Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What to do in Australia for FREE

Maximising what you see whilst on holidays is always a balancing act between having enough time and money to experience it all. While I can't assist with time here's a series of blogs that provide insights into what you can do in each of our capital cities for free.

With a population of 1 million people Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia. The Adelaide HIlls, outback South Australia and wine regions are within easy reach. 

Whilst staying in Adelaide here's some ideas on what you can do for free.

Brisbane is the capital city of Queensland and another fantastic city to visit and the weather makes it possible to enjoy activities pretty much all year round.

The city is located alongside the Brisbane River and there are walkways that follow the river that you can wander along and enjoy the cafes, restaurants and river views. 

One of the great things about visiting our nation's capital city - Canberra is the fact that many attractions are free.

Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory a sophisticated city that retains its relaxed charm.  Here are some ideas of what to do in Darwin 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.

Perth is the capital city of Western Australia and located on the shores of the Swan River. With a population of approx 1.9 million people the city is a vibrant centre of activity particularly for the resources industry.

Whilst there are many beautiful beaches to enjoy nearby this blog focuses on other activities that you can do for free. 

Sydney is the capital city of New South Wales and home to the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

Whilst Sydney is sometimes seen as an expensive destination by many there also lots of free places to visit or activities to enjoy.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Adelaide for free

With a population of 1 million people Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia. The Adelaide HIlls, outback South Australia and wine regions are within easy reach.

Free Transport

A free city loop bus known as Route 99C is available and runs every day. Check timetables as times change depending on the day of the week.

There are also 2 free trams - the City Tram runs between South Terrace and the Entertainment Centre and the Jetty Road Glenelg tram runs between Brighton Road and Moseley Square.

South Australia Museum

The South Australian Museum has a range of permanent displays showcasing South Australia's natural and cultural heritage. These include Ancient Egypt, Aboriginal Australia, Ediacara Fossils, Megafauna, Minerals and Meteorites, Opal Fossils, Mawson, Pacific Cultures, South Australia Biodiversity, Whales and Dolphins and World Mammals. 

There are also changing exhibits which may require payment of entry fees.

The Museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (opening at 12 noon on ANZAC Day). Closed on Good Friday and Christmas Day.

The Migration Museum provides insights into the stories of the diverse range of individual and communities that make up the people of South Australia.

There are a number of defined collections. The migration stories collection includes textiles and documents and the Museum also houses the State Weapons Collection and the Historical Relics Collection.  

Open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends and public holidays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday.

These 16 hectare gardens are located in the heart of the city and feature a stunning collection of Australia natives, exotics and ornamental plants.

The Gardens feature the SA Water Mediterranean Garden with 3 elements that tell the story of Mediterranean plants, an International Rose Garden with its range of colours and beautiful scents.  

The Santos Museum of Economic Botany; the last purpose built colonial museum which features high ceilings and ornate Victorian detail and displaying touring and permanent collections. The Amazon Waterlily Pavilion; a glass palace for the Victoria Amazonica waterlily, the Australian Native Garden showcasing the use of Australian natives and the elegant curves of the Bicentennial Conservatory and much more.

Ducks, swans, pigeons and other wildlife can be found in the Gardens. Friends of the Botanical Gardens provide a free guided walking tour which leaves from Schomburgk Pavilion at 10.30 daily except for Christmas Day and Good Friday.

Admission is free and opening times vary so check the website for more information.

Rose Gardens Walking Trail

With over 5 million roses under cultivation in South Australia and a rose named after the City of Adelaide roses are special to the city. There are rose gardens scattered across the city and a rose garden walking trail has been developed to explore their beauty. Spring is the best time to visit.

Himeji Garden

These Japanese inspired gardens celebrate Adelaide's sister city Himeji in Japan. The gardens were established in 1985 and  are a popular destination for quiet reflection or just to wander and explore their tranquillity and beauty.

River Torrens Linear Park Trail

You can cycle, walk or jog this trail which runs right through the city centre. The trail passes the Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide Convention Centre and the Adelaide Zoo.

