Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Sunshine Coast was

You know you're in Australia when the main highway is called Bruce and before long you are being passed by four wheel drive vehicles with snorkels mounted at the front, very handy for crossing crocodile infested rivers!  I was on a short trip to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.  This was my first trip to the area and I was lucky enough to choose New Zealand's coldest week in decades to be away, so while everyone was shivering back home I was basking in warm, balmy, perfect weather and feeling kind of smug.

View of Mooloolaba Marina from my hotel
I flew into Brisbane, was through the airport in less than ten minutes and then onto a shuttle bus to take me to my destination, Mooloolaba, to the north. Throughout the journey of about 1 hour 20 minutes there was a running commentary.  Not from the driver but from the woman behind me talking to the person beside her.  She told tales of camping in the outback, riding trains across the desert, climbing Uluru (Ayres Rock) being trapped by snakes in a canyon, trips on the Murray River in a house boat...on and on and on. Boy could she talk! but it was fascinating. She was returning from her latest exploit... kayaking down a river in the Northern Territories.  She clearly had a life full of adventure.  I was flabbergasted when she told her companion that it would have been her 58th wedding anniversary that day if her husband was alive and her great grandchildren were coming to see her.  What a woman!! A real Aussie adventurer.  I felt a bit shamefaced and wimpy when the shuttle dropped me at my very attractive beachside resort accommodation.

 Mooloolaba is the archetypal Australian picture postcard beach resort.  The fine golden sand stretches as far as the eye can see with glossy green breakers sssshing onto the beach and throwing up fluffy, snow white plumes on the rocky outcrops.  The beachfront is lined with cafes, restaurants and shops and is blessed with a relaxed, laid back atmosphere.  The seaside walk between Mooloolaba and Maroochydore to the north is about 6 kilometers long and very scenic.  I loved this walk, walking it several times during my stay, mainly to spend time with my friends, Juleen and Brian.  Longtime friends, (Juleen and I were at High School together), they live a life of endless summer.....summer in New Zealand and winter in Maroochydore.  Fantastic hosts, they were so good to me, taking me on several day tours of the region.
Mooloolaba at sunset

My friend, Juleen, in Montville
 One day they took me up into the hinterland behind the Sunshine Coast to a town called Montville. Montville is leafy and cool and as pretty as a picture with stunning views to the coast and picturesque old buildings now restored and housing crafts people and artists, shops and galleries.  We spent some time picking and poking around and enjoying a leisurely lunch in a delightful tree shaded courtyard serenaded by the songs of native birds.  Another day we went to Noosa, a little more to the north.  Noosa is a long time favourite with New Zealand retirees and I can see why.  There is a bylaw banning any buildings more that 3 stories high which ensures a low key, laid back appearance to the town.

Yours truly (right) with Juleen in Noosa
  The main street, lined with palm trees, smart shops and restaurants runs parallel to the beach making everything easy and accessible. We had a genuine Aussie experience here, lunch at the Noosa Surf Club, inexpensive, excellent and with fine views over the beach. One afternoon Juleen and I had a "girly" day and went to the Sunshine Plaza, a large modern, vibrant, shopping centre in Maroochydore which spans the Maroochy River and reminded me a little of shopping centres I have been to in Japan. Other times we hung out at their beautiful apartment, catching up on news, eating Juleen's delicious food and enjoying the stunning views up and down the coast line.  A big thank you to Juleen and made my trip.
View from my friends' apartment, Maroochydore
When I go somewhere new it doesn't take me long to find a favourite cafe.  In Mooloolaba it was Jamaica Blue, right on the waterfront with a good view of the sea, morning papers and excellent coffee.  Every morning I made my way there to enjoy a flat white, catch up on news and watch the world go by.  In the evenings I sat on my terrace with a narrow view of the sea  basking in the evening sun and sipping on a glass of bubbly.  Life doesn't get much better than that! 
Jamaica Blue, Mooloolaba
My morning coffee and the paper
Evening bubbly in the sun...shame there is only one glass,but that's how it is...otherwise life doesn't get better than this

I found  the locals to be happy, cheerful and friendly.  Like anywhere, of course, they have their issues concerns and problems, parts of Queensland had devastating floods recently,  but the wide blue skies, long pristine beaches and clean blue ocean must make those problems a little easier to bear. Beach culture is alive and well with surf lifesavers dotted along the coast in their bright red and yellow uniforms and surfers, like so many sleek seals bobbing along the shore, looking out to sea, waiting for that extra special wave.  Here Australia does look like the "lucky country". This was my first trip to the Sunshine Coast but it certainly won't be my last.