the cave had to offer.. The Blue LakeThis amazing lake is the crater of a volcano and I am so glad that we saw it in January as the colour in winter is not the same. Each year in November the lake starts its colour change from winter sombre blue to brilliant turquoise blue and then changing back again to its winter colour around March.In this area the rain falls in winter and of course the rainfall seeps through the rock and into the lake. Is this dilution the reason for the colour? Or is it because it is cloudier in winter so the sky is less blue hence less blue reflected in the lake?Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake is unique. There are lots of blue lakes in the world, but no other lake changes colour so dramatically every year. The mystery behind the transformation from brilliant turquoise blue in summer to sort of steely-grey in winter has only been solved in the last ten years.Why the colour change?Some suggested it was a blue dye in the underlying rocks. Other have suggested that the blue colour is created by fluorescence of dissolved organic matter which builds up seasonally in the upper layers of the lake, Another theory was that blue colour was caused by absorption of all incident visible radiation except blue by finely crystalline calcite in the surface of the lake. However it is now felt that the dulling of the colour in winter is caused by the fact that there is a build up of organic matter as the lake lowers in summer and low rates of calcite precipitation are insufficient to remove the algae and organic substances and so the lake looks less blue due to absorption of blue light by this murky layer in the near- surface water.On we go again:We were on our way again and had our lunch stop in Robe which is a lovely little seaside town. We moved inland gradually as we drove on and through the Cooring National Park where we saw several emus grazing just off the road. It was a lovely drive as the scenery changed from coast to marsh, then dried salt lakes to scrub vegetation and finally to hills as we reached the Barossa valley.When we got to Kingston we stopped just beside the big Lobster to take a photo. The town is famous for its crayfish and this huge model is a tribute to this industry. The Australians have a few ‘BIG’ things around the country and maybe one day I will write a review of those i have seen. Another ‘Big’ thing down this way is the giant earthworm which I will mention when writing a review of that area. There is no purpose behind a lot of these ’BIG ‘ things apart from quirky advertising but they are a bit of fun and we decided to ‘collect’ photos of as many as we could while in Australia.This was a very special place and I have truly never seen such an amazingly blue lake. It was almost unbelievable and I think if I hadn’t seen it for myself I would think the photos had been touched up. The caves and sunken gardens were also quite special and worth a stop in Mount Gambia to see these quite unusual geographical formations.Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.©Catsholiday
by catsholiday on September 14, 2010
The Great Ocean RoadThe Aussies are very good at selling their tourist attractions and in my humble view they do an excellent sales pitch on the ‘Great Ocean Road in Victoria. It is a nice drive with some lovely scenery but it is no greater than many other coastal drives that I have done. Examples of these lovely drives include, Scotland up to Arisaig, California scenic Highway One and my favourite was Chapman’s Peak the drive from Noordhoek to Hout Bay near Cape Town in South Africa.Having said that it is one of THE things you MUST DO while down in the southern part of Australia and I think I am unusual in my view as people do rave about this drive as being quite spectacular. The Great Ocean Road follows the coastline of Victoria’s south-west and travels 243 kilometres from Torquay, just south of Geelong, to Allansford, just east of Warrnambool, We travelled the entire route from the gate at Torquay through to Warrnambool where we stayed for the night.The road winds along cliff tops, up to some breathtaking headlands and then down onto the edge of beaches, across river estuaries and through lush rainforests offering panoramic views of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean at every turn.We left Melbourne at 7.15 for our trip on the Great Ocean road and we stopped to take a photo of a gate in memory of those who built the road. I think what is nice is that the road was built as a useful memorial to those who died in WWI by returned soldiers from this war.. It was a fairly amazing engineering feat and served the purpose of linking these coastal towns which prior to this relied heavily on the Ocean for contact with the outside world. Before this road a trip from Lorne to Geelong was long and arduous using a rough road to the railway at Winchelsea. So in a tribute to those who died in the Great War this road was built and in November 1932, the route was officially opened by the Lieutenant Governor, Sir William Irvine. Apparently...."It was a sight to see with a procession of 40 cars and schoolchildren lining parts of the route."We stopped for coffee and a very tasty cinnamon and apple bun at Lorne before we continued on along the road. On the way we saw koalas in trees from the road and we got very excited but unfortunately and my husband’s fury we could not stop and get out to take photos. We love seeing wildlife in their natural habitat and really would have liked a chance to enjoy them but it was not to be.Lorne itself is a pretty seaside town. Over 100 years ago the Victorian government declared Lorne an area of 'special significance and natural beauty'. It has a sheltered 2-kilometre beach which is safe for swimming and is bordered by grass lawns, gum trees and picnic and barbecue areas. It was nice to sit and watch the few other people pass by and enjoy the fresh sea breezes.The stretch of the road was from Melbourne to Apollo Bay is about 180km and took over 3 hours to drive but we had stopped for coffee in Lorne for about 45minutes. Up till Apollo Bay the road was right along the coast which was mainly beaches and fairly flat. Appolo Bay was another small seaside town located at the foothills of the Otways and in the very heart of the Great Ocean Road region. The main industry locally apart from tourism is fishing and you can enjoy good seafood at the local cafes and restaurants.There was a small market on the sea front and I bought some homemade lavender foot cream from one stall.Onwards on the road and we stopped for the Twelve Apostles which are giant rock stacks that rise abruptly from the Southern Ocean. These rock stacks are the central feature of the rugged Port Campbell National Park. These rock formations were previously known as the sow and piglets which I think would be a better name considering that we counted several times but I think at least two of the apostles had decided not to join the Last supper as we could not see twelve. These are limestone stacks formed by erosion similar to the chalk stacks known as The Needles off the Isle of White. These rock stacks are quite huge at 45 metres high and are a spectacular sight despite the fact that there are NOT twelve of them.The next site we thought was another misnomer as London Bridge had indeed fallen down. Maybe they named it after the son! The London Bridge rock formation was a natural archway and tunnel but as erosion by the ocean continued it collapsed in 1990 and became a bridge without middle. I can’t imagine the terror of the two tourists who were stranded by the collapse. Have been petrified hearing the fall of rock and then watching the rock between you and the main land fall into the sea.A little further on and we came to the shipwreck coast and we stopped to look down and into the spectacular Loch Ard Gorge named after its most famous ship wreck. This was a really lovely cove a bit like a small fjord where there had been several shipwrecks. One ship, the Loch Ard was lost in1878 while sailing from England to Melbourne. The story goes that the Loch Ard was caught in continuous fogs that left her captain mistakenly thinking he was some 50 miles out from the treacherous rocks .The ship was instead dangerously close to land and despite efforts to save the 1700-tonne ship she was dashed on to rocks.Only two people from the 54 passengers and crew survived. A cabin boy called Tom Pearce helped save a young woman Eva Carmichael; they were washed on wreckage into this cove. After they spent the night in a cave the young cabin boy climbed the gorge's cliffs and eventually found help. The young lady apparently took another ship and went back to England. I think I would have stayed safely in Australia after that experience but she lost her family in the wreck. I thought this was rather a sad story and had it been a film the young rich girl would have married the cabin boy who rescued her! This was a lovely scenic drive but I think it is sold well. I do appreciate that it was built as a tribute to those who died in the First World War and built by soldiers who survived this ordeal. The State War Council provided funds to assist in the repatriation and re-employment of returned soldiers on roads in sparsely populated areas. The Survey work began in August, 1918, and then thousands of returned soldiers began the back-breaking work as there was no heavy machinery to help — only picks, shovels and horse-drawn carts. I think the story behind the road is a great tribute to those who died and those who returned from the war and then built this road. It humbles you when you hear feats like this and this is what makes this road special in my view. The views and landscapes are lovely but it is the fact that the road was built in this way that I am impressed with.We arrived in Warrnambool for a nights stay. This is the perfect place to see the as you can sit on the Logans Beach Whale Viewing Platform and watch when it is the right season which is anytime between June and September. Unfortunately we were there in January so no whale to see for us. This town was Victoria’s largest port in the 1880’s but is now a nice holiday resort and smaller port. There were a number of interesting things to see in the are but we arrived quite late and left early so didn’t have a long time to explore.The thing I found most interesting was that the Aussie song Waltzing Matilda all began at the Warrnambool Races way back in 1894. A lady called Christina Macpherson heard the band play the traditional Scottish tune, Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigie-Lea. She then played this tune to Andrew B. (Banjo) Paterson at Dagworth Station in Queensland in 1895.He was inspired by the tune and wrote the words we now know and Waltzing Matilda, was born. I love interesting stories like this about places so that made my day when i heard that story.Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed my experiences of the Great Ocean Road drive in Victoria.
by catsholiday on September 12, 2010
Adelaide, South AustraliaAdelaide is the capital city of the state of South Australia and is a very small city with an almost country town feel about it. There are plenty of parks and the whole city feels fresh and quiet unlike European cities. We spent a couple of days here at the end of our Australian trip and really enjoyed the calmness of the place. It is rather an elegant city known for its colonial stone architecture many large parklands which cover half the city and which give an incredible sense of space. Only about one million people live in and around the city but it felt like even fewer than this when we were walking around so it must be the clever design of the city.On our way in to the city we stopped to admire the view from Montefiore Hill on the outskirts of the city is a great viewing point to look over the city of Adelaide. On the top of this hill is a very special statue of Colonel William Light, who designed Adelaide as a square mile of north, south, east-west streets including a central park and also surrounded by parklands. This viewing point is known as Light’s vision as he stands there with an outstretched arm showing his beautiful and practical city design..We found the free Terrace to Terrace tram which took us from just near our hotel on South Terrace to the city end at North Terrace. We had decided to make our way to the Adelaide Cricket Ground. We hopped off the tram and we only had to cross the bridge which took us past the Adelaide Festival Centre and a park then the cricket ground was there. They offered tours but I decided to just be cheeky and walk in – nobody came and questioned us so we went right into the ground and took lots of photos as my husband is a keen cricket fan. We then moved on to find the Don Bradman statue which was in the park just nearby.The museum was our next stop to find the Spriggina fossils which are the first animals with heads. We had to ask quite a few people before we found this display which is quite surprising as it is a very important find from an evolutionary point of view. The story goes that in 1946 an Australian mining geologist, Reginauld Srigg was heating his billy and kicked a stone which he then saw had this fossil. He was aware this was important but when he tried to return to find them again he could not and it took years before he rediscovered these interesting fossils which are now on display in the museum in Adelaide. They were found in the range of mountains north of the city of Adelaide, Australia, known as the Ediacara Hills. These fossils are in fact late Precambrian for those interested in this sort of thing.. It was a very good museum with lots to keep children amused. They had a huge dinosaur display this week but we didn’t go for that. There was also a giant squid that went down through three floors of the museum – quite horrific. As we had only come to see the special fossil we made our way out without looking at much else really. We went looking for this as Bill Bryson mentioned this find in his book ‘Down Under’ and we spent some time hunting for these little gems taken from his book in various places round Australia.Our next stop was Rundle Street where we had planned to have a coffee but as we arrived we noticed a huge Pancake Day charity stall where for a gold coin donation you could have a pancake – so we did just that – mine with maple syrup and my husband had lemon and sugar. We drank some of our water instead of coffee and made our way back to the tram stop as we thought we would take a look at Glenelg. In this mall they have some lovely bronze life size pigs that appear to be wandering around the shopping area. One is looking in to a litter bin and others just wandering around. They proved a great attraction to young children who liked to ride on them. On the way to the tram we passed a fruit stall selling currants – fresh. I didn’t know that was where dried currants came from – thought they were a bit like black currants – anyway we bought some. They were like very sweet tiny grapes and quite delicious.The tram is free between the two terraces but costs $2.60 each way to Glenelg. However the ticket machine wasn’t working so we had one journey free. We walked to the end of the pier and took a couple of photos, but there was not a lot there apart from a very nice beach. It was all very clean and almost looked like a model town but there was not a lot to do apart from walk along the beach or swim but we had not brought towels and things and it was quite windy so we thought we’d have a bite of lunch. We found a nice Greek snack bar place just near a small fountain. While we ate our lunch we were entertained by tiny children playing in the fountain – the sort where the water pops up intermittently and they kept running from spout to spout. They were soaked by the end by had a wonderful time.Adelaide is a quaint sort of city and worth a visit. I am not sure I would want to live there as it is a long way away from anywhere else really. It is a great base for exploring the wonderful vineyards of the Barossa valley and there you can sample the wines in one of the 130+ different wineries including several well known vineyards such as Jacobs Creek , Cockatoo Ridge and Penfolds to name a few.Adelaide is a lovely open city and the people were very friendly and welcoming. It is a shame that Light did not enjoy his lovely city as he resigned his post of governor and in the end he died penniless and unappreciated of tuberculosis in Adelaide in October 1939 aged 54.He is buried in Light Square and a small monument honours his achievements on Montefiore Hill.Thanks for reading this and hope it has been en ‘light’ening and of some interest.
