The Runawayfamily head out of Sydney to explore the Gold Coast and Queensland with stops in Agnes Waters/1770 and Heron Island.
Turning through the intersection into the wrong side of the lane was the first inkling that getting out of Sydney was not going to be as easy as we thought. We had traveled into the heart of downtown Sydney to pick up our rental car. Teeny, gutless rental cars are the type we usually find ourselves traveling in but this car was an exception. First of all, it was brand new. Second of all, it had enough trunk space to fit the meager amount of luggage we had been hauling around. You would think that most cars – even teeny, gutless ones – would fit the small amount of luggage we have been traveling with on this trip. You haven’t met our friend, the Dutch rental car from Holland. Let’s just say that our luggage kept the kids well separated in the back seat.
“That’s the thing about Australia, you see. It teems with interesting stuff, but at the same time it’s so vast and empty and forbidding that it generally takes a remarkable stroke of luck to find it.”
― Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country
We were just marvelling at the small twist of fate that had given us a brand new car, when we turned our first corner, confidently zipped up to the first line and suddenly found ourselves head to head with oncoming traffic coming around the corner right toward us. In the excitement of being in our new rental car and in the confusion of figuring out how to navigate out of the city, I had inadvertently gone back to the North American road system and driven into the right side of the road. As there were cars already stopped at the light on the side of the road I should have been on, I couldn’t just zip back over to the correct side. I also could not back up all the way to where I had started to let the cars through. I was faced with a bit of a conundrum. In the end, I had to back into a tiny little spot in front of a parked car in order to let the cars pass by, then zip over to the correct side when there was a lull in the traffic. Everything worked out, and we were back on track, breathing a sigh of relief at not having to return to the rental office having just trashed their brand new car six minutes after leaving the garage. This is when we were faced with our second issue in trying to leave Sydney.
For some reason, we had had some difficulties with using Google Maps while in Sydney. Whether it was the amount of interference or something else, Google Maps had delighted us with its meanderings in every direction but the one we wanted. It was no different today and – while we enjoy a good spontaneous exploration as much as the next person – Deanne was continually frustrated to discover that we needed to make an important turn after we had already passed the intersection. Finally, we were able to head in the direction we needed. It still took us awhile to actually get out of the city as Sydney is huge and sprawling. We were finally on our way, though, and headed to our first stop at the Koala Hospital.
After spending the night at a Holiday Park filled to the brim with parakeets, we drove a few blocks down to the Koala Hospital. The Koala Hospital was a private non-profit organization set up to help Koalas who had been injured through wildfires, deforestation, disease, and vehicle impacts. While not a huge facility, the hospital was helping to rehabilitate quite a number of injured koalas. As much as possible, the hospital tries to get the koalas back into the wild so our contact with them was very little. However, the kids were still thrilled and immediately wanted to adopt one of the koalas. After finally agreeing that taking one – or all of them – back to Abbotsford would not be a good idea, we did the next best thing. At the hospital, you are able to sponsor a koala to help assist the hospital financially. The kids loved adopting our koala
Our next stop was another animal themed adventure! Started as a small private zoo and made famous by Steve Irwin, the Australia Zoo is one of the biggest in Australia. If you recall, Steve Irwin was the guy in all the Crocodile Hunter TV shows well-known for saying “Cricky” and making very unsafe choices in his interactions with the various wildlife he met up with in his travels. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago in an unlucky incident where he was stung by a stingray. The rest of the family has carried on with running the zoo and are very visible with their own media appearances. As we entered the zoo, we got to see the family in action working on their latest special. The episode they were filming involved the moving of two crocodiles from one pen to another pen. As you can imagine, it was quite a process. The wranglers had to first ease a noose around the mouth of the crocodile and pull it tight so the crocodile could not open it’s jaw – a very important step, you can agree. Once that was done and the crocodile had settled down (it spent a few minutes flipping around trying to dislodge the ropes), the whole crew of handlers jumped on top of the crocodile and pinned it down. At that point, they were able to drag it over to a truck and haul it into the back. It was a lot of fun to watch and a cool way to start our visit to this amazing zoo. We spent the day wandering around enjoying the various exhibits. The kids were thrilled to be able to pet an actual live koala, hold a lizard and get up close to an owl. However, this thrill was nothing compared to the joy on their faces when they discovered Kangaroo Heaven.
