Straight to the Heart of the Outback

One of the most distinctive and beautiful things about Australia is its contrasting landscapes. From the pristine beaches, to the lush rainforest and barren outback. With more and more people traveling and many tourist destinations becoming overcrowded, the trend is changing to travelers looking for more unique experiences.  Particularly with social media, everyone wants that rare selfie, something that’s going to go viral, not the same old shots that have been done to death.

There has always been a fascination with the outback, think Uluru, Ayres Rock etc. however with Australia being so large and most people are time poor, the thought of traveling thousands of miles by car to get to a destination just doesn’t make it attractive.  That’s where local tour operator Sea Air Aviation on the Gold Coast are taking Outback Travel to the next level.  Offering outback tours in the comfort of a 14-seater Cessna Caravan airplane, over a period of 3 days, 2 nights, passengers cover over 3,800 km.  You get to experience some of the most remote parts of outback Australia with the advantage of travelling in speed as well as the comfort of a small plane.  In a few days, see places in vast contrast to the beaches and city landscapes most of us are used to.

Taking off from Gold Coast airport, the beauty of air travel is that you get incredible aerial perspectives of every location.  The pilots have travelled these routes many times and are knowledgeable and entertaining. Rather than slipping on my headphones and getting lost in my music playlists, my journey is filled with snippets of stories and legends.

First stop on the adventure is Charleville.  A mere 840 km from the Gold Coast and home to one of the outback’s Royal Flying Doctor Service bases.  We have the opportunity to meet staff who work for this amazing facility and explore the museum for more history and information.  It’s well worth the fuel stop!

After a short break, we return to the sky to watch the changing landscape as we enter Channel Country.  This part of Outback Australia is named for its intertwining river system that snakes all the way from the top of Queensland to the drainage basin of Lake Eyre and South Australia.  These areas are dry most of the time, so from the air, you get a spectacular view of the river beds weaving their way through dunes and desert, stopping and starting depending on rainfall levels.  The patterns that they make are both artistically inspiring and spectacular.

 

Birdsville is one of the most well-known towns in Channel Country, set alongside the Diamantina River it is home to a massive bird population.  Even though Birdsville is pretty well known, surprisingly it is just a tiny little town with a population of just 75 people.  Home to a local baker and a roadhouse, but more importantly, the Birdsville pub.  You start to get the sense that the lifeblood of these remote towns revolves around the local pubs.

Landing on the small airstrip, the airport is unmanned and deserted giving you an appreciation of the remoteness of where you actually are.  There’s not a horde of tourists or a town ruined by overpopulation.  This is the real outback.   You get the feel of life in a small remote town where probably the biggest decision of the day as a tourist is whether to order the famous Camel Curry or Kangaroo pie from the bakery, served by local Alex who also doubles as bus driver and tour operator for outback 4WD Tours.

Just 35km from downtown Birdsville – right next to the towns edge, is the sand dune known as Big Red.  The Simpson Desert is made up of hundreds of parallel dunes, best visible from the air, with Big Red marking the edge of the Desert.  Possibly due to its proximity to Birdsville, also because it is the tallest, standing 40 meters in height, its popular with 4WD enthusiasts for a fun challenge as well as local tour operators and visitors alike.  With 360 degree views of pure desert, watching the sun go down over the deep red of dunes against the rich blue sky and seeing the changing colors is something that is truly breathtaking.  It’s such a popular spot for a sunset beer or a wine to really make the most of the experience.

From Birdsville, the tour travels south over the Simpson Desert getting the chance to witness the parallel dunes, which converge into river mazes as the journey continues.  Where there is water, the colors of rich green contrast to the reds and browns of the desert.  Crossing over to the South Australian boarder, Lake Eyre is the third largest salt lake in the world.  Currently mostly dry, the crystal patterns and brilliant whites of the salt make for more spectacular photography and viewing opportunities.

Just west of Lake Eyre the tour lands in the unique town of William Creek. Another miniscule town in the great wide outback, William Creek boasts a population of just 15.  This whole town is owned and run by the fondly dubbed “Mayor of William Creek” Trevor Wright.  Full of character, Trevor is keen to share his town with visitors and talks passionately about the local area and his love of the outback.  Over a beer and a Kangaroo wrap at his pub, Trevor shares stories and a laugh.

