Must visit small towns in Australia

From the stunning Sydney Opera House to the beautiful botanical gardens in Brisbane, Australia’s big cities have obvious appeal. But if you want to get a deeper sense of what this amazing country is all about, escape to one of its many charming small towns. Here, you can get to know the locals, sample traditional cuisine and take things at your own pace, without the crowds of the city. Each of these small towns in Australia offers something different – from idyllic vineyards to laid-back beaches.

So, here they are…a handful of beautiful small towns in Australia that we believe are not to be missed!

Healesville

Located just under an hour from Melbourne and right in the centre of the Yarra Valley food and wine district, Healesville is also home to some of the region’s most talented artists whose wares you’ll find in the town’s galleries and studios. Partake in a leisurely lunch at one of the many al fresco cafes or popular restaurants, potter around the boutique shops, and stock up on fresh regional produce from the huge range of local growers and suppliers. You can interact with Australia’s native wildlife at the town’s Animal Sanctuary. There’s plenty of cellar doors close by and the famous Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery.

Birregurra

This historic town lies approximately 130 kilometres (81 miles) south-west of Melbourne and is home to the highly regarded restaurant Brae which features prominently in the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The town itself is charming, with wonderfully restored facades on buildings giving it a historic and reminiscent feel. Like Healesville, it has plenty for foodies to explore including amazing farm gates, growers and producers, breweries and winemakers of the Otway Harvest Trail.

Portland

A four-hour drive from Melbourne and 100 kilometres (63 miles) past the end of the Great Ocean Road, the beautiful Victorian town of Portland doesn’t get much of a look-in compared to better-known Great Ocean Road towns like Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne and Apollo Bay. The town is home to good-looking old Australian architecture but it’s yet to be overrun by tourists.

Lorne

Lorne is a small town on the Great Ocean Road route. It’s a relaxing place surrounded by a forest full of waterfalls and a beach that’s perfect for surfing. It’s an ideal base from which to explore the stunning Great Ocean Road and some of Australia’s most iconic sights, including the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, and Gibson Steps.

Bangalow

Bangalow is a picturesque town combining a traditional streetscape with modern appeal. The main street is a pleasure to stroll along, filled with opportunities to indulge in excellent local food and boutique shopping. Located in the gentle hills of the Northern Rivers, Bangalow is 16km (10 miles) or a 20-minute scenic drive from Byron Bay. The historical architecture of the federation buildings give a warm ambiance to the town while the surrounding landscape consists of fertile countryside producing macadamia nuts, fruits and vegetables, coffee, dairy and beef.

Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay lies right in the middle of the Great Ocean Road route, and it’s a perfect stop if like us you’re doing a multi-day road trip. It’s a seafood town – home to my favourite fish shack –  embraced by tranquil beaches, rolling green hills and the Great Otway National Park.

Eden

Mid-way between Melbourne and Sydney, this small town is a natural paradise on the sparkling Sapphire Coast of NSW. Eden’s extraordinary attractions range from spotting humpback whales in the deep blue waters of Twofold Bay – third-deepest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere – to learning about the region’s whaling heritage and bushwalking in Ben Boyd National Park. There are plenty of things to do in Eden throughout the year, like relaxing on beautiful sandy beaches, fishing, kayaking, bushwalking and snorkelling. The wharf at Snug Cove is home to a number of restaurants serving fresh seafood or you can buy mussels directly from the fishing boats.

Hahndorf

Located just half an hour from Adelaide, in the Adelaide Hills, Hahndorf is a contemporary village proud of its German heritage still visible in its traditional streetscape with small goods stores, bakeries, cuckoo clocks, wooden folk art and German-style pubs. It’s Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, built by Prussian settlers in 1839. It’s also home to the Beerenberg Farm which produces lots of wonderful jams and preserves. I’m particularly fond of these.

There are so many wonderful small towns that we’ve visited or just passed through on our four vacations in Australia. I’m hoping we’ll have plenty of future additions to this list on subsequent trips.

Best beaches in Australia: my pick

Australia’s beaches quite rightly have a reputation for being among the most stunning in the world. The pale, fine sand squeaks beneath your feet, the water remains a brilliant blue all along the coastline, and the palm trees sway overhead as if dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” song. Oh, and don’t forget that beaming sun! Put it all together, and you end up with some seriously beautiful beaches, and highly desirable destinations.

Whenever we’re on vacation in Australia it’s hard not to gravitate to one of its many wonderful beaches. My sisters are always amazed as to how few people are ever on the beach in my photos. This is often because, although the beach is beautiful, it’s unsafe to swim there. Now I’m not talking sharks but riptides and strong under currents.

As you know I rarely dip much more than my toes in the water so I’m most unlikely to be attacked by any marine wildlife much less swept off my feet and out to sea.

