Roma Street Parklands, Brisbane.

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In Brisbane we are blessed with so many beautiful gardens and Roma Street Parklands which is no exception is an oasis in the middle of a busy vibrant city.

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This oasis in the heart of Brisbane with spectacular subtropical plant displays, sweeping vistas and unique artwork, Roma Street Parkland is the perfect place to go exploring – and it is only a short walk from Brisbane’s CBD.

The Parklands which is set on old Queensland railway land has been carefully developed into a very attractive and well manicured parkland that would scarcely betray its former use.

The Parkland is extensive with lovely gardens, a lake and a rainforest area. There are also excellent children’s play areas.

Join one of the leisurely and informative guided walks leaving from The Hub twice daily to experience these beautifully designed and meticulously kept grounds. There are many different sections and themes, fantastic waterways and features, flowers, native and imported, rainforest, water dragons in abundance. The walks are undulating so be prepared for short uphill sections. I could roam and enjoy this parkland for hours, And… It is free!

Or maybe for a Gold coin donation, hop onto the Parkland Explorer, the trackless train for an exciting journey through the parkland’s misty fern groves, past rocky peninsulas and the Lakeside Meadow. This little train operates between 10 and 12.30 each day with its drivers and conductors who are regular volunteers of the Parklands.

The parkland provides well-maintained picnic spts and free electric barbecues so you can prepare your own food. There is also a casual restaurant which you will find between the parking area and park.

There are two playgrounds designed for children of all ages, one at the Children’s Garden and the other along Weeping Fig Avenue.

We drove in to the Parklands as there is plenty of on street pay parking however it is easy enough to walk from the city or the Roma Street train station.

The ground staff and volunteers at Roma Street Parklands are to be congratulated for putting such a wonderful space together. It brings happiness and joy to all who visit. Well Done. Roma Street Parkland is open seven days a week.

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The Many Faces of New Farm, Qld

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Only about 2 kilometers east of Brisbane CBD on a large bend of the Brisbane River is the very diverse and fascinating inner northern riverside suburb of New Farm.  New Farm is partly surrounded by the Brisbane River, with land access from the north-west through Fortitude Valley and from the north through  Newstead.

Although I live on the south side of Brisbane I travel in to New Farm at least twice a week. I volunteer at the New Farm RSPCA OP shop each Tuesday which I have been doing now for 5 years and enjoy it so much. I love the interaction that I have with my regular Tuesday customers. The clientele is so very diverse both in age groups and backgrounds. Some folks shop here because they are passionate about helping the animals, some shop for the amazing bargains, others come for the fabulous things they can purchase and lots come for the wonderful up market clothing that we sell. I am so proud to say that we have so many generous folks donating regularly.

I also drive in on Sundays to attend my lovely church service at Mt Michaels All Angels Anglican church and catch up with my friends. This always is an amazing morning out for me and my doggie, Buddy.

Brisbane’s inner-north riverside New Farm strikes that wonderful balance between waterfront luxury and beauty, leafy greenery and big parks, and local drinking and dining fun.

The architecture is as diverse as its residents.  Here you will find timber boarding houses that were built many decades ago alongside multimillion dollar houses and apartments. The local shopping also reflects the same type of diversity. The vibe is always electric which really suits the magical Brisbane weather, all year round.

 New Farm encourages an outdoor lifestyle, with tree-lined streets and unique spaces such as Brisbane Powerhouse and the heart of the suburb, New Farm Park.  New Farm Park is one of Brisbane’s oldest, grandest and largest parks. The 37-acre park is popular spot with local families and friends who gather on weekends to relax, picnic, barbecue, kick a ball and catch up beneath the trees or in the open fields. The city-owned park often has free live music events in the rotunda and other special events throughout the year. The park is by the river just two stops by boat from the city centre.  It is a totally green park full of grass, rose gardens, flowers and trees that offers a playground, a picnic area, walking and bike routes and relaxing benches.

The variety and list of things you can do here in New Farm is long and if one puts on their thinking cap you will soon realize there is much more than I can think of right now. These include, picnics in the park, visit the Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre, visit the farmers markets each Saturday morning, shop up a storm at James Street indoor markets, check out some of the area’s best bars and restaurants, stop for a coffee any time of the day or night, walk or ride a bike along riverside boardwalk, cycle your heart out along the river cycle way, shop till you drop at any of the up market boutiques, take a free ferry ride across the river to Bulimba or into the city and, my favourite activity is to take a city cat (catamaran) up or down the Brisbane River.

