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City Profile : Hobart

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Hobart is a beautiful city that has retained the nostalgia of its history beautifully. Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, Hobart was initially known as Hobart Town or Hobarton, after Lord Hobart, the colonial secretary. Settlement wasn’t easy due to violent conflicts with the traditional owners – the bloodshed and introduction of disease reduced the aboriginal population rapidly. Nearly 40 years after settlement, Hobart became a city and was finally renamed Hobart in 1881.

 

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The first thing we noticed about Hobart was the traffic. Of course, arriving during peak hour wasn’t helpful but it gave us a true impression of how bad the congestion actually is. Apparently, this issue has arisen because of a change in the bus timetables. The locals cracked the shits and decided to drive in to work instead but it just made things worse.

 

The second thing we noticed was the scenery. Hobart sits in the valley of the Derwent River, a sparkling feature, not some dirty sewer that runs through the city, like the Yarra River in Melbourne.  The surrounding foothills seem to create a bit of an amphitheatre around the city, and many of the charming houses have two storeys to best utilise the inclined landscape. The main mountain that dominates the city skyline is Mount Wellington.

 

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We made a bee-line straight for the Royal Hobart Showgrounds for a shower before heading into town for some dinner and sightseeing. We planned to spend the morning in Hobart before heading south for the weekend, and then returning to Hobart on Monday to stay at the Hobart Central YHA after a pub crawl.

 

Fast Facts

  • Hobart is the most populated city in Tasmania.
  • It is the second oldest capital city behind Sydney and has a population of approximately 218,000 people.
  • Much of the Waterfront area is reclaimed land as a result of convict labour in the 1830s.
  • Charles Darwin visited Hobart in 1836 and climbed Mount Wellington.
  • The average temperature during the summer months is around 21 degrees and the winter average is 12 degrees.

 

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Things To Do

Royal Botanic Gardens

Courses for horses – we like Botanic Gardens. They had a great selection of plant varieties, including a Japanese Garden, herb garden and orchid house. The gardens are quite historical and started off as a veggie garden in 1806. It was eventually known as the Colonial Gardens and cultivated fresh fruits and vegetables, some new to Tasmania at the time.

 

It wasn’t until 1818 that the gardens were officially dubbed the Royal Botanical Gardens, making them the second oldest gardens in Australia behind the Sydney Botanic Gardens.

 

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Salamanca Markets

Occurring every Saturday morning in the Salamanca district, the markets are a great event for tourists and locals alike. Stalls include various delights such as fudge, wood crafts, leathergoods, gems and jewellery, wine and whisky tasting, colourful clothes, fresh flowers and vegetables.

 

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There are also buskers and food vans, where we ate wallaby for the first time in burrito form. It was delicious.

 

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Salamanca Place is also the location of many heritage-listed buildings and is where most of Hobart’s nightlife occurs.

 

MONA

An acronym for the Museum of Old and New Art, this interesting art space opened in 2011 and has been intriguing, insulting and disgusting people ever since.  Reputed to be the most offensive art gallery around, the collections are displayed underground in the bunker-like halls below the main entrance.

 

Unlike many art galleries that can be a bit posh, stuffy or sterile, MONA has a more relaxed, creative and tongue in cheek attitude. Visitors explore the museum with an interactive “O” device that contains the information about the art instead of labelling each piece.

 

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While we were there, the main show was the Gilbert & George exhibition, a thought-provoking and colourful display of current affairs and personal opinions. There was also a… “ladies’ parts” exhibit, with over 70 plaster casts of wall-mounted fannies, and the Death Gallery where upon entering, you put yourself at risk of falling into eerie black water.

 

Possibly the most offensive piece, to Juz’s sensitive nose at least, was Cloaca – the poop machine. It is fed twice a day and poops daily, and it stunk really bad. Apparently, the commentary behind the work is that art is shit anyway, so the artist created a piece of art that creates pieces of art.

 

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Mount Wellington

Towering over the city, Mount Wellington stands 1,271 metres high and provides killer views of Hobart and the surrounding area, as far as Bruny Island. The terrain at the peak is very rocky and harsh, probably because it’s so freaking windy and cold!

 

 

Food & Drink

We were actually quite impressed with the offerings of Hobart’s food and drink. We made sure we tasted the best that Hobart had to offer, including coffee, breakfast, pub meals and something a little different.

 

Coffee

While Machine Laundry Cafe is a widely popular cafe for breakfast and lunch, we just stopped in for coffee before perusing the Salamanca markets. Despite the long wait, the coffee was fantastic and surprisingly cheaper than what we usually pay for a long macchiato and soy latte – $7.70.

 

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The other cafe we visited was Pilgrim Coffee on Argyle Street, just a few blocks from the Hobart Central YHA.  It’s a popular spot for caffeination before work, and while the coffee was good, it wasn’t as good as the ones from Machine Laundry Cafe.

 

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Breakfast

There were heaps of places we wanted to try, and if we had more time, then we would have, but we limited our breakfast outings to two only. Our first breakfast was at Daci & Daci Bakery, an incredibly popular French bakery with a huge selection and display of cakes, pastries and other delicious delights.

 

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Dave ordered the French toast with bacon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and ajvar relish, while he enjoyed his breakfast, he said it was nothing to write home about and had serious food envy for Juz’s Croque Monsieur. While it wasn’t much to look at and many may see it as a glorified toasted sandwich, it was bloody delicious. The croque was filled with prosciutto, gruyere and Dijon mustard and had an excellent burst of flavour from the quality fillings.

 

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Our second and last breakfast was at a little cafe called Pigeon Hole in West Hobart. It’s owned by Weston Farms, a local farm to the north of Hobart that wanted to bring its seasonal and organic produce to the people via the cafe. When you read the menu, whatever has come off the farm is highlighted in green text. We parked our car on the hilly street adjacent to the cafe – we reckon the incline was about 30 degrees.

 

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They also had a croque monsieur on the menu, so we shared this with a serve of soft baked eggs flavoured with lemon, taleggio cheese and herbs. It was refreshingly tangy from the citrus and delicately flavoursome. The side of toasted sourdough bread was the perfect accompaniment.

 

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The croque monsieur was also a hit – a thick layer of ham, savoury raclette cheese and mustard for tang was squished and toasted between two thick slices of seedy bread. Different from the Daci & Daci croque but still delicious in its own way.

 

Lunch or Dinner

Recommended to us by a friend, we attended Mures Lower Deck for a fish and chip dinner. Geez it was busy – probably with both locals and tourists. Dave ordered the Catch of the Day – school shark with chips – while Juz wanted a taste of everything so she got the Fisherman’s Basket with blue grenadier, prawns, scallops, marinated fish, squid and chips.

 

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As far as fish and chips go, it was fresh and tasty, but also a bit pricy. We didn’t want to know how much it would cost to eat on the upper deck.

 

Hope & Anchor Hotel

This tavern was built in 1807 and claims to be Australia’s oldest pub.  It’s accumulated wealth from its years can be seen if you go upstairs to the beautiful dining rooms.

 

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Our pub crawl started at the Hope and Anchor so we had a big lunch. Dave had a whole Aussie parmi with egg and bacon while Juz got a half Mexican jalapeno parmi and a chicken tandoori burger, both with sweet potato chips instead of regular chips. Everything was well priced and tasted fantastic. We highly recommend this pub for both drinks and meals.

