Melbourne – Always an enjoyable visit!

Melbourne is a glorious city. Usually, a visit to Melbourne would include a visit to the theatre, lots of restaurants, rooftop and laneway secret bars, market visits, galleries and all kinds of the usual city fun! Unfortunately, this visit over Christmas and New Years was overshadowed by escalating Covid Omicron cases, long testing queues, masks, avoidance of crowds and indoor spaces. Therefore, you will notice this in this post that this visit took on a distantly open air flavour (for Covid safety). Actually, there are plenty of things to do in the open in Melbourne and there are a surprisingly number of lush gardens in the CBD and surrounds which are perfect for a picnic.

Melbourne CBD – the Yarra River is beautiful to cycle along and the city is gorgeous in the evening light.
Melbourne Town Hall – despite how cheery this heritage building looks, all dressed up for Christmas, this is a covid testing site and there was a socially distance queue snaking around the block!
Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
Carlton Gardens, Melbourne
Fountain in Melbourne CBD
National Gallery of Victoria
Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne

Cycling to Saint Kilda from Melbourne CBD is not too difficult especially as it is mostly downhill. You can cheat by jumping on the train to get back! Once you get to Saint Kilda, you can ride along the coast down to the colourful Brighton Beach Boxes.

Riding Along the Beach from Saint Kilda to Brighton – see the view of the city and the lovely bike lane!
Brighton Beach Boxes

Only a 30 minute drive from Melbourne CBD is the historic town of Williamstown. From here you can get a view of the Melbourne skyline from across the water and spend a lovely day at the beach or looking at the other sites.

View of Melbourne Skyline from Gem Pier – Williamstown
HMAS Castlemaine – Williamstown
Timeball Tower – WIlliamstown
Newport Lakes – not far from Williamstown

The Blue Lotus Water Garden is only open for a few months of the year when the lotus and lilies are blooming. It costs $22 for an adult to enter but you will be faced with a number of lakes and a lot of lilies and lotuses. There are so many varieties. You will yourself taking too many photos! They are quite elegant and beautiful flowers and this location which is 1 hour and 10 minutes out of Melbourne makes for a lovely day out. Drive back via Olinda and Sassafras and take a stroll through the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden (formerly known as the National Rhododendron Garden) before heading home. The drive is through some beautiful countryside with lush ferns and rolling hills. It is quite a special part of Australia.

Blue Lotus Water Garden
Blue Lotus Water Garden
Blue Lotus Water Garden

So, what is it like to road trip around Australia?

After 11 months and a full lap of Australia by road, here are my observations about what it’s like to road trip around this massive country!

The Vast Distances!

Australia is a big country and when you travel by road, you have to be aware of this, especially in remote areas where fuel, food, water and help is much less readily available e.g. crossing the Nullarbor.

  • Ensure you have supplies of food and particularly water.
  • Understand the capacity and capability of your fuel tank and plan ahead your next fuel stops.
  • Understand how you will stay alert when driving for hours e.g. podcasts, music, audiobooks, chatty hitchhiker, eye-spy games etc.
The long straight road….crossing the Nullarbor.

Wide Diversity of Landscapes

As the country is so large, there is a vast diversity of spectacular landscapes. These include;

  • Ancient, rocky, geological wonders e.g. Bungle Bungles, Karijini National Park;
  • Red, dusty outback deserts too parched to sustain anything more than shin high spinifex and termite mounds e.g. Karratha;
  • Rich, dark, fertile earth planted with fields of sugar cane or bananas in the far north of Queensland;
  • Rolling, golden wheat fields of Esperance, Western Australia
  • Wild, blue, coastlines of South Australia;
  • Big Karri forrests of Pemberton, Western Australia;
  • Picture perfect beaches of Busselton and Dunsborough, Western Australia;
  • Bustling, buzzy capital cities;
  • Lakes, waterfalls, rivers and secluded waterholes for cooling off, and
  • so much, much more!
The Pinnacles – Nambung National Park
Busselton / Dunsborough Beach
Perth CBD
Ocean crashing on rocks near the Natural Bridge, Albany.
Tingle Tree
Carlton Gardens, Melbourne
Natures Window, Kalbarri
Sugar Cane Fields – the height of the plants are greater than 2m.
Mirima National Park – only 2km from Kununurra and known as the mini Bungle Bungles
Mungalli Falls

East Coast Vs West Coast, which is better?

