Unlike any other city in Australia, nay, the world Darwin is a place where tropical asian style meets the Aussie outback. Locals are down to earth and friendly and one of the best places to mingle with them is at the city's suburban weekend markets.
The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets on Thursday and Sunday nights are an experience but they are mainly skewed towards tourists. My favourite market is Parap on Saturday morning. Try the laksa, the cambodian pancakes, Anni's beef rendeng, rotis and some juice from Mmmmmm juices.
Parap Markets run from 5am to 2pm on Saturdays. Nightcliff Markets 5am to 2pm Sunday and Rapid Creek Markets 5am to 2pm.
Google map: tinyurl.com/la94kn
A great local cafe and bar with inside and outside eating areas, a very modern menu and a great wine list. Drop in for a latte and cake or have a full meal. An afternoon next to the fire here is a lazy way to while away a Sunday. The locals (including me) love it because it’s also 'kid friendly'. Babyccino anyone?
382 Hampton St, Hampton 3188;
tel: 9521 0547;
Forget shopping centres. Oxford Street, Paddington is definitely the best place to shop in Sydney. It has the odd high street store (Witchery, which is a more expensive version of Zara, and Diesel) but it’s the Australian designers that steal the show: Collette Dinnigan, Morrisey, Satch, Alannah Hill. Not to be missed.
Venture from the main strip to the tree-lined back streets and you’ll find some great boutiques. There are also plenty of chic cafes and restaurants for when you are shopped-out. And keep an eye out for celebs. I saw Britney Spears (pre-baby, of course). Don't drive though: parking is a nightmare. Take the bus.
Oxford Street, Paddington; Catch bus 380 from the city towards Bondi Beach
The Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens has just opened 'Australian Garden' at the Botanic Gardens in Cranbourne. This is so different from any other botanic garden I have ever seen anywhere else in the world. It showcases the Australian landscape with red sand, rockeries, dry river beds, arid areas and Australian 'bush'. Breathtaking (and not a rose bush in sight).
1000 Ballarto Road, Cranbourne (about 40 mins from the city);
tel: (03) 5990 2200;
Melbourne has superb gardens spread throughout and one of the best - the Botanical Gardens - has 'The Tan'.
The Tan is a wide flat track around the outside of the Botanical gardens, and it’s home to joggers, runners, walkers and pusher pushers. Watch out for the footballers though as they try and complete a lap in record time.
Best of all: it’s free (bring your own running shoes).
The Tan runs around the circumference of the Botanic Gardens and the Domain. Run there, take a tram or walk from Flinders Street station; www.accessibility.com.au/melbourne/garden/tan.htm
A giraffe or rhinoceros in the middle of an Australian plain? Yes there are, at the Werribee Open Range Zoo. The Werribee Zoo is an extension of Melbourne’s famous zoo at Parkville, but with much more land. It’s billed as 'Africa out of Africa', and that is a very good description.
K Road, Werribee, Vic. 3030
tel: 9731 9600;
At the top of Rialto Towers, Melbourne's tallest building (and the tallest office building in the Southern Hemisphere), is an observation deck. The 360° view is simply amazing. You can see up to 70kms on a clear day.
525 Collins St; Walking distance from Flinders St or Spencer St station. Parking for cars underneath Rialto Towers;
From its humble beginnings as Australia's first shopping centre, Chadstone (Chaddy to the locals) has grown to be one of the largest (in size) and is the largest in sales turnover in Australia. It is now known as Australia's 'fashion capital' centre. It has masses of off-street parking and a huge variety of stores.
1341 Dandenong Rd, Chadstone;
Buses from all suburbs head there. Nearest railway station, Hughesdale, is a 10 min walk away;
tel: 9563 3355;
Uluru is a large sandstone rock formation located in Uluru-KataTjuta National Park, some 475km from Alice Springs. Uluru is sacred to the Aboriginal people of the area (Pitjantjatjara). The park also houses Kata Tjuta, or “The Olgas”, literally meaning 'many heads' owing to its peculiar formation - this is another rock formation about 25km from Uluru and they make for two must-see features of Australia's Red Centre.
The local Aborigines request that you do not climb the rock as it passes an important dreaming track and can also be very dangerous. A free coach is at hand to transfer you from the airport to the nearby Yulara resort, where there are three, four and five-star rated hotels and also a youth hostel that has a very relaxed feel and live music with bring-your-own BBQs in the evening.
Accommodation is extremely pricey, as is food and drink, although the supermarket is reasonable. One must-have for Uluru is insect repellent. The flies will have you performing several “bush salutes” a minute if you aren't able to ward them off in some way.
