Watch these places

Where to go and what to see across the coun­try in 2012

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page - JU­DITH ELEN

Twel­ve­treats, hand­picked from the coun­try’s trove of na­ture and cul­ture, high­light the rich store that lies in wait for ad­ven­tur­ers at home.

This new year’s dozen is a win­dow on un­usual places to ex­plore across Aus­tralia: come face to face with wild things, on land or at sea, in the flesh or as rare bones; dis­cover an­cient skills and ex­otic mu­sic; ex­plore har­bours and rivers; stroll the sum­mit of a sky­scraper; and catch a glimpse of a lock of Napoleon’s hair.

These are some of the price­less ex­pe­ri­ences our states and ter­ri­to­ries have to of­fer. Tur­tle hatch­lings, Mon Re­pos Con­ser­va­tion Park, Queens­land: One of the most en­tranc­ing events on Aus­tralia’s seashores must be the an­nual tur­tle nest­ing and hatch­ing sea­son at Mon Re­pos, 14km east of Bund­aberg.

This ac­ces­si­ble sea tur­tle rook­ery is their most sig­nif­i­cant South Pa­cific nest­ing site. From Novem­ber to early Jan­uary, the gi­ant tur­tles drag them­selves up the beach to lay eggs be­fore re­turn­ing to the deep. From Jan­uary to late March, swarms of tiny tur­tles emerge from the sand and scut­tle to the sea. More than 400 log­ger­head tur­tles vis­ited the coast­line to lay their eggs last sea­son, up 48 per cent on 2010. Guided Tur­tle Ex­pe­ri­ence Tours depart nightly through­out the sea­son ( ex­cept Christ­mas Eve, Christ­mas Day and New Year’s Eve). Un­til late March; book­ings es­sen­tial. More: book­bund­aber­gre­gion.com.au. Koomurri Abo­rig­i­nal Cen­tre, Ka­toomba, NSW: For more than a cen­tury, Echo Point, in the Blue Moun­tains two hours west of Syd­ney, has drawn tourists to the cliff edge. Last month, a new — yet an­cient — vi­sion of the land was launched for the ben­e­fit of vis­i­tors.

Artists and per­form­ers at the Koomurri Abo­rig­i­nal Cen­tre of­fer cor­ro­boree en­act­ments, sto­ry­telling and hands-on art ex­pe­ri­ences: 40,000 years of tra­di­tion, skills and Dream­time sto­ries come to life in a mix of free gallery en­try, paid per­for­mances and ed­u­ca­tional pack­ages.

A gallery dis­plays arte­facts (au­then­ti­cally Abo­rig­i­nal, rather than for­eign-made) as well as col­lectable works by prom­i­nent artists. There’s a didgeri­doo dis­play and work­shop, and Dream­time Chop­per, a Har­ley-david­son with a red-belly black snake for its body. En­try $20 (chil­dren $10), in­cludes dance, sto­ry­telling, di­geri­doo per­for­mance and cul­tural talk (with spears and shields). More: koomurri.com. Wo­made­laide, Ade­laide: Cu­rios­ity and good­will are key phrases for Wo­made­laide, launched in 1992 as part of Ade­laide Fes­ti­val of Arts, as Aus­tralia’s first WO­MAD (World of Mu­sic, Arts and Dance) fes­ti­val. Be­gun by a mu­si­cian and a mu­sic jour­nal­ist to present the ex­cit­ing sounds of the world’s di­verse cul­tures, in­ter­na­tional WOMADS take place an­nu­ally in New Zealand, Spain, Bri­tain, Sin­ga­pore, Italy and Abu Dhabi.

Founder Peter Gabriel says Wo­made­laide, now stand-alone and an­nual, has the most beau­ti­ful set­ting (Botanic Park). This year marks Wo­made­laide’s 20th birth­day, and Aus­tralia’s Gur­ru­mul Yunupingu will per­form, plus favourites from the past 20 years and new dis­cov­er­ies, in­clud­ing desert blues men from Mali and per­form­ers from Swe­den, Ivory Coast, Fin­land, Ja­pan, South Africa and the Congo.

There will be dance, vis­ual arts, street the­atre, Taste the World cook­ing ses­sions, fes­ti­val bars, work­shops, artists in con­ver­sa­tion, Kid­zone, stalls and pa­rades. March 9-12. More: wo­made­laide.com.au. Ot­way Di­nosaurs, Apollo Bay, Vic­to­ria: Un­til April 15, the ex­hi­bi­tion Wildlife of Gond­wana, cu­rated by Monash Univer­sity school of geo­sciences pro­fes­sor Pat Vick­er­sRich, ex­plores pre­his­toric dis­cov­er­ies made in Vic­to­ria’s Ot­way coastal re­gion.

Fos­sil records of the Great South­ern Con­ti­nent stretch back 3.8 bil­lion years. Ex­hibits in­clude skele­tons mounted in dy­namic poses, tiny po­lar di­nosaur Leaell ynasaura ( dis­cov­ered on the Ot­way coast) and the more than 8m-long car­ni­vore Tar­bosaurus bataar (fe­ro­cious lizard).

