Things I’m loving on the Fraser Coast – February 2018

I’ve been ridiculously slack on the blogging front here – despite having planned to write about some great experiences I’ve had over the past few months.

What is it they say in the ad on TV? Life’s v.busy? (Or is it v.messy?) Whatever…

Instead I thought I’d try to regularly share a few snippets of the stuff I’ve been getting up to / enjoying, OR… (more importantly cos I’m hermit-like, lazy and sometimes hate being around people), stuff I hear about.

Massage therapy

I walked out of Complete Wellness Holistic Therapy  yesterday and was only capable of sending a group of friends the très eloquent message, O. M. F. G.

I’d had my second massage with Gabby – the first being a gift from a friend for my recent birthday – and I was floating on air. She’s amazing. She achieves that balance between a massage being therapeutic and pampering (ie. I’m not in excruciating pain, but she hits the sore spots and equally makes me feel blissed-out). She also helps me relax with breathing exercises and finishes with a singing bowl thingy that is just magic and leaves me a little tingly… and no, not in THAT way, but in a ‘life is good’ kinda way.

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I never want the bliss massage to finish so plan my next one as I lie there getting my back and shoulders unknotted!

Cruising

I spent almost 5yrs back on the Fraser Coast before heading out on the water. In a boat. (And longer by foot, but that’s another story). A friend held her 40th birthday party on Whalesong Cruises last winter and the champagne and sunset cruise was a magical experience. We received a drink on arrival (and can buy more obviously) and A LOT of delicious food is included in the price. Like LOTS. I’m coeliac and they had an entire array of stuff especially for me.

Fast forward a few months and I went whale watching with my local bestie and godson. Obviously there are a plethora of options here in Hervey Bay, so we based our choice on price and the fact we really only wanted a half-day cruise in case the just-turned-6yr old got bored. We went with Hervey Bay Whale Watch (which offers a ‘locals’ discount) and had a great day. The crew were fabulous with 6yr old birthday boy Pickle and let him hang about in the captain’s cabin. A basic morning tea was served and other snacks and drinks were able to be purchased.

And then…. I hosted friends aboard a champagne and sunset cruise for my 50th birthday just after Christmas. Because I wanted to book the entire boat, have limited friends and budget, and had heard great things about their catamaran I went with Blue Dolphin Tours. Jodie and Peter were fabulous (& flexible) as I was nervous about the weather and so forth. The cruise is basically the same price as Whalesong, though there’s less distance travelled – you cruise for a while and then are moored somewhere between Hervey Bay and Fraser Island. The nibbles are fairly basic but guests are offered ‘unlimited’ alcohol. Which was perfect for the 90minute cruise. It’s certainly one of the best days of my life and one of my favourite experiences. EVER.

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Cafes and restaurants galore

The Dock Bar & Restaurant opened a while ago now and I had THREE events there over the Christmas period. I love the atmosphere and it’s a great plate-sharing / tapas type venue.

Everyone I know who enjoys healthy food has fallen in love with The Front Room. Offering vegan and organic food it’s perfectly located on the Esplanade in Torquay and is an acai-bowl / raw pizza-lovers delight.

Close friends of mine visited the new (Friday and Saturday night) Taco & Tequila Bar at EAT at Dan & Steph’s this past weekend and couldn’t have loved it more. They’re foodies and from all accounts the food and drinks on offer were fabulous.

I’ve not been there yet but am desperate to go to Alowishus Delicious in Maryborough just because it looks so BLOODY amazing. Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 11.20.35

Mary Ryan’s bookstore – more than a bookshop

I interviewed Cate Akaveka – owner of Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay – a while ago, and she’s a friend of mine. Since that interview, Mary Ryan’s has moved to the esplanade and certainly has taken on a whole different vibe. I suspect they’ve kept a lot of their old customer base but gained more.

As I said in that interview, I love that Mary Ryan’s host a range of events. A friend and I recently attended one of their monthly Philosophy & Coffee sessions (discussing whether ‘romance had ruined love’) and were gobsmacked that there were so many of us (like 30 or so) that we had to break into two groups. It was a fabulously mixed / eclectic bunch and everyone in my group talked about how much they enjoyed ‘deeper’ and more philosophical conversations.

And, as Valentine’s Day was approaching the team at Mary Ryan’s set up a tower of love. Basically it allowed you to go in and buy a book for someone (which they wrapped) and on V.Day, the store messaged the recipient to tell them there was a book there awaiting them. I bought a couple for my godson to leave there and my bestie bought one for me – though it was officially from a ‘secret admirer’. (Of course I have so many I hardly knew WHO it could possibly be!)

