The other day I stumbled across a nudist beach whilst taking a stroll through Noosa’s national park. In my British prudishness I quite frankly would’ve looked less awkward if you’d have shoved a spade up my (fully clothed) bum. I saw an edlerly man in a T-shirt and finally thought I’d found a fellow clothed human, only to discover upon closer inspection that said randomer was wearing only a T-shirt. I wanted to quite literally bury my head in the sand but due to practicalities I decided that wouldn’t be too easy and resolved on striding through head down and snapping a quick piccy for the old Facey-B, even though photographing approximately 100 naked people is probably quite illegal.
Although I was clearly never going to go that far, stepping out of my comfort zone has pretty much defined my trip – the other day it led to me chasing some sort of shark on board an Aussie friend’s jet ski at over 100kmph. Soaring over on the jet from Brisbane to the beautiful, deserted and relatively non tourist-trodden sand island Moreton was literally unforgettable and amongst my screams and swear words was a very large smile. We held a starfish, spotted a turtle, followed a mantaray and admired a row of glistening dolphins darting in and out of the clear, paradise-like water and I was once again in a cloud of bliss (as opposed to what in my local hometown’s water would more accurately be described as a cloud of piss).
So discovering the more adventurous and outdoorsy side of East Australia has been insane. I went to surf camp and hung out for two days straight with blonde long-haired Aussie surf instructors who were so chilled out they make the sleeping koalas stoned on eucalyptus look stressed by comparison. I imagined I was a tie-dye clad hippy in Byron Bay as I slept amongst teepees, chickens and iguanas at the funkiest hostel in town and drove a 4WD along the deserted beaches of the sand-formed (and shark-infested) Fraser Island, an apparent must-see on the backpacker ticklist but – despite its raving reputation – a bit busier and less beautiful than Moreton. I escaped the more commercial side of the East coast with a peaceful stop at Coff’s Harbour (north of Sydney) where an expanse of beautiful, empty beach awaited me and learnt it’s sometimes good to ignore your travel agent’s advice.
For the past two days I’ve been living on a boat sailing the Whitsundays – as someone who appreciates a bit of personal space I’ve found the lodging situ interesting (and experienced how a chicken in a battery probably feels) but discovering Whitehaven (one of the whitest sand beaches in the world) and snorkelling amongst the fluorescent fish that make up the 1500 species in the Great Barrier Reef (including ‘Elvis’, a huge thing with an oversized face which apparently gained its name from its similarity to Mr Presley) has definitely made the chicken-life worth it.
So although the East coast of Australia might not have as many mountains and breathtaking views as New Zealand, it does have a pretty cool stress-free surf lifestyle, some amazing sealife and the odd surprise nudist-beach-style gem.
It also has the potential for adventures like getting stuck in the toilet on board aforementioned boat. Thanks to the help of our skipper and a rather large screwdriver I made it out alive after around 30 minutes. If only the same could be said for my dignity… (two words: standard. me.)