The East Coast: Brisbane, Noosa and Fraser Island

From Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast to Brisbane, a city of split views – at least, that’s what I’ve heard so far.

About half the people said Brisbane is great and the other half said it was boring, with only a few indifferent opinions in between. Given how much people were raving about Surfer’s, I had a feeling I might get on a little better here and so it turned out!

Brisbane letters

Brisbane letters

Less than a two-hour bus ride later, during which I bumped into a friend from Spot X and we had a good catch up, I arrived in the next city. For those keeping track, I’ve now been to Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, so that’s four.

Brisbane is a smaller city than the others but the advantage of that is things are closer together, and since I only had two days before moving on again, that helped me get through a few things.

I took some time to explore the CBD, finding an awesome bookshop called The Archive, which mainly had old books, so if you’re looking for some older covers this is the place to go. The botanical gardens were really nice and after walking around them along the river, you can cross a bridge to Southbank, where there’s another park, an arts centre and an artificial beach!

Brisbane's artificial beach

Brisbane’s artificial beach

Yes, you read it right. Brisbane doesn’t have a beach, and while you can certainly reach the coast in some way, it takes time. This beach sits next to the river and is sand based with salt water. There are pools on either side too so if sunbathing next to the water isn’t for you, there’s another option.

I want to spend more time here as there are some really nice bars and restaurants around, in Southbank and up in Fortitude Valley, just finding time for it all was impossible on this trip.

Almost too soon it was time to head to Noosa, which is where one of my big trips started. I got there in the afternoon, checked out the beach and before I knew it, was heading to bed for a 6am wake-up so I could get myself on the way to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world!

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

This was a group of four 4×4 cars, with those with a valid license able to drive at some point (damn my past self for not getting a license!) but there are no roads on the island, you’re driving on sand the entire time. As a passenger, I was in the front car with the tour leader who, having done these tours for 14 years, knew a good deal about the island, its history and locations.

There were a number of main spots we had on the list to visit; Lake McKenzie with its clear water and ridiculously fine sand (the kind you can exfoliate your skin with and brush your teeth with – true story) but while that was incredible, it was also the cloudiest day so not as warm as usual. I know, I know, I shouldn’t really complain but just imagine how much nicer it would have looked with the sun. Regardless, I didn’t want to get out of the water.

The night, well, both nights, actually, we ended up on the beach around midnight. With no light pollution, you could see the stars and, my God, its one of the best views I’ve ever seen. I can’t even describe to you how stunning it looked, both nights. It made me wish I had a proper camera with the right lens to even attempt a photo of it. It remains in my mind though, don’t worry.

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

We cleared our hangovers in Eli Creek the next morning, with some cool and refreshing water before pressing on to a shipwreck and later the Champagne Pools, which do not have champagne but when the waves crash over the rocks, it creates the bubble effect seen in your champers glass. You are swimming with fish too!

A little history lesson of Indian Head on our way back and that was us done for the day.

The final day took us to Lake Wabby, which was a 45-minute trek from the beach, where we had to park, and back again after our hour there. The fish in this lake eat the dead skin off your body, much like those beauty treatments you see, or saw, dotted around shopping centres. Very weird to feel. As gorgeous as it is, it won’t exist in the future as a sand dune is slowly filling the lake. It used to be 16.5 meters at it’s deepest but currently sits at 9.5m. That’s scary to think.

Being a sand island, you wouldn’t expect there to be a rainforest on the island, would you? Would you?! Well, there is! It’s to do with the underground freshwater streams that keep it going. It was an experiment that took hold. That’s just one of the extra bits we got told by our tour guide/driver.

Sunset in Noosa

Sunset in Noosa

Then it was back to Noosa, where, I promise you, we all slept soundly. I was in a tipi for the two nights on Fraser Island, which was fine enough with a mattress and blanket but a real bed was so much better.

Yes, even a hostel bed!

Two days in Noosa followed, recuperating and enjoying the beach, a sunset over it, and a coastal walk to the Fairy Pools (much like the Champagne Pools) and Hell’s Gate.

Next up; a 9-hour coach journey to Agnes Water. Great.

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The East Coast: Chilling at Byron Bay and Surfer’s Paradise

From Spot X to Byron Bay was only a four-hour Greyhound journey – simple compared to the last two, right?

Wrong.

My bus was at 3am! The 7am was full, ugh. That being said, it got me into Byron just before 7am and that gave me a full day to explore (after dropping my gear off at the hostel again). Although, the driver kept talking into the microphone throughout. Not cool, dude. Not at that time!

