NEWSFLASH! My book hits the road! Did you miss my Channel 7 Weekend Sunrise 'Downunder Dunnies' appearance? Watch the Video HERE!


World Exclusive at the Lismore Turf Club Loo! OZ Scenic Public Toilet #39

The Lismore Turf Club Loo!  Northern New South Wales
On a fine and sunny non-race-day Saturday morning, the Lismore Turf Club's sensational sub-tropical setting is generally race-horse-and-people-free.

And the Lismore Turf Club Loo is generally unused and unappreciated with an uninteresting view!

But last Saturday morning the sunny serenity of the Lismore Turf Club Loo was disturbed by a sight never before seen anywhere in the WORLD. On that day, the view from the loo – beamed all around Australia – will be forever remembered (at least by ONE person) as Red Nomad OZ's first appearance on National TV!

The View from the Lismore Turf Club Loo!*

If you were lucky/unlucky enough to view it (strike out that which is not applicable), you'll no doubt agree it's quite probably the last!!

So why was a Weekend Sunrise TV program guest lurking outside a loo at the Lismore Turf Club, over 700 km from Channel 7's heartland in Sydney?

Does that sound equipment make my bum look big?*
That's what I was asking myself as the Rainbow Region's morning fog melted into a clear sunny day and cameramen Peter and Ben wired me up for sound, fixed the light (dang, those glasses were tricky!) and calmed those last minute nerves.

My awesome publicist, Jenny had rung a couple of days earlier. Yes, she knew I was on the road. Yes, she knew the publication date (1 July!) of my book “Aussie Loos with Views!” was still a way off. Yes, she knew I'd be nervous. 

But this was WEEKEND SUNRISE! 

Yes, THAT book!!
And they could do a live cross from anywhere with a race course!!

A race course? Go figure!!

In my defence, a live cross isn't an ideal situation despite the calming cameramen, pacifying producer (thank you, Kate!), or welcoming Weekend hosts! 

To the onlooker (ie Pilchard) I was just a dazed redhead, standing in the middle of an empty Turf Club surrounded by lighting equipment and cameras, an earpiece taped to my neck channelling my imaginary friends and randomly speaking!

Camera and lighting equipment aside, perhaps not that different to my normal state?!

The View from the Lismore Turf Club

The absence of visual cues made it all a bit unreal (I'm on National TV? Yeah … whatever!) so I didn't feel nervous at all. 

Weekend Sunrise Live Cross at the Lismore Turf Club!*
On the other hand, the producer and crew have probably already rewritten the old showbiz adage, vowing never again to work with children, animals OR redheads who've written toilet books and never been on TV before!

Being the Aussie Scenic Public Toilets poster girl is a double-edged sword – I got to write a book about my special subject AND have it published (thank you ExploreAustralia!).

BUT I DID get the chance to make a fool of myself on National TV!

Even if I discovered a new scenic loo while I was doing it!

Will the fun ever stop?
Random sign from the Lismore Turf Club

The Lismore Turf Club Loo isn't Australia's most scenic, and it doesn't have the most spectacular setting or staggering view.

But it's the most memorable!  For me, at least!!

Take a look at what the dunny saw that day on the Dunnies Downunder Video Clip from Weekend Sunrise!

Read MORE:

*Pics with an * by Pilchard


Australia's Scenic Public Toilet #38 - The Neck, Bruny Island

The Neck from Truganini Lookout, Bruny Island, Tasmania
If you like your landscapes complete with killer views, superb natural attractions, unusual wildlife and a touch of history, Truganini Lookout overlooking 'the Neck' on Tasmania's Bruny Island ticks all the boxes.

Pretty good, huh?!

Car Park & Toilet at Truganini Lookout, the Neck, Bruny Island

But this already FINE outlook is elevated from pretty good to perfect by its scenic public toilet. That's it, right down there near the car park and the beginning of the OH-so-many steps to the viewing platform.

Perfect, right?!

The Loo, the Neck!

