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NUMINBAH VALLEY, QLD

 Numinbah Valley                                                                                           

Gold Coast Camping & Social 4wding Group





Started out at 0745, which is a smidge later than we normally do.  Probably because we were so excited to be going to a campsite just a little over an hour and a half from home and knowing that the day onsite would be longer and hot than normal.
This weekend our trip was straight down the highway at 110kph, then a right hand turn through suburbia and into the countryside.  We followed the Hinze Dam’s zig-zagging western coastline down to the Nerang River and then through the valley to Numinbah Valley, which is a quaint little country town.




We arrived at Numinbah Adventure Trails around 9.30am and were told to head straight for the campground.  Then it was a matter of unhitching and start setting up. Tent goes up right beside the creek.

Kim’s down to the creek and checking it out by 10.30am.  Of course our dog Shari was straight in the water.  By now we are joined by others.  And pretty much the afternoon continues,  sitting in creek , camp for a refill, sitting in creek, lunch and back to drinking in the creek.



 By 3.30pm we headed to Beachfront Markets. During late afternoon and early evening, The Esplanade along the beach of the Gold Coast becomes a hive of activity when a hundred or so colourful stalls set up for the Beachfront Markets. We finally got to take a stroll along the foreshore to check out the microcosm of life on the strip with a spot of crowd watching, to watch street performers.

While we were there, we wandered the stalls investigating new gizmos and gadgets, unique products and paraphernalia, with Kim giving in and buying a bracelet. The wares on sale are fairly touristy, carrying goods such as jewellery, home wares, fashion, beauty products and Gold Coast oriented tourist wares. While some of the goods are made elsewhere, the emphasis is on locally made or produced. Kim especially loved the seashore-inspired jewellery and the beautiful metal-mounted photographs of Surfers Paradise by Geoff Edwards. 




Back to camp for a quick chat around the fire before a small storm with a shower rolled in, so we retreated to our campsite a made an early night of it.




Next day dawns noisily.  Birds of all shapes, sizes, colours and call have descended on our campsite and are doing their best to get us out of bed. 





We then jumped in the car and headed to a sizable sandy patch of dog paradise which starts at the edge of Palm Beach Parklands and follows Currumbin Creek all the way around to the surf. So whether your dog is the wave catching type or just enjoys a good old-fashioned dog paddle, both will be in heaven here. And for owners it doesn't come much more scenic than this, with gorgeous vistas across Currumbin Creek on the still water side and views to Surfers paradise from the wide surf stretch on the other. On the parklands before the beach is a cafe that is dog friendly which we had a nice lunch.



 We arrived back to camp late afternoon just before some storms rolled in. We decided to fire up the Ozpig and eat dinner early. Back to the fire for some drinks and yarns before more storms rolled in and we all split back to shelter.




The next morning we were up and early to pack up and head to Burleigh Markets. Featuring over 75 fashion, art and craft stalls, the Village Markets in Burleigh Heads is Kim’s most loved boutique market on the Gold Coast.

Now five years old, the market provides a valuable springboard for talented emerging designers, photographers and artists from the local area, as well as providing a regular community meeting hub and cultural event for all ages to enjoy. We picked up a freshly brewed boutique coffee and enjoyed a laid back Sunday morning browsing the fantastic mix of men and women’s fashion, vintage clothing from all over the world, hand crafted jewellery, homewares, gifts and much more. Then home to dry the camping gear. Was a fantastic and short weekend away.


MT TAMBORINE, GOLD COAST HINTERLAND


MT TAMBORINE






Every now and again you feel the need to get up and go, a desire to re-charge the batteries and enjoy a change of scenery. Planning a weekend escape is almost as good as the escape itself. In South-East Queensland we are spoilt for choice. As long as you have wheels to get you there and the desire to go, adventure or relaxation, whatever you choose, awaits. A small, low convertible with its top down would be most ideal, but we all have 4wds and after taking a wrong turn, we checked out the amazing rainforest through our open windows instead.  The winding drive up the mountain with sunlight sprinkling down though dense forest crowding in from either side of the road is a simple highlight in itself and for many people choosing to do just that, picnic at the top and then head on home is all they need to give their heart and mind a lift.

