We’d not heard great things about Brisbane and many people had told us not to even bother going. So with that in mind, we only gave ourselves 20 hours to explore the place. I actually got a great vibe from it. It could just be because I’m a city girl at heart and it was the first city we’d been to in a long while after a string of little beachy towns. It was refreshingly nice to be in a busy place with lots of buildings and people everywhere!
We went for a leisurely walk around the centre, past the city hall, the university and the botanical gardens. Then down to the river for a stroll, spotting boats and skyscrapers in the distance. It doesn’t have the most modern feel to it, feel a bit like I’m in a 70s New York gangsta film. Along the river there was some lovely bars and restaurants and a lot of super healthy people running and cycling everywhere. After a classy drink at one of the riverside bars and a greasy burger somewhere in town, we were off to bed. It was Sunday, so not in the mood for a night out and didn’t seem to be much going on.
In the morning we had a few hours to kill before our next bus journey, so headed into town for a spot of retail therapy. About time!! There was even a Topshop for us to enjoy, although it wasn’t a scratch on the London stores. After a couple months of wearing the same few clothes it was such a good feeling hitting the shops, even if our bank balances didn’t allow any purchases. Some of my English friends had told me Australia shopping had little to be desired, but right now I disagree.
Well at least in wasn’t on the one full day we had in Noosa. We came to Australia at this time of year thinking it would be constant sunshine every day, but it’s been surprisingly stormy! We only booked to stay in Noosa for a couple nights as the hostel was quite a bit more expensive then other places down the coast. I would have happily stayed loved to stay longer though as the hostel was great and the town had a great feel to it. We arrived early afternoon and headed straight for the beautiful beach before grabbing some bubbles and calamari as an afternoon snack in one of the sweet boutique bar/restaurants near sunshine beach. That night we headed out for some dancing and drinks. The bars were pretty naff but we had a great night regardless. Steph managed to find herself a girlfriend who didn’t quite get that she wasn’t exactly Stephs type.
The next morning after a hangover cure at subway we went for a little wonder around the streets. Noosa is definitely for the rich!! Saw some absolutely amazing houses. There doesn’t seem to be many planning restrictions compared to England though as every house look so different to the next, lots of interesting architecture going on. I’d happily live here if I ever had the money!
The plan for the day was to go for a walk round the coast in the national park in the afternoon once it was a little cooler. But about 20 minutes before leaving the heavens opened and started a major storm that didn’t stop until the next morning. So we had a night in with fajitas and Harry Potter. Bit of a waste of a day as our only full day in Noosa.
The alarm was set for 6am in the hope we could squeeze in the walk before our next bus. However after waking up to the storm still raging we re set the alarm for 9 and headed back to sleep. Waking up at 9 revealed the storm had cleared and the sun was out. We packed up and checked out as quick as possible to try and do the walk, however the walk takes three hours and we only had two before having to catch our bus. So we started to walk as far as possible before having to turn around and go back. The third of the walk that we managed was stunning, absolutely gutted we didn’t get to do it all! But catching the bus, as boring as it sounds, was more important then a picturesque walk.
We woke on the Monday morning to start our 3 day 2 night trip to Fraser Island, to the most torrential rain. Even the shortest walk from our dorm to the shower got me soaking wet. This could be interesting.
At 7am our group of 34 all huddled together out of the rain to meet our tour guide Brett who gave us a little pep talk about how it was going to rain all day, we would get very wet and we were going to enjoy it anyway. It would have been nicer to wake up to the sun shining, but I guess that would be boring and I didn’t pay to go on this trip to sit in the shelter sulking. So we had to just embrace it.
The trip was with Pippies Beach house and is a 4×4 tag-along tour, meaning Brett drove the lead vehicle and everyone in the three following cars swapped drivers regularly. We were in the first car with Brett and not the most lively eight other backpackers.
Fraser is the largest sand island in the world so a lot of the trip was spent battling our way over the beach, probably some of the best bits of the trip were looking out at the scenery from the cars and trying to spot dingos. Dingos are a protected animal in Fraser and can be dangerous so you’re warned to keep away. Not a problem for me, just looks like one of the foxes near my old flat in London.
