Saturday, 22 September 2012

Whale watching and more on the Fraser Coast

Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay is located on the Fraser Coast a region that is famous for its natural wonders including whales, dolphins and Fraser Island; which is the world's largest sand island and  Heritage Listed. 

We flew into Brisbane and drove the 3.5 hours to Hervey Bay along the Bruce Highway. But you can also fly into the Sunshine Coast or Hervey Bay itself. 

On the beach at Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay has a wide range of accommodation ranging from backpackers, apartments, resorts, caravan parks and house for rent. We chose to stay at White Crest Luxury Apartments as it was close to shops, restaurants and across the road from the beach.   

After checking into our apartment we booked a whale watching cruise for the next day, as this was to be a highlight of our visit to the area. We then set out to explore the local area and took a long walk along the beach.

Fishing at Hervey Bay

Like most beach side suburbs the town radiates out from the beach with accommodation, restaurants and shops lining the nearby streets. Hervey Bay has a number of suburbs which have grown over the years to cover quite a large area.  So don't be confused when you see names such as Torquay, Pialba and Point Vernon as these are all located along the coastline at Hervey Bay.

The next morning we were collected outside our accommodation and taken to the Marina for our whale watching cruise with Whalesong, who are one of the many whale watching companies in Hervey Bay. We did a morning cruise but you can also choose an afternoon or full day cruise.

Smooth sailing even into a storm

We enjoyed a breakfast of quiche, bacon, sausages, salads and bread which was served shortly after we departed the Marina. The weather wasn't looking great as we headed out of the bay in search of whales. We went through some small rain storms but it was still very smooth sailing and we continued to enjoy staying out on the deck.

Our first experience of a whale breaching

After about an hour of cruising we came across our first whales which caused a lot of excitement and everyone moved outside onto the decks.  We observed a number of pods as the boat cruised from one area to another looking for more active whales.

A whale swims underneath our boat

The whales mainly travelled in pairs, some mothers and calves, we saw them waving with their fins, swimming up and down and breaching as they played in the ocean nearby.

Swimming close to the boat

Just before we headed towards home a whale decided to come so close to the boat that it swam beneath us and then popped up on the other side. It was an amazing experience being so close to this gentle but gigantic creature.

A final breaching before we head for home

Watching the whales breach was one of the best experiences of the morning. I found it hard to catch them on the camera but we did manage to some great acrobatics on video. 

Best meal was at Maddigans Fish and Chips in Torquay, its a take away, but the range of fish and other seafood was fantastic.

Tin Can Bay

We left the highway and dropped in to see this quaint fishing and boating haven whilst travelling south to the Sunshine Coast. Tin Can Bay is also renowned for dolphin sighting at Norman Point, normally between 7.30 and 8 a.m.  

Tin Can Bay Harbour

Prawns, scallops and spanner crabs are all caught in this area with many destined for the overseas market.  We also saw a number of houseboats moored in the Bay demonstrating the range of water activities that draw people to the live and holiday in the area.

View from Les Lee Park, Tin Can Bay

Rainbow Beach

We took another diversion to Rainbow Beach another lovely seaside village known for fishing, boating, surfing. prawning and crabbing. 

Rainbow Beach is also known as the main entry point to Fraser Island due to the short ferry ride from Inskip Point.    Its where we crossed a number of years ago to spend 5 days on this amazing Island.

The town of Rainbow Beach has grown substantially since we last visited and there is now a range of shops, accommodation and activities to enjoy.

Fishing at Inskip Point,  Rainbow Beach

We were surprised at the extent of camping areas that line the road as you drive to Inskip Point.         These looked like amazing camping sites shaded by cypress pines and other trees and shrubs in walking distance to the beach and close to the town of Rainbow Beach. 

The coloured sands at Inskip Point (once known as Black Beach) are explained in the Kaby Dreaming story of Yiningie, the spirit of the gods, who often took the form of a rainbow. Yiningie was killed in a fight when he crashed into cliffs and his spirit coloured the sands.   

Ferry crossing from Fraser Island to Inskip Point

 More information about Inskip Point

A glimpse of Fraser Island

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Melbourne for free

Melbourne is the capital city of Victoria and has some of the best restaurants and coffee in Australia. The city is a regular winner of the Worlds best city to live in; an assessment we certainly agree with! 

There are loads of things to do in Melbourne for free depending on what interests you.

Botanical Gardens

If you love the outdoors take a walk in the Botanical Gardens which are located to the south of Melbourne along St KIlda Road. To get to the Gardens from the city you need to cross the Yarra River via Princes Bridge.  The Bridge itself is built on the oldest river crossing in Australia with the present Bridge being built in 1888 and now listed on the Victoria Heritage Register. I love these historic lamps which are a feature of the bridge and surrounding areas.

Princes Bridge

The Botanical Gardens cover a staggering 36 hectares and have more than 50,000 plants across a range of garden settings. There are wetlands, a children's garden and the fascinating Gulifoyle's volcano which was built in 1876 to store the water needed to maintain the Gardens.

