Once the sun goes down, it isn’t necessarily time to go to the pub, writes David Whitley. Some of the most enjoyable experiences in Australia take place nocturnally – and these nocturnal adventures are amongst the most thrilling.
Much of the wildlife inside the Nightcap National Park – a gorgeous patch of rainforest in Byron Bay’s Hinterland – is nocturnal. Therefore, if you want to spot pademelons, barred frogs and birds of prey there, it’s far better to head out after the sun has gone down.
As torchlight tends to scare such creatures off, the chaps at Vision Walks have come up with the ingenious idea of using military night-vision goggles instead. These use infra-red technology to enable you to see what’s going on without shining a light.
They’re odd to walk in at first – you have no peripheral vision whilst looking through them – but they’re brilliant for watching the creatures of the forest unobtrusively. Giant snails will crawl out by your feet looking for a mate, bandicoots will scurry across the path and it’s often possible to creep up fairly close to creatures that would otherwise run off in a heartbeat.
More information: The tours cost AUD$99 and depart from Byron Bay at 8pm - visionwalks.com
Where? Brisbane, Queensland
Kayaking tends to be a totally different experience when night has fallen. The daytime buzz of the city has calmed down, and you don’t feel like you’re surrounded by something quite so hectic and demanding of attention.
Once night has arrived and the lights are on, it feels like you can take Brisbane’s pulse and hear its heartbeat. Paddling along the river with special lights to guide the way feels tremendously peaceful. The city views are sensational, but very different to the ones you may be accustomed to. And with your eyes limited, your other senses feel heightened.
Riverlife runs a Saturday night Paddle and BBQ experience with 90 minutes of paddling up and down the Brisbane River in the dark, followed by a big barbie feast to replenish the energy stocks.
More information: Trip costs $85 and starts at 7pm - riverlife.com.au
Where? Darwin, Northern Territory
Once the wet season has said its goodbyes, Thursday and Sunday evenings in Darwin are full of life. The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets offer a hugely engaging mix of eating, shopping, sight-seeing and entertainment.
Most of the stalls are run by people who make what they’re selling themselves – there’s a strong leaning towards arts, crafts and the sort of quality trinkets that make good souvenirs. Those that are selling food manage to span the globe, although Darwin’s Asian flavour shines through with specialists representing everywhere from Sri Lanka to the Philippines.
The highlight for most people is gathering on the beach to watch the sunset – it’s often highly spectacular. But much of the joy comes from hanging around afterwards and watching the street entertainers and artists at work.
More information: The markets run from 5pm to 10pm on Thursdays, and 4pm to 9pm on Sundays, between the last Thursday in April and the last Thursday in October - mindil.com.au
CREEP AROUND A CEMETARY
Where? Ballarat, Victoria
Eerie Tours may be slightly biased, but they claim that Ballarat is Australia’s most haunted city. And where better to find ghosts than in a graveyard?
The walking tours involve creeping around the Old Ballarat Cemetery in the dark, with plenty of stories along the way. Many of the tales involve the poor souls buried there, and some of the ghosts that supposedly haunt the city date back to Ballarat’s Gold Rush era.
More information: The tours cost $27.50 and run on Friday and Saturday nights from 8pm - eerietours.com.au
Where? Fremantle, Western Australia
The Old Fremantle Prison has more than its fair share of ghosts flitting around the corridors as well – numerous sightings have been reported. The day tours of the prison tend to focus more on prison life, but the night-time torch-lit tour focuses on the more ghoulish side of things. The grizzly goings-on of the past are explored as the tour passes through the Main Cell Block and solitary confinement, past the whipping post and the gallows and on to the morgue. It’s not for the tender-hearted, and a few shocks are thrown in along the way.
It’s best to stay aware – it might not just be people with torches walking the blood-stained corridors.
More information: Tours operate every Wednesday and Friday from 6.30pm, costing $25 - freemantleprison.com.au
SCALE THE BRIDGE
Where? Sydney, New South Wales
Bridgeclimb isn’t a purely nocturnal activity, but the night-time climbs offer a very different perspective on the city from the more common daytime ascents. It’s a chance to look out on the harbour and the skyline when the skyscrapers are brought into focus by the multi-coloured lights that illuminate them after dark.
Special headlamps are provided and the lights of the Sydney Harbour Bridge itself cast huge shadows on the water. This is the moody, atmospheric version of the climb. You’ll not see as much, but what you do see will have a striking edge to it.
More information: Nightly, $198 - bridgeclimb.com
Where? Broome, Western Australia
Open-air cinemas can be found all over the country during the summer months – Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne all have at least one. If you want al-fresco flicks when filmgoers in the southern states have gone into hibernation, then Darwin’s Deckchair Cinema runs from April to November.
But arguably the most atmospheric of them all is the Sun Pictures Theatre in Broome, which holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s oldest open-air cinema. The place has been sensitively restored, and it is dripping in history – at one point it used to be part of an Asian food emporium.
The imperfections – it sits right under the flight path for Broome Airport, for example – are all part of the character.
More information: broomemovies.com.au