Couchsurfing along the East Coast of Australia

Tripoto
1st Sep 2012
Photo of Couchsurfing along the East Coast of Australia by Jemima Durnford
Day 1

Our flight to the land down under was really good, we flew with Emirates from Singapore and had good seats near the front of the plane. It was a seven hour flight and we were given free alcohol which we both took advantage of. I indulged in about six Baileys and Liam decided to mix it up with some beers and wine and got a little drunk! At one point he came back from the toilet with this little paper cup and thought it was absolutely hysterical that they would have something like this in the toilet. "Why?" he said and then just lost it, tears streaming down his face for literally 20 minutes or so. I was starting to feel a little embarrassed by his show and people were looking at him wondering what was up, he looked more like he was sobbing than laughing! I just got back to my film and left him to try and compose himself. We watched some epic films, the best being The Avengers which was so funny.

We had decided to try and couchsurf on our travels from Brisbane to Cairns and our first host was this lovely woman called Sarah. She kindly picked up from the airport at 2:00am and as we chatted on the drive to her home we took an immediate liking to her. We weren't sure what couchsurfing was going to be like and first impressions were certainly very impressive! At her home we had our own room and en suite which was very well presented and we felt really at home. She wasn't working and her husband was away working in mines up north so it was just her and her King Charles Spaniel, Chas, who was so cute. As she wasn't working she was able to hang out with us and so our first day started with amazing homemade pancakes and syrup and then we drove to a viewpoint overlooking Brisbane. It was the most stunning blue sky day and having been in Asia where a lot of the time the weather was very hazy and humid, it was so refreshing to see such clear blue skies with no oppressive heat. It was a beautiful spot with great views all around.

Photo of Brisbane City QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford

She then dropped us off in town so that we could sort out travel arrangements up to Cairns. We had tried posting requests to share rides but had heard nothing so found the cheapest coach pass for $215AUD with Premier Motor Services. We then went to visit Afia, a girl we'd met in India, who was working in a hostel. Unfortunately we were only able to chat for half an hour as we had arranged for Sarah to pick us up at a certain time. We could have spoken for hours so it was a shame it was such a brief visit.

Day 2

The next day we headed into The Glasshouse Mountains where we went up to a viewpoint which gave beautiful views over the countryside. We were lucky enough to see an Eastern Grey Kangaroo who was chilling out munching on grass. We then drove further into the mountains to a town called Montville which was full of quaint art and craft shops and a few cafes, one in which we had cream tea, it was delicious. On the drive back to the city Sarah took us on a tour of Brisbane and then we went to an area known as South Bank where we walked along the river and went to Max Brenners chocolate shop for dinner. Banana cake dipped in liquid chocolate, not bad!

Day 3

The next day we were due to get the coach at lunchtime to our next destination so Sarah dropped us off in town and we went to a few tour companies to research tours on Fraser Island so we could get that booked up in advance. We managed to find a good one combining a whale watching tour and Fraser Island tour for $250AUD.

Photo of Brisbane City QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Brisbane City QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford

So we made our way to our next stop, Mooloolaba, the journey was only supposed to be an hour and a half however the bus broke down and so we were stranded for about 3 hours. It wasn't so bad as the weather was beautiful so I just sat outside reading my book until it was fixed. When we arrived in Mooloolaba we walked five minutes to our hosts house where we were greeted by Sandy. She lived in a nice apartment and again showed us to our own room and bathroom. She had made a yummy dinner of tuna pasta bake which was just what we needed. She had to work full time so left us with the key which was very kind and trusting. So left to our own devices we decided to have a little lie in and then go for a stroll along the beach which was a few minutes away. Liam had hoped to do some surfing but the waves were non existent so instead we laid out on the sand and I read the book out loud 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' by Deborah Moggach. We enjoyed the heat on our skin and having the beach to ourselves and headed back to the flat for 4pm as Sandy would be back from work then and we were the only ones with a key to get in. We chilled out and she made another delicious meal of quiche which we devoured.

Day 4

Sandy kindly gave us some free tickets which were due to expire in the next week to visit the Underwater World which was just down the road. So the next day, after cutting Liams hair! We walked there and saw many fish, seals, crocodile, otters etc. It was very well set up with shows at various times throughout the day. Our ticket included a free seal kiss photograph so we got a souvenir as well.