 

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The Winston

This was our oddball meal – the Winston is a pub with an American twist and seems to be popular with the locals. The menu has a variety of ribs, buffalo wings, burgers and such that sound very Yankee, and there is also a great selection of hot sauces available.

 

Dave ordered the Winston burger, the first Winston for the night. This novel burger is stuffed with deep fried bacon, grilled chicken, dill ranch sauce between two waffles – served in a dog bowl. He couldn’t finish it so we doggy-bagged the rest for our lunch the next day.

 

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Juz ordered the buffalo chicken burger with blue cheese sauce and fries. For sides, she also got a serve of massive onion rings and buffalo chicken wings with more blue cheese sauce to share with Dave. Everything was really tasty.

 

Cascade Brewery

Cascade Brewery is the oldest brewery in Australia, established in the early 1830s by a convict. The brewery itself is quite a sight, but it’s also worth stopping in at the Visitors Centre for a tasting paddle.

 

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Larks Distillery

Located close to the Waterfront, Larks Distillery is a popular spot with locals and tourists. They offer a tasting of three whiskies – you can read up about it here…

 

Information & Accommodation

The Hobart Visitor Information Centre is located at 16-20 Davey St in the CBD. It’s open daily from 9am to 5pm.

 

Royal Hobart Showgrounds – For only $10, we had a place to stay near the city, hot showers, toilets and a community of other travellers to mingle with. Of course, we met another Troopy legend there and chatted about our adventures until bedtime. Considering how many people were camped there, it didn’t feel crowded at all because of how much space is available.

 

For more central accommodation, check out the Hobart Central YHA near the corner of Macquarie and Argyle Street. Everything is within walking distance, particularly a major supermarket, the Information Centre and coffee.

 

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City Profile : Launceston

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Launceston is the second largest city in Tasmania and the 3rd oldest city in Australia, but it still has a lot of firsts – such as being the first Australian city to have underground sewers and be lit by hydroelectricity.

 

History

The area was first explored by George Bass and Matthew Flinders in 1798 but the settlement of Launceston was not established until 1806. It was originally called Patersonia, but the settlement was renamed after Launceston in Cornwall UK, where the NSW Governor Captain was born. Launceston grew and became an export centre. Churches, schools and pubs were built, and sporting groups were established.

 

In 1871, there was a minerals boom when tin was discovered at Mount Bischoff. There was also a spurt of gold mining in 1877 and over the next 20 years, it grew substantially. By 1889, Launceston was officially a city.

 

These days, it a charming place to visit, and being so close to Tasmania’s premium wine growing region, the Tamar River Valley – it has its own culture and focus on local food and drink.

 

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Places of Interest

Cataract Gorge

Perfectly contrasted next to the city, Cataract Gorge offers a lush recreation area and swimming pool surrounded by beautiful 100 year old gardens, wallabies and peacocks, walking tracks and cafes that serve Devonshire teas.

 

 

On top of all of this, you can ride the longest single span chairlift in the world. Pay $12 one way or $15 return and see the gorge from 30 metres above.

 

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Boag’s Brewery

No visit to Launceston is complete without a tour of Boag’s Brewery. The great thing about this tour is that it ends with a cheese pairing. We never thought to pair cheese with beer but the combinations offered are outstanding.

 

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City Park

Located in the heart of the city, this beautiful and ornate park is just behind the historic Albert Hall and provides a recreation centre for the locals. Whether it’s a group training session or a relaxed yoga class, it seems City Park is a popular spot for many and was once called the People’s Park.

There is also the John Hart Conservatory, the pretty Jubilee Fountain and the Macaque Monkey House – but we didn’t see any monkeys.

 

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Tamar Valley

North of Launceston is the Tamar River Valley, Tasmania’s premium food and wine region.  We only visited three wineries because we were time-poor – we have to recommend Tamar Ridge for its great selection of sparkling wines and pinot noirs.

 

The Tamar River runs through the centre on the region and there’s only one point along the river that you can cross – Batman Bridge. It’s a nice bridge with a picnic area on the eastern side of the river.

 

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Further north is Beauty Point, where Seahorse World is located. Go on a tour and learn about the various breeds of seahorse.

 

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On the east side of the river is a free camp area at Lilydale Falls. It was fairly crowded as it’s one of the closest free camps near Launceston. We met two Aussies, Josh and Anna, and shared stories about our travels and car disasters.

 

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Food  & Drink

Amelia Espresso

We were actually looking for another cafe called Messiah but stumbled across this place and caffeinated ourselves here instead.

 

It’s a small place with only a few places to sit, but the duo behind the counter were friendly and knew what they were doing because the coffee they produced was fantastic. The coffee had a citrus tang and they are experts at frothing soy milk.

 

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Alchemy Bar & Restaurant

Always on the hunt for a bargain, we checked out Alchemy Bar for their $14 lunch menu. The joint seemed funky enough – a big bar that looks out onto the street, with a dining area out the back. The decor was eclectic and mismatched but overly bad in taste.

 

The lunch menu had a great selection – fish and chips, lamb salad, chickpea burger – we went with the chicken parmigiana and pulled beef burger. The parma was a succulent piece of chicken panko crumbed and topped with ham, cheese and sauce. It came with shoestring fries and a well dressed salad. The pulled beef burger was cheesy but could have used a bit more sauce to moisten the beef, and more pickles for extra tang, but overall it was good.  It came with well-seasoned fries too.

 

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Touchdown : Devonport & Latrobe

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We rolled off the Spirit of Tasmania and has a very brief stop in Devonport for coffee and breakfast before continuing on to more exciting ventures.

 

Devonport

Devonport is a simple city of just over 25,000 people. It started off as two settlements on either side of the Mersey River – Formby and Torquay. As the shipping industry grew and the Bluff lighthouse was built, regular services to and from Melbourne began and in 1890, a public vote united the two settlements and they became the town of Devonport. It was declared a city in 1981.

There isn’t that much to do in Devonport so after you’ve grabbed a coffee and done your grocery shopping, it’s time to move on.

 

The Ferry Terminal

The first place we touched down onto Tasmanian soil. It’s amazing to watch the Spirit of Tasmania come and go, with a big bellow of its horn. The Spirit’s presence in Devonport would be a safe and familiar thing for the locals.

 

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The Rectory Cafe

We met up with Scott after disembarking and had a coffee here. The place is totally cute but the coffee was not quite up to scratch.

 

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The Laneway

This place was on our radar for breakfast because it’s the highest rated cafe in Devonport. We can declare that the coffee is great, and while the prices are a little high, the meals are good too. Dave got the Laneway Breakfast with mushroom, spinach, hash browns, bacon, eggs, local chipolatas and sourdough bread. Juz was craving some smashed avo, broad beans and feta, with crispy pancetta and sourdough toast. The cafe also sells local produce like eggs and deli meats.

 

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Spirit of the Sea statue

At the entrance of the Mersey River is a fountain of nude Poseidon, named the Spirit of the Sea. While it may not have any significant connection with the Devonport community, its perch offers great views of the coastline around Devonport. There’s a great walking track on the foreshore that follows the coast all the way to Mersey Bluff.

 

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Mersey Bluff Lookout

The Mersey Bluff is the home of the Mersey Bluff Lighthouse, which stands 37 metres tall and was built in 1889 just before Devonport was established as one town instead of two settlements.   There’s a path that goes around the base of the bluff to a lookout over the Bass Strait.