Now, Byron Bay isn’t huge but it’s full of independent and boutique shops and restaurants so plenty to sink your teeth into. It’s also very chilled out, more so than other place I’ve seen so far but everyone still goes about their day. It’s a calming chilled out and I felt really happy and at home there, despite it being smaller than every other place I’ve lived – or considered living.

I also almost got rained on properly for the first time (outside of the F1). A ten-minute downpour that, thankfully, I was already undercover for on the way to the hostel. It would have soaked me to the core in less than thirty seconds but then it dried up in less than an hour. Madness.

Killen Falls

Killen Falls

That night, I met a local, who I befriended in Doncaster many years ago, and she drove me to the Lighthouse for the latter end of sunset. It was amazing. Then we hit a few bars and had a good catch up before I totally crashed out.

The next day was even better. I was taken on a drive around the area, having a look at some of the villages around Byron Bay and stopping at a number of spots and lookouts for pictures. The best spot was Killen Falls, a waterfall after a dam that is part of the water supply for Byron. It was a sheltered cove where people would come and relax in the shade and swim and I’m so jealous I didn’t have my swimming gear – I could have spent all day there!

Then again, I wouldn’t have seen anything else if I had!

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

We rounded the day off with more drinks and food in the local RSL club (t’s been so long since I had a roast dinner so it was definitely needed) while watching the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, a timely reminder that I’d be heading up to the Gold Coast shortly.

My final day was spent with friends from Spot X who’d finally arrived in Byron. We took the coastal walk to the lighthouse in the afternoon, arriving with plenty of time before sunset, and seeing the whole thing blew my mind. The colours, the sound of the ocean, the pure peacefulness of it all. I definitely prefer sunsets to sunrises but that might be because I’m already awake at that time!

Surfer's Paradise

Surfer’s Paradise

Then it was a short Greyhound to Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast. There’s a lot going on here because of the Commonwealth Games, so there are stages everywhere with music and performances, but it’s also a party area of the city.

Great for groups but less so for me, since I prefer pubs to clubs! I spent most days exploring and chilling on the beach (as well as catching up with some work and writing!), using this time to recharge before next week, which is going to be pretty full on.

I did see another friend here, too (met in Doncaster but a local here). We had food and drinks one night and just a really good catch up, which I’m sure won’t be the last one!

While it’s a nice little holiday destination, there are probably other parts of the Gold Coast better suited for me and in the future, I’ll come back to find them, but taking some time to chill was definitely needed. Also, my body has almost fully recovered by now so when I’m next able to get back on the surfboard, I will!

The East Coast: Sydney and Surfing

This is something I’ve been looking forward to since booking it on day one of my Australian adventure. I spent a lot of money sorting it and I have a lot of things planned, which I won’t spoil here – you’ll just have to wait and see.

Now, you’ll know I don’t drive so I’m relying on public transport. There were a few options but I chose a hop-on-hop-off Greyhound pass. I booked the journeys in advance but pay just once. It makes sense. The first trip was from Melbourne to Sydney – a twelve-hour trip that I booked as an overnight journey. This means no accommodation costs for that night but that I wasn’t likely to get much sleep, and so it proved.

Obligatory selfie with Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Obligatory selfie with Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

I was sat next to a guy (who had the window seat) who kept falling asleep on me and leaning into me. I’m not ashamed to say he got a few elbows and nudges over the trip, which woke him up grumbling but I’m not a damned pillow!

It was a relief to get to Sydney. An hour’s sleep, maybe two at most. Couldn’t check in for a few more hours but stored my gear. Went north and found the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, walked over the former (then back) and around the latter, taking plenty of pictures. The botanical gardens were right besides the opera house and I’d been told there was a great spot to get a picture of both and to the obligatory selfie. I did that and then explored the gardens.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

I actually bumped into some friends from Melbourne back at the hostel, leading to impromptu drinks, which was a great way to round the day. The following day was more drinks with another friend who I met in Melbourne but lived in Sydney followed by a pub quiz where I got a free pizza for coming in last – but remember I was playing alone!

Of course, I had to go to Bondi Beach and it was beautiful. I took a coastal walk south to find Clovelly Beach, which was also beautiful and ran into more people along the way. It really is a small world, huh? The walk took longer than it should, thanks to my excessive photo-taking habits.

Checkout was the next day and I was very boring and responsible by doing work for most of it, as I had another overnight Greyhound trip to surf camp!

I can surf!

I can surf!

This was at Arrawarra Beach, near Woolgoolga, at a place called Spot X. We slept in converted shipping containers and you know what? They were actually quite comfortable!

