#1 Our Big Why
2008 – Stuck in a rut living in Oldham near Manchester, England and yearning for something new and exciting we took the massive Everest sized steps and orchestrated our new life. We arrived in Melbourne in late January 2010 and busily got to work building our new life.
2021- Fast forward 11 years and we’ve built an amazing fruitful life in the beachside suburb of Altona. We’ve made some great friends and enjoyed hundreds of burgers, thousands of beers, and amazing curries. Then in Feb 2021 we both one day threw the idea in the air that it was time to possibly make some changes once again. The catalyst for this moment was a combination of the impact of COVID, 5am alarms and the wobbly journey down the stairs on stiff knees. We had a seedling of an idea for future retirement/relocation which had been put in a dark cupboard for the last few years and wasn’t meant to be given sunlight for about another 5 years.
We made the nerve-wracking decision to sell our beautiful home (tick), give up our jobs (tick) and pack all our belongings in a secure shipping container (tick, anyone for a game of Tetris?) and hit the road on a journey of discovery in this great country of Australia.
We had 4 main objectives for this plan:-
1. To take some time for ourselves to live life freely without the constraints of work.
2. To visit and explore more of this amazing country on a flexible schedule which will allow us to explore on a spontaneous basis.
3. Scout out and identify any possible locations for where we could make a new home.
4. To later travel internationally again, visit family and friends who we never expected to be separated from for so long and to discover new places without the time restrictions of our past life.
A few obstacles however lay in our path, the most crippling one was the rings of steel around Australia’s individual states and yet another lockdown with the added bonus of nightly curfew and restricted exercise hours in the prison yard. Homeless and with our belongings in storage we thought we’d take our chances sleeping rough on the beach till it all blew over. However, as luck would have it some guardian angels had a place we could rent that meant we could sleep facing the beach in a ripper of a wee place. All we needed now to survive this lockdown was food & water and luckily our local brewery Brew Works lovingly kept us supplied with six-packs and Oye Bombay filled our tummies with delicious Indian Food.
Fast forward to now and the lockdown has ended, lots of eating and drinking with friends who will be sadly missed for the next few months and we are finally ready to load Ed the Everest up and hit the road !!!!!!
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#22 Fast track north to collect keys to our Queensland home on a magical date
We arrived back in Queensland on a sunny Sunday afternoon and headed straight back to our friend’s place in the Glasshouse mountains where Ed had been resting. It was good to catch up again, we packed Ed up ready to hit the road the next day and we enjoyed a beautiful birthday dinner for Mark.
The next morning it was sad to say goodbye, we were kind of wishing we were not moving quite so far north knowing we have lovely friends here and nearby. I guess what’s a 2-day 1000km trip between friends (maybe a 1hr flight is a bit easier?)
The weather was good and we set off pretty early to ensure we could get as far as possible on day one. Our aim was to get to Rockhampton and we wanted a few stops on the way, including our favourite cafe at Childers. We also stopped at a large petrol station and couldn’t resist visiting the giant Kangaroo on the grounds which had a brand new kids park, bbq and facilities too. This turned out to be Matilda the Kangaroo who was a mascot at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982, then lived a Gold coast theme park, and is now resting randomly at a petrol station just south of Gympie.
We booked a motel last minute just as we approached Rockhampton at around 4 pm and had a relaxing evening here. We walked into town for dinner to stretch our legs and ended up with a fast-food burger fix at Carls Junior. This burger chain is relatively new to Australia and we knew would be our last for a while as this would be the closest to us, their loaded chili fries were an extra treat and are highly recommended!
We woke after a good sleep ready for our last and big day on the magical date of 22022022. The motel was basic but clean and comfortable and the bonus was a continental brekki included in the rate. This was served in a small restaurant near reception and was way better than expected, lots of fresh choices even pancakes and we ate plenty before hitting the road again. Our aim was to be at the real estate office near Airlie by 3 pm and we managed this no problem after getting the exciting call at around 12 pm to say the settlement was complete and the house was ours!!! We stopped for coffee at the Sarina sugar shed which we thought was rather disappointing, followed by pies from the Sarina pie shop which were amazing with mushy peas and gravy topping. We grabbed a few bits from Kmart that we needed for the house as again knew we wouldn’t be going there for a while as Mackay would be our nearest Kmart and big city.
During the final leg of the drive, the weather suddenly changed and heavy rain made the last stretch a little treacherous, along with a crazy truck overtaking us at a very dangerous point which also made me happy to soon be off the roads for a while. It was also a feeling of relief that we would not be travelling further north right now as per our original plan in the wet season, which we had successfully dodged so far.
The rain cleared as we arrived close to Airlie Beach and we arrived on time to collect the keys. The agent gave us a few bottles of wine to congratulate us and we drove the very short drive to our new home and excitedly unlocked the doors to the next chapter of our life on a very memorable date too!
Travel will certainly resume in the future but it was great to unpack our gear from Ed into the house and give him a well-deserved rest safely undercover (where he literally just fits with the roof pod in place!)
Our plan was to use our camping gear indoors (talk about glamping lol) until our container arrive hopefully in two weeks…….. what did we say about dodging the bad weather?
Well…………. we literally just missed severe floods and devastation in Brisbane and surrounding areas by 2 days! This would have stopped us travelling north for a good few weeks, caused a freight train to derail (luckily our container was not on this) and a big delay in our container arriving. Lucky we are now seasoned campers and we were just grateful our container had not been water damaged.
Our blog will have a break for now but we will be adding new travel content when we travel again and also some new content soon so watch this space as well as our Instagram and Facebook page!
Thanks for reading, we hope you have enjoyed following our travel journey up the east coast of Australia. It sure is a huge country and we have barely touched it!
Thought of the stay – “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world” – Gustavo Flaubert
Quote of the trip – “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there” – Pascal Mercier, Night train to Lisbon
Post written by Carolyn, edited by Lee, tech support by Carolyn covers Sunday 20th Feb – Tue 22nd Feb days 87 – 89 of the trip.