Although this town is just one small main street, its full of quirky collections that make it worth the stop.  The main bar in the pub is filled with business cards, caps, notes and memorabilia from travelers who have passed through, a memorial park is across the road with unusual and diverse items such as a rocket from a nearby space launch from times past.  But quite possibly the funniest thing to see in William Creek is the local fire truck. Has to be seen to be believed. Hand painted, it only drives after a tow start so god forbit if there were to ever be an actual fire that needs putting out, but it goes to the character and sense of humor of Trevor and the whole town.

Our next stop is Innamincka and it’s the smallest of the towns on the trip with a population of 12.  It lies on the banks of Cooper Creek, but what brings most tourists here is the historical significance.  Innamincka is the closet town to the burial sight and famous “Dig Tree” which ultimately marked the demise of outback explorers Bourke and Wills.  With limited phone service and no city luxuries, following the trails of historic explorers like Bourke & Wills, this town is another example of the isolation the explorers must have felt.

The tour saves the best for last, a day at the Charlotte Plains working sheep and cattle station.  Set on 70,000 acres, this station has been in owner Robyn’s family for over 90 years.  After landing on the Station’s private airstrip, she personally takes you on a tour of the old sheering shed, which looks like it’s barely still standing after well over a century, followed by the historic hut and station house, untouched and frozen in time as they were many years ago. Lunch is on the balcony of the homestead in true county style with quite possibly the best pumpkin soup you will ever eat, made by Robyn herself with her secret family recipe.

 

Perhaps the best, or at least easily the most fun part of the station tour is a visit to the Artesian bore which on first appearance is just a water pump from the ground feeding water into the river to feed the animals.  Robyn has cleverly placed some old bathtubs next to the bore and guests can fill them up with continually flowing hot water and bath in the middle of the desert in a hot springs bath.

Originally home to over 100,000 sheep and many more staff, this station illustrates the current well publicised plight of our outback farmers.  Many of the animals are dying from lack of food and farmers and struggling to keep their farms prosperous.

As we taxi down the dirt runway to start the final journey home, I’m left with a sense of sadness.  Three days in the outback suddenly doesn’t seem long enough. I embarked on this journey thinking it would be a once in a lifetime experience, bucket list ticked, never to return. Yet once you’ve seen and experienced Outback Australia, it’s like an addiction and your soul will always want more.

With many options of Outback travel available this is obviously one of the more luxurious option, traveling in ease and style.  Breeze into remote locations landing on dirt airfields with ragged looking exhausted 4WD travelers watching in awe as you depart a luxury air conditioned Cessna Caravan. It feels like lifestyles of the rich and famous but at a total cost of less than $3,000 for a fully inclusive tour, it allows the opportunity to experience outback Australia in a short space of time.  Visiting some of the most remote parts of Queensland and South Australia, only accessible by dirt roads with many of the airstrips just clearings of graded dirt runways at unnamed airfields.  Return home with shoes full of red outback sand, memories of lifetime experience and a new found love and appreciation of this beautiful land and it’s people.

Seair Aviation’s Outback Adventure departs from and returns to Gold Coast (Coolangatta) and Brisbane (Archerfield) airports.  The cost is $2,985 per person, including all accommodation, tours, entry fees, breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks.  Single travelers are welcome with no single supplement.  For full details go the www.seairpacific.com.au or telephone 07 5599 4509 (Queensland, Australia)

Published in the Gold Coast Bulletin Eye Magazine Lift Out

Saturday 25 August 2018

Best of the Gold Coast

Such an honour to be not only featured in the Gold Coast Bulletin with my work as a local photographer, but to have the front cover of the Gold Coast Eye Magazine.  It’s been a journey trying to re-invent myself as not just a WAG anymore and the support of the local and online community have been both overwhelming and greatly appreciated.  Thank you!