Photo of Mooloolaba Wharf, Underwater World, Mooloolaba QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Wharf, Underwater World, Mooloolaba QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Wharf, Underwater World, Mooloolaba QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Day 5

That evening we cooked Spaghetti Bolognese and watched Avatar which I hadn't seen before. The next day we went out to Australia Zoo, which Steve Urwin made famous through his TV series. It was very well organised and we just about managed to see most of the animals. They had many shows at different times which we went to, such as elephant feeding, Koala presentation and the biggest being the crocodile show in the Crocoseum. Inside this arena they let fly lots of exotic birds which swooped past our heads, it was really great. They then bought out lots of snakes which freaked Liam out especially as they walked around the audience with them. Luckily they didn't come too close to us. Then they did the crocodile show which was very entertaining.

Day 6

The next day was Saturday so as Sandy wasn't working she took us to a park and beach which we walked along. She then had to go out so we relaxed at the flat for a few hours before leaving to get the coach.

Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford

Our next destination was Noosa, unfortunately we hadn't heard back from anyone in Noosa who had a couch for us so instead booked up a hostel for one night. The journey was short and we arrived late afternoon and took a local bus to the hostel. We immediately missed couchsurfing having had our own room and going into a dorm where no one was actually very chatty or friendly wasn't great. We decided to explore and so went walking to the town. It was an attractive town and certainly wealthy with large modern homes around and expensive restaurants and bars. We sat on the beach reading our book until it got too cold and so headed back.

Day 7

The next day we walked to Noosa National Park where we did a 2 hour walk through the forest and saw a monitor, koala and carpet snake! We were due to get the bus mid afternoon so headed back to the hostel. We hadn't actually realised until leaving that there were free courtesy minibuses going to and from the beach and to the coach station which would have saved us a lot of walking but nevermind, we took it to the coach station. We had about an hour till the coach arrived so walked to the nearby Coles supermarket and stocked up on supplies.

Our next town was Hervey Bay in where we had arranged to couchsurf with this guy called Steve. We arrived quite late in the evening and he picked us up and took us to his place. He lived quite far out of town, not that it mattered, as we soon realised there was nothing there and the only reason people go is to visit Fraser Island. He had a large detached house overlooking the countryside towards the beach and we had our own room and en suite.

Day 8

We got an early night and the next day he took us on a tour of Hervey Bay which wasn't that exciting to be honest as the town was so dull, when we got back Liam and I walked down to the beach which was half an hour away. It was a pleasant walk and we said hello to a friendly horse. We read more of our book and then headed back, played table tennis in which Liam thrashed me and chilled out.

Day 9

The next day we got up early to do our morning whale watching tour. We were very lucky to see many whales, one breached right in front of us which was amazing and another went right under the boat. After the tour Steve kindly picked us up and we chilled out for a while at home. Just before dusk approached Steve took us out to see some wild kangaroo, we saw a whole group of them which was really cool.

Photo of Whale Watching Hervey Bay, Spectrum Street, Rainbow Beach QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whale Watching Hervey Bay, Spectrum Street, Rainbow Beach QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whale Watching Hervey Bay, Spectrum Street, Rainbow Beach QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whale Watching Hervey Bay, Spectrum Street, Rainbow Beach QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Day 10

That evening we cooked up a meal and enjoyed a Pina Colada. The next day we went on the Fraser Island tour, we had to get up at 6:00am to be at the coach station for 7:00am. Once on the couch it took a while to collect all the other passengers and then we headed down to the harbour. The journey across was a bit nippy and took about half an hour. Once on the island we got into coaches which were designed especially to drive on sand. We bumped along the road to our first stop at this creek. We followed a trail which took us along the creek which flowed with crystal clear water and was very pretty.

Photo of Fraser Island QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford

We then jumped back on board to head to a resort for buffet style lunch. It was delicious! We then drove along the beach which was really cool and was Liams favourite activity. The surf was really cool although you can't swim in the sea due to bull sharks and riffs. We drove along for a quite a while up to 'The Pinnacles' which are pinnacles of sand made up of different colours, orange, red and yellow. We then drove back the way we'd come and stopped to see a ship wreck and then after this headed to Eli Creek which flows into the sea. We waded upstream, again the water was crystal clear and quite cold. After a while I left Liam to explore further upstream whilst I walked the trail alongside.