We decided to take the Captain Cook Swan River Cruise to Freemantle. The boat left at 9.45 and proceeded at a sedate pace along the river towards Freemantle. There was complimentary tea and coffee and other snacks and drinks for sale. The commentary was quite interesting but there was nothing particularly remarkable along the journey. It was very pleasant seeing all the yacht clubs, scenery and wealthy people’s house but there was no one thing that stood out. The price of the trip was $49 Australian per adult which was not too bad as it did take over an hour each way and included snacks and the guided commentary on the boat.We arrived in Freemantle at about 11am and walked round the corner towards where we thought the free CAT bus went. Just as we were going through the car park we noticed a couple of young lads handing out free ice creams – a promotion for Peter’s ice creams which were very nice and refreshing and all the better for being free.We waited a long 15minutes for the CAT bus which we had planned to use for the entire circuit. Once we were on the bus we realised that really the longer circuit was unnecessary as most of the places of interest were just nearby. We hopped off and wandered along the Cappuccino Strip towards the Freemantle markets. The cappuccino strip is a road full of cafes there are so many that you are spoiled for choice but having enjoyed our freebie coffee on the boat we decided we didn’t need another so we went into the market. It was very pleasant inside with ethnic clothes and jewellery, lots of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, various stalls with different foods and you could even sit and have a beer. We bought a small backpack as ours had just broken then some fruit for our breakfasts and some Indian savoury snacks for our meal in the evening.After this we thought we would make our way down to the Esplanade area where all the seafood restaurants are. It was pretty hot by now so we took a short cut across the park rather than walk all around on the road. The esplanade area was very busy and there were a number of different restaurants to choose from and we plumped for Cicerello’s which claimed to be the first and the best.There was quite a extensive menu choice from simple fish and chips to mussel and crab in chilli and tomato sauce (my choice) and my husband had a barramundi with chips and salad –he also had quite a bit of my meal too which was delicious but rather messy to eat despite the nut crackers, small pointy fork and bib that I was given. We enjoyed our meal with a Cascade beer. It took me ages to eat my meal despite all the help and I admit I did leave some too but it was a full on eating experience rather than just a meal. You could eat outside under brollies or inside under fans and we chose the latter. Three huge marine fish tanks separated the diners from the queue to order food. They were amazing, one had small colourful reef fish like Nemo and his friends, and the other two had manta rays and some small slightly mottled sharks with slightly bigger fish. Children were fascinated and many parents and older children spent time wandering up and down with little ones admiring the contents of these tanks.When you went into the restaurant there was a queue which you joined and ordered your food. They gave you a bell and your receipt and you went to sit at a table to await your order. When the bell buzzed you went up to the collection point to collect it. It worked very well and was an interesting change to water service and also saved the usual need to tip.After out meal we walked back to the jetty area and went into the Shed Markets. This was obviously for tourists waiting for their boats to go as everything was very expensive. I had a soft serve cone and it was $3.50 and my husband has a small bottle of iced tea for the same price. The size of bottle would have been £1.00 at most back home. The cruise back to Perth included complimentary wine tasting as well as tea or coffee. No contest here we opted to sample some of Western Australia’s wines. There was a choice of about 4 whites, 4 reds and arose. I only tried the white sauvignon – several times and it was very good. Others said the red cabernet sauvignon was excellent but I’m not a red wine fan as it gives me sinus problems. This was an added bonus and made the journey go very quickly. We joined another English couple who we had sat next to on our way to Freemantle and had an enjoyable conversation with our wine and Ritz crackers and we chose to sit inside in the air conditioning as we had got quite hot walking around Freemantle.This was a lovely way to spend a day from Perth. It was an interesting experience and not too strenuous despite the fact we did walk quite a way. We got the chance to see another town in Western Australia besides Perth. The boat ‘cruise’ was relaxing and we particularly enjoyed the wine tasting on the way back.
King’s Park is somewhere well worth a visit which you can get to on the Cat buses and once you are there you can walk down a wonderful avenue of Lemon scented Ghost Gum trees on Fraser’s Avenue. These huge trees were originally planted in 1937 and every tree has a plaque on it remembering an important person from the first hundred years of Perth’s foundation as a colony. The aroma is very lemony with a hint of eucalyptus as you walk down between these magnificent trees with their silver/green leaves. The scent is full-on, not a subtle aroma but it is so evocative and certainly something I will remember with a smile. The avenue was apparently named after Malcolm Fraser who was the first surveyor general of Western Australia.There is a very interesting gift shop called ‘Aspects of King’s Park’ which is more like an art/craft gallery and book shop. The items are not the usual cheap tat in fact most were quite expensive. There are quality books and some very unusual glass ware, pottery and other art work as well as jewellery made from Australian gem stones. The people working in the shop were very friendly and happy to show you things of interest even if you were obviously not buying anything. One of the sights of king’s Park is the view of the city of Perth seen from the park. It is a beautiful city set on the Swan River with a few high rise buildings and acres of green parkland. The view can be seen from a number of places. One popular place is the Lotterywest Foundation Walkway which was opened in 2003. The walkway is about 600metres long and is a pathway that then this takes you up on an arched bridge of glass and steel above the gum trees. You can also go to Mount Eliza’s Lookout via various paths or you can just look out from near the State War memorial along Fraser’s Avenue.There a number of walking tracks and you can ask for a free guide to show you areas of particular interest. Within the park are several speciality gardens for native plants, a water garden, a conservation area and so on. I was interested in the area near the visitor centre there were Western Australian flowers such as the Sturt’s Desert Pea, Geralton wax flowers and the State flower of Western Australia, the Kangaroo paw. It was nice to be able to see these wild flowers in life rather than just on a postcard and as we were only in Perth for a few days and not travelling elsewhere in WA it was probably our only opportunity.There was so much more but we only had a limited time in Perth and quite a few things we wanted to see and do.
Monger Lake in the suburb of Leedereville is home to the famous black swan and many other interesting water fowl. The lake is in huge natural parkland and it is an iconic image to see the swans swimming towards you with a backdrop of the city of Perth. There are several boards around the viewing area which give information about the different water birds which you can see on the lake which is interesting and useful to those like me who are useless at recognising different birds ( I did manage to pick out the black swan without help!)Scarborough Beach is reputedly the ‘best white sand surf beach in the world’. I cannot comment on the surfing as I’ve never done it but we watched several brave, tanned surfers kite surfing just off the beach. I was fascinated watching how they went with the wind and tacked back against it – very clever. Watching someone learning showed me just how hard it really was and I was more than impressed by the speedy experts after watching the poor learner fall in repeatedly. The beach was white sand and there was a sort of amphitheatre covered area with grassy levels overlooking the beach where you could sit/lie on the grass and sunbathe or sit on the concrete curved seated area in the shade and watch the more active pursuing their water sports. We sat and people watched for an hour or so one afternoon soaking up the sun and ‘surfy ‘atmosphere. You can also fish and swim in the sea, skateboard or rollerblade round the pathways and pavements or just enjoy a drink in a pub nearby and there were even shops along the street behind if that takes your fancy. You can get here from Perth city on a bus near the train station and in summer they go every 8 minutes.Northbridge is the suburb of Perth known for its night life but I can’t say I experience much of this so will not comment of how good the clubbing or bars are at night. We walked from Hay Street through the pedestrian shopping area in Murray street to Northbridge. We wandered through quite a large part of this are which is largely residential and then passed the museum (closed on the Sunday) and towards the restaurants and hostels. We were actually looking for a hostel to leave my book that I had finished in as it was set up to leave as a bookcrossing book . I failed in this quest and left it in the Travelodge reception where we were staying in the end.We found ‘The Brass Monkey’ pub which is the most photographed pub in Western Australia and one of the ‘must visit’ places in Perth. There are several different bar areas and it is quite possible to lose your way in there. We looked in at the sports’ bar and the area outside but there were people smoking so we went back inside. My husband enjoyed trying different beers and the barman was kind enough to let us try a few of the local beers before we settled on Redback a wheat beer brewed by Matilda Bay brewers. This was very nice but not cheap at $14 a pint so we did not stay and settle there.I cannot drink too much on an empty stomach and so we went looking for somewhere to eat. Northbridge has a large ethnic population and in particular there seem to be a large number of Vietnamese so we went into a busy Vietnamese restaurant called the ‘Saigon Cafe’. We had a very tasty and authentic meal with local beer each at a very reasonable price of $36 which contrasts to the ‘Brass Monkey’ earlier in the day.We walked back to our hotel through the Hay street shopping area calling in to London Court which is a sort of mock Tudor alley of quite pricey shops which looks a little at odds with the rest of the shopping area around there – the shops were of little interest in themselves just for their quirkiness.The Bell Tower –is a modern tower more like a huge art work and the home of the Swan bells. The tower looks a bit like a full sail from an old fashioned sailboat. The sails are made from copper and shine when the spire is lit up at night. The bells were a gift from England to the people of Western Australia for the Bicentennial celebrations. The twelve bells came from the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square The 14th century bells were recast by Elizabeth I and then again in the 18th century under the then Prince of Wales who became King George II. They are the only set of royal bells known to have left England so they are quite special and the Western Australians are very proud of them.The Bell Tower also houses a rare collection of Asian Bells. There is also a Turret clock rescued from the Grandstand which was demolished at Ascot and restored to become part of the Bell Tower collection. This clock strikes the quarter hour like Big Ben on four bells.Around this beautiful tower are landscaped gardens with ponds and a number of works of art. A very unusual pathway winds its way through the garden, it is made of tiles signed by school students from all around Western Australia which was created in the Year 2000. Barrack Street Jetty is just near the Bell Tower and is where you catch the ferries to Rottnest Island, Freemantle and other destinations. This small area has a few shops, restaurants and a pub with the dubious name ‘Lucky Shag’ which was heaving throbbing from the loud music as we passed by. We decided to brave the throng and ordered drinks which we carried carefully through the crowds to get to a view of the river. It was not entirely pleasurable being packed like sardines so we finished our drink and decided to go to the restaurant early.The Fung shun was upstairs above the ‘lucky Shag’ but interestingly we couldn’t hear the music from below. We walked through a corridor of aquarium which I suspect were not for decoration as they had lobsters and other larger more edible seafood in them. We were shown to a table near the river front, not a perfect view but I guess that is what you get for not booking.This was a Chinese seafood restaurant and we had seen it advertised in the tourist guide. The meal was good and well presented and the ambience very pleasant but it was quite pricey. We chose it as it was an easy walk back to our hotel along the river front and through a park. The walk along the river was beautiful, very peaceful with a few dog walkers, joggers and families taking the air. The park always had cockatoos squawking in the trees or pecking in flocks on the grass which we found quite a novelty.Walking around Perth was easy, there was rarely much traffic and there seemed to be very few people around either. It was a bit like a town at 7am on a sleepy Sunday but it was always like that on the few days we were there. It must be very strange and unnerving for a person from Perth coming to somewhere like London or Hong Kong and experiencing the crowds and noise in a big city.Hope this has given you some idea of the many interesting palces to visit ifyou are ever in Perth, western Australia.
