We are a couple divided. On this occasion, it is out of necessity. We are branded with electronic tags and ushered out of the swelling crowd. He ambles through the gent’s and I mosey through the ladies. Suitably attired in ‘bathers’ we are more than ready for the upcoming experience.
To the left a ground-recessed, waist-deep, naturally-heated pool awaits. To the right a shallower version for kiddies and those that fancy lounging about, a perfectly acceptable pass time in these parts. We are compelled to investigate the path beyond. A wooden jetty protrudes from the native greenery and four carefully placed deck chairs sit invitingly. The front row seats reveal a small lake with native birdlife in, on and around it. Melodic Asian tunes waft around us.
Mornington’s Peninsula Hot Springs offers a range of indoor and outdoor bathing experiences in its Bath House and Spa Dreaming Centre. Pools are refilled daily with water derived from natural hot springs 637 metres below ground. An on-site health spa provides a cocktail of relaxation treatments. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at the two on-site cafes and diners can enjoy ‘Pizza and bathe’ package deals. The heated oasis is open seven days from 7.30am to 10pm.
Over a bridge, past a tin shed and into the hot water we sink. Time slows. In fact the clock has no numbers. Instead, there are birds every fifteen minutes. That’s odd, we think. A group of six are positioned against the pool edge. They remind me of women at the hairdressers waiting for their perm. We are disrupted by a low thrumming noise then violent streams of water pummel the row of people and the mystery is revealed. It has struck bird-o’clock, which seems to instigate the firing of water jets onto a line of bathers. It all makes sense now.
We debate as to whether there are warmer pools. Husband thinks this is it. I dutifully studied the website and know there’s more. We resolve the argument with a neutral stranger. Next to us, a woman chats to her teenage son in hushed tones. Husband interrupts boldly and asks “excuse me, do you know if there are hotter pools than this?” “There are heaps up the hill” she replies. I discover that there are more than 20 different bathing experiences with temperatures ranging from 37 to 43 degrees Celsius. Conversation flows and we learn that our adjudicator is an English migrant. We share our own expat story and reveal our New Zealand heritage. All agree there are no regrets, particularly at this moment.
“That’s my wedding anniversary sorted,” our English friend surmises to return without children. As soon as the hairdressing line arises from their thrones, we nab them and line up, Kiwi expats, English expat and her offspring all in a row. Our backs, necks and calves receive a blissful water-massage from the hydro jets. Fifteen minutes of bubbling bliss.
Our warm, thick towels come in handy as we trek the landscaped incline between pools. We make a beeline for the hottest of the hot springs, to experience 43 degrees Celsius bathing. Husband is mindful of the recommended 10 minute time limit at which point one turns into a prune with possible negative health effects.
The underground sauna is beneficial for the pores. A film of sweat envelops my body and I practice deep breathing. Fellow fryers quietly mutter among themselves. A ruckus breaks out in the corner and we can’t decipher the foreign language being exchanged in elevated tones. One member of the group turns to face us. “Ants” is all he needs to say. We join the laughter. The young woman that encountered the harmless insects yelped and escaped the sauna quicker than I could say “they don’t bite.” Outside I catch sight of a body propelling through the air and disappearing down a narrow opening. A lady emerges squealing. The temperature in the chilly plunge pool was apparently a surprise to her. Perhaps she missed the sign. It seems that the female guests are getting more than they bargained for today.
Did you know that there are even silent pools that forbid talking altogether? I keep walking but it’s proving popular with the golden oldies today. The variety of bathing, activities and environments we encounter at the hot springs is unexpected, despite having read the brochure. From aqua therapy to cold plunge pools, from foot baths to cave pools and from reflexology walks to saunas. There truly is an option that suits everyone.
Through the mist we spy an oblong shaped marble slab with a woman sprawled on top. Others in the Turkish steam bath are more astutely seated on surrounding benches. People are filling bowls with cold water then dousing themselves. A cooling technique, I soon discover. It’s rather effective too.
A short distance up the winding steps and then I am serenely soaking at the top of the hill. Bushland hugs the eastern perimeter and sprawling farmland envelops the western front. A waft of sulphur permeates my nostrils. Healing qualities that experts speak of are not just in the water. The natural surrounds are surely soothing my soul. Our time in this natural wonderland has come to an end and there’s only one thing left to do: divide and conquer the change rooms once again.