The first stop was Lake Mckenzie, a beautiful massive lake with silica sand and incredibly clear water. Even in the pissing down rain it was lovely. Much to the enjoyment of everyone else, one of the Swedish genuinely had her umbrella up whilst standing in the rain….quite the ironic image! After a lunch break of ham wraps, we went for a little stroll around the rainforest and Brett told us stories of the island and the Butchella (local aboriginals on the island). After another drive across the beach we went to the Maheno shipwreck for a lot of jumping photos and trying hard to keep warm. The shipwreck has been there since 1935 after 30 years of service in the war and as a cruise liner.
After finally succumbing to the wet and cold conditions, we were back in the cars to the campsite. The rain had made the tracks pretty muddy and hard to drive. One girl nearly managed to turn her car after trying to fight through the mud as we all looked on in horror. Safe to say, she didn’t drive the car again after that! Back in the campsite and the drama continued as we arrived to find the roof of the kitchen had completely collapsed in. Brett had spent the last few days working on the campsite, so this put him in a pretty foul mood as he tried to do a botch job and make the roof stay up. It was actually a really nice campsite and the tents were on a floor and under a canopy so despite all the rain, managed to stay completely dry. The hardest bit was the five minute walk to the shower through deep mud. I think we came back from our shower dirtier then when we went in. The French boys volunteered to cook us all a lovely BBQ dinner while we all had some beers, played card games and got to know each other. Just a shame that no matter how many clothes we put on, we just couldn’t warm up so everyone retired to bed pretty early.
As we lay in the tent the next morning listening to the rain, me and Steph were not too happy. Wasn’t until we bothered to leave the tent and saw the sun and a running tap we were buzzing for the day ahead. Finally sun!!! After another muddy walk up to the shower we were off for the day. We started at the champagne pools which is a little area where the ocean fills a hole created by the locals back in the day to catch fish. Today it’s just a lovely spot to be able to go in the water as your not allowed in the sea in Fraser anywhere else due to the strong current and sharks. We spent our time clamouring on rocks and spotting crabs and jellyfish. Next stop was a climb up some rocks to the top of a cliff to look over the beautiful island and listen to Brett tell us some more stories of the island. After a pit stop back at camp and more ham wraps for lunch, we headed to a little stream which I cannot remember the name of. We went for a gentle ride down stream in some rubber rings then spent some time playing games with everyone and having a little sunbathe. Last stop of the day was to a tea tree lake, which was lovely once you got over the brown tea colour and frothing. I spent a good twenty minutes splashing my face with it trying to heal my skin and get rid of my spots. It didn’t work.
Back to the campsite for a spaghetti bolognaise dinner and more drinking. Throughout the whole trip there was a bit of a food war going on, with every group thinking the other groups were eating too much and not leaving enough for everyone. I didn’t manage to have breakfast once as it was gone as soon as it was put out. Everyone was in high spirits as there was no rain, so much more partying for our second night. We went for a walk down to the beach, with our dingo sticks in tow just in case any decided to attack us, and spent some time lying on the sand staring at the stars. I’ve never seen such a beautiful starry sky before it so many stars at once. Unfortunately I have no photo evidence but it was the most incredible sight, and I even saw three shooting stars.
For our final day we packed up our stuff and headed back on the road, or more accurately the beach. Finally it was Steph’s turn to drive, god help us all! In fairness she had one of the toughest drives of the trip so far as it was through lots of soft sand and a stream. There were some very nervous passengers! Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to drive as my licence is still on its way from England. We went for a little walk through the rainforest to some amazing sand dunes and yet another lake. Steph went for a roll down one of the sand dunes, but I didn’t fancy picking sand out of my teeth and hair for the next few days so just her to it. After another lunch of ham wraps we headed back on the ferry to Rainbow Beach. I don’t want to see a ham wrap for a long time.
Back in rainbow the weather took a turn for the worse so our one full day in rainbow beach was primarily spent on wifi in the hostel and playing with their cat.
It took us ten hours on a night bus to go back in time. Not literally, but our next stop is the town of 1770, Agnes water. It’s a tiny little place with not a lot going on apart from yet another beautiful beach (not that I have a problem with that). We were staying at a hostel called Cool Bananas where we witnessed some incredibly stereotypical backpacker scenes. As there’s nowhere to go everyone just chills in the hostel listening to the Swedish guy singing along to his acoustic guitar in the campsite. It got a little annoying after the first ten songs and countless Ed Sheeran covers so Steph and I retired to the lounge watching back to back DVDs. Unfortunately when the only thing to do in a town is go to the beach, and the sun decides to hide, there’s not much else to do!
