A Travellerspoint blog



Australian Hospitality


26 May 2018

After our first day in SYD - we slept "pretty" well. Our apartment backed to an alley way and although the closest bar was around the corner - it must have been a cut through for a few "overserved" blokes.

Jim graciously adventured out early for breakfast takeaway - breakfast pies (savory egg and sausage) and flat white. What could be better.

We wandered the eclectic neighborhood a bit before heading to the waterfront for our trip to Manley.

(You might be asking yourself -"Why are they going to Manley?.... Well...back up about 10 days.

On our sailing trip in the Whitsundays , we met a great couple (Jacinta and Mike) from Sydney. As we were getting ready to say our goodbyes that evening, they asked if we'd like to have dinner at Mike's parent's house (in Manly) when we were in town. Of course, my "Yank" reaction was, "of course, but don't you think you should ask them first?"...their response..."oh no..it will be fine!! But they are on a cruise right now, so we'll check with them when they get back." Have I told you... I love Australians!!!

A few days later, Jacinta got in touch and the invitation confirmed for today. Our plan: take the ferry to Manley a little early and Jim and I would check out "Taste of Manley" (which is a yearly Wine and Food Fest along the Manly beach front) and then we'd meet up with Mike and Jacinta there.

We decided to take the metro (which was just around the corner from our apartment) to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Manley. As we got on the metro, we noticed a police officer dressed in, what I'd call. SWAT gear. I looked around - feeling a bit uncomfortable. Being that it was VIVID and since I had not been watching the TV - I hadn't heard of any threats. Hmmm.. We went to get off the metro and a woman and a man were also getting off at the same time. They were dressed very nicely (me thinking - oh, maybe they are going to a wedding)- we smiled at each other and we exited..but then I noticed following them were three really large men in suits with ear pieces. Thought to self... "Well...this person must be really important".

When we transferred to our next train - I google Australian Prime Minister - I'm embarrassed to say that I had no idea who the PM of Australia was or what he looked like....even though I was standing right next to him. (Our little brush with "celebrity" while in AU)

On to Manley....the ferry ride was beautiful, chatted with a nice Mom and her precious daughter, passed a sailboat race and viewed Sydney from a different angle. We arrived into their ferry terminal and walked the few blocks to the beach and the festival. Wine and food booths lined the promenade. Buying a glass for $5 entitled you to refill at any booth for an additional $5. The lines were a bit long but really moved quite quickly. Sunny but a bit cool, it was a lovely day to hang out on the waterfront, enjoy the wine and music.


Mike and Jacinta joined us shortly after we arrived. Mike grew up in Manly and he reminisced as we walked through the town towards his car. We toured a little of the small town and then headed to meet his parents, John and Sue O'Brien.

What a lovely evening....we enjoyed our feast while sitting outside - sharing stories and wine. Being about the same age, John and Sue shared our love of travel, photography and good food - we had a lot in common. John is retired Navy photographer and shared some of photos with us.
I could not have planned a more perfect way to wrap up our trip to OZ....


The evening ended way too soon but there was a ferry to catch...and more VIVID as we approached the city.

27 May 2018

More pies for breakfast and it was on to our scheduled Sydney Opera House tour. What a fantastic structure. The tour talks in depth about the history of the building, which is much older than I realized. The project actually started in 1956. My only regret is that we didn't have a chance to see a show there - next time.


IT was time for lunch and Jacinta and Mike at recommended the Glenmore Inn for brunch. Built in the 1920's and located up a rock stairway in the "Rocks" area, it has an awesome view of the harbor from it's rooftop deck. As expected, it was crowded, but we we able to get seats, enjoy the sun and a really good brunch.


What to do for our final afternoon???? There are a ton of ferries leaving from the Sydney Harbor - we decided to see when the next one would leave and just take it....hence, our "Ferry to no where" cruise. We got off near the Maritime Museum, walked the back along the Barangaroo area before making our way back to our apartment. Sadly, it was time to pack and get ready for our early morning flight home.


But...not before a dinner which again we chose - DUMPLINGS!! I know, it seems a bit redundant but I haven't found a place to get xiao long boa in Tucson, so I grab it where every I can.


We ended up at Dumplings and Beers. Down a neighborhood side street, it was another "very narrow" cafe, Good food and a fun vibe.

12 August 2018

Fast forward three months, life has been crazy and we're heading out today for another trip. It's taken me a while to finish up Australia - I think it was because it was hard to say "Good-bye" to such a wonderful trip....

Now ...heading east instead of west....next posting ........ Ireland

Posted by pjburke 07:41 Archived in Australia Comments (1)


Last but definitely not least

sunny 65 °F

25 May 2018

Off to Sydney

Our last morning in Cairns and the skies were sprinkled with the possibility of sunshine that had been eluding us. We dropped the campervan at Apollo which is just around the corner from the airport. A quick taxi ride and the last leg of our six week adventure was about to begin. We're off to Sydney.

Deciding to leave Sydney to the end of our trip was calculated. We knew we wouldn't need (or want) a car in the city and our final flight, whether a stopover or just a connection, would be Sydney. Having flown through Sydney from Indonesia and seeing the Opera house from the air - we were excited to see what this - Australia's largest city - had to offer.

Easy flight and an easy but pricey ($50) taxi ride into the city brought us to the Potts Point area and our Airbnb apartment. We waited just a short time to meet our host and found the neighborhood comfortable - more working people rather than touristy.

Doris met us and showed us up to the third floor apartment (yes, there was an elevator). Very cute, very clean and a great location - what more could we ask for.

Earlier in our trip we learned that Sydney's Vivid Light Celebration was starting that evening and we were excited to see what it was all about.

It was time to explore Sydney. We walked through the tree lined streets of Potts Point - narrow sidewalks passed by older, interesting buildings. We had a map but we weren't "really" sure where we'd end up. Doris had given us general directions and we knew were were looking for a stairway down to the waterfront area...we found it. Jim made me promise that he didn't have to walk back up this steep stairway.

