Hamilton Island, Whitsundays

For our 30th wedding anniversary, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the place we have found the most luxurious and beautiful in our travels around Australia.

There are 74 islands in the Whitsunday group, but not all are inhabited and not all can be visited, as many are National Parks. We chose Hamilton, as it is a good size, is close to Whitehaven Beach (voted one of the top ten in the world) and offers excellent off-shore snorkeling. There are other things to do here, but I’ll start by explaining what we did, in no particular order.

Hamilton Island airport

Travel from Adelaide involved two planes and a 4.15 am start. However, we landed in paradise around 11 am and were taken by free shuttle to our accommodation – Whitsunday Apartments, in Catseye Beach.  This is a nicely sized group where you can be remembered and not get lost.

view to the right 

Accommodation

There are many places to stay on the island, but they fall under four categories – holiday homes that you rent, apartments, bungalows or luxurious. We have stayed in a holiday home before, with our children, and it was absolutely beautiful. This time the two of us stayed in an apartment and it was perfect, with cooking facilities and in a good location.

view to the left

Transport

We walked most of the island for what we wanted to see and do, after taking the free Blue shuttle (every 40 minutes) tour of the island, to see what was there.

the free shuttle from the airport, in front of the Blue shuttle

The Green shuttle (also free) goes from the marina to Whitsunday Apartments and back, every 15 minutes, stopping at other accommodation. Signage along the way indicates where to get on and off.

Most locations concerning us were at the marina, the Resort Centre and One Tree Hill. The latter is steep and given the heat, we usually took the shuttle to a nearby stop and walked, for example when going to the Chapel for a service or to catch the bats after dark. Most information tells you there is a non-denominational service at the Chapel on a Sunday, but no-one showed up to conduct it and none of the attendees wanted to make a debut as a preacher.

the chapel, half way up One Tree Hill, is illuminated for some of the night

Let’s not forget the buggies. We used these when we stayed another time and had one, included with the Hamilton Holiday Home we rented, that seated 6. Maximum speed of 40km/h, so little chance of getting run over on the island. There are bays everywhere to park them and you only have to charge them at night. You can also hire them for various times and costs, if you don’t have one included in your deal. They also come with baby seats.

We headed, by foot, to the marina to pick up groceries. It was a fairly easy 7 minute walk with a couple of steep inclines or declines, but we could have taken a shuttle. There are delightful gardens along the way and a few shops to stop at, as well as the fitness centre.

Locations and activities

The marina has an IGA (supermarket), shops, post office, restaurants, cruise companies, private yachts and boats, ice-creamery, cafes, bars and other water sport organisations. It is not very long or wide. The IGA had similar prices to what we would pay at home, which was unexpected. The only things that seemed expensive were the mangoes and avocados, which I thought came from this region.

With water at about 27C and clear green, it is idyllic. Lounges are free on the beach if you can find one unoccupied, so warming up in the cool breeze after swimming is comfortable, under the palms. We had brought our snorkels and masks, so when the tide was low we went out to the reef. This is not very far and the water quite shallow for non-swimmers. We saw three turtles, one of which was nearly 1m wide and close enough to touch (we didn’t and you shouldn’t). When they come up for air, you do, too, and get a face-off. We saw a variety of coral, sea plants and fish, including a black and white zebra fish laying her eggs. Another morning I saw 3 stingrays and 2 lemon sharks moving along the foreshore in the small waves. They are more afraid of us than we of them, so they move if you enter the water.

Other water sports are possible, at a cost, including catamaran lessons, snorkel hire for non-hotel guests, dinghy hire, jet ski tours. Parasailing, windsurfing, kayak and SUP hire.

lessons and hire

SUPs, kayaks, cats for hire at reasonable prices

There are public pools and some for use by patrons of resorts or hotels, only. At this time of the year – warm to hot – stingers, or jellyfish can be in shallow water and their sting can be lethal, so other options are provided.

