July 2018: a wonderful time of year in Darwin when the days were endlessly sunny and it wasn’t too hot and humid. When there was nothing much nicer than floating around beside the Arafura Sea in one of Australia’s most scenic swimming pools or savouring fresh barramundi and chips on an evening picnic, as you watched the sun sink in a fiery ball into the sea.
July 2018: and we could finally go to the famous or ‘infamous’ Beer Can Regatta which is held each year on Mindil Beach. We discovered that there was a special protocol which needed to be followed for building and propelling your hand made, beer can vessel.
And as well as the main race, the Battle of Mindil, there were lots of other events to keep those camera phones busy: people watching, kayak races, tug of war, an Iron Person competition, Thong Throwing (only in Australia!) and the Henley on Mindil.
As well as the formal programme, there were lots of entertainment for young and old alike and fabulous stalls to explore at the market.
July 2018: when we were able to witness a fabulous star gazing event, a blood red moon caused by the longest, total eclipse this century and accompanied by Mars, which was at it’s brightest and closest for 15 years.
And most importantly at 11 pm on the 26th July, 2018, our Darwin Dream baby arrived.
After a delay of a week or two, Ilyssia Claire Blackfinally made her way into the world following an emergency Caesaraen section and she was just so beautiful!
It has been one of the joys in life for Kenn and I to witness each of our children welcoming their own little miracles into the world. Words and images can’t really capture that extraordinary depth of feeling as you experience so many firsts.
And even though I can see Reece, her father looking out at me, gazing at her asleep takes me back to when Lyndsay was a wee little baby.
Alas, all too soon it was time to share her with other members of the family and we had to fly home to Byron to prepare for our trip to China. But I wasn’t too sad as I had already booked my return ticket to Darwin for a catch up visit.
Early September, and it was feeling a little like deja vu, as I traveled to Brisbane to catch a flight to Darwin. Lys was now 6 weeks old and Lyndsay was finally able to get out and about.
Ilyssia has already become a cafe aficionado. She enjoys acai berries and matcha tea lattes! She is such a good baby: just feeds, sleeps and gurgles. Lyndsay looked quite rested for a new mum as well. Lys has obviously decided that she’s not a party animal yet. Sleeping for 5 to 6 hours at a stretch through the night, she is being very considerate of her parents.
Luckily for us, four weeks later, Lyndsay had to attend a conference of the Gold Coast and present a paper as part of her PHD and she asked if Kenn and I would like to babysit Ilyssia between sessions. Of course we jumped at the opportunity to spend more time with our Darwin baby. We were staying at Broadbeach, within 5 mins walk from the Crown Casino where the conference was being held. There we went for long walks with Lys along the beachfront.
A couple of times, Lyndsay was able to join us and we would explore further afield. One such place was the Cascade Gardens.Snuggled close to Mum, Lys took in the sights.
Following the conference, Lyndsay and Lys were able to spend a couple of days in Byronand meet her cousin Hudson. Huddy didn’t really want to share his mummy with Ilyssia but did think Lys was very special, especially when she came on a beach walk with him.
Far too soon, it was time for Lyndsay and Ilyssia to fly home but not before Lys had filled our home with smiles.
As with our other wonderfully unique and special grandchildren: Genevieve, Francesca and Hudson, little Ilyssia fills our lives with love and hope, such precious gifts.
It’s been over a decade since Lyndsay headed north, not north to Alaska but north to Darwin! Taking a position as a choral teacher with the Northern Territory Music School turned out to be her perfect job and so she stayed. Over the years, we’ve traveled to Darwin many times to visit her, discovering and savoring much of what the Northern Territory has to offer along the way. We’ve marveled at waterfalls, gorges, billabongs and ages old rock art. We’ve been up close and personal with way too many crocodiles and luxuriated in hot springs at Mataranka under the dappled light of paperbark and palm trees. We’ve visited museums, learning more about Darwin’s wartime experiences and the horror of Cyclone Tracy, pretended to surf in the wave pool at the Waterfront and so much more.
Quite simply, Darwin is a delightful place to visit especially in July. It is always wonderfully sunny and warm, perfect for outdoor pursuits. On our latest trip, we focused on simple pleasures. Admiring Lyndsay and Reece’s new home in the Northern Suburbs and becoming acquainted with Hannibal, their Siberian husky was paramount. As you know, I love a good beach walk, but it’s always so much more fun with a puppy, especially a big puppy.
Having bought an older home, Lyndsay and Reece have lots of renovation plans and have begun with the landscaping. This involved serious wilderness clearing and fun with a bobcat or two. The result, a stylish productive garden overlooking the park. As I savored my morning coffee on the back deck shaded by the gum trees, I noticed that a cricket match was in progress on the oval in the distance. Not the Australian team in training for its upcoming tour to Bangladesh unfortunately but a local team trying to escape the heat of the day by starting early.
