A family trip around the World – Sydney

Upgraded to a penthouse apartment

I was half way through a 3-week trip around the World with my parents, my brother and sister-in-law. So far, we’d spent a few days exploring Melbourne and the surrounding area before heading to the sunshine of tropical Queensland for a relaxing stay in Port Douglas, just north of Cairns. Now we were on the final part of the Australia leg of our trip, a few nights in Sydney before we flew to the USA.

We flew from Cairns Airport into Sydney late-morning, arriving mid-afternoon and got a maxi-taxi to our apartment at World Tower, situated somewhere between Museum station and Darling Harbour.

A stroll to Darling Harbour

We were delighted to find upon checking in that we’d upgraded to a Penthouse apartment and when we walked in to find a spacious, modern, 3-bedroom apartment with beautiful views over the city.

That afternoon, we stayed in the local area visiting the Coles supermarket in the mall beneath our apartment block and taking a stroll to the nearby Darling Harbour that evening.

Stopping at a viewpoint on our tour – Sydney skyline in the distance

The next day, we had a tour booked to the beach cities of north Sydney. Our reason for booking this tour was that it’s main stop was at Palm Beach, the filming location for long-running Aussie soap, Home and Away. Both my parents and my brother were fans of the show and after looking into it, we decided taking a small group tour would be a hassle-free way of getting there rather than attempting pubic transport involving multiple buses.

Arriving at ‘Summer Bay’, the lighthouse in the distance

We were met by our tour guide outside our apartment block and boarded the minibus along with a few other passengers then set off driving across Sydney Harbour Bridge as we headed north out of the city. Along the way to Palm Beach, we made multiple stops, first at a view point from where we could see Sydney’s skyline in the distance then at a small cove which we were told was once used for filming in the soap then it was on to ‘Summer Bay’ itself.

Above, and below Palm Beach aka Summer Bay in Home and Away

As we arrived, it was clear from the various vans and RVs parked everywhere that filming was taking place that day, making my parents very excited. We were told that the cast were usually happy to take photos with fans between filming and given tips on the best place to go to see filming take place or meet the cast then we were given a time to meet back at the van to pick up our lunch and sent off to explore.

We headed straight for the beach, strolling along the golden sands before taking photos with Summer Bay Surf Club then walked along the path behind the beach spotting a few cast members setting up to film a short scene. After watching them film, we continued along the path, bumping into a couple of the other passengers from our tour who told us they had just met a few cast member and pointing us in the direction they had come from. Sure enough, just down the path was a winnebago with cast members stood in front of it happily meeting and greeting fans. My parents recognised the actors and managed to get photos with them, making their day!

It was then time to pick up lunch from the van – chicken, salad and bread – and we set out on picnic benches all discussing who we’d managed to see so far.

Manly Beach, the last stop on our tour

After lunch, we had some more free time so we wondered down to the beach on the east side of the penninsula where ‘Alf’s Bait Shop’ and the pier is situated. We’d been told that the bait shop sometimes opened as a souvenir store but unfortunately, it was closed today. After taking photos on the jetty, we walked back to the main beach were we found more filming going on, this time on the beach. We had a bit of time left so watched them film for a while before it was time to wave ‘Summer Bay’ goodbye and return to the minibus.

The final stop on our Northern Beaches tour was at Manly Beach. Manly is just a short ferry ride from Sydney Harbour and our tour included ferry tickets so we could spend as much time as we liked at Manly Beach then catch the ferry back to Sydney after.

Above, on the boat back to Sydney, and below, back at Circular Quay

After spending some time at the beach then walking down Manly Corso for some souvenir shopping and ice cream, we caught the ferry back arriving in Sydney Harbour just as the sun started to go down. This was my parents, brother and sister-in-laws’ first glimpse of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House so we spent a bit of time wandering around Circular Quay before walking through Sydney back to our apartment early evening.

The bridge at sunset, and below, enjoying a day at Bondi Beach

It had been a long day and my parents were tired and decided to stay in that evening so the three of us decided to take another walk to Darling Harbour and along to Star Casino before returning to our apartment.

Despite it being the Australian winter, the next day was warm (for us Brits at least!) and sunny so we decided to head to the coast and the most famous of Australia’s beaches, Bondi.

Catching a bus from our apartment to Bondi Beach, we spent the day relaxing on the relatively quiet long stretch of sand and playing in the waves to cool off.

That evening, we took a stroll to Circular Quay and The Rocks area by the Harbour Beach to see the bridge and Opera House all lit up.

Skyline views from the Botanic Gardens

On our final day in the city – and in Australia – we split up with my brother and sister-in-law going shopping and exploring by themselves while my parents and I caught the Sydney Hop On/Off Bus to do some last minute sightseeing.

At Mrs Macquaries Point, and below, exploring the Botanic Gardens

Hopping off at the Botanic Gardens, we walked past colourful flower displays overlooked by the towering city skyline and then along to the sea wall to Mrs Macquaries Point to get photos with both the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in shot. Then, we walked back along the sea wall towards the Opera House, dodging the many joggers that were out in their office lunch break!

Above, driving under the Harbour Bridge on our tour of Sydney, and below more sightseeing on the hop on/off bus

Hopping back on the bus, we completed our tour of the city before walking back from Circular Quay to our apartment just in time to watch the sunset over the city.

With it being our last night in Australia, we decided to eat out rather than cook so that evening we walked to a nearby Italian restaurant and sat reminiscing about our trip so far before taking another stroll down to Darling Harbour.

Taking my family with me on a trip to Australia, sharing some of my favourite places and discovering new things with them had been a lot of fun and we were all sad to be saying goodbye to this amazing country. But our adventures weren’t quite over yet, we had one more stop to make, this time in the city of Los Angeles in the USA!

