“Home is where you park it.” – Kay Peterson
Before now, the longest we’d ever camped for was three nights and the last time we camped in a tent, the rain, cold and constant damp was just too much for our liking. Hence, the caravan. If we were going to survive for longer than a week, we needed to be off the ground at the very least. To be honest, we were so time constrained in the weeks leading up to our departure that on the day we left we hadn’t taken the van on a test run (something many friends advised us to do). We hadn’t towed it more than 100km, tried to get it up a steep hill or had any idea how to reverse or park it. But we had a strange feeling that we’d figure it out along the way. John Lewis once quoted, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”. I’m happy to report that we’ve adjusted to life in the van, we’re getting better at parking and right now, we wouldn’t be anywhere else.
If you’ve been following the blog you’ll know that this is the first ‘road trip’ post after our unforgettable cruise. This, being the second part of our adventure, an 80-day road trip around as much of Australia as possible. Nothing, except the ferry to Tasmania had been booked and we left with a rough idea of where we wanted to go. This first leg of our epic drive through Queensland took us from the Gold Coast to Maryborough. We have visited many parts of the Sunshine Coast before so our only stop here this time was Tewantin, home to the Big Shell and just outside it’s better known neighbour, Noosa.. There is a lot to see on the Sunshine Coast and if you’ve never been to this region before you should definitely allow some time to visit the popular towns of Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Maleny and ofcourse, Australia Zoo!
Noosa’s main beach is set in a pristine bay and boasts crystal clear, calm waters. With the dark green backdrop of the national park to its right, it makes for an unforgettable day out with your family. If you’re a foodie then you’ll love all the trendy outlets that have popped up since our last visit, many of whom make some incredible dishes from locally grown organic produce.
We hiked through parts of Noosa’s National Park which winds along the coastline, offering beautiful vistas of the turquoise waters which lie below. We saw several whales in the distance and were keeping an eye out for the turtles that inhabit these waters. A very private and unspoilt beach, Tea Tree Bay, awaits you as you make your way to Dolphin Point. What I particularly loved about this state forest was that the parks service had done a great deal to ensure that the history of the area be preserved and was reflected on well displayed information boards paying tribute to the aboriginal tribes and their ancestors who inhabited this area before European settlement. A visit to The Big Shell and a relaxing walk up to the Timbeerwah Mountain Lookout, just outside of Tewantin, brought a close to a jam-packed day of exploring. The lookout offers 360 degrees views over the sunshine coast and many locals, equipped with picnic blankets and dinner were setting up for a spectacular sunset.
As we continued north we decided to make our next stop the town of Gympie. We discovered a large museum which offers an insight into the region’s gold mining history. Next to the museum is a lovely park, home to many different species of birds. We saw turtles and the kids spotted a flying fox, hanging right above our heads! Gympie’s flood history over the past 100+ years has been recorded on a marker next to the gold museum. We couldn’t believe how high the waters rose back in 1893.
The little town of Bauple, the ancestral home of the Macadamia Nut and just off the Bruce Highway was on our list of places we wanted to visit. The town’s museum was one of the best we’ve ever seen for children. A gold coin donation is all that is required to experience the towns pioneering past and the early history of the Tiaro Shire. The museum, run mostly by volunteers offers a huge quantity of memorabilia and many other items ranging from telephones to cameras, kitchen appliances and typewriters. My husband and I felt a bit old as we could remember some of these things being used in the homes we grew up in!
Our final stop on this leg of our journey was Maryborough, located on the Mary River and once home to P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. If you’re a big fan of the book you’ll want to visit during the annual Mary Poppins Festival. The town centre boasts many heritage building and the historic Maryborough Railway Station dated back to the 1890s. I love seeing historical buildings being preserved for future generations, displaying the excellent workmanship of a long-gone era.
I wanted to share a great tip that experienced campers told us before we left. One of the best ways to save money on a long road trip in Australia is to camp at showgrounds. Most towns have one and I’m not sure if you’ve been camping recently but it’s not cheap. In fact, some campgrounds have charged us over $70 for a night and others have quoted us $84. Showgrounds charge around $20 a night and offer a hot shower, power, clean drinking water, have all been safe and the gates remain open till late, which is great if you’ve miscalculated the driving distance and arrive in the dark. The Maryborough showground was no different and had heaps of space for the kids to run around. They loved the horses in the nearby paddocks and spent the early morning climbing the fences and playing tag. They are a really good alternative if you’re just looking for a place to sleep before heading off again in the morning.