Places from our #adventuredownunder we’d visit again

If it’s difficult to whittle down the highlights of our vacation, it’s just as challenging to choose where we’d happily visit again. Our previous vacations in Australia had covered Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide but while we’d investigated much of South Australia and Victoria, there was still plenty for us to still see in New South Wales and we’d yet to visit Queensland. This vacation sought, in part, to remedy that oversight.

We’re unabashed urbanites who love living on the beach which is why we live near Nice on the Cote d’Azur. We never like to be too far from all the amenities. However, we’re not really beach people. I rarely sit on a beach though I do love walking along a sandy beach. I could spend hours looking at the sea and love being lulled to sleep by the sound of waves.

Given that my beloved has already driven pretty much of the length of Australia’s east coast, any further trips to this region will be by plane or train. And we’d certainly love to visit certain parts and places again. Our next trip to Australia is scheduled for winter 2021/22 and we want to take in Western Australia, particularly Perth and the Margaret river. So it remains to be seen how many more trips we’ll take to this wonderful country.

In no particular order, here’s the places we’d happily visit again and I’m going to let my photos do the talking for me.

Noosa

Byron Bay

Brisbane

Sydney

Wolgan Valley

Port Douglas

Inspired by The Blue Ducks

This cookery book in the header photo is what inspired our visit to Byron Bay. My beloved had bought me this in Farrells Bookshop in Mornington Peninsula back in 2016 because he’d liked the look of the recipes, many of which I’ve since made. With the company’s 10th anniversary fast approaching, I thought I’d write about one of my favourite restaurant concepts.

Since the first Three Blue Ducks venue opened in Bronte in 2010, they’ve expanded to four, café-turned-restaurants across New South Wales and Brisbane, plus one to come in Melbourne, each boasting a strong focus on ethical produce served in a no-frills setting.

The concept of Three Blue Ducks was sparked from an idea between Mark LaBrooy, Chris Sorrell and Sam Reid-Boquist, who shared a love of surf, snow and good food. In 2010, after years of discussion, the three mates found the perfect location in Bronte right next door to where Jeff Bennett had recently opened a pizza shop.

It wasn’t long before Bennett became friends with the boys next door and soon the wall between his pizza shop and Three Blue Ducks was knocked down and the four were in business together. As the venue got busier, they recruited Darren Robertson, former head chef at Tetsuya’s, to help expand the menu and open for dinner.

The group went on to open Three Blue Ducks at The Farm Byron Bay in 2015 (pictured above) and then Rosebery in 2016, with MasterChef Australia 2012 winner Andy Allen coming on board as a co-owner. This year they also opened a restaurant at the W hotel in Brisbane (desserts from our meal pictured below) and another one in Melbourne will soon open.

The common thread woven throughout the venues is a commitment to ethical food and supporting small farmers and producers,  something which I really try to embrace by buying local produce and ingredients from farmers markets and shopping seasonally. The Three Blue Ducks at The Farm, an 80-acre food and farming hub at the entrance to Byron Bay, is their biggest and busiest venue, and the true embodiment of their sustainability philosophy, where most of the restaurant is outside, surrounded by farmland, eating food grown metres away.

Celebrating the community and environment are core beliefs of the Ducks family. Even the name has a local element to it, though perhaps not in the way you might assume. It’s not a nursery rhyme. Instead, it’s a shout out to Bondi Boardriders team ‘Blue Ducks’, and, surprisingly, a 50-year-old pick up line Sam and Chris used as early teens in Bronte. The boys would try to get a girl alone at the beach and steal a kiss from her by asking if she’d seen the blue ducks that lived in the gully. So it’s a bit of a cheeky name!

What’s next for the Duck family? While there’s nothing yet in the works, there’s definitely potential to continue growing the brand – perhaps even internationally. As for a specific location, the boys have just one criterion: there must be surf or snow nearby. That’s not a bad requirement, is it?

Chillin’ in Byron Bay

Back in 2016 I bought a fabulous cookery book from Dymocks in Melbourne called Three Blue Ducks, the writers of which had just opened their second restaurant in Byron Bay. The location lodged in my subconscious and when I started to plan our trip it resurfaced.

Hence we spent a few days in Byron Bay, located 800 km (500 miles) north of Sydney and 173 km ( 109 miles) south of Brisbane. The town has the distinction of being one of the places along the east coast of Australia which was named for the poet Byron’s great-uncle, by his friend and fellow navigator, one Captain James Cook.

There can be few towns in Australia with a more contradictory identity than Byron Bay. On the one hand it has, historically, been associated with the alternative lifestyle movement of the 1970s and seen as a kind of interesting hippie retreat in northern NSW which now attracts backpackers.

On another level it is a very upmarket get-away-from-it-all retreat for wealthy baby boomers and Australian celebrities who respectively inhabit the various resorts and the serious property porn overlooking the Bay. In that respect, it’s more like the Californian coastal towns of Carmel and Monterey in its evolution moving from surfers to artists, tourists and celebrities.

We found Byron Bay to be a quiet, charming seaside town which has experienced a population boom because it boasts excellent surfing and plenty of good land. Without the publicity few people would drive off the Pacific Highway to visit and only holiday makers would decide to stay awhile.

The overwhelming impression is that of a town hiding behind Cape Byron, nestled in between the rocky headland and the hills which rise to the west. I understand that in the past five years it has grown dramatically and it now spreads in every direction – both up and down the coast and well into the hinterland.

Public pressure has halted both Club Med and McDonald’s from moving in; the green-dominated Byron Shire Council has banned drive-in takeaway food outlets from the town centre; buildings have been restricted to three storeys in height; and a moratorium has been placed on high-density development. In those actions lie the heart of contemporary Byron Bay.

We stayed at a well-known eco-resort, just outside of town with 92 suites backing onto windswept Tallow Beach and engulfed by 45 acres of lush sub-tropical rainforest inhabited by shy wallabies, some very entertaining bird life and a species of endangered large snails. We never saw any snails but we saw (and heard) the bush turkeys and wallabies.

Timber boardwalks connect the various resort buildings which radiate out from a decked central hub of an infinity pool, day spa, wellness centre and restaurant. We much enjoyed walking around the resort gazing at the Bangalow Palms and Paperbarks as we meandered back to our suite from long walks along the beach. In the mornings, it’s the first place in Australia to see the sun, its noisy whipbirds act as nature’s alarm clock.

We also pottered around the town which has an amazing mix of shops and eateries, plenty of festivals plus regular food and craft markets. But, again, the beach was a big draw with many coming down to watch the spectacular sunsets each evening.

Of course, I had to visit The Farm and its Three Blue Ducks restaurant which more than lived up to my expectations. We ate lunch there on Monday – fully-booked over the weekend – and the place was really buzzing. Aside from the spectacular organic food, The Farm’s main attractions are its wildlife: cute cuddly Highland cattle, free-range chickens, black  pigs and their oh-so-cute piglets, plus the bee hives.

Byron Bay more than lived up to the hype and we’d be happy to return but, for now, it was back to the Pacific Highway and on to Brisbane.