Friday, 13 January 2017

The Heritage Buildings of Launceston, Tasmania

Customs House, Launceston
I have to confess that Launceston was about the last place I expected to find heritage buildings. I am not even sure why we went there. Don't get me wrong, it turned out to be a great destination but when I asked David what possessed him to book us five nights in a cottage just outside the city he didn't seem to have an answer.

It turns out Launceston is known for having one of the finest early Colonial and Victorian cityscapes in Australia with many of the buildings beautifully restored and freshly painted. This week I am going to let my camera do the talking and give you a taste of what you might see if, like me, you find yourself inexplicably in Tasmania's second largest city.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Port Arthur, Tasmania: A World Heritage Convict Site

Port Arthur
One of the most persistent myths which David and I encounter in our travels overseas is that Australia is a nation populated by the descendants of convicts. This supposed ancestry gets dredged up from time to time to explain almost every aspect of Australia's national character. In reality, in a country of 24 million people, just 4 million of us have a convict in the family tree and a lot fewer than that have a convict ancestor who committed a serious crime. The forebears of the vast majority of Australians came here as free settlers. (Click here to read how I uncovered a branch of my own family's history during a visit to Q Station, Manly.)

Friday, 30 December 2016

The Little Penguins of Low Head

Little penguins
It is just after 9 pm. David and I are huddled together at Low Head Coastal Reserve in Northern Tasmania, waiting for the sun to set and trying to gain some protection from the gale-force winds. We are here to see little penguins - sometimes called 'fairy penguins' or 'little blue penguins'. They are timid little creatures and won't come ashore until it is almost dark.

We could have come yesterday. Yesterday was a warm, balmy, windless summer's evening. We could have come tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a warm, balmy, windless summer's evening. We have chosen tonight, for no good reason I can think of. Tonight is cold, very cold, and the wind is whipping through our inadequate summer jackets, making us wonder whether this was a good idea at all.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my readers from Sydney, Australia to wherever you are in the world. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. I am taking a holiday from blogging this week but I will be back on Friday the 30th of December.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Where to look for platypus in Tasmania.

After more than an hour walking along the river bank path in Deloraine, stopping every few metres to scan the surface of the water, even I was ready to give up. This was platypus country and we were here in search of one of Australia's most elusive creatures. The platypus is an egg-laying mammal. Along with echidnas it is the only mammal still in existence which lays eggs instead of suckling its young. It has a bill like a duck, a tail which looks like a beaver's tail and the male platypus has a spur poisonous enough to cause severe pain in a human being. The platypus is one of the most unusual looking animals on the planet. It is also cute - seriously cute.

Friday, 9 December 2016

The White Wallabies of Bruny Island.

White wallaby
We came to Bruny Island for the white wallabies. Well I did, David came for me - he isn't a wildlife person. Bruny Island, a small island off the coast of Tasmania is home to a colony of rare white wallabies. I have a long history of disappointment in the wild animal spotting stakes. Just recently I have failed to see whales in Alaska, cassowaries in Queensland and sunbathing kangaroos in Esperance but Bruny Island proved the exception. Within half an hour of arriving we saw two of these beautiful creatures up very close in the bush.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Cycling in Victoria: The High Country Rail Trail

High Country Rail Trail
Trail - The High Country Rail Trail
Location - Wodonga to Old Tallangatta and Derbyshire to Shelley, Victoria, Australia
Distance - 64 km one way including the Darbyshire to Shelley section
Terrain - Mostly compacted earth with some paved sections.
Difficulty - Easy, this is a ride or walk you can take the family on. The Darbyshire to Shelley section is more challenging.
Highlights - Cycling across the beautiful Sandy Creek Rail Bridge.
Websites and maps - RailTrails Australia and High Country Rail Trail
Extension - Darbyshire to Shelley - 22 km. Not contiguous with the rest of the trail. You'll need a mountain bike for this section.

Friday, 25 November 2016

The 17 best places to see Australian animals in the bush!

Kangaroos, Paynesville
According to the Australian Wildlife Society there are 50-60 million kangaroos in Australia. With a population that large they should be easy to find, but they aren't - at least not always. Like other Australian animals they can be remarkably elusive. A fellow blogger recently spent two weeks here, mostly outside the big cities, and didn't see a single kangaroo in the bush. I don't want that to happen to you so I have drawn on the resources of  a group of pretty savvy travel bloggers to put together this guide on the best places in the bush to see Australia's unique animals.

 I have grouped the suggestions by state and added my own picks at the end of this post.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Q Station Manly: A unique place in Sydney's history.

On Thursday 18 May 1882, 25 year old Thomas Frost, his wife Evelina, 23 and their three children Clara 5, Florence 3 and Christina 1, set sail on the ship Orontes from Plymouth in England en route to Sydney, Australia.

Clara was my great grandmother.

Two months later, on 19 July the Orontes arrived in Sydney Harbour. It was a migrant ship and my forbears and their fellow passengers came to Australia to begin a new life. However before they were allowed to disembark, the Orontes like all other migrant ships arriving in Sydney had to be declared free of contagious diseases.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Esperance, Western Australia: Pink lakes and kangaroos on the beach. Does Esperance live up to its reputation?

Whale Tail EsperanceI came to Esperance for the pink lakes and sunbathing kangaroos. David came because I wanted to and he is good like that. Google Esperance and you will see kangaroos posing for selfies in the sunshine on the beach at Lucky Bay and lakes so bright pink it is hard to believe they are real. Perhaps I am naive but if Google promises me something I kind of assume I will actually see it, or at least have a shot at seeing it. Sadly, my hit rate with Esperance was zero out of two - no pink lakes and no sunbathing kangaroos. Zero out of three if you include the fact that I expected warm weather and blue skies and the weather we got was worthy of an arctic winter. Zero out of four given I didn't see a single whale - but hey who's counting!

Did Esperance live up to its reputation? No, not for the things I expected. Do I think Esperance should be on your travel bucket list? Absolutely!