Monkey Mia isn't a beach town, like we thought, but a resort that you drive right into from the road leading to it. Its located in Western Australia, over 700km north of Perth. We drove here as a roadtrip adventure, but I believe you can also fly, or take a bus tour.
When you arrive, you have a choice between renting a room there, camping or staying in your campervan. It cost roughly $30/night to camp there. We were travelling in a camper van, so we just slept in there but on their campgrounds- it cost about $30 for the 1 night. (2011)
The dolphin interaction happens 3 times a day, the first starting at 7am and the last one ending around noon. Make sure you wake up early to get out there because they never do the interactions after 12 even if the dolphins were to show up late.
The "interaction" isn't as intimate as the posters make it seem, so don't get your hopes up! No one is allowed to touch the dolphins and only a few people from each crowd (normally children) will be chosen to give a few fish to them, and even then there is no padding or touching allowed. this is because dolphins over the years have contracted colds and other viruses from the hundreds of hands that used to touch them daily. So nowadays people stand there and enjoy the beauty of the signt of dolphins right at the beach's shore, only a few feet away, which is something that you may only see once in a lifetime.
The lady giving the demo was well-spoken and very imformative.
After the dolphin sighting, there isn't a whole lot else to do on the resort besides kayaking (costs about $15/hour - the guy gave us a deal for $30 for 2 for the whole day) and enjoying the restaurants and eateries on the resort.
1 day is enough to spend at Monkey Mia, 2 at the most.
Dreamworld is located about an hour south of Brisbane. It opens at 10 and closes at 5. Admission is $79.99 for an adult (as of 2011) and for an extra $20 you can have access to the waterpark as well. There are about 7 rides there that are considered 'thrill rides,' There are plenty of kids rides and an IMAX theatre, and food on the premises.
We had a great day here, and would recommend to anyone who enjoys theme parks. The only thing that was missing for me was more scary rides! Of the 7 that are considered to be thrillers, there were only 2 that I feel were truly scary (I guess you have to keep in mind though that I'd been skydiving not too long ago by then so maybe my exceptions were high.) This makes the park to me, a good family-oriented place where children can go on the majority of rides. All in all, we had fun.Related to:
- Theme Park Trips
Located on the sunshine coast in Queensland, this is hands down one of the best zoos I've ever been to. I've never been so impressed with the amount of space wild animals! I truly wish all zoos treated their animals as well as they seem to here. The amount of work gone in to recreating the animal's natural habitat, as well as the amount of space they all have, I believe, makes the admission price worth it - we paid about $60 to get in (2011.) The zoo is also majorly involved with wildlife conservation; there is an animal hospital here for animals from the wild that are sick or injured. There are also opportunities to adopt (sponsor) an animal.
This zoo is also known as 'Steve Irwin Zoo' because it was opened by his parents, Bob and Lyn Irwin in 1970.
Being 100 acres large, there is quite a bit of walking involved visiting all the exhibits at this zoo, so wear good shoes! The sections are divided up into continents around the world; so there is Africa, Americas, Australia and others.
There is a "crocoseum" which is a stadium where you watch a performer interact with crocodiles much like Steve Irwin is famous for doing (see my photos.)
I also remember this as being one of the few places where you can hold a koala; which is something that has been made illegal in other Australian states. I believe Queensland is the only state where it is still allowed. There are opportunities to get your photo taken with a koala here for roughly $20.Related to:
- Family Travel
Take a ferry from Manly and enjoy the Sydney view!
The Manly Ferry is an old tourist activity that has been going since 1800's, which I didn't know at the time.
I met up with a couple friends and we went on a hike to Sydney's Northern beaches on Manly island. From there we took the Manly Ferry back to Sydney harbour, and the view we got of the Sydney harbour and Opera House was so well worth the trip. It is just a standard ferry (nothing fancy) but the view it offers is awesome.
The ferry leaves every 30 minutes throughout the day, and at night too. We did an early evening trip, and it was dark out. It was gorgeous to see the city lights and scenery at night!
All information about fares, schedules, etc can be found on the Sydney Ferries website, below. There are several other ferry tours available that you can also check out.
Bundaberg rum, commonly reffered to as "Bundy" by Aussies, is Australian made and one of the nation's most famous spirits. A museum and factory where it was originally brewed in 1988 is located in between Cairns and Brisbane. We stopped here during our roadtrip and had a very nice afternoon touring this small museum and factory.
