Hervey Bay Ocean Festival

By Australia / Queensland /

Hervey Bay Ocean Festival arrives next week with oceans of fun and a jam-packed 9 day program of events highlighting the Fraser Coast’s deep connection with the sea, according to the region’s tourism body. World famous whale-watching experiences, renowned mouth-watering seafood, a seaside lifestyle, music and cultural activities are all heroes of this gigantic showcase from August 13.

Pick up your Sunshine Coast car rental and head north for a whale of a time!

Festival highlights:

The Blessing of the Fleet opens the even, which the Fraser Coast’s famous fleet of whale watch vessels undergo a centuries old tradition at Hervey Bay Marina to ensure a safe and prosperous season. Visitors can tour the vessels, wander through market stalls and enjoy delicious wine and cheese tasting, a sail past, fabulous fireworks and live entertainment.

Hervey Bay Seafood Festival launches the next day, August 14, the event serves up a host of fresh and delicious wild-caught ocean produce, loads of entertainment, competitions, cooking and catching tips and more at Fishermen’s Park, Urangan Boat Harbour. Highlights include tasty morsels such as cooking demonstrations from leading chef Javier Codina from Moda Restaurant, prawn eating competitions, bumper artistic, music and cultural program with performances by 8 Ball Aitken, The Rain and Wal Neilson plus more.

Whale Parade and Concert in a big drawcard and features an enchanting spectacle of lights and floats representing the humpback’s annual migration, followed by a fabulous free concert with local artists.

MEANWHILE, Hervey Bay’s world renowned whale fleet is famous for providing visitors with soul-stirring, intimate encounters with the gentle giants. This year an estimated 22,000 humpback whales have migrated from Antarctica to the warm northern waters to breed.

The humpies are on their return journey and will be making their annual migration stop-over in Hervey Bay until early November. The proud new parents and the cutest calves on earth are making a temporary home in the tranquil marine environment of the Great Sandy Straits, creating a wonderland of intimate and interactive whale activity.

Get on board with one of these leading operators for a whale experience to live long in the memory.

Blue Dolphin has exclusive full day whale encounters including limited passenger numbers for great viewing; eight hours touring on board the luxury eco-friendly vessel; morning, afternoon tea and quality buffet lunch with free drink. If the conditions are right, passengers can immerse themselves with the whales in the water on the boat’s purpose-built platform. Passengers benefit from a highly educated crew with more than 30 years’ experience in marine animal behaviour.

Hervey Bay Whale Watch Quick Cat II has a full day Whales and Fraser Island experience including light breakfast, morning tea and hop off at Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island for lunch. Quick Cat ll offers four levels of viewing decks and full wheelchair access around the entire vessel. Underwater cameras and hydrophones add to the interactive experience, but for that once in a lifetime experience, Hervey Bay Whale Watch also offer a swim with whales experience that is not to be missed.

Whalesong are whale and dolphin specialists at Hervey Bay providing an ideal way to explore the pristine waterways and diverse wildlife between Fraser Island and the Fraser Coast. Discounted rates for teenagers (up to 18) makes for an affordable day out on the water, while fresh local produce prepared onboard will delight the tastebuds. Whalesong can also assist you with exploring Fraser Island while you’re here.

Freedom III is a family owned and operated business which offers longer days on the water and small to medium passenger numbers to provide a relaxed experience. Rated number one on TripAdvisor, it is clearly a popular choice, and with the delightful menu on offer including homemade morning tea, buffet lunch fresh fruit and cheese platter, it’s no wonder people keep going back for more.

Spirit of Hervey Bay is the largest and fastest whale watch vessel in Hervey Bay, offering the biggest underwater viewing room in the fleet and a hydrophone to listen to the whales. The Spirit has a range of well-priced tours complete with courtesy transfers, souvenir whale DVD and more. Five levels of viewing decks means you can catch the whales’ antics from every angle.

