Northern Territory

Uluru/Ayers Rock is a massive sandstone rock formation almost smack-dab in the middle of the country.  It is on Pitjatjanjara Indigenous land and within a national park created to protect it.

Uluru is abolsutley enormous, 348 m high, but the part above ground is only a tiny bit of an even larger sandstone mass that continues for kilometres under ground.  The tip that sticks above ground has been turned on its side, as you can tell from the vertical layers of rock (instead of horizontal, as they were formed).


Uluru is simply a place of natural beauty and it draws hundreds of thousands of visitors per year.  Once inside the national park, there are only a couple roads to take.  The main activity available is hiking.

We chose to do the base walk at Uluru, which follows the circumference of the rock and is 11 km long.

The walk starts in the northwestern corner of the rock on a section of the trail called the Mala Walk.  In the first few minutes of walking, we saw bush plums, Aboriginal cave paintings, and read the myth of the marsupial mole who lives in one of Uluru’s caves.  The wave-like rock structure was naturally formed by erosion, but was used by the Indigenous people as a cover from the heat of day or strong storms.

About half an hour in we reached our first sensitive spot.  These are areas that are sacred to the Pitjatjanjara people.  Normally it involves some type of ceremony or initiation that is passed down from grandparent to grandchild.  The signs posted on either side of the area ask people to not take pictures or video here.  The Indigenous people want to continue to pass information down as a rite of passage and not have it readily viewed all over the world through photographs and video.  We were trying to be as respectful as possible and refrained from taking pictures of these areas, though, unfortunately, not everyone was as courteous as we were.  To see it, you’ll have to go to Uluru yourself!

As we were trekking along around Uluru, we were lapped various times by Segway tours–definitely a quicker way to tour the base, though I didn’t see any reason to rush all the way around.

I had another moment like the one involving the Sydney Opera House.  I’d seen pictures of Uluru and it looks like a huge, smooth red rock.  But up close, there are all kinds of caves, crevices, nooks, and crannies, as well as various shades of colour in the rock.

The first picture in the second row depicts the ‘old people’s cave’ and the black marks on the rock is from fires they burnt–amazing!

Kantju Gorge is an area where there is usually water at Uluru.  These areas are important because during the hot, dry summer, the Indigenous people needed to know where they could find water.  The black line running down the rock is where the water trickles down; the black colour itself comes from algae that grows on the moist rock.

Here, we are rounding the first corner to be on the northeastern side of the rock.  This side is the longest, straightest side and exposed us in the sun in the middle of the day.  The path also winds a bit away from Uluru here, which affords for some great pictures.

It’s amazing all the plants and animals that can survive in such a drastic climate–intense heat in summer days, frost during winter nights, and always a lack of water.

Uluru has a mini Uluru next to it on this side.  A small cluster of rocks that are all sacred to the Pitjatjanjara people, so only glimpses can be seen in some of the pictures below.

Now on the southeastern side of Uluru, we are heading back into the shade of the rock (thankfully!).

We encounter another Segway tour and a small wood that has been recently burned, on purpose or by accident, we don’t really know.

Looking up at the sides of Uluru, you can see where water has slowly been slicing through the rock.  There is another area on this side that is a pretty permanent waterhole.  Plants are much more common and abundant near these waterholes, for obvious reasons.

The southwestern side is still shaded, which is glorious at the tail end of an almost 4 hour hike.

Most of the large crevices or other geological features have myths behind them in how they were created.  Here, where there are many holes from where bits of rock fell out, it’s said they are bits of emu meat that a man stole.  And where there are black streaks are the char marks of him being burned into the rock as punishment.

Finally, the last little stretch to come back around to where we began.

Just in front of the carpark, is the area where people can climb Uluru.  The Indigenous people strongly ask tourists not to climb, so I didn’t (even though I wanted to).  The Indigenous people call the tourists that do climb pinga which means ants.  They really do look like a tiny trail of ants traipsing up the side of the rock…

Something I haven’t mentioned yet (how?) are the flies.  Flies were everywhere and landing on everything.  We had heard of them before (and encountered them to a lesser degree in Melbourne summer), so we came prepared with flynets.  They don’t stop the flies from landing on your face/head, just stop them from touching your skin as they do so.  A fashion choice they are not, but goodness were they life saving.

