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Three Weeks in Australia - August 2016

Visiting friends in Melbourne and independent touring to Adelaide, Brisbane and Cairns by planes, trains and automobiles.


The motivation for this trip was several 60th birthdays and an invitation to visit long standing friends, plus making the most of a first visit to Australia, but for a relatively short period of three weeks. The outline itinerary was as follows:

Melbourne and Excursions

Thur 28th July Departure
- taxi, then by train from Stoke-On-Trent via Manchester Piccadilly station
Fly from Manchester (terminal 1) - Flight EK020 A580 check in 18.15 dep: 21.15
Fri 29th July Arrive Dubai (terminal 3) arr 7.25 a.m.
- time for coffee and croissants at Dubai, terminal transfer by train
Fly from Dubai - Flight EK 406 A580 check in 07.15 dep 10.15 a.m.
Sat 30th July Arrive Melbourne Tullamarine arr 5.25 a.m.
- met by Jonathan at airport, scenic sunrise drive across city, breakfast with J&H at Glen Waverley
- visited the Puffing Billy Railway in the Dandenong Range with J&H
- Belgrave to Lakeside & return, superb G42 Beyer-Peacock, also model rail layout at Lakeside
Sun 31st July - with J&H, lazy morning, visit flying foxes roosting at Yarra Bend, BBQ in evening
Mon 1st Aug - with J&H, G&L tram to City, visit Eureka tower, ride city tram loop, have a late lunch
- met J&H for meal at Cafe Notturno in Lygon Street, return to Glen Waverley by car
Tues 2nd Aug - with J&H, by car to Ballarat & Sovereign Hill Mining Museum, great day out
- Gold Museum, then fast food chicken dinner at Bacchus Marsh, travel home in dark
Wed 3rd Aug - with J&H, spend lazy morning, walk from house in the Dandenong Valley Parklands
Collect hire car c.15.30 (Open M-F 08.00 - 17.30)
- Hertz, Mitcham Downtown, 399 Canterbury Road, Melbourne, (Vermont) 3133 Tel: +61 3 9874 3500
- Collected hire car, packed for leaving, had convivial meal & booked e-toll on line

The Puffing Billy Railway is a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway in the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne, Australia.

Up train from Belgrave to Lakeside, pulled by G42 'Garratt' 2-6-0+0-6-2 articulated steam locomotive,
built by Beyer-Peacock in Manchester, U.K. in 1926 for the Victoria State Railways.

Grey-headed Flying-foxes are the second largest species of bat in Australia – weighing up to 1.1 kg with a wing-span of over 1 m. They feed on nectar, fruit and pollen from a wide range of plant species. There is a colony at the Yarra Bend Park, Melbourne. The bats feed on nectar, fruit and pollen and forage over a wide area at night.

Grey-headed Flying-foxes on the Yarra River

Melbourne City skyline from Yarra Bend Park

The city of Ballarat, 65 miles WNW of Melbourne was the focus of a gold rush in Victoria State in the 19th century. Sovereign Hill open-air museum in the suburbs of Ballarat recreates the buildings and activities at a point some ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851.