Each of these breathtaking Australian beach towns has its own personality, whether it’s an excellent spot for surfing, snorkeling, or simply soaking up the sun. Lather up with sunscreen, pack a towel, your hat and some sunnies, here are some of our favourite awesome Australian beaches.

(Apologies in advance to the many wonderful beaches we’ve yet to visit.)

1. Whitehaven Beach, Queensland

The uninhabited Whitsunday Island can only be visited via boat or seaplane. It’s a beautiful quiet destination which is largely unspoilt by tourists. Just very white sand, shady trees and cool clear water, facilities for BBQ, friendly wildlife, the perfect place to relax!

2. Surfers Paradise Beach, Queensland

One of Australia’s most iconic beaches, Surfers Paradise is a three kilometre walk of golden sand and is also conveniently close to the city with restaurants, shops and attractions all in the one place. It’s a bit too touristy for us but there’s no denying its splendid beach.

3. Noosa Main Beach, Queensland

This is the perfect family-friendly beach. It’s not very crowded and is also surrounded by a boardwalk chock-a-block with great restaurants and boutiques, not forgetting the nearby national park.

4. Manly Beach, New South Wales

This beach is a 20 minute ferry ride from Sydney’s Circular Quay and is a great day excursion. It’s mainly popular for surfing, but also features plenty of shops, restaurants and coffee shops. We’ve visited a couple of times, mainly to marvel at the surf. It’s larger and less crowded than its more famous neighbour, Bondi.

5. Four-Mile Beach, Port Douglas

We stayed in a hotel overlooking this wonderful beach which is a four-mile stretch of shimmering golden sand. It’s aptly named and reminded us of an island destination thanks to its crystal clear waters, tall palm trees and lush green mountains. You can get an Instagram worthy shot of the beach by climbing to the top of Flagstaff Hill Lookout.

6. Burleigh Heads Beach, Queensland

This beach is a popular alternative to Surfers Paradise and is ideal for surfing and swimming. There is also a fantastic walking path that goes for miles on parkland adjacent to the beach.

7. Lighthouse Beach, Port MacQuarie

Port Macquarie is a charming town where the forest meets the sea along the New South Wales coastline. It has a number of explore-worthy beaches but we thought Lighthouse Beach perfect for those looking for some serious relaxation. There’s also a charming coastal walk starting at Town Beach, then along the headlands to Flynns and Shelly Beach.

8. Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland

Another beautiful beach with white fine sand, warm water and a good surf. This is a nicely developed beach that has something for everyone and is really family-friendly.

9. Port Noarlunga, Adelaide

This beach is in a small, sea-side suburb, about 30 kilometres (19 miles) to the south of Adelaide CBD. Originally a sea port, the area is now a popular holiday and commuter destination. I took this photo from the balcony of where we were staying. The jetty connects to a 1.6 kilometres (0.99 miles) long natural reef that is exposed at low tide. The beach is large and very long with reasonable surfing.

10. Mornington Beach, Victoria

Just one of many delightful beaches on the Mornington Peninsula, this one is in Mornington itself and is one of the safe swimming beaches located around the harbour, a short walk from the town. There are lots of small inlet beaches like this on the Peninsula though many of those on the eastern coast are a much more exposed, wilder and not safe for swimming or surfing.

If you’re a beach lover, this small selection of Australia’s wonderful, glorious beaches probably has you dreaming of a holiday in the sun. Don’t just dream, plan!

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #21

These photos were captured on my iPad mini while browsing MoMa in New York. Warning, some of these are a bit scary!

The first photo could’ve been my attempt at knitting!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.

Blogger Recognition Award IV

I was recently, very kindly nominated by Flavia who, like me, started her blog to keep in touch with family and friends. Flavia is an Italian polyglot (she’s currently learning her sixth language – Greek). This obviously gives her a greater insight into the places she visits and which she kindly shares with us. Do drop by her blog and give her a follow – you won’t regret it!

Here’s those pesky rules (which I rarely observe)

1. Write a post displaying your award.
2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to her/his blog.
3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
4. Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers.
5. Nominate 10-15 bloggers who you believe deserve recognition.
6. Tell the nominees they’ve been nominated.

As this is my fourth Blogger Recognition Award I have already explained how my blog started. Maybe, this time I should cover how it restarted. It wasn’t that I ran out of steam, or even ideas, but a crowd I’d met on social media suggested we set up a blog which we called VeloVoices – many voices, one passion – pro cycling for fans, by fans. From 2012 onwards I was frantically writing plenty about cyclists and cycling which left me very little time for my own blog. Consequently output dwindled. It wasn’t really until 2015 that I began to apply myself again to posting on a View from the Back and activily started engaging with other bloggers. I’ve now returned to daily postings, a mixture of trips, travel, awards, photos, recipes plus whatever else takes my fancy.

