Darwin is Australia’s top end capital city. Although remarkably small, its quiet, relaxed vibe is a natural gateway for those seeking adventure in the Northern Territory. Attractions like Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks, Katherine Gorge, crocodile spotting and outback desert experiences await unsuspecting visitors. This time however, we were not in Darwin for any of these reasons, rather to catch a cruise ship to Singapore which also happened to coincide with the celebration of our first wedding anniversary. We arrived on a Saturday to spend two days before our departure and to sample what surprises Darwin had to offer. The weather was at its best, perfect early days of August were dry, mildly hot, low humidity and brilliant sunny, blue skies stretching endlessly into the ‘never never’. Our Uber driver said, “It doesn’t get better than this in Darwin”.
It was 8 am and we were ready to explore the world’s largest sand island just off Hervey Bay in Queensland. Strapped into our off-road, four-wheel drive bus we were soon hurtling through the Australian bush on the narrow, rough, sandy roads of Fraser Island. With names like ‘the rollercoaster’, these tracks into the ‘never never’ were sure to provide plenty of thrills. First stop was Lake McKenzie. This spectacular rain-filled, crystal clear blue basin of water floats serenely on powder white silica sand. No swimming for us on this cool morning but it didn’t stop the intrepid tourists from Norway. Central Station was our next stop with towering 400 year old Fraser turpentine trees, exotic stag horns, and ancient, rare ferns growing in Wanggoolba Creek, a truly pristine environment.
When the stunning Ms Christy McNicol took to the stage at the Eltham Hotel on Saturday night to present her unique version of Heather Small’s iconic gay anthem, Proud, our collective goosebumps stood erect. Most of us attending the Tropical Fruit’s Party have celebrated at a few pride events over the years but this one definitely made us ‘step out of the ordinary’. Eltham is a short drive from Lismore, or a slightly longer drive from Byron Bay, depending on your persuasion. The local, family owned hotel has a quaint, country-pub appeal, a large, outdoor beer garden and a generous dancefloor. Usually the centre of the rural, neighbourhood social scene, on this Saturday evening it was inundated with gaiety. The staff couldn’t have made us feel more welcome and once the drinks were flowing and the music started, the night turned from winter chill to tropical toasty.
Magnetic Island, sometimes affectionately referred to as ‘Maggie Island’, is an eight kilometre ferry ride from Townsville in North Queensland, and is a paradise full of options. It’s an ideal, affordable, tropical Australian holiday spot with a World Heritage National Park, a bountiful array of beaches and stunning bays offering a relaxed island lifestyle. Geoffrey and Alma Bays at Arcadia, part of the Marine National Park Zone, are easily accessible and popular for swimming. However, our first choice of bays for exploring was Balding Bay known as a popular naturist spot for swimming and sunbathing.
Are you thinking about making the full wedding commitment to the one you love? After 28 years together, we are now Mr and Mr and couldn’t be happier. However, there were some important decisions and careful planning which had to happen before our wedding day. We’re guessing our checklist might provide inspiration for others. Every wedding is different and must be a reflection of the couple getting married but for us the combination of superb organisation by the Sheraton Grand Mirage, a stunning tropical beach location, perfect Gold Coast weather and fabulous supportive family and friends made our gay wedding just perfect.
If you go down to Oxford Street this weekend you’re sure for a big surprise. There’s a new addition to the bar scene in Sydney with the recently opened Baby Bear Bar in the basement of the Burdekin Hotel at 2 Oxford St Darlinghurst. The entrance to this cute little underground bar is at the back of the hotel, via Liverpool Street. Baby Bear Bar is small in size but big on welcome for bears and their friends.