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

Magical Memories Made In Melbourne

We were really excited to reach Melbourne, described as Australia’s most European city, by many of the people we had met travelling. Our first task was to get into our home for the week, a city centre AirBnB. Rather than meet us at the apartment our hosts had left a set of complex instructions that felt like they had come from an episode of Mission Impossible. On arriving at Little Collins Street, right in the centre of the city, we were to locate a row of small trees with protective iron rails around them. On one of the rails we would find a key safe padlock. Armed with the combination for the padlock we would then be able to access the key to the apartment. Remarkably this all went to plan and within 20 minutes of arriving we had got in, unloaded all of our stuff into the apartment and were on our way to drop off our hire car and admire the magnificent cityscape.

A View From A Bridge

Returning to the city centre we took the opportunity to jump on a tram, our first of many tram rides and one of the many features we came to love about Melbourne. The public transport system is superb; cheap, easy to use, frequent and in the case of the trams a wonderfully evocative sight. Sadly we didn’t get to dine on the Restaurant Tram…


Our apartment was smack bang in the middle of the city, a two minute walk from Flinders Street Station and the main thoroughfares of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets, a great base to explore the city centre, a classic Victorian grid system with plenty of old colonial buildings to give it real character.

Flinders Street Station

The main streets are complemented and connected by a network of thriving lanes full of shops, bars and street art creating a buzzing character on a scale that we haven’t seen elsewhere in Oz.



As an avid cricket fan a visit to the Melbourne Cricket Ground was a bit of a trip to Mecca. After Lords it’s probably the most famous cricket ground in the world and an absolute “must see” for us. We made our way through an environmental fair on the banks of the Yarra River and on route discovered the stadiums that host the Australian Tennis Open including the Rod Over Arena looking strangely deserted just a few weeks after the Open had finished. We booked ourselves onto the MCG Tour and were treated to a behind the scenes view of this fantastic and historic cricket ground.

The greatest fast bowler: DK Lillee

Despite our best efforts we failed to find where it is the Aussie Test Team store their sandpaper but it was wonderful seeing the changing rooms, views from ground level, sky-high seats, the press boxes and the Long Room. One aspect of the tour that was slightly disappointing was the amount of time discussing the Aussie (no) Rules Football that is played on the ground. Having spent several months in the country and having seen some match footage I am none the wiser about either the laws or the attraction of the game. A bit like baseball in the US, it seems to be an acquired local taste.

Stars v Sixers at the MCG

Having seen the MCG empty we took the opportunity to return the next day to watch the Melbourne Stars play the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League – Australia’s Twenty 20 tournament that goes on for months and months… We duly went full Aussie and donned our bucket hats and enjoyed a cracking game of crash bang wallop cricket, cheering the Stars on to a crushing win over their bitter Sydney rivals.

If you want to get ahead get a…..bucket hat

The MCG hosted the 1956 Olympics and it was interesting to see some of the history of that event commemorated around the ground.


A Bit of Culture

Sam played an absolute blinder by getting two tickets for the “sold out” theatre production of Lady in The Van featuring the unique Miriam Margolyes.  We were over the moon to have the chance to see the potty-mouthed national/Aussie treasure that is Miriam on stage in Melbourne in this great Alan Bennett play. We were extra excited as this was our first trip to the theatre since we left the UK. Before the curtain went up, the Director addressed the audience telling us, somewhat sombrely, that a cast member was unwell and there was no under-study to take his place. We braced ourselves for the news that the play was off, when much to the audiences delight he declared that in the spirit of ‘The Show Must Go On’  he would take on the role. This was met with huge applause. He did a great job despite admitting he didn’t know the lines for this character so had to read off a script. As expected the play was hugely entertaining, although it did remind us of some of the horrors we have both encountered in our past professional lives dealing with the reality of hoarders and their “homes”. Unbeknown to us when we got the tickets the show was followed by a Q&A with the cast which gave us the chance to see and listen to Miriam close up as many of the audience chose not to stay for this bonus. As expected she was amusing, but her answers also revealed someone who is very serious and thoughtful about her craft – it’s not all “bollocks” and farting.

Marvellous Miriam 

We continued our habit of attending open air cinemas – it’s such a wonderful novelty! On this occasion we found a rooftop cinema where we celebrated Valentine’s Day 24 hours early by watching Amelie – the ideal chance to put to the test our ongoing attempts to learn French……happily English subtitles were included. Lounging on deckchairs, under blankets with a couple of beers looking at the night sky and skyscrapers was a very pleasant way to watch this wonderfully uplifting film. No matter how many times we watch it, it always makes us happy.

Rooftop Cinema Views

As luck would have it there was an Escher Exhibition on in Melbourne during our stay with a vast collection of his remarkable work on display. Given the hugely changeable Melbourne weather (it is a cliche but it really is four seasons in a day in this City) we chose a rainy day to check it out, and we weren’t disappointed….and it is so refreshing to be encouraged to take photos in a gallery!


Although his illogical / impossible drawings are the most famous and popular, it was the less seen self portraits and detail drawings that really caught the eye….especially his eye close ups where the detail is astonishing.


Fascinating, fun and constantly playing tricks on your mind, the exhibition was superb and was a really interesting and thought-provoking diversion from our traditional sight-seeing routes.


Good Old Sussex By The Sea

Through the wonders of web social connectivity and the Seagulls Down Under Facebook Page in particular I was contacted by a former work colleague and avid Albion fan Jan and her partner Paul. We promptly arranged to meet up for afternoon drinkies and food at Melbourne’s snazzy Southbank in the city centre. Once again catching up with friendly familiar faces on our travels was a wonderful tonic, talking over old times and new, and finding out how Jan and Paul have made the transition from Hove to settle in Melbourne. If you are going to do it, Melbourne is a fabulous place to choose! Jan recommended we check out Melbourne’s Brighton Beach (our third after the Perth and Adelaide versions) and the beach huts…..especially the Seagulls themed. Taking Jan’s advise we set off later in the week to combine a visit to Brighton Beach and St Kilda.


Like all of the other Brighton beaches (and unlike “our” one back home) there is plenty of sand, a sea that looks warm and welcoming and the sun beating down. In Melbourne it’s great to see the line of beach huts so reminiscent of the seafront in Hove.

Brighton Beach Huts

St Kilda comes with a bit of an edgy reputation and as we made our way it revealed its contrasting character; a strange cocktail of prostitutes, penguins, tourist, rats, druggies and kite surfers.

St Kilda Pier

The latter were putting on a stunning show where we could view them from the Pier, gliding across the water and through the air at breathtaking speed with the city centre sitting in the background – tremendous.


As evening falls small Penguins return to the rocks at the end of St Kilda Pier and we found one or two already bedded in for the night as we strolled around.


A local guide told us that they arrived in big numbers after sunset and preceding them the water rats would come ashore……cue our departure. We like penguins as much as the next person, but when their support act is an aquatic rodent it’s time to call it a day. It turned out to be a good decision – as we headed back home along the pier hordes of penguin seekers were heading in the opposite direction….good luck with the rats folks!

Our week in Melbourne had flown by; we felt as though we had done and seen a lot, but that there was so much more to experience….which is exactly how a great city should make you feel.

Top Travelling Tips

This one is Melbourne specific: don’t take the river boat trip from the city to the interesting historic suburb of Williamstown……..unless you have an unhealthy interest in container shipping. Enough said.

Next: The Pacific Highway Road Trip To Sydney