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Pre Wedding Celebrations At Thunderbird Park

by | Destinations, Honeymoons



You’re probably thinking the same as me. Why would I want to go to somewhere called Thunderbird Park? Unless you are 12, in which case Thunderbird Park sounds like the dream destination. But could it be a great place for a trip with the girls? A bit of pre wedding bonding filled with giggles, but also a little bit different? I went to find out.

Nestled at Tamborine Mountain, about 45km northwest of the Gold Coast, the Thunderbird Park & Cedar Creek resort manages that unique feat of offering all things to all sorts of people – retreat and relaxation, a visit to nature and luxury, activities and exhertion. Sort of easy adventure in a nice environment. If you really want to you can certainly partake in more adrenalin fuelled adventures, or tough trails into nature. Sure there are more luxurious resorts available and ‘typical’ hen party spots (I didn’t see one penis straw in my time), but for something that lets you dabble in both relaxation and activity and will please a group of ladies with different interests and ideas, you can’t go far wrong.

Part of the McPherson Range, which stretches back to North South Wales, Tamborine Mountain stands 525 metres above sea level. The remnants of the Mount Warning volcano, the mountain is 28 square kilometres plateau in the Scenic Rim of the Gold Coast Hinterland, south-east Queensland, Australia. The high altitude and cooler climate means that its a place of diverse flora and fauna, and the 112 hectare flourishing rainforest in which Thunderbird Park sits is typical of this thickly wooded region. It’s something of antidote to the glitz of say Surfer’s Paradise, hence the attraction.

The location makes it perfect for adventure activities, which are always a bonding experience – especially when verging on the right side of challenge. The Treetop Challenge is one of those, and leaves you with a sense of accomplishment. Formed of 85 ‘games’ the trail is divided into sections of difficulty, and includes wobbling bridges, high wires and zip lines. It’s great fun watching each other, offering encouraging shouts across the trail, and everyone will surprise themselves.

Even me. I don’t really have a problem with heights, but this course worried me – because it moves. Stable ground is my motto. So when I find that there’s at least 20m of open space beneath me, and despite the fact that I am hooked on, I quiver a little. The toy koalas back at the entry lodge look happy enough climbing, but treetops are their natural habitats – mine is with with a cup of tea and a good book. They have managed to do such a good job of building the experience within the forest and working with the trees that it is difficult to tell where the trails end, something which is both good and bad for the motivation and nerves. I make it half way through the final and toughest black stage, before retreating back to my lodge for some tea and biscuits.

There are camp spots and shared lodges available, but for some girls glamour, the Cedar Creek Lodges are a necessity. I stayed in one of the top row spa lodges, the big roomy beds, neat little kitchens, leather sofas and vast bubbling jacuzzi baths being a treat for my tired body post treetop. Want good abs before the good day? Dangle from a tree, that’s my tip. It also does wonders for the arms, essential in those nice bridesmaid dresses.

The verandah seating outside is great for a wine and giggle with the girls, and the views over to the rainforest spectacular, especially as the rays of sunlight descend into the evening. The lodges can be booked out for parties of varying size, so whether it’s a night with close friends or a bigger party, everyone can laze back in luxury.

For something a little more sedate than the afternoon’s activities, a pre dinner game of mini golf seems in order. The short course down by the lake is one of many sports on offer, with volleyball, basketball and tennis courts all on site. Again it brings out that competitive spirit without too much stress, and it’s good to get the pulse rate up before dinner.

Dinner is in the Rainforest Lounge & Grill, which features a strong menu of modern Australian cuisine, international dishes and sumptuous sweets, and an extensive (mostly Australian) wine list – essential for any trip. Contemporary design creates a chic and stylish atmosphere, the ambient lighting enough to be scene setting, but not to dull the twinkling stars that can be seen from its open arches. If you’re interested, I recommend the wild barramundi, crisp potato fried and garlic alioli, and sticky date pudding swathed in rich butterscotch sauce. The Redgate 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon from Western Australia’s Margaret River region isn’t bad either.