Also worth a visit are the Tropical Hothouse, the Herbarium Discovery Walk and the Melbourne Observatory and Cafe.  

 What's on in the Gardens 

Shrine of Remembrance

Located further along St Kilda Road and within the Botanical Gardens is the Shrine of Remembrance which was built for the grieving community after extensive losses in the First World War.  It now serves as a memorial to the men and women who have served our nation in both war and peacekeeping operations.   

The Shrine and the Eternal Flame

The Shrine is on a bend in the road and acts like a beacon drawing you towards it as you wander down St Kilda Road. Besides admiring the beautiful architecture of the Shrine there are a range of exhibitions including the Gallery of Medals, Books of Remembrance and audio visual displays.  

An interesting fact about the Shrine is that light shines into the Sanctuary each year on Remembrance Day (11 November) directly onto the Stone of Remembrance illuminating the word "love" at exactly 11 a.m.  Its an amazing feat as the location of the aperture was decided after extensive astronomical and mathematical calculations taking into consideration the location of the sun over the next 5,000 years.

City of Melbourne from the Shrine
The Shrine is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. What's on at the Shrine. 

National Gallery of Victoria

If its culture that interests you visit the National Gallery of Victoria. 

The Gallery's collection is split across 2 sites the International Gallery which is l
ocated a short walk from Southbank on St Kilda  Road and opposite the Botanical Gardens and the Ian Potter Centre located at Federation Square.

National Gallery of Victoria

The International Gallery houses an extensive collection from Europe, Asia, America and Oceania including works by old masters and new acquisitions.

Some of my favourites are Eugene von Guerard and John Brack but I love to just explore and enjoy the wide range on display. The NGV also has regular feature exhibitions but you normally have to pay to attend these.

There is also Children's Gallery  where kid's can explore and learn about art.

What's on at the Gallery

The International Gallery is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Tuesdays when its closed.

Ian Potter Centre

The Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square house the NGV's Australian art collection with both indigenous and non indigenous art covering the colonial period until the present day. There are over 20 galleries across multiple floors. 

The Centre also has special exhibitions and educations programs and encourages people from all walks of life to enjoy art.

The Ian Potter Centre is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Mondays when its closed.

Federation Square

From free concerts, to major sporting events on large screens to other quirky activities Federation Square is a hub of activity at all times of the night and day.  Federation Square is located on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets 

Federation Square

You'll also find a Visitor Information Centre where you can obtain a wide range of tourist information.

What's on at Federation Square

Melbourne Town Hall

Take a free tour of the Melbourne Town Hall and experience the grandure of the building, Council Chambers and view the carved grand organ.  

Tours run week days at 11 a.m. noon 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Book via email.

State Library of Victoria

The Library is the State's largest public reference library with a collection that includes ephemera, artworks, audio and video files, digitised copies of works, music scores, books and more.

You can visit the Library to watch films, listen to music, browse newspapers or magazines, play chess or computer games. 

The Library's architecture, stautes and murals also make it worthwhile visiting. My favourite is the dome ceiling in the reading room which is very impressive.

The Library is open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

What's on at the State Library

Melbourne's laneways

Hosier Lane

Melbourne's laneways are not only famous for cafes but also for the street art which is constantly changing. Visit Hosier Lane, Union Lane and Cocker Alley if you're interested.


Birrarung Marr

Birrarung Marr is another parkland close to the city and located on the north bank of the Yarra River past Federation Square. The park's playground is always open.

Fitzroy Gardens

Captain Cook's Cottage

The Fitzroy Gardens are located north along Flinders Street on the outskirts of the city.The Gardens include the Conservatory with a beautiful indoor floral display, the Fairies' Tree, a model Tudor Village and a range of fountains and statues.

If you like history Captain Cook's Cottage might be of interest, whilst not free entry is only $5 for adults and $2.50 for children.

The Cottage was originally located in the village of Great Ayton Yorkshire but was purchased in 1933 by Russell Grimwade and dismantled and shipped to Melbourne opening in October 1934.

Captain Cook's Cottage is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.


Southbank located on the southside of the Yarra River is a great place to enjoy free entertainment from street buskers and artists on the weekend and most evenings. It also provides a great location for photos with its views across the Yarra to the city.

Block Arcade

The Block Arcade retains the beauty of a 19th century shopping arcade.  You can just wander the Arcade and enjoy the architecture or there are a range of boutiques and cafes decorated in heritage style. The Hopetoun Tea Rooms are a favourite and there are often long queues of people waiting to experience its a fare.

The Arcade is located at 280 - 292  Collins Street and runs through to Elizabeth Street.  Open from 8 a.m. most days (9 a.m. on Sunday). The Arcade closes at 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, Friday at 9 p.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends. 

Getting around

For a free ride around Melbourne the City Circle Tram ,  is an easily recognisable maroon coloured tram that runs in both directions on the outskirts of the city.  Frequency is approximately every 12 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Sunday to Wednesday and between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday (except Christmas Day and Good Friday).