What’s your worst travel experience? Come on, can you beat a few of mine?

On ABC Saturday Breakfast we like to keep things inspiring and exciting but sometimes to do that we have to remember those moments that were less than perfect.

There’s certainly been a lot of excitement about being able to travel again.  It might be time to reunite with loved ones, use that voucher for travel that was cancelled because of the pandemic or maybe it’s the first family trip overseas?

There’s a lot to be excited about but on Hidden Treasures we thought we’d look at some of the experiences that have become great stories but at the time might have caused a bit of anxiety or discomfort.  Have you been stuck in an airport sleeping on a plastic chair because of delayed flights?  Have you been bitten by something?  Have you had non-stop rain or got bogged with a rising tide on the beach?

Think about it!  What story are you more interested in?  The glistening toilet in a six-star resort suite or a bucket on a barge, one night on the border between Malaysia and Thailand.

I love any good story and I think some of the best stories in the world are survival stories.  Surviving storm tossed seas, stumbling over endless dunes in the Sahara, being attacked and left for dead by a bear!

But there are also those survival stories, those horrible tales that are told when we’re home safe and sound from our travels.

Having to sleep on a plastic chair in a busy airport with one eye open to guard your luggage.  Having to sleep on a plastic chair in a busy airport while they try and find your luggage.

To help us along I’ve come up with four categories:

Bureaucracy:

Travelling with my daughter and being detained in South Africa due to bureaucracy around child slavery laws.

Being stuck in an airport in the middle of the night with a toddler.

Events:

Attending the Indian festival of Deepavali in a far away land and feeling even further away after being hit in the head by a street lit firework that was aimed at my head.

Critters:

Being attacked by a flesh-eating spider in Borneo and forgetting my bedroom was split level.

Just like the scene in Memphis Belle when they’re panicking over whose blood is all over the cockpit, my scenario was in a tinny, deep in the jungles of Perak in Northern Malaysia.  Leeches!

Accommodation:

Hotels in Rome are less hit and miss these days but I definitely got the miss on my first visit.  The pillow slip had been made in Ancient Roman times and barely held the mouldy pieces of foam where I was expected to rest my head. Nothing worse than a bad bed.

Houseboats.  For me, a category on their own.  I’ve stayed on a barge in the jungle with hygiene the Dark Ages would have been proud of and with a toileting task that required me to move my movements from the toilet on one side of the boat to the other. With a soup ladle.  I wasn’t eating anything that came out of that kitchen.

I’ve also stayed on what could only be described as a non airconditioned donger with floats, with two sets of my greatest friends who by the end of the trip were close to being my greatest enemies.  Tempers flared as temperatures rose. Lost items overboard. Bird sized mosquitoes.

Traditional Longhouse in Borneo.  Not so bad as a cultural experience but when you’ve had a few Tiger beers and you’re at the end of the longhouse and getting up for a wee in the middle of the night means walking on creaking bamboo slats that wakes everyone up it’s embarrassing and means you can’t get up again.

Motels by the side of highways.  If it’s not roadtrains going past it’s the the Peters Ice Cream truck parked outside with the genny on the truck running to stop the drumsticks from melting.  All night long …DRDRDRDRDRRDR.

Worst travel experiences are Hidden Treasures because as long as you’ve survived, you’ve got a great story and maybe a photo as well. Worst travel moments are hidden treasures because they’re character building.  God! I sound like my mother!

Travelling for Sport

When we started Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast in 2021, it was intended that I would speak every couple of weeks.  After a few months of fortnightly discussions, I was asked to come in every week.

Well, we’ve reached a milestone.  This is our 50th episode of Hidden Treasures.  To mark this achievement we’ve got a special guest lined up to contribute to our discussion about some of our favourite hidden treasures over the past 50 episodes.

We’re lifting our bat for the half century.

While we’ve travelled regionally and even gone overseas, this show is grounded in the discoveries you can make in Perth. 

A little city hanging on to the edge of a continent that has so much to offer for staycations or day trips with destinations motivated by sport, culture, hunger or just because you want to hit the road for an afternoon and see what’s out there.

Fun Fact!  Half of our episodes have featured a suburb of Perth.