Peninsula Hot Springs is located in Mornington Peninsula and it takes 90 minutes to drive from Melbourne. Bath house bathing is $40 per Adult and $25 per Child on weekends, with discounted off-peak rates. For more information, click here.
The car negotiates the winding peaks of Arthur’s Seat National Park. We reach 145 metres above sea level and keep climbing. We are high and about to climb higher into the tree tops. Soon I will be amongst the canopy of a 100 year old Messmate Eucalypt Forest. I’m about to become a Koala.
From the ground we saw a number of orange and blue helmets bobbing about the trees. This will be easy, I thought. My perspective altered as I became further removed from the forest floor and my comfort zone. I’ve arranged to spend two hours in the tree tops with mere ropes and chains beneath my wobbly feet. The only exit is to throw oneself from the edge of a platform and plunge towards the forest floor on a zip line. Is it too late to back out?
The Enchanted Adventure Garden team has created an environment that people can effortlessly whittle away the hours. Adults are permitted to join the children on five different tube slides which reach a surprisingly swift speed. The garden boasts a vast array of covered and uncovered picnic spots. The grounds have numerous mazes to lose one-self in. For the sweet tooths, there is a lolly shop joined to the cafe. Tree Surfing is for all ages with five Grand Courses and one for the kids, the Nipper’s Course.
Adorned in safety harnesses and brightly coloured helmets, we turn our attention to the friendly guide. There was talk of losing hands if they are placed on the wrong wire. And I thought the worst that could happen was to fall. The directions to utilise your equipment and avoid hospitalisation went by in a blur. I was otherwise engaged pondering how I could join myself to the wire grid with a mere carabiner and be safe. My husband patiently takes me through the ropes again. With the safety briefing under our belt, we form an orderly queue. I’m still having thoughts of escape, so I motion for the brave to go ahead.
Walking the steps to our first platform gives me a chance to test the equipment before I lose balance. We make a beeline for course number two, it has less people. I’m almost left behind as the other half finds his feet. There’s only one way to go, straight ahead and onto a wooden swing bridge. One foot is placed gingerly in front of the other.
I’ve just watched my husband wobble through the tunnel as it swayed with his movement. I lean forward, depositing myself into one end of the wooden conduit and inch forwards at a snail’s pace. The equipment shakes almost as much as my quivering body. Staring straight through the tunnel to the foliage, I try and overlook the fact that it is suspended on ropes. I surface and leap towards the platform that is securely wrapped around a tree. I’m not even fazed as red gum seeps into my hand. A young boy catches up to me at the next platform. I fear he wants to overtake me. He turns to his mate and shouts “I hate that tunnel.” You and me both, kid. You and me both.
Negotiating courses three, four and five are a cinch once I forget how far from the ground I am. At the end of course five I am rope-running at a respectable pace and I overtake a woman. Her daughter is ahead and she’s wracked with nerves. “Don’t think about it and look straight ahead” I shout as I go. “I was the same as you a few hours ago.” I become a self-appointed coach and the transformation is complete. I fear that I may now have a little too much confidence.
Two hours are up and somehow I graduated from quivering mess to confident show-off. I started off with the pace of a sleepy Koala and now I’m exhibiting signs of a Flying Fox. What a difference a few hours in the trees can make.
The Enchanted Adventure Garden is off the M11 Mornington Peninsula Freeway at 55 Purves Road, in Arthurs Seat. The drive takes one hour from Melbourne’s city centre. Two hours of tree surfing costs adults $59 and children (must be over 135 centimetres tall) $39 for the Grand Course. Ticket price includes park access to tube slides, mazes, adventure garden and cafe. For more information, click here.
Bleary eyed after waking at four o’clock in the morning, we touched down in the Gold Coast amidst a downpour. Hmm, there was nothing in the weather forecast about rain, I reflect. When I imagined my first moments on the sunny Gold Coast, I had no idea that I’d be yelling into a phone in pouring rain in an obscure airport car park. A wrong turn while navigating the World Wide Web left me signed up with a rental car company operating out of the back of a car. When they said mobile office I didn’t realise just how literally they meant it. The four of us piled into the old Mitsubishi from the 1990’s – at least we didn’t have to worry about keeping it in immaculate condition.
