Giving ‘moments’ not ‘things’

I am a huge fan of giving ‘moments’ rather than ‘things’.  I believe we have way too much stuff in our lives but you can never have enough special moments or memories.

Last year my sister and I trotted off to Byron Bay for the weekend, just the two of us, no kids, no hubbies, just us.  It was something we had not done for years, if ever!  It was then we decided we would stop buying each other ‘more stuff’ and find something to go and do together in between our birthday months of May and August.

So this year, when tickets went on sale to the Australian Ballet’s Nutcracker performance at the Sydney Opera House I asked my mum to take my sister and I to the ballet for my birthday.  We had lunch and cocktails at the Opera Kitchen prior to the ballet and afterwards enjoyed coffee and dessert.  It was a fabulous afternoon of creating memories and not adding more stuff to my home.

I use these gifts of ‘moments’ as opportunities to spend special one-on-one time with my kids.  A few years ago my husband and I took our son to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  It was just the three of us, without his sisters, and it was an amazing experience to share together ‘on top of the world’.

My eldest daughter still talks about the time my sister and I took her to her very first concert, The Veronicas, when she was 8 years old and then two years ago when we surprised her by picking up her bestie and taking them to The Madden Brothers concert.

They don’t have to be expensive gifts either.  My youngest daughter loves getting her nails done so someone in the family always arranges that for her birthday or at Christmas.

Most recently it was my 6 year old nieces birthday and I really wasn’t sure what to get her.  My daughter’s then suggested she have a sleepover at our house and the next day we take her for a girls day out to high tea.

So that’s what we did on the weekend.  She had a wonderful night getting her nails painted and her makeup done by her older cousins and in the morning we all got dressed up and headed to Vaucluse House Tea Rooms for the most scrumptious high tea in the glorious sunshine. The food was divine and the service impeccable and if I didn’t have to drive home, I could have easily sat there all day enjoying the bubbly.

The next morning I got messages from her mum and dad saying she had not stopped talking about her time with us and that she had had a ball!

And that’s why I love giving ‘moments’ instead of ‘things’.  Moments give you the opportunity to spend quality time together while experiencing and sharing something new or something you may not otherwise have done.  It’s those moments that creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Hands up if you love a long lunch?!

Has anyone been to the Lovedale Long Lunch in the Hunter Valley?  If you haven’t, then you must!  It has been on my ‘to do’ list for years and when tickets came on sale late last year I rounded up some girlfriends and booked us in for a weekend away.

So, what is this long lunch I hear you ask?  It’s a progressive style lunch through Lovedale where food and wine lovers (yep, it’s all about the love!) come together for a day of wining and dining.  Held in May each year over a Saturday and Sunday, it is quite reasonably priced.  We purchased the Saturday early bird package for $90 (excluding booking fees) which included entry, 2 main meals, 1 dessert or cheese plate, a souvenir wine glass and event program (for an extra $19 you could attend both days).

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Meal tokens and souvenir wine glass

When you purchase your tickets you select 3 wineries to visit.  We chose Allandale Winery, Tatler Wines and Emma’s Cottage and allowed ourselves about 2 hours at each winery.  Unfortunately we didn’t make it to Emma’s Cottage due to traffic congestion and waiting for the shuttle (Rover Coaches runs a shuttle service which transfers you between wineries for $25 paid on the day) so ended up jumping off the bus at Saltire Wines.

Each winery had a completely different vibe.  Allandale was beautifully presented with white linen table cloths, foliage centrepieces and water bottles, chalkboard style signage and fun, gold ‘BUBBLES’ balloons for the champagne stand.

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Allandale Winery – the calm before the storm 😉
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Wine Bar at Allandale Winery
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Lots of laughs with fabulous friends!

Tatler was more casual, with a younger crowd and not as intimate as Allandale. The band drew a large, dancing crowd and here we saw an array of dress ups from Indians to doctors, 50s style dresses and superheroes!