We came out at what appears to be the entrance to a navy area...as we rounded the corner we found that it wasn't "a" navy base - it was "THE NAVY" base Garden Island Navy Base to be exact. Huge ships docked right there. We would have never been able to get this close in San Diego


Just past the Navy Base and en route to the Botanical Garden (where we believed that we would find VIVID), we wandered into an area called Wooloomooloo. A working class neighborhood from the 1850's, this former docklands area is now the upscale waterfront home to a marina, restaurants, apartments and yes, a few pubs. Hmmm - since VIVID wouldn't start until about 6pm - maybe - just maybe we had time for a pint.

Off to find VIVID!! We walked to the back entrance to the Royal Botanical Garden - a short walk ...up hill. The sun had set and it was a bit dark and the further we walked we noticed the park was starting to fill with people - but not as many as I had expected. We were soon to find out why. Apparently, you're supposed to start the walk through the lights at the harbor - we were starting at the end and walking against traffic. It really didn't get too crowded until we got to the Opera House area....

If you get the chance to be in Sydney during VIVID (this year 25 May- 06 Jun) ....GO. It was VERY cool...as you'll see below.


After battling the now growing crowds of the harbour area, we decided that we had back towards our apartment and find a place for some dinner. Leaving our apartment, we'd walked past a small dumpling shop, and since it's really hard for me to resist dumplings, we decided to give it a try. Sydney (and Australia in general) has a huge Asian population. Given it's proximity this wasn't a surprise - we were just happy to find Dumplings and Noodles.

When I said small...it was reallllly small. We arrived to full table on the sidewalk in front. Lucky to secure a small table in the back of this shop that would probably seat, maybe 16 people (max). We settled in. Checking out the menu, and the food coming out of the kitchen, we decided on a dumpling feast - fried dumplings and xiao long boa. Xiao long boa (aka Shanghia soup dumplings) are my absolute favorites - and these were a special treat.


Posted by pjburke 06:13 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney point vivid potts Comments (0)

Queensland - Tropical Australia

all seasons in one day 65 °F

16 May 2018

Cairns....aka "Cans"

The adventure continues....

Traveling in from Townsville we had a bit of rain but we found Dent and Bend in Cairns - the repair shop for the RV. We weren't really sure what was going to happen. Didn't know if they were going to have to keep the van but thankfully it wasn't such a big deal. I joked with JIm that if all else fails - duct tape.. well....that is pretty much what they did but they had to get some "special" duct tape. They told us that it should hold for the next week but we wouldn't be able to open it. Also, the owner let us know that it shouldn't cost more than $200AU to fix. Now that was really great news - we had no clue. It took about 20 minutes and we were off with directions to get to the Esplanade for some lunch.

The weather was grey with rain threatening but there were still a number of people in the lagoon - no swimming in the water here...again stingers (aka box jellyfish) which you definitely don't want to have a run in with.


We found our caravan park - Lake Placid Tourist Park - with no problem. We usually try to get someplace close to town so that we can walk to shops etc., but since that wasn't an option in Cairns - we opted for this park. It had great reviews and it was close to the Skyrail (gondola that goes up and over to the small town of Kuranda).

17 May 2018

More rain....

At least the wifi was good. The park offered 100Mg free which we found out was almost nothing so for the first time I did pay for a few gig to work on the blog.

Museums are usually a good option during inclement weather. We made the fifteen minute ride into town and found the Cairns Art Gallery and Museum. The museum is housed in a restored 1936 government building. It's small but well done and "free". There were several small exhibitions which were good for me but also not too much for Jim (who generally indulges my love of museums).

Lunch next door at Perrotta's which was a bit pricey but very tasty.


On the way back to the park we took a detour for a quick stop at the bridge overlooking the lower Barron Gorge. This is an area where there is rafting and also a bit of rock slide swimming. It seems one would get in the water, (not me) and head feet first towards the rapids and rocks and then, someone standing on the side throws you a rope so that you don't end up in the rocks further down the gorge...with the hope that you catch it. hmmmm


18 May 2018

Port Douglas

It's our last week in OZ and we drove the quick one hour up to Port Douglas. We've decided it's a bit old Hawaii(ish) - especially the view of the beach - other than the fact that you really can't swim in the water. Yes, again - box jellyfish but they do have a small area cordoned off with nets to keep the stingers out during stinger season which is November to May. But truthfully, it's grey and chilly and the water isn't terribly inviting.

We did make a stop in Cairns before we headed north. Jim had read that there was a Farmer's Market on Friday, Saturday and Sunday's - Rusty's Market - on Grafton St. Not really sure what we were going to find but always up for an adventure - we went. Sure glad we did. I really wished we need more veggies. They all looked so delicious - I could have bought the lot. It reminded me of our favorite markets in Asia but add some food trucks (inside), clothing, baked goods, kombucha, massage booths and coffee...of course - always coffee.

We opted for Vietnamese -I love Pho Gai for breakfast (rice noodle chicken soup) and we found a little truck over in a corner...it was next to a crepe truck (now that was a hard decision to make)....and coffee. After our tummies were full, we grabbed a couple of limes and papayas. Can't wait for breakfast tomorrow - the fresh fruit here has been amazing.



It was time to say goodbye to Cairns ...and yes, they do say Cans - just drop the "r". Our next stop is Port Douglas with a detour to Mossman and Daintree National Park which is one of the oldest rainforests in the world. The park offers a side tour with a local guide which we did decide to take the Kuri Kuri Dreamland Tour.

Still grey when we arrived but the rain held off as we did our tour. Tom (a local gentleman) was our guide and along with a group of girls from a local boarding school and other tourists, we were taken past the tourist area into the forest. First thing order of business was to be cleansed - by smoke. The tour site offers a really good explanation as to why..

Many tours of the region start with a traditional smoking ceremony, which gives you an insight into local life. The ceremony is conducted by the local people who have a specific cultural knowledge about the region that they will willingly share with you. The ceremony itself is a spiritual cleansing to help ward off any bad spirits and to make sure that, while you’re wandering through the ancient land of the local people, that you are welcomed and honoured.


