About Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of http://www.briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice. She posts over on https://plus.google.com/103115118174711820529/posts as well.
Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at http://www.ottsworld.com.com.
Latest Posts by Sherry Ott
My favorite thing to do was go for a walk on the beach. Broad Beach and Surfers Paradise beach were some of the most expansive, pristine beach I’ve ever seen. The Gold Coast was peppered with a backdrop of skyscrapers and modern architecture. The sand was so beautiful it even squeaked when you walked on it – it seemed unreal.
Since the beach was so flat and wide, it made for a great place for walking, running, playing Frisbee, sunbathing, and building sand castles. It was a social gathering place for locals, tourists, dogs, friends, runners, and surfers. I adored seeing all of the varied activities happening on the beach. As a solo traveler, what I enjoyed the most about it was the chance for me to be social. When I went out for a morning walk or run on the beach I would meet locals who would stop me and ask me where I was from, how long I was staying, and how I liked the area. I even was called gorgeous and asked out on a date one morning from a very nice man. Uhmmm – of course I would go walking every day if that happened more often!
One morning I took my cameras with me and was able to capture the laid back Aussie beach culture and activities. Enjoy the Gold Coast Beach photos – after all, life really is a beach on the Gold Coast in Queensland!
Life guard stand on Broad Beach
Kids making sand forts.
Surfer girls know how to start the morning…
People wander the beach towards Surfers Paradise in the distance
A dog super excited about his ball and game of fetch!
A local out fishing in the surf.
Playing Frisbee on the beach soaking up the sun.
Birds gather on the flat beach.
The waves crashing with a backdrop of Coolangatta buildings
A bikini beach walk.
The Gold Coast is a coastal city in southeastern Queensland on the east coast of Australia. The city is 94 kilometres south of the state capital Brisbane.
Disclosure: I was invited to enjoy Queensland by the Queensland Tourism Board and Room753 lodging was provided by Peppers Broadbeach.. However all the opinions expressed her are solely my own!
“Where are you staying?” the young woman asked as she was simultaneously ringing up our cheese purchase at the Jersey Girls Dairy Farm.
“At Alure…” I started to reply as I was digging out my money.
Before I could get any more of my answer out I was cut off, “Ohhhh you are glamping!” she said in a high pitched excited tone. “Yes”, I replied slightly shocked.
How was it that for the last few days I’ve had to explain to all of my friends on Facebook what the word “glamping” meant and here on a dairy farm in rural Queenland Australia surrounded by cows, this woman knew what glamping was? And this wasn’t the only reaction my friend Sarah and I had that went like that. We had many more locals ooze excitement about our glamping accommodations as we made stops in the small town of Stanthorpe on our way to Alure Boutique Villas.
Stanthorpe was mainly known for it’s small town charm, agriculture, apple farms, and wineries to most Australians. And it was also known for a unique self-contained luxury tent called Alure. Thanks to Ruth and Marion, the ‘crazy tent ladies’, the whole town knew what glamping was. Glamping, luxury camping, is one of the latest trends in the travel industry and I had been happily glamping my way across Australia experiencing all of the different forms and levels of this new trend. Not a bad gig.
Alure Boutique Tent in Stanthorpe
Ruth and Marion were the first to even use the term glamping in Stanthorpe let alone Australia. They dreamed up the idea back in 2009 – a completely self-contained tent situated on 50 acres outside of Stanthorpe in the heart of the Granite Belt wine region. They hired an equally creative, crazy, and daring architect who worked with them to create their tent vision complete with a working bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, heater/AC, and a fireplace – all with canvas walls. Everything in the tent was built from the bottom frame upwards and then the canvas framed it all from the top down. All of the plumbing, lighting, and venting was run through the floor. For the first night we looked around the tent in awe of how it was all constructed. Oh yes, and we can’t forget the huge front and back porch complete with a spa and massive grille.
Inside the tent villa
Fully functional bathroom
A kitchen complete with a window!
Luckily I wasn’t there experiencing this canvas architectural miracle on my own, I had a travel companion with me, my friend Sarah. Of course somehow I always end up in some of the most romantic places on earth with my girlfriends – but hey – I probably had much more fun with Sarah than I ever would have with a boyfriend!