Tasman Venture offers multi-lingual guides, advanced eco certification, free onboard Wi-Fi and an immersive platform allowing guests to get closer to the humpbacks than ever. Tasman Venture is also the only operator permitted to access the North West Coast of Fraser Island, taking visitors to pristine, isolated locations.

For more visit whalesherveybay.com.au



5 reasons to head for the hills on the Gold Coast

By Australia / Gold Coast /

The Gold Coast is one of Queensland’s premier destinations. With sun, sand and surf waiting for you all year round.

Ignore the beaches, hire a car from Brisbane Airport and head for the hills on your next trip to the Gold Coast. Drive thirty minutes inland from the beaches and you’ll find the Hinterland, which is full of rainforests, farms and vineyards.

Here are five things to do when you’re there.

Sip some wine
The Gold Coast Hinterland is a fantastic destination for wine-lovers. It’s one of Queensland’s fastest growing wine regions, thanks to the range of micro-climates creating perfect growing conditions for a variety of grapes. Mount Tamborine (pictured), Mount Nathan, Lamington and Canungra are full of top-notch wineries. Some wineries that we recommend include Albert River Wines and O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards.

Hiking in Springbrook National Park
Hiking is a popular pastime in Springbrook National Park. The track to Natural Bridge, which has formed over millions of years from water pounding onto the roof of a basalt cave, is one of the most popular. It’s the perfect place for a picnic. At night in summer, the cave is equally enchanting. Take a guided tour to see amazing glow-worm colonies, fireflies and even luminous fungi.

Visit the Cheese Shop and Factory
Just an hour from Brisbane and in the heart of Mount Tamborine is The Cheese Shop and Factory. Deliciously soft and hand-made cheeses are waiting to be sampled and bought. The factory proudly produces small batches of high quality cheeses and other dairy products, such as ice cream. This amazing destination could keep you tied up all day!

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk
Walk 30 metres above the ground through the rainforest canopy. Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk is an exciting eco-adventure that’s suitable for all ages. The 1.5km long path at Skywalk treats you to views of lush rainforest leads you to the crystal clear rock pools of Cedar Creek. During the trip, you’ll encounter rare butterflies and other rainforest animals.

Get up close with Alpacas
The Mountview Alpaca Farm is an exciting destination for people of all ages, especially kids. Not only is the beautiful view of Tamborine Mountain and the Gold Coast likely to inspire you, but you can cuddle and pat alpacas! For just a few dollars you can buy a large bag of food and feed these friendly animals. There’s also a gift shop, where you’ll find unique alpaca-themed goods from Australia and South America.

Also check out Romantic drives … Coffs Harbour to Crystal Castle, Byron Bay


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5 wild Cairns adventures for kids in a campervan

By Cairns / Queensland /

Cairns is the perfect place to explore in a campervan with the kids. Hire a campervan from Cairns Airport. You can also hire a vehicle from Port Douglas. Begin your wild adventure by visiting these five incredible places.

Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary
The butterfly sanctuary in Kuranda is Australia’s biggest butterfly farm. It’s also home to the country’s largest walk-through aviary. Step inside and you’ll be surrounded by about 1500 butterflies. Spot these beautiful insects in all colours, including the magnificent, bright blue Ulysses. Make sure you wear bright clothes and they won’t stop landing on you!

Snorkelling at Green Island, off Cairns
Hope on a short boat trip from Cairns and you’ll be amazed by the beauty of Green Island. It’s the ideal place for those who want to give snorkeling a try but are uncomfortable with heading further out on the Great Barrier Reef. Make sure you check out the coral gardens close to the pier – that’s where you’ll find some of the most colourful corals on the island.

Hartley’s Creek Crocodile Adventures
This award-winning attraction is located 40 minutes north of Cairns. Hartley’s Creek Crocodile Adventures has more than 2km of pathways that weave around five distinct wildlife areas. Visit cassowaries, walk amongst baby wallabies and watch a live crocodile feeding show. Also book a boat tour through Hartley’s Lagoon, which will get you nice and close to these wild monsters!

