We are now in Australia! It’s been a while since I’ve written a post about anywhere that’s not in New Zealand, but after a brilliant 8 months it was time to move on to somewhere new. We are part way through a trip down the East Coast of Australia, which began in the sunny Queensland city of Brisbane.
As we usually do in an unfamiliar city, we spent the first day just wandering around. Our friend Zoe had joined us from Perth for a few weeks, so four became five in Brisbane. The Southbank of the river Brisbane is at the very heart of the city. Funnily enough, much like London’s Southbank, it also has a large Ferris wheel, a concrete cultural centre (that looks like the Royal Festival Hall) and a modern art gallery. We spent our first day walking in the sunshine. We visited the Queensland Museum, a treasure trove of curiosities including a giant squid, a dinosaur skeleton and the biggest grasshoppers I’ve ever seen. We then visited GOMA, the Gallery of Modern Art, which was a great chance to see some contemporary Australian art and learn a bit about the Aboriginal culture through painting and sculpture.
The South Bank Parklands are a lush stretch of green on the Southbank, which includes Streets Beach, a surprisingly tasteful artificial beach. We ate lunch sitting on the sand and Matt and I were the ones to brave the swimming pool (which was really cold!). It was a strange experience swimming in the centre of a city with tall, shiny skyscrapers all around. We soon got used to the cold water, as long as we didn’t stay still for too long, it is winter after all!
When in the centre of the city you can also get the ferry up and down the river for free. It’s such a good bit of public transport, it’s an excellent way to see the city and its perfect for those on a budget like us. I’d say that hopping on the ferry counts as an activity in itself; on a sunny day it’s the perfect way to sightsee or get back into the middle once you’ve spent the day walking.
We also did a couple of things outside the city too. We were staying with some of Matt’s family and they had plenty of recommendations for us. One was to walk up Mount Coot-tha, which was a short walk away from their house. It was a pleasant walk through the bush (I was constantly on the lookout for snakes and scary spiders), and when we got to the top there was a great view of the whole city. We then walked down the other side of the mount to the Botanic Gardens, which we strolled around in the sun. Later in the afternoon we walked back to the suburb of Indooroopilly for some food, and then back to Matt’s family’s house. They were very impressed at the distance we had walked, it was really far and we sort of did it by accident! By the time we had walked most of it, we thought we might as well walk all the way back.
The final thing on our list of things to do in Brisbane was perhaps the most touristy. We went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where we watched rainbow lorikeets do tricks, we got a chance to hang out with some kangaroos and we held a cute koala called Rosé. She was very soft and cuddly, but really heavy. She was like a really dense teddy bear. We also saw dingoes and wombats and lots of tropical birds. It was a really touristy morning, but you’ve got to see a koala when you’re in Australia!
After about five days in sunny Brisbane it was time to start our journey South. I thoroughly enjoyed Brisbane and I think it’s a really underrated city. There was plenty to do, lots of free activities and a bit of something for everyone. The weather was glorious (although in summer I think it might be too hot), there were people enjoying the sunshine everywhere you looked, music poured out of shops and bars and the whole city had a pretty cheerful vibe. I guess that’s what happens when it’s sunny all year round!
Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast
We then caught our first bus in Australia to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. The places on the Gold Coast have such brilliant names – Surfers Paradise, Mermaid Junction, Clear Island Waters – and they’re all situated in the self-proclaimed sunshine state of Australia. Well, there was a little bit of sun at first, before the heavens well and truly opened. We were staying with a lovely family friend of mine, Nona, who made us feel wonderfully at home. We ate lots of food and drank lots of wine, and sat out a two day storm watching films in her living room. It was one of the worst storms I think I’ve ever seen, and something that does not occur on the Gold Coast very often at all. Weren’t we lucky?!
Fortunately we had a day of sunshine before the storm came, and we went for a drive up Mount Tamborine. There was a quaint and slightly strange little town up there, with several fudge shops, and a bizarre German cuckoo clock shop. There were some pleasant walks around the area with plenty of wildlife and pretty waterfalls. Unfortunately we timed it a bit early, the waterfalls would’ve been a lot more exciting after the storms!
The next day we went into the city of Surfers Paradise, wandered around the shops and bars towards the beach. The building are all very new and shiny, there are flashing lights and signs everywhere, there are designer shops and glitzy shopping centres. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere like it. It’s a bit like Las Vegas, but with fewer casinos, Elvises and without the fake Eiffel Tower. It’s hard to tell whether it knows it’s a little bit tacky or whether it is taking itself very seriously. I can understand why it’s a desirable destination though. We walked along the huge sandy beach, a stones throw away from all the shops and restaurants. It was warm and we dipped our feet in the sea. We looked to the right down the beach, and the south had blue skies and blazing sun. We turned our heads to the left, and the sky was black. The storm was coming.
As I said the next two days were rain rain rain. When the skies finally cleared, Nona suggested we go for a drive south, stopping at Point Danger, near the town of Coolangatta. It turns out that it has really earned its name! We were standing on the rocks watching the post-storm waves crash violently below us when we noticed a lone surfer who seemed to be in a bit of trouble. He had been towed out by his friend on a jet ski who was now frantically searching for him, but couldn’t see him behind all the waves. He was getting closer and closer to the rocks, desperately trying to paddle back out to sea. A crowd was forming, and there was absolutely nothing we could do. Nona’s husband Ray took off his T shirt and waved it above his head to try and signal to the surfer’s friend on the jet ski. Suddenly a big wave hit and the guy completely lost his board and was slapped up against one of the big rocks. Toby ran down to try and help him up and Grace followed with a bottle of water. Apart from being in total shock, and a few cuts (and almost definitely a few bruises the next day) he was completely fine. We were all pretty shaken up though, we were convinced it wasn’t going to end well and there was nothing we could do to help him without putting ourselves in danger. So Point Danger isn’t called Danger for nothing!
We had a lovely relaxing time on the Gold Coast with Nona and Ray. It was great to have somewhere to sit out the storm, instead of being in a crowded hostel. I’ve also been assured that it doesn’t usually pour with rain! It was hard to leave Nona and her wonderful hospitality, but after a few days it was time to head on to our next destination – the famous Byron Bay!