It’s our first Bnb stay! So exciting! But this time we are going with a big group! My family, my parents and my sibling’s family!

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It all started during one of my group chats where one of my girl friend was sharing her experience at this accommodation listed on AirBnB with her family, parents and siblings’ families and it sparked me that I could do the same too! I have never travelled with this big group before and the thought of organizing such a trip feels daunting.

There’s a lot of coordination work, budgeting, itinerary and transportation research work to be done to suit the various interest of each individual in the group. At the end of the day, it might end up that some people don’t really like the arrangement, that costing etc but I thought I should do such family trips at least once so I went ahead to plan the trip with hubby.

The choice of accommodation was crucial. In the event that if there are strong objections to the planned itinerary, the last choice was to stay in and just have a idyllic and relaxing holiday just to rest our tired souls and spend some quality time with the family and the extended family. The kids could also have more opportunities to bond with their grandparents.

We picked Australia as the trip destination also because the cool weather is kind of a good escape from the dreaded heat here in Singapore. And it’s not too cold either. Best part was the drop in foreign exchange rate due to the ongoing trade war. Turns out, half of my friends and colleagues also headed there for this June school holidays. It cannot be too wrong a choice I guess.

Thanks to hubby for spending days and nights researching on the itinerary, flight tickets, transport and accommodation that we could finally settle on flying Emirates to Brisbane due to the attractive pricing. The trade-off was that we needed to travel from Brisbane to Gold Coast.

We settled for Alpha Transfers for the transport to bring us around our destinations. The coordinator was very helpful and responsive in answering and helping with our itinerary. They were also very flexible in the itinerary and the pricing was reasonable.

Our guide, Jos, was a fatherly and warm guy with a sense of humor. Thanks to him, we were able to find food, supermarket for groceries and and good shopping places! We went like, “Can we go to Target? Oh we need Coles as well” and he went “I know just where to bring you” and he did. He must be rolling his eyes seeing us accomplish each shopping trip with bags and bags of stuff. We never seem to have enough of shopping! In fact we shopped so much, we ended up with 2 more new luggages to bag our loots! Oops!

Family Oasis on Sheridan

Here’s the exciting part! Our Airbnb unit is so large I think a video introduction would better describe it.

We were a bit hesitant about the pool initially as we were worried our boy would rush and jump into the pool in excitement when nobody’s watching. Luckily, our friendly hosts have already thoughtfully babyproofed the house by installing child locks at the gates, and the door leading outside is also lockable.

The location, although not near to the tram station, is within walking distance to a neighborhood center where you can find a cafe, a chemist and a hair salon shop. There is also a bus stop nearby that goes directly to Surfers Paradise.

We spent a lot of time at the house, cooking and having our meals, swimming, kayaking, fishing, playing at the playground and TV games. The water was quite cold in the morning during this time of the year but turns warmer in the evening after being solar heated up during the day. Our swim thermals came in handy for the day swim.

Look! Here comes our Coles delivery! Breakfast settled!

We landed late the first night and to settle our breakfast for the next morning, we ordered from Coles online! Breakfast woes solved! Coles has delivery starting from as early as 6am but there is a delivery charge for the 6-8am timeslot even for first time orders. No choice though! At least we have food. For some reason, I couldn’t order bread though, maybe bread is only for same day delivery?

Dream World

There are several Theme Parks in Gold Coast. We couldn’t do them all. Of the three worlds there, we chose to do Dream World as the rides was suitable for very young kids all the way to the not so young kid. Here’s an interesting fact. We actually managed to get much cheaper tickets to Dreamworld via Klook than direct purchase at the park itself. It’s true! And the tickets were valid! But the ticket is valid only for the day that you chose so do buy the ticket on the day that you are going, just to be absolutely sure. After purchasing the ticket via Klook App, you will receive an email confirmation. You would need to forward this email to the Dreamworld guest services where they can retrieve and print a actual ticket for you.

The Dream World is really the stop to go if you are short of time. From rides, to shows to animals and sheep shearing. We were already contemplating should we go to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary by the end of Dream World trip.

McMartin’s Strawberry Farm

This day is specially dedicated to strawberry lovers. Hubby went through numerous correspondence with strawberry farmers, transport coordinators and finally managed to find this farm with strawberries already in season and ready for picking. The original farm that we planned had some fruiting delay due to weather. We were almost too disappointed until we found this.

Just look at our fruitful trip! There’s also a large playground here for kids to stretch their muscles after traveling some distance here

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

We decided to still come here despite having seen the Australian animals earlier at DreamWorld. All for this fellow here:

Platypus! One of the last 2 egg-laying mammals. Super elusive and shy guy who looks like a cross between a duck and penguin? The viewing area was really dark and we were lucky to get this shot when he came over to take a peep. Mission accomplished!

And since we are here, we popped over to see other animals. And there were lots and lots of Koala here! Best part was, not every Koala was sleeping. We get to see them in action, eating, staring into space and just climbing around and even baby Koalas with pink fluffy ears. They are so adorable! So different from the sleepy Koalas that we always see.

