Australia

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Australia.

fun-in-sydney

15 Entertaining Things To Do in Sydney

  1. CLIMB THE SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE

sydney-harbour-bridge-climbing

“It’s much more than just a bridge,” says Graham Watson as he leads a group of climbers up a set of metal stairs, framed by a lattice-like network of studded girders. “It’s a symbol of the city and something we’re all proud of.”

We are climbing one of the world’s most iconic structures — the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or “The Coathanger”, as it’s affectionately known in these parts. From the inside, it is a maze of steel. As Graham navigates it, Sydney is revealed below. Skyscrapers seem to crowd the water’s edge at Circular Quay, which sweeps around to the jutting lip of land where the Sydney Opera House stands.

Eventually, Graham emerges at the top, the crest of the arch. From here, Sydney is a 360° panorama of coves, cliffs, beaches and jetties, set around the broad, sparkling waters of the harbour. “I do this climb up to 12 times a week,” Graham says. “And there’s always something different to see. Who could get tired of this?”.

  1. GET ON A STAGE AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

 sydney-harbour-bridge-climbing

Just after dawn, the soaring, cream roof sections of the Sydney Opera House take on a rosy hue, and all is calm — on the outside, at least. Inside, however, the building rings with shouts and clatters as sets are moved and props hoisted.

“It’s go, go, go, 24 hours a day here,” says Adam Sebire. He first entered the Opera House as a trombonist 23 years ago and now leads visitors through the hidden corners of this vast building. Adam makes his way through corridors filled with orderly jumbles of instruments and props, giant gilded Buddhas and flourishing fake plants.

Beyond the Green Room — a lounge for performers, where superstition dictates that nothing is, in fact, coloured green —he emerges in a low-ceilinged bunker. This is the orchestra pit of the Joan Sutherland Theatre — a tiny space under the stage where dozens of musicians are crammed each day.

“It’s not always easy to perform in here,” he says,” especially when the fog from the dry ice on stage settles down in the pit, creating a real pea souper. But it’s every musician’s dream to perform at the Opera House.”

3.CATCH A SHOW AT “THE HOUSE OF DRAG”:

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At first glance, The Imperial Hotel could be any traditional Australian pub — pool tables, bar bristling with Antipodean beer taps, and carpet that’s gently sticky underfoot. Then, the entertainment arrives and everything changes.

Menage A’Trois, dressed in spandex trousers and a blonde wig, steps onto the stage with a smile on her heavily-painted face, to the cheers of the crowd. Tonight, she lip-synchs high-energy rock song Sugar Daddy, punctuated with high kicks and groin thrusts.

Sydney’s drag scene is mainstream, not niche, and, whether you yearn for ABBA, Liza or Kylie, The Imperial is the queen.

  1. TRY 300 WINES IN A NOTORIUS BACK ALLEY

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Back in the 1920s, when Sydney’s ‘razor gang’ kingpins battled for control of the nearby streets, this Darlinghurst alley was not a safe place to find oneself. These days, this passage attracts locals who descend on the tiny Love, Tilly Devine bar.

The walls inside the cosy space are crammed with bottles of fine wine — from boutique local chardonnays and sauvignon blancs, to luxury French Grand Crus and an ‘orange wine’ from the Yarra Valley. This is a far cry from the local establishments frequented by Tilly Devine, once Sydney’s most notorious brothel madam.

  1. TRY AN AUSSIE PIE AT THE BOURKE ST BAKERY

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On the corner of a quiet, tree-lined street in the suburb of Surry Hills is the Bourke Street Bakery. It’s so popular with Sydneysiders that they will drive across town to visit, and there’s no doubting what most people come here for. Pies. Delicious, flake-pastried meat pies crammed with soft pieces of beef and oozing with gravy.

“The meat pie is part of our Australian identity, like kangaroos or Vegemite,” says Paul Allam, the former chef and bakery co-founder. “It’s our national dish, so we had to make them good.”

These pies are certainly a cut above those cheerfully guzzled at football grounds and school canteens across the country. The meat inside is tender wagyu beef cheeks and shins, braised for five hours with vegetables and malt vinegar, while the pastry is made with fresh butter.

The key, according to Paul, is that it can’t fall apart when you eat it with one hand. “That’s the test,” he says, smiling. “I suppose for safety reasons we shouldn’t condone it, but we applaud the ability to eat a pie with one hand while you drive. It’s an important part of Aussie pie-eating culture.”

asia-australia-wineries

Satiating The Thirst for Wine In Asia and Australia

HOKKAIDO

hokkaido winery

This northern prefecture maybe better known for its abundance of seafood and dairy but wine production in Hokkaido has been around since the 19605. Although considerably still a young wine-producing region, a number of Hokkaido wineries have won international accolades and many restaurants in the area are beginning to serve local wine to be paired with Hokkaido’s fresh cuisine. The Sorachi district in Hokkaido in particular experiences similar weather and soil conditions of various wine-growing regions in France. Housui Winery is one of the more established wineries in Hokkaido with its own vineyard that plants a variety of grapes, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties.

