Australia

We visited New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

New South Wales

When was the rating made?
We were there March 8 – March 13, 2007Where did we go?
Sydney
Blue Mountains (Katoomba)

Sydney

Accommodation

  • Highfield Private Hotel – a beat-up hostel with tiny rooms in King’s Cross. 1.5 stars.
  • Eva’s Backpacker’s – A well-maintained, clean hostel with decent sized rooms and a big shared kitchen in King’s Cross. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • BBQ King (Chinatown) – Well known for its Peking Duck. They charge you for its fame, but it is quite good. 2.5 stars.
  • Ramen Kan (Darling Harbour, next to Entertainment Center) – Absolutely fantastic Japanese noodle soups. Worth seeking it out. The Tan tan ramen and age dashi tofu were both great. 3.5 stars.
  • Museum of Sydney Cafe – Not a cheap lunch, but it is quite tasty and has a good menu.
  • Prague Czech Beer House (Kings Cross) – Giant portions and a very filling meat meal with saukerkraut and other pickled items. There is a sampler main dish that has tastes of most of the meats and is filling enough for two. 2.5 stars.

Activities

  • Visit the Sydney Opera House – see a show if you can
  • Walk around The Rocks
  • Take a ferry to a nearby town

Blue Mountains (Katoomba)

Accommodation

  • Central City Backpacker’s – slightly off the main street, but reasonable accommodation. 2 stars.

Restaurants

  • Fresh Cafe – Delicious breakfasts and great coffee. The Ricotta hotcakes with butterscotch sauce was great and not too sweet. The Fresh Breakfast also had all the basics, but was a great version of this common meal. The coffee was also unusually good. 3.5 stars.
  • Journey Cafe – Salads and sandwiches were above average. 2.5 stars.
  • Elephant Bean Cafe – Good toasted sandwiches. 2.5 stars.

Activities

  • See the Three Sisters
  • Visit Scenic World to take the world’s steepest train
  • Walk to Katoomba Falls

Tasmania

When was the rating made?
We were there March 13 – March 20, 2007Where did we go?
Hobart
East Coast
Launceston
West Coast

Hobart

Accommodation

  • Allport’s Hostel – A nice hostel in an old home in North Hobart. Facilities are good and location is near lots of restaurants. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Annapurna – Indian restaurant in North Hobart. Great lunch buffet. 3 stars.

Activities

  • Mt. Field National Park – 1.25 hours from Hobart. Waterfalls and several easy walks. Lake Dobson at the top of the park is gorgeous and the walk through the Tall Trees is quite remarkable.

East Coast

Restaurants

  • Kate’s Berry Farm – A fun stop on the drive up the east coast for some fresh berry ice cream or scones with berry preserves. 2.5 stars.
  • Village Store / Deli in St. Helens (right opposite the Post shop) – Lovely cafe with delicious breakfast food and a nice supply of Tasmanian specialty foods. 2.5 stars.

Activities

  • Freycinet National Park – Wineglass Bay is a beautiful view of a semi-circle bay with white sand against the turquoise ocean… having said that, I am not sure it lives up to the hype. There are crowds walking to see it, so it makes more sense to do a longer walk in another part of the park to really enjoy the scenery. The pink granite of the Hazards is quite impressive. 2 stars.
  • Bay of Fires (north of St. Helens) – beautiful beaches and very quiet (when we were there) 2.5 stars

Launceston

Restaurants

  • Mud Restaurant – pricey, but a good meal on the waterfront. 2 stars.

West Coast

Accommodation

  • Cosy Cabins at Cradle Mountain – Fully equipped campground 2km from the national park. (They also have alpine huts). Store at the campground has many essential food items which is great since it is 1 hour to the nearest grocer. 2.5 stars.