Fishing at Palm Cove Jetty
If you’re after a quite, relaxing afternoon then look no further than Palm Cove. This sandy beach is the perfect place to spend time with the family. Grab some rods and bait and any food you might need to keep you going. It’s only a short walk to the end of the Palm Cove Jetty, where you can set yourself up for the day. You’re bound to get some great catches, not to mention you’ll admire the idyllic scenery surrounding you for hours.

Crystal Cascades
Crystal Cascades is one of the most popular waterfalls for Cairns locals. Luckily, many tourists still don’t know about this natural wonder! This waterhole is hidden by rainforest and a short walk, all located only about 20 minutes from Cairns CBD. It has several different plunge pools and is a quiet spot for a nice picnic on a weekend.

Also try Cairns to Cape York for a great driving holiday up north or our Cairns City Guide



5 hot events in Queensland this winter

By Australia / Brisbane / Queensland /

THE winter chill has arrived in the south but there’s always a way to warm up in Queensland. Looking to head north for a winter escape? Nap a Brisbane car rental for some Queensland exploration and to try any of these five great reasons to ditch the southern freeze and enjoy some northern exposure …

One … Relish Food and Wine Festival (June 4, pictured)

From the Hinterland to the Bay, the Fraser Coast has an awesome array of fresh produce, locally made food products and unforgettable dining experiences. The Fraser Coast Food Story – Relish Fraser Coast is about connecting local growers and producers with the area’s restaurants and cafès to create some magic. What started with the food and wine festival in 2013 has grown into something that encompasses the year round offerings of the Fraser Coast. For all the details, head to relishfrasercoast.com.au

Two … Broadbeach Country Music Festival (June 17-19)

Adam Brand and The Outlaws, The Sunny Cowgirls, Jasmine Rae and the Adam Eckersley Band are just some of the massive country music stars heading for the sunny Gold Coast for the fourth annual Broadbeach Country Music Festival. Combining ‘Country with the Coast’, the beachside event is free and will showcase premier country performers outdoor stages and in venues throughout the entire Broadbeach precinct. The incredible line-up will feature more than 30 artists. For more visit www.broadbeachcountry.com

Three … The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival (June 24-July 2)

Lights, camera, action. Nine days, 30 films, 1000 scenes. Winton’s Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival is a film festival like no other, celebrating Australian film and culture under the stars of Winton in Outback Queensland. The Festival will combine an incomparable program of classic and contemporary Australian films under the stars in the historic, open air Royal Theatre in Winton’s main street; plus conversations, yarns, masterclasses, film making competitions, tag-a-long tours and social activities. Join them on the red carpet for opening night. More visit www.visionsplendidfilmfest.com

Four … Mary Poppins Festival in the Park (July 2)

With the author of Mary Poppins, Pamela Travers, born in Maryborough in Queensland, it’s little wonder the city celebrates it’s unique link to the iconic nanny with the world’s only Mary Poppins festival – a week long explosion of colour, art, culture and “practically perfect” fun for everyone. Maryborough’s heritage streetscapes are transformed into scenes from the Poppins novels. Nannies race each other pushing prams in the great Nanny Challenge; chimney sweeps compete in the Chimney Sweep Dash while Mary Poppins characters come to life from the pages of books and mingle with the crowd. The entertainment includes professional street theatre performers, sidewalk artists, jugglers, roving Penny Farthing, grand costume parade, kite display, vintage cars, carnival rides and old fashioned games and workshops. Visit www.marypoppinsfestival.com.au

Five … Rockhampton River Festival (July 15-17)

This amazing river festival in July brings the incredible past, creative present and bright future of Rockhampton together for a massive three day celebration. At the 2016 festival expect to dream big and escape the ordinary under the ‘River Revery’ theme. Festival goers can dream the impossible, wander the mysterious, play to the spontaneity and feast on delicious delicacies, leaving your mind boggling, taste-buds tingling and your imagination soaring. The three day festival has free entertainment, interactive arts, contemporary tunes, delicious food, great people and superb winter sunshine. With more than 30,000 people expected at the festival this year, book early before accommodation sells out. Visit www.rockhamptonriverfestival.com.au

