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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
After travelling inland from the east coast for several hours, we arrived into Launceston, the island’s second largest city. We began our visit at the city’s most well known attraction, Cataract Gorge. Just a short distance from the city centre, the vast river gorge is home to a chairlift, a suspension bridge and a swimming pool, all of which is surrounded by Victorian gardens.
We took the chairlift across the gorge, admiring the panoramic views around us, before enjoying a relaxing stroll around the beautiful gardens. We followed the path as it descended, taking in several viewpoints before crossing the suspension bridge, arriving back at the entrance and shop, where we treated ourselves to an ice cream. Continue reading
With both of us celebrating our birthdays in Australia for the first time towards the end of 2017, we decided to celebrate getting another year older with a long weekend in Tasmania.
After several months of working since we arrived in Sydney, we thought it would be a great chance to get back on the road, and we decided to hire another campervan. Although we again chose a Toyota HiAce, unfortunately this one was nothing compared to the beloved van from our previous travels. With over 200,000km on the clock (and it showed), we were glad to only have this one for 5 days rather than 8 weeks!
Arriving into Hobart, we decided to start by exploring the island’s capital. Situated on the River Derwant, and with the towering Mount Wellington as a backdrop, the city is surrounded by beautiful scenery. With a population of just 220,000, even though it was rush hour it felt relaxing and peaceful, especially compared to Sydney. Continue reading
Every November, Sculpture by the Sea transforms the famous coastal path between Bondi and Tamarama into a temporary sculpture park, with over 100 sculptures from both Australian and international artists suddenly appearing along the walk.
Now in its 21st year, the programme is one of the most popular and well known art events in Sydney, with this edition attracting over 500 entries from all over the world. Sensing a great photo opportunity, we decided to finish work early one Friday and go check it out.
With the Whitsundays being so close to the Great Barrier Reef, it seemed only right that we visit the worlds largest coral reef system and one of the natural wonders of the world. The Reef is composed of 2,900 individual reefs and stretches for over 2,300km along the North Queensland coast.
After looking into the different tour options we decided on a trip out to Hardy Reef, where we spent half a day on Cruise Whitsunday’s Heart Pontoon, which we had been told provides a unique way to explore the reef. It was an early start, and after a quick breakfast we made the short drive to the Port of Airlie, ready for departure.
The journey out to the reef took just over two hours, and despite the high winds, we decided to brave our chances on the very exposed top deck, taking in some great views of the Whitsundays as we travelled past. Some clearly enjoyed the journey less than others, and we were thankful not to be among the seasick passengers leaning over the back of the boat.
As we arrived at Hardy Reef, we first passed an older Pontoon, now in a state of disrepair having been badly damaged by Tropical Cyclone Debbie in March 2017. The new Pontoon is moored nearby and is located 39 nautical miles off the coast of mainland Australia.
Back in October we went on our first holiday since arriving in Sydney in June, spending five nights in Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands.
With Rachael’s parents, Paul and Lorraine, arriving in Australia to visit us, we decided it would be a great place for them to start their four week tour, before travelling back with us to Sydney.
The Whitsundays are a collection of 74 islands, located just off the coast of North Queensland. The islands are one of Queensland’s most popular tourist destinations, renowned not only for white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, but also as a great place from which to explore the Great Barrier Reef.
While a number of the islands offer accommodation, most notably Hamilton Island, we decided to stay on the mainland, finding a great Eco Cabin just a short drive from Airlie Beach. Surrounded by thick bushland and lots of friendly native animals, including wild turkeys and wallabies (but thankfully no crocodiles), it was a great introduction to Aussie life.