Three Days at Golden Beach

Our son and daughter-in-law kindly gave Ruth and I a short break at a time share resort at Golden Beach, near Caloundra Queensland. The Ramada Resort is located right on the shores of Pumicestone Passage, opposite the recent break through by the ocean of the narrow peninsula that is North Bribie Island, thus creating a new passage. This change has greatly improved the view of shipping moving to and from the Port of Brisbane.

Caloundra from Golden Beach
Passing boat
Pelicans on the Beach

Golden Beach is a suburb of Caloundra, situated a couple of kilometres to the Southwest of the main business and tourist centre. It is a precinct of medium high rise, with apartment buildings rising to about 10 floors. The commercial centre has support businesses including pharmacies, real estate agents, hairdressers and restaurants, cafes and coffee shops. It gets quite busy, particularly to and including lunch time.

Moored dinghys

We arrived at the resort late morning and went through the arrival procedure. Our room, on the second floor, provided fine views of Pumicestone Passage and the waters of North Moreton Bay. The welcome included coffee.

There is normally a bit of shopping to be done when you settle into a resort, so we visited the nearest shopping mall to deal with that problem, made more vital as I had forgotten to pack my pajamas. We returned to our room for a leisurely afternoon.

Just Trees
Pelicans were always in view
Black-winged Stilt

A walk is always on my agenda, so I set out with my camera for a stroll beside the water. The sun was shining and a slight breeze was blowing. As I returned, a large container ship was heading out to ports unknown. It was surprisingly close to the shore as it turned around the last channel marker to head out to sea.

We catered for ourselves for our evening meal and retired at our normal time. But the sun shining through the new gap in Bribe Island woke us early, so we started our day with coffee and breakfast while we enjoyed the warmth of the sun. In our own unit, we don’t see the sun until later in the day.

Osprey standing on the remains of breakfast
Possibly the same Osprey looking for its next meal

Before we ventured out for the day, I walked out onto our balcony and noticed an Eastern Osprey sitting on a branch of one of the Norfolk Pines that line the shore. As I watched, the bird flew off but a couple of minutes later returned with a reasonable size fish secured in the claws of one foot. It landed back on the original limb, stood on its catch until it stopped flapping around and then proceeded to eat it. Not all at once though. I went to get my camera. By the time that I returned it had stopped eating and had secured the remains of the fish under one foot. The food chain in operation!

The first coffee provider that we visited

After visiting a local café for coffee, we took a drive to look at some of the more recently completed areas, to the west of Kawana Lakes but drove via Currimundi Beach. We hadn’t been there for quite a while but nothing much had changed from last time.

I think the suburb was Birtinya. We found a new shopping mall, which we explored. Everything was new and shiny. The shops were not busy, but it was still early in the week.

Birtinya Shopping Centre
Birtinya Shopping Centre
Mooloolaba Pilot Boat Returning to Port

From Birtinya we drove to Point Cartwright, the Headland around which boats from south turn to gain the shelter of the Mooloolah River. The marine facilities in the river include the pilot station for pilotage through the Great Barrier Reef to Cape York. We parked for a few minutes to take in the excellent beach views from the parking area, before returning to Kawana Waters shopping centre for lunch. We returned to our unit mid-afternoon and again took it easy with a self-catered and simple evening meal.

Cafe Sisily where I enjoyed Cannoli

A former workmate, now resident in one of Caloundra’s several rapidly developing satellites, picked up from a Facebook post that we were in the area and messaged, suggesting we meet for coffee. What a good idea!

So, our last day started with a meeting in an excellent coffee shop just a short walk from our resort. I was introduced to the delights of Cannoli. Somehow, I have reached my considerable age without trying it. It was delightful and is now on the morning coffee menu of possibilities. It was a pleasant catch up with Sandy, who we had not seen for quite some time.

The new Caloundra Bar, the northern entrance to Pumicestone Passage
The Ferris Wheel at Happy Valley Beach
Rocky area of Happy Valley Beach

After lunch at our unit, we drove to Happy Valley and parked where Ruth had a good view of the ocean while I walked the board walk to Kings Beach, to get in some steps and to take some photographs. The weather was pleasantly warm with a scattering of sunbathers on the beach.

A couple relaxing by the sea
Sand covers the area of the old Caloundra bar
A different view of the Happy Valley board walk
The new area of sand at Bulcock Beach.

The breakthrough of the ocean to Pumicestone Passage has led to the old bar at Bulcock Beach totally silting up. Now, where once the tide swept into and out of Pumicestone Passage there is now a sand dune that is no longer breached even by the highest tides. I wandered over part of the sand filled area, photographing as I progressed, until returning to the car and then to our unit.

Since this was our last night, we dined at the Copper Spoon Thai Restaurant on the resort grounds. We enjoyed a delicious meal, savoring the delightful flavors for which good Thai food is known.

Caloundra between the Pine trees

All that was left of the short break, after another restful night, was breakfast and the drive home next morning.

Relative Travel – Days 10 to 14

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.

Our hostess with a regular visitor. Guess why it calls?

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.

The lookout on Moonbi Hill

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.

The view Tamworth from Moonbi Lookout

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.

Bakers Creek Falls are a series of smaller falls

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.

Bakers Creek flows down this gorge from the falls.

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.

Wollomombi Falls viewing deck

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.

Wollomombi Falls

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.

The top fall at Ebor Falls

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.

Barricades preventing access to the viewing platform
An example of deterioration
Both of the cascades of Ebor Falls

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.

A waterfall beside the road between Dorigo and Urunga

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.

Observation deck at the lookout on the hill behind Coffs Harbour
A view from the deck over Coffs Harbour and the harbour
Boambee Beach near Coffs Harbour airport
Sawtell Beach and Bonville Head

The trip ended with the drive home from Coffs Harbour the next day. We had been away for exactly two weeks.