Gold Coast’s Most Instagramable Locations

It’s the new trend. We are all travelling more and with this, comes sharing our adventures on Social Media.  Often, a great “Instagramable” location can determine our destination choice.  In fact, many people travel to a location purely with the aim of getting that perfect “Instagram shot”.

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Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Most of us have travelled to Sydney, but if you’re anything like me, every trip has been for a purpose – work, or an event.  The cosmopolitan capital is not somewhere that I would usually go for a “holiday”, yet there are so many things on  my bucket list that I just never seem to find the time to tick off.

So, with the help of some friends, I headed off for a “Girls weekend” to find some hidden gems in this city that has been Instagrammed, photographed and written about countless times.

I’m talking about a bunch of girls, leaving the husbands, partners, pets, kids behind and taking off for an easy escape.  With Sydney just a short and fairly cheap flight away, it’s as viable a plan as any road trip.

My favourite thing about Sydney is the beach side suburbs. So our first stop had to be Bondi Beach.

Hotel and Airbnb options abound, but with traffic and parking so hectic, finding somewhere central should be a priority.

My top pick is QT Bondi located on Beach Road, with a Woolworths and liquor store right beneath high end, luxury hotel style apartments  In true QT style, the service is first class and the venue quirky and fun.  From here, you can pretty much explore the Bondi area without any need for a car. QT even have bicycles if you want to venture a little further.

With warm sunny winter skies, first activity on the list is the Bondi to Bronte walk.  It seems inconceivable that I’ve never done this before as it’s one of Sydney’s most iconic walking trails.  Starting at Bondi Beach, you walk along tall sandstone cliff tops with spectacular panoramic views of the ocean as well as taking in the luxurious homes that fringe the track.

The walk around to Bronte is about 1.5 km and takes very conservatively about an hour, however this includes a really easy walking pace and plenty of stops to take in the panoramic views and time for pictures along the way. Passing Tamarama Beach, this is also a great coffee stop with a cute little café on the beach.

Bronte beach is one of the more famous beach baths in Sydney, however did you know there are actually 44 in total, so plenty to choose from. Almost every beach in Sydney has a natural rock pool for those who want a more protected ocean swim and the best part is, most are free.  Whilst these ocean pools provide a calm ocean experience with the waves crashing over the rock walls, they also make for spectacular images, iconic to Sydney.  It always amazes me that other beach locations like the Gold Coast don’t create tourist attractions like these, especially with the vastly better weather.

After a good walk on the Sydney walking tracks, it’s time to hit the streets and back streets of Bondi and experience some of their great cafes and restaurants as well as boutique shopping.  The Markets held at Campbell Parade every Sunday from 10am to 4pm offer fresh flowers, food, fashion and local crafts.

Finally, if you are staying in the Bondi area, another great ocean walk is to Hornby Lighthouse.  About a 15 minute drive via the exclusive Sydney suburb of Vaucluse and parking at the cute little beach at Camp Cove, these are well known locations to locals, but not as overrun by tourist crowds. Hornby Lighthouse is impressively painted in red and white strips making it a striking landmark on the entry to Sydney Harbour and Watsons Bay.

From Bondi Beach, you can’t visit Sydney without a stay in the city. One of the beautiful things about Sydney is its age and history and there’s plenty of historic and heritage buildings including the old Sydney Water building in Pitt Street which has been converted to the luxurious Primus Hotel and was second stop on my visit.

Steeped in history, Primus have stayed true to their heritage which is obvious as soon as you enter the building. Opting for “wow factor” over maximising use of space, a huge voided entry with impressive eight-meter high columns of red scagliola marble greet you on entry. Beautifully appointed, opulent rooms and a great roof top pool and bar, although this is central for all the Sydney city locations, it’s also a great place to just stay inhouse and enjoy the ambiance of this great historic building.  A true hidden gem of the city.

Once in the city, Sydney is full of hidden laneways, underground venues and bars and arcades with unique treasures.  There’s no need for a map or guide, get lost discovering this great city with friends and with no set plans.

Finally, my number one tip when travelling with friends. Believe me, you’ll thank me later. It avoids all the messing around with who pays for what, who owes what etc.  At the start of the trip, everyone put in say $100 to a kitty.  Then, every time you have to pay for a taxi, Uber, coffee, meal etc, it comes out of the kitty.  Otherwise, someone ends up paying more than anyone else, and it gets really messy to sort out.  Top up equally as necessary and at the end, split evenly what is left (or like us, buy a lotto ticket to share and keep your fingers crossed)

For more information or images, go to my Facebook or Instagram pages at Jules Ingall Photography or @Julesingall

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!

