After the Nullarbor, we slowed down a little to visit the Clare Valley, a beautiful wine region north of Adelaide. The wineries are relaxed and we enjoyed a glass or two (less for Ben) at both the Mad Bastard and Sevenhill Vineyards. We particularly enjoyed the tour at Sevenhills, as it’s the oldest vineyard here, run by Jesuit monks to make altar wine. They now make some lovely commercial wines too, and we even played a family game of cricket in the stunning grounds – howzat!
Adelaide was somewhere we all wanted to see, but we just happened to arrive in time for a record heatwave here – it was over 43 degrees for 3 days in a row. So we were indoor tourists during the day, and beach tourists at night! Adelaide Museum has a great opal display to look longingly over, and Glenelg Beach was gorgeous for swimming and people watching (and giant slides for the boys). We were very impressed by Adelaide as it is a small friendly city surrounded by gorgeous beaches on one side and scenic hills on the other – all within 30 mins drive! We even stayed in a lovely area called Walkerville.
From Adelaide we headed north into even hotter temperatures – travelling through the other well-known wine region the Barossa Valley – the Penfolds cellar door had some good wine on sale for Christmas!
Our next stop was Mildura, and a record 46 degrees (hottest place in Australia that day), where we did a paddleboat journey on the mighty Murray River. If it hadn’t been so hot we’d have enjoyed this little oasis of river and agriculture even more. But the heat was a good excuse to spend the afternoon watching the new Star Wars movie in blissfully cold air conditioning!
Heading north again, we drove across the Hay Plains; dust, farms & wheat fields as far as the eye can see. It was so dry we could see mini willie-willies in the distance forming funnels as they lifted the dust high into the sky. The radio was full of bushfire warnings too. (Later we saw the devastation on the Great Ocean Road as fires destroyed towns and homes along this stunning coastline, so sad.)
Then it was to Dubbo to visit the awesome Taronga Western Plains Zoo. The enclosures are so large here you drive around the zoo in your car, stopping for photos and keeper talks. Unfortunately, the hot weather broke and it rained heavy and constant all day, so we had to do a second day to make the most of our visit, but if you ask Ollie it was worth it, especially when he got to interact with the wallabies.
So we did it, 5,000 kms in just over two weeks, across a vast landscape of deserts, wheatfields, crystal coastlines, laidback Aussie towns and cities, and excellent vineyards. It felt quite momentous arriving back where we’d started 6 months ago after completing a complete lap of this vast, incredible country.
We could now relax and enjoy a fantastic Aussie Christmas with my family, followed by a chilled New Year watching the fireworks over the Brisbane River. Here we toasted to whatever the New Year brings us; let’s just hope it will be as amazing as 2015, for all of us!
Finally, thank you to everyone who supported, helped, questioned, laughed at, accommodated or journeyed with us on this trip, either physically or via this blog. We really have appreciated your time and interest and at times you have inspired us too with your comments and best wishes. THANK YOU SO MUCH.
Finally, a few examples of Aussie humour: