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Lady Elliot Island ~ where the reef begins

Lady Elliot Island ~ where the reef begins

Coming to Southern Queensland but wanting a Great Barrier Reef experience?

Fortunately, if your time is limited and you can’t get to Tropical North Queensland, you can still experience the wonders of this marine treasure including on day trip flights from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was one of the first inclusions on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. One of the seven natural wonders, it stretches for 2,300km along the Queensland coast and comprises around 3,000 separate reefs together with 900 islands – 300 coral cays and 600 continental islands.

It all begins on the tiny coral cay of Lady Elliot Island some 80km northeast of Bundaberg and just north of another World Heritage treasure, Fraser Island. The island is accessible for day excursions by air from mainland points including Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, or better still spend a few days discovering its treasures and staying at the island’s 41 room eco-resort. A trip here is special and the accent is on experiencing the wonder of the reef not on luxury resort holidays. You’ll stay in comfort whether it is in a glamping tent, an eco cabin, a reef unit or an island suite.


Ariel photo of Lady Elliot Island and the surrounding reefs- Image TEQ


There is a strong environmental ethos on the island generating solar energy, desalinating water, ceasing the sale of plastic water bottles and straws and educating visitors about the island’s ecology and the management has a target of 2020 in sight to be 100% sustainable. There is no mobile phone reception but WiFi is available and rather than TV you have the whole of the Milky Way to enjoy at night.

Lady Elliot is one of just a handful of coral cays with a resort and the only one to have an airstrip making it possible for fixed wing light aircraft to reach the island. From the air the green wooded island encircled by white coral shores and brilliant aquamarine shallows looks to have had the airstrip carved through the centre. In fact during Victorian times the island was effectively razed by guano miners. They collected the metre deep of nitrogen rich bird droppings that had built up over 3,500 years. The decade of mining from 1863 had left the island denuded of all but a few pisonia trees until a century later in 1969 local aviator, Don Adams, set about creating the airstrip and revegetating the island. Today it is a protected seabird and turtle rookery with casuarina and pisonia trees covering much of the island.

Coral cays are formed from the gradual build up of broken coral till an island emerges and eventually establishes vegetation. Because it is part of the reef you can step out from your accommodation and be wading in the shallows or snorkelling amongst the corals within moments. These are amongst the most pristine coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef and Lady Elliot is famous for its manta rays – those graceful creatures with their broad wings that glide through the clear waters. Diving and snorkelling amongst the corals with the mantas and turtles and an array of brilliantly coloured fish is an unforgettable experience.


Swimming with Mantarays on Lady Elliot Island - Image TEQ

If it’s your first time on the reef to get acquainted with the island’s marine life it’s worth starting with a guided reef walk and one of the glass-bottom boat tours. It all gets too tempting, however, and you’ll want to hire a snorkel and fins and start discovering or go on one of the dives (only for those staying – no diving for those flying the same day). There are bird watching tours and historical tours or head off to walk around the island – at just 45 hectares you can’t get lost and the walk will take you around 30 minutes.

Come nightfall there is the convivial company at the bar and the challenges of quiz, bingo and games nights while outside there is star-gazing and night glass bottom boat tours – night time is when the reef really comes alive. During turtle season from November to February the island’s shores become the nesting grounds for green and loggerhead turtles. Some turtles travel vast distances to return to these shores to nest. The guided night tours ensure the turtles aren’t disturbed but guests can still experience a wonder of nature, especially in late summer when the hatchlings emerge from their sandy nest and scramble to the edge of the water.

Turtle Hatchling-swims-Lady-Elliot Island Queensland

Turtle Hatchling swimming on Lady Elliot Island - Image TEQ

It’s part of a remarkable encounter with nature at a very special coral cay – the southern anchor of the Great Barrier Reef and just a day trip flight away for visitors to Southern Queensland.

Book your lady elliot accommodation now: https://www.visitqueensland.com.au/lady-elliot-island-eco-resort


The magnificent manta rays of Lady Elliot Island now have their own craft beer named after them, Ray XPA brewed by the Bargara Brewing Company. The beer, which has a manta ray on the label is a joint initiative of the brewer based in the Bundaberg Region and Lady Elliot Island as each label also draws attention to Project Manta. The scientific program which began in 2007 continues to monitor manta ray population and behaviour along Australia’s east coast, with a particular focus on locations of high aggregation such as Lady Elliot Island. So, visitors can enjoy a local drop while being encouraged to support research of the Great Barrier Reef and the manta rays.


Noosa National Park – beachcomber heaven

Noosa National Park – beachcomber heaven

While the shores of Noosa Main Beach never lose their appeal, an alternative to this popular beach spot lies close by further out on the peninsular at Noosa National Park.