12.5 hrs driven, 1097 kms, 3 new stay locations
Grand totals for this East coast tour to follow very soon along with other updated stats!
#21 Return to Melbourne
It was surreal to be back in Melbourne, as if by magic and lovely to see a familiar face pick us up from the airport and take us to their house to stay for a few days. Although 10 days sounded like a long time we knew we had a lot to fit in too with the priorities being to sort our container, a 60th birthday party and try to catchup with as many friends as we could which is not easy in the weekdays when everyone is busy working!
The weather was great, Melbourne has apparently had a great summer mainly in the mid 30’s this year, although unusually humid apart from a few huge storms and some localised flooding.
We started with a few nights in Oak Park which is north of the cbd with Paula and her family. We enjoyed some great fish and chips and a birthday party in a park, then sampled some more new beers at a few bars and breweries we had never been to before. A highlight was the piano bar which is part of the East Brunswick hotel where 2 really talented pianists play together, taking requests and really entertaining the crowd.
We caught the train back to Altona and as we stepped off the train at Westona it was 12 noon precisely so We couldn’t resist a quick thali lunch at Oye Bombay our favourite Indian followed by a few beers at our favourite brewery Brew Works and it was lovely to catch up with owners Sarin and his team and then Paul and Lyn before heading to Paul and Sandra’s in Point Cook where we enjoyed a lovely bbq, catch up and a great nights sleep . If you haven’t read blog post #2, it’s all’s about Altona and you can find out more about our favourite places and people.
On Sunday we headed to friends Wendy and Jasons place, back in Altona for a few nights where we had a catch up with a lovely group of friends for a Sunday session at the Altona bowling club which had a live band playing and it felt like we were living back there again.
We didn’t hire a car for the trip as we knew we wouldn’t need it all the time and our good friends Paul & Lyn kindly loaned us a spare car when we needed it. Trains in Melbourne are great and we really just needed to get around locally from friends to friends places with our bags and to visit the container park.
After our first social weekend we made our first trip to the container, we tentatively opened the heavy doors in case our stuff had been damaged by recent floods then the heat and humidity. Phew all seemed fine so we set to work and boxed up the final things that we had thrown in on the day we left to start our big journey. This included both excess stuff from the flat that we had needed until the last minute along with stuff we had planned to take, until we realised Ed was packed to the rafters! In hindsight we should have dumped more at this point but we had no idea how long it would be until we could return to Melbourne, what if we had got locked down or trapped in another state? Would we end up flying to the UK and not able to return for our bigger bags and winter clothes? Excuses or sensible decision I guess it doesn’t really matter now.
The container collection was not booked until our last week day in Melbourne (Friday) but we were also on standby in case they could fit us in Wednesday or Thursday in case anything went wrong on our last day. Again in hindsight (what a wonderful thing that is) this was a bad idea as it meant we couldn’t fully relax or commit to plans on these days just in case they called.
Everyone was so accomodating and we had more offers of nights out and places to stay than we had nights. Our next visit will be a lot better planned and easier without the stresses of this particular trip but sorry to those we didn’t get to see this time.
Monday was also Valentine’s Day and we were invited to share it with friends at our favourite Indian restaurant Oye Bombay (visit no2 so far) and the feast or company did not disappoint!
We decided to spend 2 nights mid week in a CBD hotel as most friends were busy working and this is something we had never done in all the years living in Melbourne. So we found a good deal at an apart hotel just behind Southbank, Oaks Melbourne Southbank suites which had a small balcony with city views, a kitchenette, clothes washing facilities., perfect! We enjoyed some much needed downtime along with a bit of city exploring, a great burger at Melbournes longest bar The Arbory and of course some shopping knowing it would be last time here for some time. It also gave us the space to finalise important life admin for the imminent house purchase. The location also allowed us both to see some ex work friends. Tepanyaki and drinks with a few lovely Eagles and Lee was able to visit his last (and favourite) work site to catch up with work friends on site.
Before we knew it we were back on the familiar metro train to Altona, popped into the brewery and helped with a bit of beer production (and tasting) then borrowed the car again, called to visit friends Rita and Ralph for a cuppa in their new home and then spent another night with friends Paul & Sandra in Point Cook. The great weather persisted and we enjoyed a lovely Italian meal at Brothers on K near Werribee zoo where the lasagne was one of the best I’ve had in a long time!
We finally had confirmation that the container collection would be at 11am Friday. We were relieved it wasn’t too early, enjoyed breakfast together and then headed to the container park. We were both pretty stressed not knowing how this would go as our stuff would have to be moved from the permanent container into a new one. We were hoping it would all still fit once fully wrapped and packed and more importantly would the container truck be able to turn and fit into our middle aisle? If you’ve seen Austin Powers movie and the million 3 point turns that was how Allied Pickfords team managed to get to our container door … phew!! It all fitted, was well packed and took about 3 hours! Sadly some light rain was a bit of a nuisance but could have been much worse too. Overall we would highly recommend Allied Pickfords for an interstate removal and City West Storage in Altona north for short or long term secure storage. The container was immediately taken to local rail freight depot and would be travelling as far as Mackay by rail (approx 2500 kms taking 5-7 days) then by truck to our home and the price included 2 men to load and wrap in Melbourne and unload directly into our home at the destination.
So the biggest worry of the trip was over and where better to spend both Friday and Saturday night than our favourite local brewery Brew Works. Friday afternoon we squeezed in a 3rd visit to Oye Bombay for yet another thali lunch after all that hard work then back to the brewery for Friday night which was always our regular night we managed to catch-up with more friends and enjoyed some much missed beers, stouts and ciders as well as our good friends the owners who kindly gave us their spare room and some lovely cooked brekkis for our last 2 nights.
