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Trip Report Kangaroos, Koalas, & Kookaburras, Oh, My: A Songdoc Aussie Trip Report

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This was our fifth trip to Australia to teach songwriting workshops. I travel with my life partner who runs my business. I teach all day on the weekends—and we have Monday thru Friday to vacation and get to the next city. On previous trips we’ve worked in Sydney & Melbourne—and vacationed in North Queensland. This time we added Brisbane to the mix.

We really only had one full day to explore Brisbane. Our hotel was the Riverside in South Bank. It was a budget hotel—basic but fine for our needs—and an excellent location.

Southbank was a great area to stay in. It’s in the heart of the museums and theaters, and an easy walk to wall-to-wall restaurants and cafés, street musicians, and even its own manmade swimming beach! Perfect for people-watching and views of the skyline across the river. We enjoyed browsing the Friday night market that featured stalls with crafts, clothing, and souvenirs. It’s a bustling, vibrant area with live music at many of the restaurants.

We wandered through the pretty botanic gardens then enjoyed seeing the beautiful old mansions and government buildings. Stopped in briefly at the Treasury Casino.

Breakfast at the Gunshop Café was an experience. It’s in the very trendy “West End” area, and is a very popular place for breakfast and brunch. This is not a “bacon & eggs” kind of menu. We both ordered the spinach & feta potato cakes with crème fraiche. Delicious, but not what we expected. These were fried potato cakes—we didn’t taste any feta—and the spinach was a few leaves that the potato cakes sat upon. Expensive—but so are all the restaurants in Australia. It was very tasty. (around $20 pp – not including beverages.)

Before working in Brisbane our plan was to explore the Lamington National Park area in the Scenic Rim—specifically, O’Reilly’s. We’d considered staying there or Binna Burra, but didn’t really want to spend those prices.

We settled on Clandulla Cottages, about an hour north of Brisbane in Boyland—about ten minutes from Mt. Tamborine. It looked like a central location from which to explore the hinterlands. The big attraction was that it was a “farm stay”—and we’re animal lovers. We like self-contained units, so that was a plus.

We arrived quite early and hoped to store out bags. But our cottage, the Rose Cottage, was ready and our hostess Lorna welcomed us. The setting was exceptional—bucolic, beautiful, and peaceful. There were enormous cages filled with pastel colored Indian ringneck birds—powder blue, pale greens, and yellows. They were so pretty. Lorna said she’d be right back, and returned carrying a pillow case. A moment later the most adorable fuzzy little face was poking out. We were introduced to Abby, the baby wallaroo they’ve been raising since she was a tiny hairless joey (or is it a Josephine? hehe).

It was love at first sight. Abby sleeps in bed (wearing a “nappy”) under the covers with the owners. They bottle-feed her every two hours—including through the night. Playing with, bottle feeding, and cuddling with that baby was a highlight among highlights. They have a resident kangaroo (that they raised from a baby twelve years ago); sheep (yes, “Mary” did have a little lamb); little piggies; chickens (who generously provided the fresh eggs for breakfast); turkeys; geese; cows; horses; and a pony. John was amazing with the children who arrived a day or two after us. These people were born to run a farm-stay, and their warmth, and friendly personalities made our stay very special.

It was time to tear ourselves away from the baby wallaroo and see some of the scenery. Our first stop would be a hike at Tamborine Mountain. But when we reached the turnoff in Canungra we found it had been closed due to dangerous road conditions after storms several months earlier.

We were still jet lagged and tired and decided just to browse the Gallery Walk in Tamborine. There weren’t many galleries, but it was a pretty, quaint town with wall-to-wall shops, candy stores, cafés, and restaurants catering to tourists. We took a peek into one of the several wineries, and the cheese factory shop. I’m a cheese lover but that cheese shop was way too expensive for me. DP was getting too hungry so we rushed through to find a place to eat. The choices were overwhelming. We made a great choice: the Gallery Café. We both loved our meals. It was expensive (as are all the restaurants in Australia)—but very good.

The following day we got our walk at the Cedar Creek Falls section of Mt. Tamborine with beautiful views of the falls, and the stunning the rock pools. Took lots of photos.

At our host John’s suggestion we headed to Natural Bridge Park—about a 90-minute drive. Absolutely beautiful scenery! Backtracked to Springbrook Mountain for more beautiful views and several walks. Purling Falls was spectacular, as was the aptly named Best Lookout.

We lunched outdoors at the nearby General Store while an enormous gentle giant of a dog (Great Dane/German shepherd mix) kept us company, hoping for a handout. Our sandwiches were served with a flourish by a sweet older woman who topped them with a stick festooned with bright green feathers. Delicious coffee, too—and a quaint, relaxed atmosphere.

