A Travellerspoint blog

A little bit of paradise

sunny 34 °C

Imagine a tiny coral cay island at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, that can only be reached by flying on a tiny one propeller plane and where you are greeted by friendly, knowledgeable and helpful staff with an ever present smile. Think of being part of only a handful of guests on the island, enjoying clear turquoise waters, blue skies, relaxing on the beach and good food, particularly the desserts at dinner!

Imagine going snorkeling or diving, putting your head under the water, seeing loads of healthy hard and soft corals and numerous fish of all different colours, shapes and sizes. Being able to honestly say that turtles are 2 a penny and that you are almost guaranteed to see at least one every time you go underwater, with them being happy enough to swim alongside you and even seeing one as large as a small car when on a dive! As an additional surprise being able to see black and white tip reef sharks a few times when snorkeling or diving (not dangerous to humans!)

Finally, being on the island during peak bird season, seeing lots of different types of birds, some with their chicks, and experiencing the unbelievable noise they make! Learning that some of the birds are so cheeky that they have been nicknamed the buffet bandits (real name - buff banded rails), for as quick as your back is turned in the restaurant they will jump on to the table and nick your food and drink, and not forgetting the tap dancing bridled terns who stamp their feet on any surface that will make a noise.

This sums up my trip to Lady Elliot Island, an amazing little island with the most stunning marine life I have ever seen, I would urge anyone interested in marine life who has the opportunity to come out here to make the trip to the island, I definitely plan to come back. I didn't get to see the famed manta rays as I knew it wasn't peak season, the turtles and sharks made up for it though and next time I plan to come out in manta and whale season which is in winter. The staff on the island are great, very helpful but also clear that it is an eco resort so place very high priority on looking after the wildlife, corals and marine environment.

I am now in Brisbane and it is very hot and humid, it is the hottest place I have been to so far. It is a city similar to London, it has no proper beach but does have a nice wide river very much like the Thames. I have been able to see some of the city through one of the free ferry trips that goes down and back along the river and have also been across to the Botanic Gardens, not as large or colourful as some of the others I have been to but still very nice and a chance to see some kookaburras. I was even able to see a possum trotting across my path while out in the evening! So I am not here long before I leave Australia and my journey home via Hong Kong, but I plan to make the very best of the last couple of days here!

Posted by FranRobinson 04:20 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Byron Bay and Queensland

semi-overcast 30 °C

Yesterday I left Coffs Harbour early for the long drive to Byron Bay, estimated to be a 3 hour drive according to the ever helpful Google maps. The driving unfortunately was not as interesting as the drives have been nearer to Sydney, the countryside here is more given way to farming and is missing the dramatic scenery of further south. This did make the drive feel a little longer than it should have but after 3 and a bit hours I arrived in Byron.

One other thing that has changed on the drive up is the heat, it is definitely getting warmer and more humid the further north I am heading! I first headed to the main beach at Byron and a negotiation with the parking meter for the car park. I was surprised to find that Byron has quite extortionate parking fees, this is the first place I have had to pay for parking so far. The beach was nice at Byron, of the long sweeping kind typical of what I have seen in Australia but obviously popular with the younger backpacking crowds. After a couple of hours and a quick lunch I decided to move on and round to the other side of Byron, Tallow Beach. This was another long beach backed with cliffs and forest though, so much prettier. It was also virtually abandoned with only a couple of other people as specks in the distance. A short rest on the beach and then a bit of a walk in the forest and a chance to see some wallabies.

I popped into the town for food in the evening, which was nice but I have to say I'm not overly taken by Byron, it feels very touristy both during the day and in the evening, it is clearly set up for the backpacking crowds and is not for me!

There was a more relaxed start to the morning, my drive to the Gold Coast was only going to take around an hour and I also knew that when I moved into Queensland I would gain an hour as they are an hour behind New South Wales, so on the recommendation of my host I popped up to Cape Byron and the lighthouse. Parking fees paid ($4 for an hour, ouch!) I walked up the hill overlooking Tallow Beach to the lighthouse, where at the top there were 360 views of Byrons beaches and sea. There was then a quick walk back down through a forest along well maintained paths to another surfing beach at the bottom. Walking back up the hill to collect the car I began to feel the heat and humidity of the day and I was glad for the air con in the car.

I then set off for Coolangatta, at the beginning of the Gold Coast in Queensland. An easy drive of an hour which made a change to some of the longer drives I have done this week, I arrived in the Gold Coast and was pleased to find free parking again right on the beachfront! Again the sun was shining but a cool breeze made it feel not quite so humid and I decided to walk around the headland towards Tweed Heads. This was another well set out path with lovely views of the white beaches and turquoise seas, with sightings of bush turkeys and lots of Iguanas, which don't seem that bothered about humans walking past.

After some lunch I headed for some relaxing on the beach but not long after the rain started and persisted for quite some time so I retreated to my accommodation for this evening. I was aware that there was likely to be more wet weather in Queensland and it does help with the humidity. A quick trip out for some dinner this evening and with it getting darker earlier due to losing an hour, I was able to experience the noise of the parrots roosting for the night in the trees, it's unbelievably noisy!

