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City Profile : Newcastle

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We had an awesome time in Newcastle.  The city had a lot to offer in terms of scenery, museums and history, and there were plenty of yummy things to eat and drink.  We got to experience a range of conditions from brilliantly sunny to miserably cold and wet, and looking for all the funky street art around town was fun.


We also got to share our dorm at the Newcastle Beach YHA with the most excellent and generous bloke, Blake, who shared his honey bourbon with us and started an incredible night of storytelling that left us feeling a little seedy in the morning.  Unfortunately, he had gone by the time we woke up, but we will never forget him and we officially dedicate our $100 Day in Sydney to him.


Fast Facts

  • Newcastle is Australia’s second oldest city, the second most populated area in NSW and is the biggest city in the Hunter Region.
  • People from Newcastle are called Novocastrians.
  • It’s the largest coal exporting harbour in the world.
  • Lots of famous people come from Newcastle – some include former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins, the band Silverchair, and one hit wonder Yahoo Serious, who has disappeared from the face of the earth after that terribly quirky film Young Einstein, which was also filmed in Newcastle.


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Originally called Malubimba by the traditional owners, the Newcastle region was first discovered in 1797 by an English naval officer who was out looking for some runaway convicts who had stolen a ship from Sydney Cove.  He sailed into the Hunter River and after a bit of exploration, he reported back about a place with a deep water port and abundant coal.  In 1799, Newcastle recorded its first export of coal when 50 tonnes of the black stuff was shipped to Bengal via Sydney in the vessel ‘The Hunter’.


Unfortunately, Newcastle didn’t always have such a great reputation.  It used to be a penal colony where all the dangerous criminals were sent to work in the coal mines.  It was an awful place where harsh punishment was dished out frequently and conditions were terrible.  Newcastle remained a penal colony until 1823 when farming was introduced to the area.  Military rule was replaced with a free pioneer settlement.


Things to See & Do

It’s an absolute pleasure to walk around Newcastle.  It has such a great mixture of new and old.  Search for colourful street art while you admire the heritage buildings, and everything is within walking distance or on the free bus loop.



Civic Park has a beautiful fountain and is sandwiched between the Newcastle Art Gallery and City Hall. Nearby is Darby Street, a bustling little precinct with cafes and restaurants.  A short walk away is Queens Wharf along the Hunter River, as well as Hunter Street Mall.


Lock Up Cultural Centre

An old police station and prison that has been turned into an art gallery.  Wander through the cells of the heritage building while you browse the art, keeping in mind that the venue’s original use ceased in 1982.


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Christ Church Cathedral

If you enjoy a church, then by all means visit this one.  There is plenty to see – pretty stained glass windows, custom embroidered prayer cushions, beautiful architecture, and there’s even a hole in the floor where you can view the foundation stone.


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Newcastle Museum

One of the best museums we’ve visited on our journey.  There’s an eye-popping giant illuminated earth overhead as you enter an awesome interactive science display.  Play with magnets, lift cars and create tornadoes while you learn stuff!


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There’s also a great display on the history of the area where we learnt about the devastating 1989 earthquake that rocked Newcastle, and the industry exhibition gave insight into the regions coal mining and BHP steel production works.


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Coastal Highlights

There is plenty to see along the coast.  If you start from Nobby’s Lighthouse and Breakwall, which seems to be a popular exercise spot amongst the locals, and head south along the east coast, you’ll walk past a few landmarks.


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Fort Scratchly sits atop the hill and overlooks Nobby’s Beach – it was a commanding post built in 1882 to protect the city again Russian attack.  However, the guns weren’t used until WW2 when Japanese submarines fired on Newcastle.


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Further down is Newcastle Ocean Baths, a historic site that opened in 1922.  It has a beautiful art deco façade and the pools overlook the ocean.  The day we walked past, we were lucky to see a whale not far from the shore.


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The Obelisk

With origins dating back to 1819, the obelisk started out as a windmill that ground flour.  Its position not only allowed the windmill to catch the wind and grind flour at great speeds, it also became a landmark for sailors along the coast.  In 1847, the windmill was sold and sailors were pissed off because their marker was missing, so in 1850, the local government erected the Obelisk.


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Over the years, the Obelisk has been damaged by lightning strikes, and an explosion caused by a gas leak ignited by two girls playing with fireworks.  These days, it’s a great place to get a panoramic view of the city.


Bogey Hole

Despite seeming quite dangerous, Bogie Hole is a popular swimming spot amongst the locals.  It’s one of Australia’s oldest ocean sea baths, carved out by convicts in 1820.  It used to be known as the Commandant’s Baths but colloquially became known as Bogey Hole from a native word for ‘to bathe’.


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Food & Drink

Foghorn Brewery

Serving directly from the tank to the tap, the Foghorn Brewery produces a great selection of craft beers in a big warehouse-style space.  Dave enjoyed the Sligo Extra Stout with its rich coffee and chocolate flavours and balanced bitterness while Juz liked the big 7% Belgio Blonde, which was ridiculously drinkable with fruit and yeast characteristics.


Harry’s Café De Wheels

This historic Novocastrian icon started back in the 1930s as Harry’s, with humble ‘pies ‘n’ peas’ that were popular with sailors, soldiers, taxi drivers and policemen.  The café operated until 1938 when Harry was sent to the war, where he earned his nickname, Tiger (hence the signature dish of a pie topped with potatoes, peas and gravy).  When he returned to Newcastle, he reopened his café and renamed it Harry’s Café de Wheels because council regulation required mobile food vans to move at least 12 inches a day.  Over the years, many celebrities have visited Harry’s – Brooke Shields, Frank Sinatra, Russell Crowe, Elton John, Anthony Bourdain, even Colonel Sanders!


