This post is going to have a little bit from quite a few of the places we’ve visited down the east coast; Airlee beach, Hervey bay, Rainbow beach, Noosa, Brisbane and Byron bay as we only stayed a couple of days in each.
We caught the return ferry from Magnetic Island back to Townsville on the mainland. We had a few hours to kill so we just had a coffee by the beach doing a bit of bird watching. I downloaded an Australian bird watching guide on my phone and I’ve been loving taking photos of all these birds and looking them up (don’t judge me). We hopped on the bus 3 and a half hours south to Airlee Beach. Airlee beach is the connecting town to go to the Whitsundays. Unfortunately, the weather was really shite, raining and windy, so we decided not to go. It’s really expensive even for a day tour, you’re looking at 200AUD, more if you stay over night. It just means we’ll have to come back to Australia in the summer time one day to do the tour. We were sat outside having breakfast at the hostel when 4 wild sulphur-crested cockatoos (bloody love the bird guide) joined us! They were amazing and I spent ages photographing them whilst they just chilled on the railings. Instead of the Whitsundays, we had a nice day pottering around Airlee beach and had a picnic lunch. We treated ourselves to fish and chips in the evening and watched the sun set as we were sat by the beach. Perhaps one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve seen on our travels so far! We then had an over night bus to Hervey Bay, our first Aussie long distance bus, around 14 hours. It wasn’t too bad but you definitely have broken sleep on these Grey Hound buses because they stop off in a lot of different places and the drivers can only do 4 hours stints before having to take breaks.
But we made it to Hervey Bay! It’s quite a small town and we actually really enjoyed having a couple of chill out days swinging in hammocks and relaxing. Hervey Bay is popular for whale watching but unfortunately it wasn’t quite the season yet, we are hoping to go whale watching when we’re in New Zealand in July. It’s also a connecting town to the nearby Fraser Island (the largest sand island in the world). Again, the weather really wasn’t going to do it justice. Most tours revolve around outdoor activities on the island but with the winter rain, we decided to save our money. We also met a girl who was having the same debate as us and she went for a day tour and said it really wasn’t worth it given the weather. A lot of the tour companies also attract a very young crowd (18s) and because we’re OAPs, this didn’t really appeal to us too much. We heard stories from other youngsters who’d been saying they were just constantly drinking and then driving big 4 wheel drives through the sand, still drunk. Quite glad we didn’t do that to be honest. Instead, Dave went for a run along the beach and we went out to the shops for a bit, pretty uneventful other than a beautiful rainbow over the town!
Back on the bus, our next stop was Rainbow beach. Despite the crap weather, we preserved with the walk to the natural phenomenon of the Carlo Sand Blow taking shelter from the rain under trees as we went. When we finally got to the dunes, we were so lucky the weather finally cleared for a small window and we got to see an actual rainbow over Rainbow beach! I’m sure there are people/photographers who wait ages to try and see that and we saw it by fluke! We saw even more cockatoos lined on telephone wires around the area which I loved, more photos obviously. We’ve been doing quite well at avoiding party hostels but the Dingo hostel we stayed in was definitely the rowdiest and we felt very old! Fortunately though we were in a 6 bed dorm and we were the only 2! Instead of cooking in and having to socialise with drunk teens, we went out for a nice steak dinner.