The east cost of Australia is more densely populated, has more fertile growing land and has more to see and do. Most of the west coast is unpopulated and there can be some long drives between destinations. As there is more fertile land for growing food on the east coast, it is understandable why much more of the population has settled on the east side of the country. Despite this, one of the most beautiful, green and fertile areas of Western Australia is in the south west of the state. This area is easily one of the most beautiful areas in the whole country. Perth also deserves a mention. Whilst Sydney and Melbourne has long been the dominant cities in Australia, Perth is a really beautiful and lovely city with a high quality of living. Similar could be said about Adelaide.

A Big Country Under a Big Blue Sky

Australia is blessed with a lot of wonderful weather. There is a beautiful blue sky here on the majority of days and the weather is so often excellent that potentially it is taken for granted. Blue skies creates the best backdrop to your travel pictures. It brings out the blue of the ocean, lakes and river as well as the sparkle and blue reflections in the glass and steel skyscrapers, thus (I think) showing them to their best advantage. It can be easily forgotten that other places such as London are often overcast, grey, dreary and drizzly.

The flip side to so much blue sky is that the sunny weather that can feel unrelentingly searing at times with shade sometimes impossible to find in areas too dry to support trees. Ensure you have a ventilated broad brim hat to protect your face when heading out into sunny weather.

Albany Wind Farm – an elegant sight in a beautiful location!

Spoilt for Beautiful Beaches and Coastline

Australia is a big country and correspondingly there is a lot of coastline. Some of these coastlines are wild, rocky and turbulent with a devastating shipwreck history. Other parts of the coast are calm and safe for young families. There is so much beautiful coastline and beach in Australia that it is relatively easy to find a section of beach for yourself. There are plenty of deserted beaches in the more remote areas and even in the more populated areas, it is reasonably easy to avoid being too crowded. By contrast, many European countries section off their beaches with much of it considered “private beach”. Payment of a fee is expected on a “private beach” as well as additional payment if you want to use a sunchair and/or umbrella. There is almost no such thing as a private beach in Australia. Going to the beach is a free, budget friendly activity and what’s not to love about that!

Shipwreck – Fraser Island
Esperance – yes, the water is really this colour!!

Free or Cheap Attractions

Australia is an expensive place to travel when compared to other countries in South East Asia or India. Accommodation and food costs can add up as well as entry fees to paid attractions like theme parks, tours etc. Road tripping with a vehicle that allows you to sleep in it and cook your own meals is probably the most economical way to see the country. Despite the higher costs for accommodation and food, it is worthwhile noting that there are a lot of free or cheap things to do whilst travelling around that would be more costly overseas.

Visiting local parks and botanic gardens are free. These are often well planted with an interesting and diverse range of plants and may be adjacent to picturesque lakes and rivers. They often include additional amenities such as picnic tables, public toilets and sometimes BBQs.

Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne

Exploring a town or city is also free unless you join a paid tour. With all the information available on the internet and easily accessible on your phone, it’s easy to learn more about any location. Explore the main street of a small town or drive/cycle along the waterfront roads to gawk at the fancy, expensive houses! Most towns or cities that are built by the water, whether it is a river or the ocean will often have a nicely built waterfront area perfect for a lovely, scenic stroll.

Beaches are free and freely accessible in Australia, in contrast to the paid private beaches e.g. in Europe or areas where private property is built in a way that blocks free public access to the beach e.g. Asia or Europe.