Our day on Bruny Island just off the Tasmanian east coast south-east of Hobart hadn't started so well. How could the Mirambeena vehicle ferry be merrily motoring across the D'Entrecasteaux Channel from Kettering to Bruny Island WITHOUT US? We'd got up early. We'd made good time on the drive south to the ferry departure point. We'd joined the queue. And when the car in front of us went up the ramp, we thought there'd be room for our smallish hire car too.


At least the 1.5 hour wait for the next service gave me a welcome opportunity to practice my water reflection photography skills. And my marina photography skills. And my 'is-that-tiny-speck-on-the-horizon-the-ferry-coming-back-yet-please-goddess' shots.

Not 'blurry' - ARTY!  Kettering Marina, Tasmania

That 'practice' time was welcome to ME, anyway. I'll leave you to judge by these snaps whether those 90 LONG minutes of my life I'll never see again were 90 minutes well spent. Or not!

Reflections at Kettering Jetty, Tasmania
At least we were first in line for the next ferry service. And the day started to look a bit brighter – literally – as the morning fog and cloud rolled away and we disembarked at the Roberts Point ferry terminus AND BAKERY!! YESSSSSS!!!

But the day was to become even brighter.

Nearly half-way down Bruny Island's 100km length is the (I can't believe they called it that!) Neck – a (yes, you guessed right) narrow neck of land joining North and South Bruny Island and separating the D'Entrecasteaux channel from Adventure Bay. 

Adventure Bay and Rookery Viewing platform from Truganini Lookout, The Neck, Bruny Island

It's also a penguin and shearwater rookery – an apparently rare combo. And the area is significant to the Tasmanian Aboriginal people so the lookout is dedicated to the memory of Truganini, one of the last tribal Aborigines in Tasmania.

Of course we HAD to stop and check it out.

Just as well we did or we would have missed one of the most scenic Australian Public Toilets I've had the pleasure of doing my business in.

And I would have missed the chance to include it in my first book!

'Aussie Loos with Views!' is what's kept me from this blog for so long. 

That, and the 'long service leave' I'd earned from four years of blogging!

It's hard to imagine that after a dramatic dunny like this that the day could get even better. IT DID! But that's a story for another day!! Stay tuned!!!

Want MORE?

Mirambeena Ferry arriving at Bruny Island, Tasmania


8 Random Adventures on the Kanawinka Geotrail!

On the Lake Surprise circuit track, Mt Eccles National Park, Victoria
My first adventures on the Kanawinka Geotrail pre-date Pilchard by quite a few years But they also pre-date both owning a camera AND knowing that the Kanawinka Geotrail even existed!!

Now I know the Geotrail connects 60+ significant sites across South-Eastern South Australia and South-Western Victoria in Australia's first UNESCO Global Geopark – one of the largest regions of volcanic activity in the world. And seeing them all is going to take a longer time than we had available in Spring, 2013 – even though I'd had a head start going back nearly … well, never mind how long!

It's only a log ... no crocodiles at Nigretta Falls, Victoria!

I've even passed through all five Precincts – Craters & Limestone; Plateaus and Falls; Coast & Caves; Cones & Flows; and Lakes & Craters – although I've only explored attractions in three.

But here's a random selection of what I've discovered so far on the Kanawinka Geotrail!

1. Budj Bim – Mt Eccles NationalPark (Cones & Flows Precinct)

Lake Surprise, Mt Eccles National Park, Victoria
'... stop! Stop!! STOP!!!' Pilchard shouted as I strode ahead of him round the Lake Suprise circuit trail just above the high water mark. I nearly ignored him. 

Lake Surprise Crater Walls, Mt Eccles National Park, Victoria
He'd probably just seen another bird fluttering through the trees lining the slopes of the Mt Eccles crater towering above us.

But I stopped anyway, sighing audibly with foot poised in mid-air in my very best 'Girl Interrupted' pose.

Just as well.

Something slithered under the dry grass at the edge of the track where my foot was about to land, dislodged a pebble or two, and hit the water with a plop. Was it any surprise the snakes were about on this warm spring day? If I'd actually seen it, there's no way I could have finished the 2km hike around the Crater Lake's waterline. Which would have been a shame because the crater lake surrounded by cliffs and wooded slopes was a fantastic introduction to the fascinating Mt Eccles, whose lava flow created ponds, wetlands and lakes managed by the Gunditjmara people to form Australia's first aquaculture initiative!

