Nine Wonders Down Under in Australia


By Linda Ballou


BIG BLEND RADIO INTERVIEW: Travel writer Linda Ballou discusses her outdoor adventures in Australia and Tasmania. Listen / download the podcast on, Spreaker, YouTube, or SoundCloud.  

Australia, a continent as big as the United States, is a kaleidoscopic mix of natural wonders. From the Jurassic Park rainforests in Northern Queensland to the wild west of the island state of Tasmania it is exciting to explore.  Here are a few of my favorite stops on my solo road trip in Tasmania as well as my tour with Overseas Adventure Travel.                        

1. Great Barrier Reef – Coral heads look like giant pudgy brains in colors ranging from murky brown to emerald green and electric blue in an unending variety of shapes and sizes. Fishes of many colors flit in and out of the crannies and cubbyholes that afford protection from predators. The giant clam that can reach 400 pounds and the giant green turtles are a thrill to spot. I almost walked on water when I spied two 5-foot moray eels slithering through the reef near the ocean floor.

2. Daintree Rain Forest – During our nature stroll through the unaltered forest, said to be the oldest on earth, our guide pointed out insects and reptiles that have mastered the art of camouflage from predators. In the daytime, the forest, shaded by giant fanning tree ferns, is quiet as the creatures like the tree kangaroo and possum that live here are nocturnal. We did, however, spot a Cassowary bird that is vital to the regeneration of the forest. This large, flightless bird (the size of an emu) with dagger-like claws and a brilliant blue collar eats the fruits of the trees and then deposits them, mostly undigested, on the forest floor. The soil is not good, but the decomposing leaf litter provides nutrients for new growth.

3. Sydney – The city of sails is home to a bustling maritime culture. Busy ferries ply the warm waters of Sidney Cove past the iconic Opera House beneath the famous Harbor Bridge making stops at coastal towns and quays. I took the fast ferry to Manly where a short stroll took me to the open sea where I frolicked in foaming rollers.

4. The “hop on/hop off” double-decker bus is the best way to get around the bustling metropolis of Sydney. A $59 ticket is good for 24 hours with two routes to choose from. You can stop at Bondi Beach, Darling Harbor, Hyde Park, and many more famous attractions and hop back on the bus with an audio tour at any of their pick-up points. I spent a couple of hours wandering the lovely Royal Botanical Garden that can also be reached on a beach walk from the Opera House.

5. The island state of Tasmania is located 150 miles south of mainland Australia across Bass Strait. This new mecca for outdoor enthusiasts with its ample hiking and cycling trails can be reached by plane or ferry. I was eager to hike the trails in Eagle Hawk Nest (Tasman Peninsula), a series of easy tracks tracing steep cliffs with sea caves and arches eroded by crashing waves and fierce winds.  The Waterfall Bay walk was a perfect amble through the forest overlooking the craggy rock formations and aquamarine coves far below.

6. Cradle Mountain National Park is home to the highest peaks in Tasmania with wild, unpredictable weather. Even though it was raining the day I arrived, I attempted to hike the 4-mile Dove Lake Circuit. The trailhead is also where the challenging 6-day Overland Track begins. Sheets of water shut out the view of the mountains framing the lake and forced me to turn back. I was, however, able to enjoy the Enchanted Woods track in the gloom of a haunting forest ensconced in moss and algae to Knyvet Falls.

7. Freycinet National Park, home to the spectacular Wine Glass Bay, is the most popular attraction on the east coast of Tassie. I took the spiraling road up to the Tourville Lighthouse where an easy loop affords mind-expanding views of the blue veil of the Tasman Sea. The marine preserve below the surface, established in 2007, begins 3 miles offshore and extends for 200 nautical miles to protect migrating whales and all manner of sea life in the submerged mountain range.

8. The sunny East Coast of Tasmania
enjoys endless miles of white sand beaches kissed by turquoise rollers off the Tasman Sea. Sailboats dot the marinas and summer cottages line the shore of coastal villages. My charming Airbnb in Bicheno was a skip away from a blowhole, and a walk on granite rocks covered with orange lichen that brought me to a tiny marina where I enjoyed a zesty seafood bouillabaisse.

9. I wish I had given Hobart the capital, at least 3 nights to explore surrounds. If driving on the other side of the road through mountainous terrain seems too daunting, I suggest the Overseas Adventure Travel extension to their Enhanced Ultimate Australia experience. You will see more of Hobart, enjoy the scenery from a comfy van, and stay at the exclusive Cradle Mountain Lodge in the center of the park.

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Linda Ballou is a Southern California based travel writer, and author of the books, “Lost Angel Walkabout,” “ Wai-nani: A Voice from Old Hawaii,”  and “The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon.” Her latest effort “Lost Angel in Paradise” take readers to her favorite day trips on the Coast of California. This book is Linda’s way of giving back to all those friends who have said they would like to hike with her. From her roots in Alaska she received strength, centeredness, and respect for the awful power of nature that carried her forward into and adventure travel writing career. You will find a host of travel articles on her site   For more about her novels and travel books go to


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