Yellow Water Cruises

Stories from our backyard: Yellow Water Cruises

Yellow Water Cruises

Meet Big Maxi. He likes a fight. At 55 years of age, he’s a long-term resident of the Yellow Water Billabong and is an impressive fellow at 4.2 metres long. The operators of Yellow Water Cruises take a keen interest in their locals….and Big Maxi is a definite drawcard. He’s prepared to fight for his turf and is one of the many saltwater crocodiles that call the Billabong home. But the famous reptilian predator is not the only resident, in fact you will find a huge variety of wildlife including wild horses, buffalo and a vast range of birdlife….and sometimes even a stray shark who happens to make its way downstream. Yellow Water Cruises is the award-winning operator that has exclusive use of the Billabong and their boat cruise is an absolute must-do to get up close and personal with the rich variety of local wildlife in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory.

Yellow Water Cruises

Kakadu National Park covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres of exceptional natural beauty and is one of the very few places World Heritage-listed for both its cultural and its natural values. Kakadu is a living cultural landscape. Generations of the Bininj/Mungguy Aboriginal people have lived on and cared for this country for more than 65,000 years. Kakadu National Park is a timeless place – a landscape of exceptional beauty, great biodiversity and a wide variety of landforms, habitats and wildlife. Kakadu is home to 68 mammals, more than 120 reptiles, 26 frogs, more than 2,000 plants and over 10,000 species of insects. The opportunity to meet the wildlife and experience the spectacular journey through Kakadu’s wetlands is why the landlocked Yellow Water Billabong is one of Kakadu National Park’s best-known landmarks.

Yellow Water Cruises

Yellow Water Cruises

Azure Kingfisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Indigenous-owned Yellow Water Cruises takes you on a discovery tour through the dramatic scenery and ever-changing landscape of this world-famous Billabong. The cruise operates from sunrise to sunset and runs up to five cruises daily. The indigenous guides provide fantastic commentary about the local habitat and of course, regale you in the local stories. The guides are skilled in searching for and identifying wildlife. The sunrise and sunset cruises are very popular, and many people take more than one cruise during their stay to see the changes in the wildlife at different times of the day. It really does deliver that WOW factor!

Yellow Water Billabong

Kakadu Yellow Water Billabong. Photo credit Paul Arnold

Positive Indigenous outcomes…

Yellow Water Cruises is more than a window view of Kakadu. The indigenous guides are educating the visitor about their land and country. Their interpretation adds to the visitor experience. And coincidentally, the visitor also contributes to the local indigenous culture as a portion of their cruise fee is put to good use with a direct funding contribution to local Traditional Owners and the community. The aim is about connection, to give back and enrich the world’s oldest living culture.

Guided cultural tours in Kakadu. Photo credit Tourism NT/James Fisher

Welcome and respect the country….

Yellow Water Billabong and Kakadu National Park is more than just a beautiful landscape. I know after our family holiday we left with a greater understanding of the Aboriginal connection to the land. And in the words of Jacob Nayinggul, from the Manilakarr clan: “Our land has a big story. Sometimes we tell a little bit at a time. Come and hear our stories, see our land. A little bit might stay in your hearts. If you want more, you come back.”

Yellow Water Cruises

Yellow Water Billabong Kakadu. Jesus bird walks on water. Photo credit Paul Arnold

Facts:

The winter season (May to September) is traditionally the most popular time to visit. The daytime temperatures range around 30 degrees Celsius and the nights are cool. Perfect weather for all activities. Shoulder seasons are a good option, with A Taste of Kakadu in May and Kakadu Bird Week in September/October. The wet season offers a totally different experience, but worth considering if you like thundering waterfalls and spectacular lightning shows. Getting around Kakadu during the dry season is relatively easy with roads to most of the major attractions (such as Ubirr, Nourlangie and Cooinda/Yellow Water Billabong) bitumen and sealed. Driving can be done in a conventional vehicle, though a 4WD is recommended, especially if you want to get to places like Maguk, Jim Jim & Twin Falls, which are 4WD access only.

Rock art at Nourlangie Rock. Image from Tourism Australia/Nicolas Kavo

Good to know:

The Top End of the Northern Territory delivers a fantastically special and unique Australian holiday. The highlight of this area is the joy of exploring World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, only a 3-hour drive east of Darwin. Connect with the oldest living culture on earth and admire the rugged and remote beauty of the greatest National Park in Australia.  Kakadu National Park has countless activities on offer, you could easily stay for 3+ nights. Apart from Yellow Water Cruises, other top highlights include the free daily Ranger guided-tours, the “must-see” Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, marvel at the Rock Art at Ubirr and Nourlangie, swim at the stunning Gunlom Falls or at the pristine Maguk Gorge, check-out the biggest waterfall, Jim Jim Falls, and there’s plenty more! Read more on Kakadu & the Top End.

