Strawberry Picking

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So anyways, we’re smack in the middle of the strawberry season. But isn’t it just the start of spring? Ah yes, but here on the Sunshine Coast our season runs from May through to October. The first strawberries begin appearing around Mother’s Day and come Melbourne Cup Day they’re gone.

Fun fact 1: Queensland supplies the winter production of strawberries for the rest of the country and most of them (about 85%) are grown here on the Sunshine Coast – although Bundaberg is now also growing strawberries and there are some producers even further up north on the Atherton Tablelands. 

We’re lucky – the strawberries that we buy at our weekly farmer’s market haven’t been anywhere near cold storage. They’re low on food miles and taste the way that strawberries are meant to taste. The way they never seem to taste in the city.

Fun fact 2: Strawberries have to be picked when they’re ripe. They won’t ripen any more once they’ve been picked.

Picking your own…

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There’s something about picking your own fruit though – and luckily, we have places where you can do that. What’s not to love? Some Vitamin D, the smell of warm strawberries all around, the promise of the freshest tastiest fruit and a strawberry icecream at the end of it.

Fun Fact 3: Technically the strawberry is not a berry, but a member of the rose family. Don’t say you don’t learn anything here!

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McMartin’s Farm

BLI BLI

After we finished picking we went for a bit of a stroll around to check out the views and see what else was growing.

Not only are the strawberries fabulous here, but the ice cream is next-level good. Made on premises it contains about 30% fruit – that’s a lot of fruit.

You can, of course, get a Devonshire tea here as well, but we stuck with the ice cream.

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There’s even a playground for the kids.

Open 7 days between June and October. Check the website for dates.

At the time of our visit it was $13 per kilo. You can get them cheaper at the markets, but it’s not nearly as much fun.

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Strawberry Fields

Palmview

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With picnic areas, lawns for the kids to run around, a farm shop and a café there’s more to do than pick strawberries – although that’s obviously what you go for.

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Open 7 days between June and November. Check the website for dates. At the time of our visit it was $14 per kilo. We picked 2kgs and I bought another 3 kgs of jam strawberries for $5.

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For more places where you can pick your own, check out this list.

Solar Nights at USC

 

University of Sunshine Coast (USC) has come alive with a trail of magical lights this Christmas.

A free event, it runs for 10 nights only – from 14-23 December 2018 and is fun for everyone.

There’s the rainforest walk…

The giant sticker wall…

And so much more to look at.

Oh, and all the displays were designed by USC staff…pretty cool, hey?

It’s not on for long, so if you’re on the coast, why not duck over for a look…6.30-9pm each night (weather permitting) at USC Sippy Downs – but only until December 23, 2018.

 

 

20 things to do on the Sunshine Coast this Spring

The birds and the sun are waking earlier and the days are getting longer. In a couple of weeks the rest of Australia will be winding their clocks forward for the start of daylight saving and those of us here in Queensland who work remotely back to Sydney each day will be cursing the time difference.

For those of you reading this on the other side of the world, Queensland (where I live) and Western Australia don’t do daylight saving – even though the rest of Australia does. It’s something to do with how the curtains will fade, the chooks will go off the lay, and the cow’s milk will dry up. Of course I’m being facetious, but you get the idea.

Anyways, it’s Spring – and it’s pretty close to perfect. The weather is fabulous, the ocean is bluer than blue and you can still get a carpark at the beach. Once summer hits, and brings with it heat, high humidity and summer holidays, it can be bedlam here.

