After a quick overnight stop in the heart of Australia's Gold Coast, Surfer's Paradise, we ventured up to the Australia Zoo, home of the late great Steve Irwin, aka the Crocodile Hunter - Crikey! This was the only zoo we went to in Australia and from what we heard it's the best. We saw all kinds of reptiles, birds and marsupials mostly native to Australia. The highlight of course was the feeding of the crocodiles in the "crocoseum", a spectacle originally made famous by Steve Irwin himself.
Some of the native birds
Very firendly (and lazy) roos
Australian Monitor (some of these were 3-4 ft long)
CRIKEY! Look at these crocs!
Our next stop was the sub-tropical Sunshine Coast with its stunning beaches and pristine coastline. We stayed with Chris and Leece in Mooloolaba who are native New Zealanders but had relocated to this wonderful paradise and were kind enough to open their doors to us (which were conveniently located just a short walk from the beach). We had a great time getting to know them and laughed for hours sharing ridiculous stories from our pasts. During the days we cooled off at the beaches around this area and hiked along the coastal trails at Noosa National Park.
Noosa National Park
Secluded beach all to ourselves!
Next, we spent 2 days at Fraser Island (see separate posting).
After Fraser Island, we had some long driving days ahead of us not to mention an unpredictable tropical cyclone looming in our path. Trust me, at times we drove for miles and miles without seeing any other cars, which made me wonder where in the heck we were going anyway. It turns out that most people opt for flying some of these long distances...
We made it up to our next destination, the Whitsunday Islands, known for its stunning white silica sand beaches, sailing, and snorkeling/diving. We were welcomed into the beachfront town of Airlie Beach by yet more wonderful couchsurfing hosts, Wendy and Phil (I'm seeing a trend here... couchsurfing is Awesome!). As the tropical rains were getting closer to the road ahead we decided to settle in for an extra day, which happened to be Amy's birthday which we celebrated at the local pub with Wendy and Phil. We had a great time over dinners chatting, playing trivia video games (although playing music trivia with 2 DJs is a little daunting), going to the cinema to see Avatar and making friends with their cats and bird Oscar (famous for its ACDC youtube video). Why Amy did not upload the photo of their bird nibbling on her tooth escapes me!
The weather was very accommodating to our plans and the rains let up for the first day in nearly a week so that we could take a day cruise out to see the beautiful Whitsunday Islands and for some amazing snorkeling.
Whitehaven outlook and beach
After 2 more days of driving (one through the outer bands of a tropical depression, which we were lucky to make it through before the roads were being closed due to flooding), we made it into the tropical resort town of Cairns, gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. On the way we stopped at Paranella Park, an amazing castle/rainforest park that was built by a spanish sugar cane worker in the 1930s.
We then arrived in Cairns where we stayed with a great Australian mate, John. He was kind enough to let us stay there the whole week! All he asked in return was that we look after his adorable Jack Russell Terrier Jessie and friendly cat Mr. Smooch for the 2 days while he was traveling. Second only to the really cool people we have met through couchsurfing, has to be all the of awesome pets we've got to hang out with!
While in Cairns, we took a day trip north to Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation (the most northerly point we were allow to travel in the rental car).
Another secluded beach!
The closest we came to spotting the extremely rare Cassowary bird
Another one of Amy's friends... is that spider wearing a skeletor mask, or what!
Had to stop for some ice cream from the local fruits of the day.... yummy!
Mossman Gorge, a popular tourist drowning spot (we chose not to swim)
Finally, we got to take our cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef for our first dive! We had a great day sailing out to the reefs on a huge catamaran, which Amy liked much better than the 20 seat wave jumper that we were on in the Whitsundays.
And the reef... it was pretty amazing even though we were there in the rainy season making visibility a little less than ideal, but still very good. We did out first dive, just an introductory for about 25 minutes which was really cool. Funny though, we saw tons more fish and coral while we were snorkeling. So many amazing things under the sea... we should have splurged for the underwater camera!
From Cairns we had a long day of travel connecting through Darwin on to our first stop in SE Asia... BALI! A few of our last sights from Australia...