On a tour here, visitors can sample the Yuki no Keifu series of premium wines that are completely made with grapes harvested from its own vineyard. In summer, a specialty ice cream is served where its syrup topping is made from the discarded grape skins after wine production (alcohol-free so kids can have some too).

MAKE IT HAPPEN

Housui Winery is open daily except for Wednesdays from January to March. Reservations are necessaryto tour the winery or field.The cellar is well stocked and tasting sessions can also be arranged (housu i-winery.co.jp).

KHAO YAI

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Thailand is one of the last places anyone would think of to be a wine-growing region. The tropical and humid climate has always been considered unsuitable for wine production but vineyards in Thailand are changing this notion. One of the first to gain world recognition is GranMonte Family Vineyard, which was founded by the Lohitnavy family in 2009 and is under the sole direction of Nikki Lohitnavy, Thailand’s first and only fully qualified oenologist. Wines from the GranMonte Estate are the most decorated in Thailand, having won more than a hundred awards in the past four years. There are a few varieties available and it is the whites, such as its Spring Chenin Blanc, Sole Chenin Blanc Viognier and GranMonte Viognier that are the most renowned.

The whites from GranMonte often feature notes of topical fruits like papaya, pineapple, and lime, which make them popular for wine pairing, especially with spicy Thai cuisine. Nikki continues to challenge herself in creating new varieties and has since developed Sabina Rosé Syrah, Bussaba Natural Sweet Wine Chenin Blanc Semillon and Muscat, and GranMote Cremant.

MAKE IT HAPPEN

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A Granmonte wine barrel

OT here are daily tours that include a lap around thevineyard and winery, ending with wine tasting and a set lunch of dinner at the in-house VinCotto restaurant. February 2017 is GranMonte Harvest Month and tours booked during the month will also include a learning experience about tropical winemaking the by direction of Nikki Lohitnavy.The Annual Harvest Festival on 18-19 February also promises to be lots of fun for oenophiles with its buffet, free flow of wine and mini concert. Book a tour by emailing reservation@granmonte.com or visiting granmonte.com

YARRA VALLEY

yarra-valley-winery

It is impossible to write about winemaking regions without at least mentioning Yarra Valley, the Australian wine region located east of Melbourne. Its cool climate is best known for producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz wine varieties. The undulating topography of the area divides the valley into two distinct subregions — Valley Floor and Upper Yarra, with each experiencing distinct soil and climate conditions.

Valley Floor is located nearer sea level and experiences warmer temperatures, while Upper Yarra has younger, fertile red soils and a cooler climate, which aid in the production of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Wine producers in Yarra Valley take their wine seriously and many will be hard-pressed to find any winery without an accolade. One of the most exceptional in Yarra Valley is Dominique Portet Winery, where the Portet family has been making wine for ten generations. Even more impressively, their beginnings c an be traced to Chateau Lafite-Rothschild in Bordeaux where founder Dominique had his first whiff of wine. Dominique moved to Yarra Valley when he discovered how similar the conditions were to that of his home in France. For decades since then, the winery has enjoyed great success, especially with its Fontaine Rosé, a wine described to be the bottled essence of summer berries.

MAKE IT HAPPEN

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Dominique Portet Winery

The cellar door is open daily, where visitors can order simple lunches with farm-to-table produce paired with their wines. There are also wine tastings, and tours of the barrel room and winery, as well as social events with the Portet family available throughout the year (dominiqueportet.com).

holiday-in-tasmania

Single, Couple or Family, Tasmania Is The Place to Be

It’s never one-size-fits all with Tasmania – with so many attractions that appeal to a variety of travellers, there’s always something to please everyone, no matter your agenda

For families:

BONORONG WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

 BONORONG-WILDLIFE-SANCTUARY

A haven for native critters, the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary rescues, rehabilitates, and releases animals that have been orphaned or injured. Randall the echidna is one of the permanent residents here; he lost his leg in a dog attack, and although healed, is unable to fend for himself in the wild. In addition to housing a whole mob of kangaroos, the occasional wombat, a family of Tasmanian devils, a trio of Eastern quolls, and a gorgeous peacock that roams the grounds freely, the sanctuary also actively educates and invests in wildlife conservation.

SORELL FRUIT FARM

SORELL FRUIT FARM

Enjoy berry picking to sample the fresh produce of Tasmania

It’s always more fun to pick your own food! Don’t let its name fool you — Sorell Fruit Farm also offers vegetables for picking, including big fat broad beans. In addition to strawberries and blackcurrants, the farm also grows some exotic varieties such as jostaberries, loganberries, silvanberries, tayberries, and nashi pears. They also serve some mean scones with clotted cream and jam for afternoon tea, which you can drizzle with world famous Leatherwood Honey.