On Main Street, Sovereign Hill

The Great Ocean Road

Thur 4th August Drive Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay
- Take M1 out of Melbourne, on a beautiful morning, have lunch at Anglesey General Stores
- Great Ocean Road, Otway Coast, Wye River (sighting from headland of a pod of Southern Right Whales)
Stay at Apollo Bay - Motel Marengo: 26-28 Great Ocean Road, 3233, Apollo Bay Tel: +61 3 5237 6808
- have dinner at the Sea Food Cafe in Apollo Bay
Fri 5th August Drive Great Ocean Road - Apollo Bay to Portland
- have mega breakfast at Cafe 153, then super drive by Otway NP, visit Mait’s Rest rainforest walk
- through lowlands at Princetown, 12 Apostles fly-by, visit London Arch then on fast pastoral roads
- stop for coffee & cake in Warrambool, take Prince’s Highway, eat at Lemongrass Thai in Portland
Stay at Portland - Melaleuca Motel: 25 Bentinck St, 3305, Portland Tel: +61 3 5523 3397
Sat 6th August Continue on Coastal Highway - Portland to Robe
- lovely drive past Lower Glenelg NP to Nelson, then to Blue Lake Mt. Gambier
- stop for cake & coffee at Millicent, take empty Southern Ports Highway to Beachport Jetty, then Robe
Stay at Robe - Harbour View Motel: 2 Sturt St., 5276, Robe Tel: +61 8 8768 2148
- enjoy a starry, starry southern night sky in Robe,take a dark walk to a Hotel for food
Sun 7th August Drive to Adelaide from Robe
- travel along the Coorong coast, with views, dead roos, a few 4x4’s, take coffee at the Salt Creek Roadhouse
- continue on fast windy roads to Tailem Bend, take Scenic Prince’s Highway through Adelaide Hills
Stay at Aviators Lodge: 728 Tapleys Hill Road, West Beach, 5024, Adelaide Tel: +61 8 8356 8388
- eat-in on garlic prawns at the motel

The Great Ocean Road is dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I, being built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932. The road extends for 243 km (151 mi) between the Victorian towns of Torquay and Allansford. The 4-day itinerary from Melbourne to Adelaide comprised 1038 km (645 miles) driving. It could be driven in one very long day.

Great Ocean Road: view north-west from Cape Patton, between Lorne and Apollo Bay

Mait's Rest is a little gem of a rainforest visitor walk just off the B100 in the Otway National Park. A short trail loop, very informative and atmospheric. Ancient, cool, temperate rainforest with myrtle-beech, tree-ferns etc.-

Mait's Rest - rainforest boardwalk trail

We bypassed the famous Twelve Apostles sea stacks, as the large car-coach park was heaving. Instead we made a brief visit to the easily accessible London Arch a few miles up the road.

Natural arch, eroded in to Port Campbell Limestone

The road between Portland and Nelson parallels the coast and is an enjoyable drive thorugh rural scenery on the edge of a National Park.

Driving between Portland and Nelson

Near Mount Gambier in South Australia, the Blue Lake lies within a volcanic crater. The crater is a window in to the surrounding limestone aquifer, which determines the lake level. The crater formed when, after the formation of volcanic ash deposits above the limestone, groundwater came in to contact with an intrusive magma plug. The resulting explosion formed the crater. The nearby town is supplied with drinking water from the lake, which is approximately a kilometre across.

Blue Lake, Mount Gambier

Flight from Adelaide to Brisbane

Mon 8th Aug Drop Hire Car off at Adelaide Airport (c. 9.00 a.m.)
at Hertz. Tel: +61 8 8234 4566 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Adelaide (West Torrens) 5950
- The Hertz drop-off was hiding in plain sight!
Fly from Adelaide (terminal 1 - domestic)
Flight QF662 check in: 8.55 - 10.55a.m. dep: 11.55 a.m.
- enjoyed blue skies for a civilised Quantas flight
Arrive Brisbane (terminal D) arr: 2.45 p.m.
Collect Hire Car c.15.30 Airport Drive, Brisbane (Eagle Farm) 4009 (Open M-F 0500-0130)
- i30 supplemented with the JDR NatSav in a sunny afternoon urban drive to Logan Park
Stay at McNevins Logan Park Motel: 4170 Pacific Highway 4129, Loganholme Tel: +61 7 3209 8830
- night excursion to Beenleigh for a very good battered fish Thai curry

A beautiful day for an internal flight across Eastern Australia.