Saturday was our last full day and the day of Wendy’s 60th party. We helped with some of the bar preparation during the day and called to see friends Phil and Louise before back to the brewery for a quick change ready for the party. Saturday afternoons are often busy and we managed to catch up with a few more regulars and friends who missed Friday night. Lee had been asked to help on the bar for the party which he enjoys doing (and yes he has an RSA) It also meant he could share the bar cover so everyone could celebrate with Wendy who put on a great spread of food and shouted the drinks for the evening! I volunteered as DJ and photographer and there was lots of fun, cake and dancing, a wonderful way to spend our last night in Melbourne, for the time being anyway!
Before we knew it we were back at the airport after some sad goodbyes, checked in and boarded seamlessly at a “slowly retuning to normal” Melbourne airport. Qantas were great, they provided complimentary nibbles and a drink and whisked us back up to the Sunshine Coast to be reunited with Ed and the next exciting trip.
Thought of the stay – great to know Melbourne is a direct flight option from our new home so we can visit regularly or friends can visit us. Melbourne will always hold a special place in our hearts as this is where we established our life down under.
Post written by Carolyn, edited by Lee, tech support by Carolyn covers Thu 10th Feb – Sunday 20th feb days 77 – 87 of the trip.
3730 Kms Flown, 4.5 hrs flying, 5 new stay locations
#20 Retracing our steps back down to the Sunshine coast
Saying goodbye to Airlie Beach for a second time felt a bit weird knowing that when we returned in a few weeks we’d be getting the keys and living there. We were still unsure do we spend the next 30 days driving all the way to Melbourne and back or just fly from maybe Brisbane or Sunshine Coast, it was all dependent on available dates for our container collection which we had not yet resolved, plenty of life admin to be done on route for sure.
Ed was loaded and we were a little sad knowing that was maybe our last night camping for a while and we set off to the Northern Beaches area of Mackay, Dolphin Heads to be specific where we had booked into a resort-type accommodation right on the water’s edge. We had a great couple of days there relaxing by the pool and walking along the beach. We also took the opportunity to suss out the larger selection of big shed type furniture and appliance stores as this would be the nearest city to Airlie and they all do regular deliveries to the area. A search on Google brought up a couple of Indian restaurant options and one of them Roshni * boldly stated “voted Australia’s best Indian restaurant“ so in the name of research for you readers we got ourselves a table and got to work. The food was indeed lovely, with great service but I can honestly say with hand on heart the gold No1 trophy still belongs to our friend Sarin and his staff at our old local Indian restaurant in Altona, Oye Bombay.
After a few nights in Dolphin Heads, we headed south a couple more hours to stay two nights and revisit the city of Rockhampton which we had hardly seen on the way up. We booked into a small cabin with much needed aircon in a caravan park, a short walk across the Fitzroy River to the CBD. On our first night we enjoyed a meal and drinks in the Criterion hotel whilst watching the Australia open men’s final, which turned out to be a very long game and had to be continued back 8n the cabin! The next day we enjoyed a great day walking around the city with some beautiful old buildings, visited their big modern shopping centre. The highlight was the Botanical Gardens where the city’s zoo is also located and we were surprised to find its free entry, well worth a visit. We happily spent a good few hours enjoying their mainly Australian native animals and especially the new baby chimpanzee!
From Rockhampton, we decided to stay a night at Agnes Water which we sadly bypassed on the journey up due to bad weather in the area. Once again the tent stayed in the roof box and an air-conditioned room was obtained as the heat was stifling. A lazy day floating around the pool helped keep the heat at bay and in the evening we caught up with friends Tim & Cindy in the nearby caravan park who had also driven down from Airlie a few days earlier. After checking out the next morning it was a short ten-minute drive to the beach town of 1770 where we wandered around the few cafes dotted around the boat ramp area. Here in 1770, upon a rocky outcrop is a monument marking the exact spot where Lieutenant James Cook landed and stepped ashore on 24th May 1770. Hence why the town is simply named 1770. There are lots of fun activities in this region and the visit was enough to determine we would definitely return again one day, it came highly recommended by some of our good friends (Sue, Mark, and DD) who spent many weeks in a backpackers here many years ago!
Back in the air-conditioned comfort of the car, we headed south once more to visit Rainbow Beach which is a favourite destination of our good friend DD. Once again our trusty tent stayed in the roof box and a room for the night was booked in a recommended hostel/ motel. Mrs. B had her first booking failure (well apart from maybe the murder motel) choosing a standard room instead of a deluxe as couldn’t see much difference. Yes, my co-pilot clearly did not read the room description when booking, resulting in us dropping our bags in the room, realising in horror that there is no aircon and the room is stifling hot with zero breeze. Lesson learned, we lost 20kgs each overnight in our steam room but hey at least more of our clothes now fit us. Rainbow beach is a great little town and it was easy to see why it was recommended to us. We enjoyed a walk on a huge beach, drinks with an amazing beach view at the surf life-saving club before the rain set in for the night and so we joined the backpackers in the bar/kitchen area and cooked our favourite smash burgers for dinner. Unfortunately the following morning the tide was fully in, so sadly we didn’t get the opportunity to drive Ed the Everest along the beach for the first time as planned.
At this point, we realised that we have now probably stayed in every type of accommodation possible apart from a boat at this point of the trip as we reflected on our stays including friends’ places, our tent, a cabin, numerous motels, hotels, resorts, apartments, and a hostel.
From Rainbow beach, we drove down to Tewantin, just outside Noosa to visit and stay again with our good friend DD and her daughter Daisy. After a tasty dinner and drinks at the local RSL, we spent a chilled-out evening catching up. We were up early the next morning as DD wanted to take us to one of her favourite swimming holes with a waterfall high up in the Kondalilla National Park. Having only been there swimming a few days earlier DD was disappointed that the crystal clear swimming hole now resembled Mr. Wonkas Chocolate river due to heavy seasonal rains a few days earlier. Not being put off we all jumped in to cool down and boy did we cool down, the water was seriously ice cold but ultra-refreshing and the waterfall was pretty powerful above our heads. After nervously watching a very large lizard about a metre long noseying around our clothes and belongings we got dressed and hiked back down to the car. A short drive later we stopped for a spot of lunch in the mountain town of Montrose, one of a series of small towns in the area full of nice cafes and boutiques to attract the weekend tourists.
