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Explore : Bruny Island

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Every journey to Bruny Island (pronounced brew-nee) starts on the ferry. Our ticket to and from the island cost us $33, which includes a lovely 2×15 minute ride across the D’entrecastreaux Channel. Our journey would take us from the ferry terminal south through the Neck to the southernmost pub in Australia and onwards to Cape Bruny.

 

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FAST FACTS

  • Bruny Island is actually two land masses that are joined by a sandy isthmus, which is known as the Neck.
  • The whole island is 100km long.
  • Adventure Bay was named after the ship that was captained by English navigator Tobias Furneaux, who landed at the island in 1773.
  • The island is named after French explorer Bruni d’Entrecasteaux, who sailed the channel and discovered that it was in fact an island in 1792. It was known as Bruni Island until 1918 when the spelling was changed to Bruny.

 

When we got down south, radio and reception was starting to fail. At one point, all we got was some church radio station. We listened for a little while and chuckled about the breastplate of righteousness that guards your heart against the evils of the world.

 

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The Neck

The Neck is the sandy isthmus that connects the north and south parts of Bruny Island. There’s a lookout there, Truganini Lookout, and it’s one of the best lookouts we’ve visited on our entire trip around Australia.

 

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Once you ascend the umpteen timber steps to the top, you are gifted with a 360 degree view of the ocean and the narrow strip of sand that connects the north and south ends of the island.

 

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Get Shucked

By far the best oysters in Tasmania and comparable to those in Coffin Bay SA, Get Shucked sells pre-shucked boogers of sea-salty delight that slide down your gob with lubricated ease. Give them a bit of punch with a sprinkle of Tobasco sauce.

 

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The outlet has a great sitting area and they’re licensed so you can enjoy a glass of Seven Sheds beer while you slurp down some oysters.

 

Bruny Island Cheese Co.

This artisan cheese producer is owned by Nick Haddow, who has been making cheeses around the world for over 10 years. He’s recognised as the finest artisan cheese producer in Australia and is also currently the only cheese maker in Australia that is allowed to use raw milk to make cheese. However, laws have changed recently so there may be more raw cheeses in the future.

 

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Our tasting session included four cheeses.

  • The Tom – a hard rind cheese that has a complicated and mature taste with a curious dimension of flavour.
  • The Saint – a soft white mould cheese that had a lovely delicate flavour of mould with plenty of buttery cheesiness.
  • The 1792 – a soft washed rind cheese with some pungency but a lovely soft cheese with plenty of salty goodness.
  • The o.d.o – a marinated cheese that is only one day old and is a combination of a feta and a mozzarella. It has a strong lactic acid flavour but would be awesome on some bread with a bit of smoked salmon.

 

Outside, there’s a fantastic deck space and picnic benches scattered in the surrounding gardens, perfect for stopping for a coffee, cider or cheese platter.

 

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Adventure Bay

 

Before stopping at Hotel Bruny for a beer, we detoured to Adventure Bay to see what was the big deal. Adventure Bay is on the eastern side of the Neck and was named after the ship of English navigator Tobias Furneaux’s in 1773.

 

While it’s mainly a holiday destination with heaps of options for accommodation, we did stop at one of the beautiful beaches and marvelled at the dark coloured sand.

 

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Hotel Bruny

Australia’s southernmost pub is located across the road from Sunset Bay. Needless to say, the view from out the front is fantastic, the distant mountains reflecting on the water. It’s a small pub with a standard pub menu that is reasonably priced for the location (a chicken parma is $26).

 

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We stopped in for a drink – Juz enjoyed a yeasty and crisp Cascade Draught while Dave opted for a dark Cascade Stout.

 

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Cloudy Bay

Located at the southern end of Bruny Island, Cloudy Bay is a great place for a quiet getaway. There’s a 5km long sheltered beach that offers great surfing, and you can drive along the sand to get to the Cloudy Bay campsite on the eastern end.

 

This is where we camped the night and enjoyed the company of the friendly wallabies.

 

 

 

Cape Bruny

The lighthouse atop Cape Bruny is quite significant. It is the second oldest lighthouse in Australia – first lit in March 1838 and decommissioned on 6 August 1996. It was replaced by a nearby solar powered light.

