Episode 10: My top places to visit in Australia. Part 1: Art from Cairns to Canberra

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

conservation (verb): the protection of plants and animals, natural areas especially from the damaging effects of human activity:

officially: formally and in a way agreed to or arranged by people in positions of authority. 

state: a part of a large country with its own Government, such as in Germany, Australia, or the US. In Australia, we have 6 states. 

widespread: covering a large area 


broken it down - organised it in simpler way 

bucket list - a list of things you want to do before you die 

down under - referring to Australia being in the Southern Hemisphere, 

headed towards - moving towards something, travelling in the direction of something 

set the scene - describe a place or situation in which something is about to happen.

something 'spoke to me' - it really appealed to me 


Hello everyone,

Welcome back to Episode 10, I'm your host, Tara. An Aussie from no other than Australia - Down Under! Now that I live in France, that reference to Australia being 'down under' finally makes sense to me! It really is 'down under'! And it's quite far from France I find. Before I get started today, can you do me a favour! If you're listening to this podcast on iTunes can you please give the podcast a review. Preferably a good one! It helps for others learning English to find the podcast. I would be super super grateful! That would really help me so thank you.

So, wherever you're listening from I hope you're well! I hope you've been having some holidays and you've been enjoying yourself. If you're in the southern hemisphere, you'll be happy to know that winter is over. My family in Australia were very excited the last time we spoke because it had just been 21 degrees in Melbourne! Sadly that means for me; well that means summer will be over soon too! But it's okay because I've just returned from my vacation, hang on, that sounded weird. I never call it that. In fact, in Australia, we call vacation holidays. So I'll say that again, I just returned from holidays in Portugal! In English, You can say holidays or vacation when you're talking about the time you've had off from work.

00:02:12 I had the most fabulous holiday! It started as quite a long drive from Montpellier and a stopover in San Sebastian - which is a small resort town on the Bay of Biscay in Spain's very mountainous Basque Country. It is known as the Playa de la Concha because the beach in San Sebastian is shaped a bit like a shell. There were a lot of tourists on the beach and in the small, cobblestone streets of the city. At night I walked around the city I ate a lot of little tapas which they call pintxos, which are these yummy, bite-size regional specialties. It's usually a piece of bread with things on top of it - like fish, shellfish, meat and vegetables. Each little tapas bar looks like a food-themed art gallery because beautifully displayed on the counters are the many different varieties of pintxos. These bars are fun, especially if you want to eat something little while trying some of the regional wines. The wines from the area. You can go from one tapas bar to another, trying all the little types and varieties of pintxos.

00:03:35 After San Sebastian, I headed towards Portugal and spent two wonderful days exploring the streets of one of my favourite cities in the world - Lisbon. Lucky for me there was also a Banksy exhibition - Banksy, Genius or Vandal. The Banksy exhibition was something that really spoke to me. I'm rather fond of artists like Banksy who can cause controversy. If you listened to the previous episode, you'd remember I spoke a lot with Eli (the author of There is no f in Art) about Banksy and his artworks. So, I couldn't help but feel inspired. Of course, I also saw heaps of new street art in Lisbon too so after the exhibition, and after eating a few of my favourite Portuguese cakes - The Pastel de Nata I visited a newly installed artwork by Bordallo II. He's an artist I've spoken a lot about in previous episodes. This new piece was a gigantic Lynx sculpture in the Park of Nations in Lisbon. You'll see a picture of me in the show notes and of course on the Arty Anglais Instagram account. So this Lynx is made of recycled plastic and there is a lot of recycled plastic rubbish bins that it is made out of so it's very interesting. I like the way that Bordallo (and as I've said before) I like that way that Bordallo makes us think about the materials that we always throw away.

