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

Beautiful Brisbane With A Super Sprocket

Our trip along the South and East coasts of Australia from Adelaide to Brisbane have had two unforgettable canine bookends: Harley, the wonderful Australian sheepdog in SA and Sprocket the gorgeous Weimaraner in Brisbane, Queensland…..


When we were first arranging our Brisbane house/pet sit, in the coastal neighbourhood of Nudgee Beach, the house owners Chris and Paul told us that Sprocket loves to swim in the creek at the end of their garden and will swim/run along the bank with you if you take a kayak out. In addition, when Sprocket wants to go outside she would trot to the back door and ring a bell using her nose. It sounded too good to be true – but it wasn’t…and it was even better than we could possibly have hoped for. Everything Chris and Paul told us about how lovable Sprocket is, was true! Fun, obedient, playful and a joy to walk, with endless energy and inquisitiveness. We knew within five minutes of arriving that this was going to be a memorable few weeks in Brissie.

Helping out with travel planning

As we’ve said in previous blogs, house-sitting does take you off the tourist trail and we would never have discovered the delights of Nudgee Beach but for the house sit. A low lying area where the sea retreats for what seems like miles at low tide revealing acres of mudflats and sand, that is fully submerged when the tide rolls in, up the river into the mangrove-like  Boondall Wetlands and the creek that backed onto our new home.

Exploring Nudgee Beach

On viewing the creek I did have to check with Paul about the Croc situation…Paul assured me that they aren’t this far south in Queensland, although there is a healthy population of pythons nearby and Bull Sharks in the sea! As if to prove the point that the creek harboured no ill will, he threw a ball into the creek that was quickly followed by Sprocket launching herself into the water to retrieve it. If Sprocket could swim in the creek we could follow her lead and kayak and Paddle Board in it.

Paddle-Boarding with swimming Sprocket

As promised she was a great companion as we made trips up and downstream. With her life-jacket on she doggy-paddled serenely from one side of the creek to the other where she would climb up the bank and belt along it until there was no gap, then she jumped back in the water to swim to the opposite bank. When she was swimming we caught up with her, as we paddled along, but as soon as she made land she shot off. However, she had a really endearing quality that stopped us from worrying about losing her. If she ever got to a point where she was out of sight, such as a bend in the river she would stop and wait until she could see us before charging off again.

What a beauty

This lovely habit along with her bright red jacket made keeping an eye on her much easier. Quite where Sprocket got the energy to run, swim, climb banks and hunt around in the mangrove undergrowth god only knows, but we were always pleased to see her crash out for a good long snooze when we got home – huge fun and Sprocket properly pooped was a wonderful recipe.

We quickly adjusted to Queensland time, up at 6.00am to make the most of the daylight and set off to the Boondall Wetlands for a morning walk with Sprocket before the day got too warm. The wetlands has an excellent boardwalk that meanders through the trees and waterways that change mood constantly with the tide. A really atmospheric place that we loved visiting.

Sam and Sprocket on the Boondall Wetlands Boardwalk

It also became the spot for our new commitment to fitness. Sam made the decision that we should try the ‘Couch to 5K’ running course, after being inspired to give running a go after chatting about it with Chris and Julianne in Sydney (both regular Park Run runners). Earlier in our trip we had been doing a High Intensity Training programme but that came to an abrupt end when I thrust one of my bare big toes into a kerb in Sumatra, shunting it a centimetre or two backwards into my foot (… was every bit as painful as that sounds!) With my toe feeling better and a new pair of running shoes bought, we made that Boardwalk our running track, although with Sprocket on the lead there were times when I felt as though I was being dragged around (…fast forward eight weeks and as I type I’m recovering from finishing my first Park Run).

Mystical Boondall Wetlands

Following on from our good luck in seeing shows in Melbourne and Sydney we discovered that Brisbane has a great arts scene and we managed to get tickets to see dance legends Orbital at an intimate venue – The Triffid. The Hartnoll bros were on top form crashing through a great mix of old classics and new numbers. They still wear their trademark torch-specs that make them look slightly alien, and we still don’t understand exactly what it is they are doing/playing on stage, but there was a lot of the usual twiddling of knobs that delivered a fantastic sound and set.


In stark contrast we caught the Arctic Monkeys a few days later. Our initial surprise at getting tickets for such a top act was explained when we walked into the cavernous Brisbane Exhibition Centre – it was enormous. The downside of being able to get tickets was the sterile atmosphere, a venue which made even the much maligned Brighton Centre seem quaint and homely. The stage set was bizarre, reminding me of Sheffield City Polytechnic’s library in the early 1980’s, a place where I spent many an unproductive hour. Now as a Steel City band that may have been exactly the effect they were after….but I seriously doubt it. Things got stranger and distinctly Spinal Tap as the large illuminated hexagon sitting high above them started to move and make its descent downwards toward the band, to what purpose who knows? That said amid the atmospheric vacuum and stage weirdness there are of course those amazing songs and Alex’s undeniable charisma, both which saved the day.

With Orbital, the crowd were about our age and there was a fair smattering of grey hair amongst the leather jackets. Not so with Arctic Monkeys –  they definitely have a more youthful following!

A week later we had the chance to see the unique and irrepressible Eddie Izzard, a man who is sickeningly talented – seriously, who does stand-up in English, French and German, (apparently an Arabic show is scheduled) runs daily marathons and takes up long distance sea-swimming! In what may be his last tour before seriously embarking on a political career (another string to his bow) Eddie was his usual surreal self, taking the audience and himself to places you could never predict. Eddie campaigns for our local MP at home and having met him on the campaign trail back in the UK we have an extra special fondness for him.

