Saturday, 8 December 2012

Respecting Our Culture

Respecting our Culture was developed with extensive consultation with Indigenous communities and tourism industry stakeholders as a triple bottom line sustainability program to ensure travellers have an authentic experience that is respectful to Aboriginal culture.  

Longhorn YOUnique Tours is  excited to have achieved this standard in time for the launch of our new 4 Day Indigenous Tour of Central and Western Victoria 

Tower Hill


Saturday, 22 September 2012

Whale watching and more on the Fraser Coast

Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay is located on the Fraser Coast a region that is famous for its natural wonders including whales, dolphins and Fraser Island; which is the world's largest sand island and  Heritage Listed. 

We flew into Brisbane and drove the 3.5 hours to Hervey Bay along the Bruce Highway. But you can also fly into the Sunshine Coast or Hervey Bay itself. 

On the beach at Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay has a wide range of accommodation ranging from backpackers, apartments, resorts, caravan parks and house for rent. We chose to stay at White Crest Luxury Apartments as it was close to shops, restaurants and across the road from the beach.   

After checking into our apartment we booked a whale watching cruise for the next day, as this was to be a highlight of our visit to the area. We then set out to explore the local area and took a long walk along the beach.

Fishing at Hervey Bay

Like most beach side suburbs the town radiates out from the beach with accommodation, restaurants and shops lining the nearby streets. Hervey Bay has a number of suburbs which have grown over the years to cover quite a large area.  So don't be confused when you see names such as Torquay, Pialba and Point Vernon as these are all located along the coastline at Hervey Bay.

The next morning we were collected outside our accommodation and taken to the Marina for our whale watching cruise with Whalesong, who are one of the many whale watching companies in Hervey Bay. We did a morning cruise but you can also choose an afternoon or full day cruise.

Smooth sailing even into a storm

We enjoyed a breakfast of quiche, bacon, sausages, salads and bread which was served shortly after we departed the Marina. The weather wasn't looking great as we headed out of the bay in search of whales. We went through some small rain storms but it was still very smooth sailing and we continued to enjoy staying out on the deck.

Our first experience of a whale breaching

After about an hour of cruising we came across our first whales which caused a lot of excitement and everyone moved outside onto the decks.  We observed a number of pods as the boat cruised from one area to another looking for more active whales.

A whale swims underneath our boat

The whales mainly travelled in pairs, some mothers and calves, we saw them waving with their fins, swimming up and down and breaching as they played in the ocean nearby.

Swimming close to the boat

Just before we headed towards home a whale decided to come so close to the boat that it swam beneath us and then popped up on the other side. It was an amazing experience being so close to this gentle but gigantic creature.

A final breaching before we head for home

Watching the whales breach was one of the best experiences of the morning. I found it hard to catch them on the camera but we did manage to some great acrobatics on video. 

Best meal was at Maddigans Fish and Chips in Torquay, its a take away, but the range of fish and other seafood was fantastic.

Tin Can Bay

We left the highway and dropped in to see this quaint fishing and boating haven whilst travelling south to the Sunshine Coast. Tin Can Bay is also renowned for dolphin sighting at Norman Point, normally between 7.30 and 8 a.m.  

Tin Can Bay Harbour

Prawns, scallops and spanner crabs are all caught in this area with many destined for the overseas market.  We also saw a number of houseboats moored in the Bay demonstrating the range of water activities that draw people to the live and holiday in the area.

View from Les Lee Park, Tin Can Bay

Rainbow Beach

We took another diversion to Rainbow Beach another lovely seaside village known for fishing, boating, surfing. prawning and crabbing. 

Rainbow Beach is also known as the main entry point to Fraser Island due to the short ferry ride from Inskip Point.    Its where we crossed a number of years ago to spend 5 days on this amazing Island.

The town of Rainbow Beach has grown substantially since we last visited and there is now a range of shops, accommodation and activities to enjoy.

Fishing at Inskip Point,  Rainbow Beach

We were surprised at the extent of camping areas that line the road as you drive to Inskip Point.         These looked like amazing camping sites shaded by cypress pines and other trees and shrubs in walking distance to the beach and close to the town of Rainbow Beach. 

The coloured sands at Inskip Point (once known as Black Beach) are explained in the Kaby Dreaming story of Yiningie, the spirit of the gods, who often took the form of a rainbow. Yiningie was killed in a fight when he crashed into cliffs and his spirit coloured the sands.   