A family trip around the World – Port Douglas, QLD

I was travelling with my family – my parents and my brother and sister-in-law on a Round the World ticket with multiple stops in Australia before we returned via Los Angeles having circumnavigated the globe. After an enjoyable start to our adventures in Melbourne, it was time to briefly leave city-living behind as we flew north for a few days on the coast.

We were flying to North Queensland and Cairns Airport but rather than staying in the city of Cairns, had unanimously decided to venture further north to the small coastal town of Port Douglas. We had arranged transfers to and from Port Douglas in a shared shuttle and quickly found the company upon arrival. It took about an hour to make the journey along the Captain Cook Highway and our driver happily pointed out crocodiles lazing roadside near the river and hunting birds nesting at the top of tall telegraph poles as we travelled. Our apartment complex near the beach end of the main town was the last drop off. After settling in, we went for a walk up the main high street, finding a supermarket to get some groceries from then, after dropping our shopping off back at the apartment, took a stroll down to Four Mile Beach.

A friendly cockatoo

On our first full day in the area, we decided to make use of a voucher we had for discounted entry into the Port Douglas Wildlife Park. Catching a shuttle bus which ran from the main street to the park, we only planned to spend the morning there before having an afternoon relaxing at the beach but there was way more to see and do at the park than we had expected. It was great to have a bit longer to spend hanging out with the kangaroos and other Australian animals after our flying visit to Moonlit Sanctuary while in Melbourne a few days earlier and before we knew it, it was 3pm!

The beach closes after a croc sighting

The sun still shining on our return to town, we still ventured down to the beach – only to find it closed after a crocodile sighting in the ocean, something which sounded quite bizarre to us and was a bit of a novelty!

That evening, we made use of the barbecue facilities at our apartment complex for some outdoor dining then took an evening stroll into town for some ice cream desert, boysenberry ice cream instantly becoming my new favourite flavour!

Above, Port Douglas marina, and below, on the way to the Great Barrier Reef and getting ready to snorkel and spending a day on the reef

We had booked a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef the next day, something I had always wanted to do. Opting for the pontoon based trip to the outer reef over the island based inner reef trip on offer, we made our way to Port Douglas Harbour early the next morning. It was another beautiful, hot day, perfect for a boat trip. On the way there, we were shown a video about how the day would go and given safety advice. We were told it was ‘stinger’ season but having a bit of a jellyfish phobia after being stung as a child, I decided to take up their offer of a stinger suit anyway!

Once we were docked at the pontoon, we could collect our stinger suits and snorkelling equipment and the rest of the day was at our own leisure. While my brother, sister-in-law and I happily spent plenty of time snorkelling, my parents who are not confident swimmers, mainly stayed on board the pontoon looking at the reef and the many fish from an underwater viewing platform and taking a narrated trip out on a semi-submersible vehicle between plenty of sunbathing out on the deck. Lunch was buffet-style with plenty of meat and salad options to fill us up and towards the end of the day, a selection of cheese and crackers were brought out.

It was an amazing day and we were all really sad when the siren went to signal we had to re-board the boat and leave the pontoon behind. The boat journey back proved to be exciting though when we spotted whales swimming in the distance!

Above, and below, a crocodilecruise down the Daintree River

It was another day of excursions the next day with my parents heading off on a Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail trip while my brother, sister-in-law and I took a tour to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Our trip included a stop at Mossman Gorge before we headed to the Daintree River for a scenic cruise spotting lots of huge crocodiles lazing on the banks as we went.

Above, at a Cape Tribulation lookout point, and below, a rainforest lunch spot

Then, after a quick stop at a Cape Tribulation lookout point and a barbecue lunch at a rainforest picnic spot, it was on to the beautiful Cape Tribulation Beach itself, right on the edge of the rainforest.

Above, and below, on the beach at Cape Tribulation

We were given a bit of free time to laze on the beach or paddle in the crystal clear waters before a stop in Daintree Rainforest where we followed a boardwalk through the forest as our guide talked to us about some of the many trees and plants around us. After one final stop for some exotic fruit tasting on the way back, we were dropped back in Port Douglas where we met back up with our parents to swap stories.

Above, a final stop in the Daintree Rainforest, and below, my parents’ trip to Kuranda

We had decided to take different tours due to the description of our rainforest tour saying it involved plenty of hiking and needed a moderate amount of fitness – I was unsure my father, with his 2 replacement knees would be able to cope with that. But as it turned out, the amount of walking on our trip was very little and was mainly along flat boardwalks so my parents would have coped fine.

Luckily, they both really enjoyed their day out on the scenic railway and skyrail, had a lovely time in Kuranda itself at the market and enjoying tea and cake at a cafe there and had a great time visiting Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure, a crocodile farm open to the public near Cairns, which was included in the trip.

The Sunday market at Port Douglas

The next day was our last full day in Port Douglas. Being a Sunday, there was a market on in the town so we began our day there wandering around the many stalls and sampling some of the Sugar Cane juice we’d heard so much about. Then, with it being another warm, sunny day, we spent the rest of the day on the beach enjoying the sunshine and swimming in the sea to cool off.

Above, and below, at the Cane Toad Races

That evening, we walked to a local bar to see something we’d heard a lot about since we arrived – Cane Toad racing! These toads, introduced to Australia in an attempt to control a crop-eating beetle, have since spread rapidly and have become pests themselves but in Port Douglas, they have found a use for them with Cane Toad Racing Nights at a local bar.

Upon entering the bar, we were given a raffle ticket. 5 numbers were then called out, one of which belonged to my dad.

He was invited up to the racing area along with the other lucky participants and allocated an amusingly-named toad which he then had to encourage to race across a table and into an awaiting bucket.

One last visit to Four Mile Beach

I’m not sure how much the toads enjoyed the experience but the noisy, enthusiastic audience certainly did as the whooped and cheered the toads on. After the race, we were even given the opportunity to meet and greet the toads. A bizarre way to spend our last night in the town!

