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Merry Christmas – enjoy the holidays!

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Hi all,

 

We’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year… and what a year it’s been!

 

We started 2015 in Cairns, where we stayed until May, working and biding our time until we had to fly home for two weddings.

 

Australia Day 2015 Cairns

 

Once we were on the road again, our task was fairly simple – explore the east coast of Australia.  After a magical visit at Paronella Park, we passed through Townsville and Mackay before heading inland to the beautiful Lake Elphinstone.

 

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We cruised through the Central Highlands before returning to the coast. We ate beef in Rockhampton, drank rum in Bundaberg, then caught a ferry to Fraser Island. We gave the Troopy a 4WD workout at Landcruiser Mountain Park and watched the rain clouds come in on the Sunshine Coast.

 

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We spent about three weeks in Brisbane because Dave needed some medical attention, but it was great to spend time with friends in that beautiful city.  As we approached the Gold Coast, the dark clouds returned and by the time we got to the Best Of All Lookouts, we couldn’t see a thing!

 

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We crossed the border into New South Wales and bee-lined straight to Byron Bay for a few days in the easternmost town of Australia. We were lucky to get a few days of sun but the drizzle returned as we made our way to Coffs Harbour.  Finally, with some sun, we got to enjoy the beautiful coastline from Port Macquarie to Newcastle.

 

 

We enjoyed a tipple in the Hunter Valley before spending a week on the Central Coast, helping out a family with their household duties while Juz scored some work with a school holiday program in Gosford.

 

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Arriving in Sydney was a little surreal. It’s the biggest city in Australia and we spent a lot of time walking around the city getting exhausted. We also have a few friends in Sydney so it was great to catch up and spend time with them.

 

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We headed inland to the Blue Mountains and Central West just in time for a freakish cold front to sweep through the area. We had the pleasure of experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, as well as seeing the Dish in Parkes and exotic animals at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

 

 

With a few more friendly visits in Kiama and Milton, and a stop at the Big Merino in Goulburn, we finally visited our country’s capital. We called in at the War Memorial and National Mint and even saw our old travel buddies Tom and Bella.

 

 

Once we returned to the coast, the wet weather reappeared and we reached the Victorian border within a day or two. From then on, there was no point stuffing around – we were 4 hours from home.  On Sunday the 2nd of August, we rolled in unannounced and enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.

 

Since our return to Melbourne, we’ve been busy.  We got jobs, reconnected with friends, and started making plans for the future.

 

We’re going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the silly season and spend time with our family and friends. We’ll see you all in the new year with more posts about the last leg of our lap around Australia, as well as our run down of Tassie later in the year.

 

Thanks for all your support,

 

Dave & Juz

 

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Cape York

Top 5 Things About Queensland

Birdsville

 

We crossed the border into Queensland at the beginning of September 2014, and didn’t leave the sunshine state until June 2015.  In the ten months that we spent in Queensland, we drove through the outback, went to the northern tip of Australia, spent time in the rainforests, got jobs in Cairns, watched the sugar cane whirl by, and soaked up the sun along the sandy beaches.

 

Here are our favourite things about Queensland:

 

Prehistoric Past

Queensland’s prehistoric past includes dinosaurs, volcanoes and megafauna.  During our time in the outback, we hopped on the dinosaur trail and visited the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton.  It was absolutely fascinating to learn about the dinosaurs that used to live on Australian soil – Banjo the carnivorous theropod and Matilda the sauropod.

 

Australian Age of Dinosaurs

 

Further north in Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill) are the World Heritage fossils of Riversleigh, which date back 25 million years.  We got to see even more dinosaurs at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane.  They have a regular dinosaur exhibition that includes information about the dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry.

 

Lawn Hill

 

As we headed towards the coast, we stopped at Undara Volcanic National Park and saw the incredible lava tubes that formed nearly 200,000 years ago.  We saw more evidence of volcanic activity as we travelled east.  Mount Hypipamee Crater and the Crater Lakes on the Atherton Tablelands were all created by volcanic activity, while the Glasshouse Mountains in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland are volcanic plugs of hard rock that have been exposed as the surrounding soft rock has eroded over time.

 

The Tablelands

 

 

Rainforests

The rainforests of northern Queensland are a well known paradise, the most famous being the Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest and largest continuous rainforest in the world.  Exploring the area is easy when you base yourself at Port Douglas, and while you’re in the area, Cape Tribulation is worth a visit.