Ferry crossing from Fraser Island to Inskip Point

 More information about Inskip Point

A glimpse of Fraser Island

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Melbourne for free

Melbourne is the capital city of Victoria and has some of the best restaurants and coffee in Australia. The city is a regular winner of the Worlds best city to live in; an assessment we certainly agree with! 

There are loads of things to do in Melbourne for free depending on what interests you.

Botanical Gardens

If you love the outdoors take a walk in the Botanical Gardens which are located to the south of Melbourne along St KIlda Road. To get to the Gardens from the city you need to cross the Yarra River via Princes Bridge.  The Bridge itself is built on the oldest river crossing in Australia with the present Bridge being built in 1888 and now listed on the Victoria Heritage Register. I love these historic lamps which are a feature of the bridge and surrounding areas.

Princes Bridge

The Botanical Gardens cover a staggering 36 hectares and have more than 50,000 plants across a range of garden settings. There are wetlands, a children's garden and the fascinating Gulifoyle's volcano which was built in 1876 to store the water needed to maintain the Gardens.

Also worth a visit are the Tropical Hothouse, the Herbarium Discovery Walk and the Melbourne Observatory and Cafe.  

 What's on in the Gardens 

Shrine of Remembrance

Located further along St Kilda Road and within the Botanical Gardens is the Shrine of Remembrance which was built for the grieving community after extensive losses in the First World War.  It now serves as a memorial to the men and women who have served our nation in both war and peacekeeping operations.   

The Shrine and the Eternal Flame

The Shrine is on a bend in the road and acts like a beacon drawing you towards it as you wander down St Kilda Road. Besides admiring the beautiful architecture of the Shrine there are a range of exhibitions including the Gallery of Medals, Books of Remembrance and audio visual displays.  

An interesting fact about the Shrine is that light shines into the Sanctuary each year on Remembrance Day (11 November) directly onto the Stone of Remembrance illuminating the word "love" at exactly 11 a.m.  Its an amazing feat as the location of the aperture was decided after extensive astronomical and mathematical calculations taking into consideration the location of the sun over the next 5,000 years.

City of Melbourne from the Shrine
The Shrine is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. What's on at the Shrine. 

National Gallery of Victoria

If its culture that interests you visit the National Gallery of Victoria. 

The Gallery's collection is split across 2 sites the International Gallery which is l
ocated a short walk from Southbank on St Kilda  Road and opposite the Botanical Gardens and the Ian Potter Centre located at Federation Square.

National Gallery of Victoria

The International Gallery houses an extensive collection from Europe, Asia, America and Oceania including works by old masters and new acquisitions.

Some of my favourites are Eugene von Guerard and John Brack but I love to just explore and enjoy the wide range on display. The NGV also has regular feature exhibitions but you normally have to pay to attend these.

There is also Children's Gallery  where kid's can explore and learn about art.

What's on at the Gallery

The International Gallery is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Tuesdays when its closed.

Ian Potter Centre

The Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square house the NGV's Australian art collection with both indigenous and non indigenous art covering the colonial period until the present day. There are over 20 galleries across multiple floors. 

The Centre also has special exhibitions and educations programs and encourages people from all walks of life to enjoy art.

The Ian Potter Centre is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Mondays when its closed.

Federation Square

From free concerts, to major sporting events on large screens to other quirky activities Federation Square is a hub of activity at all times of the night and day.  Federation Square is located on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets 

Federation Square

You'll also find a Visitor Information Centre where you can obtain a wide range of tourist information.

What's on at Federation Square

Melbourne Town Hall

Take a free tour of the Melbourne Town Hall and experience the grandure of the building, Council Chambers and view the carved grand organ.  

Tours run week days at 11 a.m. noon 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Book via email.

State Library of Victoria

The Library is the State's largest public reference library with a collection that includes ephemera, artworks, audio and video files, digitised copies of works, music scores, books and more.

You can visit the Library to watch films, listen to music, browse newspapers or magazines, play chess or computer games. 

The Library's architecture, stautes and murals also make it worthwhile visiting. My favourite is the dome ceiling in the reading room which is very impressive.