CURRINGA FARM

CURRINGA FARM

At around the size of Sentosa Island, adults and children alike will adore the immersive experience at Curringa Farm. Run by a husband-and-wife team that is supremely hospitable and very business-savvy, accommodations on the farm are spacious and adequately-spaced so that every guests has their own privacy. Witness sheep shearing, savour a filling barbecue lunch, and witness a dog herding demonstration before going on a quick tour of the grounds (they grow poppy and crop seed, unique to other farms on the island). We highly recommend that you spend a night here, where you can take your time to explore farm at dusk, before watching the free-grazing sheep come right up to your balcony in the morning.

Tasmania For ladies:

TASMANIAN GOURMET SAUCE COMPANY

TASMANIAN GOURMET SAUCE COMPANY

Speaking of picking your own food, the Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company is truly a unique hands-on experience that will see you harvesting, cooking, and eating your own meal, farm to table — a rare experience for us urban-dwellers. Owner Tim Barbour started the sauce kitchen as a personal project, but the response has been so good that he’s turned it into a full tour experience, including a roam of his well-stocked potager garden that features a chicken coop and miniature apple orchard. They also sell their delicious homemade sauces for you to take home, with multiple recipes available to teach you how to bring their best flavours forward.

SALAMANCA MARKET

SALAMANCA MARKET

Hobart’s Salamanca Market is one of Australia’s most beloved weekend outdoor markets

Held on Saturdays between 8.30am and 3.00pm, the Salamanca Market is the most famous in Tasmania, filled with local producers, artists, and food vendors hawking anything and everything from wallaby burgers, genuine leather goods, upcycled homewares and vibrant, fresh blooms. Sip on fresh brewed coffee and munch on an everything bagel slathered in jalepeno cream cheese, or tuck in to a delicious breakfast paella that’s a full sensory experience all on its own. There are loads of artisans selling homemade remedies such as essential oils, organic soaps and skincare — you can be sure not to leave empty handed.

BRIDESTOWE LAVENDER ESTATE

BRIDESTOWE LAVENDER ESTATE

Lavender fields bloom best in summer

There’s that saying, “to come up smelling like roses”. But we’d much rather smell like lavender instead. Lavender oil has a long and established history of use as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory remedy, and  as a cure for indigestion or heartburn. There are about 39 species of lavender but Bridestowe Lavender Estate only grows Lavandula angustifolia — the single species suitable for both perfume and culinary use. In addition to premium quality lavender oil, be sure to pickup some lavender-infused teas (we loved the earl grey), bath and beauty products, and their signature BobbieTM bear. Grab some tea as well — the lavender scones and various confectionaries are sure to please.

Tasmania For couples:

TASMANIAN SEAFOOD SEDUCTION

TASMANIAN SEAFOOD SEDUCTION

Fresh, succulent seafood caught in the surrounding waters

It’s a literal all-you-can-eat smorgasbord on board Pennicott Wildnerness Journeys’ Tasmanian Seafood Seduction cruise. Slurp up as many freshly-shucked oysters as you can stomach; watch your guide dive for live abalone, sea urchin and rock lobster before devouring them sashimi-style or fried in garlic butter and cilli; and sip on some of the best local wines, boutique beers and ciders as you please. Bubbly and oysters? Now that’s a romantic encounter waiting to happen.

MUSEUM OF OLD AND NEW ART (MONA)

MUSEUM OF OLD AND NEW ART (MONA)

The inside of MUSEUM OF OLD AND NEW ART (MONA)

Museum date, anyone? For some head-tilting, life-questioning, far-out art, cop a cup of culture at the (in)famous MONA. Its selection of installation and traditional art reads like an eccentric billionaire’s curation of old antiques, provocative sculptures, and digital art. Not just for its exhibitions, MONA also offers great beer tours and wine-tasting sessions at its Moo Brewery, and visitors can even opt to stay at one of the eight luxurious ship ping-container pavilions that promise decor like none you’ve ever seen.

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Big Wonders in Little Tasmania – Australia

Deep in its lush primeval forests and along its rugged southern coasts, evidence of Tasmania’s savage birth abound. Yet life on the island seems to teem, flourishing with rich wildlife and abundant waters, a testament that beauty can come from the most unlikely of origins

To understand Tasmania, you must first understand its past. Its geological history is a complex one, involving the world’s largest exposure of Jurassic dolerite and prehistoric eiders, whipped and ground into shape by fierce westerly winds and monstrous waves. That walls, however, are stunning – the Painted Cliffs of Maria Island with their mesmerising iron-oxide bands of red, orange and yellow; the staggering columns of Cape Raoul whose knife-edged cliffs  seem to jut violently from the seabed; and the polished calm of Dove Lake juxtaposed against the untamed peaks of Cradle Mountain.

