Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Lights Spectacular

We did it! We finally visited the Christmas lights at the Hunter Valley Gardens.  This is the largest Christmas light display in the Southern Hemisphere.

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The Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Lights Spectacular is held every year from November until January (this year it closed on Australia Day, not sure if that is the case every year or not).

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If you have kids they will absolutely love it, but even the big kids (adults) will enjoy the night.

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As well as the lights display there are also rides, food and entertainment.

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The lights are set up around the gardens and are split into different displays, including the Giant Teddy, Princess Castle, Santa’s Workshop, Candyland and Fairy Garden.

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This event is held at the Hunter Valley Gardens, located at 2090 Broke Road Pokolbin, NSW 2320. 📞 02 4998 4000.  www.huntervalleygardens.com.au

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Who visits the Flinders Ranges in summer …. we do!

We left the tranquil stunning waters of Coffin Bay and the SA coastline and made our way inland to the rugged ancient rock formations that make up the hot and dry Flinders Ranges.

The Flinders Ranges in South Australia are amazing and best visited in the cooler months of the year, but we were prepared for the heat and decided to go anyway! Yes it was hot, but it wasn’t too bad at all, the heat is a dry heat, totally different to the humidity we get in Sydney.

We spent our time camping in the Wilpena Pound Resort, which is the only accommodation located within the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. This resort offers motel style rooms, luxury safari tent accommodation and powered and unpowered sites. We stayed on a powered site and it was huge, plenty of space to spread out and still be away from your neighbours!

The Flinders Ranges is known for its stunning scenery, ancient landscapes and great 4×4 tracks. The landscape is up to 800 million years old and has been home to Adnyamathanha people for tens of thousands of years.

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Day 1 we decided to explore the popular tourist drives including Bunyeroo Valley and Brachina Gorge.

The Brachina Gorge and Bunyeroo Valley tracks are not a difficult drive by any means but they are by far one of the most scenic drives in the Flinders Ranges.

From a geological perspective, this whole area is something really special. To be honest, neither of us really get into the geology side too much, but when you realise you are driving through ranges and valleys with hundreds of millions of years worth of history you can’t help but feel something. We don’t understand it all, but just being there you get a feeling that you are somewhere special.

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The Bunyeroo formation consists of soft shale and siltstone which eroded away to form low valleys. It was formed about 580 million years ago when a rapid rise in the sea level flooded the whole area and resulted in deposition of the clay and silt. To know you are driving through an area that was once the bottom of an ocean is quite something.

If time is something you don’t have much of during your visit to the Flinders Ranges then these are your must do tracks. It gives a great introduction into the history and landscape of the area and the scenery is truly amazing. At every turn and every crest you come to you will be amazed at the views.


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Tackling the Tele – Cape Tribulation

The official last night of our Cape York trip was a stay at Cape Tribulation.  This is an absolutely beautiful part of Australia, one we have actually visited quite a few times, but have never really taken too much time to explore.

On this stay we chose to spend 2 nights here as Shelly wanted to go Jungle Surfing …. more on this in another blog post!

We stayed in the Cape Tribulation Camping ground (well some of us did, long story!) and will definitely stay here again.  We camped right behind the beach, a walk down our sandy pathway through the palm trees and you are on this stunning beach.

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Our campsites were nestled in behind these palm trees.  Camp fires were allowed on the beach and there were plenty of families set up with dinner and a little campfire, such a perfect spot for it.

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Ash & Tas swinging from the vines!

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Words really can’t explain how beautiful and peaceful it was to watch the sunset out here.  The water was so still, it was like glass.

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Cape Tribulation is this special area where the rainforest meets the reef. To basically walk straight from the rainforest onto the beach is pretty amazing. This area of the Daintree National Park is really an area to be explored.

You’ll find Cape Tribulation about 35 km north of the Daintree River and this is where the bitumen ends and the dirt roads start (Bloomfield Track). In fact, the road to Cape Tribulation was only put through in 1962.