We were sad to be leaving the beautiful town of Port Douglas the next day. We’d had a lovely few days enjoying the sunshine and taking excursions out to the reef and the rainforests.

After breakfast at a local cafe overlooking the beach though and a final walk along Four Mile Beach, it was time to meet our shuttle back to Cairns Airport where we’d be catching a flight to the final Australian destination on our family trip – the city of Sydney!

Back in Sydney for 24 hours

Back in Sydney

I was at the end of my 5 week trip to Australia’s east coast and having spent an amazing week in Sydney for New Year at the start of my adventure, I was excited to return for 24 hours, even if I would be there by myself this time rather than with a group of my best friends.

It had been a long day, spending 12 hours sat on the Loka minibus travelling from Byron Bay and we finally arrived in Sydney early evening.

After being dropped at Central Station, I said goodbye to the few passengers that had been on the bus with me and set off for my hotel near Museum Station.

That evening, I took a stroll up to Circular Quay.

View of Sydney Harbour Bridge

It was a lot quieter than it had been on my last visit and as I approached the Opera House, I couldn’t help but think about the Opera Bar New Year Party I’d attended there just weeks earlier. Since then I’d seen and done so much, visiting Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands and then Townsville and Magnetic Island on the way north to Cairns with one of my friends and then travelling southbound on my solo adventures passing through Tully Gorge National Park, back to Airlie Beach and stopping at Emu Park, Fraser Island, Noosa, Brisbane and Byron Bay.

It really had been the trip of a lifetime!

Off to catch the ferry to Watsons Bay

And it wasn’t over yet. With my flight back to the UK not leaving until late evening, I was planning to make the most of every last minute of my day in Sydney. Wanting to see part of Sydney I hadn’t seen before, after grabbing some breakfast, I walked to Circular Quay and took a boat across to Watsons Bay.

Above, arriving at Watsons Bay, and below, on the coastal walk

Once there, I followed the path from Marine Parade behind Watsons Head Beach and along to a viewpoint overlooking the bay of Camp Cove from where there were great views of Sydney in the distance. Walking past another small bay, Lady Bay Beach, I then picked up the South Head Heritage Trail, a looped path which took me past Hornby Lighthouse and more beautiful coastal views.

At the Gap Park

After completing the looped track, I returned to where I’d started by the ferry wharf and then walked in the other direction up to the ocean cliffs known as The Gap for more amazing views. Continuing my walk along the cliff tops through Gap Park, I made it as far as Macquarie Lighthouse before returning to the ferry wharf.

Walking to Macquarie Lighthouse

Back by Watsons Bay Beach, I spent some time sat in Robertson Park people watching and enjoying the views before deciding to use my transport day pass to return to Sydney CBD by bus. Along the way, I hopped off at another of Sydney’s coastal suburbs, Rose Bay.

After wandering along its main street, I found my way to the beach and sat there relaxing, soaking up the last few rays of Australian sunshine before the end of my trip.

Taking a stroll around Darling Harbour

Arriving back in the city with a bit of time still to spare, I took a final stroll around Darling Harbour before returning to my hotel to pick up my luggage and make my way to the airport. It had been an amazing trip, one I’d never forget but for now, it was time to wave Australia a fond goodbye.

Byron Bay

I was a few days off the end of a 5 week trip to Australia. Starting in with a group of friends in Sydney for New Year, I’d since travelled north to Cairns with another friend, stopping at Airlie Beach for the Whitsundays and Townsville to visit Magnetic Island before going on a southbound solo travel adventure, joining a flexi-tour with Loka Travel and making stops at Tully Gorge National Park, back in Airlie Beach and at Emu Park, Fraser Island, Noosa and Brisbane.

After spending the morning in Brisbane, I was now on board the Loka minibus heading to the last stop of my trip before arriving back in Sydney, Byron Bay. Although I was again the only passenger travelling south from Brisbane, we made a pick up at Surfers Paradise where 2 girls I’d briefly met earlier in the trip jumped on board and it was nice to briefly have someone to chat with.

A quick tutorial before kayaking

Arriving in Byron Bay early evening, I checked into my private en suite room at the YHA and went out to explore, walking along the beach as the sun stated to go down before grabbing a pizza and heading back to my room.

The next morning I was up early to head to the beach. I had booked a dolphin-spotting kayaking expedition which I was really looking forward to.

Kayaking in Byron Bay

After a quick tutorial/recap on paddling and kayaking, I partnered up with one of the other solo travellers in the group and we boarded our kayak, paddling out to sea with the rest of our group. It wasn’t long before we spotted our first group of dolphins swimming past. It was really exciting being so close to them.

Over the next hour we were lucky enough to spot a few more dolphins as we paddled across the bay.

Dolphin spotting

It was soon time to return to shore and we were challenged by the group leaders to try and ride one of the waves in. Like many of the other kayakers, we instead managed to capsize ours, both being thrown into the surf as our kayak made it to shore without us and causing me to lose my sunglasses in the process!

After making a quick stop back at my hostel room to dry off and change, I walked into town and found a cheap replacement pair of sunglasses before going to meet a friend who also happened to be staying in the area for lunch.

While there, I go a message from a tour company I’d book an evening wildlife-spotting activity with saying that due to the predicted storm coming in, they were cancelling that evening’s tour. Unfortunately, as it was my last evening in Byron Bay, I wasn’t able to reschedule the tour but the refund at least gave me a bit more money to spend on the remaining few days of my trip!

After lunch, I decided to do the walk to Cape Byron Lighthouse, a lighthouse perched above the bay.

