Category Australasia & Oceania

Six of Melbourne’s Coolest Bars

Melbourne's Coolest Bars

Hihou Bar. Photo by Paul Philipson

Baby, it’s hot out there. As Melbourne struggles with soaring summer temperatures, the city’s many cool bars are some of the best places to hang out. You may have to search for them down tiny laneways or on the city’s rooftops, but that is all part of the Melbourne appeal.

Here is a selection to help you chill out while you discover your inner hipster.

Hihou

Enter through a large door with a tiny sign and head upstairs to Hihou, which means secret treasure in Japanese, and you immediately feel like you’ve stepped into a dimly-lit Tokyo bar, except for the view across to the trees of the Treasury Gardens. Hihou’s staff could have been beamed in from Tokyo’s Golden Gai bar district. There is a choice of seating: a long black communal marble table, candlelit low stone tables, or the bar, where you can watch the bartender meticulously make seasonal fruit ‘surprise’ cocktails...

Read More

The Australian Open Tennis: The Laid-back and Fun Grand Slam

Fans of The Australian Open MFP

The Australian Open, in Melbourne, sizzles in January…literally and metaphorically.  It is often called the People’s Open because the grounds passes are affordable, its outer courts have a fun family atmosphere and loads of people from the Northern Hemisphere come Down Under to escape the northern winter and bask in the sunshine.

To get you in the swing of things, here is the lowdown on the sort of atmosphere you are likely to experience.

Many fans dress up to support their favorite players.  There’ll be lots of people draped in the Australian flag with large Mexican-style Australian flag or yellow and green hats. Canadians might have their red maple leaf flag painted across their faces. The Dutch dress in bright orange.  There is no limit to the creativity. Fans of rising Thai tennis star Luksika Kumkhum wear home-made We Love Luksika.  A couple of French fans wear Napoleon hats.

facepainting-72* Crowd Pleasers: There are often group organizers at popular matches that start crowd wave...

Read More

Six of Australia’s Best Beaches

Australia's Best Beaches

Whitehaven Beach

Around the world’s largest island, life is a beach. Actually about 12,000 beaches and not just any old beaches.  Australia has some of the world’s best with fine quartz sand created from its ancient granite rocks and pulverized shells. Its clean oceans are renowned for rolling surf, the envy of board riders around the world, and its massive reef systems teem with marine life. Many beaches are protected by national parks and have scenic headlands and coastal dunes with vegetation that ranges from tropical to temperate.

Before jumping in the deep end, a word of warning. These visions of paradise can be treacherous.  Always swim between the red and yellow flags (460 beaches are patrolled), which designate safe and supervised areas, and remember to use sunscreen and wear sun protection.

Bondi...

Read More

The World’s Best Rock Art at Max Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris

Mount Borradaile guards remarkable indigenous rock art

Mount Borradaile is a sacred site in Australia’s Aboriginal Arnhemland overlooking a tropical Garden of Eden

East of Kakadu National Park across the crocodile-infested East Alligator River my family and I go deep into Aboriginal Arnhem Land in search of some of the world’s best rock art plus a tropical Garden of Eden teeming with birds, fish and exotic reptiles. We are visiting Max Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris at Mount Borradaile, a comfortable collection of tree-shaded cabins encircling an airy dining room with deck and swimming pool.  It is the only tourist operation in Australia located on a sacred Aboriginal site.

Mount...

Read More

Five of the Best Day Trips to the Great Barrier Reef

GBR MPFThe Great Barrier Reef is the most magical marine environment on the planet. The world’s largest living structure, it is made up of more than 400 different kinds of hard and soft corals and is home to 1500 species of brilliantly colored tropical fish not to mention whales, dolphins and turtles. No wonder then that thousands of people travel across the globe to explore its watery paradise. That’s why there are so many reef trips on offer which, paradoxically, makes it no picnic to plan a day trip, given the baffling range of boats and adventures.

