Monday, September 07, 2009

Preparing for, and Remembering, Australia

As we begin to pack for our big Australia trip, I've been thinking a lot about some of my favorite memories in a country that we were once lucky enough to call "home". Unfortunately, I wasn't yet blogging at that time (just before Lukas was born - from June of 2004 to August of 2005), but I've long wanted to put something together for the blog on our year in Oz, a year that was both trying and life-altering, in ways that I can't quite explain. But I can share with you some of the highlights...

1) Our stay at the Queen's St. Hilton for the first few weeks, right smack in the middle of everything.

2) Later, the terrace / extended kitchen of our New Farm apartment, which overlooked the Brizzy skyline and river.

3) Learning to play tennis at New Farm Park, walking to local restaurants, and weekends at the nearby Powerhouse Market.

4) Taking the City Cat (public transportation in the form of a catamaran) to local eateries, and the stunning South Bank

5) Viewing the city from Mount Coot-tha, and hiking the trails to nearby waterfalls.

6) The Whale-Watching boat tour -- our boat departed from Moreton Bay. We got so close, it seemed we could almost touch these boat-sized beasts!

6) Byron Bay Lighthouse (whence the name Lukas "Byron" Kraft). If you're in the area, this is a must-see. Walk up there from the sleepy village of Byron Bay. It's an incredible hike!!! Adventure seekers, try hang-gliding above the bay from the cliffs near the lighthouse.

7) The Lamington & Springbrook Rainforests, and 4-wheeling up there.

8) Fraser Island - The dingos, the pristine beaches, 4-wheeling, camping, swimming in the crystal clear fresh-water lake, hiking through the rainforest

9) Noosa Heads - Especially the Noosa National Park. Hike along the cliffs to the secluded beach for some truly incredible photos. Keep an eye out for koalas! Also fun: learning to surf at the Noosa surf school.

10) Sunshine Coast Hinterland, with it's eerie volcano-shaped mountains. The towns nestled in the Glass House Mountains are wonderful. My favorites: Eumundi (with its Wednesday and Saturday markets), Montville, and Maleny. Another must-see: The Australia Zoo, made famous by the iconic Steve Irwin (aka the "Crocodile Hunter").

11) Carnarvon Gorge. We hiked for 20 kilmoters through this incredible gorge, then camped out nearby and watched the kangaroos bounce past at dusk.

12) Small-town Chinchilla, with its too-cute-for-words bi-annual Melon-Festival

13) Sydney. If you ask us, there's no better place to spend New Year's (pre-kids, or with older kids). Watching the fireworks over the Opera House from our spot at the Royal Botanic Gardens will stay with us forever. Also fun: The boat ride to Manly and surfing on Bondi Beach

14) The Blue Mountains and "Three Sisters" rock formation. A few-hours' drive from Sydney, and well worth it!

15) Melbourne, the Dandenongs, and the Great Ocean Road. Okay, so there aren't exactly "12 Apostles" anymore, but those that remain are still worth seeing!

16) Our 3-week road trip through Queensland and the Northern Territory. Highlights: The "Walkabout Creek"pub from Crocodile Dundee, getting a flat tire and ending up stranded at the Huckitta cattle ranch along the Plenty Highway, watching sunsets and sunrises at Uluru, staying in an actual hotel in Alice Springs, a boat ride through Katherine Gorge, walking through Devil's Marbles at sunset, stumbling into the Daly Waters -- a typical Outback pub, the Sunset Markets in Darwin, the swimming oases at Litchfield National Park (less overrun than Kakadu, and with less crocs), wandering the rainforests of Daintree in Northern Queensland, kanoeing to a remote island in Northern Queensland for breakfast, Port Douglas (visit the town and the lookout point), and our boat ride and walk amongst the awesome Whitsunday Islands

17) Reef-fishing on the Great Barrier Reef, mudcrabbing in the Gladstone-area mangroves, snorkeling the reef.

And voila! Our favorite Australia sites, in a nutshell. And now, I'm off to plan next week's trip... with children. Stay posted for more photos of our past, and upcoming trips to magical Oz.

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