Next morning, we woke to a thick smoke haze.
Fires were burning in south east Queensland in the Lamington National Park, along the east coast near Rockhampton and around Bundaberg, and the ABC news reported ten houses having been lost on the Sunshine Coast.
A distant smoke cloud had been constantly ahead of us since leaving Birdsville some ten days earlier, but as our journey continued from Duaringa it was now an eery feeling with the sun trying hard to break through the surrounding haze.
We passed a few lone Bottle trees, a couple of station markers and signs welcoming us to ‘Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast’… then another to the ‘Banana Shire’ where we turned south into a region brimming with history and incredible of valleys, rivers, lakes, creeks, and high mountain ranges just begging to be discovered.
Grazing livestock flanked the sides of the highway and kilometre after kilometre of dry crop lands surrounded us as we headed along the windy Burnett Highway, otherwise known as Australia’s Country Way. It was quite evident it had been far too long since any significant rainfall had fallen in these parts.
Australia’s Country Way is a lengthy 1,615 kilometre journey between Rockhampton and Sydney following picturesque country roads through the Great Dividing Range.
It’s a region of sweeping vistas, seasonal produce, stunning National Parks and a sprinkling of remote towns to break our journey… with our first stop the northern most town in the Banana region, Dululu.
Where in Australia is Dululu you might ask? Well it wasn’t that hard to find having set our sat-nav before leaving camp at Duaringa.
The little town of Dululu, meaning ‘soft’ in the local aboriginal language, is a dot on the map located at the intersection of the Country Way and the Leichhardt Way.
Just 73-kilometres west of Rockhampton it was the gateway to our next adventure.
Having visited before, we knew there was nothing at Dululu other than a classic 1928 timber and tin pub that was clearly the centre of this little village; an unreliable phone reception; an excellent tennis court… and with free camping never far from the thoughts of many travellers camping or caravanning, a great free camp at ‘Archer Park Rest Area’.
This is perfect place to stop, rest and make plans. There are lovely clean amenities, barbecues and an undercover area, a few spots to set up camp with a couple of powered sites at a small fee of $10 a night… and if your into a little history, a plaque bears the names of early settlers who helped found the region’s cattle industry, including the Scot born Leith-Hays brothers who named the nearby Dee and Don rivers.
On arrival however, we were surprised to find the local hotel, which we remembered as being typical of many we had come across on our travels with a bar of galvanised iron and memorabilia lining the walls, old pub signs and posters, a few worn out Akubra hats, photos of champion bulls and saw blades adorning colourful country scenes… had been destroyed by fire back in 2015.
Both the Country Way and the Leichhardt Way reveal untold adventures and it didn’t take us long to realise this was a beautiful part of the country to explore.
There’s Mount Hay where you can fossick for ‘Thunder Eggs’ – spherical rocks, which sometimes have amazing semi-precious gemstone formations inside them; the transport museum with a rare French Purrey steam tram; Michael Durant’s World of Fossils’; the ‘Koorana Crocodile Farm’, the first commercial crocodile farm in Queensland… and not to be missed, the goldmining township of Mount Morgan that was once home to the richest gold mine in the Southern Hemisphere.
Only 10-kilometres from Dululu along the Leichhardt Way, the nearby township of Wowan is the local service centre for the area providing most facilities including a roadhouse, a pub, a caravan park and the ‘Wowan Museum’ and ‘Old Butter Factory’.
From Wowan the Leichhardt Way continues through to Banana (from which this Shire was named) and from there you can cut back across to the Burnett Highway to Biloela – or continue to Theodore, Taroom, Wandoan then further south to Miles.
Banana is the oldest town in the Banana Shire, which we thought would be overflowing with banana plantations but ironically this town and shire is not known for the growing of bananas… it is known for, and named after a prized yellow bullock by the name of ‘Banana’ from way back in the 1800’s, who according to folklore became an icon in the area helping local stockmen to herd other wild cattle into the stock yards!