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Painted Cliffs of Maria Island

Then came its colonial era. For much of the19th century, Tasmania was known as Van Diemen’s Land, a name whispered in fear for its reputation as a notorious prison, filled with Britain’s least desirables, sent to serve out their sentence as far away from the motherland as possible. Tasmanian society today, you’ll find, is far a farcry from its torrid past. Now it is filled with enterprising farmers, ardent conservationists, and jolly good folk who love their land – and love sharing its bounty. From award-winning micro-distilleries and the freshest and cleanest seafood in the region, to its endearing local critters and spellbinding auroras, Tasmania is a no-brainer addition for your bucket list.

SAVAGE BEAUTY

It was a love story for the ages. In1906, Gustav Weindorfer in love with and married Kate Cowle, who was a botanist and11 years his senior. They discovered Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain, and together with Gustav’s partner Charlie Sutton, spent the rest of their live fighting to make the area a national park for all to enjoy. In1922 his lifetime vision finally came true when the 158, 000 acres from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair were declared a Scenic Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.

dove-lake

Dove Lake

His accomplishment, however was marked with tragedy, as Kate passed away in 1916 the same year Gustav lost successively his mother, brother and father. Gustav himself died of heart attack in1932 while starting up his motorcycle one morning.

Cradle Mountain is so named because the silhouette of its peaks seems to form an image of a baby in its cradle. Gustav and Kate never had any children of their own.

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Cradle Mountain can be seen on the background

The Dove Lake circuit is one of the most popular paths in St Clair National Park, with the iconic Cradle Mountain as its majestic backdrop. Cradle Mountain is so named because its peaks form a silhouette that resembles a baby in its cradle. The boat shed at Dove Lake is also one of its most-photographed sights, its well-worn frame heralding a time long since past and making a rather romantic setting for a dramatic looking-off-into-the-distance shot. The Overland Track is also a well-known hiking trail that will take you through the heart of the park, but takes an average of six to seven days to conquer.

Weather conditions or road closures happen on occasion, be sure to check with the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre.

All up and down the Freycinet Peninsula are staggering pink granite cliffs, secluded bays fringed by white sandy beaches, and pure turquoise waters as far as the eye can see. It’s a short hike up to Cape Tourville and Wineglass Bay Lookout (roughly 90 mins round trip), but for the full Freycinet Experience, there are multiple guided tours that will take you round the dramatic and ancient landscapes, breathtaking vistas, and rare flora.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FURRY KIND

A fluffy grey boulder bounds across the grass. Maria greets us by sniffling enthusiastically at our hands, knowing that there’ll be food to come. Orphaned when her mother got hit with a car while she was still in the pouch, Maria the wombat is currently in her adolescence at 18 months of age, and still adorably affectionate. At two years, she will fully mature and become intolerable of human contact — that is when she will be released back in the wild.

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A mob of kangaroos at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

At the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, many animals come in sick or injured, and will either become permanent residents, or released after rehabilitation. Randall the echidna is one of these permanent residents; he lost a leg in a dog attack, and although fully healed, will need special care all his life. In addition to housing a whole mob of kangaroos, the occasional wombat, a family of Tasmanian devils, a trio of Eastern quolls, and a gorgeous peacock that roams the grounds freely, the sanctuary also actively educates and invests in wildlife conservation.

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Local residents, the Wombat (left) and Tasmanian Devil

The locals refer to them as pademelons (pronounced paddy-melon), a close relative of the wallaby and one of the smallest macropods in the world.

pademelons

pademelons

They look like a cross between a quokka and a wallaby, with its thick, short tail and a petite little face. Together with wombats, echidnas, quolls, possums and the elusive Tasmanian devil, pademelons roam freely in the grounds surrounding Cradle Mountain. McDermott’s Coaches does an amazing night wildlife spotting tour (since most of these animals are nocturnal), where the drivers bring you to their favourite spots to see some of these critters feeding and grooming in their natural habitat — no enclosure, no performance shows, just pure wildlife.

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Unchain Your Happiness in Fremantle – Western Australia

You know that feeling you get on a Saturday morning? A happy, hopeful sort of feeling, when you’ve woken up after a great night out and know that another one awaits, followed by yet another day of blissful languor? Fremantle gives you the Saturday feeling. Even Perth, small as it is, has a bit of a frenetic pace, but this, this is your happy place. Freo, as the locals call it, is every bit as cool as it sounds. Located just about 30 minutes away from Perth, there’s something about this harbour city that puts you instantly at ease. Maybe it’s the friendly faces, the cheerful art on its walls, or the lively atmosphere in pretty much every café you peek into…

Spend a day in the life of an inmate

fremantle-prison

Fremantle Prison

Famous for all the wrong reasons, Fremantle Prison is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built by convicts, for convicts, it was decommissioned as a maximum security prison pretty recently (in 1991), a fact that makes a visit to this institution all the more foreboding. And once you learn more about the facility, that feeling only intensifies. Sign up for one of the tours to get a glimpse into the life of a convict. On the Doing Time tour, which is both eye-opening and entertaining, with the guide acting as the jail warden, you’re taken through the entire drill, right from what happens when a prisoner first enters the jail, until execution. Over a period of 140 years, various forms of punishment were used on convicts, including whipping, flogging, solitary confinement, and hangings, and you can see exactly how and where it was done.