Adelaide Hills from the airport

Around Brisbane

Tue 9th Aug Touring - Gold Coast and Mount Tamborine
- another sunny day, drive south to David Fleay Centre, with rainforest, wetland & eucalypt habitats
- especially enjoyed the nocturnal critters & eagles etc, then to Gold coast, Nerang & in to the hills
Stay at Cayambe View B&B: 20 Cayambe Court, 4271, Mount Tamborine, Tel: +61 7 5545 4052
- super views from Mt. Tamborine, staying in Queenslander accomodation, completed census, ate out Italian
Wed 10th Aug Touring - Mounts Tamborine & Coot-tha
- nice day again, super visit to Tamborine Skywalk, high & low level rainforest canopy
- lovely drive to Lindsay Highway, then got lunch & hung-out at Mt. Coot-tha botanic gardens
Stay at Chapel Woods B&B: 7 Candlebark Cres., Chapel Hill, 4069, Brookfield Tel: +61 4 2487 2745
- staying in the leafy ‘burbs. A hot day. Relaxed, just snack evening meal in room.
Thur 11th Aug Touring - Fig Tree Pocket and Car Drop-off
- after a great breakfast, visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, warm & humid, by the river
- fun with koalas, roos, platypi & taipan. Commuted to airport & car drop-off
Return car to Brisbane Airport c.15.30
- Took the Airtrain to city, caught in a tropical shower, on foot to hotel and arrive dripping!
Stay at Park Regis North Quay: 293 North Quay, Brisbane Tel: +61 7 3013 7200
- had great day and night views over the Brisbane River & City from room, ate in: very good cow pies.

David Fleay (1907-1993) pioneered the captive breeding of endangered species and was the first person to breed the duck-billed platypus in captivity. The David Fleay Wildlife Centre is run by the Queensland Department of National Parks. The park is located next to Tallebudgera Creek on West Burleigh Road on Queensland's Gold Coast.

Closing in on the platypus

Mount Tamborine is a plateau in the Gold Coast Hinterland, with a sub-tropical climate and remnant areas of rainforest that make up the Tamborine National Park. It gives good views westwards to the volcanic mountains of South-eastern Queensland's Scenic Rim.

View from Mount Tamborine towards The Scenic Rim

Epiphytes grow harmlessly upon trees in the rainforest and derive their moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from accumulated debris.

Epiphytes high up in the canopy

The Mt. Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk gives educational access to 30 acres of privately owned rainforest, via forest floor trails and elevated walkways high in the forest canopy. It is a good place to see eucalypt forest, ghost gums, giant strangler figs, lianas, epiphytes etc.

Rainforest at Tamborine Skywalk

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is located at Fig Tree Pocket on the Brisbane River. It is a popular attraction, but worthwhile visiting particularly for the koalas, wombat, reptile house and talks by the rangers, especially on the freshwater Mary River Turtle. The mother and baby koalas in their own enclosure are seriously cute (and sleepy).

Closing in on the koalas

Koalas sleep between 18-22 hours a day, because the eucalyptus they feed on has low nutritional value and takes a lot of energy to digest. Koalas are tolerant of the toxins in eucalyptus but do smell of it, like cough drops. They are in decline owing to loss of habitat.

Koala in the day time

Brisbane City and By Train to Cairns

Fri 12th Aug Brisbane and Overnight Train North
- dropped off bags at Roma St., spent a half-day at Queensland Art Gallery, Train north ~ 4 pm.
Train to Cairns (Spirit of Queensland) from Roma Street
check in: 14.45 dep: 15.45 Class: Rail Bed Sleeper
- great meals on-board, sleeper beds, then rattling north in darkness 6 pm to 6 am.
Sat 13th Aug By Train to Cairns
- enjoyed super sunrise, trundling north through Proserpine etc, with roos & wallabies in wild
- characteristic sugar cane, narrow gauge railways, banana trees, date palms etc north of Townsville
Arrive at Cairns arr: 16.05
- hijacked a taxi to the hotel, ate in.
Stay at Double Tree by Hilton: at 121-123 The Esplanade & Florence St, 4870, Cairns Tel: +61 7 4050 6040

Brisbane and the Gold Coast is well served by urban and inter-urban train services.

At Brisbane Airport, waiting for the Airtrain service in to the City

The cultural attractions of Brisbane are concentrated along the South Bank of the Brisbane River, an easy walk from the city centre.

