Sunshine Coasting

I AM cycling along Caloundra’s Coastal Pathway, scavenging snippets of conversation from the people I pass, like a cheeky seagull snatching fish and chips. On this wondrous winter day, someone is pontificating the benefits of full cream milk versus skim. I glide past without catching the answer. The air is seasoned with sea salt and pine needles on this retro ride which takes me from Moffat to Shelley Beach, and back pedals 50 years to when the Sunshine Coast was known as the Near North Coast and no one drank skim milk, nor did they smash avocadoes.

My journey back in time begins in a baby blue kombi van which dates back to 1962 as we wind our way from Maroochydore, Alexandra Headland and through Mooloolaba to Caloundra. The Eagles are crooning Peaceful Easy Feeling and I alternate between staring at the ocean and our long-haired driver Michael Turner, whose blonde locks speak of surf and sunshine. In Michael’s Deluxe Kombi Service, you can perch on a bench seat of a split screen Kombi, without a seat belt, open the sunroof and invite the Sunshine Coast in. After he’s dropped us at our accommodation, Michael plans a sneaky swim before his next appointment. Michael is my kind of man.

We arrive at Rumba Beach Resort, which was once the site of a former Salvation Army summer holiday camp, but these days boasts boutique one, two and three bedroom apartments which maintain that old-fashioned hospitality. Upon arrival, you’ll receive a “Rise and Shine” card which entitles you to complimentary coffee and muffins on your first morning. General Manager Bill Darby says Caloundra still carries a “country town” feeling where you can park the car and not touch it for a week.
“Caloundra is a relaxing, Queensland seaside holiday. It is not the kind of place where you feel you have to get dressed up,” he says.
“It is just beautiful. It is vintage. It is going through that renaissance.”

Over at Caloundra House Boats, Bruce Boucaut is putting the finishing touches to Australia’s first “water glamper”, a floating camping site with all of the benefits of land glamping, and which will be located anywhere in the inshore waters around Caloundra and the Pumicestone Passage. We eat afternoon tea Sunshine Coast style – Moreton Bay Bugs, Mooloolaba prawns and locally-caught sand crab – while Bruce shows us his latest projects, as well as a house boat which is already in operation and ideal for a weekend on Caloundra’s calm waters. Bruce will even pop over with a seafood platter for you, should you so desire. This is pure seduction, Sunshine Coast style.

It’s all hops and hipsters at the Moffat Beach Brewing Company whose brews have recently picked up one gold and two silvers in the National Beer Awards. In this casual, retro setting (there’s even a Space Invader machine), you’ll find the likes of Psychotic Girl, Hipster Doofus and Fu-Manchu on tap here. Owner and brewer Matt Wilson opened the café five years ago and immediately installed beer taps as “there was nowhere to get a beer around here.”
“I started brewing at home to educate myself,” he says.
“We thought we would do something different and it has worked for us. We wanted and needed to be different. That’s the opening we saw.”
Pull up a perch, have a coldie with Matt and watch the blue waters of Moffat Beach.

Later that night I find myself in Spinners Bar & Bowl, one of Caloundra’s newest attractions, which offers state-of-the-art ten-pin bowling facilities and a juke box with retro selections to convince you leap on to the dance floor replete with smoke machine. The joint is pumping with a colourful crowd which likes to adorn itself with piercings and tattoos. Fifty years ago, only sailors had tattoos and pirates wore earrings. (I’ve never actually met a pirate but I’m sure I’d find them fascinating). I feel slightly underdressed with no ink and only two modest ear piercings but with a bar and pizza menu to boot, pretty soon I am walking on sunshine on this journey through time with my new mates.

The next morning, it’s breakfast at Sandbar Café Kiosk overlooking Pumicestone Passage before we kit up and head across the passage with Fishing Australia’s Rob Paxevanos, an Aussie angling expert. There’s plenty of boat hire operators around these parts and the bream, flathead and whiting are apparently biting. I spend a good hour lure fishing from the beach off the tip of Bribie Island with a pitying pelican the only witness to my fishing frustration. Actually, I haven’t felt this calm in ages, simply standing on the shore, the sun on my back and the breeze in my hair. I’m fully focused on my fishing and I realise it’s just like a meditation class, with a pole. I haven’t jagged any fish but I reckon I’ve caught Sunshine Coast fever, and like so many Brisbanites over the past 50 years, I’ll be back.