Above, the most easterly point of Australia, and below, views along the lighthouse walk

It was quite an easy walk but as I made my way there, the weather started to change, the bright blue sunny skies being replaced by dark, storm clouds and just as I reached the lighthouse, the rain started to fall. By the time I reached the halfway point back to beach, the rain had gone from light drizzle to a full on storm – torrential rain, thunder and lightening and for the second time that day, I was soaked to the skin and in need of a change of clothes!

Making it safely back to the hostel, I stayed in my room waiting for the rain to subside, making a quick trip out between downpours to grab a Subway sandwich before ducking back to my room again!

Byron Bay was a really pretty place and I’d really enjoyed my all too brief stay there. I was up at the crack of dawn the next morning to go and wait for the Loka minibus to pick me up for the final journey of my trip. And it was a long one, a 12 hour drive back to where I started 5 weeks earlier, Sydney.

Back in Brisbane

Once again, the lone passenger on the Loka minibus

After New Year in Sydney and spending some time in Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays, Townsville and Magnetic Island and Cairns, I’d started to travel southbound down Australia’s east coast on a flexi-tour with Loka stopping at Tully Gorge National Park, returning to the Whitsundays and visiting Emu Park, Fraser Island and Noosa.

It was currently Australia Day and, after spending the morning walking along the riverside in Noosa, I was now onboard a Loka minibus heading to my next stop of Brisbane.

Crowds gather for the Australia Day fireworks

I’d been to Brisbane once before but not spent a lot of time in the city itself. During the time I did spend there, it had mainly rained, not leaving me with the best impression of the city. But I felt that maybe I hadn’t given it a fair chance and this, coupled with my desire to visit the nearby Australia Zoo, had made me decide to include it as a stop on my trip.

Waiting for the fireworks to begin

My journey to Brisbane was similar to most of the others I’d experienced since joining the Flexi-tour because I once again found myself the only passenger heading southbound. Once in Brisbane, I checked in for 3 nights at Base hostel. I’d booked a private room with shared facilities and the tiny room had just about enough room for my bed and not much else!

The hostel had a rooftop barbecue planned for the afternoon to celebrate Australia Day but heavy rain meant it had to be called off so instead, I went for a walk refamiliarising myself with the city, doing a bit of window shopping and taking a walk along the river.

That evening, I walked back to the South Bank and lined up along the riverside along with hundreds of other visitors and locals for the Australia Day fireworks. There was a great atmosphere and the display was one of the most impressive I’d ever seen.

The following day, I was up early to make my way to Australia Zoo.

At Australia Zoo, hanging with the locals

I’d spent quite a bit of time researching the best way to reach the zoo and eventually decided on using the Greyhound bus service. Picking up from the bus station in Brisbane, it dropped me at the entrance to the zoo at a reasonable time in the morning, picking me up late afternoon to return me to Brisbane.

Above, giant tortoises, and below, a fun day at Australia Zoo

I was worried how much fun I could actually have wandering around a zoo by myself but there was so much to see and do, I really enjoyed my day.

The next day, I’d planned to spend exploring the city. I was hoping to be able to do a bike or walking tour but was disappointed to find none of them were running on that day.

New Farm Park

So instead, I decided to take a river boat along the Brisbane River. I got off the boat at New Farm Park and spent some time wandering through the park, enjoying the skyline views of Brisbane city in the distance.

The park is home to Brisbane Powerhouse, an old tram power station now used as an entertainment venue hosting plays, concerts and exhibitions.

With the weather turning drizzly and then to pouring rain, I jumped back on a boat to head back to the city.

Above, looking out at the rain from the river boat, and below, at the Queensland Museum

Arriving back on the south bank, I took a stroll to Brisbane’s up and coming West End area, stopping for lunch in one of its many cafes. Then, with the weather still being dull and drizzly, I decided to visit some of the museums along the South Bank, starting with the Queensland Museum.

The museum had lots of natural history exhibits on the history of Queensland and was an interesting way to spend a few hours.

From there, I walked to the nearby Gallery of Modern Art and then across to the State Library of Queensland which had an art exhibition on.

Streets Beach, Brisbane’s Lagoon, and above, art at GoMA and the State Library of Queensland

I finished the day with another stroll along the South Bank down to Streets Beach -Brisbane’s lagoon – then walked back across the bridge to the city centre for a spot of shopping along Queen Street Mall.

Brisbane’s oldest building – The Old Windmill

The next day, I had an early afternoon pick-up scheduled but before leaving the city, I took a morning stroll to see Brisbane’s oldest building, The Old Windmill, a heritage listed building sat on top of a hill just a short walk from the hostel. Then, it was time to wait for the Loka minibus to arrive to take me to my next destination, and my penultimate stop in Australia, Byron Bay.

24 Hours in Noosa

I was into the last few days of a 5 week trip to Australia. So far I’d spent a few days in Sydney with friends over New Year, travelled to Airlie Beach for the Whitsundays, Townsville and the neighbouring Magnetic Island and Cairns with another friend and was now travelling solo, heading southbound back to Sydney on a flexi-tour organised with Loka Travel. After stops at Tully Gorge National Park, returning to the Whitsundays, a day in Emu Park and a trip to Fraser Island, I was now en route to Noosa on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.

Visiting Noosa

I began the day at Rainbow Beach, my base for my visit to Fraser Island, where I was picked up alongside a few other Loka passengers by a Loka minibus. So far,I had struggled to find fellow Loka travellers heading the same day same, spending the first few days of my trip pretty much just me and my tour guide.

Today wasn’t any different as I soon realised that every other passenger on my bus was being dropped at a nearby train station from where they’d be heading northbound to Emu Park making me the only passenger travelling southbound to Noosa!

On the beach at Noosa

There were two Loka guides on board the minibus, a driver who was new to the company and another more seasoned guide who was training him, so I at least had someone to make small talk with about my trip so far along the way. But once there, I was by myself again. I checked myself into the YHA where, for the first time all trip, I was finally taking the plunge and staying in a communal dorm.