Stroll the streets

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Fremantle Arts Centre

Take in the laidback vibe of this town with a stroll down the streets. Gape at the handsome Edwardian and Victorian architecture with pastel-hued buildings lining the Cappuccino Strip (South Terrace), which gets its name from the number of cafés and baristas here, and soak in the young, friendly vibe owing to the famed University of Notre Dame Australia that calls Freo home. Pop into old-school bookstores that stock both dog-eared seconds and fresh new tomes that are not necessarily neatly arranged in bookshelves, but rather piled on tables or on the floor. Potter about the pretty Fremantle Arts Centre , which was also one of the buildings built by the inmates of Fremantle Prison, or shop at one of the several stores lining High Street to find cool hipster products that have been around since before the term became annoying. If you’re here on a weekend, and you should be, spend the morning at the Fremantle Markets, where you can chat with local farmers, sample fresh produce, including sweet potato fries and kangaroo meat hot off the grill, pick up quirky knick-knacks or vintage finds, and just enjoy the cheerful atmosphere with buskers and happy chatter.

Eat, drink and make merry

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A view from Creatures NextDoor

Fremantle is home to some great bars and restaurants and, while you will, no doubt, find your favourite, the one place you must head to is Little Creatures Brewery, which lives up to all the hype. This iconic brewery does a fantastic selection of craft beers, including ciders and IPAs as well as seasonal brews, and sharing plates like oysters and lemon, aioli frites, flatbreads and pizza, and serves the all up in a fittingly boisterous environment. The brewery is also known for its delicious breakfast options, featuring fresh fruit, eggs, smoked ham, bacon and more. There’s outdoor seating on picnic tables and benches surrounded by plants, as well as indoor seating in a typical brewery atmosphere amid shiny barrels, warm lighting and great music. There’s a more relaxed lounge around the corner, Creatures NextDoor that offers beautiful views of the Fishing Boat Harbour, if you want to dial down the crazy.

Get some vitamin sea

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Western Australian Shipwrecks Museum

Sitting on the edge of the Indian Ocean, Freo boasts quite a maritime history. A great place to learn about it is at the Western Australian Shipwrecks Museum. There are various galleries dedicated to notable shipwrecks, but the star of the show lies in the Batavia Gallery, home to the enormous reconstructed skeleton of the Dutch merchant ship, Batavia, which has you bending backwards to take it all in. Believed to be hauled up in the 1970s, experts have managed to restore much of the captain’s cabin too. You can also observe other relics from this and many other ships that succumbed to the seas. The museum is in a 1850s Commissariat building, set by the breezy Fishing Boat Harbour, which is a good place for an evening stroll. Pick up some fish and chips from one of the many eateries here and stroll down the boardwalk that takes you to the seaside where you can meet oldies in floppy hats fishing on the rocks.

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Having a Trip On The Real West – Perth, Western Australia

Western Australia’s capital city, Perth, is a thriving, energetic, creative hub that is proof that good things come in small packages

Perth might be overshadowed by its big brothers on the east coast, but it holds its own all right. Big enough to be cosmopolitan but small enough to still count as charming, the city’s a bagful of surprises. Whether it’s crystal-clear beaches, tranquil parks, plenty of culture, edgy arts or a fun night out – the city offers an interesting mix of it all.

Take a walk in a park

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King’s Park – Australia

The expansive King’s Park is not only the green lung of the city, but also a great lookout point. Plonk down on the grassy slopes and take in views of Swan River and the city, or just sprawl back and watch fluffy clouds float by. Being a botanic garden, expect a tonne of biodiversity peppered across the bazillion zones here. Wander around aimlessly, stopping to peer at the little signboards that will tell you something interesting about every tree here – sort of like a living museum of horticulture. If you really want to get under the skin (er, bark) of the plants here, the park offers a number of guided walks, some of which are free. Make sure you meet the wise old (over 700 years) boab tree (a type of baobab tree), Gija Jumulu (Gija are the indigenous people of Western Australia, and ‘jumulu’ means boab in their language), who travelled 3,200km from Warmun in Kimberley to this park. Incidentally, most of the boabs in this park have been transported from various other locations. The park regularly hosts several events, too, from screening movies under the stars, live performances, theatre, and more.