I love the contrast between the brilliant blue sky and the red rock (and hints of greenery at the base).  Uluru is spectacular.


NT Driving and Yulara

Northern Territory

We decided to take the scenic drive from Alice Springs to Uluru, instead of flying.

Outback driving is different than anything else I’ve experienced.  It’s very flat, very straight, very fast, very empty, and very red.

Something else new to me were the road trains.  They’re trucks with multiple containers behind them; the most common number is three containers.  When driving the kilometres and kilometres across the Outback it’s not worth it to have three separate trucks when their could be just one.  They’re a well-known road hazard on Outback roads as it is not easy (or quick) to for them to stop.

Another common Outback driving sight are roadhouses.  They’re only every 100-200 kilometres, so when there is one, you’ve gotta stop.

One of my absolute favourite parts was the red sand–so quintessentially Australian!  And the contrast between the gorgeous blue sky and the red sand is absolutely incredible.

Nearing Yulara, a huge rock comes into view, but it’s not the famed Uluru.  It’s Mt. Connor and it’s commonly mistaken for Uluru by impatient tourists.

Directly across the street (I say street and mean highway) is a tall red sand dune; at the top is a gorgeous view of some of the Lake Amadeus salt flats.

When visiting Uluru, there is really only one place to stay.  The resort about 15 km from the rock–Yulara.  Supposedly, it has beds for 5000 heads and camp grounds for even more.  It is not only a resort, but a town within itself.  With only the permanent residents/employees, it is the 4th largest city in the Northern Territory.

The wildlife in Yulara was fun to see.  Galahs, bibles, baby emus, and flowers galore!

Being only 15 km from Uluru, the resort has great views of both the rock and Kata Tjuta.  Especially at sunset, the lookouts are the place to be.

Since the resort is so isolated, it has all the amenities like a post office, grocery store, police station, fire station, and many other shops.  It also has museums and cultural exhibits, as well as a local football team, whose mascot is the flies (nothing could be more appropriate!).

The Uluru airport is even more isolated (if that’s possible).  There are only five flights a day out of it: 2 to Sydney, 1 to Melbourne, 1 to Cairnes, and 1 to Alice Springs.  Right when the plane takes off, you can see Yulara and Uluru–beautiful from the air.

Alice Springs

Northern Territory

Alice Springs is a 3 hour flight from Melbourne.  It is the gateway to the Outback.  It is the Northern Territory’s second largest city, after Darwin, which is up on the coast and has a rainforest-like climate.  The entire Northern Territory has a smaller population than the county I live in in the US–crazy, right?

This was my first taste of the Outback.  It’s very different from the rest of Australia, but so well known globally that it was awesome to finally be there in real life.

Anzac Hill sits to the north of Alice Springs and looks out over the city.  Yep, that’s it.  That’s the entire Alice Springs.  It’s just a few square blocks and some outlying houses.

Anzac Hill honors the residents of the Northern Territory who have fought to keep Australia’s freedom intact over the past ~120 years.

The Northern Territory flag features the Southern Cross constellation and Sturt’s Desert Rose, the territories floral emblem.  The seven white petals on the flower represent the six Australian states plus the NT.  The ochre colour behind the flower is one of the official territory colours (along with black and white).

Alice Springs is located in a basin between the Macdonnell Ranges.  Looking straight out the highway from the top of Anzac Hill, you can see the gap in the mountains where the road goes through down south towards Uluru.

The main Downtown area centres around Todd Mall, which correlates to the tourist-y area as well.  Lots of shops, many featuring Indigenous items, line the pedestrian-only street.  There are also some historical buildings as Alice Springs was settled as one of the first places in Central Australia.

Alice Springs is well known for their colloquial use of Indigenous language and culture.  In a local bookshop, there was a whole section of Indigenous language books, and not just one Indigenous language, but many.  It is so interesting how many cultural groups can live in one region.

The Todd River is a main feature in Alice Springs.  On maps it is labelled as “Todd River (usually dry).”  It was indeed dry when we were there.  The river bed was basically just sand and is a favourite gathering spot for many of the local Indigenous people.  It is said that the Todd River is either “dry or ten feet high,” so there were a few elevated bridges to be able to cross during those few and far between times.