New Farm has it all and suits any one of us no matter how young or old we are. 

If you are in Brisbane, do yourself a favour and spend time here in this amazing inner city area.

Lockyer Valley, Qld, Australia

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Reasonably early on a magnificent winters day we headed west from Brisbane for the 60 minute 70 K’s drive towards the Lockyer Valley. Nestled at the foot of the Great Dividing Range, the Lockyer Valley is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy interesting places, clean open spaces and a variety of activities. It is a region rich with a laid-back atmosphere and stunning valley views with the perfect mix of town and country living. The Lockyer Valley is an area of rich farmlands and is rated among the top ten most fertile farming areas in the world, and the intensively cultivated area grows the most diverse range of commercial fruit and vegetables of any area in Australia. The valley is referred to as “Australia’s Salad Bowl” to describe the area as one of Australia’s premium food bowls.

Upon arriving in the valley, our first destination was a little place called Just Geraniums and my main reason for this day trip, as I adore geraniums.

After journeying through the Lockyer Valley towards Laidley we came to our turn off to Mt Berryman. We travelled up Mt Berryman Road for about 6 k’s. The sign at the bottom advised that the road was not suitable for large vehicles however our coach driver assured us that he had driven this road many times. It was steep and exciting but no one was concerned as we were so taken in by the lovely views as we climbed higher. 

The coach driver did a fabulous job making sure that everyone and the bus were safe. We then drove along the mountain ridge for another few kilometers till we reached a sign that said “Just Geraniums.

Although small, this delightful little business with its old Queensland farm house, and situated high on the mountain was an absolute joy. It was an incredibly windy day however this did not stop our eagerness to see, touch and buy geraniums. We wandered around while morning tea was served. It was a challenge just to keep the cream from blowing off the freshly baked scones but it was fun. Many of us left with our new purchases of many different types and colours of geraniums.

From Mt Berryman we travelled back down the mountain towards Gatton, a rural town in the heart of the Lockyer Valler,  where we stopped at the Royal Hotel for our lunch and a glass or 2 of local wines.

A visit to the Lockyer Valley, whether for a day, a weekend or longer is a wonderful escape. There is so much to do including exploring markets, galleries and restaurants, plus hot air ballooning, bird watching and visiting stunning national parks.

There are many fabulous boutique accommodation properties also on offer in the area.

Angourie, NSW. Australia

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After leaving Yamba, we drove south towards Angourie, stopping at beaches and lookouts along the way. Though it is not technically in Yamba, the quiet coastal village of Angourie, is just an eight-minute drive from town and is well worth a visit.

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Our first stop was the northernmost of Angourie’s trio of heavenly headlands, Green Point. Here the views looking both south and north were breathtaking. Green Point is a perfect spot to watch the sun and the moonrise, to watch whales lurch around the corner from Angourie headland, and to watch the local dolphins playing in the ocean below. Though there are no showers or toilets here, there is modest parking and a beautiful sandstone paver track leading from the car park to the small platform overlooking stunning Green Point.

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Angourie has so much to offer, beautiful beaches, surfing, swimming, rock pools, hiking, and fishing.

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We drove a few more minutes to Angourie Point which holds a special place in the big beating heart of Australian Surfing. While the beach and rocky headland are stunning, the waves are fierce, and there’s a 150m rock shelf known as “Life or Death”!   Definitely not a beginner’s surfing area!

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Angourie Point is one of the best right-hand point breaks in Australia. If the surf is off, there are coastal hikes in the national park beside the break. This area marks the start of Yuraygir National Park.

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Angourie Point is where we reached the end of the road. From here there is a path that you can take that leads through to the very well-known Blue and Green pools of Angourie. We did not take the path this time as it was way past our lunch time so after enjoying the amazing views of Angourie Point we headed over to Café Angourie where we stopped for lunch.

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We had planned to have lunch at the Hotel Pacific in Yamba however due to circumstances we dined at Café Angourie. This sensational café with amazing ambience offered a wonderful lunch of outstanding fresh, delicious and local cuisine. We all could not agree more how delighted we were that we ended up enjoying our lunch at this little café at the end of the road.

I have no doubt that we will be back.

Yamba at the mouth of the Clarence River, NSW

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Just across the river from Iluka is the township of Yamba. Yamba is located at the mouth of the Clarence River on the southern side. It is about a 3.5-hour drive from Brisbane.