Fall in love with art

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Art Gallery of WA

Come weekends, it feels like most of the city is hanging out at the Perth Cultural Centre – a lively, creative space in Northbridge, home to a whole bunch of cool places like the Art Gallery of WA, which is a great place to learn about the mesmerising indigenous art, and The Wetland, a freshwater pond that doubles as an ‘outdoor classroom’ for kids, as well as a scenic spot for events with a stage and steps on which to sit and sip on a lemonade from one of the food carts nearby. The Art Gallery of WA is not much to look at from the outside, but step in and you realise what an incredible arts platform it is (00-61-8-9492-6622; www.artgallery.wa.gov.au; 10am – 5pm Wed – Mon; free). Pop into any of the rooms and you’ll find something that will catch your eye. Exhibits range from interactive, to installation and indigenous art, and there’s always a special event or activity lined up to keep you engaged. Free guided tours take place daily, except on Tuesdays. Apart from this, the centre hosts several regular events – check out the events page on Perth Cultural Centre’s website for what’s on when you visit (00-61-8-655-70700; www.mra. wa.gov.au/projects-and-places/perth-cultural-centre; between Perth city train station and Northbridge, bounded by Roe, Beaufort, Francis and William Sts).

Drink in the scenery

this-chocolate-castel-can-be-seen-at-whistlers-chocolate-factory

This chocolate castle can be seen at Whistlers Chocolate Factory – Swan Valley

Perth is blessed with great weather. Great beaches. A great art scene. Great open spaces. But more than anything, it’s blessed with a great location, with Margaret River on one side and Swan Valley on the other. While Margaret River isn’t exactly next door (a couple of hundred kilometres away), Swan Valley is about 20 minutes away. This means two things: chocolate tastings and wine trails.

Book a tour to this region swathed in vineyards, which is wildly popular among locals for hen parties (wine, chocolate, cheese tastings – it’s a no-brainer). Some of the country’s oldest vineyards call this region their home and you’ll find award-winning vintners here. A tour of this region lets you taste wines at a couple of vineyards supplemented with copious tastings of cheese, chocolate, honey and coffee – basically it’s a day of indulgence and excess, depending on the tour you pick. Oh, and don’t worry about the squealing hens – it all fades after a couple of glasses of crisp chardonnay.

Visit cuddly rats

a-cute-quokkas-waiting-for-cuddling

A cute quokkas waiting for cuddling

Ordinarily the words ‘cuddly’ and ‘rodent’ don’t belong together, but, on Rottnest Island, they do. Quokkas are actually marsupials, but they look like large rats with permanent smiles affixed to their faces. This is probably why a Dutch explorer, Willem de Vlamingh, named this island ‘Rat’s Nest’, thanks to these adorable critters. Apart from attempting goofy selfies with quokkas, there’s much else to do on Rottnest, a short ferry ride from Perth. Take a 90-minute bus tour of the entire island, which is just 11km in length, or pedal around exploring at your own pace, hop aboard a Segway or take in the sights from a scenic flight or jump off the flight in a tandem skydive.

Surrounded as the island is by all that gorgeous blue water, you can also snorkel, surf, kayak or do some stand-up paddleboarding by renting gear at Pedal & Flipper. As there are no cars on the island, your only options to get around are by bus or bicycle, which you should book before arrival. You can book activities through Rottnest Island’s official website (Visitor Centre: 00-61-8-9372-9730; www.rottnestisland.com; Thomson Bay, Near Main Jetty; 7.30am – 5pm Sat – Thur, till 7pm Fri; check website for packages). We travelled with Rottnest Express, one of two ferry operators on the island, which arranges for the mentioned activities and equipment hire, as well as day-tour packages in various combinations.

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Taking The Wine Routes – Southern Australia

South-Australia wraps the country’s full array of wine-making into one delicious package

Most travelers to Australia — first-time ones, at least — follow a fairly prescribed itinerary’, what locals refer to as the Rock (Uluru), the Reef (Great Barrier), and the Harbour (Sydney). About a decade ago some started adding Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia, a place of great natural wonders that got noticed thanks to a terrific luxury resort, Southern Ocean Lodge. Still, few stop to savor much else in this beautiful corner of the continent.

They should, especially if they have any interest in wine. If what you think of when you think of Australian wine is the big, high-alcohol Shirazes that dominate the export market, then South Australia is the perfect place for you to discover the full variety of Australian wine making. Within just a couple hours’ drive of Adelaide, you have four world-class wine regions that are entirely distinct. What’s more, the state is also home to excep­tional produce, which means the kind of talented chefs who are often drawn to wine regions the world over have great material to work with here. Drop yourself into any of these four regions and I guarantee you’ll find some of the best drinking —and eating— of your life.

ADELAIDE HILLS

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Just a few minutes out of Adelaide you quickly find yourself among eucalyptus groves (keep your eyes peeled for koalas) as the road wends its way up into the Adelaide Hills.

This is a true wine-producing region, but it’s also a poshly suburban place, a scenic jumble of vineyards and dairy farms punctuated with prosperous little towns that cater to city dwellers on lazy weekend excursions.