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We stumbled across Harry’s during a massive walk around the city to shake off our hangover from the night before. The timing was perfectly aligned with lunchtime so we stopped for a Pie & Peas, as well as a Hot Dog de Wheels, complete with mushy peas, chilli con carne, garlic onions and stripes of cheese sauce and chilli sauce.  Neither fancy nor gourmet, but totally delicious.


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The Grand Hotel

For a cheap lunch, you can’t go past the Grand Hotel.  Dave scored the $10 chicken schnitzel with chips and salad while Juz paid a little extra for the New York sandwich with fries – tangy and juicy with just enough chips.  Both were absolutely delicious and satisfied our midday hunger.


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While we were there, one of the bartenders came out and told us about his motorcycle trip around Australia.  It’s always great to hear about other people’s travels, but we were amazed that he did the whole lot in only two months!


Good Brother Espresso Shop

A cute little café that makes a great coffee, and even offers blankets to customers sitting outside during winter.  How nice!


Information & Accommodation

Free public transport is available in Newcastle.  Catch any blue and white State Transit bus within the inner city zone between 7:30am and 6pm for FREE!  For more information, visit the City of Newcastle website.


For friendly accommodation that is centrally located, book yourself in at the Newcastle Beach YHA.  It’s located on Pacific Street within an historic building, complete with a grand wooden staircase and chesterfield couches.  For more information, check out their website.


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Town Profile : Byron Bay

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Byron Bay sits on the easternmost point of Australia about 165km south of Brisbane.  It has a permanent population of around 5,000 people but during the peak season, it can triple as tourists and holiday makers flood in to enjoy the laid back atmosphere, great surfing and various alternative gatherings, music festivals and beautiful hinterland amongst sub-tropical rainforest, which are part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia.  Byron Bay gets around 1.7 million visitors a year, with many of those people returning to make their experience more permanent.


The streets of Byron were a little more commercial than what we were expecting.  There were trendy clothing shops on most streets, and a great selection of cafes and burger joints.  This meant that amongst the hippies, surfers and backpackers, which are part of the scenery, you also had a population of trendies – beautiful people in their expensive clothes who come to Byron because it’s cool.  For us, it was this element of Byron that destroyed our romantic idea of the place.


While in Byron, we stayed with some friends we made in Cairns.  Jill & Phillip were a wealth of knowledge about the unspoken rules of the town.  Pedestrians and cyclists reign, and any hint of arrogant driving or road rage was expected to be countered with a tirade of slurs, so we were always careful when driving through town to avoid disturbing the peace.  We also made a trip out into the Hinterland to stay with Dave’s cousin Melinda and her housemate.  They lived on a farm with an incredible view of the valley.  Their little portion of the property included a wonderful edible garden and chickens, which we got to meet in the morning.


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Lieutenant James Cook named Byron Bay in 1770 after John Byron, a Royal Navy officer that was also known as Foul-weather Jack due to his frequent run-ins with bad weather.  The first industry of the area was cedar logging, with gold mining on the beach to follow in the 1870s.  By 1876, cattle grazing was also established, contributing to dairy products and abattoirs, and they even hunted whales until 1963.


With the arrival of longboard surfers in the 1960s, Byron Bay’s tourism industry took off.  In 1973, the nearby town of Nimbin held the Aquarius Festival and that’s when hippies and alternative people came to the area and decided to stay.


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Things to Do and See

Cape Byron Headland Reserve

This is a must do for anyone visiting Byron Bay.  Apart from being the easternmost point of Australia, the reserve is reputed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.  It features rainforest, rugged cliffs, beautiful beaches and lookouts that are perfect for whale watching.  Atop the headland is Cape Byron Lighthouse, a frensel lens lighthouse that was erected in 1901 and is the first of its kind in Australia.


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Because Jill and Philip were staying close to the Cape, we frequently rose to catch sunrise from one of the lookouts.  Fisherman’s lookout was a great spot that overlooks Watego Beach, so it’s great for watching surfers as well.  The Eastern Lookout at the easternmost point of Australia is the real treat though.


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The Wreck & Main Beach

The Wreck is a surf spot on Belongil Beach of Byron Bay, named after the Wollongbar wreck that sank during a cyclone in 1922.  It’s best to see the wreck at low tide as it’s 30 metres from the shore, but if you’re surfing, wait for high tide.


Main Beach is a great swimming beach that is patrolled during the summer.  When we visited, a crowd had gathered to watch an artist rake pretty patterns in the sand.


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Food & Drink

Beloporto Burgers

We’d heard about this place online but weren’t expecting much until we were starving one night.  The place isn’t flash – it’s just a vendor out of a window in an arcade, but they sure know how to make a chicken burger at the right price.


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Stone & Wood Brewery

This place brews some of the yummiest beer we’ve tasted on our travels.  We were stoked to get a tasting paddle of five beers for $10 – what a bargain.  Juz’s favourites were the Lager, with its bready flavours and fruity hops, and the Hefeweizen, a delicious yeasty beer with great fruit flavours.  Dave was keen on the Garden Ale, a darker beer with coffee and toffee flavours, a subtle hint of stone fruit and a rich malt aftertaste.


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While we visited the original brewery in Byron Bay, a place saved for small batch brews and limited releases, most of the beers are produced in their new brewery in Murwillumbah.