Activities

  • Hike in Cradle Mountain National Park. The Dove Lake circuit is beautiful, but quite busy. There are many alternate day hikes that are not busy at all and provide some gorgeous views of the many lakes. 3 stars.
  • Hike in Lake St. Clair National Park – the other end of the Overland Track from Cradle Mountain. Gorgeous Lake St. Clair and lots of day hike options. 2.5 stars.
  • Visit to Strahan – the only town of note on the west coast. This is the jumping off point for the Gordon River cruises, but we didn’t take one so we can’t speak to it…
  • Iron Bowl lookout – just after the first climb outside of Queenstown heading east towards Lake St. Clair. A very quick stop, but the rock is an amazing set of colors!
  • Nelson Falls – A short walk off the road on the trip from Queenstown to Derwent Bridge. The falls are beautiful and it only takes about 20 minutes. 3 stars.

 

Victoria

When was the rating made?
We were there March 20 – April 3, 2007Where did we go?
Melbourne
Philip Island
Great Ocean Road
The Grampians
Mildura

Melbourne

Accommodation

  • Olembia Hotel – small hostel in St. Kilda. Very well maintained. Shared kitchen was well stocked. Location was convenient for St. Kilda and it was a 20 minute tram ride to Melbourne CBD. 3 stars.

Restaurants

  • Lau’s Family Kitchen (St. Kilda) – A fantastic Cantonese restaurant with impeccable service. Restaurant was started by the same family that owned Flower Drum, which is the premiere fine dining Chinese restuarant in Melbourne. Our experience at Lau’s Family Kitchen definitely lived up to the family reputation. The crispy pork belly was particularly fabulous. 3.5 stars.
  • Chinta Blues Malaysian Hawker Bar (St. Kilda) – Very tasty Malaysian cuisine. Curry and roti were particularly good. Fast service. 3 stars.
  • Il Fornaio (St. Kilda) – Great bakery with lots of different fresh breads. Breakfast of eggs, toast and homemade sausage was simple, but delicious. Breakfast is better than lunch here. 3 stars.
  • Grill’d (St. Kilda) – A local chain that is part of the gourmet hamburger trend in Melbourne. Burger was good, but has nothing on Corner Bistro or Burger Joint. 2 stars.
  • Acland Cake Shop (St. Kilda) – A local legend of sorts. The window is worth gazing at for awhile, but the pastries were nothing to write home about. 2 stars.
  • Stalactites (Melbourne CBD) – Well known Greek restaurant famous for its souvlaki sandwiches, which are available 24 hours / day. Lamb souvlaki was very tasty, albeit a bit greasy… but that’s what makes them popular late night. 2.5 stars.
  • Kum Den (Chinatown) – Chinese food that is very well regarded as a basic, but good meal. We didn’t have a particularly good experience, but we might not have ordered well… 1.5 stars.
  • Maxims Bakery (Chinatown) – Hong-Kong style bakery. If you happen by the shop when they have warm egg tarts be sure to eat one. A divine experience of butter pastry and delicate custard.

Activities

  • Stroll the alleyways of Melbourne – Block Arcade has lots of great cafes. Royal Arcade is worth a walk through to see the impressive formality of the classic arcade style in Melbourne. The chocolate shop and sugar shop are worth a gander too. Centre Place has a large selection of small and tasty eateries. Blufish is particularly good for fish and chips.
  • Royal Melbourne Zoo – Supposedly one of the more progressive zoos, however, to the untrained eye it is a lot like your basic zoo. Lots of animals and lots of cages.
  • Visit Queen Victoria’s Market – Stroll around the huge QVM market and grab some items for lunch or a snack as you go. There are over 150 vendors in this market that operates most days of the week. (Closed Mondays and Wednesdays)

 

Philip Island

Accommodation

  • Cowes Caravan Park – Basic caravan park with average facilities. Right along the beach, although the beach is not particularly scenic at that spot. 2 stars.

Activities

  • Penguin Parade – This is why you come to Philip Island. Every night (all year), little penguins emerge from days or weeks fishing at sea to return to their rookery. There are 60,000 pengins on the island, but you only see a tiny fraction of that during the nightly parade across the beach. This is quite a sophisticated tourist operation, bleachers for 3,000!, but the penguins are still quite cute.
  • Koala Conservation Centre – Since you are already on the island, this is worth a stop. They have 2 boardwalks where the koalas can be seen up close, although you cannot touch them.

