Canberra is a city that’s often skipped by people who visit Australia. I think it’s not wrong to assume that some people don’t even know that Canberra exists, focused as they are on Sydney, Melbourne or the golden beaches of the east coast. People who do visit Canberra, however, are usually surprised by the amount of landmarks, monuments and museums in the city. Just like the vast majority of capital cities in the world, Canberra is home to the country’s national museums and parliament. Though unlike most capital cities, Canberra is a completely artificial city, in the sense that everything in it was planned. Canberra was designed in 1912 by the architect Walter Burley Griffin who pictured it as a garden city that would be able to house about 25,000 people. Nowadays, it is home to many gardens, a huge artificial lake (Lake Burley Griffin) and tree-lined avenues; its population has grown to 300,000.

We stayed at Alivio Tourist Park, in one of their villas. They were only 4kms from the Canberra Centre, surrounded by bushland with great facilities and a great Café and Bar. In hindsight I would stay in the CBD next time around. We didn’t do much because we arrived late afternoon and decided to chill by the pool and read up on what to do for the week.

Next day arrived and our first stop for the day was a tour of the Australian Institute Of Sport.  We were really looking forward to the AIS and it didn’t disappoint.

When we toured the complex we were fortunate enough to see some professional athletes training. There were 7ft volleyballers practicing their spiking, swimmers doing laps (including Olympic gold medalist Alicia Coutts), the U18 Soccer team were stretching in the gym and the Australian men’s Gymnastics team were doing a mock competition. Our experience was rounded off with a session in ‘Sportex’, a hands on interactive room loaded with sports memorabilia and activities.

The next day after breakfast we jumped on a bus and strolled through suburban Canberra until we reached the Australian War Memorial. The walk took about 30 minutes. It was very interesting walking along the wide tree-lined roads with their one storey houses. The one thing that was really irritating though, was that a lot of the streets either had no pavements at all or just one on the one side. This really is a city for the car (not very green). Everything is really spread out and you can’t walk from one thing to another easily (no pavements and long distances). Anyway, we made it to our destination.

The Australian War Memorial is Australia’s national memorial to the members of all its armed forces and supporting organizations who have died or participated in the wars of the Commonwealth of Australia. The memorial includes an extensive national military museum so it is more like a cross between the Imperial War Museum and the Cenotaph. The Australian War Memorial was opened in 1941, and is widely regarded as one of the most significant memorials of its type in the world.

The Memorial is located at the northern terminus of the city’s ceremonial land axis, which stretches from Parliament House on Capital Hill along a line passing through the summit of the cone-shaped Mount Ainslie to the northeast. No continuous roadway links the two points, but there is a clear line of sight from the front balcony of Parliament House to the War Memorial, and from the front steps of the War Memorial back to Parliament House. We took some photographs from this end, having already photographed the War Memorial from the other end yesterday.

The Australian War Memorial consists of three parts: the Commemorative Area (shrine) including the Hall of Memory with the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, the Memorial’s galleries (museum) and Research Centre (records). The Memorial also has an outdoor Sculpture Garden. We made our way through the sculpture garden taking some photographs on the way. Kim’s favourite was the Simpson & his donkey Sculpture. John Simpson Kirkpatrick enlisted in the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance as Private Simpson on 25th August 1914. He took part in the landing on Gallipoli on 25th April 1915 and became famous among Australian troops for his bravery and compassion. Under continual shell fire he used a donkey to carry water up Shrapnel Gully, and to bring wounded men down to the beach on Anzac Cove from the firing line on the ridges above. After less than 4 weeks in action he was fatally wounded on 19th May 1915. Although he was known on Gallipoli by a variety of nicknames, most of the soldiers who witnessed his bravery knew him as the man with the donkey, without ever learning his name. Simpson has come to embody for Australians the spirit of self sacrifice in war.

The other statue which particularly caught our eye was by Ray Ewers. In 1954 he was asked to create a sculpture to commemorate the sacrifice of Australians in all wars. ‘Australian Serviceman’ symbolizes determination, courage and a spirit of achievement as well as hope for the future. It was unveiled in 1959 in the Hall of Memory and removed to the Sculpture garden in 1993 to make way for the construction of the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier. Around the side, next to the administration building there was an interesting collection of Australian war memorabilia including the barrel from the Amiens Railway Gun, the gun mount and bridge from HMAS Brisbane and a Centurion Tank. Outside the memorial there was also a naval gun from HMAS Australia.

We entered the main building passing by the Menin Gate Lions. These medieval stone lions once stood on either side of the Menin Gate in the walls of the town of Ypres in Belgium. Ypres was destroyed in the war, and these lions were recovered from the ruins of the Menin Gate. During the First World War, Allied soldiers passed through the gate to the battlefields around Ypres, where over 38,000 Australian troops were killed or wounded. The gate became the site of a memorial to the soldiers of the British Empire, including over 6,000 Australians who were killed around Ypres and have no known graves. In 1936 the Burgomaster of Ypres presented the lions to the Australian Government as a gesture of friendship between that town and the people of Australia. They commemorate the service of the Australian soldiers who helped to defend Ypres in 1917.

