Leaving Sydney for Queensland - the Rainforest and Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef

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March 6th 2010
Published: March 6th 2010
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Monday-Saturday, March 1st-6th

Leaving Sydney for Queensland - the Rainforest and Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef

Saying goodbye to Peter was obviously filled with emotion. When you see someone every 10 -20 years, you always wonder if there will be a next time. Despite these thoughts lurking, we said the obligatory “you come see us” and vice versa, but you suspected . . . Peter was nice enough to take us to the Sydney airport and we left on a flight to Coolangatta - which is near Brisbane and for our trip to Queensland and the Rainforest in Lamington National Park.

Our driver said it would take 2 hours from Coolangatta to take us to O’Reilly’s in the Rainforest -she underestimated the twisting turning roads that climbed into mountains. This Rainforest has this name for a reason - because it rains. Well, we found the rain and the rainforest. What we didn’t realize was the beauty of this special area. Our Lodge - O’Reilly’s has been around since 1926 and had catered to those who sought out this special area of the planet which had geography, plants and animals not found in any other part of world. We compared O’Reilly’s to the feel of our American National Park lodges. We took a hike with a guide deep into the forest - where waterfalls were full, and plants we’ve never imagined grew everywhere. Exotic birds lighted on our 2 balconies daily and were beyond description. We saw the mountains the morning we left this are after 2 days, and what a surprise it was after the rain we experienced there.

We then turned to our final journey to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. We flew from Brisbane to Gladstone and needed one more hop to the reef. We realized we were about to take the most remote part of our trip, as we needed a helicopter to take the final journey. No cell service, telephone (satellite only) or TV. Heron Island is 300 meters by 900 meters and is literally part of the Reef - a fragile island that rises above the coral reef. This unique venue is the only place one can stay ON the reef - and boy is it HOT. This small atoll contains the Heron resort, University of Queensland Reef Research Center with the rest of the small island consisting of a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Center. It takes only 45 minutes to walk around the entire island - on glorious white sand beaches. To see the coral beauty, you only need to snorkel out in high tide and see the colorful display. In addition there was the odd combination of seeing dozens of manta rays, reef sharks and thousands of birds who invade this small island. The rays are peaceful sentries around the island that gracefully swim the shores for all snorkelers to view. Reef sharks come to the shore to feed on fish and you can actually swim with these slow moving menacing creatures. Heron Island also is the home to 60,000 birds, who sing constantly - day and night. These singing birds create a delightful cackling background to everything.

Roy got to fulfill a lifelong dream of diving the Great Barrier Reef - in fact Heron Bommie is one of Jacque Cousteau’s top 10 dive sites. Beaches here are remote and empty. Only 60 other visitors were at the Heron Resort when we arrived. Great meals and a huge bar were a great surprise.
We are now in Brisbane about to end this brief respite from our Wisconsin lives. There are many take aways from this vacation - but here are two easy thoughts - we can pack less and should travel more.

Thanks for letting us share this 30th Anniversary trip with you. Life is definitely good…

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