You could easily spend a few days up here, but I had just one, so I made a beeline for Hahndorf, a touristy but cute town with, char­acteristically, a single main street lined with stone cottages built by German settlers that house shops, bakeries, and pubs. A stroll down the street will take you to stores selling every­thing from artisanal knives and German handi­crafts to Aboriginal art. My favorite: Udder Delights, a dairy and cafe where you can do a tasting of house-made cheeses.

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The Lane’s estate in the Adelaide Hills

For a great meal, everyone recommends the Lane Vineyard — a winery with a sleek glass box of a restaurant that takes in sweeping views of the surrounding vineyard — and it doesn’t disappoint. The creative farm-to-table menu runs to dishes like roasted lamb dotted with salsa verde and tangy sheep’s curd beside broad beans and sweetbreads given an earthy coating of burnt herbs. The wines are a fine representation of what the Adelaide Hills region does well, including some beautifully restrained cool-climate reds.

For my one proper wine tasting, I settled on Nepenthe, a large producer that demonstrates the variety of wines made in the area I tried a Gruner Veltliner (here, typically minerally and astringent but softened with a touch of oak) as well as a crisp, intensely citrusy Sauvignon Blanc and a soft-but-spicy Pinot Noir. Nepenthe is one of more than 50 “cellar doors” in the Hills, so it was clear how much I was missing.

BAROSSA VALLEY

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Take the pretty Onkaparing’a Scenic Drive northeast from the Adelaide Hills and you’ll fol­low the path of the German settlers toward the Barossa Valley, the beating heart of Australia’s wine industry. There are tidy towns of Lutheran churches, busy farmers’ markets, and bunga­lows festooned with roses, but mostly this is abroad, gently undulating landscape with row upon row of vines stretching to the horizon.

There are upwards of 150 producers in the valley. Right across the street from the valley’s best hotel, the Louise, is Tscharke, where wine­maker Damien Tscharke is doing exciting work with varietals like Savagnin, Touriga Nacional, and Montepulciano. At the Standish Wine Co., Dan Standish uses organically and dry-farmed grapes to craft only a few wines per year; his 2014 Standish Shiraz knits concentrated blue­berry and stone into a wine of exceptional depth and purity. It was a standout among the hun­dreds of wines I tasted in a week.

I love discovering smaller makers like these, but you’d be remiss if you skipped Penfolds’s slick tasting room, where you can sample the full range of what this famous producer does, including the Grange, one of the country’s most cellar-worthy reds. And don’t miss the recently restored 19th-century Seppeltsfield winery for a glass of port—called Para Tawny here.

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Testing wine in Seppeltsfield winery

You can sample right from the barrel, including the current 100-year-old vintage and the one from your birth year. I had several great meals in the Barossa, but none topped the seven-course extravaganza at the Hentley Farm winery. Chef Lachlan Colwill creates showstopping dishes like bluefin tuna, chicken liver, and toasted sunflower seeds in a shroud of cured egg yolk— an unlikely symphony of flavor, texture, and temperature — all well paired with the winery’s vintages and served in the original stables. It was the perfect expression of what the Barossa is all about: a beautiful marriage of the rustic and the refined.

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Sydney Opera House – Sydney, Australia

No other building on Earth looks like Sydney Opera House. Popularly known as the “Opera House” long before the building had been completed, it is, in fact, a complex of theaters, studios, and music venues linked beneath its famous roofs, or “shells.” The building’s birth was long and complicated. Many of the construction problems had not been faced before, resulting in an architectural adventure that lasted 14 years. An appeal fund was set up, eventually raising AU$900,000, while the Opera House Lottery raised the balance of the AU$102 million final cost. Today, the Opera House is Sydney’s most popular tourist attraction, as well as one of the world’s busiest performing arts centers.

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

In 1957, the Danish architect Jorn Utzon won the international competition to design Sydney Opera House. He envisaged a living sculpture that could be viewed from any angle, on land, air, or sea. It was boldly conceived, posing architectural and engineering problems that Utzon’s first sketches did not solve. When construction began in 1959, the intricate design proved impossible to execute and had to be greatly modified. The project remained so controversial that Utzon resigned in 1966 and an Australian design team completed the interior. However, he was reappointed as a consultant, to develop a set of guidelines for any future alterations to the building.

ROLE AND SIGNIFICANCE

Sydney Opera House is instantly recognizable around the world. It is managed by the Sydney Opera House Trust, which is responsible for maintaining its high status as Australia’s main cultural landmark and performing arts center. The building is one of the world’s most renowned architectural marvels and has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Top Ten Construction Achievements of the 20th Century award in 1999. An estimated 4.4 million people visit the Opera House every year, 75 percent of whom go just to look around the magnificent structure.

