Nature Travel Australia

Highlighting the hidden gems

6 Things To Do At Cape Hillsborough

When most people think of Cape Hillsborough they think of the wallabies. This is for a good reason; it is such a thrill to capture one of Australians iconic marsupials silhouetted against a beachside sunset.

The region has other ecological gems that are worth checking out while you are there. Here are my top tips.

Smalleys Beach

Smalleys Beach is a camping area within the park that is well known for the local wildlife.

Smalleys beach is 1.3 km long beach bordered by a creek mouth and a vegetated, rocky knowl in the west, and the prominent high peak behind cape hillsborough in the each. It consists of a steep, course grained, 30m wide high tide beach and essentially flat, 1-2km wide low tide sand and mud floats, with rocks bordering the cape shoreline.

via Beaches of the Queensland Coast, Cooktown to Coolangatta

Smalleys beach can be good for beach stone curlew, striated heron, Great and Eastern reef egret, grey tailed tattler and whimbrel

via Finding Australian Birds: A Field Guide to Birding Locations

Wedge island:

A great walk is out to Wedge Island. You can reach it from the Andrews Point walking trail, however, you can only do this at the fall of low tide.

via Australian Explorer

There are many beautiful and secluded places to swim with popular snorkelling spots being around Wedge Island and Orchid Rock, or the foot of Cape Hillsborough.  Here spectacular soft corals and a wide variety of fish, turtles, crustaceans and other sea life can be observed.

via Cape Hillsborough Resort

The causeway can also be home to rockpools. Inside Scout also recommends visiting Orchid Rock, which “looks magnificent in September as it blooms with the orchids it is named after.”

Walking trails:

Diversity Boardwalk

Meander through Melaleuca woodland, a mangrove community, open eucalypt forest and vine thicket. The diversity of the unique flora that forms to create the natural paradise of Cape Hillsborough National Park is represented along the popular Diversity Boardwalk. This trail illustrates the way the Yuibera Aboriginal people used the park’s native plants for survival. Large rhyolite boulders scattered over the headlands and beaches of this naturally breathtaking area are a reminder of volcanic activity millions of years ago, as are volcanic plugs and other unique rock formations found in the park. The first 300 metres of the Diversity Boardwalk is accessible to wheelchairs. The complete trail is a 1.2 kilometre return journey and takes 40 minutes to complete, allowing time to appreciate the natural beauty of the walk. Butterfly lovers will enjoy this walk as different breeds of butterfly can be seen year-round.

via Mackay Region

Beachcomber Cove

This track passes through open eucalypt forest and remnant rainforest with hoop pines, ferns and vines. There is a lookout at the top of the ridge. In the wet season several freshwater springs trickle down the hill. The major water course in the wet season is Cascade Creek which flows down into gentle falls with a swimming hole, and then across the beach.

via Cape Hillsborough Resort

Yuibera Plants Trail

The Yuibera plant trail is an easy self-guided trail highlighting the coastal way of life and the traditional use of plants by the Traditional Owners. You’ll get fascinating insight into the important connection between Aboriginal people and their country. You might even learn to spot some bush tucker.

via Queensland National Parks

More information via the Queensland.com website

Along this trail, look for rose crowned and wompoo fruit-dove, pied imperial pigeon, red tailed black cockatoo, pale headed rosella, pheasant coucal and fairy gerygone.

via Finding Australian Birds: A Field Guide to Birding Locations

Andews Point

The Andrews Point Track is fantastic walk which follows the coast. There are six lookouts along the track, all of which offer great views of the beautiful scenery. If the tide is low you can return along the beach, however, you should check the tides before following this route

via Australian Explorer

 

 

7 Things To Do In Whyalla

I’m obsessed with Whyalla because of the cuttlefish. Thousands gather in the shallows during May and August to mate. It is a magnificent site, one of the true wonders.

It can be easy to over look what else the region has to offer. Here are my top tips.