A look around the museum is about $15 (2011) and its an extra $10 to have a guided tour of the factory as well which includes 2 free drinks at the bar at the end. They have a very delicious coffee/caramel/chocolate rum that was probably the best I've ever tried; its only sold there, unfortunately! As are several others, most likely which makes it a worthwhile place to see if you like their mainstream drinks. The tour was well informative and it was interesting to have seen where Australia's most famous rum is made. There is such an interesting history behind it as well. The tours run daily, so take a look at the website to see what times are available and book in advance.
Sydney - Hyde Park and St. Mary's Cathedral
Fun facts: St. Mary's Cathedral is a Gothic-style church, and the longest (in length) of any other church in Australia. In 2008, it was the focus of World Youth Day and was visited by Pope Benedict XVI.
Hyde Park in Sydney is such a beautiful place to stroll through; whether you're on your own, with kids, a dog or a friend. There were all kinds of people there. I sat under a tree (from where I took these photos from) and just admired the ambiance. It is the oldest public park in Australia and 40 acres large.
There are fountains and lots of walking trails. Lovely for an afternoon stroll.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Not to be confused with the Pink Lake in southwestern Australia, the Hutt Lagoon is a much larger lake that also turns pink at certain times of the day.
The lagoon contains the world's largest microalgae production plant, a 250 acre series of artificial ponds used to farm an organism called 'dunaliella salina', a type of algae.
Fun fact: it was named in 1839 after a man called William Hutt, a British liberal politician who was highly involved in the colonization of Australia and New Zealand.
If you're driving on the Port Gregory road north of a town called Northampton, you will inevitably pass this lake. Its located about 20 minutes south from Kalbarri National Park.
Uluru ~ " Sounds of Silence" Dinner Experience
Of the several friends who we know have visited Australia, one of the things they agreed was a "must do" when visiting Uluru was to book the "Sounds of Silence Dinner." So not long after settling into our "Emu Walk Apartment," we hurried back to the lobby and booked this activity before it sold out for the night we wished to attend as this activity is considered one of the most popular by guests.
On the day of the dinner, while the sun was still making an appearance in the late afternoon, a coach picked up guests near the resort lobby and drove to a beautiful desert area with a nice view of Uluru in the distance. While the sun was beginning to set, we were treated to "outback-style canapes" accompanied by our choice of beer, wine, and soft drinks. We found this a wonderful time to take photos of our surroundings and make a few acquaintances as well. As the sun began to drop, so did the temperature and by the time we were seated for our 3-course dinner, I was feeling quite cold despite several layers of clothing. To help guests enjoy the setting without thinking about how cold it actually was, space heaters were provided, although from where I was seated no warmth was felt.
Our table of about 10 people was quite friendly and we enjoyed lively conversation before being called to visit the dinner buffet which included salads such as citrus cous cous, potato & dukha, pumpkin & feta, and Crocodile Caesar Salad (yes, crocodile!). Native-spiced BBQ entrees included baramundi fish fillets, wild kangaroo (known in these parts as "Skippy"), and lamb & chicken sausage. Sides were jasmine rice, roasted potatoes, and carrots & fennel with lemon myrtle butter. Desserts included roasted wattleseed & apple crumble, chocolate brownies, warm bread & butter pudding, and carrot or banana cake & fruit.
Dinner was followed by a " 'guided' tour of the night sky by our resident Star Talker" which lasted about a half hour. With virtually no light in the dessert, the stars were brilliant but I admit having trouble actually making out the constellations and some stars that are visible only from this latitude. Afterward, we once again boarded our coach for the short ride back to Emu Walk Apartments.
The cost for this 4-hour experience was $169 per adult (July, 2012), a hefty price for the experience considering the portion watching the sun set is free! While the buffet menu looked appetizing on paper, I was disappointed in the taste and quality of the food. My husband was not so disappointed but pronounced the beer offering was rather low end. Still, we enjoyed the overall experience and meeting nice people, though our wallets were quite a bit lighter for it.
Uluru ~ Rising Sun Indigenous Uluru Experience I
Of the two paid excursions we took when staying at Yulara, "The Rising Sun: An Indigenous Uluru Experience" priced at $175 pp (July, 2012 price) + the $25 pp park fee (good for 3 days) was my favorite. We also booked the "Sounds of Silence Dinner" because doing both would give us different experiences and we would accomplish seeing Uluru at both sunrise and sunset. Obviously these experiences do not come cheaply, however, it would be foolish to come this distance to see Uluru and not experience it to the fullest extent possible just because you do not have private transportation.