by catsholiday on September 13, 2010
The Barossa valleyThis is probably one of Australia’s best know wine growing areas and is about sixty kilometres northwest of Adelaide and about an hour’s drive away. The region got its name from the famous founder of Adelaide city, Surveyor – General Colonel William Light. He named the area after a place where the English were victorious in battle in the Spanish Peninsular War but someone later misspelled this changing it to the Australian Barossa that we now know.The Barossa Valley was originally settled by people of German origin around 1838 and a lot of the towns have German sounding names and it is the German influence that started the wine industry in this area. The town of Bethany was founded in 1842. English free settlers also moved into the area and it is the combined German agrarian roots and English country gentlemen that created the unusual Barossa culture which is quite different from other areas of Australia. The money from the English settlers started the commercial wine industry in the 1859 but it really began to take off in the 1880s so it has a very long history compared to other ‘New World Wines’.We stayed in the lovely Novetel in the Barossa Valley with views from our room overlooking the Jacob’s Creek vineyard. The morning after we arrived we were up fairly early and watched the sun rise from our room. There were beautiful pink clouds that gradually lightened as the sun rose. After this we went for a walk nearby the golf course and saw four grey kangaroos but they hopped off before we could get too close. We also spotted crested doves and rainbow lorikeets. We came back for a coffee on our veranda and to sit in the sun before leaving at 10 o’ clock for our wine tasting.Our first stop was at Cockatoo Ridge vineyard where we were offered several wines to try but we choose the first two sparkling wines which were very nice. This vineyard is on the main road between the two main Barossa towns of Tanunda and Nuriootpa. It was formerly the site of the Hardy's Siegersdorf winery which was built in about 1930. This vineyard began making wines under this label in 1990 when the award winning wine maker Geoff Merrill decided to develop a range of easy to drink wines with this lovely label using the Australian sulphur crested cockatoo. He wanted a range of non-serious pleasant wines as he felt the wine industry took itself too seriously and he also realized that many non-expert people were enjoying drinking good quality but not expensive wines.After this we drove to Angaston to a dried fruit shop where we bought some tasty dried apricots in yogurt/carob and rolled in coconut and a wonderful dried fruit cake. The Angas Park Fruit Company began operation as a humble dried fruit packing shed in 1911 and the shop we visited is on the very same site that the fruit packing shed stood. This was a very good place to buy really fresh dried fruit and the cake we bought was delicious, almost solid fruit and nuts.The town is full of gourmet shops and other traditional crafts and it has a population of around 2000 and is considered to be more English than German in its settlement. We then progressed to the Jacob’s Creek vineyard where we had a very interesting talk about the vineyard and their wines and we were surprised by the fact that all their wines are bottles there and exported bottled. Outside we were shown the different vines which were all planted in display rows so that we could see all their different varieties. Then back inside we went for the all important tasting of several wines prior to our lunch.We were booked into the Jacob’s Creek restaurant for our lunch and we had a room just for our tour group. We were offered a glass of wine – choice of about 6 then they brought a huge plate of starters, olives, sundried tomatoes, feta, halloumi with bacon wrapped around it, stuffed mushrooms, pate, pumpkin dip, fried pita/wraps in small pieces , also mini filled arts. It was delicious and really tasty. My husband and I choose whiting fillets for our main course from the choice of lamb chicken or whiting. There were plenty of vegetables and also salad to go with it. It was a lovely meal in a very pleasant restaurant with a view of the vineyards.This is a lovely part of Australia with rolling hills covered in vineyards as well as areas of native bush. The architecture is quite German with lovely stone Lutheran churches and small townships set in the Australian countryside. The area enjoys a very Mediterranean climate with sunny spring days, hot summers and cooler winter months but does not get the extremes that are experienced in other parts of Australia.The area is proud of the fact that it is the only Australian destination to be listed in the New York Times list of "53 places to go in 2008". Also in 2008 it was named as one of the World’s top ten wine destinations by TripAdvisor!Summary:We thoroughly enjoyed our couple of days in the area and particularly enjoyed the Novotel with its views over the Jacob’s Creek winery as a place to stay. We also appreciated the tour we had at the Jacob’s Creek vine yard and compared to the rubbish visit we had of the Con Y Tora vineyard outside Santiago in Chile this was amazing. They were not only informative but also generous with the tastings and very friendly as well.
by catsholiday on September 7, 2010
Perth, Western Australia.Where is Perth?Perth is the Capital city of the state of Western Australia which is physically about a third of the entire country of Australia but the population is small – only about 10% of the nation’s population. This population of about 2 million most actually live in Perth ( 1.5 million) and the other towns like Geralton, Albany, Bunbury, Kalgoorlie and Broome so it is a very empty State in the other areas.Perth is situated on the Swan River and is said to be the most isolated city in the world. Perth’s nearest city is over 1 million is Adelaide which is about 2000km away. Perth is actually geographically closer to Indonesia than it is to Sydney.A bit of HistoryPerth was first settled by British in 1832 and was officially known as Western Australia at this time but more often referred to as the Swan River Colony because the colony was built on the Swan River. The Swan River was named by Willem de Vlamingh in 1697 after the native black swans he saw in the river. This same Dutch captain also named Rottnest Island which means Rat’s nest island as he though the Quokkas were rats!The colony was struggling for labour and so in 1850 at the request of colonists convicts were sent to Perth. It was granted its city status in 1856 by Queen Victoria. The population increased dramatically again after the discovery of gold in 1890 and then further mineral discoveries helped the colony’s economy. Perth became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in1901 after a referendum and the granting of a few demands made by the colony. It was the last colony to join the Federation. One of the demands was that a railway was built from Adelaide to Perth and today’s Indian Pacific train still follows this same route from Perth to Sydney via Kalgoorlie and Adelaide.How you can get therePerth airport is the main international airport and is a small but efficient, clean and modern airport (puts Heathrow to shame – has anyone else noticed how grimy everywhere is in Heathrow as you arrive?). If you going to Perth and want details of transfer costs and so on then here is the link for the Airport:http://www.perthairport.net.au/The Indian Pacific train runs from Sydney and Adelaide I think about twice a week but it takes four days, three nights to cover the 4352 kilometres and is not cheap so you have to want this journey as an experience rather than just a means of getting to or from Perth. If you would like to find out more about this iconic train journey then this is the link to the homepage:http://www.gsr.com.au/our-trains/indian-pacific/the-journey.phpYou could drive but is a very long way across miles of the Nullabor (Means no trees nullus – no, arbour- tree) desert and is not to be undertaken without a great deal of planning. For those needing more information then here’s a link for this from someone who has done it:http://www.australiantraveller.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2865 Transport in Perth Buses are FREE within the ‘Free Transit Zone’ (City centre) and these free buses will take you to Newcastle Street going North and as far as go King’s Park going west and the CAT buses (Central Area Transit) which run circular routes which are hop on/hop off and are colour coded according to the route they follow. In the CAT buses there are route maps and on display for each stop. We couldn’t believe what a wonderful idea, free public transport – what a shame that isn’t the case in our cities but then the population of Perth is only 1.5 million whereas Greater Manchester is about 2.5 million but in a far smaller physical area than Perth. The buses are a great way of getting around the city and save you an awful lot of walking. There is a CAT bus for Freemantle too which operates in the same way. The trains are free within the ‘Free Transit Zone’ too. The CAT buses do not run on public holidays unless advertised otherwise .More details can be found at the link:http://www.lookatwa.com.au/Transport/cats.htmlWe spent four days in Perth when we first arrived in Australia having flown from Manchester to Heathrow to Singapore then Perth. We needed a few days to recover from the journey before touring round most of the rest of Australia.We stayed at the Travelodge on Hay Street which was very convenient to most places you might want to walk to. Anything further we could just hop on a free bus!We saw and experienced a few things in Perth which I will review in separate reviews.
