Catching up on the past few stops on my trip as Wifi hasn’t been super accessible! I was on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane from December 8-16:
As I mentioned in my last post, I was able to set up my itinerary until early January while I was in Byron– so first stop was the Gold Coast! The Greyhound was quick and simple from Byron and my hostel in Surfers Pardise was right next to the bus station, so all really easy travel logistics to arrive.
I’ve come to understand that the Gold Coast is a section of the coastline comprised of multiple beach towns, one of which is Surfers Paradise, probably the most “happening”. Checking into the hostel, however, it seemed pretty quiet! I’ll say that over the course of my 5 nights in Surfers, it didn’t feel as if there were a ton of people around through the hostel itself, but the main area was definitely busy with vacationing families and young people.
I got in around mid-day on Saturday and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering some of the main promenades in the area. Overall, Surfers feels like a larger scale (nicer) Wildwood, NJ, which was funny to me. It was by far the most commercial area I’ve been so far, including Sydney. Most of the restaruants were major chains, i.e. I saw the first Starbucks in a month here! And most of the shopping was very souvenir, t-shirt shop kind of stuff. The main streets and promenades were really nice though, super clean, palm trees all amongst the buildings and a lot of lights everywhere in celebration of the season. On Sunday morning I was greeted with blue skies so I headed out– of course the beach was really nice and I definitely enjoyed my time in the sand right in front of the iconic high rising sky line. The ocean was pretty rough though, and I also got to see the guards in action. I guess tourists on every corner of the earth make poor decisions when it comes to rip currents… 🙂 That night there was a full set of vendors for a beach front market, close to those I’ve seen almost everywhere else so far! As expected, all of the tents had pretty touristy items for sale, but I always enjoy walking through the stalls.
I had a really nice night on Sunday. After cleaning up from the beach, I decided to tackle the public transit system (which turned out to be just as efficient and simple as what I experienced in Sydney) and I headed south to a beach town called Burleigh Heads. I loved this area!! It was a lot more of a surrounding park and wildlife area along the beach, which is my preference versus the city. I was also able to get the famous Gold Coast view looking north towards Surfers Paradise. There is a small National Park right in this area, and there were tons of people spread out on the grassy areas with full BBQs, picnics, games, music, etc. It was right around 5:00, the true golden hour, and I could feel the happy energy all around me here. While I was happy to be passing through, this was a moment that I wish I could’ve shared with some pals and loved ones! I continued walking through some of the park trails, got to see a bunch of surfers and caught a great sunset. Ended that day on a happy note.
On Monday I went south again, down to a town called Coolangatta, which is right on the edge of the states of New South Wales and Queensland. For reference, I started off in NSW and am now in QLD as I continue north. The beaches here were beautiful!! I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that moment when you first lay eyes on a beautiful new beach. This area had a very casual, family friendly vacation-y vibe with a lot of modest (compared to Surfers) condos, hotels, restaurants. etc. I spent this afternoon on the beach called Rainbow Bay, known for great surfing. Kristy- you can thank Jacob for this recommendation! Their surf club had a sign on top that said “From where you’d rather be”. I love that, and keep repeating it over in my head because I feel like it holds true across this entire country haha. On my way back, I made a pit stop and walked the sand for about a mile or two through Palm Beach which felt good during those late afternoon hours.
Tuesday was an exciting day because I had an 11:00 AM appointment at Alfred Street Tattoo with Alexis Hepburn!!! I was super (nervous) excited because this was one of goals I had while in this area. The shop is in Mermaid Beach, 15 minutes south of where I was staying. Alexis was so friendly, and helped draw up exactly what I wanted to commemroate my time here. If you can’t draw the connection I have to a cat sitting in the sun then you probably don’t know me very well. Alexis has spent time in NJ at Electric Tattoo, where Cam (mostly) and I have been tattooed in the past, so it was really cool to share that as well! I was pretty useless the rest of that afternoon, got myself a pizza for dinner…comfort food…, and walked through some of the holiday decorated streets at night.
My day Wednesday was extremely casual and not even worth going through, save for my dinner at a Thai restaurant where I had the BEST Thai red curry that I have ever had in my life. The coconut rice rocked my world and I would eat that meal every day if I could. 10/10 would recommend to a friend.
The main reason I spent so many nights in Surfers was because of the tattoo appointment; if I was planning that stop without that activity I wouldn’t have needed so much time in the area. It was nice to have downtime, though because I enjoyed catching up with a lot of people over the week! Special mention to Alanna and Amanda, loved chatting with you both!!!
I caught the bus to Brisbane on Thursday morning, and had a quick 2 hour trip to the city. Since I still had the majorty of the day ahead of me, I took advantage of the clear weather and walked around a ton. The forecast has been pretty sketchy- there was some seriously heavy rains and a cyclone, aka hurricane, a bit further north. Keeping my fingers crossed that it all clears out as I continue going in that direction! I’m happy that I’ve been lucky so far with the weather.