I was put in a 4-bed co-ed dorm and while it was nice to have someone to talk to, the others in my room were a lot younger than me and I soon realised that their only plans for the day involved bars and drinking whereas I wanted to use the short amount of time I had there to see some of the area.

With the sun shining, I decided to spend the rest of the morning down at Noosa Heads Beach.

Above, and below, starting my walk along the Noosa Heads coast path.

After a spot of sunbathing, I couldn’t resist a dip in the sea although I soon started to regret that decision as the huge waves repeatedly sent me flying! Managing to drag myself out of the surf, I spent a bit of time drying out before taking a walk into town in search of something to eat.

Noosa was pretty and had a really nice feel to it. After wandering around, I decided to take a walk along the coast path to Noosa National Park.

Above, and below, walking along the coast path

I followed the path right around the coast past lots of pretty little bays to Alexandria Bay then along to Sunshine Beach before cutting through a residential district back to the hostel.I’d been a bit worried about taking the walk by myself but it was either that or not see it and there were plenty of people about also walking along the coast path so it was fine.

It was early evening by the time I got back so after popping back to the hostel for a while, I went out to get pizza for dinner. The next day was going to be Australia Day and I’d be heading to Brisbane late morning. I wanted to spend a few hours walking along the river the next morning so to make sure I was up in plenty of time, I decided to call it a night.

The next day, after checking out of the hostel, I was up to take a stroll along the river.

Australia Day celebrations along the riverside in Noosa

I was surprised to see lots of gazebos up along Noosa Parade with Australia Day celebrations already in full swing and it was a really great atmosphere.

After my walk, I returned to the hostel and went to meet the Loka minibus ready to travel south to Brisbane.

I’d really enjoyed my visit to Noosa and wished I’d had a bit more time there to take my time exploring a bit more. I’d definitely like to return there someday.

A trip to Fraser Island

Fraser Island was one of those places I’d wanted to visit for along time but despite numerous visits ‘Down Under’, I’d never yet managed to fit it into any of my trips. But this time would be different. I was travelling southbound along the east coast of Australia, from Cairns back to Sydney (where I’d spent New Year’s Eve just a few weeks before), and after stops in Tully, Airlie Beach and Emu Park, I was now heading to Rainbow Beach from where I’d finally get to take a trip to Fraser Island.

Rainbow Beach

I’d left Emu Park at the crack of dawn to catch the train from Rockhampton station. Until now I’d travelled with the same Loka tour guide since departing Cairns but once I reached Gympie today, I’d be saying goodbye as from this point forward, I’d be travelling on the Loka minibuses, driven by a different guide on each leg of the trip.

It was a long journey to Gympie, especially as unlike the other trains so far ,this train wasn’t equipped with an entertainment system so I couldn’t keep myself occupied watching films. When I arrived at Gympie, I just wanted to get to my Rainbow Beach accommodation and spend the afternoon relaxing.

Instead, as I was stood outside Gympie station wandering where the minibus was, I got a message that it was running late. It was a boiling hot day and there was no shade and nowhere to shelter from the sun. I watched as every other passenger stood waiting for a taxi or lift until I was the only one around.

On the dunes at Carlo Sand Blow

Over an hour later, I was finally met by the Loka minibus, late after picking up the northbound passengers also heading to Rainbow Beach today. It was nice to meet some fellow Loka travellers even if they did already all know each other after travelling together for the last few days and we chatted and swapped stories on the way to the hostel.

The next 3 nights would be split between Rainbow Beach and an overnight stay on Fraser Island. After my first night at the Rainbow Beach hostel, I’d have to check out of my room, pack a small overnight bag for Fraser Island and check my main luggage into storage for a night then after returning from Fraser Island, retrieve my luggage and check back into the hostel again for my final night in the area.

Watching the sunset

I’d managed to make a last minute change to my Rainbow Beach room upgrading from a dorm room to a private en suite. After checking in, I had a quick walk down through the town to the seafront and back. It was already early evening and our Loka guide had invited us to meet back at the van for a trip to the nearby Carlo Sand Blow to watch the sunset.

Normally, a guided walk would have been offered getting us there in time to sandboard on the dunes before sunset but as we’d arrived late, we wouldn’t have walked there in time so instead our guide drove us there.

The sunset was really pretty and it once again gave me the opportunity to talk with some of the other Loka passengers. On the way back, having been warned how expensive the cafes and restaurants of Rainbow Beach were, we stopped off at a local chip shop to grab food before heading back to the hostel.

White sands and crystal clear waters at Lake Mackenzie

The next morning, after a pancake breakfast at the hostel, I checked my luggage, grabbed my overnight bag and went to check in for my Fraser Island tour. After boarding our coach, we were taken to the car ferry departure terminal to make the short crossing across the ocean to Fraser Island. We were able to leave the coach to wander around the ferry and enjoy the views as long as we were back on board just before arrival.

Once on Fraser Island, we driven to our first stop of the day, Mackenzie Lake where we were split into 3 groups – day trippers, one-night stays and 2-night stays, other one-night stay passengers from various departure points other than Rainbow Island joining our group. We then had some free time at the lake.

Above, and below, Central Forest Rainforest

After changing into my bathing suit, I made my way down the path to the lake and couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. The bright blue lake sits on a beach of white silica sand like that on Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays. I spent some time swimming in the crystal clear waters before drying off on the beach then meeting back at my designated coach to continue our tour of Fraser Island.

Next up was Central Forest Rainforest Walk where we followed the way-marked path through the greenery.

A lunch stop at one of the island’s hotels was next and we spotted some of the island’s infamous dingoes as we drove across the beach to our destination.

In the afternoon, we went on a walk to another lake, Lake Wabby.