EVEN MORE Meals in Melbourne

The City, The Cuisine

Flower Drum

This restaurant is a Melbourne classic located in Chinatown.  It is a large restaurant located on the second floor of a warehouse-looking building on a small laneway in the midst of Chinatown.  Inside it is bigger than expected, separated by carved wooden screens.  The service is impeccable and the classic Chinese dishes are excellent.

Saute Chicken with Pine Nuts

Chicken with shiitake mushrooms, carrots, bamboo shoots, and pine nuts


Eggplant in Spicy Salt

Fried eggplant in spicy salt stuffed with carrots, yam, pine nuts, and served with crispy enoki mushrooms


Gai Lan in Shaoxing Wine

Chinese broccoli stir-fried in rice wine and ginger


Singapore Noodles

Stir-fried Vermicelli noodles with prawns, BBQ pork, snow peas, shiitake mushrooms, onion, and chili


‘Typhoon Shelter” Lamb Cutlets

Flinders Island saltbush lamb cutlets stir-fried with fried crispy garlic, chili, and scallions


Great Ocean Road Brewhouse

Roast Lamb Dinner

Sliced roast lamb with roasted potatoes and seasonal steamed vegetables all covered in a rich gravy, served with a dollop of mint jelly


Fish and Chips


Mexican Chicken Parma

Basically nachos on top of a parma–an interesting idea…


Chocolate Mousse in a Chocolate Shell with cream


Chocolate Mud Cake with vanilla ice cream


Sticky Date Pudding with vanilla ice cream

One of the best desserts I’ve had here!  So full of caramel and rich pudding–delectable!


Shamrock Hotel

Eggs Benedict

Another day, another Eggs Benedict.  Almost too much bacon on this one, but nevertheless still delicious.


Brekky Burger

Very Australian and super good– the bun was almost Brioche-y.


Eggs and Bacon


Queen Victoria Market

Hedgehog Slice

A super rich chocolate-y, fudge-y slice with pieces of shortbread biscuit interspersed throughout and with a layer of coconut shavings on top–absolutely amazing!


Red Ochre Grill

Cripsy Onion Rings with Citrus Aioli


Pulled Pork Burger

The pulled pork was not our favourite kind (we love the vinegar-y Carolina kind!) and it was also too sweet.  But the bun, fries, and salad were all great!


Aussie Burger

This included the two most common Aussie items put on a burger: an egg and beetroot.  Even Macca’s serves burger with these items.


Veal Schnitzel with Killpatrick Sauce

Killpatrick sauce is Worcestershire sauce with bacon and cheese.  The first bites were very good, but as is usually the case with Worchestershire sauce, it gets a bit much eventually.


Chicken Parma

A solid parma with a sizable amount of ham; the chips and salad were good, as usual.


Kulata Training Academy

This is a hands-on trade school for Indigenous youths.  It’s a great group and the food was very delicious.

Bacon and Egg Panini

With onion jam (the unusual, and most delicious, aspect)


Desert Lime Melting Moment

Two shortbread cookies with a very generous swirl of buttercream–so rich!  The desert lime flavour was really good, definitely lime-y but with a hint of something else a little herb-like.


Melbourne Real Estate

The City, The Culture

The Melbourne real estate market is absolutely insane!

Right now, the average price for a home is AUD $826,000 while the average price for a unit is AUD $583,000  It blows our minds how the average person here buys a house/unit.

The buying process begins with inspections.  They are not what you think of when you hear ‘inspection.’  An inspection is like an open house, where you can come to the location and ‘inspect’ it and scope it out.

Every thing is much more regimented here because the market is so competitive.  Inspections have to be registered for, so it is not exactly the same as an open house.

Real estate agents only work for the seller, not the buyer.  People have to do their own research, attend inspections on their own, and place bids by themselves.  The real estate agents host the inspections and auctions and handle the legal side of selling.

The weirdest thing about Australian real estate is the fact that they have auctions for all of their properties.