Byron Bay Brewery

The Byron Bay Brewery is located in a building that used to be a piggery back in 1898.  During the 1970s, the place was purchased by a musician and renovated to be a cool venue for live music called the Piggery, hosting the first three East Coast Blues festivals. The Brewery is also home to the Pighouse Flicks, a lounge cinema that shows classic and art house films.


We paid a visit just in time for lunch and ordered a tasting paddle with the Tuesday meal special – chicken schnitzel with chips and salad for $9.50.  Juz splashed out and got the parma toppings for an additional $3.  The value was pretty good, with a decent sized schnitzel and beautiful chips, but the parma was stacked poorly and the tomato sauce wasn’t great.  On the other hand, the tasting paddle was great, but because they were out of one of the brews, we got two Pale Ales to make up the six.  This worked out well because the Pale Ale was Dave’s favourite while Juz preferred the Pale Lager.


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After our lunch, we got to meet the new brewer, Alistair, who was ploughing through his second day at the brewery.  We had a chat about the operations at the brewery – the hot side is where the brewing starts, and the goods usually stay there for around a day before it’s moved to the fermentation centre, where the beer brews for between 10 days to three weeks.  The brewery has a capacity of about 8000L and a variety of hops are used for different beers to provide a broad range of flavours.  Alistair had come from a brewery in South Africa, and had exciting plans for the Byron Bay Brewery – we look forward to see how he makes his mark at the brewery.


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Bayleaf Café

We unexpectedly got a visit from Lucy in Ipswich as she was road tripping with her army friends down the coast.  We stopped in at Bayleaf Café for a coffee and found their jar glassware adorable.


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Byron Bay Hinterland


We felt a little bit uncomfortable in Nimbin.  We knew it was the alternative living, pot-smoking hippie capital of Australia, but we never imagined it would be so in your face!  Yes, it was colourful – every shop was painted with a mural and sold rainbow coloured clothing – but the sweet smell of incense hid nothing.


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The drug dealing was blatant, as if they were trying to sell oranges at the fresh food market – “Marijjuanaaa! Are you right for marijuanaaa?!” Even if we were going to buy weed, it wouldn’t be from the deros calling out to us from across the street.


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We did one quick lap of town, ducked into the Hemp Embassy and browsed through the scratchy clothing and colourful paraphernalia, then left.  The coolest thing we saw was a python slithering across the road – completely unfazed by a big Troopy roaring up the road towards it.


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Lismore’s history dates as far back as 1843, and it’s the regional centre of the Northern Rivers region.  There is a lot of heritage in the town, like the Queen Victoria Fountain of 1898.  It originally stood outside the Gollan Hotel but was moved after WW1 and fully restored as a drinking fountain in 2004.  The Post Office across the road is also from 1898, and was a functioning post office until 1992.


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While we were in town, we also visited the Rainforest Gardens near the town’s poop factory.  While it didn’t smell great and seemed like a work in progress, we were fascinated with the “useful plants” section, which featured various native medicinal plants and foods.


Information & Accommodation

The Byron Bay Information Centre is located on Jonson Street in front of the Railway Friendly Bar.


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A great accommodation choice is the Byron Bay YHA on Carlisle Street.  It’s centrally located and conveniently close to the supermarket, beach and various eateries and pubs.  For more information, visit their website. There is also the Nimbin Rox YHA in the Byron Hinterland.  It is located in the bush near Nimbin – for more information, visit the website.


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Cape York

Top 5 Things About Queensland



We crossed the border into Queensland at the beginning of September 2014, and didn’t leave the sunshine state until June 2015.  In the ten months that we spent in Queensland, we drove through the outback, went to the northern tip of Australia, spent time in the rainforests, got jobs in Cairns, watched the sugar cane whirl by, and soaked up the sun along the sandy beaches.


Here are our favourite things about Queensland:


Prehistoric Past

Queensland’s prehistoric past includes dinosaurs, volcanoes and megafauna.  During our time in the outback, we hopped on the dinosaur trail and visited the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton.  It was absolutely fascinating to learn about the dinosaurs that used to live on Australian soil – Banjo the carnivorous theropod and Matilda the sauropod.


Australian Age of Dinosaurs


Further north in Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill) are the World Heritage fossils of Riversleigh, which date back 25 million years.  We got to see even more dinosaurs at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane.  They have a regular dinosaur exhibition that includes information about the dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry.


Lawn Hill


As we headed towards the coast, we stopped at Undara Volcanic National Park and saw the incredible lava tubes that formed nearly 200,000 years ago.  We saw more evidence of volcanic activity as we travelled east.  Mount Hypipamee Crater and the Crater Lakes on the Atherton Tablelands were all created by volcanic activity, while the Glasshouse Mountains in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland are volcanic plugs of hard rock that have been exposed as the surrounding soft rock has eroded over time.


The Tablelands




The rainforests of northern Queensland are a well known paradise, the most famous being the Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest and largest continuous rainforest in the world.  Exploring the area is easy when you base yourself at Port Douglas, and while you’re in the area, Cape Tribulation is worth a visit.


Cape Tribulation


Not far away are the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands.  Right in the heart of the lush forest is Kuranda, which is a beautiful little village with plenty to offer, including a range of fantastic wildlife experiences.  Paronella Park is another magical gem hidden away in the green foliage.


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To the south are the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, an amazing example of subtropical rainforest that has remained unchanged over many millennia.  Part of this world heritage area is Springbrook National Park, where the Antarctic beech trees reside and the Best of All Lookouts offer views of the valley below (but not for us).




