Tales of Travel: Sunshine Coast

The brief my husband gave me when we decided to book a family holiday: “somewhere sunny and warm, with a beach. That’s it.”

We tossed up between Fiji and the Sunshine Coast (both of which fit the brief), and in the end, it came down to a matter of (a) cost, and (b) flight times. The former is a pretty obvious consideration, but the latter is also important when travelling with little people; when we took Tiny to Rarotonga, we spent a lot of time in transit, and our flight times weren’t the best, and I couldn’t face doing that with two little ones this time around. When we realised we could fly direct to Brisbane and hire a car, the decision was easily made, and our timing couldn’t have been better: they were experiencing the hottest last-week-of-May for 120 years!

Caloundra is such a lovely town, and one we knew nothing about prior to arriving. I loved the esplanade, with its playgrounds, sculptures and boardwalks. Every day we strolled along the coastline, stopping for the boys to have a play in the parks before getting coffee from Coffee Cat (who also make the most amazing gluten-free limey citrus tarts), then hitting Kings Beach. We also spent a lot of time in the pool in our apartment complex, which gave Tiny a huge boost of water confidence.

Caloundra (6)Caloundra (18)Caloundra (37)From Caloundra, we took a day trip (as it’s less than 25 minutes drives) to Australia Zoo, which was wonderful. Both boys loved it, and I really liked that the focus is on Australian animals (although I did love seeing the giraffes, zebras and tigers); walking amongst kangaroos and being able to pat them is pretty special. Tiny thought the crocodiles were awesome, while Pickle was enamoured with the koalas.

Caloundra (74)Caloundra (66)

We’d heard great things about Noosa, and it didn’t disappoint. Our accomodation was just behind Hastings Street, the main shopping and dining area, and less than five minutes from Main Beach. The beach itself is lovely, with gentle surf and gorgeously-soft sand. We went for daily walks in Noosa National Park, which is just a five minute walk from Main Beach. We passed quiet little bays, headed uphill for beautiful views across the water and strolled through silent forests. We saw a koala bear having a sleep in a tree right beside the path, and watched paddleboarders and surfers enjoying the water. We ate delicious and cheap burgers, and drank mighty-fine coffees at Mali Burger, but the winner of best meal for the entire trip goes to iS Tapas Bar in Noosaville – the most amazing tapas, and a thirst-quenchingly-good sangria.

Noosa (26)Noosa (41)We visited the Eumundi Markets, where the sheer number of stalls is quite overwhelming – there are 550 of them! The food carts all looked amazing, and if I wasn’t limited by having braces, I think I could have eaten from every single one.

On our way back to Brisbane, we cruised down the coast roads, and stopped in Mooloolaba for a stroll along the coast, a play in the parks, and the second-best meal of our trip. I’m glad we chose not to stay there (it is much more built-up than the other towns along the Sunshine Coast, and lacks any real character or charm), but it was a nice place to stop and take a break.

The Sunshine Coast was the perfect spot for a family holiday, and gave us a much-needed dose of vitamin D to see us through the winter months.


Back in the Game

Crikey. It feels like forever since I’ve had the time and mental capacity to blog. I wonder if anyone’s actually still here? Hellooooo?

Between escaping the cold weather for a family holiday to the Sunshine Coast, and organising our kindy centenary celebrations, I feel like I’ve been absent from real life for quite some time. The holiday in the sun with my boys was just what I needed, coming back relaxed and rejuvenated, but it seems a distant memory now as I’ve been spending every waking moment researching, planning, photocopying, meeting and organising.

Caloundra Sunshine Coast Caloundra Sunshine CoastThe centenary celebrations – high tea on an almost non-existant budget – were yesterday, and I can’t tell you how relieved I am that it’s over. Everything turned out amazingly, we had a far greater turn-out than expected, and everyone had a lovely time….but not having to spend my spare time organising everything feels pretty darn good.

Centenary Celebrations St Clair Community Kindergarten High TeaNow, I can concentrate on the big list of things that has been shoved aside for the past few months, and spend more time playing with my boys instead of asking them to hang on just one minute while I finished making a call or sending an email or finding more historical information.

And I might blog a bit more regularly again too, yuh-huh.

Tales of Travel: Melbourne

Melbourne has always been one of my favourite cities. It forms a bit of a “triangle” with Dunedin and Wellington, in that if you’re from one of these three cities, you’re likely to feel quite at home in the other two. This is certainly true for me – love Wellington, love Melbourne…could quite happily live in either!

Anyone visiting Melbourne should be aware of the following:
~ the shopping really IS as good as you’ve heard;
~ your taste buds will think you’ve taken them higher than heaven; and
~ a small part of your heart will forever remain there.

