Australia is my home country, and while I love travelling around the world, Australia is a great place to travel, too; in fact, it's one of the best! Australia is amazingly diverse, from the buzz and modernity of Sydney and Melbourne, to the solitude and ancientness of Central Australia, and to the culture and serenity of Tasmania. Which is why Australia is a destination on most travellers' list.
Here you will find my thoughts on visiting Australia, and the things that I've seen and done, which you can do while you're here!
I'm flying from Canberra to Brisbane today for a house-sit. As always, I've got a window seat, and, as always, when I look out of the window, I'm struck by the humanisation of the land: this trip is 950 kilometres, and it's mostly flying over farmland.
The huge area of Australia is mostly modified (some of it heavily) for human use, except for some of its deserts – it’s a vast machine that serves humanity.
We are house-sitting in Mountain River, in Southern Tasmania. Our temporary pet this time is Kaya, the Alaskan malamute.
Mountain River district is in the Huon Valley, and it's named for Mountain River, which flows from the alpine plateau of Wellington Park. The main peak of Wellington Park is Kunanyi/Mt Wellington, which forms the dramatic backdrop of Hobart.
It’s a very beautiful area – a rural and wild valley surrounded by beautiful high mountains.
We have moved to northern Tasmania for our current house-sit – we are in Trevallyn, a suburb of Launceston. Trevallyn is on a high ridge to the west of the city, and we are on top of that ridge. Launceston city itself is just a few metres above sea level, but up on the ridge we are 130 metres up, so we get great views of the city and the mountains to the east. It’s a great location; and we are only thirty-five-minutes’ walk from the city centre.
We went into the Launceston CBD today, and we parked near City Park. City Park has a macaque monkey display, which I’ve described in a previous blog post. As always when we are going by, we stopped in on them to see what they were up to, and to catch another revelatory glimpse of their evolutionary connection with humans.
It was a quiet time of day for them, and, in a sense, they weren’t really up to much; but, as always, they do everything, including nothing, in an entertaining way.
We’ve been house sitting at Beaupre Point, at the end of the Huon Valley, south of Hobart. Beaupre Point is at the confluence of the Huon River and Port Cygnet, so there is plenty of water around. As with our house-sits in Cazorla, Spain, and Marcoola, Queensland, this property is an accommodation business The property has kayaks for the guests to use, and the owners are letting me use one while I’m here, so I’ve taken one out to check out the local waterways.
I'm house-sitting in Cygnet, Tasmania, again. This time I'm on the hills looking across Port Cygnet and the inlet. The dominant feature of my view is Mount Cygnet, the summit of a long mountain ridge. You can see Mount Cygnet from all around this area, so, by implication, the view from the top should be extensive. I’ve been eying Mount Cygnet off as a bushwalking destination for a while during my various house-sits here in Cygnet, and I’ve recently worked out how to do it!
I grew up in sub-tropical south-east Queensland, where there's not a lot of snow, so snow is something of a miracle to me – it's like it's out of a fairy tale. I've been hoping to get to do some bushwalking in snow before this winter is over. I have returned to Tasmania in the early spring, and there's still quite a bit of snow around at high altitudes, so this is my big chance to fulfil that dream.
Canberra is Australia’s capital city, so while I’m housesitting here I have the opportunity to visit Parliament House to watch our parliament in action – and that’s not always a pretty sight. But before I go into that, I'll give some context: a quick reminder about what our parliament is. Australians should already know about this – although I have my own slant on it – but they probably don’t; and non-Australian readers will need this tiny bit of background before I talk about my visit to our federal parliament.
Canberra is a totally planned city designed by the landscape architect Walter Burley Griffin. Before the city was built the area where it now stands was mostly two large sheep stations, Yarralumla and Duntroon. This blank canvas enabled Canberra to be designed with areas of open country, which results in a spread-out city with integrated areas of bushland. This is ideal for urban bushwalking, and means that I can go on a nice bushwalk straight from my front door!
My house-sit in Canberra includes the occasional house-sit at the house-owner family’s beach house at Tuross Head, on the adjacent coastline. Tuross Head is a small coastal village on the south coast of New South Wales on the beautiful east coast of Australia, about 270 kilometres south of Sydney. Because it’s on the closest adjacent coast to Canberra, it's a popular place for Canberrans’ beach houses.
I’m currently doing a short house sit in the suburbs of Melbourne on the way between Tasmania and Canberra.
I’m lucky to have crossed paths with the exhibition Van Gogh and the Seasons, the largest collection of Van Gogh artworks to ever travel to Australia, at the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s a great opportunity to see some of Vincent Van Gogh’s works with my own eyes.
My current house sit in Bridgewater, southern Tasmania, has put me in an area with some great bushwalking opportunities. One of these opportunities is Platform Peak, just outside of the nearby town of New Norfolk.
The walk to platform Peak is through forestry reserve land, which means that it is public land with a low level of environmental protection (it could be logged one day) and minimal walking facilities, such as maintained tracks and sign posting. This means that more care in planning and execution is required, compared with walking in a national park.
The Tasman Bridge is a graceful bridge that spans the Derwent River, joining Hobart city to the suburbs on the eastern side of the river, to the airport, and to the south-east of Tasmania in general.
The Tasman Bridge was built in 1964 so it’s over fifty years old, but it’s such a modern-looking bridge that it’s hard to believe that it’s as old as it is; certainly, it’s a surprise to see old photos of it covered in 1960s Australian cars, and it’s a surprise to see its original construction cost listed in £s (Pounds), as it was constructed before Australian Dollars came into existence.
But, regardless of the Tasman Bridge’s grace and style, it has a chequered history: it was involved in a serious maritime disaster. If you are in Hobart for long enough you are going to have to hear about, and consider, the story of the Tasman Bridge Disaster.
