A Short Stay at Maroochydore

View towards the ocean

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.

Loop off the track to stream

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.

Sunset Day 1

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.

Bougainvillea Near Dam

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.

High-rise units at Point Cartwright

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.

Noosa brunch – Truffle Omelette

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.

A quite spot in Noosa’s Hastings Street

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.

Central Highlands and Mackay – 2 to 5 June 2016 – From Home to Dingo

Day 1 – Thursday 2nd June

Free campers set up for the night at Gympie

Free campers set up for the night at Gympie

Once again we were on the Bruce Highway, travelling north. We followed the Bruce to just past Gympie, turned left into the Wide Bay Highway for 20 kilometers, turned right to pass through Woolooga and ultimately to Biggenden,  where we finally turned  south west to our overnight stop at Ban Ban Springs.

The distance is 301 km. The map showed the road via Woolooga as being sealed all the way but there is an unsealed strip of about 20 km that winds its way over a range. We had been encountering showers all morning. A particularly heavy deluge arrived just as we hit the gravel. The wheel ruts almost immediately became rivulets that obscured the actual road surface. I thought we were going to arrive at our stopover with a dirty van but the rain continued for long  enough after we came back on the tar to give us a quite effective wash.

To preserve the memorial bridge it has been bypassed by the road

To preserve the memorial bridge it has been bypassed by the road

Further on, but before Biggenden, we came across (not literally) a memorial bridge, which used to be in service, but has now been preserved by the side of the realigned road. It spans Bridge Creek right beside it’s replacement. Signage claims it to be the only privately funded memorial bridge in Australia.

One of the pillar style end posts commemorate local fallen from WWI

One of the pillar style end posts that commemorate local fallen from WWI

Adjacent to the bridge, but a bit further from the road, a picnic shelter has been erected. Its one wall (three sides are open) contains material about soldiers who did not return, including a letter from a soldiers fiance seeking information about his death. At both ends of each bridge rail stand small but monumental posts of stone. One of those at the northern end lists the local fallen from the First World War while the other lists those who served and returned.

 

Memorabilia from WWI relating to locals who served

Memorabilia from WWI relating to locals who served

Light and shade on the hills as we approach Ban Ban Springs

Light and shade on the hills as we approach Ban Ban Springs

Rain was still falling as we reached Biggenden but cleared as we drove the 36 km to Ban Ban Springs. The sun broke through as we crested a hill to illuminate an agricultural valley. Clumps of trees stood out like stage props under a spot light, while cloud shadows patterned the hills that stretched across the scene like a backdrop.

Ban Ban Springs is a roadhouse and motel at the junction of the Isis and Burnett Highways. The rest area, where caravans stop over night, is right across the road. Since arriving her I have remembered that this route is a favorite truckies short cut for heavy vehicles travelling between North Queensland and Melbourne and Adelaide. I’ll let you know how much sleep we get.

Ban Ban Springs Roadhouse

Ban Ban Springs Roadhouse

Day 2 – Friday 3rd June

The trucks did not interrupt out sleep. Traffic reduced after around 8.00 pm and we only heard the odd vehicle go by. In no time at all the sun was peeping through the overcast of cloud, something that it continued to do during the day. We encountered little of the forecast rain.

IMG_4248We stopped at Mundubbera for morning coffee and at Monto for lunch, on both occasions using the excellent roadside facilities provided in this area. Both include driver reviver facilities for holiday periods.

Traffic was relatively lite with not as many caravans as we expected. Caravans on the road were mainly travelling south with few moving in our direction. Caravan parks don’t seem to be busy either. Perhaps the Burnett Highway is not a popular tourist route.

The main feature of Heritage Park is the ex Expo 88 Primary Industries silo

The main feature of Heritage Park is the ex Expo 88 Primary Industries silo

So it is not surprising that we are in a very lightly populated park tonight. We are in the 48 hour rest area that is part of the Queensland Heritage Park in Biloela. The park is managed by a club of historic machinery enthusiasts. They have a huge display of old agricultural machinery, small and large, and displays of the kind of household memorabilia with which I shared my early years. But much of the collection is older than I am. The central building of the complex that houses much of the display is the Primary Industries pavilion from Brisbane Expo 88. I had a close association with that particular building during Expo.

Part of the Heritage Park display

Part of the Heritage Park display –  including a variety of cream separators

Motor vehicles have been lovingly restored to their former glory

Motor vehicles have been lovingly restored to their former glory

Transport from an era long passed

Transport from an era long passed

Old farm machinery with visiting caravans in the background

Old farm machinery with visiting caravans in the background

Wagon and wine barrels standing beside the bar in the function shed

Wagon and wine barrels standing beside the bar in the function shed

Thunder storms are forecast for tonight but as yet only a few rain drops and no thunder. Perhaps we will sleep through the noise even if it does occur.