ALSO try Trips within two hours of Brisbane or Unmissable events in Queensland



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5 places to park your camper within 2 hours of Brisbane

By Australia / Brisbane / Queensland /

There’s no better way to explore sunny Queensland than in the comfort of a campervan. Not only is it cost-effective but you can travel at your own pace and know you always have somewhere to sleep!

Hire a campervan from Brisbane Airport and make your way to one of these fantastic holiday parks.

Big4 Gold Coast Holiday Park (pictured)
Have the time of your life at the Big4 Gold Coast Holiday Park. During the day you can explore some of Queensland’s most popular surf beaches and return to your accommodation where there’s a huge pool with a monster water slide for the kids. You’re also within walking distance to the famous theme parks, including Movie World and Wet’N’Wild.

Coolum Beach Holiday Park
Only a short drive north of Brisbane is the beautiful Sunshine Coast. Park your campervan at Coolum Beach Holiday Park, where you’ll have direct access to a white sandy and patrolled surf beach. This holiday park is also within walking distance to shops and restaurants and is set on ten acres of stunning beachfront land.

Jolly Swagman Caravan Park
If you ever find yourself in Toowoomba then make sure you head into the city centre. There, in the heart of town, you’ll come across Jolly Swagman Caravan Park, which boasts award winning gardens and the famous statue of Jolly Swagman and his dog. Speaking of dogs, this is one of the few sites where you can bring pets along on your holiday too, provided you make an application.

Esk Caravan Park
This little slice of paradise, known as Esk Caravan Park, sits in the stunning Brisbane Valley. It’s set between lakes Wivenhoe and Somerset (which are conveniently only a short drive from the caravan park) and is also surrounded by beautiful mountains and creeks. In a quiet and peaceful setting, the Esk Caravan Park is also the ideal place to spend your days enjoying all kinds of water activities.

Green Mountains Camping Area
Sit in the lush Lamington National Park, the Green Mountains Camping Area is made up of a grassy sloping hill, with campervan sites cut into it. You’ll feel right in amongst the wilderness, which makes this location an extra special place to stay. There are plenty of walking tracks leading you to spectacular views around the park within easy walking distance.


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Winter’s on the way, so hit the road and head north

By Australia / Brisbane / Queensland /

With winter fast approaching, the best plan of attack to beat the chill is to head north. While Aussies down south shiver through the coldest months of the year, up north in Queensland the sun is still shining and the ocean waters constantly warm.

Pick up a camper from Brisbane airport and park it at one of these five caravan parks in Queensland for your next holiday.

Noosa Caravan Park
Just under two hours north of Brisbane is the lovely Noosa. Sandy, surf beaches and clear waters await. Park your camper at the Noosa Caravan Park, which is a two minute walk from Noosa River and a 15 minute drive from Noosa Beach. Then Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo is less than an hour away. It also has an outdoor swimming pool with BBQ facilities and a children’s playground.

Mackay Blacks Beach Holiday Park
Ideally positioned on five acres with beachfront views, Mackay Blacks Beach Holiday Park overlooks the beautiful southern islands of the Whitsundays. There are nearly 90 caravan sites available, many with ocean views, a swimming pool and entertainment areas so you can enjoy your holiday nearly 1000km north of Brisbane.

Rainbow Beach Holiday Village
Three hours north of Queensland’s capital, Rainbow Beach Holiday Village sits on the Fraser Coast, just 100m from the beach. The surf club is also located across the road, with many restaurants and cafes nearby. The village has all the conveniences you need – including two BBQ sites, washing up facilities, a convenience store and an onsite service station – but it still has a relaxing atmosphere, which draws holidaymakers back year after year.