The Global Goddess was a guest of Sunshine Coast Tourism; and Tourism Queensland

Those Halcyon Days

THIS story is a sashay down memory lane to those halcyon days of childhood summer holidays on the Gold Coast. Worry-free weeks of sandy feet, sandcastles and the occasional sneaky sunburn. Of sunkissed, sleepy nights on cheap, cotton sheets. Pink zinc cream and mozzie bites. Scorching days where we would reluctantly leave Coolangatta beach and pile into the gold Kingswood with its branding-iron seat belts that nobody ever wore. We’d venture across the border into northern New South Wales to visit our wild boy cousins also on holiday. Kingscliff, Pottsville, Cabarita…they were all so daggy back then. About as much style as the terry toweling shorts which barely covered our bums.

But those were the halcyon days where we’d stand along the shoreline like soldier crabs and dig for pippies with our feet. Go on adventures with the wild cousins, mud squelching between our toes, and wander the mangroves with a yabby pump. How time and places change. I am in northern New South Wales visiting Nimbin in search of nirvana, or at the very least, the remnants of Australia’s hippie movement, for a story I’m writing for a magazine about the 50th anniversary of Flower Power. I’m unclear about whether the hippies want to hug or hurt me. I suspect it’s a bit of both. I’m tailgated on the windy road deep into the Tweed Valley. Where is the love? Things just aren’t like they used to be.

With my story captured like a fugitive in my imagination, I head back towards the coast where I check into Halcyon House for the night. It’s the ideal spot for this journey back into nostalgia. The bones of this old surf hotel are still here, replete with 19 individually-designed rooms and two suites, but these days she’s a lady of luxury. These elegant rooms combine coastal chic with all the flair of a British B&B by the sea. But Brighton this is not. It’s sunny Cabarita Beach upon which this grand dame is perched.

There’s an all-inclusive mini bar with floral-infused gin and dirty tonic water which, by description alone, I’m unable to refuse. Organic red and white wine, plus Byron Bay beer and soft drinks make up the remaining delectable drinks. Chips, Lindt chocolate and even some Tweed Coast salami is cooling in the fridge and it would be oh-so-tempting to pull up a perch on my royal blue outdoor chair and watch the ocean, but I’m determined to try the acclaimed restaurant here.

The pretty Paper Daisy is named after the wildflowers that bloom nearby at Norrie’s headland. And chef Ben Devlin, formerly of Noma fame, specialises in coastal cooking. There’s pippies here too, but unlike anything my cousins and me ever imagined. These days you’ll find these shellfish in semolina pasta, native pepper and macadamia oil. I opt for the Wagyu minute steak with fennel, witlof and pomelo and served with purple cauliflower and walnuts, and cucumber and cashew nuts. Want dessert? How about a messed-up cookie or a lemon myrtle meringue cone? Or you could go the whole hog and order the four-course degustation menu.

I return to my room to find the bed has been turned down, there’s a pillow menu from which to choose, and my clothing has been folded. Two home-made chocolate chip cookies sit beside a note wishing me sweet dreams. And that’s another thing that sets this hotel experience aside from anywhere else. The service is immaculate. It could be these yummy childhood feelings this property evokes, but I would go as far as to say it’s the best hotel I’ve ever experienced anywhere in the world. Yes, in coastal Cabarita, they’ve struck gold. That perfect balance between relaxed luxury and sensational service.
And there’s plenty to do here as well. Laze on a plush day bed around the pool, or borrow a complimentary bicycle and explore the area. This hotel also has two Audis available for hire. Or, if you’re like me, and nostalgia has clasped firmly onto your head and heart, if only for one night, do nothing but daydream about those heavenly, halcyon days of your childhood.
The Global Goddess stayed as a guest of Halcyon House – This five-star boutique accommodation, which is a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels Group, has plans to open a spa in late 2017.