Fun Fact! In nearly half of our episodes I’ve found a way to mention that I grew up in Narrogin.

Fun Fact! One episode inspired you to travel to a long lost theme park.

One of our best hidden treasures is discovering sport around Perth that you might not have known about or maybe always known about but never gone to.

One of our favourite stories last year was when we talked about WAFL grounds and what it’s like to attend a WAFL match. 

Claremont FC’s Trophy Case (not a real tiger)

The support from WAFL clubs who let me hang out at their Members Bar and to the mighty South Fremantle Bulldogs who let me hangout with the team after a big win.  To talk about the footy, footy food and tribalism was great fun.

On the day of the AFL Grand Final we also did a story about different sports you could watch or have a go at in Perth.

Bring on Clint Wheeldon from ABC Sport!

We asked Clint where he’s travelled for sport and why is sport such a great reason to travel.

We talked about what we have stolen from a sporting ground. For me, I’ve taken grass from Lords and the MCG.

Travelling for sport sometimes has to be done at all costs.  My wife allowed me to spend a fortune to see the Socceroos v Uraguay in 2002. I was like a Roman Emperor in the Southern Stand of the MCG.

Travelling for sport can also be a pilgrimage or a party.  Sometimes it’s just about seeing the ground even if there’s no game being played.  Sometimes it is about travelling with friends or a tour group and seeing your favourite sport.

So after 50 episodes what have we learnt? What makes Hidden Treasures a hidden treasure?  Because we have fun and the reason we have fun is because there’s so much out there and all you need is a reason to find it. 

Reconnect with a hometown, stop for a while in a suburb you normally just commute through or find hidden treasure in known treasure, like we did on Wadjemup, or take a break in Perth like we did in Innaloo and Karrinyup as part of staycation homework for Molly, or take the advice of my man Tom and get to a regional show.

Get out there and find a rite of passage like Ebonnie’s trip to Busselton Jetty or find any jetty, like we did with Ben Carlish from Recfishwest. Find a new sport like Padel, or find a fishburger or laneway mural.

Why is travelling for sport a Hidden Treasure?  You don’t have to play it to enjoy it?  Take a road trip to a country footy match and honk your horn, or just take a walk down to your suburban ground.

Sport is yet another reason to get out and about. It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight and it’s the thrill of finding something new to do and finding a new tribe to enjoy it with.

What ground do you want to walk onto?

As published in Have A Go News newspaper and online … don’t let the players on the field have all the fun when you visit Optus Stadium

The Romans knew the value of a good stadium didn’t they?  Can you imagine doing a tour of the Colosseum when it was at its peak?  Game day at the Colosseum may have had more on the line for most of the participants but just to have walked through the service tunnels and holding cells and then maybe walking around the top, seeing up close the linen sails that extended outwards on elaborate rope and pulley systems to provide shade for the audience, would have been amazing.

Having zipped up my Ozone ‘Ghostbuster’ jumpsuit and climbed into my harness and adjusted my straps, I walk with the other members of our merry band through the bowels of Optus Stadium, past crates of plates and all sorts of things destined for what is above. There are no lions, gladiators, Roman centurions or terracotta amphorae filled with wine, but there’s still a lot going on.

But we’re going higher than those who are sitting in the seats and corporate boxes, we’re even going higher than the stadium’s halo roof, a continuous fabric cantilevered structure that circles the stadium, providing valuable shade and spectacular lighting displays.

Listen and lean

We’re heading more than 40 metres off the ground to a small row of seats where harnesses keep you safe but can’t restrain your excitement as you watch a match unfold from a perspective even Roman Emperors couldn’t dream about.

This is what amplifying your experience is all about when you come to Optus Stadium. Getting as much out of your experience as possible and being a part of the narrative of your adventure, not just relying on the teams playing on the field below you to provide all of the drama and excitement.

If the height and the view is not quite enough of a challenge then you can always do the lean out, relying on your tour leaders’ instructions and your harness to prevent your fall.  With your back to the field, you inch your way backwards, right to the very edge, and hold your harness line and then lean out and let go of your harness.