Having been cleansed we started our walk into the forest. Tom told stories, explained the different plants and trees and explained some of the beliefs of the local aboriginal people. We ended the tour with herbal tea and dampers (local biscuit).

Mossman to Port Douglas is a quick 30 minute ride and we were greeted at Tropical Breeze Caravan Park by Lynn. Tropical Breeze is small park within walking distance of shops, restaurants and the waterfront (both beach and wharf). Lynn's husband, Jack, guided us into our site as he does all incoming guests. TB is small but unlike some small parks that I would consider cramped...this seemed more "cozy". We booked two nights here with open plans for our last few days...although, we did book Lake Placid for our very last night with the van since it's only fifteen minutes from the Apollo drop off and the airport.

What to do..it's a Friday afternoon and with the name of few pubs in town we off to explore. We ended up at Paddy's - beers and an early dinner.

19 May 2018

If the weather was better, our thoughts were to taking a snorkeling trip out to the reef (Great Barrier Reef). It is somewhat sunny BUT really windy. I overheard a man talking this morning and he relayed that on his trip to the reef the day before, there had been a lot of "over the side head hanging". SInce we did actually snorkel on a portion of the reef in the Whitsundays we're not excited to spend that much money and not really see much,

We spent the day checking out Port Douglas. A lovely, tropical town, it's really not very big and seems to be a snowbird haven for people from the south of Australia. A number come up for 2-4 months (like our Florida in the winter). Out the back gate, it was a five minute walk to the beach where we found the path and walked to the top of Flagstaff Hill - beautiful view.


Our caravan park has two different couple who are the managers. Initially we met Lynn and Jack. Today we met Mike and Eva. Mike (Canadian from Toronto who incidently got along "way" too well with Jim). We were asked to move our campervan over one spot because he a couple coming in for four months...sure no problem. We mentioned the beautiful beach and lack of high rise buildings to Mike and he explained that it was by design. Buildings can't be higher than the palm trees which gives the appearance of no buildings - really makes a difference when we think of the high rises along our beaches in the US.

A little travel planning was needed - we decided that our next stop would be Cape Tribulation (about an hour north) with hopes of horseback riding on the beach there. Originally, we'd hoped for a reef trip from there if Port Douglas didn't work out but it looks like the weather is just not going to cooperate. But we also decided that it would be only one night in CT and we'd stop back and stay in Tropical Breeze for two nights before heading back to Cairns. There have been a couple of areas of Australia that we've found really comfortable...and this is one of them.

With our van moved, we headed to Seabean for lunch, a tapas place that got really good reviews. Seabean was Jim's pick..and it as a good one. The food was excellent.


When we arrived back at TB - our new neighbors were setting up their caravan for the four month stay. Introductions were made - Karl and Frances and the jokes started. This couple is going to be fun.

20 May 2018

With plans settled, we opted for a quiet, windy day in Port D with a sprinkle here and there. People keep apogizing for the "less than stellar" weather but...it is what it is.

A beer at Hemingway's Brewery (on the waterfront) and then stopped at the Hi Tide Cafe for an early light dinner. Our "oh so cute" waiter, Aaron, kept us smiling with his cheeky sense of humor.



21 May 2018

Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation is close (about an hour away) but still oh so far. About half way there, one must take a short five minute ferry ride to get to the cape (round trip $27). It's like going through a time warp - making your way into the jungle. The rainforest gets thicker and thicker and the road get more winding and much more narrow. Also, the population decreases significantly.


We did decide to do the Raintree Discovery Center which is a series of different walks through and above the rainforest. It was a nice diversion.

Farther out on the cape we arrived at our campground - Cape Tribulation Camping. Nicely situatied just off the beach. It really is in the middle of nowhere. The grounds are quite big with grassy sites. I don't know if it's just off season or the weather but it was not very full.

After getting set up, we walked through the palm treed path to the wind swept sea and again found ...no one on the beach. The water was rough and churning which gave the whole area a mystical quality. I had a feeling that it might have been just like this when Captain James Cook's ship hit the reef in 1770 just off the coast. He named the area Cape Tribulation because "here begun all our troubles".



The rain started in earnest shortly after our walk and continued through out the night. Fortunately for us, this campground has a woodfired pizza oven and this night was one of their "pizza nights". We joined, what seemed like, most of the other campers on the large porch for wine, beer and travel stories. The rain be damned....we still had a great time.

22 May 2018

Return to Port Douglas

Rain...and more rain. The rain and wind continued through the night and the next morning, with no sign of letting up. No horseback riding for us today.

We came, we saw and it was time to leave. By the time we got back to the ferry, the rain had subsided but we could see the rain clouds hover the northern coast.


If you may have been asking yourself - do they ever cook in that van - well, yes we do. We almost always have breakfast and lunch "at home". Tonight was "clean out the frig night" and as we like to do in AZ - it was all the leftover veggies with garlic and anchovies mixed with pasta. Quite delicious!!


23 May 2018

Another planning day and a laundry day. Tomorrow we would make our way down to Cairns for our last night before our flight to Sydney.

One of the nice things about Port Douglas is they sure do have some good restaurants with great views. We had depleted our food supply in the van so it was Hemingway's for lunch and then the Tin Shed for a light dinner,

Note: if your traveling in Australia you will find RSLs - which are "Returned and Service Leagues". The Tin Shed is one of these. Their website explains it much better than I can - but visitors are welcome and we've seen them all over Australia. Dinner was good here with a beautiful view from their deck.



It was also time to start packing. Our plan is to pack away,in one bag, things we won't need in Sydney. We'll see how that works.

Recieved a couple of good emails today 1) Apollo confirmed the $200 price tag for our little mishap and 2) Heard from Jacinta and Mike (couple from Sydney that we met on the sail boat) - we've been invited to have dinner with them and Mike's parents in Manley on Saturday - looking forward to that,

In retrospect, we've really enjoyed this trip and we've found it's not about going, going, going...and sometimes just "being". It's been really nice!!!

