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Island Life

Canada #31 Toronto Island Park

In the summer months, crowded ferries travel back and forth all day long from their terminal in downtown Toronto to Toronto Island Park. The curving beaches, wide flat cycle paths and walking tracks on the islands are busy, and the amusement park and children’s farm are popular attractions.

Even though the 15 islands which make up the park cover an area of just 330 hectares, it’s not difficult to leave the crowds behind and spend time in more peaceful surroundings. There are 262 private homes and more than 600 permanent residents on the islands, and a guided walking tour is the perfect way to learn about their relaxed island lifestyle.

On a warm summer’s day we join long term residents Susan and Linda for a 90 minute exploration of the residential communities on Ward’s Island and Algonquin Island. We learn that the islands were not always islands; they were once joined to the shore of Lake Ontario by a sandbank. Wild storms in 1852 and 1858 washed away the sand, creating a wide channel linking Toronto’s inner harbour and Lake Ontario.

No cars are allowed on the islands and most people travel on foot or by bicycle. Six bridges connect the islands and shaded footpaths meander through the quiet neighbourhoods.

With warm humid weather in summer, most homes are surrounded by lush green gardens overflowing with flowers. We pause often to admire the  beautiful gardens and the wildlife they attract. Houses on the city side of the island also have enviable views across the water to Toronto’s CBD.

When our walk with Susan and Linda is finished, we say farewell and continue along a broad timber boardwalk. Beginning at Ward’s Island Beach, it follows the curves of the shoreline to the pier at Centreville.

On this sunny day the calm water of Lake Ontario gently laps the sandy shores of the island beaches. Watersports enthusiasts as well as the local wildlife take advantage of the glorious conditions.

As we come closer to Centreville, we hear once more the sounds of daytrippers enjoying themselves. It might only be a 13 minute ferry ride from the city, but they must all feel like they’re on an island holiday.

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A Change of Plans

Canada #3 Victoria

At the start, it wasn’t going to be a long walk! From the waterfront in downtown Victoria to Fisherman’s Wharf along the David Foster Harbour Pathway was just one kilometre.

We could have taken a relaxing carriage ride past the elegant buildings on Belleville Street but we were glad we didn’t.

We would have missed seeing the continual arrival and departure of the Harbour Air seaplanes. We marvelled at the skill of the pilots and the lightness with which these tiny aircraft landed on the water.

We wouldn’t have come across the Friendship Bell, symbol of a 30 year bond between the citizens of Morioka, Japan and Victoria.

We wouldn’t have seen these beautiful waterlilies, serenely floating in a water garden along the front of an apartment building.

When we arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf, the cafés, boutiques and tourist shops were all bustling with people enjoying the fine summer weather. We admired the colourful float homes lined up against the jetties and wondered about the lifestyle of the inhabitants. The queues at the cafés were long and the tables were full, so we decided to continue further along the path.

We passed the Canadian Coast Guard and the Victoria Harbour Heliport before arriving at Ogden Point, part of the traditional lands of the Lekwungen peoples. Ogden Point is the busiest cruise ship port in Canada; each year more than 400,000 passengers start their visit to Victoria here.

Ogden Point Breakwater, a 762 metre long concrete wall jutting out into the calm waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is decorated with Na’Tsa’Maht – The Unity Wall. The mural painted by Salish Nations artists depicts the stories, past and present, of the local First Nations peoples.

After trekking out to the Ogden Point Breakwater Lighthouse and back, it was time for a rest at the Breakwater Café Bistro Bar. We enjoyed steaming hot chocolates served with a view of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains across the water in Washington State.

Continuing along Dallas Road to Holland Point Park, we joined the Waterfront Trail which passes through the park to the Shoreline Trail. Both tracks were lined with delicate pink flowers growing wild on the edge of the cliff. Huge piles of driftwood washed up by the ocean lay in stacks along the shore below.

At Douglas Street we left the Waterfront Trail, stopping first at the Mile Zero Monument which marks the start of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Nearby we paid our respects at a statue of Terry Fox, the inspirational teenager who, after losing his leg to cancer, started a run across Canada in 1980 to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. He never finished the journey, succumbing to the disease after running 5,373 kilometres in 143 days. Today, his legacy lives on in the Terry Fox Foundation.

Further down Douglas Street we entered Beacon Hill Park, where a giant watering can sprays cooling water from its spout on hot days. The ducks at Goodacre Lake didn’t need a hot day to take to the water – they were all bottoms up in search of tasty morsels.

We walked past a local school with a famous name and an intriguing place in Canadian political history and the Royal BC Museum, on our list for another day.

At last we arrived back where we’d started in downtown Victoria. Our walk may have been much longer than we planned, but we saw a lot more than we expected.

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On the Beach

An Australian Point of View #4 The Gold Coast

It’s not surprising that more than 10 million people visit the Gold Coast every year. With its subtropical climate, nearby national parks and beautiful beaches, theme parks, wildlife sanctuaries and dozens of restaurants and cafes, Queensland’s second largest city is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations.

For an overall view of the Gold Coast region, go straight to the top. At the Q1 Tower at Surfers Paradise there are observation decks on the 76th and 77th floor.  From a height of 230 metres it’s easy to see the 70 kilometres of beautiful beaches and 600 kilometres of canals which make waterfront living so desirable.

Back down at ground level head away from the popular tourist areas and you’ll find plenty of places where it’s not so busy. Go for a long walk, sit on the beach for a while or swim between the flags where vigilant lifeguards keep watch.

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a surf class or do some windsurfing.

Or simply take some time to relax. That’s what everyone else will be doing!

 

Born to Sing

An Australian Point of View #2 Redcliffe

There’s a lot to like about Redcliffe. This seaside suburb on Brisbane’s northern outskirts has a broad esplanade overlooking the calm waters of Moreton Bay. Redcliffe Jetty, the third to be built on the site, has heritage features copied from its forebears. There are plenty of cafes where cake and coffee can be enjoyed with an ocean view, but there’s no big city hustle and bustle to contend with.

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Perhaps this is what attracted Hugh and Barbara Gibb to the area when they emigrated from England with their young family in 1958. Three of their boys, talented musicians from an early age, formed a band to make pocket money and, in 1960 at the ages of 12 and 9, they were regular performers at interval during the Redcliffe Speedway. The boys were allowed to keep the money the enthusiastic crowd would throw onto the track.

Little did those people know they were witnessing the birth of one of the greatest musical acts of the 20th century, with eventual worldwide sales of more than 220 million records. After those early shows Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb went on to become The Bee Gees.

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Bee Gees Way, a 70 metre walkway on Redcliffe Parade, documents the amazing career of the brothers who called Redcliffe home. It celebrates their music with photos and video footage played on a large screen.

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Visitors are serenaded by the music of the Bee Gees as they view the group’s first recording contract, signed by their parents because they were underage.

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Two statues pay homage to the brothers, first as barefoot boys singing at the speedway, and then as a supergroup of the 70s and 80s.

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Barry Gibb opened the walkway on 14 February, 2013 and visited again on 9 September, 2015. Perhaps the last plaque on the walk echoes his thoughts about the walkway dedicated to the story of the Bee Gees.

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Water Water Everywhere

Kevtoberfest #20 Gippsland Lakes

There’s a lot of water at Lakes Entrance. The name of the town in Victoria’s East Gippsland region gives a clue to its watery surroundings – it’s located at the entrance to the Gippsland Lakes. A group of inland waterways covering an area of 600 square kilometres, the lakes are separated from the Southern Ocean by the scrub-covered dunes of Ninety Mile Beach. A man-made channel built in the 1880s connects them with the ocean.

To gain an understanding of the expanse of lakes and ocean, they are best seen first from above. Lookouts along the Princes Highway are perfect vantage points, with sweeping views of the town, waterways and shipping channel. On a clear day, offshore platforms in the oil and gas fields of Bass Strait are visible on the horizon.

Views of the lakes from ground level are just as impressive. At Lake King the calm water is crystal clear, and the opposite shore is a distant smudge between water and sky.

With all this water comes much aquatic activity, both of the human and natural kind. Sailing boats and motorboats make the most of the protected waters inside the dunes.

Fishing boats are moored in the marina after a night’s work at sea.

A model of the paddle steamer Charles Edward stands on the shore of Lake King, a reminder of a time when a day’s journey around the coast brought passengers from Melbourne to East Gippsland in search of gold.

Black swans and pelicans are common and, at the Metung Hotel, they compete for attention at feeding time.

Seagulls gather in the hope of snatching a treat from an unwary tourist’s fish and chips lunch, while rainbow lorikeets are content to feed from grevilleas growing near the water’s edge. Cormorants keep watch in the shallows.

The serenity of the lakes is in complete contrast to the ocean side of the dunes where the Southern Ocean pounds the beaches. At Eastern Beach on the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach the scenery is glorious but the water is deceptive. On windy days, rips and large waves can make swimming dangerous.

It’s best to enjoy the water views from the safety of dry land!

A Detour Worth Taking

Kevtoberfest #19 Mallacoota

Would we have gone to Mallacoota if we hadn’t first seen it on a television show? Probably not – it meant taking a detour off the highway and staying overnight. But after the little seaside town was featured on ABC’s Back Roads, we decided the extra kilometres might be worth the effort.

The road to Mallacoota, in north-eastern Victoria, was flanked by green lush pastures, perfect for dairy cattle.

The campground in town, located beside the Wallagaraugh River, was surrounded by tall gum trees and from our sheltered site we had a million dollar view.

There were more wonderful views further along the coast. From Bastion Point we could see the mountains where the border separates New South Wales and Victoria.

At Bekta Beach, the Bekta River carved a ever-changing channel in the sand as it flowed into the ocean.

We found, hidden in the bush down a secluded dirt track, a remnant of the past that has remained unchanged for more than 70 years.

The Mallacoota World War II Operations Bunker was one of a chain of high security defence surveillance installations used by the Royal Australian Air Force. During the war, Defence personnel monitored traffic in the southern Pacific Ocean, including Japanese submarines on regular patrols off Australia’s east coast. The bunker ceased operations after the war ended and was restored as a museum in 2002.

Nearby was a lifeboat salvaged from the SS Riverina, which ran aground off the coast of Mallacoota in 1927.

Were we glad we chose to visit Mallacoota? Definitely! It was worth taking a detour to this pretty little town.

Taking a Break

Kevtoberfest #18 Narooma to Mallacoota

Long distance driving can be tiring and it’s important to take regular breaks every couple of hours. When the route we’re taking passes through pretty country villages and coastal towns, we don’t need an excuse to stop and stretch our legs.

After leaving Narooma and continuing on our southward journey, our first stop was at the little village of Central Tilba. Located at the base of Mount Dromedary, Central Tilba and its neighbour Tilba Tilba are heritage listed, with beautifully preserved period cottages and shops.

It was early morning and the galleries and cafés were still closed. The only inhabitants we saw were some noisy rainbow lorikeets, breakfasting on the flowers of melaleuca trees.

Luckily, the ABC Cheese Factory was open and we joined some other keen customers, sampling and purchasing a few delicious cheeses. 

It wasn’t far to our next stop – we travelled just 20 kilometres to the coastal town of Bermagui. Situated on the Bermagui River where its wide natural harbour enters the ocean, the town is best known for its deep sea fishing industry.

Leaving the car and caravan at Dickinson Park, we walked past the marina and the broad sandy beach at Horseshoe Bay to Bermagui Point.

From the lookout on the headland we could see the coast from north to south, and inland to the mountains of the Great Dividing Range.

All this exploration gave us an appetite so, another 72 kilometres south, we stopped beside Merimbula Lake for a picnic lunch.

After so many scenic stops, our last break for the day had no connection to nature or history and was an unexpected surprise. Just south of Pambula on the Princes Highway, I spotted a sign – for a brewery! Of course, we turned off the highway and followed the directions to the Longstocking Nano Brewery, located alongside a café, gallery and garden centre.

The beers brewed onsite have 1920s themed names and are only available on tap, so Glen enjoyed a tasting paddle while I sampled the handcrafted ginger beer.

That was enough to sustain us for the rest of the afternoon and we continued to our final destination, just over the Victorian border at the seaside town of Mallacoota.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 7/Craft shops 3

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