There are many free lookout points in Australia and access to national parks is relatively cheap when considering that the rangers have the never-ending battle keeping out invasive plant species and feral animals, ensuring the walking trails are safe and maintaining toilets and other amenities. National parks are areas of stunning, untouched natural beauty. In other countries, access to a place of striking natural beauty usually comes with a cost, usually with stalls hawking touristy wares and it may have been spoilt by too much human traffic.

Kiama Coastal Walk

Free Amenities

The best thing about Australia as a traveler, is the provision of decent, well maintained amenities. These include public toilets, overnight rest stops, picnic tables, parks, lookouts and BBQs. These amenities, especially toilets, are available in even the smallest, remote towns and they are kept in decent condition. I’m not sure who cleans and maintains these but my bladder is grateful! Other options for free toilets include service stations, road houses and restaurants. Even in the most remotest locations, there are pit toilets at overnight rest stops. For those of us who travel overseas, you will know that clean, free toilets are quite hard to find in some places. Even if you can find a toilet to use, it can be quite a horror show! This type of abominable ablution situation is pretty much non-existent in Australia!

Driving long distances is inevitable when road tripping Australia. This gets dangerous as the route can be boring and it can be hard to stay alert. There are designated pull-over, day or overnight rest areas available at regular intervals on the main travel routes in the remote parts of the country. These rest stops are great because you are encouraged to stop and rest. What a wonderful amenity! These rest stops must have prevented innumerable accidents brought on by tiredness. The best way to find these rest areas and to understand what amenities they have is to use theWikicamps app. Using Wikicamps, you can plan ahead to pull over for a bite to eat or a quick cat-nap or to rest overnight. These rest stops range greatly. The simplest ones are just a place for you to safely pull your vehicle off the road. Others might include shade, picnic tables, interpretive signage of the surrounding area, a nice view, fire rings and pit toilets. For those in self contained vehicles or the budget conscious, these free rest areas are a good place to sleep overnight. If you don’t have Wikicamps, these rest stops are usually pre-empted by road signage.

In regards to pit toilets, they are not my favourite but I’m grateful for them nevertheless. In remote locations, it would not be economic or practical to have anything else. Potentially, due to either better design or a drier climate, the pit toilets in Western Australia are the best in the country. They mostly don’t smell and are cleaner. Unfortunately, the ones in the Northern Territory are the worst, perhaps due to the humidity.

Mostly Safe from Crime Against Person or Property

Australia is a very safe country to travel around in. Property theft is minimal as long as sensible precautions are taken e.g. lock your vehicle etc. Carjacking, bag snatching, identity theft, rape, murder, assaults, gun violence etc. which might be a concern in other countries rarely happens here. This removes a level of constant guardedness that is required when travelling in other countries thereby making travelling Australia a much more relaxing proposition.

Caravan Parks in Every Town

Road tripping around Australia is super easy because there are caravan parks in every town and city and even at the small isolated roadhouses on the Nullarbor. These are usually in a scenic locations e.g. riverside, lakefront, oceanfront, near a National Park, close to public transport to the city etc.

Everyone is catered for at these caravan parks. If you have a vehicle but require accommodation, they will have a cabin. For those with caravans, motorhomes, tents, campervans etc. there will be powered and unpowered sites for hire. Use of the communal toilet and shower block, BBQs, laundry and usually a camp kitchen are amenities that come with the campsite. The usual items in a camp kitchen are tables and chairs, tap and sink, toaster, kettle, fridge and freezer. At times a stove and oven may be available.

The big name franchised caravan parks like Discovery Parks, Top Parks, Big 4 and Kui usually have more facilities. These may include, games room, TV room, swimming pool, spa, jumping pillow, kayak hire, waterpark, tennis court, fish cleaning area etc. These big chain franchises provide a really consistent, quality product but it can lack character after a while as they can be so similar from park to park. Beware the school holiday periods when these big parks become heavily booked out with family holidaymakers and the place looks like a parking lot for caravans!