Beaches & Coastline

Known as the sunshine state, Queensland is notorious for its beaches.  Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast is a huge beach with a big surf culture.


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Up north on the Cape, after visiting the northernmost point of Australia, we camped at Chilli Beach. The isolation of the area and the row of leaning coconut trees along the beach make it seem like you’re on a deserted island.


Cape York


Just off the coastline of Queensland is the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.  Juz had an opportunity to go out and snorkel on the reef, swim with turtles and get severely sunburnt, but if you’re not a fan of sunburn or getting wet, you can easily see the beautiful fish and corals at Reef HQ in Townsville.


Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling



There are heaps of opportunities to challenge yourself and your 4WD in Queensland.  Our first major obstacle was the Old Telegraph Track on the Cape.  This was so much fun and there were heaps of water crossings, dips and surprises that required keen navigational prowess.


Cape York


Fraser Island was another 4WDing favourite with plenty of sandy tracks to sink your tyres into and a whole highway of beach to cruise on, while Blackdown Tablelands gave us an unexpected opportunity to cross some rough terrain.


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If you want to do nothing else but get loco on the tracks, head to Landcruiser Mountain Park.  This place is dedicated to challenging tracks of varying difficulty, from relatively easy to “ah fuck – I just broke my car”.  Plus, because the map they give you at reception is so shit, you’re bound to get lost and end up on a track that will push your limits.


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Freshwater Fun

Queensland isn’t all about beaches.  There are some beautiful lakes, creeks and waterfalls as well.  In the tropics, waterholes are the perfect spot to cool off and wash the film of sweat from your skin.  Josephine Falls and The Boulders are popular with locals and tourists alike, while Crystal Creek and Jarouma Falls make quite the pretty picture.


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Up in the Atherton Tablelands, the Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit takes you around to three waterfalls set in the rainforest, while Lake Eacham is a beautiful turquoise lake that is great for swimming and kayaking.  Another beautiful plateau is the Blackdown Tableland further south near Mackay.  There are lots of creeks surrounding the camping area but the real beauty is Guddo Gumoo, which is also known as Rainbow Waters.



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In country Queensland, there are three locations that are simply sublime.  Our favourite was Lake Elphinstone, and we were very fortunate to be there on the night of a full moon.  For those who are travelling along the Savannah Way, Lawn Hill Gorge is a beautiful place to get your togs wet, and while we don’t recommend getting into the water at Cobbold Gorge (CROCS!), we do recommend a peaceful boat cruise through the gorge.


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Only 7km north of the border between Queensland and New South Wales is Natural Bridge, set amongst the Gondwana Rainforest.  Natural Bridge is a product of time, as water has washed over the rock, eroding it and creating a hole.


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Cape Leveque

Experience : Dampier Peninsula

Just north of Broome is the Damiper Peninsula, an area known by the local aboriginals as Ardi, which means northeast.  There are several aboriginal communities on the peninsula and you can visit some of them, learn how they used to go fishing and hunting and about bush foods and medicine, family and community.  You will probably have to get a permit or pay an entry fee into the community – feel free to inquire at the Visitor Centre in Broome.


The road in was made of red dirt and as we drove through massive puddles, the Troopy got covered!  The dirt was so red, it looked like a blood bath!



Cape Leveque

This was our primary destination – red cliffs contrasting with pale sand and blue ocean – we were bursting with excitement until we arrived at some resort caravan park and were told that we had to pay $5 each to look around.  We had come about 200km from Broome to see these cliffs, so there was no way we were going to leave without seeing them.



We started our walk at Western Beach, which looks out over the Indian Ocean and is not recommended for swimming.  We walked past the red cliffs, noticing the layers and variation in colours, and ended up at the point of Cape Leveque to see a small island about 100 metres offshore. We would have loved to explore the island.  It too was made of red cliffs and sandy beaches but there were also green plants and palm trees – it looked like a tropical paradise.


As we came down the eastern side of the cape, we stopped at the swimming beach for a dip.  The water was so warm, it was like having a bath!  Juz did some snorkelling amongst the oyster-covered rocks and after a quick freshwater shower, we strolled past the lighthouse towards the Troopy and headed to our next destination.



Beagle Bay

Beagle Bay was named by J. C. Whickham in 1838 as he surveyed the northwest coast aboard the HMS Beagle, the same ship that Charles Darwin was on when he came to Australia. The Nyul Nyul people are traditional owners of the land and they were initially visited by the Trappist Monks from France, who came to Beagle Bay in 1890.  They built a bush monastery and dedicated it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, they learnt the Nyul Nyul language, performed their first baptism in 1896 and began to teach French and Latin before leaving Beagle Bay in 1900.


The French were replaced by the Pallottine Missionaries of Germany, who continued to run the mission for the next 90 years.  When World War One erupted, the German priests and brothers were placed under house arrest with a police guard at the mission.  During this time, they began to build a church as a statement of faith.  It took two years to build from clay bricks and one year to decorate with shells and mother of pearl.  The result is absolutely beautiful.



The Sisters of St John of God arrived from Ireland in 1907 and dedicated themselves to taking care and educating the Stolen Generation children brought to Beagle Bay under government orders.  We were lucky enough to be in Broome while a ‘Relationships’ exhibition was on at the Sisters of St John of God College and learnt a lot about the work that the Sisters did in Beagle Bay.


Point Quandong

The sun was low on the horizon when we arrived at our campsite at Point Quandong.



