The suburb, not the country

Just an hour north of Sydney, is a quirky island with 650 residents, a prime destination for those of us who seek random stays for our weekends.

Scotland island, since 1974 runs an annual dog race in Christmas Eve, in which dogs must swim the 450 meters that separate Scotland island from Church Point. The entry is a longneck and a tin of dog food still to this day.

This little island is approximately 1 km in diameter and has around 350 houses in the perimeter foreshore, all of which have the right to roam in their decks to walk the 2.5-kilometre circumference of the island. Though be prepared to have to climb over any number of random obstacles.

A holiday favourite

Half way between Jervis Bay and Mollymook , a favourite holiday destination attracts families, fans of watersports and fishermen and women alike for the varied activities in the small area: great swimming, fishing, prawning, worming, wildlife and water sports. A beautiful area in the Shoalhaven region that has been described as “an aquatic playground, with crystal clear waters”.

Lake Conjola stretches about six kilometres back from the tidal entrance at Cunjorong Point, on the South Coast of NSW, just north of Ulladulla. The lake is home for many fish species that originally attracted fishermen. Amongst the fish that once upon a time could be caught are bream, whiting, tailor, flathead, black fish, leatherjackets and jewfish. Nowadays there are fishing platforms and small jettys that run along the park’s lake-side. Ideal for weekend tourists and opportunist cormorants.

Working or worming

Three hours South of Sydney, Conjola Beach is within the Narrawallee Creek Nature Reserve. Golden sand beaches with striking blue waters that are backed by 10-20 m high foredunes; and nearby, a small community of Lake Conjola (population 350). The perfect setting and location for a holiday, or for a home if you are a beach worm.

Beach worming is one of the least known fishing activities yet one that can only be described as an art, or hard work. It takes the patience of a turtle and the speed, laser vision of Cyclops, and lightning hands of a ninja to snatch the worm from the sand. Pliers in one hand and a smelly fish in the other, the worms poke their heads up to feed, concealing the rest of their bodies. One must creep behind the V-shaped pattern in the wash the worm creates when it sticks its head above the sand for the smelly fish. Then, with another piece of stink bait held close to its head one must lure the worm out on the bait. Once the worm is biting the fish, one must close the pliers around its head and draw its thrashing form from the sand. That’s the idea, anyway. Surprisingly, some beach worms grow to be up to 2½ metres long, beneath the sand.

Selling for $1 to $1.50 each worm, it makes for an attractive business when there is no limit on bag sizes for licensed wormers and one might harvest up to 1000 a day. However, over-harvesting has caused the destruction of the pipi industry. And some fishermen say to have witnessed a depletion of worms on the mid-north coast of NSW. Hopefully the industry will be regulated so that this skillful hobby can be done in the years to come.

Meet the locals

Bendalong is the ideal south coast seaside weekend village. Just a few hours drive south from Sydney, Boat Harbour Beach, is one of several beaches in Bendalong. This is an area with awesome beaches and whilst many little Aussie coastal villages can boast a great beach or maybe two, Bendalong has seven of them.

“Boat Harbour” is a 320 m long beach with waves averaging 0.5 m right next to Washerwomans Beach. The beach faces north and is pretty sheltered meaning it’s a good place to stand-up paddle board, kayak, swim or snorkel.

Additionally, Boat Harbour beach boasts a boat ramp located toward the eastern end. Thanks to this ramp, the beach has become famous for the large local sting rays that come in close to shore to feed on the scraps thrown to them by the fishermen. You can stand in the shore and let the rays come near to gently pat them or venture for a snorkel with these magnificent creatures on a weekend away.

A history of escapes

With the risk of loosing Perth and WA to other colonies, the brits saw no other way to keep this side of the world than to do the same as in the rest of Australia: build a city with convicts. Freemantle prison was first known as the Convict Establishment; it was built by convicts for convicts between 1852 and 1859 using limestone quarried on the site. The first prisoners moved into the main cell block in 1855 and the prison continued to be used until 1991.

On its own, Fremantle Prison isn’t World Heritage though it is part of a group of 11 convict sites in Australia which together are on the list.

One of the Prison’s most famous inmates was Joseph Bolitho Johns, known as Moondyne Joe. He became famous for a lifetime of escapes from the prison. A habit that never died, even after finishing his last sentence, Moondyne Joe escaped three times the psychiatric ward he got put in.

Bigger than Central Park

Kings Park is at least 15% bigger than the Central Park in NYC. At 400 hectares it is one of the largest inner city parks, and is visited by more than six million people each year.

The park sits in Mount Eliza and overlooks the beautiful Swan River, the city of Perth and its surrounding suburbs. The park is 2/3 bush and 1/3 is gardens, playgrounds and other areas. Ideal for walks, runs and picnics.

This place is sacred for Aboriginals. They believe that the Wagyl, a mythical serpent, entered the ground near the park and came out at the foot of Mount Eliza and created the Swan River.

Walking in the sky

A good stop to stretch your legs, if you are heading North from Denmark, is the Granite Skywalk. A 4.4 km return hike up 282 meters incline through the Porongurup National Park. During the bushwalk you can enjoy the vegetation or admire the massive granite boulders that nature has created. These rocks are, and have been for millions of years, in an eternal balancing act that started with a crack and rain drops running through them; until eventually they are what we see today.

At the top of the hike you have a choice of two lookouts. The upper lookout perches over the side of Castle Rock and requires scrambling over and under rocks and climbing a rattling ladder. The lower lookout, the Karri Lookout, for those who are not comfortable with the adrenaline pump to go up to the upper lookout. Both offering amazing views of the region and a healthy dose of cold wind blowing in your face.

In WA not Europe

With so much to do around the area, Denmark is a popular tourist destination. It is surrounded by beautiful beaches and tall forests and a small town which is home to 5,000 people. The Denmark region is known to the aboriginal community as ‘Koorabup’ meaning ‘place of the Black Swan’. The Bibbulmum Track, one of the world’s great long distance walking trails, crosses the town. This walk is nearly 1000km. Other walking, or running, tracks are just as spectacular, if not as long.

A natural swimming pool

A secluded cristal clear tranquil beach in Western Australia. Ideal for swimming if you are not too cold as the rocks shelter the pool keeping it calm all year around.

The large boulder granite rocks that surround it make it a stunning and interesting destination. Especially for adventures, but be warned some rocks are slippery and you might fall flat on your back!

Climbing big trees

Before the introduction of spotter planes and drones, a network of fire lookout trees was built across the south-west forests of Australia. The aim: to spot fires that were hidden at ground level by the giant Karri forests during the hot Aussie summers.

The first Karri fire lookout tower, was the Big Tree, constructed in 1938. This lookout was lost years later to a bushfire. After this tree, eight other lookouts followed between 1937 and 1952, including the Gloucester Tree chosen as a fire lookout in 1947. Gloucester Tree is 72 meters in height though the lookout is at 61 meters. Although the Gloucester tree was originally pegged with wooden pegs, now all the trees are pegged with metal pegs which are easier to grip. They are regularly checked for any faults. The Gloucester Tree has 153 pegs.

Nowadays climbing up the giants is an attraction for tourists that rewards them with amazing views at the top. No one has died making their ascent to the three trees lookouts but two people have had heart attacks after climbing the trees.