It’s worth knowing the car park here can be challenging and quickly fills up so consider walking from Noosa which has parking areas near the river. The walk from Noosa Main Beach is under 10 minutes and well worth the effort with fantastic views back to Noosa and along the way the almost hidden Little Cove before you arrive at the National Park. If you were lucky enough to find a spot then there are picnic tables and barbecues after you’ve explored the walks and beaches.

Keep an eye out for the wildlife near to the entrance of the park as you might just spot a friendly python near the tracks or a koala up in the eucalypts – the wildlife including a fantastic array of birds from honeyeaters to ospreys clearly love the seaside location just as much as humans. The first stop is Boiling Pot Lookout where the surging waves fill the rock pools and you get a great view of the beach and dunes across the estuary at Noosa Northshore.


The track rises and winds around the steep banks with glimpses of Tea Tree Beach and the glistening waves appearing through the trees. This is a great beach to make camp for the day with shady spots either set back from the rocky shelf on the western side or from the sandy beach on the eastern side. Find a patch of shade under a pandanus or casuarina tree to claim and take in the view and the fabulously fresh sea air. There are shallow rock pools to explore, sand for building castles, and the sea is calm and inviting or just sit back and watch the board riders picking up the point breaks off to the east.

From the beach the track winds and ascends to Dolphin Point Lookout. It’s well named and with a keen eye you can often spot pods of bottlenose dolphins not too far offshore as they transit around the peninsular. Come the winter migration season of the humpback whales, this is also one of the best spots for watching the pods of mighty whales heading north and then in spring you can see them on their return journey to the feeding waters of Antarctica.

b2ap3 large 004488-635

Image Credit: Paul Manias

Continuing along the Coastal Track, the pathway narrows as it hugs the edge of the high banks above Granite Bay. A separate path leads down to a patch of beach or if you prefer a secluded cove all to yourself and if you’re prepared to scramble down the rugged track then Winch Cove could be your picnic home for the day.


The nearby point is definitely worth exploring. Fairy Pools offers up the secrets of crystal clear rock pools that are deep enough to retain fish during the low tides and are home to anenomes, crabs and sea urchins. From Fairy Pools the grassy windswept cliff tops with the occasional pandanus make good viewing points for surveying the waters for more dolphins or just to watch the waves crashing against the rocky shores. Those waves get ever more dramatic just around the corner at Hell’s Gates. It’s a long drop down from the cliff edges here so caution is needed, especially with children, but the view can be spectacular as the waves drive deep into the gorge and send a plume of spray into the air.


The Tanglewood Track connects from here with the Coastal Track and to the south is a broad span of white sandy beach backed by bushland. Alexandria Bay isn’t accessible by road and not overlooked by buildings so it offers a real taste of wilderness shoreline, tucked away in the National Park. At the southern end of the beach is another headland and as if to flank Hell’s Gates, another gorge – Devil’s Kitchen – marks this second headland along with Cook’s Monument. The track winds around to the lookout above Sunshine Beach or you could head back to the start of the National Park retracing your steps or following one of several bushland tracks including part of the Tanglewood Track which offers a shortcut back to Granite Bay.


There is much to see and enjoy in Noosa National Park, whether it be for a swim at Tea Tree Bay or spending an adventure filled day exploring this special corner of the Sunshine Coast.




Brisbane’s art scene has turned to the streets in recent years with some stunning murals appearing on the sides of buildings, empty walls, under bridges, on pavements, cycleways and down laneways. The murals aren’t graffiti but commissioned or permitted street paintings that show some extraordinary talent and imagination. The artistic styles range widely from edgy surrealist imaginings to realist paintings, others with strong symbolic or political statements while yet others choose to be witty commentaries – in fact the styles of paintings are so broad as to defy an all embracing description other than they are public pieces, urban art on display for anyone who seeks them out or encounters them while traversing the inner city.

Face Street art at Coniston St Fortitude ValleyMan leaning against no standing sign street art winn street Fortitude valley

Images: Coniston St Fortitude Valley, Winn St Fortitude Valley

The street art phenomena now enhances locations in the suburbs ringing the city centre, most especially in Fortitude Valley but also in neighbouring New Farm and Spring Hill, across the river in West End and South Brisbane and more in Paddington and Milton. Seeking out the venues provides an entertaining way of exploring some of the corners of the inner city precincts with new pieces appearing all the time that add to Brisbane’s street art culture.