 

Great Ocean Road

Accommodation

  • Aireys Inlet Caravan Park (Aireys Inlet) – Top notch caravan park, but make sure your tent site is not on a slant. All the facilities were quite clean and the camp kitchen was actually a regular room (rather than an outdoor hut). There was even wireless! 3 stars.
  • Glenaire Cottages (Glenaire) – We went up market after camping and feeling a bit under the weather. These are individual lodges in the woods with views of the ocean in the distance. Log fires, hot tubs and a heated blanket for the bed. The lodges are secluded and relaxing. 3 stars.

Restaurants

  • Bend Cafe (Glenaire) – Described as a reluctant chef, Paul runs this eatery in Glenaire along the Great Ocean Road. There is no set menu as he only serves what is fresh. His food was quite good and the fact that he brought it to our lodge for dinner was even better. If you get the chance, make sure to try the chocolate mousse. 3 stars.

 

The Grampians

Accommodation

  • Happy Wanderers Caravan Park (Wartook Valley) – This campground is quite basic. It is located in Wartook, which is a bit of a misnomer because the campground is basically the only thing in town. The biggest reason to stay here is to see kangaroos and emus which are plentiful in the area. There is a nightly roo feeding which attracts a lot of hopping visitors. 2 stars.

Activities

  • The Balconies – the most photographed site in the Grampians. It is an impressive lookout, but since the fires, access to the area has been limited to a small lookout area, which prevents the most interesting access to the area.
  • MacKenzie Falls – This is a steep walk down a couple of hundred steps to the bottom of the falls. The view is quite impressive against the black rock of the falls. It is quite popular, so expect a crowd.
  • Hollow Mountain – This is a strenuous but short hike (1.5 hours) among gorgeous rock and rock formations. The variation in the rock is fascinating during the hike and there is a little nook at the top, which makes the perfect lunch spot. Arriving at the trail is a bit of an adventure in and of itself as it is several kilometers down an unsealed road.

 

Mildura

Accommodation

  • Mildura Grand Hotel – Right in the center of town, this is the place to stay in Mildura. It has recently been taken over by Quality Inns, but it has a long and interesting history in Mildura. All of the best restaurants are either in the building or within a short walk. There is quite a variation in the room quality, so ask to be shown around to get the best pick of the lot. 3 stars.

Restaurants

  • Stefano’s – This is the reason we came to Mildura. Stefano di Pieri is a local star in the food world including the requisite tv show. He owns several restaurants in town, but this is his flag ship and most formal dining experience. It offers a set 5 course menu of Italian food in the cellar of the Mildura Grand Hotel. The food was about as expected for the cost, but it was enhanced by the 3 hour dining experience. 2.5 stars.
  • Pizza Cafe – A casual, above average pizza restaurant in keeping with the Aussie style of offering all sorts of things, all at once on a pizza. 2.5 stars.
  • 27 Deakin – Stefano’s cafe and takeaway. Has great sandwiches. 3 stars.

Activities

  • Mungo National Park with Harry Ananya Tours – This was the highlight of the week (or several weeks). The tour to Mungo to see the Walls of China is spectacular. The tour offers a view of the park that you could not get as an independent visitor (plus they handle the 3 hour round trip driving on unsealed roads). There is a tremendous amount of archaeological history that has been discovered at Mungo as well as a deep sacred tradition for the Aborigine people. This tour provides insight into both aspects of the land. (Mungo National Park is actually located in NSW if you are looking for it on a map, but Mildura is the closest town.)

South Australia

When was the rating made?
We were there April 3 – April 13, 2007Where did we go?
Burra
Flinders Ranges
Adelaide

Burra

Accommodation

  • Paxton Cottages – Simple, spacious self-contained cottages with basic, but clean facilities. 2.5 stars.