There is usually an inspection a week or two before the auction and then another inspection just before the auction begins.  The real estate agent starts the bidding at/near the seller’s reserve price (what they won’t take below).  Then, depending on the popularity of the house/unit, the bidding either continues fast and furiously or more slowly.

Auctions are usually held out in the street in front of the house/unit and are open to the public to come and watch.  However, to participate in an auction you have to have previously registered and submitted an offer price.

The auction format makes buying a house so competitive.  People basically have to commit to the highest end of their budget first to even have a chance at participating in the auction.

At the house auctions we’ve been to (in an up-and-coming, nice neighborhood of Melbourne), the houses have ended up going for 1.160 and 1.650 million (usually for a 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 garage townhouse).  Unit auctions we’ve seen (again in a nice area) have been around the $500,000-650,000 mark.

It is kind of fun to attend an auction (especially for us Americans) when you don’t have to go through the stress of bidding.  The real estate agent usually has a gavel and smacks it on his folder or rolled up papers–a dramatic conclusion to a thrilling auction.

We think we may have seen the top of the market as real estate prices have been continually falling for the past couple weeks.  However, the sticker prices are still shocking us.

Apparently… Sydney is even worse…


More Aussie Slang

The Culture

hoon=a young man who drives recklessly

*also a verb, hooning—mainly used in hooning around, common hoon behavior is doing burnouts/donuts/excessive speeding, there is even legislation called Anti-Hoon Laws

how are you going?=how are you doing?

*go replaces do in a lot of instances asking about someone (how did you go?)



doona=duvet cover


pumpkin=any kind of winter squash

*pumpkin is here all year round because it’s not actual pumpkin



sango= sandwich


stick fat= show loyalty to

squiz=to have a look at

that’s me done= I’m finished

pokies=poker/slot machine


bottle-o=bottle shop=liquor store


*as in a type of party or the object (a grill)


*i.e. a department in a store would be called manchester

pot= 10 oz beer

schooner= 15 oz beer

pint= 20 oz beer

*even though a pint is 16 oz……

servo=service station=gas station



Chrissie= Christmas

The Great Ocean Road

The Culture, The Sights

The drive from Melbourne down to the Great Ocean Road doesn’t take long, but it has some highlights of its own.

First up is Point Lonsdale.  This is the western point of land that is at the opening of Port Phillip Bay.  This opening is known as The Rip and is one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of water.  The width of The Rip is 3.5 km, but the navigable width is only 1 km.  Many lives have been lost in The Rip both as part of shipwrecks and in recreation.  One of Australia’s Prime Ministers went swimming in The Rip in 1967 and disappeared, presumed to be dead.

We saw waves crashing into each other in the shape of a square, something I had never see before.  It was kind of like a square whirlpool and definitely looked dangerous.  It can be seen in the right hand picture just behind the pier.

Queenscliff is a cute, historic town on the bay side of the opening, so it is a much safer harbour.  It’s a popular beach town for Melburnians to escape to in the summer.

The Barwon Heads Bridge separates Barown Heads from Ocean Grove by crossing the Barwon River.  This bridge is the oldest timber stringer road bridge in Victoria; it was built in 1927.  It is also Victoria’s longest wooden bridge.


Torquay is the surfing capital of Australia.  Not only is it home to some of the world’s most famous surf brands, Rip Curl and Quicksilver, but it is also home to the world-famous Bells Beach.


Bells Beach hosts, arguably, the most important surf competition: the Rip Curl Pro.  It takes place Easter weekend every year and draws huge crowds to watch the best surfers take on the best waves.  The long right-hander is what Bells Beach is most known for.  Surfers were everywhere, trying to catch a piece of the famous waves.

We continued along the coast between Bells Beach and Anglesea as the last stretch of coast before the Great Ocean Road officially starts.  The highlight here was Point Addis, which had stunning views out over the Southern Ocean (this will be a recurring theme in this post!).

Finally… the start of the Great Ocean Road!

The road was built during the 1920’s by returned soldiers and functioned as a permanent memorial to their mates who had died.  The statue of diggers at the arch was unveiled in 2007 at a ceremony to honor the mate ship shown during the construction of the GOR on its 75th anniversary.

The Memorial Arch at Eastern View used to function as a toll gate, but is now just the symbolic start to the journey.

