Australia – The Barefoot Nomad https://www.thebarefootnomad.com Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Fri, 15 Jun 2018 22:40:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Best Things to do in Darwin https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/the-best-things-to-do-in-darwin/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/the-best-things-to-do-in-darwin/#comments Tue, 08 May 2018 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=16445 This guest post is brought to you by Shandos of Travelnuity, who shares her top things to do in Darwin, Australia.

When most visitors to Australia consider what cities to visit, generally the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne firstly spring to mind. But up north, closer to the cities of South East Asia, is a very different Australian city: Darwin.

If you’re wanting to head out on a road trip to Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, exploring their natural beauty and Aboriginal culture, Darwin will be your launching point. But it’s also worthwhile exploring its attractions for a couple of days.

Six of the Best Things to do in Darwin

Some of Darwin’s top attractions explore its short but turbulent history, from being bombed in World War II to being destroyed by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day, 1974. Other Darwin activities and attractions take advantage of its beautiful tropical weather and surroundings. These are my top picks for what to do in Darwin.

Head to Mindil Beach Sunset Market

One of the favorite experiences of both visitors and locals in Darwin is heading to the Mindil Beach Sunset Market.

It’s held at Mindil Beach, just outside of the city center, next to Darwin Casino. The market runs during the dry season (from late April to late October), and is held every Thursday (kicking off at 5 pm) and every Sunday (starting at 4 pm). There’s plenty of stalls selling everything from Aboriginal artifacts and handmade souvenirs to dresses and clothing from Thailand and Indonesia, but the real highlight are the food stalls.

Perhaps start with some fresh oysters, before continuing on to a variety of dishes reflecting Darwin’s multicultural population. Options usually include Indonesian, Chinese, Thai and Indian. Plus there’s distinctive Australian dishes on offer, such as kangaroo and crocodile. Enjoy your dinner on the beach, hopefully taking in a beautiful sunset over the harbor, before wrapping up with dessert.

Visit the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

Located along Darwin’s long waterfront just outside the city centre is the impressive (and free) Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, one of Darwin Australia’s points of interest. Don’t miss the chance to explore their large collection of indigenous art, from bark parkings to ceremonial poles, perhaps catching the yearly National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.

Another highlight of the museum is the interactive display about Cyclone Tracy and the impact it had on the city, including a darkened room where you can listen to its monstrous sound. Don’t also miss the stuffed body of Sweetheart the crocodile. This mammoth 5 meter long, 780 kg beast was killed locally after it attacked several fishing boats. You can even see live crocodiles on a local jumping crocodile tour, though likely none as big as Sweetheart.

Visit the Darwin Aviation Heritage Centre

Just south of Darwin is the Aviation Heritage Centre. Due to Darwin’s isolation plus strategic military importance, aviation has always played a key role in Darwin’s history. The museum isn’t just for aviation buffs, but for anyone interested in history or just seeing an impressive collection of planes.

The stand-out attraction of the museum is its B52 bomber. It was predominantly based in Darwin by the US Airforce during the Vietnam War era and has since been donated on permanent loan to the people of Darwin. It’s one of only two such aircraft outside of the USA, and it’s huge bulk looms above everything else in the air hangar.

Other aircraft on display are a mixture of military and passenger craft, including Spitfire planes, Tiger Moth biplays and helicopters. There are also interesting displays on the Australian Royal Flying Doctors service and aircraft involved in WWII and Vietnam.

Explore the Impact of World War II

Darwin was on the front-line during World War II, particularly after the fall of Singapore and the Japanese invasion of what’s now Papua New Guinea. The city was bombed multiple times and there are a multitude of sites around Darwin and further south linked to WWII. Examples include old airfields, military installations, bombing sites and memorials.

For a good overview of the WWII history of Darwin, visit the Defence of Darwin Experience and Darwin Military Museum. Both are located at the East Point Military Precinct. The Defence of Darwin Experience features numerous interactive, multimedia displays, culminating in a 20-minute show.

Another important site located just over 100 km south of Darwin on the main highway is the Adelaide River War Cemetery. It’s the only war cemetery on Australian soil, and includes a poignant memorial.

Chill out at the Waterfront Lagoons

Despite its tropical weather and large harbor, unfortunately the beaches of Darwin are largely a no-go zone for swimming, due to the presence of salt-water crocodiles and many sharks.

If you’re wanting to cool off, head instead to the Wave Lagoon and Recreation Lagoon located on Darwin’s waterfront. The Wave Lagoon produces 10 different wave patterns, with a 10-minute rest in between each 20 minute session. The Recreation Lagoon meanwhile has a sandy beach and stinger-filtered seawater. Both are patrolled by lifeguards. Entry is free to the Recreation Lagoon, while a fee is charged at the Wave Lagoon.

Darwin Lagoon Waterfront

Go Wild at Berry Springs Nature Park

For a swim in more natural surroundings, consider heading to the Berry Springs Nature Park. It’s just over 50 km south of Darwin, located on the Cox Peninsula Road just off the main highway. Entry is free and there are multiple meandering pools to relax in, surrounded by natural forest. There’s also plenty of picnic tables and some short walking trails.

Before heading south during the wet season (from October to April), double check that the pools are open. They may be closed if conditions are deemed unsafe, including due to crocodiles (the rangers check for their presence each day).

Author Bio

Shandos Cleaver is an Australian blogger who is currently travelling around Europe with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel. She blogs about dog-friendly travel (mostly) on her blog, Travelnuity. She first visited Darwin while travelling around Australia at the age of nine, and is looking forward to returning to Australia soon and exploring more of the country, this time with her dog. Follow her adventures on Facebook or Instagram.

Do you have any favorites for what to see in Darwin? Let us know!

Plan to travel to Darwin? Here are some of the top things to do in Darwin Australia. Lots of fun for everyone. Great list of the very best things to do in Darwin ]]>
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Guide to Driving Around Australia in a Campervan https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/guide-to-driving-around-australia-in-a-campervan/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/guide-to-driving-around-australia-in-a-campervan/#comments Mon, 26 Feb 2018 20:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=16099 Want to drive around Australia? Have enough money to buy or rent a campervan and keep the fridge stocked and the petrol full? Have a good sense of adventure and a willingness to put a few hours behind the wheel? Well, if you do, you’re all set for an Australian adventure.

Before we had kids, Micki and I had the amazing opportunity to spend six months driving around Australia in a campervan that we had bought and outfitted ourselves.

By the sixth month, we had put over 25,000 kilometers on that campervan, driving from Adelaide in South Australia, up through the untamed Outback in the center, then up to Darwin in the north, before crossing over to Cairns, and finally down the east coast of Australia to Sydney.

Even after spending years bouncing around the globe, it was an unforgettable adventure and still one of our favorite travel highlights.