It seems that whichever way you turn you are greeted with inspiring and wondrous views on the mountain.  To make the most of these spectacular outlooks and gain the best vantage points there are a number of lookouts scattered around the mountain that are well worth a visit.

One of the most popular is the Hang Gliders which is along the Main Western Road.  This spot offers uninterrupted views and comes alive with energetic hang gliders that use this cleared mountain section as a launch site on a good day.  A great spot to take a picnic and watch the festivities. We missed this one on this trip and instead stopped at Rotary Lookout which is on the same road but directly opposite the Bavarian Grill Haus Restaurant.  This lookout even comes equipped with benches and binoculars.




There is a vast area of rainforest national park areas on the mountain with abundant birdlife and a variety of flora, one of which is the oldest national park in Queensland, Witches Falls National Park. Walking tracks are provided in six sections of Tamborine National Park. Most walking tracks are short and can be walked within a few hours. The walks are relatively easy although some tracks have short, steep grades. After the lookout we did the Curtis Falls walk, which was a 1.5 km circuit beside the river through the rainforest, showing lower pools and giant strangler figs. Descending down stairs to a large pool at the base of Curtis Falls. They really need to review the signage, more 4 km return circuit.  





We then took a stroll down Gallery Walk and stopped in all of the galleries and shops that were packed full of local souvenirs and treats. From antique stores to the Cuckoo Clock Nest there are interesting things to see behind every door on gallery walk. Personally, I don't how someone could work in a cuckoo clock shop all day, it would literally drive me cuckoo, but it's great for a visit and very hard to walk away without thinking I need one to complete my home, not






We stopped for lunch at Mount Tamborine Vineyard Winery Café. The cafe specializes in quick and tasty indulgent foods for guests wanting a quick, satisfying fix whilst exploring the Mountain.  After a big burger for breakfast I went with Mountain fried chicken wings with Asian dipping sauce and Kim went with the Coconut Prawns with Petite herb salad, Sambuca dipping sauce. It was a great lunch with fast service. We went back for some more shopping and headed back to Brissy late afternoon.






Overall Tamborine Mountain is a hinterland paradise far enough away from the madding crowd of Brisbane and the Gold Coast, but near enough for a comfortable day trip. 



MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA


MELBOURNE

WE HAVE BEEN TO MELBOURNE A NUMBER OF TIMES. THIS IS FROM OUR LAST TRIP.



Melbourne is a steaming melting pot of cultures from around the world.  The weather is unpredictable and can be downright horrid at times, but it’s still easy to see why we love Melbourne. After all, we rate Melbourne our second favorite city after our home town of Brisbane.  Melbourne is Australia’s second biggest city and the capital of its second most populous state, Victoria. Melbourne is a self-proclaimed capital of fashion, culture, sport and food. It hosts the Melbourne Cup horse race, the Formula One Grand Prix, the Australian Open Tennis Championship and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Melbourne bends over backwards to impress its visitors. A trip to Melbourne is not so much about seeing, as it is about tasting, trying, looking and listening.





We have been to Melbourne a few times and this time around we stayed at The Vibe, Carlton. The Vibe was a colourful, contemporary hotel which was a 3-minute walk from the Levers Street tram stop, 11 minutes' walk from the Melbourne Zoo and 3 km from the food stalls of Queen Victoria Market. The hotel had an airy restaurant/bar and an outdoor pool.






The next day we woke late and chilled by the pool in the morning. Lunch time we headed to Melbourne Zoo to enjoy restaurant quality meal in unique wildlife inspired venue for Christmas Day Lunch. The special was a 3 hour premium beverage and 3 course lunch and a visit from Santa. We then toured the manicured gardens and worldwide habitats that are home to a wide variety of animals. Late back to hotel we ate light and explored the brochures on what to do next.