Once inside we found we were just in time for a free guided tour. First we went outside to the commemorative area which is situated in the open centre of the memorial building. We entered a narrow courtyard with a memorial pool surrounding an eternal flame and flanked by sidewalks and shrubbery, including plantings of rosemary for remembrance. Our guide took us up to the  cloisters where we had a great view down to the two Parliament Buildings. In the cloisters is the Roll of Honour, a series of bronze plaques naming the 102,000 Australian servicemen and women killed in conflict. The plaques include names dating back to the British Sudanese Expedition, the Second Boer War, and the Boxer Rebellion. The entire long wall of the western gallery is covered with the names of the thousands who died in World War I. The eastern gallery is covered with the names of those who died in World War II and more recent conflicts. The roll shows the names only, not rank or other awards, as “all men are equal in death”. Visiting relatives and friends insert poppies in the cracks between the bronze plaques, beside the names of their loved ones that they wish to honour; many continue to be inserted by the names of those who died in World War I, and a few even appear by the names of those who died in the 19th century campaigns. We walked past the names of those who perished in the First World War. Many of the names are marked with poppys which can be purchased from the shop. Members of staff carefully replace any poppys which have fallen to the ground. I spotted a few names from research our family history on the plaques.

We continued on to the heart of the commemorative area which is the Hall of Memory, a tall domed chapel with a small floor plan in the form of an octagon. The walls are lined with tiny mosaic tiles from the floor to the dome. Inside lies the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier. The remains that are interred here were brought back from one of the graves in a European Cemetry marked “Known Only to God”. Three of the walls, facing east, west, and south, feature stained glass designs representing qualities of Australian servicemen and women. At the four walls facing northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest are mosaic images of a Sailor, a Servicewoman, a Soldier and an Airman, respectively. The mosaic and stained glass were the work of the one-armed Australian muralist Napier Waller, who had lost his right arm at Bullecourt during World War I and learned to write and create his works with his left arm. He completed his work in 1958.

We moved on inside the building which changed from an area of remembrance to a museum with exhibitions from various conflicts in which the Australian forces were involved. Unfortunately the World War 1 exhibit was being re-done so we couldn’t see it and all the stuff associated with the disaster at Gallipoli. We were guided around all the Second World War stuff, with aircraft and sound and light shows. We had a late lunch and then went back and looked again at some areas and returned late for a swim and barbeque dinner.

The next day we woke for a long day of touring. We got picked up from our accommodation in a private car and we began the day with a trip to Mount Ainslie to view the city and learn the history and planning by Walter Burley Griffin. Rising up behind the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is Mount Ainslie. At its peak, Mount Ainslie Lookout offers a beautiful view of the Nation’s Capital from above. Canberra’s layout has been planned from the very beginning, and as you cast your eyes out over the landscape you’ll see how everything fits together in the city’s unique design.

Next on the agenda was the Australian War Memorial. We bypassed this because we did it yesterday and gave us a chance to spend more time elsewhere.

We then took a drive down Anzac Parade and over Commonwealth Bridge, past the The National Library, Questacon and along Commonwealth Place. We then arrived and toured the Old Parliament House, (now known as The Museum of Australian Democracy) to view the past Prime Ministers office and other areas of this historic building, then up Federation Mall for a one-hour tour of Parliament House.

Parliamentary was sitting, so we got to bypass the massive line and head in and see Question time from the speaker’s gallery, then toured The Great Hall, Marble Foyer, and onto the Senate which was also sitting at the time. We both really enjoyed the experience.

We then visited the National Museum of Australia, for one hour and saw some of the nation’s interesting exhibits, and marvel at the buildings very unusual architecture. Back home late we decided to check out the greyhound track down the end of the street. We only stayed for a few races because Kim got in trouble with a local trainer by whistling to the greyhounds as they walked past to go in the boxes. She was more interested in patting and playing with them.

The next day we spent a day at the races.

The day after that we had a great time with the private tour of Canberra, we decided to do another one. This time it was a local wine tour.

We took an easy 20 minute drive north of the Canberra’s city centre, to the quaint historic village of Hall. Among the hills of Hall you can find boutique vineyards and winery cellar doors, historical buildings and cottages dotted across the countryside, as well as the Memorial Avenue of Trees and vibrant Sunday markets.  We spent the day exploring the wineries scattered throughout the Hills of Hall.

1st stop was Brindabella Hills Winery, named after the spectacular Brindabella Range, which provides the mountain backdrop of Canberra, Brindabella Hills Winery is perfectly positioned on a ridge above the Murrumbidgee. Taking cues from regions around the world with similar climates, Roger and Faye Harris planted their vines in 1986. Now, with winemaker Brian Sinclair at the helm, they produce seven types of wine including Pinot Gris, Sangiovese and Shiraz.

On the road again the next stop was Pankhurst Wines. It may be tucked away, but it’s definitely worth seeking out this little slice of heaven. Run by Allan and Christine Pankhurst, you’ll find a delicious selection of classic Canberra District varieties and local favourites such as Sparkling Cabernet and the Box Tree Red, which blends Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Cabernet for an easy-drinking table wine. Stock up on chutney, sauces and sparkling juices made by the Pankhursts from their grapes or take a seat on the barrel furniture under the trees and enjoy a picnic.

Next stop on the agenda was a stop at Surveyor’s Hill Vineyards. With 25 acres of vines on a 225 acre property, viticulturist Leigh Hobba grows all the grapes that go into the 11 varieties of wine, including the popular Autumn Gold, a low-alcohol, sweet drop made from late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes. There’s also a range of seasonal produce for sale, including fresh eggs and preserves made from the property’s orchard and olives. If you’re feeling spritely you can take a stroll to the top of Surveyor’s Hill, which was once a volcano.