Ready to hit the road and travel across Australia? We spent six months driving around Australia, from Adelaide to the Outback to Cairns and Sydney, and share our best tips for having a fantastic time! Australia Road Trip | Tips | Travel | Australia travel | roadtrip | budget #australia #travel #traveltips #roadtrip #wanderlust #vanlife #adventure

A guide to driving around Australia in a campervan

Australia is the perfect country to drive a campervan or RV, since it has huge spaces and plenty great RV resorts, or Holiday Parks, as they’re often locally known, in nearly every town.

I think that an Australia road trip is probably the best way to see the land down under, especially if you want to see more than just the big cities and get to know the real Australia.

The funny part about our Australia roadtrip was that our first campervan turned out to be a massive lemon. Sure, we only bought it for a few hundred dollars from a hostel where a previous backpacker had left it and managed to sell it for $50 more than we paid (once we realized it wouldn’t pass a safety inspection). In case you’re wondering, we actually sold it to a guy fixes cars, so he profited as well once he fixed it up.

Our first Australian van

The great part about the whole scenario was that the original van was stocked with tons of extra goodies.

From an extra camping tent and sleeping bags (helpful when we rented a 4×4 and stayed on Fraser Island) to boogie boards, a portable table and even a nice propane stove that, by the time our trip was complete, we had gotten good use out of nearly everything. So, when we bought our next campervan, for about 20 times the first, we had it totally stocked up without spending an additional penny.

If you’re interested in buying a used Australia campervan, you can check out Gumtree. Not only do they have thousands of Australian campervans, they also have tons of used camping supplies as well to help get you fully outfitted for your own Australia roadtrip.

Australia road rules and such things as road trains

Initial problems aside, driving around Australia was a breeze. Well, that is, once we figured out that not only did we have to get used to driving on the left side of the road, but we also had to change gears with our left hand (ours had a manual transmission) and things are reversed from what we’re used to in North America.

Since the gear shift was on the steering column, you have no idea how often we turned on the windshield wipers by mistake. It even became a running gag during our trip.

I’m also not going to lie and say that we didn’t almost get into trouble a few times coming off traffic circles (which weren’t used much in North America then). Not having lane markers when you’re first trying to remember to drive on the left can be problematic in itself, but after doing a few circles you kind of revert to what you’re used to when you finally straighten out, which wasn’t a good thing if you’re a right lane kind of person.

Outside of that and, oh, the one lane bridges, you should be fine. Just remember to look at what’s coming before you drive over them.

Oops. Did I forget to mention having to get off the road when those giant triple trailer trucks they lovingly refer to as road trains pass you by in the Outback?

That’s not really a law, but if you value your vehicle (and consequently your life) it’s not a bad idea to get out of their way. To say that back trailer sways a little is like calling Uluru a little rock in the Outback, and those road trains don’t slow down for anything or anyone. Don’t worry though, there aren’t that many of them, and it’s a nice change of scenery from the miles and miles of unchanging desert scrub.

Van and termite mound in Australia

Our trusty campervan dwarfed by a giant Ozzie termite mound

Oh, did I mention the kangaroos?

Well, you’ll see those for yourself if you drive through the Australian Outback like we did. They’re awesome to see hopping in the distance and don’t worry, you’ll see plenty of them. Just realize that they have no natural predators in Australia and there’s just as good a chance as them jumping into the side of your Australian campervan as you hitting one. You have been warned!

We also learned it’s a bad idea to drive most places in the Outback at night. Between the hopping kangaroos, the swaying road trains, wandering cows, an errant camel or emu and an abundance of wild rabbits in certain parts of Australia, unless you know the area well, it’s best to stay completely off these roads after sundown. Of course, if you’re on the coast or in one of the major cities you should be fine driving at night.

The realities of driving a campervan in Australia

All kidding aside, driving in Australia is easy once you have a few things down pat. Roads in major cities are well marked, and Australia is similar to most countries in regards to road rules and signage. Just realize that each Australian state has its own road rules. You can check them out here if you’re curious.

Since 85% of the Australian population is within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of the coast (see our recent post on things about Australia you didn’t know here) there are many places to stay, eat and most importantly, refuel, during your Australia road trip.

Once you get into the Outback, things are a little more spread out, so you need to make sure you have some spare gas with you or have a good estimate of how far your campervan or RV can make it on a tank. Luckily, there are usually signs saying how far the next available gas station. Trust us, you don’t want to get stuck in the Outback without fuel.

Outback safety tip: If you run out of fuel, or your campervan breaks down in the Outback, stay with your vehicle and wait for the next vehicle to pass by. The blistering heat is your biggest danger so stay hydrated. It might take hours, but someone will eventually drive by who can help you out.

It’s also important to realize that smaller towns that only have one gas station could close as early as 4 pm.  We spent the night parked in a gas station lot, because we didn’t have enough fuel to make it to the next town, more times than we care to admit.

Filling up the campervan at Williams Creek halfway down the Oodnadatta Track

If you’re looking for the cheapest gas in an area, or even how close the nearest petrol station is, you can grab the Motormouth app. Similar to North America’s Gas Buddy app, their Australian user-based system continually lists the current gas prices around the country. It’s also handy when that red light on your fuel tank starts flashing, and you need to refuel your campervan or RV immediately.

Even more importantly, since the Outback can get quite hot in the day and cool at night, you don’t want to get stuck without water and food. Make sure you have lots of both when you drive towards the Red Centre.

It’s more than likely you’ll be starting your journey from one of the major cities, so make sure to stock up on everything you’ll need at one of the big supermarkets. The farther you go from the big centers, the more costly food becomes and picking up essentials at gas stations is going to hurt the wallet more than a few spoiled or unused food items.

RV Resorts, Holiday Parks and campgrounds

I can honestly say that Australia has some of the nicest campgrounds we’ve seen anywhere in the world. Though the cost of some of the Australian campervan parks can be a little pricey, lots of campgrounds come fully provisioned with hotel quality swimming pools, multiple hot water showers and restrooms, huge cooking areas complete with lots of barbecues and even dedicated outdoor TV viewing areas for those not so nice evenings. Some even have trampolines and miniature golf for the kids.

Our favorite campgrounds in Australia even featured our own personal shower and washroom area as well as a private cooking area. Staying in those campgrounds was like having a very welcome addition to our campervan, giving us extra room to hang out as well as letting us cook our meals far from our beds. It was also cool to pull into your spot and find out what the little half building next to your pad contained.

Important! Australia has reverse seasons to the northern hemisphere. As such, Christmas vacation for Australians lasts two months and nearly everyone is out camping and enjoying the heat in December and January. If you’re planning to be in Australia during these months, I suggest you book your campgrounds far ahead of time, otherwise you’ll be parking on the street or in parking lots.

One of the biggest campground companies in Australia, with 180 campgrounds scattered across the country, is Big4 Holiday Parks. They’re among the priciest of the Australian campgrounds however they also tend to have the nicest amenities.

If you want to rough it a bit more, you can also find campgrounds throughout Australia’s National Parks. You can search for campgrounds across all the national parks here.

For a list of cheaper campgrounds around Australia, check out Explore Australia’s campground list here and the Findacamp site has a great list as well highlighting some of the cheapest campgrounds in Australia.