After a couple of fun nights staying with DD and Daisy, we headed an hour further south to our friends Mark & Emily in the Glass House Mountains. It was great to see them again and their new house which they moved into just a few weeks ago. Enjoying some downtime we really settled in and made the most of their pool during the day and hunted cane toads in the evening to ensure it was safe for Billy their Frenchie to wander the gardens after dusk. It was here that we completed our life admin, booked our container removal and delivery service and also flights to Melbourne, deciding against the adventure of a big drive Inland and back in such a short time, we’ll save that for another time when we are not so rushed.
It was a good feeling to have finalised the plan and Mark and Emily were happy for us to stay a little longer and leave Ed there under the safe cover of their huge carport whilst we were away.
We enjoyed an energetic hike up Mt Ngungun late one afternoon to avoid the heat of the day which rewarded us all with spectacular views over the stunning Glass House Mountains and the Sunshine Coast, if you’re ever in the area we highly recommend it. As well as being rich with spectacular scenery this area is also home to 15 craft and microbreweries. Sharing my love for different craft beers Mark drove us all up to Maleny another of the delightful little mountain towns and home to Brouhaha Brewery where a great burger was washed down with a couple of tasting paddles for the afternoon. A quick visit to a handmade chocolate shop put further smiles on our faces.
Seizing the opportunity whilst in the area, we paid a visit to the world-famous Australia Zoo home of TV’s The Irvin’s. Throughout the course of the day we were totally blown away by the size and scale of the place and the obvious love for all the animals housed there. We had a full day to spend here and made sure to turn up for the various feeding shows etc. The Crocoseum was impressive and the highlight of the day is the crocodile feeding show, sadly no Irwin’s appeared on this quiet mid-week day. Covid and the lack of tourists are still affecting many attractions here and I would guess the zoo was not even at 50% its usual visitor levels. At the end of the afternoon, we paid a visit to the in-house animal hospital where you can watch wild animals being treated by their highly skilled in-house vets. We ended our visit with a trip to a British fish and chip shop and enjoyed our first cod with mushy peas and curry sauce in quite some time.
After a great week with Mark, Emily & Billy we left Ed undercover in their care, said a temporary goodbye, and caught a Qantas flight from the Sunshine Coast airport which whisked us a few thousand kilometres down to Melbourne for what would turn out to be a nonstop ten days of fun and catch-ups.
Thought of the stay – check room descriptions carefully and just “sometimes” having a plan beats not having a plan!
Post written by Lee, edited and tech support by Carolyn covers Fri 28th Jan – Thu 10th Feb days 64- 77 of the trip.
1330 kms driven (over 5 stops), 15.5 hrs driving, 5 new stay locations
#19 B to A, Bowen to Airlie Beach- Return to the heart of the reef
Yep we were going back down to Airlie Beach, we both had a feeling that we needed to give this palm tree filled tropical paradise a bit more attention. With our minds now switched back into camping mode we made an initial booking for a couple of nights into a fantastic campsite right across from the Jubilee Tavern and a short 15 minute walk to Airlie’s Main Street.
Thankfully our return to Airlie meant I got to try a burger from Little Vegas Burgers & Bar on the Main Street. It didn’t disappoint and I’ve happily added it to my approved list of quality purveyors of Burgers. Of course top of that list is still the “Blame Canada” burger from Bar Luca in Sydney.
We decided to extend our few nights to a full week as it was such a great site and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in this tropical paradise with plenty of time to relax by the lagoon and the campsite pool with regular dips to keep cool. We met a lovely couple and their dog on their maiden voyage in a brand new caravan who were set up across from us and we all enjoyed drinks in the evening whilst keeping an eye out for the giant cane toads lumbering around the campsite and when I say giant I mean giant but often flattened too! They are real ugly and noisy things that are a prolific pest in Australia, typically appeared only after dark and especially after a few heavy rainfalls that we experienced this week.
We also took the opportunity whilst back in town to view a few more properties currently on sale and one in particular grabbed our attention from the moment we stepped through its front door. We ended up viewing it again a couple of days later to confirm our attraction and before we knew it we had found and bought our new home! Yes you did read that correctly we have bought our own little piece of tropical paradise perched up on a hill with both valley and ocean views within walking distance of the brewery and lots more. Yes, sadly it does mean our big trip will be ending soon but it’s far from the end and this was always planned to be just an east coast discovery, looking for a new place to call home and give us (and our possessions currently locked in a container in Melbourne) a base. Although it sounds rushed we always trust our gut and had been researching and shortlisting many great places on our journey, this place ticked all our boxes and more!
Being back in Airlie meant we also got the chance to visit Ballistic Brewery (now our 3rd Ballistic venue) and sample some deliciously refreshing beers and some yummy Thai food from their weekend food-truck. We also returned to the fantastic Airlie Beach Hotel (pub) for more great food and live music where we enjoyed an AC/DC tribute band on Australia Day which is a public holiday here.
With a new deadline now in place (keys to a house in 30 days) we had a big decision to make, do we continue heading north to our intended final destination of Port Douglas or do we temporarily suspend that portion of the road trip for a later date and instead, head south and call in at some of the places we bypassed due to poor weather conditions at the time. With a 60th birthday party to attend in Melbourne in a few weeks and some very wet weather arriving further north we made our decision and decided to head back down south.
So after a very eventful second stay here we packed up camp after our longest camping run of the trip (9 nights back to back), sadly maybe for the last time for a while and hit the road again ………
Thought of the stay – nothing is forever, do your research, trust your gut and be brave!
Post written by Lee, edited and tech support by Carolyn covers Thu 20th Jan – Thu 27th Jan days 57 – 63 of the trip.