24 May 2018

Off to Cairns....good byes to Karl and Frances. We've been invited to visit them in Ulladulla, if/when we get back to OZ. We just might do that!!

The Skyrail Cable Car (aka gondola) is just outside Cairns and kisses the treetops as it goes from Smithfield to Kuranda. This is our excursion for today and we had some beautiful views. After walking through the rainforest a few times on this trip, it was fun being up and over the treetops. Australia has some incredible trees.


It was late afternoon when we got to our caravan park and we still needed to finish packing. Luckily (actually strangely), at the dead end of the road, next to our park is a restaurant - Alessandro's. Reviews said that they have great pizza (a recurring theme here in OZ)...well, they did. It was nice way to end our trip in Queensland.

Off to Sydney tomorrow...keep and eye out for our final installment of our 2018 Australia Adventure.

Posted by pjburke 15:52 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

NSW towards Queensland

all seasons in one day
View Australia 2018 on pjburke's travel map.

08 May 2018

Hervey Bay

Leaving Byron behind, it rained most of the way north. We arrived into Hervey (said Ha vee) as the sun was trying to peak out from behind the clouds. We'd made reservations at Scarness Tourist Park which is right on the beach. We were greeted by the lovely Marilyn and she let us know that they had had a couple of cancellations and if we wanted to, we could be right beachfront- a few extra $$ at $50AU. The site was ideal - on the end, close to "facilities" and beautiful views out of both sides of the van, so we took it.

Jim worked on our laundry and I walked down the Esplanade insearch of a post office (post cards for my Mom) and an ATM. Found the post (which BTW are privately owned here in AU) and the friendly woman behind the counter guided me to the closest bank.

By the time I got back - Jim and I were both ready for dinner. I noticed on my little walk, that there was an Irish Pub close by so we decided to check out Houlihan's.. Can't say that I've ever had a bad time at an Irish Pub. Houlihan's didn't disappoint. Food in AU tends to be pricey but my suggestion is - pick a pub and look at their daily specials. Today's was Guinness chips??? Well, it was actually a Guinness beef stew pie (gotta love these Aussie pies), with chips (French fries) and salad for $12 - couldn't beat that price. It was delicious and much than more than I could eat - Jim got a chance to enjoy it also.


09 May 2018

Again, it rained overnight but we woke to beautiful blue skies. Internet was pretty good so I worked on the blog a bit, went for a walk on beach and just a short walk down the street to Enzo's for lunch - realllllly good!!! And the view - incredible. We might just get lost here in little Hervey Bay.

We talked with Marilyn about a sunset cruise on one of the local boats. Her recommendation was the Blue Dolphin. She called up but found out no sunset cruise tonight but they did have a day sail tomorrow - smaller group and more like an Eco sail - sounded good to us - plus they would pick us up right in front of the caravan park.

Did have one new adventure - the camp has it's own possum which lives in a box in the camp kitchen...I got to feed her.


10 May 2018
Blue Dolphin

Jody picked us up just a little after 0800 and we were off. Today's cruise (it's a sailing boat but unfortunately - no wind today so we motored) would be with another couple (Abby and Dan) and a group of Chinese students studying the environmental impact of industry on the local waters. They joined us with their instructor Yvonne. Today was a day on the water for them to put into practice what they'd been learning in the classroom. It was a bit like being back at HUST.

We wandered the waters off Hervey Bay and got to see a fair amount of sea life: bottlenose dolphin, humpback dolphin, a couple of turtles and six or seven dugong - which are the cousin to our manatees. This region has been hit with cyclones recently and in the case of Hervey Bay it wiped out much of the seagrass which is what dugong feed on. Yvonne and Pete (our Captain) were both amazed and encouraged at the number of dugong we saw - three different pods and about eight in total. That might not sound like a lot but Yvonne said that generally we would be very lucky to even see one.


There was a quick stop at Pelican Island for a swim in the crisp, crystal clear water, morning tea and we headed back. Our cruise was listed as a half day but leaving at 0800 and returning at 230pm, it was perfect.

Again we headed to Enzos for a late lunch, worked on blog a little more. Thank God for good internet!!! Also, got to chat with Marilyn. She and her husband Phil have managed this park for a number of years and we learned that they were retiring as soon as the owners could get a replacement- which was proving a bit of a problem. Marilyn and I discovered we're only about a month apart in age.....I assured her that retirement will be wonderful. Best of luck!!!!!



11 May 2018


Hervey Bay was one of those places that we could have stayed for quite a while. We took a chance on an unknown going there and were REALLY sad to be leaving. Although we had second thoughts about staying "just one more night), it was time to move on.

Heading north, we knew it wold be about a 5 1/2 hour drive which is about the max we like to do in a day. Driving here is not like driving 5 hours at home. There is a ton of construction with the attempt to transition from two lane roads (yes, one in each direction) to four. The only freeways (as we know them) are in the major cities...and some of them are not free). Note: if you're traveling in AU - get a mobile pass from the rental company. Sometimes you're not even sure if you're on a toll road or not - not always cheaper but just makes things easier and if you don't take care of your tolls within three days - it's a whopping fine...tons of license plate readers..

We arrived into Yeppoon (like harpoon) - late afternoon. Made dinner in the van and were treated to lovely sunset.

Being that our campervan sits right next to the walkway to the beach, we get a fair amount of "hellos". One couple, stopped and chatted for a while. Retires, Frank and Ruth, stopped, chatted for quite a while, sharing some of their travel and life experiences....a lovely, gentle couple :-)


12 May 2018

No internet here so it was a nice relaxing day. We woke to an amazing sunrise and a huge beach - much bigger than when we went to bed. Who knew the tides here were so drastic. We walked into town along the beach which seemed like a large sand boulevard. Back for some trip planning and we walked in again a bit later to catch some lunch.


The Spinnakers at the Keppel Bay Sailing Club (combo casino, sailing club and restaurant) overlooked the beach and was busy on this sunny Sunday afternoon. We ended up sharing a table with Vanessa a teacher from nearby Rockhampton. Food was good and again I took advantage of the "special", a cold beer and a great chat. We tried again for a sunset cruise with a local company but their minimum was four and as of that afternoon there were just a two...us ...boo!!

