Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Churchill Island Heritage Farm

Churchill Island is a working Heritage Farm that  can be accessed from Phillip Island.  The 57 heactare Island was originally inhabited by the Bunurong people with the first European inhabitants finding remains of canoes and fires.

European settlement started when Lieutenant James Grant sailed the Lady Nelson to the island in 1801. He planted seeds he'd been provided, felled trees and built a hut making this the first European agricultral pursuit in Victoria.

The Island  forms part of the Churchill Island Marine National Park and is maintained by Parks Victoria. From an Indigenous cultural perspective Aborigianl middens and the remains of stone foundations are also preserved  with  the area of Western Port surrounding the island listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (RAMSAR Convention).

One of the sculptures in the garden
The gardens are extensive and  well maintained. They include some interesting sculptures, Norfolk Pines, ancient Moonah trees, wetlands and a range of plants and herbs. You can wander around the gardens, house and farm buildings on a range of paths.  The grade is very easy.

A cottage

Kitchen garden

In the kitchen garden

There are also extensive walking tracks including through the wetlands. For more information on walking the Island see Walks Victoria

The main house

James Amess, a former mayor of Melbourne, purchased the island  in 1872 and built the substantial home that still stands today.  

Informal dining room

The main house has been restored and provides a fantastic glimpse into what life was like for the well to do early European settler.

Bedroom in the main house

Antique spinning wheel

One of the workshops

Black faced sheep

A range of activities including sheep shearing, cow milking, blacksmithing and working dog demonstrations run every day. To find out details  see the updated schedule.

Farm animals include this horse

There is a Visitor Centre on the Island which features an exhibition on the history of the island, a quality gift shop and a licensed café.  You can enjoy a snack or lunch including a glass of wine and take in the breathtaking views of Western Port. 

Ticket prices are around $10 for an adult or you can purchase a 3 Park Pass and visit the Island along with the Koala Conservation Centre and end the day with the Penguin Parade. Further information and to purchase tickets

If you're interested in helping preserve the history of Churchill Island you can join the Friends of Churchill Island Group

The Island is also the site of a regular farmers market, normally the 4th Saturday of the month. See Market dates

Peacock wandering around the animal corrals

1 day tour Phillip Island http://www.longhorntours.com.au/tour10.php

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Yarra Valley

Located approx an hour's drive from Melboune the Yarra Valley was Victoria's first wine growing region. Today it is a mecca for food and wine and also home to attractions such as the Healesville Sanctuary Wildlife Park. (Read more about  Healesville on one of our previous blogs.)

The Yarra Valley spans a large area bordered by the towns of Gembrook in the south, Kinglake in the north, Wantirna in the west and Mount Gregory in the east. Major towns include Lilydale, Healesville, Yarra Glen and St Andrews.

Much of the area has lush green pastures surrounded by mountains making it a fantastic place to visit for a day, weekend getaway or longer stay. Accomodation, restaurants and local produce are all plentiful and there are many wineries both small and large. We've featured a couple here and you can find more on  Wineries of the Yarra Valley.

Wine Bar Restaurant Yering Station

Yering Station on the Melba Highway is one of  the Yarra Valley's best known brands. One reason is probably because it was Victoria's first vineyard estabished in 1838. Today its infrastructure is made up of  historical and modern buildings. These include a wine bar restaurant, cellar door and produce store.

Sculpture Garden at Yering Station

Yering Station also has beautifully landscaped gardens and hosts a farmers market on the 3rd Sunday of each month.

Cellar Door Sales in historic building at Yering Station

Yering Station produces red, white and sparkling wines and has won many awards both in Australia and Internationally.

Tarra Warra

Tarra Warra winery is located on the road between Yarra Glen and Healesville.Their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have consistently receivied widespread acclaim and won many prestigious Australian and international awards.  Besides the winery they have a restaurant and a privately funded Art Gallery. TarraWarra Art Gallery.

Since opening the Gallery has been recognised as one of the cultural jewels of the Yarra Valley providing visitors with a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Train Trak Winery

Also located along the Yarra Glen Healesville Road is Train Trak Winery. Originally a dairy farm vines were planted in 1995 and the first vintage released in 2000.  Producing premium varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon its one of our favourite small wineries in the area.

Enjoying a meal at Zono Restaurant overlooking the vines

Zono Restaurant is located at Train Trak Winery and since its opening in 2007 has featured in the The Age Good Food Guide and been recognised in the “OUTthere Food & Wine Awards” as one of the “Hottest Winery Restaurants” in Australia.

Dining room at Oakridge

Bordered by the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and stretching across 10 hectares of vines along the Maroondah Highway Oakridge Winery is a family-owned estate dedicated to producing outstanding and distinctive wines. In 2012 it won the Winery of the Age in the Age & Sydney Morning Herald's Good Wine Guide.  The staff are incredibly friendly and helpful and the food reasonably priced for a winery.

