Moving to Asia-Pacific, the #1 place we had hoped to visit was without a doubt Australia, so when Michael was given the choice between Bangkok and Brisbane to complete his TPI certification training for work, he did not even hesitate before booking his flight to the Gold Coast. Of course I wasn’t going to let him check this country off his list without me, so I decided to tag along for a little adventure down under. The Gold Coast is an easy 8-hour flight from KL, meaning you can catch a red eye and wake up in paradise. It was pouring rain when I landed (it is winter in the southern hemisphere, after all), but it was a refreshing change from the tropical heat. Luckily it only rained the first day and we were treated to absolutely gorgeous sunny days the rest of the trip!
In Brisbane we stayed at the Spicers Balfour Hotel, a very relaxing boutique retreat somewhat removed from the city. The hotel had a undeniable old-school vibe reminiscent of the 1940s, with a chill rooftop bar offering amazing views of Brisbane’s Story Bridge. Our gigantic suite featured a beautiful sunroom, huge soaking tub (which I took full advantage of), and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. The first night we embarked on our own mini brewery tour to try out the best of Brisbane’s beer. After drinking nothing but Asian beer and Guinness for the past 7 months, I was thrilled to have a huge selection of craft beer – especially IPAs – at my disposable, and I was surprised to see that Newstead Brewery even imports Stone beer from San Diego! Needless to say, Brisbane’s beer scene did not disappoint.
No trip to Australia is complete without seeing koalas and kangaroos, so while in Brisbane we made our way to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Not just a home for koalas, the sanctuary features habitats for other animals native to Australia including Tasmanian devils, emus, turtles, wallabies, and kangaroos. Our favorite part was getting to hang out with the animals in a giant open field where we fed wallabies and kangaroos right out of our hands. The koalas were absolutely adorable napping in eucalyptus trees, but I was honestly a bit disappointed with the sanctuary when we got our cliché picture “cuddling” a koala. The poor koalas seemed extremely frightened as they were ripped from the comfort of their trees and handed from tourist to tourist paying $18 a pop for a photo. I respect the fact that the sanctuary probably depends on the funds from these photos to survive, but I think it could have been conducted in a more peaceful way that is less traumatizing to the animals. But I do have to admit our pic turned out pretty cute…
After Brisbane we made our down to Surfers Paradise in the Gold Coast where we stayed at the beachfront Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort. The resort was incredibly beautiful and we had an amazing suite overlooking the beach that came with a complimentary bottle of champagne! Surfers Paradise is a very posh tourist area with high-end shops and restaurants, I would describe it as a mix between Mission Bay and La Jolla. The surf is typically not good this time of year, but Michael lucked out with an amazing off season swell. Because it’s winter, the pristine beach was nearly empty and Michael had the waves all to himself.
While in Surfers Paradise, we went to the Q1 Observation Deck which offers amazing panoramic views of the entire Gold Coast from the 77th floor. We were told you can even see whales in the ocean sometimes, but had no such luck (although I was mainly looking for sharks!). The observation deck is higher than both the Eiffel Tour and Chrysler Building at just over 1,000 feet.
We ended the trip in Coolangatta, a mellow beach town that is home to some of the world’s most famous surf breaks including Rainbow Bay, Snapper Rocks, and Duranbah, which again had unseasonably good surf. We stayed at an Airbnb with a young surfer/hippie couple who were so nice, and I was thrilled when they told us they’re involved in an environmental organization that aims to keep plastic out of the ocean- it’s great to hear that other coastal areas besides California are fighting the good fight to keep our oceans clean. As a town highly-influenced by laid-back surf culture and beachlife, Coolangatta had a very similar vibe to North County San Diego. I love places like this- places where shoes are optional, where there’s no room for pretentious attitudes, and where everyone just chills on the beach and enjoys life. The only thing the town was missing was authentic Mexican food- then it would have REALLY felt like home.
To be honest it was difficult to go back to KL after spending time in Coolangatta. Being here gave us a taste of beachside living at its finest, the good life that used to be ours in Solana Beach. Admittedly, there are times when I second guess our decision to uproot our lives and move to Asia, days when I can’t ignore the pangs of homesickness. Traveling is great but I miss everything about the day-to-day life I had in San Diego. I dream about being home, watching California’s cotton candy sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. But then again, I could have never booked a last minute trip to Australia from California, so for now I just have to continue soaking up the experience and taking advantage of every moment. I can’t complain about a life like this. 🙂