From the onset of our 2019-2020 holiday in Oz, we knew that Peter and Jacinta and baby Louis wanted to go to Noosa in Queensland for a Christmas Holiday break with family at the East Coast. Although originally planned to leave just after Christmas, P & J decided (while we were still traveling back from Uluru) that we might as well hit the road a day or 2 earlier and spend a few days – Christmas incl – in Brisbane.
So … when we got back from our Wangaratta wine trip, we had a day or 2 to do necessary laundry, packing and cleaning house before we hit the road once more.
Day 1: Griffith to Goondiwindi.
We left Griffith reasonably early on the morning of the 23th and virtually only stopped for food and toilet breaks. Jacinta’s brother Simon hitched a ride with them in Peters ute (utility vehicle = bakkie for the South Africans) and Louis hitched a ride with us in the trusted Toyota. Thank you for whatsapp because we could keep mom and dad up with a running comment of Louis’ activities in the car (predominantly sleeping or playing with his toes). He seemed quite happy enough with us and behaved very well!
And a bit further we saw the weirdest creature – sculpture in what looked like a scrap yard with skeletons of discarded buses, airplane engines and other random stuff.
Certain areas we drove through were definitely affected by the smoke of the bush fires that drifted up from 100’s of km away. The smoke hung heavily between the trees and coloured the sky a dull pinkish grey.
We made good time arriving at the Goondiwindi Motel in … you guessed it … Goondiwindi, on the border between NSW and Queensland.
We had a bite to eat at the local Cascades restaurant and three generations of Demeyer boys had some fun in the pool of the motel. Seems Louis might indeed have the full package of Demeyer genes – a great love for water.
Day 2: Goondiwindi to Brisbane
Next morning we packed and left and – after a quick light bulb change for the Toyota in Toowoomba (traffic police being very strict and any defect on your car can earn you a stiff fine) and a coffee and Louis feeding break, we made good time getting to Brisbane and were happy we could immediately occupy the flat: somewhere on the 17th floor in Brisbane inner city with views over the city. The block of flats had a pool on the top floor and the sunset views over the city – from the jacuzzi – were amazing. The weather wasn’t too great and during the 3 days that we were there, we had one or two really serious thunderstorms, Christmas Eve included.
It was indeed a Christmas with a difference. We went shopping for the last few things before the shops closed and enjoyed an improvised Christmas supper on the enclosed balcony – prawns included. (So far I haven’t figured out why prawns is traditional fare on the Australian Christmas menu. We remember shrimp as part of any festive menu in Belgium, but only as starter, not as mains. And yes, I do understand the “luxury spoiling” aspect of prawns, so maybe that’s an explanation of sorts). As Peter works in a winery, we had ample wines to accompany our Christmas supper. As said before, our Christmas got a little bit of extra excitement, when a serious storm pelted down on Brisbane.
Day 3: Chrismas Day in Brisbane
And then it was Christmas morning. Although the adults had exchanged presents before we left Griffith, this morning was pressie time for Louis. And although he doesn’t have a clue (yet) what all the commotion was all about and was more interested in demolishing the Christmas tree to play with the shiny things, he clearly loved all the attention and the new toys! Kids will be kids!
Because we anticipated most trade being closed on Christmas Day we decided we could just as well go for a drive to see some more of Brisbane city. Our first stop was a walkabout at the South Bank Parklands. We had been there 2 years ago – be it just for a meal, wine and some music – and we wanted to go back to show the kids.
The weather couldn’t make up its mind and one moment the beach bathed in brilliant sunshine and a blue sky … next moment the sky turned a laden grey again.
Although Louis just went through a nap phase and wasn’t interested in playing on the artificial beach, the adults stopped for a welcome cup of coffee and an ice cream … it’s always the right time for an ice cream.
To prolong Louis’ nap time, we got in the cars and drove to The Gap, a leafy suburb north of Brisbane. By the time we arrived at Walkabout Creek , Louis was awake and it was the perfect place to go for a walk. Walkabout Creek is located on the edge of D’Aguilar National Park—a 36,400ha park with eucalypt trees and rainforest habitat just 12km from the Brisbane CBD.
