When we were planning this trip back in April/May last year we had told ourselves that we really needed a few days on the coast. The Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane was our favoured location. The trouble is we only like beaches like this one:
The deserted beach at Dunrownan near Hervey Bay.
where we have it to ourselves; and, we don’t like to be on them for too long. Fussy pair we are!
Last time we were in this neck of the woods we stayed at Noosa Heads which was one of the highlights of that trip. We did not want to revisit Noosa (been there, done that) so we looked north, further up the Sunshine Coast and stumbled upon the exotic sounding Cooloola Cove. The Cooloola Coast stretches from Noosa to Rainbow Beach and is a 50km long strip of remote sandy beach lying within the Great Sandy National Park. Cooloola Cove is a small township with housing and a shopping mall. It is some distance from the actual cove which is inaccessible by road.
So why come to a beach for a week? The main reason was to visit Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world which was a short distance off the coast from here. As well as being listed as a World Heritage site, it has an abundance of wildlife on land and its offshore waters are laden with dugong, dolphins and migrating humpback whales. Unfortunately for us, although there were trips aplenty from nearby Rainbow Bay these were with larger groups on 4×4 busses which cross via a barge from nearby Inskip Point. Local guides told us that although these trips were okay, you spent more time on the bus than out looking at wildlife, especially on the 1 day trip. The best trips with smaller groups (our preference) were from Hervey Bay and when we looked at the logistics it would have proved impossible for us to do. Big disappointment.
Nevertheless there was still much to see and enjoy. The nearest place with a beach was Tin Can Bay, about 6 miles away. A small village with a yacht club at the tip of a small peninsular bounded by the Great Sandy Strait which is protected by Fraser Island. Along its eastern coastline is a nature reserve and a path to walk, with information boards on what species of birds can be found locally. We had coffee in the “Snack Shack”, a small cafe and Fish and Chip restaurant whilst looking out over the esplanade to the calm sea beyond. A very pleasant way to spend an hour or so, watching the world go by, drinking coffee and writing up the diary of the trip.
Left and centre: Views around Tin Can Bay; Right; I enjoy a coffee at the Yacht Club
Us enjoying Tin Can Bay
Top and Centre: Panorama’s of Tin Can Bay; Bottom: Want to buy a boat? Tin Can Bay Marina
On the other hand Rainbow Beach, about 30 mins drive from here, is a popular resort with a huge beach and full time lifeguard services. Most popular beaches in Australia are patrolled by paid and volunteer Lifeguards as the waters can be very dangerous. The Lifeguards are responsible for deploying Shark Nets in certain areas to designate a safe area for swimming and provide protection from some of the aquatic nasties that lurk in these waters. This was a beach resort in every sense of the word and even allowed those with 4×4 vehicles or “Utes” to drive them on to the sand and set up camp. Given that, tides allowing, and the right permit, it is possible to drive the 50km along the beach from Noosa to Rainbow Beach so allowing vehicles on the beach here was no surprise.
Top: Regional Map of the Gympie area; Bottom: Local Map
Collage of views of Rainbow Bay
I decided that I wanted to re-live my childhood – hours spent on a beach during family holidays and swimming in the sea – so one afternoon we headed down to Rainbow Beach for a late afternoon swim and to walk along the shore. The waves came crashing up on to the shoreline, nevertheless within the designated swimming area there were many people enjoying the afternoon sunshine, splashing around in the water and trying to surf. The sea was beautifully warm although not very clear after yesterdays storms and I had a great time diving into the waves as they broke and dodging the kids with their little plastic body boards. Photographs of me in the water do exist but are definitely NOT for public consumption and certainly not on this blog!!
More of Rainbow Beach
Shots of us on Rainbow Beach
A short drive up the coast through forest is Inskip Point, which is the place where barges pick up and drop off for Fraser Island. The only vehicles allowed on Fraser are 4×4 and All Terrain Vehicles, as much of the driving is on sand, especially in the south of the island. Not much fun if you have no experience!
Fraser Island from Inskip Point
About 90 mins from Cooloola Cove is the city of Maryborough and about 20 mins further on is Hervey Bay. Hervey Bay is effectively four coastal towns merged in to one administrative conurbation and linked by a long esplanade. Inland at one end is a small museum and art gallery. The current museum exhibition features whales, as one of the big attractions of Hervey Bay is Whale watching, sadly though, not at this time of year (January). They also had a great deal about local wildlife, here and on Fraser Island. A small exhibition but interesting.
Next door in the gallery was a very moving exhibition telling the story of one of Australia’s most sordid social actions of the past fifty years, namely the forced adoption of babies away from young mothers against their will and placing them with married couples. A senate report found that babies …….. “were taken illegally by doctors, nurses, social workers and religious figures, sometimes with the assistance of adoption agencies or other authorities, and adopted to married couples. Some mothers were coerced, drugged and illegally had their consent taken. Many of these adoptions occurred after the mothers were sent away by their families ‘due to the stigma associated with being pregnant and unmarried.” Only in 2013 did the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard formally apologise on behalf of the Australian Federal Parliament. The exhibition told stories from both sides and many people still bare the psychological scars of these forced removals and adoptions. Quite understandably we were not permitted to take pictures in this room.
In a room on its own close by was a very odd exhibit, an original small sports car called the Goggomobile Dart. Designed by Australian Bill Buckle it went from design concept to road test in only five months. Based on a German designed Microcar, it was powered by a rear mounted 400cc two stroke engine developing a massive 18hp and and 20ftlb of torque. As you can imagine it was not lightning fast with a 0 – 60mph in a lengthy 27 secs. Despite that they sold 500 in three years from 1959 but the advent of the Mini put paid to this unique Aussie project. The photos depict the Dart with paper dart deco, a light-hearted dig at the “Goggo”.
On a lighter note, Hervey Bay has a pier. Lyn is from Southend on Sea which is home to the worlds longest pier at 2.16km (1.34 miles). The one at Hervey Bay was a mere 920m in length and has no cafe at the end or narrow gauge railway to ferry visitors to and fro. (Southend does). The Urangan Pier lacks the style and fun that many UK piers have but, it is a pier and you have to walk out to the end don’t you? The clouds were gathering and we had just driven through one heavy shower to get here, would we get wet if we walked it? We decided to risk it. After all the rain here is nice and warm! The views both ways even with the clouds were amazing. Contrast this with the views of the oil refinery on the south side of the estuary from Southend Pier, I think I prefer this one! We made it out and back just in time as another heavy shower struck as we got back to the car.
Clockwise from top left:The Pier from the Esplanade; The entry to the pier; Looking back to Urangan; The classic pier shot.
Us on the Pier
We still have a couple of days left on the Sunshine Coast before we move on to Tasmania or “Tassie” as it is affectionately know.. Despite this being the rainy season in this part of Australia, it is still high summer and the temperatures still go to mid thirties so we will enjoy it while we can.