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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 Sunshine Coast

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Located about 100km north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast is the third most populated area in Queensland and stretches from Trewantin in the north to Pelican Waters in the south.  It includes the towns and beaches along the coast, as well as villages and lakes in the Hinterland.

 

The region’s first white inhabitants in the 1820s were runaway convicts from the Moreton Bay penal colony.  In 1842, a British Governor declared the area a protected reserve to conserve the bunya trees, an important part of the local Aboriginal culture.  Unfortunately, during this time, the Bunya Bunya Reserve became the battleground for the Black War, a time of conflict between British settlers and Aboriginal people, but because cattle farmers and timber cutters exploiting the area, the reserve was later dissolved.

 

The towns along the coast started off as little ports for the timber industry, and grew somewhat when sugar cane and pineapples were introduced to the area, but the big boom came after the 1960s.  The Sunshine Coast had earned the reputation of a holiday destination, and various theme parks and tourist attractions were created, like the Big Pineapple at Nambour.

 

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Our visit to the Sunshine Coast was brief but enjoyable.  We started in the Hinterland, which was our favourite part – the little villages up there have so much character.  It started raining shortly after we arrived at Noosa, so once we did a quick lap to see the Big Pelican, we cruised down along the coast towards Caloundra.

 

Feeling a little big soggy, we made for Caboolture and stayed with some friends that we made in Darwin.  It was a great opportunity to catch up and swap a few stories as we dried off and prepared for our time in Brisbane.

 

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Noosa to Caloundra

We were a little disappointed that we didn’t get to explore Noosa a little more.  It was really busy and congested because of the Food and Wine Festival and not long after we arrived, it started to rain.  We managed a few laps of Hastings Street, a popular shopping strip with big name brands up at Noosa Heads, before heading over to the Big Pelican at Noosaville.  Everything in Noosa has the word Noosa in it – Noosa Spit, Noosa Springs, Noosa North Shore, Noosa, Noosa, Noosa!  The rain and the conceitedness chased us out of town.

 

Apart from the Big Pelican, there are two other big things on the Sunshine Coast.  The Big Pineapple is south of Nambour and Juz remembers from when she was a little girl that this was a very popular attraction.  North of Nambour is the Big Cow, which stands on a hill near a closed training facility.  While you’re in the area, take some time to stop at Wabba Dam in Yandina, or the Tina Cooper Gallery in Eumundi – the glass artwork is amazing.

 

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We followed the coast to the central business district of the Sunshine Coast.  We swapped some books at a book exchange in Maroochydore and walked out onto the beach, but the grey clouds overhead made everything seem drab.

 

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Further south in Mooloolaba, we spotted a statue of Steve Irwin with his two kids, and it was here that we returned a few days later to finally get a picture of the Sunshine Coast with the sun out.  In fact, the sun was so welcome that all the bearded dragons were out to enjoy it.

 

Not far from Maroochydore is Buderim Forest Park and Serenity Falls.  If you love rainforests and waterfalls, then you must make the time to stop here.  You will also be treated to displays from beautiful birds, such as Emerald Doves and Rufous Fantails, a relative of the common willy wagtail.

 

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With the sun soon on the horizon, we didn’t have much time to explore Caloundra.  We visited Dicky Beach, named after the shipwreck of the SS Dicky, an iron steamboat that ran aground in 1893.  It’s the only beach in the world to be named after a shipwreck.  We also ducked into Kings Beach and saw the beachfront salt water pool, but with the fading light, we had to go and find camp.

 

For the entire drive down the coast, all we could smell was hot chips from all the fish and chip shops.  By the time we got to Caloundra, we were craving chips and stopped in at a takeaway food shop near Dicky Beach to get a serving of beer batter chips with chicken salt.

 

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Another great place to stop for a treat is Dutchy’s Bakehouse in Sippy Downs. Their pies are awesome – perhaps one of the best pies we’ve had in Australia.  They also do specialty Dutch sweets, like traditional fruit loaves and oliebol – delicious apple and sultana doughnuts.