 

Flinders Ranges

Accommodation

  • Wilpena Pound Resort and Camping Ground (Wilpena)- This is the only place to stay in Wilpena with the exception of bush camping in the national park. The facilities are basic, but fine with lots of unpowered camp sites. There is an abundance of wildlife in the campground, which is its best quality. No camp kitchen. Bring food supplies from elsewhere because the food here is not good. 2 stars.
  • Prairie Hotel (Parachilna) – This is one of our top accommodation experiences to date. The Prairie Hotel is a unique little hotel said to offer a slice of luxury in the harsh outback. There is a range of accommodation types from camping and backpackers to regular hotel rooms. The hotel restaurant is fantastic and has quite an unusual bushtucker menu. The focus is feral meats (kangaroo, emu and camel primarily) done in innovative ways. These are all quite tasty as are the more conventional offerings. This place is definitely worth a stop on your itinerary. 3.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Prairie Hotel Restaurant – If for some crazy reason, you are in this area and are not staying at the Prairie Hotel, make sure to stop in for a meal. The bushtucker is delicious and unlike any other meal you are likely to have! 3 stars.

Activities

  • Mount Ohlssen Bagge hike – this is a steep, but very do-able hike which provides a beautiful view of the Wilpena Pound. The rock displays vibrant colors of red, orange and golden as you make your way to the top. And doing this hike avoids the bad omen of the St. Marys Peak hike that the Aborigines have asked people not to do.
  • 4WD tour – Several companies offer 4WD tours of this area, which allow you to get a very different view of the scenery here. We took the tour offered at the Prairie Hotel and although it was a bit pricey, we loved it. We traveled through a private sheep station and to a salt lake. Beautiful and a unique adventure.
  • Self-drive through Wilpena Pound – This drive is possible with a 2WD car, although it feels a bit adventurous at points on the unsealed roads. Brachina Gorge and Stokes Hill Lookout are both particularly impressive. There is also a self-drive geological tour sign-posted at the northern end of the park. The pound teems with wildlife in the late afternoon, you won’t have to look hard to spot many emus and kangaroos.
  • Parachilna Gorge (on the road from Blinman to Parachilna) – This is drive on an unsealed road is possible by 2WD. The gorge area is not enormous, but it is pretty quiet and has some amazing geological significance. An entire geological era, the Ediacaran Period, was identified based on discoveries in this gorge. It was the first new era identified in 120 years and the only one based on rocks found in the southern hemisphere.

 

Adelaide

Accommodation

  • Backpack Oz – Relatively centrally located, but this hostel was quite forgettable. The only thing that stood out is that the common space is right next to the room and there was a group of drunken travelers chatting away including when our alarm went off at 6AM for a flight. 2 stars.

Northern Territory

When was the rating made?
We were there April 9 – April 13, 2007 (Red Centre)
May 6 – May 10, 2007 (Top End)Where did we go?
Alice Springs
Uluru & Kings Canyon
Darwin & the Top End

Alice Springs

Accommodation

  • Alice Lodge Backpackers – Keep searching. While it may seem slightly OK from the outside, this place is not well maintained, the caravans are depressing and the facilities a bit gross. 1.5 stars.
  • Desert Palms – A well-maintained and inexpensive hotel that is worth the slight increase over average hostel budget. The “self-contained” nature of the rooms slightly overestimates the facilities (i.e. we had a refrigerator and sink, but no stove), but overall it was a nice place. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Red Ochre – On the Todd Mall, this restaurant is quite average. 2 stars.
  • Bojangles – A tourist focused restaurant with a lively bar and a good meat selection. The steak was quite tasty and lots of other tables seem to be partaking in the bushtucker such as Camel, Kangaroo and Croc. 2.5 stars.
  • Keller’s – This restaurant is one of the strangest combinations I have seen… It is a Swiss and Indian restaurant, serving a little of each. (The story goes that when the Swiss owner / chef took over the previously Indian restaurant, the locals asked him to keep a few items on the menu. Thus creating the strange combination that has worked for them for more than a decade.) We opted for an Indian appetizer and a Swiss main – we couldn’t miss the opportunity. Strangely, the Indian seemed to be a bit better than the Swiss, but both were acceptable. 2 stars.

Activities

  • MacDonnell Ranges – These mountain ranges are 1-2 hours outside of Alice Springs (depending on where you go). Most of the stops are accessible by 2WD cars. The Standley Chasm is much heralded, but didn’t strike us as particularly fantastic. The Ormiston Gorge was quite beautiful, although due to recent rains we were not able to make the hike around the gorge. Both of these stops are in the West MacDonnells. While the area was beautiful, it didn’t compare to the Flinders Ranges in SA.

