I arrived in Brisbane Monday the 14th of May where I met Amanda who flew all the way from Atlanta, GA to visit for a two weeks. We had only a camper van and a plan to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, surf, and make sure the van was back in Brisbane by 2pm on May 25th, and the rest was a mystery.
Our JUCY camper van
After picking up the van we headed north…but didn’t make it too far the first day. We ended up only driving for about 2 hours and stopped at Noosa Beach. We soaked up some rays on the beach and went paddle boarding around the canal admiring all the beautiful houses. It was both our first time paddle boarding but we loved it, so relaxing.
We got a lot of sweet deals through JUCY the camper van rental, so we paid $5 to park our van at a hostel for the night and we got to use their bathroom facilities.
Tuesday was a lot of driving but we stopped in a small country town for lunch where Amanda tried her first meat pie.
We also stopped at two beaches along the drive in St.Agnes and the town of 1770. We stayed the night at a camper van park in Rockhampton.
Wednesday we woke up bright and early to start driving to Airlie Beach. We were able to use our JUCY discount to book a 2 for 1 sailing trip to the Whitsunday Islands and had to make it to the Airlie beach marina by 2pm. We made it just in time and set sail for a 3 day/2night trip. Right after the boat left the marina, the skies began to darken. It ended up raining that whole night pretty much so once we arrived to Koala Island, one of the many islands in the Whitsunday’s, we ate dinner and went to bed.
The next day we went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef and then sailed to Whitehaven Beach, which is said to have the whitest sand in the world. It rained off and on all day unfortunately but there was still no denying the beauty of the islands.
Hiked up a bit to get this breathtaking view of Whitehaven Beach
Saw some native goanna’s
After departing Whitehaven beach and experiencing a real life version of the perfect storm on our trip back to Koala Island, we had dinner with everyone and played drinking games to win free beer which we did and then took some time to gaze at te stars and milky way before calling it a night.
The majority of the people on our sailing trip were from different countries in Europe. There were however two very obnoxious American ladies from Texas, thanks to them I now know why people in other countries think Americans are stupid…
On Friday, our final day of the trip the weather was finally nice. The wind had died down and the sun was out allowing me to finally get some decent pictures. Before leaving the island we hiked up Spion Kop, rated the #1 bush walk in all of Australia by national Geographic, fed the Bat fish off the dock and even managed to crack open a coconut for fresh coconut milk.
Trying to feed the batfish without the seagulls stealing their food.
Sailing back to the marina…
Once back on land, we drove to Home Hill where they have a comfort stop where camper vans can park and stay for free. They also had bathroom facilities and a place to cook/hangout/wash dishes.
#camper van life
On Friday night we also made the big decision not to drive all the way to Cairns, instead we planned to stop in Townsville after being given suggestions to dive a famous wreck called the S.S. Yongola.
So Saturday we drove to Townsville, went to the Queens Botanical Gardens and then went to Alligator Creek (national park area) made lunch and went for an afternoon hike.
Since the only kangaroos Amanda had seen at this point were dead and on the side of the highway, we thought it might be a good idea to go to a sanctuary. So after our hike we stopped at the Billabong Sanctuary to play with kangaroos, koalas, and my personal favorite; the wombat!
Sunday we woke up early to Scuba Dive.. Finally! They told us to take sea sickness medicine because the forecast was looking rough but I was already ahead of them or so I thought… Even though i took my dramamine, nothing was able to stop me from the vomiting mess I became for the ENTIRE HOUR surface interval between dives. I guess I have had mild cases of sea-sickness before, only experiencing a head ache or slight stomach uneasiness but this was like nothing I have ever experienced before and hope I will NEVER experience again. I felt absolutely miserable and wanted nothing more than for my body to just be still for a moment but that was impossible with the boat being thrown around in the 3 meter seas.