Join a free tour of the Adelaide Town Hall which was hailed as the "largest municipal building south of the Equator" in 1866 when it opened. Tours are conducted  on Mondays at 10.30 a.m.

The Art Gallery of SA has a huge collection of Australian, European, North American and Asian works of art. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, textiles, ceramics, photographs, metalwork, jewellery and furniture.

Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Christmas Day. Entry is free except for special exhibitions.

Public Art

There is a range of public art throughout the city. A few that quirked my interest...

Is a black granite sculpture located at the front of the South Australian Museum. The 14 pieces have been designed in an egg shape evoking the fossilised bones of a marine reptile displayed in the Museum.

4 bronze pigs in various poses are located in Rundle Mall. The pigs were named Truffles, Oliver, Horatio and Augusta after a public poll.

A bronze sculpture, aptly name, is another quaint piece located in Rundle Mall.

Lie of the Land

Made from Kanmantoo Slate and consisting of 25 sculptural stone structures this interesting piece is located on Sir Donald Bradman Drive.

Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute

If you're interested in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture you should visit Tandanya where you can  experience contemporary and traditional  art, culture, history and heritage. The centre has a gallery and various displays and exhibitions. 

Open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Entry into the Gallery is free a $5 (adult) and $3 (children) entry applies to the cultural performance held at 12 noon Tuesday to Sunday.

Adelaide Festival

The Adelaide Festival which runs from late February to mid March has a number of free events listed for 2014. Check out their website for more information if you're visiting during that time. 

The National Wine Centre located on the edge of the Botanical Gardens showcases the Australian wine industry. With its eye-catching architecture, wine discovery journey and cellar door tastings. Its worth a visit.

The Centre is open  Monay to Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.

Visit Parliament House and see where the decisions of South Australia's Government are made. Entry to the public gallery in both the House of Assembly and Legislative Council is free and open to visitors when Parliament is sitting.

This historic Cemetery dates back to European settlement and its endless rows of 19th century marble and slate headstones mark the graves of leading political, religious social and business people. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Perth for free

Perth is the capital city of Western Australia and located on the shores of the Swan River. With a population of approx 1.9 million people the city is a vibrant centre of activity particularly for the resources industry.

Whilst there are many beautiful beaches to enjoy nearby this blog focuses on other activities that you can do for free. 

Art Gallery of Western Australia

The Gallery houses the State Art Collection which includes Western Australian art, Modern British Art an Indigenous Art.

The Gallery also hosts a range of exhibitions. Before visiting you should check that no fees apply to these.

The Gallery is open Wednesday to Monday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesday and Good Friday, ANZAC Day and Christmas Day. Entry is free but they do ask for visitors to leave a donation.

Western Australian Museum

The Museum displays Western Australia's natural, social and cultural history collections. 

The Museum's long term displays include a Discovery Centre, WA Land and People and a Bird Galley. There is also a program of special exhibits, events and activities. 

The Museum is open every day 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day, ANZAC Day and Good Friday.  Entry is free but a $5 donation is suggested.
Using storm water recycled and harvested from Forrest Place is this water sculpture designed by Jeppe Hein. The Water Laybyrinth runs daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Forrest Place is also the location of events and markets.
If you're interested in politics you can take a tour of Parliament House. These are run every Monday and Thursday 10.30 a.m. except on public holidays.

Kings Park Botanical Gardens

Kings Park is a 400 hectare park located right in the heart of Perth city and rich in Aboriginal and European history. Visitors can enjoy sweeping views of the Swan and Canning rivers, the city skyline or the Darling Ranges to the east. 

Given the size of the Park there is a huge range of activities to enjoy. You can wander the Western Botanical Garden and see more than 3,000 varieties of the State's unique flora, visit the Avenues of Honour or Kings Park Memorials and Statues area. 

Two thirds of the park is protected bushland where you can enjoy bushland walks or cycle the paths. The best views can be experienced from the DNA Tower if you want to climb its 101 steps.  