For dinner today, Jos brought us to an award winning Chinese restaurant, the Kampung Malay Restaurant (sounds so good already!) near where he stayed and the food was really good! Do give it a try if you are nearby!

About Prepaid Cards in Australia

I have to share about our experience with getting prepaid SIM cards in Australia. Usually when we travel, we would just need to have access to data usage to stay connected. Regardless for Google Map, Whatsapp or social media. So we usually rent a WiFi from Changi Recommends or activate our telco services for local data usage while traveling.

For the Changi Recommends WiFi for Australia, we realized that there’s a maximum of 4 connections per device. There’s no way for a fifth device to hook on. Also you must stay together with the person holding the WiFi router. Else you will be lost in data connection once you go separate.

We also realized WhatsApp is not big in Australia. Sometimes the only way to contact locals who are not on WhatsApp is by using a local phone number to call or sms or risk an bill slap utilizing overseas sms or roaming calls.

For this trip we bought a prepaid SIM card from Changi Recommends at 26SGD for 12gb of data. The local network is by LycaMobile. The prepaid card does not come with a number. You would need to register the card to actually get a number. Here’s the tricky part. We actually spent 4 days trying to register the card with no success. Seems like there is some backend validation of our passport details with the Australian visa that we applied. If your name happens to be long with first name, last name, English name or family names, the validation might fail because you might not know which name is used for validation with which field in the form. The address validation also fail to find the address of the Airbnb that we were staying.

To get customer support, you need to somehow get a local phone number (borrow from a local or hotel) and call up the customer service and they’d end up saying they couldn’t help with the registration over phone call and email registration will take up to 48 hours! Which you might already be on your way back home! So it was really a test of patience trying to activate the card with contains 12 gb data and which we couldn’t use. It was really a teeth-gritting experience.

So I tried again with another passport detail with simple name that only has 3 parts, surname and name and it finally went through! I could almost cry!

So then via Jos, we found out that actually there are cheaper alternatives. You could easily get a SIM card at cheapest price of 5AUD to get unlimited sms and call time! Major wow! So I bought this Woolsworth branded SIM card with service provided by AmaySim. The registration was painful too as I still could not get my details validated. But the best part of AmaySim service? They provide online customer service chat! I do not need to find a local number to call up the customer service! And the second best part? Their email registration takes only up to 8 hours! I highly recommend that you get this card if you must. There are other values like $10 for 2gb data etc. But you should try AmaySim. The support is really great.

Centenary of Federation State Border Marker

We are heading towards to New South Wales today and we dropped by this monument that marks the border between New South Wales and Queensland for a quick photo.

Queensland and New South Wales used to be separate colonies and renamed as States under the Federation of Australia and they have different governance in the different states. This monument was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Federation of Australia.

Tropical Fruit World

As fruit lovers, we have to make a trip here to see how our favorite fruits are grown and be awed by the all the fruit trees blooming with fruits.

Tropical Fruit World was originally known as Avocadoland and we could totally see why it was called that. The number of avocado trees, the types of avocados found here are amazing. We have never seen such large avocados before! Although the fruits aren’t for picking, the farm tour was great!

We started with a yummy fruit tasting session where the staff explain the different types of fruits and how we can use fruits for skin care other than just eating them.

Then we took a tractor tram ride around the farm to see the massive size of the farm and the variety of fruits that they’ve grown. It was so thrilling to see all our favorite fruits still hanging on the trees. The freshest they can go.

We stopped by the banana trees area to have a taste of the banana and everyone loved it. It was interesting to know that they had to wrap the bananas up to speed up the ripening else the ripening takes too long due to the cold weather. We also had a go at cracking fresh macadamia and enjoying the nut on the spot.

Then we had a short nature walk through the greenery and came in contact with some of the farm animals and even kangaroos.

The next part of the tour was a boat ride and we get to feed the eager ducks waiting out by the river and chasing after our boat to get the most number of treats.

We arrived at the next part of the farm where there’s some playground with flying fox and slide for kids while the rest had a chance to pluck to smell and feel some herbs and some special tree leaves . What an adventure in a farm tour!

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Cape Byron Lighthouse is located at the most eastern end of Australia and since we are in New South Wales, we might as well pop over to enjoy the beautiful scenery and see if we could spot some whales or dolphins while we are there.

While we didn’t spot any dolphins nor whales, we spotted this bird in flight, which after some research, could be a juvenile white bellied eagle.

Look at the soft blue and pink sky (unedited)

Ashmore Road Seafood and Steak

After a few days of traveling, we decided to celebrate the trip with a feast, complete with wine, at Ashmore Road Seafood and Steak restaurant recommended by Jos. It was an enjoyable meal and everyone was stuffed by the end of dinner.

