Coffs Harbour

 

Coffs Harbour is a fantastic hidden gem on the East Coast of Australia. The town is located between Brisbane and Sydney and is well worth the stop if you are making the journey. My family would come here every year for a holiday, just to get away and relax. Coffs isn’t an overly large city, but has a lot to offer. The town is situated between the beach and the mountains, providing some great scenery. You will find mangrove forests on one side and banana farms on the other, covering the hills. The town is home to some great wildlife and if you look you will be able to find bearded dragons throughout the city. The sea is home to plenty of dolphins and whales and the nearby island, Muttonbird Island will let you see muttonbirds in great numbers if visited at the right time of year. The town is famous for its Big Banana, which is a banana farm that literally has a giant banana built out the front, attached to a banana café and banana gift shop and museum. If you get a chance, the food there is pretty fantastic. The Coffs Harbour Botanical Gardens is worth a visit if you have time, you will get a chance to see some crazy tropical plants and walk through a mangrove forest.

Mangrove Forests

The coastline and river inlets in Coffs Harbour are a unique biosphere. Mangroves themselves are highly unusual trees, growing in salt water with their roots protruding from the water and soil upward to allow them to breathe. The root areas of these trees create a unique ecosystem themselves. Mangrove forests are home to a plethora of mammal, reptile, amphibious and insect species.

Muttonbird Island

Muttonbird Island is a small island just off the coast of Coffs Harbour, so close in fact, that the city has constructed a walkway to the island itself. You can simply walk from the beachfront, all the way to the island. The view from the top of the island looking back at the coastline is fantastic and worth the walk. On the way there and back you will pass the marina and see some very nice boats.

 

BANANAS! The Big Banana

The Big Banana, much like other BIG THINGS in Australia is a famous tourist icon. The building and facilities around it represent the importance of banana farming to the region. The hills surrounding the facility are covered in banana trees. The hills above the city make a nice drive and provide a view of the city below, as well as allowing you to pass through banana farms on the journey. If you happen to visit the café on site, it has fantastic banana based desserts that I highly recommend trying.

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Rural/Inland Queensland

Rural or inland Queensland is almost an entirely different world to the coastal cities in Southern Queensland. You can expect a very different experience from Brisbane or the Gold Coast. You will find numerous small towns, their frequency and size both growing smaller as you travel further inland. The landscape will also slowly change from tropical forests to gumtrees, to open plains covered in long, dry grass. Each town will generally have one thing that they are locally famous for. You can also find plenty of lakes and watering holes to swim in, such as Crows Nest Falls, located a few hours from Brisbane. Crows Nest is famous for its Crows Nest Sodas range, but just outside of the small town is a watering hole with a waterfall that is fantastic to swim in on a hot summers day and a great place for a BBQ or camping. If you’re looking for a short hike with a nice view, Table Top Mountain is a great way to spend a few hours, but I recommend climbing at either dawn or dusk. If you travel further inland into the deeper countryside you will find a small town called Roma that hosts camel and pig racing tournaments every year. If you want a unique experience, then make sure to attend it at least once. Toowoomba is the largest inland city in Queensland and is the gateway to the outback. Once a year the city hosts an annual Carnival of Flowers which attracts people from all over the region to attend the parade and view the cities flower gardens. Just make sure that if you are going to be hiking out going into bush land in rural and forest areas, that you are wary of spiders, snakes and ticks and not to touch the skin of any cane toads that you may encounter.

http://www.queensland.com/en-US/event/Mitchell-Camel-and-Pig-Races

http://www.southernqueenslandcountry.com.au/destinations/crows-nest/attractions/crows-nest-falls

http://tcof.com.au/

 

 

Street Art

Toowoomba, despite being a country town has a surprising amount of street art, brought in within the last few years or so in order to add more life and youth to the city. First Coat Festival first began in 2015 and has been ingoing since.

 

Architecture

Travelling through rural Australia or into the Outback, you will come across many small towns with some fantastic architecture. The main buildings worth seeing in any town are the town halls and pubs/hotels.

Knick Knacks/Antiques

If you enjoy shopping for antiques or knick kancks, then you will find plenty of them in most country towns. Huge antique stores can be found in several towns around Toowoomba. You can also find plenty of stores that sell specialty crafted items such as cuckoo clocks or vintage signs.

