In Australia, the Summer holiday season is approaching. Amidst the excitement and bustle of Christmas and the emotion of the school year ending, a corner of our minds steals away to plan an escape.
This week’s photo challenge, Serene, has taken a lot of people to the water. Australians appreciate that – we are a big island where most people hug the coast. Personally, when I lose my inner calm I head to the beach and watch the water lap at the edges of the sand. Refreshing and dangerous. Ever-changing. Timeless.
On the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia lies Stansbury, a town of less than 1000 people with excellent seafood, delightful streets and views and a great caravan park where you can get a site right on the shoreline as the photos taken at dawn, above, show. Only an hour from Adelaide, it is excellent for kayaking, fishing, crabbing, swimming or just being silent. As with a lot of this Peninsula, the water can be quite shallow for a long while, but it does make it very safe for small children and families love it.
The town has all the facilities you need and is part of the Walk the Yorke project, where it is planned to have 500 km of walking trail along the coastline. We took our bikes and ended up in some interesting places, on some death-defying goat tracks and eventually a beach. Still here, though. There are good places to explore the shoreline and the limestone cliffs.
Whatever is going on in my life, the tide will rise and fall, regardless, connecting every continent and every person, with all of our joys and cares. Today, tomorrow and always. And this moment will be forgotten, is small by comparison. Very little really matters in the big scheme of things. .
Approximately 50km north of Adelaide, in South Australia, lies the town of Gawler. Established in 1836, it was the only other town planned by Col. William Light (the other being Adelaide, the capital city of SA). Unlike the square plan of the capital, however, the city of Gawler has a triangular centre.
Arriving by train, my brother and I decided to do one of the walks available from the visitor centre, and ended up doing a mix of the Cultural Walk and the Church Hill Walk. The whole thing took us 2 hours, including a half hour lunch by the river and a dash to the train for our return journey. There are many places to eat, but I can recommend Cafe on Jacob, with its homemade fare and warm atmosphere.
If one of Adelaide’s titles is ‘City of Churches’, then Gawler is a mini city. Church Hill has four churches, positioned almost squarely, and the history was very interesting, representing not only differences in faith but often language and trade. Gawler was surrounded by mining, farming and industry. The lovely buildings and cottages nearby don’t all face the centres of worship, but it is impossible to walk the area and miss any. The old convent is near the Catholic Church and would make a great scene for a movie.
There is some very nice architecture, quaint buildings and, generally, a pleasant ambiance. The history on plaques or in the walking guides required a bit of reading time, but was well worth it.
The main street has altered over the years, with some of the charm of a big country town lost with progress. There remains many delightful buildings and it is still a point through which travellers make their way to the famous Barossa or Clare Valleys. Very decent hotels, cafes, bakeries and parks add to the value of a visit here. There are supermarkets, a cinema, outdoor pool and caravan park, all within easy reach of the train station so if you have to dash to get home it isn’t far. The one hour (approx) train journey from Adelaide will take you through suburbs, farmland and industry, as well as past schools, the football oval and the heritage Gawler train station. You actually get off at Gawler Central which is the last stop on the line.
Visit the Information Centre for maps, or go online to download them earlier. The original owners, the Kaurna (pronounced Garna) people, are located along the Adelaide plains and lived in the Gawler area for at least 40 000 years.
The river has flooded, with water lapping over the bridges in 1992, which is a lot of water, but generally it is a dry area.
Head off from here to Whispering Wall or one of the major wine regions. A very pleasant day trip.
As Jane Austin says in Pride and Prejudice, near and far are relative terms. If you see my blog on the Northern Territory, you can cover a lot of ground in a short time. Fast travel isn’t for everyone, though. And if you start in a big city like Sydney, you will possibly not get so far, but have seen a great deal.
Western Australia is the largest State and has almost every climate type (see below), producing every kind of environment. Before I went, people warned that it was a long way to anywhere, but it really is about a day’s travel to many of the locations (8-10 hours drive at 100km/hr). We did it in 39 days, but that included a long stop in Perth and other extended stops, as well as inland treks.
Every State has a lot to see and do. You would have to look at the time you have and marry it with the things you want or love to do.
The time of the year
As a big island, we have an enormous range in climate. Our climate is temperamental. Check before you leave.
In everyday language, above the Tropic of Capricorn (see map in A good State to be in) you will be guaranteed warm to hot weather all year. Clothing – strictly shorts and light tops.
The vast desert region occupying most of the centre is cold at night in the dry season, loosely corresponding to Winter (June – August) and mild at other times. Do not underestimate how hot it gets in the desert – we have met travellers from Europe about to embark on the Tanami Desert , carrying no water. THAT IS CRAZY! You’ll need a hat, too.
It is hot to extremely hot in the Wet (October – April) and can be tremendously humid.
October to April (roughly) is the cyclone season, so floods and very high winds would deter most travellers from the ‘top end’.
There is no Spring or Autumn in this region, although wildflowers (famous in Western Australia) bloom in what would be called Spring south of the Tropic.
As you would expect, from the Tropic it gets cooler as you head south and warmer as you go north. Winter in the south is from June to August and you’ll get lots of rain and cold winds but our snow regions are sparse. Our minimum temperatures don’t commonly go below zero but in the open it’ll be cold.
Summer in the south is from December to February, but we can have 40C in March (not unexpected in South Australia).