On one of sunnier days we signed up for the Scooter Roo tour. So in the midday heat we put on our jeans, rented leather jackets and donned several temporary tattoos to drive around on a mini chopper. The idea of me riding something with two wheels probably fills people with fear after a dodgy experience in Thailand five years ago, but I was surprisingly good. They started us off with a practice run of riding in a circle until we got dizzy and I managed to stay upright and within the cones, winning! Steph on the other hand… Let’s just say she’s lucky they let her on the road after spending hours going round and round and still not perfecting the brakes or steering. After some ‘attitude’ posing we climbed onto our bikes for the afternoon and headed out around the town. At this point I made sure I was several bikes ahead of Steph as I value my life. Granted for 75 dollars you don’t really see huge amounts, it’s more just about driving a bike and pretending to be a rock star for the afternoon. I loved it! After several hours being on a tiny little vibrating scooter, it’s fair to say I had one numb bottom and Steph has some seriously bruised legs from clinging to her bike a little too tight.
The trip was also our first experience of seeing kangaroos. It was mental, we were driving through a ranch and there they were just hopping along at the side of the road. Two of them even decided to jump across the road right in front of Steph. Miraculously she managed to stay on her bike, turns out she can drive. This happened soon after I told her we wouldn’t see anymore kangaroos so not to bother filming on her GoPro. My bad! It was such a surreal experience seeing them, almost like I was star struck or like seeing a unicorn. You hear about them and see pictures of them but it was crazy seeing them up close. They are such funny animals and much bigger than I expected.
The main topic amongst travellers down the East Coast is ‘have you done the Whitsundays yet?’, ‘when are you doing the Whitsundays?’ and ‘what boat are you going on?’ Finally it was our time to board the boat with 25 other backpackers that would be our home and family for the next two nights. There must be hundreds of boats that do a Whitsundays tour as everyone you ask seems to do something different. We were on Avatar, operated by Oz sail which is a Trimaran and one of the biggest around. It’s such a beautiful sail boat and the main reason we picked this trip over any others.
After checking in at the office in town, we organised all our clothes into Stephs backpack and stopped by the bottle shop before lugging it all for 25 minutes down the marina. In hindsight 8 litres of goon and 20 cans of cider was a bit too much. For those who aren’t aware of goon, its essentially super cheap boxed wine (£6 for 4 litres) and it’s a necessity for backpackers.
At the harbour we were issued with our stinger suits, boarded onto the boat and shown to our room. Room is a loose term, we had to climb through a hole straight onto our 4ft bed, but at least it’s the first private room we’ve had in Australia! Unfortunately the weather was a little miserable on the first day but once it had cleared we raised the sail and headed out to the first snorkel spot of the trip. Honestly I wasn’t too impressed, visibility was poor and there wasn’t much to see. After a lovely dinner cooked by one of the crew and a few drinking games to get to know our new friends we had an early night ready for a busy next day.
We woke at 6am and got ready to head to Whitehaven beach, often called the best beach in the world. It was absolutely stunning! I’ve been to some exotic places in my life and seen some beautiful beaches but nothing like this before. It was massive and the images don’t do the beauty of it justice. The sand has the highest level of silica in the world and for that reason was super soft, like walking on flour. We also used it to exfoliate so we were super soft to match. Steph cleaned her teeth with it but I think I’ll stick to Colgate. Whilst having a paddle we spotted a few sharks and sting rays swimming around us.
After three glorious hours spent on the island we were back on the boat for the second snorkel spot of the trip. This was much better then yesterday and we saw a turtle! Despite Stephs best attempts she didn’t manage to get the ultimate turtle selfie, but we got a pretty amazing video. We also swam along the drop off where all the best fish live. It really did look just like finding nemo. The third and final snorkel spot was the best. I’ve never seen so many fish, they were swarming around us in a whole array of shapes sizes and colours.
After a fun packed day we celebrated with some more drinking. As it was our first goon experience, we struggled a little and rather pathetically were some of the first to retire to our rabbit hutch.
The next day we simply sailed back to Airlie beach enjoying the sun and the view.