As good as I get at handballing

A few photos will be taken that show you holding your arms out or pretending to handball a footy.  I’ve already decided to do the tour again because I want to do the lean out and pretend I’ve gone up for a big mark of the footy. 

This experience is all about levels.  Literally and metaphorically.  You literally go up to the highest level of the stadium to reach your seat.  You ride a lift, climb 78 steps, emerge through hatches and at each level the view gets better and better. On a catwalk alongside the stadium lights, you walk around the stadium until you’re at the eastern end.

This is where you’ll find your seat, the highest seats in the house and if you think it can’t get any better that’s when you can take it to the next level and lean out over the edge. 

From a sporting perspective I enjoy my footy but have mates who love it more.  I couldn’t help thinking of my mates, not just for the excitement of the experience, but for the perspective you have with an aerial view. 

Every twitch of a player, the transfers of play, the switches and flow of the game is entrancing.  It’s like watching the coach’s magnet board come to life!

Don’t drop your chewy

As a precinct, get ready to do more than watch some great sport when you come to Optus Stadium. Get ready to participate.  Get ready to lean out off the edge of the most beautiful stadium in the world and let rip with a huge scream. 

With the HALO experience, Matagarup Bridge climb and soon to be launched 400m zipline, plus Aboriginal cultural tours and stadium behind the scenes tours, there’s so much you can do with your time when you visit Optus Stadium.

There doesn’t even need to be a game on.  Optus Stadium is more than a beautiful sporting arena, it’s already got history and atmosphere and even though it’s new, it has that rite of passage feeling about it that means you want visit it, whether you’re visiting Perth or looking for a day out if you live in Perth.

Want to Know More?

The Ozone booking office and merchandise store is located at the western end of Optus Stadium and their website is www.theozone.com.au.

Verdict

With only a moderate level of fitness you can do the game day rooftop experience all year long, or on a quiet weekday with no sport. The HALO experience will meet your need for an awesome view and level of excitement with great staff and great harnesses. And you get a free cap!

As published in Just Urbane … Mount Agung … twice!

Enjoy the link below to my story in Just Urbane about climbing Mount Agung in Bali. About six hours up and let’s say about seven hours coming down.

This active volcano is visible from anywhere on the island of Bali. While it may be a while before we can get back to this amazing island there is nothing wrong with dreaming about it and doing a little bit of planning.

Just because it’s Bali, don’t think this is easy

As published in Just Urbane … let’s fall into the dark side with Dark Tourism.

This month, let’s explore Dark Tourism

Enjoy the link above to read my story in Just Urbane about Dark Tourism.

Dark Tourism has become a buzzword in the modern era, that takes explorers to places associated with tragedy, death and suffering. Here’s where you can find thrills in the dark side …

Interestingly, dark tourism has a long history and can be traced back to the famous Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. Bizarrely, if you could afford it, you could make your way from Britain to the Crimea and sit on the edge of the battle, being briefed by the Generals, and you could watch the action unfold from the comfort of a wicker chair and a refreshing gin and tonic as the Russians enfiladed the British cavalry as they rode towards the guns.

From the battlefields of the Crimea, to the childrens playgrounds around Chernobyl and from where John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas and to the little bank in Snowtown, there are sites and experiences that intrigue us, draw us in and challenge us to cross that line.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Hidden Treasures goes up, up and away in the Avon Valley

Giant Man and Tiny Balloon

For ABC Saturday Breakfast Hidden Treasures, Ro and I went somewhere we haven’t been before … beyond Perth! Up and over the escarpment and east to the Avon Valley.

There’s a reason that songs are written about being in the air. 

‘Come Fly With Me’, ‘99 Red Balloon’s, ‘Up, Up and Away’ and ‘Danger Zone’ are just a few of the classics inspired by the feeling of being up there, where the air is rarefied.

Let’s have an adventure that is discovered in the darkness but is soon revealed by the dawn of a new day. 

Let’s go hot air ballooning!

The Avon Valley isn’t far from Perth and if it was north or south it would just about qualify as part of the Perth Metropolitan Scheme.  Being just over an hour’s drive away it’s wonderful how easy we can leave the city behind, even if it’s just for a few hours.