Western Australia is windy.
In geographical terms, the following map could help:
The things you enjoy seeing and doing.
We are a population that hugs the coast and once won most of the Olympic swimming competitions. We are a beach culture. However, in the north there are ‘stingers’ in Summer. These are jelly fish that sting and some can be fatal. While some beaches have vinegar or warm water for removing the tentacles or sting, not all do and it is common in these regions for people to do most of their swimming in chlorinated public or private pools.
Climbing – we have plenty of hills and ranges to climb.
Walking – with so much space and distance there is a walk to suit all abilities and ages. Many have bike access or are wheelchair friendly.
Train rides – I’m not sure if we can compete with the speeds of Europe, but we have some delightful and some dramatic steam train journeys, including the 52 degree incline of the Blue Mountain rail journey. Then there are the epic journeys between states and across the dessert.
Underwater adventure – whether it’s the fast disappearing Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays or the Ningaloo Reef, we have underwater scenery to amaze you. Swim with sharks if that takes your fancy, but make sure you are in the cage!
Cycling – It is mandatory in many States, now, for all new roads to have bike lanes. We have the Tour Downunder for a reason, so there are tracks and roadways for everyone.
Scenery – what can I say? We have it all – the good, the great and the unusual.
Birdlife – a very large variety of birdlife can be found and you are better off checking the location you are thinking of or going to http://www.birdlife.org.au/ before deciding where you’ll bird watch.
Wildlife – Our unique marsupials are world renowned. We have most of the deadliest snakes in the world, so research that and tread heavily where you go.
Fishing – yep! I’d recommend joining one of the Barra (Barramundi) safaris for adventure, but look out for the eyes floating on top of the water.
Food – we are a multicultural country so I defy you not to find your culture’s culinary delight. We offer food trails in most States and several in some. Free samples, too!
Wine – ah! Bacchus couldn’t ask for more. Light wines in rainy areas, heavier in the dry. Don’t look for anything in Queensland or Northern Territory , as the humid climate and the grapes are not friends. Although they do import from the rest of us, so you’ll find something. Beer is the poison of those regions.
Botany – plants and flowers to satisfy Joseph Banks. We have such a wide range you’d need to check local areas.
Camping – of course. But we are a big place with lots of isolated areas. Be careful and sensible.
For this week’s photo challenge – reflecting – I thought I’d share one of the many that I am able to catch on my evening walk, with my sister, at local Mawson Lakes, South Australia.
A northern suburb, it is happily situated to catch the sunset, twice over. This shot faces the old farm house, a heritage building that existed before the swampy area was redesigned to catch storm water and create the Salisbury Wetlands.
The best ones are usually in Summer, when they foretell a hot day, following.
In the mid-north region of South Australia, which is about 2 hours out of Adelaide, lies Burra. It is a fabulous destination for a day, but there’s plenty to see to warrant staying longer.
It began as a mining town, in the mid-1800s, and supplied most of South Australia’s copper and 5% of the World’s copper for more than a decade. Most of the buildings and houses are original, so this historic town (in Australian terms) is charming and interesting.
We did the Burra Heritage Passport, paying a fee to the Visitor Centre and getting a map and keys to historic sites in the town. This is a kind of self-guided ‘tour’ and took us about 2 hours, covering only about 10 km. There are some shocking tales, of mining families that lived in the river bed, digging their homes into the banks – as miners they knew how to dig into anything – only to suffer illness and death when the rains came and the river bed filled up. Generally it was children and the old who couldn’t survive.
The tunnels under the brewery were educative and in very good condition. You could easily imagine being down there, rolling barrels along, probably in the dark.
The open cut mines were a feature of Burra, the miners having experienced cave-ins in Britain from where many came. It was a good solution to a familiar disaster. The buildings on the mine site are well-maintained and quite beautiful. There are little green bits of copper lying everywhere, for the geologist in you.
A row of miners cottages remain and are used as accommodation, opposite the river and caravan park. The park was well-located for exploring the town.
The school was very grand and formidable but I think it is the town hall, now. There is a cottage set up as an historical display of life at the time of Burra’s heyday.
Visiting the lollie shop, after having a great snack in the cafe nearby, I commented on how the door to the rest of the house seemed to drop down. The attendant told us that the buildings were very well constructed and withstood high temperatures in Summer (40C) and very cold in Winter (around 2C at night), with the occasional flood that entered the room where we stood. The shop was on the banks of the river, but it was several metres above it. Most of the houses are stone, from nearby quarries, and the soil was obviously suitable for houses to be dug out of it and on it, as there was very little cracking or signs of movement. Well, I found it fascinating.
There are a few places to eat or buy food and at least one secondhand store that had such treasures it was hard to walk past. It is a snug town, where you feel that you’re returning home, rather than visiting. I had the impression of being in a valley, despite open fields and arid landscapes.
The Burra Visitor Centre has some good information about the megafauna of the region which became extinct about 50 000 years ago. There are fossil displays in the Council chambers but we didn’t get to see them. Various trails can be taken, too, to explore this aspect and vegetation as well.
We travelled fast, of course, and didn’t stop more than two nights, so we were moving the whole time, seeing things, walking, driving. We would go again, for sure. It is a town just waiting for an historical mini-series!
The Clare Valley is to the West, Broken Hill is North East and Morgan is South East. All good destinations to follow with.