Category Archives: Australia

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Byron Bay Lighthouse

OnDestination: Byron Bay – Australia’s most Easterly Point

A #justforfun daytrip isn’t complete without an early morning wake up, a trip to the airport and flight to somewhere I haven’t been before. As winter is coming, I chose to escape the fast approaching cool Melbourne day, for a warmer day in Byron Bay. In typical fashion (for me anyway) I only had a short amount of time to arrive, see as much as I could, then return for my afternoon flight home. This time that was a generous 5 hours. Unlike my normal day trips, where I pretty much have nothing planned, today had a sense of purpose about it, as I wanted to go to the eastern edge of Australia.

Securing a car was easy on arrival, so with transport for the day sorted, I approached the friendly tourist information desk for some advice on the best way to see the edge of Australia. Their advice was simple yet useful; drive to Byron, avoid the lighthouse car park as they’ll charge you $7, find a smaller beach nearby, park there, and then take a scenic hike to the point instead. They offered directions to Byron Bay itself which I declined, presuming it would be well sign posted as it’s a major icon along the east coast travel plans of many people who visit Australia. This was, in hindsight, an error.

Byron Bay

Driving out of the airport I decided to follow where the majority of cars were heading, as the signage wasn’t that great… a few U turns later and it felt like I was heading in the right direction. I was actually heading along the freeway towards Tweed Heads, but eventually found an exit that felt right, so took it and luckily enough it ended up in Byron Bay. My detour from the normal approach, exiting the freeway at the Banaglow exit, was rather scenic once you got off the freeway and drove along the narrow windy road into Byron. The trip home was much easier to follow along the coast which is probably the main road in from Ballina.

Arriving into town I drove down the main street as quickly as one can before heading out to find a small beach to make a hike up to Cape Byron. The visitor information centre suggested Wategos Beach because of its free parking, however the transient backpacker population also found this a popular spot to relax for the morning, dry some washing or just sit back with a cup of tea and look out over the beautiful beach. Thus, I backtracked to The Pass where ample paid parking was available. A quick chat with the surprisingly friendly ticket inspector to work out how long the walk would take, a $12 purchase of the relevant parking ticket, and I was set for my walk to the cape.

Byron Bay

Although costing me more than the parking at the lighthouse itself, it gave me a longer walk, more scenic views (especially of Wategos beach) and a bit more time to explore. Given I’ve been lazy with my exercise regime lately it was also a bit of a wake up call as I gasped for breath during each uphill section of the walk (something that would previously have never bothered me). Fortunately the track is also frequented by those who haven’t been lax with their exercise programs, as they fulfill their weekend run obligations, sometimes sans shirts; which provided more scenery and a tad more motivation to keep on walking.

Byron Bay

The walk through the nature reserve is really beautiful and the amount of wildlife that you can see here was surprising given how close it is to the township. I saw a wallaby, wild turkeys, dolphins, stingray, eagles and more all from the walking track and all within just a few hours. It pretty much captures a large amount of the iconic images of Australia within the reserve; nature, animals, beaches, untouched beauty and the occasional “bronzed Aussie surfer”. There is a sign marking the most easterly point of Australia, which is where I filmed this quick video blog and many tourists posed for an obligatory photo at the edge of Australia.

The lighthouse itself is beautiful to look at and has been lighting up the point for over 100 years. I wasn’t able to climb it as the tours were fully subscribed for the day so instead grabbed a quick hot drink at the café beneath, which provided the energy for the walk back to the car, following the same path but getting the reverse view.

Byron Bay Lighthouse

Byron Bay Lighthouse

I was drawn to Byron Bay because I wanted to have been to the most easterly point in Australia. In retrospect, the natural beauty that surrounds this point is probably replicated at many other points along the coast, but because this one has a title (the most easterly point) it attracted me, presumably, like many other tourists, because of the sense of achievement that it brings; I’ve seen the biggest this, tallest that, furthest, longest, widest, fastest, slowest; the list goes on.

Byron Bay Cape Byron

Whatever your motivation, I’d definitely recommend visiting Cape Byron as the natural beauty and opportunity for wildlife viewing is spectacular, regardless of where it happens to be placed according to a compass and a map.

Byron Bay Ocean

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OnDestination: Mildura on the Murray

As a child growing up the only reason I knew Mildura existed was because it was always on the 7pm ABC news weather report as a dot in the top left hand corner of the state and more often than not recorded the highest temperature for the day. Fast forward several years and I saw Mildura as a destination that I always noticed in airline sales, with sub $100 airfares often available. Skip ahead to Christmas and I find myself flying into the regional centre to celebrate Christmas with my boyfriend’s family and exploring this region that I’ve never really considered to be a place that people would travel to. With little knowledge, it was the perfect opportunity to do some #justforfun exploring of a new and unlikely destination.