Not wanting to miss the sights in between Dululu and Biloela we returned to Dululu with our next stop only a few kilometres down the road.
Lake Victoria is a beautiful free camp with the perfect combination of gorgeous views and peace and quiet.
We would have loved to have stayed a couple of days here but because there were no facilities – so we decided to move on.
Over the past months we had had plenty of practise brushing up on their ‘Aussie waving’ skills… and believe me the tradition of acknowledging fellow travellers on these remote highways is well and truely alive and well.
For those travelling remote and outback Australia be warned – the people you encounter on our outback roads are usually a friendly lot… and the Aussie ‘finger wave’ to say ‘How ya doin’ is pretty standard around these parts! Just flick your index finger on your right hand towards the sky and you’ll be a local before you know it!
The little hub of Jambin was next on our radar.
Meaning ‘echidna’ in the local Aboriginal language this tiny town hit notoriety in 2010 when it featured in the first of three novels – ‘Dust’, written by award winning local author Christine Bongers, who was born and bred in the area.
As I mentioned in my last blog, there are always exceptions to the rule in the English language when it comes to spelling, grammar and pronunciation… and everything your English teacher ever taught you is about to fly out the window, with the town of Biloela next on our map – pronounced ‘Billow-wheel-ah’.
Biloela, known as ‘Bilo’ to the locals, is situated in the Callide Valley and lies where the Dawson and Burnett Highways meet.
It grew from several large agricultural and dairy farms in 1854 to a village in the 1920s… and then the State Government setup a display farm close by hoping the town would develop even further… and it did!
By 1924 a railway line had been constructed, 1937 saw the construction of the Butter Factory (now closed) – then with post World War II, Biloela became an ever-growing multi-cultural community.
By the end of the 1940s the Callide Coal Mine began operations and over the coming years it saw the establishment of many industries – and the closure of some… but regardless, today it is the commercial hub of the Banana Shire and a booming town driven by coalmines, cotton, dairy, wheat, sorghum, lucerne… and tourism!
Its name is an Aboriginal word for the beautiful ‘white cockatoo’… and we were told it’s not unusual to see a flock – or two, of these noisy birds gathering around the town – needless to say a visit by an unruly flock that had gathered outside the Post and Rail Café where we met with our Tassie friends for coffee, certainly livened up an otherwise quiet day.
This little town celebrates our nation’s glorious past and pioneering spirit through its many attractions so after grabbing a map of the town and the surrounding area at the little Visitor Information Centre (the lovely ladies were more than happy to help out and point us in the right direction) we set off to delve into the past and the history at the nearby ‘Queensland Heritage Park’.
Biloela is another RV friendly town so if you’re planning on staying a night the low cost rest area near the information centre is a secure electronic gated area at $10 a night (or $15 for power)… and allows you access to all the sites in this Heritage Park.
Around town the local artwork at the Regional Art Gallery in the Biloela Civic Centre and ‘Bille Brown’s Big Directors Chair’ in the Lions Park (another of our ‘Aussie Big Things’) are a must see.
Dubbed ‘The Boy From Biloela’ Bille Brown was the local ‘Lions Club Youth of the Year’ in 1969 and was chosen for this award because he spent twelve years with the Royal Shakespeare Company in England; he played the lead role in ‘Hamlet’; and he acted in the well-known Australian movies – ‘The Dish’ and ‘The Man Who Sued God’.
Just over 4-kilometres out of town the ‘Spirit of the Land Mural’ is not to be missed either.
Constructed under the powerful heading of ‘Knowing another’s culture is the fastest road to friendship’ it is one of the most impressive murals we had seen where a series of images tell the story of women and their cultural histories from prehistory to today.
Soon we were making tracks again and just 16-kilometres south of Biloela we came to the turn off to Mount Scoria Conservation Park, also known as ‘The Musical Mountain.’
Here a great walk highlights a number of Aboriginal information signs that outline a map of the traditional country of the Gangalu people and the stories of the origin of Mount Scoria – the ‘Wujanbara Bunna’ – the Giant Man, ‘Nugugunda’ – the stars, and the ‘Dangama Mungar’ – the Talking Mountain.
