Hamilton Island is the jewel of the Whitsunday Islands of Northeastern Australia. It is a paradise at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. People from all over the world come here to experience the reef and a slice of paradise. Just before we arrived Oprah was there to visit and spread her magic. They ended up naming a baby Koala after her.
Another claim to fame is a few years back they ran a contest for ‘Best Job in the World’ for the island’s caretaker. It was a well-deserved title until the guy was stung by a jellyfish and rushed to the hospital. This is the only drawback of the island during the peak season. Between the months of October to April there is a warning for the fingernail size jellyfish and they recommend swimming in a stinger suit. This is no joke, a women was stung while we were there. However, the suits have much to be desired.
When the family and I donned the suits to swim or snorkel we looked like the Smurf family at the beach.
We met my mom on Hamilton Island. It was nice to see and spend some quality time with her. Time with us included two diving trips, snorkeling, sail boarding, paddle boarding, ATV driving, miniature golf games, tennis, basketball, and lucky for her a little time at poolside reading and watching the kids fight in the pool.
The two diving trips were the highlight of Hamilton and might rank up there with highlights for the entire trip. Breaking the surface, entering the undersea world, is like entering an aquarium. I cannot describe the sensation of diving at the Great Barrier Reef.
We swam around numerous rock and coral formations and thru multiple caves. I cannot relate the amount of fish and sea life we saw. The fun things were sharks, turtles, moray eels, and nudibranchs. My mom, Tyler, and Nick were able to snorkel and see a lot of what we saw, plus Nick was excited to be able to see us diving below him. Our guide was a crazy fun Japanese girl who acted with such excitement and curiosity that it even made it better.
I wish we could have spent more time on Hamilton, but we had to continue our trip and head back to Sydney for our stay on Manly Beach.
Manly Beach is a beach bums paradise. You can swim, body board, surf, or just laze around and appreciate the people. This was our home away from home for the next two weeks. We would be celebrating Christmas here for the first away from home Christmas for the boys. It is strange to celebrate the holidays in such a different environment from home. The Starbucks peppermint Lattes just didn’t taste the same in 80-degree weather. Our first task was to find a Christmas tree to go with the stockings that my mom brought from home. We wanted to have a little taste of Christmas at the condo. The tree we came up with was a modern day version of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.
It was a bright green tinseled tree about 3 feet tall. The stand wasn’t in the box so we had to get a container and fill it with sand from the beach for a base. Worked like a charm. Add a few ornaments and presto, Christmas at Manly.
The week leading up to Christmas we toured Sydney and visited all the main attractions. There was Taronga Zoo, Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife Park, Sky Tower, Darling Harbor, and the opera house.
Sydney is an amazing city. Overpriced, but wonderful. One of the highlights for me was the torturous afternoon of taking the kids to see Santa Claus at the downtown shopping mall. The look on Alex’s face as he waited in line with kids half his age was priceless. What children do to please their mothers.
Christmas day is one we will not forget for a long time. Santa Claus found the boys and filled stockings and left small gifts for them. Amy whipped up our traditional breakfast of coffee cake and BOB (egg and bacon casserole a holiday favorite). Actually, Tyler was the one that baked up the coffee cake. He is a great cook. After stuffing ourselves with breakfast we headed to the beach to work off some of it with swimming and surfing. It was a perfect beach day.
For the next week all we did was go to the beach, surf, and then swim in the pool until dark. It was a rough week.
One of the big treats was celebrating New Year’s Eve in Sydney. It was a huge party with tons and tons of fireworks. It was amazing!
After our beach fun at Manly it was time to head out for a two-week exploration of Australia starting on the Gold Coast. Unfortunately God had other plans and decided it was time to open up the sky faucet and flood Queensland. According to news reports it was the worst flooding on record. We had made our way up to Surfers Paradise and were able to visit the amusement parks and Sea World. Just North of there is Brisbane and the Australia Zoo.
The Australia Zoo is home to the Irwin family. The memory of Australia’s beloved Steve Irwin, aka the Crocodile Hunter, lives on at this amazing zoo. We got to see the crocodile show, which was hosted by Teri Irwin and involved Bindi and Robert, their children. That day was memorable not only for the show and the crocs, but also for the ridiculous downpour we experienced.
We decided to cut our road trip short and head back to Sydney.
The decision was made to stay in downtown Sydney and enjoy the harbors, museums, and everything else the city had to offer.
In the end, we had a wonderful time in Australia despite some bad weather. We made lemonade out of lemons and created some lasting memories. We dove the Great Barrier Reef, learned the game of cricket, surfed one of the most famous beaches in the world, had an awesome Christmas, and took in the circus at the Sydney Opera House.
P.S. I can’t get that Men at Work song out of my head.