April 14, 2017

Byron Bay : The Easternmost Point Of Australia


Australia is the land where the sun rises much earlier than majority of the civilized world and that makes it distinctive. But alas that was not enough for us. We wanted to visit the place where the sun comes up first, than the rest of the Australian landmass. The beautiful Byron Bay is the answer to it, the easternmost point of Australia. Byron Bay is around 160km from Brisbane on the Pacific Highway and beyond Gold Coast and in the state of New South Wales.


Since we wanted to catch the sunrise, we decided to drive to this place the previous day itself and camp for the night. It is illegal for one to camp unless in designated camping parks, where one is provided with site for camping, toilets, garbage bins etc to make it more eco friendly. Since we were visiting on a long weekend we could get one in Byron Holiday Park, which was decent enough, but not the best. Once we had settled and pitched our tents, we decided to visit the Tallows beach in the backyard of this holiday park. It is a good 2km walk from the park, taking us through some picture-some backwaters and grasslands. The Tallows beach on the other hand was huge and simply beautiful, with the Byron Bay lighthouse in the left end of the long beach.
The next day we got up early before sunrise and drove all the way to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, which is the best place to catch the first rays of the sun. But unfortunately many other tourists too had the same idea and with very limited parking space near the top, it took us some time to find a spot, much further down the hill and walk all the way back. We were just in time to catch the views. The sky was not clear, but still we got some good views. Once the sun rose we explored the Lighthouse trail which starts from the Light house, hugging the coastline, giving some awesome views of the coast and the endless ocean.
After checking out from our camping site, we decided to visit the main beach of Byron Bay, which was buzzing with activity. We enjoyed in the crystal clear waters of this beach, along with a large number of others who were there to enjoyed the pristine water even though we found a large number of mildly lethal blue bottle jellyfish carcasses washing ashore. After spending close to 2 hours in the water, we decided to explore the hinterland. We had lunch in a local Indian restaurant (Bombay to Byron) which was average, even after having such a unique and interesting name.
The two places we had decided to visit in the hinterland were the Minyon falls and the Rocky creek dam. The Minyon falls is around 35kms from the town, but the last 3-4 kms of the road leading to the falls is bad, unpaved and bumpy. Eventhough our sedan could take this road, it was a surprise coming across such a thing leading to a popular tourist attraction. Despite the roads being disappointing, the water falls was not. The cliff through which the water takes a plunge is very steep and easily gives one an episode of vertigo. According to my estimate it was easily a 150m fall, with near vertical mountain walls flanking it. I presume it might be a mecca for rock climbers.
From the falls we moved towards the Rocky Creek Dam which is another 20kms. This dam supplies water to the town of Byron Bay. There are a lot of trails along backwaters of this dam. We spent some time exploring this area and then it was time to return back to our base.

April 9, 2017

Lamington National Park

Lamington is one of the lesser known national parks in the Gold Coast hinterland, especially in comparison to its well known siblings such as Springbrook and Tamborine national parks. The infrastructure here are a tad lesser than the surrounding parks, which infact adds to the charm of the place, making it more in sync with the wilderness. This park has a narrow one lane road through the forest and very limited parking spots for those interested to explore this area. But that was exactly what made the drive through the rain-forest simply mind-blowing.



We had decided to explore 2 bushwalking trails. One which explores the Moran falls and the other which leads to the view from the Python rock. To reach the starting point of these trails one has to start towards O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, which is a resort in the middle of this rainforest. Just before one reaches this resort there is a small parking lot which signifies the start of both the trails. The left trail leads towards the falls and the one leading to the right leads towards the view point.



We decided to explore the falls trail first, which is 4.4km return and goes through some decent elevation. Initially one gets the frontal view point of the falls and trail further leads to the top of the falls and also giving some good views of the valley forged by its water. Moran falls was with decent amount of water, testament to the recent rains which had lashed these regions. But there is no opportunity to get into the water either on the top or at the foot of the falls.


We returned back after taking close to 2 hrs and then we moved on towards the Python Rock trail. The return distance of 3.1km to the Python Rock goes through fairly flat terrain and can be completed in an hour. The views we got from this point was simply mindblowing especially of the rain laden clouds condensing over the nearby mountain ranges. Overall the hinterland regions of Gold Coast are a good place to visit especially in the peak summer, when the temperatures here are atleast 5-6 degrees cooler than the plains.

March 31, 2017

Bribie Island and Glasshouse Mountains


The best known thing about Australia are definitely its beautiful beaches, and each beach has its own unique characteristic. The beaches of Bribie island are the nearest to the Brisbane City apart from the ones in Gold Coast. Before visiting the Bribie Island we decided to take a detour to the Glasshouse mountains to do a bit of bush-walking before heading back to the beach.


A unique observation I found after visiting the Glasshouse mountains is that the bushwalking circuits to the North of Brisbane are semi-arid in nature in comparison to the rainforest areas south of it. Hence it was in complete contrast to the bush walking circuits we had explored in the scenic rim. The Glasshouse mountain circuit route is small and provides some great views of the surrounding volcanic plug mountains which had been active millions of years back.