To make sure I don’t miss one glorious minute, here’s what’s planned:

  1. Continue to walk the beach most weekday mornings.
  2. A road trip – we’re heading up to have a look at Bundaberg and Bargara. Bundy rum anyone?
  3. A romantic foodie weekend in Melbourne. Yes, I know, we’re leaving the sunny coast for a few days, but Melbourne is always a good idea.
  4. Hit the beach. Enough said.
  5. Fish and chips on the beach at sunset.
  6. Buy loads of mangoes and make yummy things with them – or buy loads of mangoes and eat them.
  7. Continue to buy, cook, and eat local produce. We’re spoilt for choice up here.
  8. Try the farmer’s market at Timari Village and Noosa.
  9. Plant a vegetable garden. I’m missing having herbs at the back door, so I’ll plant some. I also want to have a go at growing some more tropical plants – such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, galangal or lemongrass. As an aside, there’s a papaya tree growing on our verge.
  10. Chill out on a Friday night at one of the street food markets – Marcoola, Ocean St or Timari Village Market.
  11. Continue our search for the ultimate beer garden. The research is a bugger.
  12. Speaking of which, check out Copperhead Brewery at Cooroy and Rick’s Garage at Palmwoods.
  13. Add to my list of fabulous places for breakfast on the Sunshine Coast.
  14. Drop 8 kgs – see how I just snuck that one in? I need to lose about 30 kgs, so 8 will be a start.
  15. Do some of the walks in Noosa National Park before the heat and the summer people hit.
  16. Do more of the Point Cartwright to Caloundra walk – again before the heat hits.
  17. Fire up the barbecue (grill) and pizza oven and eat outside lots more.
  18. Get a good start on Christmas shopping at the arty markets around the coast eg Peregian Beach, Sunshine Coast Collective, Eumundi, Cotton Tree, or Caloundra Street Fair.
  19. Get an early morning photo of the boathouses along the Maroochy River.
  20. Make like a tourist (man, we are sooooo local these days) and do a Maroochy River or Noosa Everglades cruise.

 

Caloundra Street Fair

If you’re into street markets, this is a good one. Apparently it’s been voted best street market on the coast. I’m not sure about that, but it is certainly the largest. As an aside, I’m not counting Eumundi as a street market – it’s in a class all of its own…

Anyways, every Sunday – from 8am to 1pm – the main street of Caloundra is closed to traffic and 200 stalls move in selling everything from arts and crafts to produce to plants to clothes to fresh food to…you get the idea.

These were the biggest dream catchers I’ve ever seen!

I’ve seen some of the stalls at Eumundi, so if you’re staying around Caloundra and can’t make it up to Eumundi on Saturday, this is a good alternative.

If you’re after something to eat, there’s plenty of food on offer, and music while you eat it.

We chose instead to wander the couple of blocks down to Bulcock Beach and had fish and chips overlooking  Pumicestone Passage.

Bliss.

When?

Caloundra Street Markets are on every Sunday from 8am-1pm

Where?

Bulcock Street, Caloundra

Dog friendly?

Leashed only…

Parking?

There’s plenty around the side streets.

More information?

If you want more information, check out their website or stay up to date with their Facebook page.

 

Marcoola Night Markets

Ok, right at the outset I’m going to apologise for the photos in this post. We’re still a little too used to eating a tad later than is fashionable on the coast and as a result, it was pitch dark when we arrived. Plus, it’s winter.

I promise I’ll go back when the days are longer and the light is better. Besides, there are too many other stalls I want to try food from!

Having said that, this is a fabulously laid back way to put a full-stop under your working week.

From 4pm each Friday night a vacant block in the middle of town is transformed with fairy lights into an international food court…but in a very good way.

And the cuisines? Too many to mention.

We shared a serve of tempura crab

and then went with the naked souvlaki

and Mexican.

As for dessert? The sweet tooth in my family chose the oreos cheesecake. Yes, really.

As for seating, there’s a long table up the centre of the block that you can crowd around. Other than that, pack a picnic blanket and take your food into the park or onto the beach.

If, like us, you’re feeling that this night could only be more perfect if there were craft beers or a glass of wine to have with your food, then head across the road to Little Boat Cafe. Their bar is open on Friday evenings – but it’s bring your own food.

There’s music, a great family feel, and plenty of good food. In all, it’s a perfect way to end the week.

When?

Fridays 4pm – 8pm

Where?

10 Lorraine Ave, Marcoola

Parking?

Yeah, can be a challenge. Head to the side streets.

More information?

