Walk on the wild side
EDITOR UPDATE: PLEASE NOTE THE BELOW UNDERBELLY TOURS ARE NO LONGER OPERATING
The popularity of the Underbelly television series and the ongoing fascination with Melbourne's crime wars guaranteed a tour of Melbourne's mean streets wasn't far off.
While Melbourne Crime Tours is not exclusively an Underbelly tour - Melbourne's crime history is long, varied and bloody fans of the two series will not be disappointed. Lygon Street, the headquarters of the now-defunct Carlton gang, is included in the tour and so is Acland Street in St Kilda where one of last century's hard men, Squizzy Taylor, plied his nefarious trade.
There are a couple of stops in the central business district, including Queen Street, the location of the tragic 1987 massacre when eight Australia Post workers were gunned down, and the 1976 Great Bookie Robbery when a gang of masked men robbed bookmakers of their winnings. (To this day no one knows how much was taken as the bookies of those days didn't reveal that kind of detail.)
There are two tours daily at 8.45am and 1pm, leaving from Federation Square. Tickets for adults cost $55, including morning or afternoon tea and admission to the Melbourne City Watch House.
Phone 1300 736 551 or see see gowest.com.au.
Hugo Weaving's latest movie, Last Ride, has had some terrific reviews and a couple not so enthusiastic but critics are united in their praise of the Flinders Ranges, the film's South Australian setting.
Producer Nick Cole says the location around Quorn was so appealing he changed his mind about his original intention to shoot in NSW.
"It's so spectacular and so visually interesting that it gave us such a wider palette of choices," he says.
Rachel Ward's new film, Beautiful Kate, is also set in the Flinders Ranges. Opening on August 6, it was filmed mainly at the base of Wilpena Pound. Ward is even more enthusiastic in her praise than Cole, saying there is no more beautiful location or powerful backdrop for a film in Australia.
"But keep it a secret," she says. "[We] don't want every Tom, Dick or Jane over-exploiting it."
Ward and Cole are not the first to discover the magic of the area. The classic Gallipoli was filmed in Beltana near Leigh Creek in 1981. One Night The Moon and Holy Smoke were filmed in the ranges in 2001 and 1999. And Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Tracker followed in 2002.
Surf the net
Coastalwatch.com, an internet site that monitors surf conditions, is getting a large number of hits on its site covering Bali, the Mentawais and Sumatra.
The site's editor, Ben Horvath, says the Indo Swell Journal attracts up to 30,000 unique hits every week.
"This is the surf season up there and Bali and the vast Indonesian archipelago is the most popular surfing destination by a country mile for Australian surfers," Horvath says.
"In 2008, 332,000 Australians travelled to Indonesia with a heck of a lot of the holidaymakers going to Bali. You can guarantee a solid percentage of them travelled with a surfboard."
Coastalwatch.com posts daily surf reports from Uluwatu, Bali's most consistent surf spot, and posts a weekly swell forecast on Thursdays.
Buckingham Palace's summer opening season starts on July 26 and one of the highlights is the exhibition Queen And Commonwealth The Royal Tour, celebrating 60 years of the Commonwealth.
Some of the Queen's famous frocks as well as gifts she has received will be on display.
The exhibition and open palace season runs until September 30.
Bigger and better
Hong Kong Disneyland, the world's smallest Disneyland, is expanding. Three new "lands" will be added to the park, taking the number to seven.
The expansion will take place over about five years.
Lightning Ridge, famous for having the world's richest deposits of black opals, has launched aRidgeedidge VIP Card that provides savings and special offers on tours and experiences in the area. The card costs $10 a couple and is valid for seven days. It's available from the Lightning Ridge Visitor Information Centre.
One special that caught my eye is a $10-a-couple saving on the Black Queen Experience. It's a 90-minute show part storytelling and part performance using kerosene lamps and three miners' cottages made of bottles, cans and sandstone. There are three shows daily.
Adult admission is $25 each, although the VIP card reduces the price to $40 a couple.
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