Adelaide Hills, Australia

For the October long weekend, we spent three days roadtripping around the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsular. We we so impressed by the beautiful countryside, rugged coastlines, delicious food and spectacular wines.

We spent three nights in a quaint bed and breakfast in Hahndorf – an original German settlement about a 30 minute drive east of Adelaide. From Hahndorf, the Adelaide Hills district is easily accessible. We spent time doing some walks – notably the Mt Lofty walk – a 8km round trip down and back, which was strenuous to say the least, but the view from the top was amazing. We sampled wine, ate great food with some amazing backdrops and just enjoyed the undulating green landscapes.
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Essentials:

Getting There:
From Adelaide airport, we hired a car and drove south east along the M1 motorway. All towns are signposted at the respective exits.

Stay:
We stayed at Amble Over Bed and Breakfast. Located just of the main road in Hahndorf, it’s within easy walking distance of all amenities, yet still quiet. The apartment was clean and spacious, with a beautiful view onto the paddocks behind. Rates start at about $220 per night for the apartment and breakfast.

Eat:
Lunch at Hahndorf Hill winery – lovely platters of various pates and cheeses enjoyed with great wine and a lovely view from your table. Platters start at around $20 per person.

Wineries:
Our favourite wineries in the Adelaide Hills were Mount Lofty Ranges (who do a lovely 2012 Pinot Noir) and Somerled in Hahndorf town, who have a beautiful selection of delicate cool climate wines.

Litchfield & Darwin, Australia

We spent our final day in the Northern Territory exploring Litchfield National Park and checking out Mindil Beach Markets in Darwin. After an early start, we sadly departed Kakadu and drove towards Litchfield National Park. Although Litchfield has some spectacular waterfalls and waterholes (all crocodile free), we were somewhat disappointed due to the plethora of people visiting the park. Unlike Kakadu which was sparsely populated with tourists, because of Litchfield’s proximity to Darwin, less than an hour’s drive south, it was busting with day trippers escaping the Northern Territory heat and bathing in the cool waterholes. We stopped briefly at Florance Falls and Wangi Falls, but found more ‘private’ waterholes along Walker Creek and Tolmer Falls. After a few hours of exploring the park, we headed towards Darwin to visit the sunset markets at Mindil Beach. These markets are on twice weekly, Thursday and Sunday night, starting at about 4pm and finishing at 9pm. Although not the best markets for handcrafted goods, there is a huge array of international food on offer, which you can take-away and enjoy whilst taking in the stunning Darwin sunset. We had an amazing time in the top end and would very much like to explore this fascinating area of Australia further. Untitled-23 IMG_5033 Untitled-24 IMG_5040 IMG_5041 IMG_5051 Untitled-25 IMG_5062 Untitled-26 IMG_5080 Untitled-27 IMG_5087 IMG_5102 Untitled-28 IMG_5108 Untitled-29 Untitled-30 IMG_5134 Untitled-31 IMG_5146 Untitled-32 IMG_5136 IMG_5167 IMG_5184 IMG_5188 IMG_5194 Untitled-34Essentials:

Getting Around:
Hire a car. If you’re thinking to take the less accessible parts of Kakadu and Litchfield, make sure you hire a 4WD. Cars can be picked up and returned from Darwin Airport.

Eat:
Mindil Beach Markets. A huge selection and the prices are great – we bought vege laksas for $8 and they were delicious.

Buy:
If you can find some original Aboriginal artworks, the top end is the place to buy them. Many galleries support local artists and art cooperatives. We purchased a bark painting at the Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Kakadu.

Kakadu, Australia – Day Two

Our second day in Kakadu National Park was just as good as our first. After our laid back breakfast in our bush bungalow in Jabiru, we headed out for a long drive to Gunlom – a spectacular infinity pool, free from crocodiles. The majority of the drive was on the nice sealed Kakadu Highway. But from the turnoff to Gunlom, it was 4WD territory. A sedan could handle the first part of the unsealed road, and although the latter part didn’t require the 4WD capacity of the car, the road was extremely uneven, which required the height clearance of a 4WD to pass.

Gunlom plunge pool is located at the top of a mountain, and it’s a steep and strenuous 45 minute walk to the top. But it is worth the hard work and effort, as you arrive at a beautiful waterhole with a spectacular view as a backdrop.

After Gunlom we headed back north to Cooinda to embark on a sunset Yellow Water cruise. If I had to give a Kakadu highlight, this would probably be it. The two hour cruise takes you down Yellow Water were you see a plethora of birdlife and the odd crocodile or two. The river and the surrounding vegetation is spectacular, especially against the orange and purple hues of the top end sunset.

Back at our bungalow we had a BBQ dinner of local barramundi to top off our day.

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Kakadu, Australia – Day 1

So it has been a month or so since we went to Kakadu National Park, but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the chance to do any posts. And with a long-weekend in the Adelaide Hills planned for October, and Myanmar over Christmas and New Year, I better get cracking on these Kakadu, Litchfield and Darwin posts.