That afternoon I walked through the Southbank neighborhood, the city botanical gardens and Kangaroo Park Cliffs. The highlight for me was definitely South Bank- there was a ton of cute restaurants along the river with a walk/bike path and a full out beach and pool area built into the city! I really enjoyed this area and the touch that this beachy area added to the city culture. Alongside this, I also came across a ton of BBQ picnic areas, a community garden and green, flowery walkways. The botanical gardens were just across the river via a pedestrian bridge, so I spent some time laying on the green space there too. I rounded out the afternoon at the Kangaroo Cliffs Park, which was accessed by a walking path along the river. It was a nice area for exercise, there were a few cafes, kayak rentals, and rock climbing.
Friday was another really good day, spent at the Australia Zoo! It took about 2 hours on public transportation to get to the zoo, but was 100% worth it. The forecast basically called for a rain out of a day… but I made it through in about 90 degree heat and sun!!! People must have been scared off though because I was the only one who caught the shuttle from the train station and overall the zoo was not very crowded for a Friday in the summer. Like all animal lovers, I have my reservations about zoos. I was happy with this one though becaue of the mass influence from Steve Irwin and his family, which gears the entire experience towards animal education, protection and conservation. I spent about 4-5 hours going through all of the exhibits, held a koala for the corny “prom” picture (thanks Dad and I’m sorry for the flash in your eyes all day lil guy) and attended a few of the daily shows too! Big highlights were of course the koalas, crocadiles, native birds, kangaraoos/wallabies (bascially small roos), tigers and meerkats!! I loved those little guys. I also want to give a shout out to the kind lady who offered to take my photo with the kangaroo I was petting and gave me a handful of feed from her family’s bag to enhance my experience in the exhibit. Feeding those crazy buggers was a major happy moment and I was laughing the entire time at the interactions.
Saturday was my last day in Brisbane aka Brissy so I got up and at it early in the morning. It was HOT out and I am getting a preview for how hot and humid it is going to be on the coast going north. So sweaty!!!!!!! I started off in the main city center and saw the pretty tree they have up at City Hall for Christmas. In that same area, there is Queen Street Mall which is a major pedestrian mall area. I spent a good amount of time walking through here over the course of the morning.
Come afternoon I crossed another pedestrian bridge back to the South Bank area. I took the time to tour the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art, both big highlights for the day! I enjoyed the free activity that helped me learn more about the state and country history. There were some special exhibitions going on and I also noticed the heavy influence of aboriginal art and culture. I really enjoy learning about that aspect of Australia’s history and find the culture to be pretty fascinating. For the remainder of the afternoon I found myself back in the beachy area of the strip and around 3:00 the big set up of Christmas markets opened up! There were rows and rows of art and clothing vendor tents, food trucks, live music, holiday crafts and activities all throughout the area. Of course, everything was lit up for the festivities which creates an awesome atmosphere. This was another moment/area that I would’ve loved to share with some of you, the happiness for this time of year is contageous here too. I ventured out that night for dinner (thank you Mama) and trekked through some rain and crowds for a big Christmas parade in the center of town. I also cut through another parkland that was lit up as an “Enchanted Forest” for the season. Brisbane is the third largest city in AUS, but noticeably smaller than Sydney! I felt as though the amount of time I had was enough to experience the major highlights. Here were my big takeaways:
- Lots of green space! It is easy to get out of a “city feel” while still in the major areas
- I loved the Epicurious Garden in South Bank
- Tons of cozy outdoor seating at the riverfront restaurants
- The built in pool/beach area feels like an actual resort
- Lots of walking and bike paths, the city is easy to travel on foot
- The city has a really nice effort for the seasonal celebrations! Everything was decorated for Christmas and was really well done
- A lot of the major landmarks fall along the river, so you get really nice river/skyline views as you go along
- Lots of free, cultural activities! BBQs everywhere make it feel like a community
- I enjoyed the city fashion- definitely trendy, but not as glitzy as SYD/Bondi
Some more random thoughts…
- Australians call McDonalds “Maccas”. The chain is everywhere.
- There is a chain called Hungry Jacks which is bascially the same thing as Burger King.
- Since they drive on the opposite side of the road, I am still working out which lane is technically the slow vs fast lane on the highway. Is that opposite too? TBD.
- To elaborate on the surf club I mentioned at Rainbow Bay… every beach has a SLSC- Surf Life Saving Club. This is where the guards are housed, and it is more of an actual building/headquarters for each beach and the equipment. Each one also has a club aspect, where there is a bar, restaurant, changing rooms, showers, etc. Size of the club seems to depend on the size of the town.
- The Australia Zoo employees were all truly, noticeably friendly. Everyone I saw asked me if I was having a good time.
- I’ve had a lot of time to read. I’ve finished 5 books already (insane) and it feels SO good to get back into this hobby. Gotta keep the brain stimulated. Having a book also gives me a sense of companionship… nerd alert.
- I’ve taken time daily over this first month to assess and reflect on my emotions. There are plenty of ups and downs, and I don’t think that people often talk about the potential negatives or “bad days” you can have while traveling solo. You don’t ever want to complain about the privilege of traveling and being here, but… I’m still human and I am still 10,000 miles away from home, by myself. However, I’d say that I’ve been doing really really good for the vast majority of my time so far.