5 days in The Flinders Ranges

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Located from 200km to 800km north of Adelaide, the largest mountain range in South Australia is discontinuous and includes the Southern, Central and Northern Ranges. Over 500 million years old, the geology is diverse and dramatic and each town or city along the way offers something different. I’ll share with you the path we took, after doing some research.

Day 1: Pt Wakefield Road to Quorn. We stopped for a break and an excellent coffee at the Flinders Rest pub in Warnertown, then non-stop to Quorn. After checking in at the Quorn caravan park, we drove out on the Arden Vale Road (dirt, but good) to the Simmonston Ruins, where eager pioneers had built, anticipating the railway’s course, which altered.

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There are several sights along this track, including Proby’s grave, the sad tale of a wealthy 24 year-old Hugh Proby, who drowned in a freak flood (the same flood that had pioneers think that there’d be plenty of water in the area).

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Everywhere is a good spot to get some view of the Ranges, but Buckaringa Scenic Drive and lookout was reasonable, despite the falling light.

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We headed to Warren Gorge expecting somewhere to hike, but found instead a popular place to camp on the cheap. You could certainly do hikes if you stayed here, but it wasn’t the gorge walk we were expecting. Fabulous examples of rock formations and flora typical to the area.

On our way back, we checked out the road to Dutchman’s Stern Conservation Park for the next day. 

Day 2: Dutchman’s Stern is a great hiking spot, but the road out isn’t suitable for a caravan. Most of it was fine for a regular car, but there were some deep corrugations.

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We decided to do the Terrace Viewpoint and see how we went for time, but then continued on to the summit. As time was short we returned by the same route, rather than doing the loop hike. The paths vary, but are not suitable for wheelchairs and there’s often loose rock. We made it in 2 hours and are of average health and fitness for over 55s. No terribly steep bits, just the occasional rubble.

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good signage

The views, on this early, foggy morning were inspiring, even before we got to the Terrace Viewpoint.

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Making it to the summit about 10 minutes later.

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and walk back with wildlife.

Accommodation is available at the homestead and shearer’s quarters, for a reasonable group, if you decide to base yourself here and look around the area or do more walks. We went from here to Death Rock. I couldn’t find why it was called that, but the local Aboriginal people call the area Kanyaka, meaning piece of rock, and it was significant to them because it was, and remains, a permanent waterhole.

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Hugh Proby (mentioned earlier) moved to the area and set up a cattle station that became one of the largest in the area until drought forced its closure. The ruins are substantial and hint at more prosperous times. They are very picturesque.

It is an easy drive from here to Hawker and then on to Wilpena Pound, where we camped in an unpowered site, beside the river bed. The park is very large and there is a swimming pool, but I’m not sure if it’s for motel guests. The rest of the park allowed open fires, which I didn’t expect at this time of the year.

exuberant campfire builders later in the night

We set out fairly soon for Sacred Canyon, which has some Adnyamathanha engravings. The Aboriginal people do not mind that you take photos of it and the canyon is short, making it manageable for families with young children. If you can make it along the serious corrugations to the canyon, it is pretty, interesting and has some great rock formations.

We continued on a short way to Huck’s lookout and Stoke’s Hill lookout, the latter having a short but shocking dirt road. The views were ok, but late light on a cloudy day isn’t the nest for photos (sorry).

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We passed some emus on the way back to the campsite. They were everywhere and you need to keep an eye out for them, as they can dash across the road and into your path.

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Day 3: We took Explorer’s Highway, beside paddy melons, to the Great Wall of China

and then on to Blinman, the highest recorded town in South Australia. It has an art gallery, great bakery/coffee shop, pub and excellent public toilets.

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From here we headed to Glass and Parachilna Gorges. It was a long stretch that had no water, like most of the Ranges, and you couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful it would be with some rain. Apparently, it had been 18 months since they had had a decent rainfall and the effect was shocking. Gorges that I had been to in years past, with thundering rivers, were dry dust bowls. Campers took advantage of the dry beds and pitched in isolated spots.

