Last Wednesday was a sunny day and quite pleasant notwithstanding the cool breeze from the South West. But the shore line at Deception Bay is sheltered with winds from that direction. With the tide ebbing it was likely that wading birds would be there to take advantage of the drying floor of the bay, the exposed area increasing as the tide receded.
Deception Bay is deceptive. At high tide it appears to be a body of deep water but any but the most shallow draft vessel that moves outside of the dredged channel into Newport Waterways will soon learn of its deceptive nature. So while limiting for boats it is a great feed area for birds.
The first bird I saw as we drove along The Esplanade was a brown and white bird in the water, just off shore. I parked, grabbed the camera and walked towards it, but before I could get near to it someone buzzed it with a drone. It took off and vanished over the trees to the south.
As the tide ebbed further, more birds came in. Smaller birds included Silver Gulls, Gull-billed Terns, Pied Stilts and Bar-tailed Godwits. Larger birds were represented by Egrets, both Great and Intermediate and White-faced Herons. This was by first opportunity to get a close look and a photo of the White-faced Heron.
Shorncliffe Pier is, not surprisingly, at Shorncliffe in suburban Brisbane. It runs from the beach at Lower Moora Park, below Saint Patrick’s College. The current version of the pier was opened in 2016 after a complete rebuild. It is an attractive and popular structure with a broad timber deck, white timber railing, colonial street lamps and a resting shelter towards its outer end. It extends 351.5 metres into the waters of Bramble Bay, which is part of Moreton Bay. It is just a few kilometres north east from the mouth of the Brisbane River and provides a view of the operations of the Port of Brisbane. It is the longest recreational timber pier in Brisbane and one of the longest in Australia.
Shorncliffe, and its neighbour Sandgate, were popular beach side suburbs in the early days of Brisbane and popular for day trips.
The first attempt to build a pier at Shorncliffe was in 1885, but lobbying to the Queensland Government failed. In 1879 local hotel proprietor William Deagon built a jetty opposite his hotel. It was smaller than the current pier but large enough to have a tram track on it.
The last ferry to Brisbane ran in 1928 after mixed commercial success during preceding years. At that time the pier housed an amusement parlour including gaming machines and an open air picture theatre.
In 1882 a decision was taken that the jetty was not big enough and a company was formed to build a new pier. Between 1883 and 1884 the new pier, with a length of 260 metres, was built and later extend by a further 91.5 meters to its current length. The additional length made the berthing of ferries possible, facilitating travel between Brisbane and the bay side area. A small toll was collected at the entry to the pier.
In 2012, lead by then Lord Mayor of Brisbane Graham Quirk, the Brisbane City Council decided to rebuild the pier, so it was closed to the public and rebuilt from the ground up. Or should that be from the sea bed up? The renewed pier design includes concrete and steel substructure and timber joists, decking, handrails and rotunda. There was also a larger hammerhead and a lower platform at the end of the pier, fish cleaning stations, water fountains, benches and light poles. The colonial style of light pole were retained. The removal works commenced in November 2014 and the new structure was opened on Good Friday, 25th March 2016.
The opening date was appropriate as the jetty is the starting point for the Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race, conducted at Easter each year, which starts at 10.00 AM each Good Friday. The pier is one end of the starting line.
The pier is a popular tourist destination but these days visitors arrive by car rather than by ferry. Views of the Port of Brisbane and the shore adjacent to the Brisbane Airport are to the south and Boondal Wetlands, Bramble Bay and the Redcliffe Peninsula with the Woody Point pier and high rise, clearly visible to the north.
Earlier in the life of the pier an area between its southern rail and the beach was enclosed by netting to form a safe swimming enclosure. The netting and other parts of the structure have long since disappeared but the concrete posts remain to the delight of sea birds like these Pied Cormorants.
The foreshore has been improved over the years, as has the adjacent park area on the hill. It the shelter of shade trees and pergolas, several picnic tables with seating have been provided. Be early on a sunny day if you want a table, particularly at weekends. The street behind the hillside park offers some dining options. A coffee van is often to be found near the base of the jetty adjacent to parking area.
I have been thinking about adding bird photographs to our blog pages for a while. I have been interested in bird photography for many years but did not own the lenses necessary to do anything about it.
My camera is a Canon 700D which I purchased in about 2015. It came with two kit lenses, a 18 – 55 mm primary and a 55 – 250 mm short telephoto lens. But changing lenses all the time is a pain in the neck so I mainly used the primary lens and cropped photos to bring distant subjects a bit closer. I mostly used the camera in one of the automatic modes as most photos were to support my travel blog text.
About a year ago I was able to obtain at a reasonable price a Sigma 18 – 250 mm telephoto lens. This was a great improvement but still placed me too far away from subject birds to achieve satisfactory results.
Then, on the principle of you can’t take it with you I went looking for something better and found a Sigma 150 – 600 mm telephoto. Used with my crop sensor camera I have an effective 900 mm reach. Much better.
I also started to really study the capabilities of my camera and began to shoot in manual mode. I purchased a high capacity data card for the camera and began shooting in RAW at maximum megapixels (18) and converting RAW data into JPEG in Canon Digital Photo Professional 4.
During processing I identify the bird by using apps and field guide books. A handy aid to identification is the “Google Lens” phone app. Available from your phone’s app store, it allows you to scan a bird photo on the computer screen and gives you a selection of photographs to use in identification.
