Hopo and HOTA – hidden gems of Australia’s Gold Coast

In June of 2020, my family was divided in one State and one Territory. Covid had locked down the Territorians and was rampant in another State, showing every indication that it would spread rapidly to other States and Territories. With uncharacteristic optimism, in this climate and after much voting, we booked our Christmas in the Gold Coast, Queensland.

View of Surfers Paradise from our apartment

Ever a popular destination for Australians, at this time of year it is muggy and there are frequent storms. But we knew it would be warm and had the beach, two ingredients for lifting our spirits. We were not disappointed and did the usual ‘Worlds’ and rainforest walk, but we came across a couple of activities that were surprises.

Deciding on a river cruise one day, we investigated our options and decided on boarding Hopo – the hop-on, hop-off ferry to 5 major attractions in the Gold Coast (GC). As the only destination at which we wanted to disembark was HOTA, we saw the others briefly and paid less for the 2 hour journey, to boot. The crafts are very comfortable, with adequate shelter when the rains came, and allowed people to practice social distancing, after showing your full vaccination status on arrival.

Looking back on Surfer’s Paradise

A commentary is provided as you go, about the types and prices of some of the yachts berthed there, the buildings and notable landmarks, and even Jackie Chan’s house was pointed out (for those of us who knew who he was).

Not so rich and famous, I thought this Alpine houseboat – or is it a church? Was quite unique.
Yachts moored here can come from Europe

HOTA, or Home of the Arts, was a treasure-trove of creative activities and displays. Beginning life as the Gold Coast Civic Centre in 1976, ten years later it became an Entertainment and Arts Centre and in 2018 it was renamed HOTA and today it has multiple facilities, including a roller skating rink, music and theatre performances, a gallery, cafe and we saw families swimming and picnicking on the banks of a lake.

Looking over the complex from the gallery
Amphitheatre and skating rink on the right

We concerned ourselves with the gallery and, as one not too bothered about art, it was magic! Not too big, holding a huge variety of exhibits, like short movies, things you just wanted to touch even though the sign said not to, sculptures, photos and an impressive gift shop with pieces to purchase. As you enter the gallery, the attendant at the door suggests an order of floors to provide you with the best experience and tells you not to miss the hidden work!

The piece de la resistance, the ‘hidden work’ is a sculpture that has it’s own attendant, who calls you over should you forget and go to walk by. Encased in darkness, Iris – the messenger, is by Sam Jinks who is “Known for creating eerily lifelike representations of the human body…” (from the plaque).

She is so lifelike you don’t want to disturb her

The attendant told me that each hair is placed separately and would represent many hours or weeks of work, alone. The wings are 24k gold and as Iris gazes into the reflective waters of the River Styx, there are so many angles from which to enjoy and photograph this piece. It is so realistic and beautiful.

Although the other visitors detract from Iris, you can see she is life-size

We visited the floors in the order suggested and were not disappointed by anything. I took a selection of photos of the ones that moved me the most and will include the artist.

Donna Marcus’s ‘Offspring ‘
Butterfly drawing, by Maria Fernanda Cardoso
Jimmy Ortso’s carved wooden pelicans
Mothering Garden, by Kathy Temin

An hour and a half was spent here and then back on the ferry for a return to Surfers Paradise, having seen Broadwater Parklands, Sea World and Marina Mirage on the north bound trip. HOTA is free, so all this entertainment in 3.5 hours for $18/adult. I can get seasick, but not a qualm on this vessel and they brought down the plastic walls to keep us dry when the rain came in. Give it a whirl!.

Incident- ambivalence, by Aleks Danko.

CFFC -Sand or dirt

Turquoise Bay, Exmouth, Western Australia

For Cee’s Fun Foto challenge, the topic is sand or dirt. There’s plenty of both in Australia, so it’s just “which ones?”.

Wildflowers in the sandy soil, Kalbarri National Park
Barn Hill Station, Western Australia
Lizard, crab and maybe snake tracks on the beach, Barn Hill Station
Mindil Beach hermit crab, Darwin, Northern Territory
Agnes Creek Campground, South Australia
A whirly whirly starting, Bonnie Well, Northern Territory

So many more on the editing table.

Canberra #3

We started the day with a hike to Mount Ainslie Lookout. It begins gradually and is quite steep for the last 30m or so. Many good views are afforded along the way, but the best are at the top. It took about 90 minutes return and where I wouldn’t advise a wheelchair, I did see three people using canes and walking quite slowly. Many people are in training gear and run past slower people like me.

Remember it was bushfire season so excuse the misty photos.

Black Mountain Tower affords some fabulous views, we were told, but unfortunately with the fires the smoke haze made visibility poor. It is still an interesting building and an easy drive from the main sights.

There is a viewing gallery, a theater and a cafe, as well as a telecommunications museum. It is also called Telstra Tower and the actual tower rises almost 200m above the summit. Your visit wouldn’t be longer than an hour, I think.

Questacon is on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin and is an extraordinary collection of interactive Science and Technology activities (over 200 I believe) that are designed to entertain, educate and inspire schoolchildren to pursue careers in that area.

I have been there with my children, with school classes and this time it was just for me and I could have spent another hour or more there. We stayed 2 hours as it was, watching, trying, pressing, drawing, thinking, puzzling and marvelling. The free fall was fascinating, but I wouldn’t try it.

The National Gallery is very near here, so we walked there, along the Lake, enjoying the sculptures and what was on offer in the grounds, and not entering. There were a few reasons for this, among which was the advertising of the outdoor sculptures and the Skyspace. So that is what we spent an hour and a half viewing.

Staying in the region, we headed for New Parliament House. It’s an impressive building, right from its approach, and has a wealth of architecture and marble.

The House of Representatives has a green room, just as it did on the old P.H. and the Senate is red, as before. When parliament is sitting, between 4000 and 5000 people are employed there.

There are galleries of historical figures, current politicians and political cartoonists. Documents and decisions are displayed, as well as plans, models and protests. The view from the grassy rooftop is impressive and informative, with many structures to catch the eye.

One of these is the 81m flagpole, visible from many vantages in Canberra. Three locations form what is known as the Parliamentary Triangle and New P.H is considered to be at the apex. Dead centre of Parliament House is the flagpole and it is represents the intersection “of Australian democracy—the people, the parliament and the government—are all brought together under one flag.” (https://www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/About_the_Building/About_the_Flag)

under the flagpole, on the roof of Parliamentary House

It’s quite easy to spend 1-2 hours, here. Tours are available if you prefer.

Even in Canberra, where it can get very cold, always take a hat and water in Australia.

Safe Travels.