South Australia

THE INDIAN PACIFIC, WA, SA, & NSW

April 28, 2016

Just like that, our five weeks driving came to an end.
We had seen so much of this beautiful, vast country, crossing 4 state lines and 4 time zones, stopping at near private beaches and lakes, pausing to climb ancient trees, and playing wildlife spotters in the desert.

I often think that the best part of a trip or a journey is coming home, and certainly no trip is complete until you’re home, back to your point of origin. For us, driving home was not an option (no more driving! please!), and flying home whilst very practical seemed like an anti-climax after all our adventures.

The solution: rail!

Mez and I have always loved train travel, and together we’ve ‘trained’ through Japan, France, Italy…in fact, the first time we met was as a result of my travelling from Melbourne to Sydney on the interstate express. There is something so romantic about train travel; time slows down somehow, you can walk about, share a meal, watch the world go by.

The journey from Perth East takes 3 and a bit days, and 3 nights, though magically once on board, time has an elastic quality. I was content to stare at the ever changing scenery for hours on end, never losing interest. There was so much to see, I didn’t want to miss out on any of it; kangaroos, wedge tail eagles & their gigantic nests, camels, emus, grass tree forests, a million rabbits, an airstrip, abandoned towns…endless ochre earth.

Phone reception is limited, and with no internet or tv, it’s a media black out, instead I read a book. The gentle rocking of the train is very soothing, and with nothing to concern myself with, I feel the most relaxed I have felt in a long time!

We have two cabins, side by side, and it’s decided that we will time share the kids. They can come and go between cabins as they please, and it seems that all the younger families have been allocated cabins in this car, so there is a fun vibe, and little chance of disturbing our neighbours.

The cabins are beautiful. They are vintage, without being old…they have a sense of old fashioned glamour about them. It’s easy to imagine early travellers on this same journey, though theirs taking 75 plus hours and requiring more than 4 changes of train! I can’t enough of all the details, all the wood finishes! For a moment, I am living in my own Wes Anderson ‘Darjeeling Limited’ fantasy! I have anticipated this old fashioned travel vibe, and have packed nice clothes to wear at meals times…I miss those days of dressing up to travel!

At dinner time, the banquette is flipped and transformed into a perfectly turned down bunk, with another popping out above, and in the morning when we return from breakfast, the transformation is reversed, and bunks disappear, and the banquette returns.

Meals and beverages are included in the fare, as well as a complement of Australian wines, and basic spirits. The food is excellent. 3 courses at lunch and dinner, showcasing the best local produce, and every effort made to impress junior diners too. We have a dessert at each sitting, as well as cheese, because it would be rude not to! The highlight at meal times (aside from the actual meal) is dining in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant cart, with all its curlicues and ornate details, all of us piling into a booth and enjoying a changed perspective of the passing landscape.

There are four included whistle stop tours; Kalgoorlie open cut super pit gold mine (sadly cancelled due to delayed departure in Perth), a self walk tour of Cook (a near abandoned desert township), Adelaide (We went straight to the Central Markets!) and Broken Hill. The Broken Hill stop is particularly special for our family; we excuse ourselves from the scheduled tours (Desert Art or Mining History) and head to Mez’s mums childhood home… There are no longer any family members living there, but it’s a poignant moment nonetheless.

This experience really is bucket list worthy, and now that I’ve done west to east, I’m thinking of getting onboard The Ghan, starting in Adelaide and heading north to Darwin, or the other way round.

Uniquely Australian, no doubt about it.
We travelled courtesy of Great Southern Rail

_DSC0470

FullSizeRender_1

FullSizeRender

IMG_0287

IMG_0289

IMG_0567

IMG_0571

IMG_0574

IMG_0577

IMG_0587

IMG_0607

IMG_0623

IMG_0630

IMG_0644

IMG_0649

IMG_0305

IMG_0658

IMG_0665

IMG_0763

IMG_0700

IMG_0704

IMG_0751

 

IMG_0766

IMG_0732

NULLARBOR, SA & WA

February 18, 2016

When I started telling people that we were planning on driving from east coast to west, I was met with one reaction: Horror! “WHAT?! you can’t be serious? With the kids? It’ll be NULLARBORING! Why don’t you just FLY?!”