Buying and selling a campervan in Australia

If you’re looking at buying a campervan in Australia, there are certain months when it’s easier and cheaper to buy a campervan in Australia than others. The same goes for renting.

December and January are busy across the country, and finding a rental won’t be easy or cheap in these months. If you want to rent, consider going in the shoulder seasons of October or November and February or March. You’ll miss the crowds and added expenses but the weather should still be great.

If you’re considering buying a campervan or RV, you also need enough time to pick out your campervan and enough time to sell it. There are tons of options out there from used buying and selling sites to dealerships. You can also check out local hostel bulletin boards (even if that didn’t work out so well for us).

When it’s time to sell, you can place an ad or even bring your campervan to one of the local swap meets that specializes in selling vans, campervans and RV’s from other travelers. There should be one in every major city.

Devil’s Marbles in the Red Centre

Just note that there are better and worse times to buy and sell your campervan in Australia depending on the city you’re in. April to July tends to be the worst time of year to sell your vehicle in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne, however those could be great times to buy one. December to June is also bad in northern Cairns and Darwin, and both Brisbane and Adelaide can be tough to sell in year round. We ended up buying our campervan from a local in Adelaide, since there weren’t that many travelers selling theirs when we were there.

Vehicle Registration is valid for a year in Australia and usually requires an address. We just used our hostel’s address to sign up and it went pretty smoothly. Depending on the year of the vehicle and where it was initially registered, also note that some vehicles require a safety inspection before they’re allowed to be registered to someone else, so make sure the vehicle is roadworthy before giving over the money.

Final thoughts on driving an RV or campervan around Australia

Already have your Australian campervan fully stocked and ready to roll? All you need to do now is pick a route and set a timetable.

Are you going to drive The Great Ocean Road in the south past Melbourne and enjoy beautiful beaches and light houses?

Dreaming of jumping crocodiles and pristine canyons? Maybe driving from Darwin down to Katherine Gorge is the trip for you?

Want your area a little less crowded? How about having a quiet wilderness adventure on the west cost in Western Australia?

Still too crowded? How about checking out the Red Centre and experiencing the wide open spaces of Australia’s outback while you take in iconic sites like Uluru and the Devils’ Marbles?

Too remote for you? How about checking out rainforests, the great barrier reef and gorgeous stretches of beach as you live up the beach bum lifestyle in tropical North Queensland?

Maybe the mainland is too much for you? All that space giving you pause. Maybe you should check out Tasmania’s rural and natural beauty and check out Tasmania’s sleepy towns and secluded beaches.

No matter where you go or which route you decide on, taking a road trip around Australia in your campervan, RV or even just a van will be a memory you’ll keep forever and no matter how long you go for, there will always be something new to see on your next adventure.

Safe travels!

Got a tip about driving a campervan around Australia? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us an email or leave a comment below for everyone to read.

Australian Roadtrip Tips and Adventure. Planning to travel in Australia and have a fun Australian road trip? Here are our helpful tips and tricks for driving around in Australia that are worth adding to your itinerary. Australia Road Trip | Tips | Travel | Australia travel | roadtrip | budget #australia #travel #traveltips #roadtrip #wanderlust #adventure #vanlife How to road trip Australia on a budget. Australia can be expensive and driving around Australia in a van or RV or campervan can really cut the cost! Tips for driving around Australia in campervan. Australia Road Trip | Tips | Travel | Australia travel | roadtrip | budget #australia #travel #traveltips #roadtrip #wanderlust #adventure #vanlife ]]>
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20 Interesting Facts About Australia That Will Wow You https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/20-interesting-facts-about-australia/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/20-interesting-facts-about-australia/#comments Sun, 28 Jan 2018 18:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15930 A few years back, Micki and I spent half a year driving across Australia. We landed down south in Adelaide and then worked our way through the center of the Outback up to Darwin on the north coast, and eventually made our way past Cairns and Port Douglas before slowly making our way down the east coast, past the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, all the way to Sydney.

Over the course of those six months, we learned just how big and just how awesome Australia is. We ended up put over 25,000 kilometers on our van, got up close and personal with some unique wildlife, met some interesting people, and saw the beautiful and varied landscapes that make up Australia.

As our kids get older, and we tell them tales of the land down under (like the termite mounds that were twice the height of our van!), the realization that we’re going to have to take them to Australia becomes clearer. It’s also what prompted us to dive into these interesting facts about Australia.

Van and termite mound in Australia

Our trusty van dwarfed by an Ozzie termite mound

Interesting Facts About Australia

So without further ado, if you’re thinking of heading to Oz or have ever been curious as to what kinds of things await you down under, here are our interesting facts about Australia that will amaze you.

Australia is big. As in, really big.

We put on over 25,000 kilometers during our trip around Australia, took six months to do it, and we still only saw half of the country. As the 6th largest country in the world with one of the lowest populations per kilometer, most people fly from city to city. When we were driving in the Outback, we would go hours at a time before seeing anyone else on the highways except the occasional road train and kangaroos.

Due to it’s massive size and the fact that the entire country is an island, Australia is the only place in the world that is considered both a continent and a country. As such, it’s sometimes also referred to as the island continent.

via GIPHY

 

Beaches are everywhere in Australia

If you love beaches, there are over 10,000 beaches found around Australia. If you visited three beaches a day it would still take you over nine years to see them all!

We visited dozens of beaches along 3 coasts however we found the Whitsundays had the prettiest beaches of them all.

It also has over 25,000 kilometers of coastline where you can jump on a speedboat, a catamaran or even a sailboat and explore the over 8000 islands that circle the giant island. We visited almost every beach we could find, and even toured the Whitsunday Islands on a sailboat for four days. We loved every minute of it.

Tidal pool and beach on Fraser Island

Australia has the largest sand island in the world

Just off the east coast of Hervey Bay, Australia lies the largest sand island in the world. Fraser Island, measuring over 120 kilometers (75 mi) long and 24 kilometers (15 mi) wide also houses the country’s only all sand highway/airport runway where you can drive 80 kilometers an hour on the beach only a few feet from the crashing waves.

Renting a 4×4 SUV for 4 days, camping along the beach and driving along the sand paths and the beach was one of our favorite highlights of the trip.

Rented 4x4 on Fraser Island Australia

Micki and our little rented 4×4 on Fraser Island

It has the world’s largest coral reef

Australia is home to the Great Barrier Reef, which is the planet’s largest living structure.

Diving the Great Barrier Reef was one of the highlights of our trip. Unfortunately, the reef is in trouble these day – scientists say that the reef is dying off.

Australia wildlife is unique, and often well… pretty darn weird

The kangaroo, the duck billed platypus, the dingo, the emu, the cassowary, and the koala are just some of Australia’s unique species that can only be found in Australia.

We spotted them all in the wild, including the shy platypus, however the little rock wallabies might be one of the cutest things alive.