After getting used to being back on still land, eating breakfast, checking in and a long nap we headed for a night out with our new boat buddies. The next couple days we spent chilling around Airlie beach town and lagoon. Other than the Whitsundays, the lagoon and a good night out, there’s not much to do here. We went for a little stroll to the marina which is lovely with some nice looking more restaurants and cafes. It was also the Melbourne cup which is a much bigger deal over here then I realised. Despite being miles from Melbourne, so many people were fully dressed up for functions in most of the restaurants and hotels in town. We didn’t manage to watch any of it but it was funny watching everyone walking round town in their hats and heels.
One of the things on the Aussie bucket list is to hold a koala so that was the plan for the day. We got the bus up to horseshoe bay to the wildlife centre. In a group of maybe 20 tourists we were shown and offered the chance to hold many different animals. It surprised me how many people passed up the opportunity to hold the animals but Steph and I were always first up. I never realised before but I really like lizards, they’re so weird and cool and yes one did decide to poo all over my hand.
Holding the koala was saved until last. She was called Belle and was younger than some of the others they had so was but fidgety. She was so cute and fluffy to hold it felt like holding a little baby.
At the end of our wildlife tour, we were told we could join in with the feeding of the parakeets. This was one of craziest moments I’ve had so far. Walking into the trees with soggy bread in our hands and they suddenly flocked to us, sitting on our heads, shoulders, bags. They were pretty painful too, they really dug in with their claws when they were sat in our hands nibbling the food.
After a failed attempt at sunset the day before, we figured out where the sun actually set and went for a walk to Picnic Bay to watch the sunset from the end of the pier.
Apparently word spread fast about me feeding birds as the next day at breakfast just as I was served my eggs Benedict, a bird swooped down, hit me in the face and took off with my bacon.
Next stop down the coast is Magnetic Island, just a short ferry ride from Townsville. We stayed at Base backpackers, which is the party hostel on the island and we’re glad we did. We soon realised everything is quite far from each other and there’s no nightlife spot so Base is the best place to go for a drink. Handy that it’s on our doorstop then. The feel of the hostel was a bit like a campsite in the way it was laid out and even more so then mission beach, we saw a lot of wildlife. There were several large birds hopping around the place and possums hanging around by the bins. Pretty scary seeing basically a giant rat when you go to the toilet in the middle of the night. After a chilled few days it was nice to be back partying and the advantage of only being able to drink in the hostel made it much easier to meet new friends as you’d see the same people every night.
One day we did the cliche Maggie island backpacker thing and rented a barbie car. This has become such a renowned thing to do here and although I’m not entirely sure why, it was nice to be able to drive around and explore ourselves. Having not driven for nearly two years, it was a good feeling to be behind a wheel again. We had such a fun day driving the quiet roads, wind in our hair and beautiful views ahead. First stop was to Horseshoe bay for a sunbathe and swim in the stinger net area, after that we went to Alma Bay for another bask in the sunshine.
The only problem with getting the barbie car (or topless Moke as its technically called) is there quite a few roads you’re not allowed to drive, so to get to some of the other bays we had to park up and trek down a hill as the 4×4’s drove past. After that we went to go see and feed some rock wallabies. They were super cute! There was even a mum with a baby in her pouch. Sweet!
As the sun started to set we headed back to horseshoe bay to a bar which claimed ‘the best sunset on the island’ only to discover you couldn’t see a thing as the sun set on the other side of the island. So after a schooner we headed back to the hostel for another night of drinking. This was the moment we realised the car had no lights, was a very hairy ride home in the dark!
Mission beach isn’t the most common stop down the East Coast. It’s famous for its adrenaline sports such as sky diving but many people do this from Cairns as its only a two hour journey. We thought we’d spend a few nights seeing what else the town had to offer. Honestly, not a lot. We overheard one girl say that the highlight of her day was going to the supermarket, which sums it up quite well. The backpacker area is near Wongaling beach and apart two hostels there’s not a lot to do apart from enjoy the beautiful beach. The town seems eerily empty and not a thing is out of place. It reminds me of the town in the film Pleasantville.
We debated doing a skydive like pretty much everyone else in the east coast as we both definitely want to do one at some point but decided it was too early on in our trip and we were fed up of spending money! In my opinion skydiving can be done anywhere, and I’ve always thought I’d like to do it in New Zealand. So for now we decided to get our adrenaline kicks in another way, rafting the Tully river.