It was a surprise to see a cluster of scantily clad young women prancing about the main streets of the Gold Coast while on the local council payroll. I nearly spat my breakfast. When I investigated afterwards, I found that Surfers Paradise Metermaids have been in operation since 1965. These young lasses dressed in trademark gold (get it?) are in fact local icons. You can buy their collector’s edition calendar online now. These girls are pulling in far more cash than their sterner looking, starched counterparts in Melbourne, that’s for sure.
I spent time getting to know the four-legged locals. After hanging out with Wallabies, I found myself agreeing to cuddle a Koala. Cinnamon was lovely except for the razor sharp claws. To her credit, she did not lodge them into my bicep. My husband went for Windjana, the owl.
“Where do you live?” Darren, her handler asked us.
Darren explained that Windjana’s cousins (called Powerful Owls or the Ninox Strenua species) live in the Royal Botanic Gardens, located nearby our apartment building. They hunt at dawn and dusk and can see with 8x optical zoom (sounds like a camera advert). Her coussies also specialise in crushing possum skulls and possess the ability to break a human arm, hence the protective gear. Darren tells us this, all while my husband’s arm is in Windjana’s tight grip.
What better way to relax than sharing a Mexican dinner at Montezuma’s among friends with long island iced teas? Perfect. We finished up by chair dancing to Bon Jovi at the local Karaoke. Here’s a tip, if you sing Guns & Roses with the owner, he’ll give you a drink on the house.
While boarding the plane bound for home, I noted the sunshine I was leaving behind on the Gold Coast. The miserable Gold Coast scene I touched down into seemed like a distant dream. This is more like it, I thought.
The Facts: I flew from Melbourne to the Gold Coast and it took about two hours. Flights operate daily from Australia’s main cities.
By day the Sydney skyline appears as normal, high-rises interrupting the clouds while sitting dominantly above the waterfront. Jagged silhouettes like a pulse on a heart rate monitor. At night the police slip in and cordon streets. Busses, trains, and ferries deposit people into the hubbub of Circular Quay. Others arrive on foot and the vibe is animated, enchanted and alight with energy. This is a place for the young and the young-at-heart. Pulsing crowds move in a smooth motion from one installment to the next. Inspiration is all around.
Everyday conformity is challenged by visual creativity. Monotonous office buildings are juxtaposed against their transformed counterparts with brightly coloured projections of musical instruments, butterflies and triangles. Images wrap the buildings like giant (and very early) Christmas presents to the viewing public. This is Vivid, Sydney’s Festival of Light. The festival is broken into three main focuses: light, music and ideas.
Vivid is an annual affair that draws more than 800,000 people over 18 days. The 2014 Festival was from May 23 to June 9. There are even Vivid snap apps allowing you to further embellish your photos. Vivid Trails lead you on a hide-and-seek game for all ages with light installations around Sydney’s metropolitan area.
A jaunt across the harbour to Manly courtesy of Sydney Ferries brought us a front row view and avoided queues to the opera house. Lighting displays spread across the harbour. Butterflies filled the arched wings of the Opera House. Next it morphed into a kaleidoscopic pattern of fans, then it became multi-coloured triangles. It was as if I had returned to my childhood in the nineties and I was once again looking through my View-master.
The base of the harbour Bridge became an outdoor movie. A boat became a giant grasshopper in luminous green. Lunar Park had additional embellishments of luminosity. Sculpted light installations were positioned around the city, encouraging exploration of every corner and more practically, it helped in dispersing members of the public.
Whether you’re looking for a new selfie or something new to show the little ones, you’ve got to get to Vivid. When you pack your bag for next years’ festival, remember to bring your inner child.
Sydney’s Festival of Light: Vivid is an annual affair that draws more than 800,000 people over 18 days. The 2014 Festival ran each night after dark from May 23 to June 9.For more information, click here.
I am standing in a giant wicker fruit-bowl looking out onto a lush green field on the edge of the school grounds. We’re not supposed to come here without a teacher but it’s after school now and Mum’s around somewhere. Kids are swarming around, hoping to stand out from the crowd and be selected. This time luck was on my side. The determination is etched into the small faces of my sister, my friend and I. We start to hover over the field and the kids’ bobbing faces become smaller. A roar sounds above my head and I duck instinctively. The pilot is pulling on the gas and sending us skyward. I’m terrified. All I could think was: ‘oh golly gosh, my hair is going to catch fire’.
