A Travellerspoint blog

Leaving Australia

Fraser Island Experience and the Steve Irwin Zoo

sunny 90 °F
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Well- It has been quite a few days since we were able to properly update the blog- such was the isolation and remote-ness of our last stop, Fraser Island.
On Ferry to Fraser

On Ferry to Fraser


We arrived on Fraser Island on Sunday night and immediately made full use of the multiple pool facilities that were available. The Kingfisher Bay Resort was a very interesting place to stay- it was our first Eco-Lodge, and as such they were required to have an assortment of guided walks and talks that helped guests appreciate the natural wonder of the Island. And Fraser Island was beautiful! It is the largest all sand island in the world, over 75 miles in length, and supports a full tropical rainforest that literally grows out of the sand! There is plenty of wildlife (and lots of warnings about roaming Dingoes and how to handle an encounter….) Our room was a tree-house style simple 3 roomed dorm with a small kitchen and 1 bath- all environmentally friendly. One great highlight of the trip was on the second day, after we have taken a long 4WD tour of the Island, when I was reading a book about Australia on our front porch. A Laughing Kookaburra bird flew into a tree about 5 feet from me and began to make its crazy, are-you-sure-that-is-not-a-monkey, sounds! He let us get right up to him, inches, and we checked each other out.
The Bird was Close

The Bird was Close


On our first day, we were not able to rent canoes because of the wind (and actually, throughout the course of our stay, we were unable to do many of the water activities, which felt limiting…) so we relaxed by the pool and had ourselves a slower day than we are used to. We did go on a nice guided tour in the afternoon, learning about the Aboriginal Tribe that had lived on the Island (K’Gari, meaning paradise) and some of the history behind Fraser. That night, the kids went out and did an Eco-Tour specifically for kids- they ended up doing this for each of the three nights we stayed because they had so much fun! They learned about many of the wild creatures that were roaming around co-existing with us-like poisonous toads, soldier crabs, 3 foot long lizards and venomous snakes! It was a highlight for them- and Lisa and I got to go to dinner and hang out. It was memorable because we tried crocodile, Kangaroo and Emu for the first time (not bad!).
On a Family Hike

On a Family Hike


Tuesday was our biggest, most adventurous day on Fraser: We were off on an all day 4WD tour of the “beauty spots” of the island. Now this was truly something different: We got on a bus for what looked like a pretty pedestrian adventure… we sat in the very back row, five Butz’s across… and we were promptly introduced to the concept of driving on all sand roads, up and down large mountains! Personally, I have never been thrown around so much in my life! Immediately, I was making plans to rent a very expensive 4WD taxi to get Lisa (nearly vomiting) back to the main town… Eventually, we all got used to being thrown around and made the best of the day.
Our 4WD Tour Bus

Our 4WD Tour Bus


Swimming Lake McKenzie

Swimming Lake McKenzie


We saw many beautiful spots on Fraser Island. Colorful sands, sand blows, a fresh water creek you could tube down that ended in the shark infested ocean (which we did venture into up to our knees!!) and the highlight of the day was swimming in fresh water Lake McKenzie in the middle of the Island with its perfect super small white grained sand beaches and crystal clear water. The sand was so soft it was used by the aboriginals to scrub their skin. Sara and Mommy promptly sat in the sand and exfoliated from their foreheads to between their toes!! Free body facial!! Another highlight was the 30 minute hike Lisa, Max and I took through a tropical rainforest along a creek (Sam and Sara skipped this and stayed on the bus.) The tour guide, Peter Myers let Sara & Sam sit in the front of the bus and told them all sorts of fun facts like what wombat poop looks like- great fun! This Peter is a Fraser island native and a National Geographic photographer who knew everything about the island and really taught us a lot! I have never seen a creek with a perfect sandy bed and it was picturesque. We all ended up having a great time on this drive, but by the end of the day we were definitely ready to get off that bus.
There is 2 Feet of water in this Stream!

There is 2 Feet of water in this Stream!