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Tatler Wines (Pic credit @nicnacbee)
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Tatler Wines (Pic credit @nicnacbee)

Our last stop was at Saltire and it was the perfect winery to finish our day at.  We perched ourselves on hay bales on the wooden deck overlooking the vineyard and it was just stunning.  With the band playing in the building behind us, we could have easily spent another few hours there.

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Saltire Wines (Pic credit @suejane100)

On the accommodation front, we stayed at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort in a 3 bedroom self-contained villa which had plenty of room for the six of us and included buffet breakfast each morning.

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Our view from our villa
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Our morning breakfast view at Oaks Cypress Lakes (Pic credit @nicnacbee)

On Friday evening we dined at Pipette, one of the onsite restaurants and experienced nothing short of exceptional service and three, mouth watering courses.  We were also pleased there was a shuttle service which picked us up from our villa and brought us down to the main building for dinner as the rain had set in and there is a bit of a walk back up the hill.

In the morning, the weather gods put on a show and we were blessed with a glorious weekend of sunshine despite coming prepared for torrential rain and wintery weather as had been forecast.

My only tip for next year will be for our group to book our own mini bus for the day as it would have made it easier to get around.  We travelled by taxi to our first winery, but trying to get home from Saltire proved to be a 2.5 hour adventure (and not one we wanted to be walking in the pitch black) as we missed the last Rover shuttle at 3.30pm (we only got to the winery at 3pm) along with a number of other people.

So, if you are after a fun weekend away filled with wine tasting and delicious food, then the Lovedale Long Lunch is definately one for your diary!

Oh and make sure you stop for breakfast or lunch at Peterson House – it never disappoints!

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Lamb croquette for lunch at Peterson House

Register as a Lovedale Long Lunch member so you are the first to be notified when tickets go on sale for 2018.

 

 

Fraser Island adventures: Part 2

Platypus Bay… Fraser Island’s best kept secret

During our time on Fraser Island we chatted to many people about the day trips they had done and the places they had stumbled upon.  One such conversation was about Platypus Bay.  It was described to us as a “must visit” and “you feel like you are driving forever to nowhere” and you “suddenly pop out from the bush on a pristine beach”.  And that is exactly how it happened.  One minute you are driving through bush and the next minute you are at the end of the road and paradise appears before your eyes.

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Platypus Bay – the blues of the water changes depending on the sun and clouds

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To get to Platypus Bay, we drove inland from Waddy Point on a very rough track, but it is fairly easy driving when conditions are good. There are no signs to mark the way so follow Wathumba Road at Orchid Beach and take the left turnoff, approximately 100m before the Marloo Avenue sign.  There is a freshwater creek crossing about 200m before you reach your destination on the western side of the island.

We only spent a couple of hours but you could easily spend the day here swimming, relaxing, fishing or wandering the shores exploring.  The sand is brilliantly white and the water reminded me of an aquamarine gemstone.

Wandering with my family along the waters edge, we felt like we had escaped to our own secret paradise as we had the entire place to ourselves and it was hard to drag ourselves away.

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Platypus Bay – only our footsteps covered the sand

Lunch at Wathumba

Next stop was Wathumba, also located on the North Western side of the island and not too far from Platypus Bay.  Wathumba is just as breathtaking as Platypus Bay, but be aware of the very soft and unpredictable sand and that you are in an extremely remote part of Fraser (so help may be quite time away if you get into trouble).

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Wathumba at low tide

It is a popular spot with boaties, but during our visit there were still lots of 4WDers set up for the day.  Crystal clear waters beyond the mangroves beckoned and floating in the waters felt like you were a million miles away.  It’s a great spot for a picnic, swim and fishing.  There is also a campground if you want to spend a night or two.

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Wathumba Bay – stunning from every angle
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Wathumba Bay – paradise beyond the mangroves
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Wathumba Bay

Remember to pack inset repellant to ward off sandflies and mosquitos!