85 kms driven, 1.25 hrs driving, 1 new stay location
Island gateway holiday park (rebranded as a Tasman holidays park) – is located in Jubilee Pocket, a small suburb a very short walk or drive from Airlie beach with a big tavern across the road and small shopping square very close too. This is a lush tropical park with great views of surrounding National park mountains. Plenty of tropical shady spots, beautiful amenities and a huge but rather old camp kitchen. This site has a large swimming pool, plenty of loungers and even a coffee caravan for your morning coffee and snacks. Plenty of other options including cabins and ensuite sites too. We rated 9/10 one of the best parks we’ve stayed at.
#18 A to B, Airlie to Bowen, the top of the Whitsundays.
Like the last day of the six-week summer school holidays, the time had arrived for us to sadly depart the happy place of Airlie Beach. We had a fantastic time here and enjoyed every minute but we still had places on our list we needed to visit and have a mooch around.
With the car loaded we once again headed north up the Bruce Highway just a short 80kms to the town of Bowen. On the way, we detoured and called in at Hydeaway Bay and Dingo Beach both with spectacular views. The Dingo Beach pub provided a cold drink and a satisfactory burger so a thumbs up for that establishment.
On the approach to the town of Bowen, we quickly stopped to take the touristy photos of the big mango and to try one of its famous frozen Bowen mango smoothies. In between bouts of painful brain freeze, we managed to get the photos we wanted whilst enjoying our frozen treats and we then continued on to our campsite for the next two nights, The Harbour Lights Caravan Park on Santa Barbara Parade. After a quick walk around we found a spot shaded by two large trees that did not overhang the tent and there was a good cooling breeze blowing through which was a godsend as it was baking hot and humid. Tent up after a short struggle due to sudden wind gusts, Glampy was soon fully restrained and we went out to walk the town and explore.
Bowen at 20 degrees north of the equator is North Queensland’s oldest town dating back to around 1860 and is now known for its extensive mango farms. Its basic layout and surviving period buildings led to it being used to portray historical Darwin in the 2008 Baz Luhrmann movie epic movie “Australia
It’s not a very large town to be honest and only has a population of about 11,000 people with the majority of those living in the immediate suburbs surrounding the town centre. It does however have a small independent boutique cinema which sadly I missed out on visiting but maybe next time. Great food and a bustling atmosphere can be found in the very large Grand View hotel (pub) on the Main Street with a massive outdoor entertainment area and beer garden, musical bingo is highly recommended if you’re in the area. I think we counted 5 other pubs all pretty decent which is amazing considering the population!
Bowen has to its credit some amazing beaches all just a couple of minutes from town. Greys Bay, Rose Bay and stunning Horseshoe Bay must be visited if you have the chance. We enjoyed coffees with our ex Bowen camp neighbours Geoff and Narelle (who were homeless like us and travelling up the east coast looking for a new home) who we bumped into at a lovely cafe(imaginatively named The Cafe) overlooking Horseshoe bay.
After two great nights in the tent, we packed up, now like a well-oiled machine and then two things happened…. Firstly our travel compass seemed to have broken and we couldn’t get a north heading and secondly, we noticed a thick, very taut bungee cord fastened to the tow bar and disappearing off in a southerly direction!!! We got into Ed the Everest, pushed the start button and found ourselves going back 80kms down the road we travelled up just two days earlier……….
Thoughts of the stay – The screw in tent pegs from Bunnings finally proved their worth and space in Ed to secure Glampy into very solid ground.
Post written by Lee, edited and tech support by Carolyn covers Tue 18th Jan – Thu 20th Jan, days 55 – 57 of the trip.
140 kms driven, 2 hrs driving, 1 new stay location
Harbour Lights tourist park – small caravan park with a few fixed cabins (with few if any permenant residents) located facing the marina and jetty and very short walk to the town centre. Lovely swimming pool themed with a fake lighthouse and turtle and overlooked by a well equipped camp kitchen. Ameneities block are old but clean but we found to be extremely hot despite ceiling fans running. Well priced and worth a visit we rate 7/10.
#17 Airlie Beach- The heart of the reef ❤️
Only a short 150km drive this bright sunny morning up the Bruce Hwy to our much anticipated next destination of Airlie Beach. We called in at the nearby town of Proserpine first for a quick wander as we knew that it offered some services and amenities that Airlie didn’t. Proserpine is also the location for the main whitsunday coast airport with regular daily flights to Australia’s big cities.
It was just a short 20-minute drive from Proserpine to Airlie Beach and on the road in we passed through the suburbs of Cannon Valley and then Cannonvale where there were many stunning homes with elevated views looking out across the Whitsundays. The road also takes you past a couple of largish retail and commercial centres with the regular supermarket chains and big box stores common throughout most Australian towns. Cresting one last hill we made our approach into the town of Airlie Beach crowned The Heart of the Reef and WOW!!!
Nestled on the side of the Conway National Park, Airlie Beach looks out over the turquoise ocean and across to some of the Whitsunday islands, most notably the ultra-luxury Hayman island. The Main Street through town lined with palm trees was full of cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants, and a wide variety of shops and boutiques. We instantly realised there was going to be plenty to do and enjoy here and assumed our seven-night booking into an ocean view apartment would be sufficient (oh how we underestimated this gem of a place.) My trusty co-pilot had booked us into an Airbnb apartment with fantastic ocean views also overlooking the new Port of Airlie for 7 nights (longest stay of the trip so far.) This luxury marina area was completed in 2013 after close to 30 years and has become the main departure point for many of the excursions in this aquatic playground. We tied Ed the horse up outside and checked in to enjoy once again the luxury of air conditioning and a round and round washy thing. We even marvelled at basic cooking with the popty ping white box in the kitchen area. The apartments had their own pool and amazingly the water felt almost cold which believe me is a rare treat when even hot water comes out of the cold tap. I think if you owned a bathtub here you’d have to throw a bag of ice in from the servo.
Just behind the Main Street and right on the waterfront is the amazing Airlie Lagoon, an enormous free outdoor pool facility surrounded by lush gardens and free BBQ facilities. We spent many hours here over the next week and loved the safe friendly atmosphere. Just have to remember to wear your swimmers before you walk into town then you can get a cooling dip before heading into the supermarket, bars, etc.