Families can visit  Rio Tinto Naturescape where children can connect with nature and learn about the WA environment or play at the Synergy Parkland  which has a 75 metre elevated walkway, island fort and large scale replicas of extinct Australian mega fauna and an interactive water misting forest. 

Other alternatives are the Lotterywest Family Area which includes a Playground and an oval for ball sports and a learn to ride bicycle path or the Saw Avenue Picnic Area  with its innovative nature based play area with the iconic Jarrah Log.

You can also enjoy a free guided walk, browse the gallery shop or enjoy a coffee in the cafe.

Bold Park

Bold Park is a large bushland area offering a wilderness experience near the coast only 15 minutes from Perth city. The Park covers 437 hectares and has over 1,000 species of flora, fauna and fungi and an abundance of wildlife including birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.

You can experience the park via a range of walking trails or cycling paths.

Burswood Park

Located about 5 minutes drive from the city of Perth Burswood Park is a unique parkland where you can see a range of indigenous birds and water fowl.

The Lake is the centrepiece of the Park with  Swan Fountain a stunning sculpture of black swans within its shores.  There are a number of riverside walks, recreational trails and picnic areas to enjoy. 

You can also take a free guided walking tour of the park which focuses on Western Australia's history, flora and fauna.

Whiteman Park

A natural bushland park located approx 25 minutes from Perth city on the doorstep of the Swan Valley.  There are bush walking trails, complete with interpretive notes and walking and cycling paths.   Perfect for children of all ages are the shaded playgrounds and a mini water playground with a wading pool, water spouts, soft fall surrounds and shade areas.  The park also includes picnic areas, BBQs and a cafe.

A range of other attractions are also located at the park. Some with entry via donation and some you need to pay an entry fee. These include transport related museums,a wildlife park and a range of shops. 

You can also take a free tour by jumping aboard the vintage Whiteman Park Explorer bus.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Darwin for free

Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory a sophisticated city that retains its relaxed charm.  Here are some ideas of what to do in Darwin for free.

Mindil Beach

Mindil Beach is Darwin's most popular beach and an amazing place to be at sunset or sunrise. Mindil Beach is the location for many celebrations including Territory Day with its stunning fireworks and the Darwin Beer Can Regatta

The beach is also the site of the famous Mindil Markets where you have an opportunity to enjoy the balmy Darwin evenings and taste an amazing selection of cuisines or browse the large range of art and craft stalls.

The market is held in the dry season on Thursday evenings 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Leanyer Recreation Park   

Located on Vanderlin Drive, Leanyer this Park is an amazing place for family fun. The Park has 3 massive water slides, a water park, water playground and swimming area. There is also a playground, skate park and a half basketball court.

You can enjoy a picnic, cook a BBQ on the free BBQ plates or eat in the Cafe.

George Brown Darwin Botanical Gardens

Surviving the attacks on Darwin during the 2nd World War and the ravages of Cyclone Tracy the Gardens include marine and estuary plants, North Australian monsoon flora and a range of other tropical plants.

The Gardens are located in the Fannie Bay area and open every day 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Charles Darwin National Park

A relatively new Park located in an area of cultural significance to the Larrakia people who used the land for thousands of years as evidenced by the shell middens found in the Park.

The Park includes picnic grounds, walking and cycling tracks and a WWII display centre showing Darwin's role in the Pacific War. The area includes bunkers and shelters used for storage between 1941 to the mid 1980's. 

The park is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Fannie Bay Gaol

Operating as a Goal and Labour Prison from 1883 until 1979 a visit to the Goal provides macabre insights into the harsh reality of prison life. Inmates included lepers, refugees, juveniles and the mentally ill.

Exhibits also include video footage and pictures of Cyclone Tracy and the aftermath, the female prisoners section, mess area and the gallows where prisoners were executed until 1952. 

Located on East Point Road the Gaol is open daily 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day and Good Friday.

Northern Territory Library

The Library has a wide collection of print and electronic resources to explore in a relaxed environment. They also provide a wide range of exciting displays and events. 

Open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. but closed during Christmas.