Canoe Murray

So, other than family events, what is there to do in this town that’s closer to Adelaide than it is to Melbourne and sits on the Murray River defending Victoria against invaders from New South Wales? To be upfront, if you’re looking for high paced, action packed adventures seeing major events or attractions that claim to be “World Famous”, then Mildura isn’t the place for you; keep watching how hot it gets on the 7pm news while you plan for another destination. However if something a little quieter, a little slower, perhaps relaxing and definitely a tad country is up your alley, then this inland town might just be worth considering.

Carl Mildura Vines

Mildura, established by two Canadian brothers, George and William Chaffey in 1886 is said to have a Californian feel about it due to the brothers spending a significant amount of time developing irrigated colonies in California in the mid 1800’s. Flying into the city you get somewhat a feel for this with the green vines and citrus orchards contrasting against the hot dry soil, however once you get on the ground, other than the streets being named by number (e.g. 15th Street) and the overabundance of palm trees lining some avenues its clear the modern age has removed much of this cities link to California.

Mildura Vines

I’m not sure what the affinity is with California and wine given Australian wine is much nicer, but as Mildura is influenced by the Californian wine history, there are a variety of wineries in the region that you can visit if that’s your thing. A drive around the area will inevitably involve passing either a citrus orchard or some vines of one variety or another. At dusk and dawn sun provides great colours across the region and you’re likely to spot wild kangaroo’s hopping through the row of vines which is worth pulling over for and taking a few photos of if you want an authentic Aussie photo.

Kangaroo Sunset

I’m not much of a drinker so didn’t visit any of the wineries however locals told me that a trip to Mildura isn’t complete unless you eat (or drink) at Mildura Brewery (@MilduraBrewery). The Brewery is located in the centre of town near the mall and as the name suggests includes a working brewery which you can view at the back of the restaurant while tasting their local productions over dinner or lunch. We stopped in for lunch, and although the food wasn’t exactly first class, it did the job (although don’t order the half size parma – its tiny!).


As with most country towns across Australia, you’ll find pockets of local history everywhere you go, be it original buildings that line the streets or the generally older communities that populate these towns with knowledge of everyone and everything that happens with 100km. Within Mildura itself there are plenty of historic sites to see that won’t take up too much of your time, depending on the level of detail you want to go into when visiting. I found the Rio Vista House an interesting and educational snapshot of the history of the region even, while the nearby Mildura homestead unfortunately lacked purpose or structure and was in dire need of some direction.

Water, Irrigation and the Murray River are essentially what this town’s history flows from so you’ll find most of the historic attractions not too far from the river that, prior to the airplane and train, was the primary transportation route in and out of the town. Driving downstream along the river to Wentworth you’ll find the old gaol and a historic museum each of which try and document the history and importance of the river in the earlier years in the region.

Wentworth Goal

A trip to Mildura isn’t complete without experiencing the original form of transport along the river by Paddle Steamer. Although not as big or glamorous as Mississippi paddle steamers are portrayed, the Murray steamers were a vital part in the wool supply line along the river. Mildura is home to lock 11 (which unfortunately was damaged just prior to my visit) which, as part of a series of locks along the river, ensures the river was passable by paddle steamer fleets back in the day.

Murray River Paddle Steamer

In the current age of just in time delivery where something can be sent from the other side of the world and arrive within a day or 2, taking a two hour cruise upstream on the PS Melbourne made me wonder how anything ever used to get anywhere. These boats are very slow! Although somewhat relaxing sitting by and watching the river pass, the banks all looked relatively similar and the commentary tapered off pretty quickly after leaving Mildura township. My decision to take a steam powered paddle steamer for a spin on a 41 degree day also wasn’t really thought out that well; however I think I may have lost a kilogram in water as we sweated it out.

Paddlesteamer Engine

In all seriousness, had the lock been working it probably would have been a more interesting cruise and something I would still recommend to do, however perhaps don’t do it on a stinking hot day, especially when people keep opening the windows to let the hot breeze into the semi air-conditioned cabin! On arrival back into Mildura we were greeted with a brief dust storm that turned the sky grey as the dust from the surrounding hot and dry districts blasted through the regional centre.


Reflecting on my opening statement about how I knew Mildura existed I can confirm that my childhood thoughts were correct. Mildura is a hot place to visit, so if you’re not a fan of post 40 degree days, then summer perhaps is not the best time for you to visit. However there is a lot of history in the region and part of understanding that history is feeling how hot it gets, and how hard it must have been to get anything done here way back before air-conditioning was the norm.


The attractions are definitely geared to the older generations and a slower lifestyle, however I really enjoyed our drive up the Murray to Wentworth and exploring Rio Vista house so the region could still appeal to a younger crowd. I’ll add attraction specific reviews later, but for now, thats my summary of a week on the Murray in the hot town of Mildura.

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Melbourne: Parks, Politics and Performances (Part 2)

In part 1 I introduced you to the parliament of Victoria and the parks that surround it. In this, the second and final part of Parks, Politics and Performances I’ll introduce you to some of the performance houses around the eastern edge of the city from the past and present. I left you at the top of Lonsdale Street last time, which is also one of the entry’s to Melbourne’s City Loop underground train lines.