by catsholiday on September 5, 2010
JUMPING CROCODILE CRUISE: http://www.outback-crocodile-adventures.com/jumpi ng-crocodile-tours.html The Jumping crocodile cruise was on the Adelaide River and cost $35 for an adult and $20 for children and I felt we certainly got our money's worth it. The base from which we boarded the boat was really a large corrugated iron shed with a few chairs and in the centre was a table with a kettle, instant coffee, tea bags, milk and sugar for making your own drink in polystyrene cups as well as a couple of tubs of margarine, a jar of vegemite and a few sliced loaves of bread and a toaster. As breakfast was not included at our hotel we were very grateful for this as a top up to our banana and a muesli bar that we had enjoyed in our room prior to our departure from Darwin. The toilets were round the back in a sort of tin shed - huge rooms with just one flushing toilet in each, the basins with soap and paper towels were outside - all very clean. When boarding the boat I was told you get a better view from downstairs. There was plenty of room on the boat with seats so that everyone could easily see the sides. I was next to the window which was open so hoped to get a great view. I thought I was being very brave and rather hoped the crocs did not get too enthusiastic in their jumping. We hadn't gone far when we saw our first croc - he was most obliging and jumped a few times each side - he was quite a large one too. There was a man on the top deck standing on a sort of extended platform from which he dangled meat on a rod. He lifted it up and down and this is what attracted the crocs. The boat went up river a little way and didn't see any more so they turned round and went the other way. We were lucky and saw at least six of these huge reptiles performing and one was particularly enormous beast. Apparently crocodiles jump naturally for their food as birds in particular tend to try and fly off when they spot a crocodile's open jaws moving in their direction. They are amazingly fast for their size and jump out so that only their tails are still in the water supporting their weight. The crocs in this river now know that boat engines mean food and do tend to come to the boat which helps the tour ensure they usually see at least one croc jumping. Conservationists criticise the idea of this tour as they consider it is feeding wild animals and making the crocs lazy about hunting their own food. Others criticise the tour as they feel it attracts crocs to boats and this may mean more people being attracted by crocs in the area. I can see both arguments but I have to admit that it was an amazing sight to see and I am glad I was able to see the crocs jumping in the wild even if it was not for natural prey. On the river on either side it was possible to see egrets and other birds while we were waiting to spot the crocs. On our way back to the jetty the men who had been feeding the crocs threw meat for the whistling hawks which hovered and flew down in hoards. These hawks swooped down so quickly to catch the meat that was thrown up and they obviously also enjoyed the benefit of not having to hunt too hard for their breakfast as well as the crocs. On the boat they provided an esky (ice box) with water for you to help yourself during the trip which was great as it was hot and of course it is vital to keep up your fluid intake in the tropics as you can easily get dehydrated. All in all I really enjoyed the trip, the commentary was typical Australian dry humour mixed with Australian croc stories and also information about crocodile behaviour in the wild and I thought the breakfast and cold water on the boat were nice touches included to make it a great trip. Crocodile Cruises run every day.9.00am - 11.00am -- 1.00pm - 3.00pm.Adults 35.00Children 20.00Family Pass 80.00 two adults and 2 children from 4 to 14 years.Infants accompanied and supervised by an adult free.Aussie seniors card 30.00
WHERE IS KAKADU NATIONAL PARK? The Kakadu National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site in the Northern Territory and became most well known for being 'Crocodile Dundee' country from the film with Paul Hogan as the famous Mick Dundee. It has a tropical climate with an obvious rainy season in the Australian summer. The rainy season can bring huge floods and at times some areas are impassable by road. The park covers an area about half the size of Switzerland and is managed jointly by the Aboriginal People and the Department of Environment.Most people would go to Darwin before going into the Kakadu National Park but it is possible to come up through the centre of Australia via Alice Springs and Katherine by road - the Stuart Highway. We flew into Darwin where we spent a night before driving out into the National Park.Our first stop was the 2Jumping crocodile Cruise2 which i wrote about in another review. After this we made our way to our hotel via a few other stops.FOGG DAM: We got back in the bus from the crocodile cruise just in time as the rain came down in buckets. We made our way to Fogg Dam and saw a number of different birds - egrets, plovers, Jesus birds, magpie gees and a goanna. Had it been a bit drier we might have got out but it was pouring with rain and so visibility was poor and photo opportunities unlikely.THE BARK HUT: We then drove on to the 'Bark Hut' for our lunch this place is about 130 miles from Darwin and is about the ONLY place to stop between Darwin and Jabiru. It is in the middle of nowhere with a typical Aussie tin roof and very rustic logs to sit on with wooden plank tables. There were fish trophies, stuffed mounted barramundi and also buffalo heads as well as other quirky Australian signs such as "stiff shit Corner". It was quite bizarre but the food was fine and service swift and it entertained us as well as we felt like we’d walked onto a set from ‘Crocodile Dundee’. NOURLANGIE ROCK: After lunch we made our way into Kakadu National park. We stopped off at our hotel the Gagudju Crocodile Holiday Inn hotel at Jabiru to drop off our suitcases so that they would be in our rooms when we got back at the end of the day. We made our way to Nourlangie Rock which looks exactly like Jabba point in 'Crocodile Dundee'. We filled up our water bottles, slapped on the sunscreen and our hats and went off to Gun-warddehwardde lookout point. It was a 1.5 km walk climbing up the rocks to the lookout point and on the way we went through caves used by the Aboriginal people as a place of spiritual significance. There were a number of cave paintings known as the Anbangbang shelter paintings which could be seen on the way and some lovely wild flowers. It was a lovely walk through the caves and then the bush with typical Australian bush vegetation - wild passion fruit, goat plums, and other bush fruit. You really felt like you were in the Aussie outback as the gum trees and bushy scrub was so typically Australian. It was really hot and the trees provided only limited shade however the experience was well worth the effort to see these amazing ancient drawings on the rocks.If you want to experience the real Australia then this is one place that you can do this fairly easily and safely. Although the Kakadu National Park is huge it is quite well signed and the places like this are well labelled with information.A fascinating part of ancient Australian history.
WARRADJAN CULTURAL CENTRE: The following day our first stop was Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural display which was a sort of Aboriginal museum explaining lots about their way of life. There are a number of tribal people in the area and they include the people from Murumburr, Mirrar Gun-djeihmi, Badmardi, Bunitj, Girrimbitjba, Manilakarr, Wargol and and they have all this combined to create this educational exhibit.The building itself was quite different as it was designed in the shape of a pig-nosed turtle (Warradjan).The first display was a calendar explaining the Aborigine people's year. As they say 'Our land is our life" and the weather dictates what they do throughout the year.There were things for sale like pandanus (a type of plant whose long leaves are stripped into long strips and woven into things) bags for $98 Australian but at that price we didn't bother and nor did many other people which was a shame for those who made them but really way too expensive for the average visitor .When we first arrived there was a queue to get in so we decided to go and look at the gift shop and then look around the back. There was a small group of Aborigine women weaving the pandanus baskets and so I went and had a chat and they told us they lived nearby and came to the Aborigine centre to share their culture and help people learn about their people. After this we went into the museum and spent some time in there. It was a very visual display with simple explanations. The displays took us through food that was eaten and how they obtained this -their hunter gatherer methods and equipment. There was also a lot of information and displays about their beliefs and how their art paintings reflect these.Further displays and information enlightened the visitor about the recent history of the park,the importance of blood lines and marriage rights including who can marry whom in which tribes, tribal elder stories and the effects of white settlement in the Top End. It was fascinating and a really very informative place to visit and enabled visitors to learn a bit more about the local Aboriginal people. The visitor centre is open from 9am to 5 pm daily and it is well worth an hour or so to visit and walk through the very well laid out and informative exhibits.
COOINDA LODGE AND THE YELLOW WATER BOAT TRIP: The next stop was Cooinda Lodge for the Yellow water boat ride. At the time we want it had been raining quite heavily and so the region was pretty well flooded. The Gudjewg, is a bit like the monsoon and lasts from January to March and can be described as the 'true' wet season in this area.the cruises go out on 365 days a year and there are two different seasonal prices. As we went in the wet season these are the prices relevant to that time.November to March Duration Depart Return Adult Child 2 hrs 6:45 am 08:45 am $95 $68 1.5hrs 11:30 am 13:00 am $64 $45 1.5hrs 13:30 pm 15:00 pm $64 $45 2 hrs 16:30 pm 18:30 pm $82 $57For the dry season the prices are the same but there are more time options. the reason the first cruise includes a full breakfast hence the higher price. Unfortunately we didn't enjoy the first cruise so had no food on our cruise.The Yellow Water Billabong is Kakadu's most famous wetland and is located at the end of Jim Jim Creek which is in turn a tributary of the South Alligator River. We were supposed to see lots of bird and possibly crocs but as the river was flooded because of the wet season rains there were no crocs to be seen and very little bird life but it was interesting to see the flooded areas, the water lilies were beautiful and used by the Aborigine people to make bread, the leaves as rain hats and to carry water in too. We did see some Dollar birds, a male Jesus bird, kingfishers and some nests. Apparently about one third of Australia's bird species are found in the Kakadu National Park and about 60 species are found in the wetlands. Whistling Ducks and Magpie Geese are the most abundant and we did see a number of these. There are five species of kingfisher that can be found in Kakadu and one species is only 2 cm tall. There are plenty of crocodiles in this area which is their natural habitat but we didn't see any. We did however see many buffalo on the floodplains. I really wanted to see some Brolgas dancing but we didn't although we did see a Jabiru which was exciting. We returned to the Cooinda Lodge to have lunch. The lodge is a hotel and restaurant and there was a buffet on offer for $19 and pies and sausage rolls. In the shop the ice creams were $5 for magnums and I got a very small ice lolly for $2 - the cheapest there! We were a little disappointed as we had hoped to see a lot more bird life but I think maybe that was partly luck and partly the season we went in. This was probably the least exciting of the things we did in the Kakadu area.
Between Darwin and Katherine where we were staying for the night, is the small mining town of Pine Creek - a former gold mining town and now mineral mines and energy production. It was a very frontier type of town founded in the 1870s and it is the only town remaining from the gold rush days of the 1870’s.Before any European settlement the Pine Creek area was home to the Wagaman, Asgicondi, Arigoola and Jawoyn peoples. These Aborigine people used the local rock as a source of tools. They have found the largest known complex of Aboriginal quarries in the Northern Territory was established in the region and there are also a number of recorded Aboriginal sacred sites within the area. Tributes to the original people in the area can be seen in the park area near the railway museum as there are several decorative and informative tiles set into the ground telling the history of Pine Creek.In December 1870 a work party drilling holes for the Overland Telegraph Line discovered alluvial gold near Yam Creek. The following year attention turned to Pine Creek and overnight it became the site of one of the Territory's most frenetic gold rushes.The town grew rapidly as gold rush towns did and by1873 both the Pine Creek Repeater Station and the Police Camp were established. The following year the Royal Mail Hotel, the town's first, was opened and a year later it had competition from The Standard. The Pine Creek Motel stands on the original site of this first hotel Northern Territory Pioneer Mayse Young OAM and her husband, "Bogger" Young, were publicans of the Pine Creek Hotel from 1941. The cafe near the motel today is known as Mayse and that is where we stopped for our lunch.Pine Creek main street is almost a living museum as the shop Ah Toys sells almost everything and is owned by a Chinese family who were one of the original families arriving in the gold rush. Lily Ah Toy born in Darwin in 1917 became a housemaid for a European family at 14. Then she met Jimmy, a hawker with his own market garden and truck. Lily and Jimmy married and moved to Pine Creek to set up a general store.She had five of her own children and raised five adopted children too.She and Jimmy were also responsible for rescuing many people stranded by floods or lost in the bush.When Darwin was bombed by the Japanese, the family flew Adelaide and did not move back to Pine Creek until 1945 and this family still run the local shop. Apart from gold Pine Creek is also very much a railway town. The construction of the railway was partly constructed by Chinese and it took many years as there were innumerable problems. The railway was begun around 1883 but between Darwin and Pine Creek a total of 310 bridges and flood openings had to be built and It wasn't until 1889 that the first train arrived at Pine Creek. It was not until 1917 that the line to the Katherine River was completed and Pine Creek became an overnight stop on the journey to Darwin. The 'Ghan' train passes through Pine Creek as the railway from Adelaide to Darwin still follows this route. The significance of the railway to Pine Creek can be seen in the Railway Station Museum which is located in the original railway station building of 1888 and served as a communications centre until 1976.Within the building can be found historic photos, maps and memorabilia of the area and the North Australia Railway. Next to the station is the fully restored 1877 Beyer Peacock steam railway engine and carriage which operated from 1890 to 1943 between Darwin and Pine Creek.Just near the Railway museum is the Miners Park and this houses historic mining machinery from old mines in the Pine Creek area. The displays give a thorough picture of life in the Goldfields earlier this century and the history of mining in the region.Another fascinating building is The Bakery, which is nothing more than an old and very tatty looking tin shed but it does capture what life must have been like in Pine Creek around the turn of the century. It was built in 1908 as Jimmy Ah You's Butcher's Shop at Mount Diamond and when he moved to Pine Creek he took the shopfront with him. Pine Creek is a real Aussie outback town with a lot of interesting history which can be seen in a very small area of the town right in and around the main street as you stop to enjoy your lunch at Mayse' cafe.