Jim Jim Falls Kakadu

Phillip Island

Stories from our backyard: Phillip Island Penguin Parade

They are only 33 cms tall. Formerly known as fairy penguins, Phillip Island’s little penguins are indeed the world’s largest colony of the world’s smallest penguins. It’s a heart-warming experience to see…and something that draws a smile during these COVID times. On any given evening at sunset you can expect to see 1,100 little penguins waddle in from the sea. This is the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. A magical event in which the little penguins have the starring role and their natural environment is the stage.

Phillip Island

Penguin Parade

Phillip Island is located only 90 minutes from Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. The Penguin Parade first drew attention back in the 1920’s with small operators taking tourists by torchlight to see the penguin’s nightly arrival. Now there are up to 3,500 visitors each evening (pre-COVID) and operations are managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks, a self-funded not-for-profit organisation. This is a unique conservation organisation whose responsibilities include the management of 25% of the land on Phillip Island, as well as wildlife management and the operations of a range of ecotourism experiences. Their goal is to protect nature for wildlife and inspire people to actively protect the environment.

Phillip Island

Koala Reserve

Phillip Island

Churchill Island

Phillip Island

Antarctic Journey

The main eco-tourism experiences which are managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks are the Penguin Parade, the Koala Reserve where you can see koalas up close via the tree-top boardwalks, Churchill Island which offers farm activities and historical grounds and the Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre which is designed to entertain and educate about the southern ocean and Antarctica. The 3 parks pass bundled ticket with an upgrade to Penguins Plus is the most popular and recommended booking choice. Profits generated by these main attractions are invested into conservation, research, ecotourism, environmental and educational initiatives within the Nature Parks.

 

Phillip Island

Pyramid Rock walk

So, every visitor contributes…

As a result of these contributions Phillip Island Nature Parks have scored many great conservation wins. The island is now the largest inhabited island in the world that has eradicated the European red fox and remains free of this introduced predator. That is good news for the penguins and other native wildlife! Other efforts and conservation programs focus on the care of the habitat with many new native plants in the ground that provide food and shelter for wildlife, removal of invasive weeds, wildlife rescue of seals from fishing lines, examining images from motion detection cameras to identify any pest animals, as well as the all-important wildlife research and monitoring.

Phillip Island

Seal Rock – Phillip Island

But back to the main event. With international borders currently closed, and a second pause to visitation of the Penguin Parade due to a Coronavirus uptick, the Nature Parks have concentrated on keeping things as normal as possible for the stars of the show. That means many nights of no crowds with the lights still flicked on so that the waddling stars experience no difference to their environment. Such strange times!

Time to put on a smile on your face…

Even in these quiet times the penguins still draw attention. The respected Scottish BBC sport commentator Andrew Cotter, whose voice is well known to fans of international golf, tennis and athletics, has narrated the antics of Phillip Island’s most famous residents as they waddle from the shoreline, across the sand dunes to arrive safely at home, in their burrows. Please enjoy the Facebook video here.

Phillip Island

Cowes Foreshore

Phillip Island Nature Parks is a not-for-profit conservation organisation, committed to the protection of wildlife and its habitat, funded through the operation of its ecotourism experiences. Make sure to support Phillip Island Nature Parks and enjoy the penguin parade when you next visit Victoria, Australia.

Good to know:

Phillip Island

Island Surf School

Phillip Island

Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

Phillip Island

 

Phillip Island is only a 90 minute drive south-east of Melbourne and is easily one of the most popular spots to visit in Victoria for many good reasons. The island offers stunning coastal scenery, beaches to explore and many wildlife encounters. Well worth a 2-night stay, make some time to catch the large colony of Australian Fur Seals on a seal watching cruise, feed the wild pelicans at San Remo, visit the Chocolate Factory and then burn off all the sugar at Amaze n Things. Finally, don’t forget to take the kids go-karting on the scale replica of the famous Grand Prix circuit!

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Stories from our backyard: Wavelength Reef Cruises

Jenny Edmondson was mowing her lawns. Quite a strange thing for the co-owner of Wavelength Reef Cruises to be doing…. but then again, we are in COVID times. Her normal backyard is not grass, but rather showing off pristine coral gardens, abundant fish and the clear waters of the outer Great Barrier Reef. Wavelength is the premier cruise operator when it comes to exploring the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas in far-north Queensland.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Snorkeller, Opal Reef, Wavelength Reef Cruises

With both international and state borders currently closed, this is a downtime with no cruises scheduled and a hopeful re-start come this July. Wavelength is normally fielding a vessel with 38 guests for their regular day trip to 3 exclusive sites on the Great Barrier Reef. Locally owned and with over 34 years’ experience, Wavelength Reef Cruises specialise in small group size guided snorkelling tours with their very own marine biologists.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Great Barrier Reef – humphead wrasse