Our last day on Fraser included a couple of hikes (along the beach, up to the Northern Bluffs lookout) and more swimming for the kids and relaxation for Mom and Dad. It was kind of disappointing being this close to the Great Barrier Reef and not getting up there but Fraser Island was remote in every sense of the word (including Internet Access). I was definitely ready to get back on the ferry and into our rental car on Thursday.
Our final day in Australia ended in grand style: We went to the Steve Irwin Zoo on the way back from Fraser Island to Brisbane. The zoo was incredible and absolutely lived up to our big expectations! The very first thing we saw, a 6’ by 4’ turtle which was at least 4 feet tall was amazing. Eventually, we found our way into “Kangaroo Heaven” where they simply let the Kangaroos run wild and you are free to feed them and pet them- it was pretty cool. We listened to a presentation on Koala Bears and then Sara and Sam got to actually cuddle the bears! I was most impressed with the birds- all of which came in a wide variety of colors. The coolest was a velociraptor-looking thing called a “Cassowary,” a bird which doesn’t appear to ever fly but can attack with razor sharp claws by jumping towards you- native only to Australia.
Sam and the Giant Turtle

Sam and the Giant Turtle


The Mighty Cassowary

The Mighty Cassowary


And so we ended our last day in the country in a Marriott close to the airport in Brisbane. We did not get a good chance to explore the city (coming in the evening hungry and tired with an early flight the next morning to Christchurch) but it looked fabulous on our drive through.

Posted by sandlb107 20:41 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia

We reached the ½ way point of our adventure…

sunny 85 °F
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Sydney was incredible! I don’t know how to convey to anyone who has not been how massive, consistently interesting, and accessible Sydney is.. Lisa and I were left with a deep appreciation for the city and a strong desire to return one day.
Opera House from Ferry with Sam

Opera House from Ferry with Sam


We had Friday and Saturday in Sydney- after arriving Thursday night and seeing a show at the Opera House- and we started off by jumping on the subway and exploring downtown. The subway was a double decker, which the kids enjoyed, and landed us in the middle of the shopping district, where we promptly spent the next several hours. I had been on a search for a brand of shoe called Camper, and after much searching we finally found the Camper store. We shopped, got ice cream and generally spaces around the city until the Sydney Eye caught our attention (the largest structure) and we went to the top for the view. It was a great way to appreciate how big the city is… Eventually, we found our way back to the Harbor Bridge, which is near our hotel, and then across it, as the kids were desperate to see “Luna Park” which we saw in Melbourne as well and whose entrance seems designed to lure kids of all ages!
Luna Park in Sydney

Luna Park in Sydney


Riding Rides at Luna Park

Riding Rides at Luna Park


Luna Park turned out to be more fun than expected, as least for myself, and if I were not so tired from walking all day I probably would have enjoyed it more. The kids went on a few rides and we ended up feeding them dinner there. Back at the hotel, we ended up with a real treat: Lisa and I went to dinner at what we call a ‘restaurant’ next to the hotel while the kids watched TV in their room! The dinner was great but we are still trying to get used to the concept of how things work here: In every place we have been, you order your food, pay for it, and then get a number to put on your table… then, you go to a bar and order drinks separately- very strange. Unless you were in a ‘restaurant’ as the Aussies know them (we could not tell the difference) and then you have servers.
Riding on the Ferry

Riding on the Ferry


Saturday was an altogether fantastic day (Friday had been overcast) and it was sunny and very hot. (Sorry to those of you back in Baltimore- it caught an online article that morning indicating the temps had dropped below zero!) We bought an all day pass on the ferry system and promptly headed out to Manly Beach- one of the two main beaches in the city. It was easily one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen- crystal clear water, great sand, many shops lining the pedestrian-friendly streets! We stayed for a few hours to take everything in…
Manly Beach in Sydney

Manly Beach in Sydney


Part of the great fun on this day was exploring the city by Ferry, we bypassed stops at the Zoo and Watson’s Bay and got off in the late afternoon at Darlington Harbor- which was like a Harborplace area times ten! There was a massive playground for the kids to enjoy and Lisa and I laid underneath a palm tree and watch fascinating birds with 7 inch beaks look for insects in the grass. We eventually got dinner for everyone and then walked across another beautiful pedestrian bridge and caught a cab home- just a wonderful day of sight-seeing!
Strange Bird in Park

