Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spring fever

Spring is one of my favourite times to live in Queensland.
It's warm enough to go sleeveless at night or head to the beach, but not so hot that you melt everytime you go outside.  (Or inside if you're not fortunate enough to have air-conditioning.)
The risk of skin cancer isn't quite as high as in summer. In fact, with my fair skin and freckles, I find it too hot to swim in summer, unless it's before dawn or after sunset.
True, we've had way more rain and storms than in previous years, which points to a hot and stormy summer. (Can you believe that just a few short years ago we were in the grip of a drought!)
Spring is the perfect time of year to take off on a sunny day and head to one of our famous beaches or national parks.
If you're lucky, a spring getaway is awesome, because hotels and resorts offer bargain rates and packages before the summer peak period hits.
Take this one: The Atlantis Marcoola is a family-friendly Sunshine Coast resort, just an hour or two from Brisbane, depending on where you live.
This is one of my favourite beaches in Queensland. It's beautiful, quite wild, and usually there are plenty of quiet spaces even on weekends and holidays.
We stayed at the resort a few years ago, and it was awesome. It was out of season, and the manager kindly upgraded us to an apartment with an ocean view at no extra charge.
The rooms and suites were gorgeous and spacious, and we could have quite happily moved in there. There were free beach toys for the kids, not to mention a playground, lagoon pool, toddler pool, spa, tennis court, half-court basketball court, and free balls. (Tee hee, I just wrote free balls.)
There was free broadband wifi, a fitness area, and Austar as well.
Even better, the Atlantis Marcoola is right on the beach, which means no scary roads to cross with the kids. And there's a really long walkway where they can ride their scooters, bikes or skate to their hearts' content.
Like many other resorts, the Atlantis Marcoola is offering some great spring specials for those who need a break before the Silly Season mayhem begins. And apparently, the facilities have been refurbished since we last holidayed there.
The best thing about the Sunshine Coast is that so much of it is free!
You can look for koalas while walking in the Noosa National Park, swim under a waterfall then shop for arts and crafts in the hinterland, learn to surf, throw in a fishing line, or just roam the beach looking for shells and crabs.
Of course, there are loads of day spas for those who need pampering, and adventure sports for those who feel the need for an adrenalin rush.
Or you can just do what we usually do: Read, swim, spa, shop and eat far too much delicious food!
Readers, what do you love about Spring?
PhotobucketMarcoola Beach, Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Image courtesy of Tourism Queensland

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nowhere like ... New York

I'm a Sagittarius, so I love to travel.
Having kids and a limited budget has kind of clipped my wings a little, but I can't wait for the day when I can jump on a plane, boat, car or train and travel to my hearts' content.
Some of my travel dreams include:
- A trip to Bangkok with a girlfriend so we can catch up with a very dear school friend who lives there. Oh and also so we can shop!
- A holiday in Samoa where we had the best family holiday ever about a year ago. The Samoans were so lovely, especially to the kids, and the country is just gorgeous. Not to mention extremely good value.
- New Zealand. I lived there for about 18 months, but saw very little of the country outside of Auckland, and I just fell in love with the place.
- A trip to the snow with the kids. Either in Australia, Japan, Europe, Canada, America or New Zealand.
- A trip to Cairns, where I have another dear friend, and where I spent many happy years when I was a young journalist.
- Back to Europe to see friends and family in England and Germany.
- Across to Western Australia, to visit my brother and his family and to explore the rest of the state. It's been a long-time dream to see the dolphins at Monkey Mia.
- I'd love to spend a summer in Greece, Turkey, France or Germany, writing, eating and lazing on the beach.
- A trip to Las Vegas, a city I've been to several times (and I don't even gamble, I just love it), and where another very dear friend lives. We used to have Saturday Movie Nights, eat chocolate, read magazines and have fun. I'd love another Movie Night with her!
And finally, this press release came across my desk this morning (okay, in my email inbox. Does anyone actually mail press releases anymore?)

Shop Til You Drop Package - from Doubletree hotels in New York City!

Visit the Big Apple and shop til you drop. This Bloomingdales Shop Til You Drop Package includes overnight stay ONLY at Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square or Doubletree Metropolitan Hotel PLUS the following items upon check-in:

- $50 Bloomingdales gift card.

- 15% Bloomingdales savings certificate.

- Complimentary Bloomingdales signature gift and package delivery from Bloomingdales to your hotel (on purchases of $250 or more).

- 10% Macy's savings certificate.
- 10% off at NHL Store.

- South Street Seaports savings packet.

- Complimentary champagne toast at Thalassa Restaurant.

- 20% off 50 or 80 minute spa treatment at Equinox (14 Wall Street location only).

- $15 off of Top Button's Walking Shopping Tour.
- 15% off at City Crab and Seafood Restaurant.

You can book Bloomingdales Shop Til You Drop Package by visiting

Sigh. Would that not be the ultimate girlie holiday?
I visited New York many years ago on a backpackers' budget, so didn't actually get to shop till I dropped! And we stayed in New Jersey (can you imagine?), because it was cheaper, and took public transport into the Big Apple each day.
Though I did have fun, and even went to the top of the World Trade Centre, which is sadly no longer there.
It would lovely to return to New York and this time do it in style.
A girl can dream I guess ...)

So readers, what would be your ultimate holiday?

 Pretty H. embraces the tropical life in Samoa.

C. swimming with turtles in Samoa

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nothing like a freebie

It's no secret, I love Queensland.
Truth be told, it took years of travelling and even living overseas to really appreciate my own state and my own country.
There are loads of places I would love to travel to and even live for a year, a couple at most. But Queensland will always be home.
One of the things I love the most, is that there is so much of the Sunshine State (okay, well usually it's Sunshiney, not too much lately), that everyone can access for free.
Here are a few of my favourite things:

The jetty at Sandgate/Shorncliffe. There's also a fab Robinson Crusoe-type playground for kids.

Brisbane/Ipswich councils regularly put on free events for residents. Miss 7 had her face painted for free (yes, she's a pussycat) at the opening of a motorway earlier this year. Actually most Queensland councils hosts free events throughout the year. They're usually well advertised. In this case, we received an invitation in our letterbox.

Mr 9 inhaled some free fairy floss...
And they climbed to the hearts' content ...

The Ipswich Handmade Expo, held each month. Loads of lovingly made goodies to eat, drink, wear, display and/or just enjoy. Entry and parking are free and prices are reasonable.

The childrens' gallery at the Ipswich Art Gallery is Australia's first to be dedicated to children. It's hands-on, fun, and even better free!

What have you found to enjoy that's free in Queensland - or in your own part of the world?