Our "Rising Sun..." day trip began one hour before sunrise when we were picked up by motor coach and escorted through the park entrance to a place where we gathered with other groups for early morning bush tea and biscuits. Following a few minutes of adjusting to the cold, and though it was still quite dark, we made our way to the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku Viewing Area with a perfect view to Uluru. With a good camera it was a fantastic opportunity to take photos of the ever so slightly changing light as it fell upon Uluru, then following the sun's gradual ascension until it made its full appearance over the horizon. Changing from a deep purplish-red to a coppery-red color, Uluru's many features began to come into focus. The rosy, gold light playing upon the striated clouds also made for amazing photos.
Following sunrise, we departed for the Cultural Centre also inside the park. This Centre consisting of two buildings would be where we would enjoy an excellent, included buffet breakfast at the Ininti Cafe, as well as have an opportunity to see a film and exhibits on the Aboriginal tribe, Anangu/Mutitjulu, which is the owner of Uluru and the surrounding lands as well as the Centre itself. The Centre also houses galleries featuring Aboriginal art, a gift shop, and is the place where cultural presentations are given.
Following this we gathered around a campfire and were accompanied by Valerie, an Anangu Aboriginal Woman who was our indigenous guide, and her interpreter whose name I cannot recall at this moment. Valerie shared several fascinating bits of information about her people, their art, and their way of life which included demonstrations of tribal daily-life skills -- particularly how they make use of native plants and other resources to survive. After answering our questions, Valerie accompanied us on a walk around a portion of Uluru's base explaining the Aboriginal legends which were inspired by different rock formations of Uluru. Visiting the Mutitjulu Waterhole and the nearby Aboriginal rock paintings capped off the tour. I was very happy that Valerie graciously allowed us to take her photo which many Aboriginal people find disrespectful if taken without their consent. To me allowing this represented a bond between her and we visitors.
The total tour time was approximately 5-6 hours. Once again, this was not an inexpensive undertaking, but it was comparable in price to other similar excursions which were offered by local companies.
A Day in the Blue Mountains ~ Part III
Although I don't quite remember the exact order, the remainder of the day was spent going on to the Kings Tableland, visiting Wentworth Falls, having lunch in the Village of Leura, visiting the site of an Aboriginal rock carving, and taking a 45-minute ferry ride on the Parramatta River back to Circular Quay in Sydney passing by Homebush Bay, the home of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, in the process.
The Kings Tableland is a flat top, rocky ridge which overlooks miles of the Blue Mountains. The sun had appeared and bathed all in a beautiful glow. Our group was far from being the only one enjoying the magnificent vista -- another group arrived just before us and even a young couple with friends and family were taking wedding pictures here. We could see from carved out, bowl-looking rock spots that Aboriginal people certainly had used this site for a variety of purposes. Unfortunately we were not taken to "Battleship Tops," an Aboriginal meeting place where it said that once there were rock paintings and shelters, though which now have fallen prey to vandalism --- what a shame!
Quite hungry by this time, it was only a short drive to the Village of Leura where there was any number of places to eat and shop. We followed the recommendation of our guide and had lunch at the very popular "Loaves and the Dishes" Restaurant and it couldn't have been soon enough. With not much time to linger in the Village, the tour then took us to visit the Wentworth Falls, another gorgeous natural area but one with a decidedly much lower temperature and I was really quite chilled by the time we left this area.
Our last full stop was at an Aboriginal rock carving located in an area which is now surrounded by houses. Our guide poured a little bit of water into the carving to highlight the carving's lines which could then be clearly seen as a kangaroo -- and a speared kangaroo at that. Had it not been for our guide's knowledge of the art, we might not have really understood all that the carving depicted. The question of why this carving is to be found here with no other similar carvings having been found nearby was not fully answered. Maybe they are yet to be discovered!
At this point, dusk was setting in and so driving out of the Blue Mountains we passed Homebush Bay (site of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games) which seemed for the most part to be deserted, and onto our ferry on the Parramatta River for the very delightful evening cruise back to Circular Quay which was the final stop.
It was a very full day of seeing even more of Australia's geographical diversity and the tour had been worth every penny! I would highly recommend it.
A Day in the Blue Mountains - Part II
Leaving the Nepean River, we drove on to Katoomba, and arrived at "Scenic World", our most important destination of the day. Scenic World is a privately-owned tourist area in the Blue Mountains with 4 major attractions you will certainly enjoy in addition to the stunning scenery: Scenic Railway, Scenic Skyway, Scenic Cableway, and Scenic Walkway. Not only does each one of these attractions open a unique view for you into the Blue Mountains, it has its own claim to fame -- at an incline of 52 degrees, the Scenic Railway is the steepest passenger train in the world; at 270 meters, the Scenic Skyway is the highest cable car in Australia; with a passenger capacity of 84 people, the Scenic Cableway is the biggest cable car in Australia; and, with a total length of 2.4 km, the Scenic Walkway is the longest boardwalk in the southern hemisphere.