Surfers Paradise

And the highlight of the trip.. we couldn’t give this a pass when we are already here at Gold Coast albeit it’s winter at this time and the water was chilling! We got these body boards and sand toys from our AirBnB and head down to Surfers Paradise in our surf wear and kids had a whale of a time here, splashing out in the cold water under the sunny weather. It was a tad disappointing that the waves were not at the legendary high but I think it’s safer for us first timers so it’s still ok. Our initial plan was to drop by and take a photo but I think the kids wouldn’t just pass by and soak their feet in. They might end up getting a little wet so we might as well gear them up for a full wet session! And they couldn’t have enough of this lovely beach with super nice sand and sea.

The slight problem was getting them washed up after all the messy play. We couldn’t find proper shower rooms, only outdoor showers and even toilets were limited at some distance away with only 2 cubicles at each block. So there was some queue but we had the get the girls changed in a covered area so we had to wait.

Lunch was settled in the mini van with home cooked beef fried rice thoughtfully prepared and packed by my mum for everyone. Sure feels like a good meal after a cold water swim. Yum!

Mount Tambourine Glow Worm Caves

Glow worms are a type of flightless beetle although they are called “worms”. The Mount Tambourine glow worm cave is a man-made cave for breeding of glow worms. The staff would catch small flying insects regularly and release into the cave to feed the glow worms.

During the tour, which was in complete darkness, except for the light sticks that we get to wear around us, we could actually see the glow worm and their string nets up close! The last time we went to a glow worm cave was in New Zealand where we viewed the glow worm from a boat and we could only see tiny spots of lights like stars in the night sky. I didn’t imagine the strings to be actually so tiny!

According to the guide, the females usually shine brighter than the male to attract male for breeding. And also the hungrier they are, the brighter they will shine, to attract food to come. Survival skills!

Mount Tambourine Cedar Creek Falls

Next, we did a nature trail to the Cedar Creek Falls, one of the popular attraction here. We trekked through a small part of the eucalyptus forest and rainforest where some families do picnic outings with families and friends.

The water sure looked tempting to jump in, but there are signs around to warn people of the danger of jumping in as you might hit the rocks or slip and fall against the slippery rocks. Best to stay dry on land, unless you carefully enter the water via the slippery rocks like this adventurous guy!

Mount Coot-tha

On the last day of the trip, we had an idyllic day where we stayed in to pack our luggages, swim, fish and kayaked and only set off to the airport after lunch. Our Airbnb hosts were very kind to extend our check out time knowing we are having a very late flight that day.

It was more shopping after we left the house before we went up to Mount Coot-tha to this breathtaking overview of Brisbane. As it was night time and winter time, it was super chilling up here at this time. Suggests to dress up warmly so as not to catch a cold.

All about Shopping!

When traveling with family with kids, the shopping we do usually hovers around supermarket/hyper markets, family friendly malls with food and facilities all under one roof. We went to a few of them under the recommendation of Jos and they are so good I have to share them.

Pacific Fair Shopping Mall

The nearest mall to our accommodation, this place is a must-go in Gold Coast as this is the largest shopping mall in the whole of Queensland! From K-Mart, Target, Woolsworth to Sephora, H&M’s, sports gear to food court, arcade and cinema, we couldn’t really do it all in half a day! And because here in Gold Coast, people still wear shorts and singlets during the day, you definitely can find something here to buy back home to sunny Singapore.

Helensvale Plaza Shopping Centre

We dropped by this mall for supermarket shopping and dinner on the way back home from Mount Tambourine. Found noodles and rice here at the food court and the kids welcome it. And of course we had to drop by Coles to stock up our food and kids were kept busy at the toys section, as usual.

Hyperdome Shopping Centre

The last mall that we went to on this trip, Hyperdome, is located at the Robina area. It’s quite an interesting mall and I found the local Daiso here! It’s almost everything for AUD2.80 so, erm, it’s not that attractive. The range of items here are similar to what we have. Once again, we manage to locate Asian food at the food court here to satisfy our tummies after some shopping.

Meals in Gold Coast

We spent a lot of time at our BnB on this trip, so really thankful to my sister and mum for waking up early every day and staying up late every night to prepare the meals and the next meals. It was really heart warming to have familiar home cooked food during travels. Look at all the hearty meals we had on this trip!

Housekeeping

Something to note about staying in Airbnb unit without any hosts. You need to do your own housekeeping like throwing the rubbish, sweeping the floor, washing toilets and other chores that you usually would expect housekeeping to do.

Here’s our itinerary in a nutshell

Day 1:

  • Supermarket shopping
  • Check in Airbnb

Day 2:

  • Dreamworld
  • Supermarket shopping at Runaway Bay Centre

Day 3:

  • McMartin’s Strawberry Farm
  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
  • Kampung Malay Restaurant at Robina

Day 4:

  • Tropical Fruit World
  • Cape Byron Lighthouse
  • Ashmore Road Seafood and steak

Day 5:

  • Pacific Fair shopping

Day 6:

  • Surfer’s Paradise
  • Mount Tambourine
  • Helensvale Plaza Shopping

Day 7:

  • Hyperdome Shopping
  • Mount Coot-tha

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