I'm really getting the hang of our campervan. The kitchen area is narrow - a bit too narrow for Jim, so I'm doing the cooking. Now, that's a bit different for the Burkes.

Our schedules usually take on a life of their own when we travel and this trip is no different. Looking ahead - we're now on our 7th (or maybe 8th) revision.

It was a lovely evening and a great one to sit outside and enjoy a star show that rivals our Arizona night time skies.

We were actually going to stay for three nights but decided to leave tomorrow. The park only charged us a $10 cancellation fee. Tomorrow we'll continue north to Airlie (air lee) Beach. I've been in touch with Tam from Airlie Beach Day Sail and we will be going out with them either Monday or Tuesday.

Before we took off, we stopped for a short visit with Frank and Ruth and Frank presented me with a little memento of our time in OZ- a pendant made with crushed opal shards and a couple piece of Australian Opal that he found many years ago.


Sailing the Whitsundays - a dream come true!!

13 May 2018
Airlie Beach

It's Mother's Day in OZ today and I was able to give Mom a call or rather a SKYPE. My sister, Peg is visiting from DC and I was able to see and talk with Mom. Told her, not to worry, we'll be home in about two weeks.

Another 5.5 hour drive heading towards the Whitsunday area of Airlie Beach. The views are changing. The hills are smoothing out and it looks like what I imagine the Serengeti might look like. Huge brown plains stretching as far as the eye can see with the iconic eucalyptus trees dotting the horizon.

Staying at the Seabreeze Tourist Park..huge park, great location but one of the bathroom blocks was under construction so there ended up being a back log for showers in the am. Also, found out that what was advertised as good wifi...was not. One of their routers was down and service in the kitchen area was "supposed" to be good - not really

Sailing tomorrow and meeting at 810 in front of Sorrentos at the Marina. We were told it would be about a 15 walk but we decided to check it out ourselves. Beautiful walk over on the waterfront boardwalk. It actually ended up being more like 30 minutes.


14 May 2018

We were up early and Jim's breakfast scones ended up moldy so we decided to head to the marina and grab brekkie before our sail. It was fun watching the marina come to iife. People wandering off their sail/power boats to head in for showers. Groups were starting to form for the Whitehaven Beach tours. As the buses arrived people lined up, paid and got fitted for their stinger suits - which are light weight wet suits. Technically, stinger season is over BUT...you just never know. Oh...stingers are box jellyfish - you DO NOT want a run in with one of those.

We met Dale (our captain) along with Wolfgang - the unicorn mascot, Mike and Jacinta (Aussies from Sydney) and Fran, Holly and Megan (Brits - Mom and two daughters- here on holiday). Since we were all very prompt - we got started early.

Needless to day - It was an awesome day!!!!! A little choppy on the way out due to wind (15-20 knots) and tides but it didn't matter - Dale gladly handed the helm over to anyone who wanted to sail....my hand couldn't go up fast enough. It's been about ten years since I've sailed and these were unfamiliar waters but I was in heaven. Not wanted to be a helm hog...I made sure I backed away to give others a chance. Jacinta decided she wanted to drive while under power and Holly took her turn at the wheel - I think she's hooked.

The sailing was matched only by the nurishment provided. Our food was catered with Alain Antonius who used to own a lovely restaurant in the area. Dale is lucky to have him as their caterer. OMG the food was so good. No ham and cheese sammies here. Alain sends the bases for this tapas style spread and Dale put it all together.,,along with baking bread as we cross the channel with rails pretty close to the water.


The day ended, as all good sailing days should, with a spirit (or two) on the patio as the sun set and we said our good byes to new found friends.


15 May 2018

Boy,,,did I sleep well. Well, except for a bit of a throbbing toe (nothing says a great of sailing like a broken toe)....yup mine.


It was time to move on - heading to Townsville to break up our trip to Cairns.

Did a quick gas up and coffee break in Cardwell....so beautiful....BUT!!!!


I always enjoy sharing the really good things about our trips and traveling - now time to share a piece of self inflicted stupidity. When we close up the campervan, we "always" check a couple of times to make sure that all is secure. Note to self: look up. We inadvertently forgot to close the vent to the roof. Vent meets overhang in the grocery store parking lot was not pretty. We called Apollo Rentals and they arranged for us to get it repaired in Cairns. Hopefully, it won't rain before then. Wonder how much this is going to cost us????

It was late afternoon by the time we got to Townsville and Rowe's Caravan Park. Their wifi is great so I get finished up my previous posting and go that posted. Steaks and Blue Cheese from Tilda Tilda for dinner. On to Cairns tomorrow...will keep you posted.

Posted by pjburke 00:32 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

The Hunter and North....

all seasons in one day
View Australia 2018 on pjburke's travel map.

02 May 2018

The Hunter

Time to head towards wine country.... Aka the Hunter Valley. With a recommendation from the tourist office at Echo Point we take "the back way" and stop by Mt Tomah Botanical Gardens (aka the Blue Mountains Botancl Gardens). This lovely setting is about 30 minutes from Blackheath ...and it's free. We took our time and wandered the landscaped paths. With 28 hectares (69 acres) to view, some the areas are gardens and other treed pathways. It's the end of the season right now and very nice but in season it must be spectacular.


The three hour drive to the Hunter flew by and we arrived at the Wine Country Tourist Park in time to set up, walk up a side road for about an hour (sitting gets old after a while) and make Happy Hour at the Pub across the street. This caravan park is the type of place, that when you arrive, you're not sure about it .. but after a day or two , you don't really want to leave.

Heading to the Pub across the street we meet another couple attempting (as we were) to cross the highway. Barry and Gale (Aussies)ended up being our our caravan park neighbors. As conversations happen, ours also continued and we joined them for a beer flight - each had our own paddles.


