By Jacqueline Trewin
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Venice in Noosa sounds too good to be true, but legendary gondolier Ricardo, aka Richard Wilschke, knows how to point you in the right direction.
OK, you don’t have the weather-beaten gothic and baroque buildings, nor the charm of cruising under the old Rialto Bridge along the Grand Canal.
But stepping off a jetty in Noosa and into the trusted hands of Ricardo will instantly transport you to Venetian romance as you meander through the pristine waters of the Noosa Biosphere.
As a true professional, Mr. Wilschke has been conjuring up the romance of Venice on board his gondola for a quarter of a century.
“It’s a privilege to be able to take people and share one of the most memorable times of their lives when they propose to their partner,” said Mr. Wilschke.
“They’ve done something really special and often you’re the first person they tell about it. I always like it because it makes you feel good and included in that moment.”
He should know. Proposing to his partner Tanya for the second time in the gondola proved to be a huge success.
But since love is in the air, even if you’re not the die-hard romantic, you can always feel it in your waters in Noosa when you can’t miss the gondola up the Noosa River.
“Noosa is really a place that a lot of couples enjoy spending time at,” said Mr. Wilschke.
“And the river really lends itself to the gondola experience where there are lots of smaller boats, and the array of bridges, amazing canals and waterways.”
But unlike some opera-loving Venetian gondoliers, he prefers to leave the singing to the professionals.
“People are always asking me to sing, so I usually tell them to wait until they get on board, where I’ll serenade them with Dean Martin, Michael Bublé, Andre Bocelli, or a little bit of Italian opera,” he said he.
At the age of 20 he left Magnetic Island for some Noosa action in search of work and ideal surfing conditions.
Mr. Wilschke, who already had charter work experience, began working in hospitality at Café Le Monde and legendary restaurant Coco’s before moving to tourism for ride operator Bill Turner.
“We did jet ski rides off Noosa Main Beach and banana (boat) rides in the early ’90s,” Mr. Wilschke said.
“I also fished offshore for a local charter company before wanting to do my own thing.”
After he returned from Europe in the mid ’90s, his mother suggested the idea of a gondola ride before joining a gondola ride with friends in Mooloolaba.
“We really enjoyed the cruise and later discovered there is a gondola shop in Brisbane that has been doing this for over 30 years. They had a few boats and we managed to commission one of them,” he said.
Families, locals and returning visitors can also enjoy cruising with Mr. Wilshke, who appreciates all of his guests’ comments.
“Just the appreciation of people who might have been through tough times, they just needed a really good cruise to relax,” he said.
Mr Wilschke, who has been running Noosa Water Taxi for almost 10 years, says his business was hit during the peak period in December when Covid isolation rules caused significant staff shortages for some local restaurants.
“Popular restaurants like Bistro C, Gusto, Rickys and Noosa Waterfront all had some closures back then, which definitely slowed things down for us as we bring a lot of people to those places,” he said.
“But we are positive about the whole thing with Covid as it is now not disrupting travel like it has in recent years so we can look forward to a busier Easter season.”
Visit gondolasofnoosa.com for more information