00:05:10 . So, after two days in Lisbon, I spent a glorious week on the beach in Lagos. It's a town in southern Portugal's Algarve region. It's known for its walled old city, the cliffs and Atlantic beaches. The beach that I went to was called the Meia Praia and every day it was really lively with lots of people sitting under their umbrellas in the morning. Normally, they would go home in the afternoon because it would get too hot in the afternoon to sit in the sun. Although the weather was fantastic (28 every day) the water was unbelievably cold! Almost glacial! Not at all like the beaches of Australia. But funnily enough, some parts of Lagos remind me a lot of the scenery of Australia's Great Ocean Road. At many points during my drive from Lisbon to the Algarve, I kept seeing big expanses of Eucalyptus trees on the side of the road, and at the time I would think to myself 'which country am I again?' I think it was then that I started to miss Australia. So, on my way back to France, I began to read the famous Bill Bryson Book - Down Under. I don't know how I missed this book in the last twenty years, but I should have read it a long time ago! It's a book all about Australia and travelling around Australia. The author Bill Bryson has a way of writing that is witty or funny, and his book paints a very accurate picture of life and culture in Australia. It just so happened that I wanted to talk about Australia in this episode so lucky for you I'll share some of my favourite passages from the book when I tell you all about my favourite places to visit. So that is what today's episode is all about! Some of my favourite places to visit in Australia. Actually what I have decided to do is split this podcast into three episodes. Halfway through planning and writing it, I realised I couldn't possibly cover all my favourite places and do Australia justice in just one podcast episode, so it will have to be in three! I've broken it down into three episodes as follows:


10 - Queensland, New South Wales and we'll finish the episode in the Capital of Australia in Canberra

11 - Victoria, Melbourne & Tasmania (which is the little island at the bottom of Australia)

12 - South Australia, Western Australia and The Northern Territory

I must say this was a difficult job to pick my favourite places. In Australia, you'll find many great things - friendly people, fantastic coffee, the best food, cute, scary and potentially deadly animals, spectacular scenery; and lots of creative and cool things to do. As you may already know, Australia is huge! Now I mean huge! It's the world largest island. To drive around Australia would be epic, although it has been done before by many! It's 14 times the size of France and the whole of Europe fits inside Australia with some room leftover! I couldn't possibly share all the best places, but I have at least included one location from each state. As Melbourne is where I'm from, I'll spend a little more time talking about it than the other places in Australia.

00:08:58 All the places that I am sharing with you in the next three episodes are interesting for both their geographical significance and their cultural and creative interest. I'll start my journey in the north of Australia in a place called the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It's also the home of my best friend Sean so I have very fond memories of time spent in Cairns.

So let's find out more about this exotic island in the middle of nowhere! Some 30-hour flight from Europe, it's well worth the visit I promise. Also, if you're interested in learning more about Australian English and Australian culture, I highly recommend you look for the Podcast Aussie English. He focuses a lot on Australian culture, expressions and idioms and he's also very funny and a great storyteller. So go and check it out.

00:10:11 Before I start - a few facts about Australia to help set the scene. Officially we are known as the Commonwealth of Australia. Which means Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain is officially our head of state. It is very, very, very important to know that Indigenous Australians - Aboriginals inhabited the continent of Australia for about 65,000 years before Europeans discovered it and it was settled in 1788 by Britain. Britain sent over its convicts to Australia after Captain Cook discovered it. Now, this is a controversial story, notably because shocking mistreatment of Indigenous Australians followed for many years after Australia was settled. It wasn't until 2006 that the Prime Minister at the time Kevin Rudd apologised to the indigenous Australians for past mistreatment in his Apology Speech. You can find his apology speech online also. It is very interesting to read to get a better understanding of what happened at the time.

Aboriginal Australian culture is one of the oldest continuous civilisations on earth! So I think it's important to mention, especially when people I often meet in my travels in Europe tell me how young Australia is. I usually correct them to say that European Australian culture is young, yes! But indigenous culture has been around a lot longer than even the European culture. So now, more than 200 years after European settlement, Australia has six states - Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania (which is that little island off the mainland) South Australia and Western Australia. It also has two territories Northern Territory and Canberra. You may be surprised to know that Canberra is our Capital city. It's not really like any other capital cities in the world; in fact, I've never even been there! Crazy right? But also not really and I'll explain more about why I've never been there a little later on.

Lastly, a bit more context, it's important to know that in Australia we love to abbreviate many of our words. For example - afternoon is arvo, a u-turn is a uwey and an ambulance is known usually as an ambo! So it can be a little confusing to learn English in Australia.

So we without waiting any longer - let's start my list of things in the sunny state of Queensland.


1. Great Barrier Reef

My number one place to visit in Queensland is, of course on top of everyone's bucket list - The Great Barrier Reef. The bucket list is the list of things you want to do before you die. The Great Barrier Reef was once on my list and I was lucky enough to tick it off a few years ago after I visited. If you visit the Great Barrier Reef, there are several places you can stay. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, and when you view it from a greater distance such as in a helicopter, you can understand why. Have a look at the picture I put in the show notes of this aerial image. It's really beautiful and it's just one part of. The Great Barrier Reef.

It is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space. The Great Barrier Reef if the largest Reef on the planet with some 900 islands, 1600 species of fish, 400 species of coral and thousands of other marine animals like sharks, turtles and whales. It's hard to wrap your head around how amazing this place is! It's a colourful work of art in itself. When you visit The Great Barrier Reef you have two options:

1. Stay inland in one of the major towns such as Cairns, Port Douglas, Townsville or Mackay or any of the beaches in between such as Palm Cove, Airlie Beach or Mission Beach; or

2. You can stay on an island.

There are a few major islands on the Great Barrier Reef - The Whitsunday Islands, Green Island, Fitzroy Island, Lizard Island or Thursday Island. I advise you to do lots of research. I'll put some links in the notes for some useful up-to-date blog posts that might help you decide.

Whitsunday Islands

00:15:57 Keep in mind something about the Great Barrier Reef (it's enormous!) For example, it would take you more than 8 hours to drive from MacKay to Cairns and that isn't even the entire length of The Great Barrier Reef!

The Reef is highly vulnerable. In the past thirty years, it has lost half its coral; pollution has caused deadly starfish outbreaks, and global warming is contributing to coral bleaching. So the magnificent colour that you see in all the pictures and brochures is becoming white.

Sadly, the scale and number of problems the Reef now faces have become widespread. The Reef needs protection to defend it from, overfishing and a multitude of other threats including actions by the Government. I'm not going to get to political and go into those problems.

00:17:04 However, if you visit, you can can help. If you go out onto the Reef to go snorkelling or diving, choose a responsible marine tourism operator who supports conservation efforts. It is essential to ensure that Ecotourism Australia certifies your selected tour company. Unfortunately there is a lot of controversy surrounding the topic so my advice is to talk to the locals and to understand which is the best to take.

1.2 Cairns

00:17:42 . In my opinion, Cairns is the best place to stay because it's close to a lot of other areas of interest and it is where the airport is located. Any time I've ever been to Queensland, I've flown into the airport in Cairns. Also in Cairns, you have many other attractions to visit like the little picturesque towns such as of Kuranda. You can take the Kuranda Train or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway which is a 7.5 km scenic cableway running above the Barron Gorge National Park, and it's just north of Cairns. It's made of glass so you'll be able to see the tops of the rainforest canopy. It can get a little bit cold up there In Kuranda, so make sure you check the weather before you leave. Last time I went, I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It had been 25 degrees in Cairns. But when I arrived in Kuranda at the top of the mountains, it was only 18 degrees, and it rained! Luckily I was able to buy a blanket made by a local a craftsperson to keep me warm for the rest of the day.

In Cairns, I've also visited the Cairns Botanic gardens, which is an incredible tropical paradise. There are so many native and non-native tropical plants visit and to walk around. There are also so many different hiking spots close to Cairns such as The Babinda Boulders and The Barron Gorge National Park, to name just a few. There are lots and lots.

