26 things I love about Australia

In celebration of it being Australia Day in Oz right now (26th January… well they are ahead of the rest of the world!), and because I have a massive travel crush on The Land Down Under, I have decided to dedicate this post to 26 things I love about Australia!

26 things I love about Australia

1. My Aussie Family
Of course number 1 has to be my rellies. I’m often told by my UK-based family how much like my Aussie Aunt I am. And my cousin and her family were awesome to let us stay with them when we visited Melbourne. How could they not be number one!

2. Kangaroos and Wallabies
True Aussie icons. I absolutely adored visiting Brolga’s Kangaroo Sanctuary after being an avid viewer of the show Kangaroo Dundee. We got to meet Brolga himself and cuddled a little joey! I also loved feeding the wallabies at the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas – they were too cute!

Brolga aka Kangaroo Dundee with baby Hope. Photo by Hayley at Quirky Little Planet

3. Koalas
How could I not include another icon on this list – the koala! They are so flippin’ cute! I was lucky enough to cuddle one first time round in Port Douglas. But I also enjoyed seeing them on Phillip Island and at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo.

Koala at Australia Zoo

4. Tim Tams
The first time I tried a Tim Tam I dismissed it as a glorified McVitie’s Penguin biscuit (soz Australia but you know Tim Tams were based on Penguins right?). But then I discovered all the different flavours beyond just milk chocolate and I was hooked… peanut butter, dark chocolate raspberry, salted caramel – I could go on.

5. Thorny Devils
Thorny Devils are freaking cool! I think lizards are pretty cool anyway but the thorny devil is the most awesome of the bunch – they’re covered in spines and are able to drink through their skin! I got to see them when I was in Alice Springs.

Thorny Devil - Quirky Little Planet

6. Rottnest Island and the Quokkas
Google ‘the happiest animal in the world’ and you are sure to find pictures of quokkas – adorable smiley little mammals that can be found in the wild in just a couple of places in the world, one of which is Rottnest Island. Rotto (as it’s known by the locals) is a picture postcard island of white sand, turquoise sea and most importantly, no cars. The best way to get around is to cycle!

The stunning white sand and turquoise seas of Rottnest Island

7. The Daintree Rainforest and the Cassowaries
And similarly if you google ‘worlds most dangerous bird’, the top answer will be the cassowary. I didn’t realise how significant this was at the time but we actually got within a few metres of a wild cassowary in the Daintree Rainforest!

Cassowary in the Daintree Rainforest Australia

8. Sunshine
I am British. We talk about the weather. And yes I know Australia isn’t always hot and sunny but when you’re writing this on a cold and rainy January night in England remembering that just 3 months ago you were basking in the warm and fuzzy glow of the Australian sunshine, then it would be rude not to mention it.

9. Neighbours
When people ask what soaps I watch and I say “Neighbours”, their usual response is something like “Oh I haven’t watched that since I was at school! Are Karl and Susan still in it?”. Well, yes. Yes they are. And I got to meet the legend that is Karl Kennedy aka Alan Fletcher at Neighbours Night in St Kilda. AND I did the Neighbours Tour stopping by Ramsay Street and it was awesome!

Neighbours tv show tour bus

10. Sydney
Sydney is the city with it all – business, shopping, harbours, beaches, parks – and the most iconic of all Australian landmarks, the Sydney Opera House! I would love to spend New Year there one day…

The iconic Sydney Opera House

11. The Blue Mountains
Located around a 2 hour train journey from Sydney are the spectacular Blue Mountains. They are called the Blue Mountains because of the eucalyptus trees that populate the area that disperse oil droplets into the atmosphere which together with water vapour and dust particles scatter rays of light which are a hue of blue.

The Blue Mountains

12. Laid-back Attitude
It’s true what they say, those Aussies are a pretty laid-back bunch with the whole “no worries” attitude. I absolutely love how informal everything is too and it’s not just the spoken word that gets abbreviated. For example, seeing the word ‘rego’ instead of ‘registration’ on something formal – that would never happen anywhere else! And not forgetting their liberal use of the word ‘bloody’. I bloody love it!