The Great Barrier Reef:

is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and was declared a World Heritage site in 1981 for its remarkable variety and beauty. It’s the world’s largest coral reef system with over 3000 individual reefs, 900 islands and stretches for over 2,600 kilometres (bigger than the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Holland combined). Amazingly 90% of its diversity occurs within 4 metres of the surface…which is why snorkelling on the reef is so popular and undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

St Crispin Reef, Tropical North Queensland

But there is no snorkelling happening on the reef for now…COVID-19 has seen to that. The coronavirus is a disrupter above the water line, and for coral reefs worldwide one of the big disrupters below the water line is indeed climate change and the warming water temperatures. The result is the Great Barrier Reef has seen a series of coral bleaching events over the last 5 years which have damaged some of the coral ecosystems on the reef. Fortunately for us all of the Great Barrier Reef is not damaged nor dead, and many areas of the reef are not affected. With time and a stable environment those bleached corals can re-grow, but the series of bleaching events within a short time-frame means that there is a greater challenge to recover.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Branching Fragment, Coral Nurture Program

This is where Wavelength have stepped in.

Conservation:

In early 2018 Wavelength Reef Cruises formed a partnership with the University of Technology Sydney to establish a Coral nurture program. It is a partnership between tourism and science that encourages and propagates the growth of heat resilient corals. Initially established with 2 multi-specie coral nurseries and now expanded to 7, these nurseries are located at healthy reef sites that Wavelength manage. The idea is to supplement the high-value reef sites with hardy corals that are heat tolerant to keep these reef sites healthy and thriving for the long-term.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Coral Nurture Program

The Coral Reef rehabilitation efforts have now expanded to a total of 6 operators within the Port Douglas/Cairns area. If successful, the goal is for broader adoption again of the Coral nurture program to other tour operators and stakeholders connected throughout the Great Barrier Reef. This program does not replace global efforts to further protect the reef, but if successful and upscaled it will contribute to the overall conservation of the reef. Combined with the Eye on the Reef monitoring program, Wavelength Reef Cruises is utilising their current downtime well to contribute to the health and well-being of the Great Barrier Reef.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Wavelength is passionate about conservation and low impact tourism at its best. Even in these tough COVID times the company is working to protect the incredible natural wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef. The company recognises the importance so that future generations can experience and benefit from the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef as we do today. Make sure to support Wavelength Reef Cruises and enjoy a day trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef with them when you next visit Port Douglas and far-north Queensland.

Good to know:

Port Douglas is a touch of paradise.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas. Tourism & Events Queensland.

Just an hour north of Cairns Airport, Port Douglas is uniquely bordered by two World Heritage sites, the magnificent Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest.

Dreamtime Gorge Walk – guided tour. Mossman Gorge Centre. Tourism & Events Queensland.

Crocodile, Daintree. Tourism & Events Queensland

Mossman River, Daintree. Tourism & Events Queensland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well worth a 5+ night stay, take time to also explore the northern beaches, sample coffee and chocolates in the Atherton Tablelands, meet the big crocs at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, don’t forget a swim in the fresh-water Mossman Gorge and simply relish in the delights that this tropical village has to offer. Read more on Port Douglas

Daintree Ice Cream Company. Tourism & Events Queensland

Healesville Sanctuary

Stories from our backyard: Healesville Sanctuary


Top of mind when visiting Australia for many is to meet the local residents…which of course is not the human variety but the native animals. This is not surprising as our native wildlife are unique and simply a huge drawcard for admirers of all ages! And for those of us visiting the Melbourne region, this means a must-visit is to make the one-hour journey from the Melbourne CBD to Healesville Sanctuary in the stunning Yarra Valley.

Healesville Sanctuary

Couple with kangaroos at Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary | Zoos Victoria

Healesville Sanctuary

Meet an Echidna, Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary:

Healesville Sanctuary is all about our native wildlife and is not your ordinary zoo. It is a bushland haven for Australian wildlife and a delight that demands a full day adventure. Wander along the tracks and meet some iconic Australian animals like Koalas, Kangaroos, Platypus, Dingoes, Wombats and Emus. Take in some Keeper talks to get to know your favourite animal and how the Keeper’s care for our furry, fluffy, and even scaly friends. Have your photo taken in front of a Koala or Kangaroo and watch our strangest animal friend, the Platypus.

Healesville Sanctuary

Koala being treated for bushfire injuries

Australian Wildlife Health Centre:

But most importantly, Healesville Sanctuary is also home to the Australian Wildlife Health Centre, a hospital which treats more than 2000 sick and injured native animals every year. The vets and keepers from the Australian Wildlife Health Centre were part of the bushfire emergency teams that staffed a number of triage centres across Victoria during the recent summer bushfires. They tended to injured wildlife on the frontline, and several Koalas have been brought back to Healesville Sanctuary for rehabilitation with the hope that someday they will be released back to the wild.

