Atherton Tablelands

The Atherton Tablelands is a wide area that features many small towns, outdoor adventure, and picturesque natural surroundings. We had read a lot about the waterfalls in the area so we devoted the day to waterfall hunting. With a list and a map we made it to 6 out of the top 9 waterfalls in the area.

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Malanda Falls- This waterfall is on the smaller side, but it was an easy walk from the car park.

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Milla Milla Falls has been featured in several commercials including an Herbal Essence commercial. We could definitely see why. The rock forms a curved shape with the waterfall in the center. Around the fall is an array of ferns and other tropical foliage that make it a photographer’s dream.

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Zillie Falls has a lookout platform that is a short walk from the car park. However, you can only really see the top of the waterfall. If you are feeling more adventurous we suggest hiking down toward rock pools. It is a little tricky to navigate the rocks, but the view is worth it.

Ellinjaa Falls was very lovely. There is a sizable pool at the bottom that looked nice for swimming. Watch out for the roosters and bush turkeys in the picnic area. They want your lunch!

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Mungalli Falls has two sections. The first section is right near the car park. Take an approximately 10 minute walk down the hill and you can view the lower portion of the waterfall. Again a lovely scene among the tropical landscape.

Nandroya Falls was really spectacular. It can be a little tricky to find from the road as the signage is within a camping ground. Nevertheless, the 4-6 km hike (depending on what trail you take) is worth it. Along the hike there was another little waterfall called Silver Falls. The hike isn’t too strenuous and you are rewarded greatly with a really tall waterfall that made for gorgeous scenery.

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Atherton Tablelands was a really nice day trip from Cairns. There is a lot to see and explore in the area. We highly suggest renting a car and seeing where the wind take you.

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North Queensland, Australia

Cairns is a great spot to stop for several days on any east coast Australia trip. It has an international airport, and is a central point to a lot of Northern Queensland sites. Within a 3 hour driving radius there is Fitzroy Island, the Great Barrier Reef, Mossman Gorge, Atherton Tablelands, Palm Cove, and Cape Tribulation/ Daintree Rainforest. Cairns itself has a nice Esplanade, a Night Market, and several nice restaurants such as Salt House, Tandoori Oven, and Outback Jack’s Bar and Grill. If you are into the bar/ party scene there is Gilligan’s and Woolshed where there is generally a party every night of the week.

About 30 minutes from Cairns you can visit Fitzroy Island (to the east) as well as Kuranda (to the west) and Palm Cove (to the north). All are pretty touristy areas that cater to families. Fitzroy has some nice hiking as well as basic water sports.

Kuranda was known as artist/ hippie area, but now has several outdoor markets as well as a Butterfly Sanctuary and places to encounter wildlife. A short 10 minutes ride out of the central area allows you to see the lovely Barron Falls.

Palm Cove is a super cute boutique area that has a variety of accommodations (camping to luxury hotels) along a palm tree lined road that overlooks the beach. We enjoyed strolling along the main drag, grabbing a cup of coffee, and poking our head into the shops.

If you drive north 45-60 minutes you will arrive at Mossman Gorge. This area is very pretty. Sadly, we couldn’t swim in the gorge that day, but the shuttle bus still took you up to the hiking trails. The trees were unbelievable. Unlike the Redwoods, the trees here had huge buttress roots and vines that twisted and turned in every direction. We didn’t spot too much wildlife, however, there were many plants that were very unique looking.

In 60+ minutes (by boat) we arrived at the Great Barrier Reef. This was one of the highlights of our trip. We started our adventure with Reef Quest. We got on a big boat (with about 50 other people) and set out for the reef. The boat had several levels to enjoy the sea views. Our trip included two snorkel sights, snacks, lunch, and our equipment. I opted to just snorkel, while the husband tried out an introductory scuba dive. The snorkeling was unbelievable! We saw so many beautiful fish, sea turtles, giant clams, sea cucumbers, and so much coral.

The Atherton Tablelands and Cape Tribulation are about 60+ minutes to the west and north or Cairns. Both areas were so alluring that they each deserve a separate post.

All and all Cairns might not be THE target destination on your adventures, but it sure is a great jumping off point.

Magnetic Island, Australia

After driving a few hours north of Airlie Beach to Townsville, we hopped onto a ferry to Magnetic Island (“Maggie” as the Aussies call it). If you like exploring and relaxing on desolate white sand beaches lined by massive bolders on either side, this is the place for you.

