Let me be frank here, Queensland has a lot to brag about. From the Great Barrier Reef to the Daintree Rainforest and the many mountains and islands that litter this vast state, Queensland actually boasts it all. Though, can you believe that I’ve never been to Queensland see any of them? Yes you read correctly, despite managing to cover half of mainland Australia, I must admit that Queensland has actually never been on my radar. Queensland seemed so far away from Western Australia, I mean, I could actually fly to Bali and back for half the price and time it would take for me to reach Brisbane! Plus I truely believed that Western Australia had it’s own version of everything that was special about Queensland, for example, the Great Barrier Reef, we have our own Ningaloo Reef. What about Moreton Island? Well we have Rottnest Island waiting for you! And the windy river city of Brisbane? Perth is also situated on the picturesque (and not brown) Swan River. However, I finally made the trip up to see what all the fuss was about and I was not disappointed.
Queensland can easily be done in a long weekend, fly up on a Friday night and out on a Monday evening and you’ll still have a full three days and three nights up your sleeve to get a good taste of the place. Though on this occasion, I left Siu On behind in Sydney for a girls weekend away with my friend Grace, who had been living in Brissy for the past 12 months and was getting ready to move back to Perth. I had been promising I’d visit and finally with only two weeks before she left for good I managed to sneak up just in time.
Getting there and around
I flew from Sydney to Brisbane and after an hour and a half had landed into the river city. Grace met me at the airport with our hire car for the weekend, oversized welcome sign (thanks Grace!) and after a good night’s sleep in her quiet inner city apartment we were up early the next day and on our way north!
Alternatively, from Sydney the drive up will take you around 11 hours, and there are a lot of buses that will go up that way since that route is a very popular backpacker trail that hits up all the best spots along the New South Wales and Queensland coast.
The Sunshine Coast
1. Eumundi Markets
The drive from Brisbane to Eumundi was a very short hour and a half and we made it in time for the famous Eumundi Markets. These local artisanal markets sell all kinds of handmade good ranging from local body lotions and potions to cigar box ukuleles. The market is huge and crosses over the main street and is worth exploring. My favourite thing in the market? The locally brewed natural ginger beer which was so refreshing in the humidity!
Once you’ve browsed the markets, head out east towards Queensland’s famous beach town of Noosa. A colleague told me that Noosa was like an upmarket and richer Byron Bay, and to an extent I can see what he meant by it. There is no shortage of brand name shops and fancy restaurants and bars lining Hastings Street, but you know what, the beach is free (and there are many) and are fantastic!
Noosa looks like a giant aquamarine bath. I was lucky in that the sea forecast was calm, warm and stinger-free so after our short walk along the Noosa Heads Coastal Track, we settled on the pebbly and secluded Little Cove. I still can’t believe how warm and clear the water here is! If only we could have spent more than half a day here, but as I found myself repeating a lot in Queensland, ‘next time when I come back’.
As I mentioned before, food options are plentiful in Noosa. Grace and I had a great lunch at the Noosa Hot Bread Shop, where my pie was washed down with a good cup of coffee and one of the nicest eclairs I’ve eaten in Australia. Later that night, we splashed out on a 8 course degustation at the Noosa Beach House, and at $160 a head only a guest appearance by Mr Peter Kuravita could have made this night more memorable… OH wait, the memorable part came from the the allergic reaction I had to something in one of the dishes. Note to self: Remember to mention food allergies at expensive restaurants. However, I cannot begin to tell you how good the food was, with the highlight being Peter’s signature Sri Lankan Curry.
The Glass House Mountains
Since Grace was leaving Queensland to return west to Perth, at the top of her bucket list was a walk through the Glass House Mountains. These mountains are a collection of 11 tall volcanic peaks scattered across the sunshine coast hinterland and after an hours drive south of Noosa, or 30 minutes north of Brisbane, you’ll arrive in this spectacular green landscape. Grace chose the 3.2km Mount Tibrogargan walking circuit to give us a little taste. Nevermind that it was over 30 degrees and about 100% humidity, we still powered on and around this beautiful peak drenched in our own salty sweat. Next time I think I’ll have to at least summit one of these majestic mountains!
With a bad weather warning issued for later in the day, Grace and I headed back to the city after our Glass House Mountains morning walk before the rains started to pour.
1. Parks and open space
Brisbane is surprisingly packed with a lot of open spaces and the most notable is the Streets Beach along the South Bank Parklands. This free outdoor swimming pool boasts a number of pools, sandy shores and playgrounds which are family friendly and great for a get together. I really did enjoy walking along the Brisbane River from the Kangaroo Cliffs (unfortunately no rock climbing for us this trip) down to the South Bank Precinct.
However, my favourite of the open spaces and parks I wandered through in Brisbane goes to the Roma Street Parkland. This is one of the most stunning city parks I’ve visited and is half a botanical garden, half entertainment area all in one. There was so much wildlife in this park and at every turn there was something interesting going in. I seriously just about lost my mind in this park, it is so beautiful.
2. Museums and galleries
The absolute highlight of my day in Brisbane was hands down, the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). This year GOMA is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary and had some huge and wonderful installations which were incredible. I lost most of the morning wandering through each of the galleries and stopping at every little thing. And the view from the GOMA Cafe Bistro gardens of the city and the river was worth the $16 I paid for their delicious beef burger! Did I mention that the two galleries are free? Yep, they won’t cost you a thing for hours and hours of wonder.
3. Shopping and eating
I like beer and I like a good brewery, so Grace took me for lunch at the Newstead Brewery and to try out some of their drops, and later that night we had dinner a little neighbourhood Japanese place (whose name I’ve forgotten) followed by a very Brisbane dessert afterwards at Mister Fitz’s – ice cream sandwiches and more allergy problems for me! YAY!
The CBD area is very much a business district, and from our brief drive by through some of the inner city suburbs after we returned from the Glass House Mountains, there are better areas for shopping with more unique shops and stores besides the usual high street outlets that clog cities. Although if you did miss a visit to the Noosa Chocolate Factory up in Noosa (like we did, again, half a day in Noosa was not enough time!), don’t fret because there are two outlets in the city just a few stores apart. Their Dark Chocolate and Victorian Blue Berry Balls didn’t last in my greedy hands!
4. See Brisbane by the river
Another great thing about Brisbane is the free Brisbane City Hopper. This ferry service runs every 30 minutes and stops regularly along the river at the major sight seeing and transport terminals. It does get busy so try to get yourself a set up the top for an uninterrupted view of the city.
There really is a lot to see, do and eat in Queensland and with only 3 days to spare I barely did it justice! Although what made things worse was my flight being cancelled on my day in Brisbane City and I had to cut the sight seeing short to make it to the airport in time for my earlier flight. Ah well, I did miss Siu On by that stage and I revelled in the opportunity to be shown around by one of my best friend’s from back home. This short visit has definitely given me a taste to spend some time exploring this epic state more in depth, and I hope that Siu On and I can get that ball rolling soon (*hint hint*).
As always, you can follow our travels and adventures in Australia here on the blog, on Facebook and through our Instagram account; and subscribe to our little YouTube channel where my travel video from Queensland will be going up in the not too distant future – look out for it!
Jelena and Siu On
Photographs by Jelena Auyeung.