A Weekend in the Lamington National Park

The Lamington National Park, Gold Coast, Australia

Exploring the Beautiful Gold Coast Hinterland

My husband had two weeks off recently due to an infected cat bite on his thumb.  We had some time on our hands and, because we hadn’t been away since last March, we decided to make the most of it.  Luckily we live in one of the most beautiful areas in Australia.  We often have a staycation – a short trip within an hour of home.  Right on our doorstep is the beautiful Gold Coast hinterland, so we had a night away there, at Lamington National Park.

The sun sets over O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park, Canungra, Queensland, Australia
The sun sets over O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park, Canungra, Queensland, Australia

The Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia

The Gold Coast is known as the glitter strip because it has all the glitz and glamour of high-rises right along one of the most pristine beaches in the world.  Our most famous beach is Surfers Paradise.  It is a tourist mecca, with many attractions like theme parks and night life.

I rarely go to that part of the city, however.  I much prefer the natural environment that can be found in the Gold Coast Hinterland, also known as the Green Behind the Gold.  There are waterfalls, rainforest and a diverse collection of wildlife.  Away from the crowded beaches, up in the hills is where my heart sings.  That is where I feel at peace.

One of the beautiful native birds at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
One of the beautiful native birds at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

We decided to visit O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.  I had only been once before, and my husband not at all.  I took a youth group camping up there the first time, an experience I will never forget.  Many of the teenagers had never stayed overnight outside their family home so it was a huge eye opener for them.

To get to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is quite an experience.  The road is narrow and windy and the trip takes 90minutes through Canungra, up the mountain to the World Heritage listed Lamington National Park.  The views are stunning of farm land in the valley below and the mountains of the McPherson and Darlington Ranges.

View over the valley towards Beaudesert from the Lamington National Park
View over the valley towards Beaudesert from the Lamington National Park

O’Reilly’s has an interesting history.  It started over 100 years ago as a settlement for the O’Reilly family who cleared the land for cattle farming.  Over time they began to receive guests who had made an arduous journey to get there.  That is how the guest house began, in 1926.  Over time it has grown and is now a large operation of several types of different accommodation options, a restaurant, bar, day spa and winery.

View over the pool area, towards the south at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, in the Lamington National Park
View over the pool area, towards the south at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

Another interesting historical fact is that in 1937 Bernard O’Reilly trekked through the rainforest to rescue survivors of the Stinson Plane Crash. There is a replica of the plane at O’Reilly’s. His knowledge of the local area was vital in locating the wreck, and during the rescue effort.

Replica of the Stinson Plane that crashed in the Lamington National Park in 1937.  The survivors were rescued by Bernard O'Reilly who knew the area well.
Replica of the Stinson Plane that crashed in 1937. The survivers were rescued by Bernard O’Reilly who knew the area well.

The Wildlife and Rainforest

Part of the attraction for us was the wildlife.  Very experienced guides are available to lead the guests on a number of different guided walks, educational talks and hikes through the Lamington National Park.  We took part in two guided walks, and also viewed a documentary of the wildlife in their cinema.

Feeding one of the many birds during the guided bird walk.  Some of the paths are suitable for people with reduced mobility, like this one.
Feeding one of the many birds during the guided bird walk. Some of the paths are suitable for people with reduced mobility, like this one.

There is also a treetop walk – a series of suspension bridges up to 15 metres above ground that allow you to walk amongst the tops of the forest.  Because I get severe vertigo with heights I was very nervous at the slight swinging of the bridges but I made it across by not daring to look down.  My husband even climbed up the 30 metre high ladder to a platform where he could view 360 degrees across the top of the rainforest. 

One of the suspension bridges on the Treetop Walk at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, where you can walk amongst the treetops in Lamington National Park
One of the suspension bridges on the Treetop Walk at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, where you can walk amongst the treetops in Lamington National Park

The Glow Worm Tour

Without a doubt my favourite part of the weekend was the nighttime glow worm tour.  The guide took us for a short drive from the resort. We then hiked through the bush to a stream where thousands of glowworms sparkled like stars along the bank.  The stream was flowing gently, so that the glow worms reflected in the water.  When you looked up through the trees, the milky way glittered brightly above us.  It was incredibly beautiful.

Two ringtailed possums in the top of the tree in Lamington National Park
Two ringtailed possums in the top of the tree

Matt our guide helped us to spot many native animals and plants along the path.  His knowledge and enthusiasm for the wildlife enhanced the experience.  One of the more interesting creatures was a bright blue crayfish which can walk 2km away from water!  This was a feisty little crustacean who snapped its claws at us.  He has a mean bite we were told.

The bright blue coloured crayfish on the rainforest floor in Lamington National Park
The bright blue coloured crayfish on the rainforest floor

We encountered two types of possums, many different varieties of birds and insects, lizards and spiders.  I would have just walked straight past many of the creatures but Matt had a way of finding these elusive animals in the dark.  