I surfed every morning and afternoon (but the morning lessons could be as early as 8am! Ugh) but it wasn’t until the second day I was able to stand up at all, thanks to some great instructors who took the time with everyone to make sure they were doing the right things. After that, it’s just practise. By the end of my three days, I could stand up most of the time, speed up and slow down as well as turn…usually.

It was really fun but I ruined myself. Covered in bruises from head to toe, board rash on my legs and rubbed away half the skin on both hands. That meant there’d be no surfing for me for a while until I healed. A bit annoying since there were some good spots coming up but better to play it safe.

Sunrise at Spot X

Sunrise at Spot X

One thing I did do at Spot X was get up one morning for the sunrise at the ungodly hour of 5am (so I had time to fully wake up). Trudging to the beach wasn’t fun and, typically, the only clouds in the sky were over the horizon. A bit annoying but I waited anyway.

And I’m glad I did. Seeing the sun rise over the clouds and hit the beach was incredible. Such a beautiful way to start the day with gorgeous colours and tones hitting the water and sand. I wasn’t alone, plenty of people made it down, ad when you combine that view with the soothing sound of the ocean…yeah, I can see why people do this so much.

Not saying I’ll do it all the time, but every so often? Yeah.

A lot of the friends I made at surf camp are doing the same trip as me, but slower. I was one of the first of ‘our group’ to leave and head to Byron Bay.

Melbourne and the F1

Forgive me, I’ve fallen a little behind so there’ll be more frequent updates this week as I catch up. Sometimes there’s a lot to say about a place, and others not so much.

So, the flight back from Perth was uneventful but it wasn’t a budget airline. I flew Virgin Australia and it was great. Entertainment, drinks and food included. It was as cheap as the budget this time, somehow, but I’m not complaining. I’ll keep this in mind for the future.

Then I’m back in Melbourne! Perth was good, chilled but almost to an extent that if I’d stayed for a month or longer, I’d have gotten bored. I like Melbourne, it feels like home for me here. I’ve only been to two places so I can’t say that with certainty but so far, it fits!

One of the Ferrari's

One of the Ferrari’s

I decided to stay at Nomads in St Kilda for the next few weeks – because I had one room for the duration and it was close to the F1 and the guys back at Base. I spent a fair bit of time there seeing people and it was really nice noticing that they did miss me, or at least notice I’d gone. I don’t regret the choice though, I needed to sleep!

I did make a booboo, though. I had already booked to stay at Base for the F1 weekend, but then also booked in at Nomads. That cost me a few bucks once I realised!

Not much to really say about this. I spent most of it under the radar, a few drinks here and there but mostly in money saving mode. Half-assed job applications got me nowhere, obviously. The room I was in was good. Another Scottish guy and two Irish lasses, and then the other two beds were filled with randoms. Felt kinda sorry for them, given how fast we spoke at times. They must have had a lot of ‘what the hell’ moments!

Albert Park before the F1

Albert Park before the F1

Before I knew it, it was F1 time, but not before I spent a couple of days beforehand walking the track before they closed it off. It was so cool to be able to walk it before it all kicked off, getting some great pictures (just a shame I couldn’t be THAT close during the racing!) and enjoying the weather. I’d walked around Albert Park before but not while the barriers and grandstands were up.

The F1 itself? That was something else entirely. I’ve been to Silverstone a few times in the UK, and its great fun but here I was, on the other side of the world, on my own, at a four-day grand prix event! Excited doesn’t cover it.

First off, it’s cheaper. That’s unusual to say about Australia but a 4-day general admission ticket at Albert Park cost the same as a race-day general admission ticket at Silverstone and there’s more to see and do at this event. Now, I know it’s all about track funding and costs etc, but not once was there a shortage of people, even on the Thursday!

I met Louise Goodman!

I met Louise Goodman!

I spent that day getting driver autographs and photos. I missed out (by a few meters) on a wristband for one of the big four teams (Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull) but got quite a few. Even better, and a highlight of the weekend, was meeting Louise Goodman! Boom!

The start of the remaining three days was spent at Melbourne Walk, where the drivers and teams enter the paddock. More of a free-for-all here, but got some good autographs, including Daniel Ricciardo, Adrian Newey, Christian Horner and Claire Williams, to name a few.

Then I started hunting for spots to watch the action. Just after turn two, on the inside, is good but not much happens. After exploring most of the circuit, I settled on either turn ten and turn eleven, on the outside. Good views and potential overtaking spots, judging by the other categories.

