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Road Trip – Queensland Coast

We set off from cairns and headed south without a real plan of where we were going, all we knew was that we wanted to be in Brisbane in around 8 days time. The first day we drove down the main highway and stopped after an hour in Innisfail, we were just stopping as the weather was nice so we thought we would have a breakfast picnic by the river. This all went great for about the first five minutes, then we noticed a full marching band and street procession turning the corner at the top of the road and heading down towards us, we’ve still no idea what was happening, because we packed our things up and moved on before it arrived.

An hour later we stopped in Mission Beach, after a couple of ‘tourist routes’ which are drives sign-posted by the government to direct tourists on nice drives through scenic areas, rather than just driving the main highway. These are great but usually just involve passing endless sugarcane fields, so I think it might actually be a wind-up by the Queensland government sending you round in circles.

Mission Beach seemed nice, a long strip of golden sand with parkland separating the beach from the town. We found a backpackers place to stay that wasnt too expensive, but as we drove around seeing our other options we found a holiday park with a static cabin for only a little more. This meant that we could have our own kitchen and seating area, as well as being just a minute walk to the beach, so we stayed there. Our first Australia camping night, well not exactly, but as close as it was going to get to camping with Stac around.

We had a picnic in the park by the beach, accompanied by a bottle of Sparkling Shiraz, and relaxed knowing that life was good. We only stayed the one night in Mission Beach, but it was great to just chill out, cook for ourselves, walk down to the beach sit outside having a drink.

The next day, we set off driving south again, we had planned to stay in Townsville, but the previous night we looked at accommodation and everything seemed booked up or far too expensive, it then occurred to us that it was Saturday night and maybe it would be busy. We still stopped by to have a picnic and see the beach front, and I had a cursory look for accommodation available in the area whilst we sat eating lunch.

To our surprise one had come available at a reasonable price, so we drove to it and they even gave us a bigger discount, without prompting, just because we wanted it there and then. We think this is how accommodation should work, and probably used to, until the internet meant they always know everybody else’s rates and prices go up uncontrollably.

Just to note, in our experience through all of Australia, even in winter, a cabin / caravan doesn’t go for lower than $90 per night, and usually much more than that. Who in their right mind wants to pay £60 per night for a caravan with paper-thin walls in winter, well, us apparently, but I think we must have been the only ones.

The change of plan meant that we did stay in Townsville for the night, and we loved it, similar to Cairns but a bit more interesting and compact, it had a small swimming pool and kids water park down by the beach, alongside park areas, barbecue zones and beautiful beaches and views. It was THE seaside town, small enough to be walkable, but big enough to have a supermarket that sells more products than just two-week-old stale bread and long-life milk.

We must have walked about five or six miles up and down the esplanade, before going back to the room and relaxing with some food and a bottle of wine. We were layed in the room reading and researching about 9.30 that night, when somebody unlocked the door from the outside and walked in welcoming a family of four with their luggage in to their room for the night. The only problem was, it wasn’t their room for the night, it was ours, with us in it, fortunately we were dressed, but it caused the kind of embarrassment that made the staff want to fall in to a black hole I think.

Next stop was Airlie Beach, gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, we really wanted to do a tour of the Whitsundays, dreams of sailing through pristine islands for days on end were in our brains. But after spending our monthly budget for a generic Asian country on one boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef, unfortunately that wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, we thought we would find a nice cabin, have a barbecue see the local town. The issue we found was that every campsite was fully booked, except one that promised us a room later in the day, showed us what we would have but asked to come back later in the afternoon as ours wasn’t cleaned yet and they were busy. We were happy enough with this, had some lunch out and returned later to be shown a cabin that quite clearly hadn’t been used or cleaned since 2001 (which, coincidentally is when Australia last updated their Internet services), it was right on the road, and for this pleasure they would like the unrealistic amount of $90 per night.

I refused with the vigour that was unlikely to get any complaints from her, and we left, with only an hour or two of daylight to go, in a town where every accommodation was fully booked. Fortunately, one backpackers place in town did have a room left, which was also about the standard of a shed, but was cheaper and had a pub where we could drink our troubles away with the leftover money. Always make the best of a bad situation they say 🙂

We emptied most of our savings in to the bar and ended up in bed before most people would think about going out, but it turned out to be a good day in the end. We considered staying a second night for exactly zero seconds, packed up our things, and moved on again, we were getting good at this. Although, I suppose it is easier with a car.

