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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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City Profile : Townsville

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The largest tropical city in North Queensland, Townsville has a population of 200,000 people and an average of 300 sunny days per year.  While it’s a great tourism hotspot because of its access to Magnetic Island and the Great Barrier Reef, it doesn’t solely rely on tourism.  The economy is supported by a variety of industries, including government administration and defence, agriculture and mining, and because of this, the city has a completely different vibe compared to tourism-driven Cairns.  It feels like a city with deep roots and happy inhabitants that are friendly and welcoming.

 

Just off the coast is Magnetic Island, a popular holiday destination that was named by Captain Cook in 1770 after his compass went haywire when passing the island.  There are heaps of beaches, walking tracks and lagoons on the island, and it only takes 25 minutes by ferry to get there from Townsville.

 

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History

The Bindal and Wulgurukaba People were the first people to have lived in the Townsville region.  While there were a few visitors to the area, including a brief pass by of Captain Cook’s fleet in 1770, settlement started in 1866 when a bloke called Robert Towns agreed to provide financial assistance.  Incidentally, Townsville was named after him and two years later, the settlement grew quickly as the port and service centre for the goldfields in the west.  With the addition of pastoral and sugar industries, Townsville’s population bloomed from 4,000 people in 1882 to 13,000 by 1891.

 

During World War 2, Townsville was a major military base and hosted around 90,000 American and Australian troops.  It was bombed three times by the Japanese and was a major offensive launching base for the battle of the Coral Sea.  And, as do all places in the tropics, Townsville has fallen victim to a few cyclones.

 

Attractions

Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium

Learn about the Great Barrier Reef and the creatures that reside there at the world’s largest coral reef aquarium.  For more information, check out our article here…

 

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The Strand

This beautiful 2.2km stretch of beachfront parkland is dotted with playgrounds and picnic areas, and features a water park, a few restaurants and the Strand Rock Pool, and manmade saltwater pool that’s free from stingers and biters.

 

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Castle Hill

A visit to Townsville isn’t complete without ascending the 268m to the top of Castle Hill.  This pink granite monolith overlooks the entire city and was one of the earliest sites named by the explorers who surveyed the area in 1864.  Whether you do it by car along the 2.6km winding road or the goat track on foot, the view from the top is incredible.  What impressed us the most was the amount of people walking, running and riding their way up the road towards the top – there must have been hundreds!

 

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Queens Gardens

The inner city park is the oldest botanic garden in Townsville and was first set up in 1870 as a garden of food bearing plants to feed the settlement.  These days, it includes a hedge maze, succulent and cactus gardens and bird aviaries.

 

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Kissing Point & Jezzine Barracks

Kissing Point overlooks Cleveland Bay and was originally built in the 1800s as a fort to defend the harbour from the threat of foreign attack, particularly from the Russians.  Jezzine Barracks was built on the headland and occupied by military right up until 2006.  In 2009, the area was handed over to the community of Townsville and turned into a heritage precinct that commemorates the military and aboriginal heritage of Kissing Point headland.  There is a great display of war history and a lookout over the bay to Magnetic Island

 

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Food & Drink

The Townsville Brewing Company

The old Townsville post office was converted into a brewery, restaurant and function centre in 2001 and offers a great range of beers and awesome lunch specials.  Definitely worth stopping in.

 

Coffee Dominion

This coffee shop sells one thing and one thing only – coffee.  They roast, brew and sell beans at this outlet, and after putting them to the taste test, we give them the Melbournian tick of approval.  The coffee was strong and flavoursome and they know how to froth soy milk so that it’s silky and smooth.

http://www.coffeedominion.com.au/

 

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Two Brothers Café

Just around the corner from the Information Centre is a café that serves up burgers and rolls named after famous brothers.  Choose between a Leyland Brothers Burger with chicken, swiss cheese and bacon or a Mario Brothers deli roll with roast beef, grilled sweet potato and marinated mushrooms.  Sounds good to us!

http://twobrotherscafe.com.au/

 

Information & Accommodation

The Information Centre is located in Bulletin Square, just off Flinders Street in the centre of town.  There are a few cafes nearby and public toilets as well.

 

The closest YHA to Townsville is on Magnetic Island, which makes it the perfect place to stay while you explore the island.  To make a booking, call (07) 4778 5577 or visit https://www.yha.com.au/hostels/qld/townsville-whitsundays/magnetic-island/

 

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About 30km out of town is Bluewater Rest Area.  It’s spacious and offers toilets, a playground and overnight stays for self-contained vehicles – no tents.

 

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Eating Out : Townsville Brewing Company

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In 2001, Townsville’s old Post Office building was redeveloped and turned into a restaurant, function centre and brewery.  The décor of the place croons smooth and classy with plush velour couches, baroque wallpaper, barrel lid tables and yellow felt pool tables.  Their A-frame sign advertising lunch specials lured us in and the stylish atmosphere, beer tasting paddles and delicious food made us stay.