Rock wallabies in Australia

Australian Aboriginal culture may be 65,000 years old

Australian Aboriginals first arrived in Australia 65,000 years ago marking them as some of the oldest known human cultures.

We saw rock paintings around Uluru (Ayers Rock) and near Darwin that are some of the oldest found anywhere in the world.

Ayers Rock, Uluru, Australia at Sunset

Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia at Sunset

Australia was founded by inmates

Here’s one of the many fun facts about Australia: The first English settlers landed in Sydney in 1788 and the majority of that first fleet were inmates. Though most died off, a sizable number of inmates helped found Australia.

We’ve been to dozens of countries over the years, however I can truly say Australia is the only country we traveled to that I was ever held at knife point. Coincidence? Haha, probably not since the vast majority of Australians we met were super nice and helpful. Australia is also one of the safest countries in the world.

Camels, camels, camels … and more camels

The are more than half a million feral camels wandering around Australia’s outback.

We saw some wild camels more than a few times while driving and even considered riding a few that had been tamed. Unfortunately, the camel smell was only matched by the heat of the sun that day.

Are we sad we didn’t do it? Nope, we did rode camels in the Sahara desert instead.

In a country that’s mostly desert, water can be a problem

To secure a constant potable water supply, the first settlers built water tanks along the stream leading into Sydney Cove they called the Tank Stream. However, due to early pollution, the tank stream eventually became a stormwater drain that still protects Sydney from flooding.

We were in a few heavy rainstorms while in Sydney so can attest to their ability to protect the city from flooding. Rain or shine, Sydney is a gorgeous city.

Micki and Charles in Sydney Australia

The two of us in beautiful Sydney, Australia

Everything will kill you

Australia probably has the largest collection of dangerous things on the planet. From the box jellyfish to poisonous snakes like taipans, death adders, brown snakes and tiger snakes. Not to mention they have funnel spiders, blue ringed octopuses and even huge jumping bird eating spiders!

We swam in special Lycra bodysuits up north to protect us from jellyfish stings and only swam in beaches with shark nets down south.

However, we never shied away from walking trails or going on hikes, even at night. We had a few close calls with spiders, however we never saw a snake in the wild without being on a guided tour.

Interestingly, deaths from spider bites are extraordinarily rare.

Egg laying mammals are found here

There are only two egg laying mammals left in the entire world, and both can be found in Australia. These include the platypus and the spiny anteater echidna.

One of our favorite rare and unusual animal sightings ever was the platypus.

Since the platypus is known as hyper reclusive, we feared we wouldn’t be able to spot one. In truth, we found one the first place we looked and then spotted several more at different places the following days. Who knew?

That being said, our son’s favorite animal has always been the platypus, so you know we’ll be searching them out again next time we go.

Australia Facts for Kids. Oh, Australia! Australia has some of the weirdest animals in the world, plus it's also a continent, and it's the sixth biggest country in the world. We tell you all about the fun and interesting things we learned about Australia Australia Facts | Weird Australia Facts | Fun Australia Facts | Australia Travel #Australia #australianproblems #aussie #Australiakids

Lifeguards are incredibly important

Bondi Beach in Sydney, was home to the world’s first and longest running life saving club, the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club, that started in 1907 when several groups routinely patrolled the beaches around Sydney.

Though Bondi Beach wasn’t our favorite beach in Australia, it was definitely the most happening beach we came across. If you want to see and be seen, Bondi is definitely the place to be.

Busy Bondi Beach - Sydney

Bondi Beach in Sydney

The world’s tallest birds live here

There are some amazing birds in Australia, however, the red eyed emu and the blue feathered cassowary definitely top them all, at least when it comes to size. Some emus stand over 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) while the sometimes dangerous cassowary can grow to nearly the same size.

We saw a lot of emus while crossing the center of Australia, however the huge blue feathered cassowary is both an endangered species and supposedly impossible to find.

After talking to some locals, we drove into a national park and, as we got out of our van, there happened to be a big cassowary only a few feet in front of us. They’re known to be a little dangerous, so we got back in the van and watched him strut around for 15 minutes before he suddenly turned and disappeared back into the forest.

cassowary sign in Australia

The reptiles will eat you

Australia is home to over 750 different reptile species, which is more than any other country in the world.

Though we saw them numerous times, the huge saltwater crocodiles were always intimidating to us.

Well, they have been known to eat people! The turtles on the other hand, were always fun to watch.

Jumping Crocodile on the Adelaide River

Jumping Crocodile on the Adelaide River

It’s really, really, dry in the Outback

For all the water Australia gets along the coasts, the lack of water in the central outback of Australia makes it the driest continent on the planet excluding Antarctica.

Though the outback wasn’t as dry as we originally expected, we covered huge distances across the Australian outback with only a few scraggly trees and the occasional hopping kangaroo seen in the distance. To put it simply, it was dry enough to make me happy we always had spare water on hand.

The Outback is fairly empty

How isolated is the Outback?

And this is where our Australian facts get really weird. The Outback is so isolated that an obscure, but well bankrolled, Japanese Cult may … or may not … have detonated a nuclear bomb at Banjawarn Station, Western Australia back in 1993. No one knows for sure, because it just registered as a small 3.6 earthquake.

Not only is there not much flora in the Outback, but there aren’t many people either.

Here’s one of the most weird facts about Australia: with nearly 85% of the population in Australia living 50 miles or less from the coast, you can literally be the only person within a hundreds of square miles in the outback.

When we exited from the tanned emptiness of the outback, the greenery of the coastal areas shocked us every time.

Birds be crazy in Australia

Besides for the big birds of Australia, there are some regular sized Australian birds that are a both a joy to watch and hear. The parrots in the north are gorgeous and the silly antics of the widespread galah or rose-breasted cockatoo are fun to watch.

While the laughing call of the kookaburra is definitely a bird call you’ve never heard outside of Australia, one of the most haunting sounds in Australia has to be the cry of the Green Catbird. It sounds like a cross between a baby crying and a cat meowing.

Micki and I both nearly ran into the bush looking for this poor crying baby the first time we heard it. It wasn’t until we talked to some locals, who explained it was only a bird, that we relaxed. That said, it still made us look around every time we heard it.

Galah Flock at Alice Springs Australia

Galah Flock at Alice Springs Australia

There are cattle ranches bigger than Belgium

The Anna Creek Station in South Australia is the largest cattle ranch in the world. Bigger than either Israel or Belgium, it’s also 7 times as big as the famous King Ranch in Texas. It currently holds around 10,000 head of cattle and is run by only eight workers.

We drove through part of the Anna Creek Station when we took the offroad Oodnadatta Track to Coober Pedy. Our van wasn’t really outfitted for it, and we nearly got stuck a few times after a rare rainstorm, but it definitely gave us an appreciation for anyone living out there on their own.

Australians love their wine

There are over 2,000 wine producers throughout Australia and they export over 750 million liters a year to world markets. They also drink their fair share domestically.