Opened in the early 80’s, the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop is it’s official name however it is generally called “the loop” or “the city loop” and consists of 3 underground stations; Parliament, Melbourne Central and Flagstaff and 2 above ground stations; Flinders St and Southern Cross. Most of Melbourne’s train lines run through the loop and it’s a handy way of getting to where you need to from the suburbs. Above Parliament station you have surprisingly the Parliament buildings that I discussed in Part 1 as well as my favourite performance theatre, the Princess Theatre.

The Victorian façade of the theatre opens to an elegant marble staircase which brings guests into the amazing 1488 seat theatre. If you are in Melbourne and like the theatre then this has to be on your list of places to visit. There is nothing like coming out during intermission, grabbing a glass of wine from the upstairs bar and then walking out onto Spring St on a warm summers night with fellow theatre goers before heading back in for the second act. The Phantom of the Opera has played about every 10 years since 1989, with the last in 2007. Today however you’ll have to contend with Hairspray.

A short walk around the block will reveal two other of Melbourne’s great theatre buildings. Just down Latrobe St you’ll come across the Comedy Theatre, which in contrast to the Princess’s Victorian façade is a smaller square brick and stone clad building with a Spanish style façade. Surprisingly you’ll find comedy shows in here, Avenue Q being my favourite from a few years ago, but a more regular feature is the Melbourne International Comedy Festival which is held across various sites in the city for about 4 weeks in April, including the Comedy Theatre.

Diagonally across Exhibition St is Her Majesty’s Theatre, built around the same era as the Princess Theatre, Her Majesty’s shares some of the same exterior styles of the Princess, although nowhere near as grand. Like most of Melbourne’s theatres this one has undergone many iterations of renovations and improvements, however in 1909 Dame Nellie Melba forced additional renovations after describing the acoustics as “dead”. Today, with acoustics suitably repaired, you can view Mary Poppins however in its infancy Gilbert and Sullivan were the theatres bread winning performances. There is a small bar/cafe where you can grab a drink before the show while waiting for friends or many of Chinatown’s bars and restaurants down little Bourke street.

The final theatre I’ll talk about is the regent theatre, which is by far closer to Flinders St than Parliament, but it seemed more appropriate to group the theatres together when I started writing these. The Regent is on Collins St, next to the Westin Hotel. Originally built as a movie theatre the theatre has since been gutted by fire, closed and abandoned for 26 years, before being saved from destruction and converted into a performing arts venue, reopening in 1996. Wicked, Cats and West Side Story have all  recently featured in the theatre. I find the grand entry and surprisingly the stone stairways that spiral down to the bathrooms visit worthy features of this building as well as how the theatre opens up from what appears to be  a small entrance into a large theatre and stage.

Back onto the original city circle route from Lonsdale Street its only a few minutes walk to Carlton Gardens, home to the Melbourne Exhibition Building and Melbourne Museum. As I said in Part 1, Melbourne has got some great inner city garden spaces that you can exercise, relax or just wander past and look at when you want to look at something green.

Carlton Gardens is no exception to that statement, however unlike the locally heritage listed toilet block in Treasury Gardens, the entire Carlton Gardens and the Royal Melbourne Exhibition Buildings that it contains are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This heritage listing, mainly due to the exhibition buildings which I’ll discuss later, means there is more publicity and promotion given to these gardens than others. It’s also home to an annual flower and garden show that is well worth the admission if you are in town when its on. Otherwise, you can stop in at the Melbourne Museum, that’s conveniently located in the middle of the gardens and pick up a Gardens Walk booklet.

The walking guide book contains 35 points of interest within and around the park and seems worth doing (although a many of these are “interpretive signs” telling you of what used to be here). I unfortunately found the booklet after I’d spent a fair bit of time wandering around, so haven’t done it myself, but most of the things listed in the book were places that I was drawn to anyway, which makes me think the guided walk would be pretty good. One such place is Colonial Square where large chunks of the carved stonework from the 1896 Colonial Mutual building have been dumped (ok placed would be a better word, but I think they are going for an artistic look, which to me looks like they were too heavy to move once they offloaded them from the truck). Most buildings of this era haven’t survived Melbourne’s development and thus its good to keep some parts of what they city looked like (albeit it small chunks).

Across Nicolson Street from the park, just near Colonial Square is an old red brick building on the corner of Gertrude St; the Cable Tram Engine House. Although not used as one anymore, this building was built and was used to pull the cable car trams to the exhibition and all across Melbourne via underground cables. The attention to detail on the outside of this building is amazing, considering it was an industrial building! The comparison between this and a modern railway stable (e.g. a big tin shed) is amazing.

Another attraction within the park is the Hochgurtel Fountain which lies on the southern side of the Exhibition Buildings and is meant to represent the key themes from the 1880 International Exhibition for which the Gardens and Exhibition buildings were built. Having been to this part of the park on many running club sessions, for me this fountain represents the provision of a nice cool breeze of mist after running up the hill to it during hot training sessions. Although you may be tempted to take a photo facing the building with the fountain in the foreground (which by all means you can) make sure you stand on the steps of the building and look back on the city too. Sometimes when you get into the parks you can forget that you are in the middle of the city, and this is a good place to look at the city and realise how close you are to the centre of town.