 

Whyalla Conservation park.

Whyalla Conservation Park is a popular place with the locals. Instagram is ablaze with views of Wild Dog Hill at sunset and sunrise. It is located just 10 km away from the main township.

It is also worth visiting for the unique flora and fauna. You can learn more about the species you can find there at the Friends Of Whyalla Conservation Park Website.

The park is roughly divisible into two sections. The eastern plain with Western Myall (Acacia papyrocarpa) as the dominant species with some Sugarwood (Myoporum platycarpum), Bullock-bush (Alectryon oleifolium) and Native Peach (Tantalum acuminatum) and Black Oak (Casuarina cristata). The understorey is mostly Bluebush (Maireana sedifolia) and Bladder Saltbush (Atriplex vesicaria). The western portion is dissected by a series of low lying hills supporting Narrow-leaved Fuchsia Bush (Eremophila alternifolia), Lobe-leaved Hop-bush (Dodonaea lobulata) and Rock Side (Sida calyxhymenia).

The most outstanding topographic feature in the park is Wild Dog Hill (90m), in the north-west corner, a sandstone outcrop rising abruptly from the plain.

via Birds SA

Point Lowly

Point Lowly marks the entrance to the narrow basin of upper Spencer Gulf. Wind generated waves dominate the upper Spencer Gulf coastline which is protected from the ocean swell. The area has regular dodge tides every fortnight. During a dodge tide there is no tidal movement for a period of a day or two. This phenomenon is experienced in only a few other locations in the world.

via Seaside Lights

It makes for a lovely drive from Whyalla.

Freycinent Trail

The Freycinet Trail extends 12 kilometres along the coastline of Fitzgerald Bay in the Upper Spencer Gulf. Beginning at the northern end of Fitzgerald Bay it follows the coastline to the southern tip of the bay at Point Lowly.

via About Australia

The trail which is ideal for cycling, walking or driving, features interpretive signs that explain Aboriginal and European history as well geological and biological features.

via Naturally South Australia

Hummock Hill Lookout

Hummock Hill affords an unequalled view of Whyalla and the vast OneSteel operations; Whyalla Foreshore and Marina; across Spencer Gulf to the Southern Flinders Ranges – including the nearby Santos plant at Port Bonython and the Point Lowly Lighthouse; and westward over the city towards the iron ore rich Middleback Ranges. It is a photographer’s paradise to capture views of Whyalla.

via Whyalla Council Website

Whyalla Wetlands

The Whyalla Wetlands is both a recreational and educational storm water purification facility developed by the Whyalla City Council. It’s based on the remaining 24.8 hectares of the original aerodrome, which operated on the site until 1951. The final development includes almost 6 hectares of artificial lakes fed by a combination of underground seepage and storm water runoff.

via Birds SA

Flinders & Freycinet Lookout

These abstract life-size statues commemorate the bicentenary of the charting of Spencer Gulf coastlines by English and French explorers, Matthew Flinders and Louis de Freycinet, in 1802. Located at the intersection of Farrell and Elliott Streets, they have magnificent views of upper Spencer Gulf, the Southern Flinders Ranges and Middleback Ranges.

via Eyre Peninsula

False Bay

False Bay, as the name implies, is an 11 km wide open south facing bay, which however is occupied entirely by very wide, low gradient tidal, sand and salt flats, in places up to 7 km wide. While much of the curving bay shore faces into the south through southeast, the tidal flats afford sufficient protection to maintain five very low energy beach along the shore. Only the two boundary beaches are accessible by vehicles, the central three are surrounded by salt and tidal flats and tidal creeks.

via Beach Safe

In 2013, a tiger spotfish was sighted here

7 Things To Do In Port Campbell

Port Campbell felt like a hidden treasure. We stopped there for a late lunch after a busy day seeing all the attractions between Apollo Bay and the 12 Apostles. We sat down on the beach for some fish and chips, watching people swim in the safe inlet and fish off the jetty. It was incredibly picturesque and I knew I wanted to return. I struggled to find much information about what to do there, all the brochures and websites seemed to talk about the nearby attractions.