I'm not sure what REAL surprise Lake Surprise was named for – but I hope it was more pleasant than mine!

And maybe there's something to having a well-trained birdwatcher observer's eye ...

2. Mt Rouse, Penshurst (Cones & Flows Precinct)

Southern Grampians from Mt Rouse Summit, Penshurst, Victoria

One of the advantages of a flat, treeless plain is that a killer view doesn't require much elevation, so a smallish extinct volcano will do the trick! But although this scoria accumulation rises 100 metres to tower over the tiny town of Penshurst and has the longest lava flow in Victoria, the awesome view from the summit of Mt Rouse gives no indication of the treasure below, hidden away in the town's back streets.

Although it's only a treasure if you're a sucker for second hand books like I am! Ruriks Shed is the equivalent of a magic kingdom for bibliophiles – all the better for being completely unexpected AND in the shadow of an extinct volcano! Cool!!

Mt Napier from Mt Rouse, Penshurst, Victoria

While it's unlikely to start erupting again anytime soon according to the nearby Penshurst Volcanoes Discovery Centre, its looming presence visible throughout the town is a reminder of the violent forces that once shaped this part of Australia.

And while the staggering view across the lava plain to nearby volcanoes (Mt Napier and Mt Eccles) and the Southernmost edge of the Grampians Ranges (Mt Abrupt and Mt Sturgeon) is well worth the drive and short walk to the summit, I'm still thinking about how to mount a rescue operation for all the books I left behind ...

3. Byaduk Caves (Cones & Flows Precinct)

Byaduk Caves, Victoria
'Are they worth seeing?' the older gentleman accompanied by a younger woman and two small children asked as we held the gate open for them at the Byaduk Caves carpark.

Now, how was I supposed to answer that without being a mind reader possessing more tact than I've ever been known for?

An intriguing system of sinkholes, lava tubes, domes and chambers, the Byaduk Caves formed when a fountain of lava erupted from nearby Mt Napier, highest point in this district, and youngest volcano in Victoria. Fascinating, if the resident colony of Bent-winged Bats didn't bother you. 

Byaduk Caves Rock Detail, Victoria
Or the possibility that the large snake we saw on the road in to the Caves complex wasn't a loner.

So leaving questions like whether the family group were locals and accustomed to the area's hazards; whether or not the kids were up to a hike through the long, dry grass; and indeed whether they would find a few holes in the ground as interesting as I did; aside, I took the easy way out.

'We thought so,' I replied!

4. Tumuli (Cones & Flows Precinct)

Tumuli in the long grass ... Kanawinka Geotrail, Victoria
Not far away, the Tumuli, also called Lava Blisters, were surrounded by long, dry grass. Just getting out of the car for a photo was enough to put me on full snake alert after the excitement of Mt Eccles.

But because the smallish domes (up to 10 metres high and 20 in diameter) are a rare occurrence in the wonderful world of volcanoes, I took what perhaps may be my only opportunity to photograph them in the wild …

I'll leave you to decide if it was worth a potential snakebite ...

5. Mt Schank, Mt Gambier (Plateaus & Falls Precinct)

Mt Rouse wasn't the first extinct volcano I'd visited. Way WAAAAY back in the dim distant past – when I was nearly HALF the age I am now – I climbed Australia's youngest volcano with my then flatmate on – yes, I was even doing it way back then – a road trip passing through Mt Gambier!

Red on Mt Schank, Mt Gambier, South Australia
But living in a pre-Facebook and pre-digital photography world – yes, those were dark times – didn't stop us from taking the equivalent of today's 'selfies' as we wound our way up the 159 metre elevation to the top of Mt Schank to look down into the crater. Current tourist information talks of the marvellous summit views across the limestone plains, complete with lava flows, but those clearly passed us by with our own selves front and centre in ALL the photos of this trip!

That wouldn't happen today ...

And there's other differences between my current and past selves – next time I go to Mt Schank, I'll SO be doing the crater floor walk!!

6. Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park (Craters & Limestone Precinct)

Even further back in the mists of time, the Tantanoola Cave formed the unwitting backdrop to a turgid little soap opera between me and one of the serial pre-Pilchard relationships of my (extreme) youth …

Tantanoola Cave, South Australia
My then (thankfully now LONG-ex) boyfriend – lets call him David – and I were on a mini-break. A 4-day road-trip to South Australia's South-East, and I was ready for some sightseeing. Well, that's why I travel to new places!

Not David. A bit of wacky 'baccy in the hotel room, and a few drinks at the local pub was what he had in mind. He'd tried to cut the holiday short at the last minute citing lack of funds (those baggies don't come cheap), but I cleverly managed to persuade him to take the whole 4 days by agreeing to pay for everything, thus avoiding a costly cancellation fee. In return, he dutifully 'agreed' to 'pay me back later'!!!

Two words. 'Young' and 'Silly'.

I have a few (perhaps presciently blurred) photos of this momentous, but long ago holiday so one of us must have had a camera, but who actually took this GOOD photo of the inside of the Tantanoola Cave remains a mystery. I may have bought it from the kiosk (if anyone from the Tantanoola Cave recognises it, please let me know so I can give appropriate credit).

David wasn't that interested in the cave, despite the scenic splendour of (what I now know to be) its pink dolomite caverns and unusual speleothems. But with the benefit of hindsight, I suspect he just wasn't that interested in me.

But that's OK. I got the best end of the break-up deal - I got to keep the road trips!!

Wannon Falls via Hamilton, Victoria on the Kanawinka Geotrail

7. Wannon and Nigretta Falls(Plateaus & Falls Precinct)

The first time I visited Wannon Falls, I didn't take a photo, despite the impressive flow of water over the 30 metre high precipice.

Wannon Falls a long time ago ... Victoria
The second time I went there, I was fascinated by The Taxpayers Reward – a not-so-scenic public toilet erected as part of a previous prime minister's 'Nation Building' program!

But on my third and most recent visit, I'd just discovered it was part of the Kanawinka Geotrail – which gave my (endless) photographic recording and inspection of its points of interest far more gravitas!

So now I can tell you the river follows an ancient lava flow.

This photo (at right) from Pilchard's archive shows that not much changes at Wannon Falls apart from the amount of water and access to the bottom of the falls. But his interests have changed too – instead of the waterfall, he was (unsuccessfully) scanning the tree tops, as the picnic ground is a known Powerful Owl habitat.

But we were both fascinated by the water at nearby Nigretta Falls, upstream, and part of the same river system. Absolute virgin territory (ie the first visit for both of us) these falls are supposedly on the site of a super volcano!! 

Nigretta Falls, via Hamilton, Victoria on the Kanawinka Geotrail
Whether or not that is so, the falls and river above make a splendidly scenic spot to explore, have lunch or just hang out.

I can see an overnight stop at the Wannon Falls campground in our future – when Powerful Owl will not prove so elusive, if he knows what's good for him ...

8. Blue Lake, Mt Gambier (Craters & Limestone Precinct)

Blue Lake, Mt Gambier, South Australia
The best adventure is sometimes the one you haven't had yet. Over the years, several road trips have taken me through Mount Gambier, in South Australia's South-East, and site of the intriguing Blue Lake.  And if Blue doesn't do it for you, the neighbouring slightly-less-blue lake (see below) has been imaginatively dubbed Green Lake!!

Green Lake at Mt Gambier, South Australia
But other than buying a bottle of Blue Lemonade and taking a couple of photos – the above happily during November to March when the Blue Lake is at its bluest; there's no corresponding period for when the Green Lake is at it's greenest – the region remains a relative mystery.

SO ... exploring the Blue Lake, Green Lake and neighbouring Crater Lakes complex remains firmly on the to-do list.

Watch this space!

Want MORE?
Reflections on the River near Nigretta Falls, Kanawinka Geotrail, Victoria


P is for Patriotic: 26 Reasons why Australia ROCKS!

Outback near Blinman, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
As this FAAAABULOUS January 26 gets under way, the ozone layer prepares itself for a high carbon emission onslaught and the planet's remaining trees breathe a sigh of relief.