We spent a long weekend in the top end and absolutely loved it. Neither of us had previously been to the Northern Territory, so it was all new and exciting. We arrived very early on a Friday morning into Darwin, taking the red-eye Jetstar flight from Sydney, picked up a hire car from the airport and drove into Darwin for a few hours sleep. By mid-morning we we up and ready, and after a quick breakfast, we started making our way towards Kakadu National Park. The drive from Darwin takes about 2 hours, but it’s a nice and easy drive. Our first day in Kakadu was spent in the northern part, visiting a few billabongs, the rock painting at Nourlangi Rock and Ubirr Rock, looking out for crocodiles at Cahills Crossing and finally ending the day with a spectacular sunset from Ubirr Rock. We visited in late August – being the dry season, the weather is the most favourable, but this also attracts the tourists. However, Kakadu was not crowded at all – we almost felt as though we had the place to ourselves. We were so impressed with day one, that our second day in Kakadu couldn’t come quick enough.
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Essentials

Getting There:
Jetstar and Qantas fly daily to Darwin from Sydney. The flight is at about 8pm from Sydney and arrives in Darwin after midnight. You can collect a pre-reserved hire car from the airport, as we did, or there are buses and taxies which will take you into town.

Stay:
We stayed at Anbinik Resort Kakadu (formerly Lakeview Park Kakadu) in one of their amazing bungalows. We absolutely loved the accommodation – it was clean and tidy, with great BBQ facilities. Fantastic value for money.

Eat:
We frequented Jabiru supermarket for our meals – picnic lunches and BBQ dinners. You can’t go wrong with that.

Osaka, Japan

Our final destination in Japan was Osaka. We didn’t leave much time for Osaka, only an afternoon/evening, but we were glad that we at least spared a little time for this big cosmopolitan city. We made the good decision to visit Osaka Castle late that afternoon – the place was just magical in that late afternoon golden glow. The park surrounding the castle was full of life – people jogging, taking a leisurely stroll, playing with their children, or simply sitting beneath a tree and reading a good book. As you can see by the photos, Osaka castle is absolutely spectacular perched atop the city. We were unfortunate to arrive too late to go inside, but exterior was just incredible!

Later that evening, we headed to where it all happens in Osaka – to Dotonbori Street. This is the central night-life district of Osaka and it is buzzing with people at all hours of the evening. Dotonbori Street is also a great place to grab a bite to each, as there are more restaurants than you wish to chose from, selling everything from crab, to noodles, dumplings, basically any type of Japanese cuisine. It’s one of those places that you have to experience at least once.

Well, that’s it from Japan. Heading to Kakadu National Park next weekend, so stay tuned for some posts shortly.

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Essentials:

Getting There:
Osaka is well connected by rail to many places throughout Japan. There is also an international airport at Kansai (about 30-45 minute train trip from Osaka Central Station). Osaka also has an excellent subway network connecting almost all areas of the city.

Stay:
We stayed at Yamatoya Hoten, located conveniently close to Dotonbori Street (about 50m away, if that). The rooms were Japanese styled ryokan rooms and we very clean and tidy.

Visit:
Dotonbori Street and Osaka Castle are at the top of the list.

Hikone, Japan

Whilst in Kyoto, we took a half day trip out of the city to visit Hikone Castle and its beautiful gardens. Unfortunately, we arrived probably only a few days after the cherry blossoms fell, so we missed the stunning landscape would would have enveloped the castle (the castle grounds are practically lined with cherry blossom trees).

Perhaps not as grand as Himeji Castle (which was unfortunately under renovation during our visit to Japan, thus we did not visit), Hikone has a quaint simplicity about it. We spent the afternoon exploring the castle (you can actually go inside and much of it is still original) and the beautiful gardens across the moat. We also had a grey day, but I can image that the place would have been twice as spectacular had the sun been shining.

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Essentials:

Getting There:
Take the train from Track 2 at Kyoto Central Station to Hikone. On the rapid express train, the journey takes about 50 minutes. From the station, traverse the centre of town towards the castle. The centre of Hikone isn’t large at all, but if you lose your way, just ask someone to point you to the direction of the castle.

Eat:
Before you arrive. We had difficulty finding a decent place to eat. Perhaps we were out of season (there isn’t much to do in Hikone except visit the castle). But 7 Eleven in Japan is always good for some take away nori rolls.

Avoid:
The Hikone town mascot, known as Hikonya, is everywhere and his song gets rather annoying when you listen to it on repeat constantly. Although, he is rather cute.

Nara, Japan

Initially I wasn’t too keen to visit Nara – all I heard about that was that there was a giant Buddha and a park full of deer. But I was pleasantly surprised by this small town, more than half of which is covered with parkland. Nara is a beautiful day out from Osaka or Kyoto, where you can spend a day picnicking in the park, exploring the temple and feeding the deer special deer biscuits which you can purchase from vendors in the park. And also be amazing by the giant Buddha (the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world). In the end, I was glad that we spent a day in Nara.

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Getting There:
For JR Pass holders, there is one train from both Kyoto and Osaka, which run half hourly from Kyoto and every 15 minutes from Osaka. When you arrive at Nara JR Station, it’s a leisurely 1.5km walk through the town to the park.

Buy:
Purchase good luck amulets from Todai-ji (the temple which houses the giant Buddha). A great souvenir to bring home from Japan. I bought a number for myself and my family.