Noosa Heads – Wait, where am I?

When planning our Australian honeymoon, we knew that Sydney was a must, and so was the Great Barrier Reef, after that, we had no plan.  After looking at our map of Starwoods in the area, we settled on Noosa Heads because of a recently revamped Sheraton.  Doing a little research, we learned that Noosa was their version of the Hamptons, with surfing, beautiful beaches, a national park, and close to Fraser Island.  Fraser Island?  We’ll get to that in a later post.

We arrived late in the evening at Noosa, and checked in.  We were upgraded to a duplex, pool facing suite, with a downstairs living room, patio, and powder room, and upstairs with a master bedroom, balcony, and huge bathroom.  Like a bathroom you only dream about when watching HGTV.  To put it bluntly, the hotel was stunning.  The next morning, we were excited to start exploring.

The concierge mentioned there was a beautiful hike in the National Park, in walking distance from the hotel.  In fact, everything was in walking distance of the hotel.  The main street was adorable, littered with boutique shops, al fresco style restaurants, and on the other side, a gorgeous beach with big waves.  With our sneakers on, we headed toward the hike.  The hike was up a large hill, half trail, half wooden stairs, overlooking the beach, beautiful mountains, and various swimming holes.  The views were incredible, and the hike was fairly easy.  Upon reaching the top, the trail continued down the other side of the hill into another stretch of beautiful beaches but we chose to head back due to a hunger and an overwhelming need to go swimming.  It was here that we discovered our favorite lunch spot, Zachary’s.  Their arugula, pear, and parm salad dressed in a thick balsamic covered in grilled chicken was large enough for two.  We became regulars overnight.  One Monday during lunch, I watched the Giants get their first win of the season against the Minnesota Vikings while eating lunch.  The time difference and sports never lost it’s initial luster for us.

After lunch we decided to rent paddle boards.  This was a unique experience.  After standing up and falling a few times, I paddled out a bit further to discover I was surrounded by hundreds of light blue jelly fish.  I didn’t even bother standing up again, despite a few Australians trying to coax me up and shouting words of encouragement.  They weren’t close enough to see the terror of jellies waiting for me if I fell. I think it’s time for a new paddle boarding experience though, no?

It was back to the beach for some relaxing, and it is a beautiful beach.  In fact, there are multiple beaches in Noosa Heads.  Along the Noosa River and by the Noosa Spit Recreation Reserve, there are beautiful beaches, heavy winds perfect for kite boarding, and a view that will blow your mind.  We explored all sections of Noosa, and spent many an afternoon lounging by and walking along the reserve, watching the people, the puppies, and the kite boarders.

Noosa has a lot to offer, there was no want for nightlife or restaurants, and in nearby Noosaville, there were also wonderful restaurants and bars to enjoy.  We loved iS Tapas Bar in Noosaville (unfortunately no website to link to).  The sangria was delicious and the food was just as tasty.  Everything was either in walking distance or a short drive away, and on week three, I was a pro behind the wheel.

Noosa was a great relaxing stretch of time, and for anyone heading to Australia, I would highly recommend it, especially the proximity to Fraser Island, a really cool and fun day trip, coming up on the blog next week.

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Hanging out by the Noosa Spit
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Looking out at the beach from the entry to the National Park
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Toward the start of our hike, repping my BU Terriers
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Admiring the view
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Pups travel in style, Noosa Spit edition

The Great Barrier Reef – By Sea

As previously mentioned, we took the Great Barrier Reef by storm from the air, but had yet to really “dive in”, pun intended.  The time had finally come for us to truly explore its depths from below.  Steve found a tour that accommodated both snorkelers and divers (I’m just a lowly snorkeler), so after booking a trip with Poseidon, we were off to see the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs.

