October 24 – November 23, 2016

We really wanted to become beach bums!

One could take weeks to drive up the east coast, and see many beautiful places along the way, but we wanted to spend more time in one or two places and were eager to dig our toes into the sand.  So we used frequent flier miles and flew to Brisbane on a beautiful sunny afternoon.



We spent the next 3 days, 4 nights in this charming Airbnb.  Our host had a prepaid bus card which we then reimbursed her for on our departure.  It was a great idea!


On our first day we walked to the river and picked up a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus.


The tour gave us a pretty good glimpse of the old and historic,


as well as the new and contemporary – here, the ANZAC memorial (Australian,  New Zealand Army Corps, which commemorates “Australians and New Zealanders who have fallen in the call of duty through any and all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping efforts”).  We have seen memorials of all kinds in every town and city, in both countries.


The tour also took us outside the city to get a view from Mt Coot-tha.  Midday is not the best time of day to take a photo!

Springbrook Nat Park

The next day we drove about 40 mins southwest of the city to the Springbrook National Park, an area with sub-tropical rain forests and dormant and overgrown volcanoes.

This was our first view of the wonderful Tree Fern.  They make a beautiful forest even more interesting.

Springbrook Nat Park

Another amazing view, over to the Gold Coast and the Pacific Ocean.

Antartic Beech

The base and roots of an ancient Antartic Beech.


We had read about the Natural Bridge waterfall so we hiked down into the forest, passing the upper part of the waterfall, here falling into the cavern.


It was well worth the effort.  The roof of the cave also houses glow worms, which, if we had had the time to hang around until dark, would have provided quite a show.


The drive back to Brisbane took us through beautiful rolling hills, which reminded us of the North Carolina mountains.


dsc_0031 I’m not sure whether this is a Queenslander house, but I loved the look  – rust, peeling paint and all!  I wonder what tales the walls could tell…….?


These ferries, some free, are part of the transport system of the city, so on our last day we took several rides along the river, giving us access to different parts of the city.


The Jacaranda trees were in full bloom, and were glorious – I was thrilled, because they  brought back childhood memories of Cape Town.


So we were glad we had made the effort to see the city and were not disappointed.


The next day we headed north to Noosa, stopping for a coffee in this eclectic café.


As we stepped inside, I was stopped in my tracks to find a group of Red Hat ladies enjoying  a coffee morning.  Here we were in the ‘boonies’ and I would never have expected to find such finery!  They graciously agreed to me taking their picture.


Our route took us through the Hinterland, traveling by the Glass House Mountains,


Montville hinterland

and passing through the charming town of Montville.



 Noosa lies over there between those two blips on the horizon.


I had tried to book our 2 weeks close to the beach, but unfortunately it was only available the 2nd week, so I booked the above for the first week. We were just a 7 min drive from the beach.

It turned out to be one of our favorite places and we wish we had reserved it for the whole 2 weeks.


Our hosts, Marilyn and Rod were delightful (he was often hard time understand because he had SUCH a strong Aussie accent and spoke so quickly… ).  He reared exotic birds in large cages and besides waking us up every morning, they were also a source of interest and amusement.

The cottage was at the back of their property where Marilyn’s mother used to live before needing to move into an Alder Care Home, so it was well stocked and very comfortable.


Although Major Mitchels are beautiful and certainly cute, their song is more more like a screech.  Awful!


This little fella looked pathetic, with his motley feathers, but apparently he produced offspring prolifically 😊

Marilyn and Rod also invited us over to watch the Melbourne Cup (one of the most important horse racing events in the world).  We felt completely out of our league and hoped that we were nodding and “oohhing” and “aahhing “in the right places!


The Emundi Market was just a few miles away, so while I went browsing,


Jouko went golfing.


Another time I rode along with him, but this course was not in very good condition,


although the roos seemed to like it!


Noosa Spit Recreational Reserve

The above photo shows the ocean crashing into the mouth of the river and the beginning of the Reserve.

The tree-lined main street of Noosa is full of boutique shops, restaurants and cafés.  Also surrounded by beautiful houses and apartments, the Noosa River and it’s tributaries weave in and out of neighborhoods.


We loved going to this spot on the Reserve, which was the perfect place for Kite Surfing.

Jouko found their technique fascinating to watch; perhaps Sir Richard Branson, who owns property on the river, and President Obama could give him some lessons!


The relatively calm waters of the reserve combined with winds coming in from the ocean, provide the perfect conditions for Kite Surfing.