The next day was only going to be one thing, Boxing Day Shopping. It’s no secret that when we hit a new city, country or small town for that matter, Kim likes to check out the shops. It’s in her genetic makeup, I’m sure. 
There’s something way more relaxing about the browsing that takes place away from home. You’re not really shopping with a specific occasion or wardrobe addition in mind. You’re shopping for the fun of it.


We headed to Little Collins Street to check out shoes, then the boutiques on Flinders Lane, onto the arcades and little side alleyways, to the Bourke Street Mall which was the best place to shop as stores are aligned on each row of the street in the heart of Melbourne’s City, perfect for lunch at a Café in Causeway Inn On The Mall and the afternoon at Collins Street … the Paris end, of course. 






It was getting late and we were getting hungry so we headed to one of our favourite restaurants, the +39 Pizzeria.  We have been here quite a few times.  Every time the standards remained very high, and never fail to disappoint us.  It didn't matter which night, they were always busy.  The staff there was all so friendly.  I even picked up how to speak a little Italian there, and ordered my pizzas in Italian.  The guy who served us had a great sense of humour, he pretended that he didn't understand English, and made me order our food in Italian.  That was quite funny.  Kim loved the prosciutto.  It was served with fresh Mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, it was delicious!  She just can't get enough of it. Belly’s full, we headed back to the hotel.





The next morning we headed on the tram and into the CBD again. Our first stop before it got too crowded was the Eureka Skydeck. While Sydney has its famous attractions like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Melbourne is content with its atmosphere and cafe culture. But if there’s one attraction you’ll see in every guidebook, it’s Eureka Skydeck. This residential building is the 14th tallest in the world, at 975 feet (297.3 meters) and happens to have the best view of Melbourne. The Skydeck, located on the building’s 88th floor, has views of the surrounding area with telescopes telling you what you’re looking at. The Edge experience is an extra fee, but it allows you to go onto a glass platform that is clear on the bottom and just out above the city. Those with a fear of heights should maybe skip this one, but it makes you feel like you’re sitting, or standing, on a cloud above Melbourne. Eureka Skydeck makes for a great rainy day activity or a nice escape from the fast pace of Federation Square. 




We then rode the tram to Victoria Parade, where we get off at the Queen Victoria Market. We spend a couple of hours at the market and grabbed some coffee and a snack at one of the many eateries within the market. After a couple of hours at the market, we took the circle Tram via Docklands Drive and Harbour Esplanade back to Flinders Street Station. We crossed the road to Federation Square and headed straight to the Melbourne Visitor's Centre (clearly signed) and book a couple of day trips. We then took a leisurely stroll back down Southbank along the Yarra River, and headed back to the hotel. 



































The next day was a Puffing Billy steam train ride, lunch at a Yarra Valley Winery and an afternoon at a wildlife park. We took in the delights of riding iconic Puffing Billy steam train through the forest, a delicious spit roast lunch at Fergusson Winery and finally, spending time at Healesville Sanctuary, home to over 200 species of native animal.





Puffing Billy with Healesville Sanctuary was a wonderful full day tour to experience the lush rainforest of the Blue Dandenong Ranges as we rode on the original steam locomotive they affectionately call, Puffing Billy. Culinary joys today included our special Aussie style Bush Billy Tea for morning tea, a delicious spit roast lunch at a winery and sweet samples for dessert from Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. Then we walked off the day’s treats at Healesville Sanctuary where we were taken on a guided tour of Australia's native animals. A long and rewarding day.







Today was going to be a little quiet day. We began the day in the bustling centre. We took another visit to the bustle of Queen Victoria Market. We then checked out Southbank’s huge casino complex and string of riverside restaurants, bistros and bars. Moving on we visited the unique galleries and museums in the cultural hub of Federation Square. We hit the shops again in the historic Melbourne General Post Office, QV laneways and other alleys and wrought-iron arcades. Then back to the Hotel for an afternoon relax and swim.