From Woombah we drove around to Yamba via the Pacific Hwy and then along the Clarence River, which took about 25 mins. Sometimes we go across the river in the boat and you can also take the local ferry across from Iluka.

Our main reason for this visit to Yamba was to have lunch at the Pacific Hotel before doing a spot of shopping.

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The Pacific Hotel Yamba is etched in to the escarpment of the headland by the river and provides the best views of the Pacific Ocean in Australia. This experience is one to be remembered. From the moment we stepped inside this charming old hotel the 180 degree views took our breaths away. Mind you, I have been to the Pacific Hotel many times over the past few decades and I never tire of these magnificent views.

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Upon arrival, we needed to partake in all the Covid rules etc including signing in with the app, showing id’s and then being provided with wrist bands. Then we were advised that there was a waiting time of who knows how long before there would be a table available. We decided we could come back another time and left to find somewhere else to eat. So before departing  I took a few photos of these gorgeous views.

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What a great decision. We found a fantastic little café in Angourie.

Along the way to Angourie we stopped at several of Yamba’s world famous perfect beaches. With five options to choose from, Yamba has a beach to suit everyone; Main Beach, Whiting Beach, Pippi Beach, Convent Beach and Turners Beach

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After our wonderful lunch there was enough time for us to return to Yamba to do some great shopping in the the local shopping centre.

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With mild Winters and long, temperate Summers, Yamba is a perfect escape all year round. There are parks beside the river for picnics, a good golf course and walks to local landmarks, like the Yamba Lighthouse and the 1934-built Pacific Hotel. The town is built around a national park, too, and humpback whales put on breaching shows just off-shore during their annual migration between May and November.

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Twenty years ago, if you were looking for a laid-back beach holiday in New South Wales, Byron Bay was your best bet. But with Byron Bay becoming increasingly overcrowded and overpriced, many have started to declare Yamba, 120 kilometres to the south, ‘the new Byron’. To me, it will always be  ‘ Yamba’.

Iluka – Aboriginal word meaning “near the sea”

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I often drive from Brisbane in Qld, down south to Coffs Harbour which is on the NSW mid north coast.  A good trip usually takes me about 4 ¼ hours of driving which is getting better with the constant upgrading of the Pacific Hwy. I am fortunate enough to have a break along the way with my brother and sister in law who live in the little village of Woombah which is just off the highway in the Northern Rivers of NSW on the Clarence River.

When I stay for a few days in Woombah, we always make a point of driving in to Iluka, a sleepy and charming fishing village and “get away from it all” holiday destination at the mouth of the Clarence River. Iluka is sitting in between kilometres of empty beaches and UNESCO World Heritage-listed rainforest, this charming little fishing village is the ultimate beach retreat.

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Coast Guard beach at the mouth of the Clarence River

We usually take our puppy dogs for a visit to coast guard beach in Iluka. This beach is right at the mouth of the river, is safe and doggie friendly and is always clean, clear and beautiful with views across the river over to Yamba.

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Looking across the Clarence River to Yamba

 

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After some time with the doggies running around on the sand and in the water, we then usually call in to the Clarence River Fishermen’s Co-op on Queen Street where we pick up the freshest and best locally caught prawns, local fish, chips, etc and head up to the North Arm of the river to enjoy our seafood lunch by the river. It is always so peaceful and inviting. Mind you, we do know when the right days are to go, which are not in school holidays nor long weekends when the crowds arrive.

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This sleepy little village, although not big on night life or in fact even restaurants, still has much to offer thanks to Mother Nature.  Boating, fishing and surfing are very popular here for both locals and visitors from NSW and Qld.  You can hire kayaks and stand-up paddle boards and explore the river or take scenic cruises with the local ferry service.

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North Arm of the river

 

And if you feel like a bush walk, there is plenty on offer. Iluka is home to NSW’s largest remaining seaside rainforest, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. The Bundjalung National Park stretches along the coast from Iluka to Evans Head. It covers 18,000 hectares, 38 km of beaches and ranges from rainforest through heathland, coastal cypress stands, lagoons and wetlands to coastal plains. The park is home to 205 bird, 30 mammal, 38 reptile and 13 amphibian species

I always come away from here feeling good, refreshed and happy after several days of spontaneous  fun.

White Pass Railway from Fraser to Skagway

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When I was booking our cruise from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska, I knew that the excursion that I wanted to do from Skagway was the coach trip up to Fraser and then the White Pass railway from Fraser back to Skagway.

