Awesome Australia: Six Months Of Amazing Adventures

After six months in Australia we have left this incredible country for the tropical delights of Fiji, and it’s time to reflect on our experience. Rather than a rehash of our itinerary we thought we’d run through some of the things that delighted us, some which left us slightly bemused and others that are just plain interesting. They are in no particular order and we aren’t telling you which fall into those three categories.  However, we should say that the verdict on Oz is overwhelmingly positive. This is a truly great country that has so much to offer.

Superb Sydney

We’ve been salties on this trip, sticking to the coastline starting in Perth and wandering down to Margaret River and Albany in WA, before hopping across to Adelaide. From there we traversed the coastline east and north all the way up to Cape Tribulation with just a couple of gaps. We haven’t seen any of the interior, Northern Territories, Alice Springs or Uluru, all of which will have to remain on the “to do” list, and gives us a great excuse to return – which we definitely will.

Twelve Apostles


We’ve seen a lot of beaches in the past twelve months. Many of the places we visited in South East Asia are held up as “must-see” or bucket list destinations for any self-respecting traveller who loves the feel of sand between their toes. But let’s be absolutely clear about this – they don’t hold a candle to the beaches we have visited all over Australia.

Eagle Bay W.A

We aren’t talking the headline grabbers like Bondi, Manly, Glenelg or Noosa either. It’s the unheralded ones you discover that overwhelm you with their beauty: pristine water; next to no one on them; not a scrap of litter; and not a hotel or avenue of sun-beds and loungers in sight. Archetypical Aussie heaven.


House and Pet Sitting

We will never be able to thank our friends Deano and Leesa enough for putting us onto the idea of house and pet sitting our way around Australia. It completely changed our thinking on how to traverse the country and in doing so opened up a new way of travelling and experiencing Australia. Living like a local in a neighbourhood, saving oodles of money on accommodation and being able to self-cater, spending time with some absolutely gorgeous animals and meeting wonderful people whose homes and pets we had the pleasure to take care of.

Xena in Cairns

We ended up doing sits from Fremantle to Cairns, with Adelaide, Hobart, Brisbane, and Maryborough in between.

Max at Freo

We started off with mad Max, the crazy and lovable nine month old Kelpie, and finished with Xena, a gentle giant Great Dane. But our favourite two were sheepdog Harley in Adelaide – our morning walks on the glorious Grange beach were the perfect way to start each day.

Harley on Grange Beach, Adelaide

…and Sprocket a weimerarner from Nudgee Beach, Brisbane. A swimming marvel who rang a bell with her nose when she wanted to go outside. She was our pacesetter as we ran around Boondall Wetlands and caught the running bug.

Sprocket on the Boondall Wetlands Walkway, Nudgee Beach, Brisbane

We only had one cat to look after – Leo in Maryborough, who was so easy to care for that we really felt we should be working harder.

Leo in Maryborough

There seems to be a very strong house / pet sit culture in Australia and with really slick, simple to use websites it took us just a week between registering our details and landing our first sit.

Sprocket – sunset at Cleveland Point

Wonderful Wildlife

It doesn’t matter how often you see a kangaroo, you never get bored of them. Even over five months into a trip we got excited spotting one lounging on a lawn on Daydream Island in the Whitsundays.

Margaret River Roo’s

Inevitably they are the poster boys/girls of the wildlife, with the Koala probably coming a close second. These gorgeous creatures are starting to become threatened and an Australia without Koala’s would be unthinkable. They were flourishing on Raymond Island though and we delighted in seeing so many of them amongst the Eucalyptus trees.

Raymond Island Koala

We saw few snakes and spiders – just enough to remind us that they are around, but not enough to have us nervously watching our every step. The two surprises for us were wombats – they are HUGE balls of furry gorgeousness….

Wombat at Mount Cradle

Less lovely, and something you certainly wouldn’t want to try cuddling, are cassowaries. But they are magnificent creatures, who along with the crocodiles of northern Queensland seem to maintain a modern-day link with a pre-historic past. Just don’t go too close to either of these!

Cassowary wandering into someone’s Mission Beach garden

Dolphins, devils, dingoes, wallabies, pademelons, penguins, pelicans, possums (heard, not seen), monitor lizards, wild pigs…the list of weird, wonderful Aussie critters goes on and on.