The Library is open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

What's on at the State Library

Melbourne's laneways

Hosier Lane

Melbourne's laneways are not only famous for cafes but also for the street art which is constantly changing. Visit Hosier Lane, Union Lane and Cocker Alley if you're interested.


Birrarung Marr

Birrarung Marr is another parkland close to the city and located on the north bank of the Yarra River past Federation Square. The park's playground is always open.

Fitzroy Gardens

Captain Cook's Cottage

The Fitzroy Gardens are located north along Flinders Street on the outskirts of the city.The Gardens include the Conservatory with a beautiful indoor floral display, the Fairies' Tree, a model Tudor Village and a range of fountains and statues.

If you like history Captain Cook's Cottage might be of interest, whilst not free entry is only $5 for adults and $2.50 for children.

The Cottage was originally located in the village of Great Ayton Yorkshire but was purchased in 1933 by Russell Grimwade and dismantled and shipped to Melbourne opening in October 1934.

Captain Cook's Cottage is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.


Southbank located on the southside of the Yarra River is a great place to enjoy free entertainment from street buskers and artists on the weekend and most evenings. It also provides a great location for photos with its views across the Yarra to the city.

Block Arcade

The Block Arcade retains the beauty of a 19th century shopping arcade.  You can just wander the Arcade and enjoy the architecture or there are a range of boutiques and cafes decorated in heritage style. The Hopetoun Tea Rooms are a favourite and there are often long queues of people waiting to experience its a fare.

The Arcade is located at 280 - 292  Collins Street and runs through to Elizabeth Street.  Open from 8 a.m. most days (9 a.m. on Sunday). The Arcade closes at 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, Friday at 9 p.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends. 

Getting around

For a free ride around Melbourne the City Circle Tram ,  is an easily recognisable maroon coloured tram that runs in both directions on the outskirts of the city.  Frequency is approximately every 12 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Sunday to Wednesday and between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday (except Christmas Day and Good Friday).

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Canberra - Australia's capital

Most capital cities are large but that's not the case with Australia's capital Canberra. This difference is historical as when the States of Australia agreed to form a Federation in 1901 neither NSW or Victoria (who were the largest cities at the time) would agree on the other city being chosen. So Canberra was selected due to its proximity to both Melbourne and Sydney.

Canberra was originally the home of the Ngunnawal people who occupied the land for 21,000 years as evidenced by rock paintings at Namadgi National Park and Birrigai Rock Shelter at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

A competition to design the capital was won by American Architect Walter Burley Griffin.     Influenced by both the City Beautiful and Garden City movements of the time; Burley Griffin designed a city with a large man made lake at the centre, green areas, wide boulevards and formal parks with water features.

Lake Burley Griffin

The original Parliament House was opened in 1927 and served Parliament until 1988 when a new and modern Parliament House replaced it. Today old Parliament House is a tourist attraction featuring a museum  dedicated to telling the story of Australian democracy.

Old Parliament House

On the land opposite old Parliament House is the site of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy which was established in 1972 as a protest to the Government's refusal to recognise Aboriginal Land rights.  

Site of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy

New Parliament House, built on the top of a hill, dominates the skyline and can be seen from many surrounding locations. 

Visit Parliament House when Parliament is in session and you can see our Politicians at work. Parliament House also has an amazing collection of art and  is a venue for many functions.

New Parliament House

Heritage listed Government House is the home of the Queen's representative in Australia the Governor General. Surrounded by 54 hectares of grounds the House is used for many official occasions including receptions, dinners for visiting Royalty and functions for community and special needs groups.

Government House

As the location of the Commonwealth Government Canberra tends to be a city that many people commute which makes many people think Canberra is a boring place to visit. I don't agree there is so much to see. 

National Gallery of Australia

On the cultural side visit the National Gallery of Australia with more than 100,000 works of art including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, Australian art and international art.

View of the road between the National Gallery of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery of Australia

At the National Portrait Gallery you can view portraits of more than 400 people who have shaped Australia's history, diversity and culture.

The Australian War Memorial commemorates the sacrifice of the men and women who served Australia in war. There is an enormous amount of history to explore and the Hall of Memory with the tomb of the unknown soldier evokes a sadness and respect for what the memorial represents.

High Court of Australia

Questacon is Australia's National Science and Technology Centre and a fantastic place to visit if you are holidaying with children. There are regular exhibits, displays and lots of hands on activities that provide a fun learning experience. 