Tomorrow is another longer drive up through and out the other side of Brisbane to Noosa, of which I have heard very good things so I am looking forward to this trip!

Posted by FranRobinson 03:11 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

On the road again

semi-overcast 28 °C

Yesterday I set off early from Newcastle with Port Macquarie in my sights. Once out on the Pacific Highway again I decided that I would take one of the tourist drives that are signposted on the highway. I had noticed some of these on the way between Sydney and Newcastle but didn't take any on that drive with that being my first driving in Oz experience.

However, the first one I took yesterday was tourist drive number 6, taking me through beautiful forests and down to the first stop of Seal Rocks. No seals unfortunately but some lovely beaches, then onto the Great Lakes area stopping at Myall Lakes in a couple of places, very peaceful looking out over the lakes and really stunning views.

The tourist drive joins the Pacific Highway again just after Forster, but I stopped in the town first and picked up some lunch which I enjoyed by the lakes in the town, accompanied by some pelicans! I never knew these birds were so large - I originally mistook one for a statue until I got a little closer, they stand about 2/3 the height of me!

Back on the highway I then decided to take tourist drive 10 which ended near the town where I was staying for the night, Port Macquarie. This drive was not quite as scenic to begin with but I stopped at Rainbow Beach, a stunning long beach backed by a small forest. As I walked along the beach I noticed lots of small balls of sands surrounding little holes in the sand, it turns out there are tiny little crabs cleaning out there burrows and pushing these little balls of sand out of the burrows, very funny to watch! I then moved onto Lighthouse beach at Port Macquarie, another beautiful beach with a lighthouse perched on a high cliff at the end of the beach, before moving to my accommodation for the night.

This morning I was up early again to a lovely breakfast spread that my host had put on, fed, coffeed and watered I set off for Coffs Harbour via Dorrigo rainforest. I made a fleeting visit to South West Rocks, just off the highway on the recommendation of my host. It's another really beautiful area and one to be explored in more detail on another trip in the future, although I was able to see a water monitor crossing the road on the way back out from the beaches.

I made slow progress towards Dorrigo, it is obvious that the authorities are trying to update this part of the highway as there are loads of roadworks and changing speed limits every few kilometres, sometimes down to 40km, very slow for the highway! Most of it is still single carriageway at the moment so it will be good if this is updated to dual carriageway, like it was set out yesterday. Once turned off the highway towards Dorrigo I drove up the very wiggly road up the mountain to Dorrigo National Rainforest. At the top is the vistor centre and some very well set out walks round the forest. True to its name it rained a fair bit and was a little cooler than the drive here but I was rewarded with some gorgeous views, beautiful forest and lovely waterfalls. There were a number of different types of birds to see, including one that looks a lot like a turkey, and quite a few lizards.

Back on the road and it was another hour onto Coffs Harbour where I have rested indoors for the rest of the evening, I'm not used to all this driving! Tomorrow I have my longest drive to Byron Bay before the journeys start to get a little shorter for the rest of the week.

Posted by FranRobinson 02:36 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Sad farewell to Sydney but onto Newcastle

sunny 28 °C

So yesterday was my last full day in Sydney and I decided on a walk from Spit Point to Manly. The day started cloudy and a little cooler, an advantage when walking. I caught the train a couple of stops up to Wynyard and then the bus to Spit Bridge where the walk started, most walking in Sydney is well signposted and this was no exception with the walk winding up and down through some lush rainforest.

I was able to spot a number of lizards on the walk, although unable to get any photos as they move so fast! There were also the ever present stunning rock formations and some stunning little beaches to wander down to for some rockpooling and paddling. Within one of the rock formations I spotted something I have never seen before - some wild bees had made a couple of bits of honeycomb and looked like they were busy making more! There was also evidence of the funnel web spider, although I was careful not to get too close.

About a thid of the way through the walk the path took me uphill quite a way and the landscape changed from the rainforest to a much drier, scrub like landscape and the weather had also changed to much hotter with the sun being out most of the time. It was at this point I realised I had left my sunscreen at home - I really needed it! I found I didn't like this landscape quite so much, not so much colour nor wildlife around but as it was much higher it gave way to some gorgeous views.

The last part of the walk took me through residential parks and streets and again, was not so interesting. I was also quite tired by this point so was glad to reach Manly where I grabbed a bit of lunch and sat on the beach before heading back to Sydney on the ferry - on a much rougher crossing than last time!

I spent the evening in Darling Harbour, quite touristy but still very nice, and I enjoyed a kangaroo skewer, very tasty, dare I say even better than beef and leaner so not so much fat. As I sat at the harbour I looked back over the fabulous week I have had in Sydney. It far surpasses Melbourne and I am very sad to be leaving it, I feel like I have only just scratched the surface of seeing this city and I will be back for sure.