 

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Grandvewe Cheesery and Hartshorn Distillery

No, Grandvewe is not located on Bruny Island, but both are attractions of the Huon Trail, and it’s only 10 minutes south of the Kettering Ferry terminal.

 

Grandvewe is Tassie’s only sheep milk cheesery and is the only place on earth where you’ll find Sheep Whey Vodka and Vanilla Whey liqueur. You’ll notice a lot of sheepy things, like wool in the garden beds and some cute sheep grazing in the paddock near the car park.

 

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Make sure you taste all the cheeses because they’re fantastic. We particularly liked the smooth and yeasty Brebichon and the Sapphire Blue, a mild blue cheese similar to Rochefort, so we bought a piece of each.

 

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There were wines and spirits available for tasting as well. The Sheep Whey Vodka had an interesting apple and pear flavour. We enquired how they make alcohol from a by-product that is predominantly protein. It seems that finding the right yeast was an important factor, and of the residual lactose in the whey, the glucose that is separated from the galactose is what is turned into alcohol.

 

We also tried the Vanilla Whey Liqueur, which was deliciously sweet, smooth and tasted like custard, as well as their lychee-driven Chardonnay and dry but fruity Pinot Noir.

 

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Waterfall Way : Bellingen to Armidale

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The Waterfall Way is a 165km road that runs from the Pacific Highway along the coast, through Bellingen, to Armidale in the New England Tablelands.  It’s a wonderfully scenic drive with plenty to see, including rainforest, waterfalls and green valleys dotted with fat cows.  We drove through in autumn and the blaze of red and yellow leaves splashed colour on the countryside.

 

Bellingen

The arts and crafts capital of the Coffs Coast hinterland, Bellingen is a beautiful little town that overlooks the Bellinger River.  There’s a peaceful, artistic and alternative feel to the place, with many inhabitants and visitors being spiritual and environmentally conscious.

 

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We preferred Bellingen over Niimbin and Byron Bay, as there were no major supermarkets, brand names or blatant drug dealing.  We ended up staying the night at the Bellingen YHA – our new favourite YHA.  It was small and cosy, just like a share house, with trust and respect between the guests.  It was more like a home than a hostel, and it had a beautiful deck, tranquil courtyard and a cute kitty wandering around.

 

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Newell Falls

On our way to Dorrigo, we encountered our first waterfall – Newell Falls.  As the road wound around Dorrigo Mountain, the water from an unnamed creek flowed through a tunnel under the road.  To get a better look, you‘ll need to stop at the nearby rest area, but remember that because the water is so close to the road, heavy rainfall and flooding can restrict access and visibility.

 

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Dorrigo

Located on the Dorrigo Plateau on the Great Dividing Range, it’s a bit of a climb to get into the little town.  Dorrigo Mountain has an elevation of around 750m, and while there are a few mosaic murals around town, there isn’t much to see.  It’s more like a waiting room for heaven than a tourist attraction.

 

The best thing to check out is the Red Dirt Distillery, the only distillery in Australia to do potato vodka.  They also do a ripper gin and a delicious Nocino liqueur made with green walnut.

 

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Dangar Falls

A few kilometres north of town is Dangar Falls.  It has volcanic origins and is a worthy deviation from the Waterfall Way.

 

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Ebor Falls

Holy moly, it was cold!  We stopped here for lunch and could barely move our fingers as we made sandwiches.  Even with four layers of clothes, gloves and a beanie, Juz’s lips had turned blue.

 

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Ebor Falls is located within Guy Fawkes National Park and the upper lookout offers awesome views of the Guy Fawkes River cascading over the rocks.  There’s also a lower lookout and valley view, which was so lovely that it made up for the cloudy day at the Best of All Lookout.

 

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Wollomombi Falls

These falls are the second tallest falls in Australia after the Wallaman Falls near Ingham, plunging over 100 metres into the gorge from an elevation of 907 metres.  The lookout provides great views into the gorge, and there are nearby picnic facilities if you want to stop for a bite to eat.

 

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From here, Armidale is only 30 minutes away, signifying the end of the Waterfall Way.