This memory flashes back as I gaze into the Melbourne sunrise and watch hot air balloons saunter across the sky. It reminds me of home. Balloons floated into town at the same time every year, just as summer gave way to autumn. The mornings were crisp with dew covering the grass. They used to fly over the house and we’d run outside and wave. Sometimes, when they were flying low, they’d wave back at me. Once, a balloon landed in a field across the road. We went straight over and had a chat, of course. It turned out there was a film crew shooting footage for a television show. Their host was famous and I was immediately star struck. She was all very professional despite the rather sudden landing across the road from my house. I trotted back home with autograph in hand.
At the end of our city’s annual Balloon Festival, we would have a Night Glow. It was quite an event, too. I loved it, large Bunsen burners glowing orange into oversized pillows against a pitch black autumn sky. The atmosphere was consistently jovial and there was plenty of delicious food to accompany the entertainment.
Back to my experience as a nine year old in the hot air balloon, a treat every kid coveted. It was the highest honour a nine year old could be bestowed. Bragging rights were guaranteed. And I was inside a balloon. Except We only made it a few metres from the ground. I still got my magical moment in a balloon. I smile at the memory. Not a hair on my head was scorched in the process either.
Tasmania is perhaps like the youngest child of all the Australian states. It’s much smaller in size and gets a bit of flak from its siblings. New South Wales, a bossy older sibling that is always busy. Victoria would be an alternative child into the arts and yet footy mad. Tassie is a different league altogether, it’s placid, with a rural lifestyle and a ‘true-blue’ personality. Far from a weakness, this is what Tassie has best to offer. There is an instant sense of calm. There is no need to rush here, there’s a peaceful, easy feeling.
Tasmania in two days, that’s our mission. We hired a car from a friendly local agent. “Everyone thinks Tassie’s a tiny island” said the agent. Hardly the tiny island, Tasmania has more than 2,000 kilometres of walking tracks and 18 national parks. The island cuts an impressive silhouette with towering mountain peaks and serrated hilltops.
The two hour drive from Launceston to Hobart gives us a dose of rural life, a refreshing change from our home in metropolitan madness. Sheep are dotted over the green paddocks, cattle graze and silage stockpiles and respect-demanding mountain peaks assemble in the background. We even see a few rusted and weary tin sheds along the way.
Where are all the people? I wonder, as we approach Hobart’s heart on Saturday at lunchtime. A few hours later, we find half the town is in the bustling Salamanca Market. There are stalls on either side for the entire length of the narrow road. As we make it half way down the street, we realise we’ve made a rookie mistake. We ate lunch before wandering down here. Not to worry, we collect local ginger beer and delicious snacks for afternoon tea as well as some local crafts to take home.
There’s a place perched atop a cliff that overlooks the Hobart harbour that has everyone talking. The Museum of Old and New Art, MONA for short is my next stop. A whisper has been circulating about all the nudity and confronting artwork inside. I’m intrigued.
I wander up the hill to find a couple of tee pees on the bank which seem to validate the rumour of weird things. The rest of what I see is strangely normal. A stage sits downwind with a bunch of brightly coloured bean bags strewn across the lawn. It’s Sunday and there’s a live band playing chill-out music. I’m almost tempted to abandon the museum and park up in a deckchair. Curiosity overpowers me and I push on.
What can I say about the museum without spoiling it? The building architecture itself is commanding. Like it or hate it the museum is an eccentric assortment of pieces intended to provoke. It’s a great way to bend the mind in directions it may not have been before.
Dinner Reservations were made at the highly recommended Blue Skies Restaurant* on the waterfront in Hobart. A few warm, crusty slices of garlic bread started us off nicely. I am partial to a tasty steak and the 250g eye fillet was cooked to perfection, charred around the edges and juicy pink on the inside. It fell onto my fork with the garlic-infused creamy potato mash. A plate of butter-drizzled greens with a crispy crunch filled me to bursting point. Do not come here if you are dieting.
