July - August 2018
  • Day30

    Parks Alive!

    August 5, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Our last day in Brisbane promised to be a long one, with our train to the airport not until 6.30pm. So we began the day by heading to the Southbank for breakfast and the Sunday market. The market had a lovely array of crafts and we stopped for a hearty breakfast of juice and toasties at the Dot Cafe before we started spending. The Page Turner stall had caught our attention with lovely prints of quotes or botanical pictures on pages of old Encyclopedia Britannica. After much deliberation, we ended up buying far too many!

    We came across the Nepalese pagoda on the walk back up the Southbank which warranted a brief stop, before heading into the CBD for some souvenir and present shopping, including some fabulous smelling tea blends from T2.

    Walking back towards the hotel, we went to the Roma Park for the Parks Alive - a two-day event of talks, music and food. After wandering around and enjoying some iced tea, we stopped to listen to the latter half of a packed talk from someone who looked like the Australian Brian Blessed....it turned out to be the famous TV presenter of Gardening Australia and a rather interesting talk. A local cafe entrepreneur followed talking about fermentation and an educationalist talking about the importance of outdoor play, all well worth listening to.

    Back in the CBD, we treated ourselves to the 'banquet' at the Fat Noodle in the beautiful old Treasury Building for our last proper meal, before drinks at the Riverside bar in the east of the CBD. This allowed us to grab the free City Hopper ferry back to North Quay as our final farewell to the city before grabbing our bags from the hotel and making our way to the airport...

    ...goodbye Australia!
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  • Day29

    Brisbane in the sunshine

    August 4, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    On a hot morning, of what was to become a hugely hot day, we ferried to Teneriffe to meet D for breakfast. A beautiful riverside walk along the old wool factories to the Powerhouse where a farmers' market offered a choice of food - we opted for juice and bratwurst on the lawn!

    Once it became too hot outside, we headed into the Powerhouse; the exhibit we had been going to see had ended so we had beers on the riverbank instead. The plan was to get a ferry back, however the stop here was being renovated and therefore was closed, so instead we walked back (in the shade where possible!). D joined us for some of the walk before we bid her farewell and walked into Fortitude Valley.

    Here, an unusual water feature caught my eye. On the first and second floor of a warehouse-looking building a huge window had water running down it. We popped into the bar to which this belonged. Inside the bar - called Cloudland - the room was filled with greenery, cool bar fittings and noise from the water running down the window. We grabbed a beer and sat first on the balcony by the water, not realised the roof above us, well, wasn't a roof! We looked up to open sky, clearly a benefit of the hot Brisbane winter. Our second beer we had downstairs in the swinging seats enjoying the unusual but brilliant bar. The toilets were equally wacky, and quite trippy, with the ladies full of so many mirrors that finding the stall was a trial and error...It felt somewhat like being Alice in Wonderland!

    A walk from here back to the CBD where we did a little shopping and happy hour drinking before grabbing a sushi dinner and heading back to the hotel for our last night in Brisbane.
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  • Day28

    A day in Brisbane

    August 3, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    Our first day in Brisbane was rather frenetic and the day got away from us! After breakfast at the Beach House, we visited the Museum of Brisbane on the 'roof" of City Hall and saw exhibits about Brisbane as a penal colony and the 'DNA' of Brisbane. It was quite a small museum and we would have liked more information about the role as a penal colony but what they did have was interesting.

    We had a quick coffee in the Square in the shadow of the City Hall tower (inspired, apparently, by St. Mark's tower in Venice) before venturing back into City Hall for a tour of the whole building. Newly renovated after being finished in the 1930s it has some beautiful marble work and mosaic floors. The inside courtyards put me in mind of the Pentagon in Washington DC. In the basement, a preserved graffiti wall showed the signatures of WW2 soldiers who had come through on rest leave.

    After that tour, we visited the clock tower itself. Not only were the views spectacular, the bells in the tower were from the Taylor's Hall Foundry in Loughborough. Equally, the lift was the original out in the building (albeit with updated mechanics surrounding it).

    Having spent most of the morning out of the hot Brisbane (winter!) sunshine, we took a stroll through the botantic gardens and for a brief stop at the Old Government House. We would have stopped here longer but were aiming for the 2pm tour of Queensland Parliament so ran short of time.

    At the Queensland Parliament, we went through the most extensive security checks since we'd been here, including at Canberra. Our elite your group of five was shown into the now defunct upper chamber (now effectively a glorified conference/function room), the working chamber and to the reasonably unimpressive entry staircase, notable only for being the only place we could take photos!

    Feeling a bit toured out, we went up 30 floors and had drinks and wings at Sazerac Bar, taking in both views of the city and happy hour.

    We planned to meet an old friend from travelling in the evening, so we walked from the CBD through Fortitude Valley and to Teneriffe (after some Sushi en route). At the Newstead Brewery we met up with D and tried some of the beers brewed on site before popping around the corner to the Green Beacon for more of the same and to try a Moreton Bay Bug burger (a bit like a lobster) and meet D's friend Leila.

