It’s the symbol of the Australian Outback. A monolithic 348-metre mound of blood orange sandstone thrusting from an otherwise flat and desolate expanse of desert. Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, has been a sacred Aboriginal site for some 10,000 years and, unsurprisingly, today it enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status. Tens of thousands of tourists flock to the rock each year to soak up its transfixing magnificence, to delve into the local Aboriginal history, to check another destination off their bucket list, and to embark on the hike of a lifetime.
Yet as with many wonders of the natural world (and many things Australian), simply reaching Uluru is a feat in itself, never mind hiking around its 10.6 km circumference. Located in the southwest corner of the Northern Territory, the rock is most easily accessed from the famous town of Alice Springs, which is approximately a five hour drive away, so it is by no means an attraction that lends itself to spontaneity.
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is teeming with outdoor activities from scenic flights to camel tours, but one of the best ways to enjoy the area and of course the iconic Ayers Rock, is to amble one of the many hiking routes. Here is a selection of some of the most popular: Continue reading
I have been a huge fan of the travel writer Bill Bryson since an unusually young age, first devouring ‘A Walk in the Woods’ (an account of his journey along the Appalachian Trail) at the age of fourteen. His dry wit, uncanny observations, and unique ability to make the most mundane morsels of information immensely fascinating, is something I continue to enjoy to this day.
In his almost 30-year-long career, Bryson has embarked on countless travels throughout his native America, across Europe, and around Great Britain, dissecting each country and its characteristics with spirit and humour. However, one of my favourite of his books continues to be his journey to Australia, where he explores its people, cities, coastlines, and the infamous Outback with all the intense curiosity expected of a foreigner relatively unacquainted with the country. Bryson proves positively intrigued by everything from the deadliness of Australia’s wildlife, to the mind-bogglingly remote location of Outback towns, to the seemingly bizarre decision to make Canberra its capital city. Thus, the reader is offered a rich and laugh-out-loud education in the Australian way of life, in the form of a page-turning outsider’s insight into the world’s sixth largest country.
‘Down Under’ by Bill Bryson (source: images.gr-assets.com)
No summer is complete if you haven’t spent a large portion of it ploughing through a page-turning thriller. This year I chose The Dry by Jane Harper – a gripping murder mystery set in small-town Australia. After a farmer turns a gun on his family and then himself, a journey to uncover the truth behind the deaths commences. Named ‘Crime Book of the Month’ by the Sunday Times, and branded a ‘breathless page-turner’ by the New York Times, I was expecting a riveting read, and I didn’t find myself disappointed.
Harper wastes no time in setting the scene with a quintessential representation of the Australian Outback. We are met with a blistering drought, clusters of scrawny livestock, and the tiny town of Kiewarra shimmering beneath a scorching sky. Not only is it deadly hot, and eerily remote, but in an isolated farmhouse just out of town lies the bloodied remains of the Hadler family, attracting clouds of blowflies.
Enter our protagonist. Born and bred in Kiewarra, policeman Aaron Falk finds himself returning to the backwoods town after what seems like a lifetime, having been forced to relocate to Melbourne following the suspicious death of his friend Ellie two decades ago. Thinking he’d put history firmly behind him, Falk is about to find himself revisiting some of his most stifled memories.
‘The Dry’ by Jane Harper (source: janeharper.com.au)
Bryon Bay is one of Australia’s best known beach side towns, and acclaimed for being a surfing hotspot. It is located in northern New South Wales (NSW) on Australia’s east coast, around a 3-hour drive from Brisbane airport. Though Bryon Bay is a haven for surfers, it also hosts excellent scuba diving sites and is home to a conservation park headland complete with the famous white lighthouse. During certain times of the year, humpback whale migrations can also be watched from viewpoints such as the Captain Cook Lookout, or aboard tour boats.
We spent a long weekend soaking up the sights and sounds of Bryon as well as exploring the surrounding hinterland and smaller, quirkier places hidden among the hills. Bryon is a beautiful town and has become even more popular thanks to the frequent cycle of backpackers and weekend visitors. However, this has caused huge traffic problems in the Central Business District. As Bryon Bay is a place famous for its natural beauty and its ability to keep mining and excessive development away, many people felt that such heavy traffic was contributing to its loss of identity, and a lot of effort has since been put into keeping the town pristine and still attracting its visitors. Continue reading
During the heat of the summer holidays last year, my partner and I took a two week long trip down the East Coast of Australia. We set out from Brisbane with just our car, a tent, two surfboards and an esky. We had vague plans of stopping to stay with friends along the way but it was a liberating feeling to start out with a ‘let’s just wing it’ attitude.
I have close family friends who own property near Bendigo in Victoria and we planned to spend a big New Year’s party with them around the pool, and in the surrounding country. Living in the city can really put a strain on the most patient of us, and we both needed a break and a chance to change routine.
The distance from Brisbane to Melbourne, for those not familiar with the size of Australia, is about a 20 hour drive, and we had plenty of sights to stop at along the way. The coast road is the most scenic for tourists and provides the beaches, national parks and taste of seaside living that most visitors crave. We stopped in Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and arrived near Newcastle on the first day to stay with friends who lived right on the beach.
Shoal Harbour and the beaches near the city of Newcastle and further down towards the Central Coast of New South Wales are pristine, safe, and very close to hiking trails through national parks. For visitors who want to camp, there is a $5 app called Wikicamps which provides information on all of the free camp spots throughout Australia, complete with directions on how to get there and the services offered at each site. There is also an excellent book called ‘Camps: Australia Wide’ by Philip and Cathryn Fennell which gives useful information on camp grounds, some free, some not, and a lot of pictures to help readers find that perfect spot.
We took mostly inland roads on the way down and there are so many camps to stop at along the way, which is by far the cheapest and most interesting way to see Australia. Driving can be boring, but it is flexible and gives the opportunity to stop whenever and wherever you like! Continue reading