MG Club visiting Chandon

Chandon was established by French champagne house Moët & Chandon in 1986 and has focussed on wine quality, style and consistency – respecting its distinguished French heritage whilst embracing the spirit and innovation of Australian winemaking. The infrastructure is amazing and you can join a guided tour of the winery or wander along yourself and read the story boards along the way.

Dominique Portet a quaint cellar door and friendly staff greet you at this boutique winery. You will enjoy lovely wines and a range of food in a lovely garden set amongst the wines.

 Healesville Country Club

The range of accomodation in the Yarra Valley is extensive from bed and breakfasts, hotels, resorts, cabins and homes. We've often stayed at the Healesville Country Club which is one of the RACV resorts. It is nestled in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and has 80 rooms all with stunning views, a golf course, restaurants and day spa.

One Spa at Healesville Country Club

For special occassions Cheateau Yering is a beautiful old historic homestead with Eleonore’s Restaurant, an elegant fine dining restaurant, or the more casual Sweetwater Cafe.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Mungo National Park

Mungo National Park is part of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage area. Located 110 kilometres from Mildura or 316 kilometres from Broken Hill.  Travelling by car from Mildura you will need to travel approx 90 kilometres on dirt although its a well maintained road and not everyone was driving a 4WD.

The landscape is amazing with the centre piece being the Walls of China which are dramatic sand and clay structures sculptured by erosion.

Walls of China

Access to this area has now been restricted not only because its fragile but because of its significant to the Paakantji, Ngyiampaa and Mutthi Mutthi people who call the area home.  

Walls of China (lunette)

These walls formed the edge of what was once a great lake where Aboriginals are recognised as having roamed for 50,000 years. This makes it one of the most important Aboriginal sites in Australia and many important relics have been discovered in the area. Mungo Lady was found in the 1960's by a young geologist Jim Bowler and Mungo Man was found in 1974 by a slightly older Jim.

Mungo Man and Mungo Lady have been estimated to be 40,000 and up to 42,000 years old.  For more information on Mungo Man and Mungo Lady

Remarkable human footprints approx 20,000 years old were discovered in 2003 and many other interesting discoveries have been made over the years.

Aboriginal Discovery Tour

The Paakantji and Ngyiampaa are involved in the care and management of the park together with the NSW National Park and Wildlife Service. They conduct Aboriginal Discovery Tours to share their heritage with visitors. You can only gain access to the Walls of China (lunette) area with a licensed tour operator, traditional owner or Parks Ranger.  Cost is $10 per person for a 2.5 hour tag along tour to the Wall of China area. Tours commence at the Visitor Centre.  Its an amazing experience and fantastic value.

Red Top Tank

You can explore the area via a 70 kilometre one way track that takes you across the lake floor around the Walls of China and through dune and mallie country. There are information signs at points of interest along the way that explain the geological formation of the area, aboriginal history and pastoral settlement of the area.  If you don't have enough time to do this drive a shorter 10 kilometre Zanci Pastoral loop is an option.

Central Beaded Dragon

Wildlife and birdlife are prolific in the park. We observed kangaroos, goannas, emus and a range of birdlife.  We also saw a range of plant life including grasses, saltbush, white cypress pines, belah/rosewood, mallie and acacias.


In the 1850s the Gol Gol Station was established and the Mungo woolshed was built around 1869. This building still stands and is near the Visitor Centre. The remains of the Zanci homestead, shearing shed and yards can be found along the self drive tour. This was originally part of the Gol Gol Station and was carved off after World War 1. The remains include a dugout where they used to keep their food. Going down into the dugout the temprature drops a number of degrees which makes you understand how effective this structure was.

Zanci yards near the shearing sheds

There are 2 camps in the Park. We stayed at Main Camp as it was close to the Visitor Centre and enabled us to do the Aboriginal Discovery Tour in the evening before heading off to drive the loop the next morning.  The campground includes toilets but showers are only available at the Visitor Centre.

Camp fires are allowed in fire boxes which are provided except during summer (December to March). You are not allowed to pick up wood in the park as it provides a natural habitat for wildlife but you can obtain some for a small fee.


The second campground is Belah Camp located half way around the loop. No camp fires are allowed in this campground. Toilets are available at this site. Camping fees are via an honour system and paid via cash left in envelopes at the Visitor Centre.

Sunset at Main Camp

If you don't want to camp accomodation is available in the Shearers Quarters for a reasonable price. These include a communial kitchen and dining room with full access to utensils, crockery, fridges and stoves.  Shearers Quarters are located next to the Visitor Centre.