At the beginning of the walk the geology of the area is outlined on a sign that tells that many millions of years ago this was the site of an active volcano.
This strange basalt formation was around one hundred and fifty metres high with evenly shaped rocks that resembled a giant staircase… and according to legend, it is said that during storms this mountain attracts the full force of the elements with lightning crackling continually around the summit and the sound of thunder amplified to an intensity that shakes the earth for kilometres around.
Just down the highway, Thangool was another one pub town on the map as we made our way to Monto, Cania Gorge and Kroombit Tops National Park.
Thangool, meaning ‘possum’ in the local Gangulu language, first opened to settlers in the 1850s and so a makeshift town sprung up.
Back in its day, this town was apparently a hive of activity with upwards of 2000 people but not today… although if you believe everything you read on Google, then Thangool now has a population of 741 people. Where I have no idea, although it is home to a sizable squab industry providing 60 percent of Australia’s squab supplies.
While much of this little town revolves around pigeons, so much of the Banana Shire’s Callide Valley revolves around rich coal resources and vital power supplies to Queensland…
… and not far from this settlement was the Callide Lookout where, with the coalfields and power station side by side it certainly presented a daunting sight against the picturesque backdrop of Rainbow Range and the waters below.
The next part of our journey led us in the direction of Monto, a small town situated on the edge of the ancient sandstone cliffs of Cania Gorge, a 200-million-year-old coral reef teeming with rich mining deposits of copper, gold, and coal.
For the 4WD enthusiasts, the country around Monto offers a journey of discovery and adventure linking Cania Gorge National Park through the wilderness ranges of Mahoon Creek to the lofty heights of the escarpment at Kroombit Tops National Park…
… and it was here in the unspoiled beauty of the open rainforest of Kroombit Tops where the Liberator bomber ‘Beautiful Betsy’ crashed during the World War II – and stayed hidden for nearly 50 years.
This is territory for only the hardened all-terrain traveller who thrives on a challenge. It traverses the park via the Razorback Track and Loop Road then takes you across rivers and deep ravines to fantastic heights where the sites, hikes and camps are in the midst of very wild country. Permits are required, and you must be fully self-sufficient for this journey.
For those wanting to check out Cania Gorge, the access point to this beautiful location is just 12 kilometres north of Monto – and another sight that should be on every travellers ‘to-do-list’!
Aboriginal people have lived in Cania Gorge for at least 19,000 years and artwork on the sandstone walls portrays a reminder of their way of life. Its name most likely meaning ‘spear’.
There are a number of walks in this area – eight to be exact, all providing access to beautiful forests covered in fragile ferns, palms, mosses and incredible sandstone cliffs with some steep climbs to Giant’s Chair Lookout and Castle Mountain.
The scenery through the imposing brigalow forests, eucalypt woodlands, cypress pine woodlands, dry rainforests and grasslands of this National Park is incredible and the rock formations are very impressive.
On a previous trip my favourite was Dragon Cave and Bloodwood Cave… a 2.6–kilometre track that branches off the Dripping Rock track and crosses a bridge over Russell Gully.
This track leads to a cliff face covered with silver elkhorns and the Dragon Cave where the natural black stain mural of a ‘dragon’ can be seen highlighted against a white sandstone wall… but unfortunately this trip, Cania Gorge and Kroombit Tops National Parks were closed because of the bushfire threat – the latter due to pig culling also!
Just down the road was the little village of Monto.
Monto came into existence in 1924 when small lots of land were provided to soldiers who returned from World War I… and it is well worth the trip in off the highway to pick up tourist information on the surrounding area.
Its name is believed to have come from a Gureng Gureng Aboriginal word meaning ‘plains with ridges on them’ and today is an agricultural centre for cattle, piggeries, dairies and crop production.
