Our original plans for our annual trip to find warmer weather had been much more ambitious but a short lock down followed by a couple weeks of travel restrictions put paid to them. The plan had been to travel via the Warrego and Landsborough Highways to Winton to do the tours at The Australian Age of Dinosaurs, via the Flinders Highway to a stay on Magnetic Island off Townsville and then to return home via a couple of days on Daydream Island and finally two days ay Yeppoon. Some single nights in between some destinations, of course.
But the restrictions and the always imminent danger of a short notice lock down convinced us that it was not smart to stray more than half a day’s drive from home. Who, other than the wealthy, would risk lock down on Daydream Island?
So we settled on a newish hotel near Sunshine Plaza at Maroochydore. Symphony on Beach, it is called. I read that as Symphony on the Beach and confused myself into thinking it was at Cotton Tree. Never mind. We are not great beach people anyway. Walking on sand gets harder as you get older.
Arrival at the hotel was later than expected due to an unexpected chore that required completion before we left home, so that settled the first day. We eat in and had a normal quiet night.
The first full day was Thursday. We had a quiet morning but went out in the afternoon, the destination being Maroochy Nature Reserve, near Bli Bli. It is a marshy and timbered area that runs down to the Maroochy River.
The parks people have build an extensive board walk from the end of ramped concrete paths at the visitor centre to the pontoon at the edge of the river, so it is easy to visit by road or boat.
Two loops run off the main track to allow viewing of special areas. All is wheelchair and walker friendly. It is probably about 1.5 km from carpark to river.
I walked the full length looking for birds, but only saw an Egret in the far distance on the river bank and another small bird that flew swiftly across my path and disappeared into the forest.
On the way back to our hotel we detoured to Twin Waters to view Maroochydore from a different direction. And to fill in time until dinner.
Our hotel is near to the Big Top shopping centre. When Sunshine Plaza was built and then continually increased in size, Big Top, which was the original shopping centre in Maroochydore, was over shadowed. But it has come back as a food area with rows of eating places along the streets, just like Mooloolaba and parts of the Gold Coast. We went to a seafood restaurant called The Red Sea in Duporth Street. It was well priced, the food was excellent and there was plenty of it. And great service by keen young staff. A restaurant worth remembering!
Day two of our four day trip saw us on the road to Imbil, Kenilworth, Melany, Mapleton and back to Maroochydore. It was some years since we had visited much of this area. So, up the newish highway to the turn onto the old highway and then the roads into the Mary River Valley.
The main change to Imbil is the long grass growing over the railway line as a result of the Mary Valley Rattler no longer reaching the town. The station has been turned into the first tee of a golf course but the station buildings and the engine turntable have been preserved and an old steam engine and carriage stand on the old tracks, secured by a flimsy netting barrier.
The town was busy, with caravans driving through at irregular intervals. We saw many of them later at the Borumba Dam Camping area. We had coffee at the Rattler Café, served by a young man dressed as a farm hand.
Imbil was the terminus for the Gympie to Imbil tourist steam train known as “The Rattler”.
The track was badly damaged by the tail end of a cyclone. The rail line was reinstated only to Amamoor and the old Imbil station was set up as a museum, with an old steam locomotive and a single car standing on the track leading to the station. The strip along the old permanent way has been converted into a small golf course, with the first tee adjacent to the station building.
Borumba Dam is a water impoundment on Yabba Creek south west of Imbil. It has been there since 1964 so is well known to SE Queenslanders. The wall is 43 metres high and 343 metres long and is of rock fill construction. Whilst primarily a water storage for irrigation and town supply, it is a popular fishing spot and location for other water sports. A caravan and camping park is located down stream from the wall.
After a drive to the dam, we went on to Kenilworth. The town was very busy so we had to find parking in a side street. The Bushtracker Caravan club was in residence at the showgrounds as were many other caravans, campers and tents.
Clearly, many visitors to the coast were having a hinterland day. The bakery closed right after lunch as it had sold all of its stock. We had lunch overlooking the main street, then visited the cheese factory to make the obligatory cheese purchase. We never come to Kenilworth without buying cheese.
Continuing our drive, we called at the Charlie Moreland camping area in the Imbil Forest Park. There were a few campers set up for the weekend. The gravel road in was in great condition.
From there it was just a pleasant drive through the valley and over the range to Maleny. The day was clear so we enjoyed great views of the coast as we drove through Montville to Mapleton. Then down the range and through the afternoon traffic congestion of Nambour and Maroochydore to Rhythm on Beach.
We dined in. We had leftovers to finish from the previous night. A better sunset with a bit of cloud to add interest.
We didn’t do much at all on day three. Coffee at Cotton Tree and a walk on the beach south of the river mouth was followed by lunch at the unit. Later we drove to Mooloolaba, grabbing a lucky parking spot overlooking the beach adjacent to the shopping and eating strip. Later we drove to the peninsula and stretched our legs with a walk to the end of the inner wall at the mouth of the Mooloolah River. Dinner in because we couldn’t bother going out.
Sunday was our last day. We had planned a drive to Noosa and despite threatening rain we stuck to our plan. A kind visitor pulled out of a parking space just as we began to look for one. A good start.
The famous Aromas on Hastings was under serious renovation last time that we were in Noosa, so a delayed visit for brunch was the focal point of our visit. They were enjoying a busy morning with a short queue for tables. As we reached the front of the socially distanced queue, a table in the front row became vacant and was awarded to us. Coffee was available quickly but there was a 40 minute delay for food as the kitchen could not keep up with demand. While we waited for our food we received a visit from two Rainbow Lorikeets that landed briefly on our table and it started to rain. The meal was worth waiting for.
Brunch done, we walked the length of Hastings street, pausing for a few minutes to stand out of a recommenced drizzle, drove down to the river mouth where there was no parking available and drove back to Maroochydore via Nicklin Way, the road along the coast.
The day was rounded out by a call at Sunshine Plaza for Galati and a return to our hotel for dinner. The final act was to drive home the following morning, happy that Brisbane had not been locked down while we were away.