Apple of the Eye

We’ve all seen pretty pictures of Tasmania, striking red boulders contrasting the white sandy beaches, crystal waters, not to mention the award-winning food and wine.  As a photographer, it’s been on my bucket list for a while, so I decided to get together a bunch of girlfriends and jump in a car to find the best places to explore on a road trip.  Let me start by telling you straight up, words and pictures do not do this place justice.  It’s insanely beautiful.  Somewhere you will visit and wonder why it has taken you so long to discover.  Trying to put together an itinerary for just one week is no easy task because doing my research, there are so many worthy places to stop and visit all over Tasmania.  Having now spent a week on the road, I would suggest the best itinerary is the most flexible one.  Perhaps have your accommodation booked and some must do activities, but allow plenty of time to just stop on a whim.

With only one week on the road, I (reluctantly) restricted the itinerary to only the East Coast which allowed enough time to explore a whole range of locations and experiences, but at the same time didn’t feel too rushed.

The trip started in Launceston which is an easy flight from mainland Australia.  Situated in Northern Tasmania, Launceston is a cute little town on the banks of a river with the famed Cataract Gorge.  With undulating hills and heritage listed houses, it is rich with a great arts type culture and a perfect place to start our journey.

From Launceston, the drive up north took us to the famous Bridstowe Lavender Estate.  To really appreciate this place in full bloom, you need to visit between December and early February when the flowers are in full vibrant purple bloom and the sound of bees buzzing through the fields creates this melodic peaceful atmosphere.  There are guided tours by staff at the farm or just enjoy a wander through the 260 acres of the world’s largest privately owned lavender farm.  It’s such a popular tourist destination, and probably on our trip, the busiest place we visited, however the sheer size of the farm didn’t give the feel of being too hectic.  The only indication of its popularity was the car park.  A must try is the lavender ice cream, makes the perfect Insta-pic with the purple against the purple blooms and tastes divine.  The first of many local gastronomic treats we were treated to on our journey.

A short 30 minute drive further north and you will come across the quaint seaside town of Bridport.  You kind of get the feeling in Tasmania that you are taking a step back in time, with no crowds and cute little towns like this, offering good old fashioned friendly locals and low key, unspoilt locations.  There is such a lazy, relaxed feeling even though there is so much to see and do. Take a walk down to the old Bridport Pier and beach or if you like golf, Bridport is home to one of the best golf courses in Australia, Barnbougle Dunes Golf Course.

The east coast of Tasmania stretches from Mount William National Park in the North all the way down to Port Arthur and Bruny Island in the South.  That’s over 400 km of coastline, all spectacular and all worth adding to your itinerary.  If time is no issue, as many seem to do, hire a camper van and spend a leisurely few months meandering your way through the towns and beaches that make up this breathtaking landscape.  For the rest of us, where time is a little more precious, there are a few must stops along the way.

The Bay of Fires is the 40 kilometres between Eddystone Point and Binalong Bay.  It’s best known for the huge orange granite boulders littering the beach.  The boulders are coloured from lichen that is a non harmful algae growing on the rocks giving them a rich orange hue.  In stark contrast to the whitest of sandy beaches and crystal clear water this makes for the most beautiful beach landscapes.  If I had to pick a favourite part of the coastline, it is probably this region.  The beaches are deserted, the seas can be both moody or tranquil, depending on the weather and the landscape so picturesque. Watching the change of colours as the sun rises over Binalong Bay is an experience I will never forget.

One thing you notice road tripping in Tasmania is all the places that you MUST stop at along the way.  Each day our itinerary was thrown away in place of stops at mussel and oyster farms, wineries, berry and dairy farms, or just cute towns that we just had to visit driving through.  The dominate theme is local produce and this is transferred to every restaurant and café you visit.  It’s so refreshing to see locals supporting locals in such a strong way and I definitely have a few new favourite wines and gins on my shopping list having sampled the local flavours.

Freycinet National Park and Lodge provided one of the most luxurious experiences of the trip.  Staying inside the National Park at the 4 star Lodge you are greeted on one side by spectacular sunsets over Oyster bay and behind you the magnificent Hazard mountain ranges.  The lodge is nestled in amongst native trees and wildlife and each cabin is cleverly designed to feel like you are in the National Park all on your own. Your own outdoor bath completed the experience where you can enjoy a glass of the local Freycinet Vineyard wines whilst soaking in a hot tub in the fresh mountain air.  It’s such a unique experience.  There is also the main lodge with a bistro and 5 star restaurant perched above a tranquil cove and newly renovated long jetty to watch the sunset over Coles Bay.