Brisbane city centre, viewed across Victoria Bridge from the South Bank

The Spirit of Queensland train rolling stock is modern and has airline-style ticketing, baggage check-in, accommodation etc. Two carriages are equipped with rail beds, which are powered seats converting to lie-flat beds, with pillows and bed linen. The rail bed ticket includes an in-seat meal service. The train has a lounge car and also showers and toilets in each carriage. The journey between Brisbane and Cairns takes about twenty-four hours.

Rail bed sleeper seat

In August it is still late-winter in Australia, so there are pretty much twelve hours of darkness.

Sunrise somewhere near Proserpine

A Few Days Relaxing in Cairns

Sun 14th Aug In Cairns
- lazy start, did a little laundry, walked the esplanade & visited street cafe, mooched around etc.
- ate in, great steak and a malayan curry. Booked trip for Tuesday.
Mon 15th Aug In Cairns
- lazy morning, slept, read, wrote postcards
- walked out, cruised the shopping mall, watched pelicans on the foreshore, ate ice cream, ate in.
Tues 16th Aug Excursion From Cairns
- coach to Freshwater, scenic railway to Kuranda (stops for photo-opportunity at Barron falls)
- after a swift coffee, too the Skyrail up and over the rainforest, a special trip, weather variable
- returned by coach to hotel, lunch in Cairns, visited harbour, rest, sleep, ate in.

Cairns is a busy provincial coastal city in Tropical North Queensland, known for World Heritage features such as the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropical Forests. The development history of Cairns was based on gold and agriculture, whilst it was a staging base for Allied operations in the Pacific during World War 2.

Landscape planting within the hotel atrium

A classic tourist day out from Cairns is to take the scenic train from Freshwater up in to the hills at Kuranda, then return to sea level over the rainforest covered hills on the Skyrail Cableway.

Freshwater Station on a misty day

The Skyrail cableway is 7.5 km long with two mid-stations. It is gives a special perspective on the rainforest canopy and the experience complements lower level walking trails elsewhere.

Gondola and rainforest view in light rain

Return to Melbourne, Then Homeward Bound

Wed 17th Aug Flight from Cairns to Melbourne
- took early taxi to the airport, Jetstar in-flight service was a bit ropey, but scenic views were good
Fly from Cairns - domestic terminal
Flight JQ945 check in: 8.30 a.m. dep: 10.30 a.m.
Arrive at Melbourne Tullamarine (terminal 4) arr: 1.55p.m.
- took Shuttle Skybus (Airport to Southern Cross Bus Terminal, Spencer St.)
- then trams to Flinders St. Station, JDR helped with lodging baggage at the Traveller’s Rest
- had a drink with J&H (& Chloe) at the Robert Jackson pub
- took dinner at a Buddhist eatery, then to a coffee shop, for cake & 4 spoons
- returned on an evening train to Glenn Waverley, then saw ½ G&L pics before retiring.
- stayed overnight with J&H

Melbourne's tram system dates from 1884 and now comprises 25 regular revenue routes together with the free City Circle service, with older heritage trams running on the latter.

W-class tram running on the Melbourne City Circle route

Thur 18th Aug Day with J&H
- had a great breakfast & saw remaining pics, took sauna in the "sauna-shed"
- after a late lunch, J&G went for a local walk with Sammy
- after a relaxing day (for us), J&H took us to airport late afternoon, the security checks were slow.
Fly from Melbourne
Flight EK407 A580 check in: 18.25 dep: 21.25
Fri 19th Aug Arrive at Dubai (terminal 3) arr: 5.30 a.m.
- sedate flight, takes hours clearing west coast of Australia
- a short stop only in Dubai, terminal transfer by train
Fly from Dubai (terminal 3) check in: 4.25 a.m. dep: 7.25 a.m.
Flight EK017 A580
- noisy local kids on Leg 2, need noise-cancelling headphones!
Arrive at Manchester (terminal 1) arr: 12.05 p.m.
- arrive Manchester about noon, weather wet, took trains to Stoke-on-Trent, taxi home.
- end of a very memorable trip with the weekend to relax (Libby).