There are many other interesting buildings in Canberra including a range of Embassies many designed to visually represent their home nation.

The Eagle

Memorials are also a regular sight like the Australian-American Memorial symbolises the strong relationship between these 2 countries. Its located on the forecourt of the Defence Offices.

From a nature and the outdoors perspective I like the Australian National Botanical Gardens which include a range of beautiful plants. Various garden designs represent a Rainforest Gully, Rock Garden, Eucalypt Lawn and Mallee Shrub lands. 

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve provides a great spot for a picnic or BBQ lunch.  You may also see a range of wildlife including kangaroos, koalas, possums and the endangered Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby.  Tidbinbilla also is the location of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex which was a real surprise as it features  a number of "big dish" antennas that receive data from and transmit commands to a wide variety of spacecraft.

Burbury Hotel 

I stay at the Burbury Hotel located in the Realm precinct. The Realm Hotel located across the road is also a great option. 

Eat in Kingston or Manuka.

Great shopping at the Fyshwick Markets or DFO also located in Fyshwick. 

For more information see Canberra Tourism

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Journey across the Kimberleys WA

One of Australia's amazing journeys is to travel across the Kimberleys on the Gibb River Road. The trek naturally starts from Kununurra,  which is in East Kimberley just inside Western Australia's border with the Northern Territory. Its a lovely outback town with a range of facilities making it a natural base to travel to the Ord River Region, Bungle Bungles (Purnululu National Park) or stock up before heading onto the journey across the Kimberleys to Broome.

Aboriginal rock art located west of Kununurru 
courtesy Tourism Western Australia

The first humans to inhabit the East Kimberley area were the Mirriwung Gajjerong people with signs of their habitation dating back 40-60,000 years ago.  Early European settlers took more than 3.5 years and suffered severe hardship to establish cattle stations in the area. They were lured by the belief that the area was fertile,no doubt due to the massive Ord River which is 320 kilometres long and has a catchment area of 46,100 square kilometres. 

Aboriginal rock art located west of Kununurru 
courtesy Tourism Western Australia

Damming the Ord created one of the main attractions of the area,  Lake Argyle, which is the largest man made lake in Australia. The Lake provides a range of activities including fishing, boating and the chance to see a range of birds and animals.  Another option is to take a scenic flight over the Lake often part of a scenic flight to the Bungle Bungles.

Ord River courtesy Tourism Western Australia

We then headed down the Great Northern Highway and then off-road  to Purnululu National Park where we camped for a number of days.  The Bungle Bungles were truly amazing from the ground and also from the air. We took a 20 minute helicopter flight from the NP and seeing them from the air provided a totally different insight into the beauty of these amazing sandstone structures.  Cathedral Gorge, took my breath away, the colours of Echinda Chasm and Piccaninny walk were also hightlights of our short stay. 

Bungle Bungles Purnululu National Park
 courtesy Tourism Western Australia

We returned to Kununurra for a night to stock up before heading west across the Kimberleys. Route choice will depend on the type of vehicle and whether you're towing a trailer or caravan with full off road capability. We were well equipped and towing a 4WD camper trailer so headed to the Gibb River Road as it enables you to experience a much larger range of gorges. Before heading out you should check the latest road conditions as they change regularly and the road is closed at times during the year.

We spent a number of nights at El Questro Wilderness Park which was a lovely spot to explore the many natural jewels the Park has to offer. We camped in the campgrounds so didn't experience the Homestead but I understand it is an amazing experience, but very expensive.

El Questro Homestead 
courtesy Tourism Western Australia

My favourite walk was the El Questro Trail a walk that  takes about 3 hours along a narrow creek, through fern clad escapements, at points wading through water and easy rock climbs to end at a stunning waterfall where we swam and relaxed before heading back to camp for the night. 

View from the Cockburn Range located on El Questro
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

Another great activity is visiting Zebedee Springs which are natural thermal springs located after a short walk through dense tropical vegetation. Relaxing in the pools surrounded by sheer cliffs and palms was an refreshing experience.  Its a good idea to time your visit between the tour groups so you have a chance for quiet relaxation.