 

Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast consists of a number of coastal and somewhat inland neighboring  towns located north of Brisbane. The area is filled with beautiful beaches and lush vegetation. The major southern towns worth visiting are Caloundra, Maloolooba and Alexander Headland. In the northern area of the Sunshine Coast is Noosa, a fantastic beach town. There is a large backpacking community present in the town at all times. Despite its size, Noosa is extremely upmarket, with boutique shops and gourmet food options, art galleries and cafes. There are several fantastic hikes leading from Noosa through the nearby forest and along the coastline. Dolphins can often be seen in the harbor just in front of town and are often friendly with swimmers and surfers. There are some fantastic shopping malls in and around Caloundra and Alexander Headlands, with the largest being Sunshine Plaza. The region is also well known for its street markets, the best of which in my opinion is the Caloundra Street Fair, operating every Sunday. From the Sunshine Coast, the Glasshouse Mountains are clearly visible in the distance, randomly protruding in strange angles.

http://www.sunshinecoast-australia.com/sunshine-coast-markets.html

http://www.caloundrastreetfair.com.au/

http://www.sunshineplaza.com/

 

Darwin

Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory and the largest city in the state. The thing that separates Darwin from other Australian capital cities is that it doesn’t feel or seem like a capital at all, it feels like a small city or even a large town. Within the city you’ll find the state parliament, library, museum and all other things you would expect in a larger political city. The ocean view from the coastline is stunning, due to how tropical the water is, palm trees and mangroves line the coastline to match. The architecture found here is more rural frontier style than urban which gives the city a unique feeling. It’s almost hard to believe that the majority of the city was destroyed in 1974. Darwin for me was a very humbling experience, due to having not one but two strangers help me financially after losing my bank card on my way home from SE Asia. The first gentleman saw that I was scraping for change for the bus fair from the airport to the city and without even asking me if I needed help paid for my fair. The second person heard my story about how I had lost my bank card so couldn’t access money and loaned me $20 for breakfast until the banks  opened. I found out shortly before paying him back that he himself was homeless and living in a shelter in town. I was in Darwin on a 22 hour stopover and had been travelling for almost a solid day with stopovers and delayed flights so spent about 3 hours of my day there asleep in the public library pretending to read a book in the back corner. The people that I met in Darwin stuck in my memory and I can honestly say that they are unique to that place and outgoing on a level that I have yet to experience. I wish that I had more time and money to explore the city but for me it was a very interesting experience.

 

 

Deckchair Cinema

http://www.deckchaircinema.com.au/

This was by far my favourite experience in the city, the Deckchair Cinema is something uniquely Territorian. An outdoor cinema using deckchairs with a buffet style food service and cold beers in the tropical 33 degree evening weather is the perfect way to end your day up north.

Perth/Freemantle

Perth is the capital and only sizable city in Western Australia. The city experiences a relatively moderate climate compared to many of the East Coast cities in Australia. Surrounded by beaches and rivers, the city has some fantastic scenery surrounding it, despite the fact that there are only one or two real hills in the entire city. When walking down the main street you will find several British historical buildings and a historical district with themed stores and eateries. The park and walkway above the city are absolutely beautiful and gives a fantastic view of the city. If you have some free time, make sure to do a pub crawl around the city as there are some fantastic pubs, making some excellent craft brews. Freemantle is regarded as a sperate city but essentially connects with Perth forming one larger city. Freemantle is a more historic district of Perth and definitely worth the visit. The Freemantle market is a great place to get some foreign food and buy nicknacks. I was only in Perth for a few days staying with family and the one thing that I can tell you after going on a day long pub crawl with my cousin is the city has some fantastic bars and pubs. Those located down by the waterfront are in my opinion the best and give you a fantastic place to drink beer in the sun while looking across the water.

