Border Ranges National Park: Jan and Peter (both 74) took to their caravan to explore.
BORDER RANGES NATIONAL PARK
The World Heritage-listed Border Ranges National Park has scenic walks and breathtaking views surrounded by ancient landscapes. We took off in our caravan for a break inside the Gondwana rainforest.
Mt Warning is a dominant feature of the Tweed Valley in Northern New South Wales. It sits in Wollumbin National Park. This remnant core of a volcano was active 23 million years ago. Today, the core is less than half its original size. The surrounding caldera once covered an area of 80 x 100 kilometres. The erosion activity over the past 20 million years created a large cauldron- like landscape. It has one of the highest levels of biological diversity in Australia.
Mebbin National Park sits inside the caldera rim. We spent our first evening camped in this National Park. We travelled there along the Tweed Valley Way then via Murwillumbah, through the quaint village of Tyalgum, Brays Creek and pot- holed Byrrill Creek Roads to Cutters Camp. The campground, in a cleared forest setting, has recently been refurbished. New barbeques, picnic tables, toilet facilities and fireplaces have been installed to a very good standard. We enjoyed having the whole area to ourselves, (perhaps because it was cold.)
An upgraded walking track winds around a two-kilometre loop to Sweetmans Creek and back along the edge of Byrill Creek. It passes through subtropical rainforest between giant, ancient fig trees. In the late afternoon red-necked pademelons grazed happily on the grass close by.
An elderly farmer in the area caught our interest in an area further to the west near Wadeville. He shared legends and stories from the turn of the century when timber getters wandered the lands. They worked in the forests, winding their way with bullock teams to harvest the giant forest logs. There were stories of blood-stained floors and family feuds. It was late in the day when we ventured along the track that is the Old Tweed Road. It was here that a bullocky was murdered with a blow from a bullock yoke. And that wasn’t the only ghost that haunts the area.
A German settler, spurned by the one he loved, shot himself. Halfway along the track, the crumbling wooden Cranes Bridge carries a legend of an apparition that appears on the bridge. The late afternoon breeze created moving shadows across the rough track, creating an eerie feeling. We hoped a ghost of the past would linger but alas, none visited us.
A short distance away at Hanging Rock Bridge on Barkers Vale Road, incidents from the past have also added to local folklore. Apparently, a local businessman from the past abandoned his journey along this road when an apparition appeared on that bridge. A Nimbin village resident reported that his reliable horse refused to set a hoof anywhere near the bridge. We were disappointed to see that the old bridge had been replaced with a new model. But we were able to view the original crossing of the river. The mournful hoot of an owl and the approaching evening caused us to move on.
The showground at Nimbin was a convenient next campsite with plenty of space and clean facilities. The village, overlooked by impressive rock formations, is a central base for exploring the natural wonders nearby. Forests of red cedar first attracted timber getters to the area in the 1840s. The 1973 the Aquarius Festival brought alternative lifestylers and communes sprouted up in the surrounding hills. The streets of the village are predominately named after the early farmers, mostly in the dairying industry.
A nearby excursion was via the village of The Channon and along a fifteen-kilometre (part gravel) diversion leading to Protesters Falls. In 1975 local residents Nan and Hugh Nicholson raised the alarm when they discovered the logging plans for the area. The Terania Creek Protest was organised in 1979 against logging old growth forest. While the original protesters’ intentions were non- violent and peaceful, not everybody supported that ideal. However, this was the first-time people physically defended a natural resource. The mill was closed down as a result. The New South Wales Premier at the time, Neville Wran, made the historic ‘Rainforest Decision’ in October 1982. It saved approximately 100,000 hectares of forest from harvesting.
The picnic ground offered a pleasant venue in the rainforest for our lunch before a one- and-a-half-kilometre walk. It followed along the pretty Terania Creek through Bangalow palms to eventually emerge at the base of the impressive long drop of the falls and pool. This is the home of the endangered Fleay ’s Barred Frog. No swimming is allowed.