Next stop was one of Murrumbateman’s premium cool climate family owned wineries and sample from our Estate Range of wines, whilst browsing our exquisite range of hand-made and hand-painted ceramics, exclusively sourced from Italy.  We unwinded over a glass of wine and treated ourselves to a delicious meal at Flint at Shaw Vineyard whilst gazing over the vineyard.

Last stop on the tour was Mount Majura Vineyard, which is a dynamic boutique winery and vineyard. Their cellar door features a unique seated tasting allowing an interactive yet relaxing tasting experience.  Mount Majura is a leader in the Canberra District for Spanish varieties such as Tempranillo. Their single vineyard site of red clay loam soils containing limestone also produces quality Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Graciano, a Cabernet Blend and Shiraz.

The next day we were lucky to be waking up on a Saturday and decided to head to the Bus Depo Markets, then onto the Gorman House Markets. It was a short stroll north of the city, at the city’s arts centre. We spent a couple of hours or so at the markets and we got to see a different side of the city to the politicians and public servants Canberra is known for. Kim browsed at great vintage clothes, antiques, crafts, second-hand books and all kinds of food stalls.

We then headed back to the main CBD. At first glance Canberra looks to have been paved solid with chain stores and malls, but a few alternative places have stayed alive in the cracks. Landspeed Records, in Garema Place, does a great line in indie music and sells some vintage clothing on the side. Cowboys & Angels, in Bunda Street, has local and international designers and definitely specializes in quirky. At Craft ACT, near the Canberra Theatre, we saw exhibitions from jewelers, ceramicists and textile artists, with many selling pieces through the centre’s shop, while Mooble, in Bailey’s Arcade, has natural, ethical and organic products, including a damn fine organic gin and hemp clothing that won’t make you look like a hippie.


We had dinner in Dickson, Canberra’s Chinatown to the north of the city. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but only a fool would go anywhere but the Dickson Asian Noodle House. I tried the laksa (a spicy Malaysian coconut milk and noodle soup).  We still had some energy, so we slumped into a couch at nearby Trinity and down a Szechuan beekeeper cocktail for dessert.

Some other highlights were:

Canberra Zoo

Australia’s only combined zoo and aquarium.  The National Aquarium displayed a wide range of marine life, from the tiny denizens of the reefs to huge sharks. In the neighboring zoo, we can viewed all the important species of Australian fauna as well as exotic species as such as lions, tigers, cheetahs, bears, and more. We did the animal encounter are which allowed us to go behind the scenes and interact with cheetah, giraffes, sun bears, and red pandas, among other creatures.



Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

At Tidbinbilla, We took an hour’s drive from Canberra to Tidbinbilla to Australia’s role in space exploration at the Canberra Space Center in the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, one of only three in the world. We got to see the largest antenna complex in the southern hemisphere, explored models of different spacecraft, and learned about the foods astronauts eat on the space shuttle. Just south of there, was the excellent Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, was a great place to see wildlife such as grey kangaroos, rock wallabies, emus, and koalas.






From Hobart we jumped on the bus and headed 198km north to Launceston. Launceston is Tasmania’s second largest city and one of Australia’s oldest.  Launceston and the surrounding Tamar Valley is a great area to add to your Tasmanian itinerary. We arrived late afternoon and Kim’s Cousins home and got to meet everyone that night with a New Years barbeque.

A new day of exploring, Kim’s cousins decided to show us around the first day, we all jumped in three cars and took a 40 minute drive up the west side of the Tamar Valley, taking in the river frontage road to Beaconsfield, which is a gold-mining town in the heart of the Tamar Valley Wine Region with a past tinged with stories of gold, wealth and survival. Located on the western banks of the Tamar River, Beaconsfield was once Tasmania’s richest gold town with a mining heritage that continues today.

The local Mine and Heritage Centre shares the tools of the trade, the stories of the past and reflects on the 2006 mining disaster when two miners were trapped one kilometre underground for 14 days after a dramatic rock fall. The exhibit includes a breath-shortening multi-sensory simulation of the 2006 disaster.

We jumped back in the cars and passed through George Town, on the banks of the Tamar River. George Town being Australia’s third-oldest settlement after Sydney and Hobart and has a rich maritime past and industrial present. Surrounded by vineyards, orchards, berry and lavender farms, George Town has a long maritime history and many stories to tell.

A little more up the road we hit the Low Heads Lighthouse, on the east side of the mouth of the Tamar River, which was the third lighthouse to be constructed in Australia. The small hamlet of Low Head at the head of the Tamar River on Bass Strait was first established as a pilot station in 1805 to guide ships into the mouth of the Tamar River. Today, it’s Australia’s oldest still operating pilot station.  We returned back just after lunch, the girls went into the CBD for a bit of shopping while I chilled out with some afternoon beers.

