Nth Stradbroke

Travel: North Stradbroke Island

Nth Stradbroke

Affectionately known as “Straddie” to Queenslanders, North Stradbroke Island is a place where many of my friends spent their childhood holidays. For me, it has been a discovery only in the past two years, which I am enjoying 🙂  Why do you want to go to Straddie and when?

  • July- for the WHALES!  They swim directly past the North George Headland, otherwise known as the “Whale Highway”, which is 35 m above sea level. You can also see them from the beach, from your apartment and from the lookout. You can’t go on an official whale watching tour from straddie, but you can see them at their best, in nature. If you go at the end of the season August- September they swim back with their babies. PRICELESS.
  • Summer- for the ultra relaxed pace of life. You have to catch a ferry to get to Straddie, and it seems like half of Brisbane is going with you, but I promise, as soon as you hit land, it is as if the world disappears in different directions. Some head to camp at Amity Point, others head to Point Lookout, but I can promise you it is not crowded like Noosa. There’s no pretension either.
  • Seafood! Delish- but straight from the trawler at Amity point, or if like me you prefer to stay closer to the action, then I recommend Mal Starkey’s seafood house. They sell direct to the public from the downstairs shop in their house. You can pay by credit card.
  • Dolphins!  You’re officially not allowed to feed them, but try telling the dolphins this. They hang out at Amity Point just before sunset, on the pier.
  • The gelatto!
  • The pub with a view- the Straddie Hotel. There’s no bogan here – just great food and a stunning view of the ocean. I can’t rave enough about this after they re-opened their restaurant to help me out one afternoon after taking my friend Steph to Straddie. Steph is wheelchair bound after a double brain stem stroke which left her with locked in syndrome, and after showing her the whales and the long process of getting her and her chair safely out of the car, up the ramp, and tucked into the table ready to order, we found that the restaurant had closed 10 minutes before! I was almost in tears, and explained my predicament to the chef, who kindly offered to cook for us, if we were happy with the options he had available. We were very grateful  and thoroughly enjoyed our meal.
    • The ferry across is not wheel chair friendly- you will need to stay in your car, as unfortunately on both the small and big red cat options both have stairs to access the views and dining areas.
    • There are suitable public toilets at Point Lookout.

How to get there:

By Ferry- either the Big Red Cat or the slower ferry. You can take your car across or go as a passenger and take advantage of the bus, which is run in conjunction with the ferry. Both leave from Cleeveland and take you across to Dunwich. You need to book in advance, especially in peak holiday periods. Make sure you book your return journey at the same time.

Where to stay:

I’ve stayed at the following places

Whale Watch Resort– fantastic main beach location. Perfect for long beach walks, and if you don’t want to get the car out for the rest of your stay.

Pandanus Palms Resort – family friendly, close to the patrolled beach.

 

On my wish list of places to stay

Claytons

Eco Camping

 

Queenstown

Travel: Queenstown, New Zealand

 

Queenstown

Queenstown is breathtakingly beautiful. I have visited twice and think it is truly magical. The obsession with the natural landscape begins the minute you step out of the plane. Even the airport has stunning vistas of the Remarkables. Queenstown is very tourist friendly, so I hopped on a bus which took me directly into town. The buses are clean, with plenty of space for luggage, and run regularly in and around town. I personally think that it is the best way to get around town, and inexpensively- a seven day bus pass costs $47pp for unlimited travel.

Having visited Queenstown previously, my agenda for this trip included:

  1. Go to the movies to see the second instalment of the Hobbit!
  2. Spend time in Arrowtown– read about it here.
  3. Walk around as much as possible to prepare for my Routeburn Track hike
  4. Have a day spa experience (my family had given me money for my birthday)
  5. Indulge in a hot pool with a view experience. (My gift to myself on the day I returned from my hike).I chose a one hour bath with an aromatherapy burner and scented oil of my choice and soft drink.
  6. Wine tasting tour of Central Otago- read about it here.
  7. Visit the galleries– the Ivan Clark Gallery with its bronze sculptures was one of the best.

Things I had previously done with my family included:

Because I was travelling solo, and had spent most of my money on the hike, I decided to stay in private accommodation at the YHA backpackers. When I arrived I stayed at the YHA Central (pre-booked). This was fantastic because the toilet and shower were in the room. The downside, being right in town was the noise from the clubs nearby. On my return from Routeburn I had pre-booked a private room at the YHA Lakefront.  This was a much bigger YHA with more facilities, however, I had to share a communal bathroom.

waterfrontwalk

Walking around Queens Park and the waterfront is very relaxing not to mention scenic!

My first walk was around the beautiful Queenstown Park. Being a fan of roses, I was in heaven.