When we arrived at Scenic Skyway Eastern Station, we boarded a cable car which glided high over the Jamison Valley giving us an excellent view of Katoomba Falls, Mount Solitary, and the Three Sisters rock formation --- the ride took only minutes. Passing through Scenic World's Top Station we continued on to board the huge car of the Scenic Cableway which took us down to the rainforest floor for more astounding views and then to Scenic Walkway at the Scenic Cableway's Bottom Station. The Scenic Walkway is a superbly built, beautiful boardwalk winding its way high and low among the trees, rocky cliffside and springs. Our guide shared his knowledge of the surrounding landscape and put a name to many of the trees and flora that are present. Very interesting and unexpected were the miners' hut, coal mine entrance and associated visual displays. Next to that, the Ventilation Furnace and a bronze of a miner and coal cart pulled by a "pit pony." (This made me sad.)
Even on a somewhat cloudy day, following the twists and curves of the Scenic Walkway was a lovely way to spend part of the day in the natural beauty of the Blue Mountains. We finished our walk and boarded the incredible Scenic Railway, which rather than being a railway in the traditional sense, was an open-air car with bench seats, cage surrounds, and its only route is an incredibly steep vertical ascension --- with its incline of 52 degrees, it put us literally in a standing position as we ascended up the mountain! Quite a thrill!! (Normally, the Scenic Railway is a separate charge, but this was included in our tour.)
Our group finished our time at Scenic World by either perusing the excellent gift shop there or stopping for a quick beverage or snack. There were some interesting sculptures outside of the center where we took a few minutes to snap photos before venturing on to the "Kings Tableland".
NOTE: Last rides are at 4:50pm!!
As stated previous, the price of our day tour with Oz Trails was $79pp inclusive. However, if you visit Scenic World on your own, the online prices are quoted for 2012 as:
Includes entry and unlimited access to all four Scenic World experiences.
Adults $35.00 | Child $16.00 | Family $86.00
Arrive before 11am for additional early bird discount. Valid 22 September to 7 October 2012.
2012 Scenic Pass Adult $28.00
Combine Skyway and Valley and Save Child (4-13) $14.00
A Day in the Blue Mountains - Part I
I read many VT'ers Australia pages in anticipation of our own trip there. Nearly all recommended a visit to the "Blue Mountains". We literally arranged our Blue Mountains day tour with Oz Trails only 15 - 20 minutes before the driver arrived at our hotel to pick us up -- a feature which was included in the price of the tour. After picking up the rest of our fellow sightseers, we made an initial stop at the Nepean River for tea, coffee and morning refreshments. It wasn't a long drive from there to reach Katoomba and the Blue Mountains --- an area of over 1 million hectares of sandstone plateaus, escarpments and gorges dominated by a temperate eucalyptus forest. It is apparently the evaporating eucalyptus oils emitted by the forest which give the mountains a blue haze and hence, their name.
It's said that more than "400 different kinds of animals live within the rugged gorges and tablelands of the Greater Blue Mountains Area. These include threatened or rare species of conservation significance...." Our guide, who admitted to being a hiker, rock climber, and generally someone who has actually been on "walk about" of his own, told us that the area also contains species of pine so ancient, and therefore, of such global significance that the whereabouts of a stand of these pine is actually a closely guarded, government secret.
"The most famous of these is the recently discovered Wollemi pine, a 'living fossil' dating back to the age of the dinosaurs. Thought to have been extinct for millions of years, the few surviving trees of this ancient species are known only from three small populations located in remote, inaccessible gorges within the nominated property. The Wollemi pine is one of the World's rarest species."
Perhaps for all these reasons or more, the Blue Mountains have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Before the day was over, we would visit several natural sights, experience Scenic World, and the World's Steepest Railway, have lunch in Leura, visit the Kings Tableland, see an Aboriginal rock carving, and hear about some of the legends associated with famous Blue Mountains rock formations such as the "Three Sisters" (see 1st accompanying photo). We were quite lucky to see the Three Sisters rock formation distinctly because it is often obscured by a mist which fully enshrouds it.
Sydney ~ Cook's Coffee Cruise
Situated on one of the most beautiful harbors in the world, Sydney and the surrounds are blessed with any number of beautiful bays and beaches. There is no better way to see it all than to take a "Captain Cook Cruise."