Pelican’s on The Coorong

We aren’t twitchers, but you can’t fail to be impressed by the colourful birdlife that routinely fly by – although there were a few times we could have strangled one or two with their early morning alarm calls.

Unidentified Bird on Hamilton Island

Gawd Bless You Ma’am!

For reasons we can’t understand the country still has the British Monarchy as Head of State and the Governor General. Guys/girls, when are you going to cut the apron-strings? You are a proud, fantastic, independent nation tens of thousands of miles from the UK,  you are even in a different hemisphere for God’s sake! And let’s be honest, we are a bit crap right now!

A Climate To Die For

It seems to be stating the bleeding obvious that the weather in Oz is wonderful, but it really is worth repeating. During the summer you can feel the warmth right through to your bones – as Poms there’s no better feeling than gently cooking on a day in mid-December. After S/E Asia it was a wonderful dry heat rather than oppressive humidity, although reaching Cairns quickly reminded us of what living in a tropical climate is like.

Magnificent Maggie Isle

And with a bit of careful planning as Autumn sets in in the south and temperatures start to dip towards a shocking 20 degrees… can start to head north to maintain that year round summer feel. Not that it was wall to wall sunshine. Melbourne gave us a bit of everything, Sydney got a bit soggy, and we saw snow in Tassie!


Well…. what can you expect from the nation that has given us Neighbours, Home and Away, and The Sullivans. The fare is pretty meagre and is very UK content focussed. You know things are dire when you are looking forward to watching an episode of “Call the Midwife”. ABC seemed to be the only channel offering any in depth current affairs / political analysis. Having said that when we got more into the sticks i.e. Queensland, there were some toe-curlingly hilarious adverts on local TV channels where the marketing budget must have stretched into literally tens of dollars. This is when the Netflix subscription really pays off.

The Outdoor Life

With the the climate comes a culture that is all about the outdoor life – especially the beach and the sea, and a lot of the Aussies we saw make the most of it.

Melbourne Kite-Surfing

It’s fantastic seeing so many people from the very young to the very old swimming, surfing, sailing, kayaking….giving off this great vibe of healthy physical activity.

Boating on Mandurah

One of the most charming examples of this was watching a large group of young school-children being taught to surf on the beach at Lorne – what a fabulous classroom! We  are so envious of weather that breeds such an active and fun-filled lifestyle, and we loved our time messing about on the water, a particular highlight was sailing a mini-catamaran on the Swan River in Perth.

Catamaran on the Swan

….and our paddle-boarding has come on leaps and bounds – entirely the wrong description for an activity that mostly involves standing still!

Up the creek with a paddle…and a dog

The novelty of being able to enjoy open-air cinemas is something we will never tire of or fail to appreciate. Watching great films curled up under the stars with a beer in hand remains a treasured memory.

Melbourne Rooftop Cinema

Pubs (not)

Aussie pubs, with a couple of honourable exceptions we experienced in Sydney, just aren’t proper pubs – not in the way we know and love them in the UK. More often than not they are part bookies, part hotel, with too many screens showing too many Aussie Rules Football games. Odd.

Terrific Tasmania

Although we said we wouldn’t list the places we went, an honourable mention must go to this wonderful diverse island. From the moment we drove out of the airport at Lonnie we felt a different atmosphere. Tassie has it all, scenery, wildlife, history, and culture including one of the very best art galleries in the world.

A MOMA Moment

Understandably many travellers with limited time head to Melbourne, Sydney, and the Great Barrier Reef, so Tassie remains a bit off the beaten track. But during our visit we sensed that real efforts are being made to draw more visitors to this corner of Australia and it really is worth the effort of spending at least a week, but preferably longer here.

Cuddle at Cradle

Anger is an Energy 

It’s fascinating to see the struggle the country is having on the future of coal mining. An industry that flies in the face of a climate change movement that is getting louder and more youthful; but employs so many people, particularly in rural areas where there appears to be no Plan B for communities that would probably die without it. Ask any two Aussies about their views on the proposed Adani mining project and you would probably get four opinions. It feels as though the time has come to make a real leap to sustainable and clean energy,  but at the moment that step seems to risk political suicide. Our abiding memory on climate change was experiencing 48 degrees in Adelaide: interesting for about five seconds, after that it was not fun.