Juz went gaga at all the hermit crabs that were creeping along the ground, and we had a small path down to the beach, which was covered in hermit crab tracks.



Night of the Mozzie Massacre

As soon as the sun went down, the mosquitoes came out and before we knew it, we were enveloped in a cloud of blood-sucking, disease carrying miniature vampires.  The Troopy was wide open because it was a hot, humid day and we just had dinner, and in a very short amount of time, our bedroom was swarming with mozzies.


We started with insect repellents and none of them were effective – even the tropical strength stuff that our friends got from Thailand.  We lit mozzie coils and they did nothing.  The only thing we could do was to climb into the Troopy and lock ourselves in with hundreds of mosquitoes.


We spent about two hours smacking, pinching, clapping and squishing.  We only had two windows open – the ones covered in flyscreen – and we were sweating profusely, which didn’t help because mozzies are attracted to sweat!  Dave worked the back while Juz managed the front and by 8pm, we were both exhausted.   We knew there were more mozzies to kill but we couldn’t carry on.  We went to sleep sweaty and covered in blood splatter and the corpses of our enemies.



During the night, the rains came but the mozzies remained.  The rising sun was a welcome sight – we survived the night but Juz suffered – she was covered in bites.


Delica vs. River Road

The mozzies were still around in the morning so we packed up and headed for Broome.  Unfortunately, the rain during the night turned the road into a river and there was no way to get around it.


We decided to wait it out and see if the water level would go down, and about 30 minutes later, a pair of grey nomads in their 4WD turn up who were escorting Swedish backpackers in a Delica van to the airport in Broome.  Dave and the backpackers hitched up their shorts and waded in to the water to assess the depth.  The worst of it was about thigh-deep and we watched as the Delica gave it a go, only to stall in the middle of the puddle because the diesel engine filled with water.



Another 4WD arrived to suss out what was happening and we advised them (they were French tourists), that because their vehicle was petrol, they shouldn’t go anywhere near the water.  Another two 4WDs arrived, and these guys knew what they were doing.  One pulled the Delica all the way back to the tarmac road, while the other dragged the petrol 4WD through the worst of it.


The Troopy had no worries and drove through the puddle like it was nothing.  We had a few red mud splashes on it from the previous day, but after going through the road river, the Troopy got a good metres worth rust-coloured dirt all over it and all through the engine bay.  Everyone was a winner that day – except for the Swedish backpackers, who probably destroyed their engine.



HMAS Sydney II Memorial

City Profile : Geraldton

Geraldton is one of those beautiful regional cities where everyone seems to know each other and all the residents have everything at their fingertips – supermarkets and shopping centres, theatres and sporting facilities, beaches and boating, fishing and swimming – everything!  The city is alive and dynamic with all sorts of activities like outdoor cinema, kite surfing, yachting, water sports, kids playing on the foreshore, little athletics and plenty of health conscious people going for runs along the coast in the cool of the morning.



Also known as the Sunshine City, the Windy City or the Sun City, Geraldton sits on Champion Bay, which was first explored by ship in 1840.  George Grey was the first European to explore the area by foot in 1839 and returned to Fremantle with reports of fertile soil.  It wasn’t until 1849 that Augustus Gregory was employed to survey a town site and a year later, Geraldton was born. There was a significant need for a port town north of Perth for mining and farming purposes and the town really bloomed during the Murchison gold rush in 1892.  These days, the population is around 26,500 people and Geraldton is still a busy hub for wheat storage and transportation, as well as mining, rock lobster fishing, and tourism.


We stayed in Geraldton for two weeks under the roof of our Helpx hosts – a family of four with a tremendous schedule that included a brief stint in Perth for educational purposes. They put word out for some assistance over the school holidays and we answered their call.  This was a great opportunity to explore the city and surrounding area.  We went up to Kalbarri for a few days and got to know sunny Geraldton very well.  We even smashed out a pub crawl!


A Geraldton sunset


P.S. Geraldton loves sundials and bougainvilleas!


Points of Interest

Geraldton Foreshore

If you have kids, then this is the place to go.  There are three colourful playgrounds, including a water funpark and shaded toddler area, and a great walking path along the beach with a great view of the bay.


The foreshore was also where the Oxfam Walk Against Want Fun Run kicked off.  Check out how Juz went here.  If you go to the far end of the foreshore, near the marina, you can also take a leak in the Rubik’s Cubicles – very cool!



WA Museum

This is the Geraldton branch of the WA Museum and we thought this would be a great place to take the Helpx kids.  We spent the morning learning about local animals and history, expeditions to Antarctica, and the HMAS Sydney which was sunk during battle in WW2.  We also checked out a bounty of shipwreck loot and watched colourful fish swim around in a fish tank.



Batavia Coast Marina

The home of some modern apartment blocks and very spiffy boats, the stylish Batavia Marina was opened in 1995 and is also an outdoor exhibit for the Batavia Longboat Replica, which is anchored just outside of the WA Museum.


Go for a stroll along the boardwalk or try your luck at fishing.  We dropped a line here and even though we gave the bait fish an excellent lunch, we ended up catching a nice sized bream just as we were packing up.


Point Moore Lighthouse

This 34m tall structure started its days in 1877 when its pieces were brought over from England aboard the ‘Lady Louisa’.  It was bolted together in Geraldton and started operating in 1878.  The kerosene wick lamp was replaced by an incandescent lamp in 1911 but it’s had a few lighting upgrades since then, with the beam now visible up to 26km out at sea.  The red and white stripes were painted on 1969 and it is the oldest surviving Commonwealth lighthouse in WA under Federal control.