 

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Latrobe

This small town is located just 8km south of Devonport along the Mersey River. The area was first settled in 1826 and in 1973, the town was officially named after Charles Joseph Latrobe – the administrator for the colony of Tasmania.

Even though the town is small, it’s alive and has its own personality. There are trash and treasure markets every Sunday, and just alongside the variety store is the best display of photo ops we have seen in a while.

 

 

The Australian Axemans Hall of Fame

There are a few reasons to stop off at this location. This tourist information and function centre is a great place to stop for maps and info on the local area, learn about the achievements of Australia’s sporting wood choppers, and see one of Australia’s big things – the Big Platypus.

 

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Eating Out : Coastal Kitchen & Coffee

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Coastal Kitchen & Coffee is a bright and eclectic cafe in the historic little town of Milton on the Shoalhaven coast.  We highly recommend this place if you’re passing through the area, not only because our mates Joe and Kate run the place, but also because they serve up some wicked sandwiches.

 

Our favourite was the magnificent Breakfast Burger!  This giant tower of bacon, egg and hash brown was a great way to start the day.

 

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Later in the week, we stopped by for lunch and killed a steak sandwich and chilli chicken burger… and are you seeing these chips? Amazing!

 

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Coastal Kitchen also do coffee, cakes and freshly squeezed juices. If you’re in the area, stop by for a feed – you won’t regret it.

 

Thanks Kate & Joe, for having us while we were on the Shoalhaven Coast. We had an awesome time staying with you and we look forward to seeing you again soon!

 

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Eating Out : Great places for a bite in Sydney

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We were spoilt for choice when it came to food. There are so many cafes, pubs, restaurants and eateries – more than we had ever seen on our travels – so we aimed for either the best or the offbeat.  Perhaps the kookiest thing was a soft serve ice cream from Aqua S in the city.  Their specialty is sea salt ice cream, a style of ice cream from Japan.  Luckily we were there for popping candy week, so we sampled their sea salt flavour with cranberry, sprinkled with pop rocks.

 

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Cafés

While we had several coffees in Sydney, we had two favourites.  The first came from Mecca Espresso, a small outlet on King Street that offers cheap take aways and makes a smooth and creamy coffee.  The second came from The Fine Food Store on The Rocks.  We sat in and had breakfast as well – a savoury Croque Sir Grill with prosciutto, a poached egg and aioli.

 

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Sandwiches

Who would have thought that stuff in bread could be so good.  Mr Crackles on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst is open for lunch until late in the night for all your crackly cravings.  We got the Crackle Classic and BBQ Pork Roll with onion rings for an awesome lunch.

 

 

Another great lunch was thanks to Marrickville Pork Roll.  This popular spot is a tiny shop that usually has a line out the front.  For $4.50, you get a flavoursome Vietnamese sandwich that is good until it’s gone.

 

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North of the harbour is Vienna Sandwiches, another little outlet that smashes out a wicked sandwich.  We got the Chicken Gangnam Style sandwich and it blew our minds.

 

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Further north along the Pittwater is Newport Chicken.  It might seem like a regular take away place but the boys behind the counter seem to love what they do and make a ripper chicken burger.

 

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Asian Food

We sampled Asian from both ends of the scale – cheap food court fare to high end yum cha.  Our favourite food court in the city was the Market City Food Court, where we got a massive feed for around $20.

 

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In Chatswood, we met up with fans Chris and Betty at New Shanghai and had a few plates of delicious dumplings.  In the shire, we had a fancy dinner at Din Tai Fung Restaurant with Dave’s uncle and his family.  Apart from dishing out some great dumplings, their fried meats and noodle dishes were amazing too.

 

Pizza

We took a break from pizza after our Cairns Pizza Quest, but by the time we got to Sydney, we were ready.  Our first pizza was from Gourmet Pizza Pantry in Gladesville.  We got two large pizzas – Caprice and Tijuana – and a regular garlic pizza for $37.  The Caprice was essentially a capricciosa while the Tijuana was a Mexicana with chilli con carne, jalapenos, corn chips and guacamole – both were awesome.

 

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In the shire, we had a pizza fest at Queen Margherita’s of Savoy.  These pizzas have such a thin base, that they cook in less than 90 seconds.  The bases are almost like pancakes but they taste so good and the toppings are top notch quality.

 

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Breweries

We sniffed out a few breweries in Sydney, only missing out on one in the Rocks.  They all had a great selection of beers but our favourites were Young Henry’s in Newtown and Batch Brewing Co in Marrickville.  Check out our post about Sydney Breweries here.

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$100 front

$100 Day : Brisbane

$100 Day
Since leaving Melbourne, Brisbane is the biggest city we have visited.  It’s Australia’s third most populous city, behind Melbourne and Sydney.  Planning our $100 day was hard because we wanted to fit in as much as possible, but we soon found that it would be harder to spend the $100 than we thought because of all the great things to do and see for free.

 

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1. Coffee at Scout Café, a short walk from the Brisbane City YHA.  It was a great way to start the day as this understated little café was playing happy big band music and made an awesome cup of coffee.

$8.80

2. Walk over William Jolly Bridge to Southbank – checked out the brachiosaurus display to promote a new exhibition, walked under the Arch of Flowers past Streets Beach to the CityHopper terminal.

Free

3. Catch the CityHopper and travel along the Brisbane River, past the Kangaroo Point Cliffs to Eagle Street Pier.

Free

4. Stroll through the city, down Queen Street Mall, admire City Hall in King George Square, visit Anzac Square War Memorial and St John’s Cathedral.

Free

5. Walk to Fortitude Valley for lunch – Fatboy’s Burgers lunch special at the Royal George Hotel.  A juicy BLT with lots of bacon and a side of curly fries with garlic aioli dip – absolutely delicious.

$13.70

6. Visit Chinatown and grab a pack of mochi from the Asian supermarket.

$2.80

7. Catch free city loop bus from Wharf Street to the Botanic Gardens and enjoy the mochi by the river.

Free

8. Cross over the Brisbane River via the Goodwill Bridge and have a peak at the HMAS Diamantina in the Maritime Museum.

Free

9. Get a tasting paddle of Brisbane Brewing Company beer at the Brewhouse.

$15.00

10. Sample some craft beer at the Hoo Ha Bar.  We got a pint of the Sunshine Coast Brewery Rye ESB.

$10.00

11. Munch on some dumplings at Bamboo Basket on Grey Street.

$19.80

12. Visit the Queensland Museum and learn about the natural world.

Free

13. Get a tasting paddle of James Squires beer at Charming Squires.

$12.00

13. Peruse the stalls at the Collective Markets.  We got a block of jam donut fudge from the Fudge Forever stall – amazingly good.

$5.00

TOTAL SPEND

$87.10

 

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Our night could have ended there… but it didn’t.  We went back to the Brisbane City YHA to find that they were doing trivia upstairs for a special event.  There were no teams – you just have to clap to buzz in and a correct answer scored you a beer.  After quickly winning three beers, we decided we had an unfair advantage with all the Australiana questions and kept quiet until the quizmaster coaxed Dave onto stage to take over.

 

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Once all the beer had run out, we had a quick rest before heading over the Caxton Street.  Our destination was Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, an old American style venue with chandeliers, red draping on the ceilings and a small stage for live music.  If the brooding red bar isn’t your scene, go upstairs to the Mermaid Bar, with turquoise walls, fish net hanging from the ceiling, and an awesome model of a pirate ship behind the bar.  Lefty’s was so packed because it was a Friday night, and  it was about to turn into a sardine tin with sports fans leaving the Suncorp Stadium and creating a line out the front.  We fled, but promised that we’d be back on a weeknight for one of their infamous apple whiskeys.