This post curates the best of my research. It highlights attractions that anyone can do, mostly within 2-3 km of the township.

Port Campbell Inlet

This is a beautiful area along the coastline. It’s a sheltered beach, dwarfed by the two cliffs on either side. It makes for an incredibly picturesque place to take a break if you are doing the great ocean road as a daytrip. It’s one of the few places along this part of the coast where it is actually safe to swim.

Port Campbell Discovery walk

This walk is considered to be a ‘must do’ for those visiting Port Campbell.  There are beautiful, unobstructed views of the coastline towards the twelve apostles.

The 3.8km walk starts at Port Campbell Creek, near the surf life saving club. You get amazing views of the local attractions such as the scenic lookout, Sentinal rock and Two Mile Bay.  The walk is meant to take about one and a half hours, but it depends on what wonders may distract you along the way.

Note:  (From the Visit 12 Apostles website)

Access via steps near the mouth of Campbells Creek is not advisable without knowledge of recent rainfall, tides and sea and swell conditions (contact the Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre – 1300 137 255) but is often accessible during the drier months.

Two mile bay

Two Mile Bay is a very open, 3 km long bay that extends west of Port Campbell. Unlike the adjacent coast, the bluffs here are protected by an ancient raised platform, capped by the remnants of a beach, dune and swamp. The vegetated, 60 m high bluffs show what the entire coast would have looked like before the sea level rose (about 6 000 years ago) and reactivated the cliffs.There is a road out to the bluffs with a car park, and a track down to Two Mile Bay Beach. Shelly Beach lies immediately to the east. The beaches face south and, while exposed to high waves, are partially protected by reefs extending 200 to 300 m offshore. Shelly Beach is 300 m long and fronted by a continuous calcarenite platform that is exposed at low tide, with reefs further offshore.The main Two Mile Bay Beach is 100 m long and backed initially by low calcarenite spurs, then by bluffs rising to 60 m. It has direct access to the sea with usually a heavy shorebreak, but extensive reefs off the beach.

via Beachsafe

According to Port Campbell hostel, “the wave at 2-Mile is one of Australia’s largest surfable waves (around 40-foot high face, in the correct conditions), which normally comes to life each April and May.”

See The Little Penguins

You don’t get penguins at Port Campbell, however it is definitely worth tracking town nearby populations if you are using the town as a base. Both the twelve apostles and london bridge have colonies that you can see at dusk. According to the official 12 apostles website, “the population of birds is significantly more at the 12 Apostles (around 800 birds) but viewers are a little closer to the birds at London Bridge.”

Port Campbell Boat Charters

It’s one thing to see the beauty of the great ocean road from atop the many lookouts and cliffs. It’s completely different, and amazing, to see the coastline from the ocean. This tour provides up close and personal views of the coastal formations and comprehensive interpretation of coastal geology and shipwreck history.

You can get more information from their website or asking at the Port Campbell information centre.

Sturgess Point

Sturgess point is a short walk from the centre of Port Campbell. You can get great views of the beach and township. You can get more information about this walk in “Walks of the Shipwreck Coast & Volcano Country.”

The Arches Marine Sanctuary

Just off the coast near Port Campbell, The Arches Marine Sanctuary protects 45ha of remarkable seascape. This area is known for the above water limestone landscape, however 19 to 25m below the waves there is a labyrinth of towering limestone canyons, caves, arches and walls. It is these structures which give the park its name. The area is characterised by high energy waves and cool water with flows from the Southern Ocean.

via Parks Victoria

This site is well known for its colonies of brightly coloured sea fans, lace corals and gorgonian sponges. Fish species often seen include sweep, zebra fish, marble cod, magpie perch, Australian Salmon, scaly fin and Port Jackson sharks. This marine sanctuary is also home to rock lobsters, abalone and an array of other molluscs and starfish.