by catsholiday on March 16, 2010
THE WEST MACDONNELL RANGES:These hills are part of the MacDonnell Ranges which run parallel east and west of Alice Springs and were named after the governor of New South Wales at the time, Sir Richard MacDonnell. The highest peak, Mount Zeil is about 5000ft so they are not huge mountains but as everything else around here is flat they become quite noticeable. The landscape is stunning for particularly its vivid red colour and rock gorges. Some of the rock folds are like geography text book drawings they are so perfect.Simpson’s GapWe were up at 7am and out for 8am for our trip to the West McDonnell Ranges. Our first stop was Simpson’s Gap which was discovered in 1871 by a surveyor called Gilbert McMinn. The reason for its name is not known and prior to it becoming a National Park in 1970 this area was an over grazed cattle station. Simpson’s Gap is 18km west of Alice and we were informed that swimming is not permitted which we found quite amusing as the waterhole was pretty well dry. We walked for about 500metres to a fairly dry water hole and chasm in between two rock faces but the main excitement for us here were the black footed rock wallabies which were hidden amongst the rocks. We were lucky and did see three of these small wallabies. The scenery was very striking with red harsh rocks, gum trees and a fairly dry creek bed.Standley ChasmThe next stop was Standley Chasm which is located 50km from Alice and named after the first teacher who came to Alice in 1914 she was called Ida Standley. In 1925, the school for children of Aboriginal descent was moved from Alice Springs to Jay Creek (Iwupataka) and Mrs Standley was the matron. While she was at Jay Creek she became the first non-Aboriginal woman to visit the chasm and that now bears her name. There was a 20 min walk to the chasm across rocks and through a creek bed filled with cycads, ferns and Red river gums. The walls are red and the chasm very narrow and extremely tall. They are best seen at midday when the sun makes the walls blaze a fiery red but it is still impressive whatever time of day as it is a very narrow chasm with extremely high walls of harsh red rocks. The chasm is called Angkerle by the Aborigines and Angkerle Creek runs the length of the 1.5 Km walk from the car park to the Chasm but most of the time this is a dry creek bed. Glen Helen GorgeOur lunch stop was at Glen Helen Gorge which was a camp site with fixed tents and a waterhole about 1km from the main centre. This resort is situated 132km west of Alice. We had chicken rolls which were fresh and quite big followed by tea/coffee and then fruit salad and ice-cream which was very nice. The flies were a bit of a pest and I ended up putting on my special fly net to eat my roll and kept it on when we went for a walk around the site and towards the creek. It was possible to take a helicopter ride of 10mins for $75 to see area from above but we had pretty well seen over the area by air as we came in on the plane so thought we would do our helicopter ride onto the Franz Joseph glacier in NZ. It was really hot here and walking out in the heat was very sweat inducing but we did go for a bit of a wander towards the gorge but after 10 minutes walking we turned back as it was REALLY hot – about 40°C with no shade at all, so unfortunately we do not get to the swimming hole.Ellory Creek HoleAfter we left Glen Helen our last stop was Ellory Creek Big Hole for a swim in the waterhole. This waterhole is about 126 miles along the Larapinta trail from Alice Springs and the Ellory Creek area is an internationally recognised geological site with perfect rock folds which are un-cracked. And can clearly be seen above the ground – a perfect geological example which looks like a text book diagram. The waterhole is reputed to be extremely cold but it was not that cold on the day we were there; the currents came in waves of warm and cold. We swam the length there and back which was lovely and refreshing. There were toilets where you could change in the car park which we were told after we had changed using the bush and towels .The worst part was that you had to get through a fairly muddy bit before getting deep enough the swim. This meant that you feet were in need of a wash as you got out. The ground was also extremely hot to walk on so you needed to get your shoes on pretty quickly after getting out of the water. This water hole is 92km west of Alice Springs by road and it is possible to camp there and explore the area by foot but it is quite challenging bush walking apparently – too hot for me to walk too far. SUMMARY:For me this area and the Top End of Australia are the real Australia that you read about in books, the romantic stories of shearers, cattle drives, the Flying Doctors and the School of the Air. This is a tough life where the land unforgiving and harsh, where the flies are more plentiful than people. The flies are a pest and I really hated them. I was happy with my fly net as this kept them away from my ears and moth but I still couldn’t stand them buzzing around me. There is no way I could live out in this area. It is hot, 40°C and above for the summer months and then the flies all day, once the sun goes down you get a break from the flies but then out come the mosquitoes to chomp on your exposed bits. No, it was great to visit and see these Australian icons and I have a huge respect for those that live there now and an even greater admiration for those people that lived there in times past – they were a tough lot.
THE KATHERINE GORGE AND NITMILUK NATIONAL PARKKATHERINE:Katherine is a mining town in the Northern Territory of Australia there is not a lot in the actual town but the reason for coming here is to experience the surrounding area and the Nitmiluk National Park.FRUIT BATS:We were in to the coach for 7.30 and off to Katherine Gorge for our gorge boat ride. The area where you board the boat is set up for picnics with BBQs and tables with chairs and there were nice clean toilets areas too which we made good use of. There was no reception area to speak of or any gift shop so you just had to wait around out in the open. We were entertained by the flying foxes hanging in the trees; every now and then one would fly across to another tree then fold himself up and hang from a branch again. They are really quite large bats but they d not seem to mind sleeping in the daylight rather than in dark caves. You had to be a little careful of going under the trees as they were not too bothered about dropping sticky poos of whatever colour fruit they had been eating the night before .THE GORGE:The boat was a sort of flat raft like thing with a canvas roof. It was quite an overcast day and so sunscreen and hats were not really needed I coped without my sunglasses which was lucky as I had accidently left them on the plane from Perth to Darwin. The trip took us through the gorge and then we stopped at the end of the first gorge and had a walk over the rocks so that we could see some Aboriginal paintings and also see up and down the gorge. We were there in January 2009, the rainy season and because there had been quite a lot of rain the gorges were full and we were only able to go into the first gorge which was a little disappointingSUNSILK ADVERT:We got back in the boat and headed just back through the gorge for a few minutes before getting off again for a rock hopping walk to a waterfall and rock pool. It was safe to swim here because there was no way a croc could get to the waterhole – it was isolated from other water and we had to walk (climb and scramble) about 20minutes over rocks to get there. Some young people swam but we had no towels and would have had to sit in our wet clothes for the rest of the day so we didn’t. It looked idyllic, a bit like a shampoo advert and we sat and admired the view before clambering back across the rocks. My husband was particularly able to admire the young lithe female members of the group swimming and sunning themselves on the rocks beside the pool. Some of the young men were quite entertaining too. One couple were particularly entertaining as she kept doing model poses( throwing her head back and lying with her arm up to her head) for him to photograph – I offered to do the same for my husband and he laughed!!THE FORMATION OF THE GORGE:The boat had two driver/guides and they provided an esky of cool water for us to help ourselves to. One of the guides was of Aboriginal descent and told us how Aboriginal people believed the gorge was formed.A dragon like creature – Narla brought a billy of water and some fire sticks and wandered across the top end. He was rather selfish and wouldn’t share it with the rest of the animals so eventually one speared him and the billy spilled our forming the gorges and he dropped the fire sticks – those grew to the pandanus palms there. He was quite entertaining with his commentary and told us a lot about how the Aboriginal people use the local plants. The silver leaved paperbark leaves can be boiled up and a poultice made for wounds, that liquid can also be drunk as a tea which is good for sore throats.This gorge is in Nitmiluk National Park which means Land of the Cicadas in the local Aboriginal dialect.EDITH FALLS:We continued in this National Park to Edith Falls where the pools were so full that no swimming was allowed and the falls were actually quite short – not too far to fall to the waterhole at all. This is a very popular swimming hole for the people of Darwin but when the pools are this full swimming is not allowed because crocodiles are then able to travel in to the pools via the swollen river. Once the rainy season is over and the pools are once again cut off from incoming rivers, they are checked for crocs before they are opened for safe swimming once again. This was quite a pleasant picnic and BBQ spot and there were other groups enjoying these facilities but this was not on our agenda we could have an ice-cream or coffee before continuing to Pine Creek for our lunch.PINE CREEK AGAIN:We stopped at a place called Mase’s in Pine Creek ( a sort of fast food in outback Oz style eatery) which offered a wide selection of foods and there was a pub next door. We ate our picnic of crisps, apple water and biscuits that we’d bought in Darwin. Pine Creek is a town that grew up when they were building the railway from Adelaide to Darwin. While they were digging for the railway someone found gold... thousands flocked to the tiny ‘town’ in the middle of nowhere looking for the gold. A few made their fortunes and many found nothing, some stayed including a Chinese family who were running the local general store. Descendants of this family still run this very interesting shop which sells a huge selection of items from a large shed – like building. It looks like a set for an old movie from the 1800s - definitely caught in a time warp. The Ghan train from Adelaide to Darwin still passes through this sleepy outback town.ROAD TRAINS AND TERMITE MOUNDS:As we left Pine Creek we saw a number of the wonderful road trains which are lorries with 2/3/4 trailers behind them. They work fine in outback Australia as the roads are straight and there are virtually no turns to manoeuvre these huge beasts around. Heaven only knows what they would do if they took a wrong turn as there is no way they could turn around in any normal area. We also stopped to take a photo of the huge Cathedral termite mounds but could not get too close as the ground around them was extremely soggy and then we made our way back to Darwin for the night. SUMMARY:The Nitmiluk National Park is also in the Northern territory of Australia but its main attraction is the Katherine Gorge. We were told on several occasions that the rainy season is not the best time to come to the area as the wildlife are more difficult to see, the transportation is more tricky with flooded roads etc and we found the gorge is not passable beyond the first gorge either. Floods mean that the crocodiles can get to areas that they do not normally inhabit so you cannot swim in some waterholes. Luckily for us they had no had huge rainfall but there was enough to stop us doing a few things. So if you are thinking of going up to the Northern territory it might be better to go in their winter when it is cooler and drier.Having said that we had a wonderful time and experienced a taste of outback Australia in the short time we were in the area. I would certainly recommend visiting this part of Australia if you want to see something of the real outback Australia which you do not really get in Sydney, Perth or some of the other quite modern cities of Australia.
