No two adventures are ever the same.
Have you ever been to a place and had the time of your life only to hear that someone else went to the same place and had a completely different or even unpleasant experience? Could this be a combination of a person’s expectations, timing and maybe even a little bit of luck?
Our caravan adventure continued north on the Bruce Highway and when we saw the Childers turn off decided to take it and see what was there. Childers is a small rural town, about 60km west of Hervey Bay and is surrounded by thousands of hectares of sugar cane and avocado farms. Right across the road from where we had stopped to have a break was The Childers Historical Complex. This was just what we’d wanted to see! My son’s class had been on an excursion to a historical village soon after we’d left, he was so disappointed that he’d missed it. I’d hoped that this would make up for it. Some of the towns many historical buildings date back to Queensland’s early pioneering days so the historical village was in fact a real hidden gem. We had the whole place all to ourselves and for $3 we got a personalised tour of the complex. Our guide took us around the original Isis Central Mill School, a worker’s cottage, the Waluma Post Office, a general store and two steam locomotive displays. He then even took the time to unlock the garage and show us some of the old tractors and horse drawn wagons. The old general store was our family favourite. The kids were allowed to touch the items on display and they even had a go on the old cash register.
We picked up a ‘Southern Queensland’ guidebook from the local tourist information office and after a quick read through decided to head next to Woodgate Beach, described by Tripadvisor as ‘Queensland’s hidden secret’. A 16km white, sandy beach with crystal clear waters. When we arrived there, we were the only people on the beach besides two locals who were fishing with a small net. They’d caught some Whiting and heaps of bait fish. We all chipped in and helped them throw the bait fish back into the water which pleased the pelicans who had positioned themselves well for a feast. Three eagles, including an enormous white-bellied sea eagle swooped down within a few metres of us to collect the rest. We couldn’t believe how close we’d gotten to these amazing birds.
Our stop for the next two nights was at a fantastic campground in Elliott Heads, a town in the Bundaberg region of Queensland, situated at the mouth of the Elliott River. We’ve been using Wikicamps to help us finds the best places to stay. It’s a great app which has proven to be a very reliable and easy to use resource. Coral Cove, a few kilometres north of Elliott Heads has a reef offshore, popular with snorkelers and we heard divers coming up saying they’d just spotted some turtles.
Continuing our journey up to Bundaberg we passed fields of strawberries, sweet potatoes and sugar cane. Fresh produce can be purchased from little stalls alongside the road and it works on a good-will system where you just take your produce and drop the money into a billy can. We could see the trains running alongside the sugar cane fields and when we arrived at the Bundaberg Rum Distillery many of them were lined up, one after the other. The smell of sugar in the air was so strong and impossible to ignore. We didn’t do the tour of the distillery but instead decided to spend this time at the nearby and well-known Bundaberg Soft Drinks factory, home to the famous Bundaberg Ginger Beer. For $12 we got a family pass into an interactive tour of the history of ginger beer. The kids loved the old apothecary and hearing about how people sometimes got the recipe wrong and accidentally caused their homebrewed mix to explode. We loved this place and would recommend a stop here, young or old. After our tour, we were treated to a tasting of all their soft drinks, including the not yet released, delicious, Tropical Mango flavour.
Mon Repos, a short drive from Bundaberg, was a place we had wanted to visit for two reasons. Firstly, the Mon Repos Conservation Park supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern Australian mainland and has the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region. If you travel here in the summer months you can take an evening tour with a Queensland Parks and Service Ranger and witness them nesting or if you’re lucky enough, watch the tiny hatchlings dig their way out of the sand. Secondly, it was on Mon Repos that Bert Hinkler, the first man to fly solo from England to Australia, taught himself to fly as a teenager, in a glider made from pieces of wood, bicycle wheels and an ironing board.
Bundaberg’s many historical buildings are well conserved and much to my delight, still being utilised, even the old post office. The city’s art gallery is a great place to spend some time with the kids and on this particular day, was displaying aboriginal art from the National Museum. Another space in the gallery, known as “The Vault”, transported you to Antarctica as you lay on seal shaped bean bags listening to the sound of penguins in the distance, while penguins ‘popped out’ of the 3d artwork. We could have stayed here all day.
There is something quite liberating about going to bed not knowing what experiences the next day will bring. We are loving it. We don’t set any expectations on tomorrow and are just happy to be together, learning new things and embracing every opportunity.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes Jnr.