I also use Cornell University’s “Merlin” app and the “Australian Birds” app. There are other that you can try for yourself. I also have a copy of the Michael Morcombe Field Guide to Australian Birds.
Sightings are recorded on an Excel spreadsheet where I record bird and variety and location and date sighted. My computer files are kept by location.
For the future I intend to post my better shots from each outing, together with some information on location and the featured birds. Unless I change my mind, of course.
But for now, here are some of the photos that I have accumulated to date.
At breakfast, I confirmed with my niece that a left turn back at the main road, the Old Hume Highway, would take us through Camden and Picton. I used to know that road well until it changed its character completely, when multiple suburbs were built along it and it ceased to be the Hume Highway. But I forgot the second left turn at Narellan town centre. We were crossing Peter Brock Drive at Oran Park before I realised my mistake.
We turned and allowed Google Maps to guide us over several country roads, including one called Sheather Lane, until we reached Camden. The Old Hume Highway then lead us over The Razorback to Picton, where we stopped for coffee. The wrong turn had cost us time, so the quickest route, out to the motorway and directly to Bowral, was needed to bring us to our destination on schedule. We didn’t want to be late for lunch.
The next call was very much of the reason for the trip. Ruth’s youngest brother lives with his wife in the beautiful eastern suburbs of Bowral, in the NSW Southern Highlands. Wallace and Virginia (Wall & Jinny) have lived in Bowral for many years. As time passed they bought the block in a then new area to the east of the town and built a nice house around which they have laid out beautiful gardens.
Sadly Wall is in advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease. Jinny is his devoted carer these days. We spent a night with them and left next morning. We had as pleasant a time together as circumstanced would allow. It was pretty good.
Not only is Jinny a keen gardener but loves birds. Local birds know it as a good place for a regular feed. The current favourite is a Crimson Rosella that sits on Jinny’s thumb and eats out of the palm of her hand. Kookaburras call and laugh and other Australian native birds in the vicinity drop in.
For a couple of days we had been watching wet weather approach from the south. As we departed Bowral on that Saturday morning, it was clear that we were heading towards the front of the change. We reached Goulburn in slight drizzle. After coffee we took the Crookwell Road to the north, heading for a lunch stop at Bathurst. Beyond Crookwell the road passes through several kilometres of mountains, resulting in steep winding roads. It was on this section of road that the weather caught up with us. Heavy rain and gusty winds added to the challenge but there was not much other traffic.
Approaching Bathurst, we attempted to take a drive around the Mount Panorama circuit. It was not to be. From the foot of the serious mountains until the outskirts of Bathurst, road side signs warned of cycling activity in the area. We discovered that the centre for this Lycra clad event was the straight and buildings of the Mount Panorama racing circuit. Spectators were driving into parking areas and barriers protracted the track.
From Bathurst we drove through intermittent rain to Orange, Wellington and finally Dubbo, where we spent the night. The next day we followed the Newell Highway to Coonabarabran where we turned for Gunnedah. We enjoyed views of lush green Western Plains, so different to the drought conditions of recent trips. The grasshopper plague, part of which spread itself over the front of the car, was less welcome. We progressed under sunny skies having temporarily left the rain behind. It really was a pleasant drive. Morning coffee was taken at Coonabarabran and lunch at Gunnedah.
We joined the New England Highway at Moonbi after skirting to the north of Tamworth. This is quite a good alternative if you want to avoid Tamworth and interesting scenery, as the road runs through the collection of huge boulders known as the Moonbi Gap. A short side trip took us to the summit of Moonbi Hill. From there we drove to Armidale for the night.
Sunday 14th April dawned in Armidale with blue skies overhead but heavy cloud to the south west. We could have kept to the New England Highway by continuing north, but we figured that we could make it along the Waterfall Way and check out the area after recent rain, before more rain fell. So off we went.
There is a lot to see along this road but we stuck to waterfalls. The first call was at falls that we had not previously visited. About 20 km east of Armidale you turn to the right into Old Hillgrove Road, which starts as a narrow sealed road but quickly changes to corrugated gravel. The road leads down a hill, over an old wooden bridge over Bakers Creek and up the other side to a small car park hidden behind trees. A rough bush path leads to a surprisingly elaborate timber viewing platform that provides good views of the falls. It is a good spot and worth the roughish road.
From Bakers Creek Fall you can continue on Old Hillgrove Road to the historic mining town of Hillgrove, returning to the Waterfall Way via Stockton Road, that is now the main access to Hillgrove. We retraced our steps to Waterfall Way, having visited Hillgrove on a previous journey.
Next up was the Wollomombi Falls. Just a few kilometres along the Waterfall Way the turn again is to the right. A sealed road leads for about a kilometre, through a farm, into the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. It is then only a few hundred metres to the day visitors’ area located on the edge of the gorge. The falls can be viewed through the trees at the edge of the picnic area, but a better view is had by taking a short walk to a commodious viewing platform.
The falls, which are on the Wollomombi River, are a spectacular 150 to 230 metre drop into Wollomombi Gorge. The elevation of the top of the falls above sea level is 907 meters.
At our last visit there was no water at all so it was great to see the falls flowing. Just downstream of the falls the Wollomombi River joins the Chandler River which empty into other rivers until the water reaches the Macleay River which flows through Kempsey and enters the Pacific Ocean at South West Rocks.
