Brilliant blue sky, red earth as far as the eye can see, the chance of a roo hopping past – it’s the perfect Australian image…and it’s of a toilet. Welcome to my pick of Australia’s most interesting and unusual toilets – and a chat with the woman who photographs them.
First, a loo-pology
I said I wasn’t going to do any more toilet-themed posts for a while – but that was before I came across blogger Marion Halliday, aka Red Nomad Oz, and her book Aussie Loos with Views and I couldn’t resist.
After all – Christmas is coming and what better to buy the person who has everything but a photographic book on Australia’s most interesting toilets? I’m doing a public service here.
Plus, these are no normal toilets. They are the most remote, the most scenic, the most strange and simply the most worthy of being in a book group of loos in the whole of Australia.
Admittedly, I’ve never visited a toilet and thought ‘I need to write a coffee table book’ so, my first question to Marion was…
How on earth did this all start?
‘I was on a trip to Uluru and Kata Tjuta in Central Australia about 13 years ago,’ she told me. ‘I didn’t expect to discover a life-long obsession but that’s exactly what happened as I had a post-lunch loo break in the Kata Tjuta picnic area! As I emerged from the amenities block, the doorway made a perfect frame for the stunning red rock domes against the bright blue desert sky. I’d found my first scenic loo – but was it Australia’s MOST scenic? I didn’t know – and neither did anyone else. So my quest for the best Aussie Loo with a View started.’
Then how did it become the Aussie Loos with Views book?
I always thought I’d write a book one day – I just didn’t know it’d be about toilets! But luckily for me, the process was embarrassingly easy.
I’d already made a calendar out of some of the lovely loo landscapes I’d posted in my ‘Australia’s Scenic Public Toilets’ blog series. My blog was also part of an Explore Australia competition for Aussie travellers – and as runner-up, I was interviewed for their website.
So, when my managing editor’s parents returned from a Great Ocean Road road-trip suggesting she publish a book about the best loos in Australia, someone knew EXACTLY who to call!
I’d been a dunny detective for quite a few years by then – so all I had to do was narrow down my huge potty-picture collection to the best from each state and territory, and write about what made them special.
Do you research the loos before you head to a destination, or just get surprised?
Dunny-discovery is a simple needs-based technique for me – I’ve come across a lot of scenic loos by ‘accident’!
After my book was published, I started getting emails, photos and suggestions from people about loos they’ve been to – and while my travels don’t specifically follow a toilet trail, we’ll sometimes take a small detour if there’s one in the area we’ve heard about!
I’ve got a fairly broad definition of a ‘Loo with a View’ – sometimes the landscape visible from the loo is the view, sometimes the loo’s setting is the view, and sometimes it’s the loo itself.
If there was one unusual toilet in Australia you’d tell people to make sure they visit – which would it be and why?
Just one? That’s WAY too hard!
But I’ve seen so many that I can personalise a ‘must-see’ loo experience according to the person’s interests and itinerary!
For example, if you’re after culture, visit the Gunnedah Poetic loo (above) – a tribute to Australia’s iconic poets with poem quotes on the back of the dunny doors, poetry readings on an audio loop piped through the sound system, and decorative silhouettes of famous poem scenes on the outside.
If you want a killer view, then head up to Tasmania’s Mt Wellington where you can admire the view through the glass windows in an architect-designed amenities block.
If you want solitude, try the Little Loo at the End of the Universe at one end of the Birdsville Track (first pic). And if you’re just after gob-smacking scenery, there’s not much that can beat Lord Howe Island!
Of course, the best way by far is to buy the book and use it as a tour itinerary to visit them all. You’ll also get to see a lot of Aussie attractions at the same time!
Ever had a scary loo visit – snakes, spiders, crumbling cliffs etc?
At the risk of scaring off international visitors, visiting a genuine down under dunny is often fraught with danger! Here are my top 5 alarming amenities experiences:
- The ‘watch your step’ WC at the Grotto near Wyndham, Western Australia. Tragically, the carpark and picnic area had been used as a free camp and the whole area was awash with loo paper – and worse! Calling it ‘the Grotty’ would’ve been more accurate!
- The ‘cross my legs and hope to die’ conveniences on the Northern Territory side of the South Australia/NT border. Much of the South OZ outback is dunny-free so it’s either squat next to the main highway, or hang on ’til the border!
- The pestilential privy in Millaa Millaa, Queensland. Inside our caravan park amenities block was a warning sign about closing the door to keep the frogs out. Killer frogs, perhaps? No – but the snakes that follow the frogs inside might be deadly!
- The ‘blow me away’ bathroom on the Kalbarri cliffs, Western Australia. If you suffer from any sort of vertigo, don’t look down along the hiking trail on the cliff edge – with the sea a VERY long way below along one of the wildest Aussie coastlines, just getting to the loo is an achievement! Especially in a high wind!
- The ‘hi-tech trapdoor’ toilet on the Tweed River, New South Wales. Deceptively simple, the gleaming stainless steel cubicle does everything automatically. EVERYTHING! Like dispensing paper, flushing, provide hand-washing water, and air for drying your hands. Then it decides whether – or not! – to let you out. Just pray you’re not inside when it’s time for the self-clean cycle …
Then there’s the feral bee factor … see below!
What’s your favourite loo in the book and why is that?
I’ve always been nostalgic about the first – and I owe a lot to the Kata Tjuta scenic loo that started my Aussie Loo quest! I’ve never been back since then, so I don’t even know if the loo is still as it was 13 years ago, or even if it’s still there. But it doesn’t really matter – it’s been immortalised as I remember it in my book!
Feral bees in South Australia….erm, need more detail on that one!
It gets pretty dry in summer down the bottom end of South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula in Innes National Park. So bees come to the only fresh water supply in the park – at the conveniences! So while you’re admiring the killer view from the West Cape thunder-box, just make sure you’re not about to sit on a bee or two!
Yep, I’m now adopting that as my new motto in life.
Who knew there was so much to learn about loos? I loved the book, it absolutely appeals to my sense of the bonkers – and I admit there’s a few I now want to go and visit.
To finish off our look at interesting toilets, here are my three favourite of the many unusual toilets in Marion’s Aussie Loos with a View.
The Alien Loo
Wycliffe Well in the Northern Territory is apparently where you go in Australia if you want to see a UFO – it has more sightings than anywhere else in the country. So it’s only fair that the loo gets in on the act – look carefully at the pic. I love the fact that it’s Maliens and Femalians – rather than Ladies and Gents
The Floating Loo
Caught short on your boat, then you’ll be pleased to see this floating loo in Victoria River in the Northern Territory. You’ll be even more pleased to hear that the pontoon is croc-proof to stop the scaly inhabitants of the river climbing aboard for a rest (and potential traveller-shaped snack).
The Pretty One
If you go to the toilet in Japan you can push a button and get the sound of running water to accompany your ablutions. Well, listen carefully at Millaa Millaa Falls in Queensland and you might get the same effect. A few steps away from the bathroom block is your own natural noise blocking waterfall.
Now, you see why I wanted to do another post on toilets so soon! Who knew they could look so good?
If you also like the look of Aussie Loos with Views, you can buy the book from Explore Australia or, try amazon who have a few in stock (so hurry if you want one for Christmas). To see Marion’s less lavatorial adventures, also check out her blog RedzAustralia.com
Who Else Should I Chat to?
This is the first in my posts on interesting people in the world of travel – if you’ve got anyone you think I should chat to (or have a quirky project of your own that you think I should feature) let me know in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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All images by Marion Halliday. Used with permission.