Thursday, 26 March 2015

Australia East Coast!

I didn’t think anything could beat New Zealand, but our East Coast trip was probably my favourite trip (so far!!!) We did so many amazing one-in-a-lifetime bucket list ticking-off things so this may be a long blog post - just warning you now!

After leaving New Zealand we arrived in Sydney on 11th July, where my brother, niece and her boyfriend met us at the airport! We got back to the house and were spending time with my brother’s kids (2 nephews and 1 niece) when my mum came walking down the stairs!!! My family are very good at surprise visits!!

So I got to spend 3 weeks with my mum and family in Sydney, which included my birthday and my youngest nephew’s 1st birthday (on the same day!)
Sydney is pretty cold in July! But we did loads, including taking the kids to Luna Park, the aquarium, Sky tower, and Taronga Zoo where we did ‘Roar and Snore’ which is where you get to camp at the zoo!

We also took my mum out on the whale watching boat! From the day we arrived we kept spotting whales splashing out at sea, so we decided it would be great to see them up close as well. The whales we saw were different to the ones we had seen in Kaikoura in New Zealand, these ones were Humpbacks and Southern Right whales.

My mum flew back to England on the 1st August, so we booked flights for the 5th up to Cairns, flying with Jetstar which isn’t as cheap as flights in Asia but was still not too bad! The thing I hate about budget airlines is when you book they then add on the price of taxes, baggage etc afterwards so it ends up costing way more than you originally thought!

For the whole of our trip we worked our way back down towards Sydney on the Greyhound buses, which are great! Loads of leg room, comfy leather reclining chairs, free wifi! We got hop on hop off passes which we booked online, then you can book your seats on the bus you want to catch the day before.

We had hop on hop off passes between Cairns and Sydney, but the first place we visited after landing in Cairns was Port Douglas, which is an hour north of Cairns. We decided to do our Great Barrier Reef trips from there, as a few people we had met had told us it was better! 

We did 2 reef trips - the first was with Quicksilver, which was an hour and a half trip out to Agincourt Reef (part of the outer reef) and to a floating platform. From the platform you could snorkel, go on a semi-submersible boat and have lunch! The boat out there was very busy but I think a lot of people didn’t actually go snorkelling, as it never seemed that busy in the water. I think this is a popular choice for non swimmers as there is the semi-submersible boat. We went on it but it was nothing like actually being in the water!

The water was really rough on the way out, as the weather had turned a bit stormy and there were literally people spewing everywhere! I get seasick and had taken tablets and luckily I was ok! They also gave us ginger tablets so I took one of those too.

The following day we had booked a trip with a company called Wavelength, which was a smaller boat with a maximum of 30 people. Due to the sea being rough though it was cancelled, and we were transferred onto another boat called Calypso. It seemed the same as what we would have done with Wavelength - snorkelling at 3 different outer reef sites, I think mainly at Opal reef. This was even better than the day before! The reef is so beautiful and we saw so many colourful fish!

From Port Douglas we also did a tour with Daintree Discovery Tours, which took us to the Daintree Rainforest, Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation, Cassowary Falls, and a crocodile spotting river cruise! It was just us and 6 Kiwi ladies who were lovely! Our guide was a guy called Kim, who was so knowledgable but didn’t stop talking!!

When we left Port Douglas we got transfers back to Cairns. The man in our hostel, Port O’Call lodge, was so friendly and funny and when our bus arrived he came running out with a red carpet and laid it down for us to walk on!
In Cairns we stayed at the Jack Backpackers, right above the Union Jack hotel. We got free dinners at this hostel and they were really nice!
While we were in Cairns we went to the Esplanade and sunbathed at the lagoon, and went on a day trip on the Skyrail, which took us over the rainforest and to a village called Kuranda.

In Kuranda we visited the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, where the butterflies come and land on you! We then went to the Kuranda Koala Gardens which was a wildlife park full of Australian animals. The best part about this place was that we got to cuddle a koala! I had been wanting to do it since well forever so I was so excited, we cuddled one called Tilly and she was so cute!!
We also got to feed kangaroos, saw wombats, crocs, lizards, snakes and spiders.

After leaving Cairns we got our first Greyhound bus to Mission Beach. The reason for visiting here was to do a skydive, but for the whole 2 days we were there it rained! So we decided we will have to do it somewhere else (or Damo can, I don’t know if I’m too chicken to do it or not!!) 

The next destination was Townsville, while we were here we visited Reef HQ, an aquarium with a really cute turtle hospital! We climbed Castle Hill for an amazing view of the city and watched the sunset from up there too. We went to the seafront area called the Strand, swam in the sea and had lunch at a place called Longboard, where we spotted turtles in the sea!