 

Luxury Noosa Escape

I’ve been visiting Noosa since I was a Melbourne schoolgirl escaping the cold in the September holidays with my family. I’ve lost count of how many times I have been here, but one thing is for sure, I never tire of coming back. I have been so lucky to have travelled a lot in my life, all around the world and the more I travel, the more I want to explore new places. There are many places I have been where I consider it a tick off the bucket list, “been there, done that”, never to return. Noosa is most definitely NOT one of those places. Noosa is somewhere I am constantly drawn back to. But why? I hear you asking. What is it about Noosa specifically?

If you have never been (honestly, why on earth not), Noosa Heads is a little seaside cove, only accessible by one road in with the Noosa National park at the end of the main street. It has the feel of being on the French Riviera or Italian coast. There is a poise and class about this location that makes you feel special when you visit.

Hastings Street and Noosa Heads has an elegant little village feel with everything you need. Once you arrive and park the car, you can forget driving for the rest of your stay. I think that’s one of the things I love. Sure there are plenty of things to see and do in the surrounding area (and that is another complete story), but with life so busy, when I’m on holidays, sometimes its nice to just park the car and park yourself.

Where to stay for me is anywhere on Hasting Street or between Hastings Street and the National Park. This is the prime location and worth treating yourself. It also means that everywhere you want to go is within walking distance. You can really splash out and go for 5 star luxury on the beachfront. I’ve stayed in quite a few and they are all good, but my absolute favorite is Seahaven located on one side of Hastings Street and backing on to Noosa Main Beach. It’s up one end of the street so a little out of the hustle and bustle (which can get crazy in peak season) and the same for the beach, you are a little removed from the “day trippers” and the crowds. It’s a bit more exclusive although only a short walk down towards the Surf Club if you have young ones and want to swim between the Flags.

Seahaven is modern, large style apartments with plenty of space and 3 swimming pools ideal for an afternoon dip after a day at the gorgeous Noosa beach or a lazy day under one of the umbrellas with a book.   Yes it is pricey, but well worth treating yourself and if you aren’t restricted to peak times (like the school holidays with children), there are great deals available. If your budget wont stretch to the beachfront the other side of the street is still prime location wise, just without the beach view, and often half the price. A great family location is the Mantra French Quarter, which is on the corner of Hastings Street and Noosa Drive with a newly refurbished pool area it’s great value.

Eating while in Noosa is another delightful treat. You can go full budget cheap eats and have takeaway pizza or fish & chips sitting on the beach or enjoy your balcony views from your hotel. Lots of people seem to do this and hey, why not when the beach is so gorgeous, particularly at sunset. It is also a great idea when you are in Noosa for a period of time and don’t want to sit down for a restaurant meal every night. Some of my favorite places to eat in Noosa are Nosh, about half way down Hastings Street tucked in next to the Supermarket. Really great fish and chips but also a huge selection of really delicious and fresh salads – kinda like a bit of naughty and nice together. The Bakery in this same location does great bread, cakes and pies etc. so perfect for a quick snack. Blended a little further up on the other side of the street makes the most amazing Acai Bowls. What sets them apart from a standard Acai is their huge selection of “Blended bowls”. Anything from dragon fruit (my star pick), Green, Choc dream and heaps more. Also great for coffee and smoothies, protein balls etc. Staying on the healthy theme, Coconut Head down near the National Park next to Café Le Monde looks like a pop up store but having opened in December 2016 this place is most definitely here to stay. The most delicious vegan food and specializing in smoothies, wraps and an in-house made fermented drink ideal for cleansing called “Juno”.

Once you have all this clean healthy food in your system, head across the road to Providore, a modern style café with excellent coffee, snacks and great gourmet groceries such as olives and even meats for the barbeque (every hotel I have stayed in either had a barbeque on my balcony or within the hotel grounds). Providore is perfect for an early morning “Made in Noosa” coffee blend or they are also licensed so you can enjoy an afternoon wine with some of their delicious cheeses and snacks.

If you are looking for something a bit more special, my number one favorite restaurant in Noosa Heads is Seasons (under the Tingerana Hotel on the beach). It boast modern, local seafood and it certainly delivers. Located right on the beach, it is the perfect place to enjoy a 5 star meal with a 5 star view. My particular favorite is the seafood antipasto. This is a selection for two (although I did eat it on my own as a main) with a selection of warmed seafood of tempura oysters, crisp skinned salmon, prawns and salt and pepper squid, all with the most amazing sauces to accompany. I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it. I have tried many other things on the menu, but as a seafood LOVER, this really is to die for. You must drive to Noosa just to taste this dish!