 

All in all, it was a ripper $100 day.  We accomplished so much, saw everything we wanted to see, and even had some money left over.

 

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City Profile : Brisbane

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Brisbane is the biggest city we have visited on our lap – it’s Australia’s third most populous city, behind Melbourne and Sydney.  Nicknamed Bris-Vegas because of its cosmopolitan lifestyle, Brisbane is a city full of pretty churches, crazy drivers, American inspired eateries and hills – all providing a great view of the CBD.

 

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Fast Facts

  • When the Brisbane City Hall opened in 1930, it was the city’s tallest building.
  • The Story Bridge opened in 1940 and is the longest cantilever bridge in Australia.
  • To remove the stigma of being a big country town, Brisbane’s infrastructure was redeveloped and a tram system was installed in the CBD and inner suburbs. This was a popular mode of transport until 1969 when the network was closed.  The tram system has since reopened and runs from Southport to Broadbeach..
  • Brisbane’s economy benefits from the tourism of the Sunshine Coast in the north and the Gold Coast in the south.

 

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History

The CBD sits in the original settlement that was established along the Brisbane River, east of the Great Dividing Range, and was named after the Governor of New South Wales from 1821 to 1825, Sir Thomas Brisbane.

 

The first European settlement in the area was a penal colony at Redcliffe, about 28km to the north, but free settlers were allowed in the area from 1842.  Once Queensland was separated from New South Wales in 1859, Brisbane was declared the capital of the state, but it didn’t earn the status of a city until 1902.  During the 20th century, Brisbane underwent massive growth, amalgamating with over twenty other small towns in the area to become the City of Brisbane in 1925.

 

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Points of Interest

CBD

There is plenty to see in the city.  Explore the streets, gape at the high-rise buildings, duck into an alleyway café or find as many sculptures as you can.  City Hall in King George Square is magnificent, and Anzac Square War Memorial is a great place to take your lunch.  On the northern side of town is St John’s Cathedral, the mother church of the diocese of Brisbane.  The church was built in three stages, with the foundation stone laid in 1901 and the final stage completed in 2009.

 

Brisbane CBD

 

South Bank

On the other side of the river is the South Bank Parklands, complete with an inland manmade beach called Streets Beach, and the Arch of Flowers.  Nearby is the Queensland Museum and Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA).  Both are open daily and the entry is free, but if you want to see a special exhibition, you may have to purchase a ticket.

 

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On the southern end of the Parklands is the Goodwill Bridge and Wartime Museum.  If you don’t want to pay to enter the museum, you can see enough from the bridge, which spans the Brisbane River to the City Botanical Gardens on the other side.

 

South Bank is a popular spot for festivals and events.  While we were in Brisbane, we saw the annual Lantern Parade, which celebrates multiculturalism, and attended the Lifeline Bookfest at the Convention Centre.  If you’re peckish, there are plenty of eateries and bars along Grey Street.

 

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XXXX Brewery

Located on Milton Road, the XXXX Brewery might not seem like much but it’s a must visit destination in Brisbane.  Inside is a bar that serves the best burgers in Queensland and the tours through the brewery are fantastic.  Check out our post here.

 

Mount Coot-tha & Brisbane Botanical Gardens

Meaning place of honey, Mount Coot-tha is 287 metres above sea level and is the highest peak in Brisbane, offering amazing unobstructed views of the city.  Whether you go there at sunrise, sunset or in the middle of the day, it’s a popular spot amongst locals and tourists alike, and the nearby Summit Restaurant is perfect for functions or lunch.

 

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A little way down the mountain is the Brisbane Botanical Gardens.  It’s certainly worth a visit, as there is an excellent selection of plants, as well as a Japanese garden, bonsai house and an impressive tropical display dome.

 

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Markets

Brisbane is mad for markets, and there are plenty around town to suit everyone.  The West End Markets on Saturday morning and the Eagle Farm Markets on Sunday morning are very similar –both have live music, clothing stalls, a wide variety of food stands, and fresh fruit and veggies.  The West End Markets are free to visit, but the Eagle Farm Markets are bigger and will cost you $2 to get in.  We had an awesome breakfast at the Eagle Farm Markets – an omelette with the lot for $9 and Hungarian lángos with additional bacon for $10 filled us up until the afternoon.

 

Brisbane Markets

 

The Eat Street Markets on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons, are a foodies dream.  It’s a funky market at Hamilton Wharf with around 60 shipping containers that have been reconfigured as food outlets.  There’s plenty of choice and many international cuisines are represented.  It also costs $2 to get in, but with live music and great views of the city at sunset, it’s worth the visit.  Our highlight was the Snickers cruffin – a muffin shaped croissant filled with caramel and topped with chocolate and peanuts – YUM!

 

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Closer to town is the Collective Markets on South Bank.  While it’s nowhere near as big as Eagle Farm or Eat Street, there is a fudge stall there that makes the best jam donut fudge we have ever tasted.

 

Food & Drink

Brisbane is obsessed with the American food scene, and there are heaps of food outlets offering American style pizza, sandwiches, bagels and burgers.  There’s also a noticeable presence of Asian cuisine, a love of craft beer and a solid passion for good coffee.

 

Coffee

We were so happy to be in a city that valued good coffee, so we were sure that wherever we went, we’d get a palatable brew.  Our first coffee experience was at Scout Café down the road from the Brisbane City YHA.  It’s one of the popular places in town – an understated café playing happy big band music that makes great coffee.

 

Our second experience was our best – Tutto Caffe Espresso Bar in Ashgrove not only makes amazing coffee but also a monster of a meal, the pork belly challenge.  Imagine succulent pork belly, bacon and haloumi in a Turkish bun with salad and a delicious Moroccan sauce – death by deliciousness.

 

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Bris Cafe

 

 

Asian

We tried four Asian establishments all up.  If you’re in the city, there are plenty of great options for a cheap lunch.  Roll’d is a healthy Vietnamese franchise that offers Pho in a Cup for $5.90 – a great way to get a daily fix of pho without the belly bludge.  Bing Boy at the food court under Post Office Square is also great in taste and in value.  Juz found it by accident after wandering the city for over an hour, not knowing what to have for lunch.

 

Brisbane Asian

 

Bamboo Basket on South Bank was the fanciest place we ate at.  We paid $19.80 for two servings of dumplings but they were pretty tasty.  On the cheaper end of the scale is Trang Vietnamese Restaurant in West End, with a big bowl of pho with silky rice noodles setting you back around $11.90.

 

Another place that we really wanted to try was Café O Mai – a Vietnamese café that serves breakfast with a western twist.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get around to going, but if we visit Brisbane again, it will be on the list.

 

Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall

Another example of Brisbane’s love affair with America, this elaborate saloon style bar with crimson walls and hanging chandeliers is a great place to sip a whiskey and apple juice while listening to live music.  For a change of scenery, go upstairs to the Mermaid Bar for some rowdy seafaring fun.

 

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Fatboy’s Burgers

The RG in Fortitude Valley has midday munchies sorted with their Fatboy Lunch Specials.  We got a scrumptious BLT with thick sliced bread and loads of bacon, with curly fries with aioli on the side.  The total was $13.70 and satisfied us both.