Our original plan was to hike the Pholis Gap and Mt Matheson Loop starting from Mt Nardi in the west Nightcap National Park. This is the starting point for several walking tracks including the Historic Nightcap track. This was once the principal route taken by travellers and postal workers in the 1870s between Lismore and Murwillumbah. The journey required an overnight camp hence the name “Nightcap.” With pack horses, the mailman took three days to travel the muddy track. Today, the mountain can easily be identified by the television transmitting tower on its summit.
Mt Nardi was named in memory of Terania Shire Councillor Angelo Nardi (born in 1899) for his services to the community of Nimbin. He was a descendant of the pioneer farming settlers of New Italy – now a historic rest stop on the Pacific Highway. Pholis Gap received its name in memory of Athol Pholis, a timber worker, who was killed on the track by a falling tree.
We were disappointed to find the access road leading to the commencement of the Nightcap track at Mt Nardi closed for repair. However, we made a booking at Rummary Park campground where we could access part of this historic track from the south-east end. We were delighted to find another upgraded National Park camping ground. And, once again we had the camping area to ourselves. We expect the low temperatures kept away all except us hardy campers.
CECIL C.JONES CABIN
A cabin in the campground commemorates Cecil C. Jones who was a forest foreman in the Whian Whian Conservation Area. He lived there in the red mahogany cabin with his wife and four young children. It is the last remaining cabin of the ones constructed during late 1940 and early 1941 by the Forestry Commission in this forest setting, then named Boggy Creek camp. A cottage was also constructed for visiting for VIPs, especially the Forester in Charge of the Whian Whian area – Tom Rummery. The campground is named after him. Tom and Cecil planted a big kauri pine which can still be seen there today. When Cecil died in 1993, the Forestry Commission installed a memorial plaque with the words, “the bush has friends to meet him and their kindly voices greet him.”
Our hike the next morning was a grade three, six-kilometre return hike to Peates Mountain. It went through forest which is regenerating after recent bushfires. It was a steep climb towards the summit. Disappointedly the tall eucalypts at the top blocked what could be a spectacular view to the coast. We enjoyed a packed lunch before hiking back to camp along the historic Nightcap track. Unfortunately, the Boggy Creek walk from Rummery Park to Minyon Falls was also closed for maintenance. However, before moving on the next morning, we explored the Blue Fig Track for a couple of kilometres. We relaxed by a pretty cascade and watched a pair of Rufous Scrub-Birds fossicking in the dense eucalypt forest.
BORDER RANGES NATIONAL PARK
Our journey continued via Kyogle and Wiangaree (the eastern access road was closed) to the Border Ranges National Park. The 44-kilometre gravel Tweed Range Scenic Drive travels along the elevated edge of the caldera of the Mount Warning volcano, affording stunning views from the lookouts. This dramatic escarpment is the rim of one of the largest calderas in the world. Sheep Station Creek campground, a large area also recently refurbished, was our campsite for a few days. It is well set up with large campsites for vans and tents. We enjoyed the numerous hikes in the area.
From the campground, we hiked through eucalypt and rainforest for 2 kilometres to lovely Brushbox Falls and Palm Forest. Following the line of an old logging and bullock trail across the creek, we came across a sandstone rockface where early loggers carved their names. Beginning in 1886 the Red Cedar was harvested from the plateau with bullock teams. The bullock wagons were unloaded on the hill and taken empty around the steep descent to Sheep Station Creek. The sandstone rockface was used as a reloading ramp. Logs were hauled to the Richmond River where they were floated downstream for shipment. We continued on for 4 kilometres, connecting up to The Rosewood Loop circuit in old-growth Rosewood and Flooded Gum trees.
