After spending two incredible days on the Gold Coast, we hopped in our car drove an hour north to Brisbane. We checked into the Brisbane Marriott, which is located right in the heart of Brisbane and overlooks the Brisbane River, and set off to explore the city.
The first thing I wanted to do once we arrived in Brisbane was to visit the Brisbane Temple. When I served my mission in Brisbane 13 years ago, the second area I served in was the temple grounds. The temple had just finished being built and I had the opportunity to serve at the open house leading up to its dedication. Serving at the temple open house was one of the best experiences of my mission. I had some of my most spiritual experiences during that time and I loved having the opportunity to introduce people to the peace and serenity of the Lord's house. So, as you can assume, I was anxious to get back to the Brisbane temple and to show my husband and kids this place that meant so much to me as a missionary.
After walking the grounds and taking a bunch of pictures, we crossed the street to Kangaroo Point to see the views of the city. Then, we walked down the stairs of the cliff and walked along the river for a bit, until we were too hot and anxious to go swimming!
We drove over to South Bank to check out their incredible swimming spaces. At South Bank is Aquativity, an awesome splash pad that all 3 kids absolutely loved, a large pool, called the Boat Pool, and Streets Beach, a manmade beach right by the pools in the center of the city! And there is a large playground, shopping, and restaurants all around. And, as if it couldn't get any better, all of the aquatic spaces overlook the Brisbane River! Spectacular. If you ever find yourself in Brisbane, with or without kids, I highly recommend visiting South Beach! For lunch we hit up Guzman y Gomez, and it was exactly what this Mexican food-deprived mama needed!! It was really a fun day and a great introduction to Brisbane!
Our 8th day in Australia (essentially our last day since we just woke up and headed to the airport on day 9), was probably my favorite and our family's most memorable day from our whole trip. We were really worried because the forecast all week leading up to our last day had been predicting heavy rain. And that was the day we were planning on going to Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo. So, we woke up that last morning, ate breakfast, and then waited. We waited for the rain to come. And we were back and forth, back and forth, as to whether or not we should go. It was still looking clear by 8:00ish, which is when we were planning on heading up to the Sunshine Coast to get to the zoo by 9. We decided to just do it! We hopped in our car, stopped at a convenience store and bought 5 ponchos, and then made the scenic drive an hour north to Beerwah. By the time we arrived at the zoo, it was still . . . clear!!! In fact, it never rained once the entire day!!! The weather was absolutely perfect and we had the BEST DAY EVER. I am so glad we went! And that the weather predictions were totally wrong!
Here we are, super excited to go in and showing off our best kangaroo hops :)
Australia Zoo is full of hands-on experiences. Touching lizards, holding birds, petting crocodiles (!!), seeing emus, otters, koalas, kimodo dragons, and of course, feeding kangaroos! We had a blast seeing all the animals and watching the shows. The tiger show was UNBELIEVABLE. The birds and crocodiles were amazing to watch as well. And somewhat frightening! Those crocs are scary!! Besides feeding the kangaroos, my favorite part of the day was getting to hold a koala! So cuddly!!! It was really an unforgettable day. So amazing.
After leaving the zoo, we decided to drive up the Sunshine Coast a little further to see its infamous coastline. Australia is full of gorgeous beaches, and we couldn't leave without at least taking a glimpse at one of the Sunshine Coast's most beautiful beaches, Shelly Beach in Caloundra. We parked at a look-out point and caught some beautiful views before the sun went down.
Seeing this gorgeous beach was a perfect send-off to one of best trips we've ever taken! Australia, we love you!!!