It was not just for the scenery (which was incredible) it was also for the history. We booked this bus tour and train ride with Chilkoots Charters and Tours.

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After disembarking from the ship we were directed to the waiting area where the bus would pick us up. It was not a long wait at all and the coach trip was fantastic. We had a fun, interesting and helpful coach driver who made sure that we had the best time.

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We stopped many times along the way for wonderful photo opportunities and passed by many lakes. We stopped for lunch at Cariboo crossing. We then spent time at Carcross before heading to Fraser where we connected with the Scenic train for our wonderful train trip back to Skagway.

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This excellent tour with amazing views was Spectacular. Heralded as one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world, this trip did not disappoint me. We experienced the spectacular views of the unbelievable trail that early gold rushers made by foot to the gold fields in the Yukon.

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The train ride down was thrilling. Perhaps it was better that you could not always see how close you were to the edges of the mountains or the river passes so far below. The two tunnels and wooden overpasses are stunning and a feat of engineering you can not imagine, given when they were built.

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The joys of the excursion are many: including riding a heritage train, beautiful scenery, and lots of frontier history. There are gorgeous photo opportunities at every bend in the tracks. Each train car has a toilet at one end and complimentary water at the other. I spent a good part of the train trip down to Skagway standing on some of the outside platforms enjoying the stunning views and taking dozens of photos. It was just the most fun day.

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This spectacular railroad was built thanks to the Klondike Gold Rush as a means of getting prospectors to the goldfields. With its completion in 1900, the train served commercial interests until 1982. Apparently its narrow-gauge track was necessary due to the steep grade of the slope and very tight corners. The railroad later reopened as a heritage railway, which now services tourists and tourists only. The trip is so fun and the vistas so stunning that it is hard to keep in mind all who died traversing White Pass (or Dead Horse Trail as it is also known).

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We arrived back in Skagway about 5pm giving me enough time to pop in to the Bonanza Bar and Grill for a glass of vino and use of their Wi-Fi.

This amazing day, with the coach trip up the mountains, the spectacular train ride with its glorious views and the many stops along the way was just outstanding. For me, it was Unforgettable.

 

Next Stop – Juneau, Alaska

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After a tremendous stop in Ketchikan our next port of call was Juneau. Juneau which is sandwiched between the mountain ranges and the Pacific Ocean and with no road access to,  is the only state capital in the United States that can only be reached by airplane or boat. Alaska’s state capital is also one of its most beautiful cities and one of the most visited communities in the state. With so much to see and do, and just the one full day in port we chose to take one of the whale watching tours and also to visit the Mendenhall Glacier.20200630_091730

As the capital of the US State of Alsaka, you may expect Juneau to be a metropolis of a city. However, this historic town has much to offer in terms of history. A mix of old and new, the main hub is the waterfront where there were cruise ships, fishing boats and the occasional sea plane. The city centre has a variety of different things to see and do, however the main reason people choose to visit Juneau, is for the amazing natural scenery and abundant wildlife.

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Juneau is rated one of the best whale watching spots in the world which made my decision very easy to sign up for a whale watching experience. I have been fortunate enough to partake in whale watching in several areas in Australia but Juneau offered another level of excitement. The nutritionally rich food that comes from the glaciers offers a smorgasbord of foods for the whales. Over 500 humpback whales make their way to Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage which is their home during the summer months. The whales breaching not far from our boat was truly magical.  We watched them flipping and breaching.  As I was standing on the deck of the boat beside a guy with a very colourful camera, a hummingbird appeared and hovered for several seconds at the guy’s camera. This was my  first and only time of seeing a hummingbird in real life and it was memorable.

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Less than half an hour from the centre of Juneau is Alaska’s most accessible glacier, The Mendenhall Glacier is fed by an ice field high above Juneau. We caught the shuttle from the whale watching to the glacier. Mendenhall Glacier is immense; photos do not give its majestic size a description worthy of its enormity. There is a visitor centre with a theater showing a 15-minute film on Mendenhall Glacier, a bookstore operated by nonprofit organization Discovery Southeast, and exhibits on wildlife, history, and glacial and geological changes. Rangers provide talks at various indoor and outdoor sites in summer.

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After taking the shuttle from the glacier back to town, I had time for a couple of vinos and email catch up using wi fi at the Triangle Club bar before returning to the ship.

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More than just seeing a new city, a trip for me to Juneau meant doing things that would seem unfathomable back home.