The next day the sun greeted us, we were given a car to borrow, so we drove to Lanceston’s Cataract Gorge, which is a natural phenomenon just a stone’s throw from the CBD. On arrival you are greeted firstly with the Basin Chairlift, which links the Cliff Grounds of the Cataract Gorge Reserve with the First Basin. The central span is the world’s longest chairlift span of 308 metres. Then you see a swimming pool and finally the Alexander Suspension Bridge over the South Esk River. The central and surely main feature, the Gorge is almost lost by all the sideshow features, especially the swimming pool. We decided to go on the chairlift and it was only when we were on the way and our chair passed over the roof of the cafeteria the ground simply disappeared.
There are numerous walks in the Gorge area and the sun was still shining, so we decided to give a couple of them a test run. We started with a steep walk to “Eagle Eerie Lookout” and from this position we could see across the Gorge and down to the City in the background. From here it was a short walk to the “Alexander Lookout”, and then down to the “Alexander Suspension Bridge”, which is just wide enough for 2 people to pass. Still having a couple of hours on our parking meter, we decided to do “The Basin and Cataract” walk, which is a really worthwhile walk along a boardwalk type structure attached to the cliff face, which starts at The Gorge and finishes at Kings Bridge in Launceston town. Having completed this we decide to return on the opposite side of the Gorge along a walk called “Zigzag Walk.  Starting at the base of the mountain, the first 10kms were up, it felt like 1km, but it was a killer.
Once we reached the top, there was lookout over the Gorge which gives you the most amazing view all the way back to the Cataract Gorge. The track then zigzags all the way down to the car park and the end, thankfully. Much more of this and we’ll be growing horns and turning into billy goats. We later worked out that we must have walked around 8kms during the course of the day.

The next day our first stop was James Boag’s Brewery, with a 1.5hr brewery tour and beer tasting. Then we took a drive to Waterfront Tavern, which is Australia’s oldest Tavern.

On the road again we dropped into Josef Chromy Wines, arguably Tasmania’s most spectacular vineyard setting. We were introduced to a great range of Tasmanian wines, including a selection of Sparkling wines, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and finished our tasting with a superb fortified Ruby Pinot.

Next we took the opportunity to try some of Tasmania’s best Cider. Dickens Cider is a boutique cidery making a good selection of English style ciders. Tasmania is renowned for its fresh apples so the team at Dickens Cider brought the use of Tasmanian apples to another level. Kim tickled her taste buds with tastings of Scrumpy, Old English Cider and Cider Rose.

To finish the day, we were introduced to various ales claiming their origin from pre-historic times. Lindsay Bourke is the Master Brewer at Taverners Boutique Brewery, now established in Australia for over 25 years. The basic beverage is an alcoholic drink derived by the fermentation of honey by yeast. We sampled the Taverners great award winning selection of Honey Pale Ale, Honey Mead Ale, Strong Mead Ale, Honey Porter and Dessert Honey Mead, then head home late afternoon.

Today we navigated to Devonport, the heartbeat of the north-west coast of Tasmania. On our way we stopped at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farms and Anvers Chocolates so Kim could sample sweet delights produced in the area. We enjoyed the drive north-west through the iconic Tasmanian landscape dotted with a variety of flora. Devonport is Tasmania’s third largest city and the home of the Spirit of Tasmania car ferries. If you are bringing your own car over from the mainland, Devonport will be your first port of call. The maritime was full of attractions, from the spectacular ‘Bluff’ headland with its aboriginal carvings and Aboriginal Culture Centre to the Don Railway and Devonport Maritime Museum & Heritage Centre. Devonport is also bursting with unique boutiques and specialty shops making it a shopper’s paradise for Kim. On the way back to Launceston as a novelty we dropped into Bell’s Parade, Latrobe which is the site of the Australian Axeman’s Hall of Fame and Timberworks.

The Australian Axeman’s Hall of Fame and Timberworks is the first national museum dedicated to this aspect of our colonial history. The museum displays the harvesting, milling and building techniques of our early pioneers. It also celebrate the greats of woodchopping and sawing, include photographs, trophies, championship axes, the Foster Experience and other interesting memorabilia. After killing some time we headed back home.

The next day we got up early for some market runs. We headed to the heart of the Tamar Valley, to the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market in quiet inner city car park and brings the farm gate to you. We then jumped back in the car and headed to the Evandale Sunday Markets. We made it back for lunch and a change of clothes we then took a Cruise aboard the Tamar Cruises into the magical Cataract Gorge and through Launceston’s riverfront precinct. We headed north past Tamar Island and experienced the variety of life as we cruised past charming riverfront communities, vineyards and farms to the historical Rosevears and Windermere districts exploring the history of the St Mathias Church and Rosevears Tavern.

Second last day in Launceston we all jumped in three cars again and headed to Bridport, which is north-east of Launceston and is a popular beachside holiday destination overlooking Anderson Bay. Surrounded by bushland reserves, white sand and the sloping vines of Pipers Brook wineries, Bridport is an ideal place to relax. We walked and the beach and chilled for the day and headed back late afternoon and the next day jumped on the plane back to Brissy.



Often forgotten by the rest of the world, Tasmania is the small island state which sits at the bottom of Australia. Far richer than any of the other Australian States in terms of natural beauty, Tasmania offers travellers and tourists that crazy thing called “fresh air”, and we noticed it as soon as we stepped off the plane.

With many national parks, forests, lakes, waterfalls, and beaches, Tasmania attracts hikers and bush-walkers from all around the world who are drawn to locations such as Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Wineglass Bay, and Maria Island. However Tasmania also offers an insight into its sandstone heritage – five World Heritage Convict Sites such as Port Arthur, The Isle of the dead, and Sarah Island are only a short trip from the historic capital of Hobart.