Other wildlife on the island includes currawongs, stone beach curlews that wail at night and in the early morning, wallabies grazing on the fringe of the beach, grasshoppers, butterflies, Sulphur crested cockatoos and, for a special experience, the koalas in the wildlife park.

Cyclone Owen was on the other side of the peninsula, creating predictions of a storm, so we joined the beach bingo at one of the resorts and had our faith in numeracy restored, if not our luck. There are many activities on the island and a booklet is available with the free and the paid recreation, for each day. They’re very good for planning by the minute, as weather changes. Nothing can beat the Hamilton Island Ap on your phone.

Around 6 at One Tree Hill, cocktails are served while you snap the beautiful view, hoping for some sunset colour. 

We walked back, enjoying the bats and trying to get some good shots of Catseye Beach, where we were staying, and then took the turnoff to All Saints chapel. We had been here about 9 years ago and wanted to take a shot from the same window.

Defying gathering clouds and light drizzle, we went on three of the bush walks. The first started at Resort Lookout Trail Entrance, using the Hamilton Ap., and went to Flat Top Hill lookout, passing Quad bikes at Resort Lookout junction, then veering to Saddle Junction, from which we took the Scenic Trail back to Catseye Beach. Another day we went to Hideaway Bay, via Scenic Trail and spent about 30 minutes on the beach. Again, the going was pretty easy, but I wouldn’t do it in rubber thongs and was glad of hiking sandals, as the rubble is slippery. The views are quite good.

Hideaway Bay
good paths but slippery
views

We booked a tour of Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, as we had visited Whitehaven previously, snorkeling, so thought we’d like to see something different. Some of the tours we might have preferred did not run on some days or were unsuitable, given the rainy conditions. The half Day Hill Inlet tour, with Explore, is for 4 hours and includes 2 hours on Whitehaven, walking to the Hill Inlet Lookout, where you could see swirling patterns in the right conditions. Whitehaven is considered one of the top ten beaches in the world. A stinger suit (protection against irukanji jellyfish, commonly called stingers) was provided and was surprisingly comfortable.

The Hill Inlet is popular as it affords views of the patterns made by the water on the silicon sand. As it had been raining, the patterns on that day were brown, but at least it made it obvious.

I can recommend the Jetryder Half-day Snorkeling and Whitehaven Tour, for a fast and memorable experience for teens and up, the guided kayak trip for teens and upwards, capable of paddling. We did these with our kids and they also did some of the more adrenalin-pumping water activities. Tours from a variety of providers, offering full and half-day activities, vary in cost. It’s a good idea to check them all, as days they run are different and costs, as well as the size of the sailing vessel if you suffer from seasickness

There are many restaurants and eateries on the island, from take-away to casual to silver service. On both occasions, we chose accommodation that enabled us to cook, to keep costs down and maintain a good diet. We ate at the Marina tavern on the marina and had schnitzels and barramundi for pub prices. They were both cooked well and the service was good, as were the sunset views.

So, who would I recommend Hamilton Island to? There were a lot of families, comprised of over 60s down to newborns, and couples of varying ages. I think you’d have to like tropical climate, if not water activities and walking. A niece was in Bali at the same time and doing similar things available there, for much the same cost. It is accommodation that is pricey on Hamilton, with flights cheaper (for Australians). So all-in-all, about the same cost, but perhaps without the crowds and hype.

It is very beautiful and we will probably go back again.

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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oznor

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.

Wangarra lookouts walk
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. 

view at the shoulder
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.

local real estate doing it pink
Maggie’s Rendezvous supporting pink day

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

historic Clare

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

4 points on FREE CAMPSITES IN AUSTRALIA

So, you’ve planned to see Australia, or parts of it, and your itinerary has road trip written all over it.

“The best way to see the country,” everyone says. “YOU decide where and when you go.”