The next morning I’m up early for a guided walk through the bush on one of the many trails. Tamborine Mountain is home to 10 different types of forest including subtropical rainforest, wet eucalypt and open eucalypt forest. Between them the forests contain more than 900 different species of plants representing 65 per cent of all the plant species found in the Gold Coast area. So we spot gum trees, bloodwoods and iron barks, we see tumbling bright blue climbers and delicate orchids. A haven for animals, bush turkeys, kangaroos, lizards and butterflies clamber in and amongst the plants. You may find yourself sharing a walk with ornithologists – feathered friends include Albert’s Lyrebird, bowerbirds, butcher birds, wedge tailed eagles, and the bright and beautiful Rainbow Lorikeets. The Cedar Creek circuit is widely known as one of the best walks in the area, and takes in rock pools, tumbling waterfalls, and open and dry rainforests.

An alternative way to discover the wildlife is on horseback, and post (delicious) breakfast, that is what I do. The riding school offer rides of varying length and complexity through the rainforest, and a gentle hour long trek is a great way to see the landscape. Trotting along up and down the trails, the feeling is almost meditative, breathing in fresh dewy air whilst the horse keeps at a gentle rhythm. The thick gum trees that line the way still startle me with their ghostly bark, and the lush rustling leaves are lovely to listen to. The horses are curious creatures, and when we meander past the Laser Skirmish site, one of the other activities on offer, although one that this time I didn’t take part in, they can’t help but stop and stare at the giggling rush of gamers. All little girls loved the idea of horses, so it seems a lovely way to hang out with girls on this occasion too.


Cooling off post ride, I don my togs and bathe in the natural rock pools on site. Blue, calming and soothing. The salt water pool is a bit bigger and more suited for swimming, but sometimes you just want to kick back and take it all in right? Especially on a special trip with special ladies before a special day. All too soon and it’s back to reality, driving home (although with a stop off or two at the local Tamborine Mountain distillery, having sampled their whisky the night before).

Who would have thought it – a girls weekend at Thunderbird Park…. And for something less pink and sparkles, more fun memories and bonding, why not?

Images via Thunderbird Park

Ms Gingham says: Yep. This is my kind of pre wedding bash! Just be sure to plan it well before your wedding… you’d hate to sprain an ankle and be hobbling down the aisle!

About Francesca: Francesca Baker is a freelance writer currently wandering the world with her eyes wide open and scribbling about. Partial to music, reading, culture, walking, cycling, wine, crazy events, smiling, and life, you can read her musings here and follow her on twitter.

Shambhala Byron Bay – Finding A Special Place

by | Destinations, Honeymoons



Shambhala is a special place. A mythical kingdom that only those with the power, desire, or belief can find. Sounds like love doesn’t it?

Byron Bay may not be the typical honeymoon choice of many, and that is what makes it so ideal. The laidback, loved up nature of the people, the spakling scenery, the happy vibes are all there – without the inflated tourist chic and sparkling facades of so many honeymoon resorts.

Located a fifteen minute walk along the white sand of Byron’s Main Beach, on to Belongil Beach, east of the town is Shambhala Byron Bay, a beautifully designed collection of four apartments in a rainforest meets beach paradise. In terms of its offering it is somewhere between a rental and a resort, without the connotations that the latter implies. There’s a small gym, a yoga studio, sauna, steam room, and Jasmine, the owner, designer, and clear lover of the place, has paid careful attention to ensuring that all a honeymooning couple’s needs are met.

Well, not all…

The air is certainly relaxing here. Designed around the basic principles of feng shui no doubt has a calming and content effect. If it all sounds a bit wishy washy, it’s worth considering what the core of feng shui is. Using and working with space and energy to allow its inhabitants and the place they inhabit to flourish. A home, hotel, workplace, or any physical form should enhance life, not threaten it, and so the right layout and materials give people the best support – ideal when starting a new life!

