HIGHLIGHT OF NT, Litchfield National Park. DARWIN, AUSTRALIA




Litchfield National Park


Litchfield National Park is located in the Northern Territory of Australia. Litchfield, or Litchy as it is affectionately known, is a gorgeous natural wonderland set in the outback, about 130kms away from Darwin. Patches of monsoon rainforest thrive in the deep, narrow gorges created over thousands of years. Wildlife such as wallabies and birds flourish in the Park and can often be seen while travelling through. Gigantic termite mounds stand up to 6 meters tall, others grow in a north-south orientation, acting as a built in temperature controlled micro environment.




Litchfield is probably most famous for its spring fed waterfalls which flow all year round. Below the cascading waterfalls of the sandstone plateau are crystal-clear swimming holes lined with pandanas palms and paper bark trees. These are great places to escape the heat and take in the area by swimming and snorkeling.

Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls are undoubtedly Litchfield’s most visited swimming spots as they are easily accessed by short walks through monsoonal forest and are basically open all year round for swimming.

Given the distance, you will need a car to get there, or failing that, you could jump on one of the tours that visit regularly. Another important aspect is that the Territory runs on two seasons – the wet and the dry . If you are planning a visit, then you are going to want to visit in the dry season (April/May – September/October) which is when the Territory comes alive! Litchfield is closed in the wet season so that is yet another reason to visit in the dry. With multiple waterfalls, camping areas, hikes and 4WD tracks there is so much to see here at the park.



We parked at Florence Falls and walked up the path to Buley Rockhole, stopping at some of the quieter water spots to cool off along the way. As you follow the path, just look out for the posts which will lead you into these quieter spots. We took our time and explored each little area. After a quick swim at the Buley Rockhole, which is one of the more popular swimming areas, we ventured back down the path and took the stairs down to Florence Falls.




There is a great lookout before the stairs which gives a stunning vantage point of the water wonderland that you are about to swim in.

Florence Falls was magical! We got straight into the cool, clear waters enjoying the beauty of the waterfalls in front of us – and we weren’t the only ones. Swimming with us were locals and travelers alike all laughing, taking photos and enjoying their time in the water.




Last stop for the morning was Wangi Falls, and based on the number of people there the most popular, which quite deserves as they are really quite stunning.  This is also a popular swimming spot with plenty of groups setting up for the day as there are nice lawns and bbq’s at the entrance.




Driving around the National Park there are certainly no shortages of warnings to only swim in the designated spots due to crocodiles. Every little creek crossing on the roads had crocodile warning signs..



The next day we decided to hit the 4WD tracks around Litchfield and our first stop was the Lost City. We got there around 9am and we were the only ones there which were quite surprising for Litchfield, and even better people only started arriving as we were driving out.  There is a very easy loop walk of around 500 metres that takes you through the rock formations and it does look like a Lost City with mini sky scrapers and buildings toppled over.



From here we drove down to the Blyth Homestead, an outstation that was established in 1928. Inside there is a good storybook of the family, outlining the hardships they faced back in those days.  It really makes you realize how easy our lives are compared to how these people used to live. From there was a  short drive down to the termite mounds.



We definitely recommend a visit to the Litchfield National Park if you are visiting Darwin, pack a lunch and enjoy the day exploring. You will not regret it!



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TWEED HEADS, NSW

TWEED HEADS GETAWAY

Up bright and early we headed to the border and we said a fond farewell to Queensland. 
In waving goodbye to Queensland we also waved goodbye to an hour. New South Wales operates on daylight saving time. Even though there have been calls for Queensland to follow suit it seems a referendum has been greeted with opposition from the rural community.  Our destination was dog sitting at Tweed Heads for a few days.

Extending across the vast bowl of the Wollumbin Mt Warning Caldera, The Tweed Region is characterized by it’s of local communities.  Outside the main centres of Tweed Heads, Murwillumbah and Kingscliff, the quirky charm of the region is revealed in quiet country hamlets, historic river ports and seaside villages.

This is where you can pull up a barstool at a local pub and share a story or two with the locals; or chat with artists at a weekend market; or stroll around an orchard as the farmer plucks native finger limes and Buddha’s hands fruit straight from the tree for you to taste and find out what they are.


After settling in we headed for an afternoon scenic drive to Coolangatta.  Once you’ve hit Coolangatta and her neighbouring Greenmount Beach you’re at the end of Queensland’s Gold Coast as we know it. Duranbah and Tweed Heads sit around the corner, but technically that’s New South Wales. Technicalities aside, visitors flock to the border town of Coolangatta for its change of pace.

From here, you can look back towards the Surfers Paradise skyline in the distance and the entire coastline and feel, well, a little smug in the knowledge you’ve slowed down a bit. That’s not to say it’s boring. Sharing a boundary with Tweed Heads in New South Wales, you’re in the Twin Towns zone. For one, the surf here is spectacular, particularly off the northern corner of Coolangatta Beach, the headland around Greenmount, Snapper Rocks into the southern corner of Rainbow Bay and of course, the world-class surf break of Duranbah. D’Bah, as locals call her, is the one place you can be guaranteed of a swell when the rest of the coast is quiet.