 

10 Kid Friendly Activities Around Apollo Bay

View of Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay has often been overshadowed by its much more popular cousin, Lorne. Let’s face it, Lorne has considerably more tourist attractions and is an hour closer to Melbourne.

Despite all that Lorne offers, Apollo Bay has remained a family favourite. I went there most summers as a child and return there with my family now. It’s more laid back and is a great base for a lot of activities in the region.

Here are my favourite suggestions for where to visit with your family.

Apollo Bay Harbour

IMG_6284

I know what you are saying. How interesting can a harbour be? Isn’t it just boats and stuff? It’s actually pretty brilliant, we go there most days to see what is there.

There are a number of sting rays in the area that will swim quite close to the shore. Some of them are quite huge! If you talk to the locals, you’ll learn that many of them have names.

As sun sets, you will notice more fish hanging around the edges of the harbour. We’ve never had much luck fishing for them

Behind the Harbour

IMG_0919

If you walk behind the habour there is a small stretch of beach between the rocks of the habour and the barham river mouth. There are some interesting rock formations here that are a milder version of the ones further ahead at Marengo beach.

It’s a fun place to look at the rocks and can be the scene for beautiful sunsets. These are one of the safer areas for rock hopping.

Barham River Mouth

IMG_9714

The river mouth is a short walk from Apollo Bay, maybe 500 meters from the main street. We love it because it is less busy then the main beach and doesn’t have the waves.

You do have to be careful in the summer months, as hooded plovers nest on the opposite side. I’ve also found double banded plovers and crested terns hanging around here once the families have left.

We also enjoy walking along the river past the caravan park and making a loop behind the town. You can get some lovely river birds here.

Marengo Rockpools

IMG_0949

IMG_0910

Marengo Reef Marine Sanctuary protects the only offshore exposed reef between Cape Otway and Cape Schanck (Explore Underwater Victoria). On shore, however, is where the magic lies for the kids.

Visit here at low tide and you will see dozens upon dozens of rockpools. We’ve spent hours here and discovered crabs, starfish and a variety of other creatures. It can be a good introduction to marine life and jumping over the rocks will tire the kids out… a little bit.

For the grownups, it can be a great area for landscape photography. You can get more tips here.

Visit the Marengo Seal Colony

IMG_0723

Unlike the others, this activity isn’t free. It is definitely worth the money.

Apollo Bay Fishing and Adventure tours offer boat trips to the seal colony at Marengo. My nephew and I have done this and it was a blast.

It takes an hour and you get to visit the outer rocks where the seals like to hang out. You can see these rocks from the shore but you can barely see the seals, even with the binoculars or camera. This trip takes you near the rocks and you get to spend 15 minutes watching the seals swim around the boat. We thought it was magic.

Paradise Picnic Ground

IMG_9581

Paradise Picnic Ground is a hidden secret of Apollo Bay – overshadowed by the considerably more crowded Maits Rest and Melba Gully. While it doesn’t have the formal walking paths and signage, it does have a sense of privacy that you don’t get at the other locations.

It is located 6-7 km away. Follow the signs that say “Barham River scenic drive.” This is actually a beautiful drive in the hinterland behind Apollo Bay. About half way, you will get to a toilet and sign “Paradise Picnic Reserve.”

This area is great for exploring the rainforest. There is a lot of fungi and bugs if you look close enough. Even better, there will be considerably less people then at other locations.

Shelley Beach

Shelly beach - part of the great ocean walk

Shelley beach is about 7km away from Apollo Bay and 5km away from Marengo. The rock formations here are very similar. The main difference is that the rainforest meets the ocean. This can make for some brilliant rock hopping but the kids will definitely need supervision. The sealife is very similar to Marengo.