 

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Beer

Brisbane is a great place for beer lovers.  The XXXX Brewery is the main beer producer in Brisbane, but if this iconic Queensland beer is not your cup of tea, at least try the awesome beef burger on their lunch menu.

 

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If you love kooky and crafty beers, a visit to the Hoo Ha Bar can be enlightening.  This industrial style bar serves a selection of craft beer.  Dave was impressed with the Sunshine Coast Brewery Rye ESB. Which had a luscious raspberry smell and minimal hops. They also had a coffee kolsch, but it wasn’t as good at the coffee cream ale in Ipswich.

 

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Another great place for beer is Charming Squires on Grey Street.  It seems to be a popular place for after work drinks or a weekend session, and they offer tasting paddles of four James Squires beers of your choice for $12.

 

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There are also a few microbreweries around town. Check out our article here.

 

Information & Accommodation

Brisbane’s public transport system is called Translink http://translink.com.au/ and it is a comprehensive network of trains, trams, buses and ferries.  We made use of the bus route into the city, as well as the free city loop bus to get around, but the highlight was the free City Hopper ferry that cruises over the Brisbane River.

 

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There are various tickets you can get to travel on public transport, but the most economical for frequent travelling is a go card, which can be purchased from various locations like 7 Eleven for $10.  You then top up the card with money and touch on/off as you travel.  Paper tickets are available for one time use – they are a one way ticket valid for two hours and are significantly more expensive than go card travel.

 

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For accommodation, we recommend the Brisbane City YHA. It’s clean, quiet, spacious, and the rooftop deck provides awesome views of the city.  Check out our post here.

 

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Ipswich 2015-05-20 018w

City Profile : Ipswich

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Ipswich is a city of over 180,000 people and is around 40km west of Brisbane.  While it was considered to be a separate city, due to urban spread and for statistical purposes, Ipswich is now part of Brisbane’s greater metropolitan area.  Compared to the hustle and bustle of Brisbane, Ipswich is much smaller, more manageable in terms of traffic and getting around, and with a friend from Melbourne stationed at the nearby RAAF Base, we were stoked to stick around and explore the city.

 

Starting as a limestone mining settlement in 1827, Ipswich is soaked in heritage and one of Queensland’s oldest cities.  It was primarily populated by the first overseas convicts that were sent to mine the area.  The settlement was named Limestone, but in 1843, it was renamed Ipswich after a town in England.  Growing steadily as an inland port that serviced the local industries, Ipswich was a prime candidate to become Queensland’s capital but Brisbane won the votes in 1859.  In 1860, it was declared a town and by 1904, it had grown into a city.

 

Our first visit was a sunset rendezvous as we were on our way to Toowoomba.  After collecting a map and some tips from the Visitor Information Centre, we quickly got to action, starting with two lookouts – the Lions Lookout at the top of Queens Park and Denmark Hill Lookout atop a water tower just south of the city centre.  Once the sun was gone, we found the Pumpyard, an awesome new bar.

 

Our second visit was to see Lucy, a friend from Melbourne.  We met for a quick coffee and bite to eat at Deann’s Coffee House before continuing the caffeination with coffee ale at the Pumpyard.

 

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Desperate to walk off the buzz, we explored the eerily quiet streets before stumbling upon Noodle City for dinner.  Still reeling from all the coffee, we said goodbye to Lucy and headed towards Fassifern rest area for the night.  It was nice and quiet, with a large toilet block and plenty of space.  In the morning, we noticed our neighbours had a very colourful van.

 

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Ingestion in Ipswich

Deann’s Coffee House

An awesome retro café in the heart of Ipswich – it’s almost like a museum!  Get nostalgic over the old furniture and décor while you sip of a fabulously made coffee or munch on a succulent BLT.  They even play great music.

 

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The Pumpyard

This place is full of pleasant surprises.  Home to Four Hearts Brewing, the 100 year old heritage listed building used to be a Technical school and was built on the original site that supplied water to Ipswich.  While all of their beers are fantastic, the winner was the seasonal Coffee Cream Ale, a limited edition brew that was deliciously sweet and caffeinated!  Fingers crossed they make another batch again!

 

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Noodle City

This might look like a standard noodle joint but it’s friendly, cheap and the noodles are delicious.  Dave got the BBQ Pork Noodles and Juz got the Chicken Laksa and both went down a treat.

 

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City Profile : Townsville

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The largest tropical city in North Queensland, Townsville has a population of 200,000 people and an average of 300 sunny days per year.  While it’s a great tourism hotspot because of its access to Magnetic Island and the Great Barrier Reef, it doesn’t solely rely on tourism.  The economy is supported by a variety of industries, including government administration and defence, agriculture and mining, and because of this, the city has a completely different vibe compared to tourism-driven Cairns.  It feels like a city with deep roots and happy inhabitants that are friendly and welcoming.

 

Just off the coast is Magnetic Island, a popular holiday destination that was named by Captain Cook in 1770 after his compass went haywire when passing the island.  There are heaps of beaches, walking tracks and lagoons on the island, and it only takes 25 minutes by ferry to get there from Townsville.

 

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History

The Bindal and Wulgurukaba People were the first people to have lived in the Townsville region.  While there were a few visitors to the area, including a brief pass by of Captain Cook’s fleet in 1770, settlement started in 1866 when a bloke called Robert Towns agreed to provide financial assistance.  Incidentally, Townsville was named after him and two years later, the settlement grew quickly as the port and service centre for the goldfields in the west.  With the addition of pastoral and sugar industries, Townsville’s population bloomed from 4,000 people in 1882 to 13,000 by 1891.

 

During World War 2, Townsville was a major military base and hosted around 90,000 American and Australian troops.  It was bombed three times by the Japanese and was a major offensive launching base for the battle of the Coral Sea.  And, as do all places in the tropics, Townsville has fallen victim to a few cyclones.

 

Attractions

Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium

Learn about the Great Barrier Reef and the creatures that reside there at the world’s largest coral reef aquarium.  For more information, check out our article here…

 

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The Strand

This beautiful 2.2km stretch of beachfront parkland is dotted with playgrounds and picnic areas, and features a water park, a few restaurants and the Strand Rock Pool, and manmade saltwater pool that’s free from stingers and biters.

 

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Castle Hill

A visit to Townsville isn’t complete without ascending the 268m to the top of Castle Hill.  This pink granite monolith overlooks the entire city and was one of the earliest sites named by the explorers who surveyed the area in 1864.  Whether you do it by car along the 2.6km winding road or the goat track on foot, the view from the top is incredible.  What impressed us the most was the amount of people walking, running and riding their way up the road towards the top – there must have been hundreds!

 

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Queens Gardens

The inner city park is the oldest botanic garden in Townsville and was first set up in 1870 as a garden of food bearing plants to feed the settlement.  These days, it includes a hedge maze, succulent and cactus gardens and bird aviaries.

 

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Kissing Point & Jezzine Barracks

Kissing Point overlooks Cleveland Bay and was originally built in the 1800s as a fort to defend the harbour from the threat of foreign attack, particularly from the Russians.  Jezzine Barracks was built on the headland and occupied by military right up until 2006.  In 2009, the area was handed over to the community of Townsville and turned into a heritage precinct that commemorates the military and aboriginal heritage of Kissing Point headland.  There is a great display of war history and a lookout over the bay to Magnetic Island

 

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Food & Drink

The Townsville Brewing Company

The old Townsville post office was converted into a brewery, restaurant and function centre in 2001 and offers a great range of beers and awesome lunch specials.  Definitely worth stopping in.