We noticed a strong awareness and celebration of the history and legacy of indigenous people, especially on the east coast. More controversially the growing number of people protesting Australia Day which they rename Invasion Day was interesting to witness on 26th January. With the 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival due to be marked in 2020 expect to see more acrimonious demonstrations and divisions on this increasingly contentious view of history.

Town Planning / Architecture

A strange mix. Sadly a lot of the smaller towns and main streets comprise of low rise, unimpressive, bland development with no character. Big, garish signage dominate the streets with no thought to appearance or aesthetic appeal. One characterless settlement just merged into the next. The big cities – especially Adelaide – did offer some lovely respite from the uniformity, with its impressive Victorian city centre.


Melbourne also has a wonderfully atmospheric centre and grid system, that is really attractive with stylish arcades and impressive buildings.

Flinders St Station

On a smaller scale Fremantle is full of historic buildings that have been conserved and act as a lovely contrast to the modernity of Perth.

Freo CBD – gorgeous buildings and buzzing

Maryborough was also exceptional but unlike bustling Freo suffers from too many vacant retail units in its CBD.

Maryborough CBD – gorgeous buildings but on life support

Of course there are architectural gems that stand out, with Sydney’s combination of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Harbour and Botanical Gardens combining to create one of the iconic urban settings of the country, and indeed the world.

Sydney Harbour and Opera House

Stunning Scenery

Brutal rugged landscapes, windswept isolated coastline, towering volcanic mountains, sumptuous valleys, gushing rivers and waterfalls, dense pre-historic forests, vibrant coral-reefs, mysterious mangroves, inexplicable sand islands, incredible lakes,….do you get the picture?

Dunalley Beach, Tassie

Yes, it is an enormous country so you would expect a fair share of wonder, but that doesn’t make it any less incredible. The variety is astonishing…and we didn’t even get to the interior!

The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains

We don’t have the vocabulary to do the scenery anything like the justice it deserves and we hope the pictures we have posted in our blogs go some way to communicating the awe we regularly experienced as we traversed the country.

Blue Lake, Mount Gambier


We had the bad / good fortune to watch the 2019 Australian Election campaign unfold. As Brits we accept the we are currently sitting in the most fragile and brittle of glasshouses and throwing stones at politics elsewhere is really inappropriate. However, the Aussie Election campaign was shocking for its negative campaigning, especially by the Coalition who only seemed to have one policy – tax cuts benefitting the wealthy. Other than that it was full on negativity about the opposition expansive (probably too expansive) policy agenda. All of which was enthusiastically regurgitated and exaggerated by the Murdoch dominated media.  Worse still are the emerging right wing populists who seem to find succour in Queensland. Katter, Hanson and Palmer all represent the horrible face of politics in Australia. You have to pity the Australian public who have to put up with compulsory voting every three years: a shockingly short Parliamentary term. How does anything get done…..yes, I think we all know the answer to that question.

Where did you get that hat, where did you get that hat?!

Bob is big on immigration. He represents the Kennedy constituency in Queensland which is slightly bigger in area than Spain (!) and has a registered electorate of 107,000 people (that isn’t a mis-print – yes 107k). It really sounds overrun to us Bob – can’t swing a cat without hitting an immigrant. Our experience of Kennedy was that there are more banana trees and sugar canes than people. Pauline meanwhile runs with the deeply profound strap line “I’ve got the guts to say what you’re thinking“.  I think that probably tells you all you need to know about the modestly named Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party.

The People

As a huge cricket fan I have had quite a fixed view about Australians…which are not entirely complementary. I have to confess to experiencing unreserved schadenfreude during the ball tampering scandal and the sight of Steve Smith blubbing on TV. Despite these deep rooted prejudices shaped by the likes of Waugh, Warne and Warner, we have to admit the Australians are an incredibly warm and sociable bunch. Friendly welcomes were received wherever we went. Genuine sympathy was offered when the subject of Brexit came up, with Aussies sharing our bewilderment at the self-mutilation of our homeland. We suspect there was some element of relief as well, with the UK drawing unwanted limelight away from the political fratricide soap opera in Canberra. The parkrunning people of Maryborough should get a special mention for their enthusiasm and general loveliness – great ambassadors for their wonderful city.