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Phew. This has actually been much longer than I intended it to be…. I think I’ll try to make this a monthly thing. Like a newsletter, except in blog post form.

PS. Apologies for the crap pictures. They’re all from Instagram / Facebook and attributed appropriately (as far as possible). I’ve also included website / Facebook links to the places I’ve talked about.

I’d welcome any comments…. massage therapists you’d recommend, places to eat and so forth. 

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Review: Oriental Palace

Interestingly the thing I miss most since my seachange to Hervey Bay isn’t the Brisbane nightlife or social scene. It’s not the shopping or the array of cultural activities. It’s takeaway food options!

I must first confess though that although I’ve whinged about this for two years I’m still only just getting around to trying some new places.

After writing about this very issue in my ‘other’ blog last August I had a range of recommendations about Fraser Coast options… but most pointed me in the direction of  Oriental Palace in Scarness.

We had a few false starts as my friends and I rocked up one Sunday lunch only to discover the restaurant only opens at night. (A bummer as I actually eat out more at lunchtime than dinner!)

However, two weeks ago we finally made it. And enjoyed the experience.

Oriental Palace offers Chinese and Malaysian cuisine. I’m coeliac so offered to go it alone and order my own gluten-free dish; allowing my friends to choose whatever they wanted. However, they kindly agreed to both order from the GF menu so I would be able to try a few different dishes.

Happily, being coeliac is NOT an issue at the Oriental Palace. Rather than a blank look the waitress knew exactly what I needed and disappeared, bringing back a menu with GF options clearly marked. (She had spares, so let me bring one home for takeaway-ordering purposes.)

None of the entrees are GF, which isn’t unusual and my friends decided to forgo them anyway and nibbled on the vege chips provided while we sipped our drinks and gossiped discussed important social issues.

We went for the: Chicken with cashew nuts & vegetables; Chilli beef & vegetables; and Cha-Kueh-Tiao (Malaysian Flat Rice Noodles (which comes with a range of meats).

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Chilli beef & vegetables

Service was very speedy and we agreed all three dishes tasted really fresh and healthy, although the Chilli beef won out on taste.

The other two dishes were a teensy bit bland… but I suspect the chef had to eliminate  sauces because of the whole gluten thing. It’s something I’m accustomed to but my friends asked for some soy sauce and I think that helped.

Cha-Kueh-Tiao

Cha-Kueh-Tiao

Some choices I would have liked to have tried weren’t available gluten-free which is a tad disappointing. Many sauces (oyster, soy, black bean etc) aren’t necessarily gluten-free but you can buy GF brands. Understandably though, most places have their own preferences and probably can’t just use Masterfoods / Chang’s when they’re accustomed to Kikkoman’s. Or similar. 🙂

So, while my old fave Brisbane haunt still holds a place in my heart, I’m pleased to have discovered Oriental Palace. We caught wafts of sizzling beef, Laksas  and Mongolian lamb and the like and I suspect my dining companions opt for those next time they visit. I certainly would, if I could!

Oriental Palace 352 Esplanade, Scarness is open Tuesday – Sunday evening from 5pm. Most meat-based dishes are around the $20 mark and it’s BYO and licensed. Check them out on Facebook or call on 07 4128 3496.

Too much of a good thing?

The inaugural Hervey Bay Food and Wine Festival took place on the weekend – a two-day event held in the Pier Park at Urangan.

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I was keen to attend (as I live near the Pier Park where it was held) but prevaricated a little. On one hand I like to try to support local events and – well… wine, music and food – what’s not to love? On the other hand, I’m a bit festivalled-out.

I gather (from talking to friends and family) that others feel the same. There have been A LOT of big events packed into the last six or so months here on the Fraser Coast: Relish, Mary Poppins Festival, Craft Festival, Whale Festival and the Seafood Festival.

In the last month alone in Hervey Bay, we’ve had the Pier Festival, 150th birthday celebrations, Tour de Bay and now the Food and Wine Festival. On top of that we’ve got the Beerfest,  Torbanlea Races, Maryborough Open House and Melbourne Cup celebrations in the next month. To cap all of that off, there’s my one-year-back-on-the-Fraser Coast-anniversary! (Obviously a cause of celebration. Or national holiday or similar! 😉 )

I know (from the Festival’s Facebook page) that the $15 entry fee turned a lot of people off. I understand the need to charge a fee: but Relish was $10 – and included a lot more activities for your money; and the Seafood Festival was $5.

I don’t go out a lot however, so was prepared to pay the entry fee and went along for a few hours on Sunday.