 

Coffee Dominion

This coffee shop sells one thing and one thing only – coffee.  They roast, brew and sell beans at this outlet, and after putting them to the taste test, we give them the Melbournian tick of approval.  The coffee was strong and flavoursome and they know how to froth soy milk so that it’s silky and smooth.

http://www.coffeedominion.com.au/

 

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Two Brothers Café

Just around the corner from the Information Centre is a café that serves up burgers and rolls named after famous brothers.  Choose between a Leyland Brothers Burger with chicken, swiss cheese and bacon or a Mario Brothers deli roll with roast beef, grilled sweet potato and marinated mushrooms.  Sounds good to us!

http://twobrotherscafe.com.au/

 

Information & Accommodation

The Information Centre is located in Bulletin Square, just off Flinders Street in the centre of town.  There are a few cafes nearby and public toilets as well.

 

The closest YHA to Townsville is on Magnetic Island, which makes it the perfect place to stay while you explore the island.  To make a booking, call (07) 4778 5577 or visit https://www.yha.com.au/hostels/qld/townsville-whitsundays/magnetic-island/

 

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About 30km out of town is Bluewater Rest Area.  It’s spacious and offers toilets, a playground and overnight stays for self-contained vehicles – no tents.

 

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Kuranda

The Tablelands – Part 2 : Kuranda

Kuranda

 

Nestled in rainforest just 25km from Cairns, Kuranda is an adorable “Village in the Rainforest” with plenty of bohemian character.  Check out the colourful craft markets, indulge in some delicious coffee at one of the many cafes, or get closer to nature by visiting the nearby waterfalls or local animals.

 

The rainforest around Kuranda was the home of the Djaybugay people for thousands of years, before the white settlers turned up in 1885.  The construction of a railway to connect Cairns with Herberton went through Kuranda in 1891 and it was around this time that the Kuranda Post office opened.  Timber was the town’s primary industry for a long time, until it turned into the tourist destination that it is today.  It uses the railway to receive thousands of tourists who travel from Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic Railway.  Other ways to get to Kuranda are by coach or the Skyrail.

 

During our stay in Cairns, we had both Juz’s mum and dad visit on separate occasions, and we took them both to Kuranda.  If you have a day to spare while you’re in the Cairns/Port Douglas region, it would be worth spending some or all of that day in Kuranda.

 

Kuranda

 

Points of Interest

Kuranda Markets

There are two markets in Kuranda.

The Heritage Market started around 20 years ago and is an undercover market nestled between the Wildlife Experience destinations.  The main things on offer are various Australiana products, like didgeridoos, vests and wallets made from kangaroo fur, handmade jewellery, crafts and leather goods.  There is also a nice cafe with a deck that overlooks lush rainforest.

 

 

The original Kuranda Market is located across the road, behind the shops and was established in 1978.  It’s laid out over a sloped landscape with little pathways winding around colourful huts that host the stalls.  This market has a very hippy, colourful, free-spirited feel to it, and the stalls vary from health smoothies and rainbow dresses to dreadlocking and a mini golf course!  The highlights of the original market are the hippy photo op and Petit Cafe…

 

Petit Café

A popular destination for locals and visitors, Petit Cafe offers an entire menu of various crepes with delicious coffee.  During busy times, you might have to wait to get a table, but it is worth it.  The kangaroo prosciutto and goats cheese crepe is heaven.  We took Juz’s mum here when she visited and we all had a savoury crepe each, and a dessert crepe to share.  Scrumptious.

 

 

Kuranda Beer

One of the cafes in Kuranda offers Kuranda Draught, a beer made by Red Dragon Brewery in Cairns.  We stopped in to sample and found that this beer was really nice.  The banana and other fruity aromas gave it a real ‘breakfast beer’ taste.  It was crisp and lightly bubbly with a delicate hops aftertaste that left a pleasant lingering bitterness and dryness in the mouth. YUMMO!

 

German Tucker

If you don’t mind a bit of sausage, these guys claim to have the best German sausages in Australia.  Yes, they’re delicious, and come with a variety of sides like caramelised onion, sauerkraut and potato salad, but surely there are other ‘best German sausages’ in Australia… right?

 

Kuranda

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

If you have at least 6 hours to spare, we highly recommend treating yourself to the Kuranda Wildlife Experience.  This package includes three destinations – the Kuranda Koala Gardens, Birdworld Kuranda and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.  You’ll get to meet a whole range of animals, from koalas, wallabies and gliders to lizards, turtles and cheeky parrots.  Check out our post about the Kuranda Wildlife Experience here…

 

 

Barron River Falls

The best time to visit the Barron Falls is once the Wet Season has started (around January), because at this time, the torrent of white water that falls over the Barron Falls Weir is more fierce and really impressive. We visited just before the wet and while we weren’t expecting much, it was still a pretty sight.

 

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Port Douglas

Town Profile : Port Douglas

Port Douglas

 

We’ve visited Port Douglas three times and found all occasions to be quite pleasant.

 

The first time was for our birthdays in 2013, when we flew over from Darwin and met up with our friends and family, who flew up from Melbourne to celebrate with us.  It was a week of eating and drinking, late nights and plenty of injury, and it was during the peak tourism season so there were plenty of holiday makers around.  The second time was with the Troopy, as we began our descent down the east coast of Australia.  Tourism was still bustling in October but it just seemed a lot quieter without our mates around.

 

 

The third time was during our seven-month stint in Cairns.  We’d been playing trivia every week at the Red Beret Hotel and the prizes were vouchers for various places in Port Douglas.  After collecting a booty of vouchers, we put aside a day to drive up and use them.  Despite being warm and sunny, March is right in the middle of cyclone season, and one was expected to hit the coast in a day or two – Port Douglas was deserted.

 

We felt like we had the whole town to ourselves and had an amazing, action packed day that included a delicious breakfast at Cafe Fresq, shopping at various gift stores, a mind-blowing sandwich from the Little Larder, a walking tour around town, and a sunset dinner at the Yacht Club.

 

Port Douglas

 

Port Douglas is essentially a tourism town that can be fully experienced in a day or two.  If you can’t afford to stay at one of the lavish resorts and spend the rest of your time drinking cocktails by the pool, Port Douglas has a few budget accommodation options, including a YHA, and is a great place to base yourself while you visit the various attractions in the region.

 

Fast Facts

  • Port Douglas is #3 on Australian Traveller magazine’s list of Australia’s 100 Best Towns. It’s about 1 hour north of Cairns.
  • It is the gateway to two World Heritage listed areas – the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.
  • There have been several films shot in and around Port Douglas – Sniper (1993), Paradise Road (1997), The Thin Red Line (1998), Paradise Found (2003), Fools Gold (2008) and Nim’s Island (2008).
  • Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, died off the coast of Port Douglas after a stingray shot its barb into his heart. He was filming a new documentary called The Ocean’s Deadliest.

 

History

The traditional owners of the area are the Kuku Yalanji people, and their country stretches from the Mowbray River to the south of Port Douglas to the Annan River just south of Cooktown.

 

Port Douglas was established in 1877 after the discovery of gold in a valley near the Mowbray River.  At its peak, it had a population of 12,000, with 26 legal and registered pubs and even a few opium dens!  The schoolhouse built in 1878 and it is the oldest building in the region and was still operating until the 1960s when it was closed due to lack of population.