Walking across the dunes to Lake Wabby

The lake lies at the bottom of the huge dunes of Hammerstone Sandblow. Once there, we had the option to swim in the lake but as the weather had clouded over, I decided to just spend some time sat on its bank relaxing and getting to know some of the other passengers in my group.

The lake has lots of ‘pedicure fish’, the fish that nibble the dead skin off your feet, and some members of the group decided to sit with their feet dangling in the water as we sat chatting.

Above, almost at Lake Wabby, and below, at Lake Wabby and hiking back

After leaving the lake and walking back to the coach, we were taken to our hotel where I was allocated a triple room to share with two German girls. After getting to know each other a bit, we all went to dinner meeting up with the rest of the group before some of us went for drinks at a nearby bar.

Above, the SS Maheno shipwreck, and below, on 75-Mile Beach

The next day after breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and met back up with our coach driver and guide for another day touring the island. Our first stop of the day was to see the SS Maheno, a shipwreck on 75-Mile Beach that has become a Fraser Island tourist attraction.

Then we drove further along the beach to see Red Canyon and the coloured sands and hiked up to Indian Head to take in the sweeping views.

Views from Indian Head

Our next stop was at Champagne Pools. Parking up on a cliff, we followed the path down to the beach where the rocks in the shallows had formed large rock pools, the water bubbling over the top like a natural jacuzzi as the waves crashed over the top.

Walking to Champagne Pools

After swimming and relaxing in the pools, we followed the path back up the cliff to where the coach was parked and a picnic lunch was waiting for us.

Waves crashing in at Champagne Pools

We had one more stop on Fraser Island at Eli Creek, a freshwater river which eventually runs into the ocean. After parking up, our guide got out a variety of inner tubes and explained that the creek acts like a natural lazy river! We took it in turns to float along the creek through the rainforest, some of the group choosing to swim down or wade through it instead. It was a really incredible experience.

Heading back to Rainbow Beach

My amazing Fraser Island adventure had almost come to an end. We were dropped back at one of the Island’s resorts for refreshments and to await our assigned coaches back to our departure point. Once on board the coach, we were taken to the ferry terminal to make our return trip back to Rainbow Beach.

It was already early evening so after recovering my luggage and checking back into my hostel room, I went to grab a, rather expensive, pizza from a local cafe and called it a night.

One day in Emu Park

A stay on Australia’s Capricorn Coast

After spending New Year’s Eve in Sydney, I’d spent a few days in Airlie Beach to explore the Whitsunday Islands, Townsville and Cairns before beginning my journey south back to Sydney. I was travelling with flexi-tour group Loka Travel and after visiting Tully Gorge National Park and returning to Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays, my next stop was on the Capricorn Coast in the town of Emu Park.

Meeting a baby crocodile at Koorana

We were travelling to Emu Park, a small town on Australia’s Capricorn Coast, on an evening train that already wouldn’t get us to Rockhampton station until the early hours. So, arriving at Proserpine station just outside of Airlie Beach, to find out our train was indefinitely delayed, wasn’t ideal!

Despite choosing a Loka flexi-tour in the hope that I’d get to meet and travel with others on the same route as me, I had once again found that there was a lack of passengers heading southbound and this time, found myself the only traveller heading to Emu Park.

Above, and below, meeting the residents at Koorana Crocodile Farm

While a couple of others would be on the train with me, they were continuing further down the coast so while we waited for the train to arrive, I spent some time with my Loka guide – who’d be at Emu Park with me – what the options were for my full day there.

One of the options was to take a boat out to Great Keppel Island for the day to explore and snorkel on the reef but as I’d spent a lot of time on my trip on islands – I’d already visited the Whitsundays, Magnetic Island and Green Island – I decided I didn’t really want to do this, especially as I’d be visiting by myself. Another option was a tour of a nearby cave system but as I’d been to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the USA, I was told I’d probably be disappointed by these! So instead, I decided I’d spend some time in and around Emu Park itself for the day.

The train eventually arrived almost an hour late and we settled in for the long journey. As the train was a long distance sleeper train, each seat was equipped with an entertainment system so I passed the time watching films before falling asleep.

Emu Park Beach

We arrived at Rockhampton station in the early hours and were met by someone from our Emu Park accommodation to take us to Emu Beach Resort. I was pleasantly surprised by the rooms which, for budget accommodation, felt like absolute luxury after the series of hostels so far.

The next morning, we began our day in Emu Park with a visit to Koorana Crocodile Farm.

After an introductory talk about the farm, we were taken on a guided tour in small group to see some of the huge crocodiles that lived there. An interesting way to spend an hour!

Above, and below, memorials, monuments and the Singing Ship at Emu Park

After our croc farm tour, we were dropped back in Emu Park itself where my Loka guide gave me a brief tour before we grabbed lunch at a local cafe then in the afternoon we got dropped at Bluff Point to go on a ‘turtle walk’, following the walking track up on to the cliff top from where there were beautiful views across the bay to Great Keppel Island and we could spot turtles swimming in the surf below.

We had to cut the walk short due to the stifling summer heat and rather than following the track round in a loop, instead retraced our steps back to the car park to meet our left back to the hostel. That left us with a few hours of free time to spend around the pool and relaxing before we headed out again in the evening.

Above, and below, an evening at a ranch

My Emu Park stay included a visit to a local ranch. On the northbound trips, one of the 2 nights in Emu Park is spent camping at the ranch but the train times travelling southbound didn’t allow for that so instead we’d just be spending the evening there.

Upon arriving, I made friends with the extremely cute farm dog and was kitted out with a cowboy hat to wear then shown how to make traditional ‘beer bread’ which we’d be eating with our beef stew dinner later that evening.

A sunset stroll

Then, while the stew was being prepared, we took a walk through some of the local land and I was told some of the indigenous history of the area before we watched the sunset and walked back to the farm. After eating our beef stew dinner sat out around a camp fire under the stars, we were dropped back the hostel where there was the option of going for drinks at the hostel bar.