Strange Bird in Park


Sara Ziplining

Sara Ziplining


Sunday was another major travel day for us- this time taking us from downtown Sydney to catch an early flight to Brisbane, rent a car, and then drive 4 hours north to Fraser Island. The island is only accessible by ferry- our car was not the right type for driving on the island, and so we got to the mainland with about 2 hours to kill before a 3:30pm ferry would take us to Fraser Island. We promptly went Kangaroo hunting- guided by some local intelligence that about 60-70 roos lived nearby. We were not disappointed and finally saw multiple kangaroos on a piece of private property that the home owner welcomed us onto!!!
Finally Kangaroos

Finally Kangaroos


Lisa and Sam and Kangaroos

Lisa and Sam and Kangaroos


We rushed into Woolworths (yep, Woolworths) to provision ourselves a bit for the island (it was becoming increasingly clear this would be a pretty remote place) and then took the ferry over to our resort. Kingfisher Bay Resort is set on Fraser Island- the largest all sand island in the world- and amidst a tropical rainforest. We got into our place and put everything away and then headed out to the pool. This place is going to be very fun- many activities for the kids, etc… And so the second half of our trip begins…
Max on Zipline

Max on Zipline

Posted by sandlb107 14:54 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

First Impressions, Australia

Exploring the Great Ocean Road and a Sampling of Melbourne

semi-overcast 66 °F
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When I last wrote, I was summarizing our final day in New Zealand onboard an Air Emirates flight to Melbourne. For the record, please know that the entire Butz family votes heartily for Air Emirates as the best airline- great service, food, entertainment, just a really good experience. (even leg room)

We arrived late into Melbourne and strode directly across the airport to stay for a single night at the Park Royale hotel, which worked out perfectly. The next morning, December 30th, we rented our car from Avis and headed out to the Great Ocean Road and the town of Lorne- but not before watching some early Monday morning football and seeing the Ravens lose out a chance to make the playoffs. (Max and I had to follow the bottom ticker for updates, as they were inconveniently showing the Jaguars/Colts game!!!)

Our trip to Lorne was about a 2 ½, and the first half of it was very boring. We were driving across a desert-like expanse, eyes peeled for Kangaroos, until we hit the town of Torquay and the beginning of the Great Ocean Road. The scenery at that point was fantastic, I only hope our pictures do it justice. The Great Ocean Road is a long expanse of towns and highway that follow along the southern tip of Australia and border the southern ocean (as a resident of Lorne told us later: “It is the cleanest ocean in the world, mate, just goes round and round and is touched by no real industry or land mass…” For the rest of the trip, it was pure bliss driving as we took in the beautiful beach houses and the crazy “caravan parks”- it seems like the entire population really knows how to enjoy their beaches, no matter what the socio-economic status!

We checked into our hotel after arriving too early (a recurring theme- we wasted time by eating some fish and chips and taking the kids to a small, steel, aerial park called “Go Monkey!”) and promptly rented surfboards and headed out to the beautiful Lorne beach. The waves were just about perfect for the kids to surf, and each one of them is really starting to progress! One of the highlights of this day on the beach was all of the different groups of kids playing cricket. A lowlight: the flies, which were aggressive and ubiquitous!
Sam playing Rugby on the beach

Sam playing Rugby on the beach


Later, after dinner cooked indoors in our apartment, the entire family went out for a walk (and some baseball) on the beach, looking for the deadly “blue octopus” we had been told lives in the tidal pools near the rocks (saw none, but it was fun looking!)
our hotel overlooking the beach

our hotel overlooking the beach


The next day was my birthday, so I was more than happy to dictate the terms: We were driving to see the 12 Apostles and going on a few hikes along the way to spot wildlife! We had an absolutely beautiful day to start, and our first hike resulted in the magnificent: Our first Koala Bear sighting! We walked through a caravan park, and onto a road that went straight up into the hills. Initially, we saw two Koalas sleeping in the nearby trees, but as we kept walking we (particularly Lisa) became more and more adept at spotting them. Near the top of the hill, we went off the path and came face to face with a Koala eating, stretching, and it was just riveting! That hike, those Koalas (and a killer red parrot that flew in from nowhere to join us!) were an absolute highlight.
We were that close