Our next stop down the east coast was Noosa which turned out to be one of our favourite places. Noosa is infamous for its National park. On the first day, we decided to do a trail through the forest to the Laguna look out point. It was mostly a fairly steep uphill climb and in parts we were climbing over fallen trees. Thankfully with the app Maps.me we didn’t get lost and made it safely to the lookout point over the town. We didn’t see much wildlife at all in the National park other than an absolutely massive cockroach that looked like a beetle (see photo below) but it was still a beautiful walk in the dense forest. We went to the Eumundi markets on the outskirts of Noosa that are open bi-weekly. It’s about 22km and when we got on the bus, the driver very kindly waved us away and let us go without paying. Either he couldn’t be bothered to handle the change or was just feeling very generous, but that’s the second lovely Australian bus driver we’ve had! It would have cost us $11AUD too! The Eumundi markets were absolutely massive with all hand-crafted goods and food galore! We went a bit nuts when we saw all the food and got massive chicken and falafel wraps (best wrap I’ve ever had), passion fruit ice shakes and salted caramel fudge. Guilty. We both agreed it was definitely the best markets we’d ever been to. Probably the first time I really wished I could have bought some little bits and bobs, there was a stall selling antique maps which were fascinating, but sadly, the backpacks can’t take any more.
We had a really lovely sunny afternoon in Noosa so we decided to go to Sunshine beach. We did go with the intention of swimming but after dipping our feet in the water, we totally bailed. The beach was lovely and especially good in my books because of the hundreds of dogs out on their walks! We got to have a cuddle with two huge slobbery boxers who were more interested in being pet by strangers than fetching their ball. Leaving the beach however, was an absolute disaster. We cockily didn’t bring a map or GPS because how could we possibly get lost on the 10 minute walk back to the hostel?! Well, we decided to try to “cut” straight up because we were at the opposite end of the stretch of beach. We ended up doing a ridiculous 40 minute detour, predominantly uphill and on very residential roads. We had absolutely no idea where we were and then came out to a clearing leading to what we thought was a distant beach. Turns out, it was the same bloody beach we’d just left but we came out 200m further down. To combat our stupidity, we cooked ourselves lovely steaks in the hostel and just went out to the cinema in the evening.
Our next bus journey took us to Brisbane. This was our first “big city” of Australia and to be honest it was a bit disappointing and didn’t really feel like there was anything there. We still made the most out of it though and walked around Roma street Parkland which had a nice little pond where we saw lots of Ibis (bird guide). Our hostel was a converted town house in a really residential area so there was a very strict no alcohol, no noise policy which suited us just fine. We cooked dinner in and sat out on the hostel’s balcony with a lovely view of the valley. Probably the nicest view we saw in Brisbane! The next day we took a stroll across the bridge over the river and headed for the Gallery of Modern Arts (GOMA). The best exhibition in my opinion was artwork from Australian high school students, a total mix of incredible, moving work! The neighbouring building was the State Library and we stopped there because we saw a sign for a free Digital futures exhibition. It was actually quite interesting with a timeline of predictions of technological developments like when humans can visit outer space as a holiday etc. We also both tried virtual reality headsets for the first time which was so awesome and quite trippy the first time you try them!
The next day we headed to Byron Bay. Again, the weather was rubbish; quite windy and it frequently pissed it down. Perhaps stupidly we decided to preserve with the famous lighthouse walk in the hope of spotting either a whale or some bottlenose dolphins. Even as we set off, it rained so hard that we had to take refuge in a cafe. It turned out to have amazing local coffee called Natts and we ended up coming back again the next day. The first part of the walk was along Byron beach, I think it was the widest stretch of beach either of us had ever seen, though there weren’t any swimmers, there were loads of surfers in wet suits. Towards the end of the beach stretch, we got to see a few pods of dolphins! They were quite far out but still so awesome to see them on just a normal walk as opposed to a guided boat tour like we did in Bali. After that, we joined the path which hugs the coastline to the most easterly point of Australia! The Lighthouse wasn’t too much further at the top of the hill. Apparently it is the brightest light in Australia and can be seen by boats as far as 27 nautical miles (50km!). The view over Byron bay and along the other side of the headland was stunning and luckily the sun managed to break through the clouds temporarily to allow for a good photo at the top. By the time we came back down, the light was beginning to fade and it dropped very cold to wooly hat weather! On the plus side, we were lucky enough to see literally thousands of fruit bats leaving for their evening feed at dusk!
Join us next time in Sydney & the Blue Mountains, thanks for reading!
Sophie & Dave