Ten Days in Australia

By Kate Riley February 3, 2016

It’s a long way from Cairns to Brisbane so we hopped on a plane and on arrival settled into a hotel with laundry and kitchen in the downtown area. One place not to miss in Brisbane (and a short walk from our hotel) was Southbank, beautiful by day and so much fun at night with lights and live music.

It was November when we visited so late spring/early summer and the weather could not have been more perfect. Southbank is a wonderful place to catch a view of the river, grab a bite to eat, or swim at the free public pool that rivals any hotel resort.

 southbank brisbane

 southbank ferris wheel


 brisbane pool

brisbane walk

We spent a full day with my cousins who live in Gold Coast, the day’s events included nothing more than beer and pizza at the beach near Surfer’s Paradise and an afternoon of paddle boarding.

gold coast beach

gold coast beach 2

gold coast coast

 boy paddleboarding

We had great fish and chips in Gold Coast and got another look at local wildlife, at my cousin’s house in Gold Coast they have a huge deck that backs to open space where wild birds fly up to their railing to feed including these sulpher crested cockatoos, and then at sunset the sky was filled with fruit bats swirling all around, loved that.

 wild cockatoos

Our final day in Brisbane we headed one hour north to the Sunshine Coast to visit the Australia Zoo, founded by Steve Irwin and his family. It’s HUGE and takes an entire day to see but we loved many things about it mostly the animal encounters you can arrange in advance, my daughter and I held a juvenile koala #bucketlist and also played with lemurs on Bindi Island. I can’t believe I’m saying this since I hate snakes but the Zoo had the best snake exhibit I’ve ever seen, also an impressive bird show.

 tiger aus zoo

 kat animal encounters


 girl in croc

While we were there Bindi Irwin was competing on Dancing With The Stars so there was much excitement by the zoo team and and we found out she won as we were traveling to Sydney which was thrilling. I was reminded just how very passionate Steve Irwin was about animal conservation before his tragic death. After one of the shows at the Australian Zoo they played this 3 minute Wildest Things in the World video and I got choked up, I grew up watching his show and miss him so much, it’s a wonderful tribute to him, I recommend watching it, it will be the best thing you see all day.

We left Brisbane by car and headed to Byron Bay, a hippie surfer town, where we spent a few hours before traveling further south on our way to Sydney.

 byron bay

We stayed the night in Port MacQuarrie, halfway between Brisbane and Sydney, and spent a morning walking through Sea Acres National Park rainforest and playing at the beach collecting shells before heading by car to Sydney.

 port macquarrie beach

On arrival in Sydney, I was smitten, what an amazing city! The harbor is bustling with activity and there is SO much to do. Sydney reminded me of a mix between San Francisco and San Diego, it was both cosmopolitan and coastal, and it was thrilling to see the Opera House and Harbor Bridge in person!

 sydney harbor cruise ship


 opera house

 sydney harbor

We took an afternoon trip to Manly Beach by ferry, it’s a hip little cove where you can go for a shark dive, kayak, bike ride, or just relax at the beach enjoying a few drinks in the warm weather.


 manly beach bikes

manly beach seagulls

manly beach cafe


 beers manly beach


On our last day we took one of those double decker tour buses around Sydney which frankly is a great way to get to know a city! We sat up on top as the bus made its way around, and made a stop for a few hours at world famous Bondi Beach, thankfully it wasn’t too crowded since the school holidays hadn’t begun.

 bondi surf shop

 surfboards bondi beach

 bondi beach bar

 bondi beach bar scene

We spent our last afternoon watching the children play in the waves of Bondi Beach while we drank beers and ate fish tacos. Does life get any better than that?

 kids bondi beach

 fish tacos

 i love australia


Australia was an exciting and enchanting escape, and blissfully warm (I’ve always preferred living in tank tops and flip flops to cold weather). The food was delicious, the people we met were so very kind, and the adventures were unforgettable. I hope to travel down under to see my cousins again someday soon and pay a visit to Melbourne too. I simply can’t wait to return.


  1. I have a good friend for Australian. She agrees about your love of her country. Gorgeous pictures! You packed a lot of adventure into your trip. The wild life looks amazing but the crocs would have to get a ‘no thank you’ from me.

  2. You just convinced me to add Australia to my family’s bucket list. :) Thank you for sharing these amazing pictures!

  3. I’ve been waiting patiently to see your experiences in Aus. I love hearing other people’s reflections of our beautiful country. We are in Adelaide but have travelled around most of our wonderful country and do feel so lucky to live here. On the other hand, our kids are very keen to visit the USA and narrowing down our ports of call/points of interest over there is REALLY hard!
    I hope you do get to come back again and visit Melbourne (my home town) – a bit more multicultural and cosmopolitan compared to coastal Sydney and Brisbane.
    We are off to Fiji in April for my sister’s wedding and a 10 day vacation.