As we were based in the Northern Suburbs, we reacquainted ourselves with the foreshore at Nightcliff. Since our last visit, a new cafe has been built next to the Swimming Pool and has proved very popular with locals and visitors alike.
We walked along the cycle path to the Nightcliff Jetty and all around were vistas of the sea and the foreshore shaped by big tides.
Lyndsay and Reece were also keen to show us one of their favourite wilderness/camping spots, Tjuwaliyn or the Douglas-Daley Hot Springs Park. This proved to be a great 4WD adventure. The park is located about two hours drive south of Darwin and of course our first stop was the Douglas River. Here, fringed by sandy beaches, the river splits into two branches for a couple of hundred metres, forming a series of quiet, crystal clear pools.
In one branch, hot springs heat the water while the water in the other branch is cold. Where the branches come together, the waters mingle. So with a bit of exploration, you can find your perfect temperature.
We loved our hot and cold spa treatment. And relaxing under the tall shady trees for a shade bake.
But the park has more to offer than the hot springs. We also visited Butterfly Gorge,further upstream from the Springs. We initially walked alongside the river to where the it widens into a big pool.
According to Lyndsay and Reece, you can usually walk around a big rocky outcrop to explore deeper into the gorge but alas we couldn’t. We didn’t think that this part of the river was absolutely, 100% crocodile free so were reluctant to wade around to the beach. We retraced our steps and completed the much harder climb to the lookout instead.
Back in the Ranger and the home comforts of Darwin beckoned but Lyndsay and Reece had another experience for us to savour: dinner at the Adelaide River Pub. The annual Rosella festival was on; bush food not birds. Having never tasted rosellas, I ate a few while an oldtimer at the bar shared his mother’s recipe for rosella jelly which he maintained was better than cranberry sauce! It might well be, but it would have been a labour of love. You would have to pick an awful lot of rosellas to have enough petals with which to make sauce.
Only in the territory do you come across unique memorabilia. Taking pride of place in the bar was the buffalo who had such a memorable role in ‘Crocodile Dundee”. It was stuffed of course!
And the meal brought another surprise. The chef was obviously keen to ensure that no-one left his establishment hungry. For example, Kenn’s chicken schnitzel was shaped like a map of Australia and covered his whole plate burying a massive mound of vegetables. While he made some valiant inroads, Kenn had to admit defeat at the Western Australian/ Territory border. Yep, everything’s big in the outback.
Back in Darwin, we continued to reacquaint ourselves with the city centre. The walk along the Esplanade is not to be missed. The gardens and lookout near the war memorial are especially lovely.
But there is always something new! This time we spotted two young men setting up a stall selling french crepes.
And we visited Lameroo Beach accessed via a track which branches from the main Esplanade path.
A visit to Darwin has always included fabulous dinners out. On this trip, our culinary highlight was dinner at the Exotic North Indian Restaurantat Cullen Bay. Seated at a table overlooking the pier, we enjoyed some of the best Indian food I have tasted anywhere. Service was really excellent and the prices reasonable.
All too soon, it was time to catch the dreaded ‘red-eye’ back to Brisbane. This time, following a family dinner at home, we all went to the 8pm session of the Deck Chair Cinema. Luckily, ‘Monsieur Chocolat’was showing, a powerful yet moving French film. It finished with more than enough time to make our farewells and get to the airport. It was a great way to fill in time before a 12.30 flight!
It was wonderful catching up with Lyndsay and Reece and we’re already planning for our next Darwin adventure. Familiar places can be so rewarding to visit.
Despite traffic gridlock, long supermarket queues, tourists occupying all the best spots at my favourite cafes and an inability to snag a rock star park at the beach, I have to admit that thissummertime, the livin’ has been easy in Byron Bay and we have enjoyed that ‘peaceful, easy beach holiday feeling.’
Looking back, 2016 was a big year for us: travel to distant destinations both abroad and here in Australia, the arrival of our first grandson, beautiful Hudson, ‘ Huddie’ James and our daughter Lyndsay’s picture perfect wedding at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania among the many highlights. By mid November we were ready to relax and get into the holiday groove. The Christmas tree went up and channeling that ‘peaceful, easy feeling’, I shopped early. I found I had time to wander, consider and unearth! My former self; a demented banshee rushing around in a blind panic trying to find the perfect present at the last minute and failing miserably, was banished … hopefully forever.