A popular spot for locals and tourists is the lagoon. It's a big, free to access swimming pool on the Cairns Esplanade. It is also easy to take a boat from the Cairns Marina which isn't far from the Lagoon. So you can get a boat to go to any of the dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns is also home to many different Indigenous Art Galleries. Every year in July they also host the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair where they provide opportunities for Queensland Indigenous artists. This year the peoples choice award was given to a young artist by the name of Daniel O Shane.

I believe that a visit to an indigenous gallery in Cairns is extremely important especially to gain a better understanding of indigenous culture and if you visit Cairns in July 2020 you could visit the next festival.

1.3 Green Island

00:20:38 Sean and I spent a particularly memorable day on Green Island snorkelling around the pier. We saw so many amazing fish, green sea turtles and I'm pretty sure I even saw a not so harmless shark! However, at the time, I didn't know that it was safe, so I may have had a little bit of heart attack!

1.4 Port Douglas

Not far from Cairns (about 60 mins north of Cairns). It is much smaller than Cairns and has a more relaxed vibe. If you prefer a smaller town and to stay in a resort, I suggest staying here instead of Cairns. You can just as quickly get a boat out to a reef dive site from Port Douglas too. It has been quite a while since I visited Port Douglas, but the last time I went, I did two memorable things. I visited the Crystalbrook Super Yacht Marina and took photos of all the boats, and I marvelled at the fantastic indigenous artworks of Ngarru Art Gallery.

1.5 Mossman Gorge

00:21:50 One of my favourite places to swim in North Queensland is Mossman Gorge, which isn't far from Port Douglas. I've been there a few times now. Here you'll find incredible swimming holes amongst huge boulders and the tropical rainforest and one of the most interesting cultural centres I have visited in Australia. Mossman Gorge has recently been handed back to its Aboriginal owners.

00:22:16 When I first visited the cultural centre, I learnt a lot about the indigenous cultural heritage of this region. Sadly, I couldn't help but feel that I wasn't very well informed about aboriginal culture. Here you will see more examples of Australian Indigenous artworks. You'll also have the chance to listen to Dreamtime stories from the Kuku Yalanji people and hear from Aboriginal elders about the history of this area. I've spoken a lot about Indigenous Art and Culture in this episode, and I believe it requires an entire episode. So we'll talk more about this in a later episode most likely when I return to Australia for a few weeks at Christmas time.

1.6 The Daintree Rainforest

00:23:12 A little further on from Mossman Gorge you'll find the Daintree Rainforest and beautiful Cape Tribulation. Daintree Rainforest has the widest variety of plants and animals found in any rainforest on the planet. It is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. Another reason Far North Queensland is one of my favourite places in the world! The oldest part in the north of the Daintree River is estimated to be over 150 million years old!

Here you might be lucky enough to see a Cassowary bird, the most famous bird in the entire Daintree Rainforest ecosystem. It's the bird that everyone wants to see but it's hard to see them in the wild. I still haven't seen one in the wild. Cassowaries swallow fruit whole, then pass the seeds unharmed in large piles of dung, which spreads the seeds over large areas throughout the rainforest. These stunning birds are one of only a few species that can disperse large rainforest fruits. That is a fantastic achievement and pretty interesting.

Crocodiles and Dangerous Animals

00:24:43 Speaking of Animals, yes in the Daintree and Far North Queensland here you will find some of the most dangerous animals in the world - crocodiles, jellyfish and sharks. All of which can kill you within minutes. However, I advise you always to make sure to ask if it is safe to swim in certain areas. I have survived 34 years living in Australia despite its dangers, so take my advice! Depending on the time of year it may or may not be safe in certain places within the Daintree Rainforest and even on the beaches. "I'll read you a little passage from Bill Bryson's book - In a Sunburnt Country:

[Australia] is the home of the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, and of the largest monolith, Ayers Rock (or Uluru to use its now-official, more respectful Aboriginal name). It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world's ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures - the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish - are the most lethal of their type in the world. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. ... If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback. It's a tough place.” ― Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country

So the moral to the story is - be well informed!