by catsholiday on March 20, 2010
Holiday Inn Jabiru - Kakadu National Park This hotel is in the middle of the World heritage listed Kakadu ( Gagadu) National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia. This is Crocodile Dundee country, hot and wild with scrubby bush and not much else. This amazing hotel is designed in the shape of a crocodile is coloured a sort of camouflage green and is only two stories high. You enter the hotel through its mouth . Reception area : Once through the jaws then reception is on the left hand side and there is a gift shop on the right. Upstairs in this area is a meeting area with chairs and tables. In the middle of the reception area is a mock Lilly pond with a large natural rock in the centre. My husband was busy looking up at something and did a wonderful arabesque almost into this pond which was hilarious for me but a little nerve wracking for him. Towards the back of this area is a scene with a huge crocodile chasing a fish in 3D. As you go to the right you walk through the art gallery of Aboriginal paintings tastefully hung with lights hanging down shining on the paintings. Once you reach the automatic door you can go in either direction toward your room depending on its number. POOL: We went left and passed the pool area with its large canopy sail covering it to give shade from excessive sun. There were rocks and foliage all round it with seating and tables after our long hot day in the coach and walking this looked most welcoming. We went on to our room which was number 116 along the outside of the crocodile. We followed a path round and all along the path were wonderful coloured tropical plants with exotic flowers. The entire hotel complex was set in wonderful gardens with trees providing welcome shade. Rooms: Our room was big and light with two small double beds. Each bed had normal pillows in white cotton like the sheets, the small throw and small square decorative pillows were brown and dark blue striped and there were also large plain brown decorative cushions. At the end of the room were glass sliding doors opening out on to an open courtyard area. Inside were had two comfortable chairs and a small round table, There was a desk with the TV on it, a separate dark wooden wardrobe with extra pillows, iron and ironing board and two drawers under . Then another unit had the fridge/mini bar, a kettle with coffee, tea and sugar and there was milk in the fridge. In this unit was a cupboard with the coded safe. Bathroom: The bathroom was small but had all you needed and the shower was over the bath. This hotel also had a washing line which pulled out which was unusual in the hotels we stayed at in Australia. They provided an iron and ironing board and often there was a laundry within the hotel but very few had lines in the bathroom so this was a plus for me. There were gorgeous, fluffy white towels, again some of the hotels had rather less than fluffy towels so I appreciated this too. Also provided were Shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and body lotion and very nice smelling green glycerine soap. Little Outside area: We opened the sliding door and we able to sit in the wooden chairs and put our cuppa on the little wooden table between us. It was quite hot so we didn't stay there for long. It was also very useful for drying the clothes I'd washed. The courtyard was in the middle of the crocodile - inside his stomach and could only be accessed by people staying at the hotel. It was possible to get to the pool through this courtyard which was useful if you wanted to change and not have to get fully clothed to walk round the outside of the crocodile. The Restaurant: The restaurant called the Escarpment also had the bar. It was large and airy with Didgeridoos lining the entrance. An Aborigine screen hung from two square raised areas in the roof. There were also interesting metal sculptures in a central decorative area. The food offered looked good. We had a starter of Kakadu taster - garlic bread and chips the taster had unusual things such as crocodile kebab, kangaroo spring rolls and other interesting local offerings. We enjoy trying different food and this was presented really nicely and was very tasty too. The fish and chips sounded good and there was steak and other interesting items on the menu but we were not greatly hungry so we just had the starter. The average price was $30 for a main and just under $20 for a starter; most deserts were £13 on average. Service was slick and professional and the waiting on staff very pleasant. They explained what was in the various items on the menu and were very happy to have a bit of a chat too. The restaurant offered breakfast, lunch and evening dining and there was a buffet menu available as well as the a la carte. If you preferred there were barbeques on site that you could use to cook your own food but we were not aware of this so had not brought our steak or prawns to throw on the Barbie. Other Amenities; The pool area I have described already. There is a guest laundry with washers and driers available for a small fee. Internet is available in the business area but no wifi in the rooms. There was a charge of $2 for about 15mins I believe but I didn't use this so I cannot comment on how efficient it was. There was a gift shop and a little convenience store selling a few basic food items and not a lot else. SUMMARY: The hotel was not a resort so it did not have gyms and other luxuries but it was very different in its design. The decor was so very Aboriginal Australia and fitted perfectly with the setting. Most people who stay here come to explore the Kakadu National park rather than to enjoy relaxing in the hotel and this hotel is in a unique position within the National Park and is perfect for visiting the area and exploring places where Crocodile Dundee was filmed. It was not luxurious but the rooms were light airy and clean. The beds were extremely comfortable and really served our purpose for a night's stay in this amazing area. I really loved the hotel but before we went I had read quite a few negative comments on trip advisor so I was very pleasantly surprised. The website for this unusual hotel can be found here: http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/hi/1/en/hotel/ja bgg
Perth Travelodge, Hay StreetWhere is it?This is a 3 star hotel in the centre of Perth with 123 rooms (some of these are inter connecting for families) within walking distance of the Swan River or the Northridge shopping area with loads of restaurants and clubs. It is on Hay Street .The reception area is small with a couple of tables and some comfortable chairs, it certainly was not luxurious but served the purpose, The staff at the desk were extremely friendly and helpful whenever we asked for advise re transport or things to do etc. The restaurant opened out from this area.Restaurant:The hotel itself has its own restaurant called ‘Armada’ with a bar which was partly inside and partly outside with umbrellas. It looked quite nice. Food was on a par with European prices; fish and chips (red snapper) with fresh salad was $19 Aus, Beef rending (Indonesian curry) served with rice and Achar was $20 Aus. We did not eat in the restaurant at all so I can’t say what the food or service was like at either dinner or breakfast. The Armada Bar & Grill is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year for breakfast, lunch and dinner although it also states on the website that lunch is not available at week -ends.Breakfast was not included in our nightly tariff although looking on their website it seems there was a B&B option. They offer a package of 4 nights for $330 but as we were in a group I guess ours was less. Other options for food and drink nearby:There was a small supermarket just a few 100metres from the hotel where you could buy water, drinks and other basics. There were a couple of small cafe type places offering sandwiches and other hot snacks as well as the Grosvenor Pub which was a typically Australia pub with tables and umbrellas outside and large areas with tables inside as well. We were told that the portions were huge and we watched someone enjoying a huge burger and chips but the price was about $20 which was not cheap. We had a beer and a Bundaberg and coke and it came to $16 and my drink was quite small – not as much as half a pint. The atmosphere was quite pleasant though.The room:Our room had a large double bed and we had two pillows each. The bed was quite comfortable but a little on the hard side. There was quite a bit of space in the room generally and although we did not have a view from our window the whole room was quite light and airy. There was air-conditioning which was very pleasant especially at night.There was a flat screen TV with some cable channels (sport mainly) and movies were pay per view. ‘The Commonwealth Bank one day cricket series’ was on at the WACA and that was on most of the time! Firstly South Africa V Australia then New Zealand V Australia matches. My husband is a keen cricket fan so he was thrilled, I was less enthusiastic though.There was a kettle with tea, coffee, small milks and sugar which was topped up each day. There was also a mini bar with the usual mini bar prices. Room service was available using the menu from the restaurant plus $3 for room service.There was a coded safe in the wardrobe, hanging space and 5 hangers; there was a unit with two drawers with a shelf over it to put your suitcase on. In the wardrobe was an iron and ironing board and there was also a hairdryer provided in the bathroom.The bathroom had toilet bath with good shower over it and a basin. Shampoo, soap and conditioners were provided and given daily even though we hadn’t used them all and had just left them in the bathroom on the bath.Not so great:On the down side there was only one bedside table and reading light so I had to use one of the chairs as a table for my bits and then bring over a standard lamp from across the room to read. Not quite so convenient as I had to get out of bed to turn it off and drag it back out of the way so that I wasn’t in danger of tripping over the leads in the middle of the night on a toilet visit. There was also a sharp corner over the ‘kitchenette’ area which was quite lethal for tall people if they were not concentrating – just head height and sticking out with a sharp corner. My husband was just the right height!!Internet:There was wireless internet in all rooms but it was not free, in fact I paid about $20 for 3 days if I remember correctly.Summary:This was a hotel in an excellent location in the city but it was no frills. No pool or gym or anything else. It provided good quality, clean rooms with friendly and helpful staff. There was a restaurant but it was quite small and we did not eat there so I have not made any comments about staff or food in there.
Travelodge Mirambeena Resort Darwin – Cavanaugh Street.LOCATION:The location is right in the centre of the city/town of Darwin and very easy walking distance to supermarkets and restaurants as well as the sea front of Darwin. It was perfect for a short stay as you could very quickly get to most places of interest in the town. There are 224 Air-conditioned rooms and also 32 Self-contained Townhouses in the resort complex.THE HOTEL:This hotel is set back from the road and the entrance has palm trees either side, the drive leads into a reasonable sized car park. An undercover car park was also available and while that may not sound too thrilling to us Brits it is VERY useful when outside temperatures are over 35°C almost every day and well over that in the summer .The reception doors are all you can see from the front – glass and automatic. You then walk into the reception with the desk on your left. Just before the desk is an area with a few tables and chairs for waiting and as you look through beyond the desk you can see the swimming pool area with palm trees and tables with umbrellas for relaxing .When we arrived check in was extremely smooth and they had all our rooms ready which was great as we were early. The reception desk was open 24 hours which would be handy if you were arriving very late at night.We were all given our room keys and set off to find them. The lift (the hotel is only two floors high so why they just didn’t have stairs) used the room key to operate it for security which was good. Anyway up we went in the lift to the 2nd floor to room 260.THE ROOM:The room was large and airy with two double beds in it. The big window let in lots of light and the air con was extremely efficient – so much so that we switched it off for quite a while. It was decorated in muted tones of gold and orange with orange suedette pillows. It sound a bit 1970’s but in fact was quite tasteful. There was a small round table with two chairs, A TV, kettle with tea, coffee, sugar and milk in the fridge. This time there were 3 bedside tables each had a bedside light and there was an alarm clock and phone on the table between the two beds. I got quite used to having my own double bed so I could move to a cool patch when I got too hot. The beds and pillows were very comfortable and the sheets white and crisp fresh looking. The wardrobe had a few hangers; there was also an iron and ironing board in the wardrobe as well as a safe for which you could get a key from reception. Two big drawers and a suitcase stand were all part of the unit with the TV on it. All in all a good standard of furnishings and certainly everything you would need for a few nights stay. It was all very clean and fresh smelling too which I find is a good sign.THE BATHROOMThe bathroom was tiles in stone and green tiles on the floor and the basins, toilet and walls were white. Once again I was disappointed as there was no bath but the shower had a large head and the water flow was good and strong. A supply of shampoo, conditioner, soap and a shower cap were placed in the bathroom too. All in all I was quite happy with the bathroom and enjoyed my shower testing the freebie toiletries once again and they were quite satisfactory. Our towels were white and a decent size and still quite fluffy which also adds to my bathroom comfort experience.THE STAFF:When we went down to ask how to get to the museum which was a fair way out of the town they could not have been more helpful. One person looked up the bus timetable while another went and found a brochure that gave opening times and other information. The staff all seemed really friendly and wanted to help you enjoy your stay. They pointed us in the direction of the bus stop and when we came back they asked if we had found it okay and if we'd enjoyed it which I thought was a nice personal touch.OTHER FACILITIES IN THE HOTEL:Just near the lifts was an area with a few chairs and a couple of computers with internet access. It was $2 to get on and £2 every 15 minutes after that. Internet in the room on your own laptop was £11 for an hour so in the internet suite was better value but you often had to wait as they were quite busy.There were two lovely swimming pools that were a freeform shape and had palm trees and sun loungers around the pool area. A children's paddling pool was also a nice touch for families staying with small children. Somewhere on site were two spas but we did not have time to explore this little luxury so I can't tell you much about that. A fitness room and mini golf were also available but we were too busy exploring the museum, the town and then out into the National Park to get into either of these but again for families it would be handy to entertain the children and teenagers.Less exciting but equally useful was the coin operated laundry for guest use which works out a lot cheaper than the usual hotel laundry service where you send your clothes off in a bag. Of no interest to me was the act that there are three conference rooms but I guess if you had to organise a meeting in Darwin that could be of interest to you.RESTAURANTS:The treetops restaurant was licensed and was apparently very good. Some people in our group did eat there and said the food was excellent. It was quite tempting but we do like to get out of the hotel and look around the town when choosing our meals out but if you are interested in seeing a copy of the menu for the restaurant then this is the link: http://www.travelodge.com.au/images/uploaded/documents/TMRD-MainAug08.pdfWe did not eat anything in the hotel at all so I cannot give a verdict on the quality or what was available. You could also order food round the pool or use the BBQ area and cook your own food.SUMMARY:I thought this was a perfect hotel to explore Darwin from. It was not a five star hotel by any means but it was a good quality, clean and very friendly place to stay. I would not hesitate to recommend this as somewhere to stay if going to Darwin.