Healesville Sanctuary

Koala treated for bushfire injuries

Bushfire Relief Fund:

The recent bushfires were horrific. Scientists estimate billions of animals have perished in the vast bushfires that have torn through millions of hectares of forest across Australia’s south-east. Up to 100 endangered species have lost most of their living areas. As a voice for wildlife, Healesville Sanctuary is devastated by the impact of the Australian bushfire crisis on precious species and their habitat and is determined to assist in all aspects, including through raising much-needed emergency funds. Healesville Sanctuary and Zoos Victoria have set up a dedicated Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund for donations. You are welcome to donate here.

The goal of the Bushfire relief fund is to work towards establishing long-term plans to ensure our native wildlife, including endangered species, can recover from these heartbreaking and ongoing fires. Healesville Sanctuary is internationally renowned for its work saving endangered Australian species and offers a memorable day where you can meet and enjoy the local residents as well as see the important work in the Australian Wildlife Health Centre. So, make sure to add this to your must-visit list when next visiting Melbourne, Australia!

Good to know:

Whilst you are visiting Healesville Sanctuary take time to stay awhile as there is plenty to do in the stunning Yarra Valley!

Yering Gorge Cottages, the Yarra Valley

Dining at Domaine Chandon winery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay in a villa with local wildlife visiting you at dusk. Explore the Yarra Valley by visiting the local wineries (including Domaine Chandon), cider & gin distilleries, don’t miss the farmgates or the magnificent Coombe Gardens, do a day hike through Kinglake National Park and catch the Puffing Billy steam train through the nearby Dandenong Ranges. Read more on the Yarra Valley

Puffing Billy Steam Railway

Cheese on display at the Healesville Harvest cafe

Dolphin Swims

Stories from our backyard: Sea All Dolphin Swims

For a hands-down most fun thing to do with your family make sure to do the Dolphin & Seal Swim. Just 30 minutes from the start of the Great Ocean Road and 1.5 hours from Melbourne, Sea All Dolphin Swims operates from the historic town of Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. This is a nature-based experience that you simply won’t forget!

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

But here’s a warning… this is not a Seaworld attraction experience. All animals are completely wild, and the experiences are totally impromptu…

Dolphin Swims

Dolphins at play

The swim tour:

Takes 3.5 hours, and you get to meet the local residents of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park… most notably colourful fishes, Australian Fur Seals and of course, the Burranan or Bottlenose Dolphins. You can do as much or as little as you like in these shallow and protected waters. Learn to snorkel, then swim with both the Seals and Dolphins or simply watch from your spot on the boat or the boom net if you prefer…

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

Australian Fur Seals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I gotta tell you it’s a lot of fun sitting in the boom net watching the dolphins & humans at play !

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

Since a recent ban on commercial fishing in the Bay has been introduced you can expect a 95% success rate with Dolphin sightings. Sea All Dolphin Swims offer a nice small group with a maximum of 35 guests onboard. If you are wondering about your young ones swimming, then let them decide. They will be well coached and supported on the day. Swimming is open to all ages.

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

The Dolphins:

Dolphin Swims

The dolphins are the stars of the show and they love to frolic in the boat’s wake. They are both social and intelligent, and it is SO much fun to be with them in the water. Sea All Dolphin Swims prides themselves on ensuring that their guests have an engaging and altogether unforgettable experience. So, make sure to add this to your wish list!

Good to know:

The swim tour is based at Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. Queenscliff is a port with a car/passenger ferry which connects one side of the Bay to the other.

Queenscliff-Sorrento Ferry

The ferry is an excellent way to connect your stays on The Great Ocean Road to Phillip Island or the Yarra Valley and beyond. But whilst you are in Queenscliff take time to also explore the wider Bellarine Peninsula by visiting the local wineries, farmgates and the Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary at Barwon Heads. Read more on the Great Ocean Road

The Whiskery on the Bellarine Peninsula. Chris McConville

Wine from Jack Rabbit

Seafood on the Bellarine Peninsula

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Update: Australia’s Bushfire recovery

Record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have fuelled a series of massive horror bushfires across Australia in the summer months of 2019-2020. The areas most affected were southern NSW, far eastern Victoria and Kangaroo Island in South Australia. At least 33 people have been killed – including four firefighters – and more than 11 million hectares (110,000 sq.km/27.2 million acres) of bush, forest and parks across these regions of Australia has burned. Up to 2,000 homes have been lost. More than 1 billion mammals, birds, and reptiles likely lost their lives in the blazes. Smoke pollution from the fires reached New Zealand over 1,000 miles away.

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Source: NSW Rural Fire Service / Victoria Country Fire Authority, 31 Jan/bbc.com

These are very sad facts indeed…

And what has happened since? The rains have helped contain many of the worst fires in February 2020. The ongoing incredible generosity from individuals, groups, organisations both from local and global communities has helped with Australia’s bushfire recovery. The Australian Government has sprung into action with a dedicated effort. There have been many bushfire relief concerts ranging from events at the local hotels to International stars such as Katy Perry & Mylie Cyrus announcing their support with upcoming concerts. Community fundraisers abound.