It was a chilly winter morning, but the tent was all toasty warm. After our delicious breakfast that we prepared ourselves in our canvas kitchen, we sat down and plotted out our plan for the day. Even though Sarah is from Australia, she was also experiencing the Granite Belt region for the first time. When we arrived the day before we sat and talked with Marion and Ruth and they gave us some great tips for wineries and farms to visit in the region. We had a plan that consisted of a large amount of eating and drinking – perfect!
If you are in the Granit Belt then you must try the wine. Our favorite stop was the – Ballendean Estate winery where we hung out and talked to Robin for over an hour learning about her family run winery. Ballendean was one of the first wineries in Australia starting in 1970. From that time the Australian wineries have expanded from 250 wineries to today’s 2,900+. So how do you be noticed in a country full of wine? You do what Marion and Ruth did with their glamping tent – you offer unique, innovative alternatives. The region and Ballendean is known for it’s Strange Bird Wine Trail which celebrates the many alternative grape varieties grown in the Granite Belt. To be considered ‘alternative’, a variety must represent not more than 1% of the total bearing vines in Australia. Ballendean contributes a number of ‘strange birds’ such as fiano, malbec, nebbiolo, saperavi, sylvaner, and viognier.
Granite Belt Wineries
Fall colors in Queensland’s wine country
Of course, once we had wine we needed some snacks to go with it. Sarah and I stopped at a number of the Stanthorpe area farms and stocked up on food and snacks. In fact, we were able to piece together the perfect wine country snack – a bottle of wine, cheese from Jersey Girls Dairy, and apples from Suttons Farm. We also made a stop at the Bramble Patch – a strawberry farm known for their high calorie desserts – resistance was futile!
Bramble Patch decadence!
Every good road trip needs quirky roadside attractions – and Stanthorpe had it’s share. Meet the stone pyramid and Fuitasaurus!
Stone Pyramid outside of Stanthorpe
After a full day of exploring the region and stuffing our faces, we decided to go back and enjoy our romantic tent by utilizing the back deck spa and grille. Since Sarah was Aussie and all Aussies are born knowing how to throw shrimp on the barbie – she took on grille master duty as I relaxed in the spa. Yes – it was a rough life. After dinner we fired up a movie on the surround sound flatscreen TV in our tent. Just a perfectly normal glamping evening at Alure.
How will I ever go back to a traditional tent again? It would be like having to sit back in airline economy after spending a year at gold status getting upgraded. It was official, Marion and Ruth and their crazy luxury tent ruined camping for me from here on out. But that’s ok – because it was their ‘crazy’ that put glamping in everyone’s vocabulary in this region of Australia. And that is beautiful.
We climbed high into the mountains of Peru and the air was so thin our bodies struggled to adjust and I found myself only being able to walk 30 steps before I had to stop as my heart was beating so fast and I couldn’t seem to get the energy to move another step. I would stand and try to slow down my breathing for 20 seconds and then take off again for another 30 steps. This is how I got to 14,700 feet on the Quarry Trail. The best part about stopping every 30 steps was that it was a reason to take pictures!
The trail was challenging but the view over the two passes we crossed were jaw dropping. Each time I got to the top of one it was a surprise as to what I would see on the other side. Our porters/horses were fabulous and our campsites were perched on ledges with views that I never wanted to leave. However – it was chilly up there – and Megan was definitely ready to get down to lower altitude as she struggled with altitude sickness.
After finishing the 3 day hike, we got our reward – Machu Picchu. We took the train after the hike to Aguas Calientes town at the base of Machu Picchu and had a great visit the next day. We had ample of time to wander around the site, dodge the thousands of tourists and once again take lots of pictures (and a few selfies).
After a short stop in the jungle of the Amazon Basin, then we head back to Lima to volunteer with kids and build houses for a week – a real change of pace from the mountains!
Our first campsite on the Quarry Trail. A nice view to wake up to!
Hiking among giants on the Quarry Trail!
We head to 14000 ft tomorrow, and will be using these coca leaves. A little pinch btwn the cheek & gums…
I met this little guy in a village in #Peru while hiking in the Andes.
Hiking to the pass on the Quarry Trail. A tough hike had @meganlea_ battling altitude sickness.
Morning clouds arnd our 2nd campsite along the Quarry Trail. Yes, we hiked down that slope to get there!
