Launceston 2016-02-22 096w

City Profile : Launceston

Launceston 2016-02-22 096w

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.

 

Launceston 2016-02-22 108w

 

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.

 

Copy of Launceston 2016-02-22 075

 

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.

 

Launceston 2016-02-22 130ww

 

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.

 

Launceston 2016-02-22 144w

 

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.

 

Tamar Valley 2016-02-23 021w

 

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

 

Tamar Valley 2016-02-23 044w

 

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.

 

IMG_20160223_070110

 

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.

 

IMG_20160222_083939

 

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.

 

Launceston 2016-02-22 102w

 

 

 

Mackay 2015-05-03 060w

City Profile : Mackay

Mackay 2015-05-03 060w

 

Our visit to Mackay was unfortunately brief but we believe we managed to see most of what the city had to offer, as well as the surrounding attractions.  We spent the morning to the west, exploring Eungella National Park before seeing the sights in Mackay and admiring their beautiful art deco buildings.  We then ventured south to Sarina to check out the Big Cane Toad before heading inland towards the Central Highlands.

 

Mackay sits on the Pioneer River about 970km north of Brisbane.  It’s considered to be the sugar capital of Australia because the region produces more than a third of Australia’s sugar cane, but the same can be said for the Burdekin Shire.  The city was named after John Mackay, who led an expedition through the valley in 1860.  Since then, Mackay has been hit with destructive cyclones, the deadly Bubonic plague, and severe flooding.  These days, its economy is based on coal mining, sugar cane and tourism, as it’s close to the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef and Eungella National Park.

 

Things To See And Do

Bluewater Lagoon

This was our first stop in Mackay.  A free, three tiered swimming pool with a slide, BBQ facilities and no jelly fish.  It’s also the perfect opportunity to have a shower and clean up.

 

Mackay 2015-05-03 039w

 

Queens Park

We had a quick stroll through Queens Park, and watched a few kookaburras terrorise a sun bird.  Because it was the weekend, their Orchid House was closed, but we managed to peep through the cracks.

 

Mackay 2015-05-03 045w

 

Mackay Marina Village

Just north of the city is the Marina Village, a district with residential blocks, restaurants, cafes and pubs, as well as the Pine Islet Lighthouse.  This little kerosene lighthouse was constructed in 1885 and was operational for a hundred years in the Pine Isles. It was the last kerosene lighthouse to operate in Australia.

 

Mackay 2015-05-03 055w

 

Sarina

About 30 minutes south of Mackay is Sarina, a small town with a sugar mill and the Big Cane Toad.  This is one of the ugliest Big Things we have come across, and it sits right in the middle of the main street.

 

Eungella National Park & Finch Hatton Gorge

West from Mackay, the road passes through Marian and Mirani.  The Melba House in Marian is home to the visitor information centre, and was also the home of acclaimed opera singer Dame Nellie Melba (for one year in 1883).  We drove through on a Sunday and both towns were holding markets.  We stopped to see the local wares and scored a few fishing lures for cheap.

 

Mackay 2015-05-03 035w

 

By the time we completed the steep climb to Eungella, it was midday and we knew there was no chance of spotting a platypus, but we made the most of our time anyway.  Markets were on in Eungella town and after sampling some bliss balls and visiting the lookout, we went to check out the national park.

 

Mackay 2015-05-03 004w

 

Camping is available there, which is great if you want to catch the platypussies frolicking in the calm waters of the Broken River in the early hours of dawn or in the late afternoon.

 

On our way back to Mackay, we stopped by Finch-Hatton Gorge for a refreshing swim.  Unfortuantely, after the 1.4km walk to Araluen Falls, we discovered that the water was a little too refreshing.  Nobody likes getting their eyes poked out…

 

Mackay 2015-05-03 023w

 

Cobbold Gorge

Natural Wonders : Cobbold Gorge

Cobbold Gorge

 

Cobbold Gorge was on our bucket list from the beginning, and it was fantastic to finally see it in the flesh… or sandstone.  It is located within Robin Hood station, which is owned by the Terry family.  The cattle property is around 1300 square kilometres but Cobbold Gorge is within a 4,000 acre nature reserve where the cattle are not permitted to graze.

 

We booked ourselves in for a morning tour of the gorge, and boarded the bus to the nature reserve.  Before embarking through the gorge, we were treated to a bush tucker walk.  We learnt about various plants in the area that supplied glue, insect repellent, contraception, antiseptic and food, like the Aniseed Bush, which provided a liquorice flavour to damper, and Bloodwood Tree, a popular place to find sugarbag.  The local aboriginals would find the sugar bag by catching a single bee and sticking a small feather to its butt.  They’d let the bee go and follow it back to the hive of delicious sugar bag.