The Visitor Centre also includes a large display providing a range of insights into the Park its certainly worth spending some time at the Centre.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Manly and the Northern Beaches Walk

One of the best ways to travel to Manly is via the famous Manly Ferry as it provides you with an opporunity to see both the Harbour Bridge and Opera House from a different angle as you depart Circular Quay.
Spring afternoon at Ciruclar Quay with a cruise ship docked near the Harbour Bridge &
 Opera House

The ferry ride takes about 30 minutes and you disembark at Manly Cove, a sheltered and sandy beach located on the harbour side.  This beach is ideal for family picnics, sailing, fishing or just relaxing in the sun as the waters are relatively calm.

Manly Cove

There are a range of walks from Manly ranging in distance and difficulty. The North Head walk was an amazing experience.  We wandered through beautiful heathland and saw a range of wildflowers, birds, butterflies, lizards and other wildlife that could be heard in the undergrowth. 

Eastern Water Dragon

Wildflowers along the walk

Much of the walk is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park and the North Head Sanctuary so all flora and fauna are protected.

As we wandered along the track there were also stunning views of the Harbour and Ocean side of the Head.  Dolphins and whales can also be seen during parts of the year an experience we unfortunately missed.

Harbourside view from the walk

As we wandered along the track there were also stunning views of the Harbour and Ocean side of the Head.  Dolphins and whales can also be seen during parts of the year; an experience we unfortunately missed. We did see many sailing and fishing boats enjoying the beautiful spring weather.  

View to Sydney along the walk

The North Head area also has a number of historical sites including the Quarantine Station, School of Artillery and fortifications that were once part of the defence of Sydney Harbour. You can take a tour of the Quarantine Station or visit the National Artillery Museum.

Fortifications along the walk

Tracks vary from  rock steps to dirt  to paved paths and wire paths constructed to minimise impact to sensitive areas.   Towards the end of the walk we decended to Shelly Beach a sheltered cove which was crowded with people enjoying the spring sunshine. 

Shelly Beach

From Shelly beach we could see the famous pines and stretch of sand that brings tourists to the Manly oceanside beach.

Manly surf beach

Before catching the ferry back to Sydney we enjoyed a lovely lunch at Cafe Brisa - great value fish and chips served with a lovely salad which topped off a great day in the Northern Beaches area. Total distance is around 11 kilometres.

Friday, 30 September 2011

The seaside town of Warrnambool

Warrnambool is a historic seaside town located on the Great Ocean Road first settled by Europeans in the 1840s. It's a great place to visit as you can relax on the beach, learn about the shipwreck coast or spend some time watching for whales at Logan's Beach Whale Nursery.

The area has a rich Indigenous history with artefacts being found in the volcanic ash layers of Tower HIll which was formed around 30,000 years ago in a volcanic eruption. Warrnambool is in fact, an Indigenous word from a nearby volcanic cone translated to mean land between two rivers, two swamps or ample water

Visitor information centre
Warrnambool is part of the Shipwreck Coast which extends 110 kilometres along the Great Ocean Road from Moonlight Head to Port Fairy to the west of Warrnambool. This trail incorporates 25 shipwrecks marked by road signs and information plaques and provides a fascinating insight into the region’s shipwreck history.

You can learn about this shipwreck history at Flagstaff Hill Marine Village an award winning tourism attraction. It has a museum which is reputed to hold Australia's richest shipwreck collection as well as an 1870's village with the Lady Bay Lighthouse. The village provides a glimpse into the maritime life of the 1870's era. Each night there is a state of the art sound and laser show called SHIPWRECKED which brings to life the tale of the Loch Ard a ship that was wrecked in 1878. 

Logan Beach Whale Viewing Platform

Whalers of the 1830s were the first Europeans to utilise the bay, which they named Lady Bay in 1844. Today Logan's Beach is popular for viewing Southern Right Whales. The best time for viewing is when baby whales are born between July and September. They then migrate with their families to the colder food rich waters near Antarctica for the summer.  Updates on Whale sightings

View from Middle Island

Fishing is a popular activity in Warrnambool as you can fish along the Hopkins River, in the ocean or from one of the islands or inlets. All fishing requires a licence which you can obtain from the Visitor Information Centre.

Early morning a horse is being exercised in the ocean

You'll find plenty to do in Warrnambool with a range of beaches, parks,walks and activities. Restaurants, cafes, hotels and camping grounds are also plentiful and will suit any budget. For the best information see visit Warrnambool

One of the many walks along the foreshore 

You can drive from Melbourne to Warrnambool via the Great Ocean Road by 2 routes, one inland passing through Colac which is a journey of around 3.5 hours and 265 kilometres. Alternatively the scenic journey via the Great Ocean Road will take approx 5 hours and 349 kilometres.

Alternatively we can design an extended Great Ocean Road tour to take in Warrnambool. http://www.longhorntours.com.au/