Champagne Pools … the end to a glorious day

Our day trip finished at Champagne Pools (back on the Eastern Beach between Indian Head and Orchid Beach) which is a popular tourist spot and was quite busy when we visited (and we weren’t in peak season).  We aren’t ones for crowds so unfortunately didn’t spend too long here (I think we had been spoilt with our own private paradise at Platypus Bay).

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Champagne Pools

My girls loved floating in the ‘spa’ with the incoming waves splashing over the edge of the rocks creating a foaming, bubbly effect (hence the name Champagne Pools). There are also spectacular views from the boardwalk above and it is a great spot to take some photos.

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Champagne Pools – the view on the way down
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Champagne Pools (view to the north)
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Champagne Pools (view to the south towards Indian Head)

You could easily spend a full day at each of the spots we visited, it just depends how much time you have.

Stay tuned for the next 5 days when we relocated and used Eurong as our base.

Disclaimer: This blog post is based on our own personal experiences and conditions at the time of visiting Fraser Island.  Please refer to all appropriate information guides and services including the Queensland Government site for current conditions.

 

 

 

Fraser Island adventures : Part 1

2 days camping at Rainbow Beach

On previous trips to Fraser Island we have never stayed at Rainbow Beach instead choosing to drive straight up from Brisbane.  This time, we spent 2 nights camping with friends from Noosa at Gateway Lifestyle Rainbow Waters and tested out our new Black Wolf Turbo Lite Twin 300 tent.  It was the first time we had put it up and I was impressed!  15 minutes to literally pop it up and attach the fly, and perhaps another 10 minutes to peg it all down.  That’s my kind of tent!  Less arguments, less stress, more time to relax and enjoy!

The caravan park is located on the tidal inlet of the Great Sandy Straits and each evening we were treated to a spectacular sunset over the lake.  We were only a hop, skip and a jump from Carlo Point Boat Hire so we hired a pontoon and smaller boat for our group of 15 to explore the area and hopefully spot some turtles and jugong (sadly no luck). The on-board BBQ was perfect for an easy sausage sandwich lunch while the kids splashed around in the clear, shallow waters and we enjoyed the stillness of being out on the water.  Afternoons were spent wandering the shores of Rainbow Beach and up to the coloured sands before taking a dip and heading back to make damper on sticks for the camp fire.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to drive along the beach from Noosa Shores to Rainbow Beach as our timing didn’t work with the tides (you must go at low tide), but we have done it previously and loved it.

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Coloured Sands, Rainbow Beach
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Exploring the waterways

If you have the time, I highly recommend starting your Fraser Island holiday with a day or two at Rainbow Beach.

Our Fraser Island adventure begins … Camping at Waddy Point

There is nothing quite like the feeling of driving along the beach.  Having the windows down, the fresh salt air blowing through the car and watching the waves lapping beside you.  The moment our tyres were off the barge and onto the sand at Hook Point, I felt an instant calmness and excitement for the adventures ahead.

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Hook Point barge landing area

We headed straight up to Waddy Point Camp Ground (pre-book your camp site here), which is located 100km north of the Hook Point barge landing area on the north-east coast of Fraser Island.  We set up camp for the next 3 nights on the beach front but there is also a fenced area for those camping with younger children.

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The fenced campground at Waddy Point

Facilities include water taps (treat water before drinking), flushing toilets, coin-operated hot showers, picnic tables, gas barbecues, communal fire rings, washing-up facilities. Rubbish and recycling bins available at QPWS waste transfer station on the southern entrance to Orchid Beach township.  Generators are not permitted.

Open fires are permitted in QPWS-provided fire rings only and you must bring your own untreated milled timber firewood (it is illegal to collect firewood including leaves and twigs).  Fires are not permitted at Waddy Point when QPWS fire prohibition or local fire bans are imposed.

There is also fuel and basic supplies available at Orchid Beach.