Some of our favorite wines ever come from Australia and we spent weeks going from one winery to another tasting a bunch for ourselves. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, they don’t export their amazing port so, if you want to try some out for yourself, you’ll just have go to Australia yourself.

Australians love to abbreviate everything

Don’t believe us? Check out this video.

Australia Facts. After six months in Australia, we learned first hand that a lot of the fun and weird things we'd heard about Australia were true. Does Australia have some of the weirdest animals in the world? Yes. Are there termite mounds as tall as a building? Yes. We tell you all about the fun and interesting things we learned about Australia | Weird Australia Facts | Fun Australia Facts | Australia Facts for Kids | Australia Travel #Australia #australianproblems #aussie #Australiakids Weird Australia Facts. There's no getting around the fact that Australia is a weird, but wonderful place. From termite mounds as big as a building, to animals that defy description, we tell you all that's weird and cool about Australia. Australia Facts | Australia Facts for Kids | Cool Australia Facts | Fun Australia Facts | Australia Travel #Australia #australianproblems #aussie #Australiakids ]]>
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Travel Photo: Ayers Rock (Uluru), Northern Territory, Australia https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-photos/travel-photo-ayers-rock-uluru-northern-territory-australia/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-photos/travel-photo-ayers-rock-uluru-northern-territory-australia/#comments Tue, 10 Mar 2015 22:00:58 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=1569 Ayers Rock / Uluru, Australia at Sunset

Ayers Rock / Uluru in Australia at Sunset

Ayers Rock, or Uluru to the local Anangu Aboriginal people, is a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory in central Australia. It’s about 3 and a half hours south west of the nearest large town, Alice Springs.

The area around the rock outcropping includes a few water springs, waterholes and rock caves with some ancient paintings. There are numerous guided tours and seeing the rock is a great way to learn about its Aboriginal history.

Truth be told, it may seem like a long way to travel just to see a giant rock, but the entire experience can be quite memorable.

Whether you’re enjoying the sunrise or sunset views (the only time the rock truly looks red) with the traditional glass of champagne or hiking around the 9.4 km trail at it’s base, Uluru needs to be seen from different angles throughout the day to be fully appreciated.

The color and texture change so much depending on the time of day you would almost believe it was alive. The nearby domed rocks of Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) is equally captivating, has a few walks of it’s own and will leave you with a feeling of wonder.

The drive there can get a little boring, however, the occasional kangaroo and emu sightings, the red dirt and scrub bush, the camel ranches and the beautiful Australian outback sky are all interesting things to see along the way. They have a nice resort/campground in nearby Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort) where you can stay for a few days. If you go you’ll definitely want to see at least one sunrise or sunset viewing and I would recommend against any extended driving in the dark when you’re new to the outback.

Here’s a travel tip: If you’re driving in the outback by wary of kangaroos. For whatever reason when they’re on the move they rarely stray from their path.

When we drove up the Oodnadatta Track and the Stuart Highway in our van from Adelaide to Darwin and then across from Darwin to Cairns we saw countless kangaroos and even more carcasses along the highway. More than once we had to stop the car to let a kangaroo jump across.

The funny part is that in a lot of places you can see the kangaroo coming from a mile away. They’re usually bouncing perpendicular to the road and traveling at a decent speed. Even though you’re 10 times they’re size and are quite visible they don’t seem to notice that you’re there. They’ll run right into the side of your vehicle if you’re at the wrong spot at the wrong time, even if you’re at a complete standstill!

Next to the zigzagging road trains, the kangaroos are the biggest threat on the roads in the outback and aren’t so easily dismissed.

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Crazy Moments on the Road: The Crocodile Dundee Knife https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/crazy-moments-on-the-road-a-crocodile-knife/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/crazy-moments-on-the-road-a-crocodile-knife/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 16:07:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=8651 Over the years, we’ve had our fair share of crazy moments on the road. From being chased by a water buffalo in Sumatra to getting lost in the winding souks of Marrakesh we have a few interesting tales of our travels around the world.

Luckily, we’ve always emerged unscathed however these moments have taught us a few lessons about ourselves, the world in general and of things to watch out for while on the road. At a minimum, I hope they make for an entertaining story.

Chuck and Micki Ellery Creek Big Hole West MacDonnell Park Australia

Looking for watering holes in the Outback

Without further ado, here’s our first officially crazy moment on the road and the lesson we took from it.

That crazy Outback

While on our first year long RTW in 2003, Micki and I had the opportunity to spend nearly five months touring Australia. On that trip we bought a van and crossed through the center of the Outback twice. First vertically from Adelaide to Darwin and then horizontally from Darwin to Cairns.

It was a great drive and we had the opportunity to meet tons of awesome, unique and interesting locals and visitors alike.

While near the center just outside Alice Springs, we made friends with a young couple from the UK. They also had a van they were traveling in and after a long day checking out the sites together we cracked open a bottle at our campsite and settled into a long night of drinking and story swapping.

At some point during the evening, our new friends invited another fellow (a Queenslander in his early 30s) to join us in our conversations. The fact he was camped right next to us and had a wife and two young kids (who were all already asleep) seemed proof enough that he was a decent fellow to our new friends, but something about him made Micki and I distrust him from the get go.

A long evening

As the night wore on, we listened to this newcomer continuously trash the local Aboriginals, rattle off false facts about Australia (we actually had a guidebook on the table in front of us) and pretty much every other word he said was rude and bigoted. Perhaps it was the JD and cola we were drinking, but we argued with him a little more than we probably should have.

Disgusted with us clueless idiots, he finally had enough of us and bid us goodnight in a not so pleasant fashion. Happy to be rid of him, we let him leave and good naturedly wished him a pleasant journey on the morrow.

To our amazement, a short while later, we noticed that he was returning. As he entered our camp, we quickly noticed the unusually large knife he was now carrying. To make a long story short, we spent a few minutes in an awkward holding pattern. That is, he was holding the knife while the scene from Crocodile Dundee continuously replayed in my head.

You know, the one where he pulls out this huge knife and says “That’s not a knife. That’s a knife.

All joking aside, we finally talked the guy down (it seemed he hated me most of all), however to say he put a damper on the evening would be an understatement.

Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy.Virginia Wolfe

A long night

As he returned to his campsite, we all called it a night and we made sure that our new friends (who were severely inebriated by this point) were safe in their locked van before we headed to ours.

Seeing that we were in the middle of the sparse Outback, we had a clear view into his camping spot and we watched him clutching his knife and eyeing our van for over an hour before he finally went to bed.

I won’t lie, it was one of the longest nights of my life.

The good news is, by the time we got out of the van in the morning, they were already striking up camp and preparing to leave. We half expected a slashed tire or worse however all was good.

Wait, there’s more!

I wish that was the end of story however, almost comically, a few nights later we pulled into another camping spot up at Tenant Creek and wouldn’t you know it, we were parked right next to the Crocodile Dundee knife wielder once again.

Not willing to go another sleepless night, we quietly backed out (before he noticed us) and took another spot on the other side of the campground. We saw him a few times that night, however we’re not sure he recognized us. Needless to say, we didn’t go over and re-introduce ourselves.