So with gifts nestled beneath the tree, we threw ourselves into the revelries of the silly season: parties and drinks with friends and of course, Carols at the ‘Byron at Byron.’ one of the premier resorts in Byron Bay. Nestled in coastal rainforest, the staff welcomed us with a glass or two of champagne on the deck (helps to lubricate the vocal cords) and offered delicious bites both traditional and local. Who could resist a delicious mince tart or a Bangalow Pork roll or a nibble of this or a nibble of that? Certainly not us! Our group was soon in a very festive mood.
And so we sang, mostly in tune, as the dusk closed in. Luckily the choir was loud enough to make us all sound ‘joyful and triumphant’.
The peaceful, easy feeling just grew and grew. Melissa and Ben hosted Christmas Dinner on the deck of their home in beachside Byron. Everything was just perfect. And I didn’t have to stress about a thing.
All I had to do was cook a turkey and make a couple of salads to contribute to the festive fare. So easy. So delightful. So restful.
Even Ninja got into the holiday spirit as we exchanged gifts.
All of Ben’s family had traveled from Adelaide to share Huddie’s first Christmas. Who would have thought that a roomful of adults could be spellbound as a 7 month old baby opened his first Christmas presents! And there were a lot of presents to open.
Eventually, it was time to return home. Christian, Kelly and little Genevieve were arriving the next day for a week. The cousins would meet for the first time!
And Genevieve traveled to Coomera to play with her great grandfather and mother and enjoy a swim with Nemo and Dad in their pool. It’s a special moment to see four generations all together these days.
And I got to play sandcastles with Genevieve and Huddie at Lake Ainsworth, located next to the surf club at Lennox Headand take them both for a swim. Watching their expressions as little waves washed over their feet and their toes dug into cool soft sand was everything I thought it would be. That beach holiday feeling had arrived.
Even though the days were hot, they were perfect for long evening walks along the beach.
Even one of the locals joined us entranced by the sunset.
And when the clouds rolled in, the sky seemed to say, ‘look at me, look at me
Despite the traffic and the arrival of bluebottles on a couple of occasions, we lolled around in the surf and when the waves permitted, caught a few in to shore. It’s reassuring to know that you haven’t lost the knack.
We have enjoyed leisurely breakfasts and evening barbecues on the patio while the cat has played with his holiday treat, a cardboard castle.
And there’s something about watching the cricket and tennis in the heat of the day. that is deeply relaxing, I find.
And so our summer continues: early morning games of golf, lighthouse walks, swimming and kayaking in the lake and in the bay and a new arrival to welcome and a special birthday celebration in March to look forward to. Yep, that ‘peaceful, easy beach holiday feeling’ is definitely here. Hope your summer has been as enjoyable.
The weather is perfect for swimming at the moment. Sunny, humid and hot. The crystal blue water of the bay beckons swimmers into its cool embrace. There, in waist deep water, I float and splash about. Occasionally, very occasionally I catch a wave and ride it to shore. Heat disappears as my body chills down. It’s lovely, really lovely.
Relaxing under the umbrella, soaking up the smell of salt, sunscreen and hot chips, I watch as some intrepid souls swim across the bay. Out where you can’t stand up. Out where things, with fins, swim. I can’t make myself do it. Not when I can swim without being nibbled, in what has to be one of the most scenic public swimming pools in Australia, the Byron Bay Memorial Pool.
The pool is located at the top of Johnson St, adjacent to Main Beach and overlooks the bay. Like me, there are many who come to the pool to swim laps. There are always three or four lanes set out for this purpose.
Usually you’ll have to share a lane with others. When this happens, I don my flippers, content to complete my session with a freestyle workout. But sometimes you can be lucky and have a lane all to yourself.
Then, I can attempt a backstroke lap or two without inflicting a concussion on some poor, unsuspecting soul or if you swim breaststroke in a manner and at a speed resembling a galapagos tortoise, as I do, then you won’t hold others up. You can take as long as you like swimming a lap or resting between laps or indeed in the middle of a lap. No one will know!
As well as a 50 meter pool there is a babies pool and a beginner’s pool. Consequently, the pool is very popular with families of younger children. I notice lots of young mums, relaxing with a coffee from Fishheads, watching on as their children play or have swimming lessons.
After your swim, you might like to relax for a while.
Perhaps meet friends at the Top Pub for lunch. But wait, you tell me, you’re wearing eau de chlorine! Nothing to worry about. The change rooms are more than adequate for a quick transformation and for an extra 50 cents you can even have a hot shower! Or perhaps like me, you might just like to double dip: into the pool and then the ocean. It’s right there, waiting!
Our local pool is a great resource. Greg and his team do a wonderful job maintaining it for all of us. This season, entry is $4.00 for adults, less for children and pensioners.