Saturday began with a downpour, soaking me through and making me hide in a pub for four hours and watch the action on TV. It dried quickly in the afternoon, though and with all the racing, including the Australian V8 Supercars, the track dried quickly too. It was so cool to see them racing here as part of their championship for the very first time. I’m hoping to see more of them in the future.

A big crash for Bottas in F1’s qualifying session followed by an equally stunning and ridiculous lap by Hamilton set up a great race for the Sunday, when I would have company!

Sitting on the #AUSGP sign

Sitting on the #AUSGP sign

A new friend’s very first F1 event. Normally I’ picked my spot and camp there all day but she was only attending for one day so I wanted to show her around, including Melbourne Walk, the displays around the track and what was on offer before we landed at turn 10 for the Supercars and F1. I won’t talk about the race, plenty of people have since then but even with little overtaking, it was great fun and I’m glad she enjoyed it!

Then an early night before beginning my East Coast Adventure!

A Trip to Perth

This one’s a little late but due to my laptop needing a new hard drive, that kind of took priority! So, after two awesome weeks in Melbourne, I was set for a 4 and half hour journey to Perth on the west coast.

First things first, it’s hot over there! I thought Melbourne was warm but bloody hell, this took it to a whole new level. Absolutely gorgeous, though. Some of the countries best beaches are that way, I had been told, and I can confirm that now (from what I’ve seen so far).

There’s so much more than that, and I was lucky to have a friend over there to show me around some of these really cool places!

Kings Park

One of the views of Perth from King's Park

One of the views of Perth from King’s Park

This is quite possibly one of the biggest parks I’ve been to. I spent over four hours one day wandering through it and still missed so much of it. It is HUGE! It’s also on top of a big hill (why do I do this to myself?!) but once up there, there were some stunning views.

Memorials, the Botanical Gardens (which is split into different regions) and views over the CBD and harbour. Remember the weather is essentially perfect so I had to delete a lot of duplicate photos!

Even better, along the edge of the park, closest to the water, is a

Quokka

Quokka

walkway with viewpoints and also a glass bridge! Not going to lie, that freaked me out a little (I don’t like heights, after all) but I still went over it, of course.

So. Many. Animals

So, after seeing penguins in St Kilda, I knew I was going to see these cute buggers called quokkas on Rottnest Island. They are ridiculously cute and very happy to approach people (but don’t feed them) for pictures. I also tried snorkelling for the first time. It was strange but with more practise I’ll get there.

Dolphin

Dolphin

Another trip took us to Penguin Island. We did a boat trip first and saw dolphins! They even chased the waves the boat made. That was cool. On the island itself, we saw a penguin feeding but the wild ones were hiding during the day. We did see one in a little cave, though.

We also went to a wildlife park where I was able to feed kangaroos, meet a koala and a wallaby among many more. That was an awesome day, too. Lots of pictures from that day – animals don’t listen to instructions very well!

Geeky heaven

Inside White Dwarf Books

Inside White Dwarf Books

One of my favourite things about Perth happened a couple of days in. I discovered a bookshop called White Dwarf books. Now, everyone knows I love books but this store goes to a whole new level as it’s a store specifically for science fiction and fantasy.

YES, YOU HEARD ME!

I stayed in there for hours chatting to the staff, who were cool. I actually missed a bus tour around the city, but I regret nothing. I could have bought everything in that shop.

Inside The Nostalgia Box

Inside The Nostalgia Box

About a ten minute walk is a place called the Nostalgia Box, a retro gaming museum. It’s a neatly packed place going through the history of video game consoles from the beginning through to the last generation and even though I knew a fair bit, I came away with a little more knowledge. Bonus.

And, of course, a bunch of consoles to play, too!

Cider and Pork!

Music at the Cider and Pork Festival

Music at the Cider and Pork Festival

The last weekend of my stay in Perth happened to coincide with the Cider and Pork Festival. This was a great night with good drinks, even better food and decent music.

I met some really cool people, one couple in particular stood out. We were chatting and they asked about my book. After explaining it to them, and what my job involves, they practically demanded I stay in the country longer than the current plan. It was really nice to hear people that enthusiastic about my work and I admit, I am tempted to stay longer if I can.

I want to point out here that these events in the UK are ridiculously expensive. While alcohol is generally more expensive in Australia than back home anyway, the prices I paid for these drinks were about the same as in bars, so it made no difference. A festival back home has a definite increase in price.

This is just a snapshot, we did so much! Those two weeks ended too early, I think. Back to Melbourne for a few more weeks with the F1 coming up fast!