On a positive note, the entry fee meant that the festival probably attracted a different crowd to those who usually attend local markets or pub events (ie. no one was likely to get wasted and vomit on you or yell obscenities at the band).

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I hadn’t known about the event until just a couple of weeks before it was held, so I’m not sure how far ahead it was planned. I know the organisers were still working on the music the week before the festival – so I was worried about what I’d find, however… I was pleasantly surprised.

I understand there were a few hiccups and organisers hope for bigger crowds in future, but in essence the event seemed quite successful – for we festival-goers anyway!

There were more wine-tasting options than I expected (though I know some would have liked to see more local wineries). And the ability to buy a glass/bottle of wine or champagne (or beer etc) to enjoy on the day was great.

After my disappointment at the Migaloo Starlight Swing, I was happy to know that there’d be a few food options and indeed Aquavue was on hand serving some salads (my friends partook in a prawn and mango salad with orange and mustard dressing which was apparently yummy); Wild Lotus offered up a steak sandwich that was much more – deliciously tender beef on sourdough etc. My friend who hates steak sandwiches, RAVED about the beef. Bayswater Hotel was serving antipasto platters and a squid salad; and there were pizzas and pancakes as well as coffee vans. (Something for everyone – though as a non-salad-eating coeliac – I struggled a little.)

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I was also pleasantly surprised by the music. The acts had a bluesy feel and I was a tad tempted to hang around longer than planned to kick back, partake in more champers and enjoy the atmosphere.

Happily undercover seating was provided and as the day wore on there was heaps of shade for those who’d brought blankets or their own chairs.

I’d definitely go back, and I know organisers are thinking of running the festival again, but I do wonder if it could be paired with something else rather than being yet another separate event. And – feedback will be interesting – but organisers may also want to look at the cost in future years.

Did you attend, or did (or would) the $15 entrance fee put you off?

Breakfasting in the borough

I’m almost certainly a social media addict. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not one of those people constantly attached to their phone and I am, quite frankly, horrified that people can go to Twitter jail*, but… I do tend to rely on social media on a daily basis.

When I lived in this State’s capital, Brisbane, I depended on a few different twitter accounts (SEQ Incidents and Qld Rail for example) for advice on traffic conditions and public transport hiccups. And when I moved back to the Fraser Coast I searched out all possible local Facebook and Twitter accounts to follow. Which is why last Thursday I put out a Facebook question about breakfast dining options in Maryborough.

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Sadly suggestions were minimal but… during my day’s online trawling I came across reference to a Maryborough cafe which: 1. Opened early; and 2. Showed some social media savvy.

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Cafe Cru is obviously a bit of a hidden gem as my mother (a long-term Maryborough resident) and a couple of other people I spoke to had no idea the place existed or where it could be found (near the Mary Poppins statue, incidentally!). But, after a call to check that gluten-free options were available it was the planned venue for Friday’s breakfast.

However… although the ambience is great (I loved the look and feel of the place including the eclectic furniture), the menu was more limited than I expected.

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If you’re extremely a tad fussy like me you may struggle. Although GF bread was available none of the three or four bruschetta breakfast options tempted me. Mum was happy to have a ham and cheese croissant but, rather than ‘make do’, we decided (albeit reluctantly) to go elsewhere.

Having said that, Cafe Cru obviously attracts a lot of regulars, several customers being greeted by name as they picked up their morning coffee. Plus… some of the stuff on their menu (for non coeliacs) looked AMAZING! (‘Like’ the Cafe Cru Facebook page if you don’t already and you’ll see what I mean!)

AllikatsInstead we ventured into Allikats on Kent. On arriving I confirmed GF options were available and was happy that they were easily able to run through my choices. Both mum and I settled on bacon and poached eggs on toast and enjoyed our respective breakfasts.

I noticed that Allikats also had gluten-free cupcakes and cake in their window – had I been there for a snack rather than brekkie.

I have to say I was surprised what a struggle it was to find something open (before 9am) in Maryborough for breakfast. My mother dines out fairly regularly (mostly lunches and morning/afternoon teas) and always asks after gluten-free options on my behalf. She knows I’ll groan if the only choice is the seemingly popular orange and poppy-seed cake which graces many-a-cafe-shelf.

So, while I’ve found a few faves in Hervey Bay, I’m going to have to keep investigating Maryborough cafes, coffee shops and restaurants to find my go-to options. *Sigh*… such a chore! 😉

I’m happy to receive suggestions in the interim!

* Sad, but true. You can only send a limited number of tweets a day. Apparently.