The next day was a trip to Sovereign Hill. Sovereign Hill in Ballarat is one of the best outdoor museums you can experience. With a colourful history relating to the discovery of gold in the region back in the 1850's, you too can capture the excitement. We traveled the stage coach route of the 1850's along Western Highway to Ballarat, steeped in history with the discovery of gold. We toured through the gracious town with its exquisite gardens, noble statues and magnificent architecture. Then we passed by the Eureka Stockade, site of the 1854 miner's rebellion. Spend the rest of your day at Sovereign Hill where Ballarat's first 10 years after the discovery of gld in 1851 is re-created. 







We tried our luck at gold panning in Red Gully Creek and headed underground on the Red Hill mine tour, then visited the Gold Museum.





We had a late start to the day, followed by some chillin by the pool. Tonight was New Year's Eve at the Valley. We got to ring in the New Year at Moonee Valley with fun, entertainment and horses. There was amusement rides for the kids, a live band and premium night racing. Plus, we got to see the 9.15pm and the midnight Melbourne City fireworks from a great vantage point at the Valley. We celebrated New Year's Eve with a 4 Course Dinner and a fun night of celebrations and live entertainment in the exclusive Committee Room. Hands down, one to the best night we have ever had. We are looking into doing it again in the future.


Nice sleep in the next day, followed by some pool time then back on the plane back home to Brissy.




LENNOX HEADS, NSW


LENNOX HEADS




Another trip down Northern NSW again to Lennox Heads. The weather was superb and we had good company exploring the Heads, Beach, Lake, Café’s, Byron and Markets


We stayed in a modern two storey cabin boasting an impressive covered entertaining deck. The property was positioned on the eastern slopes of Figtree Hill.

Despite its many attributes, Lennox Head is often overlooked, as it’s located roughly 20 minutes south of iconic Byron Bay and 10 minutes north of the much larger town of Ballina. I’m sure that’s just how the locals like it too, particularly as it’s also home to interesting history, pristine beaches, fluffy meadows, tea tree lakes and a town packed with good cafes and shops.

Situated at the northern end of town is Lake Ainsworth, a tea tree-stained dunal lake that’s named after early settler and sugar cane grower James Ainsworth. It’s a superb spot for a swim or, a canoe and it’s great for kids as it’s virtually always calm. The lake is considered by many to have healing properties. It’s also a favourite with stand-up paddle boarders and there’s picnic and BBQ facilities near the shore.

At the southern end of Seven Mile Beach, out the front of Rayner Lane, lies the remains of an old tea tree fence. This was built sometime in the early to mid 1900s by Fred Hutley to stop the sea spilling into the lake during tempestuous weather
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Saturday morning we found WilliamsBurg perched quite aptly on the corner of William St and another street that I can’t remember the name of (but if you’re super curious it is the one that runs along the beach front) of Lennox Head. We made our way inside, sat down, looked at menus and ordered some breakfast. After visiting WilliamsBurg for the first time we declare on other social media that there was not one single thing about our experience that I did not love. The bacon and egg burger were to die for.



We dropped into the Lennox bakery and ordered and couple of rolls for lunch, drove to the caravan park and picked up permits and beach passes and headed to Seven Mile Beach for a day of fishing, swimming and relaxing. The dogs had a blast, the fish weren’t biting and later in the afternoon the wind picked up so we headed back.




That night we headed to Lennox Head’s original pizza and pasta restaurant for dinner. Wings, garlic bread, pasta and pizza were on the cards. All fabulous and was a great night out.




The Sunday we headed into Byron Bay's Community Market, which is held at the Butler Street reserve. It is one of the best in the region. Covering several acres, the market offers a vast array of handcrafted wares, locally-grown produce, and artworks of every kind. It's best to get there early and allow a few hours to take in all the stalls, indulge in some fresh food and culture. We left the girls explore and the guys with the dogs headed into town to find the best coffee in Byron. An espresso bar, Barefoot Brew Room was tucked away down a small laneway in central Byron Bay. Coffee found, time to pick the girls up and make way for breakfast. We dropped into Twisted Sista. I won’t go into it because it’s not worth rating at all. Too expensive, crap food, crap service. We then headed and made and afternoon looking and the hang gliders at Pat Morton lookout.







