Watch these places
Where to go and what to see across the country in 2012
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
Clockwise from main picture, canoeing on Margaret River; a turtle at the Mon Repos Conservation Park; Womadelaide; Wineglass Bay in Tasmania