 

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

The Sunshine Coast is one of Queensland’s most popular tourist destinations.   After all, it boasts beautiful beaches and great seaside towns that provide a perfect getaway, particularly for visitors from South East Queensland like the Gold Coast.  Yet for the many of those that vacation to the Sunshine Coast, they miss some of the best that it has to offer – its gardens and natural landscapes.
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The Whitsundays They’ve Been Hiding From You

We’ve all heard of the Whitsundays.  Seen countless images of the gorgeous white sandy beaches of Whitehaven beach, Hayman Island, Hamilton Island and the likes.  But did you know that the Whitsundays consists of 74 islands, many of which are uninhabited?  This region is so much more than the postcard images that we’ve seen and love.  I’ve journeyed to the Whitsundays on so many occasions but was excited to have the opportunity to discover some of its more hidden gems.

 

Travelling to this region is easy, from the east coast capital cities of Australia you can fly directly to Proserpine Airport which is just a short 30 minute drive to Airlie Beach with plenty of transfer options available to suit every budget.  I chose to travel with Whitsundays 2 Everywhere.  Reasonably priced and providing comfortable personalised service you are met at the airport terminal and transferred right to the door of your accommodation.

 

I’ve travelled to the Whitsundays more times than I can remember – I was even married at the cute little white weatherboard chapel on Hamilton Island and for the last 3 years, I’ve visited in May/June which has now become one of my favourite times of year to visit.  The water is still a warm 27 degrees Celsius, with daytime temperatures in the mid to high 20s and light winds, it’s ideal.  The other bonus is, the crowds seem less so you can really experience the region without battling tourists or having to book activities miles in advance.

 

For this trip, it’s all about getting off the more popular tourist routes, discovering some of the “hidden gems” of the region.  Of course, if you’ve never been, Whitehaven and Hill inlet are a must visit.  The pure white silica sands and crystal waters of Whitehaven beach are out of this world, a bucket list must, but I wanted to explore what else the region has to offer.

 

There’s plenty of day tours available with various boat companies, but when you only have a day, it’s difficult to go too far, and the tour boats are pretty set in their itineraries.  The truly best way to voyage around the Whitsunday Islands is by private boat and thankfully, if you don’t have a 50 foot yacht at your disposal, there’s the fantastic option of “bare boating” where you can charter your own luxury private catamaran and take off exploring after a short 3 hour famil from one of the staff.  I chose to travel with Dream Yacht Charters based in Airlie Beach.  Their boats are all relatively new, really modern and great value.  The 4 birth boats will comfortably sleep 8 people and once you have stocked up on food, you have everything on board to take off exploring.

With a few days aboard, we were able to travel to beaches and islands that are completely uninhabited and be the only boat around for miles. No phone or internet service, it’s like being totally disconnected from reality, lazing your days away island hopping, swimming and snorkelling the reefs.  I can’t begin to explain how relaxing this is.  On the last morning, when it was time to sail back towards Airlie Beach, it was with a sense of reluctance, all of us not wanting the adventure to end.  (Secretly we are all already planning our sailing adventure for May 2019!).

Bare boating is honestly one of the most incredible holidays you can have.  Access to a million dollar boat and being your own skipper, whether you are a capable sailor or not, this is an experience anyone can master and with so many islands and hidden coves, no matter the conditions there is always somewhere you can moor into for protection from the weather.

After a trip away boating, it’s nice to ease back into reality with a few days hanging out in Airlie Beach.  It’s a small town with a very transient feel to it with all the backpackers and tourists.  A beautiful bay and foreshore shadowed by a hill overlooking the islands, it’s somewhere you can pretty much walk everywhere.  With a marina at one end connected to the lagoon at the other end by a boardwalk, strolling around Airlie Beach there are cute little boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants as well as the Saturday Markets to keep you entertained.  Airlie beach is known for its great nightlife, probably due to all the tourists and backpackers, but it’s also great for families with the lagoon offering a sheltered pool for youngsters and lifeguards for peace of mind.

Surprisingly for a small north Queensland town, Airlie Beach hosts some fabulous restaurants.  Just out of town is one of my favourites, Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill.  Partly due to the casual atmosphere and scrumptious dining, but mostly for its incredible location on a palm tree lined cove looking back over Airlie Beach.  It’s a perfect place to watch the sun set whilst sipping one their famous Mango Weiss Cocktails.