I was a bit concerned, but I needn’t have worried. I set aside my preconceived ideas of what an Aussie desert might look like, and took it all in. The driving was hard going at times, and if I’m honest, I only drove 2 hours out of the total drive, as I found passing road trains and other oversized vehicles pretty hairy. But I found the scenery enchanting. Varied too, for a desert; brimming with life. We saw loads of wildlife, both alive and not so alive (such variety in roadkill! Roos, lizards, snakes, birds, and even a bull!) and we enjoyed the subtle changes in landscape and plants between townships.

We stayed overnight in Ceduna (though I wish we’d stopped in Streaky or Smoky Bay, after the fun of Port Lincoln, Ceduna was a bit of a let down) and in Eucla, and finally Norseman. Eucla is the friendliest of stops on the eyre highway, and the staff at the motor hotel are lovely. Check out the specimens at the bar…they are well and truly pickled! Snakes! It was easy to imagine Norseman, now virtually a ghost town, in it’s hey day during the gold rush, as a vibrant outpost. The old Railway motel would have been quite something in its day.

So here’s a list of things that I recommend you do along the way!

Be sure to bring plenty of water! And it’s not a bad idea to stock up on fresh food in the bigger townships, as food along the eyre highway can be a bit hit and miss. Important to note too, that there are serious quarantine checks at the WA/SA border, and all fresh food must be surrendered. Yes, even that bunch of bananas you had every intention of eating 2 hours ago. And didn’t.

Play the Nullarbor Links: An 18 hole course that spans 1,365 kilometres with one hole in each participating town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway, from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Ceduna in South Australia. An excellent excuse to stop, stretch your legs and avoid fatigue. At one hole there were two families of emus (complete with babies!) and a dead snake!
http://www.nullarborlinks.com

Stop off at the old Eucla Telegraph Station ruins (the station served as an admin office in 1877 for both Western Aus and South Aus!) then walk through dunes to the ocean. Wear shoes, take water, sunscreen and a hat. We forgot to!

Stop at one, or more of the Bunda Cliffs lookout points. Nothing between you & Antarctica…and so many hues of blues, there’s something mesmerising about the ultra blue waves crashing into the streaky layered cliffs.

Keep your eyes peeled for road trains and gigantic farming and mining vehicles and equipment. Interesting for the younger passengers, and it pays to be in front of them, not get stuck behind them, doing under 60 kms in a 110km stretch!

As a last resort, make sure you have a movie loaded on a charged iPad…!

And so, driving cross country was a rewarding rite of passage for this Australia loving Kiwi! I’ve done it now, and I am glad I did.

We stayed at:
BIG 4 Ceduna Tourist Park
29 McKenzie Street Ceduna

The Railway Motel
106 Roberts Street Norseman

Eucla Motor Hotel
Eyre Highway Eucla

IMG_9085

IMG_9100

IMG_9094

IMG_9098

IMG_9131

IMG_9252

IMG_9339

IMG_9072

IMG_9230

IMG_9216

IMG_9327

IMG_9277

IMG_9166

IMG_9159

IMG_9258

PORT LINCOLN

February 11, 2016

Port Lincoln is a top spot! I’m convinced that the combination of a beautiful natural environment, an outdoorsy lifestyle, and a seafood rich diet means that everyone is pretty laid back, and content with their lot. There’s a really good vibe about the place! It might also be because it has reportedly the highest concentration of millionaires in South Australia, no doubt as a result of its abundant fishing…good times!