Aussie Flag at Anzac Hill, Alice Springs, Northern Territory
It's Australia Day and almost compulsory to have a barbecue and PROVE your Aussie pride with Aussie flags on every conceivable product from toothpicks to tablecloths; serviettes to stubby holders; picnic plates to paper cups.

For Aussies like me, there's a LOT of things that make Australia so Australian.  So I've chosen 26 of those special Aussie things that top MY Australia Day Patriotic Aussie Pride list!

Australia Day! 
Congratulations to 2014 Australians of the Year Adam Goodes (Australian of the Year); Fred Chaney (Senior Australian); Jacqueline Freney (Young Australian); and Tim Conolan (Australia's Hero); and a BIG welcome to our newest citizens!

BIG Things! 
Love 'em or LOATHE 'em, for us Aussies it's quite normal to wander a landscape littered with BIG fruit, animals and other random objects!

The BIG Miner - Map Kernow, or Son of Cornwall - Kapunda, South Australia
Country Towns! 
Around 90% of Australia's population live in urban areas. So I'm calling Country Towns the next BIG Thing in Aussie tourism. 

Where else can you see the quirks, the oddities, the beauty and the colours of Australia?

Australia is the driest continent on earth, and South Australia its driest state.

Eucalypts in River Bed
Most of the 700 species in this genus are from Australia – and the only genus in the world with species across ALL habitats – Eucalyptus is a mini-masterclass in adaptation. 

Even though down here we call them Gum Trees!

Floral Emblem! 
Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is the famed Green and Gold that represents Australia. Although each Australian State and Territory has a unique floral emblem, not many Australians can name them all! Can you? Test your knowledge HERE!

Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), Australia's Floral Emblem - Green and Gold!

Australia is home of the Welcome Stranger, at 71+kg the world's biggest alluvial gold nugget found at Moliagul near Bendigo in the Victorian Goldfields. It's tempting to see if Son of the Welcome Stranger is lurking nearby, right?!

Victorian Alps near Mt Hotham
High Country! 
At 2228 metres, Mt Kosciuszko, highest mountain in OZ, isn't that high by, say, Everest standards. But the OZ High Country around the New South Wales Snowy Mountains and Victoria's Alps makes a HUGE change from the Coastal fringe and Outback that usually characterises OZ!

Indigenous Rock Art, Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, South Australia
Indigenous Culture! 
Australian colonial history started just over 200 years ago. Australian Indigenous history goes back for over 50,000 years meaning Australian Aborigines have occupied the same area continuously for longer than any other culture in the world!!

Jump Up! 
In a land so (mostly) flat, sometimes the only feature for hundreds of kilometres is a small hill called a Jump Up. My favourite is Swanvale Jump-Up near Stonehenge … the Aussie version.

Nothing says 'Australian Bush' like the sound of the Kookaburra – largest Kingfisher species in the WORLD! 

If you're unsure why they were once called Laughing Jackass, click HERE for a Kookaburra Sound Clip!

Understanding Fair Dinkum Aussie Slang is the REAL citizenship test, as Google translate is a FAIL for true Aussie lingo. 

See how you go with this Australia Day 'conversation':

'G'day mate, ayagorn?'
'Stone the crows, she's a hot one, mate! Chuck another coupla snags on the barbie and pass the dead horse, whaddayareckon, eh mate?' 
Rolling on the Murray River at Mannum, South OZ, Australia Day 2014
'No worries, tinnies in the esky mate, go for your life!'
'Orright mate, cheers'
Translation below ...*

Murray River! 

Australia's longest river system, the Murray-Darling, stretches from it's headwaters near Mt Kosciuszko to the sea at South Australia's Goolwa.

National Parks! 
Of Australia's 516 National Parks, my most visited is the Grampians National Park in Victoria

What's yours?

The huge and otherwise undefined 'middle' section of Australia, where there's WAY more than the 'nothing much' of popular opinion. Don't believe me? Have a look at my Outback adventures!

Outback near Bedourie, Queensland
The ultimate accolade to Australia's poets is Scenic Public Toilet #8 at Gunnedah, NSW, home of Dorothea MacKellar author of My Country – a personal favourite. 