Driving towards Brachina Gorge, on good road and with the Ranges to your left, was lovely. Brachina Lookout is interesting, with its geological information repeated as you travel through the gorge, as if through time. But, again, the dry river beds we lunched beside were disappointing. Plenty of campsites here, if you are self-sufficient or only need a toilet.

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Returning to Wilpena, I took the walk at the back of the park, to the old Wilpena Station. This is a beautiful path and easy on foot or in a wheelchair, or you can get a lift at the tourist centre, I think, most of the way.

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good signage
significant rock
creek bed

The lookouts were not remarkable and I think the view from the hill at the back of the park is much better and you get plenty of roos.

steep upward path to the lookout
the view from the first lookout
view from the hill behind the park
roos a-plenty

Day 4: We set off at 8.45 am for St Mary’s Peak, the highest mountain in the range, without intending to climb beyond the shoulder, as the Adnyamathanha people hold the peak as a significant site.

We checked at the tour centre first, as the maps provided weren’t clear, as in which direction to head. There is an easier, level track that is longer but pretty flat, with exposed sections, and an outer track that is fast, steep and difficult.

After a disagreement regarding which marker to follow, we believed that we were on the easy track, and powered on.

a level path for about an hour

The track was picturesque and enjoyable for about an hour and then we got to some very steep climbs requiring vertical scaling of rock walls. We stopped for a bite (thankfully we had the scroggin) and went on and up. Needless to say, we had taken the difficult way and although it was quite quick, we didn’t joyfully anticipate the drops on return. 

the steep escarpment required goat-like skill
A view of St Mary’s peak, I think

Taking the longer route back (12 km) took a lot longer than it should have. A mistake in judgement had us travelling with one bottle of water and no sunscreen. The way was flat but very exposed and by now it was midday. The whole trek took us 7 hours, instead of the suggested 6, or less. BIG MISTAKE – please don’t make it. 

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Hill’s homestead

We stopped at the Hill’s Homestead, built in 1888, and read about Jessie Hill, daughter of the owner. We meandered along the shady path back to camp for a huge rest and an average beer on our return, only venturing to the office to seek WiFi.

WiFi is picked up more easily near the office

Day 5: We went home via Cradock, stopping at Maggie’s Rendezvous in Orroroo for homemade quandong pie (don’t miss it) and to admire their pink ribbon support. Maggies had some quirky table puzzles and nic nacks that kept you distracted while you waited (not that it was a long time). We had lived in Orroroo a short time while doing teacher placement and it is a lovely town, very friendly.

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Maggie’s Rendezvous supporting pink day

Last stop historic Clare for a bakery vegetarian pasty and then home.

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Safe travels. Take plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen. It’s not pleasant if you forget!!

Out of time and out of place in Australia

For Becky’s time squares, a selection of the timeless, time-worn and time-travelled.

dated at over 3 billion years, the stromatolites of Hamelin Pool in WA are the oldest living fossils in the world.
Evidence of rivers at Watarrka, 400 million years ago, in the deserts of central Australia
now located in St David’s Cathedral, Hobart, but a long way from home
From another time, but still in use for tourists, paddle steamers on the Murray River, Echuca.

3 days in Hobart: go far, without breaking the bank.

Hobart in Winter is not for the faint-hearted. Icy winds and single-digit temperatures (Celsius) frame an otherwise sunny day with frost.

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Snow on Mt Wellington

So what takes a lover of 40 plus degrees so near the Antarctic? – The knowledge that we’d not spent enough time there last year, when we travelled Tasmania,  and cheap direct flights from Adelaide! Our aversion for the cold limited our visit and maximised our planning. Normally preferring to drive, we read up on the hazards of driving in Tasmania in Winter – snow, black ice, sudden weather changes (true all year) and decided to walk and catch public transport.

GETTING AROUND. 