First order of business in a town that proclaims it is seafood capital of Australia, is to taste the wares! Sarins at The Port Lincoln Hotel came highly recommended, and for good reason. Oysters are a polarising bunch, and it’s taken me some time to get into them, but I love them now, and can’t get enough of that salty, creamy, mineral hit. I think we had 18 straight up! They were SENSATIONAL! We also shared a seafood platter, that fed the whole family, it was HUGE. And delicious! Spanking fresh… writing about it now is making me salivate a touch! Sarins is super kid friendly too, we sat on the deck outside, overlooking Boston Bay, and there was plenty of room for the kids to run around.

We were super keen to get our hands on some of the tuna the town is so famous for, but it seems that all the good stuff is frozen and shipped overseas, which was a bummer, but in the process of trying to track it down we happened across The Fresh Fish place, where we had leather jacket cheeks & chips…sounds strange, but was OFF THE HOOK (ah! so many fish puns!)

The Lincoln National park was one of the highlights of our whole trip west…I could have happily spent a week there! Unlike some of the other national parks we visited, this one was only 15 minutes out of Port Lincoln, an easy drive for hot & bothered passengers, big and small alike!

It’s huge, and I think we saw two other cars the whole time we were there, and no other humans. We did spy loads of native inhabitants though; a blue tongue lizard, huge big black swans and loads of other birds, and unconfirmed snake and loads of fish, but of course! Mallee scrub is synonymous with Aussie coastal bush, and is so robust and hardy it looks fake. It must have rained just before we came through, as wildflowers were everywhere! Heaven.

We decided on a tiny strip of sheltered beach near Horse Rock, on the Boston Bay side of the park. The coastline on the southern side of the park is pretty wild by contrast, with limestone cliffs and large swells. I sunbathed, the kids swam & played in the sand…it was perfect.

I’m so pleased that we stopped in to the Port Lincoln Visitor Information centre before heading to the national park, as they pointed out which beaches were accessible to non 4WD’s, which beaches were kid friendly, and most importantly, to keep our eyes peeled for razor fish, named for their razor sharp shells…they are actually not fish as such, but more like a GIANT mussel, they pop up out of the sand vertically, and because the shells are the same colour as the sand they can be a bit tricky to spot. A bit of local knowledge can go a long way!

I feel there’s still much exploring to be done in this top spot; a visit to Coffin Bay, a swim with the sharks/tuna/seals (Mez has done both sharks & tuna and LOVED it!), maybe some fishing? I have an inkling we’ll be back…!

We stayed at
Port Lincoln Foreshore Apartments
100 Tasman Terrace
Port Lincoln, South Australia

We ate at
Sarins at the Port Lincoln Hotel
1 Lincoln Highway
Port Lincoln, South Australia

The Fresh Fish Place
20 Proper Bay Road,
Port Lincoln, South Australia

Its worth popping in to the Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre
3 Adelaide Place
Port Lincoln

_DSC0225

IMG_9015

IMG_9014

IMG_8995

IMG_8985

IMG_8976

IMG_8971

IMG_8969

IMG_8962

_DSC0258

_DSC0249

_DSC0241

_DSC0229

CLARE

January 31, 2016

Those who know our family, know that we are beyond enamoured with South Australia, and over the years we have spent a lot of time exploring the areas around the Barossa Valley & McLaren Vale (see my post on McLaren vale here)…One spot we’ve wanted to get to but somehow always ran out of time is Clare…

An easy 90 minute drive from central Adelaide, Clare is in South Australias mid north region, and lends it’s name to the surrounding area; The Clare Valley. Clare itself is a really pretty town, with quaint old houses, a beautiful oval in the town centre, fringed on all sides by that unmistakable Aussie landscape of gumtrees and grape vines that I find so pleasing…

We met up with friends from Sydney in Adelaide, and lured them to Clare for the day with an invitation to join us on the Riesling Trail…a 35 kilometre bike track that was a railway in a former incarnation! The trail is a great way to take in the beautiful landscape, pop in to cellar doors, grab a meal, and get some exercise too (no lycra required!) How much you ride is up to you…We rode 9 km’s from Clare Valley Cycle hire to Sevenhill Cellars, and with a few rest stops along the way it took us about 45 minutes…

Sevenhills was the first winery in Clare Valley, set up by jesuits in 1851! The cellar door and surrounds are beautiful…the grounds alone are worth stopping by to have a look at, and whilst adults have a taste of the wines on offer, there is a huge lawn with balls, cricket bats and a totem tennis set to keep younger visitors entertained.