BRINDLE CREEK WALK
Because the Brindle Creek Walk is 6km one way and not a loop, we decided to hike it in two sessions. We parked the car at the Brindle Creek picnic area. We followed the line of Brindle Creek through lush rainforest for a five-kilometre return hike to Evan’s Falls and pool. Swimming is not recommended in the creek as it is also a habitat for endangered frogs. It was a pleasant spot to enjoy our lunch. Before returning to Sheep Station Creek campground, we drove further on to The Pinnacle Lookout. The short walk to the viewing platform revealed a view 1000 meters below into the Tweed Valley and across to the rugged volcanic core of Mt. Warning. It is stunning!
On our final morning, after morning tea in the Antarctic Beech picnic ground where we left our vehicle, we hiked 6 kilometres return. It was through huge hoop pines and large Antarctic beech trees to Selva Falls, again on the Brindle Creek walk. It was an uphill climb back to the picnic ground.
Back at Sheep Station Creek we hitched up the van to commence our homeward journey. We were reluctant to leave after spending a very enjoyable week of staying and hiking in these ranges. We decided this area has some of the best views and walks in New South Wales. But, the Gold Coast was calling us back!
Lamington National Park: It is the perfect time to experience World Heritage Under Your Feet. The Silver team went to O’Reilly’s at Canungra, just on our doorstep. It’s hard to believe that this nature paradise is so close. Here are our favourite walks!
We have had numerous requests here at Silver to suggest the best bushwalks for the over 50s. So we went to investigate the utterly stunning O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. It’s a tough job but we fell on the sword for you. You are welcome!
The Scenic Rim was just named in the top 10 regions to visit in 2022 for Lonely Planet. And with good reason, it’s achingly beautiful. So here we are!
Lamington National Park Location
For those of you who are new to the Gold Coast, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is only around 90 minutes from the Gold Coast, and it is just so beautiful it’s hard to put into words how lucky we are to have this just so close to us. You can stay in a lot of different types of accommodation at O’Reilly’s. You can also camp at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. The campground just took out bronze in the Queensland Tourism Awards.
And, the Vineyard (which is a whole other 6-page story in itself) just took out the silver medal!
Located in the Lamington National Park, it is the most drop-dead gorgeous bushwalking destination in Queensland. It contains over 320 kms of walking tracks that lead to spectacular lookouts, waterfalls and some of Queensland’s most significant wilderness areas.
Lamington National Park is nearly 1000 metres above sea level which means that the temperature is 5-8 degrees cooler than Brisbane or the Gold Coast. Lamington National Park is made up of two sections: Green Mountains and Binna Burra. Green Mountains section is located on the western side of the Lamington Plateau, and wraps around O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
Below are self-guided walks, but there are more. Plus, you can actually book yourself or your group on a private guided walk. These are utterly fascinating, and the O’Reilly’s guides really know their stuff.
Lamington National Park: SHORT WALKS
The Tree Top Walk – Return Distance 800 metres The Booyong Walk is clearly signposted. It starts opposite the entrance to the O’Reilly’s Reception. This walk is an iconic part of O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. It’s great for a daytrip for the active over 50s – it has 9 suspension bridges up to 16 metres above ground. You get a bird’s eye view from a deck in a fig tree over the walkway. The best time to see birdlife is early morning or late afternoon. The Tree Top Walk is free to experience at your own leisure, and it is open all day every day.
Mick’s Tower – Return Distance 1 km
This walk shares the same entrance as the Wishing Tree Track, except you turn right at the 330m mark. This rainforest observation tower is 18 metres high. Information signs on the various decks refer to the surrounding rainforest and in particular to a large Red Carabeen growing close by. This is an ideal spot to enjoy the tranquillity of a rainforest canopy with the birds for company.
Centenary Track – 1.8 km return
This universal access track leaves from the northern end of the Green Mountains carpark, 150 m from the national park information centre. The track passes by a tall hoop pine at the entrance and slowly descends through subtropical rainforest for 900m. It then joins the Python Rock and Morans Falls tracks. Bench seating spaced along the track offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. Watch for regent and satin bowerbirds darting through the branches, logrunners foraging on fallen tree trunks and Albert’s lyrebirds scratching in the leaf litter.