03 May 2018

Two Fat Blokes

Reservations in place the prior week, we were up and ready to go at 0900 - today was a wine tasting day...a lot of wine. We booked with Two Fat Blokes and were picked up by the lovely Jules..Our choice of tours was the Hunter Gatherer Tour which was an all day tour with wine /cheese pairing, wine/chocolate pairing, lunch and wine...lots of wine...and our fair share of roo sightings. It was really a great day!!! Among the group was a fellow travel blogger - Jessica and her husband Ryan from Texas - www.theimpatienttraveler.co and our 1st IASW ( It's a small world) of the trip. Ryan is headed to Toronto soon for bach weekend with a good friend from.....Rochester.


04 May 2018

A little slow going today after all the wine - a good day to get laundry done , do some grocery shopping ..oh and fit in a winery (Hanging Tree and Verdin) or two.


05 May 2018

Great night sleep but cold (about 45) which we weren't expecting...thankful again for the heater.

Today we're off to see Bob and Gail Bale in Lake Munmorah (about 1 1/2 hours north of Sydney). We met them on our last trip to OZ in Uluru (Ayers Rock). When I knew we were coming , I contacted Gail. So glad that we were able to make this visit happen. We had a wonderful visit and got to meet their son Peter. As we all know - there are some people who we meet and immediately click - Bob and Gail are one of those couples. Our visit ended too quickly. We left with hopes that we would see them again - the hard part of meeting people when you travel.


Off again and the road took us north and landed us in Tuncurry for just the one night.

06 May 2018

It's still a long way to Queensland and there will be a few one night stops along the way. But being Sunday, we lucked out and there was a Sunday Market at Black Beach (a short side trip). We wandered, bought a jar one of our new guilty pleasures - Lemon Butter and also some Lime Butter. I think it will be really good on grilled fish back in AZ.

Our evening stop was the Bellinger River Tourist Park. Nice little park and our site is right on the river. Good camp kitchen and this park gets extra points for great bathrooms with blow dryers...a first. It rained overnight which usually makes it easy for me to sleep but not so much when your sleeping in a tin can.


07 May 2019

We weren't sure if it was going to rain or not but decided to take a chance and head up over the mountain, stopping at Dorrigo National Park along the way. A nice 3.5 mile hike to break up the drive to Byron Bay.


Drove our last hour into Byron in the dark, pouring rain. Did not like that at all. We've found that Australia is a bit like Saddlebrooke in the street lighting department - meaning they are non-existent.

08 May 2018

I do have to give a big shout out and "Thank you" to an unknown person at the Byron Tourist Park. Grabbing a quick shower before we headed out, I accidently left my Fitbit in shower room. As soon as I realized I didn't have it, I ran back. Not there and I really thought it was gone. While I continued to pack up the van, Jim checked at the office - someone turned it in. Huge Thanks to whoever that was!!! Restores my faith...

Since the weather really hadn't improved much and the forecast only showed rain, instead of staying for two days in Byron (actually Suffolk) we decided to keep heading north to Hervey Bay. Initially we were going to stay in Maryborough but Hervey Bay sounded nice- SOOO glad we did.

Next up.....Hervey (said Ha vee) Bay!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by pjburke 14:52 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Heading north on ANZAC Day

Lake Tyers and beyond

all seasons in one day 65 °F

......to say that I am behind in my blog posts is an understatement...

Not to worry - we've been having a great trip. OZ is so beautiful. Jim says it looks like Ireland - just bigger with wider roads. BUT - wifi is not always readily available in caravan parks. So bare with me and I'll catch you up....

25 April 2018

Lake Tyers

Leaving Toora, we knew it was going to be a quiet travel day. It was ANZAC Day (a national day of remembrance - similar to the US Memorial Day)

After a 3 hour drive, we landed in Lakes Tyres, north from Toora. Route A1 aka The Pacific Coast Way, runs the eastern coast of Australia. We'll be following it for a major portion of our trip,

Speaking of following directions...HINT: although Apollo Campervan Rentals has been very responsive to our needs - I'm not sure the last time the GPS was updated but it probably wasn't in the last 5-7 years. A SIM card for my phone was so cheap (18G for $20AU - 35 days) that we didn't really need it...it's taken us the wrong place three or four times.

Our caravan park is a bit out of town but a very short two minute walk to the Ninety Mile Beach (thus named because....it's 90 miles long ). It was the first place that we headed. Beach as far as we could see and only one or two people - windy and a bit chilly but so peaceful!!


26 April 2019

Being near the beach was nice but it was also cold and damp - really glad we had that heater!!

Another walk on the beach and again just one other person - the same woman we saw yesterday walking her little dog. We chatted and left her with the Beatles song "Get Back" in the back of her mind after we said that we were from Tucson. (Not the first time we've heard that on this trip).

Off to Paynesville which is a small town about a hour south of Lake Tyres. Just off it's coast (actually a two minute ferry ride) is Raymond Island. The island is 6 km long and 2 km wide and it's filled with koalas. We walked the Koala Trail and saw about a dozen little furry bundles curled up the crook of the various gum trees. They are so damn cute...but my sister spoiled the illusion just a little when she told me that about 90% have chlamydia. Doing a little research, I found this to be a huge issue with koalas - to the point that the government may be putting them on the endangered species list.


On our way back, a quick bit of housekeeping. I need a blow dryer. Most caravan parks don't have them and since I'm keeping my hair a little longer since the play - I need a dryer. Found a Target, right inside the door was a blow dryer display and $15 we're out the door. Easy peasy!!

27 April 2018


Our schedule at this point has been pretty fluid. We were going to drive into Ulladulla - which is about a six hour drive but decided to break it up and stop in Merimbula. Jim is on his never ending search for oysters and Merimbula (with the accent on the "rim") with it's oyster farms in the bay is a hot spot for this bivalve.

We decided on Sapphire Lakes Caravan Park for two reasons - good reviews and it's proximately to town - about a five minute walk. Need to get those 10k steps in. The park is nice and again we opted for the ensuite site - with our holiday park discounts (from our RV rental) - it was just couple $$ more than a regular site. I'm really getting spoiled in my old age.

