View from a lookout on Tamborine Mountain

Bunbury, Herentals, Wolfville, Tamborine Mountain. These places probably don’t ring a bell to most people, including seasoned travellers. What do they have in common? They’re all places that I discovered through house-sitting.

Discovering new destinations

Have you ever thought about how you pick a travel destination? Perhaps you saw it in a newspaper ad, an online newsletter, or a TV documentary. Or you may have heard about it from a friend who went there (after seeing the destination featured in the media somewhere). Either way, it’s likely that you’re one out of millions of people who know about the place and travel there: New York, Paris, London, Rome , New York, Bangkok, Istanbul, Sydney, all great cities but often too popular for their own good.

Most people travel to the exact same places, and that often includes me. Most of the destinations I’ve visited during my 24-year “travel career” are hardly secrets. But since I started house-sitting in 2013, half my assignments have been in places I had never heard of and probably wouldn’t have discovered on my own.

Bunbury (Australia), a mid-size town two hours south of Perth, gave me a taste of small-town Australia, beside allowing me to stay for three weeks in a beautiful house a few minutes walk away from a deserted beach on the Indian Ocean.

Herentals, a small Flemish town in Belgium, saw virtually no tourists so the locals always assumed I spoke Flemish. Granted, it was a bit sedate, but I could take the train to many nearby towns, try different Belgian beers, and eat some rich Belgian food.

Wolfville in Nova Scotia, Canada, let me spend three beautiful summer weeks near the Bay of Fundy, eating fresh seafood, juicy strawberries, and learning many things I didn’t know about the history of my own country.

My latest discovery: Tamborine Mountain

And now, I’m on Tamborine Mountain, in Southeast Queensland (Australia), for nearly a month. Tamborine Mountain is an old basalt volcano which now forms a 28 square kilometres plateau with a population slightly over 7000 people. It’s 525 metres high and a few degrees cooler than the lowlands, Consequently, it’s quite popular as a holiday destination or even just a day trip for people from the coast. But even though it can seem quite busy on a summer week-end, a lot of people from Queensland don’t know about it, and it’s virtually unknown by foreign tourists.

What is there to do on Tamborine Mountain? Well, there are wineries for starters. And then there is hiking (or bush walking as the Australians call it) on several short trails, from 0.5 to 4.3 kilometres. You can shop for souvenirs at vintage shops, attend an outdoor market on week-ends, or just while an afternoon away at a café.

The catch? You need a car to get here, and to get around. The closest train station is at Coomera, which is a 35-minute drive to the top of the mountain. Fortunately, because I’m house-sitting, I got a ride from the train station. I get to live in a large single-story house with two cats and a huge yard in North Tamborine, about half-an-hour walk from Main Street where the shops, restaurants and supermarket are located. This is the more local part of the mountain. Another commercial strip called Gallery Walk is aimed mostly at tourists, with its quainter but pricier shops.

At night, it’s pitch black outside, perfect for observing the starry sky. The bugs, frogs, birds and who knows what else make such a racket that I sometimes need to close the window to hear the TV! The sound seems louder on rainy nights. During the day, the cicadas and various birds provide their own chorus. There is a bird called kookaburra that sounds like an evil person laughing. They usually cackle in groups and it can get very loud. There are lots of big loud birds around here, like crows and cockatoos. The cats don’t seem frightened though, but they don’t go after the birds either. I’ve been instructed to lock them in at night… What else lurks in those woods (huh I mean bush)?

Witches Falls were given their name by a little farm girl who used to walk her animals through the woods and was so creeped out, she was convinced that witches inhabited them. Then there is the Aboriginal story of the yowie, a Yeti-like creature that is reputed to live in the Australian wilderness. So, yes, I double-lock the doors at night. Better safe than sorry. 🙂

Even though I don’t drive, I’ve been lucky enough to be taken around by both Samantha (the homeowner) and her sister. Samantha is now back for 10 days before she goes on another short trip and I’ve been asked to stay on for a second assignment at the end of the month. She promised to take me further afield, including a trip to the beaches of the Gold Coast. Stay tuned for more photos and stories next week!

I love discovering off-the-beaten path places that are off the tourist radar. Do you know of, or have you been to an interesting place that very few people know about? Let me know in the comments!


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