You could spend days getting lost in the CBD, wandering up and down the main streets and straying into narrow alleyways which offer up hidden cafes, bars and little boutiques. The CBD is incredibly east to navigate, with a grid-like street system. You’ll also find that Little Collins Street comes after Collins Street, making for a simple, albeit unimaginative, way of getting your bearings.

A visit to the world-famous Queen Victoria Markets is a must; you’ll know you’re getting close when you start to smell the fare. The crowds haggling and jostling for the best products at the best price are a sight – and sound – to behold.

See if you can wrangle a ticket to an exhibition opening at the National Gallery, and make sure you visit one of the many modern art galleries in and around the city. Watch the world go by in Federation Square – the lunchtime rush near Flinders Street Station is an interesting spectacle.

Old Melbourne Gaol
is a gloomy but interesting attraction, with a particular focus on hangings, Ned Kelly and his gang. I found the history behind the gang and their capture fascinating, but the deathmasks made for eerie viewing, and I didn’t feel wholly comfortable there.

Wine fans should head an hour south to Mornington Peninsula and Sorrento – the drive is lovely and the wine is definitely worth the trip! There are lots of wineries, galleries and cute seaside villages to explore.

Sovereign Hill, in Ballarat (an hour-and-a-half to the west) is an interactive open-air museum which makes for a fun day trip – although I’d recommend taking a picnic lunch as the restaurant is highly overpriced.

Healesville Sanctuary
, just over an hour to the north-east, is a fantastic place to take kids. It’s home to native Australian animals that have been rescued and rehabilitated, and the bird show is a highlight.

There’s also Melbourne Zoo, with its awesome orangutan enclosure; in March of this year we were lucky enough to see a teeny tiny baby with spindly little arms and a mop of sticky-uppy hair.

Many of Melbourne’s suburbs are worth exploring too – hop on a train and see where you end up! Wander through Albert Park and watch the radio-controlled boats racing on the lake; take in the tacky splendour of St Kilda or wander around Cherry Lake and try to spot the pelicans. Visit Williamstown for more galleries, boutiques and antique stores.

I’ve been to Melbourne four times, and every visit, I find something new to love about the city. There’s so much to see and do, and it has such a vibrant, friendly atmosphere. Now that my sister and her family are based there, I’m sure we’ll back as often as we can!

Tales of Travel: Australia

I first went on a plane when I was 22 years old. I’d somehow convinced my parents to let me spend two months in Australia with The Boyfriend, and had then wangled two months off from my part-time job at the local Pak’n Save. With the former, it helped that we’d been seeing each other for four years and everyone (apart from me) was convinced we would get married; with the latter, I worked 50-hour weeks from the time I finished university until leaving, so felt they kinda “owed me”.

I was full of trepidation – both about going on a plane, and going to a “foreign” country – and I was a little nervous about spending two months with The Boyfriend. But above all, I was excited about the potential experiences I would have, the independence I would gain, and the Oh-So-Cool Stories I would have to tell.

Image from here*

We started our trip in Sydney, and I remember feeling over-whelmed at all the people, and by the sheer size of the city. But it was all so thrilling – walking through King’s Cross at night, avoiding eye-contact with dodgy looking drug dealers, trying not to giggle when strip club hawkers called out, “couples welcome!” – and meeting travellers from all over the world set my mind a-racing. I suddenly realised there was this whole world available to me, and that with a little bit of planning (and a whole lot of saving), I would one day be able to call myself a Traveller, too.

Image from here*

After Sydney, we took a train to Brisbane to visit The Boyfriend’s sister and her family. I remember feeling so worldly when I said of Brisbane, “Oh, it’s just another city” – like I was qualified to make such a blanket statement (I still feel that way about Brisbane, but I reckon I’m a bit more qualified to say so now!).

I thought I was soooo cool. I read books that Travellers were reading at the time (‘The Alchemist’ and ‘The Beach’ – only Travellers were authorised to read such tales, you know). I spoke of “commuting” and stayed in grubby hostels; when we returned home, I proudly told stories of almost getting pricked by a used needle in King’s Cross, of singing Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’ on New Year’s Day, 2000, with two lads from Manchester, of transvestite hookers and the availability of all sorts of illicit substances (of which I did not partake, but at the time, it seemed so risque and worldly to say that if I’d wanted to, I could have).

This first trip opened my eyes to an exciting new world (pardon the pun), and made me realise that I wasn’t  content to stay in my comfort zone any longer. It would be another four years before I left the shores of New Zealand again, but by that time, the travelling bug had well-and-truly bitten this shy Dunedin Girl.

* This trip was taken back in the day when digital cameras were a thing of the future, along with robot maids and spaceship cars, so I’ve had to borrow a couple of images!