Lamington National Park: HALF DAY WALKS
Moonlight Crag – Return Distance 7km
For the more fit and feisty over 50s who would prefer to stay at O’Reilly’s rather than do a day trip (do it, it’s gorgeous) these are most vigorous walks and involve some hill climbing. On this walk, you can swing by Moran’s Falls and see Balancing Rock.
Elabana Falls – Return Distance 7.6 km
The Elabana Falls Track descends through a stand of Antarctic Beech and then past the largest Brush Box trees in the National Park. Turn right at the Box Forest turn-off for Picnic Rock, a favourite lunch spot, but be sure to continue to Elabana Falls 400 metres further on.
Pat’s Bluff – Return Distance 5.4km
Pat’s Bluff affords a view over the Albert and Logan River valleys to the Great Dividing Range. Pat O’Reilly’s log cabin is 70 metres in from this spot. Peregrine Falcons nest in caves in these cliffs and often rest in the dead trees above the cliff line.
Lamington National Park: FULL DAY WALKS
Box Forest – Return Distance 10.9km
This circuit leads directly to Picnic Rock and Elabana Falls. It leads you through rainforest, past impressive stands of smooth, pink-barked brush box Lophostemon confertus, before reaching the falls. Similar brush box in other parts of the World Heritage area have been radiocarbon-dated at 1500 years, making these giants the oldest ever carbon-dated trees on Australia’s mainland. If you intend walking this entire circuit, walk in a clockwise direction and exit via Elabana Falls and Picnic Rock.
Yerralahla (Blue Pool) – Return Distance 10km This is for the feistiest over 50s. There is a 400m drop in elevation from O’Reilly’s to Blue Pool. The track winds down through outstanding sub- tropical rainforest. The track passes through stands of Red Cedar, booyong, Giant Stinging Trees and Hoop Pine, often supporting large staghorns. This walk lets you soak up the waterfalls and rainforest, and to negotiate the numerous creek crossings.
Border Track – 21.4km one way only
This is a really fun walk if you are fit and well. This track connects Binna Burra and O’Reilly’s, and there is a shuttle that takes you from O’Reilly’s to Binna Burra in the morning (check O’Reilly’s Discovery Program for days and times or speak to Reservations to book – cost is $33 per person), so you can walk back to O’Reilly’s and look forward to your swim and a wine at the end! The track passes through stunning rainforest and you’ll enjoy every step. The Border track is the backbone of this World Heritage-listed area and part of the longer Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk. On a clear day, lookouts provide spectacular views.
DOWNLOAD YOUR OWN TRACK MAP
Lamington National Park walking track maps are available from O’Reilly’s gift shop or O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. You can also download a map from the website www.oreillys.com.au
GUIDED FULL DAY WALK – STINSON WALK
Looking for a challenge? Recount Australian history and celebrate the life of Bernard O’Reilly, who heroically saved the lives of two plane crash survivors over 80 years ago. This all happened in World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park. Following in Bernard’s footsteps, you’ll traverse 37 kms in one day from O’Reilly’s to the historic Stinson crash site. The walk goes through stunning landscape surrounded by the incredibly diverse and wonderful flora and fauna of Lamington National Park. Register your interest for the next Stinson Walk on the website!
Python Rock – 3.4 km
The sealed track to Python Rock has even grades, suitable for older people and those confined to wheelchairs. The booyongs and figs near the West Cliff turn off are impressive. So are the large New England Blackbutt as you enter the open forest for the first time. The view from Python Rock overlooks Castle Crag to the Lost World with Mount Throakban on the left and Moran’s Falls. You can proceed up the hill from the lookout on a tough track and turn left for West Cliff.