    A spiffing night of local craft beer and good was topped up by food and wine in local Italian Beccafino before an atmospheric ferry journey home on the city cat.
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  • Day27

    Brisbane

    August 2, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 13 °C

    We opted not to have breakfast at the room and instead the Byron Corner Store in town gave us a great breakfast of egg and bacon roll with freshly squeezed juice. We had to spend some time packing afterwards as we were giving the car back today and getting the train to Brisbane so we needed to be a bit more mobile.

    The coastal roads took us almost as far as Tweeds Head (shopping briefly at Pottsville to claim our $15 Lotto win!) where we crossed into Queensland and picked up the Gold Coast Highway. Most of the drive today was on the Gold Coast which is not at all to our taste, but especially compared to where we've been. For almost the entire coast from Tweeds Head to Surfers Paradise is built up and busy, full of highrises and traffic. The draw is the warmer weather on the coast but to be honest, it's rarely been cold where we've been and the beaches have been empty.

    With the car handed back (with over 5000km racked up), we hopped on the G-Link and Air Train to Brisbane Central. An easy but surprisingly slow journey, and thankfully our hotel was just 300m from the station.

    We snacked on sushi before wandering through the shops in the city centre. At 16 Antlers rooftop bar we had a swift beer with views over City Hall and the city, before crossing to the Southbank to go to the Night Noodle Market. With none of the food especially grabbing Ben's fancy, we went instead to the Charming Squire, a huge warehouse brewery of James Squire beers. It was fortuitously happy hour so two pints (pints rather than schoolers!) were $16. Around the corner at a beer cafe, we had a 'Dawg and Drink' for dinner before wandering home (via some more sushi!)
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  • Day26

    Byron Bay

    August 1, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We briefly stopped at Lismore and Lennox Head on the way in, but shops are pretty much shops anywhere and the same for the beaches. Listening to the radio as we drove, there was an extended piece about the continuing drought in Australia, especially in NSW. It is not necessarily apparent to the traveller unless you are driving through kilometres of country roads, where the plight of farmers is far more obvious.

    We ploughed on to Byron Bay, a town more unlike most of the places we had been so far. It was a buzzing, touristy place that was busy despite the season. It clearly attracts the surfer/hippie/gappie crowd but there was pleasant range of shops, cafes and bars and we were staying at a lovely retreat just out of the centre.

    After checking in, we spent some time wandering the centre before settling on the Fish Monger for dinner - oysters, prawns, calamari and fish, all delivered on a huge bowl of chips. It was fantastic. Couldn't even finish it!

    We went for a brief walk along the sea front which was pretty but far busier than anything we'd been on in all of our time here (although, I suspect, very quiet compared to the summer). The same was true of the lighthouse which has lots of people at it to what the sunset. So instead we popped to Tallow Beach below and east of the lighthouse which was almost deserted.

    Our room was a 4km drive from the centre and on the route was the Byron Bay Brewery, and by the time we got there it was happy hour! We tried some of the beers brewed on site before heading back for the night.
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  • Day26

    Coff's Harbour

    August 1, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Coff's Harbour has to rate as one of the most sedate and un-noteworthy stops; certainly, it was pleasing that we were staying in a holiday park on a beach north of the centre, rather than in the centre itself.

    We had a brief walk through both shopping districts of Coff's, with the harbourside looking particularly sad in winter - it had the feel of any off-season UK seaside town, sleepy, rusty and a little careworn. So we headed to our accommodation on Sapphire Beach in a little chalet for the night. As with the other beaches, it was of course lovely. So we splodged about and went into the sea for a little bit which was considerably warming than the bloody sand! We popped out to buy dinner (sushi, lime pickle, naan bread and chocolate mudcake!) and breakfast (bacon rolls) before settling in for the Grand Final of Ninja Warrior!

    We set the alarm early for the morning to enjoy a beach sunrise, and thankfully the weather was with us allowing brilliant views of the sun breaking over the horizon and the sea. Now, we're en route to Byron Bay and have, for the first time, crossed an earlier stop on our trip as we pass through Grafton (near our Ulmarra stop).
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  • Day25

    Scott's Head

    July 31, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Ed kindly furnished us with freshly baked croissants for breakfast, after which we disappeared out to Tacking Point Lighthouse to whale watch as they migrated north. Apparently they come in so close to shore here to avoid the East Australian Current and we saw at least two pods passing by (as well as Ben making friends with a local who just wanted to tell him dirty jokes!)

    We decided to travel up the coastline instead of the highway today, which meant getting the ferry across from Settlement Point. We stopped briefly at the beach here, although advice to 'leave snakes alone' meant the stop was rather short (and the advice rather unnecessary!). Continuing on we reached a warning that the road was no longer serviced and the council would not accept liability for accidents. So we doubled back and took a more westerly but parallel road...which also descended into gravel madness! With no other route though, it was either gravel road or the ferry back...and as we had a hire car, we opted for the latter. Bloody Australian gravel roads.