From the airport, we caught the airport shuttle for $20 each, which took us to our accommodation, although this wasn’t one of the stops. We caught a public bus to Richmond, which was about $15 (for two) each way. Fares are cheaper after 9 and before 3. I downloaded MetroTas on my phone so that I could see what was available at any time and plan our trips, and we could have got a green card which is a transport card, which means reduced fares. Weekend services are not as frequent. Most of our travel was on foot, however, and the signage and street maps are amazing. As there are no footpaths for highways, make sure you get an underpass.

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clear signs from Hobart

PLACES TO VISIT

Salamanca Place is interesting, varied, accessible. We’re told the markets on a Saturday are great but we’ve always missed them. There is a large square with a fountain, where kids could run a bit, art, shopping, bars…

 

 

Kelly’s steps are located in Salamanca and these lead to Battery Point. James Kelly was a sailor and at the time he built the steps, in 1839, they were part of a cliff that overlooked the Cove. The buildings on the wharf were made of the stone from the cliffs (courtesy of Wikipedia). We took the steps and did the historic walk:  https://tasmania.com/things-to-do/walks/battery-point-historic-walking-tour/   credit to Dale Baldwin, that we could follow on our phones, taking us to historical places in the area. It took about an hour and is inclined from the steps. St George’s was an imposing building, not on the walk but definitely on the horizon and unmissable.

The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens – an easy half hour walk from Hobart, even in the rain, well-sign-posted. The view and terrain was very pleasant and we went via the Soldiers of the Avenue, a memorial to the soldiers of the Boer War and the two Great Wars and past the gunpowder magazine. It was a good track until just after the sports field, where three choices led to the use of Google maps on our phones and following a narrow, muddy track for the last km. The gardens are not too big and you can probably get around in about an hour.

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Botanical Gardens

We took three, with stoppages in the gift shop, Succulent (the cafe), the lily pond, conservatory and the subantarctic plant house.

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subantarctic house

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conservatory

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well-designed

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lily pond

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centenary arch

 

Richmond is an historical town, not far from Hobart. It boasts the oldest bridge, oldest intact gaol and the oldest Catholic Church in Australia. We arrived around 9.30am, after a 40 min bus ride and left at 1.40pm. We had seen everything, but not visited every shop or gallery. Very interesting. The gaol was $10 entry and the miniature village was $15 (both for adults). We decided against the latter. The courthouse, village square and St. Luke’s Anglican church are all worth a stop. The town is known for the well-preserved Georgian architecture, so enjoy it. Take note of details like the chisel marks, used to create rounded edges on the bridge.

The oldest synagogue in Australia easy to get to, in the city

Australia's oldest synagogue

The waterfront and Hobart’s 200+ year-old piers, and some much younger.

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The Drunken Admiral

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An active fishing industry

FOOTSTEPS, artwork commemorating the 13 000 female convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land (name prior to Tasmania) between 1804 and 1854 and the 2000 children they brought with them. Artists John Kelly, Carole Edwards, Joanna Lyngcoln and Lucy Frost.

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SELF PORTRAIT – The Bernacchi Tribute. Tasmanian Louis Bernacchi (1876 – 1942) was the first Australian to winter in Antarctica. He left from this point in 1998, with his dog, Joe. The husky also joined him in 1901 when they joined Scott’s Discovery expedition.

HOBART AT NIGHT

Some views and comparisons might lure you into the even colder night air:

 

 

PARKS AND CHURCHES

St David’s Cathedral, with artifacts brought from the UK, dating as far back as the 11th Century

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St David’s Cathedral

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interior, St David’s

St David’s Park

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Flinders’ Square

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TASMANIAN MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY (free or gold coin donation)

Now, I’m not talking about MONA (museum of old and new art) and you should definitely see that. Had we not seen it, we would have taken a ferry there, with wine and cheese, as recommended by Bridget and Chris, but we had, so…

This original museum houses some interesting displays that have been presented in a very human way. For example, the Tasmanian Tiger, now extinct, has some anecdotal accounts, questions of what if, and photographs. Some children, nearby, could follow the information and were asking their dad some further questions. In the migration section there were pictures of a couple who married by proxy in the 1950s and are still married, today. Real, everyday, history.