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Overall, the message is DO IT.  There are stunning free spots and others that are front row to top locations, like Mataranka Springs, The River Murray or Litchfield National Park.

But is it safe? Do you save money? Where are these places? What will you need?

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NEEDS

Everyone needs fresh water. Many places won’t have it, and you could be a long way from where you can buy it, so carry 10 L per person per day in several small containers (https://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/about-the-rfds/preparing-to-travel/). They’re available from most supermarkets and some petrol stations. DO NOT ASSUME that what comes out of taps is safe to drink. Bore water is used in country Australia and is fine for washing your hands, or clothes but not always for drinking.

Many free campsites have a toilet and some have a shower, but others have neither. The resources, listed below, usually tell you what is available if those comforts are important to you. Of course, some travelers wake early and go to the nearest fuel station or caravan park to use their facilities, carrying a small shovel and toilet paper in case they can’t make it. The porta-loo (portable toilet) is about $80 from camping stores and you buy chemicals to put in it, which mixed with water breaks down the waste matter. The loos can be emptied at sullage points, usually near caravan parks, when the flush is dry. WE have found roadside toilet facilities to be very good and NT and WA keep theirs in top condition. Always carry toilet paper, just in case the roll is empty.

 

You cannot use a river or the ocean as a bathing spot, as the soaps will damage native flora and fauna. There are other dangers that can lurk there, too.

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If you suffer from the heat you will want air-conditioning, which means you need power. It is rare to find a free campground with power, but not impossible. If you have solar or gas power, they will not usually keep an air-conditioner going for a whole night, as well as powering cooking devices, etc., so check storage capacity.

Depending on your mode of transport and accommodation, you will need shelter, or protection from the wind and rain. A tent is easy to come by in camping stores and department stores like Target and Big W. You can even go on Gumtree (online local sales) to get bargain buys. We had a Dutch couple pick up a mattress for the back of their van. Some free sites are on cliff edges, in open plains or near river banks, and are therefore not suitable year round, or on a particular night. No matter how tired you are, the conditions need to be considered before pitching camp.

If you don’t have a small burner, you’ll need places with BBQs or fire pits. They are uncommon. You might as well spend a little to buy a burner, plate and cutlery, cup and tongs. Dig a hole to bury any waste, so that you don’t attract dingoes (wild dogs), foxes or other vermin.

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SAFETY

Regarding sites near riverbeds, look for the banks, as you could be IN the riverbed and if there is a big downpour you could find yourself swept away. There are sometimes warnings about this, but not always. Similarly, don’t park yourself too close to the ocean‘s edge, as the tide could come in further than you thought and uproot you, or bog you. It is EXTREMELY expensive to be pulled out.

 

You do need water, food and shade, to stay alive and well.

Australia has many snakes and 2 of the top 10 deadliest snakes in the world. However, snake bite is pretty rare and anti-venoms are available. Most snakes avoid humans, but the Eastern Brown snake, a very ordinary looking specimen with a very venomous bite, will go up to people. Be watchful and stamp your feet a lot, especially on the way to the toilet at night. Many sites have warnings regarding snakes.

Spiders have to be the next topic. We have some pretty venomous spiders, the worst inhabiting tropical, wet places, but spider bites are rare and you should always have closed shoes when walking or hiking. The red back spider is easy to spot, but does not approach humans unless provoked.

Far more likely to bite you is a bee and many people don’t realise that they are allergic to them. The rest of the world may be saying goodbye to bees, but our ecology is still going well. Bone up on beesting first aid and make sure you have phone reception in remote areas.

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Insect repellent will keep the flies and mosquitoes at bay.

In tropical areas, crocodiles are a very real threat and you should be aware of the possibility of their being in the area, as there have been 8 deaths in the last 4 years. There are fresh and salt water crocs, so during the wet season, keep well clear of bodies of water, even when they look appealing. Crocodiles will walk a fair way for food!

