Fraser Island – Is that a dingo?

When my husband said he booked us a day trip to Fraser Island I stared blankly at him and said “Okay, great!”  I had no idea what or where Fraser Island was (geography, not a strength), and since Steve was in charge of our Australian honeymoon, I went with it.  Before our trip, I learned that Fraser Island is the world largest sand island.  Located in Queensland, and a world’s heritage site, many tours leave for the island from Noosa Heads, which fit perfectly with our plans.

Fraser Island has a relatively large camping scene, and while you can take a personal car to the island the terrain is tough to navigate and is not recommended for novices or those unfamiliar with the land.  As a result, we decided to go with a tour group, which meant a very early morning for us. The tour started at 600am (good news, the pick-up location was just a short walk from the Sheraton), and we boarded our brightly colored Fraser Island Adventure Tours bus, eager but tired.

The drive from Noosa to Fraser Island is two and half hours long, fortunately, we stopped at Rainbow Beach (close to Fraser) for a bio break and to pick up the last members of our tour group.  The views from above of Rainbow Beach were sprawling and beautiful, however, the true beauty is from the ocean looking up. Though, drivers be warned, Rainbow Beach is known for eating and swallowing more cars than any other beach! More on that later.

After driving onto a barge and crossing a small stretch of water between Rainbow Park and Fraser Island, we had arrived.  On the East Coast of Fraser Island is 75 Mile Beach, it’s literally 75 miles long, hence the name.  And we drove all over it, spotting dingoes, turtles, and a large number of dead birds.  Our tour guide explained that these are migratory birds who fly for hundreds and hundreds of miles to get to Fraser Island and by the time they get here they have no more energy to continue. Truly a sad story.  Apart from the animals (varying in levels of alive-ness), 75 Mile Beach is known for the SS Maheno Shipwreck and the Champagne Pools.  In true Fraser fashion, that’s just a snippet of what’s available on this sand island.

fraser island
75 Mile Beach seemed endless on our trek

For a sand island, inland there are two things of note.  One is the redwood style forest.  Literally growing into sand are massive trees.  I thought I was back in the Redwood National Park and couldn’t believe that a rain forest so lush and so dense could grow on an island made of sand.  It was mind blowing.  Secondly, Fraser Island has over 100 freshwater lakes, including the often visited Lake McKenzie.  The water is so pure there that it is said to be fabulous for your skin.  I naturally made sure my whole face got drenched in its crystal clear waters.  Do I look younger?

Redwood style trees in the interior of Fraser Island
Not the best pic of the “redwoods”, I couldn’t find the one I wanted so this will have to do.
The beautiful Lake McKenzie
The beautiful Lake McKenzie

Driving through the interior of the island to get to these lakes and forest, you can tell why it’s not really safe for drivers who are unfamiliar with the terrain.  Between tough, narrow one lane unpaved roads, and quick moving sand, it was comforting to be in the hands of a professional.  Plus seeing a few abandoned cars certainly helped solidify our decision to go in a group.

Our journey didn’t stop at the lakes and forest, we also explored the Pinnacles and Eli Creek. The Pinnacles reminded me so much of Bryce Canyon, as the colorful reds and yellow sands rose above the dunes.  It was crazy to me that a small island could have so many uniquely different geographies and attractions.  It seemed like Fraser Island was a microcosm of Australia itself, placed into one beautiful beachy / foresty location.

fraser island 8Eli Creek is a small stream with a strong current, so you hop in on one end and get to float all the way back to the beginning.  We had a lot of fun on this lazy river and meeting people from fellow tours during our stop there.

Lean back and let the current take you away on Eli Creek
Lean back and let the current take you away on Eli Creek

After spending about 7 hours on Fraser Island, it was time to head back.  The tides were in our favor as our tour operator decided why take roads, when you can drive on Rainbow Beach to get home???  He mentioned how the people drive on this beach all the time, but most don’t pay attention to the tides and that so many cars get abandoned or need to be towed off the beach at a later date.  He even showed us a postcards to that affect that showed all the abandoned cars in a single year.  You could probably fill a few calendars with abandoned car photos.  Despite that funny little anecdote, Rainbow Beach is truly stunning.  We marveled at the beautiful colors captured in the cliffs of the beach, understanding where it got its name, and simultaneously hoped that our driver really was well versed in the tides.

fraser island 2
Apparently, dingo sightings these days are fairly rare on Fraser
fraser island 4
Our snazzy tour bus
fraser island 6
Maheno Shipwreck

Bucket list: Surfing Lessons

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to surf.  My mom and I watched the movie Gidget and I was hooked.  She could surf, she could hang with the incredibly handsome boys, and she just made everything look so easy (minus her approach to snagging her crush).  So at 28, I still hadn’t tried surfing, and that was about to change.