Lost and Found on the Gold Coast

DEEP in the heart of Lamington National Park and I’ve lost my way, and potentially my marbles. I’m meant to be doing a bush walk called the Box Forest Circuit but when I start my meanderings I discover only two signs: a circuit which mentions Canungra Creek along which Box Forest also traces, or a 22km walk to Binna Burra. Foolishly, I select the first and it’s only two hours, a scarily steep climb, rolling over and under fallen tree branches Lara Croft style, and a red belly black snake later that I realise I have potentially taken the wrong track. Remarkably, I have mobile phone coverage at the foot of the forest (I can’t get it in the Brisbane CBD some days) and manage to phone my accommodation reception who assures me yes, I am lost, and yes, I need to retrace my steps.
At this point I begin to cry…until I realise I have only limited water and I cannot afford the dehydration a salty tantrum would unleash. I immediately stop crying, tell myself to pull it together, and start the hot hike back up the hill. If there’s anything a travel writer hates more in this life than getting lost it’s having to retrace their steps. And then there’s that red belly black snake to consider on the way back. The heat is getting to me and weird thoughts swirl through my mind as I climb the hill. If I’m bitten by a snake (I figure if I can see one, there’s probably another 10 I can’t see), what would I use as a bandage? I briefly consider my hair band as a tourniquet before I promptly remember that speeds up the poison. The best I can think of is my t-shirt, figuring at least I’m wearing a bra and what a great survival story I will have to tell. (And potential lingerie contract).
My second thought is to phone a bloke with whom I went on a fantastic date two months ago, a bloke who liked to bush walk. A bloke who told me how wonderful I was…and who promptly disappeared. I don’t want to ask him about snake bites, I want to ask him why he disappeared. It’s at this point in my thinking I realise I am really dehydrated and I need to leave this forest pronto. I finally exit the forest, and am about to go on my second activity for the day – a Segway tour – when I am overcome with the urge to faint and vomit. As I am neither a fainter of vomiter in normal life, it occurs to me I have heat stroke and I end up spending the next hour in my room, watching the room spin like a DJ turntable.
I spent last week on the Gold Coast hunting and gathering a series of stories and, as usual, the stories also found me. Work aside, it’s a week of memories, old ghosts and new smiles. Like so many Queenslanders, my childhood holidays were spent on the southern Gold Coast, where I am gathering the majority of my stories and it’s like a million messages in a bottle float onto those sunny shores each day. Around Kirra bend I drive and my mind instantly flashes back to 35 years ago when we’d sit on Greenmount Beach with mum, and watch out for dad driving our gold Kingswood  round that bend on a Friday afternoon after work. The beach has changed so much over the decades, but “mum’s rock” against which she used to rest her tanned back is still there. So much shifting sand, so many memories. I walk down the main street of Coolangatta and the old pie shop where we’d feast on cream buns still remains, as does that same scent from the 70s. I don’t even need to taste a cream bun for those sticky sweet memories to come flooding back.
I wake at 4.30am for sunrise at Snapper Rocks where we used to frolic in the rock pools as kids. We loved those rock pools on hot summer days and the danger of the sea spray bursting over the sea wall. On summer nights, when we were tucked up in bunk beds, dad would venture down to stand on those dangerous walls to fish. The tides have taken their toll of the landscape there too, but the green frog rock remains overlooking the beach where one of my sisters got married. I keep shaking my head as if it’s full of salt water. Where did the decades go?
I drive up to Point Danger and my mind fast forwards to 25 years ago when I started my newspaper cadetship at the Gold Coast Bulletin. In that first year, my first out of home, I lived high on the hill at Point Danger in my family’s crumbling old beach house. The house is long gone, demolished and sold by a famous surfer to a developer for a pretty penny. I stare at the block of land and try to capture the memories. At the foot of the hill I pause where the caravan park once stood. It’s now an empty park but I can see nana and pop and my uncles and cousins at Christmas. In my mind, I am sitting in the hot annex and opening presents. I drive down a laneway in Rainbow Bay and remember the year our budgie escaped from the cage, out the window of the old flat in which we used to stay, only to land and be captured on the same bitumen my car is paused on now. It all seems so incongruous.
I stay in a 1950s Bilinga beach motel which has been remodelled and yet those old fibro memories remain. Despite my best efforts, there’s still sand in my sheets every night. On my last afternoon, work done for the week, I’m like that same kid that was let out of their country Queensland classroom for the summer 35 years ago. So I grab one of the hotel’s retro bicycles, slip on my togs, and pedal like mad along the oceanfront until I reach Kirra bend. I race into the ocean and frolic for an hour, bathing in those memories of being lost and found. Salt water in my hair, sea breeze on my face, I jump back on my retro bike and pedal back towards the future.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Gold Coast Tourism –