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The name Cape Tribulation can be traced back to Lieutenant James Cook. As Cook was trying to navigate his way through this area his ship ran into Endeavour Reef, north-northeast of Cape Tribulation. He wrote: “I name this point Cape Tribulation, because here began all my troubles.”

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As the area sits right on the fringing reef of the Great Barrier Reef, at low tide you could see quite a bit of coral washed up on the beach.

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After pizza and a few drinks in the restaurant we all retired back to our campsite for the night.

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We couldn’t have asked for a better end to our second Cape York trip.


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Tackling the Tele – Lions Den Hotel

For many years the Lions Den Hotel has played an important role as the last stop before Cooktown and the rugged Black Mountain pass.  Nowadays this iconic little pub is on everyone’s bucket list.  Everyone wants to get a photo out the front with ‘Leo the lion’!  If you don’t know how popular Leo is, check out this story to read about when someone stole Leo’s tail!

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The historic Lions Den Hotel has been an important stop for tourists and locals for decades.  After a gruelling few weeks of rugged dirt roads, dust and corrugations as you travel throughout the Cape York region, this is a welcome relief and stop over point for a well deserved drink.

History

In 1875 a young Welshman from Rossville named Jack Ross decided to open a hotel in an area which later became known as Helenvale.  Right on the banks of the Little Annan River, where it joined the Mungumby Creek, Jack and his wife Annie opened the Lions Den Hotel.   The hotel was named after the Lions Den tin mine on the nearby tableland.

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You should take a bit of time to walk around the inside of this quirky little pub, there is plenty of history and decorations and many signatures and stories from travellers adorn the walls and ceiling of the rooms.  Yes, amongst all those signatures we are there too …. somewhere!

Accommodation
Accommodation options range from powered and unpowered camping sites to on site cabins and Safari Tents.

During our visit in 2013 with Stewy, Kristy and Rori we all stayed in a Safari tent for something a little bit different.  They are fully screened to keep the bugs out and come with private deck areas, as well as fridge and tea & coffee making facilities.

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Facilities

The Lions Den Hotel has everything you need from a licensed bar, meals, fuel, ice, souvenirs etc.  The large deck areas are the perfect place to sit and relax and share some stories over a cold beer or two.

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As we were nearing the end of our epic journey our whole group took the opportunity to share a meal and a few drinks together.  As we relaxed on the deck, we all had a great night filled with lots of laughs, a few drinks and plenty of food.

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Early the next morning we were all up ready to head off for a day on the tracks ….. 4 of our vehicles were tackling the CREB Track.  But before that we had more photos to take  ….. like the standard ‘Leo the Lion’ photos, every has to get a pic of their vehicles in front of the sign out the front!

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Below is our photo from our visit with Stewy in 2013 compared to 2018.   5 years later and new vehicles for both of us!

Contact

The Lions Den Hotel is located 28km south of Cooktown on the Bloomfield Road between Cooktown and Cape Tribulation.

Phone (07) 4060 3911     www.lionsdenhotel.net

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During our visit in 2013 there were the most amazing jade vines that were hanging from the trees around the deck of the hotel.  These delicate little blue, green flowers almost didn’t even look real.  They looked like little claws swaying in the breeze.

We had never seen anything quite like it in our lives, they were stunning.  To find something this beautiful and delicate in such a rustic, relatively remote location was amazing.   We found out that they were called Strongylodon macrobotrys, commonly known as jade vine and they are a native of the tropical forests of the Philippines.

This time we were looking forward to seeing these amazing flowers again, but we were informed that unfortunately they were destroyed in one of the cyclones which hit the area, such a shame.


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Tackling the Tele – Bramwell Station

It was a leisurely start for the day as we left Weipa and took the Batavia Downs track towards Bramwell Station.  It was during this journey that our Prado started flashing up some warning lights on the dash, it appeared that there was an issue with the 4WD system, but as we had no reception or internet service it was hard to ascertain exactly what was wrong.

