Summer is the season that appears universally revered. In the southern hemisphere the warming weather means that Christmas is on its way and the annual round of parties, barbecues, beaches and sunscreen. It’s no wonder that we long for summer all year round. The thought of warm nights rolling into bright mornings into long, lazy afternoons seems so good, so right and so essential as we grind our way through the long year. Summer is as summer does.
Sadly, I can only write fondly of summer because it’s on its way out. Brisbane has just experienced its hottest summer on record, which included 30 consecutive days of temperatures over 30°C. This year, summer has been about getting through and constantly making ice to chill the water that emerges warm from the tap. Even now when it is officially autumn I’m lying here on the couch, clothes askew, beer within reach, resenting the heat of the laptop on my thighs.
The saving grace of this challenging summer has been three mini-holidays away. Just before Christmas we had a weekend in Coolum Beach where we took long walks on the beach and unwound after our busy year. After Christmas we had a few days down in Stanthorpe, Queensland’s only wine region, where we sampled some excellent local wines and gleefully pulled up the duvet at night when the temperature dropped wonderfully low. In late January we had a glorious week back in New Zealand, enjoying the long twilight hours and the novel sensation of comfortably wearing jeans. Summer might have been a write-off back in Brisbane, but these three experiences reminded me of just how good summer can be. The following collection of photographs tries to capture this feeling of Summer 2016-17.
Coolum Beach, Sunshine Coast, Australia
Coolum Beach is one of our favourite spots on the busy Sunshine Coast. Unlike other beaches nearby, Coolum is relatively undeveloped which has helped to preserve its natural beauty and chilled out vibe. Things to do: hike up Mt Coolum for spectacular 360° views, shop for beachy clothes along the shopping strip, walk for hours along the white sandy beach, eat at Raw Energy for breakfast and Harvest for dinner.
Stanthorpe, Southern Queensland, Australia
Queensland’s mild winters and heavy summer rainfalls aren’t conducive to wine making, but Stanthorpe is located just north of the border with New South Wales in the high country area of the Granite Belt. The elevation means that Stanthorpe is hot (but not humid) in summer and cold in winter; in fact, it even snows at times. We took a great half-day winery tour with Granite Highlands Maxi Tours, learning that wine has been made in the Granite Belt for nearly 150 years. Unfortunately, Queenslanders tend to prefer beer above all else, and for years the region produced sweet, unremarkable wine to cater to the underdeveloped palate of locals. The region now boasts several award winning wineries and we were impressed by most of the wineries we visited. Highlights included the excellent Tempranillo at Moonrise Estate, Malbec at Whisky Gully, Shiraz at Ballandean Estate and the delicious Viognier at Ridgemill Estate, where we also stayed.
Other things to do in Stanthorpe: wander around town, try the famous apple cider and apple pie at Sutton’s Farm, visit local potters, and look out for the McGregor Terrace Food Project (which was sadly closed when we were there).
Far North, New Zealand
The Far North of the North Island is a little off the beaten track. It’s a solid four hours drive north of Auckland; more if you’re unused to the narrow, winding roads, but it will always be home to me. We spent a wonderful few days visiting family, soaking up the beautiful and familiar views and eating home grown produce from Mum’s garden. The highlight was a family outing to Lake Rotopokaka on the Karikari Peninsula, which is referred to locally as Coca Cola Lake due to the deep reddish-brown water (the colour is due to leaching minerals and tannins from peat). While the thought of brown water might sound off-putting, the water is clear and sparkling and is even considered to have healing properties. After a dip in the lake we drove over the hill to nearby Tokerau Beach and enjoyed a picnic on the beach while the sun gradually went down. It was after 9pm when we finally left and it still wasn’t completely dark (love daylight savings!). Sun, fun and fresh air – we all slept well that night.
Other things to do in the Far North: hang out at Ahipara to watch local surfers in action and visit nearby winery, Okahu Estate, take a walk in the quaint village of Mangonui and eat fish and chips at the infamous Mangonui Fish Shop, travel up to Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of New Zealand (where it is said that the souls of departed Maori pass on their way to their spiritual homeland, Hawaiki), book a fishing charter out of Mangonui or Houhora, or simply find a beach (you’re never far from one) and relax.