Leah Explores … Noosa

I hadn’t done too much/any research on Noosa before getting there (shocker) except speaking to some people I was travelling around Fraser Island with, who had already been. There were a lot of mixed reviews. Some people hated it, others had really liked it, some preferred other places they’d visited. I arrived with literally no expectations.

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Stay:
I stayed at the YHA Halse Lodge hostel, one of the girls in Rainbow Beach had recommended it to me. Location wise, you cannot beat it, it’s literally a 2 minute walk to the beach and the main street which is filled with shops and restaurants. It’s a wooden heritage style building, which features a large upstairs balcony and a large common area, bar and restaurants downstairs. They have a welcome meeting on your first night there where you are given a free glass of wine (yay!) I was also upgraded from a 16 person dorm to a 5 person which I was extremely happy about. The rooms were pretty standard and had lockers in which was nice, and the bathrooms were always clean. They also had a dinner special for guests which was $10 for a pizza and beer!

Other options hostel wise in the area is Nomads which is a bit further up by the bus station, I’d heard good things about there, and it is the place where everyone (who is a backpacker) goes to go drinking each night.

Do:
Noosa National Park
This is right on the doorstep of the hostel, and one of my favourite things I did whilst in Noosa. There are loads of trail options and different points and beaches to stop at along the way. I did the coastal trail which was stunning, and went out to Hell’s Gate and back. I walked past the Fairy Pools, which due to the high tide and crashing waves, no one was braving. There are ample beaches to stop at along the way, and depending on the time of year you could very easily spot some wildlife out at sea, or as I did on the trail.
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Eumundi Markets
These are on twice a week and well worth a visit. Imagine a farmers market, now quadruple it in size and you’ve just about got an image of the Eumundi Markets. This sprawling set up has everything from jewellery to dumplings, tarot readings to pet food. You can easily waste a few hours strolling around, looking at all the stalls and getting lost amongst the jumble of vendors. You can get here on the local busses, just check for bus times online.
Everglades
Noosa is the only other place in the world apart from Florida to have Everglades, so I thought I would check them out. I opted for the Bar-B-Canoe tour which included a BBQ lunch, boat tour through the Everglades and then a Canoe ride back. I’d never canoed before and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, even when I was caught in torrential rain (what’s new!) I booked through the hostel and saved $10.
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Beach
Sitting on the beach in Noosa on my first day there was probably the first time I really felt like I was in the Australia I had dreamed about from the UK and Canada. The sand is soft and white, the water is blue, there are palm tree’s and a broad walk, and surfers just casually running in and out of the water. Just be careful if you go in the water as the current is so ridiculously strong, that the lifeguards patrol on jet ski’s constantly and I saw at least two people get pulled out the water by lifeguards whilst I was there.
Surf
There are surfers wandering around barefoot everywhere in Noosa, and if you are so inclined there is no shortage of places to rent surfboards, or take lessons.
Relax
Noosa is a proper little beach town and has quite a lot going for it compared to some of the smaller beach towns I’ve been through so far on my travels. It is the perfect place to just kick back, relax and eat good food.

Eat:
Betty’s Burger and Concrete Co.
I kid you not this is the best burger I’ve ever eaten, sorry In’n’Out! The food is so good here, make sure you try it if you go. I went early and was glad that I did, because when I walked by later there was such a huge queue to get in there.
Aroma’s
I went here to hide from the torrential rain, and wasn’t disappointed. It’s a Parisian style bistro which is perfect for people watching. I got a cocktail and portion of fries which was huge.
Nitrogenie
Definitely the most scientific and delicious ice cream I have ever eaten. They mix liquid nitrogen with the ice cream mixture and ta da you have the smoothest ice cream you’ve ever eaten!
Acai Bro’s
For delicious Acai bowls you cannot beat Acai Bro’s, they have a huge selection of smoothies, bowls and raw treats.
Cafe Le Monde
I took myself for brunch here on my last day in town, and was not disappointed. A really cool place to sit with a book and a delicious coffee, and munch on some yummy food. 

I can’t recommend Noosa enough, I absolutely loved it there. To me it felt like a mixture between Laguna Beach and Carmel with a surfer vibe thrown in for good measure. It is the perfect place to go and relax, enjoy nature and eat good food.