Lake Eacham Tourist Park
Set in the heart of the famously beautiful Crater Lakes District, this quiet tourist park is just one kilometre from Lake Eacham’s pristine waters. Just over an hour’s drive from Cairns and 18 hours from Brisbane, Lake Eacham Tourist Park is well worth the distance. Jump in the water whenever you feel like a swim, while the lake’s surrounding beauty, including colourful wildlife and pristine waterfalls, are found at almost every turn.

Gold Coast Tourist Parks Main Beach
Drive an hour south of Brisbane and Surfer’s Paradise awaits! Stay at the Gold Coast Tourist Parks Main Beach, which is just across the road from one of the area’s most beautiful surfing beaches. It hosts a resort-style pool and Tedder Avenue is nearby, with its trendy cafes and restaurants. It’s everything you need for a perfect, sunny holiday away!

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5 unmissable features at this year’s Noosa Food & Wine Festival

By Australia / Brisbane / Gold Coast / Queensland /

The Noosa Food & Wine 2016 is on again with more than 30 fantastic events showcasing some of Australia’s best chefs in beautiful locations throughout Noosa from May 20 to 22.

With almost 50 chefs from around Australia and Noosa’s own restaurants featured in the program, along with more than 20 wineries, events will take place under the Noosa Tipi on Main Beach, in Hastings Street for a long lunch, by the Noosa River in Noosaville and in signature restaurants throughout Noosa. Guest chefs include Pete Evans, Ben O’Donoghue, Luke Mangan and Matt Golinski and more from some of Australia’s best restaurants including Nu Nu, Fish House, Gerard’s Bistro,  European, Stokehouse and Harrison’s.

So what are the highlights of an action-packed program? It’s a tough call, but here are 5 to mark down as tasty treats.

Friday 20 May, 5-7pm, $45
Noosa Main Beach sets the scene for a wonderful weekend of food, wine and lifestyle. Join acclaimed chefs Pete Evans, Peter Kuruvita, Shane Bailey, Ben Bertei and Sammy and Bella from MKR and others under the Noosa Tipi, right on the beach, for a cocktail party with light canapés and drinks.

Saturday 21 May, 12.15-2.30pm, $85
Dig in to the long lunch on Noosa’s famous Hastings Street with some of Noosa’s favourite restaurants taking part in the Noosa Street Feast. The 2-course lunch will be accompanied by wines and beer by Asahi. Choose your favourite restaurants from: aromas, Boardwalk Bistro on Hastings, Bistro C, Gaston, Locale, Miss Moneypenny’s, Noosa Beach House, Rococo or Season.

Saturday 21 May, 12.00-5.00pm, free entry
Enjoy wine tastings from 22 of Australia’s best wineries at the Wine Tasting Quarter. Purchase a token for $3 for 3 tastings or $6 token for 6 tastings or a glass.

Sunday 22 May, 11.30am-4.30pm, $15.00 entry
The Noosa River shores will come to life when Noosa Boathouse presents a celebration of Australian beef and live music from Sunshine Coast music legend Carl Wockner and powerhouse band Honey. Renowned chefs Matt Golinski, Alastair McLeod, Sunny Gilbert and Shane Bailey with Sammy and Bella from MKR will serve up their favourite sirloin dishes along with Stone & Wood craft beers and selected great Australian wines. Come and enjoy a fantastic day of food, beer and wine on the Noosa River at Lions Park in Noosaville.

Sunday 22 May, 5.00-8.30pm, $65.00
You’re invited to dine under a full moon on the beach for the finale of Noosa Food & Wine 2016 with an Asian Hawker style feast presented by Ben Bertei, Hajime Horiguchi and Hamish Ingham, with local culinary talent from Embassy XO, Spirit House and Junk. Featuring modern Asian influences, move between tasting stations full of flavour. Wines by Treasury Estate Wines and beers by Asahi.