 

We also learnt about the amazing work of termites, and were delighted by the fluttering of Common Crow Butterflies.  They are so numerous because they don’t have many predators due to their amazing ability to absorb the flavours of the things they consume.  Because they eat from plants such as Oleander, they are not very appetising to other creatures.

 

Cobbold Gorge

 

At the end of the bush tucker walk, we found ourselves at the grave of John Corbett, a pioneer who died 1871.  He was only 12 when he willingly came to Australia to make his fortune.  By the age of 14, he was digging for gold in Ballarat with his brother and became a wealthy lad.  Over the next 10 years, he established hotels in Brisbane, and when gold was struck in Cloncurry, he wanted to monopolise the area by establishing another hotel in Normanton.  This was when John’s luck ran out.  After a series of misfortunes, he was found robbed and dead in the bush with a six-foot spear in his chest.  Local aboriginals were blamed for his murder but there are rumours that this wasn’t the case at all.

 

After an enthralling tour of the bush, we boarded the boats and set forth into Cobbold Gorge.

 

The Gorge

As we floated quietly along the river in an electric-motored flat-bottomed boat, we learnt that Cobbold Gorge isn’t just any old gorge – it’s a baby gorge!  Having only been discovered in 1992, the creek that formed Cobbold Gorge changed its course only 10,000 years ago, so Cobbold Gorge is still fairly young.  It was named after pastoralist and surveyor Frank E Cobbold, clearly because he was awesome.

 

The gorge is about 6km long, with 30m cliffs on either side, and is 2m wide at its narrowest point. The water maintains a fairly constant level and is fed by springs that seep through the 200 million year old sandstone and reach the gorge 30 years later.  There was plenty of wildlife to spy on.  We saw a few archer fish, a baby turtle, and plenty of lazy freshwater crocodiles basking in the sun.

 

 

 

The Resort

If you’re looking for a place to disappear to for a few days, then the Cobbold Gorge Resort is for you.  The campground offers quiet and relaxing scenery, unpowered, powered and powered ensuite sites, and includes facilities such as a guest laundry, Wi-Fi, camp kitchen, BBQs and fireplaces.

 

MacDonald’s Deck is a fully licensed bar and restaurant with heaps of character.  Have a few drinks and a meal while you soak in the Aussie outback.  Nearby, is the Boomerang Bar, a swim-up bar in the infinity swimming pool. There is also Corbett’s Store, which offers a variety of souvenirs and a few grocery items as well.

 

 

 

The Essentials

Bookings for tours and accommodation at Cobbold Gorge are essential.  Call 1800 66 99 22 or email enquiries@cobboldgorge.com.au for more information.

 

Cobbold Gorge

 

Pine Creek

Town Profile : Pine Creek

Pine Creek

 

Pine Creek was named by Sidney Herbert, a bloke who worked on the Overland Telegraph Line.  It was during the construction of this telegraph line that workers discovered gold, and thus the gold rush of 1871 began!  Pine Creek’s population exploded as Europeans and Chinese hurried over to find their fortune and during the brief lifespan of the gold rush, 764,000 ounces of gold were extracted.

 

These days, Pine Creek is a sleepy little town that provides basic services, and also has a few old buildings dotted around town, such as the Old Bakery.  While it has been closed for a long, long time, you can still have a look inside.  It opened in 1908 as a butchers shop and was re-erected in 1915 as a bakery and has an ant bed oven that dates back to 1922.  It operated as a bakery until World War II.

 

Mine Lookout & Miners Park

While we were in town, we also checked out the Mine Lookout and Miners Park, and learnt about the gold rush that birthed this town.

 

The Lookout is on the outskirts of town and offers panoramic views of the area, including Enterprise Pit.  This was an open cut mine that was worked from 1906 to 1985 but is now full of water to prevent acid build-up and is 135 meters deep.

 

The Miners Park is next to the railway station and exhibits old mining machinery.  There are heaps of displays that reveal the history of the goldfields.

 

 

Water Gardens

Running through the guts of town is a grassy strip with little ponds full of flowering lilies.  It’s right near the big windmill so you can’t miss it.  It was born from the closure of the railway line in 1976.

 

Lake Copperfield

A man-made dam that is perfect for a picnic.  Cool off in the water while you watch the rainbow bee-eaters flutter over the water.

 

Pine Creek

 

Umbrawarra Gorge

This place is well worth the 22km drive off the highway.  Once you park your car, it’s a short 15 minute walk to the swimming hole, with clear water and a sandy beach.  If you feel adventurous, continue on into the gorge to find a bizarre sight – the creek flowing upwards?