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Company, while being something you were trying to escape on your holiday, can keep you safe. Safety in numbers, having another pair of eyes, whatever your expression, you can’t deny it. Around 4pm you’ll see experienced campers pulling over and making camp. Join them! They will share stories of where they have been, what is a good spot, what to avoid and you might make a friend for life, or be invited to their neck of the woods.

Summers are hot in Australia and in some areas that means an increase in fire danger. If you are in a fire-prone region there will be signs, warning you of the level of risk and you need to stay alert. Recently states have trialed the use of media, where an alert is sent to your phone, telling you to leave the area and in what direction to head. Carry a fire extinguisher.

oznor

Isolation is caused by more than being alone. In such a big country, you could be a very long way from a town or settlement, with all the dangers that brings. Have your phone charged, consider using Telstra as your provider, as they currently have the widest reach of wifi and internet. Alternatively, you can download ‘Emergency + ‘ or take a satellite phone with you if you plan to be remote. If anything happens, stay with your vehicle.

The original owners of the land, the Aboriginal people, have protected areas in some places, like on parts of the Nullarbor Plains. Research this, as you are strongly advised not to trespass.

There are warnings everywhere – that while you are on holidays, thieves are not; lock your cars and vans, etc. When you meet so many friendly people and it is blazing hot at night, you can be tempted to leave everything open and welcome everyone. In the majority of cases, that will work out well for you, but there have been serious crimes and misadventure in Australia. As a percentage of travellers, it may be low, but surely any fateful encounter is unwanted. Be vigilant and contact 000 (emergency) if anything happens.

FINANCE

It is pretty expensive to drive around Australia. Our fuel costs are huge. You can get memberships discounts at various caravan parks but free camping is definitely cheaper.  One caravan park was $140 /night for a basic cabin (no toilet or shower) and $30 for an unpowered site.

Car hire is better in some states than others, and there are tales of companies saying you caused damage that was already there – so take photos of the vehicle and get insurance.

If you are not experienced in 4WD driving, don’t attempt anything daring, as it will not end well. Similarly, if you notice anything odd with your vehicle, get it checked immediately. We are members of the RAA (Royal Automobile Association) of South Australia. Each state has a similar organisation and it’s worth investigating their cost, as they provide emergency assistance and towing for free or a reduced cost. There are mechanics in most towns with fuel stops. Repairs are likely to be expensive, in labour, parts and accommodation.

Most towns have facilities for paying by card or withdrawing cash. Some will not take American Express. All fees associated with withdrawals from banks have been almost removed. Check with your bank or credit union. Most ATM (automatic telling machine) machines accept other cards.

Some sites are free and others have a low fee ($2 or $5 per night per vehicle).

LOCATION

So, where are these free campsites?

We have subscribed to WIKICAMPS, which has information that you download, so that it can be accessed when you don’t have wifi. As you drive along it will tell you if there is a campsite ahead, what it was rated by users and whether it has a toilet or not. You can just download it for a one-off fee, but not add comments or new spots.

There is also CAMPS 8 and CAMPS 9, books that you can buy with the same information, but maps added. The reviews I have read suggest that WIKICAMPS updates quicker due to it’s members being able to add information instantly. However, CAMPS is an app as well.

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We use a UBD touring atlas, available at the RAA or online. Made up of comprehensive maps, divided into states, it shows sites as rest area only, free campsite no toilet, fees, free campsite with toilet and rest area with toilet. Its only downfall is that it is large (A3).

Some areas and states have a lot of free camps and others do not. It is worth mapping your route ahead of time and be mindful of the distance. Western Australia is made up of very long stretches between towns and they take longer than you would expect if you work out distance and speed. I don’t know why!

There are some absolute gems, so get your vehicle, tent, table, chair, water bottles, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, food for 2 days, small burner, fire extinguisher, pillow, sleeping bag and download Wikicamps.

Thousands of places waiting to say g’day.