Not far along the highway, a turn to the left leads over a rise to the village of Wollomombi, where the general store provided acceptable coffee and with morning nibbles or lunch. It was too early for lunch so we nibbled with our coffee.
Ebor is the next waterfall stop along the road but to get there you pass the turn on the right that leads to the magnificent views of Point Lookout and a trout hatchery that offers smoked trout. Today the views would probably be of clouds and fog. On the left you pass the Cathedral Rock National park and the road to Guyra. Ebor falls are to the left before you reach the town. Views of the cascades in this impressive river are unfortunately marred by wire mesh barricades. As is so often the case, NSW authorities find it easier to erect a fence instead of maintaining tourist facilities. This is a very odd approach at a time when they are spending big on advertising programs to entice tourists to holiday in their own state. But we don’t do public tourist facility maintenance very well anywhere in Australia.
From Ebor we drove the undulating plateaux to Dorrigo where we headed to the Canopy Café at the Dorrigo National Park, for lunch. We took the mandatory walk along the Skywalk Lookout before returning to the car. As we returned to the highway the first sprinkles hit the windscreen but the deluge waited until we had descended the mountain to Urunga before it started. By the time we reached Coffs Harbour almost all of the deceased grasshoppers that had spread themselves over the front of the car were washed away.
We stayed two nights at Coffs, in a small apartment a little to the north of the main area, with glimpses of the ocean. The heavy rain experienced over night withdrew sufficiently for us to visit the lookout on the mountain behind Coffs Harbour and to drive to Sawtell where we had lunch in a pleasant cafe in the main street. We checked out the observation points in the area before returning north along the road nearest the coast. Just a quick look in at the harbour area and back to the unit as the rain became serious again.
The trip ended with the drive home from Coffs Harbour the next day. We had been away for exactly two weeks.
Our destination for the day was Mount Annan, near Liverpool, south of Sydney. Tollways with 80kph speed limits now bypass Sydney. You don’t see a single traffic light until after turning off the Hume Highway at Campbelltown. With a mid afternoon ETA we had time to spare, so stayed east of the Newcastle bypass highway, travelling down the Old Pacific Highway until we turned further east to join the real coast road at Budgewoi.
Most of our drive was familiar, but not all. We had intended to do a run into Caves Beach, just south of Swansea, but missed the turn in the new (to me) road arrangements south of the bridge over the entrance to Lake Macquarie. But we did take a run into Catherine Hill Bay. I wanted to see the old coal loading jetty, last viewed during an inshore tack when sailing a newly acquired yacht from Sydney to Brisbane, many years ago.
This was a coal mining area, of course. As you approach the beach and jetty, you pass through streets lined by old miner’s cottages, many under renovation, probably reaching seven figure valuations as a result. We parked above the beach so that I could walk down a sandy ramp to the ocean’s edge to take some photos.
We re-joined the highway via the southern access to the town, passing new houses, including large homes with ocean views and a new subdivision, down in a valley, with no views at all. At Doyalson we turned in again to the coast, driving through Budgewoi, over the bridge that spans the narrow waterway that joins Lake Munmorah and Lake Budgewoi. We then travelled through Toukley and Noraville to The Entrance which we made our morning coffee and photo stop.
As we had approached The Entrance we both noticed water birds in Tuggerah Lake. With morning coffee done, we returned the couple of kilometres to where we had seen the birds. I fitted my long lens and took a number of photos, including some with which I was reasonably happy.
Retracing our steps, we drove through The Entrance to Long Jetty, on the eastern shore of Tuggerah Lake. Long Jetty is both a suburb and a long jetty. I had heard of it in both forms and driven through the suburb a number of times. Today we called to visit.
The jetty is intended for foot traffic, with a hand rail on one side. The timber deck is about a metre above the water. On the outer end of the jetty I could see a group of water birds, sitting on the rail. My bird lens was not attached to the camera but the smaller one would do. But on the spur of the moment I forgot to change the camera settings from general sightseeing to bird photography. The result was photos of less quality than they could have been. We live and, hopefully, learn and remember in the future.
We continued south, keeping as near to the ocean as possible, turning east for a better view of the coast whenever the opportunity presented. Then we came to Terrigal and I realised that I had never been there. I was impressed. We drove through town to the bay where the launching ramp is located and where views are to be had over the bay, back to the residential and commercial development of the town centre. This location provided views of magnificent sea cliff top houses, the kind that dreams are made of.
After a viewing and photo stop we drove around point Kurrawyba with its two headlands and then via the Scenic Highway to eventually reach Woy Woy. There we did some necessary shopping and returned to the Pacific Motorway near Gosford to continue south. So after crossing the Hawkesbury River and reaching Hornsby we were taken underground for a long sweep to the west on the M7 until we swung back east to the Hume Motorway at Casula. It was then a quick and easy drive to Mount Annan, our destination.
There we caught up with Ruth’s youngest sister Dorothy (Dot) and her family, including newly minted grandson Max. We also caught up with Max’s mum Deahna, our niece Madison, Madison’s fiancé Josh and Dot’s other half, Peter. Max’s dad had work commitments.