The key attraction (well at least it was circa 1880), and reason for the creation of the park is the Royal Exhibition Buildings that are in the centre of the park. This building is the Great Hall and is the only remaining section of the original Exhibition Buildings (which were 10 times the size of the great hall!). Originally the buildings consumed all of Carlton Gardens to the north of the building, which is now occupied by the Melbourne Museum and more gardens. It’s still used as an exhibition building, which is one of the reasons its on the World Heritage list (something to do with one of the longest continuously running exhibition building) so if there is an exhibition on, go in and check out the inside of the building. Otherwise for about $5 you can go on a guided tour of the building which is provided by the Melbourne Museum.

The Royal Exhibition Buildings were also home to the birth of federation of Australia as the first Parliament was opened here. On May 9, 1901 the exhibition buildings were full of people as the first parliament opened. There is a great painting of this event on the Mezzanine level of the building, which you see when you are on the tour. Back in that time you were able to take an elevator to the top of the dome for a view over the then growing city of Melbourne. Alas today they no longer off this tour however I’d imagine the view would be an amazing transformation from 1901.

Again if you want to see inside the buildings, I’d strongly recommend the Melbourne Museum’s tour of the them (and for about $5, it wont break the band). I think the Museum itself can probably justify an article on their own, so I wont go into those too much in this article other than to say that its new, big and hosts some great touring exhibitions. The most recent exhibition was Titanic, which was amazing and rather moving. The next big exhibition scheduled is Tutankhamun which is scheduled to open in April 2011 and is already on sale if you’re interested.

So why did I name this two part series Parks, Politics and Performances you might ask? Well other than that the parks and parliament are next to each other and the theatres aren’t to far away I find they are linked in a simple way. Well our first parliament was held within a park’s exhibition building (thus linking the parliament and parks for ever more), and while the performance venues put on staged performances every night, our parliaments also put on a performance most sitting days too, although they call it Question Time. Therein I decided to link Parks, Politics and Performances into this two part blog, which I hope you enjoyed.

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Bellarine Peninsula: A Seaside Afternoon

Category : Australia , OnDestination

While visiting friends in nearby Ocean Grove we were taken for a short afternoon drive to the western edge of Port Phillip Bay and the seaside towns of Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale. On arrival into Queenscliff we headed out to the Ferry Terminus which, by the looks of it has undertaken some serious modernisation, presumably to attract the lucrative tourist dollar to his seaside town. Although from the car park the buildings looked rather unattractive, a short walk around past the dive shop (where a group of divers were disrobing and cleaning off their gear) revealed a modern and stylish promenade of cafes, tour operators and seaside stores overlooking a newish marina.

Dolphin, Fishing and Scuba tour operator boats as well as a few pricey looking cruisers filled many of the docks of the marina while a constant parade of tinnies and jet skis entered and exited the small marina thats seemingly nested between the peninsula and nearby swan island. If you were looking at heading out on the water, this would be a good place to start out, however for us the lookout tower above was our destination. Top of a wine bottle, giant plug or simply something that looks like it needs a giant crane to pick up are all descriptions for this interestingly designed lookout tower.

You can either take the 137 steps that circle around the tower, exposed to the blasting winds from bass straight as we did or you can take the short elevator trip to the viewing platform to take in the 360 degree views. If you do take the steps, don’t count them as its quite a tight curve that the stairs follow, which combined with the wind in your ears and the vertigo when you accidentally glance through the wires that prevent you from falling off the side, makes you a little dizzy when you reach the top, or was that just me?

The view from the top are actually quite spectacular and diverse. The view across the marina inlet is of Swan Island and it’s secret military base (that everyone knows about) which is linked only by a small bridge from the peninsula, surrounded by a sandy beach and covered in scrubby bush that you find along much of the sandy coastal areas of the bay. The noticeable difference between the water of the bay here, as it joins bass straight is the clarity of the water which you can see through to the sea floor without the dirt and pollution that you find within some of the bayside beaches. Moving clockwise around the tower we are greeted by the arrival of the Ferry from Sorrento which quickly maneuvered into place at the end of the road before its mouth like doors parted their jaws and began spewing cars from its holds. The ferry makes the crossing between Queenscliff and Sorrento in about 40minutes and runs every hour, on the hour between 7am and 7pm during summer (7am-6pm during winter) which a series of neatly lined up cars were awaiting to board.

Continuing the clockwise tour of the tower you get a great view across the varying shades of blue of the bay, scattered with various pleasure and fishing boats to the Mornington Peninsula side of the heads. Considering the size of they bay, the amount of water that enters and exits between these relatively close heads between each tide is pretty impressive. Called “the rip” this is a tricky shipping route and accordingly, shipping navigation into the port of Melbourne is always done with the assistance of a pilot. There were no cargo ships passing today, however the lighthouses that were the pre-gps source of navigating the rip remain. As we move further around the tower, Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale come into view with their White and Black lighthouses. I’m told that these are coloured so they can be lined up to direct traffic through the rip.