After exploring the views around the Glasshouse mountains we moved towards Bribie island. Bribie island is the only island off Bribane coast to be connected to the mainland by a bridge. It is a very scenic and unique place. The part of the sea in between the island and the mainland is devoid of any waves and is a perfect spot for activities such as kayaking, seaboarding etc. We decided to kayak and it was a great experience to do so. Since the water is calmer, it is more prone to be infested by jelly fishes. And we found a lot of them washed to shore, ofcourse those washed were the least deadly of them, the blue blubber jelly fishes. Since we wanted to avoid that in the process of getting into water,  we decided to go towards the main beach of the island, which is facing away from the main land and known as Woorim Beach.


In order to access this beach, one has to cross the entire island and reach the other part. The beach was really beautiful and we enjoyed a lot playing in it. However the facilities provided here left a bit to be desired, very unlike the facilities usually provided in other tourist frequented beaches.

March 28, 2017

Mt Tamborine National Park


Gold Coast is considered to be the best beach vacation destination in Australia, with a abundance of theme parks, night life, beach culture and warm weather.But on this particular trip we concentrated on the rain-forest hinterland of the Gold Coast known as Mt Tamborine, which is part of scenic rim rainforests also comprising Lamington and Springbrook National park. The weather was great with an overcast sky and cool weather. Infact the weather in the hinterland regions would be atleast 3-4 degrees cooler than the coast, and would definitely would be good place to hang out especially on a hot summer day.

The first place of interest we visited in Mt Tamborine National park was the forest walk. There is a certain elevated route bridge on suspension taking one along the canopy of the rainforest, giving a different perspective. Apart from the sheer height of the platform which is around 100ft from the forest floor, the novelty of this attraction soon wears off and you question whether it was worth $19.50 entry fee. And the entire thing is over within half an hour at max.



The next stop was the Glow worm caves. The Glow worm caves of New Zealand are known across the world , but before coming to this place never knew that Glow worm caves exist in Australia too. Well to be fair, the Glow Worm Caves of Mt Tamborine is man made and the conditions are controlled to make the environment favorable for these tiny creatures. The entry fee of $12 is quite reasonable and based on the availability one is assigned batches which depart at regular intervals. The entire park is in a picture-some setting. Once we reached our designated starting point , we were taken into a cave, wherein we were given an initial information session detailing the life of the glow worms. Once that is done, which also helps the eyes get used to the dark, since the video is shown in a near dark room , we are let into the man made cave teaming with glow worms. And it was just beautiful inside with thousands of glow worms , like millions of stars lighting the night sky. These glow worms require their atmosphere to be quite moist and humid.The reason these glow worms do what they are famous for is to quite simply attract their food, which is primarily flies and bugs which have a tendency to get attracted towards light. These worms have a single string with multiple saliva bubbles suspended which refracts light from their body to give that twinkling effect. Quite magical indeed. Would be really interesting to see them in their natural environment.



The final stop within this national forest was the Cover Creak falls. Unfortunately there was not much water flow in this falls, and it was more like a trickle. It is generally advised to visit the falls in the hinterland a day or two after heavy rains to see them in full flow. Having covered the major places of this national park we decided to end our trip by enjoying the beautiful Surfer Paradise beach, which is the commercial heart of Gold Coast.

March 7, 2017

Brisbane : The heart of the Sunshine State



After our initial pitstop in Melbourne , it was time to move towards a more permanent home i.e. Brisbane. Australia as a whole is known all over as a laid back country and when we moved to a place which was even more laid back than Melbourne, it definitely took some time to get used to. In an Indian context, if Sydney is comparable to Mumbai, Melbourne to Bangalore , then Brisbane is often compared to Mysore, a city having its own charm and not exactly in a rat race , taking life as it comes. The tag of laid back doesn't infer in any negative sense. Brisbane has some of best infrastructure in the world, great outdoor places to visit in its surrounding including the Great Barrier reef and the UNESCO world heritage rain-forests and last but not the least the party capital of Australia , the Gold Coast just an hour drive from here. Even though there are very few tourist attractions within the city that would be considered great, I would still try to list a few worthy of mentioning in this blog.




The best way to enjoy the city would be to head towards South Bank and then take a free for tourists ferry known as Cityhopper (with bright red highlights unlike the blue ones for the CityCats) that snakes along the mighty Brisbane river giving some great views of the skyscrapers and the iconic Story bridge. South bank is another place to hang out on a weekend. It has got a pool and the a artificial beach accessible for free to the public !!! Why an artificial beach you ask, well it is because the nearest beach is a good 30 kms from the city, so they build a artificial one for those who cant go there regularly. Also a great place to catch some jaw-dropping pyrotechnics on new year's eve and Australia day.



The other interesting places to visit in the city centre include the heritage structures in the King George square and the shopping precincts in the surrounding areas. There is queen street which is the shoppers paradise. You can expect some sort of weekend markets in these areas wherein hundreds of people would be selling their used products at dirt cheap price. Kinda like a giant garage sale.



The nearest park or zoo within the city to experience local wildlife of Queensland is the Lone Pine Koala Santuary. Its not like extensive place, but has a pretty open concept for interaction with the local wildlife like koala bears, kangaroos and so on. They even have a barn where the sheep dogs have their own show, which was the best part. Overall an ok place especially for small kids who would have never have any interaction with any wildlife elsewhere.


And finally the best place to view the entire city from a completely different perspective would be from the lookout from Mount Cootha. Its best to visit this place just before sunset and enjoy both the day and night views. We went to this place on the occasion of Australia day and were to witness the wonderful fireworks show from a totally different perspective. Overall a good place to visit and chill.

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