Zebedee Springs
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

Taking a boat cruise of Chamberlain Gorge was another highlight of our visit. Surrounded by dramatic towering escarpments the Gorge can only be accessed by boat. Besides the natural beauty of the Gorge we saw a diverse range of wildlife including rock wallabies. Another great day making it difficult to leave El Questro Wilderness Park but the rest of the Kimberleys beckoned. 

Termite mounds courtesy Tourism Western Australia

We headed to Drysdale River Station on the Mitchell Plateau bound for Mitchell Falls. The Station was a big surprise, not only did it have a camp ground and showers but the pub served the most amazing burger. The Kimberley Burger made with Kimberley beef was served with the lot including beetroot, pineapple, lettuce, tomato and so much more that it needed a skewer to hold it in place.  

We headed from Drydale River Station to King Edward River to camp overnight before heading the next morning to Mitchell Falls. The road to the Falls was very slow going but the trip was worthwhile as the falls were stunning. We walked to the falls and then took a short helicopter flight back to the base which meant we enjoyed the falls from both perspectives.

The Mitchell River area is important for the Wunambal people who have lived there for thousands of years. The area is also rich in rock art sites many which have remained untouched for thousands of years.    We continued north on the Mitchell Plateau to Kalumburu the northern most aboriginal settlement in Australia. When we arrived at the general store the local children flocked around us, very friendly and wanting to know what footy team we barracked for!

Courtesy Tourism WA

We camped at a remote beach camp-site run by one of the Kalumburu families. Camping facilities were basic but it was amazing camping so close to the Timor Sea. Crocodiles could be seen swimming in the water just off shore so it certainly wasn't the type of beach where you would jump in for a swim! The traditional owner took us on a boat ride to obtain local oysters which were huge and delicious.

From the Mitchell Plateau we headed back to the Gibb River Road and spent a number of days visiting a range of Gorges including Barnett River Gorge (great waterhole for swimming),  Bells Gorge (our favourite), Tunnel Creek (make sure you have a good torch), Windjana Gorge (where dozens of fresh water crocodiles basked in the sun as we strolled alongside) before heading to Fitzroy Crossing and civilisation.

Windjana Gorge National Park
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

At Fitzroy Crossing we had a chance to restock and take a boat tour of Geikie Gorge. Our guide was a local aboriginal man who provided great insights into the area. The lands and valleys surrounding Fitzroy Crossing were home to the Bunuba, Gooiyandi, Nyigina and Walamakarri people.  The limestone was originally a reef formed by algae and lime secreting organism which are now extinct. The volume of water that flows through the Fitzroy River during the wet season must be amazing as indicated by the colour variations on the walls of the Gorge.

Geikie Gorge
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

From Fitzroy Crossing we headed along the highway to Derby which is located on tidal flats on the edge of King Sound.  A long jetty was constructed in 1885 to service the growing needs of nearby the farmers.  Due to the tidal flats the jetty extends a long way from the land. Fishing is popular and we purchased fish and chips from a shop located at the start of the jetty.

Boab Tree
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

The boab tree is a major attraction to the area. They are huge, interesting and at times have been used to house various things, the most famous being a prison boab used in the 1890's to lockup aboriginal prisoners on their way to Derby for sentencing. 

From Derby we headed to the most western point of our journey Broome known for its  beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets.

Staircase to the Moon Roebuck Bay
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

We camped at Roebuck Bay which is the only caravan park in Broome located on the beach.  Roebuck Bay is also famous for the staircase to the moon, which is a natural phenomenon that occurs between March and October when the full moon rises over exposed mud flats. We weren't lucky enough to see it but understand its a spectacular sight.

Camel ride at sunset Broome
Courtesy Tourism Western Australia

Cable Beach at sunset is the place to be, whether you're relaxing at the Sunset Bar at Cable Beach Resort, riding a camel or just sitting on the beach the sunsets are stunning. An amazing end to any day.

Gantheaume Point is also an spectacular spot to visit where the red cliffs meet the ocean and more than 120 million years ago dinosaurs roamed. Dinosaur footprints can been seen at very low tide, the reef area is fragile so care needs to be taken. Also at the Point is Anastasia's Pool a round pool built by a former lighthouse keeper who built it for his wife who was crippled by arthritis.

Broome has a rich pearling history you can buy pearls in various shops, or take a historic journey on a pearling lugger. Broome has many other attractions including fishing, diving and a Japanese cemetery.  Its an amazing town to spend a week or so relaxing after such an amazing journey.