In the foreground the arch of the sandy beach between the ferry terminal and the black lighthouse of Fort Queenscliff with a long pier extending out to sea looks extremely inviting for a long run along the beach or a splash in the gentle lap of the water across the sandy beaches. Alas our energy levels today are more attune to a relaxing hot chocolate than a run along a beach so we quickly take in the view of the marina from above before heading down the spiralling stairs for a drive into town for a hot drink. If you are looking to take photos, the glass of the viewing deck isn’t the cleanest and I found my camera seemed to focus on the fingerprinted glass rather than the distant views. To overcome this you can take fingerprint free photos from the open air staircase that leads to and from the viewing area. The beauty of these photos is that the viewing deck above also cuts out much of the glare that you’ll find washes out the photos from above.

After ordering a banana chocolate from the local choccolatte cafe I zipped across the road to the Bellarine Peninsula Railway (primarily to use their facilities, but it was also a good chance to check out the railway). For $20 you can leave the car at Drysdale and take the historic steam train down to Queenscliff or on selected nights they have a Blue’s train where each of the four carriages has a different band which entertain you as you eat and presumably drink the evening away. I am presuming that some may drink a little too much on this train as beneath the “Queenscliff” sign at the station hang several mops, presumably used to clean out the carriages after a big night on the turps. The small railway station lies at the end of one of Victoria’s first branch lines and would have originally brought in people from Melbourne for a seaside getaway to Queenscliff. Prior to the railway a paddle steamer trip across the bay was a popular transport method for the 1880’s seaside resort town. The car opens up so many other places for tourism, however I think it removes the stoic or even sometimes romantic notions of arriving by steam train or ship that would have been the norm in the history of this town.

The hot chocolate hit the spot and soon we made our last stop for the afternoon during our short outing to the Bellarine Peninsula. Point Lonsdale, the home of a white Lighthouse and lovely pier littered with fisherman each casting multiple lines between the heads of the bay was our last stop. A short walk from the car park through the scrub provides great views of the lighthouse, the opposite head at Point Nepean and the quaint Pier. Passing a wedding party taking photos with the lighthouse silhouetted by the sun in the background, we took the short walk to the end of the pier which revealed some insights into the taste of some of the fish in the bay with one fisherman was using chicken fillets as bait. Besides the smell of fresh fish (or stench of old bait), the views back to the lighthouse are worth the short walk as the suns reflection makes the water shimmer as the gentle waves slowly move beneath. The amount of people fishing off the pier makes it feel like you did arrive here during the steam era and the lack of any visible modern development since that era it feels quite unspoilt and was a great way to end our afternoon in the area.

Returning to Queenscliff the next morning for a quick spot of breakfast was a fitting way to close our visit to the seaside. Sitting between fort Queenscliff and the sporting club / caravan park lies a small portable like building that serves breakfast to the predominately tourist and beach loving clientele. Sitting on backyard tables and chairs watching beach goers wash sand from their feet and dive gear while eating away at a country sized “big breakfast” was a great way to start the day before heading back home unfortunately a little earlier than originally planned. This short visit has filled my mind with many ideas for future trips around the area, including a trip across the bay to Sorrento or a day just sitting on the beach watching the ships go by.

Quick Facts:

Getting there:

By Car: It’s about an hour and a half drive from Melbourne (Very boring drive along the Freeway and lots of traffic lights in Geelong, but otherwise easy). Alternatively you can drive to Sorrento which takes about the same time, and then take the 4o minute ferry across.

By Public Transport: It can be done, but its a combination of V-Line and regional buses via Geelong or Metro Train, Local Bus and the Ferry via Sorrento. A search on Metlink Melbourne provided trips from between 2.5 – 3 hours.

Tourist Information:

Visit the Great Ocean Road:

Visit Victoria:

SeaRoad Ferry:

Metlink Melbourne:

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The Grampians – Pinnacle Walk

Category : Australia , OnDestination

Rocks seemingly arranged by nature into tall stacks, each rock balancing precariously yet with complete stability on top of another, the scorched remains of burnt trees now seeming with new growth and the silence, only interrupted by the sound of your footsteps on the rock or the occasional kookaburra’s call awaited us on a day trip into the Grampians National Park.

The 506km round trip is not your average day trip, but the road is divided freeway to Ballarat and then highway to Ararat before you get onto some narrower country roads. The driving is pretty easy, if not a little not boring as you set the cruise control to 110kph and glide along the freeway sections. Passing through Ararat, a once thriving gold mining town during the late 1850’s, we were greeted by the new dominant species in regional Victoria, the locust. These destructive grasshoppers filled the air of the town like dust in the wind, the road covered with millions of splattered corpses. Although destructive, the plague does allow you to spot the local from the tourist as most local cars have shade cloth mesh across their radiators to stop the bugs overheating their cars.