Merimbula (said Mer IM buela) is a nice little town on a quiet bay. Didn't find any oysters but did find a nice little pub (one of only two in town) at the Merimbula Lakeside Hotel. Jim ended up behind the bar for a quick photo with the bartender, Tommy, and Jim's "James Brown" shirt.

(Note: for those that don't know, I have a very good friend in Rochester who owns a great breakfast-lunch place on Culver Road - James Brown's Place. He gave Jim a t-shirt with his mantra " A Legend in His Own Mind" and asked us to take pics in some of the crazy places that we travel to. That has been Jim's mission. That shirt has been around the world - literally.)


28 April 2018


We're off again - this time we are heading to Ulladulla.

Along the way, we made a short stop. Jim had read that there are a couple of little towns called Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba that are "cute" (that word again" historic towns, one with a cheese factory. The signs directed us off the highway and up a winding road. About the same moment, Jim and I both concluded that Hobbits could live here. It was magical. Finding parking for our campervan proved a little difficult but we lucked out and got a space close to town. The Tilba Saturday Market was in full swing. Wandering the small town was fun. I ended up buying a wrap in one of the shops and Jim had his first hemp smoothie- which he rather enjoyed,

We arrived into Ulladulla (Ulladulla Headlands Caravan Park) in the pouring rain. After getting checked in, we drove down the road to Dee's Funk and Junk - not really sure what kind of "junk and/or funk" we would find. Actually ended up being a little gold mine - found a warm, wool jacket for JIm ($30AU) and chatted with Dee (the owner). She gave us some great suggestions for our short time in this quaint little town, We immediately followed up on one of her suggestions - Hayden's Pies. Not the fruit pies that we're used to in the states - this place is known for its savory pies. Six inches of warm, flaky, delicious pie crust - the best I've had in quite a while. We chose Lamb Vindaloo and Chicken Tikka Masala - both bursting with flavor and of course ended up being our early dinner.


Now if it would just stop raining.

29 April 2018

Yesterday, Dee told us that there would be a Sunday Market up the road in Mollymook but the woman at the park front desk said no.."well, let's give it a try anyways" and Dee was right, Right near the beach, this Sunday Market was good sized with an assortment of items - veggies, food, clothing, artisan crafts. We bought some bread, dukkah and local olive oil.

The weather was warm and sunny and a local winery sounded like a great diversion - we were off to Cupitt's Winery. We had a great time. Did a wine tasting and had some food out on the patio over looking the beautiful valley and listening to music.


We got back to the caravan park just in time. The weather had turned and turned quickly - we had rain, thunder and lightening for the rest of the night.

30 April 2018


Again, we're off.

Staying in one place for more than one night is really ideal but we need to be up into Queensland to drop off the campervan by May 25th - plus we'd like about a week up in the Cairns area so we don't have the luxury of dawdling.

We're off to the Blue Mountains.

Following one of Australia Tourist Drives we head inland.

We taking our time on our way up, stopping along the way, our first stop is Cambewarra Lookout. I really wasn't sure that the campervan was going to make it up the steep narrow road to the lookout but I should never doubt a VW engine - it did quite well. With just a few other visitors it was a lovely place to enjoy a cup of coffee.


The ride down the hill didn't seem quite as steep or as long - funny how that happens.

On to Kangaroo Valley and another cute little town...and another pie shop. Seems these savory little pies are becoming our guilty pleasure. Today JIm chose a pumpkin spinach pie and mine was lamb and rosemary. Hope we'll be able to wait til dinner.



Down the drive just a bit was Fitzroy Falls. The whole area is lacking a bit of water due to a drought but the falls still had enough water to impress. The area close to the visitor center had nice views but we decided to get those 10K steps in for the day and continue down the west side about 3Km and were rewarded with more impressive views of the falls and valley.


It was time to continue to our destination of Blackheath and to the Blackheath Glen Caravan Park. Again the GPS failed us, taking us up some dead end street....not happy.

The caravan park is OK..small (which is not a problem) but it is counsel run (like a county park) and the most expensive $57Au and the worst wifi. Dinner and laundry on our "to do" list and then hunker down for a cold night.

01 May 2018

It was a cold night but we woke to beautiful blue skies which we decided to take advantage of by hitting some of the local sites (the reason we came to the Blue Mts.)

First stop - Govetts Leap - where we learned that this area is considered the Australian Grand Canyon. At Govetts, we saw just a small portion of the canyon but it was lovely and in contrast to our GC - very lush and hardly any tourists.


Next, Echo Point. We found out where all the tourists were. Apparently, tourists are brought in by the bus load from Sydney and this is a favorite stop and for a very good reason. The views are outstanding.


Another "tourist drive" is the BMD (Blue Mountain Dr) which we followed and were able to get away from the tourists buses and the crowds.


Our last cold night in Blackheath and tomorrow we'll head down the mountain towards Hunter Valley (one of Australia's many wine regions) and warmer weather... we've decided that, YES, we've become Arizona wimps.

Posted by pjburke 00:23 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Wilsons Promontory

semi-overcast 65 °F

23 April 2018

We woke to a very foggy morning and with a suggestion from the park manager we took a side trip off the main road to Agnes Falls. Driving off the main road, over the hill and through the dairy farms. It seemed like we were in the wrong place...but then ..there it was!!


After our little trip to the falls, the sky had cleared and we were off to WIlsons Prom.

Though probably not as dramatic as The Great Ocean Road, the quaintness of the area surrounding Wilson's Prom made us feel like we'd found someplace very special.

Note: When you see people along the side of road with cameras, it's usually a good indication that there is "something" to be seen....and there was - an EMU!!!


A little further down the road, the brush opened up and there was the ocean - it all it's glory.


Walking back to the car, we found a group of people watching a very small snake. If I (or the others) knew how poisonous it was...we probably wouldn't have gotten that close. We found out later it was not a Brown snake (VERY poisonous) but a black red bellied snake and as wiki described - "Though its venom is capable of causing significant morbidity its venom is generally not fatal". Generally??? hmmmm. But I also knew from my neighbor Jerry, that if it's eating, which it was, it was happy and not really interested in me.