Matt the guide pointing out a native frog.  One of the wild animals in Lamington National Park
Matt the guide pointing out a native frog

Hand Feeding the Birds

The early morning bird walk was just as interesting.  Being able to hand feed the wild birds was a beautiful experience.  The rainforest is home to a huge variety of birds.  The most colourful are the parrots that you can hand feed. Many of the walking tracks are suitable for all types of fitness levels, with two being suitable for wheelchairs..  

The more adventurous can take a segway safari tour, or try the flying fox.  There are guided walks through the Lamington National Park, or there are many tracks that you can do on your own without being a paying guest.  Maps are available from the National Parks Information Centre or O’Reilly’s reception.  

Hand feeding one of the native parrots that live in the rainforest
Hand feeding one of the native parrots that live in the rainforest

If you are ever in our part of the world, pay a visit to the hinterland.  The experience will stay with you much longer than a day at Sea World.  There is so much more to the Gold Coast than the glitter strip and Surfers Paradise.

Hand feeding the birds at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
Hand feeding the birds at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

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Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

A Holiday At Home – Staycation

I have previously written about making the most of your staycation and suggested ideas for having a holiday at home.  I wrote that blog post at the beginning of 2020, before lockdowns and social distancing were an everyday reality.  Already many people were changing their travel plans because of the emerging health crisis from Covid-19 in Asia and Europe. 

Since then, travel has been severely curtailed in most corners of the globe. The tourist industry has been severely affected worldwide.

This post is to encourage you to be a tourist in your own town. Being stuck at home during the holidays can still be enjoyable. You can support local businesses as well as discover new things about the local area.

We enjoy being a tourist in your own town.  On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia.  Photo of Christina Henry on the HOPO ferry
On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia.

Travel Restrictions Due to the Pandemic

Up until now, Queensland has managed to avoid high numbers of Covid-19.  Our strict border control has been effective in keeping our state virus-free.  We have been lucky, unlike Melbourne and Sydney who have faced much higher numbers and harder restrictions than us.  We have two new cases of the new more contagious variant so Brisbane is now in lockdown for three days in an attempt to contain it.

My city, Gold Coast, has managed to avoid going back into lockdown.  Time will tell whether our luck will run out.  We are on the border of New South Wales, and as of today most of NSW residents can travel here, apart from Sydney residents from hotspots. Up to date information about border restrictions can be accessed here.

The Effect of Lockdowns on The Gold Coast, Australia

As soon as the border closed to Sydney, and more recently, when Brisbane went into lockdown for this weekend, there was a mass exodus heading straight for our city.  Why people can’t just stay put for one weekend is beyond me. There were lines at supermarkets and shortages of toilet paper and essentials again – as if we didn’t learn anything from the last lockdown.

Gold Coast is a tourist city.  One of our major industries and source of employment is tourism.  Whenever an Australian city or state goes into lockdown there are mass cancellations of flights and accommodation bookings.  People are losing confidence in travel because of the insecurity of not knowing whether you will be allowed to leave your town, or even your house.  Consequently our tourist industry is struggling.

Being a Tourist in Our Own Town  

Last weekend my husband and I decided to be tourists in our own town.  We had been wanting to check out our HOPO service (hop on, hop off ferry) for over a year.  This ferry does a continuous loop throughout the day, stopping at five destinations in the heart of the Gold Coast.  Rather than drive to Marina Mirage for lunch we decided to travel on the ferry.  We love the water and our canals are one of the most beautiful parts of the Gold Coast.

We were really impressed with the HOPO ferry.  It is set up to showcase the best of the Gold Coast to tourists, stopping at iconic destinations such as Surfers Paradise.  The ferry is licensed and the staff provide a commentary as you pass interesting spots on the journey.  We discovered interesting information about our own city that we had never heard, even though my husband has always lived locally and I’ve been here for 22 years.

We had never seen a floating church before!  Photo of a superyacht next to a floating church.  On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia
We had never seen a floating church before! Photo of a superyacht next to a floating church. On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia

A Day On The Gold Coast HOPO Ferry 

We commenced our journey at HOTA, the Home of the Arts, where there happened to be a fabulous market that day.  Our first stop was Marina Mirage where we disembarked.  We walked up through the shopping centre and passed cafes and restaurants, to Fisherman’s Wharf Tavern.  The Tavern has been here for as long as I can remember and is a Gold Coast icon.  We enjoyed fish and chips and a couple of beers overlooking the water.  

After returning to the ferry, our journey continued to Southport Broadwater Parklands which has a fabulous playground for kids and an aqua park.  Following this we travelled to Sea World Marine Park, followed by Surfers Paradise.  The whole journey takes an hour if you remain on board.  A $25 day pass allows you to hop on, hop off as many times as you like.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town.  Christina and Phil Henry in front of Fisherman's Wharf Tavern, Gold Coast, Australia
My husband and I in front of Fisherman’s Wharf Tavern, Gold Coast, Australia

Where Are the Holiday Crowds?