Their website is here, or keep up to date with their Facebook page.

Come fly with me…

It’s noisy up here, but through our helmets we can hear the chatter of firstly the Caloundra Air Controller and later the Sunshine Coast Control. The plane rises and falls gently as the wind catches her and moves her – and us – about. It’s as if we’re riding the swell of the wind.

Below us the ocean sparkles in the sunlight. We look for whales but can see none.

We’re flying in a Waco open cockpit biplane – and the experience is about as far from an economy seat on a Jetstar flight as it’s possible to get. It’s flying with the wind in your hair, flying when it was really special, flying with more than a touch of 1930s glamour. It’s flying with the birds.

This “bird” is beautiful – sleek and smooth. Rodney, our pilot, tells us that she’s affectionately named Marilyn – a blonde, curvy American. The seats are upholstered leather – like an armchair – and it’s much warmer and more comfortable than I thought it would be.

Before we took off Rodney pointed out the different indicators and the pedals on the floor – which we were told not to touch. He also showed us where the compartment was for the breakfast carrier, or sick bags, in case we needed them – which we didn’t. The original use for these would have been to carry a businessman’s lunch or flask, I suppose.

This joyflight was a combined birthday present for Miss 19 and I. We chose the Caloundra Classic to Mooloolaba flight – a route that took us along the beaches of Caloundra, up the coast and over the Mooloolaba Spit, and turning around at the Maroochy River mouth before heading back.

Although we didn’t choose the aerobatics package, along the way Rodney tossed in a couple of sharp turns and “wing overs” which were enough to get our hearts raising.

Take off and landing (an old fashioned grass landing) was smooth, and the flight itself fabulous – the coast really is even more beautiful from up high.

The verdict?

A nostalgic trip back to a time when flying was romantic – and a flight to remember. From up here we got great views of the Glasshouse Mountains, Bribie Island and the Pumicestone Passage, and, of course, the fabulous Sunshine Coast through to Maroochydore.

How much?

Flights are available from $298 – and best part is that 2 of you can go up for that price.

What about the knees?

I was worried about getting in and out of the seat – and of stepping on the wrong part of the wing and causing damage. I needn’t have been concerned. Even with my dodgy back and knees it was all ok – and they use a step ladder to climb up and in.

How squishy?

Yeah, it’s a tad squishy, but if you’ve flown Jetstar lately… Seriously though, I wouldn’t want to fly for hours like this, but it’s surprising how much legroom you have. I, however, needed a booster cushion to be able to see out.

Did we feel safe?

Completely so.

More information?

You can find more information here. Fighter Pilot Jet Flights run biplane scenic flights from Caloundra Airport and Brisbane.

Whale-watching with Whale One at Mooloolaba

 

There’s a flat part to the water – completely glass-like. It looks almost like an oil slick, but it isn’t. It’s a “footprint” left behind when a whale dives – as the up-thrust of it’s tail drives water to the surface.

See the footprint in the bottom right

It’s just one of the ways that we know there are whales around – another are the blows…and they’re all around us.

We’re on Whale One, about 11- 12 miles off the coast of Mooloolaba and we’re excited. In fact, even the crew is excited. Today is a good day – there are plenty of whales about and they’re having fun.

Miss 19 and I don’t have a great record with whale watching. We had 2 attempts in Kaikoura – both times the cruise was cancelled due to bad weather – and another off Auckland where we saw nothing nada zilch. It happens – and when it does, it’s best just to enjoy the sights and experience of the cruise.

This time we’ve timed (accidentally) our whale watch experience to coincide with the peak time of the Humpback whale’s northern migration – and these guys have energy to burn. Given that they won’t eat again until they’re back in Antarctica later in the year, they probably have more energy now than they will have on the return journey. I guess every road trip needs some fun, and this one – to the Barrier Reef and then back again – is longer than most.

Leaving from the Wharf at Mooloolaba, we cruised up the river – past some multi-million dollar properties – to where the river meets the ocean at the rock wall. On the way out we passed a trawler heading back in with their catch. ‘There’s plenty of them out there,’ the deckie called.