The waterfront is a lovely place to take a stroll in the evening, with boats of all shapes and sizes littering the water’s edge, sitting like pebbles in the lulling water. Lights dot the shores of the Derwent River and make a pretty picture against the evening sky. People are wandering to and from drinks and dinner. Some mellow teenagers are enjoying an evening of old school roller skating and skate boarding.
The next morning seagulls cry while surfing the sea breeze, the town is still. It’s only a weekend but it feels like a world away. They say that the youngest siblings are often spoilt but Tassie, the little brother of all Australian states, is just a cruiser and I like it.
The Facts: Australian airline companies travel to Tasmania daily from most major locations around Australia. My trip from Melbourne to Launceston took approximately on hour. For more information on Tasmania, click here.
*Blue Skies Restaurant has unfortunately closed and been replaced by Mai Ake Asian Cuisine which is also highly rated on Urbanspoon.
Strolling through the Botanic Gardens in the moonlight arm in arm, there’s a smidgen of romance in the air. Well, it’s a tad cold out and getting dark so I guess I have an ulterior motive. Rustling bushes stopped me in my tracks. We weren’t alone. Carrying on up the dimly-lit path leads us to Moonlight Cinemas.
The Lego Movie is showing tonight and there’s healthy mix of the young and the young at heart. There are a few four-legged freeloaders in the treetops but they leave the lawn for ticket holders. A clear starlit sky is bordered by regal trees. We all point our picnic blankets towards the big screen and bats swoop overhead. The neighbouring Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) crowd roared in the background and allows those interested keep up with the live footy score.
Natural surrounds make a refreshing change to the average cinema experience. Usually the movies are buried in the depths of a mall, lined with red carpet and littered with butter popcorn.
Grab a blanket and settle in for the ultimate outdoor cinema experience. Just watch out for the bats on your way out.
Melbourne’s outdoor cinema runs from December to March at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Moonlight Cinemas is across Australia with locations in Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Port Douglas and Sydney. If you’re up for a bit of extra comfort, go for Gold Grass. For more information, click here.
First impressions are important. She moved towards us with elegance and grace. Her sleek lines were appealing and there was a distinctive glint in her eye. With a name like Aussie Princess, there was a fitting association with royalty. She was stunning.
We take a leisurely stroll towards New Quay, with the sun on our backs and a mild breeze permeating our nostrils with a distinct salty aroma. Our group congregates at the edge of the Marina, admiring each other’s boat-chique. There’s an abundance of classic stripes and navy blue.
A woman saunters along the jetty pushing a supermarket trolley with a small collection of consumer goods. She could have carried them in one hand but what do I know? We must remember this is the maritime and different rules apply.
We cast our eyes out to the water and along the row of vessels in search of the Aussie Princess. Next thing, we see a 50ft luxury cruiser heading out in the opposite direction. Did they forget us? We wonder. Surely not! The Princess is teasing us. She turns back to shore and lines up against the dock for us to climb aboard.
Minutes later, I’m on a boat. It’s larger than I thought. It boasts impressive features such as a saloon, a galley and a fly bridge. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the built-in hatch for empties. There’s even a spot at the bow of the boat for a Titanic moment, to which our Birthday Girl obliges.
At the safety briefing, the husband and wife team exchange glances. Robyn asks Lindsay if she should give us the full briefing. She seems to believe it necessary judging by our motley crew and the five minutes we’ve spent aboard so far. We take it as a compliment and her husband assures her that it is not necessary. “I never can tell,” she says.
“Who’s the Birthday Girl?” the skipper asks and our friend steps forward. She’s thirty and our hosts explain that it’s a difficult age to cater for on a boat. Never mind twenty-firsts, dirty thirties are validated when it comes to boat life apparently. Perhaps it’s the combination of more money and less spare time. Oh dear. It appears we are not off to a good start.
Realising the familiar twang of the kiwi accent, Robyn nods. It explains a lot. Only Kiwis and Irish tourists are willing to travel on a boat at this time of year, everyone else is put off by the weather. “It’s a bit cold to throw anyone overboard though” Lindsay and Robyn advise. Thank goodness. Even we Kiwis have our limits.
I’m no sailor. In fact I’m a land-loving scaredy-cat. The idea of consuming alcoholic beverages while at sea is enough to make me nauseous. On rougher voyages, I’ve done little more than stare straight ahead, focusing on keeping my breakfast down. When the lovely hostess Robyn offers me a vino, I cannot say “no, thank you” quick enough. I follow up with a more composed “maybe later.”
