4 THINGS TO DO WHEN VISITING TOOWOOMBA, QUEENSLAND. AUSTRALIA

Toowoomba, Queensland. Australia


Crisp winter air, knee-deep autumn leaves, clear summer days and a riot of colour in spring; nowhere else in Queensland will you experience all four seasons as distinctively as right here. Just 90 minutes from Brisbane, Toowoomba crowns the edge of the Great Dividing Range 700 metres above sea level, overlooking the Lockyer Valley. So close but a world away. Southern Queensland Country’s biggest town still has a country town vibe.


COBB+CO MUSEUM



This one of Toowoomba’s must-see tourist destination.

The Museum is part of the Queensland Museum Network and is home to the National Carriage Collection. You can discover a variety of interactive displays, exhibits and heritage trade workshops. You can mmerse yourself in Toowoomba’s natural and cultural history and revisit an Australian transport era. Wander through the charming National Carriage Collection and discover how the 47 horse-drawn vehicles played an important role in the development of Queensland. 





The kids will love stepping back in time to play in The Coach Stop play area. Watch them become shop attendants in the old Museum General Store, dress them up in old fashion clothes or give them a ride on the life-sized replica horse. Get your hands on history with a variety of heritage workshops with one to five day workshops suited from beginner to expert. Experience the satisfaction of learning a traditional skill and creating something beautiful yet functional by hand. Take a break in Cobb’s Coffee Shop and try Toowoomba’s best scones. Located a just short walk across from Toowoomba’s iconic Queens Park.



JU RAKU EN JAPANESE GARDEN, TOOWOOMBA



When ever we head up the range, our first stop is Toowoomba’s most peaceful and beautiful parks, Ju Raku En Japanese Garden. The garden is four and a half hectares located on the northern side of the University of Southern Queensland campus. It’s Australia’s largest and most traditionally designed Japanese stroll garden. Its elements of mountain stream and waterfall, Dry Garden, central lake, Azalea Hill, three kilometres of paths, 230 species of Japanese and Australian native trees and plants, and lawns combine in a seamless and restful harmony. 




Japanese gardens emphasise the use of rocks to create three dimensional pictures. All of the large rocks in Ju Raku En were placed by the garden’s designer, Professor Kinsaku Nakane of Kyoto, to appear naturally dispersed in a random way. You can stroll through the garden or relax on the seat near the Dry Garden; it’s not uncommon to see artists quietly painting a scene or children feeding bread to the fish or birds, which include swans, ducks, geese and smaller natives. Japanese maples provide a riot of autumn colour, while in spring masses of lilac blossoms hang from the Wisteria Pergola, the perfect backdrop for a wedding.

PICNIC POINT LOOKOUT AND PARKLAND



Toowoomba’s heritage-listed Picnic Point Lookout and Parkland comprises 160-acres perched high on the crest of the Great Dividing Range, with panoramic views over Main Range and Lockyer Valley. Be greeted upon entry with an avenue of mature hoop pine (Auracaria cunnninghamii) and South Queensland kauri (Agathis robusta) before the parklands opens into manicured lawns.



Pre-pack a picnic or stop by the cafe and restaurant before nestling on a section of quiet grasslands under a bunya tree. You can let the kids test out the playground and children’s train (only operating on weekends), and later set off on the walking trails to nearby waterfalls and Table Top Mountain, drawing sightseers and picnic goers every day of the week. The lower section of the park can also be accessed via Tobruk Memorial Drive and is another ideal location for impressive vistas and social picnics.


EMPIRE THEATRE



Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre is a heritage listed art-deco venue that provides a wide variety of performing arts for every taste. The Empire is Australia’s largest regional performing arts complex and stages world class shows from leading national and international performers as well as showcasing a wealth of local talent.  Whether it is popular music, ballet, comedy or any live performance, the lavish art-deco styling of the venue combined with its state of the art technology makes for a magical and memorable experience. 




The Empire Theatre also offers historical tours and attracts many visitors each year. The complex is also a popular choice for conferences and events, including weddings, offering a unique experience to guests. The tour is a must for photograghers, like us.