The View Cafe: As Silver writers were exploring Hinze Dam, we came across the View Café. It’s tough work finding these hidden gems and eating a luxurious breakfast, but someone has to do it!
As we approached Hinze Dam, we saw the fabulous The Hinze Dam Visitor Centre. It is owned by Seqwater, and has educational displays and informative talks. These talks will resume once Covid goes back to the hell from whence it came. But as we discovered, this building also has a café and function centre in it! So off we went inside for a good reconnaissance mission.
The first thing you notice is the stunning view and exceptional architecture of the place. The vistas from the View Café across Hinze Dam make this destination one of the Hinterland’s most rewarding visits. This is the kind of place where bushwalker-types do proposals.
The food looks fit for an Instagram extravaganza. There’s muffins, coffee, omelettes, pancakes. There’s a kid-friendly menu, and a group buffet menu which looks absolutely delicious. The salads range from salt and pepper calamari through to Caesar salad and warm Thai chicken salad, with beer battered chips or sweet potato fries on the side. You can have all that with a chilled glass of wine or beer.
You have the choice to relax inside in aircon to the gorgeous dining room that juts out over the water (still with those views!). Or you can sit outside on the terrace overlooking the stunning scenery of the Nerang River. The captivating views stretch from the Numinbah Valley to the Pindari Hills.
THE VIEW CAFE: HISTORY
Twenty-three million years ago the area in front of the View Café was part of a massive volcano. In its prime, the crater rim stood two kilometres tall with lava flows sprawled across more than 7000 square kilometres. The ridge of rock is viewable from The View Café – a constant reminder of the region’s volcanic past. In the more distant view from the cafe lies the Lamington Plateau and Pages Pinnacle. Waterside Park is built on part of the quarry at Pelican Point which supplied the greywacke rock for the Hinze Dam wall. You can view the quarry to the right of the cafe.
From the cafe you can explore on wide safe paths. They are very accessible for people with disabilities, wheelchairs, walkers, plus they are a dream for parents with prams. These paths wind to the dam’s edge along manicured gardens. From the café, you can also take a scenic stroll along the peak of the dam wall. All this is a very easy walk, with amazing views.
We cornered Tony, the owner of the café, who is 75, to get the info. He adores the spot. “We took control of the business in 2014 we thought it was the most beautiful location and that is something that would never change. It will always be beautiful. We did change one thing – the menu. We made it Australian and better suited to the area.
“My 56-year-old wife manages the front-of- house – she’s been doing that for many years and she’s very good at it! She Austrian, so she speaks four languages – French, German, Spanish and English! I look after the administration side of things. We love it and have no plans to retire! We have a wide range of customers, they come from everywhere, including the local area, of course. But they also come from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and from the Tweed area. People come from all around because it’s such a beautiful day trip. The weekends are super busy! During the week we get a lot of people who are in the stage of their life where they’re semi-retired or retired. They have a lot of time for fun! They come here to enjoy a beautiful day out and do the walk around the dam.
We also have car clubs and motorcycle clubs, which make this their stop of the day. And we get older groups who are coming for a day trip, and we can cater for them in our function room. It’s the perfect place for them because of the wonderful access the flat pathways afford them. It’s really easy to get around here at the cafe, and in the visitor centre grounds and around the dam. There are no steps, and you can park right adjacent to the building. We have disabled toilets, so it is accessible for everyone. A lot of older people are very active however, and stop here for breakfast on the way to the wonderful walks in the Springbrook area, like Twin falls, Natural Bridge and Purling Brook Falls. They stop for breakfast, or they can grab some picnic items from here on their way.”
THE VIEW CAFE: MAKE A DAY OF IT
The View Cafe has a 4-star Trip Advisor rating and was awarded the Travellers’ Choice Award in 2020. They are rated #1 for Quick Bite in Advance Town. So grab your friends, or tell your events organiser to hire the bus! This day out is not to be missed.
