Queensland, Australia: Brisbane, the Reef, and the Gold Coast
by Lee Foster
Australia benefits with travel momentum gained from its occasional exposures on the international stage.
The Australian emerges as a person with a self-reliant, can-do attitude. They have a saying in Australia that, if your car or your tractor breaks down, especially in the back country, you should be able to fix it yourself. The idea is that, with a little baling wire, an Aussie should be able to fix about anything. The saying is, “Twitch it up with wire.”
Brisbane is one city that has benefited from exposure. When thinking of Brisbane , consider:
*The city of Brisbane itself, which has 1.7 million inhabitants in the region. One interesting category of shop sells aboriginal arts from the state. As you walk around the city, you see statues and small parks, such as a monument to Queen Victoria . The city lies in a sub-tropical environment, with the October spring iparticularly colorful because purple jacaranda trees bloom lavishly. Queenslanders often build their houses on stilts for greater air flow, flood control, and termite or dry rot prevention.
*The Gold Coast, the 19-mile beach playground starting 39 miles south of Brisbane . The so-called Gold Coast ranks as one of the great beach areas of the world. Extensive development of hotels, especially by the Japanese, occurs at Surfer’s Paradise , including one of the largest hotels in Australia , the Conrad International. Swimming and sunning at Gold Coast Beaches rivals the experience of Hawaii or the Caribbean . Surfers Paradise is well known as Australia ‘s longest topless swimming area.
While on the Gold Coast, be sure to see the Currumbin Sanctuary, known for its Australian animals and birds, especially the mu lti-colored rainbow lorikeets that fly in from the forests every afternoon at 4 p.m. The Gold Coast also has another animal park, Fleay’s Wildlife Park , an animals-in-their-natural-environment park run by the state parks department.
Other Gold Coast attractions are Sea World, a water-oriented a mu sement park noted for its huge grouper fish and shark exhibits, and Dreamworld, an Australian version of Disneyland .
*The Great Barrier Reef. An energetic day trip can take you from Brisbane to Lady Musgrave Island , a small portion of the Great Barrier Reef . You start early in the morning with an hour flight to Bundaberg, then cross from the mainland to the reef on a two-hour catamaran voyage. At uninhabited Lady Musgrave Island , a naturalist walks you around the coral island, showing you the many types of coral, the special vegetation, such as pisonia trees, and the teeming bird life, including some 40,000 nesting white-capped noddy terns. You then board a glass-bottom boat for extensive underwater coral and fish viewing. Several hours remain for snorkeling and swimming before returning, by catamaran and plane, to Brisbane . The clear water, sense of isolation, cobalt blue sky, and fragile but beautiful coral environment make the day a memorable outing.
Queensland Experience is a Brisbane company that organizes the trip. If you plan a more extensive stay in Queensland , you can drive yourself in a rented car to Bundaberg and go out to the reef any day on the catamaran. The only way to stay on Lady Musgrave Island at night is by camping out. Fifty campers are allowed and permits mu st be obtained from the Queensland National Parks Service.
*Outdoors “bush” experiences. Three popular destinations, all within an hour drive by rental car from Brisbane, can be highly recommended to see the countryside, which may be tropical rain forest or lush cropland planted in sugar cane and citrus. Australia is the driest continent, but this fertile eastern edge receives ample rains.
The Australian Wool Shed offers a parade of rams from the various species of sheep bred in Australia for the last 200 years. You’ll see the original sheep breed, the Merino, and another popular breed, the Border Leicester, as well as more exotic breeds, such as the Tukidale or “carpet” sheep. Australia has 155 million sheep, about a fourth of the world’s sheep population. Australian sheep produce 3/4ths of the world’s wool export.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary presents the largest selection of koalas in Australia . These endearing little creatures are not bears, but marsupials, suckling their young in pouches, related to kangaroos. Koalas inhabit the eucalyptus trees and eat large quantities of leaves. They stare at visitors in a comatose manner. Lone Pine Sanctuary also shows a large range of Australian mammals and birds, from kangaroos to the Tasmanian devil.
At Thunderbird Park, on Tamborine Mountain, you can see and dig for geodes, a geological phenomenon. Geodes are volcanic balls formed from silica crystals cooling rapidly. You can dig for geodes yourself at the park and have them sawn in two to take home. Many sawn geodes are on display and for sale. The park also offers a selection of the major Australian birds and mammals, including the dingo dog.
AUSTRALIA’S BRISBANE : IF YOU GO
Brisbane lies along the eastern edge of Australia . The main international airport is Sydney , south of Brisbane.
The overall Australia information source in the U.S. is Tourism Australia , www.australia.com.