The GOR continues on through Aireys Inlet, Fairhaven, and Moggs Creek until the next stop–Lorne.

Lorne itself is another small, beach town but out of town a bit, and inland a bit, are two places of natural beauty.

The first is Teddy’s Lookout.  Up on a taller-than-expected hill, there are amazing views of the ocean and the GOR.  It is a quintessential aerial shot of the GOR winding just along the coast.

Erskine Falls is next.  This is the highest waterfall in the Otways Region and is located in the middle of a temperate rainforest, which I think looks primordial–where are the dinosaurs?

Continuing on the GOR from Lorne we hit the memorial plaque just outside Lorne and another one at the difficult-to-construct-around Cape Patton as well as the villages of Wye River and Kennet River.

My favorite stop on this stretch was the shipwreck of the W.B. Godfrey, which was sailing from San Francisco to Melbourne in 1891, when it wrecked off the coast.  While no men were killed in the actual wreck, 5 men were killed in trips to salvage supplies from the wreck.  Soldiers building the GOR found their graves when digging up the area and made them a new marble headstone to honor them.  However, the headstone is placed in an arbitrary location.  The beach in front of the shipwreck had this enormous seaweed; I tried ripping a piece and it was like trying to rip rubber.

Our final stop for the day, and our resting place for the night, was Apollo Bay, one of the larger towns on the GOR.  It is known most for its fishing trade and popularity in the summer.

Mait’s Rest is a boardwalk hike through a spectacular temperate rainforest.  It was raining the day we went, which added to the atmosphere.

The Mountain Ash trees along this walk are over 300 years old and 60 metres tall (they can grow up to 100 metres!).  This makes them the tallest flowering plants in the world.  These trees shed their bark to enrich the soil below; these trees deposits 40 tonnes of their bark per hectare per year.

Cape Otway is the second southernmost point on mainland Australia, so a lighthouse is necessary to keep the ships away from its daunting rocks.  The lighthouse, known as the Cape Otway Light station, is the oldest lighthouse on mainland Australia.  The light keeping ships away today comes from a solar-powered LED light out on the tip of the Cape, no longer the lighthouse, but the lighthouse is open to the public.  It has simply incredible views of the Southern Ocean.

Moving on from Cape Otway, we continued along the Shipwreck Coast section of the GOR.  More than 200 ships were lost here between the 1830s and the 1930s.

One of our stops in this stretch was Johanna Beach.  This is the backup beach for the Rip Curl Pro when Bells Beach isn’t cooperating.

Another stop was at Melba’s Gully, another temperate rainforest walk.  It is one of the wettest places in Victoria, which we can attest to.

Now… the Limestone Coast section of the GOR.  The land is scrubby and windswept and the coast is now lined with tall, sheer limestone cliffs.  Here the beaches are the most dangerous.

The limestone creates many shapes as it erodes, but none more famous than the 12 Apostles.  These sea stacks have never actually numbered 12.  They used to be called “Sow and Piglets” for the one large stack and the small ones surrounding it, but someone thought more tourists might come if they were named “12 Apostles.”  It seems to have worked as this was the singular most crowded stop we made along the entire journey.  Since the limestone is constantly changing, one stack collapsed in 2005 dropping the actual number of apostles by one.

The Razorback limestone formation was one of my absolute favourites.  Wind-blown spray is the main creator of this stack and causes the sharp, razor-like edges along the top of the ridge.

Loch Ard Gorge is named after another casualty on the Shipwreck Coast.  In 1878, the Loch Ard wrecked on the coast near this gorge.  All the passengers died expect 2 people; Eva Carmicheal couldn’t swim and clung to a bit of the wreckage which washed her into this gorge, where Tom Pearce (who had swum there) rescued here.  As much as this sounds like the beginning of a love story, it wasn’t; the two went their separate ways and never saw each other again.  Today, the two stacks standing in the middle of the gorge are named Tom and Eva.

Port Campbell is another small, coastal town along the GOR.  It’s tiny bay is one of the only safe-swimming places along the otherwise treacherous ocean of the GOR.


The Arch is another limestone creation. This was one of my favourites because of the way the waves crash through the opening.  It’s so mesmerizing to watch.