New Work Trend: As baby boomers extend their careers, and Generation Z workers launch theirs, we’ve arrived at four-generation workforce.
Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, Millennials and Gen Zers each have their own perceptions of work and personal time – both at the office and when they travel for business. But across all four groups, there’s a clear trend: That elusive goal of “work-life balance” is giving way to a more fluid “work-life blending” that better fits the dynamic schedule of the modern worker.
Work and Play
According to the National Car Rental State of Business Travel Survey, 65% of people believe it’s an unrealistic goal to keep work and leisure separate. Instead, more than half of respondents are now blending work life and personal life. The survey found most business travellers engage in some form of bleisure travel, including incorporating leisure activities into business travel, extending business travel into leisure trips and booking a holiday around a business trip.
Millennials are more likely to have done bleisure travel than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. In addition, senior/executive leaders are almost twice as likely to extend their business trip into leisure travel or book a holiday around their business trip than non-managers.
When travelling for business, workers who engage in bleisure travel report better quality of life while on the road than non-bleisure travellers. They also report such additional benefits as following a healthy diet, exercising and coming back feeling invigorated.
Seventy-nine percent of bleisure travellers are more likely to volunteer for a business trip if they know they can extend their stay, and fewer people felt the need to downplay their leisure activities to their boss or their coworkers.
Importantly, the majority of bleisure travellers believe business travel contributes to their career success and helps them build key relationships they otherwise couldn’t without business travel.
Are you looking for a retirement life that offers travel, adventure, and meeting people from all over the world? Follow Geoff and Leanne on their round-the-world cruise retirement.
Ever dreamt of selling up, seeing the world, and cruising the waterways of Europe? Well retirees, Geoff, and Leanne, are doing just that. They are a very ordinary Australian couple who have stepped up to a “life less ordinary”. Here Geoff describes how it all came about and how anyone can enjoy a similar cruise retirement lifestyle.
How it Began
Our friends all say that we’re ‘living the dream’ but I can tell you that’s just not true. Our wonderful lifestyle is way better than anything we could have dreamed up. In a nutshell, we’re an Australian couple who retired early at the end of 2016. We bought a motorboat in England and now spend about five months each year cruising the rivers, canals, and coastlines of Europe.
The balance of the year we spend exploring the world aboard luxury cruise ships for free, by giving speaking presentations to fellow passengers, as well as doing pet and housesitting assignments. So how did it all come about? We lived on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland enjoying a wonderful lifestyle and way back in 2009 we had the opportunity to spend two weeks cruising the rivers and canals in Burgundy, France.
“Why Return To Australia?”
Whilst there, we met many Brits, Aussies and Kiwis who have retired and spend time each year cruising around the canals aboard their boats. They usually return home when the thermometer drops. Now this was a lifestyle we wanted for ourselves. Australia, like the UK, is an expensive place to live. When we did the sums, it became clear that we couldn’t afford to maintain a home in Australia resigned to the fact that this lifestyle would remain out of our financial reach. That is, until one day when a friend casually said, “So why return to Australia? There are much cheaper places to live abroad!”
The seed was planted. We certainly didn’t expect anything to happen until we turned 60 at the earliest, but in mid-2016, (while we were in our mid 50’s), events conspired that led us to review our current circumstances. When we did, there was the realisation that if we were careful financially, we could bring our plans forward. In fact, we could, and we really should do this now while we were still healthy and active enough to enjoy the lifestyle.
We started looking for the perfect boat to suit our needs. We wanted a boat that was versatile enough that we could take it through the rivers and canals of Europe but also something that would be suitable if/when we wanted to venture out into open water and cruise around the coastlines of the Mediterranean countries.
After a lot of research, we soon came across Broom Boats. They are a well-known English manufacturer with a reputation for quality. We were immediately drawn to this boat due to its versatility. The radar arch folds down to reduce the air draft or height of the boat to fit under low bridges in Europe. And we loved the large aft owners’ cabin with its own ensuite and shower.