Smaller family run caravan parks or National Park campgrounds provide a nice alternative often boasting more natural surrounds and/or a less commercial feel.

Caravan parks are a more economical way to travel especially in a family group. It will be cheaper than hotel accommodation if you only require a campsite. Self catering always works out cheaper and healthier than eating out in restaurants. These parks are often geared towards families with facilities like pools, playgrounds, jumping pillow and waterpark available for the kids to use to their heart’s content. During school holiday periods, it is not uncommon to see kids zipping around the park on their scooters and bikes, making new friends and having a great time. It’s a wholesome, active way to have a family holiday and I think a longstanding tradition among white Australians. It is much rarer to see non-white Australians using caravan parks or bringing their families for such a holiday. Potentially, this is because caravan park type holidays are quite a foreign concept to them and they are not familiar with its advantages.

Aussies Love Their BBQs

Every evening at a caravan park, there will the smell of barbecuing meat in the air. Slapping some steaks, chops and/or sausages on the BBQ is a quick and easy dinner favoured by plenty of people at the caravan park. This will usually be accompanied by a can of beer or a wine glass or three. As the demographic in caravan parks are usually older grey nomad types, it is concerning to see so much meat and alcohol being consumed. This however might not be representative of the average Australian diet. This may just be the easy holiday treat diet or that it’s really hard to miss the smell of BBQ meats in the open air. It’s much harder to discern when people are eating salad quietly in their caravans!

Small Town Community Pride

When travelling through small towns, I’ve been struck by so many examples of sweet, small town community pride. Small towns often have signs up promoting themselves as “RV friendly towns”. This is accompanied by super large pull in parking bays for caravanners with their “big rigs”. We recently have seen electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in the smallest of towns. This is a great initiative for the future as it encourages electric vehicle users to travel out further.

These small towns are always very clean and tidy with beautiful gardens, trees and flowers. There will always be clean public toilets. If there is a visitors centre, it will be staffed with a friendly and helpful person. Towns often have art or sculptures scattered about to make it more interesting or give historical context. If the small town is in South Australia it will likely have a vintage artillery piece near the centre of town. These places encourage travelers passing through to stop by having welcoming infrastructure such as picnic tables at a local park. One example of community spirit that comes to mind is a small town that covered the walls of the visitors centre and public toilets with brightly coloured art done by local artists. These were for sale at a very reasonable price but it also made for such a cheerful and colourful welcome for traveler visiting.

Actually, it seems the winning formula for a small town to attract tourists is to have an award winning bakery, some wineries and a gin distillery doing tastings.

Karoonda Silo Art

Travelling During the Covid Pandemic

It has been a strange and unprecedented time to be travelling. In general, Australia has managed the Covid-19 pandemic well enough to allow us to travel. We have been both vigilant and lucky to have avoided any lockdowns. We remain hyper-connected to our newsfeed to try to pre-empt any lockdowns and plan our route accordingly. Crossing state borders in the “before times” would be done without thought but these days, much planning and forethought is done when even considering entering a new state. It’s important to be up to date on all the requirements when crossing state borders e.g. entry passes etc. The focus on Covid when crossing state borders is so all consuming that we have a few times neglected to consider the fruit and vegetable quarantine restrictions and have been forced to consume and throw out a lot of fresh food.

Covid is so much on the front of people’s mind that when meeting new people on the road, the conversation invariably turns to something Covid related. There are unfortunately people stuck on the road, away from home due to border restrictions. It’s always eye-opening when meeting people with varying views. We met a fervent anti-vaxxer whilst soaking in the relaxing thermal pools at Innot Hot Springs.

Gnomesville – because even gnomes keep up with the times!! Wear your mask and stay at “gnome!”

Despite the constant bad news portrayed in the media, our experience with the various state health systems has been quite good. We have been able to phone up the health department to ask questions about how we would isolate without a permanent address. We have been able to book appointments for free vaccinations at differing locations to fit in with our travels. When we attend for vaccinations, it has always been efficient, courteous, professional and quick. As long as you are familiar with the most up to date regulations and comply, the entry paperwork (when required) for crossing state borders as well as the face to face border checks with the police has been trouble-free. There has personally been no room for complaint thus far.