Whatever your fancy, this picturesque mountain city has plenty to see and do, from boutique wineries and spectacular lookout points to antique stores and art galleries. We are caffeine addicts, so for coffee that never disappoints we always head to our favourite deli, Wendland Fine Foods. You know you visit far too often when they start making your coffee as you walk in the door. A visit to a few of the great antique shops and art galleries, interspersed with regular coffee stops (of course) makes for a lovely day out. Tosari Galleries at the top of Margaret Street and Range Antiques on Burke Street are a good place to start.

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BURLEIGH HEADS, QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA

Burleigh Heads, Qld

Come for the surf, stay for the one-of-a-kind shopping, top-notch food, trendy markets and natural beauty.



Sitting pretty between Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta, Burleigh Heads is so much more than a hotspot for pumping breaks. It is a holiday destination in itself on the Gold Coast, with chic beach vibes coming in strong every which way you turn; from the window to the wall of the designer and vintage shops peppered along James Street.





Our first stop was at the Village Markets. After walking into the backend of Burleigh Heads State School and catching that first colorful glimpse of stall after stall of creative goodness, it was time for me to get a quick coffee fix while Kim explored the stores of funky threads for little and big goers, to vintage treasures and tropical homewares. This is one of Kim’s favorite markets on the Gold Coast.




From the markets we ducked into the Burleigh Arcade on James Street for breakfast at Social Brew Burleigh. The new cafe on the block is a hidden tropical oasis and has become a local’s favorite with its lively decor, iconic yellow Social Brew coffee cups and yummy food.
You can’t go past one of their fresh cold-pressed juices when ordering from the all-day breakfast menu. But if you need caffeine hit to jump-start the morning, get their deconstructed iced coffee complete with lab flask and poison bottles filled with sweet syrup and definitely not poison.

James Street is to Burleigh Heads what Chapel Street is to Melbourne; it’s the go-to shopping spot for Kim’s retail therapy fix.



Another spot worth a mention is the small shopping nook inside the Old Burleigh Theatre Arcade on Goodwin Terrace, where you’ll find The Freedom State, LA Pearl and Six Things.
Six Things is seriously one of the coolest pop culture shops Kim ever laid eyes on




.
We worked off breakfast with a walk through Burleigh Head National Park.  Burleigh HeadS National Park is home to rainforest, eucalypt forest, pandanus groves, tussock grassland, coastal heath, mangroves, creeks, rocky foreshore and beaches. We followed the tracks which lead around the rocky headland from Tallebudgera Creek to the southern edge of Burleigh Heads Township. We relaxed by the creek at Echo Beach, viewed some tumbled masses of six-sided basalt columns, and possibly caught a glimpse of a pod of dolphins out at sea.





Moving on the afternoon and being a Sunday afternoon and starting to come down from the weekend high and feeling a little bummed knowing it’s all over. We headed to Finders Keepers Bar & Dining Lounge to listen to some live acoustic tunes, have some tasty bar snacks, and cold drinks (hello Pimm’s jug and $5 Coronas) We watched a cracking sunset and said good bye to another great weekend adventure.



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P&O BARRIER REEF DISCOVERY, QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA, Part 2

BARRIER REEF DISCOVERY

Upon leaving Airlie Beach we sailed overnight on various NW and N’ly heading navigating through confined waters, continuing further up the East Coast of Australia to Yorkey’s Knob (Cairns). We arrived early morning to strong winds at Yorkey’s Knob and the Captain decided to cancel tender activities for shore excursions. So we missed out on our trip up the Skyrail and Kuranda town visit. 



We checked out a gameshow; majority rules and watched the production of DisConnected. Set in an inner-city cafe, DisConnected is a thought-provoking production show that uses music and dialogue to explore the complexities of social media and technology in today’s world. After sailing from Yorkeys Knob, it was a short passage up to Port Douglas. We were met again with strong winds, but just low enough to tender into the Marina.




From its early days as a fishing village, Port Douglas has grown into a sophisticated and upmarket resort town that’s quite a contrast to Cairns’ hectic tourist scene. With the outer Great Barrier Reef less than an hour offshore, the Daintree Rainforest practically in the backyard, and more resorts than you can poke a snorkel at, a growing number of flashpackers, cashed-up couples and fiscally flush families choose Port Douglas as their Far North base.