It is also a wonderful place to be at sunset.


A view of Noosa and the river.

Unfortunately it was soon time to pack up and move on.


Sunshine Beach

It is a beautiful long beach with crashing waves attracting surfers.

Our Airbnb at Sunshine Beach was advertised as being a large room, with sleeping area, sitting area, kitchen and bathroom.  All of that was true, except for the “kitchen” part.  My understanding of a kitchen is that there will be a stove, fridge and sink.  This had 2 of the 3 –  but no sink!  Our host had provided a plastic container for us to put our dirty dishes and cutlery in and we would leave it outside for her to run through her dishwasher.  We were not happy campers, but made the most of it, although we couldn’t do much food preparation. (Needless to say, she did not get a good review from me).


The house was just a few minutes from the beach which was convenient.  We spent many hours walking along the sands or sitting and watching the other beach goers.


One day we packed some sandwiches and climbed up above the beach to hike around the coast of Noosa National Park with it’s cliffs and isolated beach coves.  In the above picture, one can see down the length of  Sunshine Beach.


Alexander Bay, one of the beaches in the National Park,  is a “clothes optional” area, but was pretty deserted except for hikers like us.  I think the wind (that’s why I’m holding on to my hat) may have kept them behind the cover of the sand dunes!


The terrain went from low bush, to dense, scraggly trees,

and the occasional wild flower


Tea Tree Bay


After hiking for a couple of hours, we arrived in Noosa Beach and then took the bus back to our digs.


Fraser Island Tour

It wasn’t enough to just walk along the beach, we wanted to go 4 wheeling on the beach!

Having decided to take a tour of Fraser Island, we were up and ready to be picked up just outside our house at 6am.  We then joined 14 other people and boarded an air-conditioned 4 wheel-drive van.  They provided morning coffee and biscuits (cookies), lunch and afternoon tea and biscuits.  The trip was timed to take advantage of the low tide to drive along the beaches and gain access to Fraser Island.


Permits are required to drive on the sands and to camp.


Camping among the dunes to our left.


Driving northwest along Rainbow Beach.  Oh my goodness, this was SO cool!


This special car ferry (built in Brazil and driven across the Pacific in it’s present form), would transfer us from the mainland to the island.


As you see, it makes a beach landing and the vehicles drive straight off onto the sand….


Another vehicle has arrived at the place we have just left and awaits the return of the ferry.


We drove north along 75 Mile Beach, navigating fishermen and


 these fresh water streams, cutting their way from the interior of the island to the ocean.  Our driver was a knowledgeable guide and fortunately a good driver!


Then we turned inland.  Fraser island is a World Heritage Site; it is the largest sand island and the only sand island to host a rain forest!


Taken from the moving van, this gives a glimpse of the dense vegetation.

While enjoying our morning coffee, he told us about the sub-tropical rain forest, the towering hardwood Satinay trees as well as the Kauri.


Not having had breakfast, we felt better after a couple of biscuits and now it was time to push on to see beautiful Lake McKenzie


Wow!  It was like something out of a magazine and the white, white sand was dazzling!

Freshwater Lake McKenzie is not fed by a river but rather by rainwater. .


I think I will just pitch my tent here – in paradise!


But these fellas live in paradise – as do Dingos 😱!


After lunch, we drove north to visit the layers of coloured sands – as many as 72 different hues; they stand like cathedral spires guarding the beach.


Are we looking like Aussies yet??


A little further along the coast, we came across the rusting remains of the SS Maheno.  It was built in Scotland in 1904 and shipwrecked in 1935 and has become a living piece of sculpture on the beach!


Time for afternoon Tea and…


…exploring Eli Creek, an unspoiled, freshwater creek that flows down to the ocean.  Our guide said the water was drinkable and with the minerals from the ground, had a lovely flavor.  So, up-creek from Jouko, I tried it – it did taste good!


With the sun starting to dip, it was time to head back and hope we made it in time before the tides started to come in


We joined others returning home…..


… want to race?


They had promised that we would be back by around 6.30 pm.


As we went around dropping everyone off at their place of residence, the evening sky was aglow in pink and reds.  What a memorable experience!   Tired and so happy!


We were pretty wiped out the next day, but in the late afternoon we made the effort to go for a walk along the beach.


sunshine beach


And then close to the beach, we found THE best fish (Barramundi) and chips.