Greg Den­ney and Deb Moore of Ot­way Di­nosaurs have long­stand­ing links with the dis­cov­er­ies — an­cient flood de­posits un­cov­ered over 10 years by vol­un­teers work­ing the South­ern Ocean-washed fore­shores — and they have brought the ex­hi­bi­tion to the re­gion. Open seven days, 9am-5pm. More: ot­way­di­nosaurs.com. Napoleon: Rev­o­lu­tion to Em­pire, National Gallery of Vic­to­ria, Mel­bourne: Gaze at a lock of Napoleon Bon­a­parte’s hair, em­press Josephine’s j ewellery, and fur­ni­ture and ob­jects from her coun­try res­i­dence, Mal­mai­son. Re­mote and ex­otic as this sounds, there are lo­cal con­nec­tions.

The em­press was fas­ci­nated with Aus­tralia and the Pa­cific. Trac­ing this in­ter­est, the ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes Aus­tralian flora and fauna from Mal­mai­son and draws links be­tween Aus­tralia and France in an age of ex­plo­ration and sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery. More than 200 ex­hibits, in­clud­ing paint­ings, sculp­tures, fur­ni­ture, tex­tiles (im­pe­rial court cos­tumes), porce­lain, glass, gold and sil­ver, fash­ion, jew­ellery and ar­mour. NGV’S 2012 Win­ter Mas­ter­pieces. June 2 to Oc­to­ber 7; en­try fees ap­ply. More: ngv.vic.gov.au. So­lar Eclipse Marathon, Port Dou­glas, Queens­land: You have to be quick for this one, and not just as a run­ner. For two to three min­utes on the morn­ing of Novem­ber 14, a nar­row swath of coun­try be­tween Cairns and Cook­town in north­ern Queens­land will be plunged into com­plete dark­ness when the moon ob­scures the sun (the par­tial eclipse lasts longer). In­stead of just blink­ing and miss­ing it, sign up for the So­lar Eclipse Marathon, which leaves Four Mile Beach (the per­fect spot for watch­ing) to tra­verse beau­ti­ful scenery, rain­for­est, cane­fields, grass, beach and gravel. Marathon en­try is con­di­tional on pur­chase of the full itin­er­ary but just one run­ner in a party is OK.

The pack­age in­cludes lo­cal tours and ac­com­mo­da­tion. From the Dan­ish or­gan­is­ers of Ad­ven­ture Marathon and Aus­tralian travel agent Trav­el­ling Fit, with Port Dou­glas Event Man­age­ment sup­port. More: so­lar-eclipse-marathon.com. Mar­garet River Dis­cov­ery Tour, Western Aus­tralia: In this ex­quis­ite environment — sea cliffs, an­cient for­est, flora and fauna — the dis­cov­ery tour vis­its sites not of­ten seen, ex­plor­ing the nat­u­ral world and lo­cal Euro­pean and Abo­rig­i­nal his­tory. Last year’s fires dam­aged less than 2 per cent of the re­gion and Mar­garet River town­ship was un­af­fected. This 51/ 2- hour small-group (max­i­mum six) tour via lux­ury four-wheeldrive off-road ex­plor­ing, takes in the re­mote Wilyabrup coastal cliffs and the Abo­rig­i­nal Dream­time site of Meekadarabee Falls.

Spot sea­sonal wild­flow­ers, whales and birds. There’s op­tional ca­noe­ing on the serene Mar­garet River and an in­cluded gourmet lunch at pri­vate wine es­tate Fraser Gal­lop vine­yard, not usu­ally open to the pub­lic, with win­ery tour and meet­ing with wine­maker Clive Otto. Sam­ple re­gional pro­duce and premium wines; $205 a per­son. More: mar­gare­triverdis­cov­ery.com.au. Dis­cover our Wild Side, Tid­bin­billa Na­ture Re­serve, Can­berra: Tid­bin­billa is in a se­cluded val­ley sur­rounded by rocky moun­tains, with kan­ga­roos, wal­la­bies, koalas, emus, birds and other wildlife in their na­tive habi­tats, en­riched by 20,000 years of Abo­rig­i­nal habi­ta­tion and early Euro­pean her­itage.

Move in for a two- day stay; ac­com­pany con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cers into off- limit ar­eas for close en­coun­ters with wildlife. Par­tic­i­pate in breed­ing and an­i­mal mon­i­tor­ing pro­grams for the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered north­ern cor­ro­boree frog, brush-tailed rock wal­laby and long-nosed po­toroo.

Sleep in a re­stored pioneer homestead in the Jed­bin­billa hills and eat be­side a camp fire un­der the stars; there are small-group 4Wdad­ven­tures and guided spot­light tours by night. $450 a per­son twin-share, min­i­mum age 12 years. More: tid­bin­billa.com.au; na­ture­wise.com.au. Sky­point Climb, Gold Coast, Queens­land: Try be­ing Bat­man (or wo­man) for 90 min­utes this sum­mer, as­cend­ing to the top of the Q1 build­ing, 270m up, and saun­ter­ing around the glass crown for a 360-de­gree al­fresco view of the sun­shine state’s south­east — beaches, city sky­line and lush hin­ter­land. This is a fully guided, se­ri­ous mis­sion, with safety brief­ing, full-body climb suit and har­ness. A high-speed el­e­va­tor takes climbers to Sky­point Ob­ser­va­tion Deck; in a glass air­lock room, the leader at­taches climbers to the

DONNA POW­ELL (MAR­GARET RIVER DIS­COV­ERY); MARTIN DEAN (WO­MADE­LAIDE)

Clock­wise from main pic­ture, ca­noe­ing on Mar­garet River; a tur­tle at the Mon Re­pos Con­ser­va­tion Park; Wo­made­laide; Wine­glass Bay in Tas­ma­nia

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