Uluru is an amazing landmark, once referred to as the “remarkable pebble” by the explorer Ernest Giles. The many tours are informative and provide breathtaking sights of Uluru, especially at sunrise and sunset when the rock puts on a magnificent display, changing colour with the sun’s position.
Uluru is 475km by road from Alice Springs. It takes around 50-60 minutes to fly, and around 4.5 – 5 hours to drive.
Google map: tinyurl.com/mpddkq
The Astor, built in the 30s, is one of the last original 'art deco' buildings left in Melbourne. And it’s in great condition with amazing interior and exterior decorations and great armchairs to sit in and watch the movies. A grand old arthouse cinema. Go watch a movie there in 70mm grandeur!
Cnr Chapel St and Dandenong Rd, St Kilda;
Nearest station is Winsdor, and the theatre is walking distance from there;
tel: 9510 1414;
Some visitors to Sydney would prefer to see the city from the Harbour Bridge for free, along the public walkway, but the Bridgeclimb tour takes you much - MUCH - higher.
The ascent right up to the aviation light, at the apex, is surely as good as an exposure treatment for vertigo as it is for the views. I had forgotten, or put out of mind, my fear of heights, and although much of the climb was, for me, dominated by mortal terror, I also could not ignore the vista.
The view from the top gives you a nice sense of the layout of some of the beaches in Sydney as well as how the whole city gradually expanded outwards from the harbour.
The fainthearted might think twice about the climb, although the organisers have obviously made safety a primary concern.
5 Cumberland St, The Rocks
61 2 9255 8210
Fantastic restaurant in North Bondi overlooking the famous beach. Used to be more of a breakfast haunt but now a classy restaurant with amazing food and location to match. A must for anyone spending a bit of time on Sydney.
North Bondi, Campbell Parade.
Rockwiz is Australian TV's most eclectic music programme ... shot in a pub (the famous Espy) with guest musos from around Australia showcasing their knowledge of the industry. Viewers can join in and guess the 'Million Dollar Riff'.
Watch it or go to a taping – it’s great.
Range of beautiful mountains. There is an information centre on the Burwood Highway where you can collect details of the trail walks. Plenty of gum trees and tree ferns and spectacular bird life-king parrots, crimson rosellas, cockatoos. Also gardens to visit and nice places to eat or picnic.
Less than 1 hour drive to NE of city centre, also accessible by bus.
A small lane in the city filled with great cafes, boutique shops and amazing graffitti. Personal favourite is Degraves Cafe which makes arguably the best cafe latte in the world.
Off Flinders Street, between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets.
An old kosher butcher converted into one of the best cafes in a city full of great cafes. Unusual architecture by local group, 6 Degrees. Great staff who maintain their cool despite the hordes of mothers and babies. Great eatable food and some of the best coffee in town. And then there's that indefinable something that makes it so groovy. All the best things about Melbourne summed up in one small cafe.
Nelson St, East St Kilda, off Carlisle St, opposite the railway station.
Great street to explore for cafes, restaurants and shopping. There’s Greek, Italian, Turkish and Lebanese food. Highlights are : Mediterranean Wholesalers - an Italian supermarket - A1, Tabett's Lebanese bakeries and Istanbul Meats. Just wander up and down the street and find lots of hidden gems.
North Coburg tram goes there from Elizabeth St in the City
A must for sports fans, particularly those who want to gloat about the recent Ashes victory to the MCG tour guide, who is an MCG member.
The tour provides an impressive insight into the history and facilities of the stadium, as well as getting the chance to have a walk on the ground itself. You will find yourself imagining the place full with 100,000 people for the traditional Boxing Day Test.
There's plenty of reasons for eating something as greasy as a souvlaki, but for the life of me I couldn't think of one that didn't include alcohol. For that end of the night food-binge, there's few that can hold a candle to the souvlakis from the King - fresh ingredients, great flavour and just the right amount of garlic sauce. And great service too! Local newspaper The Age rated it as one of the best in Melbourne.
Brunswick St, Fitzroy (not far from the corner of Johnston St)
The Nunnery is a lovely, well-kept old building which - you guessed it - used to be a nunnery and now caters for backpackers of both sexes. Located on the edge of the CBD opposite the Imax theatre and Royal Exhibition Buildings and grounds, it's just a stroll away from town or the uber-cool shops and cafes of Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Private rooms are also available and the rates are great. The tram stops right outside and they also have a special deal going with the next-door pub on budget meals called Hail Marys. Hallelujah!
116 Nicholson St, Fitzroy; tel: 61 3 9419 8637; www.nunnery.com.au
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