The location is isolated so you will definitely have to watch the tides.

Blanket Bay

IMG_0257

Blanket Bay is very similar to Marengo rockpools, however on a much larger scale. The rock formations are entirely different and so are the creatures you will find. It’s well worth coming here on low tide to explore.

The birds here are magnificent and I’ve found koalas in the main camping area. It is popular with campers but is still pretty secluded. The walks here are lovely, the plantlife is different from many of the other areas. I recommend going a bit further to Parket Inlet for great views if you have the time.

The snorkeling is also meant to be great here.

Carisbrook Creek

IMG_1394

Carisbrook creek used to just be a quiet area where a creek met the ocean. Now it has transformed to a place with hundreds of rock stacks.

One person created a couple of stacks one visit and others followed. It has now become a hint, with dozens of people exploring the area each time we’ve passed.

It’s brilliant for photography but can be boring for some of the younger kids. We had fun looking at some of the more precarious rockpiles, as well as ones that people had shaped to look like people.

Carisbrook falls is also nearby. Combine with a trip to Kennett River.

Kennett River

Wild koala at kennett river

Kennett River is another favourite of ours – we often stop here on our trip down to the bay. The area is well known for its koala population and it’s a lot more pedestrian friendly then Cape Otway.

You’ll also find a lot of wild birds here, especially king parrots and crimson rosellas. You can buy bird seed at the nearby store.

It can be quite busy with the tourist buses coming here to see the koalas.

Need more information?

  • Check out tips and reviews on TripAdvisor
  • Look for accomodation ideas on Booking.com

10 Top Things To Do In Bicheno

Many people know Bicheno as a beautiful seaside village, famous for its seafood. It’s a family-friendly town, close to Freycinet National Park and roughly halfway between Launceston and Hobart. It can be a fun location to break up the trip.

Here are my top recommendations.

Bicheno Foreshore Walkway

This walkway links Redbill Beach, Waub’s Bay, The Gulch, the Rocking Rock and Blow Hole and Rice Pebble Beach. Keep your eyes on the ocean along the way for sightings of whales, dolphins, penguins or maybe even seals. The walkway follows the coast from Redbill Beach at the end of Gordon Street in the north to Rice Pebble Beach at the end of Weily Avenue in the south. You can access the walk at various locations between these beaches.

via Highway traveller

The walk goes for only 3 kilometres but easily can take 2+ hours to do if you stop and look at all the sights along the way.  It covers the popular attractions, such as the blowhole and rocking rock.

Bicheno Blowhole

The blowhole is one of Bicheno’s natural wonders where you can view saltwater blasts from the top of this unique geological feature. Air is blown through a small hole at the surface due to pressure differences between a closed underground system and the surface. When the seas are pumping, the blowhole puts on a spectacular display! The 80 tonne boulder next to the blowhole rocks with the tide.

via Bicheno.com.au

The blowhole is considered to be one of the areas top attractions and is often photographed. Online reviews have been mixed, though. Some say it doesn’t stand up compared to other blowholes and only really shines when the weather is bad. They do emphasise that it is the blowhole combined with the location that does make it stand out.

But once you’re at the Bicheno Blowhole, approach with caution. Because if the ocean swell is big enough, water can shoot 20 metres in the air; and it’s very hard to escape as it rains down over the lichen-covered rocks.

via Think Tasmania

Bicheno Penguin Tours

Bicheno penguin tours offer a quieter affair than some of the interstate penguin attractions, such as Phillip Island. There is a decent sized colony located on private property close to the township.

The boardwalk allows you to get quite close, closer than with many other experiences. The conservation backstory is also really fascinating.