 

Uluru & Kings Canyon

This whole area (Yulara and Kings Canyon) is owned by one resort company, Voyages, which seems to have a pretty bad reputation as fas as customer service goes… Having said that, they are literally the only accommodation option unless you want to do a day trip from Alice Springs (which you don’t) and we were actually pleasantly surprised with our rooms… Last piece of advice is to make your reservations on the Voyages website as the prices are much lower than at the hotel.

Accommodation

  • Kings Canyon Resort – The only place to stay at Kings Canyon with a range of accommodation options. We opted for a standard room. The room was fine. The meals were overpriced, but acceptable. When we arrived they tried to increase the cost of our room $100/night! But we eventually won the argument with the manager. 2 stars.
  • Lost Camel Resort (Uluru) – The rooms as small, as is the pool, but it is perfectly nice. I suspect it compares well to the other hotels in the complex. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • BBQ at Kings Canyon Resort – Casual and overpriced, but tasty. 2 stars.
  • Gecko’s at the Lost Camel Resort – Pizza and pasta which is overpriced, but quite good. 2.5 stars.
  • Tali Bar at Sails in the Desert Resort – Serves lunch, but in this case the extreme overcharging was coupled with poor quality… 1.5 stars.

Activities

  • Kings Canyon Ridge Walk – This is labeled a “strenuous” hike, which I think is due to the popularity of the hike. The first twenty minutes of the hike are up a set of steep and uneven stairs, however, the rest of the 6km walk is mostly flat along the ridge of the canyon until you descend to the parking lot. The walk was packed with tour groups, but if you can get a quiet moment to view the canyon, it is impressive.
  • Viewing Uluru – There is nothing like seeing this famous rock in person. As many pictures as you have seen, it is totally different to stand in its midst. It is recommended that you go and view the rock multiple times during your visit to Uluru as the rock appears to be different colors at different points in the day. If you have a rental car, it is far easier to view the rock yourself than take one of the many overpriced tours. If you got at sunset, bring some chairs and some wine.
  • Viewing Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) – For many people, viewing the Olgas and doing the Valley of the Winds walk is more of a highlight that visiting Uluru. This was not true for us, but it is certainly worth a visit.

 

Darwin & the Top End

Accommodation

  • Katherine National Park campground (Katherine) – this is a pretty good campground within the national park. Facilities are comprehensive and basic. 2.5 stars.
  • Litchfield National Park (Florence Fall 4WD camp) – There are no facilities at the campground, but most of the sites are spaced apart nicely. 2.5 stars.
  • Barramundi Lodge (Darwin) – Basic lodging with decent facilities and friendly staff. 2 stars.

Restaurants

  • Go Sushi – Sushi delivered via conveyor belt which always makes sushi eating fun even if the quality is not the best. This is a cheap way to eat lunch in Darwin. 2.5 stars.
  • Hanumen – A fantastic Thai and Indian restaurant that is a welcomed surprise among the otherwise basic tourist fare offered on Mitchell Street. We licked our plates clean! The garlic naan was particularly delicious. 3 stars.

Activities

  • Swimming in Litchfield National Park – The swimming holes in the park are quite scenic and refreshing, but very popular and thus crowded. The crowds take away from the scenic feeling a bit, but when its 105 degrees, this may not matter much…

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Western Australia Part 1

When was the rating made?
We were there April 13 – May 6, 2007 

Where did we go?
Perth
North of Perth
Coral Coast
Pilbara Region
Broome
Gibb River Road
Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles)

Perth

Accommodation

  • Emperor’s Crown (Northbridge) – A great, lively hostel with modern, clean facilities. Some doubles are even available en suite! Good location. 3 stars.

Restaurants

  • Maya Masala (Northbridge) – Average Indian restaurant with fast service. 2 stars.