In the last 11 months, with the exception of ACT and Tasmania, we have been to all the other states and the Northern Territory. We have therefore been able to use the various state contact tracing QR scanning apps and witnessed first hand the behavior of the general population in relation to Covid. Residents of the NT and WA are generally proud of the way their government has handled Covid. South Australians are the most vigilant with their compliance with QR check-in codes and mask wearing. People in Victoria and NSW, despite having to live through the longest lockdowns, are the most relaxed. Many do not bother to check-in to venues and others wear their masks badly.

I often wonder what it would be like to travel Australia without a pandemic. How would the vibe be different? During this pandemic, there have been grey nomads stuck interstate unable to return home and a lack of foreign backpackers and tourists. The few foreign backpacker-types left in Australia seem to have been drawn into Western Australia where there have been less lockdowns. I suspect the vibe in the camp kitchens would be very different in “normal” times. These days, camp kitchens are not greatly used as most people have their own facilities in their caravans. Perhaps if overseas travel was open, the camp kitchens would be filled with a cacophony of different languages and the smells of different types of cuisines. The big cities are definitely quieter without international students and the tourist hotspots without busloads of Chinese tourists. I feel for the big tourists drawcards like Cairns, Airlie Beach and the Great Ocean Road which would be struggling without international travelers. To an extent, domestic tourists can fill the gap but domestic tourists tend to want a different offering so the tourism business has to evolve to suit.

Is Australia too Vanilla for the Intrepid Traveler?

The classic picture of an intrepid traveler is a person experiencing massive culture shock. Perhaps they are faced with cultural norms and practices very foreign from their own and faced with food that bears no resemblance to anything they may usually consume. It might look like a person out of place in a country where they look different, do not speak the local language or dress like a local. For an English speaking person, used to the luxuries of a developed country, is traveling Australia too boring, too vanilla to excite the senses?

Maybe, but …….as the title of the blog says…..”Make It What you Want”. Travel is about contrasts. Traveling Australia is different to traveling other countries and there is so much to appreciate about travelling here. For example, the fresh air and the night sky littered with stars as can only be appreciated from a remote location. Spectacular, untouched natural beauty and well maintained walking trails that you can have entirely to yourself. The breathtaking magnitude of the vast spaces that make up Australia and the serenity that comes with enjoying a beautiful beach with no one else in sight. These are the things that make Australia special.

View of Sydney Harbour

So, what’s it like to road trip around Australia? It’s an experience of a lifetime!

10 of the Most Useful Road Trip Tech

After 11 months and making a lap around Australia by road, there are a number of tech-related devices, ideas and apps that have made the journey a lot easier.

1. Big Mobile Plan

Being on the road full time requires a big mobile data plan as this will be your connection to the world. It is the way to research destinations, perform navigation (but see section below on Maps.me), stay up to date with the news, do banking, stay in touch with friends and family and for entertainment e.g. video streaming or podcasts. Ensure you have a generous (and hopefully well priced) mobile data plan.

In Australia, Telstra has better network coverage in remote areas but their offerings are much more expensive. We used the Optus mobile network which has reasonable network coverage except in the most remote places. (In fact, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of small towns which Optus covers).

2. Keeping Your Gadgets Juiced

A fast charging cigarette lighter USB charger is super useful to keep your devices charged as you drive along. We have a couple of these bad boys so we can charge quickly from our engine or from our auxiliary power system. It’s kind of cool to know your device is being powered from the sun (if you have a solar system), even if (let’s be honest) driving all over the country gives you a terrible carbon footprint 🙁

It’s also a good idea to get a powerbank that you can charge up just in case. Look for a model that supports the type of charge port you need and which allows you to charge the power bank and device connected to it simultaneously. We found the best deals for powerbanks via Ebay, but recommend you choose a trusted brand since some of the others are not reliable.

