[The View from Stoke's Hill, Flinders Ranges]


Australian (and New Zealand) References

Other Australian Blogs (travel journals, etc.) that have caught our attention.

Flinders Ranges (Wilpena Pound)

Geology of the Flinders Ranges National Park, G. J. Drew, J. F. Drexel, P. Reid and W. V. Preiss, map/brochure published by Mines and Energy, South Australia, 191 Greenhill Road, Parkside SA 5063, November 1994. This is primarily an annotated map which describes the geology of the Flinders. It covers most of the major roads (unsealed tracks, actually) of the Flinders, describing what types of geological formations can be observed where, with pictures to accompany the map laying out the formations. Educational, but not suffering from academic completeness or terminology overkill as are too many other "natural history" books.

The Flinders Ranges - An Adventurer's Guide by Ron and Viv Moon, published by Kakirra Adventure Publications, PO Box 1112, Pearcedale, Victoria, 3912. ISBN: 0 9588264-8-X, 2nd Edition, September 2000. This is a general guide to the whole Flinders region, directed at 4-wheel drivers, but useful to all travelers to the region. It tends to focus on 4WD tracks, but covers hiking trails in a general way (more detailed topo maps should be used as a minimum to accompany the guide - the provided maps are ok for road travel, but not for hiking.) It also covers accommodations and service availability in general, and a fair amount of regional history. It doesn't really cover natural history (flora and fauna, geology, etc.). However, it is probably the single best guide we've found so far for the Flinders.

Australian Geographic Glovebox Guide - The Flinders Ranges, by Matthew Cawood and Mike Langford, published by Australian Geographic, 2000, ISBN: 1 86276 044 6. This is a very glossy book with lots of pictures and reasonably good maps (not as detailed as we would like for navigating and identifying specific places). It focuses on a variety of "tours" designed to hit the high points of specific areas in the Flinders. However, while it provides some historical and cultural background, it still falls short in the natural history department.

Kangaroo Island

Coming Eventually...

Snowy Mountains

Snowy - The Making of Modern Australia by Brad Collis, Tabletop Press, Canberra, ISBN 0 9587049 6 1, first published 1990, reprinted 1998 and 2000. This is an excellent book on the history of the Snowy Mountains Project. It covers the political context in which the project was proposed and built, as well as focusing on individual stories from workers at all levels to lend anecdotal richness.

Red Centre

Outback Australia - Kakadu, Uluru & Kangaroos - a Lonely Planet Guidebook by Rob van Driesum et. al. Third Edition, May 2002, ISBN: 1 86450 187 1. We uniformly recommend the Lonely Planet Guidebooks. They seem to be generally better written, with more local insight, and better recommendations than the other major guidebooks. They are all written by different authors, so show different quirks - but we haven't come across a bad one yet. The accommodation recommendations tend to focus on the backpacker / budget traveler, but mention other options as well. While they tend to have a fair bit of detail, they still need to be supplemented with additional guide books (at least for us) - we like to have additional cultural and natural history books on hand for each region as well. This particular volume deals with central Australia, touching on four states and one territory in the process - in fact, it covers about 80 percent of Australia, only missing out on the band of cities from Adelaide on the central south coast around to Brisbane on the central East coast - thereby missing at least 80 percent of the population as well.

Outback Highways by Len Beadell, Rigby Publishers, 1979, ISBN 0 7270 1083 2. This is a collection of stories taken from Beadell's previous five books, which detailed the twenty years he spent in the central and western Australian Outback, surveying and building roads. The most famous of these is the Gunbarrel Highway, but he was also involved in laying out the Woomera Missile Range - initially the test site for the first British atomic weapons, more recently the site of hypersonic aircraft tests. Reading this book brings home just how difficult survival can be in the Outback - even when you have a well-equipped Land Rover with lots of fuel, water, spare tires, and parts. The need for "bush engineering" clearly comes through in this volume. Even during the (relatively) mild winter season, Beadell almost died more than once when seemingly simple problems arose - it is no wonder that the history of Australia is filled with stories of explorers who enter the Outback, but never leave it alive. The book (and the separate books which contributed chapters to this one) is highly recommended.