After much talking and taking of refreshments, Peter took to the barbeque to produce the protein to accompany the other portions of the meal, previously prepared. With a libation or two we all enjoyed a very pleasant evening, called to an earlier close than might otherwise have been the case by our hosts need to make early departures for work the following morning.
With some embarrassment, I see that it is a year since I have added to our travel Web site www.mobilesheathers.com. One reason for the delay is that we are less mobile, with advancing age and the disposal of our caravan and tow vehicle. But despite Covid-19 we have made some excursions of several days duration. I will start getting the site up to date with a report on our most recent trip south.
We have, for obvious reasons, been reluctant to venture out of Queensland, due to the possibility of being locked out or needing to deal with the expense of getting back in. With the prolonged period of no community Covid infections as encouragement, we took our courage in both hands and crossed that border at Tweed Heads, heading south. What was the experience like, you may ask? Well, very much the same as on previous occasions. All the border closing gear had been placed out of sight, so all was normal again. But, for how long? The answer to that question remains unanswered, thankfully.
The decision to go south was brought about by an earlier decision to join a group from our Probus Club at the Broadwater Tourist Park at Southport, near Surfers Paradise, for a few days. We do this periodically, at different locations, generally staying for three nights. Normally, some of our group come with their caravans, while the other attendees take up residence in park cabins. This time, with inclement weather both with us and projected, we all chose cabins.
Our program included dinner at the Southport Yacht Club, a luncheon cruise of the Broadwater on a Sea World ferry and each evening a happy hour in one of the park camp kitchens. The periods not organised were free time, but no one did very much due to disagreeable weather. I did go for a wander during the first morning, with my longest lens on my camera, to photograph some local shore birds. Bird photography is my latest hobby interest.
So on Friday, day 4 of our travels, we crossed the border and drove a further 90 kilometres to Ballina, where we spent two nights with our longest time friends Joe and Thelma, who relocated themselves from Melbourne to Ballina a couple of years ago. Renovations are complete on their house and have been very well carried out. The house is as new. We enjoyed a day and two nights with them, resuming conversations interrupted when we parted from them the last time. Thank you, Thelma and Joe.
This brought us up to Sunday 7th March. The 8th March was my Brother Ivan’s 87th birthday, so we had a day to reach Newcastle and our accommodation at Merewether Beach. The only impediment to traffic flow on the Pacific Highway, between the Queensland Border and the northern approaches to Newcastle, are the multiple (is it 12 or 14?) sets of traffic lights through Coffs Harbour, so we made the journey in comfort and with ease.
We had lunch with Ivan and Marjorie at the Windsor Hotel in East Maitland on Ivan’s birthday. He drove us there in their new Nissan X-Trail, having a few days previously passed his second “old persons” driving test with flying colours. We returned to their home to again resume old conversations. We stayed with them for a light evening meal and then returned to our digs.
We arrived back at our motel too late to lodge breakfast menus, so next morning needed to embark on an excursion to find breakfast. We drove to Merewether Beach but all the Newcastle city workers who park there and walk to work for exercise got there first. So there was breakfast but no parking. A little further up the beach we found a venue and parking but breakfast was down a long and steep flight of stairs. Closer to our motel we found a café that did the poached eggs and bacon to a turn and provided excellent coffee.
The rest of the morning was free until we were due to meet Ruth’s eldest sister Judy and Alan her husband at 1.00PM, after they kept some previously made appointments. We used this time to revisit familiar areas and to find some that were less so. Judy and Alan arrived right on time. We enjoyed a leisurely (about 2 ½ hours) lunch at the pier which is part of the Queens Wharf Hotel, while we chatted and watched the procession of bulk carriers and tugs on the busy Newcastle coal port pass by.
There had been a severe thunder storm while at Ivan’s place the previous day. As we approached the expiry of our parking meters the signs were building up for a repeat performance. This one was less severe. We said our goodbyes and made it to our vehicles before the first drops fell.
With time to fill before we needed to be back at our motel, we set off through the rain on the 20 kilometre drive to Stockton Wharf. Our destination had been visible to us as we sat at lunch, about one kilometre across the harbour from us. The purpose of the drive was some photos of the unobscured Newcastle riverside precinct, from a distance. The bonus was that the road took us very close to the shipping berths and the loading equipment that handles much of the freight volume that passes through the Newcastle port. The bad news was that rain was falling again , so no photos.
After a substantial lunch only a light evening meal was required, so we dined on previously acquired rations and went to bed to build up our strength for the drive further south the next day.
We awoke to a view over Lake Hume and a chilly morning with blue skies. Great touring weather but the tour is almost over.
The plan had been to stay at Corryong or Khancoban the previous night and drive the Alpine Way to Jindabyne that day But we had not reckoned with the Bush Fire Relief Fun Day to be held that day in Corryong, or the weather. There was not a bed to be had in that area so we ended up at Hume Weir, as reported in the previous post. And despite our clear morning the forecast for Thredbo was snow above 1,400 metres, rain and temperatures ranging from zero to 6C. The chill wind was a north easterly, blowing from where we had intended to be. It felt as if the snow was already falling.
So we started the day by taking a look at the Hume Dam retaining wall and floodgates (pictured in the previous day’s post). The floodgates don’t appear to have been used recently. Then, rather than spend the day with the tedium of a four lane highway all the way, we added a side trip.