We spent 6 days in Hobart, Australia’s second oldest city, and loved our time there. It’s not the biggest of cities by Australian standards, but certainly offers enough to warrant several days. Our favorite area was definitely Salamanca with the historic sandstone buildings converted into restaurants, cafes, bars and specialty shops and opposite the tree lined park offering shade for the infamous Saturday Salamanca Markets.

In the early morning we headed out to explore the city, we walked past the waterfront, visited a museum and saw Salamanca Place. The Hobart waterfront is a peaceful area where piers extend into the ocean, fishing boats bop quietly on the water’s surface, sea gulls scream in the skies and seafood restaurants are filled with hungry tourists. It was one of our favorite areas of the city and even on a cloudy and rainy day we enjoyed strolling around.

We spent a bit of time at the Taste of Tasmania Festival. It was packed as you’d expect a free food festival to be, but well laid out and extremely well organised. There was plenty of seating, under cover and out in the sunshine, at tables or on the lawn. With over 70 food and drink stalls, part of the pleasure was in the looking and choosing. Kim found her place at the Clover Hill Wines sparkling wine, seafood and oyster bar, where she discovered the 1996 Clover Hill Blanc de Blancs and loved it so much she ordered a case for delivery to home, and happily slurped down oysters dressed with Pernod, tarragon and olive oil. We shared crispy scallops with mayonnaise and split a woodfire pizza.

The Taste of Tasmania was an unexpected highlight of our holiday and we won’t hesitate to go again if we’re ever back in Hobart at the right time of year. The festive season’s a busy but brilliant time to be in Hobart. The Taste of Tasmania festival coincides with the finish of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which we were lucky to watch Wild Oats finish first. After a long day we headed back to a well deserved sleep.

Next day we woke bright and early for a backed day of adventures. First on the list was a trip up Mount Wellington. It is said that 300,000 people visit Mount Wellington each year. This is no doubt due to its unique situation – an alpine mountain located next to a temperate Australian capital city. You really can go from the surf to the snow in 20 minutes. What’s more you can see the surf from the snow and vice versa. The views are awesome, the surroundings spectacular and the whole place is just made to be enjoyed. You could easily spend several days on the mountain, as long as you were happy to walk a lot. Anyone can find enough to enjoy a few hours in this magnificent natural environment, unrivalled in proximity to any other Australian city. Once on top we headed to the Pinnacle itself. You should climb up here if you can, especially if you have walked to the top, not us. On top is a “trig” point. The “point” is actually the metal point in the ground, and the pyramid structure above it enables people at distant locations to see it (with good optics). They were used for trigonometric surveying, and are largely useless in the GPS age. This one is most useful for holding onto as you climb to the top. We then headed to visitor shelter, which overlooks Hobart east of the carpark, and has interpretive panels inside along with a panoramic guide to what you can see. Lastly before heading back down we walked the summit boardwalk. This runs down beside the visitor shelter. Great views can be had from here on clear days, and it is worth a walk as we got spectacular photos.

Back on the bus and next on the agenda was a trip to Richmond. Richmond was about a 30-minute drive north of Hobart, and is Australia’s best-preserved Georgian village and home to more than 50 historic buildings, most dating from the 1820s. It’s also in the center of one of Australia’s fastest-growing wine regions, the Coal River Valley. Its most famous landmark is the oldest bridge still in use. Built of sandstone hauled to the construction site by convicts, the elegant arched bridge was completed in 1825 when tiny Richmond, now home to about 800 people, was one of the colony’s most important convict stations and military posts, and the third-largest town in what was then called Van Diemen’s Land. We checked out more than 50 historic buildings throughout the town, although not all are open to the public with many quirky shops and Kim found joy in the boutiques shops. Bit of a touristy town away from Hobart.

Back in the bus for the last stop for the day, a Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory tour to see the making of delicious chocolates, and to enjoy free samples. Wow, for chocoholic Kim, this was pure heaven. Boy did she stock up, after the tour you get to go into the shop on site to buy bags, boxes and truckloads of chocolate at discounted prices. She went nuts, fruit and nuts. She bought something for everyone we knew who liked chocolate, and let’s face it; there aren’t too many people who don’t like chocolate. Who needs lunch when you can stuff yourself stupid on chocolate?

The next day we decided to jump on the Hobart Explorer hop-on hop-off bus tour. First stop was at Battery Point to see an incredible array of historical houses that date as far back as the 1830s and enjoy the area’s fine old restaurants, pubs and lovely views of Sandy Bay. An empty rum bottle’s throw from the waterfront, the old maritime village of Battery Point is a tight nest of lanes and 19th-century cottages, packed together like shanghaied landlubbers in a ship’s belly.
We spend the morning exploring, stumbling up Kelly’s Steps from Salamanca Pl and doglegged into South St, where the red lights once burned night and day. Spun around picturesque Arthur Circus, refueled in a cafe on Hampden Rd, then ogled St George’s Anglican Church on Cromwell St.
Next stop off was a stroll around the Botanical Gardens, this popular Hobart attraction is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon, with its Japanese garden, Lily Pond, Herb Garden and much more.