Arriving at the Northam Airport I’m the first to arrive and there is nobody at the airport except for the resident cat.  It’s so cold that the cat jumps into my car. 

As other people start to arrive and huddle around the coffee making facilities, I’m taken by news articles on the wall that describe the history of hot air ballooning in the world. This sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s true, in 1783 a sheep, a duck and a rooster went riding in a hot air balloon in France. 

I had thought that the airport would be our take off point but Damien, our chief pilot, has been letting go of weather balloons and squinting at the night sky like an old sea captain. For this morning’s flight with Windward Balloon Adventures we must head west of Northam.

These guys have all the permissions required from the shire and farmers to access properties, so long as we remember to close the gates.

Still in complete darkness, our pilots inflate the balloons as they lie on the ground and the roar and brightness of the gas burners is a bit like those aerobatic displays of jet planes whooshing over your head. 

After a final briefing we climb into our basket and just like that, we’re away. No seatbelts. No worries.

Dark Shadows Welcome a New Day

I’ve done some wonderful air related activities in my life from the fastest and longest zipline in the world with my daughter Matilda down the side of a mountain in South Africa, to twice jumping out of aeroplanes, flying a beautiful Tiger Moth over Perth and the seaplane to Rottnest, and even trekking up mountains and being above clouds.

When I jumped out of an aeroplane I thought about the words of John Magee, a World War II Spitfire pilot who wrote a poem called High Flight with the first line, “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth” and the last line, “Put out my hand and touched the face of God”.

Astronaut Michael Collins died recently, and he once remarked that he wondered what John Magee would have been inspired to write if he could have been in orbit above the Earth. 

As we ascend from the paddock that becomes a mist shrouded valley beneath, I looked to the east and had author Douglas Adams’ words in my head, “There is a moment in every dawn when light floats and there is the possibility of magic.  Creation holds its breath.”

Creation Holds Its Breath

I can tell you I held my breath and it was amazing.  In so many of life’s travels and adventures it’s been the sites and sights that are the most awesome but what was so immersively different about a hot air balloon experience is that sound becomes part of the canvas before you.

It’s mostly silent apart from the whoosh of the gas burners every so often to get some altitude. Looking down and around you’re suddenly struck by the sounds of parrots having an early morning squabble in the trees over who’s sitting on the best branch, sheep all going baa as they move across a paddock far below and even a dog barking from somewhere. 

There are other balloons to help with the perspective of what we’re all a part of this morning.  They drift along as we drift along and we rise and fall and our hearts sing with the joy of witnessing to a new day in a beautiful part of the world.

A Collective Noun for Hot Air Balloons is a … Drift

As we continue to drift, we travel over bushland with granite outcrops beginning to be warmed by the early rays of the sun and kangaroos jumping through the trees and in the distance on hills to the west we can see the shadow of our balloon and directly below us the reflection of the balloon is crystal clear in the river below.

We land in a harvester scarred paddock with a gentle bump and everyone helps roll up the balloon into a bag that is much easier to manage than any sleeping bag.

The Avon Valley stretches from New Norcia in the north to Beverley in the south, with the historic communities of Toodyay, York, and Northam all just a short Spotify playlist of flying tunes away.

Northam has the Avon River running through it and the champagne breakfast after the ballooning is held in a café overlooking the river, complete with white swans and suspension bridge.  During a champagne toast we are all welcomed to the club of Balloonatics.

Hot air ballooning seems to be on the bucket lists of many people but keeps getting pushed down the list not from the fear of hanging from a basket but from getting up so early.  Get over the time thing and get it done. It’s just an hour away and you’ll be up, up and away. 

Windward Balloon Adventures in the Avon Valley

Special Tip:  The National Ballooning Championships will be held in the Avon Valley between 30 August and 4 September, with lots of opportunities to be a spectator and a participant. 

Giant Man in Tiny ABC Studio

Just Urbane: Just dolphins. Real dolphins in the real wild, all in my backyard.

I’m glad they didn’t start singing, “So long and thanks for all the fish!”