 

From here things got choppy – and more than a few people were pleased to have taken the precaution of sea-sickness tablets. Miss 19 and I, however, were completely unaffected. The crew kept coming around to check on everyone and hand out bags where required.

As we motored out to the main whale highway – an area anywhere between 8-12 miles off Mooloolaba – Shorty, our skipper told us more about the whales and their behaviours. Migaloo, the famed white whale, had been seen off North Stradbroke a day or so earlier and was rumoured to be in the area, so Shorty told us about the day he spent almost 3 hours with Migaloo back in the late 90’s.

At about the 10 mile mark we saw our first blow – and then another. From this point it just got better and better as we witnessed breach after breach and a couple of corkscrews. We even saw a rare double breach – where 2 whales came out of the water at the same time. Sadly I don’t have the photographic proof, but it was epic.

 

As we idled in the water – Shorty explaining how far we needed to stay from them to guarantee their safety and that of any newborns – the whales came to us. One went under the boat, surfacing on the other side so we all had a good look at her. I got so carried away with pointing and cheering that I couldn’t take photos. Thankfully Miss 19 took over and I have her to thank for all the pics in this post.

 

The pictures tell just a small part of what was a completely awesome and breathtaking experience. Just fabulous. Oh, and we didn’t catch up with Migaloo – although we did come across a gorgeous dappled (probably) female that got us awfully excited for a little while.

 

Want to know more?

Whale One runs two cruises a day during the peak whale-watching season – each lasting about 3 hours. They also have a speed boat – the Wild One – which gets you to the whales quicker. Those tours last 2 hours.

Don’t forget, whales are wild animals and as such their behaviour can’t be predicted – nor can sightings. The brochures might show breaches, but this sort of action isn’t guaranteed. Whale One has a very good strike rate – check out their Facebook page for the daily action – but even so, we got extremely lucky.

You can book cruises at their website.

 

Maleny Show

‘Ladies and gentlemen, you’ll need to go a long way before you see jumping as good as this.’

‘And look at the condition of the ground – you don’t get it better than this.’

‘No, you don’t – you’re in Maleny now. It’s doesn’t get any better than this.’

The ground announcers weren’t wrong – it doesn’t get much better than this.

Besides, what’s not to like about a show?

There’s food, and animals, and rides, and showbags, and ring events. There are also substances masquerading as food (dagwood dogs, I’m looking at you…) but we can forgive that. There’s the CWA tent, woodchopping, singers performing both kinds of music – country and western – showjumping, and so much more. Being a country show, you can even look at agricultural supplies and tractors – if you’re that way inclined.

We wandered through the vegetable displays, the baking, the art, and the fabulous produce that the schools on the Sunshine Coast are growing. There’s really something so wonderful about seeing the numbers of entries and the efforts the entrants have put into their offerings. I was, however, concerned that there were prizes given for the best chokos…my memories of them from childhood were not good!

We watched the judging of the dairy cattle, were crowded in the poultry shed, and sat and watched the showjumping while enjoying a fabulous lunch from the Mexican Cantina – the TS Jalopeno (supporting the Navy Cadets). This burrito bowl was more than I could eat, and was great value at $8. Yes, you heard that right. They even had little tables decorated. Very pleasant indeed.

Sure, you can blow a fortune on showbags and rides and crap food, but you can also have hours of fun for not a lot of money – and some really really good food as well. I wish that we’d seen the Black Angus Burgers earlier – and the swim club was selling roast dinners piled on plates for only about $12 (or was it $15?). I was also really tempted by the bahn mi and green papaya salad on offer at the Vietnamese food truck.

Anyways, Maleny Show is in its 80th year and it’s on again tomorrow Saturday June 3, 2017. Go to the show website for more information – and details about park and ride. There were big crowds there today and with tomorrow also forecast to be a cracker (weather wise) I suspect there’ll be even more people there tomorrow.