Maryborough Park Runners!

Fantastic service is the norm and we were especially blessed by the people we met at the AirBnB’s we stayed at and the house sits. Nothing was too much trouble, folks were always keen to share ideas on where to go, what to see and genuinely wanted us to see their country in the best possible light. It was all rather heartwarming. Of course all of the above will become a distant memory the moment the first ball in The Ashes is bowled this summer and I start foaming at the mouth at the sight of Smith and Warner.

Optus Stadium, Perth


Thankfully we jettisoned our original plan to see the country from a van. Discovering house-sitting quickly put paid to that idea. When not sitting we AirBnB’d our way around Australia. With only two exceptions the quality and vfm was outstanding.

Our AirBnB View – Mallacoota

We met friendly hosts who went above and beyond in making our stays comfortable. Generally we stay in self-contained AirBnB’s, but where we stayed in the same home as hosts we found that many had such large places that we were as good as in our own place with en-suite facilities. A special mention must go to Lorna in Robe….a perfect AirBnB host and home. Being treated to wine and chocolates on arrival was rather special.

AirBnB Cabin on Raymond Island

Thank you Australia, you have been one of the most memorable experiences of our lives.

Next Up: Tropical Paradise in Fiji

Mercury Rising in Stylish Adelaide

It would be fair to say that our trip to Adelaide didn’t get off to the most auspicious start. Arriving at our hotel very late after a three hour flight and “losing” two and half hours travelling east from Perth, the receptionist seemed to have trouble finding our details. I passed her my phone impatiently showing the email from Agoda confirming the booking. After glancing at it for a moment or two she passed it back to me and politely suggested I scroll down on the email. Following her instructions I read with horror the phrase “we apologise but on this occasion we cannot confirm your hotel reservation”. I immediately changed tack from affronted customer to sheepishly asking if they had any rooms available – which luckily they had, for about double what we thought we were going to pay! It took eight months for this type of cock-up to occur, so that isn’t too bad.

Despite being one of Australia’s largest cities, Adelaide seems to have a slightly tarnished reputation, being seen as slightly dowdy, old fashioned and out in the sticks…..Sadelaide?. Even locals talked it down a bit suggesting that there wasn’t really much to see or do. We have to say that this was not our experience. Adelaide is a beautiful, vibrant place with tons to see and do in and around the city.

Another Plus for Adelaide – Trams!

On arrival the Adelaide headlines were all about the weather, the temperature topping 40 degrees  on our first day, and reaching a ridiculous record breaking 47 on the second, so we ventured out with some nervousness plotting a course through the city centre from one air conditioned location to another. In doing so we marvelled at the architecture that has been protected so well in the city, from civic building to the iconic Beehive Corner that helps to create a sense of history and stylish gravitas.


The City’s bustling Central Market offered another welcome diversion from the heat, full of life, colour, smells, fruit and veg we couldn’t identify…..and people with lots of body art …Tatadelaide? (Editors Note: that’s enough Adelaide puns!) Given its world famous vineyards, it wasn’t surprising to see lots of different grapes on offer at the market.


Day two presented a real challenge for us as we had to check out of the hotel, and kill several hours before we headed off to our house sit late in the afternoon, negotiating a day that was to be the hottest we’ve ever experienced and the hottest on record for Adelaide. About 800 metres away was the City’s Library and Art Gallery – which came highly recommended to us. We set off, stepping out of the hotel into an oven (we now have a vague idea of what it feels like to be cremated), aiming for every spot of shade on offer between us and our destination. This included contorting our bodies to fit the shape of even the slimmest of shadows while waiting at traffic lights. With fellow pedestrians doing the same we must have looked like an anguished mime flash mob, manically dispersing to more shade as soon as the green man appeared. The heat was breathtaking as we slowly made our way along the street occasionally stepping into its full glare before stepping into the sanctuary that was the library. This isn’t just any old library, in keeping with Adelaide’s historical swagger it contains the Mortlock Wing, a gorgeous interior of dark wood surrounded by shelf upon shelf of books that probably haven’t been opened in decades. In the tradition of all good libraries it also had people pretending to study in it.


