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Brisbane, Byron Bay and Gold Coast

We arrived in Brisbane to an apartment on the outskirts of the city centre that we had booked, and we couldn’t believe our luck. The previous night we had stayed in an actual shed, now we were staying in a one-bedroom apartment with a large living and kitchen area, a big outside terrace overlooking the city and mostly free parking outside as it was a weekend. It felt like a dream. It even had a washing machine and tumble dryer, Stac was like a kid on Christmas day.

The sun was shining as we drove in to the city, and in all honesty, we loved it on first sight, but the next few days that only made me love it even more. Brisbane wasn’t entirely like a city anywhere but the centre, the roads weren’t over-full of cars with angry rush-hour drivers, the centre was clean and smart, it’s built along the Brisbane River, and other than the many major flooding events that the city has endured, it is quite blessed geographically.

We were here in the middle of winter, and daytime temperatures were those of a nice U.K summers day, several hours of sunshine, twenty-two degrees and this very nice apartment was within walking distance of the city centre, it had all fell in to place.

We had planned on going out that night, but we liked the apartment so much, we got some wine, cooked some dinner and relaxed in our nice home for a few days. The next day we walked down in to the city centre, came across a Scottish-themed festival in the town hall square, a Colombian street-festival that was already heaving with people and music at lunch time and took a ride in the town hall cage lift to the top of the clock-tower, which, like many things in Brisbane, was free.

We spotted the Queensland Museum, a huge multi-floor museum about nature and natural history, also free to enter, we planned our visit for the following day. On the way in to the centre, we walked to the Botanic Gardens, a huge park and gardens area that separates the Central Business District from Brisbane River, it was around 11 in the morning, on a mid-winter day, and there was a group of guys with pop-up nets playing football on the grass, in the blazing sunshine. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this… But this is WINTER. The climate here is definitely something we could live with.

The next day we returned to the centre, with the car, to go to the Museum, before planning to visit Eat Street North Shore, a container-built food centre a little away from the centre. Whilst looking for a parking space (Yes, it does have some city-annoyances) we spotted crowds of people and signs for the Brisbane food and wine festival, which just happened to be this weekend.

We toured the museum, looking at skeletons and fossils of almost every animal ever found in this part of the world, including hundreds of specimens of persevered animals, everything from Ants, to Birds, to Kangaroos. After our history lesson, or me trying to talk natural history with Stac and her responding repeatedly with “But there’s a food and wine festival on” we decided that would be the next stop.

The festival was a couple of long streets on the South-bank covered in street food stalls, wine-stalls and small producers selling chocolate, honey, nougat, cheese and everything else. The wineries provided free tastings of their wines, and plastic glasses could be bought to buy by-the-glass. Of course, Stac headed for the wine and we spent the next hour tasting every wine in South Queensland πŸ™‚

The wine tasting was complete, we’d had a couple of snacks from the food stalls, and we had our eyes set on visiting the Eat Street, so we set off up there. A mini-heaven to street food, almost every cuisine was covered, but we had our eyes on some fish and chips. Two weeks in Australia and we were yet to have fish and chips, it wasn’t right. The sun was shining, we spotted a chippo, and ordered the special mix basket to share.

Do not think I am exaggerating here when I tell you that this was the best fish and chips a man has ever eaten, the fish, prawns, calamari, chips and sweet-potato chips were all cooked to perfection, we almost ordered another full set immediately after that first, in hindsight, we should have.

The rest of the days in Brisbane were spent looking around the city, cooking and drinking nice wine in our apartment and generally enjoying ourselves. We visited a Koala Sanctuary out on Daisy Hill, a small place with just three rescued Koalas, which we saw only sleeping, as they are very often inclined to do.

We were back on the road and heading out-of-state for the first time, we had driven almost 3,000km in two weeks and we were still in the same state, that just about gives you the scale of Australia, if you drove 3,000km from Sheffield in one direction you could end up anywhere from Central Africa, the Middle-East or most of the way across the Atlantic to Canada, although water crossings could be an issue.

We arrived in Byron Bay (New South Wales), went down to the town and beach front to have a look around and discovered immediately that the town is mainly full of hippies. I don’t know what it is about people who are this way inclined, which is of course in itself not a bad thing, but they always somehow know how to all turn up in the same place. They must have their own forum or Whatsapp group or something where they all agree they’re going to meet. Otres Beach in Cambodia, Ubud in Bali, Byron Bay in Australia, they are all very similar, yet very different. But they’re all more full than you can imagine of people who walk around with no shoes on, wearing baggy trousers, their hair in dreadlocks, a spaced-out look on their face and carrying fire-sticks or hula hoops. It’s quite surreal, they must think this is how all the world is.

Just as we were commenting on this, we drove past a couple that fitted the very description we had just been making up to perfection, we laughed so hard I almost crashed the car.

The place we had booked in Byron Bay, was quite simply stunning, it was nowhere near the centre, probably the only reason we could afford it, but it was a big all-white house, it looked like a beach house that belonged by itself on a cliff-top overlooking the ocean. The people who ran the guest house were so friendly, they had a kitchen area where they provided a free simple breakfast and left cakes, fruit and coffee out all day for the guests.

We decided we didn’t really fancy eating out in the expensive town restaurants, we walked past a cafe that sold ‘Organic Sour Dough Toast’ for $10 a slice (Hippies have expensive taste you know), so we ate in the room and relaxed watching a film on T.V.

The final stop in this road trip was the Gold Coast, from here we would fly to Sydney, but first we had a night in Broadbeach. We had found a nice looking apartment again and booked it, we arrived, surprised to discover that the building looked practically brand new and the apartment looked like something people pay millions for, it was very nice. The terrace overlooked the river and mountains facing away from the sea, but it was so windy we couldn’t really sit out there.

We went and had a long stroll on the beach in the afternoon, saw wild parrots playing in a tree in the park and retreated to watch sunset with a glass of fizz from our apartment, it was one of them perfect afternoons that didn’t involve doing a lot, but we loved it, and we were loving the freedom of road-tripping Australia.

The next morning we checked out and headed for the Airport, via the car-hire depot, where one of the staff jumped in the driver seat, without checking the car thoroughly and dropped us off outside the terminal in super-fast time, it made me wonder why some companies make situations like that so time-consuming and stressful for customers, yet some just say “yeah, easy guys” and do it with a smile. Nice one Jucy.

Next stop, Sydney, where we would be proper backpackers and use public transport for a few days after we discovered how much parking costs in Sydney. $36 per day to park… we’ll take the bus thanks πŸ™‚

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