 

 

Ketchikan – the Salmon Capital of the World

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Ketchikan, a town like no other, dates back to the 1880’s when a man named Snow built a salmon saltery here and a fishing village was born.

Set at the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s famed Inside Passage—a network of waterways that snake through some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful wilderness in the world—Ketchikan is best known for three things: feisty salmon, idyllic scenery, and an incredibly rich Alaska Native culture.

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Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s “first city” due to its location at the southern tip of the Inside Passage – it is the first city we reached on our cruise north from Vancouver, and our first introduction to the beauty and magnificence of Alaska.

 

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Once on land, we had so many activities to choose from including a visit to the Totem Heritage Center, fishing for salmon, exploring the many eclectic mix of stores, and a stroll along the Creek Street boardwalk plus many more.  There is a certain charm to Ketchikan, due to its wealth of native culture, colourfully displayed in an amazing collection of totem poles, and its diverse attractions and activities.

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Totem Heritage Centre

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We wandered along its famous Creek Street where we discovered its local wildlife including the swarms of salmon that make their way up stream through the summer.  This area around Creek Street is now a heritage zone but once it was the town’s infamous red light district.

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For 5 months of the year, Ketchikan goes crazy with the many cruise ships docking every day. The number one thing to do in the Salmon capital of the world is fish for Salmon where there are all 5 different types of Pacific Ocean salmon.

We wandered around many of the great local shops which were once wonderful houses in the area. Here I purchased several great Alaskan gifts that were surprisingly very reasonably priced.

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It was interesting to read the history of the area and about the characters who lived and worked there. Dolly’s House is particularly interesting as was Dolly.  A well maintained house of a prostitute, named “DOLLY” who lived many years ago. It has many interesting tales connected to Dolly who lived their till she was 72 years. This place is on Creek Street. I was intrigued by the diverse history of Creek Street

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After a very full and fun day which included a bus trip to the Totem Heritage Centre, shopping in many of the interesting stores on the waterfront and a visit to Creek Street, we boarded our ship to continue our cruise north and on to Juneau.

 

 

 

Brisbane’s Fairy Tale Bridge

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From the time I arrived in Brisbane over 30 years ago, I have had a fascination with the Story Bridge, or what I call it, The Fairy Tale Bridge.

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The Story Bridge is a heritage listed steel cantilever bridge  spanning the Brisbane River, that carries vehicles, bicycles and pedestrian traffic between the northern and the southern suburbs of Brisbane.

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This week the Story Bridge celebrates its 80th birthday. The premier iconic bridge opened in 1940 after 5 years of construction making it the 2nd largest cantilever bridge in Australia after the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  The bridge was named after Brisbane’s longest serving public servant – John Douglas Story. The road across the bridge is named Bradfield Highway. The bridge connects Fortitude Valley and Kangaroo Point.

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Each week, I drive across this fabulous bridge at least 4 times.  I need to cross it on Sundays when I attend church in New Farm and then again on Tuesdays when I volunteer at the RSPCA OP shop in New Farm.

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Other times, when I am heading in to the city, I will take the local bus from my home to Southbank where I will hop on a city cat to cross the river to the city. This is always my choice of travel as I get to see this great bridge from the river.

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Whenever I have International visitors or even visitors from Australia, I love to take them on a cruise down the Brisbane River on a city cat so they can see the Story Bridge. This fairy tale bridge delights me every time and especially at night when it is all lit up. Typically each lighting display on the bridge is to commemorate a special day in history, raise awareness for charities and showcase upcoming events. Some past displays have been in support of Christmas, Cancer Council Queensland’s Daffodil Day, Braveheart’s White Balloon Day and New Year’s Eve. At the weekend, the bridge wass lit up in red, white and blue lights in honour of American Independence Day.

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One of the must do’s for many locals and visitors to Brisbane is the Story Bridge climb. Apparently, climbing this iconic structure is the best way to see Brisbane. This exceptional experience offers a unique perspective of the city and its surrounds, from the Glass House Mountains in the north to Moreton Bay in the east and stretching towards the Scenic Rim Mountains in the south, along with the best views of the Brisbane skyline and its surrounds.

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For locals and visitors, a drive over the Story bridge is a special experience however if you have the time to walk over it, the views up and down the river are spectacular.  For me, the best way to see it, is from the river; you will not be disappointed. I usually take the river cat down the river, under the bridge, I hop off at one of the many wharves for coffee, or lunch or dinner and then I cruise back up the river where I get to see it all again.

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