We were that close


We drove on to see the 12 Apostles, which were as breathtaking to me as the Grand Canyon. Years of being pummeled by the Southern Ocean had created these land masses, and the highlight of this was taking Gibson’s Steps down to the beach and walking along the ocean.
The trip back felt long (too many winding curves) and we saw plenty of Kangaroo Crossing signs BUT NO KANGAROOS! (we even took a side trip towards a natural reserve, were treated to a Koala crossing the road, but no roos!)
First View- Stunning

First View- Stunning

I really enjoyed a birthday dinner with the family and then we went out to watch the fireworks on the Lorne beach. Definitely one of my most memorable birthdays!

New Years Day was fairly uneventful and brought a ton of rain- it literally rained all day and all night. Lisa did some shopping, I spent time with the kids at the pool reading a book, (we took them to a trampoline park, in the rain, earlier) and we finally roused ourselves for a hike to Erskine Falls late in the day. The kids are all journaling as part of their missed school work and I noticed on the plane to Sydney yesterday that Max called this day “boring,”- I have to somewhat agree!
Erskine Falls

Erskine Falls


Erskine Falls (2)

Erskine Falls (2)


The next morning, January 2nd, we needed to start very early in order to see any of the city of Melbourne. We all got up and were in the car by 7:30am, leaving the Great Ocean Road and headed into Melbourne. What a cool city! We drove to St. Kilda, walked along the city pier, and then headed downtown. There was a museum called the “Center for the Moving Image” that had a big show on the history of music videos- we were pretty intrigued and spent the bulk of our time in Melbourne in this very cool museum. The city is huge, and the décor is incredible, right down to the graffiti-ed alleys (see pics). In the afternoon, we flew to Sydney.
Melbournes Fabulous Street Art

Melbournes Fabulous Street Art


Max Enjoying the Streets

Max Enjoying the Streets


I am writing this morning from the roof top of our hotel, a Holiday Inn. We are minutes from the Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House and I have fantastic views of both. We have not yet really begun to explore this city- we arrived last night and went over to a show at the Sydney Opera House. The building is very cool, and the performance we saw- Five Australian superstar singers backed by a 16 piece band doing the entirety of two Beatles albums- was just perfect. Despite having been woken up early in the seaside city of Lorne, Max, Sara and Sam stayed up (and were into) the show until the final songs! We slogged our way home and everyone will sleep in this morning as we prepare to explore Sydney today and tomorrow.
Sydney Opera House Steps

Sydney Opera House Steps


Taken on the Walk Back

Taken on the Walk Back

Posted by sandlb107 13:48 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Melbourne to Lorne

sunny 75 °F

We woke up very early this morning in the Park Royal at the Melbourne airport and the boys were in heaven being that the Jaguars/Colts NFL game was on the local TV! It was really nice facetiming with my sister, and texting with my momma- NZ was really behind w/ the availability to get online! But here in AU, its just like the States- although, the guy who ran the GO MONKEY amusement climbing structure the kids played on as soon as we arrived in Lorne seemed to think they are very behind the States---

Steve & Lisa watching

Steve & Lisa watching


GoMonkey

GoMonkey

The drive to Lorne from Melbourne was easy & The Great Ocean Road is the most gorgeous coastline I have EVER seen (and I've seen quite a few!)
We went through Torquay, the surfing capital of the world...home to Billabong, QuickSilver, and Rip Curl....needless to say, we are in Surfiers paradise here- :)
our hotel overlooking the beach

our hotel overlooking the beach


Sam playing Rugby on the beach

Sam playing Rugby on the beach


Sam Surfing

Sam Surfing

Max getting up

Max getting up

Max surfing

Max surfing

Max carving

Max carving

Lorne is about a 1/2 hour away from Torquay, and the beaches and waves are MAGNIFICENT!!! The kids could go out in water up to thier waist and paddle around and hop up with no help from us- They Loved it! I always heard if you can learn to surf in Ocean City, MD, you can surf anywhere....
Sara paddle

Sara paddle

Sara getting up

Sara getting up

She's up

She's up

ends in a split

ends in a split

One thing that is really cool, there are wild cockatoos all over the place! And we have seen some other very cool parrot like birds.
I could move here in a New York Minute! Its Sweet, Mate! However it is ridiculously EXPENSIVE!!! A meal on the road for fish & chips, a cheeseburger, and a salad was almost $100 AD! So thankfully we are in an apartment here, and we found a grocery store. We will be eating in most meals!!