 

We went to the Bond Store Galleries, in the same complex but a different building. It has three levels of history and one was about mental health and incarceration, so be mindful of this if you take children. The stairwell is a piece of art and the walls, showing the results of convicts/prisoners practicing their writing, is sobering. Quite unsettling is the account of white invasion and the terrible things done to the Indigenous people. A provoking exhibition.

Mount Wellington TRY to get the amazing view that we’ve only seen in other people’s pictures. The last visit we went up and fog came in about half way up. This time, we were told that it would be closed if there’s snow, so… no luck. It is an impressive backdrop to Hobart, from whatever angle you catch it, even out of a bus window.

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FOOD

A walk across the road to the local pub for typical pub fare, at pub prices, but supersized. Local beer and “An Englishman”, a chicken Schnitzel with a Yorkshire pud on top. I had a plate of roast Mediterranean Vegetables. Good atmosphere, very big, warm fire, solo guitarist /singer.  Other nights, prepared meals in accommodation. Lunches at bakeries and breakfast provided. We ate at the pier one day, to have seafood at Mures, and discovered that which was very nice. However,  if you head for Salamanca Place, not far away, you can get a good meal for half the price, under substantial outdoor heaters. The view won’t be so close to the waterfront. There are many, many food possibilities, so do a bit of research with your phone or by foot.

ACCOMMODATION

There is a huge range and during winter the rates are very good. We stayed at Argyle Apartments, which had excellent reviews and they weren’t exaggerating. The studio room was spacious and had a huge, comfortable bed. We had a fridge and the usual condiments, with a kettle and a coffee machine. Arriving at night, it was amazing to enter a pre-warmed room and the enclosed balcony had a heater, sofa and table and chairs (and a great view of Wellington). The shared kitchen had a great variety of foods and a microwave for heating/cooking. There was also a stocked fridge, here. The amenities were in a separate corridor, but we had our own toilet/shower room. Great location, central to everything, and they allowed us to store our bags there on the last day and even come back and have tea/coffee while we waited for our shuttle.

We were on the go for a lot of the time, but it’s a good way to stay warm. The town is pretty small and so manageable on foot, or if you are restricted, there is a hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus, for $35 /day or local buses. It only rained the first day and we had sunny, but icy days for the rest.

Loads of charm in Hobart and nearby. Why not see for yourself?

Safe Travels. Take water and a warm scarf and beanie.

 

Richmond Bridge – geometry

Cee’s fun photo challenge involves scanning a picture and then picking a topic from what you see. Although I got pretty excited by ‘geometry’, I think I hit a few of the other possible topics with this one –

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the oldest bridge in Australia, with the oldest Catholic Church in Australia in the background. At Richmond, Tasmania.

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Geometry in tan bricks

Hand-in-hand in Hahndorf

Having heard so much about Hahndorf, we made use of a free Autumn weekend, got in the car and headed for the hills of Adelaide. A reasonable crowd heralded the town’s popularity and the colours, smells and quaint heritage buildings promised varied recreation.

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Our first stop was the Hahndorf Academy, established 1857 and now housing a museum with early artifacts, a shop selling handmade goods and an art gallery featuring works of Hans Heysen and various Aboriginal artists. Fabulous designs, textures and patterns.

It wasn’t long before we found our favourite diversion, an antique/curio shop, down a wide lane,

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before the famous fudge shop, of which people had told me.

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Which set us thinking about lunch. We ate at Otto’s Bakery, famous for it’s vanilla slice, but there was no shortage of options, indoors or out, and plenty of traditional German fare.

The Alec Johnston park, with a large playground and grassed area, is central, if you have children who need to burn off some energy.