London Bridge, or “London Bridge (broken)” as it’s labeled on the maps, used to be a double-arched limestone formation.  The first arch collapsed in January 1990, leaving two tourists stuck out on the island.  Broken or not broken, the arch is still a sight to see.

Warrnambool is the end of the Great Ocean Road and is most popular as a whale watching sight, in-season of course.

Thunder Point is on the tip of Warrnambool.  On one side is Lady Bay, the calm, boat-friendly water and on the other side is the wild Southern Ocean which swirls and crashes magnificently.  All in all, a good summation of the Great Ocean Road.


The Culture, The Sights

Bendigo is the fourth largest city in Victoria and the second largest inland one.  It is located in the Goldfields region just about smack dab in the middle of the state, a bit northwest of Melbourne.

To get there, there is about an hour and a half drive through regional Victoria.  One of the places we went through just before reaching Bendigo was Maryborough.  Their train station was the focal point of the town.  Built in 1890, the station was magnificent before the town had anywhere near its current population of 7,630.  Mark Twain once remarked that Maryborough is “a train station with a town attached.”

The hotel we stayed at was the historic Shamrock Hotel.  This hotel dates from the 19th century (1897) and began as a place where miners could rest their heads for the night.  As more and more gold was found and funneled through Bendigo, the hotel became more and more prosperous.  All of the rooms are named after people who have a Bendigo connection; we stayed in the Lola Montez Suite.  The building, outside and inside, is still opulent with stained glasses, a sweeping marble staircase, and fireplaces in every room.  It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and under the National Trust of Victoria.

Bendigo is full of historic buildings.  Many are now just remaining facades with the interiors completely renovated for modern use, but some still hold onto their historic uses.

The historic General Post Office is now the visitor’s centre, but is still a magnificent building from the outside.

After climbing almost 300 stairs, Poppet Head Lookout had great views of Bendigo from all angles.  The lookout, which is an original poppet head from the Garden Gully United mine, is built directly over the top of the opening to the deepest mine in Victoria.

Camp Hill Primary School, which dates from 1877, is still going strong as a primary school.  The red brick with white accents reminds me a lot of the Rippon Lea facade.

The school and poppet are located in Rosalind Park where there were hundreds, if not thousands, of bats.  In the afternoon they were simply hanging upside down in their trees, but when darkness fell they were flying overhead in droves, especially towards the top of the GPO–bats in the belfry, indeed.

The original Myer department store was founded in Bendigo, even though today the headquarters and flagship store is in Melbourne.

What is the Ulumbarra Theatre today was the old Sandhurst Gaol (Bendigo used to be known as Sandhurst).  The architecture still speaks strongly of its original intent with heavy gates, small courtyards, and high walls.

The Town Hall (1859) is another grand building; columns, arches, stonework, towers…this has it all!

The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Bendigo is the second tallest church in Australia, after St. Patrick’s in Melbourne.  Its building was started in 1895 and was not completed fully (mainly the spire) until 1977 due to various long intervals.  The sandstone it’s constructed from was quarried in the Geelong area.  The huge pipe organ was installed early in the building, in 1905.  While we were inside, the organ player was practicing.  It was really fantastic to hear the music fill up the large, resplendent space.  The church is really a focal point of Bendigo; it sits off of the main road up on a hill and its spire is visible from nearly everywhere in town.

Royal Australian Mint & Australian Money

A.C.T, The Culture

We went to the Mint on a Saturday of a holiday weekend, so there were no workers there and the factory was not running.  However, we still got to look over the factory floor and see the robots that do the heavy-lifting.

The staircase up to the factory viewing was coated in 5 cent coins, which made for a cool effect.  And the barrel in the lobby overflowing with 1 dollar coins is one used in the factory.  Each full barrel weighs 700 kg, so the robots are necessary to lift it.

Australia switched to a decimal can system in 1966 and they held a contest for the designs.  At the mint, there was a great exhibit on the designer of all the coins, Stuart Devlin.  I love that they feature Australian animals!

Inspired by our visit to the mint, my mom, Sue, writes about Australian money in general.