This morning I picked up my hire car early for the start of my road trip. I have been given a little blue Micra, which drives very well but feels a little like a tin box, it has air conditioning though! I was a little worried about driving but there was no need as its as easy as driving in the UK, just have to watch my speed as it is in km here rather than miles.

So I set off for Newcastle, roughly a 2 hour drive, I got stuck in some jams in the Sydney suburbs but once on the freeway it was foot down. Once I arrived I was hungry and in need of a coffee so found a lovely little cafe with friendly staff and a power point to charge my phone. First impressions of Newcastle were that it is an ordinary little town but then I walked down to the beach which is simply breathtaking. Large waves crash up against the long sweeping beach, bigger waves than I saw at Bondi but still safe to paddle in. The beach is also a jellyfish graveyard with hundreds to little blue jellyfish everywhere, I have since found out these are bluebottles, not deadly but will give a nasty sting so I'm glad I was careful where I put my feet!

A walk along the beach and up on the memorial boardwalk, a walkway that has been put in to commemorate local men lost in the world wars with views across the beach and cliffs below, I walked on to the next beach where I relaxed with an ice cream before walking back the same way. I then got back in the car and across to my accommodation for the night, a lovely little cottage with the owner away on holiday and being looked after by another Airbnb renter and it is in a lovely quiet residential area, making a difference to the bustle of the places in Melbourne and Sydney.

Tomorrow I leave early for another drive up the coast to Port Macquarie.

Posted by FranRobinson 02:23 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Blue Mountains

rain 15 °C

Today I woke up to grey skies and rain but unperturbed I set off early to the Blue Mountains. A change of train at Central station and I was on my 2 hour journey through Sydney suburbia which then turned to pretty countryside before arriving at Katoomba.

Once arrived I realised it was still raining and the temperature had halved so I decided that a new raincoat was in order, then coffee and brunch to see whether the rain was going to improve. Katoomba is a little like stepping back into the 80's, all the shops are oldly-woldy and I even walked past a pharmacy that was offering film processing - I didn't even know films were still available! I decided on a cafe offering locally roasted coffee and while this was lovely, the poached eggs I also ordered were not, they were watery and topped with chopped coriander of all things! Parsley yes, coriander no - I'm quite particular about poached eggs but please don't try this at home.

Brunch eaten and coffee drunk, I set off for the three sisters, a good place to start seeing the Blue Mountains from, but the rain was still falling and on arriving at the visitors centre there was not a sister nor mountain to be seen. Due to the rain a heavy mist had descended into the valley and with the visitor centre being above this I could barely make out people on the other side of the car park let alone any views. A wander round the walkways to see whether that made any difference (it didn't), a chat to the people in the centre and a sit down in the centre, where I noticed a white postcard with heading 'Blue Mountains in the mist', I was seriously considering heading back to Sydney. At one point I was riffling through my bag for some unknown item when I glanced up and all of a sudden I could see to the other side of the car park. A quick walk down to one of the lookouts and between the swirling mists the three sisters could be seen, together with the floor of the valley, full of eucalyptus forest. This was the way the weather was for the rest of the day but the times the mist lifted it was truly stunning.

Photos taken at the start I set off walking along the Prince Henry cliff walk towards the Katoomba Falls, taking in some lovely lookouts and tackling a number of steps up and down! Once at the Falls I decided to continue a little further towards the Furber Steps, which took me off the cliff and down into the rainforest. As I walked along, another path to my left offered a 10 minute walk to Underfall Pass, intrigued I took this path, which finished at a dead end and the most magnificent waterfall I have ever seen, it was really beautiful and as the only walker there I was very lucky to have that piece of paradise to myself for 5 minutes.

Back onto the main path and I continued walking until the Furber Steps dropped steeply down to the valley floor and I decided the walk down and then having to come back up would be too much. I then walked back along the road to the Three Sisters, seeing parrots and cockatoos on the way. My walk then continued back on the Cliff Walk, although I plucked up the courage to walk down the steep, narrow steps to sit on the first sister rock (with the help of a couple of fellow walkers!),and towards the Leura Cascades to pick up the train at Leura to bring me back to Sydney.

I missed my first train at Leura by a matter of minutes so decided on dinner while I waited for the next train in an hour. As I headed back to the station I tapped on with my Opal Card (like an Oyster card you top them up then use them to pay for train journeys) and I expected to pay about the same price I did for the outward journey - about $7 for a 2 hour train ride! However, once I got to my final station back in Sydney I tapped back out to find that $0 had been charged for the journey. When I queried why I had not been charged it appears that the maximum that can be charged on an Opal Card within 24 hours is $15........

So lets get this right - you can make numerous, sometimes long journeys, within 24 hours and not be charged more than $15. Yes, that's correct I was told, and on Sundays no more than $2.50, all to encourage people to use the trains more (although it only applies to the Transport for Sydney trains). Someone needs to tell the train companies in the UK.

So my rather dismal start to the day turned out to be really lovely and tomorrow is my last full day here, albeit I will most certainly be back. Tomorrow is another trip to Manly for more walking.

Posted by FranRobinson 04:28 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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