Our good friend, and guide throughout this part of the trip, decided X Base would be a great place to stay. Despite the fact that we were staying in a hostel, he was 100% spot on. Take one step out of the door of our private bungalow and you will find yourself on a wooden deck above a rocky beach listening to waves crash against the rocks.

Seeing as we were staying at a hostel we decided to join in on the backpacker scene and play “Bar Wars.” This was a series of physical challenges against other teams toward winning “amazing prizes.” The highlight of this was a contest of flexibility in which you had to pick up an empty box with your mouth without anything touching the ground but your feet. Basically a reverse Limbo game with the box getting shorter and shorter after each round. Evidently this is a common game in the backpacker scene because most people seemed to know the general strategies to success. When the box was nothing more than a flat piece of cardboard, our good friend was still in it along with about 10 other absurdly flexible individuals. Something had to be done to narrow it down to the top three. The solution was obvious. Whoever could pick up a coin with their mouth the fastest would be the winner. We cheered at the top of our lungs for our friend as the start signal went off. Five seconds later he had both completed the task (he got second place) and severly torn his hamstring. 😬 No pain, no gain.

The best way to explore Magnetic Island is with a 4WD vehicle, which you can easily hire for the day. We ended up getting an incredible Suzuki mini truck from the mid 80s and fell in love with it. The main roads on the island were paved which gave me some time to feel out the gears and clutch (yeah it was manual) before we left for some real exploring. There is something uniquely thrilling about navigating a narrow dirt road littered with massive potholes. We were bumping and bouncing along as we attempted to find the beach. Eventually, at the end of one of these roads we found a beautiful and relatively empty beach lined with coconut trees. Clear water gently lapped up onto the pristine sand. Along the edges of the beach were massive rocks which we also explored. After we grew tired of that beach, we continued exploring the island.

The rental agency informed us that wild rock wallabies usually came out to the road around 4:30. Apparently they had gotten used to people feeding them carrots, apples, and oats. They were so cute and so friendly!

Finally, we wrapped up our explorations by heading to one last beach on the west side of the Island (aptly named West Point) to watch the sunset. We saw a lot in our one full day, but there were many more beaches, hikes, and sights to see on the marvelous and magnificent Magnetic Island.

Whitsundays, Australia

If you look up amazing beaches on Google you will most certainly come across Whitehaven Beach on the Whitsundays Island. It is a white sand beach with turquoise water that seems to go on and on. This beach was a must see on our Australian trip. So our good buddy suggested we take the Ride to Paradise run by Red Cat Adventures to really enjoy our visit. Unlike other Whitsundays trips (where you stay on the boat) we took a speed boat to a beautiful resort where we lived it up for two days. On day 1 of our trip we took a 25 min boat ride to Paradise Cove Resort. Initially thoughts… yep we were in Paradise! The video we had seen didn’t do it justice. It was better than we could have imagined. Thatched bungalows sat on a beautifully manicured property that overlooked the water. The main house was expertly decorated as was our private room. Behind the main house was a lovely pool, spa, and further on were the tennis courts. Around the resort there were hammocks as well as recreational activities (billiards, table tennis, kayaks, stand up paddle boards). We immediately got into swimsuits and began the relaxation. Our trip had about 24 people, but with the size of the property you could have had complete privacy if you desired.

We had an early morning the next day due to the tides. We loaded into the speed boat to head to the snorkeling sights and Whitehaven Beach around 8:00. The water was pretty choppy on our way out, but bouncing around on the speed boat was as eye awakening as a second cup of coffee. There is nothing like the sun shining on you as the wind and surf whip against the side of a boat and spray ever so slightly on your face. We arrived at Whitehaven and hiked to the beach. The excitement was mounting. We had made it! The sand on the beach was everything advertised. It felt like walking on a floor covered in flour. The water was a little chilly, but super shallow and clear as glass. We were able to spot a couple stingrays gliding along the ocean floor. Later, we hiked up to the lookout point and made sure to get those Instagram worthy shots.

Time for snorkeling! We headed to two locations to admire the coral and sea-life. Our first site had coral of all kinds. There was some that looked like tree branches, spaghetti, gigantic rocks, and my personal favorite the folds of the brain. Most of it was pretty vibrant with red, orange, and blue being the predominant colors. Since it was winter the water was pretty cold so I didn’t last longer than 25 minutes despite the wet suit. The second site had TONS of fish. I mean fish the size of a toddler. It was pretty freaky to be swimming and all of a sudden a fish coasted by effortlessly at shoulder level. Personally, the number of fish freaked me out so I got just close enough to admire them and then got back on the boat. On our ride home we spotted several whales off the side of the boat. It was spectacular to watch their tails raise up out of nowhere in a spectacular fashion.