Fremantle Prison

Freemantle Prison tour is an absolutely fantastic experience that I would highly recommend if you have time. The tour takes you through the old prison complex, left just as it was at its time of closing. It gives you a great idea of what prison in Australia was once like. You are able to view common areas, cells, the yard and the hanging station amongst other places. The hanging room is quite daunting as the last person hanged in Australia died there in 1967.

http://fremantleprison.com.au/

 

Art Gallery of Western Australia

The Art Gallery of Western Australia is quite interesting due to its heavier Aboriginal art influence. While being a smaller gallery, you will be able to see some fantastic bush art and Aboriginal pieces.

http://www.artgallery.wa.gov.au/

 

Melbourne

Melbourne is an amazing city, being a hub of culture, art, food, music and fashion. The city has won most liveable city in the world for the last six years running and aims to continue to do so. The public transportation system in the city is absolutely fantastic, being able to get anywhere easily and quickly. Wherever you decide to go, you will find art throughout the city, in the main streets and down any alleyways you may choose to explore. There is an amazing blend of historical and modern architecture throughout Melbourne. You will find cathedrals mixed in between skyscrapers and historic train stations beside modern art museums. There is a river running through the center of the city, traversing the CBD and marks the boundary of the city center. Make sure to visit the Melbourne war memorial and the central train stations before leaving. Just be warned that Melbourne can experience all four seasons in one day and to always dress to be prepared for anything. When I visited Melbourne, I stayed in an Irish backpackers called Irish Murphys Hostel, assuming that it simply meant it was Irish themed. This turned out to be true, but it also turned out that every single person at the hostel apart from me and one Englishman I met happened to be Irish. The hostel was great if you don’t mind not getting any sleep and staying in a room that looked like it exploded. Having only one night in town we hit the Casino and had a few drinks, which in my opinion is a must do when in Melbourne. If possible try to see a movie on the largest screen in the Southern Hemisphere, located in the casino cinema, it’s a great experience. As for the weather, I left the house with the sun shining on a relatively cloudless morning and by midday I had to throw my shoes away and buy an emergency pair from target due to them getting soaked so badly by torrential rain. So as I said dress prepared!

http://www.visitvictoria.com/regions/Geelong-and-the-Bellarine/Accommodation/Backpackers-and-hostels/Irish-Murphys-Hostel.aspx

http://www.visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Melbourne

Street Art

As stated, Melbourne is filled with street art. Entire alleyways have been converted into canvases and change on a regular basis to display new pieces. Statues and sculptures can be found on sidewalks throughout the city.

http://www.thatsmelbourne.com.au/Placestogo/PublicArt/Pages/StreetArt.aspx

National Gallery of Victoria

Melbourne art Museum is filled with fantastic pieces from around the world, including pieces from throughout Australia.Several hours can be spent exploring the Museums collection of ancient, contemporary and modern arts.

https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/

Australian Centre for the Moving Image

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image is a fully interactive center focusing upon the history of film, television and gaming. Within the building yo will get to see props from several famous Australian films, such as Ned Kelly and Mad Max.

https://www.acmi.net.au/

Melbourne Museum

The Melbourne Museum has a fantastic collection of natural history, including the body of Australia’s most famous racehorse, Farlap (who in Australia is a national icon). You will also be able to see the Australian coat of arms made with a real kangaroo and emu.

https://museumvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum/

Queen Victoria Market

Queen Victoria Market is a historic landmark in the city, having run since 1878. Within the market, you will find everything from fresh fruits, to deli meats, to knock-off clothing and random old second-hand toys. You will also find the Melbourne key tag sign, where travelers attach tags with their names written on.

http://www.qvm.com.au/

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef needs no introduction, being one of the world’s best known tourist attractions. Located just off of the coast of Cairns in Queensland’s tropical north, the reef is home to an array of fish in every colour. The coral itself is almost like an underwater forest, made up of formations of all shapes, sizes and colours. I personally, went through Compass Cruises, they’re only around $100 for a full day cruise and that includes food onboard the boat. The boat leaves from Cairns dock relatively early, giving you the majority of the day on the water . Just be sure to sunscreen the back of your legs if snorkeling, as I made the mistake of forgetting them and received the single worst sunburn I have ever had the misfortune of experiencing. On the boat they will be able to rent underwater cameras and phone pouches to be used in the water, so don’t worry about having tp purchase an underwater camera yourself.

https://compasscruises.com.au/