The last leg of our honeymoon had us staying in Noosa Heads.  We follow the Starwood Hotels, what can I say?  Noosa, known for being the Hamptons of Australia, is also known for some of the best surfing spots in the country, so we had to sign up.  As part of our surfing lessons, we spent some time on shore learning the proper stance, how to jump on the board, and just get our muscle memory going.  Our group consisted of a few girls from New Zealand, and a young boy who took lessons a few times a week.  After some time on land, it was time to test our skills in the ocean.

The waves were about 4-6 feet high, and were so hard to navigate.  Half the battle with learning to surf is just actually getting out far enough.  Once we made it out, the instructor helped us get on board, push off and would scream “STAND!” when the time was right.  Stand I did not.  My husband on the other hand, stood up on his first try and gave everyone the peace sign as he rode on by.  I’m competitive, and I was pissed.

So after riding the surf in on my belly, I gathered the board and battled the current again in order to catch a wave, shoot the curl, hang 10, etc.  Again, I didn’t stand.  And again, I headed back into the sea, battling the waves, and the exhaustion that comes with it.  With each time I got closer and closer to standing and staying up, but each time I failed.  After what seemed like hours, the lesson was done, and I had not stood on my board.  I was disappointed, but more completely sore and exhausted.  And so was my husband.

The result: cocktails in the hot tub at the hotel.

At the next opportunity, I fully intend on trying surfing again, and at least this time I will know it’s not nearly as easy as Sandra Dee and the green screen made it seem.  At least I already have my Moon Doggie. 😉

gidget
I mean look at these men! Who wouldn’t want to learn to surf if this was at the end of every lesson??

Green Island

As part of our Great Barrier Reef tour, my husband booked us a two night stay on Green Island, an Island in the Great Barrier Reef an hour ferry ride off the coast of Cairns, Australia.  Cairns is an interesting spot unto itself, with high end shops like Louis Vuitton next to what seemed to be run-down bodegas and apartments.  We hardly spent a few hours in Cairns but people really love it.  I got the sense it was for the college/post college hostel crowd, but again, that was at first blush, and first blush was all we got.

Green Island only has one hotel, the Green Island Resort, which has lush accommodations and a gourmet restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The island itself also had a beach shack for day trippers, as well as a few shops with the typical sunscreen, sarong, and tank top merchandise.  After boarding the ferry, with our lovely turtle green island sticker adhered to our luggage (it’s still there by the way), we were assured our luggage would make it to our room and were told where to check-in.  We arrived mid-day and the island was already hopping.

green island 5
Welcome sign and fish on the dock upon arrival

Upon checking in, we were in a Reef Suite Room, with a spread of chocolates and fruit awaiting us upon arrival.  To say that Steve and I mauled that chocolate is actually putting it delicately.  The flourless chocolate cake was to die for, and for anyone watching the scene unfold, it looked less like honeymooners and more like Lord of the Flies with us trying to ensure every last crumb was consumed upon pain of death.  The room was beautiful, with a king bed, private balcony, and a separate seating area, a true spot for newlyweds.  After taking a moment to compose ourselves, we switched into our swimsuits and prepared to explore the island.

green island 2
The reef and that view, incredible

Raised boardwalk paths lead you through thick rain forest around the island in just under an hour, as well as to beautiful beaches with fewer tourists.  And tourists, during the day, are plentiful.

Green island is a favorite spot for day trippers off the coast of Cairns, with many ferries arriving early in the morning, with the last ferry out around 5pm.  The island is beautiful, with day trippers seeming to be the biggest detriment to the reef.  The main beach on Green Island, patrolled by life guards, is incredibly close to the coral reef – you could walk to it, and in low tide many tourists stomped all over it.  However, there were nooks and crannies throughout the island where you could snorkel away from the tourist crowd and see multiple different kinds of rays, beautiful turtles in the morning and in the evening, and reef sharks.  The snorkeling there was beautiful, and we spent most of the time snorkeling and enjoying the natural resources around us.