Photo of Eli Creek, Fraser Island QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Eli Creek, Fraser Island QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Eli Creek, Fraser Island QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Eli Creek, Fraser Island QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Eli Creek, Fraser Island QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford

After a while we all got back on the bus and headed to the famous Lake McKenzie, we were a little disappointed as we only had half an hour there plus the sun was low in the sky so it was very cold. However we went for a quick swim anyway to at least say that we'd done it. I hadn't thought I was actually going to go in so was impressed that I did!

Photo of Lake Mckenzie (Boorangoora), Fraser Island QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford

That evening once back with Steve he cooked up a delicious BBQ or chicken skewers, jacket potato and salad. The next day we took it pretty easy, Steve took us out on his motorboat. He was part of this orienteering group who hid items and left GPRS routes for people to hunt them out. So Steve went looking for one of these items whilst we strolled along the beach. After a short while we headed back, stopping of for fish and chips and taking them home to eat on the balcony. It was a lovely day and Liam and I sat outside enjoying the sun, I also finally managed to beat him in a few games of table tennis. We were leaving late that evening to head up to Rockhampton and so Steve cooked us pizza and then we headed off.

Photo of Couchsurfing along the East Coast of Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Couchsurfing along the East Coast of Australia by Jemima Durnford
Day 11

Our coach arrived in Rockhampton at 3am and so we waited at the station until 6:30am when our next host Jo picked us up. She was very loud and giggly and completely crazy and when we got to her house we were confronted by a complete mess! The house was such a state with stuff everywhere and fairly unclean. Having been to such lovely homes with our own room we came to this place which was such a contrast. Of course you can't complain when you have a free place to sleep but it was just so chaotic. We kipped on the couch as we were extremely shattered and slept for a few hours. When we woke at about 10:30am Jo said that she was just dropping her husband Justin off at work and would be back in half an hour. Well it turned into 4 hours later with Jo apologising that she hadn't been back earlier but that she had got lost?! So we hadn't been able to do much that day, not that it really mattered as we were very tired. We just read our book and watched the rest of Seven Years In Tibet which we'd started. There were two other couch surfers staying in their home although you probably couldn't call them that having stayed for 6 months, Jonathan who was studying and Peggy who was working to save money. The place was very crowded and Jo and Justin bickered quite a lot and he would stroll around in his underpants – lovely. Even so, they were friendly enough and Justin took us up to Mount Archer which gave us a beautiful view of Rockhampton at night, he was very proud to be able to spell out "Hell" from the lights!

Day 12

In the middle of that night a German couple arrived called Anna and Daniel and they were so lovely. The four of us took a bus to the Botanic Gardens and explored the park and zoo that was there. We all got along really well and it was a really nice day, they made our stay so great.

Photo of Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, Spencer St, West Rockhampton QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, Spencer St, West Rockhampton QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, Spencer St, West Rockhampton QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, Spencer St, West Rockhampton QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, Spencer St, West Rockhampton QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Day 13

It was a shame to leave having met such a lovely couple but we made our move to Airlie Beach. Our bus didn't leave until 3am so we got dropped off at 10pm and then had to wait for our coach. The time seemed to go very quickly though and so we then got on the bus with our weird bus driver with an erratic attitude and socks pulled up to his knees which as Liam put it, no respectable man should do! We tried to sleep as best we could and then came into Airlie Beach at 9:30. We were feeling very shattered but we couldn't check in until 12:00 so we stored our luggage and went to a couple of tourist companies to look into Whitsundays tours. We looked over the information whilst sitting on a bench by the beach. The prices ranged from $99 - $600 and we weren't even keen on spending $99 so we took away pamphlets to look over and think about what to do. By then it was time to check in and once in our dorm we hit the pillow for a few hours. I didn't want to sleep too long otherwise I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep that night so we got up and having thought about what tour to do we decided we would take a flight around the Whitsundays the next morning so we could see the famous Whitehaven Beach.

Day 14

The rest of the day was spent chilling out and the next morning we flew with GSL Aviation in a small aircraft seating 6 people. It was stunning and definitely the best way to see the islands. The absolute perfect flight if we were loaded with cash would be to take a seaplane there but for our budget it was great. Only $79 for 25 minutes which wasn't bad and we even had an extra landing on Hamilton Island to drop off the other passengers which meant we then had the plane to ourselves.