 

Scandal hit Port Douglas in 1887 when Ellen Thomson was convicted of murdering her husband. She pleaded innocent but she and her lover were both sent to Brisbane where they were sentenced and hung.  She became the only women to ever be hung in QLD.

 

In 1911, a devastating cyclone hit Port Douglas and once it had past, two people were dead and only seven buildings were left standing.  The impact of the cyclone lingered for several decades, and the population dwindled to abound 100 people in the 1960s.

 

christopher_skaseWho would have thought that the town’s saviour would later be known as Australia’s most wanted fugitive and fraudster.  In 1988, Christopher Skase unveiled his new 5-star Sheraton Mirage Resort, which triggered a massive tourism boom.  Because of this, it’s said that Skase is responsible for reviving Port Douglas and thus creating a successful tourism-based economy.  He is also responsible for the relocation the St Mary’s Church from up on the hill to down near the water’s edge in 1988, because its position was on valuable real estate land!  The non-denominational church was originally built in 1880 but was flattened by that cyclone in 1911.  It was rebuilt and remained in its spot on the hill until Skase’s arrival.

 

These days, the St Mary’s By The Sea is a popular place to get married.  Port Douglas is a thriving tourism town with a population is around 3,200, but this figure can double during the tourist season between May and October.

 

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Places of Interest

There are a few things to do in town, such as browsing shops along the main street, having a drink and a meal at one of the pubs, or lazing on the best beach in town – Four Mile Beach. The sand at Four Mile Beach is so flat and firm, that many years ago planes were often landed on the sand.  There’s also a market on every Sunday in the park opposite the Courthouse Hotel.

 

If you are interested in learning about the town and the area, we recommend going on a K-Star Walking Tour.  Kevin is really knowledgeable about the geography, history and flora in the area and it’s a great introduction to tropical Queensland.  Alternatively, hire some electric bikes; an easy and super fun way to get around town.  Prices start at $20 for 2hrs.

 

Port Douglas

 

As we said earlier, Port Douglas can be explored in a day or two, but it is a great place to station yourself while you explore the surrounding wonders.

 

Cape Tribulation

Located within the Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation is a headland that was named by Captain Cook after his ship was damaged on the Great Barrier Reef.  It was named so because it was where Cook’s troubles began, but despite this, it is a wonderful beach to visit.  On the road to Cape Tribulation are various cafes and ice creameries which certainly don’t hurt to visit.

 

Cape Tribulation

 

Mossman Gorge

Due to efforts to conserve this naturally beautiful place, a regular shuttle bus that runs from the Mossman Gorge Centre is the only way to visit the Gorge.  It has a relatively low fee and does allow multiple trips on the day of purchase if required.  We recommend exploring the walking trail before having a dip in the cool waters.

 

Mossman Gorge

 

Flames of the Forest

This is a very indulgent experience for special occasions only.  Enjoy a gourmet meal in a romantic atmosphere of illuminated trees while being serenaded by a wonderful performer.

 

Flames of the Forest

 

Bloomfield Track & CREB Track

For the off road enthusiasts, check out the two tracks that go through the Daintree.  We only did a small portion of the CREB Track before turning around to follow the Bloomfield Track.  Our brakes weren’t in great shape at the time and we had been told by locals that the Bloomfield Track was the safer option – plus, there were a few bush fires around and we needed to put safety first.

 

CREB Track

 

Food & Drink

There are heaps of places that offer a great feed in Port Douglas.  For a decent coffee, check out Moonshine Bay and while you’re there, browse through all of the colourful things in the shop.  Moonshine Bay uses coffee from Four Mile Roasters, local coffee bean aficionados who have a great little cafe called Origin Espresso.  Located in the backstreets away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist-ridden main street, sip a quality coffee while sitting on hessian sack milk crates and contemplating which baked treat to eat next.  Very Melbourne…

 

 

Many of the good cheap eats in Port Douglas are on Grant Street.  The French toast at Cafe Fresq is delicious, all the food from Menu Thai Restaurant is incredible and for a late night snack after the pub, go to Get Ya Kebabs for a juicy meal.  However, one of our favourite places was an award-winning bakery…

 

Mocka’s Pies

Not only do they have a great selection of pies, including Kangaroo and Crocodile Laksa, but they are absolutely scrumptious.  Mocka’s regularly participate in the Official Great Aussie Pie Competition and their pies win medals every year.

 

Mocka's Pies

 

On The Inlet

This restaurant is a little on the pricey side, so it should probably be put aside for special occasions, but the food is quite good and they have a resident groper called George… and by groper, we mean fish, not pervert.

 

The Little Larder

This place is a popular spot amongst the locals and visitors alike.  They do a wicked breakfast and cup of coffee but the main attraction is the ‘serious sandwiches made by chefs’.  We had lunch here and our lives are ruined because all future sandwiches will never be as good as the sandwiches we had here! Check out our post about this excellent food outlet…

 

Port Douglas

 

Off The Track

There is a wicked food joint on Warner Street, just behind Coles.  They have an awesome selection of gourmet burgers, including beef, pork, chicken and vegetarian, and each burger comes with a little pile of perfectly cooked chips.  They also do breakfast and can brew a very nice Lavazza coffee.

 

Port Douglas

 

Port Douglas Yacht Club

For a more local experience, you must visit the PDYC!  This open air bar and restaurant is a great place to meet friendly locals and watch the sun set over the estuary.  We enjoyed a delicious and well priced dinner that included fresh, crisp chips and a lovely side salad.  Their chicken parma is juicy and thick with all the correct toppings, and they also offer Cargill steak.

 

Port Douglas

 

Information & Accommodation

The Port Douglas Tourist Information Centre is located on the main street at 23 Macrossan Street, or you can visit these websites: http://www.tourismportdouglas.com.au/ or http://www.pddt.com.au/

 

Port O’Call Lodge YHA – 4 green star eco-lodge.  To make a reservation, call 07 4099 5422 or email portdouglas@yha.com.au

 

Cape Tribulation YHA – nestled deep within the Daintree rainforest.  To make a reservation, call 07 4098 0030 or email capetribulation@yha.com.au

 

Port Douglas

 

 

Cape York

Eating Out : Out of the Blue Cafe, Portland Roads QLD

Cape York

 

We heard a rumour that a café at Portland Roads was well worth visiting, with claims that it was possibly the best seafood on the Cape.  We weren’t super hungry but figured that a coffee couldn’t hurt.  If the café was that good, then the coffee should be excellent.  We rocked up at around 10:30am and had just missed out on breakfast, so we checked out the lunch menu instead.

 

Most of it was seafood – prawn rolls, Greek-style calamari, and fish and chips – and they also had a selection of cakes and hot beverages.  Dave went with the plunger coffee while Juz ordered the chai tea.  Both were $4 and there was enough in both to get two serves.  The coffee came with a little pot of milk while the chai tea was served with a dish of local honey.

 

Cape York

 

It would have been silly to leave without trying some seafood so we ordered the seafood medley for $29, which included four boiled prawns, four tempura prawns and two pieces of crumbed fish with fresh lemon, tartare sauce, a crisp salad and the best damn chips we have in ages.  We are happy to say that the rumours are true – best damn seafood on the Cape.