Monday morning we dropped into Lime Café, Lennox Head.  This innocuous little cafe was a real gem. Service was friendly and attentive. Breakfast was amazing (serves were actually too big) but perfect poached eggs.  We then took the scenic drive past Potsville, Kingscliffe and back home. 


THE SPRINGS 4X4 PARK


THE SPRINGS 4X4 PARK




The Springs Camping and Adventure Park is situated just south of Warwick on the New England Highway in the Granite Belt region of South East Queensland.   The Granite Belt is a premium food and wine destination surrounded by stunning national parks and prehistoric granite formations.

The tracks wind over 700 acres of beautiful and varying terrain, ranging from Easy to the Extreme to cater for all vehicle types and class of driver.  There is also the Ironman Test Track for you to have some fun and test your skills!


Delivering a choice of campsites, the Main campsite is found some 1.4kms into the property and is accessible by 2WD’s and 4WD’s.

It is situated in a beautiful gulley with your own rock escarpment and creek. All sites are secluded and have shade. The main campsite has a purpose built modern shower and toilet block with hot showers.  They are just what you need after a long day in the Park. 


Drinking water is provided for all campers and wood for campfires is available.  All tracks are signposted, named and graded for difficulty and a detailed map of the Park will be provided on entry.

The road from the office to the camp ground is well maintained and easy with the exception of a hill climb just past the office which could prove to be a bit of a challenge in the wet or if you where towing a trailer like we were.


We were there for Doing it in the Dirt, in conjunction with the Gold Coast Camping and 4wding group and The Springs 4x4 Park for the first ever
#DrivingTheBluesIntoTheDirt in aid of raising funds for Beyond Blue. We had to arrive Saturday morning and eventually found the area the group were camping. After finding the only flat spot around, we were told that it was reserved for a parking spot. No one around, we decided to pack  the camp gear back in the trailer and started heading back home. Upon leaving we found a flat gully opposite a group on a buck’s weekend.
We unpacked and setup and we had plenty of room for our dog to run around. The night was spent with drinks with the boys on the bucks.


Overall would I recommend The Springs to campers? DEFINITELY NO.  Sixty Five Bucks for one night. Their dreaming if they think I’m heading back there again. The Springs is more for 4wder’s who are more than happy to smash up there 4wd’s and whine later how expensive it is to fix.



We attempted to head to one of the lookouts, and then halfway we turned back because of the state of the track and the little to no signage. We really enjoyed the camping and the only socializing was with Matt’s buck’s party. 




PALM COVE, QUEENSLAND


PALM COVE


(This was 10 years ago, some things may have changed)



Named for the beautiful palm lined beaches along the city’s picturesque coast line, Palm Cove in Northern Queensland is one of Australia’s most popular holiday resort areas. Just a short 15 minute drive north of Cairns International Airport, this oasis on the Coral Sea boasts beautiful hotels, scenic drives and a long list of area attractions. Palm Cove has just about everything that a family or couple could want in a getaway haven – warm, sunny weather, beautiful resorts and spas, lush tropical scenery and ocean views that just won’t quit. For this reason it’s not surprising that this quaint little beachside hamlet has become one of the most popular places in Australia to get married. Palm Cove instantly turned on the charm with everything you want in a beach town: quaint coffee shops and stores, a few good pubs, great restaurants and a palm-tree lined beach. The enormous Paperbark trees that line the main street and meld with shop fronts, give the strip a unique character that also struck us. We stayed at Hotel Grand Chancellor. Set in over 3 hectares of lush tropical gardens, Hotel Grand Chancellor welcomes you to the tranquil seaside village of Palm Cove, gateway to the Far North Queensland's top heritage attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.




