Uluru and the Red Centre

With most of our time in Australia spent near the coast, a trip to the outback was high on our list of priorities for this year. We therefore decided to escape the beginnings of winter in Sydney for a long weekend in Uluru. This meant venturing into the Northern Territory, and completing the set of Australian states and territories visited – not bad having only been here for just over a year!

Uluru, or Ayers Rock as it was named in the 19th century by a European explorer, is a vast sandstone rock formation that rises from the desert, and an important sacred site for the area’s Aboriginal people. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is situated within the larger Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The Park is extremely remote, with the closest town of Alice Springs 450km (280m) by road.

After a three hour flight from Sydney we arrived into the Ayers Rock Airport, which is little more than an airfield. We were struck by the sparse landscape as we came into land, with no sign of civilisation in sight. We picked up our rental car and made the short  10 minute drive to the Ayers Rock resort town of Yulara, getting our first glimpse of the vast rock as we arrived.

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Kosciuszko National Park

Just a few days after our trip to the Commonwealth Games, we decided it was time for another weekend away, so we booked an even more spontaneous trip to one of the remaining places on our ever-smaller to-do-list, Kosciuszko National Park.

Kosciuszko National Park, which I’m still unsure how to pronounce correctly despite several lessons from Aussie colleagues, forms part of the larger Snowy Mountains region and is home to Australia’s highest mountain – Mount Kosciouszko.

Now I, like many people, was under the impression that Australia was a relatively flat country, however Mount Kosciouszko actually rises 2,228m from sea level, which is almost double the height of Ben Nevis.

The Park is located roughly halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, making it a long drive just for the weekend. We therefore decided to split the journey in two, staying in Canberra on the Friday night, before continuing on our way early the next morning.

The second leg of the journey was through thick fog, and across one of the most remote landscapes we have seen in Australia. Given this, and the considerable amount of roadkill, we were very thankful not to meet any kangaroos along the way.

We finally arrived  into the small town of Thredbo, which although quiet during our visit, transforms into one of Australia’s most popular ski resorts between July and September each year.

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Gold Coast 2018

After hearing that the 2018 Commonwealth Games would be hosted in Australia long before we had moved here, we had often talked about trying to buy tickets nearer the time. However, being so busy with our life in Sydney, we managed to completely forget until just a few weeks before the opening ceremony, when the hype around the Games began to build in the Australian media.

Never ones to miss out on such a big event, we decided to book a very last minute trip to the Gold Coast, which had won the privilege of hosting the games. Unfortunately, there was a limited choice of event tickets remaining, however we did manage to purchase some of the few remaining for the Squash Doubles semi-finals. With both of us enjoying the occasional game of squash, we were keen to see the experts in action, and more importantly how you get four people on such a small court!

After finishing work on the Friday night, we went straight to the airport, and took the short 90 minute flight north to the Gold Coast, ready for an early start on the Saturday morning.

The squash courts were actually located a short train journey out of the city at the Village Roadshow film studios, which are one of just three film studios in Australia. The studios are in the suburb of Oxenford, which is also home to several large theme parks.

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The Floyd’s Tour of Sydney

After a few days apart, Mum and Dad arrived into Sydney ready for an action packed weekend exploring the city that we now call home. Luckily for them, Dee and Rob were met at the airport by a private chauffeur (Rachael), who took them into the city and to their fancy apartment overlooking Darling Harbour.

First on the agenda was a very late Christmas present – dinner at one of Sydney’s many harbour-side restaurants. After giving them a few hours to unpack, we met back at Darling Harbour, and took the ferry across to Milson’s Point, which is on the north side of the harbour.

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Melbourne in March

After nearly a year without seeing them, I couldn’t wait to spend some time with my Mum and Dad (Dee and Rob), and show them around some of Australia, during their two week holiday at the end of March. Their trip began in Melbourne, and after giving them a few days to recover from the flight, Rachael and I flew down to spend a long weekend with them, and show them around the city.

We arrived in Melbourne on Saturday morning, and arranged to meet at ACDC lane, which was officially renamed as a tribute to the Australian band in 2004. A dirty, graffiti covered alleyway wasn’t exactly what I had imagined for our initial meeting, but that is part of the charm of Melbourne I guess. Dee and Rob had just finished a laneways tour, and already seemed to know more about the city than we did – so much for showing them around!

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Christmas in Victoria

With tickets to the Boxing Day Ashes Test purchased immediately upon their release (Rachael’s idea obviously), we had long known that we would be spending our first Australian Christmas in Victoria.

We decided to book some time off work and fly down to Melbourne a few days before Christmas, giving us time for a second visit to one of our favourite places from travelling – The Great Ocean Road.

We picked up a rental car on arrival, and immediately headed west out of the city towards Torquay, situated at the eastern end of the coastal drive.

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Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

After surviving a very cold night in the van, we were pleased to wake up and find that not only was it a beautiful clear morning, but also that the campsite had hot water. After a long shower and some breakfast in the camp kitchen, we were ready for a day of hiking in the National Park.

In an attempt to reduce visitor traffic, and protect the Park as much as possible, the number of private vehicles allowed into the park is restricted. We therefore parked at the Visitor Centre, and instead made use of the excellent shuttle bus service, which is included in the Park entrance fee of $16.50 (£10) each.

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