My view from the hot bath…

morequeenstown3

View of the Shotover River from my bath!

 

There is simply so much to do in Queenstown, you’ll be back many times!

Sunset Macleay Island

Travel: Macleay Island

Macleay Island

In my experience, you can never tell how long you are going to live somewhere. Sure, some people live in the same house, or even the same suburb for most of their adult life, but it’s not my experience. I’ve been living in Brisbane for 31/2 years now and it’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere since 2006. I tend to move around every two years, so when I live in a certain area, I like to throw myself into the region, because, you never know when you’ll be back again.

So it was with this background, that I decided to tick off another Island in Moreton Bay- Macleay Island. As you know we recently ticked off Coochie Mudlow Island and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. My excuse for another short break was the combined 40th and 65th birthday celebrations of my mum and I.  We’re actually travelling to Tasmania for the “real” celebrations, however, the children will not be with us. They spend two weeks each Christmas with their father.  So, we needed to have a “celebration” so they could tick that off their list, and not miss us whilst we are away.

After scanning the opportunities on Stayz and AirBNB we decided on Sunset Waters. You can see why in the photos below.

It’s in a word spectacular, and fully equipped with everything you need to not only cook up a storm (trust me, this is often a down in a holiday apartment or house, where the kitchen is sparsely populated), but to enjoy your time in a relaxing environment. There was a cupboard filled with board games, a chess set, puzzles and DVDs both appropriate for kids and adults. There was a iPod docking system with stereo, a big TV and DVD player plus a bookcase full of magazines and books. There were also basics in the pantry – e.g. glad wrap, mozzie repellant and fresh milk in the fridge. As a bonus there was also a chilled bottle of champagne awaiting our arrival!  For those who arrive having forgotten wine, there is also a selection of Queensland wine available for purchase at cost price.

Sunset Waters Mcleay Isand

We were greeted by the caretaker, who happens to live next door. She pointed out that the shed outside contained bikes and fishing rods and a tackle box. We’re not fishermen, but appreciated the detail, especially given that there is a jetty out front, and can imagine that many guests spend the day fishing to their heart’s content.

It was a cold and rainy day on arrival and we decided to leave exploring until the following day and simply relax. I headed up to the master bedroom with views of the water to read a book that I had missed reading earlier in the year for my book club, and the boys starting drawing and chatting with my mum.  A little while later I got the call to come downstairs for my “birthday” afternoon tea. We indulged in a decadent chocolate mousse cake from “The Welsh Lady” and a bottle of Bollinger which was given to mum as a Christmas gift last year by Russell.

IMG_1489

On Saturday morning, I thought I would rise with the sun and go and capture it through the lens. The bed was too comfy… After breakfast we decided to explore the island. The kids would have been happy staying in the house relaxing, however, there’s no point in staying inside, when there is an island to explore! Our first stop was the organic farm and market. However, the island’s map is almost impossible to read, and does not contain all the street names, so we ended up at the Lion’s Christmas Markets instead 😉 Not long after that, however, we found ourselves at the very unique and fascinating organic markets. It was bit like stepping back into time- the kids found hula hoops, roosters, a pet kangaroo, a pig, a turkey and its many babies, a shetland pony and many horses. Mum explored the organic market, and we were invited back to the fancy dress “Rocky Horror” outdoor movie screening and party that evening, however, we had other plans…

 

Next stop, to find a park for the kids to play in, and perhaps somewhere to swim! As we drove towards the park, we drove past an ambulance and a police car decorated in tinsel. Mum said- “I told you, there is a parade”. A good old Aussie christmas parade. It dawned on me what she actually meant as we kept driving and passed a bunch of locals on their bikes and pushing prams, and finally another van with a tray back, covered in tinsel and with loads of people hanging out the back and over the top waving. We had just driven past the parade. It is the one time that I have actually lost my nerve. I would have had some classic Aussie christmas photos, but I kept going, so you’ll have to use your imagination….

Pat’s Park

According to the tourism brochure Pat’s Park was one of the island’s main oyster camps. Today it is the site of the ANZAC day dawn service and is the location of the netted swimming beach.

 

Dalpura Beach

Our next stop was Dalpura Beach. Although it was picturesque, the tide really was too low to swim. The view across the bay was of Coochie Mudlow Island.

Sunset

Macleay Island is a beautiful location for sunset. We were told however, that the sunsets we experienced were not up to scratch as the best often have purples and pinks and blues. We however, enjoyed the ones we experienced 😉

Karragarra Island

On our final morning, we decided to catch the ferry across to Karragarra Island, to wear the boys out, and give them an opportunity to have a swim. The ferry trip took a whole two minutes, and we were really surprised by the number of people who were using the passenger ferry to travel between the islands, and to the mainland. Karragarra island is the only island to have more crabs than humans! There are only 160 residents, and no shops, and I believe the locals like it that way…  The beach is netted and is tidal, so if you’re planning on travelling over, make sure you check the tides….

Crabs- Macleay Island

This little fella wasn’t so sure about me. A moment later he/she was gone down the hole, and busy blocking the hole with sand.

The verdict:

A peaceful and relaxing weekend away! The perfect location for a family who love fishing and a touch of luxury or a group who just want to chill out, read books and have a weekend of wine and cooking.

How to get there


To book the car or passenger ferry visit this page. Make sure you choose the correct ferry or you will head to North Stradbroke Island!

 

 

Postcards from the past: Frankfurt

Given I am about to get on a plane, I have been reminiscing about the lost art of postcard writing. Here’s a postcard from the past that I found from Dad, on one of his many business trips. He affectionately called me “number one” because I am the eldest child in the family. I can’t quite read the date stamp, but given the address on the card, and the fact that he has scribbled out Ferny Hills and written over it McDowall, it must be 1982.  I know this because we moved from Ferny Hills to McDowall at the end of 1981 and I started year 2 at McDowall State School in 1982.

postcardfromdad3 years

 

postcardfromdad3 years

Click on postcard to enlarge.

“Hello Number One, It is freezing cold here in Frankfurt Germany. You can see your breath when you talk. What a strange place to go to when Brisbane is so lovely and warm this time of the year. I will have to come home to thaw- See you Sunday Love Dad”

1982- I'm the one in the front row with blonde hair in pigtails and red ribbons.

1982- I’m the one in the front row with blonde hair in pigtails and red ribbons.

Nine years later, I would be on a plane to Frankfurt, and the beginning of my three month high school exchange in Essen, Germany. I often wonder if these postcards made an imprint in my mind, and how many of the places that he travelled I have also been to. How many postcards are there left? Does my sister have any? Did he write a separate postcard for mum as well? Should I make an effort to find them at mum’s? Is there any point? Always so many questions.

On December 29th it will be the third anniversary dad’s death. He may no longer be physically here, but there are always traces of his love. He is not forgotten xx

The Lego BrickMan

Legomania has hit Brisbane thanks to the Lego BrickMan exhibition. Ryan McNaught (one of only 12 certified Lego Professionals in the world) has put together an exhibition of sixty works, using over five million lego bricks! It’s in a word amazing.

Good for kids young and old.

The kids loved all the exhibits but got a kick out of making their own and having it displayed at the end.  Most kids were also busy counting the Santas, to enter a competition to win a prize.There was also a lego shop at the exit and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the prices were the same as the major retail outlets.

Personally, I enjoyed examining the creations firstly to gain an overall appreciation of their size, but then a second and third time to examine the placement and expressions and activities of the mini figures.

🙂

Go see it, then get on the floor with your kids and play lego.

 

P.S. Who said you shouldn’t leave the corporate world to play?

 

 

To find out more about the Lego Brickman click visit his page here. To book tickets, click here.

Berrinba Wetlands- Logan

Travel: Berrinba Wetlands

Berrinba Wetlands- Logan

Say the word Logan, and it’s not usually associated with “tourism”. On my quest to keep discovering the greater south-east I went exploring the Berrinba Wetlands. The wetlands are man-made as the result of sand and mining operations after WW2, and I think the locals and the council should be commended for their efforts in conservation and the creation of new habitats.

So what’s different about these wetlands in Browns Plains?

Berrinba Wetlands- Logan

  • The number one difference which makes it worth a visit is the paved paths that surround it- there are eight kilometres of paths! You can walk or cycle or jog- we cycled.

 

Berrinba Wetlands- Logan

Great features of the wetlands:

  • Quiet
  • Easy to access
  • Ample parking
  • 6 electric bbqs
  • Plenty of space for picnics
  • Saturdays you can join in the fun of a free family 5km park run at 7am.
  • 8km of walking paths
  • Wheelchair accessible toilets
  • FLAT WALKWAYS
  • Abundance of lotus flowers- I only wish that I had a long lens with me rather than my multi purpose lens.

Berrinba Wetlands- Logan

Wildlife in the wetlands

  • Pelicans and Herons which we saw
  • We didn’t see Koalas, Frogs, Wallaby, White Bellied Sea Eagle, pygmy goose, gliders and the Wallum Frog and possums

Berrinba Wetlands- Logan

Impressions:

  • Interpretative centre needs an upgrade as there are only a few posters left in what was once obviously a high-tech centre. I contacted Logan City Council to speak to someone in Tourism or in maintenance to see if there was a scheduled upgrade for the wetlands, however, despite speaking to a couple of representatives no one with the correct information could be pinpointed.

My recommendation:

  • Go early before it heats up!
  • To see more active wildlife, visit at dawn.

Berrinba Wetlands- Logan

For further information visit www.visitlogan.com.au

How to get there:

Fraser Island

Travel: Fraser Island by Angus

Today I’m really proud to introduce you to a very special debut guest blogger: Angus Ellerman.  Angus just finished year three and is nine years old. He recently travelled to Fraser Island with his dad Anthony and took lots of photos and made a video about his trip.

Fraser Island by Angus Ellerman

All packed and ready to go

A couple of weeks ago, Daddy and I went to Fraser Island. We left at 4:50am in the Subaru Brumby. Dad had already packed the previous night. We set off for our trip. We drove for a while until we got to where we could drive along the beach.

Rainbow Beach Coloured Sands

We drove along the beach, which was the first time I have ever driven along a beach. It was fun. I wasn’t used to looking out the window and seeing the sea beside us in the car. I usually stand still in front of the water. We saw the coloured rocks that looked amazing. They were red, orange, brown and yellow. We went into a bush track and eventually got to Rainbow Beach. At Rainbow Beach we had some breakfast; huge plates of fried egg and bacon and orange juice. I was pretty hungry by then.

After breakfast we drove up to the point, where we got onto the car ferry. The car ferry was green. We hopped out of the car onto the sand to have a quick stretch of our legs before the ferry arrived. The ferry trip was not very long. When we got to Fraser Island, we drove along the beach to get to the inland track , following some tour buses. The tour buses went past the inland track and kept going along the beach. We decided to go the inland track.

Inland track Fraser Island

We stopped at some lakes – Eurong Lake. We had a quick splash in the water and then we started driving again, off to central station.

Eurong Lake- Angus Ellerman blog

We would be camping at central station. After we had set up camp, we drove to get to Lake Mackenzie. It was an amazing time at Lake Mackenzie.

Selfie with dad- Angus Ellerman blog-66

 

The lake was refreshing and the water was so clear and blue. We were lucky at the time we arrived because it wasn’t very crowded at all. There were only three other people there! We spent about two hours swimming and then we headed back to the camp site.

Fraser Island

Before we started driving we had a few crackers- which were chilly flavoured. I didn’t like them one bit! We headed off back to Central Station. For dinner we had steak, packet pasta and cooked tomatoes. Before we went to beat, the marsh flies and mosquitoes started buzzing around. We were quick to get in the tent by 6pm.

We slept for a few hours when a storm woke us up! There was lots of lightning and thunder and I found it hard to go back to sleep. There was a lot of heavy rain and dad had to check that we weren’t getting wet. But the next morning, our tarp had completely collapsed! It was bent in the middle! We spent numerous hours in the morning trying to fix it! Eventually we had rip off the metal on the end, to roll it up.

Eli Creek Fraser Island

We headed off to see some things. But first a stop at Lake Mackenzie!  We spent less time this time as we needed to head off soon. When we went off, our first stop was Eurong beach. We had some lunch which was some meat pies. Next we went to Eli Creek, which wasn’t far. I got my boogie board out and kicked along the creek. It was pretty fun as it wasn’t too shallow until it got to the end, when it trailed out to the sea.

ship wreck- Angus Ellerman blog

Then we went to see the ship wreck. It wasn’t in one piece. It was in three. We had a look around it and then we decided we needed to go. We drove along the beach to get to the ferry area. There was a big line and we got out for about ten minutes before the ferry arrived to pick us up. When we got on the other side, we decided to get back home via the highway instead of the beach. Dad had to pump up the tyres as we let the air out, to drive on the beach.

Selfie with dad- Angus Ellerman blog-79

When we got home it was about six o’clock. We had pizza for dinner with Hamish and Natasha. It was great fun weekend and a cool adventure to have!

Angus Ellerman

Travel: Extra Baggage: Flying Internationally with Children

Extra Baggage: Flying Internationally with Children

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The first time I flew internationally with my children they were 14 months old and we were relocating from New York to Sydney for my husband’s new job. Since that first trip six years ago, we have flown back to the United States once a year to visit my parents so I’ve become pretty well-seasoned at this traveling with kids thing. It is not to be undertaken by the faint of heart but with some preparation and a sense of humour, traveling the world with your children can actually be very rewarding and worth the effort. Our first trip was the toughest as my son and daughter were at the absolute worst age to fly a child halfway around the globe. Take it from me – toddlers should avoid long-haul flights if at all possible. My son had taken his first steps one day before we flew and all he wanted to do was walk, especially when the “fasten seatbelt” sign was on. Poor kid. We did make it through that incredibly long first international trip and lived to tell the tale.

