Brisbane was 5 days of shopping, art galleries and Koala hugging. The South bank in the centre of the city is a laid back, family orientated area with outdoor swimming pools and green spaces to relax beside the river. I had some good bruschetta at CHAMP, a stylish cafe along the front, right next to the Brisbane wheel (a smaller London Eye). GOMA- the gallery of modern art is a really interesting place and a good way to spent the day walking around the different exhibitions, some were pretty strange but that’s modern art for you. A real variety of art forms including sculpture, painting, video, audio and interactive were on display which makes the galleries more accessible for everyone. Your never be far from a shopping mall in the city, a range of designer and high street outlets in most and usually a good value food court on the ground floor. The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to 130 koalas who spend the day eating and sleeping in the trees planted around the park, there are no cages in front of them which gives you a really good view. You can cuddle a Koala and take a souvenir photograph home for $16 which I couldn’t resist on doing! My koala friend was called Ralph and he was happy to perch on my hands and look cute for the camera. The park also has dingos, wallabies, cockatoos, Tasmanian devils and kangaroos which you can hand fed. A lovely and relaxed park where the wildlife look content, perfect to get your fix of Australian wildlife. Brisbane was the place I discovered Pie Face, with a delicious range of pies, open 24 hours a day and with free wifi! This discovery is going to do nothing for my waistline!
A town full of travel agents and tour companies and used by most as a base for adventures, either to the Great Barrier Reef or the Rainforest, Cairns didn’t have much more to offer. The lagoon along the seafront is newly renovated and a great place for families with an outdoor pool, BBQ stations and plenty of green space. The dive trip to the outer reef was our reason for staying as long as we did and it was well worth the wait. An evening with family friends of Laurie’s was a definite highlight of our stay, Caroline and Micheal live 20 minutes out of town and invited us round for a delicious meal which we ate sitting in their outdoor dinning area. They have a pool in the garden and take a walk along the beach everyday, not a bad life!
A tiny gathering of a shop, post office and cafe make up Mission Beach’s main town. The beach itself is beautiful, 14 kilometers of sand fringed by weathered palm trees and at some points rainforest. A tiny area of the waves are sectioned off with a stinger net which makes it safe to swim, the wind was blowing fiercely on shore so it didn’t look that appealing but on calmer days it would have been great to be able to get in. Absolute Backpacker was a fantastic hostel to stay in, freshly white and clean with a large kitchen/common area and a pool. The staff were lovely, very welcoming, friendly and informative. It had a chilled out atmosphere and relaxing in the pool was bliss. We didn’t have long in Mission Beach but from first impressions its a great place to relax amongst the beautiful scenery and there are loads of wallabies hopping around the streets.
A strip of bars, pubs, clubs, shops and cafes make up Airlie Beach. A busy tourist hub with a nice lagoon area and beach, most importantly its the gateway to the Whitsundays!
Rainbow Beach itself is beautiful, an endless stretch of sand with 4×4’s racing along in search of a secluded spot. The town is a small square of beach cafes and shops with holiday makers and skateboarders going to and from the beach. A nice atmosphere and a good place to stay either side of a Fraser island trip.
The worlds largest sand island and a world heritage site Fraser Island is a natural paradise. At 120 kilometres long the island is huge and our day tour only showed us a snip it of it. Most of the day was spent in our beast of a 4×4 truck bumping through the sand roads, speeding along the beach at low tide and making our way through the lush rainforest and ecliptic trees. Lake McKenzie is a stunning fresh water lake with crystal clear water and a sandy fringe, hidden away by the surrounding rainforest, cooling off with a dip in the lake was a refreshing break in the day. The Discovery tour which lead us round Fraser island was very informative about the history and wildlife of the island, and its a great way to get a taster of what Fraser has to offer. If I had more time and more money I would have definitely stayed longer, on one of the overnight tours which allows you the time to see much more, I guess I’ll just have to come back!
To me this wasn’t a surfers paradise, shopping malls, clubs and hotels make up the city just a stones throw from the beach. It was an interesting contrast with the high rises spilling onto the pure sands which stretched along the length of the town, and if you worked in the city, having the beach so close would be awesome for a quick surf on your lunch break but as a visitor it was too built up for me.
A laid back hippy town this is much more like a surfers paradise. People get around town on skateboards and bicycles with their surfboards mounted on the back. The town is full of independent shops and cafes all just a 2 minute walk to the beach. Surfing is a way of life here and there are plenty of spots to choose from. Tallow beach, The Pass, and Main beach all have their days of good swell. I spent my time in the water at The Wreck, the conditions were perfect for me, small waves rolling in, easy to take off and ride along. When conditions are right The Wreck really goes off with barrels coming in but for my few days at Byron it seemed to play perfectly for what I wanted. Ho’okupu is a cool little surf shop selling stunning prints and retro surf posters. It also has a website so when Byron is a distance memory they may be shipping to England! Mac’s Milk Bar was a great cafe we passed on our walk into town from the hostel, with a 60’s decor selling burgers, hot dawgs and milk shakes. A walk to the lighthouse and Australia’s most easterly point was a nice way to spend an afternoon, it took about 3 hours (round trip) at a leisurely pace along the coastal path and boosts some stunning views from the lookouts. There are a few places to go for night life in Byron and many of the bars host live music. Garret Kato was playing at The Junction whilst we were there, acoustic with a country sound and a soft raspy voice, it was a really chilled out gig. All in all Byron has a laid back vibe which is shared with the people who call it home. A great few days, relaxing and surfing with beaming sunshine and clear blue skies.
Most of our time in Sydney was spent walking up and down George St which linked our hostel with Darling Harbour, Circular Quay – The Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Oxford Street – where we caught the bus to Bondi beach. Darling Harbour has a nice vibe, lots of attractions for tourists like the sea life centre and Madam Tussauds. The Australian Maritime Museum looked very impressive with a warship, submarine, tall ship and mini lighthouse outside to explore. A giant yellow rubber duck floated in the harbour as part of the Sydney festival, I’m not sure why it was there but it was a fun addition. The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge were a must see whilst in the city and with perfect blue skies and hot sunshine they were been shown off at their best!
Arriving at Bondi Beach after a half an hour bus journey from the city I was a little disappointed, looking at possibly the most iconic beach in the world I had to wonder why, nice enough but nothing to set it apart, this might not please Austrailans but we have beaches in Britain that could easily rival Bondi! The Bucket List in Bondi Pavilion is a great place to eat, drink and relax, with a classy bohemian menu serving fresh seafood, this is definitely a bucket list for your bucket list.
Sydney and Melbourne have always had a rivalry as to which city is better, I’d have to go with team Melbourne, I probably was not in the cities for long enough to have a valid opinion but from the time I spent in Melbourne it seemed to have a great atmosphere, interesting architecture and a thriving cultural scene. The NGV, national galleries of Victoria, exhibits indigenous and contemporary art in one venue and has an international site across the river. It’s a very interesting gallery with interactive and multi platform art in a modern building. Walking around the city, street art is everywhere. Across the road from the NGV an alley way is completely covered in graffiti and artwork from the pavement, across the street lights and windows and up the walls of the multi storey car park. It has some amazing pieces and was being added to when we were there so is probably changing all the time. Whilst in Melbourne we stayed in the city centre and in St Kilda, a seaside suburb of the city. St Kilda has a relaxed atmosphere with some nice cafes along the seafront and a cute little pier to walk along with penguins nesting in the shore break at the end of it. The wind was blowing a gale and there were dozens of kitesurfing taking advantage of the gusts. Luna park, the theme park just up from the seafront has a great entrance and some old fashioned rides.