I have been enamored of the Australian money since we have been here–not only for its purchasing power, but because of the size, shape, color, and illustrations on both coins and paper currency.  Here is a brief description of what I love:

The paper currency comes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollar bills.  They are different sizes, with $5 as the shortest , and the $100 as the longest, progressively getting longer as the denominations increases.  The colors: purple, blue, orange, yellow, and green, again from smallest to largest.  They have portraits of famous Australians, like Banjo Patterson, Mary Reibey, David Unaipon, Dame Nellie Melba, Sir John Monash, and others.  There is usually a woman’s and a man’s portrait on each bill, with the exception of the $5 bill, which has the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the front, and Parliament Bridge on the reverse.  The ‘paper’ currency is made of plastic, so there are very sturdy and almost impossible to rip.

The colors, sizes, and material make the bills very easy to use.  I enjoy learning about the famous Australians.  Quite frankly, these bills make our greenbacks appear quite boring.

As someone who works in retail and deals quite a bit with cash, I can attest to the fact that it is much easier to differentiate bills because of the size and colours.  The $100 is not used often and I haven’t even seen that many.  The $50 dollar bill is probably the most commonly used bill and I would say is the use equivalent of the American $20 bill.

I also love the Australian coins: 5, 10, 20, 50 cents and $1 and $2.  The $1 and $2 are gold colored; the others are silver-colored.  The colors are also used to identify level of donation requested–for example, the Tram Museum asked for a “gold coin donation” and we were happy to oblige.  The $1/$2 coins are very convenient to use and carry–love that there are no small denomination bills.  Also, there are no pennies–all prices are rounded to the nearest 5 cents.

The other great thing about the coins are their illustrations–they are primarily based on Australian animals.  Because Australia is in the British Commonwealth, on one side of each coin is the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.  But on the reverse side, the 5 cents has an echidna; the 10 cents has a lyrebird with its fancy plumage; the 20 cents has a platypus; and the 50 cents has a kangaroo and emu (on the coat of arms of Australia).  The $1 has a mob of kangaroos.  The $2 coin, the newest denomination from 1988,  has a scene of an Indigenous man, native flora, and the stars of the Southern Cross.

Within the silver coins, the size correlates to the value (unlike American coins).  That makes it a lot easier to count coins quickly.  The same is not true in the gold coins.  This is because they made the $1 coin first and then, when they decided to make the $2 coin, did not want to go any bigger.  The largest coin is the 50 cent coin; it is a dodecahedron because as a circle, it was too similar in size to the 20 cent coin.  The current currency discussion is whether to get rid of the 5 cent coin or not.  Most prices are in even dollars and I’ve only ever been given 5 cent coins in pairs to make 10 cents.  Meanwhile, the US still has (and needs to use) pennies.  I really like and appreciate the order and sense of the Australian money system, but I do miss the fun names American coins have.


War Memorial (and Museum)


Situated on top of a hill in line with Anzac Avenue and the Parliament building, the War Memorial is another main attraction of Canberra.

We stayed for the Last Post ceremony.  It honors one of the over 100,000 names listed on the walls of the memorial.  Their story is shared with the many people visiting the memorial, their family members come and lay wreaths, and they are honored again with the Last Post.

The Last Post is the Commonwealth equivalent to Taps.  It can be heard (and seen) at the ceremony below.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is housed in the domed section of the memorial.  The stained glass and tile work is simply stunning.  Poppies can also be laid on the tomb to remember all of the unidentified soldiers who have died.

Upstairs along the sides of the open memorial, 1000’s upon 1000’s of names are engraved of Australian’s who have died defending their country.  While the large majority of names are from WWI and WWII, it was last updated in 2013 and includes current conflicts as well.  Poppies are bought by those wishing to honor these soldiers and are stuck in purposeful divets next to the names.  It is a moving sight to see the tiny font of the names and think about how many people have given their lives.

In the courtyard of the memorial, there is a reflection pool with an eternal flame.

The attached War Museum is enormous and keeps getting bigger.  It had so much detailed information, it was hard to absorb it all.  Some of the most interesting displays were the planes, tanks, dioramas, and in the Hall of Valour, the uniform of the most recent Victoria Cross recipient.

Lest we forget.