 Meanwhile, the corner of Greenmount offers a protected spot for a swim.
A lovely walking trail wraps around Greenmount Hill connecting Greenmount Beach to Rainbow Bay from which you can head up the hill to the exotically named Point Danger and plant one foot in Queensland and another in New South Wales at this lookout which is also a great place for whale watching. Named after the schooner Coolangatta which was wrecked here in 1846, this suburb exudes an old-school beachside charm where you can still find a milkshake in a tin cup. It combines this with world-class oceanfront hotels, restaurants and clubs, the most popular of which is Twin Towns Services Club, home to local and international acts



Up bright and early for a scenic drive to Murwillumbah to catch up with a friend.  Identified as being in the top ten of the most desirable places to live in Australia, based on natural beauty, property values, welcoming locals and good infrastructure, the picturesque township of Murwillumbah is located in the centre of the stunning Tweed Valley on the far north coast of New South Wales. Quick “Hi” we were back on the road to Byron Bay Beachside Markets.

Held four times a year in early January, Easter, July and late September, the Beachside Markets are a make it, bake it, grow it market held on the Byron Bay foreshore east of the Surf Club. It was a perfect location to experience some of the most original products by one of the worlds’ most famous beaches.
The market showcases a diverse and exciting collection of high quality art, sculpture, ceramics, glass, home wares, fashion, craft, toys, clothing and music created by local artists and designers as well as an array of services offered by our health and well being practitioner

The focus and emphasis of the Beachside Market is on authenticity and fosters both originality and sustainability. Echoing worldwide popularity and the growing demand for direct-from-the-artist-to-you handmade, high quality product. This Artisan Market provides an unparalleled opportunity for local artists, creators and healers to showcase their talents.  With over 200 stalls stretching over half a kilometer of beachfront at Byron Bay Main beach, this market is the perfect location, right on the doorstep of one of the worlds’ most famous beaches and destinations to experience some of the best and most original products and services.



Kim had a blast while I took the dogs up the outside of the markets and onto the shops in the main street. 1 dress and 2 tops later we headed back to Tweed Heads.
The next day was bright and early again for dogs to have a swim and run. It’s a dog’s life at Palm Beach Spit (known also as Currumbin Spit)

everyone loves this place, it’s a dog owner’s paradise for exercising your dog, just follow the councils signage and you and your pooch are going to have a great time.
Much of the area is geared for them. Walk them, let them run or perhaps have a dip in the lagoon in the designated area. It’s an amazing place to observe the antics of dogs and their owners resting in the calm waters of the lagoon on a hot summer day.



That afternoon we headed to Kingscliff. Shopping, there are boutiques aplenty for Kim.  Up and down Marine Parade was a wonderful array of great shopping with everything from designer clothes through to swimwear through to kids’ clothes and surfwear.

A favourite, Heart of the Home, had a fantastic selection of homewares and clothes.  It is truly easy to while away some time browsing before being tempted by everything from homewares, candles and jewellery to some great fashion pieces.
Fantastic designer fashion pieces can be found at Anna & Ruth and everyone is talking about On Kliff’s reversible jeans.

These are just two of the many fashion stores on Marine Parade and it certainly wouldn’t be too hard to spend a few hours wandering up and down the strip and being tempted by the great fashions, homewares and everything in between on offer, while I got to wait outside with the dogs.

Early the next day we did a drive around Tugun to Coolangatta checking out the beaches and surfer on the breaks. Back to Tweed we started packing the car and heading back to Brissy.

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

MELBOURNE

WE HAVE BEEN TO MELBOURNE A NUMBER OF TIMES. THIS IS FROM OUR LAST TRIP.


Melbourne is a steaming melting pot of cultures from around the world.  The weather is unpredictable and can be downright horrid at times, but it’s still easy to see why we love Melbourne. After all, we rate Melbourne our second favorite city after our home town of Brisbane.  Melbourne is Australia’s second biggest city and the capital of its second most populous state, Victoria. Melbourne is a self-proclaimed capital of fashion, culture, sport and food. It hosts the Melbourne Cup horse race, the Formula One Grand Prix, the Australian Open Tennis Championship and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Melbourne bends over backwards to impress its visitors. A trip to Melbourne is not so much about seeing, as it is about tasting, trying, looking and listening.



We have been to Melbourne a few times and this time around we stayed at The Vibe, Carlton. The Vibe was a colourful, contemporary hotel which was a 3-minute walk from the Levers Street tram stop, 11 minutes’ walk from the Melbourne Zoo and 3 km from the food stalls of Queen Victoria Market. The hotel had an airy restaurant/bar and an outdoor pool.



The next day we woke late and chilled by the pool in the morning. Lunch time we headed to Melbourne Zoo to enjoy restaurant quality meal in unique wildlife inspired venue for Christmas Day Lunch. The special was a 3 hour premium beverage and 3 course lunch and a visit from Santa. We then toured the manicured gardens and worldwide habitats that are home to a wide variety of animals. Late back to hotel we ate light and explored the brochures on what to do next.