I’ve also dished out plenty of advice on my previous award posts and I’m scrabblng to find something pithy and worthwhile to say now.

However I firmly believe you should enjoy blogging, it shouldn’t become a chore. Write about what you know, what you’re interested in, what you love.

I love this quote from Louboutin, probably because I adore his fantastic red-soled shoes – veritable shoe porn!

Make sure there’s an “About” page on your blog which tells other bloggers a bit about you and your blog, giving it an identity.

Now as you know, I am loathe to nominate other blogs. Instead I prefer to invite you to join in and share the award, particularly those of you who’ve perhaps not been blogging for very long.

Have a great week-end!

The Musette: chocolate chip oat cookies

My Thursday evening English class served as my first official guinea pigs. Now I agree that a bunch of teenage cyclists probably weren’t the most discerning of taste-testers. But mine were reasonably forthright and, while capable of inhaling their own bodyweights in baked goods, if they didn’t like something, I was left with more than just crumbs. Unsurprisingly, anything with chocolate in it scored highly and they simply loved home-made biscuits and cookies.

The recipe is based on one for shortbread type biscuits to which I’ve added chocolate chips – everything’s better with chocolate  – and oats for sustained energy. I like having a few home-made baked goodies for anyone who drops in to see me on the run in to Xmas.

You don't need many ingredients to make delicious baked good! (image: Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 24 cookies/biscuits)

  • 225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120g (1 cup)  caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp of fine sea salt
  • 275g (2⅓ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 30g (⅓ cup) oats (oatmeal)
  • 100g (6 tbsp) 70% min. chocolate chips

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°Cfan/ gas mark 6 (400°F/350°F).

2. Line two shallow baking sheets with greaseproof (parchment) paper.

3. Beat the softened butter until it lightens. Use really great butter as it does make a difference to the finished product.

4. Beat but don’t whip in the sugar and vanilla extract then gently fold in the sifted flour, salt, oats and chocolate chips. Don’t overwork the mixture, which should be of a similar consistency to that of pastry. Indeed you can roll the mixture into logs, wrap in greaseproof (parchment) paper and freeze for baking at a later date.

5. I use a small ice cream scoop – equally you could use a soup spoon – to portion the dough and ensure the cookies are a similar size. Place the balls on the baking sheets about 1cm (less than ½”) apart, as they’ll spread slightly while baking, and flatten the tops. I found the dough made 24 biscuits, each weighing around 30g (1 oz) uncooked.

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until they start to turn golden at the edges and they’re firm to the touch. Depending upon the size of your oven, you might need to rotate the sheets midway through the cooking process.

7. Remove from the oven and transfer to cool on a wire rack. Once cool, put them in an airtight container where they’ll keep for 3-4 days, providing you keep them out of reach of any cyclists, or enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.

Gone in a flash! (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the biscuits in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. I’ve made the biscuits with milk chocolate chips but found them too sweet for my taste.

4. I’ve successfully substituted the chocolate chips for a similar weight of fat juicy raisins.

5. The biscuits work equally well with a mixture of 50g (1¾oz) tart chopped dried cranberries and 50g (1¾oz) white chocolate chips.

Friday Photo Challenge – Christmas preparations

I love these weekly challenges because it forces me to think about what’s in my photo archives and how I might re-purpose them.

I must confess that I’ve done very little in preparation for Christmas other than making my Christmas cakes, which will be decorated this weekend, and ordering my Christmas cards. My beloved adores decorating the tree which he’ll do this weekend. If it were left to me we’d have very few decorations. Yes, I’m a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to some aspects of Christmas!

 

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not join in the fun?

Friendly Friday

How to join the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge

Post a comment below and include a ‘Friendly Friday’ ping-back in your post, so others can find your entry.

  • Publish a new ‘Friendly Friday, post including a URL link to the host’s post, tagging the post, ‘Friendly Friday’ Add the Photo Challenge logo, too, if you wish.
  • Copy the published url into the comments of the host’s post, so other readers can visit your blog.
  • Visit other Friendly Friday entries by following the links. It’s fun!
  • Follow the host blogs to see future prompts.

Please note there are no deadlines for any Friendly Friday Photo challenges.

Thursday doors #47

Today, my last door post of 2019, I’m featuring those doors photographed on my most recent trip to Nice. The wrought iron and glass doors are typical of those found on apartment blocks all over France. These were all along the rue de France, as is the last door though that one belongs to a church.

Never fear, I shall be back in 2020 with even more doors! Meanwhile, I’ll be indulging in my regular seasonal post “12  Days of Christmas” featuring some of my favourite photos of 2019.