Then it will be back to bric-a-brac at Grass Roots

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Sidewalk sales

soap or honey

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sacraments at St Paul’s Lutheran

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a smidgen of history/folklore

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follow a chair fetish?

appreciate Autumn

admire old architecture

and make time to visit a winery

We spent 4 hours in Hahndorf and it went very fast. If you are coming to Adelaide, be sure to put it on your itinerary. You might even stop at Lofty National Park on the way.

Safe Travels.

Colourful Melbourne

It is the fastest growing city in Australia, despite being in the second smallest state. Cosmopolitan, vibrant, at its core is the state’s business, administration, culture and recreation. Easily accessible from Adelaide (and Sydney, Queensland and Tasmania), I headed over for a weekend to explore it.

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So much to see and so little time. The street art is well-advertised and I found one area quite near, in Hosier Lane.

 

Other visual delights can be found in alleys, like shopping and food.

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Special mentions? The short stop donut shop, where I bought a lemon meringue donut.

 

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donut selection that day

That’s it, closest row, second from the left. I thought it was going to be a donut with meringue on top, so was unprepared for the lemon custard that oozed out from under the meringue. Super delicious. The owner was happy to pose with me and I’m happy to promote his business.

For dinner I ate Japanese both nights, and there were lineups on Saturday night that prevented us from dining at our first choices, so if you see somewhere good during the day, book a table.

For breakfast/brunch go to Krimper Cafe in Guildford Lane. The best I’ve had in Australia.

 

Pass through the rustic doors and try to decide what to have:

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Granola with pears, yoghurt, homemade jam and a mango lassie on the side.

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Avo affair

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Almond crusted French toast

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Self-selected scrambled egg, mushroom, goat’s cheese and yellow smoothy

Great coffees, teas, juices and more. Excellent service and relaxed, heated venue. Good prices, too.

Melbourne’s buildings exhibit a blend of old and new, some startling architecture and weathered favourites, caught within the net of overhead tram lines.

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Town Hall circa 1870

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city junction – check out the wavy edge on that building, right.

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Inner city residence (must have a gardener)

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Australian Centre for the Moving Image (2002) in the foreground and Flinders Street Railway Station (1910) down the way.

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St Paul’s Cathedral

Time to see something of the environment, so it was off to the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens.

 

A brief intermission for shopping on Bridge Road (a couple of hours) was made possible by the excellent tram system and a myki card that you tap on, and tap as you get off to initiate subtraction of your fare from the balance. Other shopping areas are Bourke Street Mall, Chapel Street, the numerous DFOs and so many hidden gems. Keep your eyes open and look at reviews online to get exactly the style you want.

I’d heard of the Queen Victoria Markets, so went to see that they have a range of fresh food, craft items, imports and clothing.

 

The Shrine of Remembrance is adjacent to the Botanic Gardens. It is a massive structure designed in the style of the Tomb of Mausolus and the Parthenon.

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Outside this entrance is the Cenotaph and Eternal flame, recording all the defence forces that have fought and where the battles took place.

 

The granite column has a basalt sculpture at the top, of six service men carrying a bier with a corpse, draped in the Australian flag.

I stayed at Quest on Lonsdale, which was well-situated and had a 7-eleven convenience store nearby and a couple of coffee houses, but no dining room of their own. The room was large and clean and the employees very helpful. It is on the edge of Chinatown, just up from the Greek quarter.

Saturday night took me to Jankara Karaoke on Russell Street, one of the few public karaoke bars. It was pretty good, but my friends and I were the only over 50s there. Make that 40s.  We had a good time, anyway. You can sing each time you buy a drink at the bar and I didn’t think the ones who sang the most had been ordering juice. Hmm, maybe the only over 30s.

You can get from the airport using the Skybus ($19) then from the depot to your accommodation on a Skybus Hotel Transfer (no extra cost). Trams and trains take you just about anywhere and four people stopped to ask if we needed help/directions when we were in the city and trying to find our way around. Melbournites get top score for being tourist friendly.

I saw the MCG and Etihad Stadiums but didn’t get tempted to do a tour – you might.

I walked 12 km one day and didn’t even notice it. A great city and still more to see. I must go back for the honey and sea salt donut.