Back on the bus a we visited the Female Factory, a former woman’s prison from whence you can set out on the popular Louisa’s Walk tour. Louisa’s Walk is essentially an immersive piece of outdoor promenade theater where the audience follows actors as they recant the story of Louisa Ragan, an Irish convict who was deported on a seven year sentence in 1841 for stealing a loaf of bread. Two actors take on the roles of Louisa and the men that Louisa encounters on her journey to Van Diemen’s Land and in the prison. It is a fascinating story, told with humour and compassion, and is a must if you have an interest in history and/or theatre.  The story is enacted along a route in South Hobart that takes you from Cascade Brewery, to the site of the Women’s Factory and back to the brewery for a complimentary beverage.

The next stop wasn’t too far, Cascade Brewery. Even if you were unaware that Cascade is Australia’s oldest brewery, the castle-like grey building standing tall among the trees provides hints to its history. The brewery was designed by its founder, Peter Degraves while he served time in the Old Hobart Gaol. We had a lesson in the brewing process; a look inside the brewery, tastings, and lots of stories from Cascade’s interesting past, including more about the visionary Peter Degraves. The factory doesn’t operate on weekends although tours still take place, but we had the live spectacle and clatter of workers and moving machinery and watched the noisy, hazardous bottling process in.

When we checked in, we were each given two bottle caps to redeem at the bar at the conclusion of the tour, for Cascade beer or non-alcoholic drinks; this is the ‘tasting’ part of the tour, which we loved.  After the tour, we stayed for lunch in the cafe, ordering meals from the special tour. It’s simple pub-style food, nothing outstanding or particularly memorable, but I was content on the day with my Cascade Stout & beef pie with chips and Kim had a cold bottle of Cascade ginger beer. We thought the tour was a worthwhile activity, giving us an insight into part of Hobart’s rich history.  The souvenir shop sells Cascade merchandise and beer by the carton.

We then took the bus back for a late walk around the Rose Bay area.

Next day was a shopping day for Kim. We headed to Mongrelsocks first. Their variety of merino, possum fur, pure wool, bamboo and cotton blends in various thickness and lengths will keep your toes cosy warm no matter the weather. Onto Sally Cassandra, a Ceramic artisan who creates a range of jewellery, dainty dishes and homewares enriched with beautiful textures and patterns imprinted on porcelain. Sandra utilises vintage fabrics and laces that each have astory to create her special pieces. Next stop was Pili Pala, Helen crafts many of her pieces from Tasmanian blackwood with a mix of vintage patterns and inspiration to create unique necklaces, earrings, vases and wall art. Onto Big JellyMouse, which offers a great collection of quality clothing & accessories that encompass innovative, groovy and fun designs.
Next stop The Maker, which stocks a range of contemporary Tasmanian artists, jewellers, homewares and designers. It showcases distinctive and organic clothing using the finest quality wool, linens and cottons.  From there we walked to the main mall with a row of shops and boutiques.
Late afternoon we headed to Wrest Point Casino, which is set on the Derwent River 2.6 km from Salamanca Market. There are 4 bars and 5 restaurants, including one with a revolving dining room. Kim had a little play, while I chilled in the sports bar. We stayed for dinner at the Point Revolving Restaurant and returned home late.

The last two days we had a day at the races and a full day wine tour. The first winery was Pooley Wines, a rustic, convict built cellar door circa 1830, were guided through an array of highly acclaimed wines. The Pooley team pride themselves on showcasing the Terrior of their Vineyards. Specialising in Riesling and Pinot Noir’s, there is so much more to their range that will suit every palate.
Second winery was Clemens Hill Cellar Door and Kitchen, which range of wines is renowned for their complexity, texture, flavour and longevity. Drawing from two premium sites their range epitomises Tasmanian wine, embracing old and new world techniques. Onto the third winery we hit Richmond Tasting House, which is centre stage at the moment in the Whisky and Spirits world. There are now around 13 different distilleries statewide and they are all kicking goals, winning an array of awards and acclaim. Sullivan’s Cove recently was awarded “Best Single Malt in the World” We tried 3 different Spirits / Liqueurs. Onto the forth location we hit Coal Valley Cider, which Julie and Josh have built. A great family owned and friendly business just on the outskirts of Richmond. Situated on a lovely parcel of land lies a hand built, mud brick cottage that the Coal Valley Cider family have established. Made from Real Apples, Pears and local Berries, Coal Valley Cider is extremely tasty, delicious and has minimal preservatives. We experienced the range of Ciders and shuck some Walnuts whilst we enjoyed our ciders to.
Our last stop was Wicked Cheese Factory, which is fast becoming a name synonymous with Tassie Cheese. Ashley has gained a reputation as one of Australia’s finest cheese makers, Wicked produce 15 types of cheese and we got to try quite a few of them. You can also purchase a cooler bag and ice pack to take Wicked Cheese home with you (you can take anything out of Tasmania, you just can’t bring anything in.

Late back to the BnB we had a small dinner and started packing for in the morning we were heading to Launceston early.



Darwin. It’s a laid back place, mostly friendly and people seem to have time to relax. We didn’t see anyone in a big rush all the time we were there, although the heat may have something to do with that. Seriously warm, of course, mid 30’s every day and then down to low 20’s overnight.

Our Darwin accommodation was only a short distance to the Darwin CBD and the Casuarina Square Shopping Centre, the biggest mall in the Northern Territory. We enjoyed the tropical landscaped gardens, swimming pool, spa and the Runway Bar where we enjoyed a refreshing drink followed by some gourmet delights at Essence Restaurant at the Darwin Airport Resort.

