AUSTRALIA DAY 6 – TAMBORINE MOUNTAIN & BRISBANE

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Our Brisbane light tour guide told us that we must visit Skypoint if we want to see Gold Coast in its entirety. Therefore, we decided to grab breakfast at the Skypoint bistro + bar which happens to be right beside our hotel! The Sunday breakfast buffet is a great price as it is only $7 extra on top of the $25 regular admission. They have a large dining area with spacious seats as well as a large selection of food. They had various types of cereal, desserts, pastries and beverages. For hot items, they had the usual eggs, sausages, ham and baked beans. We found some of the items to be too dry (heated hot items) or too hard (pastries) but for $7, you really cannot complain!

After breakfast, we walked around the observation deck where you get an uninterrupted, aerial view of the entire Gold Coast. It was a really fascinating experience as it was my first time seeing the water canals and the shoreline from up top; the view was even more breathtaking than seeing it at eye view! I think it is best to visit Skypoint in the morning as it will be less crowded. When we came down, we saw our souvenir photos and decided to buy two of them. They were reasonably priced and they had many backgrounds to choose from (i.e. sunrise, sunset, mid day and evening). It did not matter what time of the day you visited the observation deck, you can still get a souvenir photo with the background that you want!

After checking out from the hotel, we headed off to Tamborine Mountain which was our destination for the day. Our first stop was the Rainforest Skywalk which was about a 45-minute drive from Gold Coast. The road up the mountain was windy and narrow, especially as you get closer to the Skywalk. The skywalk was not very busy that morning so we were able to enjoy it at a leisurely pace. The path is only about a 40-minute walk and it was an easy trail to follow as the signs were easy to follow. My favourite part of the trail were the steel and cantilever bridges as you get to stand 30 metres above the rainforest and you can clearly see the rainforest and creek below through the bridge gaps. It is a little scary when you look down but the bridges are very sturdy! Admission is a little pricy at $19.50 per person but it is for a good cause as they use the funding to maintain the 30 acres of privately owned rainforest which is inhabited by many animals. I found nothing special in their gift shop so you can just quickly skim through it.

From the Rainforest Skywalk, we headed over to Tea & Niceties, where we had made a reservation for high tea. I tried making a reservation on their website on several attempts but the quickest way is to reach them on the phone. They require a deposit equivalent to the cost of one person which they accept credit card payment over the phone.

It was a quiet afternoon when we went and there were only two tables including ours. The décor of the place was simple but elegant with floral tea cups, purple sashes and white chandeliers.  They have three high tea sets to choose from and we ordered the traditional one ($45 AUD) which comes with your choice of tea along with a selection of desserts, scones and sandwiches.  They have a large and unique selection of teas to choose from. We ordered the Yorkshire Garden (black tea with rose), Stockholm (black tea with apricot and vanilla), and Symphony (French earl grey with creamy apricot-peach). The tea and food were both very tasty. My favourite were the desserts as they were really creamy but not too sweet. Proportions were generous so we had leftovers to pack up. If you like their teas, you can also buy some tea leaves to go.

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After lunch, we took a stroll in the Gallery Walk which is basically a block of shops on both sides of the road. The shops are small but they are specialized and carry interesting products – Tamborine Mountain fudge, spices, grandfather clocks, blowglass and liquor, etc. There are not too many shops but if you take your time to look around and chat a bit with the locals, the time really does pass by fast!  We were only able to get through 2/3 of the shops before they closed even though we had an hour. Most shops shut down by 4 pm as it is a small town. We were surprised that we actually bought quite a bit of stuff! We got a necklace, some lavender soaps, fudge, hand made glass perfume bottles and even a jacket for my mom which were all very unique and reasonably priced!

We still had some time before the glowworm tour, so we headed down to the Botanic Garden for a stroll. There were only a few other people visiting the garden while we were there. The garden felt very peaceful and calming. It was a nice getaway from the loud and crowded touristy sites that we have visited in the few days before.

There were not many flowers left as it was now the start of their winter season but the trees and plants were still a vivid green colour.  I am sure the garden would be much more beautiful when the flowers are in full bloom during spring. The garden had different themes and we strolled through each one. We were only there for an hour but we got through most of the park. I would recommend coming down to the garden late afternoon for a quick stroll when the sun is not beating down on you. The garden is free, has ample parking and is only a quick 5-minute drive from the Gallery Walk.