 

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Great Barrier Reef

When Sir David Attenborough refers to something as an “unforgettable and revelatory” experience you know it’s got to be good. Sir David himself classes the first time he donned scuba gear and dived on a coral reef as “the single most revelatory moment” of his life.

If the world’s most famous biologist isn’t convincing enough for you – he was for us – these fun facts will have you diving into a Great Barrier Reef holiday:

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system made up of five distinct precincts each with their own characteristics and endemic wildlife:-
    • The wild north – A marine wilderness experience that is unspoilt and remote. For intrepid marine adventures from bountiful fishing, exploring untouched coral cays and meeting indigenous locals.
    • Cairns and Port Douglas Precinct – Where world heritage rainforest and reef meet. You can snorkel with Minke Whales, go diving or game fishing.
    • Townsville Precinct – Surround yourself with historic shipwrecks and unspoilt Islands.
    • Whitsundays and Mackay Precinct – Explore stylish Islands with a sailing adventure in the area known as the sailing mecca.
    • Southern Great Barrier Reef Precinct – Experience the beauty of an uncrowded getaway, explore laidback coastal towns and watch turtles nest and hatch from November to February.
  • It stretches 2600km (1625 miles) along the Queensland coast, so large, it can even be seen from space
  • Tourism to the reef generates approximately AU$5-6 billion per annum
  • It’s home to over 1,500 species of fish, abundant marine life and over 200 types of birds, it’s also one of Australia’s greatest conservation successes
  • A World Heritage Area since 1981 (the world’s first reef ecosystem to be recognised by UNESCO), it is highly protected and one of the best-managed marine areas on Earth
  • There’s more than 900 islands made for hammocks and long walks on the beach

Like most natural wonders, timing is everything. Although the reef never sleeps – like us, it’s best visited between June and October when temperatures are still warm enough for swimming but rainfall is minimal.

If you visit the reef between November and May, you can still swim, but you’ll have to wear a stinger suit – aka lycra from top-to-toe, including mittens, booties and balaclava – to protect you from jelly fish stings.

Aside from obvious weather factors like hot vs cold, seasons dictate the movements within the animal kingdom. Time your Great Barrier Reef holiday to see the following:

  • November/December – turtle nesting
  • January-March – turtle hatching
  • July-October – humpback whales
  • June/July – dwarf minke whales
  • Winter – manta rays

We visited just a couple of the precincts and were fortunate to see humpback whales from the air.

Whitsundays

In the Whitsundays there are plenty of day trip options leaving from Airlie Beach. We took a flight over the island and the Great Barrier Reef which was fantastic. A day or so later, we visited both again on a boat trip where we stopped at Whitehaven beach and my beloved snorkeled on some of the reef. I would say, don’t miss seeing the world’s most famous love heart and visiting at least one of the Whitsunday islands.

Townsville

Here you don’t even need to leave the mainland to see the reef. Townsville is home to the world’s largest living reef aquarium, Reef HQ, where you can see the creatures of the deep without donning the swimwear or mask to see them. If you want to go further afield, there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef.

Tropical North Queensland

This is possibly the epicentre of reef activity with everything from sunset sails, island adventures and week-long live aboard trips. However, we were reefed out at this point, happy to chill and enjoy the many charms of Port Douglas, though I suspect my beloved might have been happy to go snorkeling again!

If you ever get the opportunity to visit, grab it with both hands, it’s a truly magical place and one we’ll never forget.

Places from our #adventuredownunder we’d visit again

If it’s difficult to whittle down the highlights of our vacation, it’s just as challenging to choose where we’d happily visit again. Our previous vacations in Australia had covered Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide but while we’d investigated much of South Australia and Victoria, there was still plenty for us to still see in New South Wales and we’d yet to visit Queensland. This vacation sought, in part, to remedy that oversight.

We’re unabashed urbanites who love living on the beach which is why we live near Nice on the Cote d’Azur. We never like to be too far from all the amenities. However, we’re not really beach people. I rarely sit on a beach though I do love walking along a sandy beach. I could spend hours looking at the sea and love being lulled to sleep by the sound of waves.

Given that my beloved has already driven pretty much of the length of Australia’s east coast, any further trips to this region will be by plane or train. And we’d certainly love to visit certain parts and places again. Our next trip to Australia is scheduled for winter 2021/22 and we want to take in Western Australia, particularly Perth and the Margaret river. So it remains to be seen how many more trips we’ll take to this wonderful country.

In no particular order, here’s the places we’d happily visit again and I’m going to let my photos do the talking for me.

Noosa

Byron Bay

Brisbane

Sydney

Wolgan Valley

Port Douglas

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #20

These photos were captured on my iPad mini while brunching a few weeks ago at the Carlton in Cannes which has an aquarium in its bar.

You surely didn’t think I was brunching on these, did you?

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.