A Travellerspoint blog

Hamilton Island

Honeymoon style!

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Hamilton Island, by Michelle
I had it all planned. I would explain that we were on our 1st wedding anniversary and hope that we would be upgraded. Much to our surprise I didn’t even need to open my mouth! When we arrived at Hamilton Island after a beautiful crossing, we were treated like royalty at the Reef View Hotel! We were informed that we had been upgraded to Reef View room, no begging necessary, and we tried not to look too excited as this luxury would have been outside of the budget by miles! (normally £230 a night!) The view, as you can imagine, was spectacular. Great place for a honeymoon, Lou, you chose well when you picked the Whitsundays.
The weather wasn’t as perfect as we had hoped so we went to explore the island. We played squash (where I managed to thrash SC, well, I won one game!), went to the gym (to make us feel a little less guilty about our gorging) and randomly, went to a shooting range where Simon was able to use a gun from the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry film. (A ‘357 magnum revolver’ and I quote, ‘one of the most powerful hand guns in the world, it can even bring down a buffalo’) A very macho moment indeed!
The island really is very special as it’s privately owned so everything you buy there is simply charged to your room; you just show your key. A new concept to us but one you really could get used to. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for us, we didn’t have the time and moved on after one night. A glimpse into paradise was fantastic and hopefully someday we’ll return.


Posted by cooneys 01:07 Archived in Australia Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Airlie Beach

Gateway to the Whitsundays

sunny 24 °C
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The Virgin Blue flight took us up the Queensland coast and we could see miles upon miles of beaches enroute to Proserpine airport, the gateway to the Whitsundays. Proserpine airport does things a bit differently – most of the waiting seats are outside beside the runway. We asked where baggage collection was and were told to go out to the car park and you collect it there. The cart that collects the cases from the plane drives from the runway into the car park alongside the terminal building and everyone just grabs their cases of it – much better than watching the interminable merry go round. The other thing we noticed was the heat – about 26c and sunny. It felt like the 2nd half of our Oz trip, was going to have a more tropical flavour.
When we arrived at our apartments at Airlie Beach the spa suite room we booked was lovely, including the large Jacuzzi (which was great with a nice bottle of sauv blanc).
Airlie Beach is quite a small town which is geared for booking excursions to the Whitsundays. It is also a lively town in the evenings and there are a couple of large youth hostel complexes, the main one being Magnums. This has a huge beer garden and nightclub which you pass when you’re heading from the beer garden. I noticed that the stage in the club has a pole in the middle of it – I wonder what that could be for?
The next day we were collected early and headed for our Whitsundays cruise – but where had the sun gone? It was pretty cloudy and the forecast was that a front was passing over the next 2 days which would mean dodgier weather – we’ve been spoilt so far so we can’t really complain, but I’m sure we will. On boat trips we sometimes like to try and guess the nationalities of other travellers. Its normally fairly easy – for example, Germans are usually quite strangely dressed while Italians are the opposite. Young Italian men tend to walk around like proud posing peacocks. Americans are normally excluded as you usually hear them before you have an opportunity to guess. All of these were visible on our boat – there was also one curveball. There was a bloke in a Celtic tracksuit top – however he didn’t have that general haggard Glasgow look - of a life of disappointment, lack of sunshine and borderline alcoholism. He looked bronzed, slim and coiffured. I then noticed he had shaved his legs – you could see the signs of slight stubble so you knew he actually shaved them, Michelle even remarked “I wish I had legs like him”. I then noticed a tour de France baseball cap – that was the picture completed; he was an Italian competitive cyclist. I could never take part in a sport that requires you to shave your legs, that and my dodgy knee.
On our way to Whitehaven beach there was a guy with a huge telescopic camera who spent 20 minutes taking hundreds of photos of a nondescript hill on one island – 20 minutes! WTF – you would have thought he was doing a playboy photo shoot or something, it was a bloody hill. It’s funny that even though we were sailing in the idyllic Whitsundays, I still get frustrated by a plonker.
I had an image of sailing the Whitsundays which was a boat effortlessly gliding across a turquoise, perfectly calm sea. The reality was different, yes the sea was turquoise but it wasn’t calm, in fact at times it reminded me of an Irish Sea crossing. Michelle was glad she had taken a travel tablet before we set sail.
We then arrived at Whitehaven and the sun started to appear! Whitehaven beach was spectacular – it’s always listed as one of the top 10 beaches in the world, indeed we were informed that its silica (pure sand) content was the highest in the world at 99.7%.
It also has moisturising properties and after rubbing it on your fingertips they did feel noticeably softer (and there was me slagging off the cyclist for being a big girl). When the sand was damp it felt like a paste – really unusual. We then sailed to a bay to view the multi coloured coral and fish. We were informed that in sunshine Coral produces an oil to protect it from the sun and scientists have recently discovered that this is the most effective sun block in existence. They are now trying to see if it can be mass produced, in an environmentally sensitive way, so it can be used as sun tan lotion. After the coral bay we then sailed back to Airlie in evening sunshine.
That night we headed to a Mexican restaurant – where we had terrific fajitas and margaritas though I think I might regret the side of suicide sauce.
That’s me signing off again – its Tuesday morning and I’ve typed this on my balcony with white cockatoos sitting in the tree opposite – you don’t get that in South Belfast (not East Belfast Lynne!).
Each entry we type in word on my notebook and when we manage to get internet access somewhere I just copy and paste it on to the web page. For us it’s been a fun and effective way to keep in touch because of the 10 hour time difference and we’ve enjoyed being able to post a selection of photos too (it’s only a very small selection as we’ve taken about 400 in total!)
We are heading to luxurious Hamilton Island for a one night stay – the weather is looking a bit changeable, though sunny at the moment, but at least on Hamilton Island there’s loads to do! Talk soon!

