After the Babinda Boulders we started making our way South along the coast towards Brisbane for New Year. Along the way our main objectives were to stop at waterholes and beaches as much as possible to cool off and enjoy a slow pace of life – a vast difference from missioning it through the outback…although our first stop was Mission Beach…
Day 45: 17th December 2017
The wide golden sands of Mission Beach were a pleasure to see and relax on after the rather disappointing beaches in Cairns. Here they provided a netted area to swim in to protect you from croc and jelly fish attacks – nice.
We made our way to Murray Falls. Here a pleasant walk through the rainforest takes you to the cascading water fall of the Murray River. Whilst the falls themselves aren’t grand, the setting is beautiful and well worth the short walk.
Whilst you can camp at Murray Falls the camping is paid, we therefore headed back to the main road and found a lovely spot near a railroad! Thankfully we only heard one train and managed to get a solid nights sleep.
Day 46: 18 December 2017
We took a slight detour off the main highway to venture into Edmund Kennedy National Park. We thought this would be a rewarding stop as we heard there were mangrove forest broadwalks, empty beaches and enormous lace monitor lizards. However, it didn’t live up to the hype as all the broadwalks were closed and all the walking paths were overgrown. On the plus side the beaches were empty but with the tide in there was little room to relax and without any jelly fish protection net we didn’t fancy a swim.
The day improved when we visited the Cardwell Rainforest and Reef Visitor Centre who had an informative reef information display and told us about some kick-ass water holes nearby. The first was the Cardwell Natural Spa Pool which as well as having beautiful blue waters to swim in had a natural Jacuzzi-esque hole for relaxing – no wonder it is the number 1 instagram-able spot in Cardwell!
A little further south is the 5-mile Creek Water Hole. Whilst not as picturesque as the Natural Spa Pool it has it’s own charm and a platform to jump off from.
Further down the highway we saw a sign for the Hinchinbrook / Panjoo Lookout and decided to stop. Luckily we did as the view was incredible.
Our luck continued when we arrived at the free camp spot and realised how perfect it was. The Balgal Beach Campground was right next to the beach, had BBQs, a coastguard manned swimming net, drinking water and a fish and chip shop! Result. After an evening walk along the beach we decided to scrap our plans for tomorrow and stay two nights here.
Day 47: 19 December 2017
A day of relaxing at the beach. No driving, just swimming and coming up with silly ways to keep ourselves amused.
Day 48: 20 December 2017
After a quick morning sea swim we kept our swimmers on and headed to some nearby water-holes: Big Crystal Creek and Little Crystal Creek. Big Crystal Creek has fun rock slides and local mad-heads were jumping off the top of the high rocks into the water hole. Scary-shit. Little Crystal Creek wasn’t as wild as it’s big brother but I guess that is understandable.
That night we camped at Saunders Beach. This had less facilities than Balgal Beach but it was a wonderful spot for an evening stroll and shell hunt.
Day 49: 21 December 2017
We arrived in the place which has won countless awards for the most imaginative named town: Townsville. We stopped to check out the view from Castle Hill Lookout. The way up is steep especially in a overweight camper and the journey up is made even harder by gaggles of joggers running up and down the hill (although many had given up and decided to walk it). At the top are numerous lookouts providing splendid views of Townsville and surroundings.
That was our only stop in Townsville as we had a long journey on to Airlie Beach. Airlie is a picturesque town famed for it’s nightlife and being a gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. There are no free campsites in the area though so we decided to explore the beach and enjoy the awesome man-made lagoon for a few hours before heading on to a pub near MacKay which let you camp in their garden if you brought a few beers – no worries!
Day 50: 22 December 2017
From the pub we headed off to explore Eungella National Park. Eungella is an aboriginal word meaning “Land of the Clouds” and when you are driving up the steep roads to get there you don’t doubt that they knew what they were talking about. At the top we were relieved when the ground levelled out and were amazed by the views. We walked to the Sky Window Lookout, had lunch whilst trying to keep the bush turkeys away and went on another unsuccessful platypus hunt.
After a brake burning drive back down to sea level we headed to the Gargett Rodeo Grounds for our spot of free camping. Here is where we met Glenn. He brought the old Station Master’s house next to the Rodeo grounds and has been doing it up. He asked if we would mind doing a few hours work painting in exchange for beers and home cooked tucker. Definitely!
Glenn was a good chap who seemed a bit lonely having recently split from his Thai wife and missed his adopted daughter terribly. But he had a fridge where he kept home-brew kegs of beer and had installed his own beer pump on the front door of said fridge so he’s definitely winning at something! He also made a mean meat-a-licious dinner.
Day 51: 23 December 2017
Glenn had told us about a water hole that we missed out on the way back from Eungella and said that we had to go – so we did. It was a beautiful spot and a fresh water swim was a great way to start the day.
The rest of the day was spent driving to Calliope River Rest Area. A huge free camp-spot by the Calliope River. This place had a real community feel to it and we got chatting to some locals/residents before turning in for the night.
Day 52 – 54: 24 – 26 December 2017
Day 55: 27 December 2017
Having spent the Christmas period around our campsite we decided to start the day exploring a little more of the local area around Seventeen-Seventy. Firstly though, yes, there is a town in Australia called 1770. The town was built on the site of the second landing in Australia by James Cook and the crew of HM Bark Endeavour in May 1770. It’s a small town but had a beautiful coastline.
Our next stop was the Mon Repos Turtle Centre outside of Bundaberg. Whilst we arrived a little late to see any turtles hatching and making their way to the beach (late in the day and probably also the wrong season!) the centre is an informative place to visit and there is a nice broadwalk to the beach.
Day 56: 28 December 2017
We then made it to the fabulous Noosa for midday. We’d heard a lot about Noosa on the Sunshine Coast, especially it’s golden beach, beach-front boutiques and coastal trails. We parked up by the beach and made our way to the Noosa National Park to do the coastal walk to Hell’s Gates, past Winch Cove and Fairy Pools. The names were as magical as the views and the walk was only spoilt by Rob’s flip-flop dying and an argument about whether we’d make it back to the van before the free parking ran out.
Thankfully we made it back just in time but really enjoyed the vibe in Noosa and wanted to stay longer. We moved the van to the free parking at the National Park and walked back into the town to soak up the vibe with some freshly cooked fish and chips – delicious. Part of the reason we loved Noosa so much is because it reminded us slightly of Salcombe – a seaside town back in the UK where we spent a wonderful long weekend.
Day 57: 29 December 2017
A steady day chilling at Shelley Beach appreciating why the Sunshine Coast gets it’s name.
Day 58: 30 December 2017
Before arriving in Brisbane we took a small detour to see the Glass House Mountains – named because the peaks reminded James Cook of the glass furnaces back at his home in Yorkshire. We can’t comment on their resemblance to glass furnaces, but, as always, the views were stunning.
It was then off to Brisbane to get settled in ready for a New Year Celebration and Louise’s Birthday with friends!