Discover Mount Ainslie Lookout and Canberra

View of Canberra  from Mount Ainslie lookout - ANZAC Parade, Parliament House and modern architecture with mountains in background. ACT, AustraliaCanberra is often overlooked by tourists who are intent on exploring the neon lights of Sydney and Melbourne, but the Australian capital is well worth a visit. If you’re hoping to see the sights and gain an insight into the culture during your tailor-made Australia holiday, you won’t be disappointed if you choose to spend a couple of days in Canberra.

The best views: Discover Mount Ainslie Lookout

If you’re keen to enjoy the best views of Canberra, head up to the Mount Ainslie Lookout. Canberra boasts an enviable location, surrounded by mountains, and its beauty cannot really be appreciated until you take to the hills and enjoy a bird’s eye view. As you hike or cycle up the mountain, you’ll be treated with magnificent panoramic views, which showcase the city and the surrounding geographical wonders, including Lake Burley Griffin, in all their glory. You can drive most of the way, but if you’ve got the energy and the stamina, it’s best to travel on foot or by bike. The best times to visit the lookout are sunrise and sunset. There are usually fewer people around, and the vistas are even more breathtaking bathed in subtle golden light.

Exploring Canberra

Back at sea level, there’s a host of attractions and sights on offer. Perhaps the highlight for most tourists is Parliament House. Opened in 1988, this expansive building, which is set on a hill, was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II. The building features a towering flagpole and it’s open to the public. The old parliament building, which housed political leaders for 61 years, is now home to the Museum of Australian Democracy. Art enthusiasts will love the National Gallery of Australia, which showcases works by Australian artists and traditional Aboriginal art.

The Australian War Memorial is a domineering structure, which was erected to commemorate those who have lost their lives in combat. The giant dome-shaped mausoleum was designed by architects, Emil Sodersten and John Crust and built in 1941. The memorial hosts a service every year on Anzac Day (25th April), which is attended by thousands. If you’re looking for a fun family day out or you’re an animal fan, the National Zoo and Aquarium comes highly recommended. Here, you can see hundreds of different species, including Tasmanian devils, African lions, pygmy hippos, alligators, wombats and, of course, everybody’s favourite Australian native, the koala.

 

The towering Twelve Apostles in Marine National Park

Twelve Apostles in AustraliaAustralia is home to some of the most iconic road trips in the world, but none capture the imagination quite like the magnificent Great Ocean Road. You could easily spend days exploring this winding path filled with natural wonders on your personalised Australia holiday, but if you’re short on time, one highlight you won’t want to miss is the towering Twelve Apostles.

The Twelve Apostles

The Twelve Apostles is a series of stone stacks, which soar into the sky from the rolling ocean waves. Despite the name, there aren’t actually twelve piles. There are, in fact, six visible pillars, with one more separated from the collection around the corner from the viewing deck. Originally, the Twelve Apostles was named the Sow and Piglets, with Mutton Bird Island nicknamed the sow and the stone statues the piglets. Later, the name was changed. Even at that time, there were only eight stacks. One dramatically crumbled in 2005 and the remaining towers can be seen from an accessible viewing platform. In addition to the iconic rock formations, visitors can also enjoy spectacular views of the golden cliffs and the expansive waters lapping against the coastline.

Planning your trip

The Twelve Apostles form part of the Marine National Park, and they can be found approximately 5 miles away from Port Campbell. Regular tours operate in the area, covering the Great Ocean Road, but if you’ve got a driving license, you may wish to hire a car and hit the open roads alone. This way, you can dictate the itinerary and explore at your leisure. The Twelve Apostles are clearly signposted, and there’s a well-trodden track, which will take you directly to the platform to enjoy the best vistas. It is worth noting that this is an incredibly popular tourist spot, and you’re likely to encounter a number of other travellers along the way. To avoid the crowds and get some snaps without having to wait in line, try and plan your visit at dawn or dusk. Soak up the atmosphere and watch the waves crash in as the sun rises or sets.

Exploring the park

The Twelve Apostles are a standout feature on the Great Ocean Road, but there’s a huge amount to see and do around this magnificent wonder. If you’ve got a day or a few days to meander along the coast, you won’t be disappointed. The Twelve Apostles Marine National Park covers 7,500 hectares, spanning 17km and it boasts some of the most dramatic natural scenery in the country. Keep your eyes peeled for archways, gorges, canyons and extensive networks of reef under the surface of the water. The unique environment provides a home for a diverse range of species, including seals, lobsters, seabirds and reef fish. If you visit at sunset, you may also be able to spot little penguins scuttling around on the sand. Whales can be spotted off the coast of Victoria between June and October. Southern right whales are the most populous species.

 

Darling Harbour’s top sights

Darling Harbour in Sydney, AustraliaA stunning waterfront location in the enigmatic city of Sydney, Darling Harbour is a must for your personalised Australia holiday. A firm favourite with singles, couples and families, there’s plenty to see and do in Darling Harbour. If you’re planning your itinerary, here are some highlights to include in your plans.

Chinese Garden of Friendship

The Chinese Garden of Friendship is an oasis of calm and serenity in the heart of the city. An ornamental garden that pays homage to the Orient, this is a perfect base to recharge your batteries, reflect and enjoy a little peace and quiet. You’ll see ornate pagodas, exotic plants and beautiful water features as you stroll around in the sunshine.