We headed back to the resort in the early afternoon to do some more relaxing. We jumped in the hot tub, watched the sunset, and played some games with several of the people on the trip. Later that evening, one of the guides brought over a “cute” little snake that he found in the rafters. Again, I was cautious around the local wildlife and admired him from afar. The night continued on with a group of us chatting under the Southern Cross. To be honest, between the swimming, the sun, and the AMAZING sheets that we were sleeping on, I couldn’t wait to jump into bed.

Sadly, the next day was our last day. We gathered our things and climbed aboard the boat. We had one more stop before being brought back to the Marina. Our boat dropped us off on a little sliver of a beach. The beach was again very white and filled with coral and shells. Yet, the longer we sat the bigger the beach got. The tide began to pull away and reveal a walking path to an adjacent rocky island. While others went snorkeling, we enjoyed walking along the sand and looking for shells and other small wildlife. Our Whitsundays trip was one of my favorite experiences in Australia so far. The natural beauty of the area is unlike anything I had seen before. In addition, our trip with Ride to Paradise was outstanding. The staff were friendly and welcoming and had knowledge of the marine life. The resort was beautiful and immediately had us feeling relaxed. All of the meals were freshly prepared on-site and were delicious. The equipment (snorkels, wetsuits, boat) was well-maintained, which in our eyes is a sign that the company truly cares about their product. All in all another great adventure down under.

Brisbane to Airlie Beach

Our adventures northward continue! We flew from Sydney to Brisbane and thank goodness it was an hour flight. We took budget airline Tigerair and it was horrible. The seats were cramped, the plane was late, and there were 2 screaming children. We shook off this bad experience by immediately heading to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is quite like a zoo, except you can enter most of the enclosures and pet/feed the animals. We hung out with the kangaroos, sheep, birds, and yes koalas!

We then drove two hours north to Noosa to meet with our good friend. He has been living in Noosa for about 6 years and was an excellent/fabulous/awesome host. Noosa is a great holiday town. We visited the beach, Noosa National Park, Hastings Street, and many bars. KB’s by far had the best mix of people and music, which equaled an amazing few nights out. Noosa had a gorgeous town beach area. The waves were pretty gentle and the sand was soft and well maintained.

From Noosa we headed north toward Agnes Waters/ Seventeen Seventy. One thing we have noted about Australian people is how nice and friendly they are to visitors. This area proved it. Everyone we encountered was really pleasant and welcoming. We took it easy during this part of the trip. We slept in, sunbathed at another stellar beach, and met some new people by the campfire.

Our next day was a long one. We advanced up the A1 Bruce Highway toward Airlie Beach. This was an 8 hour drive. No worries though, we were powered by coffee, Party Mix, and some good music. The scenery was pretty basic, grassy plains with a few trees and mountains in the distance. Around dusk time it was time for kangaroo spotting. We managed to see a few live ones hopping about along side the road. Airlie Beach is the port that most people leave from to head to the Whitsundays. It rivals other small party beach towns because of the huge backpacker scene. Essentially, it is Saturday night everyday (aka Party Time!). Some of our favorite spots included Boaty’s and Shed Bar. Both places had great outdoor spaces, music, and drinks which kept the holiday euphoria going. There was a nice coastline, but the beach area was a little lackluster. In our short visit we did a little shopping, enjoyed some of the local restaurants (Sorrentino’s, Denman Cellar), and visited the Airlie Beach Outdoor Markets. Our next stop…The Whitsundays!!!

Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

The Blue Mountains are a great day trip from Sydney. We took the public train (~2.5 hours from King’s Cross) to Katoomba to begin our adventure. We arrived in the mountains and it was quite chilly! Thankfully, we had brought some layers. We headed to the Pomegranate Cafe for some breakfast (and warmth) until the Hop On/Hop Off (HOHO) bus office opened up. There are quite a number of tour companies that give you the whole Blue Mountain experience. We opted for the HOHO as we wanted to be able to get to the sites and hike at our own pace. The bus was $50 AUD/pp and it provided a detailed guide of the hiking area as well as transport for the day. The drivers were really great and very helpful.

We ended up hiking about 8 miles total for the day. The scenery was stunning. There were so many lookouts and scenic views to enjoy. I bet the area is stunning during the fall months.