From here it was a 5 minute ride (downhill!) to the Sevenhill Hotel where we had a cracking chicken schnitzel with chips and salad, and a glass of local white, naturally! The schnitzel was no joke, the size of my head… The ride back was downhill, and we were back in under half an hour. I have never seen anyone fall asleep on a bike before, but somehow Kinga managed to nod off on her tag-along (I highly recommend the tag-along option for younger/novice riders, a bit more work for the adult riding the main bike, but ensures no one gets left behind!)

Later that afternoon, we headed to Mintaro, 10 minutes from Clare, to check out the Mintaro Maze and Martindale Hall. It is worth checking opening times in small country towns, as we arrived at the Maze just before 4pm, bang on closing time. Luckily the young lady running the show kindly let us in, and asked that we stay as long as we liked…sadly, we missed out on visiting Martindale Hall (The mansion features in the film Picnic at Hanging Rock)…something to do on our next visit to the Clare Valley!

We stayed at
Discovery Holiday Parks Clare
LOT 136 Main North Rd, Clare SA 5453

We ate at
The Sevenhill Hotel

We rented bikes from
Clare Valley Cycle Hire
32 Victoria Road
CLARE SA 5453
0418 – 802 – 077

We went to
Mintaro Maze
Jacka Road, Mintaro Clare Valley South Australia

Clare

_DSC0168

_DSC0173

_DSC0189

_DSC0192

_DSC0207

_DSC0216

IMG_8803

IMG_8813

IMG_8831

IMG_8845

IMG_8892

_DSC0161

MOUNT GAMBIER

January 21, 2016

At some point last year, we were invited to spend a week with good friends in Margaret River after Christmas, and in the middle of winter, dreaming of being at the beach, we accepted the invitation and decided that we would drive over. Yes, we were going to drive from Sydney, cross country to Margaret River, and eventually Perth. All up, with deviations, stops and excursions, it was going to be almost 6000 km’s in the car. We are known for our love of road trips, but even by our standards this was pretty hard core!!! We hit the road, stopped off in Melbourne for a visit with family, and then pushed on to our first official stop on our drive west: Mount Gambier.

Mount Gambier is the half way mark between Melbourne and Adelaide, and is the second largest city in South Australia. It is probably most well known for it’s geological features; lakes and sinkholes, and the town itself is on the slopes of an extinct volcano! Mt Gambier is also BIG on timber/forestry! The roads on the way in and out of town are lined with plantations; huge trees in perfect rows for as far as the eye can see.

I don’t know that I had ever been to a sinkhole before, but was very keen to check it out, all the images I had seen online were of a beautiful, lush underground garden! Umpherston Sinkhole was once a cave formed through dissolution of limestone (The sinkhole was created when the top of the chamber collapsed). There is a series of enclosed ramps and staircases to reach the bottom, and I felt a bit like Alice going down the rabbit hole…emerging at the bottom in a beautiful sunken garden bursting with light, hydrangeas, ferns, foxgloves and bees. There was something really very special about the gardens, and I could have happily stayed there all afternoon…perhaps with a picnic, a good book and a bottle of rose!? The sinkhole is right next to the towns timber processing plant and that lovely resiny, pine scent fills the air.

Blue Lake is the most impressive of the three major lakes in town (Brownes Lake, Valley Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake are located nearby) During the warmer summer months of December through to March, the lake turns bright cobalt blue, returning to a murky grey for the rest of the year. No one can say for sure why?! You can walk all the way around the lake, an easy 45 minute walk, but with two grumpy, overtired kids, we didn’t quite make it that far!

Mount Gambier is a very well serviced town, with supermarkets and no shortage of restaurants & accommodation options, making it a very easy place to stay with small people in tow… worth stopping by!