 

North of Perth

Accommodation

  • Port Gregory Caravan Park – This is a random location that you are unlikely to stumble upon. If for some reason you were going to be drawn to this area, I would look for another place to stay. Kalbarri is only another hour up the road and has many more options. The camping spaces are packed in together and the facilities are quite worn. Having said that, there did seem to be a friendly vibe in the park. 1.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Echo Cafe (Kalbarri) – We only stopped in for a morning snack, but the coffee was good and the ambience on the quiet porch was quite enjoyable. 2 stars.
  • Gorges Cafe (Kalbarri) – We only stopped for an afternoon snack here, but the quiche was absolutely fantastic! The pastry of the quiche seemed to have a bit of lemon in it – delicious! 2.5 stars.

Activities

  • Pinnacles Desert – This trip is a main attraction about 250km north of Perth. The park gets a lot of visitors, but it is far enough away that it doesn’t seem commercialized. The pinnacles are impressive and the sand is an unusual bright yellow.
  • Kalbarri National Park – We did not encounter this park on the right day. The views were not that impressive, but the flies were absolutely oppressive! I am sure it has more to offer than we were able to enjoy, but this stop was not a standout.

 

Coral Coast

Accommodation

  • Monkey Mia Resort Dolphin Lodge (Monkey Mia) – The resort is quite big. It’s the only place in Monkey Mia, famous for the daily visits from the local dolphins. The Lodge is the lower cost accommodation option and the facilities were quite good. We brought all of our food and the camp kitchen was large and easy to share among the many guests. While it does not have the most beautiful beach on earth, the offerings here are great for a relaxing stop along a trip north or south.
  • Bay View Holiday Park (Coral Bay) – Coral Bay is a cute, very small town, but this caravan park leaves something to be desired. The sites are very small, the facilities are quite worn and the rates are on the high side. The neighboring campground is supposed to be nicer as is the plentiful camping between Coral Bay and Exmouth in the national park. 2 stars.

Activities

  • Dolphin feedings – the dolphins have been coming to this spot for over 40 years. While the crowd can be a bit big, watching the dolphins from knee deep water, it is a great opportunity to get up close to these magnificent creatures. Unlike most dolphin encounters, this is not a separate charge once you are here.
  • Catamaran cruise – We did the Dudong sighting trip and were able to spot one of the elusive creatures. Overall, there was not a lot of wildlife visible on the trip, but it was a very relaxing couple of hours on the water.
  • Snorkeling on Ningaloo Reef – The snorkeling here is quite impressive and is available just off the beach in Coral Bay. The snorkeling trips are 2 hours and are relatively inexpensive. We took a glass bottomed boat out and were able to get a great view of the coral and the fish as we traveled out. Of the two hours we got about an hour in the water and went to two different sites.

Pilbara Region

Places in this region are often hundreds of kilometers from the next stop, so you need to come prepared to be entirely self-sufficient – food and water included.
Accommodation

  • Tom Price Caravan Park (Tom Price)- Basic campground with passable facilities. Nothing to write home about but its the only caravan park for hundreds of kilometers. Tom Price is also a refill supplies. 2 stars.
  • Cove Caravan Park (Point Samson) – Newly renovated caravan park with great facilities and grassy sites on the beach in Point Samson. 2 minute walk to Honeymoon Cove. Trees have been planted, but they will need to grow for a few years before shade is available. 2.5 stars.
  • Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park – Not really in the Pilbara Region or really anywhere… It is between Perth and Broome. The grounds are nice and have shade, but given the heat, a cabin might be a better option. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Moby’s (Point Samson) – Offers wonderfully fresh fish and good salad and coleslaw to go along with it. 3 stars.


Activities

  • Karijini National Park – Huge national park is most famous for multiple gorges with wonderful swimming holes below them. Fern Pool in Dale’s Gorge is refreshing and nearly majestic if you can catch a visit in between tour groups. Having said that, visits to the park are nothing like they would be if it was any closer to a major city. It’s serene nature is protected by its isolated location.