The resort was a perfect spot for a relaxing holiday, featuring 2 swimming pools, restaurant, bar, alfresco dining, massage, beauty and hair salon, games room and is within 5 minutes walk to the beach.  The weather of course is nice and warm, the pace much slower than in Brisbane, and you are definitely closer to nature than on your average day.

We dropped our bags and with the sun warming up we retired to a shady sun lounge beside the lagoon pool. Oozing beachside chic thanks to pastel colours and lush tropical gardens, plantation shutters that screen wide open terraces, ancient melaleuca trees that filter the tropical sun and an adults only lagoon pool make Hotel Grand Chancellor a romantic hideaway made for lovin. Chilling out poolside, it’s a bit early for a cocktail but persuaded by a long tall mojito packed full of refreshing mint leaves – it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.



We then took a Wander along the path that dips and dives around the coconut palms it’s pretty obvious how this place got its name. Because we’re still feeling a little giddy from the chocolate tart sugar rush we decide to count the palm trees lining Palm Cove’s Esplanade. Easily distracted by music and a sandwich board advertising Happy Hour cocktails, we give up at 37. After a few drinks we headed to Nu Nu’s.  Nu Nu’s is the best restaurant in Palm Cove. It’s probably the best restaurant in North Queensland. It’s definitely the only one that has absolute beach frontage so we planned ahead and made reservation weeks before we arrived.  Nu Nu’s makes regular red carpet appearances on ‘best of’ lists so we’ve come with high expectations. We allow Chef Nick Holloway to unleash his creativity and surprise us with a 7 seven course tasting menu.







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The next day was market day. Once a month during the dry season cars are banished and market stalls take over the beachfront. It’s absolutely one of the best days to linger in Palm Cove. We spend hours poking through the stalls picking up a trinket here, some handmade soap there. A freshly squeezed mango and lime juice clears away the cobwebs from last night’s over-indulgence. We wandered, we shopped, and we ate a little more. We chilled out on the grass and people-watched.  A swim in the ocean followed by a walk along the beach was a soothing balm to shopping and eating. Then another swim, walk, eat, and repeat. In the afternoon a massage was called for.  I left to play a round of golf, while Kim enjoyed a 90 minute hot stone massage and some foot pampering. Its a few hours since our last meal so it’s definitely time to indulge again. After last night’s Nu Nu feast we took it easy with a casual BBQ on the beachfront.  Early night was in order.




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After a lie in and a late breakfast we were picked up from our hotel at about 11.30 for our day trip to Kuranda.  The trip was run by Glenn a very nice chap and there were only 7 other guests, the coach journey took about 40mins along the beautiful sea coastal road to the Skyrail Station just outside Cairns. The Skyrail system was installed above the protected rainforest over a distance of about 15km with the tallest tower being over 40m high. There were 2 stops enroute to Kuranda Village, these being for rainforest board walks and a waterfall lookout point. It was a strange feeling gliding over the tops of the trees, but the views were sensational.

We arrived in Kuranda village which is located upon the Atherton Tablemountains, this village was known as the hippy village, who were credited with the successful fight to save what was left of the rainforest. Kuranda is a lovely little village in the rainforest at the top of the mountain about 300 metres above sea level. The main street is only a few hundred metres comprising of cafes, restaurants and shops hosting arts and crafts. The village has 3 lots of markets, a Butterfly Sanctuary, Bird world, Koala Gardens, mini crystal museum (with a full-scale dinosaur skeletal replica), mini put put golf and much more.




We left Kuranda by the scenic train which took 1 hour and 45 minutes weaving through the mountain rainforest with a short stop at the Barron Falls. We weren’t very impressed until we reached some local communities where the properties looked very good.   