Our last stop at Tamborine Mountain was the Glow worm cave. The cave is man-made and was built by the owner of the Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard as a mean to preserve population of glow worms in Australia. You can only visit the cave via their 30-minute tours which runs between 10 am – 4 pm, 7 days a week. They also have twilight tours every Friday and Saturday from 4 to 7 pm. Tickets are $14 for adults and they can be purchased through their website. We were the last group of the day and we only had 5 people which was nice as the cave is not very big. The tour first starts off with a short video explaining what glow worms are and the building process of the cave. Then the tour guide will take you inside the cave which is completely pitch black. However, there are thousands of glow worms inside the cave which look like little white dots on the wall. It was a little scary at first as you feel disoriented in the dark but as your eyes adjust, you will get used to it. The tour guide uses a flashlight with a red laser to help us see the glow worms better up close. We were also given ample time to ask questions about the glow worms.

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I initially mistaken glow worms for fireflies! After going on the tour, I learned a lot more about these little interesting creatures. Glow worms are only found in Australia and New Zealand. They glow to attract small insects and eat them when they are captured on their silk-thread webs. Glow worms are the larvae stage of a fly. They are unable to feed as adults so they only live for a small number of days. Glow worms almost faced extinction as they can only grow in very damp and dark environment which means it is almost impossible for them to grow now in a natural habitat.

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At the end of the tour, you can also visit the frog exhibition which is just next door. Our tour guide was very friendly and took the time to help us locate the frogs hidden in each tank and explained to us the differences between the species. When we were done our visit, it was already pitch-black outside and was pouring rain.  It was my turn to drive this time and we were heading back to Brisbane. The drive was extremely challenging as it was pouring rain, there were no street lights and the roads were also very narrow and windy. It also didn’t help that we were driving on the other side of the road in Australia and I was not familiar with the area at all. I tried my best to drive a little slower but given that we were heading downhill, it was hard to do! It was an intense 45-minute drive back to Brisbane but thankfully we made it back safely! If you do not consider yourself a strong driver, I highly recommend leaving Tamborine Mountain before sunset!

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I had much difficulty finding a hotel near the airport which was within our price range, so I ended up booking the Airport Clayfield Motel. The front desk is only opened until 8 pm so we decided to check in before dinner. This room was $100 cheaper per night compared to the Hillcrest but the difference in quality was significant. The motel does not have a full size elevator so you have to use a luggage elevator to transport your luggage to your floor. The elevator was very small so you could only do one luggage at a time. We had 6 piece of luggage with us so it took us a great deal of time to get it up and also to get it down the next morning. Although the motel had air conditioning, you were only allowed to turn it down to 24 degrees before the fuse will go out. They have an oscillating ceiling fan you can use which is helpful but got a little too cold in the middle of the night with their ultra thin bedding! The beds are also very tiny. I guess for $132 a night, you really should not expect too much! At least the room was clean and the front desk was very prompt in their communication. Note to self for next time though…it is NOT worth the $100 saved!

After we checked in, we headed over to Sono, where we had made dinner reservations for 8 pm. The restaurant was located near the Portside Wharf and it took us some time to locate the restaurant as it is a big plaza. All the parking on the ground floor were only for short stays and we did not find out about the underground parking lot until we called the restaurant! After almost 30 minutes, we finally made our way to the restaurant! The restaurant was a full house that Friday night so it was a good thing we made reservations online. They have a very large selection of items on their menu so it took us some time to decide what to order.

We ended up ordering the kani cream croquette, zaru soba, assorted sashimi, braised wagyu beef, pan fried bug, Sono tonyu soup and an aburi sushi platter. Food was served very promptly which was nice as we were almost starving at this point! Even though they won gold for the best national Japanese restaurant in 2017, I felt like it was a hit and miss with their menu. Their sashimi and sushi were very fresh and delicious but the bug and wagyu beef were overcooked. My favourite that evening was the tonyu soup which is a soup made with assorted seafood. The soup was very rich in flavour and tasted very fresh. Overall, I think I would still recommend this restaurant but I think the ratings may be a little over the top though.

We had to get up early the next day for our flight to Melbourne so we headed back to the hotel and went to bed promptly!

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