From Townsville we also visited Billabong Sanctuary, which is an amazing sanctuary full of Australian animals, where you have loads of chances to get up close and interact with them. It’s much smaller than a zoo and you get to feed kangaroos, turtles, cassowaries, birds and if you pay extra can get photos holding a koala, wombat, snake or baby croc! There were also lots of talks and shows including dingoes, jumping crocs, and a bird show!

The following day we got the ferry over to Magnetic Island, where we stayed for 2 nights at Bungalow Bay - a hostel with its own koala sanctuary! We got a deal which included 2 nights accommodation, entry to the sanctuary, a koala photo, snorkel gear, plus return ferry!

The hostel was walking distance to a beach called Horseshoe Bay, we walked down to it and decided to hire a jet ski! I had a go at driving which was a bit scary but I loved it! That afternoon we also saw a man feeding loads of lorikeets some bread, he gave us some to hold and they surrounded us too! I love lorikeets, they are so pretty, but they totally scratched my arms up!!

The koala park was really good, we got to hold a koala, a snake, a turtle, lizards and a parrot ate a seed from your mouth - if you timed it right you had a photo of the parrot kissing you!

We met two girls at breakfast called Becka and Kate and 2 guys at the park, Kish and Ash, and that afternoon we all went and did the forts walk, which was a good few hours but beautiful, amazing views and beaches, we even saw a wild koala in a tree which was amazing!

Becka, Kish and Ash were all heading to the Whitsundays next, which is what we were planning to do, and they were going on a boat called the Clipper, so we decided to get booked on it too as we all got on really well! So we travelled down to Airlie Beach where we spent 2 nights, then 2 nights on board the boat!

We had heard that the Clipper had a reputation of being the party boat but it was pretty tame really, even though there were 54 of us on board! It had 2 slides that went from the boat into the sea and you could also jump from the deck which was loads of fun!

We also did an introductory scuba dive, which at $60 was the cheapest we had seen it. I'm so glad we did this, it was so relaxed as we went in from the beach, there were heaps of fish, and we even heard a whale singing which was incredible!! The second day we booked to do it again but this time it was going in backwards straight off the boat and for some reason I freaked out a bit and couldn't get my breathing right! I think because I couldn't touch the bottom which always makes me panic as I'm not a strong swimmer! So Damo did the second dive and I went for a snorkel instead!

We also did a trip to Whitehaven beach which has pure white sand and again is beautiful!!

We arrived back to Airlie beach, and had booked the Greyhound with Becka for 11.55pm that night. So we hung around Airlie Beach for the day, with another girl we had met on the boat called Katie. We then got ready and went out for a couple of drinks, got a dominos and got on the coach! 

The coach arrived into Agnes Water / 1770 at around 10am the next morning. It was quite hard to sleep on the coach but we managed it somehow!! We checked into Backpackers @ 1770, the private rooms here weren't private at all which was weird! The walls separating them had big gaps at the top so they weren't really walls! It was just like one big room sectioned into 3. There were also no plugs! Annoying!!

In 1770 we did a tour called Scooteroo and also a 3-hour surf lesson! We did the surf lesson first, it was great but such hard work, I'm so unfit!! I managed to stand up a few times though!

Scooteroo is a tour of 1770 on motorbikes, where you get to ride your own Harley style bike, spot kangaroos and watch an awesome sunset! I was terrible at trying to ride a motorbike so I got to go on the back of the guide’s bike, which meant I got to go really fast! It was still so much fun, we even saw a kangaroo with a joey in his pouch just stood at the side of the road looking at us!

We did one more thing in 1770 which was a sunset dolphin kayak, and it was only the 2 of us that day so we had a private tour! We kayaked around, stopped at a beach which was full of millions of butterflies, saw turtles, dolphins, and a beautiful sunset!

We left 1770 at 6.30am the next morning and got the Greyhound with Becka down to Rainbow Beach, ready for our Fraser Island trip!

We were put into 4 groups and we all had our own 4x4 which everyone took in turns to drive! Fraser Island was amazing, it was so beautiful! We visited a couple of lakes (Lake Mackenzie and Lake Wabby) a lookout called Indian Head which had incredible views and we could see 2 small sharks swimming in the sea! Champagne pools, Eli Creek, also known as Hangover creek, where the water floats you along, there were even people halfway down giving out beers! We spotted a couple of whales too, we saw one breaching from our 4x4 on the beach and it was so close! On the last day we also saw 2 dingoes!

We had to camp in really small tents which wasn’t too bad, until the last morning when I saw the shadow of a big spider crawl up the outside of the tent while I was in it!! We also saw a huge lace monitor lizard on camp one morning. The showers, toilets and cooking stuff they gave us were so gross, but we got given plenty of food!!