When they began in 1992, the penguin colony had been reduced to 40 birds because of the assault of feral cats and local dogs. In their first season, Male and Wardlaw culled more than 40 cats and today no more than two or three still roam that part of the coast. Now as many as 600 birds come ashore at the peak of the season, and year round there is a continuing presence.

via Bicheno Penguin Tours

Bicheno’s Glass Bottom Boat

Tourists rave about the tours on the glass bottom boat in Bicheno and with good reason. The staff are really knowledgeable and friendly. The diversity in the shores around Tasmania is just amazing and this tour allows you to get an up-close view without actually having to go in the water. You can see kelp, seals, stingrays, fish and a wide array of other animals.

Highly recommended as a family activity.

Whalers lookout

Going to whalers lookout doesn’t actually increase your chance of seeing whales, however you still get lovely views. There are two lookouta here, east and west, looking over Waubs Bay and Governer Island.  In October and November, you can find rock orchids.

Governers Island Marine Park

The marine reserve at Governor Island provides some of the best diving in Australia. Shallow kelp-covered reef quickly drops down to spectacular sponge gardens. Butterfly perch and other fish swarm across the bottom. Granite boulders and ledges provide habitat for kelp in the shallows and colourful invertebrates below 25 to 30 metres. Depth and exposure in much of this reserve means that it is most suited to experienced scuba divers and boat operators. Less challenging dives down to around 24 metres can be found around the smaller islands such as Bird Rock. At these sites, a small torch will help you investigate the numerous overhangs and small caves which are covered by colourful sponges, zoanthids and other invertebrates.

Governor Island is also an important sea-bird rookery. One of Tasmania’s largest breeding populations of crested terns nest on the island.

Via Parks Tasmania

Douglas Apsley National Park

Douglas-Apsley National Park is incredibly diverse, with river gorges and waterfalls, eucalypt forest and heathlands overlooked by a dolerite-capped plateau. The park also supports many rare and endangered species that only exist here.

Short strolls from the Waterhole take in water views and the picturesque Apsley Gorge, with its tranquil pools and undisturbed river scenes. Longer walks lead through wildflower marshlands, wet gullies and deep gorges to spectacular waterfalls.

via Discover Tasmania

Douglas-Apsley National Park is a good example of the dry eucalypt woodlands found across much of the eastern Tasmania. With an interesting diversity of eucalypts (the park contains over half of the Tasmania’s species), the main types included Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulas), White (Manna) Gum (E. viminalis) and the endemic Black Peppermint (E. amygdalina).

via Tim Dolbys blog

You can read more about it at the Parks Tasmania website

Diamond Island Nature Reserve

Off the northern end of Redbill Beach is this photogenic granite outcrop, connected to the mainland via a short, semi-submerged, sandy isthmus, which you can wade across. Time your expedition with low tide – otherwise you might end up chest-deep in the waves trying to get back!

via Lonely Planet

It is popular with visitors because it is home to colonies of little penguins (200 pairs in 2002), short-tailed shearwaters and sooty oystercatchers. It is a popular walk (or wade) for visitors and is particularly rewarding for birdwatchers

via Aussie Towns

Note the Seaberry Saltbush on the island.

The Porches

When driving north from Bicheno the turnoff to theApsley River heads off to the left just past the town boundary. A great place for swimming in the summer. The Bicheno Golf Course is opposite the turnoff. A couple of kilometres further on is the very popular Natureworld which includes the Devil’s Island project. Another couple of kilometres further north the road crosses Denison Rivulet. There is a car park on the northern side of the bridge. A 30 minute walk north along the beach are Porch Rocks and the formations known as The Porches.

via Touring Tasmania

Devils in the dark tour

This amazing animal can be seen at many parks and zoos but the opportunity to see this nocturnal animal come to life after dark in an as wild as possible setting is very special and unique. This tour allows you to visit the park at night, and see devils displaying wild behaviours within a natural setting, enabling visitors to watch devils at their best. It’s as close as you can come to the real thing and is brilliant for those who don’t have time to go mammal-spotting.

Tours depart Bicheno each evening. You can book online up to 30 minutes prior to the departure time. You can find more information on their website.