We waited until we arrived at Bramwell Station and then set about trying to fix the problem, as a Prado without low range was not going to be a fun Prado to be in on the tele track!  The scan tool wasn’t showing any error codes, but there was obviously something wrong so George & Liam set about trying to work it out.  Eventually, after trying everything else, they decided to just ‘clear’ all error codes (even though there weren’t any!) and the lights disappeared.  A few quick tests and it was confirmed that the 4WD gears were working again!  Little did we know this problem was going to keep popping up during the trip, but at least for now we knew we’d have low range on the tele track.

Now if you are looking for the perfect place to stay before you tackle the Old Tele Track, then you really need to get yourself to Bramwell Station (not Bramwell Junction, but Bramwell Station).  It’s the same family that own both properties, but if you want a fun-filled night, full of laughs and entertainment, then you need to stay at the station.

Bramwell Station is the most northerly cattle station in Australia, but apart from being a working cattle station, it’s a great tourist park with accommodation units and a huge camping ground.

The video below shows Matt (our self-appointed table captain) trying to get our table to sing the loudest!

We stayed here on our last trip and thought it was great, but stay here in the peak tourist season and you really see what this place has to offer.  The ringing of the station’s bell signals happy hour at the bar and of course we were all there ready and waiting!  But this was just the start of the night.  Most of us chose to have the buffet dinner and that was money well spent.  There is live entertainment at the station every night during the peak tourist season.  The beers were flowing, the food was plentiful and the entertainment was great.  Plenty of laughs were had this night, it was absolutely the perfect way to relax before we tackled the old tele track the next morning.


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Tackling the Tele – Weipa

It was a relatively short drive from Laura and we arrived in Weipa around lunchtime.  Everyone split up to do their own thing and met up again later in the day at the caravan park.

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View from in front of our campsite …. plenty of crocs out there!

Weipa is a relatively big town …. well very, very tiny compared to say Sydney!, but for the townships on the cape, it’s a relatively large town with most facilities available.  Weipa sits on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula, on the Gulf of Carpentaria.

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The region in and around Weipa is very rich in bauxite and this has led to Rio Tinto operating the Weipa bauxite mine for many years.  They are in the process of extending their operations to another site in the area aswell.  There is some big money being spent on infrastructure in the area and some big money coming out of the mines.  The first thing you notice as you get closer to Weipa is that the condition of the road significantly improves!  Then you see the traffic lights and the boom gates as you cross the mine access road to enter the town.

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We had all booked on a sunset cruise with Western Cape Eco Tours.  We had done this exact cruise when we were in Weipa 5 years ago and it was such a great night we couldn’t recommend it highly enough.  Everyone took our recommendation and we booked on for a couple of hours of relaxing, history and crocodile sightings.

 

You’d think being a ‘sunset cruise’ I would have mentioned that we watched an amazing Weipa sunset aswell, well think again!  We didn’t even come close to getting a sunset that night, very disappointing, but what can you do!  At least we saw plenty of crocs.

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Here’s what the sunset should have looked like! (taken on our cruise in 2013).

The cruise itself runs for about 2 hours and takes you around the Embley River to see the wildlife and of course the sunset.  The price of the cruise includes beer, champagne, soft drink and yummy antipasto platters.

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Western Cape Eco Tours are a small family owned company who love their town and love showcasing its natural beauty.  They had only just started out when we took our first cruise with them and we are so glad business is going so well for them.  If you are ever in the area, you really must look these guys up.

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Contact Details

Western Cape Eco Tours

Website:  www.westerncapeecotours.com.au 

Email:  westerncapeecotours@bigpond.com

Telephone:  0447 009 044

Tours depart from Evans Landing Boat Ramp, Weipa QLD 4874


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The Tough Dog Tuff Truck Challenge

Last weekend we headed off to the Tuff Truck Challenge.  We hadn’t been for a few years and decided to go back this time, just for the day.

