Brisbane to Rainbow Beach….Almost

Our first official day of the road trip! As we mentioned in the last post we started slow, fighting a combination of rush hour, weekend and school holiday traffic getting out of the city. We didn’t care though we were finally on the road, windows down, music turned up, surf boards strapped to the roof, Australia was waiting to be explored! The benefit of traffic, you get to really take in all the sites when you’re only moving 40km’s an hour.

Traffic finally eased up as we made it further north out of the city, with only a little time travelling in Australia you can still really get the sense this is a land of extremes. It’s evident with every second vehicle being a fully decked out 4×4. A lift kit, bull bars, off road spot lights and a safari snorkel are just standard equipment here. It’s hard to believe driving through dense forests and wide open arid grasslands that flooding is such a huge concern, but there are metre sticks every few Km’s to let you know exactly how much water is on the road during extreme wet seasons. Cruising along in our little Toyota 4Runner we received what I can only assume was a “Toyota Wave”. Being Jeep owners back home this is a phenomenon that we thought only occurred with Jeep owners, but we got a approving head nod and a wave from a guy in an awesome late 70’s Land Cruiser “Troopy”.

Our goal for today was Rainbow Beach, only a few hours drive north of Brisbane, however with the heavy traffic and getting away late we ended up stopping just a little short of the beach. Carly’s aunt and uncle lent us a great travel book listing all the campgrounds and caravan park throughout Oz and we found one that sounded great just before Rainbow. We pulled off the highway onto a dirt road to reach Standown Caravan Park. I almost crashed the truck in excitement as a large red kangaroo jumped out onto the road a few hundred metres in front of us. My first proper wild kangaroo! I’ve seen many in zoo’s and sanctuaries but there is nothing like seeing animals in the wild, especially when it’s an animal you have spent your life dreaming of seeing in its own habitat. Australia and it’s creatures have filled my dreams since I was a little boy and it truly is a dream come true to be spending this time traveling the country. With all the time I spent reading and watching nature and travel shows on Oz it’s no real surprise that I ended up marrying an Australian!

With it getting dark we struggled a little setting up the giant tent Carly’s brother Luke had lent us, but we got it figured out eventually. The 6 man, two room tent is a little more complicated than the 2 minute set up of our 2 man Sierra Designs backpacking tent we use back home. After getting set up we went over to check out the facilities at Standown. What a great little spot! Originally opened as a Veterans retreat then expanded into a caravan park Standown has it all. The kitchen structure has BBQs, two convection ovens, a couple of fridges for cold storage, dishwashing sinks and a whole host of kitchen appliances to make life easy. There was also a fire pit and great toilet and shower facilities on site. We cooked up some chilli and introduced ourselves to the crew of people staying at the park. We met some great characters and heard some fantastic stories and got lots of trip advice from the seasoned Aussie travellers. After a couple of beers it was time for bed, When the sun goes down Australia comes to life! Kookaburras laugh, galahs and cockatoos screech in a futile effort to drown out the rainbow lorikeets. The crickets are incredibly loud and the sky fills with giant fruit bats who’s swooshing wing beats can be heard overhead. It’s a beautiful symphony of sound, that does make it a little tough to sleep at first but once you’re used to it the sounds of Australia’s bush birds and insects are an amazing way to fall asleep.

We were up with the sun, as it’s hard not to be in a tent, it’s HOT! We woke up and freaked out a little as we noticed a large croc head in the pond directly behind our tent. We then calmed as we realized it was a fake put in the decorative pond by the owners of the caravan park. We made coffees, broke camp and headed to Rainbow Beach for breakfast. A quick drive to the ocean where we set up in the shade and had a fantastic breakfast on the beach. After our meal we packed up and headed north, destination Agnes Water.

In our next post, we visit Agnes Water, the oddly named town of 1770, surfing and more!

Ewan & Carly

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Our Favourite Riviera Maya Beaches

Carly and I have been visiting Tulum and the surrounding areas of the Riviera Maya yearly for the past 4 years and have done our best to see as much as we can. There is so much to see and do I know we will be visiting this region for years to come. In today’s post we will share a small list of some of our favourite beaches in the area. There are many great spots to relax, swim and catch some rays but these top our list.

Beaches!