 

Cape York

 

The chef came out from the kitchen to collect our crockery and when we complimented him on his chips, he told us there’s a guy who often travels over a hundred kilometres regularly just to get some of these chips!  Considering how good they were, we weren’t surprised at all.  We ended up having a long chat with the chef about photography, side projects and life in the tropics.  Before we left, he gave us a soursop fruit from the café gardens, which we ate on our way south to the quarantine checkpoint.

 

We really enjoyed the food, the location and the conversation we had at Out Of The Blue Café.  If you happen to find yourself out near Lockhart River or Chilli Beach, you should definitely duck in and check it out – don’t forget to try the chips!

 

 

The Tablelands

The Tablelands – Part 1 : Ravenshoe to Mareeba

The Tablelands

 

We were absolutely thrilled when we hit the Tablelands.  The contrast in scenery from the dry, dusty outback to moist, green rolling hills was refreshing to our eyes, but also sparked nostalgia for the Victorian countryside.  Known as the ‘food bowl of the tropics’, the Tablelands has the perfect environment for dairy farming and growing crops like tropical fruit and coffee, so the gourmet food and wine trails are fantastic.  The natural beauty of the region is also undeniable and includes waterfall circuits, stunning rainforests, craters, lakes and unique wildlife.

 

The Tablelands was immediately put on our list of favourite places in Australia, and as we planned our travels, we were happy to realise that we’d be passing through the region twice!  This is our first instalment of the Tablelands, starting from Ravenshoe, and following the road north through Atherton and Mareeba.  Our next instalment will include Kuranda, Yungaburra, Malanda and Milla Milla – stay tuned.

 

Ravenshoe

It was too early in the morning for us to go exploring Ravenshoe, but we were still stoked about being in the highest town in Queensland.  This cute, little town sits at an altitude of 920m above sea level and is surrounded by World Heritage listed rainforest.  On our way out, we passed the highest pub in Queensland, and lamented that it was too early in the day for a bevy.

 

The Tablelands

 

Millstream Falls

This was our first stop from the west, and as we walked down the winding path to the falls, we sucked in the delicious forest air.  Millstream Falls is the widest single drop waterfall in the world.

 

Mount Hypipamee National Park

On the way to Atherton, we stopped in at Mount Hypipamee National Park to check out the crater of the same name, and Dinner Falls.  We were surrounded by lush foliage, bush turkeys scratching around in the undergrowth and the soothing scents of the forest.

 

The Tablelands

 

The Mount Hypipamee Crater was very deep, with a manky, green pool at the bottom.  This crater is actually a diatreme, which is a volcanic pipe that was created by a gaseous explosion.  Dinner Falls was also a treat to see, and once we got back to the Troopy, it was time for breakfast.

 

The Tablelands

 

Atherton

Atherton is a great little town that was named after a bloke called John Atherton, who settled in the area in the 1870s.  It’s the ‘capital’ of the Tablelands and the population sits at around 7000 people.  There are two major supermarkets, a few parks that are perfect for picnics, and a central visitor information centre staffed by helpful locals. There are also several attractions in and around town that are definitely worth checking out.

 

The Crystal Caves and Fascinating Facets

An award-winning tourist attraction and we could see why.  The Crystal Caves are a fantasy wonderland located right on the main street of Atherton and would make any fossil fanatic or gemstone buff squeal with delight.  Fascinating Facets is almost like a museum on its own with a fabulous display of fossils, gemstones and jewellery, and you just have to try the chocolate – YUM!

 

The Crystal Caves

 

The Peanut Place

Queensland produces 95% of Australia’s peanuts, and considering that it’s the main ingredient n peanut butter, one of Juz’s favourite things, we had to check out the Peanut Place.

 

Despite the suspiciously shaped mascot standing at the front of the store, which also happens to be the Big Peanut, we found their variety of peanut products to be very impressive – sweet nuts, savoury nuts, nut butter, nut ice cream, boiled nuts, roasted, salted, the list goes on.  They were featured on the front cover of the local newspaper for their delicious chocolate peanut butter spread, and we also sampled the peanut ice cream.  As you can imagine, nearly everything they sell has peanuts in them so anaphylactics can wait in the car.

 

The Tablelands

 

Tinaroo Lake

This man-made dam is a great place for a family picnic.  There are picnic benches, shady trees, BBQs and a big playground, and you can even hire a boat for a paddle on the lake.

 

Mareeba

Another cute town in the Tablelands, they say that Mareeba is where the rainforest meets the outback.  The area is occupied by a variety of crops, such as mangoes, sugarcane, avocadoes, exotic fruits, as well as coffee plantations. There is also a fantastic Heritage Museum at the Visitor Centre that sheds light on the local tobacco and mining industries, aboriginal culture and pioneer history, with lots of historical memorabilia on display.  Entry is by gold coin donation – and it’s well worth it.

 

The Tablelands

 

Our day was to include a visit to Coffee Works, Mount Uncle Distillery and de Brueys Wines so we prepared for the day by visiting Curcio’s Drive-Thru Bakery to break the fast with chunky curry pies, and bacon–infused sausage rolls at very reasonable prices.

 

The Tablelands

 

Coffee Works

You could easily spend the whole day at Coffee Works.  While there is a colourful gift shop and café onsite, entry to Coffee World will take you on the ultimate coffee-lovers adventure.  Not only will you have unlimited access to their variety of coffees, teas, chocolate and liqueurs, but you will discover things about coffee that you never dreamed of in the museum.  Their collection of coffee paraphernalia is biggest in the world, with many being either one of a kind, or the last one remaining in the world.  Amazing…

 

Coffee Works

 

Mount Uncle’s Distillery

For those why love a bit of spirit, you can’t go past Mount Uncle’s Distillery.  Their vodka is pristine, their gin is sublime, and regardless of whether you’re a rum gulper or a whiskey sipper, you’ll enjoy the Iridium Gold Rum.

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

De Brueys Boutique Wines

Usually, wine and grapes go hand in hand but not at De Brueys.  Their wines, ports and liqueurs don’t contain grapes; instead they’re made from exotic fruits like mango, lychee and bush cherry.  They even have a wine made from jaboticaba, a cauliflora fruit from Brazil.  If you like Irish Cream, then you’ll love their Temptation Range.  While we really enjoyed Envy with its delicious honeydew melon flavour, the Coffee Temptation was our clear winner and we left with a bottle.

 

The Tablelands

 

As we made our way to camp, the sun was setting over the distant hills, and we drove past the Mareeba Wetlands just in time for the sky to burst with the colours of mangoes and bananas.

 

Information & Accommodation

The Atherton Information Centre is located on the corner of Main & Silo Rd Atherton.  They are open daily from 9am to 5pm.  For more information, visit www.athertoninformationcentre.com.au

The Mareeba Heritage Museum & Tourist Information Centre is open daily from 8am to 4pm and is at 345 Byrnes Street, Mareeba.  To find out more, visit www.mareebaheritagecentre.com.au

 

Rifle Creek Rest Area

Just south of Mount Molloy is a spacious rest area.  Cold showers and toilets are provided, a small donation for the convenience is appreciated.

 

Rocky Creek Memorial Park

A few clicks north of Tolga, this war memorial park is right next door to a rest area that can get rather busy during peak season.  Phone reception and clean toilets are on offer, as well as the opportunity to give a small donation for the convenience.

 

The Tablelands

 

Stay tuned for The Tablelands – Part 2, which will include Kuranda, Yungaburra, Malanda and Millaa Millaa.