We’re in the final days of autumn here in Australia. The trees are slowly losing their leaves as the air turns from crisp to chill. One of the things I wanted to do before the season ended was to explore Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, and see for myself the glorious reds, browns, oranges and golds of the autumnal leaves before winter stole them away for another year.
The Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, tucked away in the Adelaide Hills, are only a thirty minute drive out of Adelaide. On the way there, as I drove through the townships of the Adelaide Hills, I caught glimpses of
gorgeous trees in vibrant reds and yellows and my anticipation heightened. I had decided to go at just the right time!
After parking in the Upper Carpark (free to park on Sundays, and not as full as the Lower Carpark) I didn’t pick up a map of the Botanic Gardens and decided to wander instead in search of colourful leaves. The day was perfect for walking along the sometimes steep paths, and there were moments when there was nobody else around where I could stand still, and appreciate the beauty of nature.
By the time I made my way down the hill to the Main Lake, I had not been disappointed. There were flashes of colour everywhere in amongst the evergreen trees. Coming across the Duck Lake was the showpiece of the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, with the colours of the foliage reflected in the lake.
After an hour of wandering around the Rhododendron and West Asian Gullies, it came time to make the hike back up to the carpark, which tested my fitness after what was a relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
As it’s spread over more than 90 hectares, there is still a great deal more of the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens that I’ve yet to explore. Hopefully, as I keep my resolution to travel more locally during this year, I can return over the next few months to explore the other paths through the garden. I hear the camellias and magnolias are beautiful in August!
I have no idea where the first half of 2017 went. Surely it was only a few weeks ago when I was dreaming up travel plans for this year? Yet somehow I am sitting here with my laptop, listening to it pour with rain outside, counting the days to when winter is over and wondering how the first half of 2017 has passed without travelling much at all.
The 2017 Travel Goals List
Back in January, I came up with a list of dream destinations to visit in 2017. Some plans are still in the works and others have fallen through. So what’s still on my travel list for this year?
The capital cities of Australia
With trips to Sydney and Melbourne planned in September, dropping in to Hobart to visit relatives as part of the Great Tasmanian Odyssey in October, and spending my weekends venturing around my home town of Adelaide, by the end of the year I would have visited four out of the eight capital cities (the others being Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, and the capital of Australia: Canberra). Half of them isn’t that bad, right?
Eastern Europe and Eastern Canada
My plans to visit Croatia, Slovenia and Romania fell through due to scheduling issues. Hopefully early next year I’ll be able to get to Vlad’s Transylvanian castle, the lakes and waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes and the picturesque towns of Slovenia.
The Eastern Canada trip will have to be moved back, too.
Tasmania is definitely happening, and I’ll be waking up on my birthday on the Spirit of Tasmania, the ferry that makes the crossing over Bass Strait between Melbourne and Devonport. From there, the plan is to go hiking around Cradle Mountain, spend some time exploring the north-western coastline of Tasmania, venture down to Hobart to visit relatives, learn more about Australia’s convict past by visiting Port Arthur, get my fill of the heritage homes that are around Evandale and take in the spectacular scenery that Tasmania is famous for.
Local day trips
Staying so close to home during the first half of the year has meant that I’ve been able to take advantage of what my local region has to offer. However, there’s still so much more I’d like to explore this year!
During the next six months, I would love to:
Take a day trip out to the Naracoorte Caves, the only UNESCO heritage site in South Australia
Return to Moonta, a mining town originally settled by the Cornish, where I grew up
Learn more about my family history by visiting the Barossa Valley towns of Tanunda and Nuriootpa, where both my mum’s and dad’s fathers settled when they migrated to Australia from Germany in the 1880s
Explore Kangaroo Island
Visit one of the major salt lakes
Visit Martindale Hall, where Picnic at Hanging Rock was filmed
Do the Adelaide Oval Roof Climb
Face my fear of ghosts at the Adelaide Gaol
Explore the Tunnels that are underneath Adelaide (already signed up to do this in August – can’t wait!)
There’s so much to look forward to!
What are your travel plans for the next half of the year?
It’s Proclamation Day here in South Australia – the day when South Australia was proclaimed as a British province on the 28th December 1836. As it’s South Australia’s 178th birthday, I thought I would bring you a list of twelve places and things that come to mind when I think about good old SA (in random order, of course!):
Cruising down the River Torrens in the Popeye
A Very Special Thing when we were little was to go for a ride on the Popeye. The river boats leave from Elder Park and travel to the Weir before turning around and cruising to the Adelaide Zoo. There is a fleet of three Popeye boats, and the sight of them cruising down the Torrens never fails to bring back memories of my childhood. Make sure you hop on one when you’re next in Adelaide!
Climbing Mount Lofty
Laugh if you want about the poorly named Mount Lofty Ranges that hem in the city of Adelaide. While there are plenty of loftier mountains, standing at the top of Mt Lofty gives you a good view over the city out to the Gulf of St Vincent. Whether you drive or ride your bike up the winding Adelaide Hills roads, or leave your car at Waterfall Gully and walk the 3kms up to the top (harder than it sounds – the trail gets steeper the closer you get to the top), Mount Lofty gives you one of the best views over Adelaide.