It is the summer school holidays in Australia at present, a time when you would expect the city to be packed with visitors.  This was not the case – there were very few tourists around and we did not have to wait in line anywhere.  Great for us, as we could enjoy our day out without the crowds, but indicative of the dire situation for the tourist industry.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town.  Our view at lunch - the Gold Coast Seaway, Australia
Our view at lunch – the Gold Coast Seaway, Australia

Support the Local Tourist Industry

If our tourist industry is to survive in Australia, we must support it.  If you are free of travel restrictions in your town or city, consider spending a day as a tourist.  We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Gold Coast through tourists’ eyes.  Support local businesses who are undoubtedly struggling to remain afloat.  

The footbridge from HOTA (Home of the Arts) to Chevron Island, Gold Coast , Australia
The footbridge from HOTA (Home of the Arts) to Chevron Island, Gold Coast , Australia

Support local businesses:

  • Shop at farmers’ markets and independent grocery stores;
  • Eat at local cafes and restaurants rather than getting take-out from fast food outlets;
  • Have a night at a local motel with your partner or girl friends (a girls’ night out);
  • Check out the tourist attractions in your town;
  • Buy essential items such as clothing from independent retailers.

The pandemic is far from over unfortunately.  We will be living with the threat of the virus until most of the population is immunised.  Keep using precautions, social distancing and hand hygiene to protect yourselves.  Stay safe and healthy.

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How to Make the Most of Your Staycation

It’s not surprising that more people are choosing to stay home when they have a holiday. Termed a Staycation, it’s a nickname for just that – staying at home instead of traveling. The latest coronavirus outbreak in China has given everyone the spooks, but over the years there have been multiple reasons to stay at home rather than travel, such as terrorism, natural disasters, plane crashes, outbreaks of gastro on cruise ships to name but a few. Other reasons may be ill health, economic or commitments at home.

My husband and I try to make the most of our annual leave and travel either overseas or within Australia. Our time off is precious to us because we both work odd hours and can go days at a time where we barely see each other. He has to go away for work sometimes, and I do shift work.

I am currently on annual leave for 2 weeks, and my husband only has one of those weeks off so I find myself with some time to myself. So that I don’t waste this time, I’ve compiled a list of tasks to do. It’s a chance to do things uninterrupted. I thought I’d share some ideas that other people may find helpful, to make the most of their Staycation.

  • Get on top of chores e.g. spring cleaning, yard work, gardening
  • Make appointments to the Dentist, Optometrist, skin clinic, etc. for your six monthly or yearly checkups.
  • Have coffee or a meal with friends and family you haven’t seen for a while
  • Visit the local art gallery, museum or historical society
  • If your town/city is in a touristy area, be a tourist for a day and go to a theme park or local attraction
  • Invest some time in yourself. Have a day of pampering at a spa, do a course on mindfulness or meditation, get your hair restyled
  • Read a book, do some craft or another hobby that you usually don’t have time to do
  • Cook some meals in batches to freeze for when you’re back at work
  • Rent accommodation or go camping in a nearby area that you wouldn’t usually stay. I often have a weekend away in a unit or house I’ve rented through Airbnb, in a town or suburb within an hour or two of home. That way we can feel as if we’ve been on holiday without the outlay of transport costs. I’m constantly surprised at the difference it makes to have a weekend away without going too far from home – it’s enough to revitalise you.
  • Declutter and sell or give away all the excess “stuff” you have. Your holiday at home might end up making you some extra cash
  • Do a short course to learn a new skill
  • Do any repairs around your property or organise for tradesmen to do work while you’re at home. We’re getting our roof repaired and repainted while I’m on a staycation
  • Rearrange the furniture in one room, redecorate it, add indoor plants or change the soft furnishings. Just giving one room a new look will be uplifting.
  • Plant a herb garden or some vegetable seedlings. If you don’t have a garden, use pot plants. Adding fresh herbs and vegetables to your diet will improve your health and wellbeing
  • See a movie or concert with a friend
  • Take your children or grandchildren to the park or beach. Make the most of your local area and spend quality time with the younger generations
  • Make the most of not having to do anything to a schedule. Sleep in, stay up late, have a rest during the day or exercise every day. You’ll go back to work refreshed and feeling great

You certainly don’t have to go out of your way or clock up a huge credit card bill to enjoy a vacation. Globally, the increased fear of traveling due to disease, natural disasters, terrorism etc., will lead to more people staying home. That doesn’t mean you should feel deprived – make the most of it! I’m such a homebody that I never feel as if I’m missing out by having a staycation.

I’d love to hear about my readers’ ideas for a staycation. Do you usually go away, and if so, are you considering staying at home for your next vacation?

Make the most of your holiday at home.  How to enjoy your staycation.  Useful tips so that your staycation isn't wasted
Make the most of your holiday at home.
How to enjoy your staycation. Useful tips so that your staycation isn’t wasted
shared at this link-up party https://www.denysewhelan.com.au/denyse-blogs/why-did-i-32-51-lifethisweek-64-2020/
Shared at this link-up party – life this week, https://www.denysewhelan.com.au/denyse-blogs/taking-stock-3-27-51-lifethisweek-54-2020/

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