Overview of our Brisbane Week
On December 22nd we arrived from Sydney to Brisbane to house, dog and cat sit for a family who were going on holiday over Christmas and New Years. We landed this gig back in November via the website trustedhousesitters.com; it enabled us to add a bit more time in Australia to live as locals with some responsibility in exchange for free lodging. It turned out to be a great trade in a place that contained enough adventure, parks and culture to check out while we took care of a very cute cavoodle.
Pet sitting recap
We were picked up at the airport by Michelle, the gal we were house/pet sitting for, and her son, Daniel. At the house in Eaton’s Hill (suburb of Brisbane) we unpacked into the guest room then met Michelle’s husband and eldest son who introduced us to Max, the young cavoodle (King caviler and poodle mix). Max was a sweet two-year-old pup who loved his big stuffed lion and was fairly mellow for two years old. The cat made a casual appearance for food and stuck to napping or exploring outdoors most of the time.
Prior to their vacation, we stayed with the family on the 22nd and 23rd. We took their son Daniel swimming at the local aquatic center, which we thought would be simple until the lifeguard insisted one of us watch Daniel on the slide since he was 10 and not 12 years-old (welcome to parenting?). That night we enjoyed a BBQ salmon dinner to celebrate early Christmas with them and visited the Christmas farmers market at night which was packed with last minute shoppers and the busiest food trucks imaginable. We split some unique pomegranate frozen yogurt in a lemon peel since it looked delicious on the warm night.
When it came to housesitting and caring for the pets with the family on vacation, it was simple. We enjoyed sharing the responsibility of walking Max twice a day and the cat eventually warmed up to us. It was a good point in our year-long trip for a little routine. We kicked back by the house pool, cooked together in a large kitchen, watched the nightly news and tended to the daily chores around a house. Since the responsibilities were primarily in the early morning and at night we were lucky enough to get to explore the Brisbane area during the day. Read the next section to find out what we were up to aside from watching the dog!
Activities around Brisbane
Downtown for Christmas Eve & Koalas
For Christmas Eve we stayed at the Next hotel downtown to see the city and celebrate together. That day we took a river cruise under lots of the city’s bridges to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where we saw over 100 koalas who have been saved from disease, injury from dogs or cars, deforestation or destruction of eucalyptus trees (their habitat). Random fact: 33 day gestation period and the new born is the size jellybean that then lives in the pouch for 6 months.
We were also entertained with a platypus swimming around in its pool, a raptor show that included two owls who swooped through the audience and a wedged tailed eagle with a wing span of 9 feet. The last presentation we watched, which had nothing to do with wild animals, was a sheep shearing and dog herding show. We were amazed at how trainable our lovable mutts (or sheep dogs) truly are as the sheep were herded through gates and over obstacles quickly and easily by the well trained dogs. The following pictures show the array of fascinating animals.
For Christmas eve dinner, we dined at a nice seafood restaurant along the river called Jellyfish where we enjoyed swordfish and kingfish. The meal was very delicious and our waiter, who turned out to be from Dallas, told us about the local restaurant industry. He moved from the States to Bris and was well educated and told us where our fish was from in Australia. Although the setting was great, I became homesick looking around the restaurant seeing families together. There’s an indescribable loneliness to traveling during the holidays; surrounded by strangers, in an unfamiliar place where memories of family Christmas’ creep in mid-way through a seafood dinner. We made the most out of our quiet night and post-dinner we wandered Queen street which was full of bright Christmas lights.
A Merry Christmas in Brisbane
We rose to a sunny morning and hopped on some City Bikes to tour around the city. What better day to bike along the river and see some sites than when everything is closed and the city is desolate? We biked across several of the 15 bridges built over the Brisbane River, explored some of the monuments and biked into a Santa Fun Run taking place.
That night, back at the house, we celebrated Christmas with our friend, Corina, from California who we met in Bali. We cooked up some seafood and chicken fajitas (a random Californian style Christmas dinner). Since it is summer during Christmas, the traditional Aussie meal is salads and cold meats, while some have the traditional roast meats, baked vegetables and plum pudding. We did try some leftover figgy pudding and collectively decided we wouldn’t be adding it to future Christmas menus.
Throughout the day we Facetimed with family which helped ease any holiday home sickness and let us celebrate with all those back in the USA 18 hours behind us.
Exploring D’aguilar National Park
On the 27th we hiked in D’aguilar National Park. The park contains lots of eucalyptus woodland, sheltered subtropical rainforest, remote gorges and spectacular views. We choose an out and back track that turned into a short walk due to the piercing pitch of the cicadas surrounding us in the trees. We turned it around and went mountain biking through a park area called Walkabout Creek which led us to steep rides and dirty shoes.
Day trip to Noosa Heads
Our favorite day trip outside Bris was north to Noosa Heads. It is a small peninsula on the Sunshine Coast that is a popular spot for the Christmas week and the streets and beaches were flooded with people. Before going to the Noosa National Park we stopped for a pair of Archies Footwear thongs since my plantar fasciitis was acting up again. We’d seen the thongs at the market in town and after some research decided they’d help. We met the owner, discussed his business and I walked away in comfortable, supportive sandals. Thanks Dan!
We opted to hike in Noosa National Park since surfing was a no-go due to wind and laying on the beach didn’t appeal to us that day. We took the Coastal Track out and the Tanglewood Track inland through the dense eucalyptus forest back. Along the hike were amazing beaches and a great view at Hell’s Gate on the end of the peninsula. The high wind out there nearly blew us over, so we agreed that it is properly named!
On our drive back to the house we took the scenic inland route and stopped in the small town of Montville. It’s well known for its glass Chapel overlooking the local valley and out to the Sunshine Coast. We walked the town and got coffee at Poet’s Cafe. Further along, we were passing through the town of Beerburrum (population 600) that had The Big Mower (random!). We needed to stretch our legs so we walked to a local fire lookout tower. The walk was a steeeeep! Only 700m horizontal to the top, so we climbed and climbed! It was worth it for the 360 degree view and the sunset.
Climbing, Biking and the Botanical Garden
We were curious about rock climbing in the middle of the city and found we could climb a wall against the rivers edge overlooking the skyscrapers. We went with Riverlife and joined a group for sunset climbing at Kangaroo Point. The 30-meter wall was a great challenge to end our day as we climbed until the sun had vanished behind the city and the stars came out. For only $65 per person, we got our moneys worth — and our arms were sore for the following week.
The next day, we took our mountain bikes to Mt Coot-tah and the Gap Creek Reserve to work on our single track biking skills. They have 23 kilometers of trails. After winding through the trees and over the dirt jumps for an hour we pit-stopped at the Mt Coot-tha Lookout overlooking Brisbane and onto the Sunshine Coast.
After biking we explored the Brisbane Botanical Gardens and went to the most popular city lookout. We were impressed by the variety in the well maintained 56 hectare gardens and found out they have 20,000 plants representing almost 5000 plant species from around the world. We favored the Tropical Dome since it reminded us of Costa Rica.
All for now from our Australian adventures. We hope you had a wonderful holiday season and are our exploring or planning your next adventure!
Jenny & Will