LOCATION:The Tropical Queenslander hotels in Cairns are both located Lake Street which is about 15 minutes walk to the main centre of Cairns but about 5 minutes to the nearest shops and take away restaurants and a bar. Both the hotels are classified as 3.5 * accommodation with self catering facilities. The Tropical Queenslander which is where stayed had 58 rooms so it was quite a small complex and was only two stories high. There was plenty of parking around the back and the Reception was at the front. The complex spread across a block so that the back entrance was on a different street to the front and reception area. RECEPTION:The reception was NOT open 24 hours so if you were arriving late I would imagine you had to make special arrangements. Reception actually closed at 8pm which could also become a problem as the only safe/safety deposit was in Reception. If you put something in this safe and then needed it when Reception was closed then you were stuck. We solved this problem by getting our valuables out the night before we were leaving in the morning ( just in case) or you could risk keeping anything valuable on you or in the room.The Reception desk would also book any tours you wanted to do locally and all the staff on Reception were very friendly and chatty whenever we popped in to ask for information. OTHER FACILITIES:There were two small swimming pools on this site and another pool at the sister hotel which could also be used. We did use the pool and the sun loungers one day and although the pool was small it was clean and very pleasant to relax around and cool off with a swim. There were a few palm trees and shady areas so you could sit in the sun or shade depending on how you felt at the time.A poolside breakfast restaurant was available at this site but we do not use this so I cannot say what was available or what the food was like.A guest laundry with coin operated washers and a dryer was on the ground floor and seemed to be in constant demand. Indeed a few people from our tour took their washing to a launderette down the road because of the queue. I didn’t bother and hand washed our clothes and dried them on the mini balcony and the bathroom which was perfectly adequate as an iron and board were also supplied in the room.Internet access was wifi through an independent company and cost $15 for 24 hours, $8 for 2hours and $4 for one hour. You had to pay through the internet by credit card directly to the wifi company.The sister hotel just down the road called the Cairns Queenslander where there was the ‘Diggers’ Restaurant and bar was available for guests to use but the menu did not look very inviting. In ou room was a printed leaflet saying Happy Hour was 5 -7pm but when we went at 6.30 they said it was only till 6.30 and we paid full price. We tried to argue the case but did not bring the leaflet with us and didn’t really want to make a scene over the cost of a beer but we were not impressed and did not go back there for another visit.THE ROOMS:Our room was quite large with a light and airy feel to it. There was a double and two single beds all with the same blue/green/yellow covers. This was obviously a family room but as there were only two of us we had plenty of room. There were plenty of fresh white towels and simple soap and shampoo was provided. The rooms were serviced daily and cleaned weekly but we were only there 4 nights so did not have a clean although the beds were made daily and clean towels provided. The kitchenette has a two ring cooker, microwave, toaster kettle and sink. You could heat up take- away food or do minimal cooking but I would not have liked to try and cook a full meal for four although I suppose it would have been possible. There was also a scourer, cloth and washing up liquid provided which was handy. Tea/coffee and sugar and milk were replenished daily too.The room had a tiled floor as did the bathroom. There was a square bathette with shower over it – I managed to use the bath but my husband was too big and only used the shower.There was a TV, a small round table and two comfy chairs so to use for meals or working on. There was also a suitcase stand and a fixed table and two dining chairs along the wall so in total 4 people could sit and eat altogether. A glass sliding door led onto a tiny (minute you could say) balcony that just held 2 chairs and a round table. I think it would have been impossible for two people to sit out there though in fact when I tried to sit out there I had to bring one of the chairs inside the room in order to have enough room to sit without having my legs crammed against the balcony railings.The price per night for a room like this for 4 adults was $150 , three adults cost $130 and two adults $110 which is a fair price but not a bargain if you were staying for a few nights. It may be cheaper over a week but I don’t know.All the rooms had ceiling fans and air conditioning so you had a choice. The doors were screened so mossies and flies were kept out too. SUMMARY:Good moderately priced self-catering accommodation in Cairns which catered for couples, groups or families. The accommodation was clean and comfortable but not luxurious and the decor was a little dated. The staff were very helpful and friendly, in fact the manager came out specially to meet us and tell us about the facilities and they opened up the Reception area at 6am the day we were leaving in case anyone had left anything in the safety deposit boxes.It was quite well located for the shops and local restaurants and was about 5 minutes from the esplanade along the sea front. The walk to the main shopping area was about 10-15minutes walk away.Would I recommend it? – Yes as it was perfectly comfortable but I would explain that it was NOT 5* it was a moderately priced quality self-catering accommodation.If you would like to see more about the hotel and photos then this is their website:http://www.queenslanderhotels.com.au/tropicalqueenslander.html
by catsholiday on March 17, 2010
THE ALICEEver since reading Neville Shute’s ‘A Town Like Alice’ when I was about sixteen, I’ve had this great desire to see Alice Springs. Alice is famous for a number of the more famous Australian icons such as the Flying Doctor Service and the School of the Air. It is also well known for its famous boat Henley on Todd; the river so rarely has water in it that this boat race is run by people ‘wearing’ or carrying boats with the bottoms cut out and carried along the dry river bed. The year there was water in the Todd River this boat race had to be cancelled! We flew from Darwin to Alice Springs which has a small airport but fresh and modern looking. It is possible to drive from Darwin via Katherine or up from Adelaide if you have time available and can cope with the very long and hot drive.SCHOOL OF THE AIR:From the airport we went straight to visit the School of the Air which is the largest (physically) classroom in the world. We were there in time for an assembly where all the teachers were introducing themselves to the pupils who were part of this school of the air class. There was a short film explaining how the service has changed over the years when they began using two way radios up to the present day and using the internet. It was very interesting and surprising how few children the service caters for. It is a very costly service and the children include those from the huge cattle farms and a number of Aboriginal children in isolated areas as well. THE ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE:We went from The School of the air to the Royal Flying Doctor service which serves a huge area geographically and is funded by the government for running costs but relies on donations for capital expenses such as the planes and equipment. We were given a talk before being allowed to view the working area of this amazing service We were advised that we should be drinking at least 2 litres of water per day in the heat and we were able to enjoy some lovely cold tap water in the canteen. My husband enjoyed his first real Aussie meat pie and I had a small cold trifle which was jolly refreshing. THE FIRST TELEGRAPH STATION:We then went to the historical village built round the First Telegraph Station. There were more houses in the original settlement but still there and restored were the school teacher’s house, the Telegraph operator’s house, the barracks and a few other buildings such as the blacksmiths, the carriage and other storage buildings. All round the settlement were labels telling you a bit about each building and explaining how the people lived and who they were. There were photos of the families and other furniture and artefacts too. There was a building dedicated to an explanation of how half caste Aboriginal/white children were removed from their mothers and taken into care – educated and brought up in the settlement. There were some of these children’s stories retold on boards too which I found quite upsetting. It was a shameful period in Australian history which is still having an effect on these people’s lives today. If you have seen the film ’Rabbit Proof Fence’, then you will have an idea of how this awful idea was implemented.ANZAC MEMORIAL:We then went up to the Anzac memorial which is on a small hill and from there you get a good view of the whole of Alice and surrounding area. War memorials are greatly respected in Australian towns and this one is no exception. It is in a great position above the town and is kept very nicely.OUR BUSH BBQ:As part of our your we were offered an optional extra of a Bush BBQ. A couple who owned about 250 hectares local to Alice began this business of offering Aussie Bush BBQs to tourists on their farm. This 250 hectare farm is too small for cattle and too dry and infertile for anything to grow so they decided to ‘‘farm’ the tourist industry at $75 Aussie per head. They used to do this every day of the week but now they only do a couple each week. We calculated that in our group there were 40 people at $75 a head was not a bad evening’s work. They did nothing to the property just let it be the natural bush.They had built a large corrugated iron roofed shed beside the dry river bed. There were a couple of generators for electricity and the BBQs. They had a few enormous cool boxes for the drinks and the cold food.At 6.30 we were collected by Geoff and Alice in two mini vans. During the drive Geoff told us quite a lot about the local flora and pointed out ghost gums, red gums, coolabahs trees and nulla trees. When we arrived on their property he drove around looking for wallabies and we were lucky enough to see at least 20 of differing sizes, both males and females.We first went into the dry river bed and Geoff showed us how to throw a boomerang. Boomerangs are not thrown at an animal to kill it as some people think they are used to throw over a waterhole to make the water fowl fly and then they could be killed by spears or other weapons. The idea of it returning was to save going to find it or falling in the water. The throwing ability of our group was mixed – some truly pathetic attempts while others were quite good. It certainly gave us an appetite for our barbequing steaks which were ready to go on the fires as we were trying to throw our boomerangs.By this time the flies had disappeared and we were able to shed our glamorous fly nets and hope that our insect repellent would keep the mossies away. We made our way towards the fire and BBQ area where there was a large roofed hut with tables and chairs. We were offered beer, red or white wine or soft drinks and then Geoff made 3 big dampers in cast iron pots which he then put on cinders and placed hot cinders on the pots too. Then the meat was put on the Barbie – steaks and sausages which were really good and there was a choice of baked potatoes, beetroot, tomato and cucumber, coleslaw, pineapple and coconut. Desert was a huge piece of damper with golden syrup.After we had eaten our fill we then moved our chairs out into the open and Geoff gave us a star gazing guide and we looked up at the stars, we saw the Southern Cross and also a satellite. On our return drive back to our hotel in the minibus we were treated to a |CD of Australian folk songs such as ‘Waltzing Matilda’ ,’ Click go the Shears’ and other similar songs which rounded off a very Australian evening in the bush. It was a really great evening.For me this area and the Top End of Australia are the real Australia that you read about in books, the romantic stories of shearers, cattle drives, the Flying Doctors and the School of the Air. This is a tough life where the land unforgiving and harsh, where the flies are more plentiful than people. The flies are a pest and I really hated them. I was happy with my fly net as this kept them away from my ears and moth but I still couldn’t stand them buzzing around me. There is no way I could live out in this area. It is hot, 40°C and above for the summer months and then the flies all day, once the sun goes down you get a break from the flies but then out come the mosquitoes to chomp on your exposed bits. No, it was great to visit and see these Australian icons and I have a huge respect for those that live there now and an even greater admiration for those people that lived there in times past – they were a tough lot.