We crossed the Murray River proper over a rather magnificent iron bridge just north of the dam, back into Victoria, at the small town of Bellbridge. The road that we had travelled the previous day followed the inlets on the south side of southern arm of Lake Hume that swing back into Victoria, the inlets created by streams flowing in from the south. Today we followed the NSW/Victorian border, which is the southern bank of the Murray, initially following the south bank of the northern arm of the lake and then driving mostly within sight of the stream.
After 95 km we crossed the Murray at Jingellic, pausing there for coffee. It is a place that I had wanted to see, after passing signs on the Hume Highway that point towards it, for the better part of 60 years.
There is not much to the town. It has just a few houses, a general store, a show grounds that double as a low cost caravan park and a pub. We missed the pub. It was down a side road out of sight.
The countryside is beautifully green with mobs of cattle, mostly dairy cows, grazing on the lushness. Periodically, we came upon caravans parked right on the river bank. We passed the last of the backed up water well before we reached the point to which the water had backed in earlier days.
Just before we crossed the river at Jingellic we started to pass through extensive burned areas. Whole mountain sides of bush and pine plantations had been scorched. Jingellic had not been missed by much. Fires north of there, near Tumbarumba, were reported on news broadcasts as being quite severe with that town largely evacuated.
We returned to the Hume Highway at Holbrook, an inland town known as the home of a submarine. One of the Japanese subs that attacked Sydney Harbour during WWII was on display in a park for as long as I can remember. But the Japanese sub has gone and been replaced by the top half (cut off at the waterline) of HMAS Otway, a decommissioned Australian submarine.
I can’t find what happened to the Japanese sub but I think it is in a museum somewhere. Or was it returned to the Japanese? Can someone tell me?
The Hume Highway was not carrying much traffic so we made good time, pausing at Gundagai for lunch and arriving at Canberra just as rain started to fall. We were booked into Canberra for two nights. There are always things to see in Canberra. A visit to the War Memorial is never a waste of time so was on the agenda.
Canberra is a widely spread city. Our accommodation was at a hotel at Gungahlin, in the outer northern suburbs. We had a drive of near to 20 km to our first visiting point.
Two nights in Canberra meant a sleep in. Partly to let the clouds drift away and partly to be a bit lazy, we spent the morning in, delaying sightseeing until after an early lunch.
If you want to see all of Canberra there is only one place to go and that’s to the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain. This rocky peak is located in the middle of Greater Canberra. It rises to 812 metres above sea level. The Telstra Tower is at the top. Two levels of observation decks are accessible by elevator. This vantage point allows for a full overview of Canberra, its suburbs and the surrounding hills and countryside.
I took a series of photos giving views all the way around from the top open deck. A selection appears below.
We then visited the Australian War Memorial. We normally spend some time there when we visit Canberra. There are normally changes and new exhibits, particularly if we have not visited recently.
I didn’t take any photos of the displays but only some outside shots. Because we were there towards the end of the day we were able to stay for the daily closing ceremony. We had time for a quick afternoon tea break at the conveniently located Poppy’s Café. We had to be quick as they were about to close.
Each day a different service person who lost their life during hostilities is featured. Their photo is displayed and their story told by a currently serving member of the armed forces. Often relatives of the fallen service person are present and take part in a wreaths laying ceremony. The National Anthem is sung and the last post sounded. The ceremony is held in the central court near to the reflective pool and the eternal flame. It was a very moving experience.
We had planned to spend a couple of days at daughter Briony’s unit in Sydney, as she was away for a few days. But with the seriousness of the corona virus situation becoming clearer, we had decided to give up on that plan and head home.
Our interim destination became Bowral, in the NSW Southern Highlands, to visit Ruth’s youngest brother and our sister-in-law. We had an invitation to lunch. Following this very pleasant occasion we departed mid afternoon for Katoomba, to spend the second last night of our trip.
Travel via Katoomba was a longer way home but we wanted to see fire damage in the Blue Mountains. We had heard that fire had burned very close to the Three Sisters. There was no sign of fire damage from the Great Western Highway.
It was drizzly and cold when we arrived at the motel so we deferred visiting Echo Point until next morning.
Big mistake! Next morning dawned with a thick fog over the mountains that hung well below the altitude of Katoomba. We didn’t break out of the fog until well on the way to Lithgow.
We spent one more night along the way at Moree, arriving home about mid afternoon on Wednesday 18th March.
In all we had driven just over 10,000 km and had been away for 50 days. The distance Melbourne – Devonport – Melbourne did not register on the odometer, of course but was a further 436 km each way.
Would we visit Tasmania again? Yes! But realistically, at our age, we don’t expect to have the opportunity again.
Our tour was not quite over. The Victorian high country is among our favourite areas. So, having bid our hosts goodbye, we set off over the mostly flat country of Northern Victoria, heading to Bright in the western foothills of the Victorian Alps. We arrived at about the same time as singer Katy Perry, who was there to perform at a bush fire fund raiser. She performed for about six thousand locals at a sports ground. The only evidence of this extravaganza was more traffic than usual and barricades blocking some roads.
Our track took us through Redesdale, Heathcote, past the back of the Puckapunyal military area to Nagambie and over to the Hume Highway near Euroa. Heathcote and Nagambie are both wine producing areas. Puckapunyal produces soldiers. We left the highway north of Glenrowan to drive through the wine country at Milawa (Brown Brothers) and on to Bright. Much of this area was tobacco producing back when smoking was not a proscribed social evil. Tobacco drying sheds can still be seen on properties that have been converted to other agricultural purpose.