The snorkel/dive adventure was an all day affair.  The reefs were approximately 2 hours away, so after boarding early in the morning, chowing down on some breakfast aboard the ship, we sat on the deck and watched the shore fade away.  Steve was brimming with excitement.  Thanks to one of our great friends, she provided him with a dive guide for his adventure.  There were about 150 snorkelers on board (I’m a terrible estimator, this number very well could have been only 50, lol) with only about 10-12 divers.  The divers were taken below to go through instructions, listing out the dive sites, review of equipment, and getting paired up with buddies.  Steve was paired with a lovely man from Norway, Lars, who was his buddy for the three dives planned for that day.

While the divers were getting prepared below, the snorkelers up top were getting their own lessons, masks, and equipment.  Snorkelers were supposed to have buddies but I was the odd man out (I referred to this day as the saddest day of our honeymoon, when asked who didn’t have a buddy I was the only one who raised my hand, womp womp).  However, this was a fabulous development.  I’m very comfortable in the water, but it didn’t seem like anyone else aboard this ship was. Picture 140 people jumping into the ocean with noodles and other accouterments to keep them afloat, I did not have time for that.

The first dive site was a beautiful reef, I saw a nurse shark casually sitting along the bottom, and many other beautiful coral fish.  I love spotting the Sargeant Majors as well as the colorful Parrot Fish, especially the blue ones with the pink lips.  We did not unfortunately see the famous Great Barrier Reef Wrasse that you can swim up to and pose with, but that was fine with us.  Steve was on his first dive since his certification and getting to know his partner.  The first dive site was fairly shallow, only about 30 feet.  Remarkably, I did not happen to see any of the divers during my first snorkel, but that changed during the second dive.

Upon returning the boat, we ate lunch and a few of the marine biologists on staff told us about significant initiatives to save the coral reefs, and that usually on these tours they do a check of each dive site to determine if there has been significant damage.  Additionally, during the third dive, they promised to lead a guided tour of the reef and point out specific animals.  During the meal, they also quizzed the boat on the types of coral they saw, and played fun games for the younger snorkelers.  The staff on the boat really hustled to ensure this full day experience was one of both fun and learning, especially about protecting such an incredibly beautiful natural reef system.

Dive site #2 was coming up.  Free of nurse sharks, I got to see many of the divers during our snorkel.  So after following them for a bit to determine if they were seeing anything cool, I went off on my own.  My husband saw a moray eel, but since snorkelers were too far up, this cool yet scary (at least I think so), fish eluded me.  After listening to the marine biologists talk at lunch, you could definitely tell parts of the reef that were suffering from coral bleaching, but overall the reef seemed fairly healthy.  One of the joys I have when snorkeling is spotting turtles, and I was hoping to see one on this dive, as I had not seen any on the first one.  I was on the hunt, but had come up short again.  The second dive site was hard for me to enjoy, as it felt smaller than the first, which meant everywhere I went I would be dodging poor swimmers with their floaty toys and less time looking for a fish.  As a result, I went in a wee bit early, but was looking forward to our final snorkel location.

The final dive site was what was called a drift dive.  We dropped the divers off at one area where the current would rip them around to our final destination.  After waving over the side of the boat at Steve, we headed to our final, guided snorkel, and it was a great one!  It was so much fun snorkeling with someone who truly knew what they were looking at.  She pointed out some beautiful fish and then finally, turtle sighting!!  There it was, a beautiful turtle in all its glory swimming along peacefully.  The entire group (probably 15 snorkelers) was filled with glee, and started to follow it.  No other fish in the sea mattered once a turtle had been spotted.  My day at the Great Barrier Reef had been made!  Especially after starting on such a low, lonely little note, I was thrilled!  Turtles are so beautiful and majestic in the water.  Despite our trip taking place in 2013, I don’t think GoPros had been invented yet (or at least were not nearly as big a deal), and we had no way to capture the beauty of our underwater trip, though we have the wonderful memories.

After returning to the boat and catching up with Steve, he loved the drift dive and I loved the turtle.  Bucket list item complete!   But don’t worry, our Great Barrier adventures were only beginning, as after Port Douglas we headed to Green Island for two nights, an island in the Great Barrier reef where turtles, rays, and reef sharks abound!

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Steve with his underwater dive guide!