Beautiful places from Bundaberg to Airlie Beach and how to spot a platypus in magical Eungella

Sometimes you find the most lovely views in unexpected places. Toogom is just 15 minutes away from Hervey Bay. Quiet and with turquoise waters it’s perfect for a little break, a picnic, windsurfing or kayaking. Refreshed from a serene morning, we headed to Bundaberg. And what is the town famous for? That’s right – Bundaberg Brewed Drinks and therefore also Ginger Beer! I love ginger beer (and no, it doesn’t have alcohol, it just tastes delicious ha ha). Since I love the drink, I was surprised to see it in Germany. It’s called “Ginger Brew’ there though.

Anyways, you can take a tour of their factory, although it does cost something. I instead opted to buy a ginger beer and some sodas and drink it on a bench in front of the big barrel. We had lunch at the beach in Bargara, a pretty little seaside town. We were unfortunately about two weeks to early, but if you are in the region between November and March, you might be lucky enough to see turtles nest and hatch at Mon Repos turtle beach. You can only do this through a tour with a ranger as it is important to keep the turtles protected. Here is the link, if you are interested.

Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles. ― Roy T. Bennett

Our place to sleep for the night was Miara Holiday Park which is located on the Kolan River near the ocean. We had our tent right near the little beach. With the full moon shining, the sound of the waves and the salty ocean air, we spent a tranquil evening there and fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Next day, next adventure! Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy. Yes, that is the true name of the town which refers to the second landing by James Cook and his crew in May 1770. We spend the whole day exploring the area. They are located at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. The coast there is beautiful and there are lots of great spots for surfing (or, for learning how to surf). We ended up staying in a less than an impressive caravan park. At least when you’ve got your tent with you, you know you’re not going to share your bed with bed bugs 😉 (at least most of the time).

The next morning we decided to do the Red Rock Walk and the Rainforest Walk in Agnes Water. I can absolutely recommend the stunning Red Rock Walk – just make sure you bring enough water and sunscreen. You can even go for a swim and might get to see a dolphin or turtles in those blue blue waters.

Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live. ― Nora Roberts

Red Rock Walk
Josh walking along one of the wonderful beaches along the Red Rock Walk (Agnes Waters), 2016.

After another beautiful day in the sun, we found a free overnight stay area in Benaraby (I think it is called Boyne River). You have a nice view of the river and our neighbour was a friendly cow.

As the temperatures and humidity were still pretty high, we went for a swim in the ocean at Tannum Sands in the morning. As someone who didn’t grew up near the ocean and only went on holidays to the North Shore, I am always amazed at how many lovely beaches Australia has and how easily accessible they are. After enjoying the view from the Gladstone lookout, our next destination was the seaside town Yeppoon. Another scenic spot at the coast. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of beaches or the feeling of  the seemingly endless ocean splashing at your feet. Anyways, Yeppoon is in the area called ‘Capricorn Coast‘ and it’s a gateway to the Keppel Islands.

About 20 kilometers south from Yeppoon, you’ll find Emu Park. You can admire the ‘Singing Ship Monument’ and reflect on the memorial walk. I adored the scenic view overlooking Keppel Island.

When I woke up, I had to take care of something that had started to bother me more and more. In my post ‘How to keep your skin healthy‘ I already shared with you that I have had atopic eczema since I was a baby. It often flares up when I’m travelling – my skin clearly let me know that it did not appreciate the daily moving around in the humidity and different climate conditions. As my rash kept spreading, I decided to go to the doctor in Mackay. Thankfully I’ve got travel insurance and the doctor was very helpful. She also told me that the skin might additionally react to the harvesting of the sugar cane (you see and smell those fields a lot in Queensland). As I have noticed while you’re travelling, there are so many kind people out there wanting to help. So not only did I get a prescription, but also a whole list of places to travel to in Queensland which she had written down for me. So we took it slow that day and walked a bit through Mackay, asked for advice at the tourist information and then decided to have a little break from sleeping in a tent. I love sleeping in a tent, especially if you’ve got an air mattress, as you just carry your own little home with you, but it sometimes feels awesome just sleeping on a proper bed. I’m getting a bit distracted here, so what about Mackay? Mackay is often called the sugar capital of Australia as it produces more than a third of Australia’s cane sugar. There are lots of palm trees, some art deco buildings and you can walk to the Mackay Marina.

Mackay
Sunset over Mackay, 2016.