Based at Circular Quay in The Rocks, Cook's offers over 20 cruises daily --- breakfast, lunch, high tea, cocktail, dinner cruises and more. The cruise we opted for, and I believe it is considered one of the most popular, was the "Coffee Cruise."
Our cruise left Wharf 2 about 2:30pm and soon a native Sydneysider began narrating the cruise and she did a masterful job of imparting a great amount of information about the neighborhoods, beaches, history, nuances, and life on the waterfront. However, while I hoped not to forget everything she talked about, now a month or more after the fact, it all seems lost. The photos I took do help to jog the memory about certain places -- Mrs. Macquarie's Chair; Balmoral Beach; Fort Dennison; Shark Beach; and even the vintage houseboat from the era of the Great Depression. The cruise gives you the advantage of seeing these sights which you might not otherwise see because of the distance --- and at a favorable price too!
Midway through the cruise, we moved to the lounge where we were served coffee, and tea, and boxes of sweets were given to each passenger. The little box contained a nice assortment: a miniature muffin, a small square of coconut topped & chocolate-dipped sponge cake, a bite-size Tim Tam cookie, and a small package of Australian-made cookies all of which made an excellent accompaniment to the hot drink. This was all included in the price of our 2-hour cruise, which with discount was AU$39 pp. This stretched the food budget a little since we didn't need lunch thanks to this. In fact, there were so many boxes of sweets remaining at the end of the cruise, several people took another box with them just before debarkation.
History aside, a harbor cruise is just a lovely way of spending a beautiful afternoon upon the water. We returned to Circular Quay as the sun began its descent --- the views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House were magnificent at this time of day. I highly recommend choosing one of Captain Cook's cruises while in Sydney. Coffee Cruises leave at 10am and 2:15pm.
Ticket office can be found at Wharf 6, Circular Quay. Tickets maybe purchased in advance online. Coupons might be found in the free "Sydney Guides" available at the tourist offices, shops, and hotels.
Some cracker shots
Sydney has become world famous for the fireworks displays centred around the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
After viewing them on television for several years I finally got to see the 2014 New Years show. Initially from a friend's place adjacent to the Opera House and then from Bradfield Park at North Sydney.
It's certainly something every Australian should aim for, something like the Melbourne Cup or Anzac Day parade; you've got to do it at least once.
I didn't realize the 9 p.m. display was in a different location to the midnight one. Early on there's only one lot of fireworks that comes off the Bridge and that signifies the end of proceedings.
However, at midnight there's stuff coming off the Sydney Harbour Bridge at all angles.
The latter is definitely the best of the two and worth the interminable wait as all venues are chock a block and the early arrivals get the best positions.Related to:
- Family Travel
NED KELLY TOURIST DRIVE
NED KELLY, He is Australias best known Bushranger.
In just two short years between 1878 and 1880, his short and violent life has been an inspiration for poets, writers, artists and filmmakers.
Ned Kelly was a common criminal. He was a hero to Irish immigrants who were persecuted by the establishment. He was a bushranger who held up a whole town, not just banks. He was intensely protective of his family. He killed police officers, was outlawed and could be shot on sight by anyone. Yet when he was sentenced to hang, more than 30,000 people signed a petition asking for a reprieve.
For some reason, Australians love Ned Kelly. Why, probably many reasons. We know he was a larrikin, and ordinary person, some-one who was loyal to his family, he was fearless and perhaps represents some of the struggling working class. Ned Kelly is folklore and is remembered as a hero and villain.
An Aussie saying.... "as game as Ned Kelly," is regarded as an admirable trait - courageous, will attempt anything.
The Ned Kelly Touring Route goes back to its Irish beginnings , starting at Kelly family's birthplace in County Tipperary, Ireland.
The Touring Route has story boards installed at the sites where the historic events occurred ,Old Melbourne Gaol, Avenel, Euroa, Stringybark Creek, Glenrowan, Beechworth, Benalla and Jerilderie.. A storyboard is at the Kelly family home in Moyglass, County Tipperary, where Ned Kelly's father 'Red Kelly' lived, before being transported to Australia in 1841.
There is a map to follow and it should be quite interesting to follow. I have been to most of the places, Benalla, Victoria is excellent. There is a good Museum and a "BIG" Ned Kelly to take a photo of.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
22 Central Avenue, Manly, 2095, Australia
Good for: Couples
A luxurious setting, conveniently close to the city centre without the hubbub. You can have it both,...more
Panoramic city views are breathtaking from this ideal location on the famous South bank Promenade....more
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