21 May 2009

Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane

Yesterday I went out for dinner with some friends of mine. Several people told me The Story Bridge Hotel would be a great venue to spend a night out, whether you want to go for a drink at its Shelter Bar or for something to eat at the Deery's Restaurant. It really has something to offer for everyone, you can also sit by a cole heated oven and enjoy a laid-back dinner with some beers at The Outback Bar & Grill of the hotel.

The Hotel is situated under The Story Bridge and is actually much older than the bridge. It opened its doors in 1886 and received today's name in 1940 at the actual opening of The Story Bridge.

We had some beautiful steaks and oysters. They have a huge variety of domestic and imported wine and the waiters really know how to chose the right wine for you according to your meal and taste.

After dinner we went over to the Shelter Bar for a couple of drinks and it is quite fascinating to be sitting right next to these huge pillars inside the bar which are holding up the bridge. All of us had a great time out. It is always fun when you are with the right people, but it does add when you are in really special place.

19 May 2009

Mackay - the border between tropical coastline and outback

Did you know that the platypus is about the weirdest animal there is? Wikipedia describes it as „egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal“. In the Eungella National Park close to Mackay, where I was staying with my friend, you can see a platypus in the wild. A drive from Mackay to Eugnella takes approximately 1 hour. You would be surprised how much you can experience in and around Mackay. There are so many national parks, beautiful beaches and little towns just around the corner. It is 1.5 hours from Airlie Beach and about the same from the Outback. Mackay is the border city between the tropical Whitsunday Coast and the Outback so to say. A great place to start your journey, relax at the beaches, explore the forests or have a nice day in the Botanical Garden, a stroll along the river and a night out at the Marina.

Let's get back to the platypus though, I decided to see this animal is reason enough to leave early in he morning to get to Eugnella on time to witness a platypus having breaky. They come out in the morning between 5:00-8:00 am and in the afternoon past 4:00pm. I had to catch the early one, as I did not want to drive back in the dark. You guys, this was my first day driving on the left side! Crazy Australians! I did not want to push it by driving in the dark. To see a platypus you have to be patient and quiet, I felt really lucky when I finally got to see one and it came right underneath where I was standing! What a funny animal: It shoots right up to the surface like a cork and when going down again does a duckdive and keeps wiggling his head to move downwards.

But there was much more to see at the Eugnella National Park. I went for a couple of walks in this largest continuous strech of rainforest in Australia. People always say this country is so young. Its society maybe is, but the country, the land is one of the most ancient I have ever seen.
When having a hot chocolate at the Hideout Cafe in Eugnella I was told not to miss out on the Finch Hatton Gorge. The lady was right! First you pass sugar cane fields to get there, then you drive through a couple of rivers – seriously, the road is simply crossing a river, not going over it on a bridge, but crossing it! - walk through the rainforest and then you arrive at the gorge. I ended up taking a swim, a freezing cold one it was, somewhere more secluded.

All freshened up I drove back to Mackay - On the left side! - and we did take a walk on the beach and had some delicious steak and prawns at the Marina before I took my flight back to Brisbane. I wish I could have stayed longer, there is so much more to see in Mackay, the border of the tropical coast and the Outback.

18 May 2009

Whitehaven Beach & Diving a Reef

When Tourism Queensland had to cancel our trip to Whitehaven Beach, all the candidates including me had a great time on Daydream Island Resort & Spa instead. Still I always felt that I missed out on something. I guess, this is one of the main reasons why I wanted to return to the Whitsunday Islands.

There are so many trips to chose from, so many charters offer to bring you to Whitehaven Beach, let you walk on the squeaky sand and in the end it is just a beach, a really white one, but just a beach. That is what my friend Nick told me, he said it really matters where they let you ashore so you really experience, not just the world's purest silica sand, but also one of the world's most beautiful beaches ever. You have to get a bird's eye view on the swirling sands, walk along the creek and the sand banks. We found a tour that offered all in one day, plus snorkelling and/ or diving with maximum 36 persons on the boat! On top of that we got a really good deal!

Mantaray Charters was our choice and it was a good one. Probably my most memorable trip of my holidays in Queensland! We had a really nice boat, where you could either sit at tables in the shaded area, at the sun-deck or lie down at the front of the boat. We arrived at Tongue Bay to walk up to the Hill Inlet Lookout, which simply laid Whitehaven Beach and its stunning salt-water creek to our feet. Then we had two hours to spend on this 99,7% silica sand beach and yes it is true: the sand squeaks underneath your feet! We had plenty of time to walk the white and blue swirls, go for a swim and simply just lie on the beach.

Upon return to the boat a lunch buffet was waiting for us. Then we drove over to Hook Island to go snorkelling and/ or diving at Luncheon Bay. The water was very calm there, hardly any current I guess that is why we could see all the colors of the corals and different fish so clearly. Finally I was able to dive and go to the bottom of the sea. It was beautiful! First I was a little uneasy, because I haven't been diving for a while, but as soon as you see the corals and the fish, this completely different world, it is just so fascinating. I got all calm and forgot about everything else. Our diving instructor did a great job and gave us a reef tour of the best places to see :-)

Thank you to the hosts and crew of the Mantaray! It was just literally out of this world!
For more information on our trip visit: www.mantaraycharters.com

17 May 2009

Returning to the Whitsunday Islands

Having stayed with my good old friend Nick (we grew up on the same street in Germany, but he is now working in Queensland) in Mackay for one night, we visited Cape Hillsborough on our way to Shute Harbor early in the morning. In this case early means really early, in numbers 4:50am! As you might know Wallabies are nocturnal animals, they are getting their daily breakfast sponsored by the national park rangers at 6:00am there. So you can hang out with them and some kangaroos, they are very friendly and this is probably your best chance to get close to a wild wallabie or kangaroo.

On the luxurious 'Sungoddess' Nick and I enjoyed our morning tea, some champagne and a great service while transferring to Hayman Island. In Germany we say: 'Life is not a wishconcert', which means you cannot get a whole orchestra to play what you want in life. But on Hayman Island you can! No wonder award-winning Hayman is one of the top resort destinations and a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. In 2008 Luxury Travel appointed Hayman to the Top 3 'A Hotel or Resort You Dream of Visiting'! We got spoiled recklessly: Personal pick-up from the marina and a spacious room with pool access. The pool stretches along the pool wing of the hotel and gives every room a beautiful view onto the pool and the beach! There is so much to see either for a one-day trip like we did or for a longer stay. I wish we could have stayed longer to see all the beaches and coves surrounded by the warm waters of the Coral Sea. To explore the island there are various walks and from different lookouts you can enjoy the most magnificent vistas over the Whitsundays. We went for a hike, took a swim in the pool, which holds as much water as seven Olympic-sized ones and had some delicious seafood. Hayman has some of the best chefs in the world! What a treat! Thank you Hayman Islands!
For more information check out:

As we had a boat trip booked leaving from Airlie Beach in the morning, we stayed at the Coral Sea Resort. The hotel is located beside the harbor and has a breath-taking view over the sea. For an unforgettable experience have a dinner at the hotel's restaurant by sunset! Or enjoy a sunrise while lying in your hammock on the balcony!
For more information check out:

We had great night out at KC's with live music! Probably should have gone to bed earlier :-)