9D Cinema

If you’re a film buff, don’t leave Sydney without paying the 9D Cinema a visit. This immersive theatre experience goes way beyond your average trip to the movies. The cinema screens the latest 3D movies, but guests are treated to much more than a film. The seats move, the music thunders and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another world.

Darling Harbour cruises

The best way to explore Sydney is by boat, and at Darling Harbour, there are plenty of options to choose from. You can opt for anything from a sedate, romantic sunset cruise to an adrenaline-pumping jet boat adventure. You can charter private boats for special occasions or join affordable group tours.

Australian National Maritime Museum

The Australian National Maritime Museum is a great option for visitors of all ages. Packed with interactive exhibits, as well as a handful of impressive vessels you can explore, this is a fun-filled, educational day out for all. Learn all about the naval battles that have taken place over the ages, find out what it’s like to travel by submarine and admire the Spirit of Australia, one of the fastest boats on the planet. You can also climb aboard HMB Endeavour, a spectacular life-sized model of Captain James Cook’s famous ship.

John Chen Gallery (also known as CnW Gallery)

If you fancy taking home a unique souvenir, visit the John Chen Gallery and pose for a caricature or a colour or black and white portrait. The gallery is home to an impressive collection of artistic masterpieces and it also offers services like framing, should you wish to hang your bespoke print on your walls when you get back home.

Three days in Geelong, Victoria

Beach in GeelongSitting at the gateway to the famous Great Ocean Road, Geelong is Victoria’s second largest city and offers beautiful beaches, elegant architecture, and stunning natural beauty. The commercial centre runs right down until it hits the beachfront making it the perfect city to mix exploring and relaxation.

Experience local art at the Geelong Gallery which has been showcasing its collection since 1896. This building houses one of Australia’s best collections of 19th and 20th century European and Australian paintings and decorative art. The focus of the permanent collection is the early images of Geelong including works of significance such as Eugène von Guérard’s View of Geelong (1856) and Frederick McCubbin’s A bush burial (1890).

Take in the views across Corio Bay in the Geelong Botanical Gardens. Preserving plants from all over the world, this escape is the perfect place to enjoy some nature. While there check out the statue of Queen Victoria and the rose garden showcasing the history of rose cultivation and breeding.

Next, continue down the shoreline and set up your beach blankets for a relaxing afternoon on Eastern Beach. Take a dip in the ocean or head over to Cunningham Pier for a bite in one of the restaurants or cafes recently established there.

Located in a historic bluestone wool store down on the Geelong waterfront, sits the National Wool Museum a quirky building telling the story of Australia’s history with the wool trade, combined with exciting temporary exhibitions.

A must see while at Geelong’s waterfront is the restored steam-driven Carousel. Large glass windows allowing adults and children alike to look out over the ocean while swirling around on a well-restored horse with carnival music playing overhead. While a ride will cost you $3.50, entry to the building to see the Carousel is free.

Learn about Australia’s history at the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre. Immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture through the Ancient dreaming stories or meet the native emu, wallaby, and kangaroo residents. You can even learn how to throw a boomerang nestled among native Australian trees. While there check out the Narana Coffee shop, serving up traditional Aboriginal dishes for your dining pleasure.

Get out of the city and take a day trip over to Bellarine. Tour the local wineries of the peninsula and take in a meal at one of the gourmet restaurants popping up everywhere around the area. If staying active is more your speed check out the Bellarine Rail Trail and go for a bike ride with scenery ranging from rolling farmland to stunning sea views over Swan Bay.

 

South Australia sees record figures from British and Chinese visitors

Adelaide airports lead the way in reducing carbon emissionsSouth Australia achieved a record year of international tourism in 2017 with British and Chinese tourists pouring in to experience its “wow” factor. Driving the increase were two unlikely sources, cricket and Koalas.

Over the course of the year, visitor numbers rose to 462,000. This totalled to an increase of 7 percent. The SA market saw a tremendous 18 percent increase in spending by tourists, as a result, a total of $1.1 billion was spent in the region. The city which saw the largest share of this spend was Adelaide.

British visitor numbers once again a saw year on year rise. One occasion which led to a higher visitor rate to the area was cricket fans travelling to witness the second Ashes Test in December. The new renovations to the Adelaide Oval Stadium was a real pull to attract fans to watch the fixture being held in South Australia. Increasing 17 percent from the previous year, 74,000 UK arrivals visited and spent around $86 million helping to fuel the SA tourism industry.

Trailing just behind the UK was the big spending Chinese market looking for hands-on experiences with Australia’s signature animals. Tourists looking to capture that signature selfie with a kangaroo or koala bear in places including Cleland Wildlife Park caused the number of visitors from China to increase over a third to 60,000.

Chinese tourists spent the most of any market with over $389 million added to the economy. According to the Tourism Research Australia, spending rose 55 percent from the previous year. Across Australia, international visitors contributed to a 6 percent increase in spending, reaching a record $41.3 billion for the year.

As a result of more visitors travelling to South Australia than ever before, more investment is being introduced into the regions travel links.