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Great Aussie Adventure, Part 1

Great Aussie Adventure, Part 1

Lucky me! I went on the trip of a lifetime to visit the Land of Oz, otherwise known as Australia. I took a bazillion photos, so I'm breaking them down into four parts. Once I've published all the posts, I'll update them with links so you can see them everything. This is my Great Aussie Adventure, Part 1. (By the way, click the images to see larger versions.)

Melbourne (Part 1) (this page)Cairns (Part 2)Uluru (Part 3) • Sydney (Part 4)

The Adventure Begins in Melbourne

The RARE23 Melbourne folks kindly invited me to be a featured author at their romance reader's convention. And my traveling companion Nancy and I decided that, if we were going to put up with brutal 15-hour flights there and back, we would build a three-week Aussie Adventure itinerary for ourselves. We are extremely grateful for planning help from my good friend Narelle Todd, book business and marketing consultant extraordinaire, who happens to live there.

Melbourne was the first stop. We were feeling posh, so we stayed in a rental apartment instead of a hotel. 

View from a rented apartment balcony in Melbourne, Australia, the first stop on the Great Aussie Adventure
Our posh 11th-floor apartment overlooked the Yarra River. We loved having a small kitchen to keep snacks and leftovers, and having our very own washer and dryer.

The excellent RARE23 organizers kindly arranged tours for authors and readers. Nancy and I took one that included a trip to see famous beach boxes, a wildlife sanctuary, and a visit to Phillip Island to see the magical little penguins.

Photo of author Carol Van Natta standing in front of Brighton Beach boxes in Melbourne during her great Aussie adventure. Photo of author Carol Van Natta standing next to a koala at Moonlit Sanctuary in Melbourne
The Brighton Beach boxes are leftover from Victorian times. Today, they're subject to all sorts of rules (like a particularly militant homeowner's association). They're usually kept in the original family. When one goes on the market, they sell for insanely high prices. Koalas are as cute as you imagine. They are, however, less interested in people than the chance to eat tender eucalyptus shoots. They also smell like cough drops. They will have you know that they are NOT bears, and don't even say the “B” word in their presence.

Around Town and Adventures

Nancy and I declined to become public menaces by trying to drive in Australia (wrong side of the road!), so we walked a lot. Fortunately, we were close to the Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium. Even on a Thurdsay, it was crowded with families. I think my favorite exhibit is the “Weedy Sea Dragon,” a species only found off Australia's east coast. 

Photo of a weedy sea dragon, taken in an exhibit at the Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium. And Aussie Adventure, indeed!
Sea dragons obviously share a common ancestor with the more ubiquitous seahorses. Weedy sea dragons hide among the weeds, and their cousin, the leafy sea dragon, looks very like mobile underwater kelp. They're both etherally charming.


We ate well in Melbourne. Our favorite eatery was Ten Square Café in the Central Business District. I had a fabulous breakfast and homemade chai latte.

Photo of the menu at Ten Square, a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia
Ten Square is a great restaurant, especially if you have dietary restrictions. We probably would have eaten there every morning if we'd discovered it sooner.


Melbourne seems to like fancy drinks. Here's one served at an upscale burger bar. I never did find out what was in it, but the colors made it look scrumptious.

Photo of a tall glass filled with a blue liquid and ice. Served at a burger bar in Melbourne during the great Aussie adventure.
I approve of fantasy and sci-fi colors in drinks.

Melbourne is famous for street art on walls, bridges, and alleys. We didn't see much of it because we were on foot, but here's a delightful wall with my friend Nancy standing in front.

Photo of Carol's friend Nancy standing in front of a mural in Melbourne during their great Aussie adventure.
Nancy, in front of a section that told her to “stand here,” so she did.

My favorite business name in Melbourne. Please note the delightful steampunk-style decor, too. 

Photo of the front of the Cutthroat Barber Co. business in Melbourne, Australia.
This marvelous business name left me singing “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” for hours. Nancy was a good sport to put up with me.


The Convention Part of the Grand Aussie Adventure

I love meeting readers and other authors, so RARE's invitation was the perfect excuse to finally visit Australia. It's been a bucket-list trip for decades. I'd love to go back again and see more sights (but I'd really like to be able to afford airline seats in first class next time).

Photo of Author Carol Van Natta at a table with all her books. Taken at RARE23 Melbourne in Australia. It was a grand adventure!
Me in the large and somewhat chilly hall at the Melbourne Convention Center. I was thrilled to get the chance to meet Aussie readers and sign space opera romance and paranormal romance books for them.


Here's a bonus picture of an eastern Australia magpie. They are like magpies the world over — assertive, opportunistic, and hilarious.

Photo of an Australian magpie standing on the edge of a pet's watering bowl, in Melbourne, seen during the Greate Aussie Adventure Part 1.
North American magpies have solid block of black and white coloring. Aussie magpies look like they were in a paint fight.




  1. So exciting!! Looks like the first few days went well. Yes, I don’t fly international without flying business class anymore. I’m too old to sit in steerage for that long. Lol. Can’t wait to see more!

    1. It was a trip full of marvels. There’s still a lot of Australia I’d like to see, but I also want to see other places around the world, too. If I go to Europe next year, I’ll definitely budget for business class flights on the trans-Atlantic flight.

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