About this time last year we started throwing around travel ideas for our last winter break with all four kids. Traveling Down Under has always been on the bucket list, but could it really happen?! Still seems like a dream, but WE DID IT! And it was as awesome as I imagined it would be!
I wanted to document it all with my old 120 film camera. :) A few of my photos and our journal of events:
Dec 19th We left home, prepared for 23+ hours of flights. I was most nervous about this, but the flight was fine. The airlines do a nice job at turning down the lights and serving you meals at the appropriate times for your destination. Helped us acclimate to the major time change. We arrived in Sydney on the 21st.
Overcast day but nice to be in warmer weather! Ate in Bondi Junction in ped mall by our hotel. Then took a bus to Bondi Beach and walked around that area (mostly trying to keep ourselves awake).
Dec 22nd was a day to tour downtown Sydney. Had lunch at a burger place and learned chips means fries and ketchup (aka "tomato sauce") is sweeter than at home. That afternoon we were scheduled for the Sydney Bridge Climb. I wasn't allowed to take a camera, but it was an incredible experience with amazing views.
Next was a tour of the Sydney Opera House. It has an interesting story, especially the budget vs. cost of the whole thing. And, did you know it's made up of THREE buildings??—who knew! Full, fun day.
Dec 23rd Took train to downtown Sydney again to The Rocks area. We took a 4 hr bike tour of the city and stopped at oldest brewery in Sydney. Highly recommend the bike tour! It was so hot though, record breaking temps on this day.
Afterwards we went to Darling Harbor area to eat at a nice greek restaurant. We noticed dining was a little different in Australia. Kids didn't get unlimited Coke refills, there was hardly ever glasses of water with ice, meals are like social events, and you have to ask for the bill. --And PS, when you order pizza for delivery the "large" size is equal to our small. (Starting to see how the US really has super-sized ourselves!)
On the 24th We headed to the harbor to take the ferry to Manly Beach. Loved the Manly Beach area! It would be fun to stay there in the future. Beach was amazing too! Funny story, there was an announcement about a shark sighting as soon as we got there. First Australia ocean swim and there's a shark?! Nate and kids still swam. It was sunny and hot 90+ degrees!
We had lunch near the beach (banana bread was very good—popular thing restaurants offer here) and then back to beach. It was turning cloudy and waves were crazy with riptide warnings. Eventually it started raining so we took the ferry and train back to the hotel and got ready for our Christmas Eve dinner. We usually have hibachi on Christmas Eve, so we found the only hibachi restaurant (teppanyaki here) open for dinner. I laughed because the place was a dump(!), located in the basement of a building in downtown Sydney. BUT the chef was very entertaining and food was great!
Christmas morning was slightly different than usual. ;) We had breakfast in the hotel and opened a few Christmas gifts. (I tried to find Australia t-shirts in the mall stores, but all I could find were California and Grand Canyon shirts. Bummer. I bought them short swim trunks instead. Not short-short, but shorter than our typically long swim trunks we have in the states. The boys wore them and fit right in. lol)
We later took the ferry to Toranga Zoo. Beach day was nixed because of clouds and sudden cooler temps, but the zoo was nice. Great view, very hilly.
We took the ferry and train back to the hotel. Made sandwiches and learned Doritoes here taste different than at home. Chip bags are way smaller too. Despite the cooler temps we decided to go to Bondi Beach again for a walk along the ocean. It was so windy and cool, but the Christmas parties on the beach were interesting. There were a lot of college age kids having parties on the beach in their Santa hats. They had music, bbq, games, and a lot of red bikinis. We walked to Bronte Beach and then Coogee Beach, and through a cemetery too. Then bus ride to hotel for our Christmas dinner of lobster and shrimp.
26th Train to airport, flew Virgin Australia to Cairns. Flight was nice, seemed more relaxed than in US and security wasn't as tight as in the US. We rented a minivan and we ventured out for our first time driving on the left! A lot scarier than I thought it would be! And of course we took a winding shoreline highway to the hotel in Port Douglas (about an hour north of Cairns).
I think Port Douglas was more of a resort town because it was much more quiet and laid back. This is also off-season because of heat and the stingers in the water. We found one place open and went to lunch at a nice restaurant near the beach. Then we spent the rest of our afternoon on Four Mile Beach. It was beautiful but had to stay inside netted area to avoid stingers.
No need for pee! They have vinegar stations at the beaches in case of stings.
27th Great Barrier Reef Day!! Early morning we arrived at the wharf at 8:15 and boarded "Bubbles" for a ride out to the Great Barrier Reef. We stopped at three spots along the reef for snorkeling and had lunch on boat.
Everyone thought it was the best snorkeling ever. The fish were so colorful and the water was very warm. Kids also saw a turtle, starfish, squid, blowfish, sea hog, etc. Very fun day!
28th Bus to Tiapukai and Kuranda Rain Forest for the day. We learned about the Aborigines and Tjapukai Park. Kids tried throwing spears and boomerangs.
Then we took the Sky Rail up over the rainforest and walked through a couple spots of the rainforest. The train ride down the mountain wasn’t so fun. It was so old and creaking! Whole thing was pretty scary actually. I think the kids fell asleep. During the bus ride back to Port Douglas we saw tons of kangaroos in a park. First time seeing them in the wild.
29th We all packed and then drove to Harley's Crocodile Farm. Very hot day! We actually thought this park was going to be a small little road-side kind of thing, but we all loved the park. Tons of big crocs, and shows were very entertaining. We rode the short boat ride around their lagoon and spotted “Ted” the HUGE 100+ year old blind and toothless croc. After the park we drove (almost used to driving on the wrong side of the road at this point) to a town called Palm Cove. Our room at this resort was the best yet! Beach was beautiful! (Still netted areas for stingers.)
30th We went to the beach again, packed to leave, and then went to lunch at Chill Cafe. Loved this place! After lunch it was off to the airport to fly to Brisbane. We rented another van (brand new! yikes!) and drove to Redcliffe (North Brisbane). This area was older and reminded us of Treasure Island, Florida. It was still nice, but I think we wish we would have stayed in Palm Cove a little longer.
31st We drove to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. This was a great little park with plenty of koalas. Amazing how they can climb and jump between branches.
Kangaroos were running around with the emus. Feeding them (the kangaroos) was the best part!
We also went downtown to Brisbane for lunch. Found a British sports bar (pub) in the middle of ped mall with the Orange Bowl game on so we ate there. Shopped a little afterwards and then walked to the river to see that area as they were preparing for fireworks. Unfortunately we got back to the minivan and had a parking ticket. $126! Funny thing was we all read the signs again and still couldn't understand them. Everyone around us had a ticket. We had had enough of Brisbane anyway. We headed back to Redcliffe and then went to a street fest along Scarborough Beach area for NYE fireworks. We ate at food trucks and watched fireworks from the beach. And then, as lame as this is, we all couldn’t stay awake for actual New Years (Oops!). Seems we all ccouldn’t stay awake much later than 10pm.
January 1st, 2018 Drove south 1.5 hours to the Gold Coast. Spent the day at the amazing beach! It was the longest, flattest, prettiest beach ever!
It turned cloudy and overcast, but we still got sun burned.
Jan. 2nd Kids wanted to go to an amusement park but we decided to go back to Gold Coast again. Loved that beach too much!
It was beautiful weather until we drove up further to Surfers Paradise. While eating lunch at a Blue Moon cafe type place it started pouring. Nate and the kids decided to go swimming in the ocean in the rain anyway. We eventually drove back to the hotel to pack for home and had Indian “ take away” for dinner.