These efforts and events all signal a collective hope. Hope that we can make a difference. Support those directly affected. And in the words of our National Bushfire Recovery Agency it’s all about……Relief. Recovery. Regenerate.

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Darren Donlen – Nature and Wildlife 2019

Here is a quick look at some of the amazing bushfire recovery initiatives & stories:

Aces for Bushfire Relief:

Tennis stars from across the world joined forces at the Melbourne Australian Open in January to help the victims of Australia’s bushfires by turning aces into donations. The Aces for Bushfire Relief campaign encouraged the public to pledge a donation for every ace served by their favourite tennis player. An amazing 11,058 aces were served over the duration of the Australian Open with a total of AUD $5.8 million raised.

Australian Open

Blaze Aid:

Blaze Aid is a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods. The volunteers work alongside the rural families and help to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed.

Wildlife Help:  

A Victorian man put his own life on the line to help save koalas that have been impacted by the bushfire crisis in East Gippsland. After fire tore through the eucalyptus forest in Mallacoota, Patrick Boyle ventured into the still-smouldering bush to save the lives of the vulnerable marsupials. The 22-year-old said he just wanted to do his part after seeing everyone rally around one another. https://9now.nine.com.au/today/victoria-fires-mallacoota-local-puts-life-on-line-to-save-koalas/f20708ae-b97f-4815-a2b9-7099e0859816 

 

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Darren Donlen – Nature and Wildlife 2019

Spend with Them:

A number of incredible new initiatives have been launched on Instagram showcasing the abundance of small businesses in bushfire-affected communities, encouraging Aussies to spend their money at places that need it the most. It’s a way to put money directly in the pockets of these fire-affected businesses & service providers. #spendwiththem, #buyfromthebush, #emptyesky

Firefighters:

After saving countless homes and lives in this hellish bushfire season, firefighters can now look forward to a free cruise as a reward. Over 7000 volunteer first responders will enjoy a luxury 4-night cruise compliments of Royal Caribbean International. https://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/national/free-luxury-cruise-for-bushfire-first-responders/news-story/6c4386b73e327a866ae516f5af7bfbe5

 

Travel Local:  

A new campaign has been launched to encourage visitors to support the communities who need our help by visiting and staying awhile. While donations have flooded in from around the world, the number of tourists visiting has dropped by 80 per cent in some regions compared to the same time last year. The campaign is focused on the regions hardest hit. By booking a trip to these regions we can all help the local economy and pump much-needed funds back into towns that need tourist dollars to survive. #DontDelayYourStay.

Byron Bay

Be amazed by Byron Bay!

Byron Bay. What is all the fuss about? It has a lot to do with the hugely independent and creative character of the community. Of course, there are the stunning beaches and pristine coastline. Not to mention the magnificent hinterland with many National Parks to explore. The town is all about being clean and green. And yes, let’s not forget Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor in the Avengers) has chosen to call this coastal town home.

Byron Bay

The Pass Stairway. Tourism Australia.

In the past Byron Bay was known for its whaling station and as a surfing mecca. These days it’s a bohemian town on the global map with over two million visitors each year. Don’t expect high-rise towers overshadowing the beaches, franchise shops and shopping centres in this northern NSW coastal town. If you want that drive 40 minutes up the road to the Gold Coast. Byron is loved because of the nature and low-rise feel of the town. With the choice of two airports within a 40-minute drive, and the Brisbane International Airport only two hours north, Byron Bay is easily accessible. So, if you enjoy nature walks, beaches, buying locally organic food from the farmers market and treating yourself to the local day spa then Byron Bay is your town.

Byron Bay

Person walking to Minyon Falls. Tourism Australia.

Here are some of the key things to do:

Explore the Beaches:

Byron Bay has a plethora of gorgeous beaches to choose from… all blessed with white sands, plenty of waves and resident dolphins. They enjoy the waves just as much as we do! Main beach/Clarkes beach are in the town centre or take a picnic and wander to beautiful Wategos or Little Wategos Beach for a spell. Otherwise make time to wander through Arakwal National Park to Cosy Corner and Tallows Beach. We enjoyed a close encounter with a Wallaby and her Joey in the National Park before we walked the long expanse of Tallows Beach.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay Lighthouse views of Tallows Beach. Tourism Australia.

Cape Byron Walking Track:

Visit the most easterly point of mainland Australia at the Cape Byron Lighthouse. This loop track is 3.7km and takes roughly 2 hours. Lots of great bush & water views with plenty of steps and stops on the way. Tip – don’t walk back on the road but instead take in the Tallows Beach return route as it’s much nicer. Aim for Sunrise or Sunset for the best photos.