Tasmania

Guide to Bruny Island History, by Bev Davis, 2nd edition, ISBN 0 947228 01 2, Bruny Island Historical Society, 1990. (This copy reprinted Nov 2002). This is essentially a concise guide to the place names of Bruny Island, with bits of history and significant events intermingled across the descriptions. As such, one must read the enture book (not difficult as it is only 40 pages) to get a complete understanding of the contents. It is the only book of detailed Bruny Island history we have found to date, and so is valuable from that perspective. It would be nice if it had an introduction placing Bruny and its events in a wider context, but is still worth reading in combination with other sources / overviews. Anyone planning a visit to Bruny should acquire a copy so they can develop a sense of place and history while exploring the island.

Field Guide to Tasmania Birds by Dave Watts, New Holland Publishers (australia), 1999, ISBN 1 86436 480 7. This is pretty much the only game in town as far as a Tassie-specific birding book goes. There are other books dealing with Tassie birds, but they tend to be primarily picture books, rather than books aimed specifically at birders. That said - this book is incomplete by itself. It has good descriptions of the birds and their habitat, accompanied by good photos. The limitations come in the extent of coverage (for example, many birds on just the Inala bird list are not covered) and the descriptive details of variations within a species - i.e., there is only the single picture, usually of an adult male, sometimes an adult feeding babies. There are no pictures / descriptions of both genders and juveniles, sometimes making identification difficult. This book is worth having, and a good source for narrowing down the more common Tassie-specific birds; however, it should be used in common with a broader source such as Michael Morcombe's Field Guide to Australian Birds (which is also incomplete; there is currently a project underway to develop a ten volume (!!) set of books describing all of Australia's birds). Note also that there is a new version of Watts' book, published in 2002, which we do not have; a quick glance through it suggests that changes are in minor details; the overall format seems unchanged and therefore our comments should still apply.

South Australia

20 Nature Walks in the Mount Lofty Ranges, by the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia, 120 Wakefield Street, Adelaide, 5000. First published 1995, reprinted in 2000, ISBN 0 949751 22 7. This is a wonderful little book, of most use to those living near Adelaide with access to the many walking tracks in and near the Mount Lofty Ranges. What sets it apart from many trail guides are the descriptions and colored pictures of the flora and fauna likely to be found along the way. Good maps and trail access information is included, as is cultural and historical information. We tend to use this book even when we are not walking on the trails mentioned, since it is such a nice nature guide. Highly Recommended.

Top End (Northern Territory - Kakadu, Litchfield, Katherine, etc.)

Steve Parish Natural History Guide - Kakadu, by Ian Morris. Published by Steve Parish Publishing, reprinted 2001, ISBN 1-8759324-0-2. An excellent book about Kakadu - it is based around the six primary Aboriginal seasons, and describes the important features of each season, including what natural features are best observed, and where. And of course, since it is published by Steve Parish, the photography and production values are excellent. The only lack is an index which includes places and people as well as wildlife and plants.

Kakadu & Nitmiluk - a guide to the rocks, landforms, plants, animals, Aboriginal culture and human impact, Dean Hoatson & others, Australian Geological Survey Organization, Canberra, 2000, ISBN: 0 642 39827 5. The title says it all - although barely over a hundred pages, this book does touch on all the subjects mentioned. As to be expected of a book published by the Geological Survey, it is of high quality - while not failing to demonstrate perhaps a bit of political correctness or selective shallowness in certain areas. That said, the book is rich in facts and details (and may well serve as a standard training manual for Top End guides - we recall hearing various of the historical tidbits and anecdotes that we later found written down here.) Recommended - while it serves as a reasonable one volume overview of many aspects of the parks, you really need additional guides to do proper justice to the flora and fauna of the region.