Paddington Bares All

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IS there sex in this city we call Brisbane? And does it all have to take place behind closed doors? Or, is this a coitus capital where sex exists on the streets and in the suburbs? As delicious as it sounds, I’m not referring to a giant orgy here. I’m talking about that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling you derive from discovering something new. And I think I’ve found it, at inner west Paddington. Please join me on this journey…where Paddington bares all.
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I’ve always thought of Paddington as a bit of a sultry supermodel, stretching languidly along a steep ridge, the curve of her elegant back twisting gently from Upper Latrobe, into Latrobe, Given Terrace and then finally Caxton Street. She is Brisbane’s catwalk queen, but she is much too professional to be pretentious. You’ll find class in her converted workers’ cottages which have been transformed from homes into shops whose contents are colourful and brimming with charm.
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We start at Hampton Home Living at Upper Latrobe where the first hidden gem is revealed just underneath this old Queenslander. At the newly-opened 180a Latrobe, you’ll find all sorts of sexy things like a felt winter bustier for $180 or some naughty knickers, French of course, for $45. You’ll find designer clothes hanging in the yard, and even an old-fashioned out-house with a pair of boots poking out from underneath the door.
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Past Trammie’s Corner – a popular Paddington meeting spot – and across the road, we trek to Monty’s Chocolates, home to some of the world’s finest chocolates imported from the UK. Our tasting begins with the darkest chocolate first as your brain registers flavour before sugar. At this point in the tour we pause and decide this is much like men. Go for the quality and flavour, as if you’re chasing the sugar, you’ll always be wanting more.
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A couple of doors back we stroll into the Paddington Antique Centre, a former 1929 cinema in which some 50 dealers have swamped the 1000 square metre floor space with ancient wares. If shopping is your idea of sex, you’ll find it here among thousands and thousands of pieces from old records to jewellery to retro clothing.
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On this particular afternoon we’re on the “speed dating” version of Amanda Kruse’s Shop in Style Escape Hidden Gems Paddington Tour. Time poor, we’re indulging in a “quickie” if you will, as we taste test our way along this strip which transforms from antiques to vintage, to retro to modern. And there is nothing sexier than a city which backs its own. Along the way on your more leisurely three-hour version, you’ll discover local designers such as Dogstar, Little Workers, Maiocchi and Sacha Drake – where you’ll climax with a styling session and a glass of champagne.
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Our wander reveals fine French restaurants, vintage clothing and home ware shops. Great cafes, funky food and colourful characters. Old books with a scent divine. So is there sex in this city we call Brisbane? Poke around Paddo. You’ll be most pleasantly surprised.
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The Global Goddess was a guest of Shop in Style Escape. To book a tour, go to
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Keep your Vegemite in the fridge

THERE were frogs in the pond, pigs in a blanket, a gaggle of geese and a gargle of girlfriends. White cockatoos sat at arm’s length over the back fence and Joe the dog slouched under the table, barely able to conceal his bemusement.

We arrived in the one-horse, one-pub Queensland country town in the height of the noon-day sun. The girl we like to call Jodi (who has insisted her friends stop naming her in blogs, so for the sake of this story let’s call her Clarky) had packed ice blocks for the 45 minute drive west of Brisbane. Things were going swimmingly, until I drove the wrong way into the town’s drive thru bottle-o. Clarky swore she heard a banjo play somewhere in the distance and I thought I saw a tumbleweed blow past, until I realised it was just Corina stumbling out of the bottle-o with some lemonade. We kept the engine running…just in case.

It was Retro Sunday lunch at Dame Alison’s where a mob of top sheilas, six of us in all aged between 39 and 72, gathered on the verandah for a good old chinwag and some fine food. Except this year the food wasn’t so much fine but funky. We harked back to the 70s, clutching at the recipes of our mothers and grandmothers. I pulled out old faithful: my spinach cob loaf and some sausage rolls. Mr Lee brought cheer and cheerios. Clarky baked some chooks, Heaney tossed a salad, and Alison, a Shepherd’s pie which mysteriously contained no lamb.

But the piece-de-resistance was Corina’s nana’s jelly salad. Imagine, if you possibly can, yellow jelly, carrot shreds and, wait for it… mustard, and you’ve got the salad. Unfortunately for me, who’d spent the week suffering from a gastro virus, it too closely resembled what I’d been trying to keep down and from the looks of the others, they were about to join me as fellow passengers on the proverbial porcelain bus. Nana would have be turning in her grave if she could have heard our comments, that is, if she wasn’t so preserved from all the mustard she used to consume.

 But it wasn’t so much about the food, as friendship. Feisty femme fatales dining on the deck to swap stories and secrets, swatting flies and egos. There’s no bullshit with Brisbane women – they’ll slap you down if you get too big for your boots, but are the first to pick you up when you break a heel. That’s what I love.

As the perfect Pimms afternoon wore on, we braved the gamut of conversations. Should Vegemite be kept in the fridge? Would you look after your cheating ex-husband if he was dying of a terminal illness? We spoke of death and dating (sometimes, for me, in the same sentence). Three of us had boyfriends, three of us didn’t. Those of you who remember the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era will enjoy the irony of a group of journalists and PRs standing, side-by-side in the back yard, feeding the chooks. We collected fresh eggs from the chook pen to take home.

We spoke of sex, travel and work. That’s another thing I love. In a town like Brisbane where you have to compete furiously for the work, our foes are our friends. There’s no room in this river city for small-minded competitiveness. What goes around, comes around. And so it is with these girls.

They keep me honest, they rough me up, but they are the first to be there when I need it. A group of us were recently up in Lombok for our annual travel writer’s conference. Someone from Sydney paid us one of the nicest compliments we’d ever heard. “You Brisbane girls are just so friendly and fun. You’re down-to-earth. You’re earthy.”

 And she hadn’t even seen Nana’s jelly salad.