Interrupted Journey – North Queensland 2022 – Part 1

Part 1 – The Whitsunday Islands

Please Note: There is a video of the day in the Whitsunday Islands ay the end of this post.

The Mobile Sheathers are mobile again. We left home on the morning of Wednesday 10th August, for a tour that was planned to absorb the remaining days in August. But unexpected events occurred.

Our view to Port Airlie approaches

We departed in sunshine, came through a cloudy period around Gympie, then fine to our overnight stop at Gladstone. Brilliant sunrise on Thursday morning could only be seen through a window, without getting dressed and going outside, so no sunrise photograph.

A bit of rain south of Sarina and a bit more between Mackay and Proserpine but plenty of sun shining through the clouds as we topped the rise coming in to Airlie. We were able to enjoy that fantastic sunshine on blue water and green mountains view that is the reward for just getting there.

Whitsunday sunset from our balcony

We stayed at Club Wyndham, situated on the hill directly above the Port of Airlie, with little to obscure the view, after a fairly good drive, apart from road works. We estimate that at least 40% of the highway between Gympie and Gladstone has road works speed limits, 80, 60 or even 40 MPH if they get the chance. A bit frustrating but necessary. If you wonder why Australia is short of people to pick fruit, make coffee or all those other vacancies we keep hearing about, it is probably because so many are working building and repairing roads.

We enjoyed good weather at Airlie Beach, noticeably warmer than recent Redcliffe temperatures.  There has been early cloud, burning off to a clear afternoon.

New Shute Harbour Passenger terminal

On Friday morning, our first day at Airlie, we drove out to Shute Harbour to check out the new passenger terminal, built since the last cyclone. We also checked the logistics of the cruise through the Whitsunday Islands that we planned to do for suitability for Ruth, who gave it the thumbs up. We booked for the following day.

A view of Shute Harbour from near the houses on Coral Point, accessed from the road that runs behind and above the Shute Harbour car parking area.

We did a drive around the residential area that overlooks Shute Harbour area, then drove out to Mandalay Point (the range of hills opposite to Airlie Beach) to check on how the rich people live, or at least the houses that they live in. Some are beautiful houses with magnificent views of the bays and headlands around the residential area. A few original fisherman’s shacks remain.

Units on the hill at Airlie Beach.
The beach at Airlie Beach at low tide.

After lunch we did a walk around the Airlie town, including enjoying an ice-cream. Then back to our resort for a rest and dinner. Club Wyndham is built on the steep hill that overlooks the town and port facility. It is very steep but that provides the views. It is a very nice resort. We are staying here through the kindness of our son and daughter-in-law.

Shute Harbour Road in the heart of Airlie tourist strip
Poolside at Airlie, near the main beach
A recently completed mansion overlooks Airlie Beach
Cruise morning sunrise reflected on the clouds

On Saturday morning we drove out to Shute Harbour and boarded the “Nancy Wake”, our tour boat for the day.  From Shute Harbour we cruised past Daydream Island, through the Mole Passage and past the now unused South Mole Island where the once famous resort that was so badly damaged by Cyclone Debbie remains closed and unrepaired.

The charter yacht base at Shute Harbour

Our passage then led inside Cid Island and through the both picturesque and functional deep-water anchorage. The harbour was used for refuge for Naval vessels during WWII.

Daydream Island resort

The cruise continued through Hook Passage, the narrowing body of water between Hook & Whitsunday Islands and the shortest passage from Airlie and Shute Harbour to The Great Barrier Reef. The north-east part of Whitsunday is mountainous with precipitous drops to the sea. But not far along this coast is an inlet and Tongue Point, that provides a sheltered anchorage for vessels visiting Hill Inlet. A twenty-minute climb to the summit reveals sweeping views of Hill Inlet, Whitehaven Beach, Solway Passage and Haslewood Island.

A motor yacht making for Cid Harbour

With all back on board, lunch was served, after which we moved on to anchor off the southern end of Whitehaven Beach, to allow passengers ashore for a guided walk, sunbake or swim. My legs were a bit tired from the climb to Hill Inlet Lookout but I did go ashore for a walk along the beach. We were anchored there for about two and a half hours, with plenty of company from private and other tourist boats and even a small amphibious aircraft.