Our final evening, we visited the Noosa Recreational Reserve again; it was warm and balmy and so peaceful.



And so, I added Noosa and Sunshine Beach to the places where, along this journey,  I have left parts of my heart…..💟


The next day we drove back to Brisbane and flew to Cairns

From the plane
I was blown away as I looked out of the window and saw that we were flying over barrier reefs….


…. glistening like jewels in the blue and turquoise ocean.


Here, flying over the Mangrove marshes and into Cairns.


How pretty.  And when we stepped out of the plane we knew we were in the tropics!!

Our next destination was Mission Beach, about 1 1/2 hrs south.


This little place more than made up for the previous “hovel”.



And to be more precise, our new home was in Wongaling Beach (isn’t that a great name?), which is right between North and South Mission Beaches.


And just across the street was our access to the beach, with Dunk Island right opposite us.


Over the next two weeks, we spent hours walking up and down these quiet shores – often we were the only ones there.


One evening soon after our arrival, we took a picnic and explored further down the beach.  A couple of families came along  & since we no longer needed the picnic table, we gave it to them and were soon in a friendly conversation.  One of the men was gathering wood on the beach (bottom right in photo) to start a fire and they were going to have a barbie; “would you like to join us?” Since we had already eaten, we declined, but we left with such warm hearts!


The beach stretched endlessly in both directions. And it was constantly changing according to the light and clouds.


There were no crashing waves here like in Sunshine Beach, just the constant sound of gentle, lapping waves – so peaceful.

I loved this artist so much…….


……I gave his artwork a frame 😊


Mission Beach is also known as part of the Cassowary Coast.  These endangered, flightless birds stand about 1 meter tall, 3.2 ft, and are not easy to see.  We were constantly reminded to be careful………..but where were they?? (I didn’t take a picture of the many signs, so this is a screen shot).


Just north of Mission Beach, is Bingal Bay

There isn’t much there besides some lovely homes and campsites, but there is this lovely café.


November 14 we went out hoping to catch a glimpse of the Super Moon.


Over several nights the moon would be at it’s closest point of approach in it’s orbit around the earth since 1948.  It would also be this big in December – and I think we saw it in New Zealand.  The next time it will be this close to earth will be in 2034.


The moon soon rose above the clouds and gave us a wonderful show.


I must admit that it did not seem that big to me :-), but apparently, if we had stayed up past midnight, it might have appeared larger.


It provided a stunning sunset…


….and some fun🌛


We couldn’t be this close and not go to the Great Barrier Reef.

Jouko researched which would be the best company to go with and we chose BIG MAMA!


It was a husband & wife team with their 12 yr old son (whom they home-schooled. He was definitely part of the crew, too).  They collected all our shoes into a large bag and we climbed aboard.


Adjusting the sails.


Yummmm….. scones, jam and cream! Great way to start this adventure.


They were a fun couple, with great stories to share.


It was the morning following the Super Moon and this meant that the tide was higher than usual and the wind was pretty strong.  So the captain climbed up to see whether the reefs were visible.


We had already been sailing for a couple of hours and had to go a little further to find another area that would be better to explore. We went snorkeling here and then found a second area after lunch.

I had considered buying an underwater camera (a disposable one hopefully).  But  never found one.  In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t have a camera; I was able to fully focus on what I was seeing.  But before we were able to see anything, we had to get used to snorkeling in some pretty choppy water.  It had probably been 20 yrs since we had snorkeled and I was feeling very claustrophobic.  Also, Jouko was having trouble getting his mask to fit tightly over his beard.  Before plunging in the captain had said that he had a surf board that could fit 4 people lying across it…….I signaled that I wanted the surf board – the best invention!  I was soon joined by some others and we lazily floated, faces in the water, mesmerized by the beauty just a couple of feet below us.  What a thrill to observe exotic fish I have only seen in aquariums, swimming in & out of the multi coloured coral and vegetation.  Purple ones and yellow ones or white and black stripped ones.  Such a thrill!  It wasn’t until the next day that I realized that I should have put sun block on the back of my legs; lying on the surf board,oblivious to the beating sun, I had some pretty sore legs for a few days.



After lunch he dropped us off by this sand bar, asking us not to go on it as birds were nesting. I wanted that moment to last forever; standing knee deep in the crystal clear waters on a sand bar in the Pacific Ocean…….Then I swam over to the coral and indicated I was ready for the surf board again.


I don’t know how long we floated around, but gradually the swimmers came back, indicating they were ready to leave.