Other popular eateries are Hemingways overlooking Abell Point Marina. The stylish design and creative menu have awarded it a well deserved Chefs Hat honour from the Australian Good Food Guide and at the other end of town, Walters Lounge has a similar atmosphere with a delicious menu best enjoyed tapas style.  Lastly, for some really fresh amazing, local seafood you can’t go past Fish D’Vine.  Whether it be eat-in or takeaway, this is the one place I always stop by when I’m in town. Also famous for its Rum Bar and refreshing mojitos.

 

Accommodation in Airlie Beach is anything from budget Van Parks such as Discovery Parks Airlie Beach and Big 4 Arlie Cove, to five star venues at Mirage Whitsundays, Coral Sea Resort and the Heart Hotel being some of my favourites.  More recently on my travels, I’ve been choosing to stay in luxury style homes.  Firstly, they feature all the comforts of being at home, and when traveling with my family, there’s plenty of space, privacy and it ends up being great value.  Accom Whitsundays have a huge range of properties from Airlie Beach to Hamilton Island as well as nearby rural areas and treated me to a beautiful modern home perched high on the hill overlooking the township of Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands beyond.

Relaxed and refreshed with cameras charged and ready to hit the road again, final stop on this hidden gems tour is Bowen.  Just a short 40 minute drive up the highway north from Airlie Beach this is one of the best kept secrets of the region!  You may have heard it mentioned as the location for the 2008 filming of the hit Hollywood Movie “Australia” starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, but as far as a bucket list, tropical holiday destination, it’s not really high on many people’s list.

Yet the region of Bowen is breathtakingly stunning.  In contrast to Airlie beach, there are no crowds or tourists bustling for adventures and activities.  It’s a sleepy town with the most incredible crystal clear waters and fringing reefs.  The beaches are a series of tiny coves, lined with palm trees in the plenty and not a crowd in sight.  It’s hard to believe this town is not overrun with tourists, yet for some reason, it’s not overly well known.   For me, having visited the Whitsunday region so many times in the past, this is my first visit to Bowen and it most certainly won’t be my last.  I’m blown away that it’s not more popular, but I guess one of the appeals is it’s not over commercialised as so many places become.

There’s something pretty special about Bowen and I’ve been trying to work out what it is.  The only way I can describe it is “nothing” – as in, the silence.  Sitting on my hotel balcony over looking Lions Park and Grays beach there is no sound other than the gentle lapping of the water on the beach below.  I’m a city girl, so I’m used to sirens, boat noise on the canal outside my house, traffic etc. so you really notice the peace of this area, and I love it.  There is not an abundance of tour operators or activities on offer in Bowen, however for most people, leading their busy day to day lives, the ideal holiday is parked on a white sandy beach, with a cold drink and the warm sun.

One of the great benefits of a location like Bowen is it’s relatively easy to get to, direct flights from all the eastern capital cities straight to Proserpine, and then a short drive up the highway, but the real attraction is you are treated to a million dollar tropical island style holiday for a fraction of the price.  Being a smaller regional location that flies under the radar, prices are really appealing to the budget traveller.  There is everything from a Big 4 Holiday Parks to luxury beachside apartments such as Coral Cove or Rose Bay Resort, all to suit any budget.

View from the bed at the Coral Cove Apartments Bowen

First stop on a trip to Bowen is deciding which beach to land your towel.   It’s one of the only places in the Whitsundays with fringing reef, meaning you can literally snorkel straight off the beach and be exploring the beautiful corals and fish of the Great Barrier Reef.   There are predominately eight beaches in Bowen to choose from – probably the busiest being Horseshoe Bay.  With enormous granite boulders protecting the beach and a breezy café, you can see why this is one of Bowen’s most popular beaches.  In contrast, Murrays Beach and Rose Bay are protected and just as beautiful, with the added bonus of being less popular.  Incredible views from Rose Bay over to Gloucester Island and loaded with palm trees, this picturesque beach is a must visit for sunrise.

 

Once you’ve finished lazing your day on the beach, and wanting to explore the beaches a bit more, there is an abundance of coastal walks that take in the breathtaking views whilst giving you a first hand perspective of the area, including some that are both wheelchair and pram friendly.  A favourite of course is the 2.6 km track from Hanson Park to Horseshoe Bay, with arguably the most picturesque beaches. Not forgetting a drive up to Flagstaff Hill which offers the best views of the region and out to the islands.