The Tasman Bridge is a long, graceful, and picturesque bridge that spans the Derwent River, joining Hobart to the suburbs on the eastern side of the river.
I’ve driven over the Tasman Bridge many times, as nearly everyone in Hobart and surrounds does, but I’ve never walked over it on its footpaths. I decided to walk over it as it’s quite high and promised the possibility of an interesting experience with good views.
Cornelian Bay is on the Derwent River, just upstream from Hobart and the Tasman Bridge.
There’s a walking path to Cornelian Bay along the foreshore of the river, which runs from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. It’s quite a short and easy walk of about five kilometres return.
For the most part the walk is enjoyable but unexceptional – the views are quite urban and even industrial, but nevertheless pleasant and worth seeing. But this little walk does have its special point of interest: a collection of cute boatsheds that step out into the water!
One of my favourite types of bushwalking is walking along sea cliffs – I just love peering out of the bush and looking down on that beautiful blue water that disappears into the distance, and seeing the colour of the raw rock of the cliffs against the sea! Southern Tasmania abounds with sea cliffs – some of the highest in the southern hemisphere are down here.
I’ve just walked along the Alum Cliffs, on the Derwent River just south of Hobart, Tasmania’s capital city, and they meet my expectations!
I’ve been kayaking all around Snug while staying in a caravan and cabin park on the foreshore during a short break from house-sitting. The waterways around Snug range in use from relatively wild areas, through agricultural, aquacultural, residential and commercial areas, to industrial areas; so there is a wide range of things to see when out on the water.
Just north of Snug, near Margate, at a marina development, I came across a small and old ex-naval ship tied up at a jetty. At about fifty metres long, while this is a small ship, it is easily the biggest vessel around here, and it was quite a surprise to find it.
I had a marvellous few days staying at Snug Beach recently, and I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a kayak while I was there. Kayaking is one of my favourite things to do, and my favourite and most adventurous kayak trip while staying at Snug was out to the end of Coningham peninsula, along the Coningham Nature Recreation Area (NRA) – it was also particularly memorable for another reason that I’ll come to. The Coningham Nature Recreation Area is wild and very beautiful – it’s all eroding sandstone cliffs, sandy bays, and bush along the sea edge.
One of my favourite things to do in life is kayaking. I owned a kayak for over twenty years, but when I started this house-sitting tour of Australia I sold it along with our house and car. For many years I had that kayak but little time to use it – now I have the time, and I certainly have the place here in Tasmania, which is a kayaker’s paradise, but I have no kayak! This is why I was excited to find that I was able to borrow a kayak while staying at Snug Beach. Using it was the highlight of my stay, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as I explored the local waterways.
We had a break in our house sitting schedule so we took some time off from looking after pets and cleaning up at the end of a house-sit assignment to stay for a few days in a cabin in Snug Beach Cabin and Caravan Park, a caravan (trailer) park at Snug, a short drive south of Hobart. We had a marvellous stay in a very beautiful and interesting area.
And how cute is the name “Snug”!? It almost beats Flowerpot, a few tens of kilometres further south!
We love buying fresh produce and hand-made goods, especially food items, at farmer’s markets – we seek them out and visit them wherever we go, so we went to the Barossa Farmers Market near Angaston, in the Barossa Valley, Australia, at our first opportunity.
We weren’t disappointed – the market is the best I’ve seen since visiting the fabulous local markets in Tasmania.
We took a wrong turn at Yarra Junction in Victoria while we were trying to pick up the Lilydale to Warburton (Warbie) Rail Trail (a disused railway line that is now a multi-use walking track) for an afternoon walk.
As we drove around the country lanes looking for our destination we went past a free-range chook farm with hundreds of plump brown chooks running around the grassy paddocks and on the quiet, back-street road verges.
I recently had cause to drive to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport, for an early drop-off. It’s a one-and-half-hour trip, so I was travelling through the suburbs at 6 am. Even then, the four lanes of the Monash Freeway are close-packed with cars travelling at the speed limit, so the freeway is operating at maximum capacity, maybe hundreds of cars per minute. This will go on for a couple of hours yet, and this is only one of several big feeder roads into the city. It’s hard to believe that all of these vehicles pouring in are going to find a park for the day, and even harder to believe that I’ll find one too, by the time that I get there!
I first visited Launceston nearly 25 years ago, and two things stand out in my memories from that trip: Cataract Gorge and the macaque monkeys in City Park; both of them are still there and they are both still outstanding.
Visiting the monkeys is free, and they are so interesting that we’ve taken to dropping in on them for a look every time we are in that part of the city.
Launceston has an extensive and beautiful natural feature right on the edge of the CBD: Cataract Gorge.
Cataract Gorge was formed when the South Esk River cut through a fault line in a ridge of volcanic rock. It’s a remarkably beautiful and seemingly wild place, especially considering its location right in the middle of a city.
In 2015 I spent eight months travelling around the British Isles, the Iberian peninsular, Iceland, and North America, some of which I have blogged about here (with more to come.) Now we've sold up and become completely nomadic, and we are on our way to do some extensive travelling around our home country, Australia.
When I'm traveling overseas I'm not especially engrossed in looking for great beaches; that's because back in Australia we have some of the best beaches in the world. One of my favourites is at Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. I visited Coolum Beach recently in the early evening of a late-summer day; at this time of day there is usually a beautiful sea breeze blowing in, a lovely soft evening light, and a relaxed atmosphere.
This house-sit is just one night in a house in Marcoola on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Like our other house-sits, this one was organised through Trusted House Sitters. And, like our previous house-sit in Cazorla, Spain, this one is an accommodation business called Glanymor Cottage, with rooms that are rented out through Airbnb. There are no guests this weekend, and the owners are going away to nearby Brisbane.
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