Tablets are a great option for long term travel since they use way less power than a laptop. Modern tablets are quite capable and you can even connect in an external bluetooth mouse or keyboard if you need to really get some serious work done. Since you can charge your tablet from a USB port (unlike all but the most modern laptops), they’re very easy to manage on the road.

3. Wikicamps

Wikicamps is our chosen app for determining where we will camp for the night. It has information on free camps and paid caravan parks including what amenities are available at that location e.g. toilets. Each location has ratings, reviews and photos from other users and there is offline content so it is still highly useful when you don’t have network signal in remote locations. It costs $7.99 for a subscription but it is so useful that it is worth the small fee.

Campermate is a free alternative to Wikicamps but I found it less up to date than Wikicamps.

4. Podcasts

Australia is a vast country and getting around it involves at times, driving hundreds of kilometers. This driving can often be quite boring and it’s important for safety reasons to stay alert. We achieved this by listening to a lot of podcasts. There are a number of podcast apps including Stitcher and Google Podcasts. Podcasts are digital audio files of spoken word and they can cover any subject under the sun.

Our favourites include, The Daily (New York Times) and Built to Go – A Van Life Podcast. These are really well produced and it’s so interesting to get more in-depth information about current affairs of the day. There really is a podcast for any area of interest. Some are light, comedic and full of banter whilst others are more serious. For remote areas with no network signal, download some podcasts in advance.

5. E-library

Using an electronic library is amazing for being on the road. It provides free access to a wide range of books, including topical, latest releases and it weighs nothing as you can read the material on your phone or tablet. This amazing service is one of the many ways public libraries are remaining relevant going into the future. Sign up at your local library and ask them which e-library app they use. We use Libby and BorrowBox but this may differ depending on your library. The material available also depends on which library branch you are a member of. If you can, sign up to a big library, or a library that’s part of a larger network, to get the most material to choose from – similar to a real library! This includes book, audiobooks and magazines so there is something for every taste. Audiobooks are also a good alternative to podcasts for long drives.

6. Facebook Groups

Facebook (for all it’s flaws) is useful for staying in touch with family and friends. It’s also great for buying and selling things via Facebook Marketplace (which has overtaken the other online marketplaces). Another very useful function is Facebook Groups. You can find specific Facebook Groups on topics that are of interest. An example would be a group for Camping in Tasmania. On here you would be able to get highly specific information about camping in Tasmania e.g. the condition of a specific track to a campsite or whether free camping is allowed in a particular location.

Personally, we think you’re mad if you put your whole life on the internet for everyone else to see. The old axiom applies: If it’s free, then you are the product! So use Facebook but be careful what you post.

7.Maps.me

Map.me is the app we use for navigating when we don’t have mobile phone coverage. You can pre-download the maps in large state-based regions. An alternative to maps.me is to just plan ahead and download a region of interest via Google Maps. Those maps expire after a period of time and you may not always be so organised that you have the right map ready to go after you’ve passed out of mobile phone coverage!

8. Shared Itinerary

Having a shared itinerary is very useful to keep your traveling party on the same page and for planning purposes. It shares the information, so it is not just in one person’s head and allows for input from others.

We haven’t found the ideal tool for this so we make do with a shared Google spreadsheet. A better option would integrate a map so you can visualise where you’re going (Google maps has only a limited number of waypoints and you can’t easily save what you’re working on). If you know of a better way to manage your itinerary then let us know!

9. Stay in Touch with Family and Friends

Use a messaging tool of your choice but it’s nice to stay in touch with your friends and family. We use Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger or Signal. If you have concerns about being in bed with Facebook/Meta, Signal would be the preferred choice.

10. Learn a Language on the road

Being on the road is a good chance to learn a language. We used the Pimsleur language classes and they’re actually pretty good. There are loads of other options like Duolingo, but it can be pretty annoying (like playing a poker machine). But be careful trying to think of the right word can distract you from the road!