A special story in Just Urbane about my dolphin experience in Rockingham makes the adventure available on both sides of the Indian Ocean in hard copy; Just Urbane magazine in India and Have A Go News Newspaper in Western Australia. Add to this the websites for both of these publications and I’m really excited to get some big reach on this unique experience.

Enjoy the link below to the Just Urbane version of this story and in an earlier post on this website you’ll find the Have A Go News version. Read them both!

And congratulations to Have A Go News for reaching a circulation with the newspaper of 80,000 and to Just Urbane for a circulation of 70,000. Two great reads available every month on both sides of the Indian Ocean.

Wadjemup Rites of Passage and New Opportunities for Adventure

There’s a little island off the coast that for quite some time now has attracted Western Australians, other Australians and increasingly the international traveller seeking a genuine sand-in-your-toes destination or maybe just an insta-worthy-pic with the worlds cutest animal.

Wadjemup (Rottnest) has just taken a couple of Red Bulls and is revved up for a summer that can still remain laid back or it can put you on your back with exhaustion.

Skydiving, fishing tours for kids, water parks, walking tours and new facilities like refreshment vans on the west end of the island now mean you don’t need to carry litres of water on your bike (plus, always remember that the various tour sites with volunteer guides carry lots of water that you can use to top up your water bottle ….. for free).

Tom and I began our day a bit differently for a trip to Wadjemup.  Rather than Barrack Street, Freo or Hillarys, we head to the South Perth foreshore. Within minutes of our arrival, the Cessna Caravan from Swan River Seaplanes comes diving out of the morning sun and lands smoothly on the water in front of us.

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Above: From South Perth to Wadjemup

The take off was more graceful than my graceless body surfing at City Beach.  The aircrafts pontoons lift off the water in the direction of Crown Casino and the Optus Stadium before banking to the west.

There was time to take in the view of the city, the coast, the ocean and then Wajemup came in sight.

I was scheduled to go live on air, in the air, with 6PR radio to describe the experience but the flight was so fast we’d landed at Wadjemup before they could cross to me.  Even with two laps of the island to take in the view the flight was only 20 minutes.

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Above: Wadjemup from the air with Swan River Seaplanes

Meeting us on the island is the Rottnest Island Authority Executive Director, Michelle Reynolds, who has very generously accepted the challenge of showing us around the island.  For the next few hours we are regaled with historical stories, modern day plans and have the opportunity to learn and experience the island like I have never done before.

A climb of the Wadjemup Lighthouse is 155 steps and because I’m a father I’m allowed to generate the odd dad joke or two so I asked Tom how many steps it was coming down.  Easy. Remember he’s only ten.

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Above: Wadjemup Lighthouse and one of the new refreshment vans

We visit the bays, inspect the beaches, salt lakes and tuart groves and watch as ospreys nest and seals bask and loll.  We buy refreshments from the new vans and felt a bit guilty, as we entered Michelle’s airconditioned car, that we were possibly depriving a thirsty cyclist of a much needed peach iced tea.

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Above: Refreshments from the van at Fish Hook Bay

When we parted ways with Michelle it was with a new appreciation for the work that is going into making Wadjemup better but also for acknowledging what people love most about the island experience, a laid back lifestyle where even sunburn and grazed knees just don’t seem to hurt as much as they do on the mainland.

Tom and I headed to the bakery to get a well deserved cream bun and a choc milk before making the ten minute walk to The Basin for a well anticipated swim.  Along the way Tom met his spirit quokka.  We didn’t attempt a selfie but first contact was made as Tom got down to eyelevel with a quokka and his outstretched finger was sniffed and touched by this amazing little animals nose.

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Above: First contact.  Meeting your spirit quokka.

At The Basin, a Christmas choir was singing from the waters edge and even the fish were joining in.  As carols reverberated off the limestone cliffs Tom and I swam along the reef edge and spotted all sorts of fish that were bigger than my foot, in fact both feet put together!  Bream, Trevally, Snapper and even a couple of retired old cods, just hanging out by a weed bank discussing the latest flotsam, jetsam and tidal trends.