It was great seeing these shows, but we always felt a pang for Sprocket back home and enjoy ourselves as much as we did, it was heart warming to get home and be welcomed by such an overwhelming, joyful and enthusiastic greeting.

Sprocket in her chair – full on relaxed mode!

We took a few trips into the centre of Brisbane itself, seeing it from the river that runs through the city, which provided great views and a good insight into its history.

Brisbane City Centre

Although there are some interesting buildings and colonial history it’s doesn’t have the same feeling of grandeur that Adelaide has, the architecture of Melbourne, or the iconic buildings of Sydney.

Brisbane river

However, it does have a buzz about it, especially on its Southbank where beautifully greened walkways….


…sit alongside probably the best public swimming pool we’ve ever seen – with the artificial beach than runs along the river bank and overlooks the city centre. It really does look like something out of a five-star resort….

Southbank Swimming

We decided that we would get to know the city better by taking a self-guided tour that took in the key architectural and historical places of interest. The was the plan. The Queensland climate had other ideas. Although officially being autumn when we got to Brissie the temperatures were consistently in the high 30’s. As a result we only achieved about half of the walk before we wilted and retreated into a tea room for some air-conditioning, cold water and pastries to recover – mad-dogs and Englishmen/women.

We did see some interesting sites before our surrender including City Hall (excellent air-conditioning)…

City Hall

The Old Windmill (no air-conditioning and at the top of a bloody hill – well it would be wouldn’t it). The oldest surviving building in Queensland dating back to 1828 it was built by convict labour. Unfortunately for the convicts the prevailing winds rarely generated enough energy to regularly turn the sails, so it became a convict powered treadmill, used as a means of punishment. A curious reminder of the City’s history.

The Old Windmill – built and powered by convicts

After the Windmill we strolled back into the city centre to admire the magnificent Anzac Memorial.

Brisbane’s Anzac Memorial

Chris and Paul had left us with loads of tips on places to see including those where we could take Sprocket. The first of these is a Brissie tradition, up to Mount Coot-Tha to look  down on the city and its surrounds.

Brisbane from Mount Coot-Tha

It’s a fantastic view of the city, with great walks into the woods where Sprocket enjoyed sniffing about.

Better still was a trip a short way along the coast from Nudgee Beach to neighbouring Shorncliffe, where we found a great flat coastal walk punctuated by cafes where we made regular pit-stops on account of the heat. Along this strip there are some lovely traditional Queenslander houses.


….all of which makes it a very pleasant and wholesome place to visit.  As the tide went out we were able to walk back along the sand, and check out Shorncliffe Pier that shoots out into the sea.


This was such a perfect day out, getting loads of fresh air and exercise, while messing about in the sea with Sprocket.


We had noticed some really striking sunset colours in the evening sky and after checking out recommendations for sunset locations in Brissie, headed off to Cleveland Point which boasts a cute wooden lighthouse..

Cleveland Point Lighthouse

In the left-hand edge of the picture above you can see Sam and Sprocket at the table where we enjoyed alfresco fish and chips, including a rather nice grilled cod for Sprocket – that went down very well and very quickly. We spent the next hour watching a fabulous light show from vivd yellows and oranges as the sun dipped…

Sam, Sprocket and Sunset stunning reds and pinks after it had set. A wonderful spectacle that was very special to watch at our leisure.


There are quite strict rules on where you can takes dogs with National Parks generally being out of bounds, so we reluctantly left Sprocket at home when we went off to the Glass House Mountains in the Brisbane hinterland area. These rugged volcanic mountains were named by Captain Cook in 1770 as he sailed north up the east coast due to their likeness to the glass making foundries of Yorkshire familiar to Cook. I think he used some creative licence…

The Glasshouse Mountains

We had left it far too late in the morning to climb up one of the more accessible mountains. Like anything involving a modicum of effort in temparatures in the mid to high 30’s, if you don’t start it soon after sunrise, forget it! Instead we found a great viewing point for the mountains and a Rainforest Park to wander through that provided very welcome shade and our first encounter with Pademelons, the smallest of the kangaroo family. They hopped about happily, quite untroubled by our presence. Thankfully there is just about enough ‘roo/wallaby about the Pademelon to distinguish it from looking too much like an over-sized hopping rat.


An interesting example of the efforts of Brisbane to use some of its otherwise abandoned wharf areas, is the Eat Street Markets. Located well outside the city centre on an otherwise slightly desolate area sits a street market that springs to life at the weekends.

Eat Street Markets

Vibrant, full of colour and punters it takes you a little while to realise that this fantastic market is in fact a collection of shipping containers skilfully designed, organised and decorated in a way to create the impression of a bustling downtown market area. Very simple, very effective and very good. Eat Street offers every conceivable food option to cater for multi-cultural tastes. Craft stalls, live music, shows, children’s entertainers and great views of the river all help to create a buzzing atmosphere; and judging by the numbers when we went along it’s hugely popular. It seemed to be another example of Brisbane making the most of its resources to create a fun environment and experience.

Eat Street Market – on the inside

Maintaining our strict minimalist policy on the shopping front we failed to buy anything for ourselves, but on coming across a container filled with treats for pets we couldn’t resist getting a bag full of doggie sausages for Sprocket!

At just shy of three weeks our sit with Sprocket had been the longest during our travels at that point, but the time had flown by. Staying at Nudgee Beach had been a very special experience, one that we are going to remember as one of the highlights of our trip. It was so lovely living like a local in this fascinating neighbourhood with its creek, wetlands and ever-changing beach. However, the star of the show was Sprocket, such a wonderfully lovable dog who it was very hard to say goodbye to.

Low tide on Nudgee Beach & Sprocket chasing a ball for the umpteenth time!


Next Up: Fantastic Tassie