What is Week In-St
Ahhh, the land Down Under and it’s magical sun and sunsets. There’s a reason why Here Comes The Sun is one of my all time favorite songs – the sun makes me happy. I’m one of those people who need to see it and feel the warmth on my skin to be in a good mood. Luckily Australia was just what the sun doctor ordered; I experienced 27 days in Australia soaking up the sun. That equates to 54 sunrises and sunsets – and I believe that about 40 of them were some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises I had ever seen. I left Oz sun kissed after all of that time outside enjoying the rays.
I took countless pictures of the beautiful and sometimes tumultuous sun the beach, hot air balloons, and the desert. It was hard to pick my favorite sunrise and sunset photography, but I have narrowed it down to a few of my favorite in those 27 days.
Sunrise at Uluru in Northern Territory
Sunset Noosa Beach
Sunset and a glass of gin and tonic in Darwin.
Sunset and a sliver of moon over Spicers Peak Queensland
Sunset and a surf board in Coolangatta beach Queensland
Rays of sun greet me for sunrise in Room753 on Broadbeach
Sunset in the outback
Sunset Silhouette in Darwin Northern Territory
A stormy Sunrise at Room753 Broadbeach
Lifeguard sunset on Coolangatta Beach Gold Coast Queensland
Sunrise over the outback in a hot air balloon near Alice Springs
Sunset Alice Springs Northern Territory
Sunset in Darwin – looks like a water color painting!
Disclosure: I was invited to enjoy Queensland and Northern Territory by the Queensland Tourism Board and Northern Territory Tourism Board however all the opinions expressed her are solely my own!
Want to branch off the well-traveled Sydney to Cairns tourist trail in Australia? Visit Southern Queensland, and head to Brisbane and the Gold Coast. I was recently in Australia for 3 weeks exploring this hidden gem that can rival the typical tourists stops any day! It’s still a touristy area – but it’s full of local tourists (Australians) and not international tourists.
Since Southern Queensland is an area where local Australians travel to, it’s really easy to get immersed in the Australian culture while there. The best part is that it doesn’t feel manufactured like many of the normal tourist destinations and attractions.
It’s easy to find local travel experiences in Queensland! But if you need a nudge, here are 10 things I did to travel like a local in the Gold Coast and Brisbane:
1. Speak the Language
Yes I know that English is spoken in Australia – but there are idiosyncrasies that you’ll need to understand if you want to get in touch with your local Aussie side. For example, take this common question I was asked, “How are you going Sheza?” Let me just decipher this Aussie speak – first, they are talking to me, Sherry (dubbed Sheza), and they don’t want to know what mode of transportation I’m taking, they are asking how I’m doing. Aussies have a habit of shortening words – especially people’s name. If you are Australian, then you have a nickname. Mine was Sheza. But they don’t just stop at names, they shorten everything. Here were a few of my favorite.
Specky – spectacular
Breaky – breakfast
Cozzie – swimsuit
Slippers – Uggs/boots
Pokies – slot machines
Dinky di – true/genuine
Tinnie – can of beer
Stubbie – bottle of beer
Sunnies – sunglasses
Dunny – toilet
Snag – sausage (as in put a snag on the barby)
Sickie – playing hookie
Schoolies – High-school graduates who have completed their exams take a week-long vacation and they normally go to Surfer’s Paradise whish is known for schoolies.
There’s plenty more Australian slang words where this came from.
2. Take a Walk with a Local
Sue shows me outdoor art projects in Brisbane via Brisbane Greeters.
Don’t miss the chance to get local knowledge. Simply go to the Greeter website and choose what type of walk you are interested in – history, art, culture, architecture, sport, or aboriginal heritage. This is similar to greeter programs in other cities such as New York City and Belgium. You get shown around by a local who loves living in the area and are super enthusiastic about their city.
3. Join a Stand Up Paddle Board Group
My first time stand up paddle boarding! Try it out anywhere on the rivers/canals of the Surfer’s Paradise.
4. Sushi Train
Australians love sushi – but they love it even more when it’s delivered by train! Every Japanese restaurant I went to or walked by in Southern Queensland always had a bar area where color coated plates of sushi were paraded before the hungry guests on a conveyor belt. If you’ve never had sushi from a train before, then you need to give it a go. You simply pick what you want off the conveyor belt and it’s priced based on the color of the plate. The plates are saved and counted up at the end to determine your bill.
5. Know Your Coffee
Ice Coffee served up with one giant round ice cube. Tres chic.