Apart from easy access to the reef and daily sunset cruises on the inlet, the town’s main attraction is Four Mile Beach, a broad strip of palm-fringed, white sand that begins at the eastern end of Macrossan St, the main drag for shopping, wining and dining. On the western end of Macrossan you’ll find the picturesque Dickson Inlet and Reef Marina, where the rich and famous park their aquatic toys.



It’s hard not to miss the main street of Port Douglas, its Macrossan Street. The main street is lazy with shops to explore, from boutiques and art galleries to cafes and more. One of Kim’s favourite shops was Moonshine Bay. This place was full of really bright, cool and quirky items from jewellery and clothing to bags and just cool stuff. Definitely check it out. Also, the owner is a sweet-heart and there’s a cafe at the back.

A bumpy ride back to the Dawn we chilled for a little while before the night activities kick in. We had and early dinner in the Pantry so we could head to the Marquee for a gameshow of Marriage Match. We joined the Entertainment Director Willie for the hilarious game of kiss and tell. Later that night was the Onward Bianco, P&O’s White Party featuring the Alter Ego and DJ Enzo. The party had to be moved from the Lino Deck to the Dome because of the weather. We only checked it out for a short while. (Loud music, drunks, no longer my cup of tea)




The next day we headed due east, sailing around 250 Nautical Miles off the Australian coast to make a service call at Willis Island on which is a weather station. On passing the island we were lucky enough to see the release of a weather balloon. We then headed south and then south east towards Brisbane.


Willis island is one of a number of atolls and cas to stretch across 780,000 square kilometers of Australia’s Coral Sea Lands Territory. Wilis Island is full weather reporting facility and is linked to the Australian and World Wide weather reporting grid.  We amused ourselves with Willie’s Morning Mayhem Trivia in the Dome Deck. We joined Entertainment Director Willie and Assistant Entertainment Director Alex for fun team trivia with a twist. We followed this up with Towel Animal Parade to cheer our cabin steward’s show casing their animal towel creations. A highlight every night when we are greeted in bed with an different animal each night. 







We then stayed in the Marquee for the Liars Club Gameshow. Joined by Entertainment Coordinator Emma and the panel of Comedian Sean Underwood, Assistant Entertainment Director Alex and Entertainment Director Willie Lee to find out who is lying and who is telling the truth. 




 Later that night we watched the feature show The Velvet Rope. A mix of song, dance and drama, The Velvet Rope was set in a nightclub of the 1930s. It was a story of hope and perseverance, a lesson in not always listening to others but listening to yourself and a joyful mix of music blends linking the romance of troubled times in the 1930s with the slick music grooves of the 21st century.




On the final day of the voyage we continued to head South East Passing Elusive Reef and entering again into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. We have now had two days of strong winds and medium to high seas. All activities in the Lino Deck 12 have been closed off and everyone was stuck to the inside activities. 




We joined Willie in the Marquee for an information session about disembarking and the End of Cruise video. We went back to the Marquee for a comedy gameshow of Celebrity Heads. Late afternoon we enjoyed the On The Spot Musical Challenge with the onboard musicians, as we tested them to the limit with an ultimate improvised jamming session. We got to put them on the spot and they had 10 seconds to play for their lives.



 Early morning we sailed back under the Twin Bridges and docked back to Brisbane. Back to land and to adjust the legs and back to home life.

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P&O BARRIER REEF DISCOVERY, QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA

BARRIER REEF DISCOVERY

The ship carries 2020 passengers over 11 decks and offers itineraries to the South Pacific and Tropical Queensland coast. It was constructed in 1991 but has recently undergone a multi-million dollar update. Accommodation options range from quad-share inside cabins to full balcony suites, and some interconnecting cabins are available for families and small groups.