The engine starts and soon we’re under the Westgate Bridge, with the Melbourne central business district fading to nothing more than a stack of building blocks on the horizon. We are toe-to-toe with a cargo ship and the towering pile of steel is a menacing silhouette. Well, it makes sense. The Port of Melbourne is apparently the largest container port in Australia. I’m grateful when the giant ship overtakes us, I would much rather have it in front of me, where I can see it.
Upon discovery that we were not on course for high seas, I settled into the harbor cruise (now I think of it, the name should have been a giveaway) and acquired a glass of wine to go with the cheese and fruit platter that was deposited on deck. Food and drink flows with the apparently ruckus thirty year old conversation. We do laps of Williamstown Jetty and come across an old Navy warship with missiles on deck. There’s also the Sea Shepherd, MY Steve Irwin, an ‘Eco Warrior’ ship.
I exit the boat while maintaining a rocking motion that may or may not have had anything to do with the beverages. Thankfully my lunch and the blue cheese managed to stay down too. It’s time to see if we can live up to our thirty year old reputation on shore tonight.
For more information about luxury cruises in Melbourne, click here.
“I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it, someone must have picked it up and put it in their pocket, it wasn’t you, it wasn’t me, it wasn’t Father Christmas, look behind your back!”
That chant was repeated over and over in my primary school days, it was even endorsed by the teacher as a legitimate form of exercise and a way to distract unruly children for an hour. Love and romance are hardly a novelty, but it is quite fascinating how we come up with funny little ways to symbolise it. The little song from my childhood is a perfect example. Another fond memory is where you pick each petal off a daisy and chant “he loves me” then “he loves me not” and the number of flowers supposedly seals your romantic fate.
When eating an apple with the stalk still attached, you can also superstitiously conjure romance. Simply twist the stalk in time with reciting the alphabet, when it breaks, that is what your future love’s name begins with. Gosh, I didn’t realise how love-obsessed I was as a child.
A new phenomenon sweeping Melbourne and around the world is what I overheard a young child describe as ‘Love Locks.’ On the Southbank Bridge, lovers gaze out over the Yarra River and toss the keys to their lock overboard after securing it on the wire railing. The ritual symbolises unbreakable love. The scene has been captured many a time in tourist and wedding albums alike. Maybe it’s time to add it to the itinerary, fellow travellers.
Like many trends, the concept dates back to over 100 years ago in Serbia during World War I with a ‘Most Ljubaci’ or Bridge of Love. It is rumoured to have started in France but that is likely to be the revival. Either way, locksmiths are rubbing their hands together. They probably haven’t seen an opportunity like this since we started engraving our Pet’s details on their collars.
Yesterday a woman passing the love locks told her friend of a bridge collapsing in France under additional strain from the volume of padlocks. Google confirmed her tale to be true. If you visit the Southbank Bridge and look closely then you’ll see my name amongst them. After a childhood filled with romantic daydreams, I’m hardly about to stop participating in romantic traditions now, am I?
Having frequented Manly by day on numerous occasions, I was seeking a new way to view and old friend. There you have it, Manly by Night. To be honest, I planned an afternoon trip but in usual fashion, particularly when travelling, I was late. So it was actually a happy accident.
Turning its back on Sydney’s silhouette outlined in lights, the boat saunters towards the dock. The northern lights attract my attention and as the buildings come into view I see they’re apartments. Inching further towards the apartments, I look into their lounge rooms. I swap lives with them for a moment in my mind. I could get used to a seaside apartment in Manly. I really could.
It’s Saturday night and as we step off the lower deck, we see people churning through the Manly Wharf in both directions. Most people are milling about the streets in search of food and beverages. An ice-cream parlour catches our attention. Why not? We think. It is the seaside after all. We make a beeline for the beach. Listening to the small waves lapping with ice-cream in hand, we stroll along the seaside on a well-lit path. People are walking, running and chatting. I could even pass for a local right now. Shame the housing isn’t quite in my price range.
Sydney Ferries travel from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf every half hour approximately. Pleasant sailing will take half an hour and you’ll be there before you know it. For more information, click here.