 

Umbrawarra Gorge

 

We thought this location was beautiful and it reminded us of the Kimberley.  We also saw a snake – possibly a golden tree snake – but it slithered away too quickly for a happy snap.

 

 

Echidna Chasm - The Bungle Bungles

Experience : The Bungle Bungles

The Bungle Bungles are located within Purnululu National Park, which is about 300km south of Kununurra.  The national park covers about 239,000 hectares of land and is relatively new.  The Bungle Bungles was known only by the local aboriginals and cattle farmers until 1982 and in 2003 the area was recognised as a World Heritage area because of its geological value and natural beauty.

 

The Bungle Bungles

 

The Bungle Bungles are made up of domes made from sandstone deposits from about 360 million years ago.   Over thousands of years, the sandstone has been eroded by creeks, rivers and general weathering to create the domes and chasms.  The domes at the southern end of the park are banded with orange oxidised iron compounds and grey cyanobacteria that protect the sandstone from erosion.  The Bungle Bungles is the world’s most exceptional examples of cone karst formations, meaning land that is formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks like limestone, dolomite and gypsum.  In other words, flimsy, crumbly rock has been dissolved by mildly acidic water to create a kooky shaped landscape.

 

The road into the park is about 50km of rocky, corrugated road that rises and falls over the landscape like a rollercoaster.  It’s slow going and there are also a few river crossings so it’s best to have a 4WD and allow around 2 hours to get to the Visitor Centre from the highway, and vice versa.

 

Entry fees apply to the park, but if you have a WA Parks Pass, you’re all sorted.  Camping is about $11 per adult per night, and while campfires are only allowed in designated fireplaces, make sure you bring firewood with you because you’re not allowed to collect firewood in a national park.

 

The Southern End

We started exploring the Bungle Bungles from the south.  All the walking trails were connected in some way so we managed to get all of it done in one go.

 

The Domes

A quick 1km loop to introduce you to the beehive domes of the Bungles. Check out the orange and black layering but don’t climb the domes – these layers are what protect the sandstone from erosion!

 

Cathedral Gorge

An easy walk into the gorge ends at a cavernous amphitheatre with a still pool.  The acoustics are wonderful and if you’re brave enough – SING!  The echo is magnificent and you will be awe-struck at the enormity of this place.

 

 

We also had a go of skimming some stones along the still water – our French mate Boris was by far the best at it, but Dave didn’t do too bad either.  On our way out, we encountered some bush passionfruit.  Check out our post on this bush tucker here.

 

Piccaninny Gorge Lookout

An 800m diversion from the track back to the car park will bring you to a platform that overlooks the Piccaninny Creek and surrounding domes.  The view would be absolutely spectacular at sunset.

 

We finished all the walks in two hours with a total distance of around 4.5km.  This gave us just enough time to get to the Northern End before midday.  If you’re an experienced hiker, you can register at the Visitor Centre to do the Piccaninny Gorge Walk, a 2-7 day hike into the remote areas of the gorge.  You have to bring all your gear – tents, food, water – and some of the track can be fairly difficult, so make sure you’re well prepared.

 

 

The Northern End

We made our way back to the Visitor Centre for a snack, a toilet break and a look at their book exchange before jumping back into the Troopy and heading for the northern end of the Bungle Bungles.  The landscape was very different to the south – the rocky outcrops lacked the bands of black and were smoother and more vegetated.

 

The Bungle Bungles

 

Echidna Chasm

We were given an insider tip that the best time to explore Echidna Chasm was at midday when the sun’s rays can stream down into the narrow corridor.  We were glad that we took the advice!  This unique experience takes you about 300 metres into the chasm and the way the light reflects and illuminates the path is beautiful.

 

 

Osmand Lookout & Kungkalanayi Lookout

On the way back to the car park is a track to the Osmand Lookout.  It provides great views of the Bungle Bungle Range and the Osmand Range in the distance.

 

We also checked out the Kungkalanayi Lookout on the way back to the Visitor Centre.  This lookout provided fantastic panoramic views of the Bungle Bungle Ranges on one side and the Osmand Range on the other.

 

The Bungle Bungles

 

We would have loved to do the Mini Palms Gorge walk or stick around at Kungkalanayi Lookout to watch the sun set but it was time for us to head to camp.  We were exhausted, the day was getting really hot, and we had a long drive back to the Spring Creek Rest Area.  This is a great spot to stay if you plan on exploring the Bungle Bungles.  It’s located right next to a little creek with picnic benches and fire places, there are heaps of places to set up camp and there are lots of people to chat with.  You might even have a bull graze through your campsite or find some buried treasure (hint hint)…