The southern end of Whitehaven Beach . Swim, sun bake, snorkel, hike. Take your pick.
Our tour boat, “Nancy Wake”.
A breaching Whale off Solway Passage

With all hands back on board, afternoon tea was served. We then set off then to complete our journey. We continued south through Solway Passage where we came upon some Whales playing, so stopped to watch their show. After a pause of 10 minutes or so, the Whales dived and we moved on past Hamilton Island and the neighbouring Dent Island and returned to Shute Harbour.

A Pleasure Boat passing Perseverance Island
The main Hamilton Island resort area
Hamilton Island Yacht Club and harbour entrance
Dent Island. The residence of the original owners is among the trees in the centre foreground.

The cruises past Hamilton Island provided an excellent view of both the tourist facilities and the stunningly located private accommodation on the northern end if the Island. This is a rich persons’ playground. Hamilton island Week was about to commence. Some of the large racing yachts were visible as our cruise boat proceeded past the harbour entrance, before turning for home. The afternoon light on both island and water was pleasing, as the sun moved towards sunset.

Hamilton Island, viewed over the stern of “Nancy Wake” as we headed back to Shute Harbour.

We had enjoyed a very pleasant day, to say the least. Lots of sunshine, seascapes, mountains, resorts plus more food than we could comfortably eat. We will move on tomorrow, very contented with our short stay in this paradise.

Central Highlands and Mackay – 9 to 14 June – Finch Hatton to Mackey and Home

Day 8

A still morning at Marian Sugarmill

Steam rising almost vertically on a still morning as we passed Marian sugar mill

Moving on to Mackay was the main item on the day’s agenda. We drove the 70 km or so to Mackay, turning north at Marian to the Bruce Highway and approaching Mackay from the north.  The morning was clear with almost no breeze. We quickly settled into the Andergrove Van Park. We have been here before so know our way around.

 

Birds feeding near our caravan

Birds feeding near our caravan

We arrived just before midday, set up the van and had lunch. But there were delays while we chatted with a West Australian couple, of about our vintage, who arrived at the neighboring site, as we were setting up.

Then to chores that needed our attention, so washing and a trip to the shops completed the day.

Day 9

We were visited by a group of ducks

We were visited by a group of ducks

Last night Ruth encountered some problems with access to the Internet, with her computer and pad, while trying to connect to the Internet through the mobile hot spot facility of her mobile phone. So first order of the day was to get it sorted. A young technician at the nearest Telstra shop solved the problem in about two minutes, but there was a bit of a wait for his services, so we did not return to the van until lunch time.

Sunset Beach at Shoal Point

Sunset Beach at Shoal Point

After lunch we went for a drive to the near northern beaches. I love this part of Queensland and could easily live here. Three promontories point northward into the Coral Sea, giving ocean views to the north and to a certain extent, to the west. Each has elevated terrain at their northern extremities and locals have taken full advantage of high ground when building their homes.

Dolphin Heads from the deck at the Eimeo Hotel

Dolphin Heads from the deck at the Eimeo Hotel

We started at Shoal Point, which is furthest from Andergrove, and returned through Bucasia, Eimeo, Dolphin Heads and Blacks Beach. We called at the Eimeo Pacific Hotel for Devonshire Tea. The hotel is a beautiful old building, situated at the top of a hill at the most northern point of the promontory. It has an extensive deck with umbrella shaded tables.  Views are over neighboring Dolphin Point including the Dolphin Point Resort and to the not very distant outlining islands, that are part of an island chain that runs all the way to the Whitsunday Islands.

Eimeo Hotel deck

Eimeo Hotel deck

Lamberts Beach and Mackay Harbor

Lamberts Beach and Mackay Harbor

We returned back south and past our caravan park to drive in the other direction to Slade Point. At the tip of the point is a car accessible observation point that provides panoramic views of Mackay Harbor and the marina with its village of high rise apartments and hotels. In the distance, to the south and east, views are to be had of the twin coal loading facilities of Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay, with their cluster of loading ships and the armada of waiting empty bulk carriers out to sea.