The locusts seemed to like the town, as a few km’s out of town the swarm had reduced to the odd splat on the windscreen every minute or so compared to the thud a few time each second while in town. The drive becomes more interesting from around Ararat onwards. The wind farms on the surrounding hills turn peacefully (well some do, others just stand still on this calm summer day) and the Grampians park gradually rises from the horizon.

After leaving home around 8am and collecting some friends on the way we arrived into Halls Gap just after 11am. Halls Gap is a tiny town on the eastern edge of the Grampians national park where visitors easily outnumber the 250 or so permanent residents (and the locusts outnumber everyone a million to 1). We park by the swimming pool which is directly across from the small

strip of cafes, general store and visitor information centre, which is our first stop. I collect a small map and get directions from the friendly tourist office lady who I’d imagine makes great scones and lemon slice, before we head back out side and our group splits up for the day.

Cam and Adam decide for a more relaxed day of Devonshire tea (you need to get into the country for some CWA scones and jam) and watching the day go by in the town while Nathan and I choose a more active walk within the park. With mobile phone (although once in the park reception all but vanishes), water and sunscreen in hand we head back to the car, this time cutting across the grassed area and watching the locusts form a cloud around us growing more each step we take.

The Pinnacle walk was our destination which began with an easy 5min drive into the park to the Wonderland Car park, which is not by any means related to the Beverly Hills Cop movie. Even this short drive provides great views of the sandstone rock outcrops that were formed some 380 million years ago which immediately makes human exploration of the area seem tiny in comparison. If you are feeling super energetic, you can actually walk to the Pinnacle from Halls Gap, but for a day trip the quick drive provides a useful head start.

Sunscreen now liberally applied and water bottles at the ready we cross a small bridge across a creek with clear yet brown stained water slowing flowing beneath and begin the 5.5km round trip walk.  Although the walk is listed at 5.5k, there are plenty of variations to the walk that you can do to extend it if you are keen, we extended at every opportunity so don’t really know how far we walked. As most walkers took the grand canyon track we decided to veer right and head along a different trail to avoid some of the general flow of people.

Following small red and yellow arrows painted on the rock we being the uphill walk across the rock formations that are naturally spectacular and seem to open up to crevices which drop sharply then rise again about 20m from the path. Only a few mins into the walk and already panting, we turn around to see regenerating bushland and rocky hillsides and feel completely immersed in the park’s natural beauty. We realise that we can still see the car, and thus haven’t completed the walk yet so continue upwards along the path although it is hard to resist climbing on nearby rock piles for an even better vantage point to take in the panorama.

Although it’s a relatively easy walk, you do need to be relatively fit (i.e. able to walk uphill for about an hour) and able to move around as the path is pretty much stepping from rock to rock as you follow the path. Shoes are an essential item, although I was surprised at how many people were in sandals or worse, thongs!

The walk continues with more and more rock formations, some of which you could almost slide a piece of paper between the layers of rocks that have formed over millions of years. These massive layers of rocks stack up in piles or in some places form cliff faces. One part the rock face has been formed or worn down and from a distance looks like hundreds of round rocks (almost face like) stacked one on top of the other. We can make some amazing buildings, but the way that these rocks have formed looks amazingly beautiful.

In 2006 a major bushfire burnt a large section of the park and 4 years on you can still see the scars that it left. The trees are sprouting new growth across scorched trunks while the undergrowth has begun to return. The completely blackened upright trees provide an eerie silence against the brilliant blue sky above. Some trails in the park still remain closed to allow the park to rejuvenate itself but fortunately the pinnacle walk remains open.

Further along the walk the trail is well maintained and feels like a never ending series of steps carved into the rock and covered with sand before our next option on the path appears. Here you can choose the 0.7km walk or 2.2km walk to the Pinnacle, naturally we opt for the longer walk which is well worth it if you have the energy. This walk passes through some more heavily forest area where the tall trees provide shade for some ferns and other undergrowth that you wouldn’t expect to find in this hot and dry part of the state. It also provides great views across to Mt William, the highest peak within the park.

As we approach the Pinnacle we are reminded of the need to stick to the path as a massive gap in the rock becomes visible as we weave around the path which was completely hidden from our earlier perspective. In some ways the self onerous nature of the walk is what I like about the walk. Unlike some places you go where everything of any danger is either fenced off or signposted to the hilt, out here you need to take precautions into your own hands and look after yourself which makes it more unspoilt. If you want to climb a rock stack on the edge of a massive cliff, you can (like one lady was doing) but for us it was more a case of crawl to the edge, look down and then quickly scurry back to safety before vertigo really kicked in.

The Pinnacle itself has a small fence around the edge and a strategically placed platform which provides an amazing panorama of the surrounding countryside with Halls Gap below. Its here, holding onto the rail with white knuckles I ask a fellow walker to take our photo while I try not to think of the large drop a few inches behind (definitely no free hand to make sure the hair is ok for this photo). Once the vertigo subsides a little it would be easy to sit here for hours and watch the day go by, but alas there are many others who want to do the same so we begin our walk back down.