Once on board we explored the ship, found the photographers for our mandatory “welcome aboard photo”(which if you pull a sad face, you are not tempted to buy the photo on board), and then explored the ship. The changes to all the lounges on Deck 7, Panorama Deck and Deck 12 and 14 Lido Deck were amazing. The new waterpark looked great. The waterslide awaited our attendance and the Pantry (formally buffet) looked spectacular. The Dome (front Deck 14) was beautiful how they changed it with lounges etc. Café on Deck 12 looked very inviting. The ship had truly undergone a transformation, and is now in a class of its own, in a truly positive sense.



First thing on the agenda was the The Sailaway party, which is a tradition on all P&O cruises (Australia, at least). The Pacific Dawn departs Portside (Brisbane) at 2pm each Saturday and our Sailaway party started immediately after our safety drill at 1.30pm. For many of the passengers it was a case of life jackets down, drinking boots on.


The Sailaway party takes place on the pool deck and, because it’s the start of the cruise and everyone is on a high, it’s soon packed with eager passengers to see what’s going on. It’s a chance for people to mix and get familiar with the faces they’ll be seeing over the next week but it also gives the entertainment team to the opportunity to show what’s on offer.

Of course, the Lido Pool Bar is going full steam and they have a cocktail special going where you pay $10 for your cocktail and get the P&O cocktail ‘glass’ it’s served in (blue or yellow plastic with the letter’s P&O on the side). As well as the bar, there were several other tables around the pool deck also selling the cocktails. Needless to say, it proved very popular. We did the Sailaway Party from the Oasis Deck 10, being an Adults only area.  The party pauses as the countdown begins to signal the Pacific Dawn passing under the Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges as it leaves Brisbane, the official ‘we’ve left Brisbane’ moment.





The show on the first night was a preview of what we would see throughout the cruise, and that helped us choose what to see later. We even took in the Adults Only comedy act the first night, which was hilarious.  The first thing you are thinking is over eating followed by marathon taste testing of all things liquid. We managed this well. There is much more to do and enjoy than that each day. In the evening, our cabin steward placed on our bed a list of activities for the following day, and we keenly marked off various things we wanted to do for the day.




After a day at sea the Pacific Dawn made her much anticipated return to Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach is the largest town in the Whitsundays and the tourism hub of the region, Airlie Beach is situated on the gorgeous Whitsundays Coast in North Queensland, about 620 kilometres south of Cairns. Surrounded by beautiful turquoise water that glitters just metres off the shore, and backed by rows of undulating jungle-clad hills, Airlie Beach enjoys a warm subtropical climate and is the perfect jumping off point for cruises to the Great Barrier Reef, Heart Reef and Whitehaven Beach.




As a town almost entirely focused on tourism, Airlie Beach has a wide variety of cafés, restaurants, bars and stores that line its main drag. The town also features a lovely swimming lagoon, which is perfect for a quick dip.
A popular cruise destination, Airlie Beach welcomes over 800,000 tourists annually. Many of these holidaymakers arrive by cruise, docking at Abel Point Marina



Much of the devastation caused by Cyclone Debbie is not noticeable because the locals and many of the volunteers have done such a wonderful job making Airlie Beach cruise ship visitor ready again.



Two weeks ago a cyclone ripped through this close knit community, but you would have barely noticed it when Pacific Dawn arrived in the glowing sun and cloud. The whole community has rallied to get things done big time. Cyclone Debbie did its best but you can’t knock Queensland down for long and these communities have been quick to get back on their feet.


While the return to Airlie Beach was an emotional moment for the local community and the guests, P&O was pleased to play a role in reviving the visitor economy, which is vital to so many communities in Queensland.


We took the Coast to County Tour, where we pasted the sugar fields of the Whitsunday’s to visit the natural amphitheatre of Cedar Creek Falls. Just 19km from Proserpine this waterfall is spectacular in the wet season and offers an almost all year-round natural swimming pool at the base of the falls. We then traveled back through the countryside to the coast of Airlie Beach via the Lemon Myrtle Farm and on to Shute Harbour. Here we uncovered a panoramic view of the Whitsunday Islands. We had time at Mt. Whitsunday for a lookout over Airlie Beach, The Conway Range and islands. Journey back to Airlie Beach, for a stroll and browsed the souvenir stores and markets. 


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