We viewed several boats online before choosing a Broom 39, from James Dickens Marine in Southampton. I flew to England in November 2016 to obtain a survey report and to conduct a sea trial for the boat, and when everything went very well, our purchase decision had been made.
Christmas Eve 2016 was our first day of retirement. Leanne and I made plans to sell or give away all of our possessions (nothing went into storage). After that, we rented the house that had been our home for the previous 20 years. We said farewell to family and a large group of wonderful friends, and left with only one suitcase each to travel to the far side of the world.
The End Goal
The end goal was to have no fixed address for an indeterminate period of time. Just before I finished up at work, I attended a cruise ship conference in Sydney. I was asked to replace a speaker who was ill and make an impromptu presentation. Afterwards I was approached by a woman who explained her role within the cruise ship industry. She was tasked with finding interesting speakers to entertain passengers. She asked whether I would be interested in being a speaker.
We didn’t really expect anything to come of it, but just before we flew out of the country, she contacted me. She asked if I would be available to present six talks aboard a ship leaving Singapore for a 14-day Far East Asian cruise. When I submitted my six topics the cruise line came back and asked if I would be available to do an additional 14-day cruise. Of course, part of the deal is that my wife Leanne gets to accompany me on these cruises.
Cruise Retirement Life
Leanne and I left Australia in early February 2017 and as well as the cruises spent some time in Penang, Malaysia which is an expat retirement haven. We had visited several places in Asia looking for somewhere that felt comfortable and was affordable.
We found that Penang ticked all the boxes. Accommodation is cheap, the food is incredible and affordable. Penang has the benefit of being very central, and culturally diverse. Penang is an ex-British colony, which means that most people speak some English.
Boat Pick Up
Leanne and I arrived in Southampton, England to pick up our boat in May 2017. We renamed it Sunshine Coast in honour of our former home and started to get used to our new home. We had never operated a boat of this size before and it took a few voyages to get confident with handling her.
Sights to See on our Cruise Retirement!
We took our time cruising along the English Channel, stopping to explore places like Portsmouth, Brighton and Ramsgate. We passed the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, before heading towards the big one, London. It was such a thrill to cruise up the Thames, under London Bridge, Tower Bridge and all the other bridges. We cruised past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and into our berth for the next month at Chelsea Harbour Marina.
We had a magnificent time in London. We ended up being guests of the All England Lawn Tennis Club for the two weeks of Wimbledon where we got to enjoy some wonderful matches including the men’s semi-finals. Then, just again by fluke, we met the Director of Les Misérables, who invited us for a backstage tour.
Finally, we met a gentleman at Wimbledon who invited us to be his dinner guests at the Royal Thames Yacht Club. Our experience is that the more you put yourselves out there, the more opportunities come up for you.
It was now time to start the retirement plan though, and cruise across to Europe. We had heard all the horror stories about the English Channel and Lea was extremely nervous about the crossing. Once again, we were lucky though, because early one morning in July while stuck in a dreary Ramsgate, the weather gods opened a window for us.
We decided to stick our nose out for a peek and found the conditions were good enough. We put the throttle down, arriving in Dunkirk two hours later, much to Lea’s relief. Our original plan had been to turn south at Dunkirk and head further into France. However, we befriended a Belgium couple on another boat at the Dunkirk Marina who said Belgium was very nice, so we changed plans and headed north. Our new friends were right.
We had a wonderful first season exploring the Belgium countryside visiting stunning cities like Kortrijk, Ghent, Brugge and Ypres. While in Belgium we took a side trip to Scotland. Before retiring I had assisted the Scottish Commonwealth Games team set up a pre-Gold Coast Commonwealth games training and acclimatisation camp.
The team then invited Lea and I to be their guests at the last night of the Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh in August 2017. Lea and I are both ex-military, so this was a huge highlight for us.