Darwin itself a small city and is situated on the coast of the Northern Territory. We drove down to the waterfront and saw that it had been recently modernised over the last couple of years. It was open with lots of expensive apartments, restaurants and cafes with a wave pool for the families and open grassed areas for people to relax. We finished walking around several stalls and made our way into the city centre. Going past the governmental buildings there were several tourist signs giving the history of various buildings and it was clear that the early years of the city was hard and tough, especially with the weather as it is the hottest part of Australia.

The city centre comprised of about 5 streets filled with shops. It was modern, clean and full of people for a Sunday and we fell in love with the place. After a look at the various shops, we headed off to the tunnels of Darwin. There is so much military history in the area due to the coast line being so close to Japan and during the early part of the 20th century the city was heavily armoured with weapons and manpower, especially during the Second World War. Tunnels were built for fuel and effectively they were fuel tanks. Now empty of fuel, tourists are allowed to walk through these long underground tunnels and there are various pictures going along the walls with information boards giving all information you could ever ask about the tunnels. The place really wasn’t looked after and there could have been more of an effort to give the place an updated look, however it was interesting and it was something that we hadn’t seen before.

The next day we decided to go on a ‘jumping crocodile’ cruise. This involved a drive south of about an hour and a bit into the semi outback going past smaller towns like Humpty Doo to Adelaide River. The cruise was about 45 minutes long on a boat going along Adelaide River with a Guy leaning over the top of the boat while holding what looked like a broom handle with a hook on the end that had meat hanging off it. It was explained that they had done the journey so often that they knew exactly where the crocs were, and boy did they know where the big ones were. Once the crocodile was located, they would tease it with the meat putting it in front of their nose and then when the croc wanted the food in its mouth then the crew would raise the meat in the air till the crocodile was using their body muscle to lift them out of the water to get the meat, giving the effect of them jumping. From where we were sitting in the boat, you could see at close hand the crocs in their full glory, from their teeth, their bodies, the pure muscle that they packed and how big they were. In the time we were out we saw plenty of crocodiles but only 4 of them jumping.

From here we drove to Litchfield National Park to Wangi Falls and had a salad lunch. A Salty had been spotted in the waterfall pool so swimming had been prohibited but when we got there it had been lifted. Didn’t stop us and we jumped in and played around the falls.  
Second stop Buley Rock Hole. Kim went for a dip but you couldn’t really swim as there were too many people.
Third stop Florence Falls Plunge Pool after a descent of 135 steps we had a nice swim. It was lovely and a little crowed, but we still enjoyed it.
Final stop was Termite Mounds. We learnt how Grass Termites build Cathedral Mounds and Tree Termites hollow out trees – this is how didgeridoos are formed.

The next day we took a driving tour on the Bombing of Darwin which was really interesting. A lot of people have no idea the Japanese bombed Darwin during WWII. The Bombing of Darwin, also known as the Battle of Darwin, on 19 February 1942 was both the first and the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. 242 Japanese aircraft attacked ships in Darwin’s Harbour, led by Mitsuo Fuchida who had led the attack on Pearl Harbour, and the town’s two airfields in an attempt to prevent the Allies from using them as bases to respond to the invasions of Timor and Java. The town was only lightly defended and the Japanese inflicted heavy losses upon the Allied forces at little cost to themselves.

The urban areas of Darwin also suffered some damage from the raids and there were a number of civilian casualties, including the postmaster, his wife. The raids were the first and largest of almost 100 air raids against Australia between 1942-43. We visited the key sites and learnt about some of the people who lost their lives during the raids. It also included a drive to the Military Museum, which is well worth a visit. The Darwin Military Museum (DMM) was founded in the mid 1960s by Lieutenant Colonel Jack Haydon and members of the Northern Territory branch of the Royal Australian Artillery Association. The Association, throughout it’s numerous contacts, soon started accumulating war memorabilia from all over the Territory, other parts of Australia and internationally. Since then, several notable local collectors have also contributed greatly to the museum’s exhibits including the newest The Defence of Darwin Experiance (DDE). Set in four acres of tropical gardens by the sea, Darwin Military Museum and the Defence of Darwin Experience are not just for the military enthusiast, but for every member of the family.

Getting on the afternoon we headed to Minidil Beach markets. The markets are an awesome location to browse local handmade craft and to grab Darwin souvenirs.
Mindil Beach are the place in Darwin to watch the sunset, and there is no better way to do it than to relax with a delicious dinner in hand from one of the many food stalls. From Thai to crocodile, there are so many culinary options you’ll be wishing you could visit every week. As the sun dips into the Arafura Sea, food is the main attraction − Thai, Sri Lankan, Indian, Chinese and Malaysian to Brazilian, Greek, Portuguese and more. Colourful arts and crafts vendors peddle their wares – handmade jewellery, natural remedies, artistic creations and unique fashion statements.
Shop till you drop, catch a fire show, stop for a massage or be entertained by buskers, bands and talented performers as you wind your way through the palm lined boulevards.