For the full program, and to purchase event tickets see noosafoodwinefestival.com.au



7 unmissable Queensland food and wine events in 2016

By Australia / Brisbane / Cairns / Gold Coast / Port Douglas / Queensland /

THE Sunshine State is not just beaches, babes and sunshine, you know, it’s also home to an endless supply of delicious local produce that’s been grown, caught, baked and served by “an array of clever clogs and inspired minds”, as the Tourism Queensland crew tell us and here are five suggestions by them for Queensland food and wine events to kill for in 2016

What: Ginger Flower & Food Festival

When: January 22-24

Where: Yandina
The Ginger Factory Yandina comes alive for the weekend-long Ginger Food & Flower Festival, surrounded by Australia’s largest and most ornamental gingers and heliconias, all under one roof. This year the festival celebrates its 20th birthday with a line-up of local kitchen maestros and gardening experts.

What: Feast of the Senses

When: March 12-20

Where: Innisfail
Discover North Queensland’s premier tropical food event that engages every one of your senses! Over 10 amazing days, this region’s abundance of exotic tropical fruits, produce, seafood and meats will be on show and include farm trails, art, and photography, cooking competitions and the piece de resistance – a market day extravaganza on 20 March – with Innisfail’s art deco architecture providing a fitting backdrop.

What: Gold Coast Italian Festival

When: March 26–27

Where: Gold Coast (various locations)
Savour the tastes, sights and sounds of Italy at the first annual Gold Coast Italian Festival. From fine food, Italian wines and family entertainment, the festival will celebrate all the best about the dolce vita culture. Street vendors will be slinging wood fired pizza, pasta and gelato.

What: Felton Food Festival

When: April 10

Where: Felton
For one day, Felton throws the spotlight on the delectable produce, stunning landscape and the people that make this region so vibrant. For a taste of real country living, families, farmers and food lovers are invited to mingle through markets, take a crop tour, meet a local farmer and learn more about the paddock to plate concept. Special guests this year include Matt Golinski, Alison Alexander and for the first time Wild Canary Head Chef, Glen Barratt.
What: Relish Fraser Coast

When: June 4

Where: Fraser Coast (Multiple Locations)
A feast of culture and cuisine is served! Immerse yourself in Maryborough’s heritage streetscapes and riverside parks for the Relish Fraser Coast and their jam-packed program of celebrity chefs, gourmet tastings, cooking workshops, live music and art. True foodies will have the chance to try Hervey Bay’s famous scallops, Fraser Island prawns and macadamia nuts all paired with wines from Queensland’s premier wineries.

What: Regional Flavours

When July 15-17

Where: South Brisbane
South Bank’s signature food and lifestyle event returns in 2016 with free entertainment, celeb chefs and industry experts as well as fresh produce from more than 80 Queensland providores. Within eight unique venues, the food lover in all of us can experience al fresco dining, expand our culinary knowledge and sample some of the state’s best artisanal food and wine. Gather a group and take advantage of the South Bank views to eat and enjoy a few of life’s simplest pleasures.
What: Hervey Bay Seafood Festival

When: August 14

Where: Hervey Bay
A festival to celebrate wild-caught seafood from the pristine waters of the Fraser Coast. Escape for a warm wintery weekend and tempt your tastebuds with an ultimate seafood menu at the festival’s signature Tastes of the Bay long lunch with Chef Andrew Mirosch. If that doesn’t take your fancy, navigate a DIY feast at the array of seafood stands serving the iconic Hervey Bay scallop, prawns and fish by local restaurants. Either way, no one is going home hungry!



Country retreats in Queensland for a romantic getaway

By Australia / Queensland /

Sometimes amid the hustle and bustle of daily life, couples forget to take some time out for themselves. Sometimes you just need to retreat for a relaxing and romantic getaway. Where else better than country Queensland?

The Stonehouse Retreat (pictured)
The Stonehouse Retreat is a unique, hand-built lodge made of stone and recycled materials. It’s located in Esk and is surrounded by 175 acres of Australian bush. Daytime views stretch for hundreds of kilometres. encompassing several lakes. Night views of starry skies are just as magical, and it’s only an 80-minute drive from Brisbane.