 

Broome

Overall, Broome is an expensive location to visit. Being 2000km in either direction from another place of its size, it costs a lot to get things here. But the remoteness is also part of its charm…
Accommodation

  • Kimberly Klub – An acceptable hostel and the most popular one in Broome. This place is exactly what I imagined popular spring break spots were like when I made sure to avoid them in college. no other place along the way has made us feel so old, but the facilities are fine. That said, accommodation is really expensive in Broome and this is supposedly the best of the low cost options. 2 stars.
  • Waterfront B&B – Not an inexpensive option, but a quiet retreat. There are only 2 rooms at the B&B. Breakfasts are very tasty and the bathroom is outdoors allowing you to shower under the stars. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Zanders – A great place to watch the sunset overlooking Cable Beach. The food is good, but a bit pricey. 2.5 stars.
  • Town Beach Cafe – A casual quiet eatery overlooking town beach. The barra burger is delicious. 2.5 stars.
  • Aarli Bar – Not actually a bar, its a restaurant… Decent pizzas and good breakfasts. 2.5 stars.
  • Cafe Carlotta – Reputed to be the best restaurant in town. This place did stand out from the rest serving good Italian food. 3 stars.
  • Matso’s Brewery – Great ginger beer and a good chicken salad. There is also a curry bar in the garden that serves up decent Thai food. 3 stars.
  • Noodlefish – Thai influenced cuisine. Well reputed in Broome, but we thought it was only decent for the price. 2.5 stars.

Activities

  • Red Dirt Photography – An unusual tour… The first we have seen of its kind. Nigel Kelly takes you out on a full day helping you learn more about your camera and also how to improve your composition. 3 stars.
  • Willie Creek Pearl Lugger tour – A nice afternoon cruise (including sunset) on a replica pearl lugger. The snacks were very tasty and it was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. 3 stars.

 

Gibb River Road

The Gibb River Road is an unsealed 4WD road stretching 655km from Derby to Wyndham. There is limited accommodation and facilities on the road.
Accommodation

  • Mornington Wilderness Camp – This is a very special place located 88km off the Gibb, taking 3 hours to pass. The area is full of wildlife and feels like a real oasis. Camping facilities were basic. They offer other types of accommodation, tours and meals. 3 stars.
  • Mt. Elizabeth Station – Basic camping facilities on a working station. Owners were friendly and gave us the night for free because we were the first campers of the season! Homestead accommodation is also available. 2 stars.
  • El Questro Wilderness Camp – The million acre property is quite extraordinary, however, the property is unfortunately owned by a huge resort company that tends to overcharge for everything. We stayed at in the private camping area and had our own little private area to camp. The gorges in the area were amazing. 2.5 stars.

Activities
Several of the main attractions, like Bell Gorge, were still closed from the Wet when we drove the road, but we thought it was a great time of year because crowds were limited, the area was still very green and the river crossings were quite exciting.

  • Dimond Gorge at Mornington Wilderness Camp – An exciting 4WD track leads out to the gorge. There are swimming holes nearby and canoes available for rent from reception.
  • El Questro Gorge at El Questro – If you come early in the season, the swimming homes on this walk are lovely.

 

Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles)

Temperatures are extremely hot in the park because the heat gets trapped by all the rock. Be prepared because there is no air conditioning in the park 🙂
Accommodation

  • There are two camp grounds in the National Park – neither have any real facilities. The one on the right is closer to the beehive domes that make the Bungle Bungles famous. If you spend 2 nights, it is recommended to spend one night in each.

Activities

  • Cathedral Gorge walk – This is the most famous walk in the Bungles. It is an easy walk and allows you to be up close to the rocks, but the gorge itself if not particularly impressive.
  • Domes Walk – A short addition to add to the Cathedral Gorge walk gives you up close access to the beehive domes.
  • Echidna Chasm Walk – This walk really surprised us. The chasm is quite impressive and was much longer than I expected. It is worth the trip.

Western Australia Part 2

When was the rating made?
We were there April 24 – May 4, 2008

This was part of our return trip to Australia in 2008. We loved WA so much, we decided to go back to see the lovely southwest WA!

Where did we go?
Porongurup
Esperance
Denmark
Margaret River

Porongurup

Accommodation

  • Porongurup Caravan Park – This park has basic facilities just outside the boundaries of the Porongurup National Park. The hosts were very friendly and helpful at the park.