We cooled down and enjoyed excellent displays, including one on the history of the establishment of colonial South Australia – as a free State rather than one based on convict labour – becoming a self governing colony in 1856, and in 1895 being one of the first places in the world to grant women the vote and the right to stand for election. There are always two elephants in the room when you start to look at Australia’s colonial and constitutional history. The treatment of its indigenous Aboriginal people, and the ongoing role of the British Monarchy represented by the Governor-General. It was interesting to see the demonstrations on Australia Day which marks the anniversary of the landing of the British fleet. The demo’s have rebranded it “Invasion Day” with the slogan “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land”. We certainly noticed a lot of  recognition of Aboriginal heritage when we reached Melbourne. The sense is that the numbers challenging the current Australia Day is growing, whether it will change the date and meaning of the Day remains to be seen, but it’s a fascinating example of how history and its legacy is being reviewed and challenged here and elsewhere.

Housesitting Harley

Our second house/pet sit in Australia was in the neighbourhood of Seaton Park, west of the city centre and just a ten minute drive from the long strip of pristine beaches that border the City. We had just over a week looking after a gorgeous Australian Sheepdog called Harley and a couple of rabbits (Peter and Asta). We immediately fell in love with Harley, funny, playful, obedient and very, very intelligent, we knew our time with him was going to be a delight.

Dog Walking Paradise

We started every morning with a long walk along the beautiful beach at Grange, much quieter than its more famous and busier neighbours in Glenelg and Brighton to the south. Harley had boundless energy chasing balls that we threw for him left, right and centre – he must have walked and run 10 metres for our every one. He did have a slightly inconvenient habit of dropping his ball in the sea making us wade in to find and retrieve it before hurling along the sand again – it seemed to be his way of maintaining a balance of power with his new best friends. With a face like that it was very hard to tell him off….


The long morning walks on the sand were an idyllic way to start the day, and given the heat, the best time to get out. We miss our greyhound Ruby terribly, so having bursts of dog sitting is a great antidote, especially in such a perfect environment. As well as miles of sand, Grange Beach had a jetty that was great for sunset watching.

Under Grange Beach Jetty

…and boasted a glorious Victorian three story terrace built in 1884 and the only one of its kind on the Australian coastline.

The Marine Terraces at Grange Beach, Adelaide

Drowning not waving

When not out walking with Harley we managed to see a number of sights in and around Adelaide, with two very contrasting days looking for dolphins. On the first of these we signed up for the classic “go swimming with dolphins” offer. What could go wrong: taking a magnificent catamaran out of the harbour at Glenelg..

So far so good…..

…donning our wetsuits, masks and snorkels and heading into the St Vincent Gulf. Sadly, out at sea the water did not look like the picture above, in fact it was really quite choppy. After about 45 minutes of kangarooing about on the boat our guides spotted a school of dolphins and got us ready for our encounter.

Looking the part…..

However, this was not going to be a gentle floaty snorkel with Flipper and his mates. Instead, we were to launch ourselves into the ocean and hang onto a large rope trailing the catamaran (without a life jacket) and listen to instructions on the whereabouts of dolphins while partly submerged. As I type this I can’t believe we actually jumped into the sea. Things started badly, inadvertently hitting the rope as I jumped in I managed to rip the mask off my head….twice! Eventually we were both in the sea hanging on to the rope for dear life – our main concern at this moment was not whether we saw a dolphin, instead focussing our efforts on not drowning. Sure enough a guide saw an emergency signal from one of the “swimmers”, a life buoy was thrown out and a few seconds later I saw a bedraggled Sam slowly pass me in the water being towed back to the safety of the boat. This was health and safety of Indonesian proportions. Despite this traumatic start and partly out of a morbid curiosity to see if my life would pass in front of my eyes I jumped in for a second time and found myself hanging on to the rope a long way from the boat.