The Tuff Truck Challenge started as a relatively small event back in 2001, but it’s now grown into one of the biggest, and probably the most extreme, Australian 4WD events on the calendar.

It’s now known as The Tough Dog Tuff Truck Challenge and has something for everyone.  The event is marketed as a ‘family’ event and it certainly is, there are plenty of activities for the kids and it really is a great weekend out.   The event is held over 3 days on a private property at Milbrodale, in the NSW Hunter Valley.

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As for event itself, this is for those serious hard-core 4WD competitors and their trucks.  The event is a gruelling test for competitors and navigators as they push themselves and their vehicles to the limit over 12 stages that consist of courses full of rocks, boulders, ruts and mud, a Show n Shine, Travel Ramp and verification & engineering …… all based on a point scoring system.  The terrain is pretty full on and certainly not for your average 4WD.  Some people think what we do is full on ….. well that has nothing on what these trucks are capable of!

There is always something happening, with numerous stages running at the same time, the merchandise and exhibitors stands, as well as numerous food stalls.  Also, if you are camping there for the weekend, everything is relatively close to each other so it’s an easy walk back to camp if you want to relax.

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From a spectators point of view, the excitement not only comes when a driver successfully navigates an obstacle, but when he/she doesn’t!  When you hear the sound of metal crunching, drivetrain breaking or see a truck rolling, that’s what everyone loves!

One of the favourite events for spectators is the night mud run called ‘Mudrat’s Revenge’.  After the mud stage on the Saturday night, there is a band and party.  If you are camping there, as we did the first year we went, this is when you realise how hard some people party!

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Camping areas are available on site and are split into two groups, general camping and family camping.  We’ve only camped there once and I’d say if going with young kids, definitely opt for the ‘family camping’ area!  Going by our first experience camping there, things can get a little full on and there certainly isn’t too much peace and quiet for sleeping!  In saying that, we absolutely love the event and if you like 4WDing you’ll probably love it too!

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Although alcohol limits are pretty strict and monitored, including vehicle and bag searches as you enter the event, you can imagine that by nightfall things can at times get a little feral, and if you aren’t used to this type of event it could be a real eye-opener! In saying that, there is security and police patrolling the whole event so you are always safe and secure and nothing can get out of hand, it really is a great atmosphere for all.

 

Event Details

Welsh’s Road, Milbrodale   NSW  2330

http://tufftruck.com.au/

Day Tickets available, as well as 3 day event + camping.

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Lastly we must say a special thank you to George’s work Dynamic Wheel Co, and to Exclusive Tyre Distributors for giving us free entry into this years event.  


 

REVIEW: Shower Ezy

IMG_0765Anyone who has been camping or caravanning for a while knows how important it is to keep the clutter to a minimum. You start off thinking you need everything with you or you just won’t survive a night away from home …. let alone a week or more! Over time you soon come to realise that you have too much ‘stuff’ that just doesn’t get used and takes up precious space or weight allowances. So when you find a product that saves space and makes your life a little easier, you do excited!

Every now and then a product comes along and we just think ‘wow, why didn’t we think of that’! Well this is one of those products. And guess what, this idea came about by another camper who had that exact lightbulb moment, another camper just like you and I who wanted to make life easier.

This product couldn’t be easier, everything simply clips together on your lanyard, you walk to the shower and hang it over the shower head or the hook on the door and everything is right there at your fingertips.  No more leaving bottles behind after your shower, no more rummaging through bags to find what you are looking for and no more having to put things on the dirty floor.

So, before we go any further we must say that the wonderful people at Shower Ezy provided us with the Shower Ezy – ‘The Complete Set’ for free for us to review.  So below we will give our honest opinion of the product.  We did also purchase a few things ourselves so will review them as well.