I forgot, this fella was a member of the crew, too!


Bye, bye BIG MAMA.  Thanks for opening up our horizons!


These first aid kits are found along all beaches in North Queensland; not sure how far south they go.  The Box Jellyfish and the Irukandji Jellyfish (about the size of your thumb nail) can be deadly and arrive with warmer sea temperatures.  During the months of November – March, it is recommended swimming only within stinger nets.

The day after our visit to the Reef, we heard that 2 French tourists (in their 70s) had died while snorkeling.  They had gone out from Cairns and were found within minutes of each other, floating face down in the water.  Stingers are suspected although it was early in the season and they are not usually found out in those waters.


Our nearest net was just south of where we were staying.  And yet, we still saw people swimming outside the nets.  Others said they were alright as long as they went swimming with a singer suit on.  We didn’t take any chances.


I think this is a Ray or Skate.  It washed up dead on the beach and it was fascinating to be able to examine it up close.


Australia has some of the world’s deadliest animals, most lethal insects and obviously deadly jellyfish.  While walking one morning we came to the mouth of this river.  At low tide it is shallow and we have waded across and continued walking along the beach.  But here we are at high tide and this man wanted to get to the other side, BUT crocodiles lurk around these areas at high tide and so he hesitated.  Then he decided to brave it and we wished him luck.  We stuck around – in case we had to give an account of what happened!

img_3635The close of another day.



After ‘lapping’ up the beauty of the beach for a few days, we were ready to explore the Atherton Tablelands

table lands

This highland area is made up of Rain forest, Wetlands and Savannah and lies west of Mission Beach.


 I assured Jouko that I wasn’t going to drop him off, but just wanted a cup of coffee!


We ended up have an interesting conversation with this gentleman and the waitress about the cost of living and politics in Australia. Stopping at these out-of-the-way places were often full of surprises!


I never expected to see tea growing, but why not!


North Johnstone River Gorge,  Wooroonooran National Park.

table lands

Millaa Millaa Waterfall

Table lands

We didn’t know what to expect when we saw Yungaburra on the map….

…….turned out it was a beautifully preserved, charming little town.

After getting something light to eat, we wandered around.


Someone had an active imagination.


Before leaving, we went to see the Heritage Listed Curtain Fig.


We had never seen anything like it.  It was huge!


The Black Bean trees made such an impressive impact.


On our way back from the Tablelands, we rounded the corner close to “home” around 6.30 pm – and out of the bush walks a Cassowary and chick!  I remember how black it was and the vivid blue around the head.  We were SO excited, but didn’t attempt to stop (we didn’t want to cause an accident all those signs warned us about) and we had heard that one should not get out of the car; they could be aggressive, especially if they have young with them.  This is a screenshot.  We realize how fortunate we are to have seen one.


Our time was coming to an end and a lump was developing in my throat….


But what a privilege to have been able to enjoy all this beauty.



Version 2

The sunset put on quite a show our last evening .


It was overcast the day we left Wongaling Beach to drive up to Port Douglas, just north of Cairns.  Fields of sugar cane line the road.

So many people had sung the beauty of Port Douglas that we thought we should make the effort to visit it.


More gorgeous scenery as we drove along the Captain Cook Hwy.



The impressive entry into the city.

We were not interested in shopping, so we just spent a few hours looking around before heading back to Cairns.


The day was hot and steamy.

I think these are called Golden Rain Trees – so beautiful.

Outdoor markets and an example of hippie campers one sees around.


A view south from Flagstaff Hill.  Port Douglas was established as a gold mining port.


Descending from Flagstaff Hill, looking north.


Cairns decorating rocks on the road to Cairns!!


Flying from Cairns to Sydney, I’m pretty sure we flew over part of Mission Beach with Dunk Island in the top right.


We had not seen Ros in over 40 yrs, but thanks to Face Book, we had stayed in touch.

She graciously put us up for the next two nights and showed us around some areas near her home, like Balmoral Beach.




The following day she drove north to show us Sydney’s northern beaches, which are absolutely gorgeous.  Here we are in Palm Beach.

TV show

The soap opera “Home & Away” was being filmed.  Interesting to watch.


Whale Beach

Ros on the patio of her lovely home.

I have to admit that I was not terribly excited at this point about going to NZ; for one thing, I dreaded the colder weather and I was quite content to continue exploring Oz   😉


NEXT:  New Zealand


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