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The next day I thought what better way to experience the Aussie bush, rainforest and spectacular views than on horseback with Blazing Saddles. The horse-riding trails meander through beautiful bushland and rainforest, allowing you to get in amongst nature and experience it firsthand. Blazing Saddles began operation in Jun 1992. Proprietor Peter Trout, a very experienced horse handler, relocated his half-day horse riding adventures from Mungalli Falls on the Atherton Tablelands, to Palm Cove which is an incredibly beautiful and diverse place only 20 minutes north of Cairns. In December 2005, he moved again to a bigger ranch just west of Kuranda west of Cairns and now since 2012, they operate on a property at Yorkeys Knob only 10 minutes from the Cairns City and Northern Beaches. It was the first time Kim rode a horse. She handled it okay, but you could see the fear in her face the whole ride. She came good towards the end and is looking forward for another go. Dropped back off at the resort we chilled the afternoon away in the spa and pool with many of cold ales.



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The next day we explored the Great Barrier Reef. We woke up early, as we had to be at the pier by 7:30 to check in. We will be exploring the reef with a local company called Seastar. We ended up choosing them because they had the best reviews on Trip Advisor and they have a relatively small boat.  We loaded the boat and found out that there are 36 of us plus 5 crew on the boat. Once we were loaded on the boat and they have done the safety briefing we were off. It’s well over an hour to the first place we will be snorkeling at. We get the choice to do an introductory dive for an extra $75 each but decide against it. The first stop is an area of the reef near a small island that is a bird sanctuary. The birds are small black birds. We have no idea what they are but they are loud and annoying. We didn’t come here to see birds!

We dropped anchor and we get a view of the underwater playground we are about to explore. But first we have to go through another safety briefing. I think this tour caters to a lot of people that don’t know how to swim and aren’t really familiar with the water. They are pretty strict about where you can and cannot go and what signals to give if you are having trouble and need to be rescued. I have snorkeled many times before so I wasn’t too worried about needing help. We hopped in the water as soon as we can to explore the Great Barrier Reef.

The ocean is very clear today. It is not windy at all and we have great visibility in the water. As expected, we see thousands of fish of all sizes and shapes. We also see what appears to be a stingray drifting about. We swam around for about an hour observing the fish and the coral and the large clam shells. It’s funny to think that all of these coral are actually living creatures. They really look like rocks or plants. Seastar tells us that coral is actually clear and that the beautiful colors come from algea and plants that attach to it. Whatever the reason is that these things exist they look pretty cool. We snorkeled around in the water for about an hour before heading back to the boat.

After a lunch of chicken wings and pasta salad we move to our second snorkeling spot. This spot is about 15 minutes away and is a true ocean reef – as in there is no land nearby. Once we hopped in the water we realize that this spot is way better than the first spot. The reef here is crazy. It’s huge and full of colorful coral and fish. Some parts are so thick that they almost reach the ocean surface, making it tough to swim by. Then all of a sudden the reef will stop and we will be in clear blue water looking for the next reef.

We are in the water for just over an hour, thinking about heading back to the boat, when Kim spots a turtle. We swim to catch it but didn’t get too close – we don’t want to startle him. But this turtle does not seem prone to startling. He is eating away and doesn’t seem to care about us at all. He’s quite big, probably because he eats a lot. We look around for his friends, but he is all alone today. He swims around eating and coming to the surface for air and we follow him around for about a half hour. After we say goodbye to the turtle we head back to the boat. We have snorkeled nearly three hours today and we are quite tired. Back on the boat it’s time to head back to the city after a successful day on the Great Barrier Reef.  Back to resort for a Barbie and night swim.


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The next day we headed into Cairns. We walked down to Cairns Central first. Cairns Central is one of the biggest shopping centres in the far North Queensland that offers an extensive variety of shops and services. We found marvelous fashion and charming novelty items to special products and services. We then headed to The Pier at the Marina. The Pier was home to a number of excellent fashion and specialty shops where you can found special gift items for families. Kim indulged in shopping for some stylish clothes and accessories.