DARWINWHERE IS DARWIN?The Northern Territory is a huge area of 1.35 million square kilometres with a population of only 209,000 and Darwin is the Capital city situated in the far north of this territory. Although Darwin is the least populated of all of Australia’s state capitals it is by far the most populated city in the Territory. This part of Australia is known as the Top End and this includes Arnhem Land (which is Aboriginal Land) and the Kakadu National Park (Crocodile Dundee country).The Stuart Highway starts at Darwin and runs in an almost straight line to Alice Springs (The red Centre) and then continues on to Adelaide in South Australia. The Highway covers a distance of over 3,000 km and no map would be needed as there are no turns to take!WEATHER: This tropical area has only two seasons the wet and the dry. The wet season from Nov-Apr has high temperatures with humidity and often severe tropical storms and this is the reason for the lush green landscape. The dry season is from May-Oct and has warm, sunny and dry days with low humidity. This is the time that many Southern Australians ( The silver haired, non- working ones) come up North to enjoy the pleasant warm climate in the winter – the summer or wet months are less attractive.HISTORY:Darwin city is a sea port on Fannie Bay which was originally called Palmerston but was renamed after Charles Darwin in 1911 by I’m not sure why really. The aboriginal people native to this area are the Larrakia people and there are still people of this language group living in the area. Darwin was first settled by white people in the 1860s but about half the present population has arrived in the last forty years and includes people from over 50 different countries.Darwin city has suffered a lot over the years. Those who have seen the film "Australia" will have an idea of how the city was bombed and attacked by the Japanese in WWII. Indeed Darwin is the only city in Australia to ever be bombed and there were 64 attacks in total and although there was a lot of damage t was not as destructive as Cyclone Tracey in 1974. It is a tribute to the strength of character of the Australian people that Darwin was able to recover during and after the war despite being so damaged and so cut off from the rest of Australia. MY EXPERIENCE:The last time I was in Darwin was in 1976 for my Christmas holiday when I was living and teaching in Australia. It was only two years after Cyclone Tracey when almost 90% of the city was destroyed and at that time there was still a lot of evidence of the cyclone. Many houses were just floors and stilts and sometimes people had built a small shelter on this as they did not have the money to rebuild. It was even smaller then than it is today both in physical size as well as population.When we arrived in Darwin we were given a bit of a tour of Darwin just to orientate us. Although the population is quite small – only 110 000 but it seemed much busier than Perth. We came in along the coast road from the Airport and then into the city. The harbour was virtually empty as most boats are taken out of the water and stored on land for the rainy/hurricane season. It is not a large cit, more like a town really but it does have a bit of a buzz about it. There a several large hotels, a small shopping centre with Coles and Woolworth supermarkets as well as other shops. There are quite a few pubs and bars and also several restaurants of various kinds – Chinese to Australian as well as two Irish bars – the one we went into even had two Irish people serving behind the counter!MUSEUMWe decided that we would follow in Bill Bryson’s footsteps and go and visit the Darwin museum .Bill Bryson recommended the museum for the stuffed crocodile ‘sweetheart’, an enormous crocodile which had attacked small boats and was becoming a danger to the people of Darwin. They arranged to have this croc caught and relocated somewhere away from populated areas. During the capture ready for his move ‘Sweetheart’ had a heart attack and died so they stuffed him and put him in the museum! Also of interest was a tribute display to the people who went through cyclone Tracey. This included recreations of bits of houses, photos and most horrifying was a darkened room where a tape played a recording that someone had made on a recorder the night ‘Tracey’ hit Darwin, Christmas Eve 1974. Finally Bill suggested looking at a display of ‘Animals that could kill you’ which included preserved box jellyfish. Just out of interest, Australia has the largest number of animals that are dangerous in some way to humans of any country in the world.As we left the museum it started raining and we had quite a walk to get to the bus stop so we got out or kagools and then rushed on. We were nearly at the bus stop when we saw the bus coming so we ran and the driver very kindly stopped the bus and waited for us – it would have meant a 20 minute wait had we missed it. Luckily we made it and sat back to enjoy the ride back to the city. The return fares on the bus from outside our hotel to the museum and back was $8 for both of us. Local pensioners travel free.PLACES TO EAT:There were a huge number of places to eat in the city centre area offering a variety of cuisine. Many of these eating places are along Mitchell Street we ate at one of the Irish pubs, Shenanigan’s on one night and then we found a lovely Thai restaurant called Thailicious which was upstairs and you could sit outside on another night. We had Thai green chicken curry; jasmine rice and Holy basil stir fried beef which was spicy and very tasty. NEAR DARWIN:Heading south along the Stuart Highway, we stopped at the small townships of Batchelor and Adelaide River. The Adelaide River war cemetery is Australia’s largest war cemetery and a sombre reminder of the Northern Territory’s role in World War II. . It was extremely neatly kept and had a section for the armed Services and one for civilians as well as foreign troops too but some of those had been taken back to their own homelands. There were several peacocks wandering round and one was particularly interested in us..The Adelaide River pub is a traditional outback bar very similar to the one in ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and we stopped here for a beer. On the bar was the buffalo that starred in Crocodile Dundee called Charlie – stuffed and looking very real. It was a surreal experience to enjoy a drink with a stuffed buffalo and I felt as though we could expect Mick Dundee to pull up a stool beside us at any moment. Just near the pub is a caravan and camping park and this pub served excellent ‘barra and chips’ so there were a lot of happy campers eating there. (Barra is of course the local tasty barramundi fish)SUMMARY:Darwin is a really Aussie city; it still has the laid back, casual attitude but has embraced tourism in a big way. When I was there in 1976 it was a government town really but now tourism has brought in a variety of job opportunities and the town has expanded rapidly. It is really a base from where tourists move on to explore The Kakadu National Park with jumping crocs and Yellow waters as well as the Nitmiluk National Park with Katherine Gorge and Edith falls. Nearby is pine creek and of course it is the start of the Stuart highway south to Alice and then on to Adelaide.
KATHERINE:We were staying in Katherine overnight before our trip down the Katherine gorge and we did drive through Katherine on the way to our motel. Katherine is not a big town and there is not a lot there, a supermarket and a few shops etc. Apparently they have a lot of problems with alcoholism with the Aboriginal people hanging around inebriated which also results in fights. The Australian government and local communities are trying to clear up this problem by restricting the purchase of alcohol. This is a big problem for the Australian people and indeed the Aborigine people who have lost their pride in their way of life and also not become part of the mainstream Australian population by having a job. They are neither one nor the other and have fallen between the two cultures which is a very sad situation and it is causing major problems in some areas of Australia. It is something that is going to take a few generations combined with a lot of positive action on the part of the Aboriginal communities and the Australian government to solve I fear.THE ALL SEASONS:If you would like see photographs then this is the motel website:http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-3112-all-seasons-katherine/room.shtml The All Seasons Motel – part of the Accure group. It was just outside the town of Katherine on the Stuart Highway, this was a motel and is in an area with few facilities so we were not expecting a luxury hotel and in fact we were surprised by this motel in a good way as it happens. There are 100 rooms in the motel complex which is all on ground floor level. They have apparently got 10 family rooms and four rooms for people with reduced mobility which presumably meant an adapted bathroom as the normal ones were quite small.THE ROOMS:The rooms were VERY basic they were described as ‘comfortable’ in the brochure. There was a double bed with clean bedding and ample pillows, the wardrobe was tiny, the kettle area next to this was adequate with tea bags, coffee, sugar and mini milk for these drinks in a small fridge underneath. The room had a huge sliding door/window out on to the car park area which was fine except for the fact that if the curtains were open to let in the light then EVERYBODY could see straight into and through the entire room. This was not the sort of room where you would relax with a beer and takeaway meal, not even lie on your bed and relax without the curtain drawn. However we were only there one night so it was simply a place to sleep for the night. There was air conditioning in the room which was fortunate as we did need it as it was extremely hot. THE BATHROOM: The bathroom was okay; it was tiny but functional with a shower toilet and small basin – not great but clean and functional if rather small and dark – there was no window so the only light was artificial but there was a hairdryer which was useful.THE GROUNDS AND SETTING:The rest of the motel grounds and facilities were surprisingly good. There was a pleasant outdoor pool area, tennis courts, and it was set in a lovely garden and grounds with huge tropical trees and brightly coloured flowers and leafy plants. There was a good sized BBQ area as you will find in most Australian picnic areas and motel grounds.BAR AND RESTAURANT:There was an outside bar and an inside bar and restaurant called Galloping Jacks Restaurant and Bar. We were, as I mentioned, a long way from anywhere so the choice was to eat in the restaurant here or snack on previously purchased food in the dark and dismal room. We chose the restaurant option and we were pleasantly surprised by the menu you could choose between six different types of steaks as well as salmon, chicken or bangers and mash. We had a very nice meal of kangaroo steak, beautifully cooked and served with baked potato and sweet corn on the cob. It was good home cooking food not titivated in any way but it tasted very nice. My husband enjoyed a couple of XXXX beers and I had a couple of Bundaberg rum and cokes and the total was $73 – the cheapest meal we’d had so far in Australia.OTHER FACILITIES AND EXTRAS:The room rate for this hotel includes breakfast but Travelsphere obviously got a discount on the room rate as we were not offered breakfast. Also included in the price were 15 minutes free internet access but unfortunately the wireless access on my laptop did not work and there were a number of others wanting to use the computer with internet so I decided I would wait till we returned to Darwin.There was apparently a sauna and jaccuzi on site but as we were there for just one night, we arrived at about 6pm and left at about 6.30 am we didn’t experience this and really in the hot temperatures of Katherine in summer the sauna did not seem so attractive. Nearby there was a golf course and beach and water sports. As Katherine is miles from the sea I think this must be a river beach but once again I am not sure as I got this information from the hotel website but it is an intriguing claim.SUMMARY:All in all I would be very happy to use this motel for an overnight stay when travelling in the area. It was clean and comfortable and set in lovely grounds. It could not be described as luxurious in any way but it served it purpose for us and I suspect for many people coming to see Katherine Gorge and other parts of the Northern Territory. If we had spent a bit longer then the pool might have had a visit too but I found the restaurant good value and it offered decent tasty food.
by catsholiday on May 23, 2010
Sydney Wynyard TravelodgeThe best thing about this hotel is its location which is within a very close walk of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and extremely close to a metro station too. We walked all around the area sightseeing and everything was easily walk able. The metro took you further afield and you could also get the monorail from a stop further on the metro. This was how we travelled to find Paddington, Paddy’s market and other areas you might want to explore.This is a modern rather plain looking building and within the hotel there are 275 rooms and being a Travelodge is part of that chain of hotels. It is not a smart looking hotel at all, rather functional and chosen for price and location. According to the website all rooms include: • air conditioning • Climate control• Coffee/tea maker• Complimentary toiletries• Desk• Direct-dial phone• Electronic/magnetic keys• Extra towels/bedding in room• Hair dryer• Housekeeping• Hypo-allergenic bedding available• In-room massage available ( surcharge)• In-room safe• Internet access (surcharge)• Iron/ironing board• Pay movies• Premium television channel(s)• Refrigerator• Satellite television service• Sewing kit• Slippers• Trouser press• Voice mail• Wake-up calls• Wired high-speed Internet access- extra The reception area is not huge and there were a number of bus tours staying at the same time as we were staying and that meant it was a bit of a wait for one of the three rather slow lifts if you arrived at the same time as a bus load. The restaurant is to the right of reception – the 4 computers and a seated area is to the left. Our room was quite small with two single beds and along desk unit with a TV at one end at the other was a fridge with complimentary little milk and above was a kettle with tea/coffee and sugar replenished daily. There was a wardrobe with a coded safe inside and an iron and ironing board. Under the TV were 3 drawers. Each bed had a bedside table and a good light to read with. There was a clock radio alarm too. The large window had a wonderful view of the office block next door’s roof and while there were men working on the roof they could look straight in our room. There was no curtain or blind only sliding wooden shutters which were quite neat but obviously very dark when closed which they needed to be when any privacy was required.The bathroom was tiny with a toilet shower over bath and sink unit. One person at a time only and that was a squeeze. Toiletries – soap shampoo and conditioner as well as a shower cap were provided. There was also a pull out washing line over the bath but there was no extractor fan and so it was quite damp in there.The Citrus Grove restaurant is quite small but not expensive for a city hotel. We ate there on the last night and shared half a dozen oysters Kilpatrick for $10 which were very fresh and tasty. My husband had fish and chips with a lovely fresh salad and I had barramundi with lovely fresh al dente vegetables – green beans, bok choy and broccoli. The food was nicely presented and the staff very attentive, filling up our water glasses and checking on our needs. I had a couple of glasses of sparkling wine ($5 each) and my husband had 3 VB beers ($6 each). The meal came to $80 in total.We didn’t have breakfast in the hotel as it was not included in our room price so I can’t say what that was like. There was a lobby bar which was open from 5 in the evening and drinks were the same price as in the restaurant. There was also a small coffee shop but we did not make use of this so cannot comment on the service or food in there.There is a laundry available for guests with washers and a drier but I didn’t make use of that facility. There is no pool but as it was raining the whole time we were in Sydney this did not matter to us. There was a gym but we decided that we would rather spend time seeing Sydney than inside a sweaty gym. We also walked miles as well as climbing the bridge while we were in Sydney so we felt that that would do for our exercise.In short this was a very ordinary city hotel but in a great location for sightseeing in Sydney and probably one of the cheaper hotels in this city. It is a four star hotel but I would say it just makes that rating through having internet access or a gym as the hotel is pretty ordinary really.
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