Products

Shower Ezy offer a range of different products including silicone bottles of 2 different sizes, toothbrush/toothpaste bag, toiletries bag, body loofas, mini LED USB torch, soap bag/holders and key fob …. they’ve got it all covered.

Their ‘Adventure Pack’ is your go-to pack which includes everything, a lanyard, silicone bottles, loofah, microfiber towel, USB torch and toothbrush/toothpaste bag, as well as a water-resistant drawstring bag to store it all in.  How awesome is that!

Now these guys really have thought of everything, even the bottles are sized at 98ml to suit the carry on baggage limits of airline requirements (which is required to be 100ml or less).  So many people are travelling with carry on luggage nowadays so this makes it ultra easy.


Our Review

We are reviewing the products we have received.

Shower Ezy – The Complete Set – This set sells for $34.50.  This set is what started the whole venture of Shower Ezy, it’s the complete set of everything you need to make shower time easier.  It includes a lanyard in your choice of colours (Orange, Hot Pink, Navy Blue or Turquoise) we chose Hot Pink (ok, ‘we’ didn’t choose Hot Pink, Shelly chose Hot Pink)!

As well as the lanyard, you receive 3 silicone bottles and a body loofa.

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Click here to view.

*We were gifted this product for free.


Mini LED Torch – USB Rechargeable – This torch sells for $4.20, doesn’t get much better than that!  It’s water-resistant and rechargeable by USB which makes it super handy for us to charge either in the 4WD or the camper trailer.  To be honest, for such a small torch it’s quite bright, it would be perfect to take to the toilet/shower at night or keep in the camper trailer for late night toilet calls!  It’s so small and lightweight that you could even keep it in your handbag to have on hand for any occasion.

Click here to view.

*We purchased this product.


Body Loofa – This product sells for $3.95.  This loofa is a smaller size which is perfect for camping and it’s easy to attach and detach from the lanyard.

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Click here to view.


Toothbrush/Toothpaste Bag  – This product sells for $4.50.  This little bag is designed to hold your toothbrush/toothpaste/razor.  Made from mesh, with a nylon base, it means it will dry quickly so no need to worry about putting your wet razor or toothbrush back in here.  The drawstring pull keeps everything safe and secure and it’s easy to clip onto your lanyard.

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Click here to view.

*We were gifted this product for free.


Key Fob  – This product sells for $3.90 and is designed to keep your keys safe and secure.  The design makes it easy to clip on and off the lanyard, so no chance of losing your keys while you visit the amenities block.  George has already claimed our one of these!IMG_0758

Click here to view.

*We were gifted this product for free.


The bottles are designed from non-drip, non-spill, non-toxic food grade silicone and can hold whatever you like, eg shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shower gel, moisturiser, sunscreen.  Each bottle features a twisting lid to display what you have inside.  There is one blank display, aswell as Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap and Lotion.

Personally we are going to keep one of these in the 4WD with sunscreen, waterless handwash and aloe vera in the bottles.  This way they are always on hand when we are out and about and easy to just grab the lanyard when going to the beach or for a walk.

Buy one for each of the kids and no more arguments about who is going to use the shampoo first, no more carting different bottles to the shower block and no more leaving things behind after your shower.IMG_0760

Whether you are into camping or not, this would be handy.  Think hotels, weekends away, school camps, work conferences etc.  What you use this for and how you use it is totally up to you, the options are endless, just think about what is going to work for you.

Lastly we need to say that the one thing that really stood out about this company was the personal service that we received, the personal emails to let us know our order was on its way and even the personal note with our order to say ‘thanks’.  Also included is a little flyer on how to use the bottles.  It’s this personal service that you don’t often receive nowadays so it was certainly a pleasant surprise.


Ordering

Ordering couldn’t be easier, this is all done online via their easy to use website. There is a small shipping charge, as you would expect, and orders are posted out via Australia Post satchel, with tracking numbers.