Most of the hiking we did was a moderate level. There were quite a number of hills and stairs to navigate. The trails were really well maintained, however, they were poorly labeled. Signs were either missing, faded, or non-existent. We had a basic map, but there were definitely a few times we needed to backtrack.

Later in the evening we returned to Katoomba to check out the town. The area has several pubs, restaurants, outdoor stores, and other boutique shops. I was really excited by cockatoos swooping around town! They were so big, but really beautiful. We popped into the Carrington Hotel for some local drinks and then headed to Aunty Jack’s for dinner. From dinner it was a few hundred meters back to the train to Sydney.

The Blue Mountains is a huge area that is worth of more then just a day trip. There looks like there is great antique shops, wine tasting, and outdoor adventuring galore! If we lived closer we would certainly return again and again.

Sydney, Australia: Part 2

The second part of our Sydney trip was about the coast. Sydney had a gorgeous coast that is easily accessible for a day hike. We began by taking the ferry to Watson’s Bay and walking to the Hornsby lighthouse. We then walked down the coast to the Macquarie Lighthouse. We then hopped on a bus to Bondi Beach. From Bondi we followed the costal walk trail to Coogee. This walk was exhausting, but totally worth it. The Australian coast is gorgeous.

Sydney, Australia

This post is Part 1 of 2 of our trip to Sydney. We decided to just stick to pictures. This first set of pictures are of Sydney’s downtown areas. This includes The Rocks, Circular Quay, Darlinghurst/ King’s Cross and Darling Harbor.

Sydney Opera House at sunset

King’s Cross

Old Hospital, Sydney

“Bin Chicken” aka Australian White Ibis

Paso Robles, California

Paso Robles is a cute little town with super friendly people. Everywhere we went locals were offering advice on restaurants, wineries and activities to keep us busy. Being the city folk we are, it was a little weird to be moving at a slower pace and talking to strangers. But, we are glad we did.

We were attending a wedding at the end of the week, but decided to take a few days to explore the area and hang with friends. We arrived on July 4th so we took a quick tour around the downtown area and later headed to the Paso Pops. What a great event! They had rides, carnival food, and wine tasting from at least 20 different wineries. Later in the evening we attended the Symphony concert, which was stellar. They played classics like The Sound of Music and Westside Story. Afterward, we were in awe at the fireworks display. It just kept going!

Paso Robles is well known for the hundreds of wineries in the area. Many of them have beautiful tasting rooms set in ideal locations. We took a wine tour with the wedding party to 3 wineries in the area. Our driver was great and made sure we were taken care of the whole time. A party bus is the only way to do a wine tour properly in our opinion. The driver has a wrath of info and they keep you safe. Each winery had something different to offer and we really enjoyed the experience.

We have missed Western food and Paso Robles had plenty of options for us. We had some great salads, sandwiches, and one amazing French Toast. We also found two great coffee shops located not far from the square. We visited the following: Thomas Hill Organics, Brunch, Taste of Paso, Red Scooter Deli, Spearhead Coffee, and Kreuzberg Coffee Company.

The wedding day finally arrived! The bride and groom exchanged vows overlooking a vineyard and it couldn’t have been more ideal. We spent the rest of the night dancing and enjoying the spectacular sunset.

Paso Robles is a great wine country alternative to Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Located about 3 hours north from LA it is the perfect over night trip or weekend getaway. When you head to Paso Robles you are guaranteed good food, company, and most of all wine!

Morro Bay, California

” You can’t miss the Morro!”

Wait…what is a Morro? Well it is a dome shaped rock of course! Duh! One of the first records of this giant rock was made by a Franciscan monk on expedition in 1769. Morro Rock sits 576 feet above the sea that lies below it. Unique in shape and size, it is a stunning backdrop to the small seaside town of Morro Bay.

We started our day by winding through mountains covered in golden grasses. A lot of California’s landscape still looks pretty parched from the drought. After about 15 minutes we spotted the sea and the great Morro rock. The size and shape make it quite the distinctive landmark. We were pretty hungry so we went straight to lunch at The Galley Seafood Bar and Grill. The seafood was delicious and the view was exactly what we wanted. We got Seafood Salads, Fish and Chips, and Fish Tacos. The Pacific cod was excellent and so was the wine list.

We then strolled along the water enjoying the sunshine and the activity on the boat docks. We also stopped at the Libertine Brewery Co. for some drinks.

Morro Bay is a great spot for a day trip, especially if you have a hankering for some fish. California continues to impress us with hidden gems.