I've been with Weekend Notes for nearly four years and the thing that I love most about this site is that it still has the ability to amaze me. With so many dedicated and talented writers all around Australia, I'm constantly finding quirky little gems in between the cafe/restaurant/market reviews.
Many of these places can be found in lesser known parts of Australia. Makes sense – you probably would have already heard about an underground hotel if it were in Sydney. But sadly, this means that many of our readers may not know about some of these amazing spots. So I decided to do some digging for you. Following are some of my favourite oddball place reviews on Weekend Notes.
The rainforests of far north Queensland is quite possibly last place in the world you'd expect to find a Spanish castle, which is why Paronella Park is the first entry on this list.
In 1929, Spanish immigrant Jose Paronella started building his 'dream castle' on land in Mena Creek, south of Innisfail. He opened the park to the public in 1935 and since then, the site has been used as a dance hall, a movie cinema, a wedding venue, and the location of a hydro electrical generating plant, to name a few.
Paronella Park today is a popular tourist venue that combines a trek through the forest and a trip down memory lane. For more information, check out Jan Easton's review.
Imagine you wanted to build an opal mine in the middle of the Australian desert, but the 40 degree plus daytime temperatures made the region basically inhospitable. Some people would give up then and there, but not us Aussies. Instead, we just build the town underground.
Coober Pedy, also known as the opal capital city in the world, is located in South Australia, roughly halfway between Adelaide and Alice Springs. According to the State Library of South Australia, the town's name is an Anglicised version of the Aboriginal 'kupa-piti', or 'boys waterhole'.
Coober Pedy isn't entirely underground – there are eateries and otherattractions up top – but it's way cooler, in both senses of the word, to sleep underground. And believe it or not, Coober Pedy has threehotel/motels with underground rooms.
Wycliffe Well, Northern Territory
Photo by Flickr user: tm-tm Tallinn, Estonia via Wikimedia Commons
Another tip from Lesley Mitchell is a Top End experience that's out of this world!
Wycliffe Well is a small village covering 60 acres that contains a lake for fishing and boating and a bar that claims to have the largest range of beers in Australia. Nothing extraordinary about that, right? Wrong. Wycliffe Well is considered the 'UFO capital of Australia', so much so that the Royal Australia Air Force has investigated the area, and a brochure for the park once stated that, 'if you stayed up all night looking, you would be considered unlucky not to see anything'.
Whether or not you're a believer, you're guaranteed to spot an alien or ten at Wycliffe Well. From the alien on the welcome sign to the toilets marked Maliens and Femaliens at the Wycliffe Well Roadhouse Caravan Park, the whole town is covered with paintings, models, and paraphernalia of extraterrestrial visitors. And with the Devil's Marbles/Karlu Karlu a few minutes drive away, you can kill two birds with one giant granite boulder while you're there.
This unusual attraction in Western Australia's Ferguson Valley is a literal gnome man's land.
When residents of Ferguson Valley learned of roadworks that were about to take place, they protested by placing gnomes on the side of the road. Before long, the area became a virtual gnome metropolis with its own hotels and sports teams. Today, there are more than 3000 gnomes scattered across 500 square metres of forest.
To be completely honest, I don't know if this is kitschy or creepy, but it's definitely worth a look! Find out more by reading Tom Zaunmayr's review, or check out the legends and customs of Gnomesville on the official website.
Burning Mountain, New South Wales
Image from Wikimedia Commons
There's something so delightfully Faustian about a fire burning under the ground, and according to Smithsonian magazine, the Hunter Valley is home to the oldest known coal fire.
Mount Wingen (or Burning Mountain, as it's more commonly known), can be found near the town of Wingen, New South Wales. A coal gas seam approximately 30 metres underground caught fire roughly 6000 years ago and continues to burn today.
According to Weekend Notes reviewer Dan Schaumann, visitors can see the smoke pouring out of the earth's surface by climbing to the mountain's summit; "the initial kilometre of the track is fairly steep and takes you through some beautiful arid grassland... The scenery changes quite dramatically as the track flattens out. The grassland transforms to an eerie forest of seemingly lifeless timber, presumably as a result of the nearby coal seam draining vital nutrients from the soil." (Read the full review here).
So those are my top picks. What about yours? Share your favourite quirky Weekend Notes reviews in our comments section.
We went to Paronella Park a few years ago when we were staying in Mission Beach and found it absolutely fascinating. There is also an amazing bat cave tunnel in the gardens with a colony of miniature bats that you can walk under-- creepy but fun!