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4 points on FREE CAMPSITES IN AUSTRALIA.

So, you’ve planned to see Australia, or parts of it, and your itinerary has road trip written all over it.

“The best way to see the country,” everyone says. “YOU decide where and when you go.”

IMG_4778

Overall, the message is DO IT. But is it safe? Do you save money? Where are these places? What will you need?

cof

NEEDS

Everyone needs fresh water. Many places won’t have it, and you could be a long way from where you can buy it, so carry 10 L per person per day in several small containers (https://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/about-the-rfds/preparing-to-travel/). They’re available from most supermarkets and some petrol stations. DO NOT ASSUME that what comes out of taps is safe to drink. Bore water is used in country Australia and is fine for washing your hands, or clothes but not always for drinking.

Many free campsites have a toilet and some have a shower, but others have neither. The resources, listed below, usually tell you what is available if those comforts are important to you. Of course, some travelers wake early and go to the nearest fuel station or caravan park to use their facilities, carrying a small shovel and toilet paper in case they can’t make it. The porta-loo (portable toilet) is about $80 from camping stores and you buy chemicals to put in it, which mixed with water breaks down the waste matter. The loos can be emptied at sullage points, usually near caravan parks, when the flush is dry.

You cannot use a river or the ocean as a bathing spot, as the soaps will damage native flora and fauna. There are other dangers that can lurk there, too.

IMG_1529

If you suffer from the heat you will want air-conditioning, which means you need power. It is rare to find a free campground with power, but not impossible. If you have solar or gas power, they will not usually keep an air-conditioner going for a whole night, as well as powering cooking devices, etc., so check storage capacity.

Depending on your mode of transport and accommodation, you will need shelter, or protection from the wind and rain. A tent is easy to come by in camping stores and department stores like Target and Big W. You can even go on Gumtree (online local sales) to get bargain buys. We had a Dutch couple pick up a mattress for the back of their van. Some free sites are on cliff edges, in open plains or near river banks, and are therefore not suitable year round, or on a particular night. No matter how tired you are, the conditions need to be considered before pitching camp.

If you don’t have a small burner, you’ll need places with BBQs or fire pits. They are uncommon. You might as well spend a little to buy a burner, plate and cutlery, cup and tongs. Dig a hole to bury any waste, so that you don’t attract dingoes (wild dogs), foxes or other vermin.

IMAG0869 (2)

SAFETY

Regarding sites near riverbeds, look for the banks, as you could be IN the riverbed and if there is a big downpour you could find yourself swept away. There are sometimes warnings about this, but not always. Similarly, don’t park yourself too close to the ocean‘s edge, as the tide could come in further than you thought and uproot you, or bog you. It is EXTREMELY expensive to be pulled out.

You do need water, food and shade, to stay alive and well.

Australia has many snakes and 2 of the top 10 deadliest snakes in the world. However, snake bite is pretty rare and anti-venoms are available. Most snakes avoid humans, but the Eastern Brown snake, a very ordinary looking specimen with a very venomous bite, will go up to people. Be watchful and stamp your feet a lot, especially on the way to the toilet at night. Many sites have warnings regarding snakes.

Spiders have to be the next topic. We have some pretty venomous spiders, the worst inhabiting tropical, wet places, but spider bites are rare and you should always have closed shoes when walking or hiking. The red back spider is easy to spot, but does not approach humans unless provoked.

Far more likely to bite you is a bee and many people don’t realise that they are allergic to them. The rest of the world may be saying goodbye to bees, but our ecology is still going well. Bone up on beesting first aid and make sure you have phone reception in remote areas.

IMG_1758

Insect repellent will keep the flies and mosquitoes at bay.

In tropical areas, crocodiles are a very real threat and you should be aware of the possibility of their being in the area, as there have been 8 deaths in the last 4 years. There are fresh and salt water crocs, so during the wet season, keep well clear of bodies of water, even when they look appealing. Crocodiles will walk a fair way for food!