Waltzing Matilda Centre, Winton, Queensland
Another is Clancy of the Overflow by the extraordinarily prolific A. B. Paterson. He also wrote Waltzing Matilda – one of the 10 most recorded songs in the world – the subject of the only museum in the world (the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, QLD) dedicated to a song!

You don't have to look very hard to find something strange and bizarre downunder. Like a singing, piano-playing dingo. Or a sign telling you exactly what the locals think of the government. Or a gilded church steeple in the middle of nowhere. Or the world's first ride-on lawnmower. Or a Cane Toad Race! Or the World Moon-Rock Throwing Championships! Haven't heard of these things before? They're ALL on my blog!!

Well, what did you expect for 'R'?? In my opinion, Australia's REDDEST place is Karijini National Park, although you can find RED pretty much anywhere in Australia – both the colour AND the blogger! Me!!

Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park, Western Australia
Yep, that's what we're known for! And a whole lot of other Coast-related 'S' words as well … like Swimming! Sun!! Sand!!! Sunsets!!!!

Hobart from Mt Wellington, Tasmaniz
Often forgotten as part of Australia, the 'Apple Isle' is the second-largest island in the Australia group. I've only been to Tasmania once, an oversight I hope to rectify soon!

Australia's RED heart. Do I really need to give you a photo or link??

Vegemite is an acquired taste ... but who knows how much longer this Aussie icon will survive with the competition from Aussie legend Dick Smith's OZEMITE? But whatever happens, the Vegemite TV commercial from the 1950's is a classic!!

Whales! Stretches of Australia's extensive coastline are perfect for whale-watching in the right season. The Southern Right Whale nursery in the Great Australian Bight is a good place to start, but there's opportunities all around OZ … like this whale offshore from WA's Quobba!


A Xanthorrhoea by any other name is Australia's most well known wildflower – the Grass Tree, able to withstand bushfires and live for hundreds of years!

Grass Trees at Victoria Valley, Grampians
Young and Free! 
From the first stanza of Advance Australia Fair, the Australian National Anthem – 'Australians all let us rejoice/for we are young and free' Nicely ironic, considering the longevity of the Aboriginal race (see above) … but I'd like to think I was young and free - however old I become!
Yeah … this is the lazy person's Z-word. So sue me. Australia's Zoos are pretty good though – Adelaide's Monarto Zoo, Dubbo's Great Western Plains Zoo and Sydney's Taronga Park Zoo. But my all time favourite Zoo-like place is the Alice Springs Desert Park!

That's just some of what makes Australia so Australian, and ME patriotic. But what have I missed?? What's YOUR favourite Australiana??

Want MORE?
Check out the rest of my Aussie Alphabet HERE!

*Lingo Translation:
'Hi, how are you going?'
'Gosh it's hot! Can you put a couple of sausages on the barbecue and pass the sauce? What do you think?'
'OK, help yourself to a can (of beer) in the portable cold bin.'

'All right, thanks!'

Mt Sturgeon from Dunkeld Arboretum Lake, Grampians, Victoria


TOP 7 Central Australian RED HOT Spots once you're done with Uluru!

Ochre Pits, West MacDonnell Ranges, Central Australia
For some, the whole point of Central Australia is Uluru. For others the whole point of AUSTRALIA is Uluru. And who can blame them? It's HUGE. It's magnificent. It's RED!!

But Central OZ isn't just about Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Of COURSE they're several kinds of awesome, but there are lots of other attractions that'll show you just as good (and far less crowded) a time! And – even better – they've all got that trademark Central Australian RED!

So you've hired the car, seen Uluru and you've got another few days to kill. Or if you're REALLY lucky, you're an Aussie with a camper trailer and a bit of time on your hands. 

Just like me! 

 So what do you do?  Hit the road - and see my TOP 7 Central OZ Red HOT Spots!  Just click the headings for more info!!