Posted by sandlb107 13:56 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

On a Flight To Melbourne…

A quick recap of the last two days (December 28th and 29th) as we are on the way to Australia!

rain 60 °F
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After a very late evening returning from the Maori Village- (and Lisa/Steve staying up too late to watch a movie in the apartment…) we decided against a 2 hour drive to “Hot Water Beach” and instead stayed in Tauranga for some more exploring. While the town had many interesting shops, we really did not find anything of much value strolling around. Eventually, Max, Sam and Steve went to the waterfront to play some catch. We have managed to play ball at nearly every single beach we have been to so far.

After lunch, we went back to the main beach near Mount Maunganui and rented surfboards and wetsuits for the kids and Lisa. (I managed to swim pretty well without- the water temp was probably 65 degrees or so..) Everyone had a great time swimming/surfing/napping on the beach.
We decided to catch Mass at 5:30pm (we had missed Christmas unfortunately!) and that was a pretty interesting experience. Afterwards we went back to the apartment and had a simple dinner from our leftover food. While the kids watched a movie, Lisa and I packed up and planned out our Sunday. All in all, a bit of a restful day…
Max and Sara on Main Beach

Max and Sara on Main Beach


Sam Surfs New Zealand

Sam Surfs New Zealand


On Sunday, we woke everyone by 7am for an early start and it was absolutely pouring outside. Lisa started driving towards Auckland and for about an hour it was seriously slow going/white knuckle driving (we barely had enough road on the two lane highways to begin with and the rain really complicated things!). We had hoped to stop in Karangahake at some cool trails for an early hike but when we got there it was still raining- we had enough of a break to at least go across a hanging bridge…
Running Across Hanging Bridge in Rain

Running Across Hanging Bridge in Rain


Finally the weather started to break about halfway through our 2 ½ hour drive to Auckland. (Conveniently, I was driving!) We got to the City Centre at about 11:30, parked the car, and began to explore the city! We had a Subway lunch down by the harbor, which is huge and absolutely dominates the city… We really had no specific plans for Auckland, although we wanted to find out where the America’s Cup Boats (you can actually take a cruise on the 1995 winner) and so we walked along the harbor… We ended up not only finding where to sign up for the cruise (which we did) but also getting free admission into the Auckland Maritime Heritage Museum.
Lunch in Auckland

Lunch in Auckland


So into this museum we walked, having no idea how UNBELIEVABLY cool it ended up being! There were tons of exhibits, many with great hands on components for the kids… We did puzzles, we learned about how New Zealand was founded, we learned about the early vessels exploring the NZ coastline and some of the famous explorers of the past- but all of this paled in comparison to the incredible, multi-level layout of the history of sailboat racing in New Zealand. The America’s Cup winning team (from 1995) were absolute rock stars and we well memorialized in the museum. The sailing exhibits were varied and exciting, and we ended up spending almost 3 hours in the museum- with the kids pretty much enthralled the entire time! (also interesting was the history of the NZ beach house, and the invention of the “jet boat”) What a find!
Museum Hx of Beachhouses

Museum Hx of Beachhouses


Butz Family in Americas Cup Simulator

Butz Family in Americas Cup Simulator


Black Magic on Display

Black Magic on Display


After checking out a local rugby store and deciding on a few souvenirs, it was back on to the airport for our flight to Melbourne. We had a little bit of trouble at the check in (apparently you need a visa to go to Australia) but we managed and now the entire family is immersed in the interactive in flight entertainment on this flight.

Posted by sandlb107 23:30 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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