Bay View Spa suite that has a jacuzzi looking out over the turquoise Coral Sea

Posted by cooneys 01:04 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)


The Home of Castlemaine XXXX

sunny 22 °C
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I’m typing this in Brisbane’s Domestic Airport terminal on Sunday morning. We are about to fly to the Whitsundays and we’re at the half way point of our Oz adventure – we’ve spent 9 nights in Oz and the next 9 will be spent in tropical north Queensland before heading on to Hong Kong.
We’ve spent the weekend in Brisbane and have been very impressed with what is the fastest growing city in Australia – it’s easy to see why. A winter’s day is 22c and sun, there are miles of beaches & vineyards nearby, and the city itself has great nightlife and shopping. People here really know how to party – it’s a bit like home, even on a cool winter’s night the women go out without coats and tend to get absolutely hammered – very different from Sydney.
Our hotel, the Inchcolm, was built about 100 years ago and has so much character including an old Victorian style double door lift. It also had a rooftop swimming pool which we had to ourselves when we arrived. There was a festival taking place in the city at the Royal Showgrounds which we went out which was Queensland’s answer to the Balmoral Show – Lynne, you would have been so proud of me. Like farmers back home, Queensland farmers love their 4X4 land rovers, but unlike home they all wear cowboy hats as beef cattle is the big farming activity there. The last few days has see such contrasts – hippies at Byron, Surfers at Paradise and now cowboys – it felt like we were in America’s Midwest. We saw baby lambs, llamas, snakes, chicks (the bird variety). There was also wine sampling which we enjoyed.
That evening we went out to a few bars and went to a smokehouse restaurant, the only one in Queensland which I discovered is actually managed by a Rangers fan from Scotland who gave me a free beer cos I supported the bears. The food was amazing.
Next day we headed on a river cruise to the Lone Pine Koala Park where we were able to cuddle a koala – they are even cuter than I thought – I wanted to bring one home but my ferocious little Suzi would probably tear it to shreds. At one stage we saw a koala move down the tree to another one, put its arm round its shoulder to cuddle it and they then both fell asleep – is there anything cuter in the world! The kangaroos were cool as well, we were able to walk in their enclosure and stroke them – they were so timid. The Tasmanian devil looks cute until it opens its mouth – teeth like a shark, absolutely crazy. The park had photos of famous people who had been there cuddling a koala – ranging from Eric Clapton, Goth rocker Marilyn Manson to Pope John Paul II – that certainly covers the entire spectrum.
So we’re now off to the white sand beaches of the Whitsundays so talk soon!