Kangaroo Heaven was a whole section of the park where the kangaroos roamed free and you could walk around with them. In fact, you could actually feed them with food you could purchase at the various stands around the park. The kids loved this part. We fed lots of kangaroos that morning! By the afternoon, the kangaroos looked decidedly full and weren’t interested in letting us feed them but the morning was full of hungry kangaroos shoving their noses into our hands. Siena, especially loved this part. This was probably the highlight of our entire time in Australia for her. From there, we wandered around through the other exhibits visiting wallabies, giraffes, rhinos, tigers, lemurs and more. Only the lemurs got to wander freely on the little island. The giraffes, rhinos and others were firmly behind the walls! The Australia Zoo was probably one of the best zoos I had ever been visited. It wasn’t huge but somehow, it seemed more personal and accessible than the larger zoos we had visited. There seemed more of an emphasis on allowing you to get as close as possible to the animals.
1770 and Agnes Water
Continuing up the Queensland coast, we headed for 1770 and Agnes Water where we were going to be spending the next week. We didn’t have any big plans for the area as the community is very small with not much besides beaches and water sports. Deanne had gotten a really good deal on a condo beside the beach and we were a little apprehensive about whether our accommodation would actually work out. It turns out, we needn’t have worried. Our condo was huge and beautiful. It wasn’t right on the beach but the beach was only a short walk away although you couldn’t swim off the beach anyway because of the jellyfish. The condo had a beautiful kitchen and sitting area, two big bedrooms and two bathrooms. The balcony overlooked the warm waters of the three pools below us.
We spent quite a bit of time in the pool but did get out to do a kayak tour of the nearby waters of 1770. Though it’s a strange sounding name, 1770 was the date that Captain Cook made his second landing on the shores of Australia. So, it only made sense to name the town after the date of his landing. Right? Anyway, the kayak tour led us around the waters of the bay and onto a sand bar. We’ve done quite a bit of rowing/kayaking now so we were able to navigate fairly well with the kids helping to row – Siena more than Liam – as we went. What was really cool was that we found some stingrays we could float right over. They were not easy to spot but when we did finally see some, we got some great views of the stingrays slowly floating along the seafloor. We had cookies and coffee on the sandbar while the kids waded in the warm waters of the bay and then headed slowly back, stopping first to visit a shipwreck. Seeing the stingrays was definitely a highlight for the kids but we also enjoyed stopping to feed the fish.
During our stay in 1770, our little Liam celebrated his birthday. His actual birthday was going to be happening during our flight to Shanghai so we decided to celebrate it early with a trip into the largest town near us to go see the new Lego Movie and eat at Liam’s choice for lunch. Back at the condo, we had lasagna and cake for supper.
There wasn’t much else to do in the area. We did go to the very small museum and walked along the discovery trail, we walked along the beach a few times but mostly we just relaxed and went swimming in the pool. We knew that Shanghai and Tokyo were going to be extremely busy times so we just enjoyed some time to catch up on school and get some downtime in before we headed to China
Heron Island was our last stop in Australia. I was of two minds regarding Heron Island. We were heading here to enjoy some time
To get there, you have to take a fairly choppy two-hour boat out to the island. We all took some medicine but Deanne and Liam still had a bit of a rough time of it. Once we got to the island, we quickly found our little room and settled in for the next two days. The resort is more of an eco-tourist resort so it was not incredibly fancy. It was still quite nice though. We had tried to bring as much of our own food and drinks as possible as dining there was very expensive. Breakfast was provided which was nice. There are lots of things to do on the island but they all involved more skill than we had so we contented ourselves with renting a couple of snorkeling outfits. We thought that we would share the equipment as I probably wasn’t going to do it much. However, once we had all had a chance to try it, we quickly changed our minds and got two more sets so we could all go snorkeling at the same time.
While I had a couple of moments of panic,
The local turtle population was hatching so we tried hiking down the beach to the hatching area but, despite trying twice, never did get to see any baby turtles. We did go on a very good nature walk with one of the guides on the island and also spent quite a bit of time walking along the beach. The island is extremely small so it didn’t take long to explore the entire island.
Before we knew it, our time on the island was done and we were not only packing our gear up to leave the island but also packing up to leave Australia. We were headed for Shanghai and we knew that it was going to be vastly different from Australia. We had seen and enjoyed Australia so much that we were sad to leave. However, we knew that that only gave us a reason to come back to Australia another time.