13. Aboriginal Culture
When I visited the Northern Territory I got see the magnificent Uluru and learn a little about Australia’s indigenous culture, their art, their way of life and spirituality. Did you know that boomerangs were traditionally used for hunting?

Aboriginal art at Uluru

14. The Great Barrier Reef
When you are travelling, you always remember those ‘wow’ moments, and snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef truly was one of those moments. My anxiety about the big deep ocean was soon forgotten at my first site of a fish.

Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef

15. Port Douglas
A pretty little town in Queensland with a stunning four mile beach and the atmosphere like you’re in a movie set based in some tropical paradise. I’ve often joked about packing up and moving to Port Douglas to become a beach hippy.

Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas

16. Fairy Penguins
Aka Little Penguins. One of the best places to see these wild penguins is at the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island where you can watch the little guys come ashore to their burrows at dusk each night. Really something special!

17. Rainbow Lorikeets
Rainbow lorikeets are a species of parrot found in Australia and they are super duper pretty and colourful. I saw them at the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas and Australia Zoo.

Rainbow Lorikeet, Port Douglas

18. The Wildlife
Actually, although I’ve already mentioned the likes of kangaroos and thorny devils, I think I have a bit of a fascination with Australian animals in general – be it the sounds of the native birds singing, seeing the galahs in the trees, the bizarre-looking egg-laying mammal the duck billed platypus or big fat cuddly wombats (whose poop is square, FYI). I think I missed my calling in life to become an Australian zookeeper!

The Handbook of Australian Wildlife

19. Chocolate Macadamias
Mmm so moreish! Of course you can eat the macadamia nuts on their own but everything is so much better when it’s covered in chocolate!

20. Aussie Legends
Some of the best celebrities have come straight outta the land down under, I love a bit of Hugh Jackman and Kylie Minogue. And how could we not include the late, great legendary crocodile hunter himself, Steve Irwin. Crikey!

At Australia Zoo in my safari animal print dress

21. Watching the sun rise and set over Aussie Landmarks
The first time I visited Australia I saw the sun rise and set over the famous Sydney Opera House and my husband even had my photos printed on canvas for me. The second time I was lucky enough to visit Australia (I’m like a boomerang – I just keep coming back!) I witnessed the sun rise and set over Uluru, although it was quite cloudy it was still pretty magnificent.

Sydney Opera House at sunset by Quirky Little Planet

22. Shopping
Specifically City Beach and Jay Jays. They got me out of a spot of bother when my bikini broke and all my shoes hurt my feet!

23. Limited Edition Mars Brownie and Snickers Rocky Nut Road
Hello! Why don’t we have these in the UK? They were soooo good. Mars Brownie was my favourite… oh I’m craving one right now!

Australian Mars Brownie and Snickers Rocky Road

24. This Song…
All because of this bit-
“I said, “Do you speak-a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich”

25. And This Advert…
There’s nothing like Australiaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

26. And this amazing occurrence…
While we were having lunch at a pub in Alice Springs, I noticed that the froth in my husband’s pint of beer had taken the shape of Australia! How very appropriate!

Map of Australia found in pint of beer - Photo by quirkylittleplanet.com
It’s the map of Australia! (minus Tasmania, sorry)

Have you been to Australia? If so, what do you love about it? Leave me a comment below or tweet me @quirkylilplanet

And if you enjoyed this post, like it, share it and then check out my Australia board on Pinterest!

Melbourne for the Aussie soap nut: part 2 – Neighbours Tour

Neighbours Tour

If you Neighbours aficionados missed part 1 you can find it here but if you’ve been waiting with baited breath for part 2 (unlikely, but I can dream) then here it is!

No Neighbours nut would consider visiting Melbourne without a trip to the holy Mecca of Australian soaps – Ramsay Street, or as it is known in real life – Pin Oak Court. You can of course travel there yourself but it wouldn’t be the same as joining the official tour.

On the morning of our tour we found ourselves legging it across the city because the tram we were waiting to catch didn’t show up (yeah TRAMS AGAIN). Anyway we made it to our meeting point (the Official Neighbours Centre) in good time, for our pick up on the Neighbours bus.