Byron Bay

People watching the Sunrise at Cape Byron Lighthouse . Tourism Australia

Get out on the water:

Byron Bay is all about the beach so make sure you take it all in. One great option is to do a kayak tour to see the dolphins and whales (in season). It’s alot of fun, and the bonus was sighting Loggerhead turtles and kayak surfing back to shore. You can also snorkel or dive at Julian Rocks marine reserve. Alternatively, consider a surf lesson for the whole family.

Byron Bay

Kayaking in the Ocean. Tourism Australia.

Food/Retail with a difference:

Byron Bay definitely has a creative vibe that is evident through the food and retail scene. The wide variety of independent shops makes for a solid afternoon’s explore and there are plenty of regular markets featuring local artisan works as well as fresh produce. The variety and breadth of restaurants & cafes is fantastic. Don’t forget to explore the Arts & Industry Estate which features the local Stone & Wood Brewery.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay Streetscape. Tourism Australia.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary:

Based on the Gold Coast, and only a 50-minute drive from Byron Bay, this native wildlife sanctuary is a good option for those members of the family who want to cuddle a Koala. The law allows you to hold a koala in Queensland, but you cannot in New South Wales. The Sanctuary offers several sessions daily where you can join in to learn more about koalas and hold one at the end of the session.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Tourism & Events Queensland.

Make the time to visit Byron Bay & surrounds. Discover what is special about the area…it won’t disappoint! It’s always nice to get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the local community and enjoy this lovely coastal town.

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Discover the Sunshine Coast Hinterland…

Rainforests. Waterfalls. Crystal-clear rockpools for swimming. Local fresh produce. Hmm….sounds good doesn’t it? The Sunshine Coast Hinterland in southern Queensland offers a picturesque break from the endless beaches and water activities of the famous Sunshine Coast. Why not shift your gaze inland for some mountain fresh air and stunning vistas?

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Glass House Mountain views. Photo: Joint TA/TEQ

The Sunshine Coast Hinterland is only a 30-minute drive inland from the coast or 1:30 hours north of Brisbane. So, it’s very easy to do as a daytrip or stay awhile to really explore all the fantastic activities the area offers. A true self-drive destination, the Hinterland is dominated by the many National Parks and the 3 main towns of Maleny, Montville and Mapleton. It’s all about taking time out to enjoy the fantastic array of local produce at the country markets, visiting the dairy & cheese purveyors, admiring the art at the local galleries and craft studios, enjoying some local wines or beers with fantastic views and of course not forgetting plenty of hikes and spotting wildlife in the National Parks.

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Montville. Photo Tourism & Events QLD

Blessed with a sub-tropical climate you can expect an average temperature of 28 degrees in summer and 20 degrees in winter. No extreme weather for the Sunshine Coast Hinterland which is perfect for picking a half-day or full-day section of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland great walk route or planning a picnic at Baroon Pocket Dam. If you are looking for a break from the buzz of the Sunshine Coast, then the Hinterland is the perfect peaceful escape. Here are some of the key things to do:

Chase Waterfalls: 

The Sunshine Coast Hinterland has plenty to choose from, but the top 3 would have to be:  Kondalilla Falls – Located north of Montville these falls are found in the heart of the Kondalilla Falls National Park. The Kondalilla Falls circuit is a 4.7km walk and to reach them enjoy a bushwalk through rainforest to a picturesque rockpool at the top of the falls. Gardners Falls – One of the prettiest waterways in Australia. There are freshwater rock pools perfect for splashing about, with the largest pool for swimming found underneath the falls. Mapleton Falls – The most impressive of them all as the falls plunge 120m. The Mapleton Falls Lookout is actually above the falls itself.

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Mapleton Falls. Photo Tourism & Events QLD

Glass House Mountains:

The Glass House Mountains National Park is not-to-be missed. Remnants of volcanic activity from many millions of years ago, the mountains stand proud in an awe-inspiring landscape. Start with a stop at the Glass House Mountains visitor centre, a great way to get a good orientation of the area. Make sure to stop at picturesque lookouts, or get your heart pumping with some hiking, rock-climbing or abseiling.

Abseiling. Photo Tourism & Events QLD

Blackall Range Tourist Drive: 

Arguably the most scenic of the Sunshine Coast drives, the Blackall Range Tourist Drive takes you through a number of quiet little townships nestled up in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, enjoying amazing views of the valleys below and the coast off in the distance. Rising up over 500 metres above sea level you will find that the air is cooler, the grass is greener, and the local produce is fresh and tasty. Wander through the many art galleries, sample the local produce at the boutique wineries, cafes & restaurants, do some rainforest walks, meet the locals at the markets and you’ll even find a traditional cheese factory.