We decided to head to the Cairns Wildlife Dome, which is a spectacular all-weather wildlife exhibit, encased by a 20-metre high glass dome on the prominent rooftop of The Reef Hotel Casino, right in the heart of Cairns. You can immersed yourself  in a rainforest environment whilst parrots, cockatoos, lorikeets, and other birds native to the Wet Tropics region fly freely around, with the opportunity to observe free-roaming rainforest wallabies and view bettongs, curlews, frogmouths, kookaburras, frogs, turtles, pythons, crocodiles and lizards.

We took a free guided tour and animal presentations, providing an interactive Getting on late in the afternoon we headed to Marina Point, next to the new Cairns Yacht Club facilities. We earlier made a booking for dinner at Salt House, which is a unique dining, bar and entertainment venue offering a panorama of the ocean, marina and city on the waterfront in Cairns.
Salt House has been designed by renowned Sydney designer Michael McCann of Dreamtime Australia Design and the fluid space allows uninterrupted views of the changing colours of the ocean and mountains that encircle the city.



After dinner we walked the main street in the opposite direction of the boat habour. The restaurants are busy and everyone is sitting outside. The weather here allows for outdoor dining all year round. Even in the wet season, all the outdoor areas are covered so people can still sit outside and watch the rain pour down. There is a really lively vibe in the air and we love it. Everyone is friendly and looks like they are having a good time. As we wander down the street we see the lights of the Esplanade. There are colored lights everywhere. They light the trees red, green, and blue. A simple thing like this just makes the place so attractive.

Eventually we find the Cairns Night Market. This has a food court with cheap meals and tons of little shops with very affordable prices. We wander around the night market and even buy a few things. It’s just so damn cheap! We headed back to the resort late.

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The next day was a sleep in, and breakfast by the lagoon. We pretty much chilled by the pool all day because being our last day we booked into the Tjapukai experience for dinner.
The evening came and we went to a place called Tjapukai, an "indigenous cultural experience". We were there for the Night Fire event.

The evening started with champagne and canapés in the foyer. There were slices of kangaroos on small pieces of toast topped with spicy beetroot and then my favourite, little boats of sweet potato covered with slow cooked emu.

The entertainment started with a welcoming ceremony where music was provided by a didgeridoo player and someone using two boomerangs as a percussion instrument. This was accompanied by authentic Aboriginal singing and dancing.

Following the welcome we were taken to a large auditorium. Here the lights were dimmed and the dancers performed traditional dances honouring the cassowary (a large, almost extinct, flightless bird) and the kangaroo. They also acted out the hunting of a kangaroo. Then it was time for the fire lighting ceremony. For this the audiences were called on to participate. We were split into two teams, each with a different part to sing and an accompanying dance. I wish I could say that I remembered either the song words or the dance.  As we were singing and dancing one of the Aboriginal hosts was using a notched fire stick to create a fire in a pile of dry grass. The way he made fire was very similar to a technique I learned in the scouts and was fascinating to watch.

Once the fire had been made, we were led out over a bridge where torches were lit with the flame. Then it was the group's turn to make fire by the lakeside in the cool evening air. We danced and sang again and a couple of volunteers we called upon to light the fire.

Once the fire had been made we were taken to the restaurant for a world buffet meal. The food was very nice but we were quite disappointed for three reasons. Firstly the advert had said that the food would be prepared in an underground oven and taken out in front of us. This was an experience we were really looking forward to. Secondly, aside from roasted kangaroo there was very little authentically aboriginal food. We enjoyed eating Asian salads and European desserts but we were hoping for something more typical of the culture we were trying to explore. Finally, the group was small and we had all been singing and dancing together so it would have been great to have eaten together and to have shared our meal with the indigenous singers and dancers, however we were seated at intimate tables as couples. We felt the evening was somewhat let down by a lack of thought about the centre-piece meal.

After we had eaten there was a short closing ceremony of singing and dancing from our Aboriginal hosts and then we posed for photos with them. The Night Fire celebration was over and we were led out though the gift shop.  Back to the resort and get ready to leave for Brisbane. Holiday over back to work.