Australian Flora and Fauna

Field Guide to Australian Birds by Michael Morcombe, Steve Parish Publishing, first published 2000, reprinted 2001, ISBN: 1 876282 10 X. Steve Parish Publishing is perhaps the foremost source of beautifully-produced picture (and information) books within Australia. Much like Dorling Kindersley, they produce books which are heavy on illustrations and pictures. Perhaps not as informative as other guide books, they are nonetheless uniformly well-done. We've given a lot of their regional picture books to friends and families during our time here. This book is no exception - the cover states 850 bird species, 3400 illustrations and 275,000 words. We are not birders, so cannot authoritatively comment on it's accuracy - but it is thorough, and an essential companion for us on all our trips.

Venomous Creatures of Australia - A Field Guide with Notes on First Aid by Struan and John Sutherland, 5th Edition, Oxford University Press, 1999, ISBN 0 19 550846 7. This is the book we reach for first when trying to identify any critters that fall into the "might be dangerous" class. Since there are so many poisonous snakes, spiders, and other things in Australia, that means we look at this book more than any of our other wildlife books, just to be safe. Our research suggests that it is accurate, and the credentials of the author are impressive - Struan Sutherland is Director of the Australian Venom Research Unit at the University of Melbourne; before that, he was with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Certainly a worthwhile reference if you want to know whether to do anything other than run in the opposite direction when you encounter a snake, spider or insect - or even if you just want to know how fast to run...

Australian Aborigines

Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. See writeup in Kangaroo Island trip pages here.

Brimming Billabongs by Bill Harney. This is the story of Marmel, an Aboriginal of the Uwadga tribe in northern Australia. Marmel left his tribe to go walkabout when young; as with the western saying "The grass is always greener somewhere else," he was drawn by the Aboriginal equivalent, "Dry, bare hills look best from the distance." He returned from his walkabout an old man, and encountered an old white bushman who lived alone, and who had been accepted into the council of the local tribe. This bushman also understood his language, and so the two struck up a friendship, which resulted in Marmel recounting his life's story; this was in turn passed on to the author, who has captured it well in the resulting book. This book provides an interesting counterpoint to books such as Chatwin's Songlines, as it represents the view from an earlier time, when western civilization had not yet thoroughly infused the tribal life; further, it provides a view from inside looking out, from someone who has spent a lifetime living with Aboriginal people, and who has earned their trust. Well worth reading.

Continent of Extremes - Recording Australia's Natural Phenomena by Ian G. Read. This is more than the "Australian Chapters from the Guiness Book of Records" that the title suggests. In particular, the first chapter "Perceptions of the Land" provides an excellent overview of the Aboriginal view of their land. This cuts a middle ground between the outright adoration and perhaps whitewashing of Chatwin's Songlines, while avoiding the grittier aspects of traditional Aboriginal Life revealed by Harney's Brimming Billabongs.

New Zealand

New Zealand (a Lonely Planet Guidebook) by Paul Harding, et. al. 11th Edition, September 2002, ISBN: 1 74059 196 8. This is a good guidebook - however, in keeping with our previous Lonely Planet experience, we've come to expect something more. Perhaps it is only that New Zealand is slightly too big a topic for one guidebook (we're used to using multiple Australia Lonely Planet guides to find the complete story on any one subject). However, while the book provided a good read, and worthwhile recommendations on what to look for, there were many occasions when we wanted to look up a specific locale or topic, and couldn't find anything. Still, we do recommend the book - it just needs to be supplemented by additional information.

The Natural World of New Zealand by Gerard Hutching. 1998, Penguin Books, ISBN: 0-670-87782-4. If we had found this book first (instead of very near the end of our trip in Te Anau), we probably would not have bought several of the other books we acquired. It is an excellent reference (if a little heavy for slipping into a day pack!) and covers the major flora and fauna, geology, natural history and general uniqueness of New Zealand in a thorough but interesting and accessible way. Highly recommended.