Leah Explores … Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island, or Maggie as the locals call it, is a small island located just off the coast of Townsville, and just a short 25minute ferry ride away! The majority of the island is national park, but it’s one of the few places that you can see Koala’s in the wild.

Stay:
I stayed at the Base hostel which had a two night deal which included, return ferry fare, welcome drink, a dinner and a breakfast. I really liked this hostel, the rooms were all A frame cabins, which definitely helped with the overall aesthetic, not that it really needed any help there! The hostel was right on the beach, there was a pool, and the bar and kitchen was pretty decent too! There were plenty of b&b’s, Airbnb’s and hotels on the island as well if you didn’t fancy the hostel life. I would also recommend the YHA Bungalow Bay, which I went to when I went to see the koala’s and it looked really nice there too

Do:
Hire a 4×4 or Barbie car
We had the option to rent the car for 24hours or six hours. We opted for six hours as we were leaving the next day, and it was more than enough. It was so nice to have the freedom to go and explore, especially as Magnetic Island isn’t bustling with tour busses. Even better was that our 4×4 was a banged up little Suzuki ready for off roading, it was so nice to drive something a little banged up instead of a brand new car for a change.

IMG_7560Rock Wallabies
Without a doubt one of my absolute highlights of Magnetic Island. From dusk onwards in the Arcadia area of the island the rock wallabies come out from the rocks and are totally cool with all the tourists there. The wallabies are nocturnal so the later you go the more there are. We went around 5pm and there was a decent amount. Take some veggies to feed them and they will come and eat right out of your hands.
YHA Bungalow Bay Koala Village
Ever since my first enchanter up in Kuranda I will take any opportunity I can get to hug a koala, hence my trip to the Koala Village. There are three tours a day which last for two hours and are led by an expert, and includes holding a small turtle and lots of information It costs $29 for the tour, and then an extra $18 if you want to hold the koala and have a photo. What was great was that they let you take photos on your phone too, so you had digital copies straight away. I also got to stroke a wombat and take a selfie with a koala called Hagrid. You can also if you’d like have breakfast with the koala’s here, check their website for more details.

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Hike to Hawkings Point
We did this the first night we arrived in time for sunset, and it was beautiful. After a bit (a lot!) of confusion about where the trail actually was we found it and trekked up to the top. Take plenty of water, if you do this. This was the first time I’d done any sort of hike in this level of heat and humidity and it took it out of me more than usual. The views from the top are insane, especially just as the sun slips below the horizon.

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Enjoy the coast
I didn’t do it, but there were plenty of places on the island where you could snorkel or scuba around the island. As well as that there were so many beautiful beaches you’d be hard pushed to not find one that suited you. Drive around and find a secluded spot for a spot of relaxation.

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Magnetic Island definitely wasn’t on my radar of places to go in Australia, until I got here and started talking to other travellers who had already been there. I absolutely loved my time there, especially as for the majority of it, I had such little phone reception that my phone was permanently on “SOS only” which was a nice change to completely switch off. I highly recommend a trip to Magnetic Island if you’re in the area, even if it is just for a day, it’s definitely a place I would like to go back to. 

Leah Explores … Cairns

If you read my 2018 Travel Plans post you will have seen that I’m spending the year in Australia, and I decided to kick start this year in Cairns. I have to admit that I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Cairns. I was only planning on staying here a few days; finding my feet, seeing the Great Barrier Reef and a few other things and then heading on down the coast. Except when I went to open up my bank account the lady informed me that it would be two weeks for my new bank card to be mailed, and that I could have it sent on elsewhere but then they would have to cancel this one and reissue it. Cue my unintentional two week plus stay in Cairns.

Fitzroy Island

Stay:
I stayed at Globetrotters Internatonal, it was a little further out of town and not a crazy party hostel, both of which appealed to me. It was really clean, pretty cheap, had free daily breakfast, free dinner twice a week, nights out, a pool, laundry and loads more. Two particular highlights for me were that one, there were no bunk beds, and two, they had fridge lockers for no extra charge.
There are loads of hostels throughout the city so you are not spoilt for choice, Giligans is the obvious choice for a party hostel if that’s your cup of tea. And if you fancy something a bit more luxurious there are ample hotels as well. I would advise staying away from the Novotel as the tree’s outside are literally overflowing with millions of bats. I would also say that accommodation with a pool isn’t essential as the lagoon is so easy to get to and absolutely beautiful.