As it had been a busy day and we had a 5am start the next day, I decided to get an early night instead.

Emu Park had been a fun, if a little random, stop on my southbound trip along Australia’s East coast and one of those places I would probably never have thought about visiting otherwise. From here I’d be travelling to my next stop at Rainbow Beach from where I’d be setting off for a trip to Fraser Island, part of the trip I’d been looking forward to for a while!

Back to the Whitsundays

Returning to Airlie Beach for more time exploring the beautiful Whitsundays

It had only been a week since I wave goodbye to Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays but I’d seen and done so much since, including visits to Townsville and Magnetic Island, Cairns and Tully Gorge National Park, it felt like a lifetime ago.

Yesterday, I had joined a flexi-tour traveling down Australia’s east coast from Cairns to Sydney with Loka Travel and had found myself one of just two passengers on the Tully leg of the trip.

Having survived a night of camping by Tully River, we were now on the train with our Loka guide heading south towards Proserpine, the stop for Airlie Beach. Along the way, we stopped at Townsville station where my Tully travel buddy hopped off to spend a few days on Magnetic Island. Having visited Townsville and Magnetic Island just days earlier, I was opting to continue on to spend 2 nights in Airlie Beach where despite my recent visit, there was more I wanted to see and do.

Racing across the waves with Ocean Rafting

At Townsville, we were joined by more Loka travellers who, having spent a few days on Magnetic Island, were now also heading to Airlie but I was disappointed to find the majority of them were departing on a multi-day sailing trip through the Whitsundays the next morning and no one else was signed up to the Ocean Rafting excursion I’d opted to book from the Loka website for the next day.

Despite the ‘small group’ aspect of the tour really not working out for me so far, I was hopeful that there would at least be other solo travellers on the tour the next day that I could hang out with!

It was a long journey on the train to Proserpine and once there, our guide helped us find the bus service to Airlie then check in at Base hostel. I’d opted to book a private en-suite room, feeling the last thing I’d need after a night camping would be a noisy hostel dorm but I was surprised to find I’d been allocated a large family room with double bed, bunks and small, basic kitchenette all to myself!

It was already late evening so after grabbing food from McDonalds, I had an early night to catch up on my sleep before the early start the next day.

Swimming with the fishes

The next morning, I made my way to Coral Sea Marina to check in for my Ocean Rafting tour. Despite the Camira sail boat taking us to Whitehaven Beach on my last trip to Airlie and the Whitsundays, it hadn’t taken us to Hill Inlet, part of the beach I really wanted to see so today I’d booked a tour which I knew included this stop.

At check in, I soon got talking to the few other solo travellers on the tour and we spent the day hanging out together on the boat and at Whitehaven.

A more professional Go Pro photo of a turtle!

In complete contrast to the sedate, relaxing day spent on Camira a week earlier, the Ocean Rafting tour was a lot more energetic as the boat raced across the waves, bouncing us around and leaving us hanging on tightly as we headed out past the Whitsunday Islands.

Like on the Camira sailing trip, we made a few stops before reaching Whitehaven to snorkel on the reef.

After only seeing one so far on my trip, I was really excited on the first stop to find us swimming alongside lots of huge turtles!

Arriving on Whitsunday Island to about to walk to Hill Inlet Overlook

Finally reaching Whitsunday Island just before lunch, we took a walk to Hill Inlet Lookout and it was definitely worth the wait. The view of the huge expanse of white silica sand and the turquoise ocean glistening in the sun before us was absolutely breath-taking.

From the overlook, we then followed the path down to the beach where a buffet lunch was waiting for us.

After lunch and some free time to enjoy the beach, we climbed back on board our Ocean Rafting boat to speed across the waves back to Airlie Beach.

Arriving back mid-afternoon, I spent a bit more time hanging out with the other solo travellers from the Ocean Rafting trip shopping, sat out by Airlie Lagoon and then grabbing a pizza for dinner.

That evening, I went out to the hostel bar. My Loka guide had messaged to say a north-bound Loka group was passing through Airlie so we all went for drinks and karaoke!

On a kayak tour looking for turtles

After a late night out, I was up early again the next morning for a turtle-spotting kayak tour. I had seen the activity advertised while I was in Airlie Beach a week earlier but it had been fully booked then so I’d booked well in advance to be able to do it this time around.

After checking out and storing my luggage, I was picked up from the hostel by the kayak company and dropped at Shute Harbour where I was paired up with another participant, decked out in safety gear and given a quick lesson in paddling.

Then we climbed into our kayaks to begin our adventure.

We hadn’t gone far before we saw our first turtle bobbing up to the surface and swimming past us.

Kayaking back to Airlie Beach

As we continued to kayak out towards an island we were going to dock at, we passed a few more turtles. Eventually reaching the island, we pulled our kayaks ashore and hiked the short distance to a cabin where we had drinks and biscuits. After, we were given some free time on the beach with snorkel gear provided if we wanted to swim.

Back in our kayaks, we paddled back to Airlie Beach, excited to see yet more turtles swimming near the surface along the way.

Looking back at Airlie Beach from Bicentennial Walkway, and below, views along the walkway

It had been a fun but tiring morning. I still had a few hours before we were departing Airlie Beach that evening so after grabbing lunch from a cafe, I decided to take a walk along the Bicentennial Walkway. The pathway runs along the seafront past some of Airlie’s harbours, beaches and parks and I followed it as far as the Whitsunday Shopping Centre at Cannonvale.

After a quick look around, I returned to Airlie Beach and spent some time relaxing by the lagoon before retrieving my luggage from the hostel and going to meet my Loka guide ready to continue my journey southbound.