After staying one more night at Rainbow Beach we said goodbye to Becka and travelled down to Noosa. In Noosa we did the coastal walk, which people in the hostel had told us was a must-do - and it definitely was! On the first part of the walk we spotted a big water dragon on the rocks! We followed the coastal path, it was all so pretty, then we got to a part of the headland called ‘Hell’s gates’ where we spotted some dolphins! We carried on up the path to get a little closer, and we stood watching them for ages until they went further out to sea. I loved it I could have watched them all day!!

After watching the dolphins the path lead us down to a nudist beach, which is part of the walk, I didn’t expect to actually see any nudists but as we got down onto the sand a man came walking past swinging his swim shorts around in his hand!! Damo then decided it would be funny to strip off and get a photo of him facing the sea while there was no one around, but we spotted a man watching from the bushes haha! As we got to the end of the beach there were nudists everywhere! We then walked round a bit more headland before arriving at Sunshine Beach, which is where our hostel was. We decided to go to the bottle shop and have a couple of drinks and doritos on the beach, we sat and watched the surf life savers and a man trying to have a surf, but he was just getting swept along the beach!

The following day we did a boat trip on the Noosa Everglades. We just did an afternoon trip, which was around 4 hours, we went up the river, stopped for some food and drinks and travelled back down. We saw lots of wildlife, mainly birds and lizards. We also saw a huge lizard at the place where we stopped!

That night we went to watch the Inbetweeners 2 at the cinema, which we loved because it was about them backpacking in Australia so we could relate to it all!!

The day we left Noosa we went to Australia Zoo for the day, as the Greyhound stopped there on the way to Brisbane. The bus was even Australia Zoo themed!!

They do loads of different animal experiences which you can book online before you arrive, you can even have your photo taken with a tiger if you don’t mind paying $400!! As we’d already had a couple of koala photos we decided to do the Cheetah photo, a lot cheaper at $60 for the both of us! It was an awesome experience!

After our photos we caught the end of the main croc show, it wasn’t as good as the one we had seen at Billabong Sanctuary though! We also watched the tiger show which was great! All in all we had a good day but I wouldn’t say Australia Zoo is as amazing as I thought it would be!

After leaving the zoo we got to Brisbane and checked into Chill Backpackers which was a really nice hostel with a rooftop bar! There was a hostel just up the road which did $7 burgers so we went there for food. We hadn’t planned much to do in Brisbane other than a visit to my favourite clothing brand, Black Milk! That was arranged for the Wednesday so on the Tuesday we just walked into the city. We walked along the river and over the bridge and back, and went in the Queensland museum as it was free!

The next day we walked to Black Milk HQ in Newstead, we had a 1.30pm tour and a girl called Shanna took us around. It was cool to see where all the clothes are made and we also saw loads of new stuff coming out in the future including loads of Disney stuff! I also got to go in the ‘sample room’ and buy anything for $40 each so I got some stuff for me and my niece Daisy (who got me into Black Milk in the first place!), Shanna then filled up my bag with a load of goodies like badges, stickers and water bottles! I also got to take part in a ‘Fit night’ where they invite a load of Queensland girls to try on clothes for the latest release before it comes out, and because I was there I got to do it too! We had half an hour to try on as much as we could, take loads of selfies and eat the food!! We then walked back to the hostel a different way and saw the Story bridge by the river.

After Brisbane we caught the Greyhound to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. We bumped into a lovely lady called Jane again, who we keep seeing at loads of different places! She was also staying at the same hostel as us this time. After checking in, we went to have a look around and went up the Q1 building, which Becka had told us to do. The view was amazing and we stayed up there for the sunset and took pictures in the dark too.

We bought theme park tickets online with a deal that meant we got to go to Seaworld, Movie World and Wet n Wild for the price of one park! So for the next 3 days we got the bus to each park, it was like being back in Florida again! All the parks were great!

After Surfers Paradise we got the Greyhound to Byron Bay, our final stop on the East Coast before heading back to Sydney. We stayed at Arts Factory Lodge - as seen in the Inbetweeners 2!! Byron Bay was so beautiful, I loved the coastal walk around the headland and to the lighthouse! We saw so many whales and a big pod of dolphins that hung around for ages!

After 2 nights in Byron Bay we got the overnight Greyhound bus back to Sydney, leaving at 8pm and arriving at 9.30am the following morning! We spend just over 6 weeks on the trip in total. A lot of people we met had booked the whole trip through places like Peter Pans travel, but we found it was so easy to do it ourselves, and it meant we could be a lot more flexible and stay longer in a place if we wanted to! I made a video montage of our East Coast adventure and you can watch it below! :-)

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