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Above: The Basin

The fast and comfortable journey back to Perth by SeaLink ferry was made even better by the opportunity for Tom to take the captains chair on the bridge and monitor the compass as we made our way into Fremantle Harbour.  He was in his element, scanning from river bank to river bank and warning pelicans to get out of the way.

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Above: Tom gets instructions from the SeaLink Skipper

What a way to spend a day in WA!

Need to know more?

http://www.swanriverseaplanes.com.au

http://www.rottnestisland.com

http://www.westernaustralia.com

http://www.sealinkrottnest.com.au

For information on my day with Tom on Rottnest have a look at my Instagram account @chrisparrywritesforus

ABC Perth Breakfast Show: Dark tourism popularity continues to rise

On the ABC Perth Radio Breakfast Show we recently discussed the continued popularity of dark tourism.

It doesn’t have to be morbid but it does have to involve death in wars, disasters, murders, terrorism or assassinations.

The darker side of history has meat on the bone and the gristle as well.  We try to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen and maybe sometimes in the shoes of those responsible.

It’s about confirming our fears, confronting the reality of the history books we grew up with and perhaps providing closure on those images we’ve seen on tv’s in our own lounge room, like that Paris tunnel in 1997 or the New York City skyline in 2001.

The rise in tourist numbers at destinations such as Chernobyl, Fukushima, the concentration camps of World War II, prisoner of war camps in Sandakan and Ranau and the killing fields of Cambodia are all examples of a phenomenon that is attracting those seeking a broader understanding of the events that took place at those sites.

In Australia, many events and sites may be seen as dark tourism.  Off the Western Australian coast on the Abrolhos Islands in 1629 the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia ran aground and the ensuing mutiny saw 125 men, women and children brutally slaughtered. The islands can be visited for an understanding of these events and there are also museum exhibitions in Geraldton and Fremantle, displaying grisly skulls marked with the slashes of the mutineers swords.

In Snowtown, South Australia, the little bank where the bodies in the barrels were discovered in the late 1990’s is a popular stop for people wanting to take a quick pic.

Most issues in our lives have a line that we decide we will or won’t cross.  Dark tourism has many lines that cross in different directions, challenging our sense of morbidity, appropriateness and thresholds of respect.

It’s a great topic for publication and radio and sure to get you thinking about your own dark tourism bucket list.

6PR Radio: Chrissy and ‘The Gentleman Traveller’ discuss Borneo and Footy Final Travel

Spend some time on a Sunday afternoon listening to Chrissy and ‘The Gentleman Traveller’ on 6PR 882, Perth’s only commercial talkback radio station.

Recently, we spoke about my week long adventure to Malaysia, spending some time in one of my favourite cities, Kuala Lumpur, before heading to the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.

emerging elder

ABOVE: THE SEA GYPSIES ARE ONE OF THE WORLDS TRULY NOMADIC COMMUNITIES THAT LIVE ON THE SEA IN THE CORAL TRIANGLE BETWEEN INDONESIA, MALAYSIA AND THE PHILLIPINES.

I travelled to the small island of Mabul and from there took daily boat trips to other islands in the area to experience pristine snorkelling, intriguing sea gypsies and awesome views after trekking the peaks of small but tall islands.

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ABOVE AND BELOW: SIPADAN-MABUL RESORT LOCATED ON MABUL ISLAND.  USE THE RESORT AS YOUR HOLIDAY DESTINATION OR A BASE FOR EXPLORING OTHER ISLANDS IN THE NATIONAL PARK, INCLUDING WORLD RENOWNED SIPADAN ISLAND.

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Sabah is easily accessible from Perth with direct flights to Kota Kinabalu with Malaysia Airlines.  Boat travel to the islands is well monitored and accredited by Malaysian park authorities.

Come to Borneo.  Come to Sabah.

We also spent a few minutes offering some tips to travellers to Melbourne who are attending footy finals.  Some of the ideas we suggested were to form a collective group of other supporters to get some bargaining power when booking flights and accommodation or considering flying to other destinations and making your way to Melbourne from there, including flying to Hobart and catching the ferry across Bass Strait to Melbourne or flying to Canberra or Sydney and driving down in a hire car. It’s too late to expect a cheap fare but you can avoid the most expensive fares if you think about what options work for you.