In Life, its not where you go, it’s who you travel with. We leave the drama and attentions seekers to their own little groups and enjoy life with people with goals and an appetite for adventure.

October 31, 2016

MT TAMBORINE, GOLD COAST HINTERLAND

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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. 



October 22, 2016

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

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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.




October 03, 2016

LENNOX HEADS, NSW

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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
.


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. 


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