Yacht entering Mackay Harbor

A yacht entering Mackay Harbor

We finished the day by driving out to the end of the harbor breakwater. The parking area there gives another view of the coal loader and waiting ships plus a view of the harbor facilities. At that time of day they were silhouetted against the setting sun. About 25 years ago I had close commercial involvement in this part of Queensland. It was fascinating to see the development that has occurred during the last quarter of a century.

Day 10

Beach at Cape Hilsborough

Beach at Cape Hillsborough

Today we did a tour of the more distant beach locations north of Mackay. We repeated the first few kilometres of yesterday’s trip but then cut across through the small town of Habana to the Cape Hillsborough road. The drive was through more cane fields in an area of undulating terrain where each hill top seemed to be crowned by a house.

Mountains behind the beach on Cape Hilsborough

Mountains behind the beach on Cape Hillsborough

Cape Hillsborough has a caravan park, where we stayed for a few days about six years ago. Today we parked at the picnic area in the national park for coffee before taking a walk on the beautiful beach. The beach is not beautiful in terms of brilliant white sand. The sand is grey in colour and muddy nearer the water, as the tide was out. It’s beauty comes from the rocks sculptured by waves, wind and rain over the ages, the steep hills that fringe the beach and the dramatic mountains that form a backdrop. And then there is the implied romance of off shore islands, partially obscured by haze.

Beach side houses at Ball Bay

Beach side houses at Ball Bay

In then, in turn, visited Ball Bay, Halliday Bay and Seaforth. These towns of varying size each has its own bay , beach and a residential area of old fishermen’s hut type houses with newer residential and holiday homes built among them. Each town has an esplanade behind the beach, a park with facilities and a swimming enclosure to keep box jellyfish and crocodiles at bay.

Birds feeding under a tap.

Birds feeding under a tap.

We lunched under a picnic shelter at Seaforth, the largest of the towns. A family, returning from the beach, stopped at a tap near to our table to wash sand off their feet. The resulting pool of fresh water was quickly taken over by ducks and seagulls that seemed to enjoy a long drink of fresh water. They showed no fear and provided us with entertainment as we had our lunch.

Empty swimming enclosure at Seaforth

Empty swimming enclosure at Seaforth

This latish lunch marked the end of our outing, so we headed back to the van for some preparation for our departure next day for home.

 

 

 

Picnic facilities at Seaforth

Picnic facilities at Seaforth

Days 11, 12 & 13

We had allowed ourselves three days to travel home. The weather was deteriorating as we came south and getting colder.

Water birds being fed at the caravan park

Water birds being fed at the caravan park

The first day brought us to the minute town of Yaamba, which is on the highway not far north of Rockhampton, for an overnight stop in a road side parking area. Once again we had heavy traffic thundering by with trains in the distance. But we are becoming immune to truck noise and enjoyed a good night’s sleep. There was heavy rain over night but we did not hear it.

A bulk carrier on its way into the Gladstone coal terminal

A bulk carrier on its way into the Gladstone coal terminal

For the evening of day two we had arranged to call on my former secretary from Mayne Nickless days. We had some time to spare before arriving at her home so drove into Gladstone and found a parking spot with views of the harbor and shipping activity. There we relaxed and had lunch. Two empty coal carriers were escorted to their births by tugs while we watched.

Former secretary Sandy has a brand new husband who we had not met, so we accepted an invitation to dinner and to park overnight in the spacious grounds around their house, on the northern fringe of Bundaberg. They are developing the property into a wedding reception and conference centre. The attractive property has areas of forest and lush green lawns. We enjoyed their company and the meal prepared by hubby Ian and learned much about the challenges of establishing such a business.

There was a bit more rain overnight and more as we came further south, with frequent showers passing.

On our way back south we discovered the missing caravans from our trip north. They were all coming north on the Bruce Highway. The spare spaces that we had seen in caravan parks were in process of being filled.