Lessons learned: Trust your instincts and never get into a heated discussion with a Queenslander.

Micki Driving Our Van in Australia

Micki driving in Oz

If you learn nothing else from this story, remember this: The wilder the situation, the better the story will be so get out there and learn your own lessons. Just remember to get a picture of it or it never happened. 😉

If you’ve have any crazy on the road stories we’d love to hear it! Leave us a comment below and we can trade badges. I’m sure no one can beat our threatened with big ass knife badge. That one was definitely hard earned.

Feet on the Dashboard Driving in Oz

Crazy travel moments on the road - Australia and the Crocodile Dundee Knife

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10 Great Things To Do in Sydney https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/10-great-things-to-do-in-sydney/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/10-great-things-to-do-in-sydney/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 18:00:42 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=7628 Sydney is a gorgeous city and after spending over a month there it never ceased to amaze us how many great things there are to do in town. From checking out the sights to chilling on the sand to walking in fields of daisies, Sydney has it all.

For those of you thinking of checking out this world famous city, here’s a quick list of 10 great things to do in Sydney.

1. Head to the beach

That’s Bondi Beach, baby. It might be ridiculously crowded on a hot summer day, but Australian locals and tourists alike flock to the water when the temperature soars. Located on the eastern side of town, Bondi is far enough away from downtown to feel like you’re in the suburbs, but it’s only a few minutes train ride away. Definitely the place to see and be seen.

Busy Bondi Beach - Sydney

Busy Bondi Beach – Sydney

2. Take a cruise

Being right on the ocean, Sydney is a hub port for a lot of cruise ships in the area. When we were there, we had the opportunity to see the largest ocean liner in world, the Queen Mary 2, docked in town.

3. Get iconic

The famous Sydney Opera House can be found on everything from postcards to paintings to clam shells. Even if you don’t get a chance to sit inside and listen to the wonderful acoustics, no trip to Sydney would be complete without checking it out first hand. It’s free to walk around outside and there are tons of great restaurants close by to fill up. Even if it’s not sunny, don’t forget your camera, because although the opera house practically glows when the sun is out, it still makes a nice backdrop to a gorgeous city on those cloudy days.

Sydney Harbour in the Rain

Sydney Harbour in the Rain

4. Ferry riding

Being right on the water, sometimes the easiest and most picturesque way to get across the city involves jumping on a ferry. Take off just a stone’s throw from Sydney’s iconic bridge and opera house at Circular Quay Station. Not only are the tickets affordable, but it can be a great way to see the city from a different angle.

5. Climb time

Feeling adventurous? If you haven’t gotten enough views of the opera house, how about from 134 metres (440 ft) above the waterline? Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a classic Sydney attraction and a great way to get a workout while also seeing the best that Sydney has to offer.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge (see the little people on top?)

6. Go botanic

The Royal Botanic Gardens are just a leisurely stroll from the Opera House and Circular Quay Station. They offer a quieter view of Sydney, and the vast gardens will insure that something is in bloom while you’re there. With its beautiful surroundings you’ll feel like you’ve been whisked to an oasis after fighting the crowds in the more popular venues.

7. Choo chooing

Sydney has great in town train service with routes zigzagging all throughout the city. Just like all roads lead to Rome, all trains lead to Sydney. If you find yourself close to a station, all lines go to a City Circle Station where you’ll find great shopping and restaurants. The City Circle Stations are Central, Circular Quay, Museum, St James, Town Hall and Wynyard.

8. Grab your hiking shoes

Whether you’re in Sydney for a while or only a few days, getting a little exercise and stretching those legs is a fun, affordable option. Whether you’re checking out Sydney Harbour on foot or hiking the six km gorgeous coastal path between Bondi and Coogee Beach there are a lot of ways to take in the scenery and get your heart rate up. The Manly Scenic Walkway and the Cronulla Beach Walk get great reviews.

Sydney Harbour Walk boardwalk with water and streetlights

Sydney Harbour Walk

9. Chowing down

Sydney has hundreds of great places to eat, however if you”re feeling a little nostalgic and hungry at the same time, you should check out The Rocks. History abounds in this ancient area of the city that has been uplifted to trendy status with its array of delicious restaurants, chic boutiques, old style pubs and hot dance clubs.

10. Artistic impressions

If galleries are more your thing, you can’t go wrong with the Art Gallery of New South Wales.  From traditional art to contemporary indigenous works, the Art Gallery of NSW is all around world-class. It’s also free, so it should be on your list if you want to discover Australia’s past for yourself.

Does all this sound like a lot of work?

We’re big fans of Viator tours, and they have some fantastic tours and things to do in Sydney.

Sydney Viator Tours

Have any must see activities not listed here? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below and we’ll add them to our to do list the next time we’re there.

10 fun things to do in Sydney Australia

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Australia’s Best Kept Secret: Wild and Beautiful Fraser Island https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/australias-best-kept-secret-wild-and-beautiful-fraser-island/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/australias-best-kept-secret-wild-and-beautiful-fraser-island/#comments Tue, 04 Dec 2012 19:10:47 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=4286 Hands down, Australia’s Fraser Island is one of the most diverse, interesting places we’ve ever visited.  In our three days on Fraser Island, we packed in enough sights to last a month.

And we almost missed it.

View from Indian Head

View from Indian Head

When you think of Australia, what comes to mind? Probably the Outback, Ayer’s Rock (Uluru), the Great Barrier Reef, the Sidney Opera House, Bondi Beach, and maybe, maybe Kakadu. But Fraser Island, perched off the eastern coast of Australia, likely isn’t one of the first things that comes to mind.

And it’s a shame.

Fraser Island certainly wasn’t on our radar when we visited Australia, and it was only on the advice of a backpacker that we met in Bundaberg that we decided to make a last minute trip to Fraser Island. Turns out, it was one of the best places we visited in Australia.

So what’s so great about Fraser Island?

In a sentence? Shipwrecks, airplanes landing on the beach, towering sand cliffs, champagne tidal pools, wild dingoes, migrating humpback wales, a freshwater aquifer, camping on the beach, 4×4 sand tracks, sandy beaches, and a fascinating Aboriginal history. Here’s a overview of all the great things we found to do on Fraser Island.

Visit the rusting Maheno shipwreck, beached in a cyclone in 1935.

Charles by the rusting Maheno shipwreck Fraser Island Australia sand island

Charles by the rusting Maheno shipwreck

Drive by the towering sand cliffs of the Cathedrals, colored bright orange from years of erosion.

Cathedral Cliffs Fraser Island Australia

Cathedral Cliffs

Watch planes land on the island’s only runway directly on 75 Mile Beach.

Airplane Landing on 75 Mile Beach

Runway on 75 Mile Beach

Tour the island by 4×4 on hundreds of miles of sand tracks. You can take a guided tour, or rent a 4×4 and explore at your leisure. We spent three days touring Fraser Island in our rented little 4×4.