The next day we headed to Crocosaurus Cove. One of the most surprising things about Crocosaurus Cove is its location. You won’t find it out in the bush or hidden in the suburbs, but downtown, in Darwin’s most lively entertainment precinct, Mitchell Street. In among the cool bars and trendy eateries are some of the biggest and most dangerous crocs in captivity. And they’ve been given monikers to suit their traits, like Chopper, named after colourful underworld identity, Chopper Reid. The violent life of this 790 kg beast has left him severely battle scarred and missing both front feet. Or Houdini, who escaped from several croc traps before finally being collared.

The big fellas who call Crocosaurus Cove home are there because they’re injured, like Chopper, or they’ve become a danger to livestock in the wild, or they’re less than sociable among their own kind. Five and a half metre long Wendell ended up on Mitchell Street due to his disagreeable attitude towards the ladies at Darwin Crocodile Farm. We arrived in time for feeding. One way to truly appreciate the size of these monsters is to see them next to a comparatively small human holding a short, meat-tipped fishing pole. This is nerve tingling stuff and anyone contemplating a dip in a Top End estuary should see the show.

In a flurry of splashing water and snapping jaws a croc rushes forward for a quick snack before slowly retreating to lay in wait just beneath the surface. You can also come face to face with these giants on the safe side of their transparent enclosures. This is as close as you can get to a croc without losing body parts. There are activities at Croc Cove throughout the day and we were lucky enough to see a giant barramundi being fed by a scuba diver in the Cove’s enormous freshwater aquarium, which is also home to whiprays and sawfish.

Sawfish are odd creatures and it’s not just the saw-like extension to their heads. Okay it’s mostly that, but they also have peculiar human-like mouths that seemed to be coloured with just a hint of pink lippy. The reptile house is home to the world’s largest collection of Australian reptiles. Most of the animals are from the Top End, and include deadly snakes, tiny lizards, goannas and even an albino python. A handler wriggled a dead rat in front of the python’s nose and in a flash the snake had coiled around its hapless victim. Over the next few minutes we saw a rodent-sized lump slowly make its way towards the snake’s stomach. The enclosures have been carefully designed to resemble each species’ natural environment and it seems that happy reptiles are active reptiles. Nearly everything was on the move.

Crocosaurus Cove is about as hands on as an attraction housing some of the world’s deadliest creatures can be. There are opportunities to hold a baby croc, stick your head in a transparent dome among the hatchlings, and you can even fish for crocs with a hookless line, which Kim did all. But the Cove’s most famous attraction is the Cage of Death. In singles or pairs thrill seekers enter a perspex cage to be lowered into the lair of a big croc. The price was not our cup of tea, so we passed.

A highlight another day was to feed the fish at Aquascene where mullet, catfish, milkfish, bream and barramundi thrash about at high tide eager to be fed handfuls of bread. Nestling in a lushly wooded bay called Doctor’s Gully. Feeling those fish grabbing at the bread is a very strange sensation and the shrieks of laughter from the many of children there mingle, with informative commentary during feeding time.  We were fascinated to see so much marine life and the sense of whacky occasion this daily event evokes.  The grounds are festooned with a weird and wonderful collection of Asian statuary, inspired by discovering the find of a small statue of the Taoist God Shou Lao in 1879, possibly left by the Chinese settlers who landed here to mine the gold and silver.

The next day we woke a little bit tired, so we decided to spend the day in the relaxed manner. We went to the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre, the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and, at the end of the day, to the safe swimming beach at Darwin Waterfront. The enormous hangar housing the Heritage Centre’s exhibits is almost completely filled with a Boeing B52. This 8-engine behemoth, with its 56-metre wingspan, consumes a fair chunk of floor space and towers above all the other aircraft and displays. But for such a monster it’s remarkable how tiny the cockpit is. A retro Ansett ANA mobile stairway allows visitors to climb to the cockpit window and peer into the pilots’ cramped office. Inside the bomb bay there’s a theater showing a film outlining the story of the plane’s arrival in Darwin.

The B52 is just the centerpiece among an impressive collection of aircraft including a Mirage, a B25 Mitchell bomber, a Huey helicopter, a replica Spitfire and the wreckage of a Japanese Zero, brought down during the bombing of Darwin in World War 2.

In most places the local Botanical Gardens have a special section for tropical plants, but in the Darwin Gardens they’re pretty much everywhere. Only a short distance from the city centre, this is a great place to stroll through a dense rainforest while still within 10 minutes of a latte. Cyclone Tracy all but destroyed the Gardens in 1974 but thanks to the dedicated work of curator, George Brown, later mayor of Darwin, they’re now better than ever. It is a good place to spend couple of hours in a hot summer day. The Cyclone exhibit at the Museum shows Darwin before and after, and serves as a chilling reminder of nature’s wild mood swings. Head into a dark sound room and hear the cyclone’s fury, recorded by Father Ted Collins in various locations around the city.

There’s much more to see here including the indigenous art gallery with its clever Tjanpi grass Toyota, woven from desert grass, the natural history exhibition and the preserved body of Sweetheart, a ferocious 5.1 metre saltwater crocodile, responsible for a number of attacks on boats in the ‘70s.

A relatively recent addition to Darwin is the waterfront precinct with its modern accommodation, restaurants and cafes, recreation lagoon and wave pool. We spent rest of the day in the wave pool and then, after the dusk, had a dinner at one of the restaurants there.

After some lesser known highlight of a day at the races a couple of city center markets and a nice night market in Palmerston we headed back to Brisbane. We look forward to the trip back to the Top End.