Put Melbourne on your itinerary. It is buzzing.

Safe travels.

7 hours in Sydney

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It is the largest capital city in Australia and spreads over several kilometers. So, what sights did we see when we arrived at Central Station at 10 am and had to be on the 5 pm return train?

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Sydney Central train station

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We checked the large information board in the central foyer and then had the task of finding platform 23, complicated by little signage ON platforms, but plenty of arrows directing you TO platforms. We went three levels below ground, where we headed to Kings Cross, once famous as Sydney’s red light district, but at this hour of the day we were bound for Potts Point, an adjoining suburb. Plenty of heritage buildings, apartments and promising lane-ways, the area supports both the wealthy and the downtrodden.

 

Stopped in at The Butler, with a notion to returning for lunch and admired the great view.

 

After meeting family members, we took the train over the famous bridge to Milson’s Point. Lavender Bay was a short stroll and we entered Wendy Whitely’s Secret Garden. Following the untimely death of her husband, artist Brett Whitely, creative Wendy and  daughter Arkie, began designing  a garden on land that was something of a wasteland. Arkie died in 2001 and Wendy continued the work more ardently, subsequently spending 20 years converting it to a beautiful public garden.

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The tower that signifies Wendy Whitely’s house at Lavender Bay

The garden sits at the base of her own home, the tower of which is a landmark.

An impressive fig tree marks the start of it, with a sculpture/plaque at its base, etched with the words to a Van Morrison song and the famous Sydney icon beyond.

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& we shall walk and talk in gardens all misty and wet with rain…Van Morrison

There is a choice of paths to take, some steeper than others but all of them well-maintained. The plants, the resting places, birds and wondering bush turkeys are all very peaceful.

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good paths

 

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resting/eating spots

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some downhill paths

Needless to say, we’d worked up a hunger, so off to somewhere quite natural –

 

The Botanist, Kirribilli. A great range of vegetarian options in a funky, opshop-style setting. Very well-priced and delicious meals. My favourites were the fried cauliflower, tahini, pomegranate, yoghurt, currents, mint and smoked almonds and then the grilled marlin, chermoula, roasted fennel and green olive.

Fortified, it was time to attempt Cahill Walk!

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From Milson’s Point, go past the Burton Street tunnel to the Bridge Stairs, with the variety of signs indicating what you will see, what you can’t do and it is all free.

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The views of the Opera House, City and Harbour are wonderful. If you take the Pylon Tour, it will cost $15 but you will be almost at the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, with stunning views and can get enviable selfies behind a very safe and secure wall.

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The Pylon tour includes a 15 minute video that explains the building of the bridge, with historical footage and the 200 step climb takes you past photos, relics and articles depicting the journey of the workers and stake-holders. It is quite startling to see what people did in the days before OHS&W regulations – men sitting on girders, suspended high above the water, with no helmet, harness or sometimes shirt.

It was time to sprint for the next train and return to Blackheath from whence we had come. We needed to buy an Opal card, which is a transport card, and you tap it on an electronic recorder at stations when getting on and off the train.  We travelled the whole day with a credit of $20 and we didn’t run out of money.

Some classic Sydney and something different. There is so much here to choose from, so do your research and do what you love.

Since first writing this post, a son has travelled to Sydney and utilised the Big Bus. It is a hop on, hop off, double-decker bus that takes you to the major Sydney city sights and/or the sights at the famous Bondi Beach. You literally hop on when you want and hop off when you want. The commentary is pre-recorded in 7 (?) languages  but nearby attractions are not necessarily signed. It is a great way to get around to the Opera House, Bridge, Botanic Gardens and other sights, for $49.50 online. You can hop off at 3 particular stops and joint the other tour.

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Pretty hard to miss. It can take as long as you like, between 8.30 am and 5pm. Try this website for more information: https://www.bigbustours.com/en/sydney/sydney-routes-and-tour-maps/

Take water and a hat. Safe travels.