Before reaching our destination we turned at Porepunkah intending to drive to the summit of Mount Buffalo. But it is a long drive, continually climbing on what is often a narrow road with a precipice on one side. We gave it away at about 900 metres and returned to earth. Its summit is 1,721 metres above sea level, so we still had a long way to climb. It is at times like these that advancing age starts to show.
There was sufficient daylight when we arrived to see Bright, most of which we achieved while looking for our motel. It was hard to find, with Google Maps sending us along many streets that were never going to get us there. That was how we came across the Katy Perry barricades.
Unfortunately we were too early for autumn tints in the foliage. The copious quantities of poplars, maples and other deciduous trees had not yet started to stage their annual show. It is autumn colours that bring the influx of visitors to Bright each year.
Sorry, there are no photos of Katy Perry.
The next day, Thursday, was a perfect day in the high country. We enjoyed endless blue skies with only a light wind all day. We waited for the time to reach 9.00 am in Queensland, made a couple of phone calls and headed out through Harrietville towards Mt. Hotham.
Narrow winding roads with sheer drops to valley floors hundreds of metres down, only a few areas protected by Armco barriers and the possibility of meeting trucks and caravans. What fun! Actually we saw more cyclists than other vehicles, met no trucks and only one caravan.
We stayed for only a short time at the 1,800 metres altitude of Hotham Heights before continuing to Dinner Plains, looking for lunch. We thought we were out of luck, but noticed a “coffee” sign and found a small shop called The Stables run by a very enthusiastic young lady who had only opened the doors of her new business on the previous Saturday.
The road between Hotham and Omeo took us through several areas burned in the recent fires. Some parts were burned on just one side of the road but in other areas, where the fire had come up the mountain, it jumped the road and continued on its way towards the higher ground. The ski fields of Hotham seemed to be untouched so the ski season will not be adversely effected. The area has had much worse fires in the past.
After a refueling stop at Omeo we drove the remaining winding kilometres to our destination.
We first saw the Blue Duck Inn in 1965 when we decided to return to our home in Drouin in Victoria from Sydney, via the Omeo Highway. It was all gravel then but now fully sealed. We saw the building as we drove past and thought it would be great to return and stay. We drove past again a couple of years ago on a day trip from Omeo, but this time we realised our ambition.
We were the only guests when we arrived but another couple came later. The number of diners reached 6 when another couple of about our age, who had their caravan in a camping area over the river, came in to dine. We spent a pleasant evening in their company.
The cabins at Blue Duck are spacious and well fitted but lined with unpainted timber and heated by a wood heater. Mains electricity does not reach Anglers Rest so they generate their own. The generator goes off at about 10.00 pm and batteries take over so our rest was not disturbed.
Omeo was a gold producing area with mostly alluvial mining, so streams in the area were prospected to within an inch of their lives. But no gold was found at Anglers Rest. Failure to find gold in a stream is known as a blue duck. So the hotel that dates back to the 1890s was named the Blue Duck Hotel.
The objective of this part of the trip was to drive the Omeo Highway. Staying at the Blue Duck Inn was part of that. So after breakfast on Friday morning we set forth to complete the task. The distance from Omeo to Tallangatta is 167 km. When we resumed our journey we still had 139 km to go.
From Anglers Rest the road follows first the Cobungra River and then the Big River until it leads into serious mountains that carry the road to over 1,300 metres over the Great Dividing Range, before making its winding way into the Mitta Mitta Valley. The road then follows Snowy Creek all the way to the small town of Mitta Mitta where the creek flows into the Mitta Mitta River.
This neat riverside village is the first town past Omeo. There are several good rest areas with toilets and picnic and camping facilities along the way.
Very shortly after Mitta Mitta we reached the turn to the town of Dartmouth and the Dartmouth Dam. It is a detour of about 40 km return and well worth the effort. The wall, spillway and earth works are quite dramatic and would be awesome with water coming over the spillway. A hydro power station is located at the foot of the wall. A few km further downstream a small retaining wall has been built, with another power station, so the water is used twice before being released to flow down the valley into Hume Weir at Tallangatta.
We continued on to Tallangatta and then followed the Murray Valley Highway, that skirts the southern edges of Lake Hume, until we turned at Bonegilla to finally cross the Murray River into NSW and to our cabin at Lake Hume Village.
The water level in the dam is well down, so the water is often a long way from the road. There are several kilometres of grass lands on the valley floor where the dam used to back up towards Tallangatta, with cattle grazing on well established grass. It is now several, perhaps many, years since the dam has been full. I speculate, but perhaps not since the conclusion of the Snowy Mountains dam construction, much of which is in the headwaters of the Murray River.
9th March was a
Monday. We spent some time driving around central Ballarat, including an
attempt to drive around Lake Wendouree, which was thwarted by barriers sealing
off some streets for a parade for the Begonia Festival. We had visited Ballarat
for the festival in years long gone, when residents of Victoria. It is held on
Victoria’s Labour Day weekend. We didn’t get to see any begonias this time but
Ballarat was looking its normal trim self with its many well tended roadside flower
After coffee, we headed out
to the north east towards Castlemaine where we were staying with friends for
two nights. The road took us through Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, both towns
being of high tourist significance. Here again I must apologise for no photos.