 

Mooloolaba Sea life…Underwater World

We’ve been coming to Sea life (or Underwater World, as we’ve always called it) since Miss 19 was Miss still in a pram. It’s become a tradition – one of the first things we had to do each time we came to the coast.

But it’s been a few years since we’ve been here and, well, the otters have gone – and I can’t seem to find out why. (If you know, please tell me).

Other than the missing otters, Underwater World still delivers.

There’s still the ocean glass tunnels with the massive gropers, rays and reef sharks.

There’s still the billabongs and the river zones, the seahorses and pacific reef. And there’s still the seals – watching their antics is worth the price of admission alone. Make sure that you time your visit for the twice daily shows.

The touch pool out the front is still a source of wonder for little kids, but at the moment it’s also serving as a nursery for a clutch of baby turtles. They’ll be grown in the aquarium until they’re 15cm long and have a fighting chance in the ocean (did you know that just 1 in 1000 sea turtles survives to maturity?). The turtles are tagged, released, and their travels tracked. With luck, they’ll survive to come back to the beach of their hatching to lay their own eggs – many years from now.

The jellyfish are also pretty incredible. Coincidentally, I heard a podcast only the day before we visited Underwater World that was talking about how jellyfish are both an early warning system on an ecosystem that’s failing – and the cause of a failing eco system getting substantially worse. They’re fabulously interestingly weird creatures – and extremely photogenic.

Worth a visit?

Absolutely. Buy your tickets online to save queues – particularly on weekends and at school holiday time.

Underwater World is also the perfect rainy day school holiday activity – not that it ever rains here on the Sunshine Coast…well, hardly ever…

Market update…and how to make chicken biryani

So yesterday we took ourselves off to Yandina Markets. I’d heard (and read) great things about this market and am sure we would have enjoyed it more if we were there to buy plants or look at bric-a-brac…but we weren’t. We were there for fresh produce.

I ended up buying some lovely young ginger and a bulb of garlic, and Miss T indulged in a donut, but we all voted to head back to Hinterland Harvest for our veggies.

Anyways, I’ll tell you more about Yandina next time.

dumplings…for breakfast…as you do.

Aside from dumplings for breakfast (yum), my star ingredient this week was a premixed Biryani spice mix from Di 4 Spice. You can find her on Facebook here.

Biryani is something we all enjoy – and that I especially love the next morning for brekky. With a fried egg on top, it’s a little like kedgeree, but with chicken.

Anyways, this spice mix was a great short-cut – I can’t wait to try some of the other mixes. Oh, if you want the original recipe, you’ll find it here.

What you need

300g (1 ½ cups) long grain rice. We use basmati as it’s lower GI

2 tbsp olive oil or rice bran oil. You can also use coconut oil if you like.

1 onion, finely sliced.

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

Diced chicken thighs- say 600-650g.

1 chopped birdseye chilli. We like it hot & left the seeds in. You might find the spice mix has enough heat for you.

1 ½ – 2 tablespoons biryani spice mix

200ml thick plain yoghurt

1 tsp sugar (I’m sugar free, so leave this out)

a handful of toasted slivered almonds…or cashews… to serve

1/3 cup roughly chopped coriander leaves to serve

What you do with it

  • Cook the rice in boiling salted water for 8 minutes, then drain and set aside. The rice will continue to cook later…
  • Heat the onion in a large frypan over medium heat, add the onion and cook for a few minutes until they soften.
  • Add the garlic, ginger and the spice mix and stir it all through.
  • Add the chicken and cook for about 3 minutes
  • Spoon in the yoghurt, stir it all through, then reduce the heat to very low.

  • Carefully spoon the rice on top of the sauce. Cover it with a (clean) tea towel, then place the lid on top. This sounds strange, but it keeps it all steaming nicely.

  • Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it sit for a further 10 minutes. Refrain from the temptation to take the lid off and have a peek- and smack his knuckles (softly, of course- we don’t tolerate violence of any sort here) when your husband tries to do that.
  • Remove the lid, add the nuts and half the coriander and stir well to combine.

  • Garnish with the remaining coriander.