Kings Canyon Walls, Central Australia

Just down the road and round the corner from Uluru, Watarrka, as it is known to the local indigenous people is SO worth the 166 km one way detour off the Lasseter Highway back towards Alice Springs. For many Aussies, visiting Kings Canyon is a tribute pilgrimage to a famous scene from classic OZ movie 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'. Haven't seen it? Click HERE for a trailer! 

View from Kings Canyon Rim Walk, Central Australia
But you don't have to hike the Canyon in a frock to show yourself a good time. The 6 km (x mile) Canyon Rim circuit requires a reasonable level of fitness, but as you cross the rugged rocks you'll get to see stunning vistas across the plain, the Lost City and Garden of Eden and sensational sunsets that make those towering rocky RED cliffs GLOW.

Besides, it's not a race! Is it?

Stay at the Kings Canyon Wilderness Resort campground (closest to the Canyon) or at nearby Kings Creek station so you don't have to rush. The men in frocks have long gone, but the awesome RED Canyon will be here for a LONG while yet!

So you're back on the Stuart Highway heading north to Alice Springs. An hour or so before you get there, you'll pass the Stuarts Well Roadhouse. Unless you're a SMART traveller, in which case you'll stop. Because Stuarts Well has one of the most bizarre and uniquely Australian Outback travel experiences you're likely to see.

Stuarts Well Campground, Central Australia
Unless you've already spotted a singing, piano playing Dingo named Dinky someplace else, that is.

For many years, roadhouse owner Jim ran tours to Kings Canyon from a resort he and his family built from scratch on nearby leasehold land. Until one year, the landowner resisted all attempts to re-negotiate their lease. Strangely unwilling to 'gift' the resort they'd paid for and built by themselves on their leasehold to someone who hadn't done anything towards it but collect the rent, Jim and his family destroyed it.

Dinky, the Singing, Piano Playing Dingo, Stuarts Well
Now Jim's based at Stuarts Well. As well as running tours to nearby Rainbow Valley, Jim now assists visitors achieve their (perhaps as yet unrealised) dream of seeing a singing, piano playing real live dingo in the flesh! For perhaps the first and last times in their lives ...

There's even accommodation and campsites at the roadhouse for those who want a dinner and show experience with a difference!

STOP PRESS!  In what must be a dark day for Central Australian Tourism, Dinky the Singing, Piano Playing Dingo has retired.  Of course, the legend lives on in the hearts and minds of those who have seen him ... AND countless YouTube clips!  See Dinky in full voice HERE!

Just as well there's a special bonus EXTRA attraction below to make up the numbers, huh?!

Scenic Public Loo at Rainbow Valley, Central Australia
Staying at Stuarts Well puts you in the hot seat for a 22 km one way dirt road detour off the Stuart Highway to the amazing Rainbow Valley.

Rainbow Valley Rocks!
With a rainbow of multicoloured rocks rising above the (frequently dry) salt lake in front of it, the rocks are easily accessed from a short track from the visitors car park.

Exploring and/or photographing the rocks is an excellent way to pass a few hours. Or a day. Or more ...

Stay at the Rainbow Valley Campground (is it a coincidence that my best photo of the Valley contains one of the best Scenic Public Toilets in the country?) to be right in the (RED) hot seat for some extraordinary outback sunsets.

And if it rains?

Well … the road might be impassable, but at least you'll get to-die-for pics of the amazing Rainbow Valley formations reflected in the lake!

And I'll be as jealous as hell!

Ochre Pits, West MacDonnell Ranges, Central Australia
Many years ago when I first toured the West MacDonnell Ranges, I didn't call in to the Ochre Pits ~115 km from Alice Springs along Namatjira Drive. I won't be making that mistake again! The intriguing contours of (not just RED) colour in the creek bed and surrounding rocks, and its status as a place of significance to local Indigenous people from the area show a different – and fascinating – side to Central Australia.

Ormiston Gorge and Pound Walk, Central Australia

Just up the road from the Ochre Pits, if you can't find LOTS of cool things to do at Ormiston Gorge, you clearly haven't read my 7 TOP Ormiston Gorge attractions guide!

Yes, it's going to take more than one day to explore this end of the West MacDonnell Ranges and Ormiston Gorge is the best spot from which to do it!