Relaxing at the Lodge you are a short walk from the gorgeous Honeymoon Bay, a popular engagement and wedding location or Richardsons Beach.  There is the Cape Tourville Lighthouse and of course, Wineglass Bay.  To really appreciate Wineglass Bay, there are several options.  Firstly, and probably one of the best ways to truly appreciate the view is a scenic flight with local airline Freycinet Air.  You get a panoramic perspective of the area as well as the most impressive views of the Bay.  Second best option is the very popular track from the National Park up to Wineglass Bay lookout.  A fairly light walk that takes about 90 minutes return trip, well worth the not too strenuous effort.  Or for those who a really keen, but not for the feint hearted, is the walk to Mount Amos Lookout.  This takes about 3-4 hours and is a difficult walk, but the view from the top of the Mountain will totally blow you away.

Not far from Freycinet Park is one of the most unique and authentic tourism experiences I have had and worth the trip to Tasmania just for this.  With a focus on local produce, we ate plenty of seafood during our trip but none fresher than from Freycinet Marine Farm.  Julia and Giles Fisher bought the farm in 2005 and what started with selling oysters out of the kitchen window has grown to a business producing over 5 million oysters a year.  Visit the farm just off Coles Bay road to enjoy freshly shucked oysters, abalone and other local seafood treats takeaway or at their deck café.  Better still, take a tour with the recently expanded offering of a true Oyster Farm experience.  Oyster Bay Tours husband and wife Declan and Patrea will pick you up from the farm shop and take you a short drive to the actual oyster farm on Moulting Lagoon.   You are kitted out in a wading suit (not the most attractive) which is basically gum boots built into a full rubber dungaree style suit to keep you dry whilst you wade out into the lagoon.  In amongst the actual oyster farm, sample an oyster straight from the water, you can’t possibly get any fresher than that.  Host Declan is full of information, stories and interesting oyster facts – did you know from inception to plate for an oyster is on average 2 years?   On returning to dry land, learn how to shuck your own oysters and enjoy with fresh mussels, sea asparagus picked from the lagoon banks and a glass of local Freycinet wine.  It’s such a rustic experience and so unique, you can’t leave Tasmania without trying it for yourself.

On our final few days, heading back to Hobart, a stop at the town of Richmond was recommended by many people and really worth the short detour.  Home to the historic, heritage listed Richmond Bridge, it’s the oldest in Australia and the feature of many photos from the wider Hobart region.  In Hobart, make sure you are in town on a Saturday for the Salamanca Markets.  These are one of Hobart’s most visited tourist attractions and it’s easy to see why. Boasting the now familiar theme of local produce, you can buy everything from flowers and food to beautiful pictures by local photographers, artwork, jewellery and Tasmanian designed clothes. I even saw a blanket made from local alpaca wool.  You are sure to pick up a souvenir of some sort and even just spend hours wandering through the historic streets lined with market stalls situated alongside the Hobart waterfront.  It’s one of the biggest markets I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

If you are going to road trip Tasmania, and believe me, you really must do it at least once in your lifetime, spending a week driving around and chatting to the many locals in Tasmania, the thing that you really notice is that they are fiercely protective of the environment and passionate about protecting it.  The roads are empty, nowhere is overrun by tourists which leaves a relaxed vibe whilst still being able to see and do so much in a short time. Surprisingly, for the landscapes that we saw, many did not involve a lot of walking or strenuous exercise.  Most locations you could pull up your car and pretty much walk a few meters to the beaches and coastlines.  Not only did we experience landscapes and produce, the wildlife was mind blowing.  We witnessed dolphins in the wild, seals, echidnas, marine life in abundance and we all swear we even saw a Tassie Devil – although it was early in the morning so I can’t be 100% sure.  By far the most impressive wildlife we witnessed was one morning relaxing on the beach at Binalong Bay, enjoying the sunshine when a James Bond look alike emerges from the water carrying a lobster in his hand.  It was literally like something out of a movie, but it turns out he was just local boy “Danny” who regularly swims these waters and sees all sorts of local wildlife (although mostly he leaves it be)

