15 March 2020
In this last of our top 5s we narrow down the State or Territory Capitals that make it into the chart and the 5 experiences that were hard to beat in our time in Australia.
Top 5 State or Territory Capitals
Given that there are only 8 State or Territory Capitals and that we have visited 6 of them, this was perhaps the easiest category to narrow down. As with our other top 5s so much is dependent on our experiences and discoveries, the weather and the people we spent time with.
But which of the six to leave out?
Perhaps it is because it was Stefan’s adopted home for a while and because we spent the longest time in Brisbane that it feels like we got to know it better than any other city. There is nothing like being shown a place by someone who knows it well, its hidden spots and best bits but the truth is I loved it at first sight – that striking skyline, that snaking river, that permanent warmth and sunshine. Day or night it twinkled brightly and returning there after all those kilometres on the road felt like coming home.
Adelaide, South Australia
From the minute we arrived on Adelaide‘s historic Port Adelaide quay we knew we were going to love this city. It was the first big metropolis we had been in since Brisbane but we found it small enough not to be intimidating. We fell in love with its trams, its green city centre spaces, its bountiful markets and Asian food courts. We learnt a lot in the Migration Museum but best of all a week in Adelaide meant we got to spend lots of time with our friends Anna and Michael, last seen sailing away from us in Montenegro.
Hobart is the State Capital we spent the least time in but wish we had spent longer in. With its abundance of 19th century buildings it’s the place that first taught us about early convict life in the colony and in particular the conditions that the women transported to Tasmania experienced. It is also the place that plunged us into the deep, dark world of MONA and took us soaring to the highest peak we would climb in Australia, Mount Wellington. Of course we loved its waterfront and it provided the perfect opportunity for a spot of Christmas shopping.
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Without doubt our three days in Canberra were a highlight of our seven months in Australia and all because we are politics and justice nerds. Its national institutions might not be everyone’s choice of tourist attraction but for us getting to explore the High Court and Parliament, talk to its officials, understand their structures and sit in its courts and chambers was as much a part of understanding Australia as (finally) seeing a koala in the wild or driving through the Outback. We also loved its wide streets and green spaces and its utilitarian buildings. Australians love to hate Canberra but we simply loved it.
Sydney, New South Wales
By the time we got to Sydney we were over cities and although I knew I should give it a look we could so easily have driven on passed. Of course it was magical to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge for the first time but it was our wanderings in the city’s historic Rocks area that we found that hidden gem that sparked our imagination. Australia isn’t blessed with buildings that look any age at all so to find terraces and laneways, wharves and wharehouses unchanged since the early foundations of the modern city was pretty special. And to find ourselves on the harbour with all those sailing boats made us feel right at home.
So, sorry Melbourne! You made it to number 6 and maybe if we’d had longer to explore and less erratic weather you might have snuck in above Sydney but we would say that our nights spent in your Mount Waverley suburb fuelled by friendship and hedgehog cake with Julia and Bill are some of our favourite nights of the trip so you deserve an honorary mention.
Top 5 Experiences
We can honestly say that every single day of this trip brought us sights, encounters and experiences that were new and different to us. Ever changing landscapes, incredible isolation, busy cities, unimaginable ways of life, weird and wonderful creatures, extreme weather – we soaked them all up. So choosing this top 5 was the hardest of all but these are the things that will stay with us for a very long time.
Sitting in the Artesian Bore Baths at sunrise, Lightening Ridge, New South Wales
Spending time in Lightening Ridge is an experience in itself but after a day bouncing around its dusty roads through its innumerable opal mines visiting the free Artesian Bore Baths was so relaxing. The 40° water felt very healing and although we were leaving town the next day we decided that once was not enough and returned the following morning at sunrise. Watching the sun come up and the steam rise from the water was an experience we shared with fellow tourists and locals alike.
Exploring Trilby Station, Louth, New South Wales
Trilby Station is the size of a small European country and a long way from anywhere. Uncovering the station’s old buildings and machinery gave us a peek into its past but it was talking to Liz that taught us so much about the hardships and isolation of farming life. They had not had rain for years which meant severely reduced stock numbers. We were so glad to hear that recently they had some good rainfall. We just hope its not as bad as the floods of a few years ago which cut them off for three months!
Watching the Broken Heel Festival Parade, Broken Hill, New South Wales
OK, I admit it, this is more mine than Stefan’s but as outback experiences crossed with film locations go this just has to get a mention. It’s not often you get to live inside one of your favourite films. Aside from the riot of noise and colour the Broken Heel Festival parade brought to the industrial centre of Broken Hill, there was something brilliantly inclusive about what could be a very conservative, Outback town embracing coach loads of drag queens. The main street was lined with city and country people, young and old, gay, lesbian and straight and one very over excited Pom.
Seeing Uluru for the first time, Northern Territory
Seeing that great red rock appear from the desert floor for the first time is an experience that is almost impossible to put into words so we won’t try. It is also a scene almost impossible to capture on film because it doesn’t just hit your eyes, it hits your soul. We saw Uluru at sunrise and sunset and in the middle of the day and it always overawed us. Nothing prepared us for its ever changing colours and textures. It is truly majestic and we are just so pleased for its Traditional Owners, the Anangu people, that no one can trample all over it anymore.
From cinema to farm, Beachport, South Australia
Sometimes the chance encounters in life lead to something really, rather beautiful. Being welcomed so warmly into the Beachport Film Society on a very wet night and watching a film about a Vietnam war battle still so fresh in the memories of its members would have been an experience enough but to be invited to visit a local farm for a tour around and fate stepping in to keep us there a while longer was the cherry on top. It was an experience of the kind of generosity, kindness and openness we came to expect from Australia’s people and helping out with the beef cattle on Burks Island Farm was so much fun even for a vegetarian!
So we hope that answers your question!
But that wasn’t the end of our adventures. We still had a week or more in Brisbane to bring our journey full circle…