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

The Museum and Art Gallery includes Aboriginal, Southeast Asian and Oceanic collections featuring material and art from the Northern Territory's history.

There are also regular special exhibitions but entry fees may apply.  

The Museum is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends and public holidays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day and Good Friday.

Public Art

While I'm talking about Art there is a range of Public Art on display in the Darwin Waterfront Precinct.  The Waterfront area also has a range of hotels, restaurants, the historic Stokes Hill Wharf and is the location of many events.

Lyons Cottage

The cottage was built as the residence of the company engineer of the Australasian and China Telegraph Company and is the only surviving example of colonial bungalow architecture in the city.

The Cottage displays historical photographs and exhibits providing insights into pearling, maritime history, early exploration and the Telegraph Station.

The Cottage is now run by The Aboriginal Bush Traders and you can buy arts, crafts, clothing and gifts.

The Cottage is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Berry Springs Nature Park

The Nature Park protects part of the Berry Creek catchment area which flows into Darwin Harbour. There are a number of walking tracks through the Top End's Natural wildlife habitat where you can enjoy the birds and natural plant life.   

You can also enjoy a swim and see the weir and a number of huts that were established by the Armed Forces during the Second World War.

Berry Springs is approximately 40 minute drive south from Darwin.

Litchfield National Park

If you're travelling a little farther from the city Litchfield National Park is an easy 90 minute drive from Darwin.   I love this NP as its still unspoilt with stunning landscapes and rich in cultural history.

There are a range of areas perfect for picnicking including Grennant Creek, Tabletop Swamp, Wangi Falls, Walter Creek and Florence Falls.

One of my favourite places is Bluey Rockhole where you can just sit and relax whilst the water washes you.

A kiosk is located at Wangi Falls.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Canberra for free

One of the great things about visiting our nation's capital city - Canberra is the fact that many attractions are free.

Australian War Memorial

One of my favourites is the Australian War Memorial. Not as a celebration of war but because its a haunting reminder of the sacrifice people make in war time and a testament to the courage of the individuals and Australia as a nation.

Walking up the steps and into the Commemorative Area and seeing the Roll of Honour lined with poppies to remember the fallen is just the start of a the journey of understanding Australia's war history. 

I also particularly admire the tomb of an unknown solider as a sombre and reverent resting place for the remains of this unnamed soldier.  The remains were removed from a cemetery in France and transported back to Australia in 1993. 

You need to allow at least a day to be able to see all the exhibitions which include the First and Second World Wars as well as more recent conflicts.There are also range of special exhibitions in the Memorial; to find out current information see their Exhibitions page. 

The view along ANZAC Parade to Parliament House is also  a spectacular sight. 

The War Memorial is open 8.am. to 5 p.m. daily - closed Christmas Day.

Canberra Space Centre

Our children's favourite place in Canberra is the Space Centre located in Tidbinbilla which is about a 35 kilometre drive from the city.  

Here you can see the deep space antennas (Deep Space Stations) each identified by a number sequence relevant to their country of location. In Australia ours are numbered in the 30s and 40s. The antennas receive and transmit data to robotic spacecraft exploring our solar system - something I find fascinating. 

At the visitor centre displays include a 3.8 billion year old piece of the Moon, spacecraft models, space hardware and memorabilia including the foods astronauts eat, movies on space exploration and the latest images from across the solar system. 

We always take a picnic but the centre has a cafe. Open 9.am. to 5 p.m. daily - closed Christmas Day.

Parliament House

No visit to Canberra would be complete without visiting Parliament House where both Houses of Parliament sit. The design of Parliament House is impressive and positioning it on top of a hill overlooking Canberra makes sure it can be seen from many locations and is a constant reminder of the important business that is conducted within.

You can wander the public areas of Parliament House and see Parliament in action if your visit coincides with a sitting day. The impressive red chamber is where the Senate sits and shares the power to make laws with the House of Representatives.  Debating in the equally impressive green chamber is the House of Representatives. Here they debate, pass laws and watch over government administration and expenditure. You can also take a guided tour. 

