After Sydney, we flew up to Brisbane! Our plan for the next couple of weeks was to check out the city, drive South to Surfers Paradise, and hop on a tour to Fraser Island.
It was going to busy but we were ready for it!
For our first couple of nights, we stayed at an AirBnB. The best part of the place was that it had Vegemite in the fridge for us to try. After all these weeks, we still had not tried any.
It was.. Well… Different. I’m still not sure if we used it correctly. I heard many people say that you spread it thinly on toast or crackers. Since we had toast, I spread a very little bit on it… And it was … kind of weird.
It really is hard to explain… I guess it is as hard as trying to explain Clamato juice to non-Canandians…
Anyway. Let’s just say I will not be hunting down Vegemite in Canada in the future!
So after an adventure in the kitchen, we decided it was time to checkout Brisbane! Our AirBnB host recommended we check out the South Bank Parklands, so it was the first place we headed.
And we were so glad we did!
South Bank is a really cool area in South Brisbane full of recreation and culture along the Brisbane River. It was the perfect way to spend the day.
Brisbane may not be directly on the coast in Australia but that has not stopped the city from enjoying the beach!
Only in Australia would a city that did not have a beach downtown – build a beach downtown! I almost want to move there just for this… It was the coolest place for everyone to enjoy.
Did I mention that it was FREE as well?
I am still sad I didn’t pack my bathing suit that day…
In addition to the most amazing outdoor public park ever, South Bank has a boardwalk along the Brisbane River and throughout the park to enjoy. We spent the remainder of the afternoon walking along it and exploring the area.
Eventually, we stumbled into a Rainforest Walk and even a Nepalese Peace Pagoda. This area had it all!
After hours walking through South Bank, we crossed the bridge into the CBD “Central Business District.”
As we walked through downtown, we found ourselves in the middle of a huge outdoor market. The food looked INCREDIBLE!
After the market, we continued further through downtown into the City Botanical Gardens.
Overall, it was a great day spent in Brisbane with lots to see! We were really happy we took the time to check it out.
I still can’t get over that outdoor pool….
But after a couple of weeks in Australia exploring cities and hiking its National Parks, we were ready for a true Australian experience. It was time to hit the beaches and get into the water!
If you can believe it, after 3 weeks in Australia, I still hadn’t actually gone for a swim….
Not to mention, I was dying to take surfing lessons. When I went to Costa Rica a year ago, a major thing on my list was to surf and I never did it. I’m still regretful…
This time I was going to make it happen!
So, what better place to try surfing for the first time than Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast?! I mean, if it’s good enough for the the real surfers, it should be good enough for me!
The drive to Surfers Paradise was only one hour South of Brisbane. I was excited the entire ride – I couldn’t believe we were finally getting to enjoy the beaches.
When we arrived I soaked in everything around me. Now, this is Australia!
The first thing we did when we got into town, was check into our AirBnB. The place turned out to be fantastic with an amazing view of the ocean!
We had arrived!
We spent our week enjoying the beaches along this beautiful coast. Surfers Paradise turned out to be much more of a city than I expected, however. For whatever reason, I pictured a small backpacker-type beach town…
Man, was I wrong.
But it turns out the high rises were awesome along the beach as they bring well-needed shade for the hot afternoon sun!
In addition to enjoying the beaches, that week we found an excellent seafood place overlooking the ocean. Here we had the chance to meet up with our friends, Gavin and Katherine, whom we saw a month earlier in New Zealand. They happened to be vacationing here, so it couldn’t have worked out better!
After a couple of days enjoying the beach, I was ready to tackle a bucket list item of mine.
So, I got us booked in one morning into a group surf lesson with Get Wet Surf School!
I was dying with excitement. Nervous too! I hear it’s hard to even stand up…. What if I can’t get up?! How disappointing…
But Get Wet Surf School was amazing! They picked us up and brought us to “The Spit” beach. It had the perfect waves for learning and was not too busy.
After getting geared up, we were given instruction on how to get up on the boards before getting into the water. After a few walk-throughs, we were feeling confident.
“I totally got this!” I thought.
A major benefit of having a lesson was having someone to push you into the waves. I like that all I needed to focus on was getting up. I did not have to worry about paddling into a wave and THEN trying to get up.
Baby steps. Like I always say, “slow and steady wins the race!”
After some major wipe outs, we both finally got it! By the end of the day, we were looking like some real pros out on the water.
It was my favourite day in Australia so far! Being at the beach and learning to do something active in the ocean was amazing. I could see how you could get addicted to surfing. I mean, I was in love with it and all I did was go straight. I don’t even know how to carve or anything..
Or even paddle into the wave on my own…
What made it even more amazing was the water was the perfect temperature. Soo warm but still SSOO refreshing!
Yup – I could live here.
We spent the rest of the week enjoying some excellent seafood, chilling at the beach and eating tons of ice cream. I found this stand that served up Panna Cotta ice cream and I could not get enough. I didn’t even care how many calories were in each bowl. Some days I got two bowls….
After an amazing five days in Surfers Paradise, we were ready for our next adventure!