On our final day we’d have an hour drive back to Brissie (as the locals called it) so rather than add two hours by driving out to O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park we returned to Tamborine Mountain—but this time to the Knoll section to walk to Cameron Falls. The trail was a little muddy and slippery, and ahead of us a tourist fell and suffered a compound fracture. Eight emergency medics hiked about a mile down the windy, slippery trail to carry her back up on a stretcher. So sad, but a reminder that this is not Disneyland, and Mother Nature can be dangerous.

We were enjoying some very pretty views of the falls and the dense rainforest canopy when it started doing what it does in the rainforest—raining! I loved the sound and ducked inside an enormous hollowed tree until the worst of it passed. Under a pavilion we enjoyed the picnic lunch we’d packed and soon the rain had passed.

Spent the weekend working in Brisbane then back to vacation mode. Our next 2 nights would be in Noosa Lake. We stopped en route at the Glass House Mountain Lookout and were surprised to spot a kangaroo right at the lookout. The mountains are lava plugs that are quite dramatic, but the views and the short nature walk were pleasant, but not “wow,” although we did see some very interesting birds.

Stopped for lunch a few minutes back down the mountain at the Lookout Café. From there the Glass Mountain views were truly stunning. It was so peaceful and beautiful we could have happily spent the entire day drinking coffee, photographing the vistas, and watching the kangaroos laze under the trees and hop around. Lunch and coffee were tasty, too. I think we spent at least an hour-and-a-half chatting with another tourist and avoiding leaving.

Next stop: The Ginger Factory. It’s an enormous store surrounded by pretty walking paths, and more stores and restaurants. It was perfect for the elderly tour bus crowd who were the primary patrons. There was a tour and a mini train ride, but we passed. Did some tasting and buying across the street at the nut and chocolate shops. The coffee roasting place had just closed for the day ☹.

After what seemed like a full day of driving, we finally arrived at Tewantin. It should have been less than a 2-hour drive—but the Glass House Mountains, lunch, the Ginger Factory, and other shops stretched it into what felt like a long drive.

Unfortunately, the Sunshine Coast was not looking very sunny. Our tiny studio apt. at the Australis Noosa Resort was fine for us. We had a little balcony overlooking the beautiful swimming pools. We’d booked the room for $89/night (all inclusive) as a “mystery” hotel at a last-minute travel site. Great deal. It was an eight-minute drive to Noosa.

In Tewantin, in addition to the upscale dining at the marina there’s a little strip of casual restaurants where we had an exceptionally good Turkish pizza at Kebabylon. There was a Woolworth’s grocery store nearby where we bought things to enjoy breakfast on our balcony. Brush turkeys, ducks, and some other stunning birds stopped by hoping for a handout.

The resort is sandwiched between Lake Doonella and the Noosa River. Both offered beautiful views, enormous pelicans, and lots of beautiful birds. The corellas (white parrots that looked like cockatoos—but without the crests) made an unbelievable racket at sunset. It was great fun watching as hundreds of them perched in the trees and fed their babies. We got a good laugh as a fisherman fought three pelicans who tried to snatch the fish he’d caught. It was a peaceful, very pretty place for a long walk beside the river.

We would have loved to go to Fraser Island, but the tour pickups began at 5:30AM – and this was supposed to be our time to recoup and relax. Maybe next time. Instead we took the short drive to Noosa. Parking was really hard to find – and this was a cloudy, drizzly weekday. Can’t imagine it at the height of tourist season. The chatty volunteer at the visitor center suggested we walk the Coastal Track, and said it would be about 45 minutes each way. With photo stops and jaunts down to the beaches, it was closer to 2-1/2 hours RT.

There were some very pretty views. We walked to Hell’s Gate. This was described in brochures and travel guides as “stunning” scenery. It was really nice, and we enjoyed it. But I wouldn’t quite call it stunning—and the sapphire blue water shown in the brochures was a greyish green when we were there. Still, a lovely walk.

Wait! What’s that? Sun? By the time our walk was through it was a brilliant sunny day and the beach and ocean were filling up.

Lunch was exceptionally good – spinach/feta pie for me; meat pie for DP—at the Laguna Café recommended by the volunteer at the Visitor’s Center. After a short rest back at the apartment we took a sunset stroll at Noosa Beach. It was one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen (and that says a lot because I spend about four months of the year in Kauai.)

On our last day in Noosa we checked out of the resort and headed for the Eumundi Market—about a twenty-minute drive. Wow! It was enormous—like a massive flea market with a wide range of crafts, tourist souvenirs, entertainment, and unusual ethnic foods that all looked amazing. I’d have liked to have eaten at least five meals there—to try all the tempting options that were calling my name. For lunch we started with “Momos”—delicious Tibetan dim sum. Fantastic! Finished with chicken satay skewers.

Listened to a didgeridoo player and bought his album. Then bought opals for several of those on my Christmas list.

On the way back to the Brisbane airport we stopped at Peregian Beach. It was miles and miles of pristine, perfect beach—with barely a soul around. I took a long walk along the surf, and bid a sad farewell to the beautiful Sunshine Coast.

to be continued …

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