We wanted to book on to do the extreme rafting but once again Australia proved too fully booked for our unorganised selves. Instead we booked onto the normal rafting, which actually worked in our favour as we paid less but ended up being just as extreme as the more expensive trip! We shared a raft with two French guys and two Aussies and we were all (apart from one guy) up for falling in and being as rough as possible. Over half of the other boats were full of Chinese, Korean and Japanese tourists. They were so funny and up for a laugh, especially if you splashed them in the face. One boat had six over 50s from Taiwan and they were probably the most adventurous and excited on the river. One woman must have been in her 70s and looked tiny and fragile, but she had the biggest grin on her face the whole time. I hope I have that much energy when I’m older.
Whilst rafting we had to wear these rather fetching yellow tops and trousers to protect us from March flies, which were so annoying. Half our time on the river was spent swatting them away from our faces.
There was a lot of stop starting down the river as we waited for the coast to be clear, and we got stuck on the rocks a lot but it was such a laugh and there was lots of pushing each other in and flipping the raft. Steph and I were placed at the back of the boat because obviously we were the best. As our guide Jack said, have you ever seen a boat with the motor on the front?
The rest of our time in Mission Beach was very chilled, our days were spent lying on the beach and our evenings were spent in the hostel. We stayed at Absolute Backpackers which was lovely, although it was our first experience of wildlife. There were massive moths and bugs hanging out everywhere and an owl that made the kitchen its home. It was nice to have a few days to chill. In the four nights we spent there, we had one bottle of wine between us and spent our evenings cooking dinner and relaxing in the hostel lounge watching films.
For our last full day in Cairns we headed out on the barefoot tour to the tablelands, the number one rated tour company in cairns according to trip advisor. That’s a pretty big title, but it was a really well organised tour so I can see why! Our tour guide (suitably shoe free) was Wade, he was such a laugh and we had a good group of backpackers on the bus with us which made it great fun. These things can massively depend on who you’re with. I think I’m getting more adventurous in my old age as A few years ago I’d have never described a day jumping in lakes and waterfalls as fun, but it truly was!
The tablelands are just outside Cairns and are so called as its flat land up a hill (like a table), 1km above sea level. Our first stop, after a Macca’s breakfast, was Eacham Lake which is a 60 metre deep lake in the top of a volcano. It was absolutely freezing! We had a little swim in the beautiful surroundings and clear water, until a fish decided to start nibbling my leg and I was straight back on dry land for some hot chocolate and a sunbathe. I can still be a wuss at times!
Next we made a quick stop to view a 500 year old tree. It’s three trees that overtime have been taken over by curtain figs, which creates quite a spectacular image. Afterwards we took a drive to Malanda village to pick up a sandwich to take and eat whilst looking over Malanda falls.
Once we were suitably fed, and had a stroll round the visitor centre to read about volcanoes and tree kangaroos, we went to the most photographed waterfall in Australia, Millaa Millaa falls. Also know as the Peter Andre mysterious girl falls, or home of the Herbal Essence adverts. Lake Eacham was warm in comparison to this, cold doesn’t even cover it! Trying to do the herbal essence hair flick in ice cold water was pretty painful, photos better be worth it!
Last stop before home was Josephine falls, these were pretty damn cool. After doing my best beached whale impression trying to climb up a slippery rock, and eventually being pulled up by one of the guys we went for a little slide down the rock. There’s some pretty funny videos of this but unfortunately I can’t post them here (for my dignity as well as wordpress’ ability).
After a nap on the bus home in our soaking wet towels, we were back in Cairns for our last night out. We headed for one last meal at PJ O’Brien’s where 7 dollars can get you a steak and a glass of wine, before claiming our 5 free glasses of champagne from the topless man. As sexist as ladies nights are, they make for a cheap evening!
That night we got at most about 2 hours sleep thanks to the drunk guy in our dorm that wet himself, which then dropped onto the poor girl below him. You can imagine, lots of drama and screaming was happening at about 4am! Whoever thinks backpacking is glamorous, think again! This was definitely confirmation that we can not wait to get ourselves out of cairns. As much as we’ve had a great first couple weeks and liked the town, it’s a big party place with lots of drinking and drama that starts to get a bit old after two weeks.
Next stop: Mission Beach for a little detox and adventure