You can visit rainforests and shifting sand dunes all in one place. How many places boast a tropical rainforest, with 100 year old trees up to 50 m tall, growing on sand dunes? The Island’s so unique that it’s been named a Unesco World Heritage site.

Rented 4x4 on Fraser Island Australia

Our little rented 4×4

Check out the 100 freshwater lakes, some the color of tea from tannins leached in from falling leaves, and some as clear as any Caribbean beach. Fraser has 40 of the world’s 80 perched lakes (lakes nestled among sand dunes above sea level).

Fraser Island  is also rich in Aboriginal history, with Aboriginal campsites at least 5,000 years old. The Butchulla are the indigenous people of Fraser Island (who named the island K’gari, meaning paradise).

Lake Wabby on Fraser Island Australia

Lake Wabby, a sacred men’s area to Butchulla people

Float in Eli Creek, which pours 80 million liters of fresh water a day from the heart of the island into the ocean. The water comes from the world’s largest unconfined aquifer on a sand island.

Tour the 250 km of sandy beaches, and take a dip in the Champagne pools at low tide. The ocean’s beautiful to look at, but filled with man-eating sharks and vicious undertows, so save your swimming for the lakes.

Champagne Pools at Fraser Island Australia

The Champagne tidal pools

Get up close with nature. Fraser Island is a great place to see migrating humpback whales (August to October), monitor lizards or freshwater turtles lying on the shore of Lake Allom. See over 300 species of birds, including the ground parrot, or search for kangaroos, wallabies and flying foxes. We loved watching turtles and sharks in the ocean below from beautiful panoramic Indian head.

Goanna Monitor lizard Fraser Island Australia

Predatory Goanna monitor lizard

If you’re very lucky, you’ll see one of the island’s shy and elusive wild dingoes slinking through the forest.

Dingo in the rainforest of Fraser Island Australia

Dingo disappearing into the rainforest

We got close to nature by tenting just off the beach or sleeping under the stars on the beach itself, but you can also sleep in luxury at the Kingfisher Bay eco resort.

Fraser Island Tips

Where: Fraser Island, the longest sand island in the world, is about 300 kilometres north of Brisbane, on Australia’s East coast.

How to Get there: The nearest airport is in Brisbane. You’ll need to take a ferry. Ferries run daily from Inskip Point at Rainbow Beach and River Heads at Hervey Bay.

When to go: You can visit anytime, although April to October has the best temperatures. Fraser Island can get very busy during Australian school holidays.

Getting around: You’ll need to either travel with a tour, or rent a 4×4 on your own to travel around the island. There are no paved roads on the island. All roads are sand tracks. Most people sign up with a guided tour or rent a vehicle at Hervey Bay.

How long: You could visit Fraser Island in a day, but two days is better, and three days is ideal to see all of the sites.

Where to stay Accommodation on Fraser Island ranges from the upscale  Kingfisher Bay resort, to camping on the beach, to backpacker hostels and B&Bs.

Safety: Fraser Island hosts wild dingoes, which can be dangerous, especially to children, people traveling solo and even small adults. Tragically, a child was killed by dingoes on Fraser Island and several attacks have been reported over the years. Read the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s information sheet on dingo safety before going.

Fraser’s beaches can also be exceptionally dangerous, as the waters surrounding the island are shark breeding grounds and there can be wicked undertows. Luckily, the lakes are great for swimming and there’s always the Champagne Pools to play in.

More information: The Queensland government’s website on Fraser island is packed full of useful information, including a detailed visitors’ guide with helpful maps.

This post is part of our flashback series, where we brave jumping crocodiles, and cruise Australia’s Outback on the historic Oodnadata Track.


View Larger Map

Australia's Best Kept Secret: Wild and Beautiful Fraser Island

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Cruisin’ the Australian Outback on the Oodnadatta Track https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/cruisin-the-australian-outback-on-the-oodnadatta-track/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/cruisin-the-australian-outback-on-the-oodnadatta-track/#comments Tue, 20 Nov 2012 18:26:46 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=3543 Cinnamon-red mud splatters the windshield, and our van slides precariously sideways toward the ditch, righting just in time to keep us on the road. We don’t dare stop; the thick mud is as slick as ice, and deep enough that we would be stuck in seconds. Charles and I are driving the infamous Oodnadatta Track, which cuts through the heart of Australia’s Outback and traces the route of the old Ghan railway.

We decided to brave the track, sometimes notoriously rough and difficult, in our 14-year-old, 2-wheel-drive, Toyota HiAce van. We are prepared for the trip:  the van carries enough water to float a small navy, food for a few weeks, spare tires and a jack. Still, I’m worried that our van, which we’ve owned for barely two weeks, won’t be up to the trip.

Us and Our Trusty Van

Us and our (sort of) trusty van

That morning, we watched, disappointed, as rain turned the start of the track into a muddy mess. Locals at the Oasis Cafe in the small Outback town of Marree warned us against heading out, muttering something about it being “suicide” to take the track in the rain. That was all that I need to hear, and we decided to wait it out. Three hours later, the rain stopped, and we were clear to go.

At first, the road was smooth, but the surface quickly turned to red ooze as we made our way from Marree towards the small town of William’s Creek. Now, we slip and slide in the red muck, past rusting hulks of abandoned railway sleepers from the Old Ghan Railway. Skeletons of unlucky road kill, bleached white by the relentless sun, line the roadsides. The scenery only gets more surreal as we travel past a bizarre collection of enormous metal sculptures by some unknown Outback artist. One sculpture is of an airplane suspended precariously on its tail.

Sculpture in the middle of the Oodnadatta in Australia's Outback

Sculpture in Australia’s Outback

After hours of slipping through the mud, Lake Eyre South appears to our right, an enormous salt-water flat that rarely floods. Today, the salt crust of the lake shimmers with heat, and the lake is bone dry, despite the earlier downpour.

As we pull a few hundred meters off the main road to get a closer look, we notice that our van is starting to puff out black smoke, and backfire ominously. This is not a place where you want to break down. Tourists die out here. All the time. We must be a hundred kilometers from the nearest town, and the sun beats down mercilessly, even in the middle of the Australian winter. Disturbingly, I start to recall tales of travellers who have broken down in the Outback and died of dehydration.

Saltwater flat of Lake Eyre South shimmering in the distance Oodnadatta Track Australia

Saltwater flat of Lake Eyre South shimmering in the distance

We pull back onto the track, and the van, now coated with about 100 kgs of brick-red mud, mercifully makes it to William Creek, population:  ten hardy souls. The main street doubles as an airplane landing strip, and the gas station, pub, hotel, service station, and local restaurant are all housed in a building that looks about the same size as my parent’s garage back in Canada. William’s Creek is the hub for the Anna Creek Station, the biggest cattle station farms in Australia, with an area larger than Belgium.

The William Creek Hotel is everything that the Lonely Planet said it would be. The walls, ceiling, and bar are covered with business cards and driver’s licenses, and photos of spectacular 4-wheel-drive accidents. Gas is pricey this far from civilization.