The label reads – “2013 Reserve – A complex, full bodied blend featuring flavors of peanut butter, salted caramel, and dark chocolate”. No, this isn’t a wine label – it’s my coffee from locally created Di Bella Coffee. Aussies love their coffee, and I love it too. Flat white, short black, long black – coffee in Australia is serious stuff and it comes with it’s own language. Check out the many coffee cafes around the Gold Coast area and be sure to order using your new coffee language.
Short Black – Espresso
Long Black – Espresso with hot water
Flat White – Espresso with steamed milk
Drip Coffee – Filtered Coffee
More Australian Coffee Terms
6. Go to the Opera
Opera on the Beach – the Magic Flute
I’m not talking about the Sydney Opera House – instead go a bit more low-brow local and try opera on the beach. At the Gold Coast they want to take advantage of every sandy outdoor moment they can, so they took opera out of the theatre and put it on the beach. In conjunction with Opera Australia, occasionally you can enjoy opera under the stars like the one I attended, The Magic Flute. Sit in low chairs in the sand, sip champagne, and listen to Mozart with the accompanying crashing waves for percussion. The beach chairs were mainly filled with locals who came to see this massive production.
7. Know Where the Locals Surf
A local surfer hunts for the perfect wave on Coolangatta Beach
If you want to surf with the locals, then stay away from Surfers Paradise (despite the name). Local surfers don’t really go to Surfers Paradise to surf – they head further south to Coolangatta to places like Snapper Rocks, Currumbin Alley, and Kirra. And if you go at sunset you’ll catch the locals out riding waves AND you’ll get some great sunset photography!
8. Visit the Surf Clubs
You don’t have to know how to surf to go to a surf club. You just have to be hungry and have a desire to dig into the local culture. Surf Clubs in Australia are normally found on the beach of each little town on the coast. They typically have a life saving club component and a bar/food component to them. It’s sort of like a sports bar and it’s a big social gathering point for locals. You must love greasy bar food and great beach views!
9. Cook for Yourself
My Peppers Broadbeach apartment – a great place to call ‘home’.
The best way to be local is to stay at an apartment overlooking the beach. Enjoy trips to the market and cook for yourself. As long as you are at the market, be sure to try the local food snacks like Tim Tams and Vegemite. You can easily rent an apartment up and down the Gold Coast and stock your kitchen with your favorite local seafood and snacks. Plus – lots of the condos and apartment rentals have access to grills so you can throw shrimp on the barby and have yourself a local dinky –di Australian BBQ. You can’t get more local than that!
10. Take a Long Walk on the Beach
Walking along Broad beach
The Gold Coast beach near Broad beach is extremely flat and wide, making it the perfect place to go for a walk or a run. When I’d go out for a morning walk or run on the beach I would meet locals who would stop me and ask me where I was from, how long I was staying, and how I liked the area. After a few days I felt like I had a routine seeing some of the same people out every day.
Old Chicago & North Western Railroad office building along the Chicago River
I stared at the big concrete building along the Chicago River as the sun went down illuminating it in a golden hue. “This building changed my life 19 years ago,” was the only thought that kept running through my head.
This set me on an unbelievable path of change and adventure at the age of 25 years old. Nineteen years ago I was inside the pictured building in the stark halls pushing paper around trying to do all the necessary accounting jibberish for the Union Pacific / Chicago & North Western Railroad merger. A merger that landed me a buyout package from my Accounting career and sparked my much more lucrative IT career, which then propelled me to move out of the Midwest. That was the start of motion and change in my life. From Omaha to Minneapolis to San Francisco to New York City to the World.
I watched as the yellow water taxi’s pulled up to the old C&NW building letting tourists off. We rented out the entire Villa d Citta Bed and Breakfast in Lincoln Park and were supplied in plenty of homemade cookies and locally brewed Goose Island Beer.
Strolling around the alleys of Chicago before #BlogHouse
You’ve heard of the glass ceiling, but what abt a glass floor? At the Willis Tower in Chicago
It’s cookie time at BlogHouse!!
The bubbly Chicago skyline as seen from @vertigochicago at Bloghouse industry night. Drinking among skyscrapers!
Experiencing Chicago on the water! Via Chicago Electric Boats. You can rent them and drive yourself on the Chicago River.
“Turn right in 200 meters,” my navigation instructed. The sky was full of moody clouds, the air was crisp, and I was singing along with the radio while dutifully listening to and obeying my Google maps navigation. Life was good.