I took quite a few, all on my smart phone, but they seem to have disappeared
along with those of the latter part of the previous day.
Both towns were full of
visitors taking advantage of the holiday long weekend. It was a beautiful
Victorian Autumn day, with the sun shining from a clear sky but with a slight
cool breeze that had us reaching for our jackets. But the locals were in shorts
and tee shirts.
Daylesford has botanical
gardens near the town centre on the top of Wombat Hill, with a road on which
cars can drive and a restaurant that, from the number of parked cars, seemed
popular. We found a parking space so that we could walk around to view the
We then drove out to Hepburn
Springs to check that town out before returning to Daylesford for lunch.
Parking was at a premium but sometimes you luck in and we did that day. As we
drove along the main street looking for our chosen eatery, a car pulled out
almost in front of it, leaving a vacant space.
My last trip to Daylesford
was in the middle of a cold winter’s night, with temperatures about zero. I was
delivering spare parts to a broken down truck. The impression today was rather
different than on that night.
After lunch we drove on to Castlemaine, arriving at our friends’ home mid afternoon. We have known Keith and Lynda almost forever. We have a sort of family connection but we lived near to them during part of our time in Melbourne. I sailed with Keith and one of our children went to the same school as their children. I think our youngest is about the same age as their eldest. Or something like that!
On the following morning we
all went into town for morning coffee and spent some time looking at the
historic buildings, of which there are many. The main point of interest was the old market building that is now their tourist
information centre. Although modernized in a heritage kind of way, the
facilities that allowed the market stall holder to back a cart up to a platform
and transfer the items for sale inside, have been retained.
Castlemaine was a gold
town but also developed other industries including beer and engineering.
The gold rush that
commenced in Ballarat came to Castlemaine in the early 1850s. Many of the old
buildings date from shortly after that time. The Bendigo, Maldon, Castlemaine
triangle was the most significant gold producing area in Victoria.
Castlemaine’s engineering expertise is
commemorated at the Information Centre. In June 1940 the liner “Niagara” left Auckland harbour
carrying over $5 million in gold ingots. The gold was the property of the Bank
of England on its way to America to pay for badly needed war materials.
Four hours into the
voyage, the ship struck a German mine and sank, without loss of life, in 73
fathoms of water, much deeper than the depth limit for conventional diving.
The Navy said salvage
was impossible but a private Melbourne company offered to do the job. They
designed a diving bell that would allow a diver to reach that depth and direct
the salvage cranes. The bell was built by the engineering company Thompson’s of
Castlemaine. In all, 94% of the gold was recovered.
When the diving bell
was retired it was returned to Castlemaine where it is now on display at the
historic Market Building.
Part of an embankment
to a street in Castlemaine has a rock formation called an anticline. Pressure
has forced rock into a natural arch. Anticlines are relatively rare. This one
was probably unearthed when streets were being constructed and left on display.
The rocks in an anticline are of different geological ages with the oldest
rocks at the centre of the formation. Google it if you want to know more.
With our family visit
concluded, we left Drouin in the continuing rain that followed the previous
night’s heavy falls.
Rainfall was evidenced
in flooded fields, overflowing drains and the odd closed road. As the day
progressed the rain eased to persistent drizzle. We travelled to Sorrento on
the Mornington Peninsular and caught the vehicle ferry to Queenscliff. Once
again we experienced smooth waters without a white cap in sight.
Queenscliff became the starting point for a short tour of the Bellarine Peninsular. We drove through St Leonards, stopped at Portarlington for lunch, drove through Clifton Springs and Ocean Grove, to our motel at Torquay.
Torquay seems to have
become the capital of surfing in Victoria. The local area is known as “The Surf
Coast”. Torquay has an externally impressive surfing museum.
We commenced the next morning
with a drive around Torquay. Then, in the true spirit of surfing, we dropped in
to Bells Beach. There we found some real waves pounding onto the beach but not a
surfer in sight. Although the sun was shining from a mostly blue sky the
surfers were absent. We did see some board riders a bit further down the coast.
In Victoria it was the
start the Labour Day long weekend so this area was busy with people away from
Melbourne for a break. In Melbourne it was Moomba weekend and the Formula 1 car
We drove in a generally south westerly direction along the Great Ocean Road and watched the weather deteriorate to a constant drizzle. We were able to see the points of interest and take short walks, but the windscreen wipers had been working for much of the day.
After Torquay the succession of settlements are mostly small towns until you reach Lorne. We took our morning coffee break at Anglesea and detoured from the main road at Aireys Inlet to take in the Split Point Lighthouse. The short walk to the lighthouse provided good views of the coast in both directions and a direct view of the sandstone island that gives the point its name.
We had thought that Lorne would be our lunch stop but we were a bit early and found the town to be crowded with no convenient parking available. So we passed it by, as a lunch stop, and drove on to Wye River, where we found a cafe with a covered alfresco deck with views over the ocean.
Before bypassing Lorne we had turned inland and drove about 10 km to Erskine Falls, a rather pretty spot with a short walk to see the actual falls.
On the way back to the main road we drove into Teddy’s Lookout. That vantage point is located on the top of the hill directly above Lorne and provides great views of the road, snaking along the foot of the coastal mountains and views out to sea. The weather made the sea view rather bleak.