green island 1
Post snorkel

When we weren’t in the water, we took a quick glass bottom boat tour around the reef and just relaxed in the sun.  Steve kayaked while I read some magazines, and eavesdropped on the life guards.  My favorite stolen moment was when a young woman asked a life guard if he could take her mother out on the surfboard to see the reef.  Her mother couldn’t swim but wanted to see the fish anyway.  He politely declined and after she walked away, he turned to his mate to say “WTF?” I laughed to myself and then went back to my magazine, thinking silly tourists.

green island 4
The beach emptying out as the day comes toward a close

When the tourists left, the island felt quiet, undisturbed, and completely at peace.  The resort set up nightly sunset cocktail events, evening hikes through the rainforest, and a fish feeding frenzy.  The first night we watched the fish feeding with all the other guests on the dock.  There were sharks, smaller fish, and a massive grouper.  My husband, ever the risk taker, decided the next night to watch with his snorkel on, under the dock.  I was none too pleased, but he promised to be safe.  Apparently watching this 80 pound grouper was a huge thrill, happy he didn’t turn into fish food himself, we changed for dinner.

I decided that this was the night I would try kangaroo meat.  After feeding the adorable kangaroos at the Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat, I was torn.  They were adorable animals!  But they’re like the deer of Australia, and people eat venison back home, it should be fine, no?  Well, the verdict?  Kangaroo is delicious, and that’s all I’ll say on the matter.

green island 6
Kangaroo salad

Our two nights on Green Island were wonderful, and were the perfect end to our great barrier reef extravaganza.  Our next stop, Noosa Heads and Fraser Island.

green island 7
Getting ready for the first bite
green island 3
Turtles may out number tourists on Green Island

The Wild West Part One

So I have something really embarrassing to admit.  If you read the About Me section you’ll note that I’d only been on an airplane once before the age of 18.  It gets worse. In the United States I hadn’t been outside the eastern timezone until after I graduated college.  I KNOW.  WHAT was I doing with the first 22 years of life??*

Needless to say, with that in mind, my boyfriend/fiance/now husband and I instituted a policy to help me see the good ole fashioned USofA.  The thought was (now is) each year we take one domestic and one international trip, that way I can see all the beauty this country has to offer without sacrificing a stamp on my passport in the process (I love my passport stamps).

After much thought, we planned out a 10 day wild west road trip, starting in swinging Las Vegas.

vegasI didn’t really know what to expect from Las Vegas, and honestly, I didn’t expect to like it.  The only thing I knew going in, apart from the obvious, was that I must choose wisely when picking a place to buffet.  I had no idea that buffet culture was such a thing!  After extensive research, I decided that the Wicked Spoon inside the Cosmopolitan would be the one.  I had read that it was the best buffet in town, and as a result, Caesars spent millions of dollars to create its own rival buffet.  (Note: next time I must check out Caesars.)  After eating fried chicken, waffles, fruit, ice cream, french toast, and pancakes for breakfast (yikes!), my husband and I slowly rolled each other out of the Cosmopolitan and onto the rest of the strip.  And we walked the heck out of that strip.  I’m fairly confident my Jawbone Activity Tracker tapped out at well over 30,000 steps.  Does that undo the breakfast ice cream?  Probably not, but it certainly made us feel better!

vegas 2My husband and I aren’t gamblers, so we saw a Cirque du Soleil show (he was not to be dragged to Britney, sad face) and checked out the brand spanking new Linq.  It had just opened a few days prior to our visit and we were thrilled to be some of the first on the holy roller!  It was so new that we had the entire compartment to ourselves.  We watched the beautiful Bellagio fountains from above and just took it all in.

After a night at the MGM Grand in Vegas (which I highly recommend), we hopped into our rental car (a fab little Prius), and it was time to check out the Hoover Dam, and then march onward into Utah and Arizona.  Granted, there was a pit stop in Lake Las Vegas – but we’ll gloss over that for now, review to come later.

Stay tuned for part two, as our foray into red rocks, cacti and bucket list items are just beginning!

*Answer: Exploring the eastern seaboard.

Hello world!

Hi world, it’s me!  One of many explorers.  I have seen only a fraction of your beauty and hope that when I go, my future grand kids will say how cool Grandma and Grandpa were.

With this blog I’m not going to pretend to provide you with tips and tricks you’d see on sites like The Points Guy (though follow-him, his insights are amazing), or provide you with the tools to track down the cheapest airfare and the best hotels.  My goal is to tell you about my travels, some food I’ve eaten along the way and the successful or not so successful attempts at recreating them at home.

I love to shop and I love dessert so undoubtedly shopping and dessert will be featured heavily wherever possible.

So sit back and relax, and come on this journey with me.