Besides, it looks beautiful. Jasmine’s ‘interest in all elements of design, from the ‘esotoric’ to the practical’ is evident. It literally is a treehouse, as in a house in the trees, leafs and foliage spreading around, the whisper and rustle in the leaves in harmony with the ocean only metres away. A private gate to the beach leads you on to the stretch of sand that leads east towards Byron and right towards the National Park. Stones line the walkways, water trickles through, and sweeping metal curves guide without being glaring. Buddhist statues, rose quartz and amethyst guide the way, lit at night and infusing with the scent of incense. Elevated boardwalks lead you from one part to another, each able to exist uniquely and being a retreat in itself, but also working harmoniously.

The metaphors for marriage come thick and fast here…

Timber staircases connect the inside to the outside, the upstairs to the downstairs, in wonderfully natural linkage of changing textures and scenes that enhance creativity. It’s seamless, outdoors becomes indoors, and as you wander barefoot, padding the wood, feeling the environment, you see and flow through it all. Despite it all being part of a rhythmic whole, there is space and privacy and it’s rare to hear or see other guests.

There are four cottages at Shambhala, each with Sanskrit names. The two bed Shanti, which in Sanskrit translates as rest, peace, calmness – and bliss. The largest space, Sarita, means flowing. Firey and independent Shiva inspired the name of the solo apartment. The one bedroom two storey Samadhi, the name being a Sanskrit term that refers to a higher level of concentrated meditation resulting in a state of bliss, truth and wholeness, coming from the word sam, meaning ‘together.’ Daybeds on which to snuggle, decks on which to chat, each space is created for a purpose and fulfils that purpose with zen.

Shambhala is romantic, heavenly, a place to be and feel. But it’s stylish rather than schmaltzy, a unique chic and contemporary elegance combined with its use of the surroundings.

Shambhala is also available for vacations, retreats, and general getaways.

Images via Shambhala

Ms Gingham says: Doesn’t this look like a peaceful paradise? 

About Francesca: Francesca Baker is a freelance writer currently wandering the world with her eyes wide open and scribbling about. Partial to music, reading, culture, walking, cycling, wine, crazy events, smiling, and life, you can read her musings here and follow her on twitter.

Karla and Corey’s Vanuatu Destination Wedding

by | Honeymoons, Inspired Destination Weddings, Inspired Weddings


Polka Dot Bride

Karla & Corey

When Karla and Corey chose Vanuatu for their destination wedding, they surprised their guests by not having a “traditional” wedding and rather, chose to make a holiday out of it. The incredible backdrop that the islands of Vanautu provided served as the backdrop for their wedding day as captured by Kellee Walsh.

Of how they met, Karla tells, “We met in high school. I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about when this guy from QLD started school in Yr 9 and some girls had a crush on him. 3 years later, I caught on.”

The couple’s stationery was designed and made by The Wanderlust Creative. Karla remembering, “My closest friend designed our wedding invitation, that was a generous gift.”

Karla’s strapless wedding gown was made by Heidi Johansen, Karla recalls ,”I designed my dress and the dress maker used her grandmother’s wedding dress lace and used it on my dress, she also embroidered our wedding date inside my dress.”

Karla and Corey were married at Cathedrale du Sacre Coeur, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Karla tells, “The church was a little tricky to research – as google images could only supply so much images of churches in the city. We were limited with Catholic churches, as we wanted to transport our family and friends as comfortable as possible so that was easy for us to eliminate.”

Karla walked down the aisle with the couple’s son Bailey to a song played by a friend. She tells, “Our Friend, Jason Macdonald (Corey’s Music TAFE friend in high school) sang and played the guitar for us. He did an acoustic version of “Follow” by Sevendust (one of our favourite bands since high school – a surprise from me to Corey.) It was beautiful to see Corey, holding back his tears when he saw me and our son Bailey (who gave me away).”

Fr. Diosdado Haber performed the ceremony, Karla telling, ” We flew our family priest so he could conduct the traditional Filipino ceremony.”

Of their photographer, Karla tells, “Kellee is one of the best storytellers. I was star struck to actually meet her and have her capture our fine day!”