The next day was only going to be one thing, Boxing Day Shopping. It’s no secret that when we hit a new city, country or small town for that matter, Kim likes to check out the shops. It’s in her genetic makeup, I’m sure. 
There’s something way more relaxing about the browsing that takes place away from home. You’re not really shopping with a specific occasion or wardrobe addition in mind. You’re shopping for the fun of it.

We headed to Little Collins Street to check out shoes, then the boutiques on Flinders Lane, onto the arcades and little side alleyways, to the Bourke Street Mall which was the best place to shop as stores are aligned on each row of the street in the heart of Melbourne’s City, perfect for lunch at a Café in Causeway Inn On The Mall and the afternoon at Collins Street … the Paris end, of course. 





It was getting late and we were getting hungry so we headed to one of our favourite restaurants, the +39 Pizzeria.  We have been here quite a few times.  Every time the standards remained very high, and never fail to disappoint us.  It didn’t matter which night, they were always busy.  The staff there was all so friendly.  I even picked up how to speak a little Italian there, and ordered my pizzas in Italian.  The guy who served us had a great sense of humour, he pretended that he didn’t understand English, and made me order our food in Italian.  That was quite funny.  Kim loved the prosciutto.  It was served with fresh Mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, it was delicious!  She just can’t get enough of it. Belly’s full, we headed back to the hotel.





The next morning we headed on the tram and into the CBD again. Our first stop before it got too crowded was the Eureka Skydeck. While Sydney has its famous attractions like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Melbourne is content with its atmosphere and cafe culture. But if there’s one attraction you’ll see in every guidebook, it’s Eureka Skydeck. This residential building is the 14th tallest in the world, at 975 feet (297.3 meters) and happens to have the best view of Melbourne. The Skydeck, located on the building’s 88th floor, has views of the surrounding area with telescopes telling you what you’re looking at. The Edge experience is an extra fee, but it allows you to go onto a glass platform that is clear on the bottom and just out above the city. Those with a fear of heights should maybe skip this one, but it makes you feel like you’re sitting, or standing, on a cloud above Melbourne. Eureka Skydeck makes for a great rainy day activity or a nice escape from the fast pace of Federation Square. 



We then rode the tram to Victoria Parade, where we get off at the Queen Victoria Market. We spend a couple of hours at the market and grabbed some coffee and a snack at one of the many eateries within the market. After a couple of hours at the market, we took the circle Tram via Docklands Drive and Harbour Esplanade back to Flinders Street Station. We crossed the road to Federation Square and headed straight to the Melbourne Visitor’s Centre (clearly signed) and book a couple of day trips. We then took a leisurely stroll back down Southbank along the Yarra River, and headed back to the hotel. 































The next day was a Puffing Billy steam train ride, lunch at a Yarra Valley Winery and an afternoon at a wildlife park. We took in the delights of riding iconic Puffing Billy steam train through the forest, a delicious spit roast lunch at Fergusson Winery and finally, spending time at Healesville Sanctuary, home to over 200 species of native animal.



Puffing Billy with Healesville Sanctuary was a wonderful full day tour to experience the lush rainforest of the Blue Dandenong Ranges as we rode on the original steam locomotive they affectionately call, Puffing Billy. Culinary joys today included our special Aussie style Bush Billy Tea for morning tea, a delicious spit roast lunch at a winery and sweet samples for dessert from Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. Then we walked off the day’s treats at Healesville Sanctuary where we were taken on a guided tour of Australia’s native animals. A long and rewarding day.




Today was going to be a little quiet day. We began the day in the bustling centre. We took another visit to the bustle of Queen Victoria Market. We then checked out Southbank’s huge casino complex and string of riverside restaurants, bistros and bars. Moving on we visited the unique galleries and museums in the cultural hub of Federation Square. We hit the shops again in the historic Melbourne General Post Office, QV laneways and other alleys and wrought-iron arcades. Then back to the Hotel for an afternoon relax and swim.






The next day was a trip to Sovereign Hill. Sovereign Hill in Ballarat is one of the best outdoor museums you can experience. With a colourful history relating to the discovery of gold in the region back in the 1850’s, you too can capture the excitement. We traveled the stage coach route of the 1850’s along Western Highway to Ballarat, steeped in history with the discovery of gold. We toured through the gracious town with its exquisite gardens, noble statues and magnificent architecture. Then we passed by the Eureka Stockade, site of the 1854 miner’s rebellion. Spend the rest of your day at Sovereign Hill where Ballarat’s first 10 years after the discovery of gld in 1851 is re-created. 






We tried our luck at gold panning in Red Gully Creek and headed underground on the Red Hill mine tour, then visited the Gold Museum.

We had a late start to the day, followed by some chillin by the pool. Tonight was New Year’s Eve at the Valley. We got to ring in the New Year at Moonee Valley with fun, entertainment and horses. There was amusement rides for the kids, a live band and premium night racing. Plus, we got to see the 9.15pm and the midnight Melbourne City fireworks from a great vantage point at the Valley. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with a 4 Course Dinner and a fun night of celebrations and live entertainment in the exclusive Committee Room. Hands down, one to the best night we have ever had. We are looking into doing it again in the future.
Nice sleep in the next day, followed by some pool time then back on the plane back home to Brissy.


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