An All Rounder Travel Guide To The Ashes
Heading south for the winter? You won’t be the only one.
This November a geed-up gaggle of cricket fans will be departing for the land Down Under, ahead of one of the most famous sporting events in the world; The Ashes. For centuries The Ashes has fanned the flames of controversy, drama and brilliance – holding two hemispheres in its sun-baked leather wielding palm. Australia will play host to the bi-annual test tournament this year and we have the inside track on the hot-spots, drinks break destinations and the best settings to see out the day after close of play.
It all begins in Brisbane. Known as The Gabba, (an abbreviation of the suburb Woolloongabba, where the stadium is located) Brisbane’s cricket ground is big, brash and something of a cauldron for any visiting team – particularly the Poms during an Ashes series. Away from the ground, Brisbane is a mighty metropolis boasting an inner-city beach and a picturesque harbour that doesn’t shrink in Sydney’s shadow. Here you’ll find rooftop bars, (we love Jimmy’s On The Mall in the CBD for boutique beers and instagrammable eats), Brisbane’s scenic Riverwalk and a botanical gardens that take you far from the haze of zealous sporting rivalries.
Brisbane boasts a fantastic array of modern hotels but once the cricket has finished we’ll look to escape the city and head up the Gold Coast for some post-match peace in paradise. Experience the legendary wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, charter a boat through the unblemished beauty of the Whitsunday Islands or benefit from the all-Aussie beach life on one of Queensland’s regal coastal settings.
The Gabba will get you. A bullish ground that takes no prisoners The Gabba is the place to experience Aussie grit and cricket’s grime – this is where The Ashes roar to life, both teams will arrive here ready to make their mark on the series. Joe Root’s first introduction to Ashes captaincy will take place in The Gabba’s goreish underbelly. Get ready.
Adelaide is this writer’s favourite Australian city. Once known for its crime (ironic as Adelaide was the first settlement to be given to free immigrants and non-convicts!) Adelaide has flourished as South Australia’s capital boasting a quaint charm that belies larger cities and the colonial architecture that has been slowly erased from Australia’s contemporary city designs. One of the best things about Adelaide is its walk-ability. Built on a grid system, Adelaide can be fully traversed in shorter time than one session of cricket. At every turn you’ll find monuments, museums and moments of history but there is also a thriving bar scene, glorious central market and the upper-class neighbourhood of the Adelaide Hills is home to some of the finest wineries within the Barossa Valley. As a perfect host, Adelaide invites you to enjoy a drink or three. The artisan flavours of the North Terrace boast craft beers, whilst Rundle Street is bustling with bistros, bars and ode-to-England pubs. Enjoy oysters in a comfortably informal setting at The Oyster Bar whilst the sushi at Shiki and the Thai delights of Golden Boy shine bright. If you can find the urban legend of the Peel St restaurant do let us know what’s on the menu – they have a don’t ask don’t tell policy on their food.
Wherever you check-in in Adelaide you’ll be central to the action. During the Ashes, depending on England’s performances however, you might want to create a little more space between yourself and the crease. Head to the Barossa Valley for a full-bodied taste of luxury, meanwhile on Kangaroo Island you’ll enjoy views that rival even the finest Test century.
Exiting Adelaide airport you’ll drive down Don Bradman Way. Cricket is that ingrained in the infrastructure of Adelaide. The mini-city is one of Australia’s greenest, with the urban district bordered almost entirely by public parks but the most significant grass is that of the legendary Adelaide Oval. A genuine gem; the Adelaide Oval is a visually beautiful ground and a cricketer’s dream. This Ashes series will see the first ever Day/Night Test take place at the Adelaide Oval and everyone that can be there should be. Adelaide’s ground boasts sublime sunsets – watch the pink ball under pink skies before meandering over the King William Bridge wondering why five days of cricket never quite seems enough.
The third test will take place in Perth, a mammoth city of magnificent proportions. If the series arrives level, Perth permit one side the upper-hand. Perth possesses the obscure honour of being ‘the furthest city in Australia’ as it is isolated from the more populous centres of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide etc whilst still being a fair stretch from the outback and nearly everything else. Fortunately, Perth is big enough to have everything right on site, there’s not much need to venture further afield when you have it all on the doorstep. Take a walk through the sprawling beauty of Kings Park for a lofty view of Perth’s city centre and sweeping coastline, or take a quick train-ride to Cottesloe beach (Western Australia’s safest swimming beach) to enjoy a cool off and charismatic café culture. For a drink with a twist head to The Classroom – a school themed bar that feels nothing like detention. Locals like to boast that at Strange Company in Freemantle the wine is on tap…you can decide for yourself if that’s a plus.