Making the most of Vanautu’s natural wonders, Karla and Corey had wedding photos taken at Mele Cascades, walking there after the ceremony. Karla remarking, “‘I wanted something different with our wedding images so I suggested why not walk all the way to Mele Cascades waterfalls. Kellee was a trooper and risked her precious camera equipment as we walked up to the waterfall! (it was such a great and memorable experience) I didn’t mind getting the wedding dress dirty, You only wear it once, Right?! ”

The couple added traditional Vanautu customs to their day, Karla telling, “We had the traditional church ceremony in the morning and we wanted to do a destination wedding appropriate theme! What better way than to have a lagoon blessing. Swapped the veil for a lei and arrive in style on a canoe! With the Conch shell horn being blown across both ends of the lagoon (where Corey was and another “Chief” that steered the boat! I wanted flowers trailing from the tree to jazz up the lagoon. With petals trailing (it was supposed to be tossed, but never happened!) Local flowers were used and created by Kim from Rhizome Flowers.

Most of the wedding, including the reception and accommodation took place at Holiday Inn, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Karla telling, “It was meant to be a holiday for my Mum’s 60th Birthday – and we hi-jacked it) It took less than 6 months of research and Skype to get my idea across! (it’s something they’ve never done before) And I work in the wedding industry, so I wanted to make sure I wanted to make the most of things while being realistic with resources at the same time.”

The reception was decorated by candlelight, provided by Karla who explains, “I took advantage of everyone’s hand carry(on) and made them carry the hanging glass votives from Sydney to Vanuatu! (and I gave them as a gift to the events co-ordinator and I told her, I don’t want them coming back to Sydney!) It will be a first for them to have such an amazing prop for future events! ”

A fun take on the traditional guest book was using Jenga blocks, Karla telling, “We used Jenga blocks for our family and friends to write on instead of guest books – It’s more fun! (we just couldn’t imagine whipping out a guest book and reading it over and over again) At least family and friends get to play Jenga to entertain themselves!”

“We wanted everyone to eat together, so they made it possible to have a large, banquet style seating arrangement with no table placings. It was “First in, best dressed” approach on seating! Kids were thrown on a separate dining table so they could all run amuck! An advantage of just having family and friends to your destination wedding – you can give them the shortest notice if there are any changes made! (like we told them over dinner that the bus will be ready at 8:30am for a 9am ceremony!)”

“We wanted it as easy and laid back as possible. (It was a first for some to go overseas and sometimes the climate was a shock to them). We weren’t fans of “Formalities” it’s just FAMILY!”

Of their first dance, Karla recalls, “Our first dance was sung by my Brother-in law’s sister and Jason. “Without you” – Brooke Fraser We didn’t want people watching us dance the entire song, so we invited everyone else to dance along with their partners and kids.”

“As part of the RSVP – we asked for guests to dedicate “LOVE songs” to take control of our reception music – BOY did we get a mixture of songs! We decided not to have any bridal party – as we wanted ALL FAMILY members and Friends involved in the wedding!”

Congratulations on your marriage Karla and Corey! Thank you for sharing your day with us! Thank you also to Kellee Walsh for sharing today’s wedding!

Photographer: Kellee Walsh / Bride’s Dress: Heidi Johansen / Bride’s Shoes: Ozsale / Bride’s Jewelry: Mum's earrings (heirloom) / Groom’s Attire: Gibson / Hairstylist: Dextrous / Makeup Artist: Dextrous / Flowers & Decor: Rhizome / Styling & Coordination: Janelle Tokon, Holiday Inn, Port Vila / Invitations & Stationery: The Wanderlust Creative / Ceremony Venue: Cathedrale du Sacre Coeur, Port Vila, Vanuatu / Ceremony Officiant: Fr. Diosdado Haber (Family priest based in Sydney) / Ceremony Musicians: Jason McDonald / Reception Venue: Holiday Inn, Port Vila, Vanuatu / Cake Baker: Au Peche Mignon / Wedding Rings: MY TIN Jewellers (02 9724 3331) / Transport: Evergreen Vanuatu
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