Waddy Point was the perfect base for 2 full days of exploring the north-eastern and north-western end of the island.

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Our sandy campsite at Waddy Point (there are a number of grass spots if you are lucky)

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Evening sunsets at Waddy Point

Day trip from Waddy Point to Sandy Cape …

The next morning we were up and raring to go and after checking the tides and chatting with our ‘neighbours’ we all decided to go to Sandy Cape together (in case we got bogged or ran into any problems).

We headed North up the beach to Ngkala Rocks and joined the queue of 4WD adventurers waiting their turn to pass.  The sand is soft so if you have to stop suddenly, it is likely you will get bogged, so come prepared with recovery gear and if you can, travel with another vehicle.  But in saying that, there are lots of friendly people who are happy to help each other out and it’s all part of the fun!  We waited about 30 minutes for our turn to pass, so be patient as impatience can often cause more problems.

Ngkala Rocks was definitely the highlight of the trip for my almost 17 year old son and husband who had been eager to get the new Landcruiser off-road.  If we had of had more time, I’m sure they would have gone back later in our holiday and spent the day going backwards and forwards.

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Ngkala Rocks: Vehicles waiting on the South side to pass through
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Ngkala Rocks: The beginning heading north
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Ngkala Rocks – the cut out (image above) is to the left
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Heading north through Ngkala Rocks

Once we were through we made our way up the beach and came across the most amazing, determined eagle who nose dived straight in front of our car with its eyes set on its next meal.  A little scary when you are travelling at 80km on sand, trying to keep an eye on the water line lapping towards your tyres and vehicles coming towards you whilst also being mindful that you don’t want to hit this brilliant bird.  We copped a wave  (which wasn’t ideal) but it was well and truly worth it to experience this majestic bird in action.

We stopped for lunch about 15 minutes past North Ngkala Rocks and once high tide had passed we headed to the Cape.  Having not been to this part of the island before, we were in awe of the pristine, crystal clear waters and the difference from one end of the island to the other.  The further North you go, the more remote yet beautiful it becomes.  You really could be forgiven for thinking you were in the Whitsundays!

We couldn’t resist a dip (as did many other visitors) in the stunning ocean waters that were beckoning us, but please take note of all warnings on Fraser Island, especially for stingers and crocodiles.

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Crystal clear waters

Once we dragged ourselves out of the ocean, we came to the end of the ‘road’ and headed off on foot to the Sandy Cape Lighthouse – a 1.2km steep and very sandy walk to reach the top (make sure you bring water and wear shoes).  But once you reach the top, the views are stunning.  The walk back down is much easier and there are plenty of more things to see.

We made our way back from the Cape around 3pm to allow ourselves plenty of time to get back down the beach and through Ngkala Rocks before high tide.

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Overall, this is an awesome day trip for those looking for a bit of adventure and their own little piece of paradise.

Stay tuned for our adventures to Platypus Bay, Wathumba and Champagne Pools.

Disclaimer: This blog post is based on our own personal experiences and conditions at the time of visiting Fraser Island.  Please refer to all appropriate information guides and services including the Queensland Government site for current conditions. 

 

 

Fraser Island is simply paradise

I have a forever growing ‘travel bucket list’, filled with all of the places I want to explore in this enormous world we live in.  But when it comes to Australia, I am constantly amazed and thrilled by what our diverse and glorious country has to offer and sometimes ask myself, why go overseas when there is so much to see and do in my very own backyard?

As a family, we are fortunate to have travelled quite a lot of Australia, and despite my kids often wanting to go back to somewhere that they had an absolute ball in, we rarely visit the same place twice.  Except when it comes to Fraser Island!

Fraser Island is one of our all time favourite holiday destinations and proves that you don’t need to go overseas or to an expensive island resort to be surrounded by paradise. This was our third trip to Fraser Island, the last time being about 11 years ago, and each time we have added a child, added extra days and discovered more things to explore.  And each time, we know that we will be back again.