 

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The Hinterland

We woke up at the Little Yabba Rest Area about 6km from Kenilworth after a massive hair-raising day of offroading at the Landcruiser Mountain Park.  Nearby was the Fig Tree Walk that lead us on a 1km mossy path through the forest of enormous fig trees.

 

From there, we got on the George Wyer Scenic Drive, a lovely route through the Hinterland with rolling green hills and fat cows.  The first town we passed through was Mapleton, a cute little community on the northern end of the Blackall Range.  It was a timber cutters’ town until the late 1950s, before becoming a tourist destination because of the awesome views from the elevation.

 

Our favourite location along the George Wyer Scenic Drive was Montville, an adorable little village that dates back to 1887.  With buildings that reflect a variety of architectural styles from Irish and English to Bavarian and Swiss, it had a lot of charm and we recommend you take the time to wander around.  There are plenty of eclectic stores and cafes, but what really took our breath away was the Montville Sandstone Chapel that overlooks the valley.

 

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On the southern end of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland are the Glass House Mountains, a cluster of eleven hills that rise up from the plain.  They’re all volcanic lava plugs that formed around 27 million years ago and over time, the weaker rock around them has worn away to reveal the hard rock peaks.

 

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The Big Pelican, Noosaville QLD

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Located at Noosaville Lions Park along the Noosa River, the Big Pelican was built around 1977 as a float for the Festival of Waters Parade.  As the emblem of Noosa Council at the time, it’s called Percy the Pelican, possibly after Mr Percival from Storm Boy.  The pelican can rotate its head, blink its eyes, open and close its bill, flap its winds and even wiggle its tail, all controlled by a collection of levers, pulleys and ropes from within.

 

Originally, the Big Pelican was a metal frame with chicken wire and papier mache, but because this wasn’t waterproof, it was later rebuilt with fibreglass.  During the 1980s, it fell into disrepair and was relocated several times – at one point it even capsized in the Noosa River.  It was eventually dumped on a block of land before being discovered by the owners of the Pelican Boat Hire company.  The Big Pelican was restored and set up as a permanent fixture near Pelican Boat Hire along the foreshore of the Noosa River.  That said, it is mounted on a trailer and is sometimes used for street parades.  The restoration cost over $10,000 and took 6 months to complete.

 

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Big Things : The Big Cow, Yandina QLD

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The Big Cow is located just north of Nambour and was built by Hugh Anderson in 1976 – he’s the guy who is responsible the Big Bulls of Rockhampton.  The Big Cow is made of cement, stands 15 metres high, is 7.6 metres long and weighs around 10 tonnes.  It was originally built to attract tourists to a working dairy farm.

 

It currently stands out the front of an old training centre for the marine, mining and disability industries.  The property went up for auction recently so we’re excited to see what will happen to the Big Cow next.

 

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Big Things : The Big Pineapple, Nambour QLD

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The Big Pineapple is a heritage listed tourist attraction located just south of Nambour on the Sunshine Coast.  It stands 16 metres high and has an informative display inside, with a spiral staircase that takes you to a look out at the top.

 

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The Big Pineapple opened in 1971 shortly after Mr and Mrs Taylor bought the pineapple farm.  It was only 23 hectares back then and within a year, it received its first award as a tourist attraction.  Over the next few decades, the iconic location would be devastated by fire, reopened, refurbished, redeveloped, and even grow, as surrounding land  was purchased and merged to bring the total property size to 165 hectares.

 

The Big Pineapple is open to visitors everyday and you can even jump on a train tour that goes around the plantation and through a small zoo that is also on the property.  It’s also the venue of the Big Pineapple Markets every Saturday, and the annual Big Pineapple Music Festival, which debuted in 2013.

 

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It was a great experience seeing the Big Pineapple – especially for Juz, as not long after we arrived, she got a sense that she’d been there before.  She found a picture of herself that her dad had taken over 20 years earlier, so we did our best to recreate it.

 

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