Just off the mainland of Bowen is a tiny island – North Head Reef, which is home to one of Queensland’s oldest lighthouses.  In the cooler months in Bowen (relatively speaking – it never gets really cold up here), with the winter low tides, the island is connected to the mainland by a sandbar.  The town of Bowen comes out once a year in August for the “Walk to the Lighthouse” festival which is literally that.  The locals and tourists alike, fitted with reef shoes, take the walk out to the lighthouse via shallow waters, passing the famous giant red starfish. It’s a great fun community day out.

 

As with Airlie Beach, I’m blown away that Bowen is home to some amazing eateries.  Not at all what some would expect from a county town where you would think ordering a decent coffee could be a struggle.  The local pub – The Grand View Hotel, has been family owned since 1919. This old Queenslander Style building has undergone major renovations to be a modern, stylish venue that still acknowledges it’s heritage boasting every wall filled with pictures and memorabilia. As far as the food, the chefs use fresh local produce to create modern, sophisticated meals.  A must visit.

For breakfast and lunch, three local sisters have created a warm, friendly café around a florist shop at Le Sorelle Coffee House, even producing their own decedent homemade fudge.  The food would rival any trendy Sydney or Melbourne establishment and the atmosphere has that big country welcome feel to it.  A final must try is Birds Fish Bar at the Marina.  Serving only the absolute freshest seafood, sit outside by the marina and enjoy one of their seafood platters with the best of everything.  They’re not licenced, but you are welcome to take along your own beer or wine to complete the meal.  They even have the most “Instagramable” giant coral trout on the roof of the entrance that I imagine will become a tourism icon of the town in future years!

 

Finally, it’s so cliché, but any stop to Bowen must include a visit to the Big Mango for a selfie.  After all, it’s an Australian tradition going back to our parent’s generation! While there, why not try the most delicious Mango sorbet pretty much made up of pureed frozen local mango.

 

If all of the above is not enough to have you racing to book your flights, Bowen boasts some of the only beaches on the East Coast of Australia where you can watch the sun both rise and set over the ocean.  Beaches lined with palm trees, backed by skies of rich gold tones transforming to vibrant pinks as the light changes are breathtaking. Whilst the southern states of Australia are freezing their tails off, the Whitsundays are enjoying calm, warm winter sunshine which makes this the perfect time of year to organise and short (or long) getaway to discover this Whitsunday Paradise.

 

For more information or pictures, go to Instagram or Facebook Jules Ingall Photography or Tourism Whitsundays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Francisco’s Must Visit Tourist Spots

I think I have found my new favourite place in the USA.  San Francisco is full of quirky streets, hills, buildings, the Bay and most of all, character!  It’s such a hip place rich in personality.  There’s so many diverse things to see and do, I don’t know where to start.  For one thing, with all the colour and charisma, it’s not only a tourist’s dream location, it’s a photographer’s paradise.

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What Are You Really Worth?

I get asked more and more often and I see posts online about how much to charge for photography work and images.  I cringe when I see people confessing to doing work for nothing and even I have been asked to work for no fee with the compensation of a “Free holiday”.  I know this can sound really tempting, and a lot of people jump at the opportunity.   However, before you go signing your rights away, consider that firstly, you are ruining the business for people who are doing this as a fulltime job, to pay actual real bills and living expenses as well as take into consideration what you are actually worth.

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Los Angeles Top 5 Tips

Los Angeles is such an easy destination from the East Coast of Australia.  It’s a direct flight from all the capital cities and the gateway to the US so makes for the perfect stopover.  Los Angeles is all about the chilled vibe, glamorous people and Hollywood lifestyle.  You can’t help but get drawn into the allure of it all. The one thing that you notice about LA is the large boulevards lined with tall palm trees.  It’s quintessentially LA, something that you don’t find anywhere else.

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Hervey Bay with Tourism Queensland

Considering Hervey Bay is only a short 30 minute plane flight or 4 hour drive up the road from where I live on the Gold Coast and so many people talk about this region, I can’t believe I have never been there before. It’s not for any reason in particular, but I guess it was just never on my bucket list.

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