 

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City Profile : Bundaberg

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Our first thought when we entered Bundaberg was, “for the love of pizza and ice cream, where can we get a shower around here?”  After a quick visit to the Information Centre, we had two options – hot showers down the road at $5 a pop or free cold showers by the beach at Bargara.  With the sun shining and the anticipation of a free hot shower in the days to come, we made our way to Bargara…

 

Once we were refreshed, we did a quick drive around town.  We ducked into a Lifeline Superstore and were delighted to find a book Dave had been looking for since Christmas – the sixth instalment of Jean M Auel’s Earth’s Children series for only $1.  His day was made even more with all the Aussie and American muscle cars cruising around town – there were lots of vintage cars and hot rods to drool over.

 

The traditional owners of the region are the Kalki people, and the first white man they ever saw was actually a convict who had escaped from the Moreton Bay penal settlement in 1830.  It wasn’t established as a settlement until 1867, and the first industries were timber and sugar.  The settlement steadily grew and eventually became a town in 1902, and a city by 1913.  As you drive around town, it’s hard to miss all the beautiful buildings, many with arches and columns and colourful art deco façades.

 

Things to See and Do

Bundaberg Distillery Company

Ever since Juz tried spiced rum in Darwin, she’s been hooked so a visit to the Bundaberg Distillery was compulsory.  It was great to see where the Aussie icon is made, and the tour was a really insightful way to learn about how rum is made.

 

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The Bundaberg Barrel

Both a ‘Big Thing’ and an educational experience about the origins of ginger beer, the Bundaberg Barrel is the home of Bundaberg brewed soft drinks, which are a brazilian times better than regular crappy soft drinks.

 

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Schmeider’s Cooperage

Named after Dave Schmieder, who had just left school when he was offered a coopering apprenticeship at the Bundaberg Distillery in the 1970s.  He started the business in 1982 just as the demand for coopers was declining, but he is still on call with the Distillery to maintain their massive timber vats.

 

You can visit the Cooperage for free, browse the gift shop, watch barrels being made and even try your skill at putting a barrel together yourself in the interactive video room.

 

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Alexandra Park & Zoo

This is a great place to have a picnic or BBQ before checking out the free zoo – complete with playful monkeys, chilled out dingoes, kooky quolls and emus that omit a sound that sounds like a beating drum or a hollow PVC pipe being hit by a stick.

 

 

Bundaberg Waterworks Water Tower

Considered to be a structure of technical and aesthetic bricklaying excellence, construction of this water tower commenced in 1902 and was completed in 1905. It holds 40,000 gallons of water in a tank that is just over 32 metres high, and it is still in service today.

 

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Childers

This old-fashioned town is adorned with ornate buildings, heritage pubs and the Old Pharmacy, a brilliantly preserved display of what an olden day apothecary would have looked liked.  Well worth a drop in.

 

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Sharon Nature Park and Gorge

This is a free rest area about 15 km west of Bundaberg.  There’s a picnic area that precedes a short walk through Sharon Gorge to a lookout over Burnett River.  We ventured out shortly after sunrise and marvelled at the calls of the whip birds before being somewhat disappointed by the lack of view at the end of the path.

 

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Rum : The Bundaberg Distillery

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Huzzah!  We arrived in Bundaberg on an absolutely stunning May morning and it would have been absolute poppycock if we didn’t go and visit the home of a great Aussie legend, Bundaberg Rum.  After spending the day seeing the sights and exploring the Capricorn Coast, we stopped in at the Bundaberg Distillery for a tour with Tammy and Chauntelle, and some serious a’rum’atherapy.

 

The History of Rum in Australia

The first inklings of rum began in the 17th century when English settlers in the West Indies started to produce a clear alcoholic drink from sugar cane.  They would still import sherry and port in oak barrels, but when returning them to the homeland, they would return them filled with rum, thus creating dark rum.

 

By the late 1700s, rum had become a popular drink, particularly amongst sailors on the First Fleet.  A monopoly over the rum trade was held by the NSW Corps (aka Rum Corps), and when Governor William Bligh cracked down on the rum trade, the head of the Rum Corps staged a revolt on the Government House in Sydney.  This event is known as the Rum Rebellion and it was Australia’s one and only military coup.

 

The Rum Corps ruled the colony until 1810 when Britain sent over another bloke, Lachlan Macquarie, to step in as Governor and disband the Rum Corps.