Photo of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford

Having seen a birds eye view Liam was keen to take a boat tour as well and I knew I would also regret it if we didn't do that as well. So when we got back we booked up a tour with Fury for $95, again the cheapest we could find. We spent the rest of that day chilling out by the lagoon.

Day 15

Next morning we got ready for our boat tour, a speed boat with about 35 people took us to a snorkelling spot about 30 minutes away. Unfortunately Liam and I were quite disappointed as all the coral was dead and there was barely any marine life, even though the skipper, Bluey, was saying it was great. Such a lie! The water was very cold so I hired a wet suit, even then I was still shivering but Liam, having to be manly as usual, went without.

Photo of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays QLD, Australia by Jemima Durnford

After 45 minutes we made our way to Whitehaven Beach, we thought that we would be able to walk around the famous scenic area but suddenly one of the guides pointed out we were just passing and then we anchored up at the end of the beach, so no where near where we thought we were going. On the way Liam was lucky enough to see a turtle, I missed it though. Of course it's always best to make the best of a bad situation so we just shrugged our shoulders and enjoyed where we were. It became a bit overcast and was only just warm enough to lie out but the sand was very white and beautiful. We had a delicious buffet lunch which I ate loads of. Then we relaxed on the beach and sand scrubbed each other. We then thought we'd have time to go to the nearby lookout but when I asked the skipper when we were leaving he said 15 minutes and the lookout was 30 minutes there and back. I was a bit disappointed by that as we thought we'd have lots more time there and they hadn't told us how much time we'd have. Not very good, plus when he replied he was quite curt. I can definitely say that the flight was much better but we would have both wondered if we were missing out if we hadn't done it so I'm glad we did.

Photo of Couchsurfing along the East Coast of Australia by Jemima Durnford
Day 16

The next day we made our way to Townsville and on the way we got chatting with a couple called Ben and Erica who we had seen on the boat the day before but hadn't spoken to. They were really lovely and had been on placement for a few months in New Zealand as part of their Doctors degree and had come to Australia for a short holiday. I wasn't feeling so well on the bus so left Liam to chat with them. When we arrived in Townsville we swopped details and planned to meet up the next day or so. We then borrowed someones phone to call our host, Steve, who kindly picked us up and casually dropped us off at his apartment before nipping back to work. His apartment was really nice and spacious and just a minutes walk of the beach. There were a couple of other couchsurfers there and they were really easy to chat with. Liam and I went into town with them to have a look around and then went our own ways. 

Day 17

We met up with Ben and Erica the next day and went for coffee, we got along so well with them and chatted together for about 3 hours until it got dark and decided to meet up the day after. After saying good bye we ended up getting a bit lost, Liam was adamant he knew the way but not so! The next day we met Ben and Erica again at an ice cream store and had the yummiest ice creams and sat in the park.

Photo of Couchsurfing along the East Coast of Australia by Jemima Durnford
Day 20

One of the evenings was spent going to a Shakespeare play which was based outside in the park which sounded lovely but unfortunately I thought the acting and stage was very amateur. One of Steves work colleagues came along and sat next to me and was stating how terrible it was. She was quite funny and she was totally overdressed for the occasion but after chatting with her we thought she was good fun. By that point there were about 7 couchsurfers staying with Steve so there was a good atmosphere. During the interval we had a picnic and after the show Liam and I were going to go meet some of the others at the pub but then ended up going to bed instead!

Day 21

The next day Liam and I lazed about and Steve took us up the top of this big hill in the centre of Townsville. We had tried walking it the day before but didn't get far until we were too hot and bothered and gave up, so getting a ride to the top worked out well. We had a beautiful view of Magnetic Island, the town and surrounds and stayed up there chatting for an hour. It was a nice way to end our stay.