We’ll start with beaches as this is the reason most of us from colder climes visit this region of Mexico. You can find beautiful beaches from the hustle and bustle of Cancun all the way down to the quiet out-of-the-way town of Punta Allen on the southern tip of the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve. Our favourite beach on the Yucatan peninsula is Playa Paraiso, also referred to as Tulum Beach by some, though not to be confused by the beach at the ruins themselves.

Beach beers at Playa Tulum - Tulum Mexico

Beach beers at Playa Tulum – Tulum Mexico

Playa Paraiso

Playa Paraiso

This beach is ranked as one of the worlds best beaches and for good reason. Still a relatively undeveloped area (no big resorts, just small eco cabana rentals and a couple small hotels) Playa Paraiso is open to the public and has spectacular swimming, decent snorkelling and great views of the Ruins at Tulum. The reef right off shore used to be incredible but it is starting to die off in some places now. We have camped and or rented cabanas on this beach many times and love the laid back vibe. The tranquility of this area has made Playa Paraiso our “home” on many trips and it’s beauty will keep us coming back for years to come. Be sure to visit our friends Suds & Luca, they run the beach bar at Zazil Kin. Beers are $25 pesos and happy hour (which seems to be all day everyday) means 2 cocktails for $60 pesos. The boys are fantastic, local and will happily introduce you to some of the local characters like Papy Pirata! Be sure to try the Caipirinhas! Quiet by day, great fresh seafood right on the beach and opportunities for night life of nearby Tulum it simply can’t be beat. For the adventurous or those travelling on a backpackers budget accommodations can be found along the beach ranging from $50 pesos per night for tent sites at Mariachi, to hotel rooms that can run as much as $800 or $900 pesos. We usually stay in the palm thatched cabanas at Mariachi or Zazil Kin for around $300 – $450 pesos a night depending on the time of year.

Us with the gang at Zazil Kin - Tulum

Us with the gang at Zazil Kin – Tulum

Now if Playa Paraiso is still not quiet enough for you and you have a vehicle (4×4 is recommended) you can visit what we refer to as “our beach” as we have no idea what its actual name is and we have never really seen anyone else on it save a few local spear fishermen who simply say it’s a beach. If you head south from Tulum on the road to Punta Allen you will pass through Boca Pila then into the Sian Ka’an reserve. The road is never great but this trip was a whole new level of adventure! When we stopped at the gate to pay the entrance fee ($28 pesos per person) the guy at the post said “mucho agua” now I had heard this before and usually it meant a lot of puddles….. this really was MUCHO AGUA! Glad we had the Jeep Wrangler!

The "road" to Punta Allen! It's a Jeep thing!

The “road” to Punta Allen! It’s a Jeep thing!

Topes is spanish of speed bump! Kind of a moot point

Topes is spanish of speed bump! Kind of a moot point

The beach we visit on this road is about 15km into the reserve, you will see a windmill running wind power for a little eco resort and the beach will be visible on the left. This is roughly a mile if not more of white sand, crystal caribbean ocean and no one in sight, absolute paradise! Here are two pictures for you, the first a neat effect from a panoramic shot I took with my iPhone, the second a “had to be done” KCCO shot for our pals at The Chive!

A neat effect from a panoramic shot of the beach past Boca Pila

A neat effect from a panoramic shot of the beach past Boca Pila

KCCO from our Mexican wedding!

KCCO from our Mexican wedding!

If you continue to the end of the road after a swim you will reach the small fishing village of Punta Allen. It’s a quiet little town with some great restaurants and opportunities for amazing fishing tours, mangrove tours and if you’re lucky you may spot crocs, manatees, tapirs and tons of birds! I actually proposed to Carly on the beach at Punta Allen making the beach there another of our favourites for obvious reasons.

On this excursion we took our nephew with us to body surf and got really lucky and were able to watch a crocodile hunting fish in a channel right before town.

Body surfing at Boca Pila in the Sian Ka'an

Body surfing at Boca Pila in the Sian Ka’an

Last but certainly not least, if it’s snorkelling you’re after head north to Akumal. There are some great opportunities right off shore or if you hire a guide you can get out to turtle reef (not just a clever name). I love the ocean and all its creatures but there is something special about being in the water with sea turtles, and this area never disappoints. There is also Akumal beach which is lovely and again a lot quieter than the beaches in Canun or Playa Del Carmen.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section of fire away on Twitter and we would be happy to answer them for you. We will be back shortly with our next post on some of the other great sites and attractions in the area. Chat soon EW.