AUSTRALIA DAY 3 – BRISBANE & BEERWAH

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After a good night’s rest, we headed over to the Terrace Basement Restaurant in Soho Hotel for breakfast since prices were practical and it was close by. Service was a little slow as they only had one person working and it was quite stuffy since they did not turn on their AC. We ordered the egg benedict, eggs on toast and had drinks from their drinks buffet (coffee, tea, juice and milk). Food was not bad.

We took an Uber to Budget to pick up our rental car. There was no one when we got there so we completed the registration process pretty quickly. After the long wait at the Hertz in Toronto’s airport last summer, we’ve learned to budgeted a little extra time when we are picking up and dropping off a rental vehicle.  My aunt and I were feeling quite nervous about driving in Australia as they drive on the opposite side of the road. It took us some time to get used to it and it was twice as exhausting as we have to think twice before signaling (we kept turning on the wipers) or turning. Luckily, no accidents happened but we did get honked at a few times…!  We also helped remind each other whenever we did a turn – “Turn left, small turn. Turn right, big turn!”

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We drove to our first attraction of the day which was the 11 a.m. Boggo Road Gaol History Tour. We bought our tickets online before hand as well to secure the time. The prison can only be seen on a guided tour and they offer many kinds of tours throughout the week. They have three tours that I thought were particularly interesting – one which is ran by a ex-inmate of the prison, one ran by a retired prison guard and one that talks about the top 50 most interesting escapes made in the prison. I highly recommend checking those ones out as well. We did the general guided tour which takes about 1 hr and 15 minutes. The guide takes you through the prison cells and the yard while explaining the prison’s history. As Brisbane and Australia as a whole, started off as a convict territory for the British, it is important to visit one of its most famous prisons, Boggo Road Goal, to get an understanding of how prison played a huge part in its evolutionary history. The prison is also very well preserved to look like how it looked decades ago so you really do get a good feel of how dreadful it was to have been locked in one of the cells.

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We were running behind schedule so we ditched our original lunch plans and drove straight to Australia Zoo which was about an hour’s drive away. The Australia Zoo was founded by the late Steve Irwin and is located in Beerwah, Sunshine Coast. We bought our tickets on Groupon which was a few dollars cheaper per person. We had only about 3 hours to check out the entire zoo which was extremely rushed so I do recommend allocating at least 4-5 hours if you want to see everything at a good pace. However, we got lucky that we visited the zoo mid day as it was not as hot out and the zoo was less crowded.

Out of all the sanctuaries and zoos that we saw in Australia, I think this one was my favourite. I really enjoyed this zoo because they had the largest selection of animals especially alligators and they really tried to replicate the natural habitat of the animals so it really felt like we were in the wild watching these animals. There were no tall gates or bars that made you feel really isolated from the animals or feel that they are encaged. My favourite exhibit was the Africa region as they had giraffes, rhinoceros and lemurs!  It is a little out of the city but I highly recommend it! The only complaints I had were the signs were a little confusing at times as it took us forever to find the exit and most of the gift shops or food stalls were closed well in advance of closing.

They also have a huge treehouse that you could climb up to get the best view of the zoo.

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Their food court also served the best chips we had on the trip and they had some very unique souvenirs in their gift shop!

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Since we went overtime at the zoo, we were now going to be late for our Brisbane light tour at 6:30 p.m. back at our hotel. We gave our tour guide a call letting him know that we were going to be late as we are heading back from Beerwah. He told us that there was a lot of traffic near our hotel as Ed Sheeran was having his concert that night. Over the phone he was trying to navigate us to take a different route but given that we’re not local, I really had no clue what he was talking about. Fortunately, Google map took us on a route which avoided the congestion and we managed to find the place that he was telling us to drop off our car and we were only 5 minutes late! The drive was extremely stressful but thankfully we made it 😊

Our Brisbane light tour started off with a drive through some of the interesting residential areas in Brisbane and we drove up some windy roads before arriving at the Brisbane Lookout on Mt Coot-tha for dinner. This lookout point has the best views of Brisbane as you can see the entire city without any interference. The sun had already set and the sky was clear that night so we caught a beautiful glimpse of Brisbane’s night view. For dinner at the Kuta Café, we had a beef burger, fish and chips and a chicken schnitzel. At this point, I think we had eaten a year’s quota of fries already! Food was decent and we enjoyed the conversations that we had with the other members of the tour and our tour guide. The other members were visiting from Darwin (also local) and they were also accountants! We were comparing the cost of living between Australia and Canada and it seems like Australia is a much more livable country!

After dinner, we headed back into the city and he dropped us off at a water taxi station so we could hop on a water taxi to see the beautiful night view of Brisbane from a different angle. The water taxi went from station to station at a swift pace. My favourite part of the ride was when we went underneath the Story Bridge and the bend around their water canal. The Story Bridge was beautifully lit up in red and the skyline of Brisbane downtown was also well illuminated. We got off the water taxi at South Banks and our guide showed us around the man-made beach which was built after the Expo. I have never seen a man-made beach before and it was 10x fancier than your typical swimming pool. They had palm trees, beach chairs and three pools. The area was well maintained and clean. It was a beach in the middle of downtown! I wish we had something like this in Vancouver!

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It was already quite late on a week night, but the area was still bustling with people as they chatted up with friends by the water. In the rest area, there are a large playground and many tables and chairs for people to gather. Also, there are heaps of fancy restaurants in this area with many different types of cuisines to choose from.

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We were back on the bus again and this time Mikey took us to another look out point to get some good photos of Brisbane’s skyline. After our final stop, it was already 10:30 p.m. Mikey dropped off the other couple and took us back to where we parked our car. He was very kind and offered to guide us to our hotel. He even stayed behind to make sure that we could check in since front desk was now closed and we had to check in through an operator. Mikey only offers the tours during his spare time so be sure to e-mail him ahead of time to book this tour. I highly recommend it as Mikey provides excellent recommendations for restaurants or things to try plus you really do get to see Brisbane lit up from different angles!

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The check in process itself was a little like playing an Escape game! First you have to call the number written on the door. Then they give you a code which gives you access inside the building. Then they give you another code to open a safe which has an envelope with your name in it. You need to get the code from the envelope to open the gate to the parking lot and also to get the key to your unit. By 11:30 p.m. we finally got into our room at the Central Hillcrest Apartment Hotel. The room was very spacious with a living room, kitchen, bathroom with laundry and a king size bed. However, the décor definitely needs revamping as some of the walls have started peeling. Also, the electric kettle was quite dirty and we found ants in our bathtub! The water pressure of the shower was also extremely weak.

They gave us a complimentary breakfast voucher but it was only for ONE person. The breakfast was not very impressive either with only cereal, muffins and fruits. They also shut it down pretty early at 9 a.m. Thank goodness we only stayed here one night! The pool looks nice but we didn’t get a chance to use it!

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