Mt Quincan Crater Retreat
This retreat’s six private bungalows overlook Mt Quincan Crater and the Atherton Tablelands. Relax in your private spa, as you take in the peaceful sounds of the rainforest. For some physical activity, go bushwalking at one of the many nearby trails nearby or see what surrounding towns, such as Atherton, have to offer.

The Canopy Rainforest Treehouses
Sleep while perched high in the rainforest canopy in a beautifully-designed timber and glass treehouse. Each treehouse features a double spa, wood fireplace and a balcony with a hammock and barbeque. You’ll be right up there with all the wildlife and if you feel like getting back on the ground to explore, the beautiful Malanda Falls is only 12km away.

R on the Downs Retreat
The ‘R’ in R on the Downs Retreat stands for many things – romance, relaxation, rest and reconnect. At this retreat in Yangan, you can do it all while enjoying a rustic fireplace and double spa. Step onto your private veranda, which offers amazing views of Swandels Valley.

Thala Beach Lodge
Set on the beautiful Thala Beach Nature Reserve, this lodge sits on a secluded beachfront of untouched coastline near Port Douglas. One of the main draws of Thala Beach Lodge is that it sits between two World Heritage Sites – the magnificent Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. You can opt for a private bungalow by the coral sear or one that’s nestled inland amongst the trees.



One hour from Brisbane: 5 amazing things to do with the family

By Australia / Brisbane /

Fancy a trip away with the family, but don’t feel like travelling more than about an hour from Brisbane? There are many amazing things to do with the family, only a short drive from the city.

Here are five of them:

Spot sea life around Bribie Island
Navigate the waters around Bribie Island with a ferry cruise, which takes you to see some of the cutest creatures in the sea. Dugongs and loveable dolphins frequent the area, with the Pumicestone Passage also providing an ideal home for turtles. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the ocean and the contrasting rolling green hills on the mainland while on board.

Picnic at Lake Wivenhoe
Who said an exciting family trip away from the city had to cost a lot? Those wanting to relax and enjoy scenic views should head to Lake Wivenhoe. Pack a picnic, and unwind on the shores of the lake, which supplies water to the region. If you want to take up a fun water activity, you can have a go at fishing, kayaking or even just splash around in the water.

Explore the theme parks (pictured)
Visit every child’s paradise – the Gold Coast. Here, the whole family can explore the theme parks and the thrilling rides they have to offer. At Movie World, kids’ favourite movie characters come to life, while adrenaline junkies can experience the trill of their lives, on the Arkham Asylum Ride. Then there’s Wet n Wild, where you can splash around and enjoy the Blackhole ride, where you’re sent into a dark spiral of darkness.

Trek to Curtis Falls
Visit Mount Tamborine to enjoy a 1.5km return hike to the stunning Curtis Falls. It’s a relatively easy walk, which leads you into lush rainforest. Just over 100 steps will lead you to the cascading falls. They can be admired from a viewing platform, which overlooks as large rock pool.

Farm Fun in Ipswich
On the second Sunday of each month, a magical farm at Rosewood opens to the public. It’s a great opportunity for kids to pat and feed the different animals and enjoy a day of outdoor farming activities. The bay hale slide, 14ft trampoline along with pony and tractor rides are sure to make for a memorable day!



Swim with whales in mooloolaba

By Australia / Brisbane / Queensland /

TO see a whale up close is one thing, but to float above them is another and certainly an Australian first that Sunreef Mooloolaba can lay claim to. It’s an experience you can’t miss while staying at beautiful Maroochydore Beach Caravan Park just up the road.

“I just love the sound of awe that comes up through people’s snorkels as a sort of muffled squeal when they spot their first whale,” Sunreef Mooloolaba’s Dan Hart says after taking our small group through our paces for whale swim protocol. “Mostly it’s just great to see everyone’s excitement before, during and after their first in-water encounter.”