Mariners Lookout, on a hill overlooking Apollo Bay, also provides great views over that town but unfortunately not for us. As we arrived at the car park the rain got serious again. So we drove on to our motel and booked in. The motel has very effective reverse cycle air conditioning so Apollo Bay will wait until tomorrow, when there is the promise of a better day.
When we checked into
our motel our car was almost the only one in the car park. Overnight the car
park filled up and so did the town. Saturday was market day and the long
weekend crowd was out in force. With the town so full it was a good time to
leave. We had more sunshine than forecast but not enough to attract people into
From Apollo Bay the
road turns inland to negotiate the mountain ranges that run down to Cape Otway.
We took the indicated turn and drove to the lighthouse. I think we had been
there a long time ago but I couldn’t see anything familiar at all, so perhaps I
was remembering somewhere else.
You don’t get to see
the lighthouse close up unless you part with the best part of $20 and walk
about 500 metres. Then Parks Victoria will give you a tour. The walk was too
far for Ruth and I was disinclined to do it on my own so we decided against it.
But a 350 metre walk down the Great Otway Walk got me to a point where I could
see the top of the building over the trees, so that had to do.
We returned to the Great Ocean Road, turning left to make for Port Campbell and the sandstone wonders of that part of the coast.
After we emerged from the mountainous inland section of the Great Ocean Road we travelled through an area of valleys and hills until we reached the village of Princetown that overlooks the estuary of the Gellibrand River and a caravan park that is larger than the town.
Just past Princetown the highway ascends a coastal hill that provides a pull off point for a lookout that gives the best ocean views for a while. At about the middle of the beach immediately below the lookout, if the tide is right, the remains of the timbers of a wrecked ship are clearly visible.
A bit further on, and just before you reach the Twelve Apostles you come to Gibson Steps that used to give access to the beach but no longer do due to their poor state of repair. They are locked off with a gate part way down.
When we were last in that area parking was beside the road, for a short walk to the cliff top. Visitor numbers have forced an upgrade. Now there is a huge car park on the inland side of the road and an large visitor centre. Access to The Twelve Apostles is through the visitor centre and on a path under the road to an elaborate arrangement of platforms, boardwalks and lookouts.
There are not as many
apostles as there used to be. Constant weathering has removed some of them and
reduced the size of the others. There will be a time when they will not exist
at all. Even in their reduced numbers they draw an ever increasing volume of visitors.
A couple of kilometres
towards Port Campbell, Loch Ard Gorge is a gap in the coast named in
remembrance of the clipper ship of the same name that beached on adjacent
Mutton Bird Island on 1st June 1878, with only two survivors. The survivors
made their way to safety through the gorge.
The walks around the
gorge give access to some fantastic rock formations and expansive seascapes.
Wooden steps lead down to one of the most protected beaches that you will ever see.
Our motel in Port Campbell overlooked the small protected port, itself a gap in the cliff, into which a stream flows at the western end of the beach. It is almost as sheltered as Loch Ard Gorge but somewhat larger. A substantial concrete wharf is tucked into a sheltered corner and is used by fishing boats and land based anglers.
Port Campbell is a
tourist town. Many of the buildings in its main street have been converted to
restaurants and bars or other eateries or offer accommodation. It has two pubs
and several motels. Many houses are B&Bs or private accommodation of some
It is a most
attractive town. We would like to have stayed longer but were lucky to get a
booking for one night on Saturday of a long weekend.
Sunday dawned another fine day but we again had rain overnight. There was a bit more cloud than the previous day. The temperature may have reached 20C.
There were now only three things to look at to finish the Great Ocean Road. They were The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto. All are past Port Campbell towards Peterborough. We visited them in that order.
The first was about a
200 metre walk with some steep parts and stairs in the path. The second was an
easy 50 metres to an extensive observation deck. The third was a walk of about
350 metres with steep sections and with about 70 steps to get the best view
from near sea level.
I had just climbed back up the stairs and decided to look at the photos that I had just taken. When I tried, I got a message that told me there was no data card in my camera. Shock horror! I checked, and sure enough, the card was not properly seated. I had not put it back properly after transferring yesterday’s photos to my phone. I do this at the end of each day to make it easier to select photos for my Facebook posts.
So back down 70 steps
again and then a return to the other two locations to retake the photos that
otherwise would be lost. By the time we did all that and had coffee it was
about 11.00 am. We had thought that we would go all the way to Port Fairy,
which is the official end of the Great Ocean Road, but that would take us 60 km
out of our way. We turned for Ballarat on the road out of Port Campbell. But we
did drive on as far as Peterborough before turning back.
We travelled via
Cobden and Camperdown, then through a number of small towns to reach Ballarat.
All of the holiday weekend activity was on the coast, with very little action
in the towns that we passed through.
As we drove away from
the coast the pastures became less green but there were still plenty of cattle
and sheep in the paddocks. I think, apart from the sheep, we travelled through
mainly dairying country today.
Our Ballarat accommodation was out on the Melbourne side just off the Great Western Highway. Once checked in and settled we returned towards Ballarat city in search of our evening meal. Good old Domino’s Pizza came to the rescue.
Unfortunately the photos
that I took as we drove from the coast to Ballarat were taken on my phone. For
some reason they cannot be found. I don’t know why they deleted, but they are