Chilling out in the wine country
Wine drinkers are spoilt for choice in South Australia. Right on our doorstep we have three wine regions: the Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. Between one and two hours’ drive out from Adelaide, spending a day cellar door hopping is a relaxing way to pass the weekend. And the wine is world class – I often find South Australian wines listed in the wine lists at overseas restaurants (I laughed when I saw a Chateau Reynella on the wine list at the Olde Hansa restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia – it brought home to me just how good South Australian wine really is!).
Mad March: The Festival Month
One of SA’s taglines is The Festival State. We like our festivals so much that we decided to put as many as we could into one month and give ourselves the other eleven months to recuperate. If you’re in Adelaide in March, you’ll find yourself spending most of your nights out at the Adelaide Fringe Festival (second only to the Edinburgh Fringe). On the nights you’re not checking out comedians, street performers, dance performances and visual artists, you can get your fill of world music at WOMAdelaide. Right alongside the Fringe is the Adelaide Festival of Arts, which includes one of my favourite festivals: Adelaide Writer’s Week, a free event where both Australian and international authors, poets and journalists descend on the Pioneer Women’s Gardens to talk about their projects and industries. We have a public holiday in March to watch the horses racing for the Adelaide Cup. Then, right at the end of the month, we complain about how the set up of the Clipsal 500 track has made travelling to Adelaide’s eastern suburbs a whole lot more difficult. They don’t call it Mad March for nothing!
The Green Gridded Capital City
Navigating while in overseas metropolises can be painful, especially when I’m used to good old Adelaide’s grid-like street layout. The city is extremely walkable, and there are free buses and trams to get you around the inner city. Our CBD is surrounded by parklands, with Victoria Square and other green areas dotted throughout the grid, all purposely planned by the men who originally designed the city’s layout in the 1800s. It means that we never feel like we’re walking around in a concrete jungle – a green space is never more than 500m away.
Our quirky monuments
We have a lot of statues and sculptures around the CBD. But the one that garners the fiercest loyalty are the Rundle Mall Balls. While they perhaps don’t look like anything special to a tourist’s eyes, this shiny structure has been a fixture in the Mall, and an easy landmark if you need to specify a location to meet up with your friends!
Starting the Christmas Season with the Credit Union Christmas Pageant and the Magic Cave
2014 was the first year that I can ever remember missing out on watching the Christmas Pageant (I was traipsing around Paris, climbing the Arc de Triomphe and checking out the Galeries Lafayette on Christmas Pageant Day). Every year, the Credit Unions of South Australia put on the biggest Christmas Pageant in the Southern Hemisphere, containing over sixty floats of fairy tale characters, marching bands and Christmas carolers. Father Christmas, his sleigh pulled by twelve animatronic reindeer, pauses on the steps of David Jones department store to announce the beginning of the Christmas season, wish everyone peace and goodwill, and to open the Magic Cave, where for the next six weeks children will queue to tell him their Christmas wish lists. For everyone’s safety, a permanent blue line is painted on the streets of Adelaide that marks the line all children (and adults) must keep behind while the pageant is on. Now when I’m overseas, if I see a blue line painted on the road, it reminds me of the Christmas Pageant!
Watching the game at the newly revamped Adelaide Oval
Over the past few years the Adelaide Oval has undergone renovations to improve its facilities. So most people liken the new grandstand to an alien spaceship, but it is known as one of the best cricket grounds in the world. Whether you watch cricket in the summer or AFL in the winter, choose to sit in the grandstand or out in the open on the hill, make sure to enjoy the atmosphere.
The Wild Life on Kangaroo Island
The guidebooks are right about this one. If you’re visiting South Australia, make the effort to drive down to Kangaroo Island and spend a few days there. There are strange rock formations (Remarkable Rocks, Admiral’s Arch), limestone stalactites and stalagmites at Kelly Hill Caves and of course wildlife (pelican feedings and little ‘fairy’ penguins in Kingscote; sleepy sea lions at Seal Bay; kangaroos, koalas and emus at Flinders Chase). And all the fun of running up and down a giant sand dune at Little Sahara.
Living the Miner’s Life in the Copper Triangle
I grew up in the Copper Triangle towns of Kadina, Moonta and Wallaroo (affectionately called Australia’s Little Cornwall). Due to this upbringing, I compare every Cornish pasty I eat in the UK to the ones I consumed at the Cornish Kitchen, Australian-Cornish copper mining practices to their Anglo equivalent and can’t go past a maypole without memories of wanting to dance around it at the Kernewek Lowender Cornish Festival. Living in coastal towns, I also filled my childhood with long summer days at the beach, swimming within the supposedly shark-proof netting and catching garfish, whiting and Tommy Ruffs off of the Moonta Bay jetty.
Receiving 10 cents back for recycling cans and plastic bottles
All recyclable cans, bottles and cartons bought in South Australia can earn you cash if you take them to a recycling depot. While it doesn’t seem like much at 10 cents per item, it certainly adds up. It’s a great initiative that encourages recycling and it’s something that I’ve taken for granted – when overseas I find it hard to even find a designated recycling bin and feel guilty about throwing recyclable goods in the trash.
South Aussie Food and Drink
One thing we South Aussies take seriously is our food, with Adelaide boasting more restaurants per person than any other Australian capital city. While I’m a bit of a Schnitzel Queen (and why not when it’s on the menu in some form at almost every pub and restaurant in the state?), there’s a few specialities that are uniquely South Australian. How many of these have you tried? Try them – they’re all awesome (except for the pie floater – I’ve never been game enough to try one of those!)