 

Cape Tribulation

 

Not far away are the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands.  Right in the heart of the lush forest is Kuranda, which is a beautiful little village with plenty to offer, including a range of fantastic wildlife experiences.  Paronella Park is another magical gem hidden away in the green foliage.

 

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To the south are the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, an amazing example of subtropical rainforest that has remained unchanged over many millennia.  Part of this world heritage area is Springbrook National Park, where the Antarctic beech trees reside and the Best of All Lookouts offer views of the valley below (but not for us).

 

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Beaches & Coastline

Known as the sunshine state, Queensland is notorious for its beaches.  Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast is a huge beach with a big surf culture.

 

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Up north on the Cape, after visiting the northernmost point of Australia, we camped at Chilli Beach. The isolation of the area and the row of leaning coconut trees along the beach make it seem like you’re on a deserted island.

 

Cape York

 

Just off the coastline of Queensland is the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.  Juz had an opportunity to go out and snorkel on the reef, swim with turtles and get severely sunburnt, but if you’re not a fan of sunburn or getting wet, you can easily see the beautiful fish and corals at Reef HQ in Townsville.

 

Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling

 

4WDing

There are heaps of opportunities to challenge yourself and your 4WD in Queensland.  Our first major obstacle was the Old Telegraph Track on the Cape.  This was so much fun and there were heaps of water crossings, dips and surprises that required keen navigational prowess.

 

Cape York

 

Fraser Island was another 4WDing favourite with plenty of sandy tracks to sink your tyres into and a whole highway of beach to cruise on, while Blackdown Tablelands gave us an unexpected opportunity to cross some rough terrain.

 

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If you want to do nothing else but get loco on the tracks, head to Landcruiser Mountain Park.  This place is dedicated to challenging tracks of varying difficulty, from relatively easy to “ah fuck – I just broke my car”.  Plus, because the map they give you at reception is so shit, you’re bound to get lost and end up on a track that will push your limits.

 

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Freshwater Fun

Queensland isn’t all about beaches.  There are some beautiful lakes, creeks and waterfalls as well.  In the tropics, waterholes are the perfect spot to cool off and wash the film of sweat from your skin.  Josephine Falls and The Boulders are popular with locals and tourists alike, while Crystal Creek and Jarouma Falls make quite the pretty picture.

 

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Up in the Atherton Tablelands, the Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit takes you around to three waterfalls set in the rainforest, while Lake Eacham is a beautiful turquoise lake that is great for swimming and kayaking.  Another beautiful plateau is the Blackdown Tableland further south near Mackay.  There are lots of creeks surrounding the camping area but the real beauty is Guddo Gumoo, which is also known as Rainbow Waters.

 

 

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In country Queensland, there are three locations that are simply sublime.  Our favourite was Lake Elphinstone, and we were very fortunate to be there on the night of a full moon.  For those who are travelling along the Savannah Way, Lawn Hill Gorge is a beautiful place to get your togs wet, and while we don’t recommend getting into the water at Cobbold Gorge (CROCS!), we do recommend a peaceful boat cruise through the gorge.

 

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Only 7km north of the border between Queensland and New South Wales is Natural Bridge, set amongst the Gondwana Rainforest.  Natural Bridge is a product of time, as water has washed over the rock, eroding it and creating a hole.

 

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Explore : The Gold Coast

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The Gold Coast is about 40 kilometres south of Brisbane and it is the most populated non-capital metropolitan area in Australia.  It covers from Ormeau in the north to Tweed Heads in the south, and stretches west to the Great Dividing Range, including Lamington National Park.

 

Despite starting out as a penal colony at Redcliffe, the Gold Coast soon developed a reputation as a great holiday destination for upper class Brisbanites.  However, back then it was known as the South Coast, but due to inflated prices for real estate during the 1950s, it earned its golden name.  These days, the Gold Coast continues to be a great place for a holiday, with its gorgeous beaches, high rise apartment blocks, theme parks, and a rainforest hinterland.

 

In fact, tourism is the biggest industry of the area, with around 10 million visitors every year contributing $4.4 billion to the economy annually.  The Gold Coast is also the third largest film production centre in Australia, behind Sydney and Melbourne.  Films such as House of Wax (2005), the Scooby Doo films, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the Big Brother reality TV series were shot on the Gold Coast.  Also, the surf beaches are so popular that the Gold Coast has the largest professional surf lifesaving service in Australia.