This time we take the shorter route which takes you into a narrow crevice 1 person wide where you step from rock to rock descending down between the refreshingly cool and shady rock walls. Although shorter this is steeper than the track we took on the way up, which our knees soon start to notice as we try to lightly step down on each rock with little success. There are some small creeks that you cross and a few small waterfalls that dribble from the rocks above which I use as a mini shower to cool my head down before continuing the walk.

As we approach the end we take the Grand Canyon route which although adds a little more to our already tired legs is stunning as you climb down steep steel steps into the canyon floor. A small waterfall at the top of the canyon provides water to the creek that flows along the canyon floor. The sound of running water is very relaxing and although it was a warm day, made it feel much cooler.

Concluding our 3’ish our walk, It was now only a short walk back to the car and back into town and a well earned lunch with Cam and Adam (who had a lovely day relaxing while we walked off Christmas lunch) before refreshing our own water levels and heading back to the car for the 3 hour drive home. I could easily stay in Halls Gap for a few days and tackle a new walk each day, it was a great (although long) day trip from the city where you really can immerse yourself in one of Victoria’s great national parks.

Quick Facts:

Getting there:

By Car: 3 hour drive each way from Melbourne along the Western Highway. Mainly freeway, Easy drive.

By Public Transport: V-Line can get you there, but it will take you about 4:20min there and almost 5 back including 2 changes in Ballarat and Stawell. An adult return ticket costs $53.80 and concession is $26.80 so renting a car is probably a cheaper option if you have more than 1 adult.


There are a few Cafes and Restaurants in Halls Gap. We ate at a small café and the food was pretty good. In the past we have eaten at some of the local hotels and the food (especially the kangaroo) was great.

Tourist Information:

Halls Gap:

Parks Victoria:

The Grampians:

Visit Victoria:

  • 3

Melbourne: Parks, Politics and Performances (Part 1)

Category : Australia , OnDestination

At the end of the last episode I left you with a hot chocolate (or coffee) and about to board the city Circle Tram which is where I’ll start today’s post, heading east along Flinders Street towards the top end of town to look at some of the Parks, Politics and Performances that you’ll find in Melbourne. Fortunately Melbourne put on some great weather so I decided to get out and about and become a tourist in my home city for another day.

Jumping aboard a city circle tram which run from 10am – 6pm each day, is pretty easy, but depending on the time of day and what’s on around the city at the time you’ll find that it can get quite overcrowded. So although this series follows the tram route, you can pretty much do it my foot as well. In fact if you want to follow today’s trip, you’ll need to do some walking as I’ve looked at a few places that surround the route, that you’ll need to walk to get to. From the tram, jump off at the first stop heading anticlockwise on Spring Street.

To your left you have what’s known as the Paris end of Collins Street where you will find shops selling all the brand labels that you cant afford. If you want to leave my post here and spend up, then turn left. If not continue with me and you’ll have plenty of cash left over to donate to this site by the end. Directly across Spring Street is the Old Treasury Building. Designed by a 19 year old architect the building was constructed during the Victorian gold rush between 1858-1862 to store Victoria’s gold and was technically home to Australia’s first unofficial parliament. During a secret premiers meeting in 1899 it was agreed that Melbourne would host the first national parliament until the location of the national capital was announced.

The treasury functions have long been replaced by 2 Treasury Place, however today you can view a permanent exhibition of Victoria’s archives or the current exhibition that looks at the construction and collapse of the West Gate Bridge. The west gate bridge exhibition is free and is open on Sundays and Wednesdays, unfortunately I arrived on a Saturday so will have to stop back to check that exhibition out. Alternatively if you bring your loved one with you, you can get married in the registry office like the couple that were getting their photos taken on the steps as I wandered past.

After you have your wedding photos on the stairs, wander down into the Treasury Gardens which surprisingly, are next door to the Old Treasury Building. This site was originally unsellable due to its swampy location, however today you’ll be struggling to find any similarities as the variety of trees provide shade across the lawns where people do yoga, boot camp training or just relax and read a book beside one of the many paths that weave around the park. The accessibility to city parks in Melbourne really assists with its liveability. Having lived in an apartment in the city before, it was great to be able to walk 5mins and be in one of the many parks that surround the city to relax and unwind. Treasury Gardens is one of the smaller parks, even though it is almost 15 acres, it feels bigger by as the landscaping makes you feel removed from the momentum of city life.

Just before leaving the park to the east you’ll notice an art deco toilet block. I never thought I’d be writing about a toilet block in my blog, but during my research I found that this building, built in 1939 is actually on the Heritage register due to it’s art deco design that “exhibits outstanding craftsmanship”. I’m not advocating a trip to Melbourne to visit a toilet, but if you feel the urge before you cross the road into Fitzroy Gardens, you’ll know you’ll be involved in history in a somewhat unusual way.