Contact Details

Shower Ezy are based on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.

www.showerezy.com.au

showerezy@gmail.com

Search for Shower Ezy on Facebook

 

We have no affiliation with Shower Ezy and all views are our own, based on our own personal thoughts and experiences.

Tassie Trip Day 5:  Richmond

What a beautiful old town Richmond is, you can see why this is one of Tasmania’s most popular destinations for tourists.  This town is steeped in history and as you take a drive through the village your eyes can’t help but be drawn to the beautiful architecture of the old buildings, some dating back to the early 1820’s.

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You’ll find Richmond about a 20 min drive from Hobart, in the Coal River Valley.  The town itself is home to many cafes, restaurants and galleries, each operating out of resorted Georgian buildings that line the streets.  Visiting this town is like taking a step back in time, there is so much to learn and the buildings are like a work of art.

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Many of the homes are restored to their original standing, whilst the newer style homes are built to fit in with the surrounding architecture.  It’s hard to explain just how picture perfect Richmond is.  Even the surrounding towns are filled with beautiful wineries, it simply is one of the most spectacular areas of Tasmania.

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In the 1820’s, the gaol and courthouse were built, as Richmond had become an important convict station and a military post.  Built in 1825, the Richmond Gaol is the oldest gaol in Australia.

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Unfortunately both times we drove through Richmond were outside the opening hours of the gaol, so we were unable to stand inside the stone walls.

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The most famous landmark of Richmond (and our initial main reason for visiting) is the Richmond Bridge.  Building of the bridge commenced in 1823 and the bridge was officially opened in April 1825.

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This Heritage Listed sandstone bridge spans the Coal River and it is now the oldest bridge in Australia.  This amazing structure was built by convict labour and the design was an engineering achievement at the time.  In fact, for 10 years after it was built it had the longest span of any bridge in Australia.

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Now I’m sure that this isn’t the only one in the area, but the ghost of George Grover reportedly haunts the bridge.  Legend has it that Mr Grover was not a nice man by any means and often whipped the convicts as they quarried sandstone from nearby Butchers Hill.  One night he was attacked by the work gang pushing the cart and they threw his body onto the rocks below the bridge and his ghost is said to have haunted the arches of the bridge ever since.

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Never one to pass up the chance to visit a cemetery or photograph a church, next on our stop was St John’s Catholic Church.  Built in 1836, this is Australia’s oldest existing Catholic Church.

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Should you pay a visit to Richmond?  ……. for sure!  This area is beautiful beyond words.  I don’t think either of us could live in Tasmania as we like our hot sunny days too much (definitely couldn’t survive a winter in Tasmania!), BUT if we were to move there, we both agreed that this was the perfect place.

Tassie Trip Day 5:  Cataract Gorge

A visit to Launceston is not complete without a visit to Cataract Gorge.  Just a 15 minute walk from the city centre and you’ll be in this paradise known as Cataract Gorge.

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The Gorge Scenic Chairlift, built in 1972, covers 457 meters, but the central span of 308 metres is believed to be the longest single chairlift span in the world.

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As you travel slowly over the naturally formed basin below you can appreciate the magnificent views of this ancient rock gorge, plenty of time to take in the scenery and take photographs.

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We were quite unaware of what to expect when arriving at Cataract Gorge, but it’s spectacular, there are long expanses of green grass to relax under a tree, there are many walking and hiking trails, the chairlift and a swimming pool, a cafe and a restaurant.

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Of course there is also the wildlife that are wondering around, we saw plenty of birds and lizards, wallabies and peacocks.

The Alexandra Suspension bridge was first built in 1904, but was washed away by floods and subsequently later rebuilt.

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Information:

The Main car park is at the First Basin.  Follow the signs from York or Frederick Streets. Entry is free to walk around, but there is a charge for the scenic chairlift.

Website:  www.launcestoncataractgorge.com.au 

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