Activities

  • Hiking in Porongurup National Park – pose with the famous Balancing Rock.

 

Esperance

Accommodation

  • Croker’s Tourist Park – A nice caravan park, but the location is terrible. Our camp site was right next to the highway, which seems like a waste in an area with endless empty beaches.
  • Island View Apartments – Across the street from the water near the Tanker Jetty. Apartments are nicely finished, but getting a little worn down.

Restaurants

  • Taylor Street Jetty Cafe – A popular local restaurant. While it is a bit over-priced, the location was great.

Activities

  • Cape Le Grande National Park – This is one of the great attractions in the area. We hiked Frenchman’s Peak for an overlook the water from many different directions. Lucky Bay is magnificent.
  • Drive Great Ocean Drive – This 38km drive is a loop just outside Esperance, bringing you along the coast to many empty gorgeous beaches.
  • Visit Fitzgerald National Park – The drive through this park is exquisite with lots of great picnic and camping spots.

Denmark

Accommodation

  • Tree Elle Retreat – These are gorgeous houses located outside Denmark. The grounds boast a wonderful garden from where you can pick fresh veggies and herbs for dinner. The fresh bread and homemade yogurt weren’t bad either!

Activities

  • Visit Greens Pool – Of the long beautiful beaches on the coast, this one stands out.
  • Wine tasting at the tasty local vineyards

Margaret River

Accommodation

  • House rental from In House Holidays. This place rents high-end homes in the Margaret River region. We had an ocean view in a modern home.

Restaurants

  • Sea Garden Cafe – A great breakfast near Prevelly Beach.

Activities

  • Wine tasting – There are so many to choose from – some of our favorites were Eagle Vale vineyard and Cape Grace winery.
  • Tour Jewell Cave – See the stalagmites in this large cave
  • Visit the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin – Stand at the intersection of the Southern Ocean and the Indian Ocean at the most southwesterly point in Australia.

 

Queensland

When was the rating made?
We were there May 10 – May 17Where did we go?
Port Douglas
Brisbane

Port Douglas

Accommodation

  • Parrotfish Lodge – a simple hostel with an active nightlife. Doubles have ensuites available. 2.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Ecco Cafe – A hopeful menu, but the food doesn’t quite deliver. It is tasty, but not as good as the menu would indicate. 2 stars.
  • Salsa Bar and Grill – the tastiest meal that we had in Port Douglas. The linguine with garlic and crab was particularly delicious. 3 stars.
  • Combine Club – A less expensive dinner option that allows you to sit right on the water. The food is nothing to write home about, but the view is why you are there. 2.5 stars.
  • Siam of Thailand – A mediocre Thai restaurant. 2 stars.
  • Cocina Mexicana – A mediocre Mexican restaurant, but not too expensive. Let’s face it, the Aussies don’t have any decent Mexican food here. 2 stars.
  • Hey, Hey Noodle Shop – Inexpensive Asian noodles make a decent lunch option. 2 stars.

Activities

  • Trip out to the reef – This is the reason that people come to Port Douglas. The Great Barrier Reef is closest to land from here. Although this makes the trip more convenient, it also means that this area has suffered some of the worst reef damage due to tourism. Either way, the reef is on the edge of instinction from global warming, so it is worth a visit before it is too late. We used Haba tours, but I don’t think they are particularly better than similar tours offered from other companies.
  • River cruise – we went on a cruise in Port Douglas. We didn’t see any crocs on our trip, although this is pretty unusual. My guess is that the cruises on the Daintree River a little north of here are probably a lot better.
  • Flames of the Forest – A dinner in the rain forest about 15 minutes from Port Douglas. This is definitely a tourist attraction and you pay dearly for it, but it is also pretty special to listen to the didjeridoo played against the sounds of the forest.

 

Brisbane

Accommodation

  • Bunk Brisbane – A large, hostel trying to be part of the new “boutique budget hotel” trend and it does it pretty well. 3 stars.

Restaurants

  • Vietname Restaurant – Located just across the street from the Chinatown mall, this restaurant has very inexpensive and quite tasty food. 3 stars.
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