    Further up the Pacific Highway, we stopped at Scotts Head for a coffee and wander in the sea (on a beach that actually had people on it!) before heading on to Coff's Harbour.
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  • Day24

    Diamond Head Beach

    July 30, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    After breakfast in the tent, we retraced some of route from yesterday and left for Port Macquarie through Forster. A brief detour on the drive through Tall Woods village (one of the many housing estates which seem to have great views but few, if any, amenties), we detoured again into a national park and onto Diamond Head Beach. Much like the other beaches we've visited, we had seemingly miles of coast and golden sand entirely to ourselves, so we once again took the opportunity for a swim. The undertow was stronger here but aided by the fact the sea was very shallow for ages. At waist depth, the swell would rise to head height meaning there was little opportunity to get used to the water temperature gradually!

    In the way into 'Port' we passed some camels and lots of beach before pulling up to what looked like a suburban house. In fact we were staying in the equivalent of a granny-annex, beautifully decorated and just a five minute walk from the beach. Ed, the owner, was hugely welcoming and could talk for England! We promptly availed ourselves of the nearby beach with a little bit more rockpooling.

    Driving into the main town, it appears Monday is the town closure day for Port Macquarie with only a few shops and restaurants open. We had a bimble through what was open before driving to Settlement Point for the sunset. Failing to find a pub serving any beers we hadn't tried, a drove to the Tacking Point Tavern out of town for a quick drink and a Domino's order before returning to the Beach Serai to watch a bit more Australian Ninja Warrior.
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  • Day23

    Forster-Tuncurry

    July 29, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Overnight, the bell tent admirably withstood a barrage of rain, only the second time we've seen rain since we got here. We headed out north for the day, up the coast towards Forster-Tuncurry. The single road ran with the sea immediately to our right and the lakes to our last, and through both Myall Lakes and Booti Booti National Parks...beautiful. We stopped at a couple of pull-ins on the way to take in the view (and chat to a random Australian chap who appeared to be doing the same). A brief stop at Smith's Lake down to the lake's edge and a wander out on the beach spot where the locals houses we perched high on stilts amongst the hillside down to the sea.

    We briefly wandered the shops at Forster but being a Sunday and out of season it was rather subdued. So we popped over the bridge to Tuncurry and the rock pool - a netted off ocean swimming bath. We splodged about in here as the dolphins played in the waves caused by the break wall inlets just the other side of the net. At the cafe, we had a fish and chip lunch and with the cooler temperature and slightly overcast sky we could have been at a British seaside resort (albeit a marginally warmer sea!). We strolled to the end of the northern breakwater after lunch where more dolphins were playing just metres off shore.

    On the way back, we stopped first at Elizabeth Beach for a little bit of rockpooling, looking at the bright red starfish on the rocks and a bit more splodging in the sea. Passing through Booti Booti on the way back, we took the 431 steps up to Cape Hawke lookout. It have a huge vantage over Elizabeth Beach and the whole coastline but was a rather knackering incline.

    On the strip of land dividing sea from lake, we stopped on Seven Mile Beach, most of which we impressively had to ourselves with beach stretching off in both directions. I took the opportunity to go swimming and dragged Ben in too 😊 probably cold by Aussie standards, it certainly wasn't freezing and once you'd been in for a while was actually very pleasant. The beach was littered with vibrant purple shells and a few rocks, but nothing else.

    The final stop of the day was Seal Rocks and Sugar Loaf Lighthouse. Recommended by just about everyone and every book, no one mentioned the 600 metre walk to the lighthouse finished in a ridiculously steep incline. The view afforded was indeed spectacular but to be honest the coastline is so vast and (being winter?) so free of people that the other views we had had today were easy rivals. The 'Dingo Advice' did make the walk somewhat more anxiety-ridden however!

    Back at base, we set a camp fire and enjoyed smores under the occasionally cloudy sky and huge full moon.
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  • Day22

    To Billabong!

    July 28, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We headed to the port/marina for breakfast at the Wickham Boatshed. Expecting it to be as quiet as everywhere else in Newcastle, it was absolutely rammed! The Wickham Poke Bowl (?!) took Ben's fancy, with a huge slice of salmon on spinach, sweetcorn, potato, poached egg and 'avo'.

    Into Newcastle proper, we briefly perused the shops on Darby Street before hitting the Newcastle Museum which explored huge swathes of the area's heritage but sadly little about it's links to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. And, randomly, a camel outside. We drove out of Newcastle through the vast coal distribution machinery, being the largest coal exporting port in the world.

    We drove up the Pacific Highway to Bulahdelah, where we ventured into the Myall Lakes National Park to Bombah Point. The four main lakes that make up the park are huge and vary from apparently about 98% fresh, to brackish, to joining the sea. At Bombay Point, the lake was like glass, only disturbed latterly by the ferryman zipping across and the occasion pelican...which are *huge*. The road to get to the point wasn't always sealed (something which occurs with annoying/alarming frequency, even on signposted "Tourist Drives") so we returned slowly, going through Bulahdelah to Boomlahbayte and our accommodation.

    The B&B was more like a homestay, and so we were very grateful that the people booked into the ball tent had cancelled, meaning we could have it! It included an electric blanket so no worries about the cold nights. We had 'dinner' (toasties) in Bulahdelah after a beer in the *very* local (and only) pub before retiring for our first night in the tent.
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