Exploring Airlie Beach was like a sensory overload after some of the places we’ve passed through over the last couple of months and the many booking offices offering day trips and excursions made the place feel like NZ’s action capital of Queenstown which we both love to bits. Exploring in this hot humid tropical location was thirsty work so we rested for periods at a couple of local watering holes, all were amazing for their own appearance and characteristics and well worth future visits. It’s worth noting that many of the pubs/bars have live music playing every night of the week. The Airlie Beach Hotel “The Pub” deserves a special mention as it was amazing after its refit and we saw a couple of amazing tribute bands there on a stage above and behind the main bar. Hearing a cover of Rage Against the Machines “Killing in the name of” played well and very loud outside on a packed Saturday afternoon made my day! We also drank the “best mojitos in the world” at the bar next door, go on google it! They were very very good!
Although the whole place appears busy it’s a shame to realise that all the businesses here are still struggling with the Covid issue and the ongoing absence of international travellers and more importantly backpackers who usually fill all the numerous hospitality roles. Hopefully, that will soon change as some businesses have obviously scaled back some of their offerings. Whilst we were there Daydream Island was hit with a double whammy of staff shortages and then food shortages. It even made a tv news report due to an “SOS” sign made of sheets to get them off there due to food issues no doubt an exaggeration and they are just limited to pizza and nuggets instead of usual a la Carte menus and many bookings were being forced into cancellation.
To try to alleviate the tourist shortage our good Scottish friend Dd who lives near Noosa booked last-minute flights and flew up for a long weekend to join us and help us research the place. It was only a couple of weeks since we last caught up with her whilst camping inland from Noosa but great to see her again for more laughter-filled times. We booked a sailing boat tour for the three of us aboard a large bold purple high-speed sailing catamaran called the “Camira”, apparently one of the fastest in the world. A full-day tour with reef snorkelling (stinger suits provided due to the seasonal presence of harmful and also killer jellyfish), great food, and unlimited cold drinks including beer, cider, and white wine. Yes everyone on the trip made full use of this but it was great to see it remain a chilled fun experience with no bad behavior.
The snorkelling was great fun with crew members remaining observant and attentive at all times. They then took us to Whitehaven beach and all we could all gasp was WOW!!!! After a short hike up to the lookout, you are rewarded with the most amazing view. I have never seen such a vivid contrast of beach and ocean in my life. The pure white silica sand and bright turquoise water was truly a sight to behold and we then walked down through the bushland and onto that beach to see it firsthand, hearing the white silica sand squeak underfoot as you walked on it and swim in the warm turquoise ocean. The sails were eventually up for the return journey although the weather had been so good and no wind we had to use the motor on the first part of the day. The trip was amazing, in fact, Mrs. B boldly proclaimed it had been one of the best days of her life, I still think our wedding day topped it !!! We’ll definitely be coming back here to experience this place again.
The next day we took a short drive out of town takes you to an amazing beachfront restaurant with a large outdoor dining area called “The Northerlies”, a fantastic place and location with the bonus of a free courtesy bus to collect and drop you off or they’ll reimburse some of your taxi fare against your bill…..genius!!
We only managed to scratch the surface of what Airlie had to offer in our week here. Time just flew but we got an all-round good feel for the place and even managed to view half a dozen properties on their open inspection day to see what you get for your money this far north in Queensland. Many had no clear pricing and were way out of budget but we did accidentally view a mansion with a gigantic workshop shed our good friends Paul and Tayfun would love. We had an amazing time and a near-perfect week of weather just a few short showers considering it is the tropical wet season. We were sad to have to move on but the next town up along the coast was on our visit list so we loaded up our bags into Ed and hit the road again…….
Thoughts of the stay – “the heart of the reef has stolen our hearts!”
Post written by Lee, edited and tech support by Carolyn covers Tue 11th Jan – Tue 18th Jan 22, days 48 – 55 of the trip.
150 kms driven, 2 hrs driving, 1 new stay location
Whitsunday Vista resort – just a short walk to the Port of Airlie and Airlie main town and at the foot of a hill (rare for Airlie) this apartment block has a small pool, a hot tub( out of order when we stayed) with covered BBQ area and a Thai restaurant near reception. We had a 1 bed apartment well fitted out although maybe a little old and dated, not a bad price (via Airbnb not direct) and perfect for all we needed. The aircon was in the lounge and just a ceiling fan in the bedroom so it was not as cool as would have liked. The washing machine was very useful and there were communal driers in the basement carpark (different but guess to keep heat out of the apartments) and plenty of parking undercover (no good for our high vehicle) and outside. We would definitely stay again for the value and location and we rated 8/10.
#16 Mackay, Sarina & Northern Beaches
We packed up in Yeppoon on a very hot morning and by the time everything had been squirrelled away we were in all honesty, a hot sweaty mess. A cool shower however did little to remedy the feeling and only the 40-minute drive into Rockhampton with the air-con blasting was sufficient to bring our body temps down. Built on either side of the Fitzroy River the city of Rockhampton was founded in 1853 and grew rapidly once gold was discovered in the area however the city is now famous for its cattle and beef production. There are many fine examples of Victorian architecture which line its grid pattern CBD especially along Riverside Park and we spent a leisurely hour walking its tree-lined streets admiring these grand buildings.
Back in the car, we made ourselves comfortable for the four-hour drive to our next stop the city of Mackay (2nd longest drive of the trip and probably the least options to see or do on this stretch). We did however stop briefly at the tiny coastal town of Clairview which is a Dugong Sanctuary. We had a little paddle and wow, the water was so warm but sadly we were unable to spot one of these amazing sea creatures (click here for more about Dugongs if you don’t know what they are).
Late afternoon saw us pull up at our motel accommodation for the next few days and appreciate once more simple pleasures like a real bed and aircon unit. Opting for a quiet night we stayed in and reverted to our vegetative state but with no couch in the room, we became bed potatoes.