I had loved returning to Airlie Beach and getting to do some of the things I’d not had time to fit in on my last visit but now I was looking forward to visiting somewhere new – Emu Park.

Townsville and Magnetic Island

Our 3-night Townsville itinerary

On the Greyhound to Townsville, and below, exploring Townsville

I was a couple of weeks into a 5 week trip to Australia’s East coast and after spending New Year in Sydney, I had since spent 5 nights based in Airlie Beach to explore the Whitsunday Islands. Now we were sat on a Greyhound bus, early on a Sunday morning, making our way up the coast to Townsville. The Queensland town would be our base for the next 3 nights and we planned to spend the afternoon we arrived in the local area, then a day visiting a nearby animal sanctuary and one day visiting Magnetic Island.

We had high hopes for Townsville after reading about it being an up and coming, bustling place to visit so after checking into our hotel, we headed straight back out to see what the town had to offer.

Sculptures along Townsville seafront

We were immediately struck by how quiet it was everywhere. It was Sunday and some of the stores seemed to be closed, others about to close for the afternoon so we walked down to the seafront. Here too, there were very few people about. Passing the marina, we then followed the path alongside the waterfront passing a few sculptures dotted along the front, a large children’s play area and outdoor pool, and a small beach.

We were hoping to find somewhere to eat at but instead had to settle for an ice cream from a truck near the beach.

Walking back towards the centre, we passed the Museum of Tropical Queensland. With very little else open and feeling we’d already see a lot of the town, we decided to go in and spent the next hour looking around. The museum had some natural history exhibits and some exhibits on the history of the region and was an interesting way to spend a bit of time.

After our visit to the museum, we crossed George Roberts Bridge across Ross Creek into South Townsville, still hoping to find somewhere to eat. Finding everywhere closed or deadly quiet, we instead settled for ice cream before walking back to our hotel, spending the evening doing laundry and ordering in Dominos!

For our first full day in Townsville, we had made plans to visit Billabong Sanctuary just outside of the main town. We’d bought a ticket which included a return journey in a minibus, the driver picking us up just across the road from our hotel that morning.

At Billabong Sanctuary

I’d visited animal sanctuaries on my previous visit to Australia and getting to hang out with the kangaroos and wallabies had always been a highlight of any trip so I was excited for the day. We expected to spend the morning there and maybe be back in Townsville mid-afternoon to explore a bit more and see if it was any more alive on a Monday but our visit to the sanctuary took actually took all day and when the last minibus left a bit before the sanctuary closed, we wished we could stay a while longer!

Hugging a wombat

The sanctuary wasn’t any bigger than those I had visited in other parts of Australia but rather than leaving visitors to look around at their own pace, it offered the option of a program of animal meet and greets throughout the day. We attended most of these timetabled events which included feeding huge cassowary birds, cuddling a wombat, holding various reptiles, a talk about the crocodiles as we watched them being fed by the brave keepers and a turtle race.

Feeding a turtle

The reason we didn’t want to leave at the time of the last bus back was because it clashed with a meet and greet session with the dingoes which we would have loved to do! But we really loved that there was so much to do and there were plenty of kangaroos and wallabies to hang out with between the scheduled events!

It was worth visiting Townsville just to go to Billabong Sanctuary!

Back in Townsville, realising that there wasn’t a great deal to do for the evening, we found a local cinema and made plans to go to an evening movie screening. We again struggled to find somewhere to eat, eventually making do with a hotel restaurant just across the road which offered a cheap 2-course menu and making it in to the cinema right before the film started!

Feeding a resident bird

The next day, we were down at Townsville marina early to catch the ferry across to Magnetic Island. Arriving on the island, we made use of the local bus service there, buying a day ticket and hopping on to reach Horseshoe Bay. We’d done some research on what Magnetic Island has to offer but hadn’t made any definite plans on how we would spend our day there.

Seeing the Bungalow Bay Koala Village as we got off the bus and having enjoyed our time with the animals at Billabong Sanctuary the day before, we decided to visit the sanctuary.

Inside, we were given a talk on some of the animals housed there and given the opportunity to interact with them, feeding some of the birds, stroking a koala and holding some of the weird and wonderful reptiles and other Australian creatures (I don’t recommend holding a spiky echidna!!). While we would probably have enjoyed this more having not had similar experiences at Billabong Sanctuary the day before, it was still a fun way to spend an hour.

Above, and below, beautiful Horseshoe Bay

From the koala village, we walked the short distance downhill to the stunning Horseshoe Bay. Here, we hoped to find some water-based activities to do before having some lunch. Seeing pedalos lined up on the shore we enquired about hiring one only to be told they were for children only.

Having kayaked in Airlie Beach just a few days earlier, we didn’t want to hire one of these again and weren’t brave enough to try the jet-skis so instead we decided to just go for a dip in the ocean to cool off. This was cut short when, not having stinger suits to protect us,we saw a jellyfish and couldn’t get out of the water quick enough!

At Alma Bay

Drying ourselves off, we went for lunch at one of the cafes lining the beach before catching the bus along to the pretty cove of Alma Bay then walking along to the nearby Geoffrey Bay, a long sweeping bay part of the Marine National Park Zone.

With time rapidly passing us by, we caught the bus further around the island to Picnic Bay. Here, we grabbed drinks and ice cream from a bar overlooking the beach before catching the bus back to the ferry terminal and returning to Townsville.

Ending our day on Magnetic Island at Picnic Bay

We’d enjoyed our day on Magnetic Island but as pretty as all the beaches were, they had all started to blend into one and we did wish we’d spent more time planning our day, maybe doing some of the many walks the island has to offer or hiring snorkeling gear.

Back in Townsville, rather than another inevitably unsuccessful search for somewhere to eat, we made do with the McDonalds near our hotel.

Then it was time to pack and have an early night ready for a dawn start to catch the Greyhound to our next destination, Cairns.