The ‘Historical Complex’ in town houses the information centre, which is set in a quaint pioneering cottage with an art gallery and a range of historic artefacts and memorabilia that include a relocated slab hut from the Cania goldfields, the original Goody family’s Birnam Homestead kitchen, which dates from around 1910, and a replica of a World War II Liberator B24D Bomber nicknamed Beautiful Betsy that crashed in Kroombit Tops National Park during the Second World War.
This little town has also developed a passion for amazing artwork and the ‘Three Moons’ silos along the highway are an impressive sight depicting several stories of yesteryear – from Dreamtime to gold mining, to mustering!
‘Monto Magic and Tourism Action Group’ are an active group in this little community with its members working hard to put Monto on the map and ensure that anyone who sets foot in their town will come away having thoroughly enjoyed their visit… and we did!
The Three Moon Country logo of their group comes from the ‘Three Moons Legends’ of which there are several versions.
The ‘Drover Legend’ version is depicted on the water tanks at the town entrance and tell the story of the drover who went to fill his billy can at the creek and the moon overhead was reflected in the creek and also his bucket. Thus, naming the water course three moon creek.
The ‘Indigenous People Legend’ is another story that tells how early graziers relied on help from the local Aboriginal community to assist them on their station properties. As they had no concept of European time they were told to come back in ‘3 Moons’…
… and the Chinaman Legend is similar to the Dover Legend but this version involves a travelling Chinaman who took water from the local creek to make his tea and saw the moon in the sky also reflected in the creek and in his tea.
This is also Bunyip country and we were told not to miss the Bunyip statue at Mulgildie just south of Monto.
This sculpture immortalises the stories of the Bunyip dating back to the beginnings of time and relates to the many legends of the nearby Bunyip Hole (around 10-minutes’ drive from the statue), which is apparently a place of mystery and intrigue.
Over the years many strange tales have been told of this hole – stories of strange noises, bubbling, churning water and cattle disappearing. So scary that even the hardened drovers were too frightened to camp nearby.
Aboriginals tell the story of fearsome booming monsters that inhabit the nearby swamps and waterholes and to their tribes it is ‘Devil Devil’ country. Some Elders believing the hole is connected to a vast network of underground caverns that pass Tellebang Mountain and stretch as far as Ban Ban Springs.
It seems you can catch a glimpse of massive murals, silo art and sculptures in nearly every corner of this country and with our journey along the highway resuming we pulled into the side of Mulgildie Hotel to check out the quirky paintings on the outside walls of the pub.
There is free camping here, but we decided to continue and just before Eidsvold we turned west at Cynthia then followed Wuruma Dam Road through the tiny town of Abercorn to our destination for the day, the dam itself.
The little town of Abercon is believed to be named after a local thoroughbred horse and has a population of only 46 people, a school, a post office, a few houses.
The Burnett River forms its eastern boundary with Three Moon Creek passing close by and flowing into the Burnett River… and with popular fishing spot of Waruma Dam just up road, I should imagine it sees a fair amount of visitors passing through.
One of the things we have learned quickly on the road was that camp fees can quickly add up and even though $12 – $25 a night might not seem much at the time, when you pay it night after night it can have a serious impact on your budget.
One way for us to get around this was to keep a close eye out for the many free camps scattered throughout Australia and along with our Hema and CamperMate Apps our Camps Australia book has been a godsend.
Free camps vary enormously from overnight rest stops to camping areas worthy of longer stays and Waruma Dam was certainly worthy of a longer stay.
It had it all – well marked, tranquil camp spots surrounded by nature, clean amenities complete with hot showers, picnic tables, shelters and barbecues… and great company! Welcome to our blog Vic, Bev, and little dog Buddy from the Gold Coast.
Wuruma Dam was constructed across the Nogo River in the Upper Burnett River catchment for irrigation and town water supply for Eidsvold, Mundubbera and Gayndah and when full it holds 165,400 megalitres.
Stocked fish include Australian Bass, Barramundi, Golden Perch and Silver Perch and according to avid fisherfolk Vic and Bev, there were plenty of red claw to be had – if you know where to look!