Some businesses around the Valley have had the vision to recognise how embellishing their building with works by gifted muralists can turn their businesses into local landmarks. Tryp Hotel in Constance Street exemplifies how the right street art can help make your business very cool, from the face imprinted across the front of the hotel to the climbing backpacker on one exterior wall and even the mural of a cloudy sky in the glass-sided lift, this hotel attracts visitors who’ve discovered the art.

 Typ Hotel Street Start Fortitude ValleyBuilding being unzipped street art fortitude valley

Images: Tryp Hotel, Fortitude Valley & Gotha Street Fortitude Valley

Image Credit: Paul Manias


Sunshine Coast ~ Best Beaches

Sunshine Coast ~ Best Beaches

Looking for an autumn escape with long sandy beaches, clear waters and temperatures just made for beachcombing? Queensland’s Sunshine Coast begins just a 40minute drive north of Brisbane Airport and offers some of Australia’s best beaches along a coastline that stretches for over 100km.

There is such a diversity of choice on offer here that you can definitely find your personal ideal of what a beach should be. That might be anything from a colourful and popular surf beach at a popular holiday hub with a great vibe, good waves, lots of cafes and refreshments close by or perhaps you’d prefer just an endless stretch of untamed shores away from the crowds where you could walk seemingly forever. The Sunshine Coast offers each of those options plus great spots for surfers, young families, secluded coves where you can feel like a castaway for a day and river estuaries ideal for getting in some watersports like paddle-boarding and kayaking.

Two of the Sunshine Coast beaches that regularly feature in the top 10 with people’s choice surveys are Mooloolaba Beach in the southern half of the coast and Noosa Main Beach in the northern half. Not only do these both tick the boxes for being fantastic beaches, both are north facing or in the case of Mooloolaba part of this sweeping crescent is north facing and thereby protected from the south-easterly breezes that can whip up the waves. These two beaches along with the also north facing Tea Tree Beach in Noosa National Park, offer generally calm waters and are ideal for young families getting used to the sea.

The view of Tea Tree Bay in Noosa National ParkFamily enjoying a day on the beach at Tea Tree Bay in Noosa National Park

Images: Tea Tree Bay in Noosa National Park

The points or headlands that help protect these beaches ironically provide the breaks that surfboard riders are seeking and in places such as Tea Tree Beach you can enjoy the calm ripples near the shore while watching the board-riders perform on the point breaks further offshore. If you’re a dedicated surfer discovering the Sunshine Coast for the first time then you’ll find excellent point breaks at The Rock at Point Cartwright, Moffat Point near Caloundra and in Noosa National Park at First Point which looks back to Noosa Main Beach, Tea Tree Bay and Granite Bay. For good beach breaks head for Kings Beach at Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Buddina and Alexandra Bay.

Coolum is the start of a long unbroken stretch of beach with beautiful sandy shores that continue to Perigian, Marcus, Castaway, Sunrise and Sunshine Beaches ending at a headland with just over 200 steps to the top and a view that takes in all of the span of the beaches to the south. This stretch of coastline has some of the most exclusive and expensive beach houses in Australia that overlook a coastline that seems to have a constant parade of people out for a walk.

Book your Sunshine Coast Accommodation and Tours

The rocky headland at the southern end of Coolum offers up a few secluded patches of sand cradled by the rocky cliffs. They make good spots for a peaceful day away from the bustle of the main beaches. And if you enjoy natural settings then Noosa National Park is a must with Tea Tree Beach, the rocky boulders of Granite Bay, tiny Winch Cove and for the energetic the walk beyond Hell’s Gates takes you to the spectacular pristine Alexandria Bay.

For those who enjoy watersports including kayaking and paddle-boarding the estuaries and channels of the Sunshine Coast provide an ideal playground starting with the blue waters of Pumicestone Passage – a picturesque channel that divides Bribie Island from the mainland and arcs around to Bulcock Beach at Caloundra. The Maroochy River is also ideal for watersports and perhaps the most popular of all is Noosaville on a stretch of the Noosa River close to the estuary. The parkland riverfront is filled with boatsheds hiring dinghies, pontoons, kayaks and paddle-boards making a colourful scene of water bound activity.

There are a lot more beaches to discover but whichever ones along the beautiful Sunshine Coast you choose remember to only bathe between the flags and use sunscreen. Happy beachcombing.

Family enjoying a day at Mooloolaba Beach

Image: Family Beach day at Mooloolaba Beach


To check on whether a beach you’d like to visit is patrolled and when the Life Savers operate then visit www.beachsafe.org.au or download the app. It provides details of the patrol times for each beach and all of the relevant beach conditions for that day from weather and water temperature to how big the surf swell will be, wind speeds, tides and UV index. It’s the perfect companion for beachgoers.

Image Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland