Thomas & Court’s Van Life Part 1
Taking the East Coast one Dominos at a time
In my blog post “6 homes in 5 months”, I mentioned our situation living out of a van, Mr. Squiggle. Mr. Squiggle became our beloved home for 4 weeks while we travelled the East Coast of Australia. We wanted to take our time and do it ‘right’ (our way), taking time to really enjoy all the stops along the coast.
We flew into Cairns, picked up Mr. Squiggle and began an adventure of a lifetime. It’s so surreal to me, a year ago, even two I was spending my spare time pinteresting away. My “Australia here I come” board brought me so much excitement, as I planned everything I wanted to do, see, and experience. Pin after pin, blog after blog, photo after photo, idea after idea, the list kept growing….I was planning this move abroad. Fast forward a year and I’m here. It’s one of those “pinch me” things I have quite often been doing here in Australia. Now I was getting to live out of a van, and just go with the flow of the Aussie life, seeing, doing and exploring all this beautiful country has to offer.
The dream….buy a van, travel the country, live freely, slowly, and live simply. It’s always been a dream. I’ve recited this dream countless times my squad, to Thomas and my family. Now…we did not buy a van here in Australia due to the logistics of it, but back in Canada that will change. We got great advice from East Coast Tours on Campervan Hire and I am so happy because our van was perfect!
I truly believe if you want something bad enough you can have it. You can manifest anything you want in life. It may not always be exactly how you imagined, but it may turn out even better than you could have ever dreamed.
So we hit the road…First stop Cairns!
The East Coast of Australia is home to 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, dozens of National Parks, and countless other sights and activities. Attractions like the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday’s, and Fraser Island, were already on our list of must sees, but we were told about a couple gems that were not to be missed.
Our first stop was Palm Cove, than onto Port Douglas. This small town on the Coral Sea in the tropical far north of Queensland, Australia reminded me a bit of Florida mixed with Hawaii. It’s known for its beach resorts, beautiful boutiques and the local bar that races toads. Macrossan Street is lined with gorgeous shops, yummy restaurants, and cute villas, all with a pretty hefty price tag. We really loved Port Douglas and its vacation vibes. Think, lots of families, vacationers, honeymooners, retirees, and money. Since our Australia adventure is not a “week” vacation, where we can give ourselves the room to splurge, we kept our bank cards safe, even though I wanted to buy the cutest blankets, rompers and summer dresses. We had a blast at the Ironman bar where we gathered with a bunch of other travellers and vacationers to cheer on people who bid on toads. That’s right..you go to the bar where a local brings a bucket of cane toads and people actually bid on a toad to race. I’m talking like bids got up to $50-70 dollars to race a toad. Can you believe that?The toads names are ridiculous and I do not remember all of them but think like “fat bastard” and fun names like that. It was a hoot. Port Douglas is a place where life’s cares simply melt away. For real.
From Port Douglas we drove to the Daintree Rainforest. The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest surviving rainforest in the world. It’s known as a very special place in the world, where ‘the rainforest meets the reef’. The Daintree National Park is split up into two sections; Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation. We quickly realized how remote and untouched this park really was with no cell reception and only a select few places to eat that close whenever they choose. We enjoyed exploring both parts of the park, where we took a Crocodile Express River Cruise. For $28.00 we got in a small little boat and explored the lush, green rainforest with a side of crocodiles. Oh me oh my these crocodiles were huge…you do not want to mess with these big boys. They are terrifying.
Afterwards, we took the ferry over to Cape Tribulation where we enjoyed the Alexander Range Lookout and the deserted beaches. Thornton beach (below) was absolutely beautiful, miles and miles of beautiful white sand, and nobody around. It turns out that was the same beach where the lady was eaten by a crocodile a few months ago. It was all over the news. So sad.
From the beautiful lush rainforest it was time to explore the reef…The Great Barrier Reef. We spent three days in Cairns, sleeping at Cairns Holiday Park, having some drinks at the Wool Shed Bar, attempting to get into Gilligans, enjoying the lagoon, having drinks at the Salt House on the harbour and best of all….drum roll please….
Scuba diving was incredible. Wow, it was more than I could have ever expected. Like a lot a lot more. Our pre planning of this trip involved a lot of hmmm ing and haw ing about the idea of scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef. I knew I wanted to do it, but I was terrified. Being down there, deep, relying on this tank to keep me alive, and praying to god I didn’t see a shark……I was so scared. A few friends had said it was super scary at first, but SO WORTH IT! I still wasn’t sure. And Thomas didn’t know either. Thank god I have amazing friends who wrote me letters for these kind of moments and experiences. One of them “For when you’re contemplating an adventure”. I opened that one a week before our trip, when I was researching everything about scuba diving, from Youtube videos to testimonials. I was so scared lol! The end of the letter said “calculate the risks. And once you do, think would 40 year old Courtney regret that she didn’t do it, or would she tell the story to her kids.” Thanks for that because I booked my dive with Diver’s Den an hour later. Deep Sea Diver’s Den Snorkel and Scuba Dive Trip was absolutely incredible. Getting to dive the Great Barrier Reef was unlike anything I could have imagined. The reef was stunning, the colours (regardless of the bleaching) and the marine life was out of this world. Stepping out of my comfort zone was amazing. I know everyone is terrified of sharks, but they still go in the water. I on the other hand was not down. I AM TERRIFIED OF THEM. Luckily we were at the Great Barrier Reef in the off season of Jelly Fish time. God Bless. Those things are deadly. You do not want to play around with box jelly fish.
But I DID IT. Thank you to that person and that letter- I said to myself, If not now? When. I am in Australia at the friggen Great Barrier Reef. Let’s do this! I know it sounds cheesy, but you know me by now, I’m known as Cheesy Court. I legit have no storage on my phone because of all the quotes I screenshot to remind myself of particular things, motivate me, inspire me and reassure me. So, yes I legit said to myself, “If not now, when? If not you, who?” Now it was a challenge. Taking a two hour boat ride out into them middle of no where, no land in site. Just thirty people, a boat and the immense ocean. Holy Moly, it’s happening. Jumping into the ocean was probably the scariest part….actually that’s a lie! The scariest part was the test our instructor put us through while we clinged onto the side of the boat, he knocked out our mouth pieces and we had to find it wrapped and tangled around our oxygen tank, holy shit I was panicking. Our introductory dive was with the two of us, another girl and our instructor. The other girl panicked when I did (the mouth piece part), and bailed. I kept telling her, no no this is the hardest part, you can do it. But she refused. So Thomas and I had a private intro dive. It was AMAZE BALLS. Thomas went down without a problem, me on the other hand couldn’t equalize my ears, so that was freaking scary. But, thank god we had a kind, patient, and amazing guide….Thank you Andrew and thank you East Coast Tours for making my dreams come true!
After our dive we travelled to another section on the Great Barrier Reef where we had the option to dive again, but we chose to snorkel because we did not have to pay extra (BUDGET PEOPLE!!). I’ve snorkelled many times before, but Thomas hasn’t. Needless to say, he would only like to dive from now on LOL. It’s just like once you dive, there is no going back, it is INCREDIBLE. OHHHH DID I TELL YOU, when we jumped off the boat into the water, immediately we looked down & I almost pooped my pants. My head instantly came up from the water, I looked at Thomas, we looked at everyone else who seemed to have been startled just like us. YUP, THAT MY FRIEND IS A SHARK. It was pretty funny because I thought if we saw a shark it would be while diving and everyone on the boat asked us after our dive “DID YOU SEE A SHARK?”. My exact words were “everyone is so excited to see a shark, like it’s an accomplishment. For me it’s an accomplishment if I don’t.” Well JINX, our next spot, there it was. A reef shark nonetheless. The crew said “oh not to worry, those little things won’t hurt you”….so we began our hour long snorkel session. It’s weird, like could they hurt us? I don’t know. Probably not. Snorkelling was great, really cool, but diving hooked us. Who would have thought….us two…loving diving! Our boat ride back to the harbour in Cairns was TERRIFYING. Like waves coming over the boat, not being able to stand up without falling over (literally). Like we laugh about it now, and we were laughing at the time too because it was one of those moments you never forget and you think “holy shit, this is how it ends”. “We dive the Great Barrier Reef…but die on the boat ride back.” Guys, it was crazy, people throwing up, Thomas with his head in his lap, laughing because he said “if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry”. Oh what memories.
I can’t thank the crew at Deep Sea Divers Den for an incredible day! If you want to experience the thrill of a lifetime, check them out & receive 5% off your booking using the code: Cappuccino
Cairns involved lots of enjoying the lagoon, having drinks at the Wool Shed & attempting the famous Gilligans Bar but did not get in. We loved the atmosphere of Salt House. We enjoyed drinks there on a sunny afternoon by the harbour & loved the vibes. We also stopped at Josephine Falls which were really pretty.
From here, we headed to Mission Beach for the day, but the rain kept us from enjoying the beach. This is also where our van didn’t start when we got back from enjoying a flat white on a rainy day. Ooops, we left the lights on. All part of the adventure though right? I think Mission Beach would be a gem on a nice, sunny day. Our next stop was Townsville, the gateway to the beautiful 8 kilometre Magnetic island. We took the ferry over to the island ($59.00 return for 2 people) and opted not to bring our van over to the island…because….well….IN COMES MY BARBIE CAR. The Barbie Car aka Tropical Topless Rentals was recommended to us by a few people, and I couldn’t not rent one. All my dreams coming true…hello, exploring an island in a convertible, pale pink car, with a cute guy beside me. I’M IN! The car was manual, and I had to drive because Thomas’s wallet got stollen, therefore he does not have a license here. If I could describe the situation of me trying to get out of this parking lot, trying to comprehend using both feet, pushing the clutch, and my uncoordinated self not being able to change gears, like I wish this shit was on video. It was ridiculous. If only we go pro’d the whole thing, I would have been insta famous…and called so many mean names because I am seriously the most uncoordinated person, it’s real bad. Thomas decided the only way we were getting out of the parking lot was to take over the gears for me, while I handled the whole double feet thing. Oh my god it was hilarious, ridiculous and embarrassing all at once. Let’s say I stalled it more times than I can even admit. We spent the day cruising (I mean halting around) the island driving to the lookout point at Picnic Bay, tanning, relaxing and reading at Alma Bay and Horshoe Bay and the couple of cafes on the small strip. Magnetic Island is just absolutely beautiful. It is magical, romantic, and a must do when in Queensland. I’m so glad we didn’t skip this spot, thank you to our Canadian friends who said ‘you got to go.’
Our next stop, was a place I have been dreaming about forever. A place that seemed like a faraway dream, a place “I will get to eventually” or “when I’m rich.” The beautiful, jaw dropping Whitsundays. I was FINALLY GOING TO SEE WHITEHAVEN BEACH!!! This place is heaven on earth. With its turquoise water, impeccable white sand, it’s impossible not to fall in love. The Whitsundays are located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, and Whitehaven Beach is one of the world’s most unspoiled and beautiful beaches. In 2013, it was named the ‘number one beach in Australia’ by the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Beaches Awards. Whitehaven Beach is protected by the Whitsunday Islands National Park, and is also the world’s top eco-friendly beach. You can explore the beach via a helicopter or seaplane, but we choose to have the ultimate experience and do a 3 day, 2 night sailing trip through the Whitsundays, as well as take a scenic flight over it. Whitehaven Beach stretches for seven kilometres and is washed by swirls of turquoise, blue and green water. The sand is 98 % pure white silica, which gives it it’s brilliant colour.
Ya’ll need to sail the Whitsundays….for real it is honestly life changing and utterly beautiful. I am still speechless. Visit East Coast Tours and receive 5% off any booking using the code: Cappuccino
The Whitsunday Islands, affectionately known as “The Whitsundays” are a group of 74 islands that lie off the coast of Queensland, right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
We were based in Airlie Beach at XBASE where we spent ($25.00) a night and it was sweet! Airlie is a very cute little town where we were minutes to the ocean, the lagoon and all the shops, cafes and bars Airlie has to offer. We were on the Spank Me sailboat and it was amazing! Super worth it and lucky for us we got an amazing price through bookme, getting a package deal with Whitsundays & Fraser Island…JACKPOT!
Our boat was a blast. In my opinion, there is no better way to explore the Whitsundays than by boat, right in the heart of it all. We sailed, snorkelled more of the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays, went to Tongue Bay, enjoyed the magic of Whitehaven Beach, drank too much goon, enjoyed sailboat sunsets, games, meals, and new friends. We got super duper lucky, getting the bed that had a huge sliding hatch that when opened allowed us to look up at the stars. I have never seen stars like this. It was a moment I will never forget. Sailing through the Whitsundays, watching the sun rise with a coffee on a sailboat, spending your days sailing, watching the waves, snorekelling the Great Barrier Reef, tanning, and sharing tales with new friends, constantly being inspired by people’s stories, braveries and adventures, falling asleep to the most incredible stars I’ve ever seen. What’s not to love? Our crew was amazing, and sailing the Whitsundays is officially checked off the bucket list. I can not tell you enough…YOU HAVE TO EXPERIENCE THIS! Imagine spending your days lazing around the deck enjoying the smell of saltwater, the crisp ocean breeze, snorkelling and sailing through one of the most beautiful places in the world. Your nights are spent exchanging stories with fellow travellers, gazing at the stars above you, sharing bottles of wine, admiring the peace and quiet as the boat gently rocks back and forth. DO IT.
Once our magical sailing experience came to an end, we were back at Airlie Beach for more adventures. I’ve always wanted to see the famous Heart Reef. I knew it would be a splurge, but what we’ve learnt while we’ve been away is more money can always be made but you can’t redo the experiences (obviously if it’s one of those “I got to do things”). So we booked our scenic flight over the GBR and Heart Reef with GSL Aviation for one hour. It was terrifying. This little, tiny plane with a total of 7 people (including the pilot) on board.We had life jackets strapped on “just in case” and oh geez, Thomas and I thought we were going to need them a few times on our flight. Oh me oh my, it was windy & SCARY! But it was indescribable. Like I am still in shock. Seeing the Great Barrier Reef from above was unlike anything I could have expected. The scope of just how huge it is, how immense the ocean is, the colours… it really knocked the wind out of me.
The discovery of “Heart Reef” in 1975 is in fact one of many coral mommies (Coral bommies are stand-alone coral structures that can be as small as a beachball or as big as a car. They are structural stepping stones, offering refuge and homes for many marine organisms in the maze of reef structures) that make up the Great Barrier Reef and is only 17 metres in diameter. It can only be seen aerially as from sea level it is just like any of the other bommies that neighbour it. AND I HAD TO SEE IT. LIKE HAD TO HAD TO.
The Heart Reef is an extremely popular icon amongst local and international travellers and is the site of many many in flight proposals. I really wanted to see the Heart Reef whilst also taking in the surrounding beauty of Hardy Lagoon (the most photographed reef of the Great Barrier Reef), Hook Reef, the River (aptly named for its deep blue channel) and Bait Reef. These reefs were ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE, especially Hardy Lagoon. Check out some of the photos we took from the plane.
JUST DO IT.
Part 2 of Thomas & Court’s Van Life coming soon (including Fraser Island, Noosa, The Sunshine & Gold Coast and even Byron Bay).
Ohhh and speaking of….we leave for our next van life adventure tomorrow, exploring the other side of Australia. Let’s see if West Coast’s Dominos can beat the East coast ones….oops sorry not sorry, let the waist keep expanding.
Hang tight & always remember….say yes.
Oh & Ps, if you dream of living and travelling Australia in a campervan, visit East Coast Tours and receive 5% off any booking using the code: Cappuccino