Second from the end, head down contemplating my mortality,

It was a strange mixture of exhilaration, seeing dolphins dart about below us, and abject terror being in the ocean with only the strength in my tiring arms keeping me attached to the boat. Of course seeing the dolphins was great but what I really enjoyed was hearing the strange sonic ethereal noises they make as they communicate with each other. I’m no expert on “dolphinese” but I think one of them was pointing to me and saying to his mates “I’ve got that twats’ mask”.  Here is a bit of footage from the safety of the boat….

In complete contrast we spent the next day serenely kayaking around the Port Adelaide estuary. Here you can gently paddle among eerie shipwrecks that despite their dereliction intimidate as you get close to them:

Port Adelaide Estuary Shipwreck

..and gingerly work your way into the mangroves through small openings into an overgrown maze of watery routes that quickly befuddle your sense of direction, with the only sounds being the splash of your paddle on the water and the occasional thud of your head hitting a low hanging branch.

Here the Estuary dolphins gently glided by, a welcome change to the adrenaline fuelled panic 24 hours earlier. It was another example of the astonishing range of waterways Australia offers. It’s far from being all about those perfect sun-kissed beaches and the variety makes exploring this fabulous country constantly fun and invigorating.

Estuary Dolphin

Deutscheland Uber Alles

One of the most popular day trips from Adelaide is into the rural and rustic Adelaide Hills, where the city quickly yields to bush and offers panoramic views of Adelaide and the ocean beyond from the summit of Mount Lofty

Looking Down on Adelaide

It makes for a beautiful scenic tour, every now and then hopping out at a vintage looking store to stock up on refreshments where the welcome is so warm and friendly.

A Good Old Fashioned Store

A short deviation from the Adelaide hills takes you to the slightly bizarre historical village of Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest German settlement which dates back to December 1838 when 52 of the founding families of Hahndorf arrived from Germany. Given my heritage this was a trip I was looking forward to and it wasn’t long before we got into the spirit of things, marching down the high street and behaving in a suitably Bavarian manner.

No excuse for this…but it gets worse…
……Rather pleased with my legs in this shot

Kitsch doesn’t come close to describing Hahndorf. It’s quaint and quite endearing, but surely there is a limit to how many shops can sell cuckoo clocks and frankfurters.

Much further south on the unpronounceable Fleurieu Peninsula is Victor Harbor a great little town that is connected to Granite Island by a long walkway. Here the scenery is rocky, jagged and wild – and when you look south from the island you realise there is nothing but sea between you and Antartica. We didn’t get to see any of the penguins the Island is famous for, but we did enjoy the unexpected works of art that have been installed at the top of the Island.

No…we don’t know what this is either

The views from the Island back to Victor Harbor are stunning. It’s a perfect day trip and we subsequently discovered that we were lucky to visit it when we did – a few days later the roads in and out of Victor Harbor were cut off by bush fires.

Victor Harbor Bay

Our travels around Adelaide continued to offer so much fun and diversity from watching the incredible efforts of the competitors at the Australian Open Water Swimming Championships on Brighton Beach, to snuggling under blankets in surprisingly cool temperatures at the Adelaide Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens to watch The Favourite, complemented by our daily walks with Harley – we felt very lucky to be experiencing so much in picture perfect Adelaide.



Our experience of Glenelg had been tainted by the dolphin experience, so on our last night we returned there to walk along the beach, enjoy the sea lapping over our toes and watch a beautiful sunset. No trip to Adelaide is complete without a Glenelg sunset.

Glenelg sunset …note the low budget flood defences in the foreground!

Our time in Adelaide had come to an end, and with it a very special part of our travels. Saying goodbye to Harley was terrible and we consoled ourselves with the thought of more wonderful doggies and house sits to come in our journey across Oz. As for Adelaide – don’t listen to any naysayers, this is a wonderful city that offers something for every taste and interest. We can’t wait to have an excuse to return. Our sadness in leaving was tempered by the thought of the journey ahead – the Great Ocean Road trip to Melbourne.

Top Travelling Tips

It’s been a while since our last TTT’s and will be obvious from our Adelaide and Fremantle posts.  We would recommend investigating house/pet sitting. As well as getting the opportunity to indulge a love of animals you get to stay in lovely homes free of charge – a big help when it comes to budget management – where you can self cater (you really can get very tired of hotel food) and live like a local getting off the tourist trail.