Hope this list has been helpful! Safe driving and happy travels!

Australia IS the Lucky Country – here are 10 reasons why…

Travelling around Australia by road is a fabulous way to see all parts of country from the large, coastal cities to the small, remote, inland country towns. After 11 months and a full lap around Australia by road, the strong conclusion is that there is so very much to be grateful for in this great, vast country.

Here are 10 reasons why Australia really is the “lucky country”.

1. Clean!

The whole place is exceptionally clean! There is loads of clean, fresh air everywhere. The water, whether it is sea water or river water is clean! Australia is one of the few places where you can stand at the water’s edge and see signs of big industry like a coal ship loading jetty and look down to see crystal clear, clean water. We have even seen a pod of rare dolphins frolicking alongside these ships in the industrial city of Gladstone. The towns and cities are “neat as a pin”, especially country towns which seem to take pride keeping up a high standard of housekeeping and garden beauty. There is no rubbish about and the water out of the taps is potable.

This is a generalization. Of course, there are the odd bits of rubbish about in the city and some people have hoarding tendencies that spill out into their yard but by and large, Australia is super clean and tidy. It is very easy to forget (especially when it is hard to travel overseas) that this is not the case in so many other places.

2. Affluent

Australia is an affluent and prosperous place. As we travel around Australia, there are so many beautiful, upscale, well-to-do, fancy houses especially by the waterfront. These are clearly expensive and many of them are only vacation houses. In our travels, we have not seen any ghettoes or signs of extreme, dire poverty as is apparent in other countries. People are (in general), living very well in very comfortable homes.

Whilst the inequality gap does exist, it does seem smaller in Australia than in other places, as the less fortunate are better looked after in Australia.

Perth CBD

3. Diversity

Australia is a diverse country both in landscape and in people. Any type of landscape that tickles your fancy can be found in Australia. From wild, rugged coastlines to calm, paddling beaches, from lakes and rivers to the dusty inland desert, the lush, fertile greenery of the north to the cool, fresh mornings of the high country, there is something for everyone on this vast land.

The people of Australia are also very diverse in heritage. This is particularly apparent in the big cities but unfortunately not so much in regional areas. Despite this, in general, language and values are more homogenous in the Australia than in other places which helps national unity. In general, Australians are an egalitarian lot, who want and will give each other a fair go and have great love and pride in their families.

The diversity in the population is also reflected in the Australia food scene. The food culture in the Australian cities has become more diverse, authentic and dynamic with each passing year. This is less so in remote country areas, understandably, with the long standing favourite of Chicken Parmy on every pub menu!

4. Architecture

Despite being a relatively young country, many of Australia’s oldest and historic buildings are very well preserved and looked after. In the big cities, modernist glass towers sit shoulder to shoulder to historic heritage listed buildings. The prosperity of the country can be seen in their buildings with beautiful, striking skyscrapers being built and architecturally designed, affluent residential homes slowly gentrifying the suburbs. Interestingly, when a striking building catches the eye, it is often a government building or RSL! Whilst it’s not ideal that taxpayer’s money is being used to build expensive, striking architectural hospitals, at least the money is not being funneled away due to corruption.

Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
A building in Melbourne CBD

5. Valuing what’s important

Australia and Australians value what’s important about having a good life. The cities and towns clearly recognise the importance of having green spaces for health as there are parks, botanic gardens and tree lined streets everywhere. There are always public playgrounds with really fun looking playground equipment for the kids and water features for kids to play and cool off in on sweltering days.

Water Feature at a Playground so kids / people can cool off on a hot day!

There are good roads countrywide, safe foot paths, ramps up onto the curbs for bikes and wheelchairs, public sporting grounds, public toilets and tactile paving on the foot paths for the vision impaired. Here is a country that has put in place (and in general, maintains) good infrastructure to facilitate a safe, healthy and good quality life for the population. What’s not to love about that?