The building itself is impressive and within its walls there is a stunning art collection which includes a very impressive tapestry which hangs in the Great Hall. The gardens and surrounds of Parliament House are also worthwhile exploring. 

The view from outside along ANZAC Parade to the National War Memorial is also  a spectacular sight and demonstrates how well designed or planned the location was. 

Opening hours vary on sitting days from 9.00 a.m. Monday and Tuesday and from 8.30 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday. When Parliament is not sitting its open from 9.a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day. 

Old Parliament House

Down the hill from Parliament House is Old Parliament House where Parliament sat from 1927 to 1988. The building now houses the Museum of Australian Democracy.  This Museum has displays that show Australia's social and political history through interpretation of the past and present and exploring the future.

For details of current exhibitions
Although not free entry is relatively cheap $2 for adults and $1 for children.
Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day
On either side of the building are the Old Parliament House Gardens which are lovely to wander through. The Gardens include seating pavilions, pergolas, rose arbours and pathways.
The National Museum of Australia explores the land, nation and people of Australia. It focusses on Indigenous histories and cultures, histories of European settlement and their interaction with the environment.
You can wander the Museum at your leisure and there are a range of free Host talks throughout the day (check with the information desk on timing) or you can take a guided tour at a cost. 
Details of current Exhibitions 
The Museum is open every day from  9 a.m.-5 p.m. except for Christmas Day.
If art and culture interests you the National Gallery of Australia has a permanent collection of more than 160,000 works of art including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, Australian art and International art.

A range of special exhibitions constantly change see the exhibitions page for more information. 
Whilst entry to the Gallery is free special exhibitions will often come at a cost. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

National Portrait Gallery

Located just across the road from the National Gallery of Australia is the National Portrait Gallery.  The Gallery's purpose is to broaden the understanding of Australian people through portraits that display our identify, history, culture, creativity and diversity.

My favourite is a very compelling portrait of blind indigenous singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu by Guy Maestri. This portrait also won the Archibald Prize in 2009.

For information on current exhibitions 

Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. some special exhibitions will have entry fees.

Royal Australian Mint

For something completely different visit the Royal Australian Mint where all the coins in Australia are made.  Here you can wander the observation gallery to see how coins are produced, see the rare and significant coin collection or watch a behind the scenes video in the theatrette. You can even mint your own $1 coin.

Open Monday to Friday 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday Sunday and Public Holidays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. closed Christmas Day and Good Friday. 

National Film and Sound Archive 

This is said to be Australia's living archive as it displays images and sound from film, television, radio and other recordings that reflect Australia's life stories and place in the world.

The Archive includes a range of sound and film galleries and regular presentations. Find out more about current exhibitions.

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

Australian National Botanical Gardens

The Australian National Botanical Gardens are located on the lower slopes of Black Mountain in Canberra. Established as a place for recreation and learning the gardens have the world's most comprehensive display of Australian native plants. 

Displays include the Red Centre Garden which has plants such as majestic desert oaks, ghost gums and spinifex grasslands.

Entry to the Gardens are free. They are open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (8 p.m. week days in summer) closed Christmas day.  

Telstra Tower

If you're looking for great view of Canberra go to the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain. The tower stands 195 meters tall and has stunning 360 degree views of Canberra and surrounding areas.

You can also enjoy a coffee or snack at the cafe located at the Tower which is open 365 days a year from 9 a.m.


Another great free attraction in Canberra is take a drive around the Embassies. Many buildings reflect the culture of the Countries they represent.

National Carillion

The National Carillon located on Aspen Island in Lake Burley Griffin was a gift from the British Government. The Carillion stands 50 metres and is a musical instrument with 55 bronze bells.

You can hear recitals Wednesday and Sundays 12.30 to 1.20 p.m.

Entry is free.

Parks and Recreation

There are a range of parks in and around Canberra where you can walk, cycle or just relax and enjoy nature.

There are self guided walks, Ranger guided walks and of course you can also relax and enjoy Lake Burley Griffin which Canberra is built around. The Lake is also a site for many Canberra celebrations including Fireworks on Australia Day (26 January).