Here is an insider’s guide to what five different reef adventures from Cairns and Port Douglas are really like so you can make informed decisions about which trips are best for you based on your interests, age and skill levels.

Read More

The Nine Best Aboriginal Experiences in Australia

Learning to spear fish at Kooljaman at Cape Leveque

Indigenous tourism is flourishing all over Australia as visitors and locals alike are keen to learn more about the ancient wisdom and cultural traditions of the world’s oldest living culture.  Here is a sampling of intriguing offerings that range from short bush tucker walks, didgeridoo lessons and guided rock-art tours to multi-day cultural immersions.  For more information, check out Aboriginal Tourism Australia.

Read More

Cruising the Australian Kimberley Wilderness Coast

The rocks in the Australian Kimberley region are incredibly ancient

We are 400 kilometers by sea from Broome, on one of Aurora Expeditions’ many land-based adventures during their 10-night cruise between Broome and Darwin along Australia’s rugged remote Kimberley coastline.

The Kimberley was the first area in Australia settled by Aboriginals when sea crossings from the north were a mere 30 kilometers. There is compelling evidence that humans have lived here for more than 50,000 years.

Remar...

Read More

An Insider’s Guide to Melbourne’s Laneways

visionsofvictoria1325215-302(1)

Centre Way. Photo by Robyn Lea

Melbourne’s laneways are the soul of the city. Learn your way around these hidden pathways and you will discover that Melbourne, not Sydney, is the center of art, fashion and café life in Australia. (And for those who don’t know the term, a laneway is a collective term for narrow streets and alleyways that weave around Melbourne’s central business district.)

“The laneways are our bloodlines. They are where our heritage blends with younger entrepreneurs making their mark in the city,” says Fiona Sweetman, director of Melbourne’s Hidden Secrets Tours.

Melbourne’s character was forged after the 1850s gold rush when for a short time it became the wealthiest city on the planet.  Large ornate public buildings were built on the bullock-dray-wide avenues whilst in the narrow streets behind, small workshops, stables and factories serviced the burgeoning city...

Read More

Four of the Best Sydney Harbourside Walks

Sydney Harbour walks mfp

Sydney may be a city of five million people but it also has more than 400 hectares of natural harbor waterfront that is best accessed by a remarkable network of walking trails.

We can thank the early colonists’ fear of being invaded for the creation of the Sydney Harbour National Park, which was established in the 1970s when numerous military and naval installations on prime harbor-front property were decommissioned.

Today, in conjunction with a patchwork of local preserves, you can walk through stands of Sydney red gums, she oaks, heath land and sub-tropical rainforest alive with native bird life, explore fascinating historical sites and enjoy jaw-dropping harbour views. Not only that, there are aboriginal middens and rock art as well as secluded beaches far from the madding crowds. Many of the trails also pass alongside some downright spectacular waterfront mansions so you can get your fix of the lifestyles of the rich and famous too!

Taronga Z...

Read More

The Rowley Shoals: Australia’s Secret Underwater Paradise

Rowley shoals mfp header

In the middle of the open ocean I’m flying along a coral channel whose water is so clear I could be a large black bird finning through the sky. Below me giant clams flash by with their gaudy dance hall smiles, aquamarine parrot fish nibble on coral bommies, white-tipped reef sharks lurk in shadows and schools of tiny neon-bright yellow fish dart amongst intricate coralline structures.

Just ahead, I try to catch up with the “Hey Dude” turtle in Little Nemo. Only we are nowhere near the Eastern Australian Current on the Great Barrier Reef.

What and where are the Rowley Shoals?

Fourteen of us are drift snorkeling on the other side of the continent at the Rowley Shoals, 250 kilometers northwest of Broome. They are three tear-drop-shaped reefs which thrust up a dizzying 400 meters from the ocean floor on the edge of the world’s widest continental shelf. This reef ride is one of the few in the world that is courtesy of a five-meter tide, which rises and falls in six hours...

Read More