But more about the dives…. The S.S. Yongola wreck dive was actually beautiful, huge fish and marine creatures everywhere. I had the most venomous sea snake swimming between my legs right as I dropped down on the wreck, it was great. Luckily, I didn’t have that knowledge until after the dive. The visibility wasn’t great but it was probably a good 10 meters or so the first dive. We also saw some sea turtles and a guitar shark. Some of the other divers saw a bull shark but I missed him :(
Unfortunately the second dive was not as nice, the current had really picked up and the visibility went down to about 5 meters. It was hard to navigate the wreck because if you got more than a meter away the current wanted to take you.
All in all it was a really cool spot and I would recommend it but just pray the weather is better for you. Apparently the wreck is rated among the top 10 dives in the world, that may be wreck dives… I should probably research that.
We also met some really cool people on the dive boat, including two college students from Orlando, Florida!!! What are the odds? They both go to school out of state but are from Orlando and studying Marine Biology over here in Australia.
After the dive we hung out with everyone and had a huge bbq lunch and then started our drive back south.
We ended up stopping at a few random beaches over the next couple of days when we needed rest or just a change of scenery. Driving on the highway in Australia can get a bit boring but luckily they have plenty of humorous road signs for entertainment.
We also stopped and stayed the night in Yeppoon and hiked one of the circuits at Capricorn Coast National Park the next morning. Sorry if these details are getting a little vague, I misplaced the only writing utensil we had by this point so therefore couldn’t take notes in my journal :(
We also made time to stop and play in the sugar cane fields
We ended up driving into the night to get to Rainbow Beach and since everything closes so early we stayed the night for free in the parking lot where all the other camper vans were outside one of the hostels. Pretty sweet deal until you have to go pee…and you are in a parking lot.
I think it was Wednesday by this point so we woke up, walked into town and had a very delicious breakfast at the Shak which also made the best latte I’ve ever had.
After brekky as the aussies would say, we headed to the beach to catch some rays. Later on we rented a surf board to share and spent the afternoon surfing with the coloured sands as our background. And just because we are into extreme sports so much, particularly board sports we rented a sand board and hit up the huge sand dune half pipe.
Thursday we went to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world! The tour “bus” as you would call it was basically a 4 wheel drive dump truck that drove through sand and water. It was cool but again when we dished out the cash for something the weather was shit. ( pardon my australian, thats what the aussies would have said)
It was still really cool, the rainforest on the island actually grows directly out of the sand. Its crazy the unique ecosystem that has formed. The island is equipped with entirely fresh water creeks and lakes as well. Apparently the same sand form the Whitsunday’s is found at Fraser Island. This sand is so fine it can take scratches out of glasses,and polish gold and silver. We tested it out on our sunnies and my lenses were definitely clearer than before.
Lake Mackenzie on the island
SAVE THE FRASER ISLAND DINOGES
-Apparently this cute little guy can be quite aggressive
After getting back from our day trip to Fraser, we stayed one last night in the camper van at Rainbow Beach. We woke up Friday morning to crappy weather and had to drive the van back to Brisbane.
My friend Mitch who plays tennis at UCF but is actually from Brisbane met us in the city and was so kind to let us stay with him for the night. Even though it was rainy we took a ferry down the Brisbane river to see the city and the bridges lit up at night.
After looking at Amanda’s flight details Friday night we realized she had a 24 hour layover in Sydney. Thankfully Mitch’s Dad just so happened to be a travel agent and helped her come up with an itinerary and a place to stay since she was going to be all on her lonesome.
Saturday morning we dropped her off at the airport bright and early then Mitch and I went for a walk along the South Banks next to the river. The weather was really nice so I was able to appreciate Brisbane finally and so far I think it is my favorite big city in Australia. However, tomorrow I am heading down to Melbourne with my Mom so we’ll see which city ranks first after that.
A beach with a view :) Man made beach in Brisbane on the river.
There are so many more photos and little stories to share but I don’t want anyone to get too bored with my blog. Amanda and I had a great road trip and met so many new people and travelers just like us. It was a great break and opportunity for some fam bonding without having to worry about school and lacrosse getting in the way.
It was very upsetting coming back to Canberra after about 15 days of sunshine and shorts weather…oh well at least I’m still in Australia living it up!!