Francis Xavier Catholic Cathedral

The most noticeable building in Geraldton, this Byzantine style cathedral was designed by Monsignor Hawes, a famous Christian architect who worked on many chapels and churches all over the world.  While the foundation stone for Francis Xavier Catholic Cathedral was first laid in 1916, the building wasn’t completed until 1938 and is considered to be one of Monsignor Hawes’ best works.


Guided tours are available through the cathedral, but you can walk in any time you like and have a look around.  We loved the stained glass windows but thought the paint job inside was a little strange.  ‘Really? … Stripes…?’


Hmas Sydney II Memorial

Right on the top of Mount Scott, the HMAS Sydney II Memorial was built in 2001 to honour the 645 Australian sailors that lost their lives in a battle off the coast of Western Australia.  The HMAS Sydney intercepted a German raider, the HSK Kormoran near Shark Bay in 1941 and after a battle, both ships went down.  They were lost for 66 years until the ships were finally found.


The memorial consists of a replicated portion of the ship’s prow, a granite wall that lists all the sailors lost, a bronze statue of a woman looking longingly out to sea, and a great dome made of 645 steel seagulls that are suspended over a massive propeller.  It really is a beautiful memorial and in 2009, the Australian government recognised the site as one of national significance.



Queens Park Theatre

Owned and operated by the City of Geraldton, the Queens Park Theatre is an entertainment landmark and venue.  It hosts a variety of attractions like comedy shows, community art programs, dance and performance, as well as music and movie nights.


We were lucky enough to catch the final screening of their Summer Outdoor Cinema session and watched Not Suitable for Children in the amphitheatre with the cool night breeze and starry sky overhead.


Separation Point Lookout

We went for a cruise around town and noticed some massive kites in the sky.  We followed them to Separation Point Lookout and watched the kite surfers cut through the blue water.  The Point Moore Lighthouse is visible in the distance and this would be an excellent spot to watch the sunset.




As you drive north towards Geraldton, you will pass through Greenough – a small country town that runs at a fairly slow pace.  The most definitive and weirdest feature of Greenough is the trees that line the highway.  They lean, and some are growing at 90 degree angles along the ground, all because of the strong southerly winds.


Another great attraction of Greenough is the Wildlife and Bird Park on Company Road.  Check out our post on this fantastic sanctuary that works to rescue and rehabilitate injured wildlife and educate the public on how important it is to take care of our native fauna.


Food & Drink

We went to most of the pubs in Geraldton and found the Provincial Bar and Café to be the best in terms of atmosphere.  They also do a happy hour between 4:30pm and 5:30pm when you can get a pint of White Rabbit for $7.  The other pubs were good in their own right too – check out our pub crawl post for more details.


Salt Dish Café

We ventured into town on a Thursday morning for a breakfast and knew that the best café in town was Salt Dish.  You could tell that it was a local favourite because it was packed.  The friendly lass behind the counter showed us to a table and took our coffee orders as we admired the silver ceiling.



Dave ordered the #35 with bacon, eggs and tomato while Juz went with the Poached eggs, spinach, prosciutto and hollandaise sauce.  The wait was about 30 minutes and if the food was terrible, we would have cracked the shits but they nailed everything!  The coffee was delicious, the eggs were gooey and everything tasted brilliant.  The only criticism was that the ‘toast’ was more like ‘warm bread’, but the bread was great so no harm done.


Kebabs Plus

We couldn’t leave town without a kebab so before heading towards Shark Bay, we stopped off at Kebabs Plus for a quick lunch.  Dave got doner meat, which was a mixture of beef and lamb while Juz got chicken.  They were both prepared really quickly and we ate them just as quickly.  They were really tasty (but not as tasty as the ones you can get in Melbourne), and Dave’s doner meat was about a centimetre thick!



Information & Accommodation

The Geraldton Visitor Centre is located at the Bill Sewell Complex on the corner of Chapman Rd and Bayly St – 08 9921 3999


Big4 Sunset Beach Holiday Park Geraldton – 4 Bosley Street, Geraldton – 08 9938 1655


The Albany Centre of the University of WA

City Profile : Albany

We love Albany.


It’s a big town that has still retained a simple country feel to it and is filled with great, friendly people beaming with community spirit.  It’s a popular holiday spot that attracts a lot of visitors to enjoy the great beaches and vibrant atmosphere.  As we drove through town, we noticed lots of granite rocks sticking up all over the place, dividing properties and providing shade in parks.  The landscape is quite hilly, with two mountains in town – Mount Clarence with the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial to the east, and Mount Melville with walking trails and an observation tower to the west.



The main strip of York Street is capped with the marina and Princess Royal Harbour, and Dog Rock Shopping Centre at the top end, complete with major supermarkets and clothing brands.  The town hall stands beautifully next to the modern library and also features Western Australia’s oldest canonised church, St John’s Anglican Church.  To the east of town is Middleton, with a great swimming beach and several cafes and restaurants.  Three Anchors is a great place to sit down for lunch and they make a ripper coffee.  Albany also has its own coffee roaster – The Naked Bean.  Check out our post on The Naked Bean.


Albany sits along the coast of the Great Southern region of Western Australia.  It was first sighted in 1627 by Dutchman Peter Nuyts but the area was claimed as British ground by George Vancouver in 1791 and the bay was named King George III Sound.  After that, there were plenty of expeditions through the area so the British Government ordered a settlement to be founded to prevent the French from getting their piece of WA.