Rosalind Park in Bendigo. It’s a calm, green sanctuary right near the CBD.

6. Safe, consistent and orderly

It is very safe in Australia. It is extremely unlikely that you will be caught up in any type of crime. Your property and your person will be almost certainly safe from harm in the vast majority of situations. In the cases where there is an issue, the police force and justice system are reasonable and fair. When driving, there is consistent road signage and life is orderly. It is so easy to feel entitled and forget that this type of boring orderliness is not the norm in other places. In Australia, it can be taken for granted.

7. Good people

Australians are good people. They are friendly and open. In general, they are egalitarian and don’t look down on people based on apparent wealth e.g. clothes and cars or their heritage. They openly speak proudly of their children. You can be reasonably assured that if you have accident or incident, someone will come to your aid.

8. Community Pride

Community pride and spirit is alive and strong in Australia. In the small towns, this is particularly apparent.

In the small town of Nannup, Western Australia, the whole place is planted with beautiful roses which bloom in a riot of strong colours to welcome travelers. They have also organised a free app that tourists can download to guide them to all their regional attractions.

Roses near the Shire Building, Nannup

These small towns make the best use of what they have. For example, the tiny town of Karoonda, South Australia has painted a really cool mural on their silo and this silo becomes the backdrop for a nightly light projection show. What a smart idea to attract travelers through this tiny town of only 500 residents!

Karoonda Silo Art

The city of Cairns has council initiated program of fitness classes all week to keep the community moving and healthy. These are really well attended by both locals and visitors and as they are free, a wide demographic of people are encouraged to get active! What a great idea for health and community spirit!

The community of Denmark in Western Australia banded together to install a couple of wind turbines to supply the town with green energy. This is a massive achievement for a small community to turn an idea of this scale and complexity into a working reality.

9. So Much Natural Beauty

There is so much varied natural beauty in Australia. In particular, are the geological features which makes a person feel small and insignificant in the face of geological time! Here are a few pictures but these are just a minute subset of the many wondrous places that exist in Australia.

Karijini National Park
Mossman Gorge
Injidup Natural Spa, near Yallingup

10. Best Beaches

The mainland of Australia is an island and I would challenge any country that claims to have better beaches than Australia. Australia has hands-down the best beaches of any country in the world (and a beautiful climate to go with it.) My words cannot do this claim justice but maybe these following pictures will have you convinced!

Esperance – yes, the water is really this colour!!
Cable Beach in Broome

Not everything in Australia is perfect. That is definitely true overall, it’s a pretty good place to make a happy life.

In conclusion, here we are on the last of 2021 and yes, the last two years has been Covid crazy and yes, the Covid case numbers are surging exponentially upwards with Omicron. Despite this, Australia IS the lucky country and there is a lot to be grateful for.

I wish you and your loved ones good health, safety and comfort for 2022. Thanks for your support and reading this blog!

Carlton Gardens, Melbourne

Historic Ballarat

The most striking thing about Ballarat are the wide streets in the historic city centre filled with 19th century buildings. Wide streets with a beautiful green median strip usually with established trees. The overall impression of this city is the lush greenery and established trees around town. Picturesque Lake Wendouree is worth a drive around just to look at the expensive waterfront homes. This city bears the legacy in its well kept historic stone buildings of it’s gold rush past. The Ballarat Botanical Gardens is planted in a more formal style and has the Prime Ministers Avenue with busts of previous prime ministers.

Ballarat Gold Monument – to commemorate the finding of gold in 1851
Ballarat Botanical Gardens
Ballarat Botanical Gardens
Ballarat Botanical Gardens – The Prime Ministers Avenue
Ballarat Botanical Gardens – The Prime Ministers Avenue, Paul Keating
Ballarat Botanical Gardens – The Prime Ministers Avenue, Julia Gillard
Ballarat Botanical Gardens – Spectacular Aeoniums
Ballarat Botanical Gardens
Lake Daylesford – Daylesford is a picturesque town not far from Ballarat.