Goats, Maleny Dairies. Photo Tourism & Events QLD

Nature Lovers Paradise:

For lush rainforests, pretty waterfalls, crystal-clear rockpools for swimming, plenty of wildlife and picturesque hikes you are spoilt for choice in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.  Kondalilla National Park is a refuge for native wildlife and plants.  For unspoilt mountain scenery visit Conondale National Park. Mapleton Falls National Park has the most impressive waterfall. The Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve has 55 hectares of subtropical rainforest and a great rainforest walk.

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Obi Obi Creek. Photo: Queensland Government

Take the time to visit the Sunshine Coast Hinterland when in the area. Make a point to discover what is special about both the Sunshine Coast and the hinterland. It’s always nice to get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the local community!

Port Douglas

An insider’s guide to tropical Port Douglas…

Port Douglas in Far North Queensland ticks the box of being the real “treat” component of your holiday….it oozes tropical relaxation and adventure! Expect a touch of paradise, Port Douglas is uniquely bordered by two World Heritage sites, the magnificent Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest.

Port Douglas

The Great Barrier Reef Drive. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef Drive is the top coastal drive that leads you from Cairns to Port Douglas in just over an hour. The huge palm trees that border the drive into Port Douglas set the scene well for this tropical getaway and seaside town. Blessed by the tropical weather, you can expect lovely mild weather in June/July/August that is perfect for all outdoor activities or simply relaxing at Four Mile Beach. Humidity & the wet season kick in over the summer months…but essentially Port Douglas is pretty much perfect to visit year-round.

Port Douglas

Four Mile Beach. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Port Douglas

Indigenous Art Gallery. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland/Andrew Watson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Mile Beach is picture-perfect with the palm-tree lined beach consistently recognised as one of Australia’s best beaches. Great for long walks, swimming or trying your hand at kayaking or paddle boarding. After some sun and beach time wander up the main street to explore the shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants. Drop by the local markets on Sundays for a vivid array of tropical fruits and local arts & crafts. The Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina has some great bars and restaurants from which you can watch all the boats returning from a day on the Reef. For something unashamedly Australian don’t miss the nightly Cane Toad race at the Iron Bar. For a great Thai cooking class and lunch you can’t miss Oaks Kitchen & Garden or alternatively if you just feel like a decadent long-lunch travel 15 minutes out of town to either Silky Oaks Lodge or Thala Beach Lodge and indulge.

A small village that delivers so much, Port Douglas has so many things to see and do… you can easily spend a week or more in the area. Here are some of the key things to do:

Port Douglas

Michaelmas Cay. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Explore the Great Barrier Reef: 

The main attraction to this gorgeous town is no doubt the Great Barrier Reef. It is absolutely a must-do! Fortunately, you have easy access from the local marina with plenty of operators to choose from. You can choose boats that take a minimum of 12 or a maximum of 350! The bigger operators have more toys to play with, expect glass bottom boats, helicopter rides etc. The smaller operators offer a completely personal nature experience focused around snorkelling and diving. I strongly recommend the smaller group tours…however the decisions don’t stop there. Duration is another factor, with the most popular choice being the full day tour. But you can also do overnight/live-aboard trips for the keen divers, or the fast half-day trips for those that are happy with a shorter snorkel. Finally, from Port Douglas you have quick access to the Low Isles, a sandy coral cay located on the inner Great Barrier Reef which is a good option for those with younger children, or of course you can visit the outer Great Barrier Reef on a longer boat trip to get to those famous dive/snorkel sites that offer the visual paradise that the Great Barrier Reef is famous for.

Port Douglas

Snorkelling on Opal Reef. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Port Douglas

Moore Reef. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Appreciate the Daintree Rainforest:

The other main must-do is to visit the Daintree Rainforest, one of the top three oldest in the world. The first stopping point is Mossman Gorge, located only 20 minutes north of Port Douglas. You can do self-guided walks, or join a Dreamtime Walk Tour and learn about the indigenous culture and their connection to the natural environment. Don’t miss a refreshing dip in the gorge for a beautiful Rainforest experience. Then on to the township of Daintree and catch a 1-hour wildlife cruise where you can expect to see crocodiles enjoying the sun. Cross the Daintree River and explore the Daintree Discovery Centre. The kids will love the Canopy Tower and aerial walkways through the Rainforest. Drive further north to Cape Tribulation, where you can step straight from the rainforest on to the magnificent beach. For a family fun activity do some Ziplining through the rainforest with Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy some tropical fruit ice-cream from the Daintree Ice Cream Company on your return journey.

Port Douglas

Daintree Creek. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Port Douglas

Meet the wildlife: 

Meet Zac, the 5-metre Saltwater Crocodile at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. He is a big fella, around 500kg and over 50 years old. He still has all his teeth! Don’t miss the Crocodile feeding shows where you see the crocodiles jump for their food. Hartley’s is a great day out. They have plenty of other unique Aussie animals as well. You can book a private tour to cuddle a Koala, feed wallabies (small kangaroos), hold a lizard and meet a Wombat. Hartley’s is 25 minutes south of Port Douglas. The closer alternative is Wildlife Habitat, which offers the Aussie wildlife experience right in Port Douglas.