Next stop; CLARE VALLEY!

UMPHERSTON SINKHOLE
Jubilee Highway East Mount Gambier
Free Entry

BLUE LAKE
John Watson Drive Mount Gambier

We Stayed at
Big 4 Caravan Park Mount Gambier

_DSC0146

_DSC0149

IMG_8612

IMG_8620

IMG_8626

IMG_8636

IMG_8645

IMG_8669

IMG_8678

IMG_8701

IMG_8682

_DSC0143

PORT WILLUNGA / MCLAREN VALE

January 13, 2016

Every family has ‘their special spot’… a place that fulfils all their needs as a family, but that few other people seem to know about. This is our families most special secret holiday location, and we have spent summers here for almost every summer for more than 10 years.

Port Willunga is on the Fleurieu Peninsula, a 45 minute drive south of Adelaide, and a 10 minute drive to McLaren Vale. It is a truly BREATHTAKING beach…soft golden sand, turquoise water, dramatic cliffs that could be anywhere in Greece, Portugal or even Turkey, so much so that several of the Gallipoli series were filmed here…each year when we arrive, I’m surprised, yet again, by just how unique this spot is!

There is a pod of dolphins who bob past one way at about 8 in the morning, and back again between 3 and 5 in the afternoon…heaven!

It’s perfect for kids, protected by an outlaying reef (read: NO SHARKS!) and has ample parking. There are two access points to get down from the cliff tops, those in the know (locals) go down the long ramp that pops out at the pier remains, and there’s a much shorter ramp at the northern end of the large car park, perhaps easier if you have smaller kids, and loads of gear to carry.

Between the two ramps, perched atop the cliffs is the Star Of Greece restaurant & kiosk…a special spot for Mez & I as we got married there all those years ago! The kiosk does great fish & chips and ice creams, but is quite expensive, and you can expect a wait in peak times. If you get your timing right, there is nothing better than having a drink on the outside deck of the restaurant as the afore mentioned dolphins cruise past in the late afternoon!

The most desirable spot is really just to the right of the old pier poles…at different times, depending on the tide, rock pools form, and there are anemones, sea snails and little pools for smaller kids to splash about in. Behind the pier are old caves, fun for older kids to muck around in, but best to wear shoes, as occasionally you come across a broken beer bottle.

Silver sands beach, just a few km’s south is also worth checking out, if only for the novelty of driving on the beach! The rock pools at the northern end make for good exploring too.

This region not only boasts beautiful beaches; the McLaren Vale wine region is a 10-15 minute drive away, meaning that exceptional cellar doors & restaurants are just down the road. We try to treat ourselves to a meal at our two faves…Fino & SC Pannell Wines.

Fino has long been my favourite, making use of the freshest local produce, cooked simply…with a killer wine list made up of innovative local & european offerings…and the deserts! Make sure you save room! The Crema Catalana is TRANSCENDENTAL!

SC Pannell Wines is simpler fare, perfect for sharing, tapas styled share plates, overlooking the rolling hills covered in green vines, with a glass of rose in hand…it’s easy to lose track of time staring out into the green. Perfect for kids too with a kids menu, and loads of grassy areas for them to go free range.

If you’re going to drink, don’t drive; give Chook McCoy a call…he offers very reasonably priced transfers, and will get you home safe & sound!

I’ve told you my special secret spot…I’d love to know yours!

We ate at;

SC PANNELL WINES
60 Olivers Road, McLaren Vale,
South Australia

FINO WILLUNGA
8 Hill Street
Willunga SA 5172

STAR OF GREECE
1 The Esplanade, Port Willunga

Drinking?
Don’t drive!
Call Chook McCoy on 0414 922 200

IMG_7957

IMG_7884

IMG_7867

IMG_7968

IMG_7609

IMG_7614

IMG_7596

IMG_7590

IMG_7618

Port Willunga

Port Willunga

Copyright © 2017 THE WINDOW SEAT. Theme by Maiden Sites