After a relaxing couple of days, we left Vic and Bev to their fishing and headed on, with the tiny town of Eidsvold next on our map.
Our path over the next day would continue along the Burnett Highway to Ban Ban Springs then east to Childers where we planned to meet up with friends from Rockhampton.
We had been closely watching the fire warnings and the threat to nearby coastal areas over the last couple of days and we were relieved to hear that although fires were still burning, they were now within containment lines and the warning of strong winds over the following days had been downgraded.
Eidsvold, nestled in a valley of gently undulating grazing country and supported by cattle, timber, citrus and vegetable crops, is the self-proclaimed ‘Beef Capital of the Burnett’ and a beautiful little town surrounded by lovely parks and gardens.
35-kilometres north of Mundubbera this town took its name from Eidsvold Station established in 1848 by the pioneers Thomas and Charles Archer who established large stations in the area called Eidsvold and Coonambula. They named the town after Eidsvoll, Norway.
In 1887 a goldfield was declared, and the site of early mining activities grew up at the foot of Warden’s Hill close to where Eidsvold is today.
Like most of these little towns the main attraction for us was the Information Centre and museum that provided a view into a history of real Aussie country people and their contribution to a remarkable past.
RM Williams was such person and spent decades living in this district on his property called ‘Rockybar’.
He became famous through his clothing and leatherwork… but it is his profound respect for the Aboriginal people with whom he lived and worked that he is most recognised here in Eidsvold and thus, to help promote bush and local history among the youth and indigenous population in the area, the RM Williams Australian Bush Learning Centre was establishment nearby.
At the Historical Complex, the towns past can also be seen in the slab homestead ‘Knockbreak’ built in the late 1850s, a railway siding, the Duncan and Schultz collection of bottles, pioneering tools and memorabilia and the George Schafer collection, a superb display of one man’s lifetime collection of rocks, gems, bottles and unusual items.
Heading south we passed through vast areas of irrigated crops, citrus and fruits and it soon became clear why Mundubbera was referred to as the ‘Citrus Capital of Queensland’.
This town produces one third of the state’s citrus plantations with the bonus of a few extra crops of mangoes, avocadoes, lychees, peaches, grapes, watermelons, rockmelons, olives, pecans and blueberries.
It also likes to think of itself as the ‘Meeting Place of the Waters’ with both the Boyne and the Auburn Rivers flowing into the Burnett just 10-kilometres west of the town.
Consequently, its main attraction is a ‘Meeting Place of the Waters’ mural at Bicentennial Park beside the Burnett River!
Further out of town we pulled into the Jaycee Park for a break. Here a plaque details the history of the famous ‘Footstep’ otherwise known as the ‘Knobby Tree’ and commonly known as the popular box and bimble box tree… and a much-photographed example of this unique tree that dates to early settlement.
As the road rolled on the countryside continued to feature rich red soil against green tracts of farmland pastures interspersed by many large citrus orchards.
A slight detour saw us heading to the McConnell Lookout on Mount Gayndah where we were afforded panoramic views of the beautiful Burnett River and the many extensive orchards. It was truly beautiful country we were travelling though!
Our next stop was Gayndah, the ‘Orange Capital of Queensland’, a claim clearly marked by another of our ‘big Aussie things’ – a ‘Big Orange’… and even the unique town clock is designed around the shape of a citrus tree with its motifs made from stained glass and stainless steel.
Originally known as Norton’s Camp, Gayndah is the oldest town in Queensland and story has it, it was once considered as a potential capital of Queensland… but lost to Brisbane because the river was not deep enough.
The name Gayndah is said to have come from a local Aboriginal word for ‘thunder’ but there are some discrepancies over its meaning with others claiming it means ‘place of scrub’.
It is an attractive town with wide streets, lovely cafes, and many interesting sights.
Mellor’s Drapery attracts visitors from all around the world just to see the only remaining ‘flying fox’ in operation where a cash sales is sent to the main office by means of cup and wire runners – and the change returned in the same manner. This system was in existence long before cash registers and truly is a unique experience.
The historical museum features one of the oldest Georgian cottages in the state and has a unique collection of antique steam-powered farm equipment in working order.
The Gayndah Art Gallery is located in a grand building that was formerly the Catholic Convent of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan… and Archer Lookout that sits on ‘The Duke’, one of Gayndah’s twin hills known affectionately as the ‘Duke and Duchess’ was well worth checking out, offering an amazing perspective of the town and the surrounding district.
One of the pleasures of travelling around Australia is you often reacquaint with the same people and unexpectedly bumping into the friendly faces of Luisa and Philip (from Landsborough) again was a pleasant surprise!
A further 26-kilometres south at the junction of the Isis and Burnett Highways we pulled in at Ban Ban Springs Rest Area for lunch.
These natural freshwater springs are a Dreaming place of great significance to the Wakka Wakka Aboriginal people and was the first place in Queensland to be formally registered as a site of Aboriginal cultural heritage.
This sacred site is where traditional marriage ceremonies and trading amongst travelling tribes occurred and is believed to be guarded by the Rainbow Serpent.
The Wakka Wakka Aboriginal people believe the ‘Rainbow Serpent’ surfaced out of the spring and spoke to the Elders of their tribe.
He told them of the secrets of these sacred waters, that he had seven sisters known as seven volcanic mountains that run alongside the Coalstoun Lakes area, and of the wonders he had seen while making the pathway for these sacred waters to flow in the spring.
Today it is regarded as a welcome meeting place for all and provides great picnic, free camping facilities and a roadhouse over the road.
Turning left at the roadhouse we headed east towards the small township of Coalstoun Lakes and the Coalstoun Lakes National Park along the Isis Highway passing the scenic volcanic mountains known as the Seven Sisters.
Rising 200-metres above a broad cultivated valley, Mt Le Brun in Coalstoun Lakes National Park is home to two large shallow crater lakes that were formed more than 600,000 years ago.
This mountain is one of the youngest volcanic formations in Australia and the 4.4-kilometre challenging walking track to see the lakes is well worth the effort.
Next along the highway, the small town of Biggenden rests in a dramatic landscape below the rugged cliffs of Mount Walsh.
Its name is said to have derived from a local Aboriginal word meaning ‘stringybark trees’.
The most interesting features in this area are located some distance from the town and just 20 minutes north west is the region’s newest dam, Paradise Dam on the Burnett River, named after the old gold mining town that now lies deep under its waters.
Chowey Bridge (constructed in 1905) is an ideal spot to stop for a cuppa and to enjoy the quite of the bush… and Biggenden Mine, which has been operating since 1888 with the production of bismuth and gold starting in 1890 is only 8-kilometres down the road.
Mount Walsh National Park is also a short distance out of town and again well known for its rugged landscape and challenging walks, but we bypassed this park and continued towards Childers.
We continued to be surrounded by rich deep red volcanic soil that contrasted the green pastures of crops and fruit orchards we had been following for some time… and soon sugar cane plantations became prevalent as we neared the Bruce Highway.
Turning south we made our way the short distance into Childers. We had arrived back in the little town we had passed through several times, the last being only a few months prior on our trek north towards Cairns.
Childers, known as ‘Historic Childers – The National Trust Town’, is a quaint little sugar cane service town with magnificent ‘Brazilian Leopard Trees’, sculptures, mosaics, twenty three heritage buildings lining its main street… and a very busy Bruce Highway running straight through the middle.
Our first impression was that of an older population, hippies, and backpackers… and with the free parking behind the main shopping area there were also a lot of grey nomads – us included.
This park provided us with a reason to stop and enjoy everything Childers had to offer, which we hadn’t done before… and the opportunity to catch up with our friends from Rocky! Welcome to our blog Barb and Nev!
The best part of the friendships built on the road is that meeting up after being separated by distance and time, barriers are quickly crossed… and with Barb and Nev it was as if it was only yesterday (not two years) that we last saw one another… and over that afternoon and evening we definitely didn’t run out of things to talk about or places to explore together.
As well as visiting the memorial and seeing some of the heritage-listed buildings in the old town, there are several other tourist attractions that are worth a visit with some of the most impressive historic shops.
This town boast Australia’s only pharmaceutical museum that preserves much of the charm of the late nineteenth century with collections of pills, potions, shop fittings, old leather-bound prescription books, mortars and pestles an old cash register dating back to 1906 and other paraphernalia… all collected over a lifetime by Thomas Gaydon who operated Childers first chemist from 1894 it until his death in 1935.
We paid our respects to the 15 backpackers who died at the hands of an arsonist back in 2000 when the ‘The Palace’ was destroyed. A traumatic moment in the life of this little town.
The building has since been rebuilt and as well as housing the Visitor Information Centre it is also a lovely memorial and art gallery to honour the fruit pickers who lost their lives.
Childers Heritage Shop and Post Office, originally constructed in 1887, is the oldest building in town and home to a treasure-trove of gifts with the attached original Postmaster’s residence now a great coffee shop… and Mammino Gourmet Ice Creamshop is a little shop you just can’t walk past.
All the yummy ice creams are homemade, which has you continually going back to try all the flavours. My favourite macadamia, being one of the main crops grown in this area.
After making plans with Barb and Nev to meet up in Maryborough for morning tea we headed off the next morning with our next destination ‘Inskip Point’ just north of Rainbow Beach.
Maryborough, along with its twin city Hervey Bay (and including Fraser Island), falls into the Fraser Coast Region and is another of those historical cities you just had to check out…
… so swapping our car tyres for your sandshoes we set off to explore!
Statues, heritage buildings, memorials, and museums tell the story of a settlement that once produced naval ships, sugar milling equipment and was an important immigration port in the early days… and its story doesn’t stop there!
It’s on the world map as the birthplace of Mary Poppins’ creator, Pamela Lyndon Travers, and the hometown of Duncan Chapman, the first ANZAC ashore at Gallipoli.
In Cherry Tree Lane the old historic bank is where the author of ‘Mary Poppins’ was born in1889. Today, it has been transformed into the ‘Story Bank’, which is filled with her wonderful stories.
Outside, a photo opportunity at the Mary Poppins statue is not to be missed, and there are even quirky pedestrian lights featuring silhouettes of the famous nanny.
Further afield, listen to the marching footsteps and the whispered stories of soldiers at the ‘ANZACs Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial’ in Queens Park… then call into the Colonial Museum housing one of the world’s largest collections of wartime memorabilia.
My favourite was discovering the stories of this city along the Mural Trail where bare cityscape walls have been transformed into works of art, each telling quirky stories of the city’s colourful past.
After a quick coffee with Barb and Nev and arranging to meet up again in a few weeks, we left Maryborough and made tracks a short 57-kilometres south to our next destination.
We were now entering the Gympie Region, a region of many contrasts with the Cooloola Coast to the east, the pioneering towns of Kilkivan and Goomeri to the west, the lush rural communities of the Mary Valley to the south… and in the middle the commercial hub and heritage town of Gympie City from which this region is named.
As the fruit and farming country of the Burnett Region gave way to pine plantations, we turned off Cooloola Coast Road onto Tin Can Bay Road.
Tin Can Bay is a little township tucked away in the Great Sandy Strait and one of our favourite stops to pitch our tent and lap up the serenity… but having visited earlier in the year we decided to bypass this time round and head straight to the little township of Rainbow Beach.
The smoke haze was still a constant companion as we wound our way through bushlands, but unbeknown to us this fire was burning close by in the nearby Great Sandy National Park.
Rainbow Beach, situated at the top end of the Sunshine Coast on the Cooloola Coast section of the Great Sandy National Park is a lovely little coastal gem consisting of a few houses, a main strip of roughly ten or so shops, most of which sell your usual beach resort gear, a surf club and a backpackers hostel that seemed to be the main attraction of the town.