The feeling you get visiting Tasmania is that in 100 years, the rest of the world will have ruined all the great tourist locations by over visiting, not respecting and over developing, yet Tasmania will plod along and remain in its unspoilt natural state. There are no high rise buildings outside the cities, I didn’t see a chain restaurant and there’s definitely a strong culture of local produce and simple, good food whilst still appreciating and admiring nature.  Trying to put into words the raw beauty is a difficult task because everything seems so cliché.  So many times, we stopped and just took time to take in the views without lifting a camera, just in awe of everything around us.  Tasmania is a hidden gem often forgotten by the city mainland folk, but this just adds to its charm.  Even if you only have 5 days to spare, jump on a plane, grab a hire car and go and visit Tasmania.  I promise you won’t be disappointed and I will certainly be back to explore more of this gorgeous island.

Note that details of this adventure were also published in the Gold Coast Bulletin Newspaper weekend edition on Saturday 16 February 2019

Go Like a Local

Since my first plane flight as a child, I have always had the travel bug and travelled a lot.  I moved to Europe as an 18 year old and spent 6 years working and travelling around, seeing as much as I possibly could.

Today, with my writing and photography, I continue to love finding new places and with a young family, I am mostly focused on exploring Australia.  Many trips are part of my work, but I’m also finding more and more, rather than been given a detailed itinerary and guided where to go and what to do, I am tending towards arranging my own trips, based on finding unexplored locations and places I am passionate about discovering.

Moonlight Crag @ O’Reillys

This means that although I like a certain standard of travel, I am always searching out good deals, including airlines.  I was so pleasantly surprised to experience Tiger Air.  Whilst marketing themselves as a budget, low cost airline, I felt like this did not impact on their great level of service and have since had no hesitation considering them when arranging my travel bookings.

Queen Mary Falls

So when Tiger Air Announced their, “Go Like a Local” campaign, I was more than keen to jump on board and get involved.  Aimed at locals like you and I sharing our local favourite locations, and not the obvious tourist spots, but our hidden gems, off the beaten track.  This competition not only gets us talking about and sharing our favourite places, but one lucky entrant will also win a $250 Tiger Air Voucher to book their next adventure.

Wavebreak Island

All you need to do to win is share a photo of your favourite place on Instagram and tag #GoLikeALocal @tigerairaustralia and @julesingall. The most creative entry will be selected for the $250 prize.  Too easy.

The Panorama @ Tallai

These are some of my favourite places on the Gold Coast, a little off the beaten track and never too busy.  What are yours?  Can’t wait to see what people share!

Entries close Friday 22 February 2019 (note Australian residents 18+ only please)

For more information go to www.tigerair.com.au/go-local

One of the many graffiti laneways – this one at Burleigh
The Broadwater
Lamington National Park
Natural Bridge

 

Sailing the Whitsundays – Disconnect to Reconnect

In today’s modern world, we are all getting busier.  We are time poor and with the invasion of social media in recent years, family time is rare, but more importantly -priceless.  The best way to really connect with each other is to disconnect yourselves from routine and what better way that escaping for a family holiday.  Unfortunately however, as the parent of teenagers, going away on holiday does not always mean disconnecting your children from their friends.  Social media has them glued to their phones and devices 24/7 right?

So when planning a quality family holiday, I had to consider something that would be amazing, an experience that would engage and enthuse everyone.   What better way to escape than a sailing adventure around the pristine waters of the Whitsundays discovering the idyllic tropical beaches, islands and reefs in the area.  Don’t own your own private yacht?  No problems, the team at Queensland Yacht Charters (QYC) are specialists in the Whitsundays region, plus they also have a fleet of luxury sailing boats to suit everyone’s needs.

Not only is a sailing holiday a great experience for those of us that don’t own our own 50 foot yacht, it allows the freedom to move around, have a unique adventure with the added bonus of limited phone and internet service so everyone really has to let go and unwind.  Even if only for a few days, completely switching off from reality will feel like you’ve had weeks away and you return refreshed and recharged.   The beauty of chartering a boat is that you are tapping into the years of local knowledge of experts to ensure every reasonable safety measure is followed and they can provide tips on hot spots for fishing, snorkelling, beaches and islands all away from the crowds.