 

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The Distillery

Established in 1888, the Bundaberg Distillery uses molasses from a neighbouring sugar mill to make delicious rum.  These days, the raw molasses is stored in three massive wells that can hold a total of 10 million litres.  When we were in the molasses building, we were overwhelmed at the volume of thick, sticky goo that was held in the well, despite it being nowhere near half full.

 

BDC-Molasses-Well

Source: http://www.bundabergrumshowcase.com.au/

 

Once the molasses is clarified and cleaned of impurities, it’s mixed with yeast to ferment.  The yeast that they use is the same strain that they used back in 1888, and they even make use of a ‘yeast bank’ in England (National Collection of Yeast Cultures) to ensure that their yeast is pure and true.

 

Once the yeast and molasses are combined in a fermenting vat, it turns into a frothy cappuccino as the yeast consumes the sugars in the molasses and poops out alcohol.  This mixture is only 50% alcohol so it’s double distilled to maximise the alcohol content before being put into enormous American white oak vats to mature.  Each vat costs $100,000 to build and is employed for 80-100 years.  The oldest vat at the distillery, which is affectionately referred to as a ‘she’, is around 70 years old.  There’s 300 vats on site and each one holds 75,000 litres, which means there is over 22 million litres of Bundy Rum maturing on site.

 

bundaberg-rum-huge-vats Photographer: Peter Lik

 

Since its birth, the distillery has seen a few catastrophes.  In 1907, a devastating fire blazed at the site, lighting up the entire town, and to this day, the cause of the fire is unknown.  Despite the nearby river, water was not readily available to fight the fire so it was left to burn, along with 150,000 gallons of rum and all of the company’s machinery.  They were back up and running within a year.  There was another fire around 30 years later, caused by a bolt of lightning, and just as it did in 1907, the fire lit up the town and could be seen from hundreds of kilometres away.

 

In 2013 when floods covered Bundaberg, the distillery not only donated a large sum of money to assist with the recovery efforts, but they also released limited edition Road to Recovery bottles of five year old rum, with local street names printed on the labels.  Every house that was affected by the floods received a bottle, and any leftover were sold to raise more money.

 

Bundaberg Distillery Co. is also very proud to be environmentally aware, recycling water and waste whenever possible, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, producing recyclable packaging using alternative materials, and encouraging staff to recycle and participate in environmental initiatives like Clean Up Australia Day.

 

The Rum

If you have ever wondered why there’s a polar bear on the Bundaberg label, it’s because Bundaberg Rum can warm even the chilliest of chills, and it was also an attempt to win over Aussies in the southern states.  These days, the bear remains the spirit of the company and the burn on the rum is nicknamed the bear bite.

 

After we had strolled the museum and explored the distillery, it was time to head into the bar to samples two rums of our choice.  We each chose two rums and promised the other that they could have a taste as well.  These are the rums we chose:

 

  • Blenders 2015 – released the Saturday before our arrival, this gorgeous rum has a sweet smell and bear bite entry, with a sweet port finish that is mellow and worth savouring. If you see it at the shops, buy two bottles – one to enjoy now and another to start your collection.
  • Blenders 2014 – this rum was light yellow in colour and tasted much like whiskey. Dave really enjoyed this one.
  • Two Eighty – named after the amount of barrels that were made of this limited edition, it had a smooth honey taste with a bear bite finish.
  • Mutiny – this spiced rum was made to mix with cola. It’s very smooth and sweet with the flavours of vanilla.

 

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The Essentials

It was awesome to visit the home and birthplace of an Aussie legend.  It was also great to witness the fitness of another Big Thing – the Big Bundy bottle that stands outside the Visitor Centre.

 

Tours run every day, every hour on the hour between 10am and 3pm (or 2pm on weekends and public holidays).  For more information and to plan your visit, check out their website: http://www.bundabergrum.com.au/

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

Taste : Mt Uncle Distillery

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

Located in the heart of the Atherton Tablelands, Mt Uncle Distillery is North Queensland’s first and oldest distillery.  Their delicious liqueurs & spirits are made with locally sourced ingredients and are fermented and distilled on site.