Kiwi Kids' Illustrated New Zealand Encyclopedia edited by Jane Clement. 2002, Whitcoulls, ISBN: 1877327 11 5. This was one of our first in-country purchases at Whitcoull's in Auckland, and it is an excellent book. Clara spent a lot of time reading through it and looking things up (plus it gave her source material for lots of new questions to probe the limits of our knowledge - one of her favorite pastimes!) And it's not just a kid's book - it provides very good summaries of the usual range of encyclopedia topics, but focused on New Zealand. Highly recommended.

Milford Superguide - Milford Track - Milford Sound - Milford Road by Philip Temple, 2000, Random House, ISBN: 1 86962 062 3. This small book is a reasonable introduction / overview to the Milford Sound area. As the title suggests, there are three aspects to the Milford Sound area - the road in to Milford Sound via the Homer Tunnel (this is the only road in Fjordlands that actually goes all the way into the park to a sound), the Sound itself, and the walking trail between Lake Te Anua and the sound. The book provides some highlights and anecdotes about the history of the area, the trail and the road, a bit of a "highway guide", and some natural history. There are a number of good pictures as well. However, it is incomplete by itself. As a trail guide, it is minimalist - but given the highly scripted and controlled nature of hikes on the Milford track, it is probably all you need. While this book is not all we would wish in a book about a single area, it is the best we have come across, and a reasonable starting point to planning a trip - however, one aspect that does not come across clearly in the book (unless you read between the lines) is the fact that Milford Sound is one of the most heavily visited places in NZ, and it is not the place to find solitude, unless you go in the off season. In the spring-summer-fall, expect hordes of people and busses.

Geyserland - A guide to the volcanoes and geothermal areas of Rotorua by Bruce Houghton and Bradley Scott, 2002, Geological Society of New Zealand, Guide Book No. 13, ISBN: 0-908678-92-4. A short, well-written introduction to the interesting thermal areas around Rotorua. It provides a simple scientific understanding of how the various thermal features came about and work, as well as a history of the area and the interaction of people with those features. Good pictures and maps, as well as suggested tours to best see the various features. Recommended.

Wild Fjordland - Discovering the Natural History of a World Heritage Area by Neville Peat and Brian Patrick, 1996, University of Otago Press, ISBN: 1 877133 17 5. It seems that most of the books we found that touched on the Fjordlands in more than a superficial, "tourist guide" sense had Neville Peat somehow associated with him. At any rate, this book was in the ship's library onboard Fjordland Navigator, and became a "must buy" upon first reading. It is the best single book we have found on the Fjordlands, covering natural history at a reasonable level of detail, from geology through flora and fauna. At only 130 pages, it is not a reference work, but a very readable introduction which should accompany any visitors to the area. Highly recommended.

The Life-Size Guide to Native Trees and other Common Plants of New Zealand's Native Forest by Andrew Crower, 2003 reprint of 2000 edition, Penguin Books, ISBN: 0-14-029560-7. On first (and second and third) glance, this book gives the impression of being a children's book - however, as with Wild Fjordland, this book was in the library of the Navigator. Upon looking through it, we saw that while it was very accessible to children, it was a very good reference to the the most common NZ-unique plants in general, with good descriptions and excellent graphics, featuring life-size pictures of leaves, flowers and seeds (hence the title). This aspect makes it better than your average nature guide for identifying specific plants, since the pictures are big enough to show substantial detail. Of course, it covers less than 100 plants - but those are the ones a casual explorer (as opposed to a serious bush-basher) will see most often - and it gives you a way of identifying those plants and fitting them into your understanding of natural flora from elsewhere. Recommended.

Click here to return to the latest journal page


Return to the home page of Tim, Sandy, Clara and Lucy

Last web page update was August 15, 2005.

Copyright © 2000-2005 - Copyright and contact details.