We arrived in Brisbane with no preconceptions of what to expect. Other than knowing people who moved here recently and recalling reference to it on ‘Home & Away’ as a teenager, it is a city we didn’t know much about. We were staying with friends – the Hopkins family – in the suburb of Tingalpa. It was good to see some ‘normality’ after a few weeks of travelling. We didn’t venture too far on the Friday. We dropped the boys off at their school where they showed the girls their classroom in the open-concept school before joining in the morning skipping class. We walked the dog and we stopped at a local park and watched children playing cricket whilst cockatoos flew between the trees.
On Saturday our fabulous hosts gave us a whistle-stop tour of some of their highlights of the city. We visited Manly, a suburb by the ocean with shops, restaurants, a huge yacht club and a very cool play structure for the kids. Just north of Manly we walked a lovely mangrove boardwalk trail. The tide was out so we could see the tree ‘breathing’ roots sticking out through the mud and ibis birds looking for breakfast. We saw a variety of colourful crabs with one claw bigger than the other that fascinated the children. Unfortunately, we had forgotten our proper camera – very frustrating! That afternoon we caught a ferry into the city so had great views of the city from the water. We walked to South Bank, where there was a bustling arty market, shops and restaurants. A free music festival was taking place and there was another really good kids play structure and free outdoor lagoon swimming pool. The city is clean, well looked after and had a good vibe about it. That evening we had an excellent Thai meal in a 1970s style restaurant, located in a lawn bowls club where two ‘bowls parties’ were taking place, one Mexican-themed the other Hawaiian-themed…bizarre but delicious!
The people that know us know that our family love wildlife. One of the biggest draws for us to visit Australia was it’s myriad of weird, wonderful and unique species of wildlife. We’ve been lucky on the trip so far to see some native creatures in the wild, but we couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, just outside Brisbane. It had more koalas than you could count and every other Australian species you can think of – platypus (without the satisfaction of spending 24hrs to spot one in the wild), wombats (huge, furry, pig-like creatures!), cassowary (hooray!), emus, dingoes, freshwater crocs, snakes, lizard and lots of wallabies and kangaroos that you could hand-feed and pat. The only creature we didn’t see was the Echidna – a spiny, egg-laying mammal. He was hiding that day, so our mission for the rest of this trip is to spot one in the wild.
Over the next few days we visited Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, where we had an excellent view of the high rise city of Surfers Paradise and spent some time chilling out on the beach. We visited Redcliffe where the Bee Gees grew up and where there is an alley dedicated to their work called ‘Bee Gees Way’ playing music and displaying memorabilia. We also met up with a friend who had flown in from Cairns to meet us for dinner (thanks Keith :)). We really enjoyed what we saw of Brisbane and the surrounding area and found ourselves thinking “we could live here…”
We left Brisbane to start the 900km journey to Sydney. After our uncomfortable campervan trip we decided to rent a car for the rest of our time in Australia for a reasonable £16/$25 per day. Our first stop on the way was at Byron Bay. I would describe Byron as an organic, hippy, high-end surfer town with a busy beach and some quirky restaurants and cafes. We stopped for a tasty lunch at Twised Sista before heading to see the lighthouse. The lighthouse is located at the most easterly point in Australia and there was a steep walk from the top of the cliffs down to the beach below. We took our time stopping at lookouts on the way there and back and at various points looking down we saw a pod of three dolphins, two sharks, five turtles and three stingrays – we were delighted! So much so the children didn’t even notice how many steps we had climbed, they had earned their ice cream treat once we got back to the top!
We continued our journey and stopped for the night at Nambucca River Tourist Park about halfway to Sydney. The following day, we stopped of at the port city of Newcastle to visit the ANZAC Memorial Bridge. As well as a poignant memorial to those who served in the Great War, it has a great view of Merewether Beach which hosts the largest surf festival in Australia. We arrived in Sydney around 7pm and crossed over the Sydney Harbour bridge at dusk. After reluctantly leaving Brisbane, the first glimpse of the Sydney Opera house was enough to get me giddy about the next chapter in our adventure…
Click here to check out the rest of our Brisbane photos.