  4. Thank you for sharing, Kate! Austrailia is on my must-visit list. I just need to figure out how to sneak a wombat back home!

  5. So glad you enjoyed Australia, especially my hometown, Sydney. Port Douglas is one of my favourite Aus destinations, we go every year with the kids to just chill on the beach & slow down to the tropical pace (going Troppo we call it!). It’s so cool that you drove from The Gold Coast to Sydney. Such a great way to see a place. It’s an especially scenic drive down that northern NSW as you found. You would also love the Great Ocean Rd out of Melbourne, so you must do that next time! My bucket list for Australian destinations includes the red center (especially Uluru, aka Ayers Rock) as well as the Kimberley’s, Kings Canyon & Kakadu wetlands. But I love traveling abroad as well, and we have so much on our doorstep here with Asia & the South Pacific nearby. I hope you visit again soon! Anne, Sydney, Australia xx

    • Definitely do the red centre Anne. We drove Adelaide to Darwin and back in Sep/Oct last year and took in Kakadu, Katherine, Alice, Uluru etc. it was a bucket list adventure for me and I am wanting to go back again this year as we didn’t have enough time to do the Olgas and Kings Canyon. We’ve done most of the east coast and travelled across the Nullarbor to Perth then travelled the south of WA. There really is so much to see here.

  6. Very cool! My brother lives in Manly and has a cafe and pizza place. I’ve been debating visiting him from FL with my two young kids. We would have a total of 12 days travel time but i’m worried about the jet leg. How did your kids do?

    • Hello JZ, the trip there was not hard, we slept on the flight that took us there, so we had minimal jet lag. The trip back was harder it took a full 48 hours just to get used to sleeping on PST again and the next few days it improved but the kids did bounce back eventually :)

  7. I’m so glad that you enjoyed Australia. I live on the Gold Coast and sometimes take the natural beauty for granted. It’s nice to see our country through fresh eyes. You have made me want to go explore my own backyard now :)

  8. Such a great post (and trip) Kate! I loved all your pics and I can’t wait until we can finally get there. Both New Zealand and Aus are at the top of our bucket list. So glad you all had such an amazing trip! Hugs :)

  9. Thank you Kate. We were there 20 years, yes! 20 years ago and we did just about everything you mentioned. It’s so good to hear good things stay timeless and don;t change.

  10. Looks like an awesome time! I was wondering what lense(s) you used on your trip. The pictures are beautiful! I have had trouble finding a good general purpose lense.

  11. Thank you for visiting us Kate. I am especially glad you had a wonderful time in Queensland. Brisbane this week is a hot 37 degrees, humid and wet so I’d say your timing was perfect!

  12. Loved reading about your adventures Kate, I could really sense the happiness in your words. What a fantastic opportunity for you and your lovely family. We would also love to visit Australia one day so I’ll be sure to check back for your tips!

  13. You take the most amazing pictures while on holidays! Thanks for sharing. I remember some you shared from Hawaii (In hope I’m not confusing blogs :) ) and they made me want to go there so much! Still haven’t been but I know I will!!! All the best from sunny Portugal!

  14. Being an Aussie who lives here in the States, reading this made me homesick and proud of my beautiful country. You touched on the highlights of home and as you saw 10 days in Australia is just a drop in the bucket. I’m from Melbourne and hope you get there one day. We are planning to visit home in 2017 it will be a 4 week trip. Much needed to see family and be a tourist in our own country. Thank you for sharing this.

  15. I am with you on waking up early to walk the beach, never missing a moment of that quiet beauty. <3 I loved reading of your family's vacation. I'm sure the kids will cherish it for years to come.

  16. I’m so jealous. Australia is on my bucket list. The prints on the water dragon and butterflies are beautiful. Will we be seeing them in a Kate Ruley print? ?

    • Ha, yes there may be some influences in the Spring collection – travel definitely inspires me like that!

  17. So glad you loved Australia. I love it too but am biased because I live in Brisbane. We have a water dragon that hangs out around our pool every morning and between October and April we are sometimes lucky to have a koala in the gum tree in our backyard. I wake up every morning to the sound of some very noisy birds but crave this sound when I am overseas. It is a wild and beautiful country!

  18. Wow looks like an amazing trip!! Thanks for sharing that all!! So cute that you got to hold a koala!!! #bucketlist. Looks beautiful there!!

    Lauren | Lovely Decor

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