Just a little before 9am the day after Thanksgiving, Tracy and I arrived at the Coolangatta airport where we were picked up by Scottie, my old roommate Beth’s study abroad “dad”. I’d met Scottie (as well as her “mom” Robyn and “sister” Liana) at Beth’s wedding earlier this year and they’d generously offered to host me if I decided to visit. Those Australians are so welcoming! Since we didn’t have anything in particular on our agenda, he started our tour with breakfast at his local surf club on Burleigh beach. The little town was just adorable and what a great host! Since he works from home, he was happy to give us rides when we needed and he and Robyn took us to some great beach spots and restaurants. The real highlight though was the beautiful pool in the backyard. We had our own little hideaway, complete with a beer fridge, so we spent a few days just soaking up the rays and giggling about how lucky we were. We decided that even though we’d quit our jobs 3 months ago, we’d been working pretty hard on our bike trip, planning and riding and documenting. While in Seattle, Los Angeles and Sydney we had started to chill out a bit, but we were still kind of stressing about what needed to be done next and what our new trip “goals” were. What we really needed to do was just enjoy the moment. So for a few days we just didn’t worry about anything. We got up, went swimming, read, and rolled with whatever happened to be going on. I made a good dent in my New Yorkers and Tracy read a whole book!
A few days in, Robyn drove us up to Mt. Tamborine to check out “the bush” and we got to do something we’d really been itching to do since we’d arrived in Australia – VISIT A BREWERY! The Mt. Tamborine Brewery was excellent, on par with the American microbreweries we’ve come to know and love. They had a Pale Ale that they called “american pale” that was very tasty as well as an IPA that we really liked. Mostly though, we were excited to have a few beers that went beyond the popular Pilsner style here in Australia.
Sufficiently relaxed, we decided it was time to hit the road. After finding out that a bus to Byron Bay or Rainbow Beach (two places a few hours away in either direction that we wanted to visit) we re about $30 a person each way, we bit the bullet and rented a small car for about the same price in the end. Tracy was the brave one who drove on the “wrong” side of the road, while I navigated.
We made our way to Bryon Bay first, camping just outside of town because there was no space in the hostels. Why, you might ask? Because of a little thing the Australians do called “Schoolies”. When the high school students in Australia graduate, they all migrate up to the Gold Coast to party – most having just turned 18 and therefore legal to drink for the first time. From what we can tell, this is a sanctioned event that happens every year and things get a bit crazy. We got to Bryon Bay just in time to feel surprisingly old. We tried to make the best of it though and checked out the awesome beaches (filled with some very fit surfers) and checked out the cute town. We had some delicious coffees (our only real vice) and took a swim in the glorious Olympic size pool. We also hit up our second brewery of the trip – the Bryon Bay Brewery, located in the Arts Factory. It was a pretty awesome space, only brewing since August but already the hottest bar in town. We appreciated the variety of beer on tap and the live music, but sort of wished we’d gotten there earlier to get a real bike and brew style brewery tour.
After Byron we drove up to Rainbow Beach and checked in to a hostel, hoping to make friends and arrange our visit to Fraser Island. Fraser Island was a pretty amazing place, the world’s largest all sand island with a rainforest, beautiful perched lakes and LOTS AND LOSTS of sand. Definitely somewhere everyone should check out if they can. But what really made our visit to Rainbow Beach worth it was that we finally made a plan for New Zealand and came up with our next bike and brew adventure! After dropping some cash on the Fraser Tour and booking our bus around NZ, we decided that when we return to Australia (to Melbourne in February) we want to bike around Tasmania and Victoria for bike and brew down under. Now, there are a lot of logics to work out (like not having bikes in the country…) but the prospect sounds exciting so we’re going to try to make it happen. If you are reading this and have any suggestions, connections etc for this leg, drop us a line!
Feeling like we had a little more focus for our travels, we drove back to Scotties, stopping at the Australia Zoo on the way to pet some kangaroos and koalas (check!) and spent one more day on the Gold Coast (and in the pool!) before our flight out.
Beers tried – Burleigh Pale Ale, Burleigh Heffewiezen, Mt. Tamborine – ALL, Little Creatures Rogers, Wicket Elf Pale Ale, Mildura Brewery – Storm Cloudy Ale, Pure Blond, Carlton Lager, Bryon Bay Pale Ale and Dark Lager, Yarra Valley Gold, Murray’s Pale Ale, Barron Boys Pale Ale and ESB, Mercury Extra Dry Cider (brewed by Cascade), Firefly, Fat Yak Pale Ale.
Bikes ridden – zero
Life on the Gold Coast
Surfers at Byron Bay
Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island