Port Douglas

Tree Kangaroo. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Port Douglas

Visit Atherton Tablelands:

For a full day trip visit Kuranda & the Atherton Tablelands. Only 1 hour from Port Douglas there is plenty to do up there. Kuranda is a good starting point with the Rainforestation, Markets and the largest Butterfly aviary in Australia. This is a coffee growing region so if you love your coffee & chocolates make sure to visit Coffee Works. For more action there is a professional go kart racetrack at Mareeba that even beginners can have a go on. For something different make sure to visit the Bat Hospital in Atherton or look for the elusive Platypus at Tarzali Lakes. Finally, don’t miss the Curtain Fig Tree, one of the largest trees in Far North Queensland in an endangered forest near Yungaburra.

Port Douglas

Origin Espresso1. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland/Andrew Watson

Make sure to add Port Douglas to your wish list for your next Australia holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one to tick off your bucket list!

Australian break

Our beautiful Australian break

Text & Photography by Sylvie Drion-Halbin

It’s already been a few weeks since we came back to Shanghai and, when thinking about Australia again, I first see its colours : the bluish green of eucalyptus plants, the turquoise blue of the sea, the azure sky, the red soil with all its ochre nuances ; then I get all the pleasant smells from the fragrant trees such as tea trees and eucalyptus.

Australian break

Author Sylvie Drion-Halbin at Uluru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decided to go far away from Shanghai during the Mid-Autumn Festival break to treat ourselves to a beautiful trip taking us towards spring. This had been our dream for a long time.

We researched many travel guides in preparation. However, exploring Australia and all its mythical sites soon seemed to be some kind of Chinese puzzle 😊

We wanted to go everywhere. As a result, we completed our tour in several stages. Vicki Baensch from Australia Expat Travel has been of tremendous help with organising and booking our transport and accommodation.

Melbourne

We were totally delighted with its Art Deco buildings and alleys, large welcoming parks, art galleries, narrow side streets, eco-friendly shops and delicious restaurants. Paul, from Rentabike in Federation Square, was a choice ambassador for his city. We cycled through it and thanks to him we went to its residents’ favourite places and found the most gourmet spots in Melbourne.

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Hosier Lane, Melbourne

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Cathedral Arcade, Melbourne

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Eureka Tower, Melbourne

 

We continued our discovery along the coast lines, mostly during a road trip along the Great Ocean Road. We explored lighthouses and forests where it isn’t unusual to see wild koalas. We were able to admire the 12 Apostles’ grand landscapes, which are truly moving at sunset.

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Cape Otway Lighthouse, Great Ocean Road

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Koala, Great Ocean Road

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Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

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Red Parrot, Kennett River

Uluru & the Red Centre

It was then time for us to fly towards the Red Centre. We literally landed at the foot of Uluru, Ayers Rock. Uluru acted like a strong magnet, our eyes were constantly drawn towards this mineral mountain – a true oasis amongst the desert.

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Uluru

 

 

 

 

 

 

We immensely enjoyed immersing ourselves in the aboriginal culture whilst listening to the talks given by the Park Rangers during the Mala walk and the magnificent Kata Tjuta rock domes.

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Uluru Sunset

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Kata Tjuta

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Aboriginal Rock Art

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Kata Tjuta views

 

We drove on towards Alice Springs aboard a 4×4 vehicle. After a night spent in a hybrid tent / hut we continued towards the famous Kings Canyon.

Starting walking at dawn enabled us to avoid the high heat during our climb to the top and also to come across native animals such as dingoes, kangaroos and birds. We were able to fully enjoy the totally amazing mineral landscape.

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Australia 4×4 drive

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Kings Canyon

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Kings Canyon vista

Sunshine Coast & the Great Barrier Reef

We concluded our trip with exploring the Sunshine Coast, between Brisbane and Airlie Beach.

We spent one of our most incredible nights camping in an igloo tent set up on a rig some 80 km offshore, and only two flipper strokes away from Hardy Reef, where we went scuba diving and explored the Great Barrier Reef with its 1001 shades of blue.

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Great Barrier Reef, Hardy Reef

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Great Barrier Reef

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Hardy Reef, Great Barrier Reef

We’ve already planned to go back to Australia because we haven’t managed to fit a few days’ stay in Sydney and its surroundings. We cannot wait to return to this fabulous continent and to also visit Tasmania and nearby New Zealand … we only need to decide when!

Our highlights were:
– Red Centre and the incredible energy radiating from Uluru
– Discovering Aboriginal Art
– The amazing and numerous encounters with the local fauna & wildlife
– A 10 minutes helicopter flight above the Great Barrier Reef

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Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Anglesea

Text & Photography by Sylvie Drion-Halbin | www.sdh-photo.com  | Instagram: sylviedrion