As it was Christmas Day, it was fairly quiet. The weather wasn’t great, but the walk was nice with turkeys strutting their stuff as if the place belonged to them (and it most probably does), views over the dam and millions of little frogs finding their way from the bush to the water’s edge.
An attempt to go to the pool in the late afternoon was railroaded by a very stiff breeze pumping across the city. On the one side of the roof area we nearly blew off the roof, on the other side everyone else had congregated out of the wind, so we shared the jacuzzi with a few other boys and girls and had a nice multi cultural chat as the sun went down.
Day 3: Boxing Day in Brisbane
Because Boxing Day broke cloudy once again, car trips would be the best call. We wanted to see what life in the Brisbane coastal suburbs was all about and drove out to Redcliffe at Moreton Bay to the north.
Even when it was quite cloudy, the sun peeped through once in a while. We decided to try our luck and went for a walk on the Woody Point Jetty.
At the start of the jetty we could see serious weather coming from the Moreton Island side and true as bob … when we got to the end of the jetty – where you look out towards Sandgate and Brighton – the downpour descended on us. Some of us got into a run, some of us didn’t … it eventually came down to who was a bit more soaked than the other!
I think we might have wanted to go to Victoria Point afterwards, but our Mrs GPS got other plans and sent us all over. Instead of Victoria Point we eventually ended up on the riverside in the inner city and from there on to Wynnum beach.
By that time the sun had come out and we got a nice walk to the end of the jetty where we could sit down on the steps overlooking the sea towards the ex convict island St Helena (to the left) and Green Island (to the right), which seems to be fishing paradise. The walkway was decorated with beautiful mosaics.
When the kids went home for a Louis nap time, we explored a bit more of Brisbane by car.
Driving around in Ozzie cities – we’ve been in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Adelaide and now Brisbane – our first impression usually is: clean, well maintained, attention to architecture and public art. And what strikes me as beautiful again and again is the total harmony of ultra modern architecture standing amiably side by side with old Victorian and classical buildings. It looks as if Victorian buildings seem to have survived the progression of modern architecture (much more than in South Africa).
And I’m always fascinated by my favourite: wall art and graffiti.
Day 4 : Brisbane to Noosa
On the 27th we left for Noosa. While the kids would stay with Jacinta’s uncles in Noosa, the kids had booked us and Simon in a holiday flat at the Beach Breakers in Sunrise Beach. Just a 5 minute walk and we had km’s of sandy beach with waves breaking on the sand.
Day 5 to 11
During the next week, life was all about taking it easy: chilling and playing on the various beaches, satisfying the adults’ inner children with jetski joy rides on the river, browsing a market or two (unfortunately no photos again of the amazing Eumundi Market) and in general … chilling and enjoying the laid back holiday spirit. To suit baby Louis’s feeding and sleeping routine, our activities were planned around that.
We went swimming and playing in the waves at Sunshine Beach (just opposite the road from our holiday flat). Three generations having fun in the waves … even Louis had a ball sitting on the beach while the surf rolled over him. Sometimes we had to hoist him in the air quickly, when a wave came in that was higher and wilder than expected. We all gained weight at the beach: any pockets in any of our pants were packed full of sand from sitting or playing in the rolling waves.
At one stage I took Stefaan’s invitation to come and play too (had been babysitting Louis while the kids had some carefree time in the surf), but I soon realised that the waves were quit forceful and completely swept me off my feet. Luckily Stefaan was holding my hand because I was flapping in the ocean like a fish lure on a line.
On one of the next days we took a drive to the South to browse a small market at Peregian Beach .
The Google maps images show the portion of the beach that stretches out endlessly from Peregian Beach all the way up to where the ocean curves around Noosa National Park to Noosa Heads.
We sauntered through the market and build up a thirst. Any excuse for a cup of coffee. We ended up at the iconic and arty Kelly’s of Peregian cafe. Besides a great cup of coffee they have the most interesting revamped/ upcycled /beach shack kind of decor. The owner – Gareth Kelly – is a fantastic photographer and his amazing photography was displayed and for sale in the beach cafe.
A little bit further south is Coolum beach – a surfers paradise. A beautiful beach embraced by rocky outcrops and trees and shrubs with great waves that was obviously a favourite for local body surfers.
We followed a little gravel path from the car park (in the middle) and ended up on the beach just right (or left on the image) of the rocky out crop.
The small beach was strewn with boulders and bordered with trees and shrubs. But the surf was great and the (big) kids had fun.
Before we knew it was New Year’s Eve. We enjoyed a leisurely supper at Jacinta’s uncles place. As baby Louis was not going to make it awake till 2020, Simon and us left them to the bed time routine to go and discover what Noosa had in store for New Years Eve.
As a show of empathy with the bushfires raging in other parts of the country, the city had decided against fireworks on the main beach, but had replaced it with digital laser shows. The beach was packed and especially kids seemed to enjoy jumping around the moving laser beams drawing patterns on the sand. We stayed till the 9pm show was finished.
Afterwards we drove to the Noosa Marina for a beer – or two – and the midnight fireworks. They were not in the class of Sydney or any of the other major cities, but they still held that magic that rings in the New Year.
We had beautiful views over the Noosa Estuary and even though we couldn’t spot a koala, we were lucky to see another iconic Australian animal: the Kookaburra.
Day 12: Noosa to Moree
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and just after New Years (3rd of Jan) it was time to go home (although nobody was in the mood).
We rose very early. Knowing we would be on the other side of the country soon, we had decided to see the sun rise on the east coast and set on the west coast. So … early out of bed was on the order of the day.
During our time in Noosa, surrounds and greater Queensland, we had seen many signs that asks for awareness of the koala’s natural habitat. And I had done a great effort at “koala spotting” every time we went out for a drive – never to see one in real life. But things changed for the better on our trip back home. We saw a koala … a real live koala in the wild.
We had stopped for a stretching of the legs and a Louis feeding session and …. there it was …. right in front of us in the tree. A good thing I had been polishing my “koala spotting” skills because otherwise we would have completely missed it. The koala must have felt like a Hollywood celebrity on the red carpet with the paparazzi clicking away, but after a while it got bored with is and turned away again.
Although high up in the tree, it still made my day!
These cute marsupials get their name from an Aboriginal term meaning, ‘no drink’. It’s believed this is because koalas get almost all their moisture from the leaves they eat, and rarely drink water.
We passed a place (I think somewhere between Toowoomba and Milmerran) where the landscape was flat, flat, flat fields stretching out to the horizon. We saw various signs standing in the fields bordering the highway that made reference to ongoing protests against fracking.
A short while later, we passed through a forested area where fires had raged and the black skeletons were etched against the blue sky. They were a stark reminder of the destruction of fire.
Day 13: Moree to Griffith
With another almost 800 km to go, we left Moree reasonably early in the day.
Just outside Moree we passed the huge silo of Milandra Grain. I don’t know the history or reason behind it, but was fascinated with the train wagons standing there, all decorated with graffiti.
When we pulled in the Camkeena rest area on Newell Highway for a “Louis feed – leg stretching” stop a while later, we saw the big Saturn planet sign.
With a bit of research (thank you mr. google) we soon learned about the Worlds Largest Virtual Solar System Drive, all roads leading to the Siding Spring Observatory , just outside of Coonabaran. Unfortunately – due to time constraints once again (some people had to go back to work) we were not able to make a detour to visit the observatory.
The weather was bright and sunny and the landscape was idyllic. But that didn’t last.
Getting closer and closer to home the weather, skies and environment changed completely. The landscape got smothered in a blanket of smoke so thick we could barely see Peter’s car in front of us. The landscape around us had turned a dirty shade of orange. We weren’t sure if it was smoke because at some moments we thought it may have been a sand storm. But recalling the smoky area’s we passed through on the way up, we guessed it was smoke, be it much denser than on our trip up 10 days prior.
By the time we reached home we could see the smoke hanging low and obscuring the top of the hill across the road from the house.
Before, during and after our 2019-2020 family holiday, bush fires have been raging in Australia. Thank you to all firefighters and volunteers who worked relentlessly to combat the raging fires.
Read more about our other trips and destinations during our 2019 – 2020 family visit in Australia.