THE THEATER AND HALLS

Underneath the ten spectacular, sail-like roofs of varying planes and textures lies a maze of more than 1,000 rooms of all shapes and sizes showcasing different events. The Concert Hall is decked out in native white birch and brush box (hardwood timber). The Drama Theater stage is 49 ft (15 m) square, and can be clearly viewed from every seat in the auditorium. Refrigerated aluminum panels in the ceiling control the temperature. Fine Australian art hangs in the Playhouse foyer, notably Sidney Nolan’s Little Shark (1973) and a fresco by Salvatore Zofrea (1992-3). The Opera Theater is the second largest venue and hosts lavish opera and dance performances. The theater’s proscenium opening is 39 ft (12 m) wide, and the stage extends back 69 ft (21 m).

Opera House Walkway

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Extensive public walkways around the building offer visitors views from many different vantage points.

Opera Theater Ceiling and Walls

These are painted black, to focus the audience’s attention on the stage.

Opera Theater

 opera-theater

Mainly used for opera and ballet, this 1,547-seat theater is big enough to stage grand operas such as Verdi’s Aida.

Concert Hall

concert-hall

This is the largest interior venue in the Opera House, with seating for 2,679 people. It is used for a wide variety of performances, including symphony, choral, jazz, folk, and pop concerts, as well as variety shows.

Northern Foyers

northern-foyers

The Reception Hall and the large Northern Foyers of the Opera Theater and Concert Hall have spectacular views over Sydney Harbour.

Detail of The Possum Dreaming (1988)

The mural in the Opera Theater foyer is by Michael Tjakamarra Nelson, an Aboriginal artist from the central Australian desert.

Monumental Steps

monumental-steps

These, and the forecourt, are used for outdoor films and free entertainment.

Bennelong Restaurant

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This is one of the finest restaurants in Sydney.

Detail of Utzon’s Tapestry (2004)

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TJorn Utzon’s original design for this Gobelin-style tapestry, which hangs floor to ceiling in the remodeled Reception Hall, was inspired by the music of 18th-century German composer and musician Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

Playhouse

playhouse

Seating almost 400 people, this venue is ideal for intimate productions, yet it is also able to present plays with larger casts.

Roofs

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Although apocryphal, the story that Jorn Utzon’ s arched roof design came to him while he was peeling an orange is enchanting. The highest point is 221 ft (67 m) above sea level.

BACKSTAGE

Artists performing at Sydney Opera House have the use of five rehearsal studios, 60 dressing rooms, suites, and a green room complete with a bar, lounge, and restaurant. The scene-changing machinery works on well-oiled wheels – crucial in the Opera Theater, where there is often a nightly change of performance.

KEY DATES

1959-73: The Sydney Opera House is constructed to a design by Jorn Utzon.
1973: Prokokiev’s opera War and Peace is the first public performance.
2007: The Opera House is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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Canberra: Dive In The Wild Side Of Australia

Just 10 minutes from the city centre, Jamala Wildlife Lodge, Australia’s only combined zoo and aquarium, offers visitors an all-inclusive luxury lodge experience with behind-the-scenes toms and animal encounters. Bathe while a bear grazes on the other side of the window; relax on your lounge while gazing intimately in to the eyes of a lion; feed the gentle giant giraffes; or get ready for a dinner amidst sharks swimming by. The African-inspired accommodation offers three precincts, each with a distinct wildlife experience.

Ushaka Lodge

Ushaka Lodge

Choose from one of seven luxurious rooms inside the main Ushaka lodge, which boasts a shark tank and a private pool and spa, or languish in one of the six unique Giraffe treehouse suites nestled into a reserve overlooking the Molonglo River. The brave at heart can stay in one of the five exclusive Jungle Bungalow suites adjoining different animal enclosures, including hons, bears or cheetahs, where barely centimetres of glass separate you from these magnificent creatures.

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Gussy up for dinner – Australia

Modern Australian cuisine is known for its diversity: born as a result of the continent’s multicultural immigrant population. “But the real focus is on celebrating produce,” says celebrity chef and restaurateur Sarah Todd, who runs Antares in Goa.

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Antares Restaurant – Goa, Australia

“You’ll see this in Attica in Melbourne, a three-hatted restaurant (between one to three Chef Hats are awarded to outstanding restaurants in Australia), where one of the courses is half a piece of cabbage, slow-cooked and served with a duck confit jus. It’s to die for. At Saint Crispin, also a hatted restaurant in Melbourne, order the Western Plains pork jowl and fillet, white pudding, zucchini flower and mustard.

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Saint Crispin Restaurant – Melbourne, Australia

In Sydney at Chiswick, former MasterChef judge Matt Moran serves lamb, which his family raises on their farm, with vegetables grown in his on-site kitchen garden.” The best part: it’s all beautifully plated, without being fussy, with earthy, unexpected flavours to tease your palate.

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Chiswick Restaurant – Sydney, Australia

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