Perth’s accommodation is spread out across the undulating city so there isn’t really a central base – which we promise you’ll be grateful for. Wandering from district to district you’ll discover Perth’s many hidden gems. We like to wake up with views of the Swan River have the evergreen Elizabeth Quay within easy reach but where you set up camp really depends on whether you want great dining, a five-star spa or more tranquil pace of life.
Cricket Australia are being unusually coy about where the Third Test will take place. Traditionally, the venue has always been the WACA (Western Australia Cricket Association) but a new, modern sports venue known simply as the Perth Stadium is in the final stages of completion. The WACA is nicknamed ‘The Furnace’ on account of Perth’s unforgiving heat in the height of the summer, not a problem for shaded spectators but definitely a struggle for fast bowlers trying to keep the pace, but the newer stadium promises a bigger capacity and contemporary facilities. Wherever the Test takes place, the action is sure to be unmissable. Additionally, the route between the WACA and the new stadium takes you over Heirisson Island, a small patch of land in the Swan River, home to a small family of western grey kangaroos that do enjoy a selfie.
Even outside of cricket season, Melbourne is a magnetic city. The evident Asian-influence makes the cuisine particularly impressive whilst the independent arts culture and ever expanding student population encourages a rich and varied social scene. Melbourne is effortlessly cool, constantly changing and utterly addictive. Start your day early with a bounteous breakfast of poached eggs on sourdough with smoked salmon and avocado with a green juice (yes, really) at The Banff in St Kilda, before getting to Luna Park for a myriad of photo opportunities. Escape the heat mid-afternoon by travelling into the city to uncover a more colourful side to the shade. In Melbourne’s many alleyways and backstreets, street art is a creative revelation. You can arrange a formal tour but going on your own journey of discovery is far more rewarding. After the working day finishes, seek out P.J. O’Brien’s on the Southbank. It may seem prosaic to suggest an Irish bar as the go-to destination for craic and all that but this one really does deliver. Oysters, large portions (note that we left out a lunch spot, you won’t need it if you have dinner here) and some of the best live music in the city. Before it gets too late, walk the city length of the Yara River for more amazing city views.
Melbourne isn’t short on stylish hotels and impressive settings to spend time but you’ll have your pick of traditional luxury and modern marvels. We’d opt to stay in the north-west of the city and cricket fans will be comfortably close to the MCG so as not to miss a moment of the action. Other popular spots include the Royal Botanic Gardens, Southbank and Collins Street.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground, known as the MCG or just ‘The G’ is the largest cricket ground in the game and one of the world’s largest sports stadiums. Playing in an Ashes series with over 100’000 fans watching is something every cricketer aspires to and being in the stands during play is a truly exceptional experience. To bear witness to bone fide Ashes history, get yourself a ticket in the infamous Bay 13. Once the closest area of seating to the action, Bay 13 remains the heart of the MCG’s atmosphere and allure. In previous Tests fans have taunted fielders on the adjacent boundary with a plethora of sledges, songs and sometimes swearing. Bay 13 is the ringleader of the MCG’s masterful circus, not only showcasing incredible eye-level views of the game but bringing the spirit of cricket to life. The famous Boxing Day test will also take place here and Bay 13 will likely lead the festivities.
The Ashes will be won, lost or retained in Australia’s most iconic city. You’ll have enjoyed the famous New Year fireworks of course and sampled the fine seafood at Opera Bar with two of the globe’s most famous landmarks on either side of you but what is there to say about Sydney that you don’t already know? Firstly, on New Year’s Day reclaim the cliché by enjoying a barbeque on Bondi Beach. It may seem obvious but this is a true Australian tradition for good reason, there really isn’t a better way to start your year. After that, your time is your own. Like any global city, life in Sydney comes with a heftier price tag than almost anywhere else in Australia. Seek out smaller bars and eateries than the glitzy showstoppers. We love The Baxter Inn, hidden in the CBD, a speakeasy where you can’t get phone signal – no irony intended! INDU Dining brings a taste of Sri Lanka to central Sydney and with the menu divided into ‘Feast’ or ‘Chef’s Selection’ you can tailor design your fullness level.
If you’re in Sydney for New Year you might as well go all out. At Shangri-La Hotel you’ll enjoy the finest views of the famous harbour, but book early for window seats on new year, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney is probably the best hotel in the city…and knows it, whilst at the Park Hyatt you can soak up the December sun by lounging at the rooftop swimming pool. There’s nothing quite like doing laps with Circular Quay in your sight.
Watch the conclusion of the 2017/18 Ashes series at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). A most impressive ground, not only for its history and the incredible sporting dramas it’s played host to, but also for its resilience against modernisation. Sydney Cricket Ground has all of the contemporary stylings one would expect from a famous sports stadium however it has managed to retain it’s iconic green-topped pavilion and centuries old scoreboard. These unique elements add to the charm of the sublime setting that is the SCG and there is no finer place to be in early January.
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