The food on offer in Hastings Street offers so many places to eat of varying budgets from great pizza at El Capitano pizza above Café Le Monde, casual café style food at Providore (and my favorite place for coffee) and European style eating at Aromas, a French inspired café with all the chairs facing the street so diners can watch the passers by. There are so many other places to eat and I am still finding new ones every time I visit, so I urge you to try as many as you can as there are the institutions that have been around for years, but also new eateries popping up all the time. One thing is for certain though, there are plenty of very expensive, trendy hard to get into restaurants, but these are not necessarily the best. You can find some great value meals without always paying top shelf prices.

Once you have found a comfortable lounge by the pool, eaten your way through the cute little cafes and eateries, its time to work off some of that indulgence. You cannot visit Noosa without a trip to the National Park. Take the time to walk as far around the headland as you can because it is truly one of the most picturesque views. The National Park walk starts just past Little Cove, (a perfect place for a dip while your there) and takes you along a cliff walk around the coast line to the headlands all the way to sunshine beach which is around 7 km round trip. The first few kilometers are wheelchair and pram friendly but after that you need to take care, particularly close to the edges if you have children as there can be quite steep drops.

A bit tricky to find, but well worth the effort, as well as a very popular tourist spot, is the Fairy Pools in the National Park. They are down past Granite Bay and before Alexandria Bay roughly a 20 minute walk from the entry to the park. There is no sign, however you often see people from the path sitting on the rocks up high. You pretty much will find a bench seat on the outside of the path on a bend between the two bays and from here, you can see a path way down. You have to climb down around the rocks as you can’t actually see the pools from the path. I warn you now, the fairy pools can be a bit tricky to find (or maybe that was just me) but once you know where they are, you will return time and again. If you go to Noosa, it is pretty much a given that you get a selfie from the fairy pools. I remember the first time I even heard of them was from a local and I was texting and calling at regular intervals navigating my way through the park trying to find them, but I guess half the fun of an adventure is in the journey, right?

After a visit to the National Park, a quick dip at Little Cove on the way back and maybe some relaxing time in the sun, it’s time to hit the shops. The great thing about shopping in Noosa is that there are many boutiques that are unique to this place. You can wander up and down Hastings Street, stopping for the obligatory coffee or smoothie along the way, and weave in and out of the various shops. Of course there are your regular staples like Gazman, Tigerlilly, Peter Alexander, Witchery and more, but my favorites are some of the long standing boutiques. For home wears, Signature has been in business for 26 years and holds a treasure trove of magnificent items for your home, anything from candles and knick knacks, to throws, towels and blankets. Owned by Gail Hinkley she is renowned for her unique coastal style. Every visit I manage to pick up a something new for home.

For other home wears you will enjoy Hearts and Minds gallery, even just for a wander. Original jewelry and home wears mostly locally handcrafted so its great to find a little gem you can take home with you.

Being on the beach, of course there is Longboards and Sea Element for casual beachwear. I found some gorgeous clothes in Bow and Arrow with brands such as Alice McCall, Nobody Denim and Karen Walker. Finally, one “must stop” shop is most certainly Eliza’s boutique. The first time I saw this shop I passed it by as its tucked away and tiny little store, but make sure you stop in, and allow plenty of time because Eliza herself is likely to greet you and each time I go in, I usually let the time pass as I chat for ages letting Eliza and her wonderful staff of stylists help me find treasures that will become favorites in my wardrobe. Many of their labels are the latest fashions from Europe, only available in this quaint store in a corner of Queensland.   Ladies come from all over Australia to shop here so I promise you, a visit to this store and you will not walk out empty handed.

I know by now you must feel exhausted from all the eating, shopping, walking and talking, and this is without even getting in the car! This however was all stretched out over a leisurely few days. The thing that keeps me coming back to Noosa is that I can completely stop, relax and take things at my own pace. Whether you choose to just lay on a lounge chair by the pool and not move for the day, or venture out on a unhurried walk in the lazy Queensland sunshine, you leave Noosa feeling like you have travelled to Europe and back without the jetlag. Yes, it does get busy in the peak holiday months, but Noosa is perfect all year round and somewhere that even as I am driving out of Hastings Street and up the hill, I am already planning when I am going to visit next. It’s my little pocket of pampering and recharging my batteries that just seems to send me into relax mode from the minute I drive over that hill and see the beach in front of me.

Underwater Heaven at Lady Elliot Island

Easily one of the best places in Queensland to visit for incredible, up close underwater wildlife experiences is Lady Elliot Island. Not only is this a beautiful natural environment, but the opportunity to swim so close to turtles, manta rays and so many other marine life are just mind blowing.

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