A quick lunch kept Jim happy and we decided on the short hike of the Lilly Pilly Track.


After a beautiful 5Km walk, we opted for beers at the only local pub - The Royal Standard Hotel. The pub is the only one in town and just a short walk from our caravan park. Actually Toora is pretty small and everything is just a short walk...but I digress... Anyways.. we chatted with the ladies behind the bar - another beer and we decided to stay for dinner. It was a great choice - fresh oyster (for Jim) and local fish for me. (We did find out later that this is a local favorite that brought in folks from all over the area).


24 April 2018

A relatively good night sleep (it always takes time getting used to the van), breakfast and a call to the Apollo Campervan office. (Try as me might we couldn't get the heater to work and it was pretty darn cold.) At first, they were going to try and get a technician to our location. Hint: we're pretty much in the middle of nowhere - I don't think that's going to happen.

I got a call back and they advised us...guess what?? They were not able to get a tech to us but authorized us to by a space heater. We had one in our last campervan and knew they work quite well. They would reimburse up to $35. While I grabbed a shower, Jim walked into town to check to see if the local hardware store had a heater.

Jim got a little lost but fortunately, as I said, Toora is pretty small but no luck on the heater. They advised him to try Foster (which is on our way to Wilson's Prom).

The small village of Foster did the trick. The hardware store had a surprisingly large selection of small space heaters. $34.99 right on budget.
From there, it was a quick trip to the Opp shop - the AU version of our Thrift shores - or the Goose - not as large but very friendly. We ended up a with a couple extra glasses, a extra dish towel and a small rug. Campervans are nice but they come with just the basics.

On to WIlsons Prom and our first stop was to walk on Squeaky Beach - the pics really tell the story...and yes the sand does squeak!!


After Squeaky Beach, we made our way back up the road to the WIldlife walk - short walk but we saw emus, roos and a little wombat ( a very shy, cute, little wombat).


We've had small campervans but this is where I would draw the line!!


One of the things I really enjoy about caravan parks is the camp kitchens. We can cook in the van but all caravan parks have kitchens. Some better than others. The kitchen here in Toora is a good one. After dinner a la Chef Jim, we ended up chatting with a really nice couple of NZ - Rachel and Steve). Rachel work for a while as an officer in NZ - they offered us their info... just in case we get back to Christchurch area...we can only hope.

Posted by pjburke 13:53 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Melbourne to Toora

Spending time at WIlson's Prom

overcast 65 °F

22 April 2018

TIme to move on but not before breakfast. If you sense a theme here - you're not just a pretty face.

Early Sunday morning and Melbourne has not woken up yet. I found a 24 hour Greek Restaurant just a five minute walk from our hotel. Definitely brought back memories of late nights in Rochester - except this is the "senior" version - 0800 instead of 0230!! (Sorry Nan...no pics)

Breakfast at Stalactites was really good. Breakfast souvlaki - eggs, bacon, lettuce, tomato, feta wrapped in probably the best pita I've ever had. Great way to start the day.

I tried to use my Uber app to call for a cab but having some type of issue...so... if all else fails - flag down a cab. This trip was MUCH less expensive than our trip in - no traffic at all ($35).

We arrived at the Apollo/Cheapo/Hippie RV rental center, ready to head out with a campervan. The rental agent logged us in and really looked surprised and told us we'd been upgraded to a larger RV.

Note: if you're interested in renting a campervan/rv - check out the different companies. They all usually have a graded system depending on the age of the vehicle. (ie: Apollo (newest) - 1 step older is Cheapo and next level is Hippie. Also as in any vehicle - price depends on the size of the vehicle).

Contrary to popular belief - we do work on somewhat of a budget. I knew what I wanted to pay for the 6 weeks and I also knew that one with a bathroom was out of my budget...but...we stay in caravan parks and from previous experience they have all been very nice, so a campervan works for us.

No idea why we got upgraded but we did book last fall and we were a long term lease. We were upgraded to a Euro Tourer. It's an older model (maybe 7 years old with about 115000 miles on it) but it's set up with a small table area vs extra counter space (new models) - which means we can make the bed and not take it apart each night. That right there is a big plus. We do have a bathroom but we'll see how much we actually use it..more about that later.

....back to our pick up. Our Apollo agent took time with us, went over all the paperwork and out options. I was very pleased. He also went through the vehicle with us, got us extra sheets and towels and made sure the vehicle was ready to go. It's a little longer than a campervan but not as long as the RV we had in Alaska so...no worries....we're off.


We thought we were getting the campervan on the left ....we got the one on the right :-)

First stop...grocery store. The two major grocery chains in AU are Coles and Woolworths. There was a Woolworths close by and after just one short wrong turn we made it there. In and out in about 30 minutes and we are off to Toora which is east of Melbourne not far from Wilson's Prom (Promentary).

A number of people had asked us if we were going to the Great Ocean Road. We considered it but it would have taken us west and then back east again. I'm sure it's lovely but we knew it would be crowded so we opted for the Wilson's Prom area, basically because we had never heard of it.

Booked an ensuite spot at the Toora Tourist Park ($45AU/$35USD) per night. This is where the bathroom explanation comes in. Originally having a campervan (no bathroom), it's a luxury to have our own bathroom and for an extra few dollars -we splurged.

The landscape on our drive from Melbourne towards Toora reminded me of the rolling hills towards the Keuka Lake area - very green with small towns.

At the caravan park, we were greeting by Sue (manager), a friendly woman who we found out shared our love of Bali. Our spot was close by with our "ensuite"within a few steps.


The village of Toora consists of just a main street and a handful of streets running parallel. After our three hour drive, the short walk was welcomed. Toora is quiet...very quiet with only a small number of businesses - most only open on the weekends.


Dinner in the RV tonight - a glass of wine and sleep came early and fast. Tomorrow - Wilson's Promontory!!!

Posted by pjburke 16:42 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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