Located in Sandy Beach National Park along the Sunshine Coast, this was a place you apparently needed to visit in Australia. Not only is it the World’s Largest Sand Island with a unique paradise of golden beaches, rolling surf, crystal clear lakes, and old growth Rainforests but it is an island allowing only approved 4×4 vehicles to use its sandy beaches as a highway system.
Well, that sounded pretty awesome. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see that?
Doing research on how to visit Fraser Island, I found three options. The first option is to rent a vehicle on the island and explore it unguided. From what I read further, this was the best option only if you had been to the island before and knew what to expect. Well, we definitely didn’t know what to expect, so we decided that option probably wasn’t for us.
The next option is a guided tour where you are broken into groups and given a 4×4 vehicle. Then you travel through the island on a convoy system. This sounded really fun but the tour started at the ferry a couple of hours North of Brisbane. We decided this wasn’t for us as we didn’t want to keep our rental car for a couple of extra days only to have it parked at the terminal.
The final option is a guided tour on a 4×4 bus leaving from Brisbane with Sunset Safaris. Well, this sounded perfect. This way we could drop off our rental car in Brisbane and leave on the bus the next morning. Better yet, we booked a hotel next to the bus station, so it was a piece of cake to get there in the morning.
We like it when things are easy.
So in the morning we joined up on our bus tour leaving from Brisbane. After about a three hour drive, we arrived at the ferry terminal heading to Fraser Island.
Here we go!
After a quick ferry ride, we arrived on Fraser Island and started our tour driving along the famous 75 Mile Beach. This was the beach highway everyone had been talking about! The beach also doubled as an airstrip for the island’s beach pilots.
While it operated the same as a normal highway requiring vehicles to stick to their side of the “road,” driving along the highway was also determined by tides and terrain! I have never seen anything like it!
After a cruise along 75 Mile Beach, we headed into the sandy island to check out Lake Birrabeen. This is a self-contained lake, formed on an impermeable layer of rock, not fed by rivers or flowing to the sea. This crystal clear lake was beautiful and warm. Not to mention, the sand was composed of silica making it unlike any other sand I had ever felt. It cleaned your jewellery beautifully as well!
The ride into Lake Birrabeen was adventurous! Our 4×4 bus plowed through the sand trails amongst the forest leading to the lake. I held on for dear life as my body jerked up and down, and side to side. At one point my head smacked into the window. I was extremely thankful for my seat belt. Maybe I should have worn a helmet as well…
I definitely could not have imagined driving a truck through this on my own!
After a swim in the lake, we headed deep into the rainforest to Central Station. Between the 1920s and 1950s, this area was the headquarters of Fraser Island’s forestry operations. Today, it is a starting point for long or short walks featuring a boardwalk along the crystal-clear, freshwater of Wanggoolba Creek.
It was a nice way to end the day.
The next day, we were back cruising along 75 Mile Beach to visit more sites. Our first stop was to view the Maheno shipwreck. Built in 1905, the SS Maheno was the first turbine-driven luxury steamer servicing the Tasman between Sydney and Auckland. In 1914, it became Australia’s first hospital ship during World War I. After the war, it returned as a luxury ship until is was sold to Japan for scrap in 1935. Fortunately for Australia, the tow chain snapped during transport to Japan and it drifted helplessly onto Fraser Island’s beach where it still sits today!
After some ship wreck photos, we stopped to appreciate The Pinnacles – 700,000 year old sand dunes stained by iron-rich clays that bind them.
From there, we headed for a swim in the Champagne pools! These are a collection of pools formed by volcanic rock fed by ocean waves. The pools were really beautiful and it was probably one of my favourite spots on the island!
After our swim, we loaded back on the bus to Indian Head. This spot provided panoramic views of the island, particularly of 75 Mile Beach!
I think I can officially say that these are the best beach views I have seen in all of Australia!
Now, you might be wondering why we had visited lakes, pools and soaked in the amazing views of ocean but never actually went IN the ocean. Well, here’s the not so great part of Fraser Island…
While the beaches are perfect, the ocean is crystal clear and the waves could not be more inviting, the surrounding waters of the island are filled with sharks! Apparently, the shallow waters that hug the coastline are so rich with marine life that it brings in the Sharks close to shore for a feeding frenzy.
Unbelievable. So, no ocean swimming for the two of us!
Instead, we ended our second day with a hike from Rainbow Gorge through the Kirrar Sand Dunes.
On our drive back to our hotel, Eurlong Resort, we finally spotted a Dingo! Apparently, Dingos can be quite dangerous. There are signs all over the island about Dingo safety and we were unable to visit Lake Wabby while we were on the island because increased Dingo activity..
I was glad I was on the bus when I saw it..
The next day we left Fraser Island and drove through the Cooloola Recreational Area to check out Rainbow Beach and the Noosa Heads on our way back to Brisbane.
Overall, it was a great couple of weeks exploring the beauty of Queensland’s coast and finally getting to experience the magnificent beaches of Australia!
Alright, Australia, you have some pretty great beaches….
Now, what we really wanted to do was get into the water!
Look our Great Barrier Reef, here we come!