I was in the countryside of Queensland Australia, driving on the left side of the road, marveling at how much the countryside resonated with me. It was a beautiful drive from the Sunshine Coast to Spring Creek Queensland, an area where most Australians had never even heard of. I felt like I was really getting off the beaten path in Oz, and it made my heart sore. Little did I know that I was about to get off the beaten path.
With each instruction to turn I went deeper and deeper into the countryside. The roads became narrower, the traffic less, and soon I found that it was just the cows and me. I was excited to make the climb up into the mountains to my final destination, Spring Creek Mountain Cottages. I went to make the right turn on my last road in the navigation instructions that I had started more than 3 hours ago. I was abruptly brought out of my road trippin’ bliss with the Road Closed sign that was in my path.
What? Nooooooo! I was so close – only one road away to relaxing in the cottage by the fire. Now what?
I was in the middle of what felt like a deserted countryside, it was about to storm, and I didn’t have any good cell signal. I looked at my navigation ap and tried to come up with a plan B. Without a signal I wasn’t able to zoom in on my map, so I tried to make out the blurry pixelated lines that looked like roads and figured out an alternate route to go around the mountain the other way and then up to the cottages. I wasn’t very confident of my plan B, but I really had no other choice but to try it. The only thing I was missing was a tornado and my dog Toto as I tried to find my way in Oz.
My self determined detour led me through pastures, past abandoned homes, and onto steep gravel roads (not yellow brick ones). The roads were single lane twisting and turning up the mountain. As nervous as I was that I was going the wrong way and getting even more lost, I was equally enthralled with this unexpected adventure. Since I was the only one on the road except for the cows, it was easy for me to stop in the middle of the road and take pictures of this exhilarating drive.
As I finally pulled into Spring Creek Mountain Cottages and Café 90 minutes later, I was relieved. And even more relieved when I met Bev, the owner. She wasted no time serving me up a flat white (coffee with milk in Aussie speak) and homemade scones. Bev was the genius pulling all of the strings in the kitchen - one could even call her the Wizard of the Oz Kitchen.
Detours are a wonderful jolt to your system…so are gravel roads, cows, and women named Bev who bake scones and have a friendly smile that reminds you of your own mother. Detours are also great for photography – after all, you are already late, so what does it matter if you stop and take a few photos on your journey. You may even capture some flying monkeys you can put on Instagram!
The day started with blue skies as I drove into the Southern Queensland countryside
The weather was changing the further I drove around Lake Moogerah.
An run down queenslander house. And old beauty.
And so the detour begins as the skies darken
The roads became one lane and gravel. I was pretty sure I was hopelessly lost. So I might as well take some pictures!
Rain clung to the daisies along the road
Climbing up the mountain on the detour
Finally arrived at Spring Creek Mountain Cottages to this gorgeous view
A bed with a view…
Lamb with a Mediterranean potato salad created by Bev. Delicious!
Spring Creek Mountain Cafe and Cottages has 3 cottages perches on the mountain side. Stay over night and enjoy the wood burning fire or just come to have a delicious lunch or dinner from Bev!
Disclosure: I was invited to enjoy Queensland by the Queensland Tourism Board. However all the opinions expressed her are solely my own!
When you’re in a rickshaw, only one person can drive a Rickshaw which means half of the time you are a passenger. As a passenger, the back seat wasn’t very comfortable, but somehow we managed to sleep, eat, drink, and backseat drive all from the rear seat. A few days when I had the energy I got out my camera and tried my best to capture what we saw from the view of our rickshaw. It was fun shooting out of a moving vehicle as it was the only way I could really capture the excitement and confusion of the people who saw us, two foreign women, driving the rickshaw.
People were constantly taking photos of us every time we stopped the rickshaw. I became really curious as to what happened to those photos of us on people’s phones. Did they take them and show them off to their friends? How did they tell the story of us eating at their restaurant to their friends? Did they show up on their Facebook page where their friends commented on the crazy foreigners? It bugged me that I would never know the story and life of the photographs people took of us. I would have loved to try to follow one of the photos and find out where it ended up. Who knows, maybe some of the people had a blog and were sharing them as I share photos of people when I travel!
Regardless, I thought it would be fun to share my favorite rickshaw run photos from my point of view - as a passenger in my rickshaw.