The next day feeling refreshed we drove into the city of Mackay five minutes down the road, parked up and had a wander around some of its main city blocks. The sun was blazing and with severely depleted caffeine levels we found a local cafe for two giant iced coffee frappes then both instantly got brain freeze!
Mackay had a similar feel to Rockhampton in that it lies on the banks of a wide river and its CBD has developed in a standard block grid pattern. Walking along the shady sides of these streets is definitely an advantage and the recent construction of a giant air-conditioned shopping mall (Caneland) and large outdoor swimming lagoon (Bluewater lagoon) both proved to be fantastic locations to cool down on these hot humid days.
We took a couple of drives into The Northern Beaches area of Mackay and discovered some really nice little beach suburbs all sharing a newly built commercial shopping hub which is a great idea. The view from the pub at Eimeo is nothing short of spectacular and its high elevated position makes it a locals favourite. There are a couple of nice restaurants and a big pub at the modern marina development which is worth a visit and a drive along its massive breakwater provided some great views. It was at Eimeo beach on a beach bbq that we had our first homemade smash burgers of the trip, a taste of home and definitely made 2 additions to our “amazing burgers stats” (see sep stats and more page)
Much of the outskirts of Mackay is lush green with lots of sugar cane crops and we drove through lots of this to visit a town called Sarina that had been recommended by a fellow camper in Bundaberg. This had a reasonably sized town centre and also the beautiful Sarina beach area was a short drive away. It had a few small motels and a great little restaurant with ocean views, the beach was one of the widest beaches we have seen so far. Sadly it is stinger season and there is also a small chance of crocodiles here meaning swimming in the sea is far riskier from this point onwards (northwards)! The water however seems to be getting warmer and a more beautiful shade of blue too! From beauty, we also saw significant contrasting industrial scenes as we passed Hay Point, one of the worlds largest coal loading terminals. This is now heavily automated although from the lookout point there was not much was happening probably as it was a Sunday!
We stayed in Mackay for 5 nights, a little longer than necessary but we were waiting for accommodation availability in Airlie beach that we wanted. The days passed quickly, often with a dip in the motel pool at the end of the day. This stop gave some extra downtime and by the end, we felt refreshed and ready to hit the road again.
Thoughts of the stay – “Slow and steady win the race, we have to remember there is no rush to finish this east coast discovery and also to appreciate the simple pleasures of a real bed, air-con and a full-sized tv.“
Post written by Lee and tech support/edits by Carolyn covering Thu 6th Jan 22 – Tue 11th Jan days 43 – 48 of the trip.
370 kms driven, 4.5 hrs driving, 1 new stay location
#15 Yeppoon, a heatwave and the Capricorn coast.
Bright sunshine greeted us and we enjoyed a pain-free pack up before hitting the road. Driving out from the city we passed by the large Rio Tinto plant nestled within a large conservation area and the two look to be getting along fine, the scenery as we drove along was beautiful. Before long we arrived at Rockhampton and hit our turn-off point and drove into the beautiful beach town of Emu Park in the region known as the Capricorn Coast. We got out to stretch our legs and walk around this immaculate little town and its beach before finding a cafe for a spot of lunch. Following the coast road around, we spotted a derelict building with a giant white whale outside so we pulled over for a quick inspection and still couldn’t decide what it had been. Two minutes later and 100m down the road the local constabulary pulled us over for a quick inspection, they were happy with us and gave me the little plastic straw as a memento.
Our next accommodation was at the Poinciana caravan park in Cooee Beach about a 20-minute walk out of Yeppoon. We got allocated a large plot on the end of a row with two large trees that we were able to use to our advantage and position the tent in the shade underneath. This would prove invaluable as this region of Queensland was in the throes of a heatwave with temperatures for the week a solid 35C combined with increased humidity making for hot and sticky days & nights. The campsite itself was just 150m from a delightful little beach with a handful of low-hanging trees along the sand, perfect for sitting under with a good book. There was also a fantastic little coffee shop by the name of Two sisters coffee bar which provided excellent coffees and deliciously tasty açai bowls.
We did the 20-minute walk into the town of Yeppoon a couple of times, on our first night we enjoyed the town’s delayed NYE laser show (due to bad weather on 31st Dec) on the beachfront esplanade. It was a fantastic evening filled with holidaymakers and families, market stalls, horse and cart rides, and live music. We ended the night at the town’s RSL, sat on the outside deck watching a live band with a cold beer.
The next few days were a mixture of the same and the high temperatures slowed everyday life down and in the water was where you just had to be. Along with its beaches, Yeppoon also has a new swimming lagoon area which appears as an infinity pool against the open ocean behind it, free access for all, and a great cafe too. In the evenings the lorikeets were extremely noisy but pretty flying around the trees which were lit with fairy lights and the main esplanade was beautifully lit with various water play, BBQ and entertainment areas.
Many visitors to this part of the coast come to visit the Great Keppel Island which was once home to a luxury resort but sadly now derelict. People still go for the great beaches, snorkeling, and camping/cabins accessed via a short ferry ride from Rosslyn harbour. We walked around the harbour which had a few small restaurants and bars but decided to save Great Keppel for another visit, maybe when not quite so hot.
We spent a total of four nights here and really enjoyed it despite a few minor camping dramas during our stay. The worst was the sudden collapse of the middle support of Carolyn’s stretcher bed, fortunately not in the middle of the night. A quick trip to Bunnings provided a fix and sleeping beauty could once again rest easy. Along with this was the heatwave making for sticky nights and reliance on a small fan and ongoing problems with power on the site (probably caused by too many fancy caravans and their air-con,ovens and washing machines!).
Thought of the stay – trees and shade are life savers when camping in a heatwave along with our trusty little fan that finally proved its worth for the space taken in the back of Ed.
Post written by Lee, edited and tech support by Carolyn covers Sun 2nd Jan 22 – Thu 6th Jan 22, days 39-43 of the trip.