Fitzroy Gardens are one of my favourite parks in Melbourne which I used to run though almost every day when I lived in the city. The gardens are lower than most of the surrounding roads, which, in combination with the avenues of thick tall trees, buffer out

almost all traffic and other city noises when you are in the centre of the park. Whether you’re going for a run, a casual stroll like I am today

or having lunch in the central pavilion it’s a great place to escape the city for a while.

Ironically named after a New South Wales governor, the park spans 64 acres and contains several sites to explore if you don’t feel the urge to join a fitness group or go for a run yourself. On the western side of the park there is the conservatory, built in 1930 to showcase indoor plants. This now contains a small creek, bridge and a great display of indoor plants. I’m not sure which end you are supposed to enter from, but the path is narrow and either way I went was crowded, but worth a quick look. Just down the path from the conservatory is Captain Cooks Cottage, one of the more popular tourist attractions within the park.

Shipped from North Yorkshire, England in 1934 the cottage was reconstructed brick by brick in the gardens as a gift to the people of Melbourne celebrating the centenary of European settlement of Melbourne. Although it was a gift to the people of Melbourne in 1934, if you want to enter the house now it will set you back about $4.50. I’ve been through the house before, in which you’ll notice the very small living conditions of the time. Thus the visit to the house doesn’t take that long, and yo

u don’t see that much. You do get a brochure that outlines the history, so if you like seeing the history of a city, its worth a go. Funnily, although named Captain Cooks Cottage, the building was originally built by Captain James Cook’s parents in 1755 and historians argue as to whether or not Captain Cook ever actually resided in this house, thus it may be a bit like visiting the parents of a famous persons house, which doesn’t have the same appeal as their own. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you think he lived there or not.

There are more historical items within the park that also respect the traditional inhabitants and owners of the land. The scared tree, not to be confused with the fairy tree, represents the Wurundjeri people who removed the bark from the trees to built canoes, containers and shields and is an aboriginal cultural site. As with many cities, the historical story of the city is generally told using the arrival of European settlement as the start, when the history of the aboriginal people extends thousands of years before. Although smaller in comparison to cooks cottage it is a reminder of the true age of human activity in the Melbourne area.

Speaking of small, the miniature Tudor village and fairy tree entertain a kids birthday party as I meander throughout the shady central path. Although nothing compared to Cockington Green in Canberra, the small miniature village is free to see and seemed to entertain the younger kids who, unlike the adults surrounding them obviously still had a creative imagination where fairies fly out of the tree and visit the miniature houses. Although the park is tranquil, the noise of the children’s party reminds be that it’s time to leave the shade of the park and walk up out of the sunken Fitzroy Gardens towards what I regard as Melbourne’s most spectacular church.

St Patrick’s Cathedral was named after the patron saint of Ireland due to the predominately Irish catholic community during the time of its construction in 1858 – 1897 and was one of only 2 churches of its size brought to almost completion in the 19th Century. Although this blog isn’t a tour of churches (I’m not in Adelaide yet) this size and attention to detail of this cathedral makes it worth a visit, regardless of your religious views. Standing in the centre of the church, the spire above is over 100m high, the church is just almost as long and half as wide. The architecture is of the gothic revival era with massive walls of bluestone capped with much lighter spirals.

Unlike my visit to St Pauls Cathedral, St Patricks seemed to attract many visitors who appear to make mini pilgrimages to visit the church. The silence within the church is almost deafening as a smoky haze of prayer candles and the smell of incense seems to drown out any quiet prayer or soft talking. Declared a minor basilica by Pope Paul VI in 1974 and resorted in 1997 the 5 acre site is must for anyone who enjoys the dedication to detail in these old church buildings provide.

Leaving the church and walking along Albert street towards the city you get a glimpse of the past and the present. Behind you St Patrick’s cathedral with its detailed spires, ornate cornicing and stained glass windows which although beautiful to look at, realistically provide no other useful purpose. Ahead of you on the right is the Orica House, Melbourne’s first high rise office building constructed in 1958. In contrast this building which is tall, has flat glazed walls and lacks any of the visible craftsmanship of the previous era of buildings and seems to be constructed only with purpose and functionality in mind. Ironically this building hit the media during its early days as panes of glazing frequently fell to the street below so perhaps the attention to purpose wasn’t completely followed.

Obviously building design changes, however when looking at some of the high rises that are constructed which often lack any form of creativity or design, it seems a shame that we don’t seem to take pride in the appearance of our buildings in the same way as they were constructed in the early days of Melbourne. Saying that, there are some exceptions to this statement that I’ll hope to show you in future blogs.

Albert St ends and becomes Lonsdale St as I arrive at Nicolson street where the City Circle Tram again crosses my path after leaving it a few hours ago to take in a selection of Melbourne’s Parks and Historic buildings. As this post is getting quite lengthy, I’ll break today’s trip up into two episodes so you can grab a coffee or do some holiday planning of your own between reads. Of course I could write less, but I like to capture the history of the places I visit, as well as what I think of them in these blogs, so you’ll just have to make sure your reading glasses are on when you come back for episode 3 which will continue to look at Melbourne’s Parks, Politics and Performances.