 

Along the Coast

Our first day on the Gold Coast was cold, wet and windswept.  We went out for a rapid walk along the edge of the Gold Coast Seaway that lead into the Broadwater and watched the waves crash around the rocks.

 

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We stayed at the Surfers Paradise YHA and in the morning, the weather was much calmer so Juz got up early and went out onto Main Beach for a walk to watch the sunrise.

 

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Surfers Paradise

The commercial centre of the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise is a cluster of high rise buildings, shops and eateries, and an incredible beach.

 

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Burleigh Heads & Miami

This was a nice area that wasn’t as busy or touristy as up north.  We’d heard rumours that it was becoming “the new Byron Bay” but after visiting Byron Bay, we’re not sure we see it.  There was a great lookout on the headland just before Burleigh Heads that gave great views of the beaches on either side.

 

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Currumbin

We watched surfers elegantly ride the waves before checking out the Elephant Rock Lookout.

 

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Coolangatta

This is the southernmost town of the Gold Coast and is the twin city of Tweed Heads, the town on the NSW side of the border.  We went to Point Danger and the Captain Cook Memorial before heading towards the Hinterland.

 

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Hinterland

Known as the green behind the gold, the Gold Coast Hinterland features lush rainforest, walks and lookouts, wineries and various fresh produce like avocados, kiwifruits and macadamia nuts.  We loved our time in Queensland’s own Emerald City and it was through this area that we crossed the border into New South Wales for good.

 

Mount Tamborine

There is heaps to see and do in Mount Tamborine.  As you head south from Brisbane, your first stop will be The Bearded Dragon for a free reptile show, a taste of some very hoppy beers and looky-loo around the pub.

 

 

Once you get to the Gallery Walk, your tastebuds can really go wild.  The Fortitude Brewery offers tasting paddles and food while the nearby Witches Chase Cheese Company has the most delectable triple cream brie, ‘Tamembert’ and Misty Mountain blue cheese you will ever taste!

 

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There are also a few wineries, including the Mount Tambourine Winery with a fabulous chardonnay and rum port.  Don’t forget to visit the Tamborine Mountain Distillery.  It’s been around since 1998 and they have a massive range of spirits and liqueurs.  Their post popular flavour is the Wattle Toffee Liqueur, but if drinking isn’t your thing, the cellar door is full of colourful Russian knick-knacks and there’s some very pretty statues and fountains outside.

 

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Amongst all the cafes and fudge shops, there are also souvenir shops, art galleries and the Cuckoo Clock Nest, a store with walls covered in cuckoo clocks and tall grandfather clocks.  It’s definitely worth a visit.

 

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Natural wonders include Cedar Creek Falls and the enchanting Curtis Falls, but if you really want to get close to nature, check out Thunderbird Park.  This place combines adventure with nature by offering horse riding, a tree top challenge, mini golf, thunderegg fossicking and laser skirmish.  They also do awesome pizzas.

 

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Springbrook National Park

Located in the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, Springbrook National Park is full of waterfalls, lookouts and trees with both ecological and historical significance.  While the weather wasn’t great for us, the winding drive through the lush green forest was lovely.  Purlingbrook Falls had a great lookout that showcased the waterfall beautifully, while the Best of All Lookout gave us a great view from inside a cloud!  Sure, we didn’t get to see the actual view, but we really enjoyed the walk to the lookout and marvelled at the ancient Antarctic Beech Trees.

 

 

Natural Bridge

Part of Springbrook National Park, Natural Bridge is a beautiful rock feature that was formed over millions of years by water eroding rock.  It is certainly worth the trip, especially if you visit late in the day to spy the glow worm colony illuminated after sunset.

 

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Information & Accommodation

Trams run along the Gold Coast and are a great way to get around.  For more information, visit the Translink website.

 

For the budget conscious, Surfers Paradise YHA is a great place to base yourself as you explore the Gold Coast. For more information, visit their website.   There is also a Coolangatta YHA if you need to be closer to the Gold Coast Airport.

 

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For accommodation in the Hinterland, check out the Cedar Creek Lodges.  They are on the higher end of the scale, but if you’re visiting for a long weekend or a romantic getaway, it’s totally worth it. For more information, check out the website.

 

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