Friday, July 31, 2009

Hervey Bay - My Favourite So Far

Another special place we revisited on the homeward journey is Clairview, where I had bought home-made passionfruit slice and tomato relish on the way up. The ladies who make and sell them also have second-hand books and clothing as well as craft items. I loved the slice and relish so much I had to call in for more on the way back, as well as some walnut cake and coconut ice. There's nothing like home-made cakes and preserves:

After a few hours driving south, we arrived at Hervey Bay, where we are staying at the Breakfree Great Sandy Straits Resort for $90 per night:

This price represents spectacular value. We pre-booked a 2 for 3-night deal with Stella Resorts, the central booking agent for Peppers, Mantra and Breakfree. The apartment is stunning, with a full kitchen, lounge room and even a spa:

This is the view from the spa, looking out through the glass wall to the lounge room and then the ocean outside:

Here is the view back into the spa, showing the excellent kitchen. It is the first one we've stayed in that has a coffee plunger:

We can walk down from the room onto this gorgeous beach with its view of Fraser Island:

There's also a pool:

There's nothing like a glass of wine at the end of the day:

From our room yesterday evening we saw dolphins swimming by, and some yoga on the beach:

Sugar Cane Country

Along with the beaches and palm trees, another excellent attraction of Queensland is the presence of road-side sugar cane fields and the cane trains which occasionally cross the highway:

Often while driving, you can smell the cane being processed at the refineries. We stopped next to one to make a cup of tea and the burnt sugar smell was overpowering:

I think this photo captures the essence of Queensland, with its juxtaposition of sugar refinery and palm trees:

Airlie Beach

One place I've been wanting to visit for years is Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands. We stayed at the Best Western Colonial Palms motel for $105, a booking we made on The view from the room had water glimpses:

Airlie Beach lived up to all the great things I've heard about it, with palm-fringed beaches:

The township itself is quite youth-oriented with pubs and backpacker hostels:

It's a departure point for many well-known islands such as Hayman, Hamilton and South Molle
but we only had one night there so we soaked up the ambience of Airlie itself:

Hopefully one day we can fly back and visit the islands but for now we're very happy with what we saw:

This is the lovely lagoon which is patrolled and safe to swim in:

Cassowary Sighting

We're on our way back south from Cairns now and decided to call back at Etty Bay because we'd forgotten to have the fish and chips when we went there on our way up. Our friends Lara and Geoff had recommended the Spanish Mackerel which indeed lived up to expectations:

However, it was not only the great food which made the visit worthwhile. While we were eating, two more visitors came to find their lunch as well. They were a father cassowary and a chick:

Apparently there are only about 1500 cassowaries left. The father sits on the eggs until they are hatched and then is responsible for bringing up the chicks until another female wants to mate with him. Each cassowary needs its own territory, so when the chicks are old enough they must find their own space. This leads to many deaths when they cross roads or fight with other cassowaries:

The fish and chip shop is associated with a caravan park. The owner said these two cassowaries come looking for food four times a day. We were really lucky to see these beautiful birds:

Palm Cove

A must-visit town in the Cairns area is Palm Cove, only about half an hour's drive north of Cairns. It's quite small and stylish with quaint little shops:

And beautiful resorts:

I love the colours of this building:

The beach isn't too bad either:

Cairns - More Food and Markets

One thing I haven't mentioned previously is that a few months ago I became a member of Accor Advantage Plus for an annual fee of under $300. As a member I receive a free nights' accommodation at any Accor resort in Australia, Asia or the Pacific (this more than pays for the annual fee). In addition, I can access red hot deals on the website, so all the accommodation on this trip at Ibis, All Seasons, Novotel and Mercure hotels has been booked this way. But I think the best part of all is that two people can dine for the price of one. For example at the Novotel in Cairns we had a beautiful buffet of seafood, steaks, salads, chicken and desert for $49.00 for two, or $24.50 each:

On another night, we went to the Night Markets which are open 7 days a week:

There are a lot of stalls selling all sorts of Australiana:

Even didgeridoos:

And a big plate of Asian food is only around $12.00:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fabulous Food

One of the mysteries of Cairns is why this weekend I've seen so many people sitting in fast food establishments on the Esplanade when only a few blocks away, they could be experiencing some fantastic, healthy and yummy food. Rusty's undercover markets, open from Friday to Sunday, have excellent local and organic produce:

You can also find some new age touches:

But what I love most is the great range of prepared food which is generally sold by the people who've made it, and at very reasonable prices. For $2.50 you can have a cup of delicious sugar cane juice:

It is made by feeding the cane through a juicer with the juice of a tamarind. The taste is unbelievably good:

You can also find stalls which sell handmade spring rolls, dim sims, samosas or empanadas for only a dollar or two:

There are many foods from Asian and Pacific countries such as Samoa, the Philippines and Thailand. One thing I really enjoyed was sticky rice with banana or taro, wrapped in a banana leaf. Gorgeous!:

These fresh prawn rice paper rolls had little plastic bags with sauce and peanuts to go with them:

This sundried tomato tapenade went well with the pesto bread, but the bread tasted great on its own too:

Cairns - Part 2

When the rates at our Cairns hotel went up substantially for the weekend, we sought better value at the more centrally-located Novotel Cairns Oasis. This hotel is only two blocks from the shops and waterfront, and is a great place for just $111.00 per night. I don't mind not having breakfast included - I've had a hot breakfast for the last four mornings. The room, pool and deck area are lovely:

From the hotel we walked to the Cotter's markets at the waterfront which have lots of arts and crafts if you like that sort of thing:

There is a tree near the hotel which contains waht seems to be hundreds of massive bats. There are two hanging next to each other in the upper right of the picture:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Port Douglas

From Cairns, it's only a short drive to Port Douglas, with a stop along the way at Mossman Gorge. This is a truly gorge-ous place:

The township of Port Douglas has many beautiful old white timber buildings. This is the Court House pub on the corner, which has a great atmosphere:

Across the road from the pub is a park with this stunning view:

From a lookout in town we looked south over the surf beach and the Mirage and other resorts:

On the way back to Cairns we stopped to make a cup of tea just north of Ellis Beach:

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