170kms driven, 2hrs driving, 1 new stay location
Poinciana tourist park – small friendly caravan park with a lot of full-time residents, it has a small but decent pool that was sadly missing any shade or sun loungers but the park was in the process of renovation so I am sure will be addressed. The main amenities block was clean but very dated and worst of all it was very hot due to limited ventilation. We then discovered the new amenities block next to some new glamping tents that were under construction which were a more modern set up with unisex individual bathrooms each with toilet, shower, and sink all in one which were the best I have ever seen on a caravan park (and well ventilated). The nightly rates were cheap, location was good and it had a decent camp kitchen and bbq area, we rated it 7/10.
#14 Gladstone, a surprise find, hills, boats, and burgers both good & bad
Our drive to Gladstone passed through a town called Gin Gin which had no sign of any fancy gin distillery or anything much to admire at all really that had somehow won 2 awards for Queensland’s friendliest town? The drive got weirder as we saw giant animals outside motels and a tourist lure called the “Mystery craters” that was sadly (or maybe thankfully) closed for the festive break.
For the entire journey, the sky was leaden and overcast so we made the decision to bypass the beach towns of Agnes Waters and 1770 (and lack of accommodation for New Year) and plan to call on them on our return journey when hopefully the sun would be shining and we could appreciate them fully. We did however call into Tannum Sands not far outside Gladstone, an immaculately presented beachside suburb but one strangely lacking a few much-needed cafes, etc by its nice beach. One can only assume they all have really top-notch coffee machines in their houses and both water & beer on mains supply.
Gladstone is a very industrial port city with a lot of FIFO workers for the mining industry, in fact, it is the world’s fourth largest coal exporting terminal. It is however also the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef and as such is a city with many hidden faces. This was our second visit here, the first being a one-day stop on a cruise holiday up the east coast four years ago so it was great to be able to revisit and give it the attention it deserves.
After a week in the tent and with no campsite in the general CBD area of Gladstone we took the opportunity to book accommodation and sleep in a real bed for a few nights. The Reef Hotel, up on the hill that is the CBD had a nice room available with a bar/restaurant downstairs and a rooftop pool with fantastic views across Gladstone. If any of you have seen the movie 28 Days later they could film a remake on the main street here, most of the shops and cafes/restaurants were closed for the full Christmas break and it was deathly quiet and devoid of human life. Funnily enough, our previous visit was also at Christmas and we experienced the same. Determined to find traces of mankind we set off walking and headed towards a parkland area we remembered near the cruise terminal. Bingo everyone was hiding here with hundreds of children playing in the numerous water play areas. We also noticed that a new cruise ship arrival terminal had been built ready for when the industry starts back up again.
The laws of physics are strange things, take for instance every time you try and plug a USB cable in, you first try it upside down. Those same strange laws also ensure that wherever we walk when exploring a brewery pops up in a sudden shimmering haze that stops us in our tracks. Yep we found another, a new one we had no idea even existed, and being a warm day it would be rude not to. With no car keys to worry about we grabbed a nice table outside looking across the water and enjoyed a few cold ones at Auckland House brewery. Risking disappointment we ordered the cheeseburger & fries each and wow they didn’t let us down. It’s a burger I would happily recommend (unlike the one I received on New Years Day from a cafe nearby that I won’t name which was dire, to say the least)
We had a good couple of overcast days so we happily wandered around exploring this small city and discovering a few little hidden surprises, one of which was its quiet beach with views across to Facing Island.
There are a couple of nice parkland areas all next to the water with free public BBQs providing great spots to cook, eat and chill. It’s also worth going up to the William Golding Memorial Lookout for fantastic views across the region. There’s also a cafe up there called The Outlook Cafe which won a Trip Advisors Travellers Choice award, they say “come for the coffee and stay for the view”.
We were enjoying our stay so decided to extend it a few more days although due to availability we had to change motels, the new one was another good find with a pool, hot tub, good bbq area, and our room was on the first floor with a nice balcony.
On New Year’s Eve afternoon, we sat by the waterfront in Gladstone’s Yacht club and got talking to a nice friendly couple who had sold up in Melbourne like we had but they’d bought a boat and had been traveling in it for the last three years. We accepted their kind invitation to meet at their floating house later that evening for a few drinks and to watch the NYE firework display. Gladstone Marina Park was the centre of attraction tonight with live music, food trucks, bars, and two firework displays. It was packed out with happy families and reassured me that people do live here. After the earlier 8 pm kids fireworks display we made our way to one of the marina berths to meet our new friends. I shall only say my jaw is still on the ground now. Their “house” was amazing and even capable of transatlantic travel. We had a great evening over a few drinks and sat on the bow of the boat with drinks and good company to watch the fireworks at midnight and had our latest night out of the year so far (2.30 am!)
New Years Day morning and we woke to find the clouds had cleared, blue skies returned and all the local inhabitants were back in hiding again so we once again wandered around the very quiet town exploring and generally enjoyed our final day here with a comfy bed, aircon and a TV even showing the traditional “Sound of Music”, knowing camp life was about to resume!
Thought of the day – everyone has very different tastes and so what might be amazing to one person (Tannum sands) is not the same to others! Conversely, a second visit somewhere can sometimes change your opinion completely (Gladstone)
Post written by Lee, edited and tech support by Carolyn covers Mon 27th Dec 21 – Sat 1st Jan 22, days 33 – 38 of the trip.
230 kms driven, 3hrs drive time, 2 new stay locations (2 motels in Gladstone)
Reef Hotel motel – this is a hotel-style motel with parking underneath or in front of an adjoining large tavern and drive-through bottle shop. Facilities include a rooftop pool and entertainment area with great views, very comfortable modern rooms although their “harbour views and balconies” were disappointing/non-existent. The food in the tavern was excellent and the outdoor undercover deck was our favourite spot for both dining and drinking with a view onto the main street. Our score is 8/10 as its good quality, value, and location, the rooms were just lacking in equipment for cooking brekki, etc. eg toaster/microwave which we prefer to have as a minimum when not camping.