 

 

 

Day 3 – Saturday 4th June

The storm arrived at midnight and woke us with torrents of rain drumming on the roof of the van. Our first thought was for the lady travelling alone in a vehicle with a roof top tent parked next to us. My next thought was, “Did I close the window of the car after I wound it down to insert the card that opened the gate to the camping area?”. That question had to be answered so up I got, put on wet weather gear and ran around the front of the car to check. Yes, securely closed! So I dashed back into the van with wet PJ pants and black mud all over my feet. After a thorough foot wash and a change of PJs we had a cup of tea and went back to bed

Recently plowed land with house and sheds north of Biloela

Recently plowed land with house and sheds north of Biloela

The rain had gone by the morning but the mud had not. Despite a covering of recently mowed grass the mud found its way through on to boots and shoes. Black mud and mower clippings make a challenging mess when clinging to the soles of said boots and shoes.

Today’s journey has taken us north to the Capricorn Highway via the small town of Dululu, where we made the mandatory stop at the loo. The overcast sky again gave way to sunshine but an unexpected storm came back from the opposite direction to that of the storm last night. It only lasted for 15 minutes or so.

Vans in the Dauringa camping area

Vans in the Duaringa camping area

We had intended to reach Dingo but the camping area at Duaringa looked inviting and with plenty of space, so we decided to stay. That decision was confirmed when we found the lady with the roof top tent from the previous evening.  She joined us for a cup of tea and we found out a bit about her.

Her name is Annie. She is a single middle aged lady who loves to travel and particularly in Australia, as this is her third consecutive Australian winter. She has a Nissan Patrol with all necessary gear, which she leaves here in preparation for the next visit. She has covered a great deal of Australia, particularly the outback. She left the following morning, headed for a Simpson Desert crossing.

The setting sun lights up the edge of the departing storm clouds

The setting sun lights up the edge of the departing storm clouds

After the storm the setting sun broke through to produce a stunning sunset that lit up the clouds through the entire 360 degrees of the horizon.

 

 

 

Day 4 – Sunday 5th June

The sun rose into a clear sky again. We didn’t see a cloud all day and at the end of the day, at Dingo, the sun set, producing a brilliant strip of orange light across a flat horizon.

The view approaching Blackdown Tableland

The view approaching Blackdown Tableland

We came on the final 36 km to Dingo, refueled and parked the van in a large parking area behind the Dingo Roadhouse. We set up, put our security arrangements in place,  packed a picnic lunch and headed west on the highway for the 12 km to the turn to Blackdown Tableland National Park. The next 12 km to the foot of the mountain runs through unfenced cattle country with plenty of grazing stock that seem to prefer the roadside grass to that further away from traffic. They were healthy looking beef cattle of various breeds.

The road that runs at the base of the cliff as the summit is neared

The road runs at the base of the cliff as the summit is neared

The road to the summit of Blackdown Tableland is sealed, but steep and winding. From the time that we left the highway we could see the long Cliffs of coloured sandstone that gives this mountain its special appearance. The climb was through dense forest for much of the way but near the summit the road runs directly below the cliffs.

A gap in the cliff face beside the road

A gap in the cliff face beside the road

The end of the sealed road at the start of the park plateau

The end of the sealed road at the start of the park road

The sealed road ends at the information shelter but the dirt road was in good condition and adequate for the 60 kph speed limit within the park. We drove to the southern car park, which is as far as you can drive. Walks start there for what seems to be a significant waterfall but the distance and terrain was a bit much for the time we had available.

The view from the lookout that we reached

The view from the lookout that we reached

The sign for the walks that we did n

The sign for the walks that we did not do

We were thwarted in reaching a lookout by a chain locked across the access road, but did make it to the lookout that provides a view to the north and northeast. It was only a 100 meter paved walk but the view was fairly spectacular.

There is a camping area about 5 km past the information shelter where a few campers were in residence. The lengths of the walks are more suitable for campers than for day trippers unless the day trippers arrive early and are young and fit.

We finished the day by driving on to Backwater. The town is all about coal and promotes itself as the coal capital of Queensland. Apart from mining activity and coal trains the town was quiet on a Sunday afternoon.

Coal conveyor and loaded train near Blackwater

Coal conveyor and loaded train near Blackwater

The coal trains run along beside the highway in this area. At Dingo Roadhouse there is a truck parking area, the roadhouse, the highway and a strip of vacant land between us and the twin sets of rails of the coal line. A stiff south easterly breeze had been blowing the sound away from us but when the breeze dropped as evening fell it was as if the volume had been turned up.

The entrance path and old mining equipment at Blackwater

The entrance path and old mining equipment at Backwater coal information centre

Retired underground mining equipment at Blackwater

Retired underground mining equipment at Backwater

Driving past a long coal train

Driving past a long coal train

The trains are rather large, typically with about 100 coal wagons and three engines, with an engine at each end and one in the centre. So as they pass, you have the rumble of wheels and the scream of electric motors. The line is electrified. Trains go by at a rate of three to four per hour. So, yes, our sleep was a bit disturbed.

A final view of Blackdown Tableland as we drive back to Blackwater

A final view of Blackdown Tableland as we drive back from Blackwater

Massed water lilies in a roadside pond near Dingo

Massed water lilies in a roadside pond near Dingo