We wouldn’t need to drive far today we’d decided, the next big town along was Mackay, less than two hours away, and seemed to have plenty of accommodation choices, so the plan seemed set. We arrived in Mackay, to find a bigger town than we both expected but with nothing much to do there it seemed. The only accommodation was miles away from the centre so we couldn’t have walked anywhere and quickly decided we’d just carry on going and see what else we saw on the way.

This is the point of the Queensland coast where it appears life gets a little more spread out. By the end of the day we had driven 600km and stopped through one major town, Mackay, which was now over 400km behind us. We eventually did find somewhere to stay, by using the internet, but when we got there it was dark, it wasn’t warm enough to sit outside and we’d have to check out in about 15 hours time, this was costing us $95, and it was effectively just a bed, in a caravan.

The town we had ended up in was called Yeppoon, close to Rockhampton, and considering neither of us had any desire to stay there another night, we went on to find something nicer, that we could stay for a couple of nights. We found a nice little town called 1770, the first town we’ve ever been to named in just numbers, but that’s not the best thing about it. The best thing about it, is that there is a small Kangaroo Conservation centre close by to the town, run by a family, which takes in injured Kangaroos, nurtures them and lets them roam free in their grounds, the Kangaroos come and go as they please, but they always return to be fed sweet potato, and if we got there for three o’clock we could help do this and see the Kangaroos up close.

We weren’t quite prepared for driving up the narrow lane for about half a kilometer, arriving at the top, to find a house, a patch of grass no bigger than a tennis court at the side of it, and about thirty Kangaroos lounging about in the grass. Even more so, we weren’t expecting to get out of the car to be greeted by one of the workers who gave us huge handfuls of sweet potato and told us that we could feed them if we liked. If Stac had her own way, we’d still be there now feeding the fullest Kangaroos in the world 🙂

We learned lots about the Kangaroos and how they live, they generally only eat short grass, but do like sweet potato also, they don’t carry any diseases and they don’t sweat so they have super-soft fur all the time.

The town of 1770 was lovely, small and remote enough to not be troubled with shopping centres and traffic lights and lorries like most towns, at the end of town was a stunning viewpoint looking east over the ocean, with a couple of nice forest walks to do. The sunset from there, after we had been to see the Kangaroos, was just stunning. We stayed a couple of nights in a nice cabin in a caravan park and spent the nights watching DVDs on the sofa, with the occasional bottle of wine too.

From 1770, we drove on, down through Bundaberg, to visit the rum distillery and on to Hervey Bay. Bundaberg rum distillery was not what you’d expect. It was just a huge tourist attraction, in a town with nothing else there. Dozens of tourists were being around on expensive tours before having the opportunity to buy expensive bottles of rum.

Trust me, we’re experienced in this, after buying a bottle of Bundaberg rum, which cost $70, and drinking it, it doesn’t stand up to the rums produced elsewhere in the world for cheaper. We’re also reliably informed that the cheapest bottle they sell is akin to poison, so I don’t think we’ll be shipping pallets of that back home.

We stayed the night in Hervey Bay, it was getting colder now, we’d moved the best part of 2,000km south, so of course it was getting cooler, but it still wasn’t cold most of the time. A cloudy day on Hervey Bay sea front is an exception though, it felt freezing to us, and after walking along the longest pier known to man, we found at the end a huge pelican sat on the railings next to a fisherman. These birds, if you haven’t seen one, are huge, and the one sitting on the railings looked like a statue it was that big.

We had been told it was just coming in to the right season to see whales from Hervey Bay and tours could be had for about $90 each to go out Whale Spotting, when we enquired though, we were told that the tours didn’t start-up properly until the week after because sightings were not guaranteed yet. Early spoiler alert; we’ll soon tell you why we never needed to do a tour 🙂

We stayed at a place in Hervey Bay called the Woolshed, we didn’t realise when we booked it, but it was an actual shed. Somehow we were sleeping in the roof space above the shed itself, with open-boarded walls surrounding a space just about big enough for a bed it wasn’t ideal, travelling is all about the luxury it seems. 🙂

So, after not hanging around to do a tour in Hervey Bay, we packed up our things on moved on again towards Brisbane, the big section of the road trip was done and we were both excited to see our first Australian big city, more to come on that next time.

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