 

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The Food

We couldn’t pass on the lunch bargain – $12 for a chicken BLT burger with a side of chips and a schooner.  The food arrived relatively fast considering it was lunchtime, and it was served on a wooden board.  The BLT was delicious and filled with a juicy thigh fillet, red relish sauce, bacon and salad, while the chips were seasoned with rosemary and came with a small dish of aioli.  It was the perfect amount of food for the price – even if we hadn’t have gotten a schooner in the deal!

 

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The Beer

We ordered tasting paddle with our meal and held off on getting our free schooner until we’d tasted all the beers and chosen our favourites.  Dave ended up going with the Townsville Bitter Premium while Juz loved the sweet yeasty flavour of the Townsville Bitter Light.

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Natural Wonders : Crystal Creek

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Just over an hour’s drive north of Townsville is Paluma Range National Park and Crystal Creek, a mandatory stop for anyone travelling between Ingham and Townsville.

 

We visited Big Crystal Creek first and had tonnes of fun on the rock slides.  The water was surprisingly mild too.  You can get a permit to camp near Big Crystal Creek by calling 13 QGOV.

 

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Just before the sun set, we got to Little Crystal Creek near Paluma.  Stairs lead down to the water and as we hopped from one rock to another, we admired the waterfalls and beautiful Roman Arch stone bridge that was built in the 1930s.

 

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Attraction : Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium

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Did you know that sea stars have no brains or blood and they digest their food outside of their body by protruding their stomach out of their mouth?  Did you know that sharks have a special ‘electrosense’ that allows them to detect electrical impulses from living things?  For those who can’t swim or don’t like to get wet, the Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium provides the opportunity to meet all the creatures of the reef and learn about all of their special talents.

 

Formally known as the Great Barrier Reef Wonderland, Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium was built as a Bicentennial Commemorative project and opened in Townsville in 1987.  It is the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium that aims to educate people and catalyse changes that will protect the Great Barrier Reef for many years to come.

 

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The Aquariums

There is a huge central aquarium that is home to the Coral Reef exhibit.  It’s 18 metres wide, 5 metres deep and is home to over 150 species of fish, including the only Scalloped Hammer Head Shark on display in Australia, as well as a large variety of hard and soft corals that are found only on the Great Barrier Reef.  The central aquarium is open to the elements so that the coral can receive natural light and weather, just like natural reefs.  Adjacent to the central tank is the Predator Tank, which is home to four species of shark and an array of other predatory fish and a replica of North Queensland’s most famous shipwreck the S.S. Yongala.

 

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Surrounding the Coral Reef exhibit are many smaller aquariums displaying a variety of animals like upside-down jelly fish, moray eels, semi-circle angel fish, freshwater turtles and even bioluminescent flashlight fish.  We were fascinated with the shapes and colours of both the fish and the corals, and the interactive displays dotted around the complex were also fun.

 

The Tours

We attended all the tours on offer at the aquarium.  The Predator Dive Show was particularly interesting because one of the presenters was a diver inside the Predator Tank.  Here, we learnt that while sharks kill only 6 people a year, people kill around 100 million sharks.  We also learnt about beautiful and affectionate leopard sharks, and how they are one variety of shark that use spiracles to pump water over their gills so they can absorb oxygen.  This allows them to lay motionless on the ocean floor while other species of sharks need to keep moving or they will suffocate.  Leopard sharks are spotty like a leopard but their offspring look a lot different.  When they emerge from their strange egg capsules, they’re black and white to resemble a poisonous sea snake, and this gives them a better chance of survival.  The black and white markings have also earned them the name zebra shark.

 

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The Turtle Hospital

Next door to the Reef HQ Aquarium is the community-funded Turtle Hospital, where sick and injured marine turtles can be cared for, rehabilitated and eventually released back into the ocean.  It also works to raise awareness about threatened species and educate the community about what they can do to promote conservation.

 

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Things that you can do to help include:

 

  • Don’t by products made out of turtle… or any other protected animal!
  • Don’t disturb nesting turtles.
  • Keep Australia Beautiful and don’t litter. Plastic bags in the water look like jelly fish and turtles love to eat jelly fish!
  • Report dead or injured turtles to Marine Stranding Hotline 1300 ANIMAL.

 

We got to visit the Turtle Hospital one on of the tours and met six turtles that were being cared for, including a baby flatback turtle that had its eye damaged when a bird tried to snack on it during its flappy dash from its sandy nest to the sea.

 

Australia is home to six of the seven species of sea turtle.  The green sea turtle is the most common but the flatback is the only turtle that nests exclusively in Australia.  Only 1 in 1000 baby turtles survive to sexual maturity, which is at around 40 years of age.

 

Donations to the Turtle Hospital can be made at the Reef HQ Aquarium Turtle Hospital MyCause page or by calling the Reef HQ Aquarium on (07) 4750 0800.

 

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The Essentials

Entry to Reef HQ Aquarium covers all the talks and tours.  There is also a merchandise shop and a café onsite offering meals, drinks and snacks. Ticket prices and further details can be found on the Reef HQ website: http://www.reefhq.com.au/

 

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