Posted by cooneys 18:02 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)


Oz's answer to Cancun

sunny 22 °C
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Surfers Paradise
Morning! Michelle here!
We arrived in Surfers yesterday afternoon and headed straight to the beach. It goes on for as long as you can see and the backdrop of sky scrapers really does make it an unusual setting. Simon was keen to surf here. I was keen to dip my toes in the cold water and no more. However, we found a former world surfing champion, called ‘Cheyne’, typically, so we booked in for a lesson.
The guy teaching us was very patient and on the sand I was magnificent on my board; I could stand up, twist and even somersault without a problem! However, in the water it was a different story. The waves looked quite small from the shore and we were assured that they were perfect for beginners, but once you were out there it really was a workout. I managed to catch a few waves lying on my tummy, but only really with the coach’s help. Simon was really good! His claims of stardom after his surf lesson at Niall’s stag in Donegal were taken with a pinch of salt, but I have to admit that he actually took to it quite well. After 2 hours and several mouthfuls of salt water we got out feeling refreshed and I was glad that I tried it.
I’m glad we stopped in Surfers Paradise to take in the stereotypical Aussie surfing experience, but Byron Bay has been my favourite beach so far. Next stop Brisbane to cuddle a Koala!


Posted by cooneys 00:49 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Harbour Bridge crossing & Manly Beach

all seasons in one day 17 °C
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G’day mates!
It certainly had turned stormy overnight – woke up to the news that there had been an unexpected level 2 tropical storm during the night with winds of 130 km/hr! The weather forecasters hadn’t predicted it at all – shows they are also as useless as Frank Mitchell.
After a cloudy, windy start the weather improved today and it ended up quite sunny. We went for a walk through the Botanical Gardens, saw the Opera House and walked over the Harbour Bridge. While crossing we could see people hundreds of feet above our head doing the bridge climb – from ground level they were so high up they looked like ants. A bit too scary for me! We then caught a cab to Manly Beach which was really chilled out. I think the Aussies saying about Manly is “Only seven miles from Sydney, but a million miles from worry”. That sums it up pretty well.
Later we took a rather choppy ferry back into Sydney and it was nice sailing into Sydney harbour past the Opera House and bridge.
After a quick stop in a pub, we went for a cocktail at the Blu Horizon bar situated on the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel. What a view!! We had £13 cocktails and looked down onto the Bridge and Opera House as day turned into night and watched all the lanes of commuters drive over the bridge. It was pretty special. We then hit a steak house and then went for a drink in Kings Cross area which is very seedy to be honest and in total contrast to the Shangri La – we saw hookers, strippers, cops searching people for drugs, kebab shops – it’s the main backpacker area and was like the worst parts of Soho. We had heard people rave about the nightlife there – but we thought it was a dive.
We now head briefly to Byron Bay and then Surfers before spending the weekend in Brisbane so it may be a few days till the next update.
What I’ve discovered in Sydney
1.No-one drinks Fosters
2.Everyone is Chinese (perhaps a slight exaggeration but at least 1 in 4 and most tourists)
3.Aussie barmen are the friendliest and most chatty in the world
4.Everyone does say “mate”
5.While everyone is so proud of their British roots (e.g. street nearby called Castlereagh street) their approach to how they report the news and show sports etc is much more American

Posted by cooneys 00:46 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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