As the van continues to cough and sputter, we decide to forgo the hundreds of kilometers remaining of the Oodnadatta Track, and make our way on the 164 km, relatively short, dirt road that leads to Coober Pedy. Leaving William Creek, the track quickly turns to corrugated washboard, and our poor van creaks and groans as we creep along at 50 km/hour. I am sure that pieces of our muffler and engine are being smashed off from the brutal impact of the ruts, but by some miracle our faithful van keeps moving forward.

Anna Creek Cattle on the Oddnadatta Track

Cows from the Anna Creek Cattle Station

I catch glimpses of the road, as I’m jolted up and down on my seat. Cattle from the Anna Creek Station appear suddenly around corners, forcing us to stop. There is nothing but red dust and corrugated road for miles, until we pass by a dusty and faded sign that points out the famous Great Dingo Fence. The fence is over 4,000 kilometers long, and built to keep dingos from preying on sheep in the Southern Australia.

I’m starting to feel like I can’t endure another second of the tooth-rattling impact when we first see the bitumen that leads the final few kilometers to Coober Pedy. We pull onto the smooth highway, and the desolate, surreal landscape of Coober Pedy, where Mad Max was filmed, seems like a lush, welcoming oasis.

Coober Pedy's bizarre landscapes

Coober Pedy’s bizarre landscapes

This post is part of our flashback series, based on emails to friends and family from our first trip to Asia and Australia in 2003.

Check out this cool time lapse of the Oodnadatta track route:

More Info

The Oodnadatta Track, still unpaved, runs 671 km from the town of Marree to Marla in Southern Australia, passing through the outpost of William Creek. It was the original route of the legendary Ghan rialway. Before the Ghan, the track was an Aboriginal trading route. Today, it is much better maintained and traveled upon than when we were there however it is still considered an adventurous route.


View Larger Map

If you’re planing to drive the Oodnadatta, you can find information on closures and warnings at the Department of South Australia. There’s some helpful information on driving the track at both Rita’s Outback Guide and Travel Outback Australia, and there’s a printable and mobile friendly guide on TripAdvisor.

Safety!

While the Oodnadatta is said to be one of the easier off-road Outback routes, it’s still very remote, and the track is badly rutted in some sections and slippery when it rains. If your vehicle breaks down, you’re a long way from help, so make sure you have plenty of water and food and stay with your vehicle at all times.

Where to stay

On the track, the only real accommodation option is the truly atmospheric William Creek Hotel. Check out the William Creek Hotel TripAdvisor reviews and the William Creek Hotel website.

How to get there

The nearest airport is in Adelaide, South Australia.

Like this? It’s no secret we love the road trip! You might like our fun road trips in Oahu, Costa Rica and the Canadian Prairies.

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Jumping Crocodiles on Australia’s Adelaide River https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/jumping-crocodiles-on-australias-adelaide-river/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/australia/jumping-crocodiles-on-australias-adelaide-river/#comments Tue, 09 Oct 2012 18:33:01 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=3531 It was a calm day on the river when, suddenly and with virtually no warning, the crocodile burst out of the muddy water and snapped voraciously at its prey barely five feet from my nose.

Nicknamed Hannibal, the croc was over 15 feet long and a predator from nose to tail. Hannibal was our spectacular introduction to a jumping crocodile cruise on the Adelaide River just outside of Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. Plan your visit to Darwin’s best things to do and go check out the jumping crocodiles. They are an amazing sight to see.

Jumping Crocodile on the Adelaide River

Jumping crocodile on the Adelaide River

Within moments of his previous lunge, our petite female guide casually dangled more meat from a long pole into the river to lure Hannibal to jump again. Using quick tail movements, Hannibal slowly powered himself up out of the water, grabbed the bloody treat from its fragile string, and slowly sank back into the muddy river.

In the background, the boat captain gave a commentary in a surreal and cheery voice that reminded me a bit of Mr. Rogers. He explained that Hannibal was an estuarine croc, commonly called a salty. He calmly noted that saltwater crocodiles have occasionally taken an unfortunate person off the banks of the river and can reach up to 20 feet in length.

Right about then, I was more than happy to be on a huge boat, with a couple of tons of steel between the crocs and myself.

Cool and calm behind her dark sunglasses, our guide showed no signs of fear as Hannibal repeatedly lunged out of the river. Curious, we asked if she’d ever come close to being pulled into the water. Smiling, she said that she’d once panicked and held on to the pole as a croc tried to pull both the meat and her into the river. Luckily, an American bodybuilder on the cruise grabbed onto her T-shirt just before she was pulled over the railing.

As the boat glided down the river, our captain announced, in his chipper Mr. Rogers voice, that he’d spotted another croc to the right. Straining, I could barely make out what seemed to be a log floating on the edge of the riverbank. Eventually, the log began to move smoothly toward the boat. As it came closer, I could see the croc’s clear yellow eyes focused sharply on the dangling meat. Nearly 20 feet away, it disappeared below the brown water. Suddenly, the croc reappeared about five feet from the boat and lunged at the tempting treat. Just as fast as it attacked, it disappeared under the surface with barely a ripple.

Croc with Meat in Teeth Adelaide River

A little midday snack…

By the end of the day, we were lucky enough to spot almost a dozen salties, ranging in size from barely three feet long to the huge Hannibal. Each time, the guide chatted calmly with us as the beasts snatched the meat dangling only a few feet from her sandals. With observation spots both on the lower level near the water and from above on the open canopied deck we always had great views of the saltwater crocodiles.

As both the afternoon and the cruise ended, we waved goodbye to our fearless guide and drove toward Kakadu National Park. Reminders of our time with one of natures greatest predators followed us throughout the day as we saw signs warning against swimming in the local creeks and watering holes all along the highway.

Crocodile Safety Sign Adelaide River

A swimming pool’s looking like a good option…

As we drove past the many creeks, I couldn’t shake the image of Hannibal hurtling himself out of the Adelaide River. After our amazing jumping croc cruise, the only swimming I planned in the near future was in the safety of a nice, clear swimming pool!

Fun saltwater crocodile facts

  • Salties can jump out of the water so far that only one third of their tail remains underwater
  • Salties can, and do, prey on humans
  • They grow new teeth as and when they are needed
  • Crocs swallow stones. This is thought to help both with digestion and buoyancy.
  • They can swim up to 15 to 18 mph in short bursts (24 to 28 km/h)
  • Crocodiles bask in the sun with their mouths open to regulate their body temperature

More information

Where: The Adelaide River crocodile cruises are 65 km from Darwin, Australia, on the Arnhem Highway on the way to Kakadu National Park. Turn left onto Window on the Wetlands.

Tour Operator and Cost: We booked this tour with the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise, still in operation. Cruises are $35/adult and $20/child. Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

This post is part of our flashback series, taken from emails and letters written to our friends and family from our year long trip to Asia and Australia in 2003.

Jumping Crocodiles on Australias Adelaide River

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