 

The Distillery

The distillery opened in 2004 and is located on what used to be a cattle property that adjoins Mt Uncle, hence the name.  The logo comes from the old cattle brand that they would burn onto the cows’ butts. The owner and master distiller, Mark Watkins was available to show us around the distillery and walk us through the process of making his award-winning products.

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

The distillery includes a 12,000 litre jacketed fermenter that ferments the wash with a naturally occurring yeast to about 10% alcohol over 2 weeks.  The wash is then transferred to a 1,500 litre copper pot still – aka the Mothership.  The distillation process produces three products – the head comes first and contains all the bad alcohol (acetone), the heart is the good stuff at between 68% and 90% alcohol, and the tails is everything under 68%.  The tails smell like wet dog, but is reused in the next batch so the alcohol content doesn’t go to waste.

 

After the distillation, the spirits travel on different paths.  Clear spirits like the gin and vodka are chill-filtered at -6°C while the rum and whiskey get barrelled.  The Barrelling Room – aka the Crypt – was perfumed with Angels Share and stacked to the ceiling with barrels.  The whiskey is aged in hybrid barrels with a French oak body and American oak head for 5 years while the rum is aged in American oak.

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

The Spirits

After our tour of the distillery, we took a seat at the bar in anticipation of the tasting.  Mark introduced us to Fruitcake, his super cute pet rainbow lorikeet, who then proceeded to trash the tasting area and terrorise the till, squawking at anyone who came close to his precious coins.  With the till draw shut (with Fruitcake inside), we commenced the tasting:

 

  • Anjea Vodka – made from local Ironbark honey and local sugarcane, it was very smooth and sophisticated.
  • Botanic Australis Gin – Using a 300 year old London dry recipe, Mark added 14 Aussie botanicals to give this gin a truly unique flavour. While it smells like orange cake, the flavours were full of lilli pilli and strawberry gum, citrus from the lemon scented gum and lemon myrtle.  This is a very special gin.
  • Platinum White Rum – sweet and smooth with a lovely malty scent.
  • Iridium Gold Rum – Despite the whiskey scent, it was all rum with a sweet, smooth entry. Perfect for both rum and whiskey drinkers.
  • Big Black Cock (BBC) Whiskey – this single malt whiskey was smooth with a burst of spirit.
  • SexyCat Marshmallow Liqueur – bring on the musk lollies! A wonderfully sweet liqueur with a gorgeous rose pink colour. Perfect for 21st birthdays, hens nights, or a big gay fiesta, Sexycat is the first and only marshmallow liqueur in the world and it’s Mt Uncle’s best seller.

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

The Essentials

Mt Uncle Distillery is open 7 days from 10am to 4:30pm and the address is 1819 Chewko Road, Walkamin QLD. Lunchtime is the best time to visit Mt Uncle Distillery – after your tasting, have lunch at Bridges Café and sample their huge selection of teas from around the world.

 

For more information, contact Mt Uncle Distillery on 07 486 8008 or email them at info@mtuncle.com.  Mt Uncle’s also do weddings and events – to enquire, email events@mtuncle.com.

 

Mt Uncle Distillery

 

The Diversion Dam

Town Profile : Kununurra

With a name that means Big Water, Kununurra is located on the Ord River at the eastern end of the Kimberley.  It’s a true outback town with an agricultural background that dates back to 1887.  The Ord River supplies the area with lots of fresh water and farming in the area includes mangoes, melons and sugar cane.

 

Kununurra Markets

 

The Ord Irrigation Scheme started in the 1960s with the construction of the Diversion Dam just outside of Kununurra to supply water to about 9,000 hectares of farmland in the Ivanhoe Plain.  A decade later, the Ord Dam was built and increased the irrigated farmland by 10,000 hectares.  In the 1990s, a hydro-electric station was built to supply power to the surrounding towns and mining operation.  They are currently working on the next stage of the project which has been in the works for the last 30 years.  The Government of Western Australia and the Commonwealth have contributed over $500 million to construct a major irrigation channel that is hoped to improve infrastructure and supply remote aboriginal communities.  There is also newly released agricultural land available for development, which brings to the total area of farmland in the region to over 29,000 hectares, with Lake Argyle being the water supply.

 

Kununurra is the only known location of Zebra Rock, fine grained siliceous argillite with bands or spots of red on white.  The origin of zebra rock has puzzled geologists for the last 40 years but they believe it was formed 600 million years ago.