In 1826, the Brig Amity set sail from Sydney under the command of Major Edmund Lockyer and carried a party of convicts and soldiers, a doctor and storekeeper to King George Sound.  Almost 2 months later, the Brig Amity arrived to set up camp and Lockyer named the settlement Frederickstown, but 5 years later, it was renamed Albany.  It grew into a fishing and whaling town with plenty of agriculture and a busy port that serviced the fortune seekers heading to the Goldfields.



Albany’s whaling station was the last whaling station to stop operations in Australia, closing down in 1978. The whaling station was converted to into a tourist attraction called Whale World that features interactive displays, a 3D whale movie and full skeleton of the last whale taken.  It’s a $30 entry fee so it’s great for people who love learning about the whaling industry.


Points of Interest

WA Museum and the Brig Amity replica

The WA Museum is a great spot to learn about the history of Albany and the surrounding area.  When we visited, they also had a great lighthouse exhibition with an artistic light gallery at the end. Entry is by gold coin donation



Patrick Taylor Cottage is nearby and is the oldest surviving house in Western Australia.  It was built in 1832 by Patrick Taylor, a Scottish immigrant who arrived in Albany to not only become a farmer but to also improve his health.  The cottage has eleven rooms and is surrounded by an English country garden.


Towards the water is the Brig Amity replica, which is also visible from the road.  There is the option to go inside and check out the guts of the vessel for $12.



The Old Farm, Strawberry Hill

Western Australia’s oldest farm, it has been called the Old Farm for over 100 years now. Established as a government farm in 1827, before the Swan River colony, it played a major role in sustaining the first European settlement at King George Sound.


Over the years, the farm has had several owners and even fell into a state of disrepair.  The property was purchased by the government in 1956 as a historic monument and it was transferred to the National Trust in 1964.



There is also a lovely grassed area onsite complete with a stage and small orchard. It would be the perfect place for a wedding or even live music on weekends with some friends and a bottle of wine.


Boatshed Markets

A great place to experience Albany’s community spirit, the Boatshed Markets are held every Sunday from 10am to 1pm.  There’s plenty of parking and with local produce, live music, cooking demonstrations, fresh fish and wine tasting, it’s a great way to spend your morning.



We sampled a huge variety of Luscious Liquids honey as we had a chat to the lady behind the counter. We walked away with a jar of Wildflower honey and a piece of raw honeycomb. Delicious! After lunch, we shared the honeycomb with a lovely family we had met a few days earlier in Esperance. We all ate so much honey that we were buzzing for the rest of the day!


White Star Hotel & Tangle Head Brewery

We were keen to visit the local brewery, which was situated at the White Star Hotel.  Tangle Head Brewery started 6 years ago and offers a great range of beers.



  • Brewhouse Special (German Wheat Beer) – 5.2% golden beer with yeast, fruit and honey.  It was very clean and delicious.
  • Southern White Ale – 5.1% lightly coloured with banana on the nose.  The base is German wheat beer (hefeweizen).  There was also refreshing citrus.
  • Tanglehead Pale Ale – 4.8% a rich caramel colour with honey and caramel.  There was a slight hoppy finish.
  • Limeburners Stout – 4.3% dark black colour with a creamy froth, it smelt of honey, coffee and chocolate but the oatmeal stout was like charcoal – thick and smoky.
  • Ginger Beer – 3.5% very pale and fizzy, it was sweet with a slight ginger burn.


Tom, Bella, Dave & Juz enjoying Tanglehead beers!


Torndirrup National Park

A short drive from Albany is Torndirrup National Park, a 4000 hectare coastal sanctuary with heaps of rock formations and granite outcrops.


Stony Hill Heritage Trail is a quick 450m circuit around one of the highest points in the park and it provides great views of the southern ocean and the surrounding coastline.  The Gap and the Natural Bridge are within walking distance of each other and demonstrate how the constant battery of waves can wear down the rock.  The Natural Bridge is expected to collapse at some stage so make sure you go down and check it out before it does.



There is no entry fee to enter the park, camping is not allowed, and just around the corner is the Albany Wind Farm with 18 wind turbines that produces about 80% of Albany’s energy requirements.


Information & Accommodation

Albany Visitor Centre – Old Railway Station/55 Proudlove Parade, 08 9841 9290

Albany YHA – 49 Duke Street, 08 9842 3388

BIG4 Middleton Beach Holiday Park – 28 Flinders Parade, 08 9841 3593



Sunset at Tanker Jetty

Supertown Profile : Esperance

Salmon Beach

Western Australia’s #1 holiday destination!  How can you go wrong with some of the best beaches in Australia, with the whitest sands and bluest waters? Esperance is truly a town of the coast.


In 1627, Dutch explorer Pieter Nuyts aboard the Gulde Zeepard passed through the Recherche Archipelago but credit for the discovery of the area is given to the French, when L’Esperance and Recherche sailed through the area and sought shelter from a storm in 1792.  In 1802, Matthew Flinders sailed through while mapping the area, naming Lucky Bay and Thistle Cove in the process.


The early settlers were sealers and whalers who survived on kangaroo, geese and fish, but Edward John Eyre was the most famous explorer to pass through the area on his way to Albany.  In 1863, the Dempster brothers drove their livestock into the area and took up the first land holding.  With the discovery of gold up north about 30 years later, Esperance transformed from a sleepy town to a busy port that shipped in thousands of fortune seekers from distant lands.  By 1897, there were four hotels, a brewery and two newspapers amongst the town of tents, with the poor folk sleeping on seaweed on the beach.  Farming started in the early 1900s.