Eat:
I was feeling pretty flush when I arrived in Cairns, as it was my first stop and had money burning a hole in my pocket, therefore instead of fully embracing the hostel life I had a few “treat yo’self” moments.
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Caffiend
This was actually recommended to me by my bestie who is the research queen. And she didn’t let me down, it was absolutely delicious. I had a Flat White and avocado toast (#basic) and trust me they didn’t disappoint.
Pantry 15
Just a little further along from Caffiend is Pantry 15 which also offers instagram worthy eats. I had their signature coffee and it was insanely decadent in the best possible way!
Blackbird
This place is tiny and tucked away down a little mall/alley but oh my god do they do amazing coffee! Totally worth searching out!
Tokyo Dumpling
I’d read about this in my Lonely Planet guide and went their for an early dinner one night, where I had the dumpling set meal, which included a miso soup, rice and 12 dumplings of my choice.
Lilypad
I went here after reading about it on another blog post about Cairns and I am so glad I managed to get a table and eat there. The portions are ginormous (I had enough to take home for dinner, and pretty reasonably priced too. But most importantly the food is absolutely delicious!
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Do:
Cairns is described as a gateway town and I totally get it. With the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree right on it’s doorstep the city itself kind of gets overshadowed by these natural wonders.
Great Barrier Reef:
You can’t really come all the way up to Cairns without experiencing the largest living thing on earth. I went out with Passions of Paradise on their giant catamaran and had an amazing day. They take you to two different reef locations depending on the conditions that day. You have the option to scuba (if you’re certified or do an intro dive) or snorkel. They provide you with all the gear (stinger suits included!) and feed you ample amounts of food throughout the day.
Waterfalls:
I went with Uncle Brian’s on their Fun, Falls and Forest tour, which took me to Babinda Boulders, Josephine Falls, Millaa Millaa (aka the Peter Andre and Herbal Essence waterfall) and finally Lake Eacham. Unfortunately we experienced the most insane rain that I have ever seen, which meant a lot of the planned activities had to be cut short and couldn’t go ahead as planned for safety reasons. I still had an amazing day and would love to go back to experience the falls and lake in all their beauty, not half submerged under raging rapids.
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Esplanade and Lagoon:
You can’t go on the beach or in the ocean in Cairns due to the crocs and stingers, but they have the most beautiful lagoon and esplanade broadwalk which hugs the beachfront. Taking a stroll from the hostel into the city along the esplanade became an almost daily occurrence for me, not just because it’s beautiful but also because it meant that I didn’t have to walk past the tree’s full of bats!
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Fitzroy Island
If you take a 45 minute ferry from Cairns you end up on Fitzroy Island which just happens to be home of the best beach in Queensland, and the whole of Australia; Nudey Beach. I basically took the trip just for this beach and I wasn’t disappointed, it was exactly what I imagine paradise to look like. It’s a 20minute hike from the ferry terminal and so worth it. There are plenty of other activities you can partake in on the Island; kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking and snorkelling. There is also Foxy’s bar for lunch and drinks if you don’t choose to have the lunch option with the ferry package.
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Kuranda & Surrounding Area’s
I really wanted to take the Scenic Railway up to Kuranda and then the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway back down, but due to the cyclone there were landslides and so no train for me. I instead hired a car and made the trip up there, skipping the cable car journey too. Kuranda is a artsy little village nestled away in the middle of the rainforest. It’s a cute place to wander around and there are plenty of stalls to browse and shop from. There is also a Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, the Kuranda Koala Gardens, Birdworld Kuranda and the Rainforestation Nature Park close by as well, so plenty to keep you busy in the area. If you’re going that way I would highly recommend checking out Baron Falls which are absolutely stunning, and can be accessed by the train, or you can hike there or do as I did which was drive there and then hike to see the falls.
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Palm Cove
Located a 30minute drive north of Cairns, Palm Cove is an absolute paradise. I ventured here the same day as I went to Kuranda, and happily spent a few hours strolling along the beach and soaking in the stunning scenery. Palm Cove is a little beach town that gets it’s name from the palm trees that line the beach. I actually discovered this place as it was on a postcard I sent to my friend, and I figured if it was good enough to make it on a postcard it had to be worth checking out in real life.
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Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t “hate” Cairns, and there was definitely plenty to do there, but I definitely think it’s the sort of place you only need to visit for a few days, by the end of my two weeks I was more than ready to head on somewhere new.