Fraser Island, located on Australia’s eastern Queensland coast, is the world’s largest sand island with an area of 184,000 hectares.  Stretching over 123 kilometres in length and 22 kilometres wide it’s not hard to see why World Heritage listed Fraser Island is ranked with our very own Uluru, Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef.

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To visit Fraser Island you must plan ahead and ensure you are well prepared so you have a safe and fun holiday.

You must have a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle as it is all beach driving with sand tracks across the island linking the lakes, rainforests, beaches and townships.  Vehicle access permits are required for all vehicles coming onto the island and must be displayed on your windscreen before driving on Fraser Island.  We purchased ours online at Queensland National Parks which was also our go-to site for information to prepare for our trip e.g. booking our camping site, park alerts, maps etc.

To get on the island you will need to travel by vehicle barge. Barges depart Inskip Point (a 15 minute drive from Rainbow Beach) to Hook Point and generally run from 6am to 5.30pm.  Trip time is about 10 minutes and no bookings are required.  If you are coming in from Maryborough, access is from River Heads to Kingfisher Bay and Wanggoolba Creek (about a 30-50 minute trip and bookings are required).   Driving conditions vary with weather and tides, so make sure you check before you go (you don’t want to get caught at high tide!).

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Driving along Seventy-Five Mile Beach, which is an actual highway running along the eastern surf side of the island, is an experience in itself.  You not only share the ‘road’ with other four-wheel drivers, but expect to see planes taking off and landing for scenic joy flights, tourists fishing or wandering the waters edge and if you’re really lucky, dingoes playing in the waves or wandering the sand dunes.

There are speed limits on the island and normal road rules apply.  Keep in mind that a safe driving speed may be lower than the signed speed limit.

  • 80km/hr (maximum) on the eastern beach
  • 30km/hr on inland roads
  • 40km/hr in beach pedestrian areas
  • 50km/hr on Hook Point inland road
  • 10km/hr in shared-use areas

Fraser Island is fairly remote and facilities are limited so make sure you carry essentials with you and plan ahead.  The Queensland National Parks website provides information for visitors including preparing and packing, essentials to bring (such as medication, a first aid kit and drinking water), things for the vehicle (4WD recovery equipment, spare tyre, tyre pump etc), extra tips ($2 coins for showers, mobile telephone reception), opening hours, permits and fees, climate and weather, fuel and supplies.  There is also essential information for staying safe e.g. dingo safety, driving safely, beach hazards, tides, wind and swell, best beach driving times, speed limits, creek crossings and water safety to name a few.

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Some other things to remember when planning your Fraser Island adventure:

  • Make sure you have enough fuel for your days adventures as help may not be readily available.  Fuel is also quite a lot more expensive than the mainland.
  • There are no medical facilities on the island and help can sometimes be hours away.
  • Pack drinking water for your day trips.
  • Cover yourself in insect repellant (especially if you are inland).  The mosquitos are relentless!
  • Plan your meals and snacks ahead and pack your food supplies well.  There are no supermarkets on the island and grocery/fresh food options are limited and expensive.  Shops close around 5pm so there are no opportunities for a last minute, dinner dash.
  • There are limited options for dining out.  Eurong Beach Resort has a restaurant and bakery, there is a cafe at Cathedrals Beach and a restaurant at Kingfisher Bay Resort.
  • Phone and internet reception is limited to non-existent.  We are with Optus and had no reception at all from Eurong to the Sandy Cape, limited reception on the beach in Eurong and the western side of the island such as Ungowa and Kingfisher Bay.  Occasionally we would get a brief moment of reception when travelling island.

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll share our 8 days on Fraser Island – where we went, where we stayed and our favourite parts!

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Disclaimer: If travelling to Fraser Island, seek independent advice from a professional travel agent or Queensland Government Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing. The information provided within this blog are from the personal experiences of the writer and are not to used solely for planning your holiday.