The official tour bus of the Ramsay Street Neighbours Tour in Melbourne.

Our tour guide had us singing the show’s theme tune and kept us entertained with trivia as we travelled around on the tour. She wouldn’t tell us much in the way of soap secrets unfortunately but you might find that the cast member you meet later on will dish the dirt quite freely!

Our first stop was Erinsborough High School. We couldn’t go in but we could have our photo taken outside next to the sign with the school badge on it.

Next up – Ramsay Street! We weren’t lucky enough to see them filming but we were able to just wander around the street and take photographs of the houses – as long as we didn’t venture up the driveways and cause too much disturbance as people live in those houses! One of the biggest surprises about the street is how much smaller it is in real life than it appears on tv.

Ramsay Street - one of the houses on the Neighbours Tour

After some time on the street, we headed off down to Grease Monkeys Diner (which has a load of random dusty items in the windows and looks more like a closed up charity shop than a hip burger bar). And across the road is the garage, which again looks alot bigger on the television. It was here that we also saw the famous bus stop that the characters always exit the show at when leaving by bus (usually when they run away to Sydney). Outside the garage we had our star meeting with the actor who played Declan Napier (James Sorensen) who happily posed for photos with us and answered lots of cheeky questions we had that the guide wouldn’t answer (such as who was about to die in the current storyline).

Grease Monkeys Diner on the Neighbours Tour in Melbourne

And then it was time to head back to the Neighbours Centre, but not before we saw Detective Alec Skinner (that cop with the moustache who pops up every now and then) cycling past us!

We arrived back in the city in time for lunch! All in all the tour lasts for around 3 hours, with pick up and drop off at the Neighbours Centre on Flinders Street. You can buy souvenirs at the Neighbours Centre but they’re not that exciting (unless you want a cd of Karl Kennedy’s band). The tour we did was the weekday tour but there is a weekend tour also available where you can see the Lassiters complex.

And as cheesy as the soap can be (remember that episode where they saw Santa flying past in the sky?) it will always have a special place on my television screen after our fantastic time in Melbourne!

Melbourne for the Aussie soap nut: part 1 – Neighbours Night

Neighbours Night

Us Brits do love an Australian soap, I don’t know why, maybe it’s the sunshine, maybe it’s that dream we all secretly have of becoming ‘Poms in Paradise’ or maybe it’s just that our soaps seem so dreary and depressing by comparison. I’ll admit it now, I love Neighbours, so when I planned my trip to Australia I knew that I wanted to do both the Neighbours Tour and the Neighbours Night (don’t judge me).

The day of our Neighbours Night, we had caught a flight from Sydney to Melbourne, checked into our hotel, freshened up and then we were off out into the city trying to navigate our way in our new surroundings and attempting to figure out the whole tram system – we only realised we were at our stop because we overheard someone else’s conversation!

Neighbours Nights are held every Monday at The Elephant and Wheelbarrow pub in St Kilda. To sum it up, the night is the most memorable pub quiz you’ll probably go to.

Neighbours Night at The Elephant and Wheelbarrow pub in St Kilda, Melbourne.

On our night I reckon about 90% of people in the room were British and Irish, 2% Canadian and the rest Australian. We shared our table with a bunch of lovely Irish backpackers who we did our quiz with. The Neighbours cast members who are there that night are introduced by the host and there’s a bit of a Q&A session going on, followed by the quiz. While the quiz is taking place, the cast members (past and present) circulate the room and pose for photos and spend time chatting with everyone. It’s very well-organised and the good thing about this is that everybody gets their turn with the actors. We got to meet Janelle Timmins, Steve and Riley Parker and the legend that is Karl Kennedy. There’s also other fun and games like dancing competitions where our team mates actually won themselves a trip! Finally, the night ends with a live performance from Alan Fletcher (Karl Kennedy) and his band ‘Waiting Room’ and I defy you not to sing along to ‘Sleeping along side of Susan’!

Neighbours Night at The Elephant and Wheelbarrow pub in St Kilda, Melbourne.