He’s not wrong. The experience is mesmerising, almost dreamy, and there’s no doubt for us there’s a connection between man and whale. For the “humpies” to go out of their way and interact is a clear message they don’t mind sharing their backyard with us – though remember we’re at the “mercy of the whales” and it’s a 65 to 70 per cent strike rate when it comes to them venturing over, Hart says.

There is a 70 per cent chance whales will be curious enough to swim over and interact with humans.

“One particular encounter I remember was when a whale came and circled the boat and swam straight past all the guests before doing a headstand, with its tail out of the water just a couple of metres away before slipping gently in the water and leaving us in its slipstream,” Hart says, as if it were yesterday.

This year an estimated 20,000 humpback whales migrate up the east coast of Australia and back down to the Antarctic, with the season on the Sunshine Coast running until late October. So it’s ripe for the picking in coming months.

“The more people know about whales, the more likely they are to love them like we do and want to see them protected worldwide,” Hart says, before pointing out that Sunreef keeps two spots available on every trip for whale researchers.

The whale swim experience is a three-hour round trip with 20 people tops taken on each trip. You get a full briefing on what to expect and safety procedures as well as a wetsuit, snorkelling equipment and scrumptious little snack packs.

The process is simple. Once a whale is seen, “which can take just five minutes”, according to Hart, the boat will stop 100m or more away from the whale and if conditions are appropriate, the boat is turned off and swimmers are allowed into the water holding on to a floating line attached to the boat.

Visit: sunreef.com.au or Ph (07) 5444 5656 for the whale encounter.




Five Australian resorts for a girls weekend away

By Adelaide / Australia / Brisbane / Melbourne / New South Wales / South Australia / Sydney / Victoria /

Looking for a girls’ weekend away? Here are five resorts, which are absolutely perfect for a some relaxing time with the ladies.

Smiths Beach Resort, Margaret River, WA

Experience the ultimate beachfront lifestyle at Smiths Beach Resort, which is nestled between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia. It’s heaven for beach lovers who are looking for a sunny weekend away with the girls. Spoil yourself with self-contained accommodation that boasts ocean views. In the resort you also have a cellar door, bar and restaurant at your disposal. Not to mention the many spa treatments available.

The Mineral Spa, Daylesford, VIC

This retreat is located in the heart of Victoria’s spa country. The Mineral Spa retreat offers you an indulgent spa experience, with its two warm mineral spa pools and a cool plunge pool that overlooks beautiful gardens. There are exclusive packages on offer when you have six or more friends. These include a choice of facial, massage, exfoliation, pedicure and manicure options – plus finger food and cocktails.

Crystal Creek Meadows, Kangaroo Valley, NSW

Crystal Creek Meadows boasts luxury, award winning country cottages, where you can stay overnight. Then there’s also a day spa retreat, which sets the scene for an amazing girls’ weekend away in the country. Rejuvenate and unwind with amazing massages, spa baths, aromatherapy and skin care treatments. There are also many local shops and dainty cafes to check out while you’re in Kangaroo Valley Village.

Glass on Glasshouse, 1hr north of Brisbane
If luxurious cottages with a spa bath, private patio and amazing views of the Glasshouse Mountains sounds like your idea of the perfect getaway, then Glass on Glasshouse is the place for you! The cottages feature floor-to-ceiling windows, which overlook the mountains, and in the winter months you also have a fireplace at your disposal. Relax with an on-site massage, or go sightseeing nearby.

Sticky Rice Cooking School and Villas, Adelaide Hills

This inspiring accommodation is set in the lovely town of Stirling. It features three gorgeous villas, with each luxury villa offering a different theme. Visitors can choose between Bali, Thailand and Japan style accommodation, before being immersed in the flavours of the world. Sticky Rice is also a cooking school, offering hands on cooking classes, where visitors learn from respected chefs on how to cook Asian, Spanish and Moroccan cuisine.