 

While we were in Kununurra, we took the Troopy in for some mechanical work after our bungle near the Bungle Bungles and the folk at Kimberley Mechanical & Tilt Tray Services did an awesome job at repairing our free-wheeling hub, as well as a bunch of other stuff that was close to falling apart.

 

KMTT - best mechanics in town!

 

POINTS OF INTEREST

Celebrity Tree Park & Lily Creek Lagoon

Celebrity Tree Park opened in 1984 and is a large grassed area with various tree species scattered through the park.  Most trees in the park were planted by a celebrity; Andrew Daddo, Rolf Harris, John Farnham or Princess Anne.

 

The park overlooks Lily Creek Lagoon, and from here you can see the Sleeping Buddha rock formation in the distance.

 

 

Mirima National Park (Hidden Valley)

Only 3km from town, Hidden Valley was declared a National Park in 1982 to protect the natural rock formations that are similar to the Bungle Bungles.  We did all three of the walking trails in the park – two of which were lookouts and one was a bush tucker trail.

 

Hidden Valley National Park

 

Kelly’s Knob

Next to Mirima National Park is another rocky peak called Kelly’s Knob.  Drive up and look out over Kununurra.

 

Diversion Dam

This was the first part of the Ord Irrigation Scheme and was completed in 1962.  The dam regulates the water level of Lake Kununurra to manage seasonal floods and also divert water to irrigate the surrounding farmland.

 

 

Lake Argyle

We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw it.  Australia’s biggest man-made lake – so huge that it’s actually classified as an inland sea.  It covers 1000 square kilometres and has 21 times more water than Sydney Harbour.  It is home to a variety of wildlife like wallabies, freshwater crocodiles, and about 240 bird species, which is about a third of Australia’s total known bird species.

 

Lake Argyle exists because of the Ord River Dam, which was completed in the early 1970s as the second installation of the Ord Irrigation Scheme. The dam is a rockfill dam with an impervious core made of clay, stands 98 metres high from the foundations and contains a tunnel that runs from the Intake Tower to the valve anchor.  There is also the Ord Hydro Station, which was built in the 1990s and supplies power to the Argyle village, Kununurra, Wyndham and the nearby diamond mine.

 

We spent the afternoon in Picnic Park, which is on the lower side of the dam.  It was lush, shady and green with a few BBQs to cook lunch (and dinner).  Afterwards, as we slowly made our way back to the main road, we stopped at lookouts, watched boats cruising between the steep, rocky walls and checked out Dead Horse Spring.

 

Lake Argyle

 

FOOD & DRINK

Gulliver’s Tavern

Our first night in Kununurra screamed for a night at the pub.  Of all the pubs in Kununurra, Gulliver’s was recommended the most in terms of food and atmosphere.  When we got there, we could see why.  The bar is decorated with a line of motorbikes (so was the IGA, weirdly enough), and the beer garden is spacious with a big screen to watch sports or music video clips.

 

Dinner was a steak sandwich and a chicken parmigiana, both of which were delicious (even though the parma lacked ham and the schnitzel was put on top of the chips).  The steak sanga was a soft foccacia bun stuffed with smokey bacon, tender steak, egg and bacon, cheese, lettuce and BBQ sauce.  The chicken parma was nice and thick but a little overcooked, and put on top of the chips (much to Juz’s annoyance).  The drinks were cheap and hit the spot nicely.

 

 

The Hoochery Distillery

We were taken to the Hoochery by some locals and got two tasting paddles at $5 each, as well as some spiked cake.  Check out our post on the oldest distillery in WA.

 

The Barra Shak

We received a very strong recommendation to go to the Barra Shak and we weren’t disappointed.  Check out our post on the Barra Shak.

 

 

INFORMATION & ACCOMMODATION

The Visitor Centre is located at 75 Coolibah Drive, across the road from the Tuckerbox IGA.  If you’re looking for cheap diesel, check out the Ord River District Co-Op just north of town.

 

Lake Kununurra – Lakeview Drive, 08 9168 1031

Kimberley Croc YHA – 120 Konkerberry Drive, 08 9168 2702 

 

Crossing the border