IMG_1847

Company, while being something you were trying to escape on your holiday, can keep you safe. Safety in numbers, having another pair of eyes, whatever your expression, you can’t deny it. Around 4pm you’ll see experienced campers pulling over and making camp. Join them! They will share stories of where they have been, what is a good spot, what to avoid and you might make a friend for life, or be invited to their neck of the woods.

Summers are hot in Australia and in some areas that means an increase in fire danger. If you are in a fire-prone region there will be signs, warning you of the level of risk and you need to stay alert. Recently states have trialed the use of media, where an alert is sent to your phone, telling you to leave the area and in what direction to head. Carry a fire extinguisher.

oznor

Isolation is caused by more than being alone. In such a big country, you could be a very long way from a town or settlement, with all the dangers that brings. Have your phone charged, consider using Telstra as your provider, as they currently have the widest reach of wifi and internet. Alternatively, you can download ‘Emergency + ‘ or take a satellite phone with you if you plan to be remote. If anything happens, stay with your vehicle.

The original owners of the land, the Aboriginal people, have protected areas in some places, like on parts of the Nullarbor Plains. Research this, as you are strongly advised not to trespass.

There are warnings everywhere – that while you are on holidays, thieves are not; lock your cars and vans, etc. When you meet so many friendly people and it is blazing hot at night, you can be tempted to leave everything open and welcome everyone. In the majority of cases, that will work out well for you, but there have been serious crimes and misadventure in Australia. As a percentage of travellers, it may be low, but surely any fateful encounter is unwanted. Be vigilant and contact 000 (emergency) if anything happens.

FINANCE

It is pretty expensive to drive around Australia. Our fuel costs are huge. You can get memberships discounts at various caravan parks but free is definitely cheaper. Car hire is better in some states than others, and there are tales of companies saying you caused damage that was already there – so take photos of the vehicle and get insurance.

If you are not experienced in 4WD driving, don’t attempt anything daring, as it will not end well. Similarly, if you notice anything odd with your vehicle, get it checked immediately. We are members of the RAA (Royal Automobile Association) of South Australia. Each state has a similar organisation and it’s worth investigating their cost, as they provide emergency assistance and towing for free or a reduced cost. There are mechanics in most towns with fuel stops. Repairs are likely to be expensive, in labour, parts and accommodation.

Most towns have facilities for paying by card or withdrawing cash. Some will not take American Express. All fees associated with withdrawals from banks have been almost removed. Check with your bank or credit union. Most ATM (automatic telling machine) machines accept other cards.

Some sites are free and others have a low fee ($2 or $5 per night per vehicle).

LOCATION

So, where are these free campsites?

We have subscribed to WIKICAMPS, which has information that you download, so that it can be accessed when you don’t have wifi. As you drive along it will tell you if there is a campsite ahead, what it was rated by users and whether it has a toilet or not. You can just download it for a one-off fee, but not add comments or new spots.

There is also CAMPS 8 and CAMPS 9, books that you can buy with the same information, but maps added. The reviews I have read suggest that WIKICAMPS updates quicker due to it’s members being able to add information instantly. However, CAMPS is an app as well.

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We use a UBD touring atlas, available at the RAA or online. Made up of comprehensive maps, divided into states, it shows sites as rest area only, free campsite no toilet, fees, free campsite with toilet and rest area with toilet. Its only downfall is that it is large (A3).

Some areas and states have a lot of free camps and others do not. It is worth mapping your route ahead of time and be mindful of the distance. Western Australia is made up of very long stretches between towns and they take longer than you would expect if you work out distance and speed. I don’t know why!

There are some absolute gems, so get your vehicle, tent, table, chair, water bottles, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, food for 2 days, small burner, fire extinguisher, pillow, sleeping bag and download Wikicamps.

Thousands of places waiting to say g’day.

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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.

Mt Wellington
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