In the cockpit

Here are my top hints for those of you willing to brave the friendly skies with kids in tow.

  1. Get some sleep! For the week before your trip, be sure that the kids (and their parents) get plenty of sleep. Being well-rested at the start of the journey will help everyone immensely.
  2. Leave early but not too early. There is nothing worse than sprinting through an airport dragging your children behind you to make a flight. There is also nothing worse than having two hours to kill with two wired kids bouncing off the airport walls. Allow yourself enough time to check in with children, use the bathroom, buy water and take a walk to burn off energy. For us, this means arriving at the airport 2 hours before the first flight leaves. Any less and you could run into snags with check-in and security lines. Any more and you could wind up with too much time on your hands before boarding the plane. It is usually not possible to check-in online when travelling internationally with children.
  3. Don’t make layovers too short or too long. See number 2 for why. I suggest a 2-hour layover if possible.
  4. Some airlines will need to take your pram (aka stroller) when you check-in so that they can check it through to your final destination. Check with your airline before you travel about when they will need to take your precious pram and if necessary, arrange for the airline to loan you a pram to get you (and your child, snacks, diapers…..) to the gate.
  5. Pack a few snacks. I like salty and dry things like Saladas, Anzac bikkies and muesli bars. These are all good for upset tummies, both preventing and treating them. They also require lots of chewing which can prevent ears from getting blocked on take-off and landing. If you have an infant with you be sure to feed her during take-off and landing for the same reason.
  6. Pay attention to the liquids in your carry-on baggage. Do not pack more than the required amount of anything in your carry-on or you will be stopped at the security line and possibly have your bag and/or person searched.
  7. Order the kids meals before you travel. They are much more appealing to little ones and they also get served first during mealtime. If I could order the kids’ meal for myself I would but they won’t let me.
  8. For crying out loud (and to avoid crying out loud) let them watch too much television! Make use of those TV screens on the seats in front of you. Qantas has a huge array of popular kids’ TV shows and movies. I also pack a fully-charged iPad and headphones for each child for the flights that do not have on-board screens. The airplane headphones can be too big for most children under 6 or 7. I do not limit screen time AT ALL on long-haul flights.
  9. Do not be afraid to hit the call button for a flight attendant. They are there to help you. They can bring you ginger ale for a little one’s tummy ache, a snack if the meal doesn’t suit one of your kids, an activity pack (which is always a hit with my two)or any number of other items you might need during the flight. I actually had one flight attendant get my son to stop crying on a flight once. He leaned down and looked Edward right in the eye and said quietly, “No crying. Captain’s orders.” Edward stopped crying at once. I would have married this man on the spot if my husband hadn’t been there.
  10. Toddlers are the WORST candidates for international travel. Traveling with someone between one and three years old will not be a joyride but with lots of patience and bribes you can make it work. Bring a surprise gift wrapped up to give your toddler when the flight has taken off (after you’ve had him chew some biscuits during take-off to avoid the earth-shattering scream that his ears hurt). Let him walk as much as he wants when the seatbelt sign is not on. Bring his favourite lovey for falling asleep but do not leave it on the plane when you leave! Fly at night if possible so sleeping will be easier. Remember to breathe deeply and smile often at your fellow passengers
  11. Jet-lagged kids are like monkeys on speed.   When you reach your destination, be prepared for hyper-activity, sleepiness, melt-downs and hunger. Take it as it comes for the first days. Let them sleep when they want and be awake when they want. There really is no point in trying to force their little bodies into the new time zone right away because it won’t work and will only make all of you even more cranky. When we arrive at my parents’ house after about 24 hours of travel, we have a slumber party! My Mom makes us all a sandwich while we shower. Then we have our snack and go get in bed and wait to see what happens. Sometimes we all fall asleep and sometimes we are up for several hours. If we can’t sleep we watch our iPads until we do. Jet-lag usually only lasts a couple of days and the easier you are with yourself and your little ones, the more quickly you will all adjust to the new time zone.

I hope this list will provide some insight into travelling internationally with your children. I could list many more suggestions but the main thing to remember is to be patient with your children and yourself. If you can remember that and your passports, I’m sure you will have a blast.

Amy Compton

Amy Compton is an American actress turned Aussie soccer mom.  After 10 years of performing in New York and touring the U.S, she met a really cute guy with a funny accent.  She now resides in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, two children and a blue-tongued lizard who lives under the veranda.