Formed originally for the sand mining industry this little town is nestled between Noosa North Shore, the Pacific Ocean, Great Sandy National Park and Fraser Island and is a hidden treasure of natural beauty spots.
Visit ‘Carlo Sands’ where sand has been driven by wind and accumulated over thousands of years creating a sea of sand covering more than fifteen hectares.
The ‘Coloured Sands’, from which this sleepy little town derives its name, tower around 80-metres over the beach and from Double Island Point and the quaint lighthouse, views stretch as far as the eye can see.
Built back in 1884 this lighthouse stands tall against a backdrop of low wind-stunted pandanus and coastal banksia and is an incredible place to explore… and if you’re feeling energetic then the five-day Cooloola Great Walk stretches the entire length of the Cooloola Coast and offers nature at its very best with giant sandhills and hidden rainforests.
We couldn’t help but feel excited to be finally heading to another playground on our bucket list and with Inskip Point just down the road, our next planned camp, we set about securing the necessary permits (and tide timetable) that would allow us access to ‘Fraser Island K’gari’ and camp for the next ten days.
Inskip Point is a small peninsula that forms the natural breakwater sheltering Tin Can Bay and Great Sandy Strait with beautifully sheltered bay waters on one side and open Coral Sea beaches on the other.
Early this century Inskip (aboriginal name of ‘Carah’) was the original settlement in this area and boasted a small school to cater for the children of the local timber getters and the Inskip Light Keeper.
Today, it is a recreation area – an extensive campground and day-use area that begins at a small lagoon in the middle of the point and stretches north toward the point’s hooked tip, the stepping off point to ‘Fraser Island K’gari’.
With permits and passes clearly displayed on the windscreen we turned north and followed the signs another 14-kilometres to where we let our tyres down and awaited in anticipation for our trip across the bay on the Manta Ray Barge next morning.
As the black tar gave way to the deep sandy tracks and we wove our way through a network of winding trails in search of a spot to set up camp we were soon to find out what to expect over the next couple of days.
High clearance, 4WD vehicles with low range functions are strongly recommended throughout Inskip to access most tracks into camping areas and the beach areas.
There were five camping areas to choose from at Inskip – S.S. Dorrigo and M.V. Sarawak – the only campgrounds suitable for 2WD vehicles and caravans… then Natone, M.V. Beagle and ‘The Oaks’ camping areas being best suited to 4WD vehicles because of their soft sandy conditions. All sites are occupied on a ‘first in, first served’ basis.
Inskip does not only give access to the largest sand island in the world but it is also an idyllic spot for beach goers and campers and with school holidays just around the corner it was very crowded indeed!
Normally we would bunker down somewhere less populated to avoid the peak times of school holidays and long weekends… but luckily we found a great site at M.V. Beagle with the beach only a 50-metre stroll from our campsite – and so we settled ourselves in to enjoy our books, wander the sandy coast and observe the comings and goings of other 4WDers, unaccustomed to driving in off-road situations and coming to grief in the deep sandy tracks.
Just a little advice before you leave the bitument and reach the sand at Inskip… it’s advisable that you make a quick stop and let your tyres down. Driving in the soft sand with fully inflated tyres is bad news and you don’t want to become one of those embarrassed victims.
Although a beautiful spot, Inskip has one downfall and it would be familiar to many having made the news over the past couple of years for its unstable land.
In 2015 around 140 people were evacuated after a 200-metre-wide landslip claimed part of a campground and swallowed a caravan, tents and a car. Luckily no-one was injured. A smaller landslip hit the peninsula in 2016 and in 2018 up to 300-metres of land was again sucked into the sea.
Next morning, we boarded the green and gold barge to set course for Hook Point, the southernmost point of the world’s largest sand island.
Fraser Island, also known as K’gari (meaning paradise to the traditional owners), is most definitely a ‘paradise’ waiting to be explored!
… so, come with us as we drive along 120-kilometres of wide sandy beaches and explore the rainforest that grows in the sand!
Fraser Island K’gari is where Mother Nature and adventure are at their very best!