Glen Helen Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges, Central Australia

Staying at the nearby Glen Helen Resort with its own spectacular gorge, or the Ormiston Gorge campground means you don't have to rush back to Alice Springs before you've seen – and done – everything.

But be warned. Don't bother with this option unless you're up for magnificent sunrises and sunsets; the Ormiston Gorge and Pound walk – one of the best short(ish) hikes in OZ; the stupendous splendour of nearby Mt Sonder; the beauty of Glen Helen Gorge and the glorious, glowing RED – everywhere!

Gosse Bluff from Tylers Pass Lookout, Northern Territory
Tylers Pass Lookout, West MacDonnell Ranges,  Central Australia
This is as close as I got to Gosse Bluff. 175 km west of Alice Springs, the long line of gorges, waterholes and mountain ranges that forms the West MacDonnell Ranges comes to an end at Tylers Pass – from here the road snakes down onto the plain.

We'd spent the day exploring the area around Ormiston Gorge and driving as far as the Tylers Pass lookout had been an afterthought to end the day before heading back to the campground.

About 21 km from the lookout, the vast bulk of Tnorala – the remains of a comet crater, 5 km (~3 miles) across – is an impressive sight.

Gosse Bluff from Tylers Pass, West MacDonnell Ranges
Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) from Tylers Pass Lookout, Central Australia
With no camping allowed at the Bluff, the only option was a flying visit. But even if we'd wanted to attempt a kamikaze night drive cutting a swathe through the nocturnal desert creatures feeding at the road's edge, visitors to Tnorala need a Mereenie Tour Pass. And the nearest place to get one was back at Glen Helen Station.

But it's SO on the list for next time!

Simpsons Gap at Dusk
Simpsons Gap via Alice Springs, Northern Territory
7. Simpsons Gap

Yes, I know. EVERYONE'S been to Simpsons Gap, that narrow passage (there's only so many ways to say 'Gap') through the MacDonnell ranges. 

Only 18 km west of Alice Springs (or 17 km along the bike track) it's the 'Claytons' Central Australia tripette de rigueur from the Alice if you haven't got much time.

And there's nothing wrong with that!

Simpsons Gap from Cassia Hill
Simpsons Gap from Cassia Hill Walk, Central Australia
BUT the rewards are even greater for those who spend a bit more time and take the 1 hour return Cassia Hill walk up onto the schist escarpment (once part of the floor of a massive inland sea) and look down on the Gap.

Wildflowers, classic Central Australian scenery – and a staggering 360ยบ view, of which Simpsons Gap is a very small part.

That's the thing about Central Australia. Wide open spaces. Magnificent mountain ranges. And an endless supply of RED!

Ranges from Cassia Hill, Simpsons Gap, Northern Territory
Ranges from Cassia Hill Walk, Simpsons Gap, Central Australia
Did I say SEVEN cool things? Of course there are WAAAAAAY more than that – so here's another one for nothing!

Sunrise at Devils Marbles
Sunrise at Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles), Northern Territory
Even though it's 335 km and ~3½ hours north of Alice Springs, the great sprawl of spherical sandstone rocks weathered by the wind and sand all aglow in the Outback light are worth the trek.

Devils Marbles Campground, Northern Territory
Karllu Karlu (Devils Marbles) Campground, Northern Territory
Especially if you're there at sunset. Or sunrise! Which generally means staying at the Devils Marbles campground, or at nearby towns Wauchope or Wycliffe Well.

Aboriginal Dreamtime legend and scientific explanation both offer theories the spheres' formation. But in this region with its strong colours, harsh climate and stark beauty, the Indigenous theory seems more appropriate. It's easy to see why this is a sacred site and also a ceremonial and trade meeting place for four different Aboriginal language groups.

Besides, just 20 minutes further south and also renowned as the alien capital of Australia is Wycliffe Well! But that's another story ...

Devils Marbles Sunset
Sunset at the Devils Marbles, Northern Territory

Central Australia has enough other attractions in both colours – RED and not-RED – to keep you busy for weeks.

What's YOUR favourite?

Want MORE?

Major Mitchell Cockatoo near Alice Springs, Northern Territory

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