With a population of 14,000 people, it’s not too overcrowded, and there is plenty of fishing, surfing, sailing, sunbathing, kite surfing and other water sports that can be enjoyed.  The area is very lush and clean, and it could quite possibly be WA’s cleanest town due to the strict littering laws in place.  Despite the country town feel, it’s still fully stocked with fast food joints and major supermarkets, but there are only a couple of crappy, dingy pubs, some with skimpies.


The foreshore is lined with Norfolk Island pine trees and the port is one of the deepest in southern Australia, capable of handling Cape and Panamax class vessels up to 180,000 tonnes!  The industry is visible from the beach, which also displays a stunning sunrise if you’re up early enough.


Next to the Esperance Museum is one of the original wind turbines on display.  The Salmon Beach wind farm was Australia’s first wind farm and it started operation in 1987 but was decommissioned after 15 successful years.  In 1993, the Ten Mile Lagoon Wind Farm was connected to the Esperance grid, with nine 225 kW wind turbines contributing to the town’s power supply, while the Nine Mile Beach Wind Farm was constructed in 2003.  These two wind farms now run parallel with the Esperance gas turbine power station and have saved 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year they have been operating.



Esperance is also one of many sites to cop Skylab debris.  In 1979, the space station Skylab entered the earth’s atmosphere, broke into pieces and crashed at various sites in Western Australia.  One of those sites was Esperance and they ended up fining the United States $400 for littering! The fine was paid 30 years later when a radio show host from California raised the funds and paid the fine on behalf of NASA.



If you’re planning to pass through Esperance, it’s probably best that you organise accommodation as it is not a RV friendly town – no camping or 24 hour parking allowed in any places.


Places of Interest

Recherche Archipelago

This 270km string of 105 coastal islands and 1500 islets is the largest group of islands in southern Australia and were first explored by the Dutch in 1627, but it was Matthew Flinders who charted the area for the first time in 1802.  It has a colourful history, setting the scene for the shipwreck of the Sanko Harvest in 1991, which is now the second largest shipwreck that can be dived in the world.  The Archipelago was also frequented by Australia’s only recorded pirate, Black Jack Anderson, who pillaged the area in the 1830s until he was eventually killed by his crew.


The Recherche Archipelago is an important aquatic wilderness area that provides a sheltered habitat and breeding ground for a variety of animals, such as seals, penguins, rock wallabies and seabirds.  The area is great for divers and snorkelers and provides a great bounty of abalone, rock lobsters and pilchards to the commercial fishing industry.



Great Ocean Drive

Enjoy a scenic 40km drive along the coast, past Pink Lake and the Nine Mile Beach Wind Farm.  The views are absolutely beautiful, and include white sand beaches framed by rocky cliffs with the Archipelago visible in the distance.


Twilight Beach is a feature of the Great Ocean Drive.  It was voted most popular beach in Australia in 2006 and is a great swimming beach with clear waters, gentle waves and soft white sand.  There are two offshore rocks that protect the beach and there are toilets and outdoor showers are nearby.


The Nine Mile Beach Wind Farm was installed in 2003 and is one of Australia’s most advanced wind/gas powered systems and produces more than 25% of the local community’s electricity.  There are nine towers, each stands 46m high and has three 22m blades.


Pink Lake

Well… we got there and the lake wasn’t pink, but that was because we were in the right place at the wrong time!


Pink Lake is a salt lake that turns pink when the conditions are right.  The green algae in the lake loves salty conditions and when the water reaches a state of high salinity, high temperatures and lots of light, the algae collects beta carotene, a red pigment that is also found in carrots and sweet potatoes!   Halobacterium also exists in the lake and is pink in colour.  The shades of pink that beautify the lake depend on the balance between Dunaliella salina algae and Halobacterium.


Tanker Jetty

Due to foreshore redevelopment, the Tanker Jetty was closed, but we did get to enjoy it during a 5:30am sunrise.  Another feature of the Tanker Jetty is Sammy the Seal, a bit fat blob of a mammal that lingers around the coastline to catch the off-cuts of a fisherman’s catch.  He must have still been sleeping when we came past but we got to see photos of him.



Mermaid Leather

A tannery that makes leather out of fish and shark skins.  The story of this place is incredible.  Check out our post on Mermaid Leather.


Esperance Stonehenge

Kim and Jillian Beale live about 12km from Esperance and their backyard has a complete full-scale replica of the original Stonehenge in the UK.  What does your backyard have other than a Hills Hoist and weeds?

Check out our post on the Esperance Stonehenge.


Alimento Café

We really needed a coffee and didn’t want to settle for a long black because we didn’t trust the person behind the espresso machine.  We decided to seek out the best place in Esperance for coffee and while there were a few suggestions, we chose a place that had people lined up out the door.


Alimento Café sits humbly without any frills in the centre of town.  Inside is an orange, mustard and chocolate brown décor and a matriarchal woman with a mop of curly hair works behind the counter.  We had faith, and ordered a soy latte and strong latte in a mug for $10… that’s right, $10 for two coffees.  Our expectations were high.



While we waited for our coffee, we got our first glimpse at a Western Australian newspaper before being presented with two huge mugs of delicious coffee topped with creamy microfoam!  No sugar required – these guys sure know how to make the perfect cup!



Esperance Visitor Centre – Dempster Street, 08 9083 1555

Blue Waters Lodge YHA – 299 Goldfields Road, 08 9071 1040