QYC are one of the biggest and most popular Bare Boat Charter companies in the region.   They are a part of the World Wide Company – Dream Yacht Charters.  The world’s largest charter boat organisation.  They boast dream locations such as the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mediterranean, and of course, one of my absolute favourites, the Whitsundays.

QYC base is located at Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach.  It’s a short 30 minute drive from Whitsundays airport in Proserpine and QYC can even arrange for transport to collect you on your arriving flight.  It’s best to plan to be in Airlie Beach the day prior to departure out on the water. This gives you time to familiarise yourself with the boat, do any shopping necessary and if possible, start your sailing induction.

For any boating holiday, what to take is fairly minimal.  You’re away from people, restaurants, towns and the need to dress up.  A small bag with swimmers, a few summer clothes and of course a camera are about all you need to take on board.  Even shoes aren’t required so the very process of packing for your trip is a simple and stress free exercise.

There is the option to have the food catered for you, or if you want to go all out, have a hostess and chef on board to take care of food and all your other needs.  However, part of the luxury of a self-charter holiday is going completely off grid, away from technology, television and any sort of civilisation.  It’s best to keep things simple and go back to basics with food. There are supermarkets a short distance from the marina as well as an amazing butcher (MBW on the Barbie Butchers), seafood supplier (Fishi’s) and bottle shops, chemists etc.  It’s important to remember when setting sail on a charter boat holiday, nothing can be done quickly.  The nearest location to get any sort of supplies, access to medical etc is usually hours away so plan well and you shouldn’t have any dramas. Even take a small medical kit with extra plasters, disinfectant, anti-nausea etc.

Once you’re stocked up, the next order of business before you can set sail is familiarise yourself with how the actual boat works, including a full briefing from the Charter Company.  The Whitsundays is the only place in the world where you can hire a charter boat with no boat licence at all.  You can pretty much have zero boating knowledge, and set sail on one of the most magical holidays you will ever experience.

Despite the yachts being 30, 40, 50 feet long, they are surprisingly easy to manoeuvre.  QYC spend about half a day giving you a complete overview, how to work pretty much everything and what to do in most situations.  Finally, as you set sail, a member of their friendly crew will come with you for the first hour or so to ensure you have understood all the instructions and are comfortable out on the water.  Even though it sounds unimaginable to be handed the keys to one of these majestic boats without a licence, there is no way the charter company will let you leave until they are confident that you are fully in control and capable.

Part of the briefing is mapping out a course for the time that you are out on the water, taking into consideration their extensive knowledge of local conditions, winds and protected coves to moor.  Charters are for 3 up to 10 days duration, take your pick.  Of course conditions can change quickly but even though there is no phone service, onboard is a VHF radio linking you back to reality with regular updates from the local Marine Authority as well as the charter companies to keep you well informed.  You also need to check in morning and evening with your location and plans, which also gives you the opportunity to go through any queries or issues with the base.  It honestly couldn’t be simpler.

There are 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, the majority of which are completely uninhabited.  The choice is endless.  You’ve set sail, found your deserted island and you’re moored up feeling like you’ve been transported into lifestyles of the rich and famous.  This is truly living.  Many of the islands have great walking trails with magnificent views that stretch across the whole island landscape.  There’s something really bonding about being on a boat with only the company of your family or friends.  Teenagers who are usually glued to the television or in their rooms are suddenly free from the pressures that consume them and have time to really enjoy the whole experience.   We spent time playing board games, swimming, exploring the reefs and corals and even included stand up paddle boards on our boat for some extra fun.

Five nights on a charter, feeling like Christopher Columbus discovering the unknown, honestly equates to five weeks on a regular holiday.  The simple pleasure of disconnecting from the world makes time stand still.  Days spent lazing in the water and on beaches, often with not another person to be seen.  It’s easy to wind down and simply focus on your family and friends around you, or just get lost in another world in a good book.  Chartering a boat is an indulgence that many never consider as a holiday option, however the benefit of not requiring a boat licence with QYC makes it all so easy.  Once you have enjoyed the experience, you will be sure to return.  You can’t put a price on the value of reconnecting with family and spending treasured time together, it’s one holiday I will not only remember forever, but return again next year for more.

 

 

 

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”.

Continue reading “Gold Coast’s Most Instagramable Locations”

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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