In summer, when you visit the Great Barrier Reef to go snorkelling, your tour guide will most likely make you wear a stinger vest. A stinger vest will prevent you from being stung by a jellyfish. While it is true that certain species of jellyfish can give very painful, and even fatal stings, reports of a killer jellyfish sting are a rare occurrence. You will also need to take precaution or even avoid swimming on specific beaches.

So don’t let fear get in the way of a fantastic trip to see the most diverse ecosystem on the planet. It is under threat of course, and you will see plenty of videos and newspaper reports about coral bleaching, which is having a significant impact on the reef. Many of the guides have different opinions and different stories to tell about what’s happening. So my advice is to read a lot before you go. Understand why what is happening is so crucial. Above all, go and see it! Go and see it now!

2. Sunshine Coast

00:27:44 . Much further south of Cairns and just north of Brisbane is the Sunshine coast. Here you'll find places like Mooloolaba and Noosa and Sun! The name Mooloolaba comes from the Aboriginal word mulu, meaning snapper fish.

I remember, I once stopped in Mooloolaba at a place called Velo Project. On the wall it says:

Velo Project - where a group of talented creatives from around the globe, bring to life international brands, simple fresh food and artisan espresso.

It was true because I ate the best brunch and drank possibly the best coffee I've ever had in my life there!

In and around Noosa you will find spectacular beaches and national parks, and the world-famous Eumundi Markets. At the markets, you'll find the talented artists who make handcrafted furniture, homewares, artworks, ceramics, clothes and jewellery. In Noosa, I tried to Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) on the Noosa River, and I loved it so much. The water was so beautiful and clear, and I was having a great time. At least up until the end when I saw a massive fever of stingrays (a group of string rays) swimming underneath me! Lucky for me, I had excellent balance, and I didn't fall in!

00:29:33 1-hour drive from Noosa is also close to the world-famous Australia Zoo. If you have never seen a Koala or a Kangaroo, then I highly recommend a visit here. Also crocodiles which is what Australia Zoo is most famous for. While I've never been my family recently visited and now I have some great photos of my nephew with the kangaroos! Which is of course a great reminder of home.


00:29:52 Next stop is Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. It's a smaller city than Sydney and Melbourne and I always find the people are a little more relaxed here than in Sydney or Melbourne. They seem to walk slower. People in Brisbane sometimes have a slightly thicker Australian accent. So, don't be surprised if you have to ask more than once what someone says to you. The street art scene in Brisbane is not as big as Melbourne, but it has the well known Brisbane Street Art Festival and many more commissioned public works. I've put a link in the transcript notes to for where to find urban art in Brisbane. The area of Fortitude Valley is also very well known for excellent art, nightlife, good coffee and brunch.

There is also a thriving cultural centre around the Southbank with The Gallery of National Art GOMA) and Queensland Art Gallery. Southbank is a place I have visited quite a lot during trips to Brisbane. I enjoyed the Streets Beach - a pool with a beachfront of sand in the middle of the city!

The good thing about Brisbane too, is it isn't far from the World Famous Gold Coast.

Gold Coast

The Gold Coast, which is very well known for lots of beaches and Surfers Paradise. Surfers Paradise can be heavily populated during tourist season. I prefer to stay at places south of Surfers Paradise - Burleigh Heads or Coolangatta right on the border between NSW and Queensland, which is also close to where the Airport is located. You can also visit the theme parks such as Dreamworld or Movieworld.

00:31:44 But I think the best thing to do on the Gold Coast for any art lover is to visit the ten-day SWELL Sculpture Festival on Currumbin beach which runs annually in September. This year the festival brings 52 works by nationally and internationally renowned artists to a free public exhibition.

New South Wales

45 minutes south of the Gold Coast Airport you'll find Byron Bay and Ballina Beach - also famous for their beaches of course. Everywhere in Australia seems to be famous for its beaches. Byron bay is affectionately known as a place for hippies and surfers and its the home of big music festivals such as Splendour in the Grass, Bluesfest, or Falls Festival. I've only been here once but I enjoyed some hiking around the Cape Byron Lighthouse.