Photo of Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Photo of Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia by Jemima Durnford
Day 22

The next day we made our way to Cairns. We had arranged to meet a host called Ryan but I wasn't sure whether he'd got my message confirming our arrival and after waiting for an hour it was clear he wasn't turning up. Very annoying, especially as it was then 9pm and we were tired. We wanted to get a good deal at a nearby hostel so quickly went into a Global Gossip internet store which was the only place open at that time and booked up a hostel called Cairns Beach Hostel just outside the centre of Cairns. We had read that they do free pick up so after booking, called up to get collected but the lights on their van weren't working so they weren't driving at night. Great, another let down! So we had to walk for 30 minutes to the hostel. When we arrived we just wanted to cook some dinner and crash, so we went to the kitchens only to find them in the most disgusting state. Possibly the worst we've seen, the sinks were all blocked with food and dirty water and we couldn't find any clean utensils. We tried to minimize our use of equipment because everything was so horrible and ate out of the saucepan. After that we went straight to bed. Luckily the dorms weren't too bad but we had already decided that we'd be booking into a different hostel for the next night or two. So next day we checked out somewhere else online and booked up Nomads in the centre of town so a much better location. Cairns Beach Hostel offered free transfers into town so after chilling out we took one. Pleased to be leaving we found Nomads and left our luggage in storage until we could officially check in. We ended up getting hooked on National Geographic in the common room and then checked into our dorm later. The hostel was so much nicer and the bonus was free breakfast and dinner! So we went to a busy bar called The Woolshed to grab our free dinner of Spaghetti Bolognaise, not bad.

Day 23

The next day we messaged Ben and Erica who were also in Cairns to see if they were free to meet up, we actually ended up bumping into them and it turned out they were staying in a hotel pretty much next door. Liam and I were keen to take a flight over the Great Barrier Reef as we'd been let down on boat tours elsewhere and there was a deal for three people so went to Travel Bug to book it up. Unfortunately the deal was only for 3 people and so we'd either be split up or one person would be on their own and it seemed to miss the point of sharing the experience together. In the end we were all feeling too pressurised and didn't book anything up and went away to think about it. However we ended up just chilling out in the park and never booked anything up which meant we never visited the Great Barrier Reef. To be honest though it doesn't really bother me as it's so expensive anyway. 

Day 24

The next day we were all checking out of our accommodation so we met at 10:00am and walked along the beach towards the mangroves that were at the end, Erica wasn't feeling too great though so after about an hour she and Ben headed back to relax on the grass. We carried on for a bit but soon realised that it was further than we thought and it was just too hot to keep going so we headed back as well and relaxed with them. Later we said goodbye as they had an earlier flight than us and then chilled out in the hostel until we could grab our free dinner. We decided to upgrade for just $7 and have steak with peppercorn sauce, definitely a good choice, it was cooked perfectly. We then went back to the hostel until the minivan came to pick us up and take us to the airport. As we stopped at a few places to collect others, one group were hugging goodbye and the driver was so pushy and angry with them. He was in a rush and extremely impatient and so drove like a maniac! We had planned to sleep in the airport until our flight at 8:00am therefore saving us money on another nights accommodation, however, not until we were driving along did the driver say that the domestic terminal was closed so we went to the international one but soon after they were closing that as well and we ended up sleeping on a bench outside. It wasn't exactly a comfortable sleep but I wrapped myself up in my sleeping bag and it wasn't too cold so slept a little bit. Liam's back gave him grief sleeping on the bench so he went to curl up on some grass, it was a sorry sight to seem him lying there!

Photo of Couchsurfing along the East Coast of Australia by Jemima Durnford
Day 25

Finally we could check in, we flew down to Brisbane airport and from there took the skytrain which was a rip off into town. We left our luggage in Travel Bug and went to get food, lay in the park and then went to see Afia which was really nice as previously there hadn't been enough time to catch up properly. We spent the afternoon with her and then took the train to our host, Greg. He said he'd meet us but after an hour we getting concerned, just as it was getting dark he turned up. He had been waiting in another place! He lived just 10 minutes walk away in a really nice complex with another flat mate who "cut up dead bodies" which was different and a little bit weird hearing about his graphic examinations! Greg was very friendly, a captain in the army so Liam was interested in his job. He was very laid back and left us to it in the flat whilst he was at work the next day, so we made the most of chilling out and using the pool! It was a little cold but fun. On the day of our flight to New Zealand he kindly drove us out to the airport in the early hours.

The highlight of Australia was Couchsurfing, and we were we really keen to carry it on in New Zealand. Meeting such friendly and open locals made the experience so brilliant. In hindsight, it would have been better to pay a little extra for decent tours but it is so expensive! However, the atmosphere and weather in Australia had been just what we needed and we were so excited for New Zealand!

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