Without knowing too much about it, we made our way to Eungella National Park which now is one of my fondest memories of our road trip. Eungella is Australia’s oldest and longest stretch of sub-tropical rainforest. To me it is honestly a magical place. The temperatures were really pleasant, the air fresh and the views over the Pioneer Valley are merely beautiful. We set up camp at Broken River and spotted some colorful birds. There are many trails in the national park, like the Pine Grove Circuit and Rainforest Discovery Circuit. Take your time to enjoy the lush rainforest, the views and maybe also look up – you might see some bats. If you go for the Broken River walk, take time at the viewing platfrom to spot some platypus. I had seen platypuses before – we were lucky enough to be able join a volunteer in Latrobe in the Warrawee Reserve (Tasmania) to show us how to spot a platypus. It usually takes a bit of patience, but it is quite easy to see those odd, fascinating animals at Broken River. In general, be quiet, don’t make any quick movements and wear dark clothes (they can see you, even if it doesn’t look like it). Look out for bubbles as that might be a sign for a platypus (they search through the mud for food). The best time to spot them is at dawn or dusk. Happy platypus spotting! *Just a note, if you are going any time soon, check the website of the Department of National Parks as I heard that Cyclone Debbie had damaged parts of the area.

At Broken River, you can also see turtles. And once the sun had set, we were suddenly surrounded by enchanted glows. Unexpectedly, there were fireflies everywhere. I can’t describe the feeling of standing in the rainforest, hearing the sounds of the river and animals, and then little lights dancing around you. Nature has a way of making you feel whole again and in some moments letting you realize, that there is magic in this world, that in this moment you don’t need anything else but the feeling of being connected to this earth.

Definitely take the 40 minute drive from Broken River to Finch Hatton Gorge. Take one of the many hikes where you can savor the view of Araluen waterfalls and even better, you can go swimming in natural water pools along the way. A bit further you can find the Wheel of Fires Cascades – a waterfall with a rock pool at the base.

I could have spent much more time there, but Queensland is huge and there was so much more to see. So the following day, it was off to Airlie Beach. And it did not disappoint. The vista of turquoise waters, white beaches and the Whitsunday Islands further away is quite unreal. The only thing is, Airlie Beach is very popular and therefore (at least in high season) crammed. I am sure you can have a great time here, but with more and more time I realise that even though it’s nice to go to a bar now and then, I prefer somewhere quieter, with nature close by. Still, an unbelievably beautiful spot (now that I’m sorting through the photos, I must have forgotten HOW beautiful it is. Can I go back there, like, right now?).

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Anyways, the 74 Whitsunday Islands are in the heart of the famous Great Barrier Reef. The majority of the islands are national parks, four of them though are resorts (Daydream, Hayman, Hamilton and Long Island). You have probably heard about Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island (the largest of the islands) which is known for its white silica sands. At the northern end lies Hill Inlet where the shifting of sands by the tide creates stunning pictures of the aquamarine waters with the white sands (if you just google images of that inlet, you’ll know what I mean). You can take a boat to get there from Airlie Beach and there are lots of different tours available. When we got there, jellyfish time had just started. So be careful when you get into the water – there are usually signs if you should watch out for Irukandji and box jellyfish in certain seasons and locals can tell you if there have been any sightings lately. You don’t want to get stung by them (you can partly protect yourself by wearing a stinger suit or apparently tights).

Saying that, we discussed for a few hours if we should go out to one of the islands. I know that they are world-famous and the view from Airlie Beach gave me a tiny glimpse of how impressive the islands must be (oh, and have I mentioned you can go snorkelling there?). At that time though, the tours all had a big pricetag and so we decided with a heavy heart to not take a boat out. Oh well, just another reason to come back to Down Under!

Cape Gloucester
The lovely colours of a coastal sunset, Cape Gloucester, 2016.

My doctor in Mackay told us about Cape Gloucester though. I am really thankful she gave us that recommendation, we probably wouldn’t have gone there otherwise and it’s just gorgeous there (and much quieter than Airlie Beach). It’s on a peninsula about 50 kms from Airlie Beach. I would say this was one of the best coastal views I’ve seen on this trip. We set up our tent at Hydeaway Bay and enjoyed Dingo Beach, then had a wonderful evening at Cape Gloucester Eco Resort. Another marvelous sunset over a wonderful Coral Sea.

Cape Gloucester
Cape Gloucester Sunset Panorama, 2016.

Our roadtrip through Queensland doesn’t stop here though – next time I’ll write about Magnetic Island (or ‘Maggie’, as the locals say), Townsville, Cardwell, Mission Beach, the lovely Waterfall Drive and how we ended up staying in the Atherton Tablelands for more than three weeks (hello car problems!).

You lose sight of things… and when you travel, everything balances out. – Daranna Gidel

 

 

 

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