Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Guest Post - Sue Featherstone talking about Australia - Bookish World Cup - Australia

Blame Skippy the Bush Kangaroo: Australia has been a bucket list destination ever since the series aired on television in the late 60s.

Maybe it was the cute kangaroo? (Did you know the programme makers used between nine and 15 kangaroos in each episode?)

Or the lush scenery? (The series was shot in northern Sydney at the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.)

Or handsome helicopter pilot Jerry King, played by actor Tony Bonner?

But it wasn’t until daughter number two decided to spend a whole year saying G’Day Oz that I actually got round to making the trip.

And, guess what? Kangaroos aren’t cute and chirpy when you meet them face-to-face on a woodland pathway. They’re very big with mean little eyes and a thin mouth that brooks no argument.
So, we took a detour.

In fact, as this warning notice
 posted near the entrance to the Darlington Beach campsite at Arrawarra in New South Wales clearly spells out – where kangaroos are concerned discretion is ALWAYS the better part of valour. And if they want to poke around your pitch, you let them.
To be fair, I also wasn’t keen on the bush turkeys that came pecking around the door of our Center Parcs style villa at the Breakfree Aanuka Beach Resort at Coffs Harbour, ten miles south of Arrawarra. But, at least, if it came to a fight I had the advantage of size.

And size matters in Australia – it’s so vast it’s impossible to see it all in one trip so the focus on my visit last year was to see some of the places my daughter loved and wanted to share.

Standout memories include:

The breathtaking scenery of the many coastal trails we followed

One of the best was from Coffs to Muttonbird Island nature reserve, which is part of the Solitary Islands Marine Park, a diverse and important breeding site for the wedge-tailed shearwater. We didn't manage to catch sight of them (wrong time of year) but we did see a distant whale swimming offshore. Magic!

Another favourite was a trek along the Cape Byron walking track at Byron Bay, which took us through 3.7km of rainforest, beach, grassland and clifftops to Cape Byron lighthouse  and the most eastern point in mainland Australia.

I also enjoyed the six kilometre Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. We set off from Bondi, home to Australia’s most famous and most visited beach, which was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2008. However, at just one kilometre in length, it’s NOT the long golden stretch of sand I’d imagined.

Unforgettable views

SkyPoint, the observation deck of the Q1 tower in City of Gold Coast, recent hosts of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, is the tallest building in Australia – indeed the whole southern hemisphere – and towers above Surfers Paradise Beach and the Pacific Ocean which lie to the east. The Gold Coast hinterland stretches west while it’s possible to see Brisbane to the north and Byron Bay in New South Wales. 

Sydney Harbour Bridge is the largest steel arch bridge in the world. It opened in 1932 and was built by Dorman Long and Co of Middlesbrough, who also built the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle. Construction took eight years and used 53,000 tonnes of steel and six million hand-driven rivets. At its highest point the bridge is 134 metres above water. It’s possible to climb to the top – but we settled for a stroll along the pedestrian walkway instead. The views are stunning.


We ambled through the green gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, on my first full day in Australia. It was established in 1816 in the grounds of the home of Governor Lachlan Macquarie and, with the appointment of colonial botanist Charles Fraser the following year, became the first scientific institution in Australia, and today is world-renowned for its collection and study of indigenous plants. However, its location, sandwiched between Sydney Harbour and the city’s central business district, means that for locals the 74 acre site is simply beautiful parkland.

Vivid Sydney

We were lucky enough to catch the last night of the spectacular Vivid Sydney festival of light, music and ideas. First staged in 2009, primarily to lure visitors to the harbour’s edge, it is now one of the most popular events in Sydney’s winter calendar. We were too late to experience any of the cultural attractions, which included a range of music, arts and foodie events, but were wowed by the brilliant Light Walk, stretching for two kilometres along the harbour foreshore from The Rocks to the Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanic Garden. Vivid Sydney 2018 runs from May 25-June 16.

Cocktails at Sydney Opera House

Australia’s number one tourist attraction opened in 1973 and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. It sits on Bennelong Point, named after Woollarawarre Bennelong, a member of the Eora people, who lived in the area at the time of the first British settlement. He was captured on the orders the governor Arthur Phillip, who wanted to establish a relationship with local Aboriginal clans. Bennelong eventually escaped but later renewed contact with Phillip who built him a hut on the site that now bears his name. I’m not, if truth be told, a huge fan of the Opera House’s iconic architecture but the open air bar serves a mean Mojito.

And, finally…

When I win the lottery (but need to be in it to win it!) I shall buy a holiday home in Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Located within the Noosa Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO recognised area famous for its diverse ecosystem, it’s regarded as one of Australia’s most fashionable resort towns, but the beautiful beaches mean it’s also popular with swimmers and surfers. And us.. 

Thank you so much Sue Featherstone for this great look at Australia. 

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