At the end of September, it started to get a bit chilly for us. So we put Sunshine Coast into hibernation at a marina in Antwerp. We had heard about people doing house and pet-sitting for people heading away on their own holidays, and decided to risk an investment of $200 on the site TrustedHousesitters.com.
We thought that if we were able to secure one week of petsitting and not have to pay for accommodation, it would have paid for itself. Within two weeks we had secured 23 weeks of pet-sitting in the UK and Cyprus. This is a win-win for everyone. Instead of the owners having to put their beloved pets into a home while they are away, we come in and care for the pets in their own environment. For us it’s great because we get to stay in some fantastic locations, at no cost.
We care for fur and feather families and getting our fix of unconditional love that only pets can provide. The only downside of our travels is not being able to have pets of our own, so we love the opportunity to pet-sit. Once we built up a reputation through references on Trusted Housesitters, we found that offers came in from all over the world.
We’ve been fortunate enough to pet-sit all over the UK, in Cyprus, Germany and Australia while on our cruise retirement journey. We’ve also had offers that unfortunately we couldn’t do, in places like St Kitts in the Caribbean, Whistler in Canada, the South of France and several places in the US. We have made some wonderful lifetime friends along the way.
The Cruise Retirement Life
We have been enjoying this wonderful retirement lifestyle now for three and a half years. During that time, we’ve cruised our boat in England, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. Most of the rivers in Europe are connected and then interconnected by man-made canals. This was the way commerce used to be transported aboard barges before the introduction of trucks and trains.
The infrastructure is still there and usually free to use. Once again, we’ve made some wonderful friends and can’t get over how affordable it is to operate a boat in Europe compared to Australia. We simply can’t understand why more people aren’t doing this. Last season we spent most of our cruising season in Germany where the average marina cost for our 12 metre boat is about $18‑$26 moorings that we spent over 50% of our nights not paying anything. This included a berth right in the centre of Berlin.
People ask us if this cruising is similar to driving an RV or towing a caravan around. I suppose cruise retirement is in a way because you are travelling and visiting new places. However, while cruising the canals at 6 knots (the speed limit), you tend to take in everything around you and really appreciate your environment. You’re forced to truly relax. There is no worry of a road train hurtling towards you at 100kph or what will happen if a tyre blows.
Challenges in the Cruise Retirement
There are certainly some challenges with this lifestyle. We had to work out how to stay in the EU longer than just the three-month tourist visa would allow. Luckily, Australia has reciprocal agreements in place with several EU countries. We had to work out travel and health insurance, navigate language barriers and other issues. Yet, the enjoyment far outweighs the obstacles. In the end it is these challenges that build your experience and confidence and enhances the adventures.
Lecturing aboard cruise ships has been another wonderful experience. I didn’t have any public speaking or lecturing experience prior to retirement. I literally fell onto the speaking circuit because I had an interest in maritime explorers and adventurers. Last year Lea and I spent four and a half months circumnavigating the world aboard luxury cruise ships at no cost. Once again we met and befriended some incredible people and enjoying some sensational experiences along our the journey.
In the beginning, Lea was very hesitant, first about retiring early, and then about leaving the Sunshine Coast. We had to name our boat Sunshine Coast so she could still live on the Sunshine Coast! She was very nervous about travelling to the far side of the world to live on a boat for the first time.
Everything we’ve done though, has led us to another wonderful experience or adventure which has, in turn led to another. Lea would now be the first person to say, that retirement was the best decision we have ever made.
Pet Sitting Opportunity
If you would like to try pet-sitting, then join Trusted Housesitters with the code RAF155789 to enjoy discounted membership. If you would like further information about the lifestyle contact Geoff or Leanne at Retiredafloat@gmail.com or their Facebook page Retired Afloat.
Do you love to travel, but would rather something a little more close to home? Check our this interesting article following Peter and Jan on their trout fishing journey in their caravan!