Nymboida to Armidale – Sun 6th Dec to Sun 13th Dec

Nymboida – Mon 14th DecRiver

 Let us talk about man flu, that common term applied to us men to imply our illness is just a trivial thing.  Perhaps there is a kernel of truth in there, but not this time.  Hils picked up the same throat infection on our last night at Red Rock (it’s good to share…..), and was floored by it, all in all it was a nasty little bug.

Nymboida National Park is a couple of hours drive west of Red Rock.  Heading along the old Glen Innes road there is a side turning onto Duboy Road, and following this takes you to the Nymboida River Campground.  Duboy tracks mainly along a ridgeline, giving some fine views of the surrounding country.  It is not a hard drive although very steep in places, and being dirt could be tricky in heavy rain.

15-12-15 Nymboida 7

To our amazement, shortly after we arrived a little Daewoo Matiz rolled in, canoe on roof, so much for the 4WD only signs along the track!  We didn’t see whether he managed to get back out.

The campsite itself is spectacular.  A large grassy clearing set above the river and dotted with trees providing some shade.  You can camp down by the river itself although it is not recommended during rain as there is a risk of flash flooding.  Facilities are pretty basic, just a long drop toilet and some firepits but it is worth it for the location.

Unfortunately, soon after we had set up the storms rolled in and the rain set in for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  Not ideal in the middle of nowhere.

 Glen Innes – Tue 15th Dec

 Charlotte’s birthday!  We had tried to avoid travelling today, but between the storms, ongoing illness and one of the worst long drops we had encountered (a tip – never look down at night when using a headtorch……) there was consensus to move on.

Rejoining the old Glen Innes Road heading west gives a picturesque drive along the Boyd River.  This used to be the main road, before the Gwydir Highway was opened in 1928, it would have been a hard trip in the early days.  Part way along the road runs through a spur of rock, passing through a rough-hewn tunnel with graffiti on the roof dating back to its construction in the 1800’s

Finally at the end of the road it climbs up and onto the range.  How they got up it in the days of horses and carts I have no idea, it was steep and went on for several kilometres before flattening out and joining the main road to Glen Innes.

The most striking part of the last stretch into town was all the flowers.  The fields were full of what looked like large daisies, just beautiful.

15-12-15 Glen Innes 1

So instead of a birthday in the National Park, Charlotte got to celebrate over lunch at the Glen Innes Services Club.  Certainly it was a different experience from a typical Sydney children’s party!

 Armidale – Wed 16th to Fri 18th Dec

 Armidale is around an hour south of Glen Innes.  Along the way there is Australia’s highest campsite at just over 1300m – best bring a decent sleeping bag along, could get cold at night.

Named after Armadale, on the Isle of Skye, Armidale (the early settlers were perhaps not the best spellers) was first settled in the early 1830’s before being proclaimed a cathedral city in 1885.  Midway between Brisbane and Sydney it is now a thriving New England town.

Unfortunately the bad weather continued to dog us, the weather was so bad on Thursday that all thoughts of cooking went out the window and google was scoured for a decent restaurant for the first Steel family Chinese meal out.  Very nice it was too, a shame we couldn’t say the same about the weather.

By Friday Armidale showed its pretty side, basking in early summer sunshine.

Canungra to Red Rock – Sun 6th Dec to Sun 13th Dec

Canungra – Sun 6th to Mon 7th Dec

Time to take the girls to one of the theme parks just inland from the Gold Coast – they had been promised Wet N Wild from way back.  The good news was we were still outside of school holidays, and Bonnie was now just tall enough to get onto nearly all of the rides.

Canungra is a great base for accessing the theme park strip.  About 40 minutes inland it is a little town which does a thriving trade from tourists at the weekend but has enough of its own life that it is not dead during the week.

It also has a wonderful showground just outside of town.  A river runs through the town, in a bend of which nestles the camping area, with the showground just behind.  There is plenty of space, swimming in the river and you can have a fire.  All for $25 for a family, brilliant value and so much better than cramming into one of the caravan parks along the pacific highway.

Getting into Wet N Wild is chaotic, they really could do with some signs advising which queue to stand in, and some more shade over the queuing areas.  However once in its pretty well laid out.  You can take your own food and drink, there are shaded seating areas to base yourself in and all the rides have obvious line ups.

Now Wet N Wild is not the kind of place that lends itself to taking photos – you can’t take a camera on the rides, and if you stand at the bottom you mainly get a large splash of water.  A few had a viewing area but it is far more fun to just get on with things. The girls particularly liked hearing Mum scream when she ended up backwards on one of the group rides (you all sit on the same blow up float and head off down a large twisty water slide).

Overall a great day; we were amongst the last to leave as the park shut, not bad as we arrived just after it opened.  However if it had been school holidays it would probably have been a different story – some of the queues were half an hour, with holiday crowds it would have taken all the fun out of things.

Byron Bay – Wed 8th to Fri 10th Dec

 Ask someone to name holiday towns on the NSW coast and chances are they will mention Byron.  Yes, we were back in NSW.  No chance though to stop and get a photo of the “Welcome to NSW” sign, a bit too much traffic on the freeway.

There are several campsites in Byron, however the best located is probably Clarkes Beach, part of the North Coast Holiday Parks chain.  It sits above the southern end of the beach, with direct access to the surfing below and a 10 minute walk to the patrolled swimming in front of the town centre.  The only downside of the site is space, you have to get on with your neighbour as everyone is crammed in tightly.

Byron Bay takes its name from the headland, named Cape Byron in 1770 by Captain Cook, in tribute to Admiral Byron.  With the opening of the railway in 1894 the village of Cavvanbah was renamed Byron Bay.  Initially built on the dairy industry, with detours through sand mining and whaling, today it is definitely based around tourism, be it the large shiny caravans in the parks or the backpackers further back from the beach.

The town centre is a pleasant place to wander around, lots of surf shops and cafes, and there are some gems hidden away like the wonderful book shop a couple of streets back.

However the main attraction is definitely its beaches – more practise on the paddleboard although with a stiff onshore wind it was very choppy and hard to balance.

15-12-09 Byron 1

An interesting excursion from Byron is to the lighthouse on Cape Byron, Australia’s most easterly point.  Tours are available, and there are various displays covering the history of Byron.  There are also some great views of the bay and nearby beaches.

Red Rock – Sat 11th to Mon 13th Dec

All around Australia we had managed to avoid illness.  Once back in the crowds Bonnie picked up a throat infection, most likely from one of the kids activities at Byron.   Although she recovered in a day she passed it on, it took me over a week to recover (the joy of kids….).  Makes you wonder whether high density living is inherently unhealthy.

Anyway, to accusations of man flu (more on that next time), Hils had to take over driving for the day and get us to Red Rock.  This is a few hours south of Byron, on the coast by Yuraygir National Park.  Another North Coast Holiday Park site, it couldn’t be more different to Byron – next to the beach but spread out with plenty of space.

On one side of the park is the Corindi river which flows into the sea at Little Beach.  Not the safest swimming area as the flow is strong, but some interesting rock pools for the girls to splash in.  A rocky red headland to the south separates Little Beach from the main beach, a long sandy strip but a little rough for smaller kids.

Unfortunately I didn’t see much of all this, spending most of our stay there sleeping and boosting the profits of the local pharmacy.

Borumba to Wivenhoe – Mon 30th Nov to Sat 5th Dec

The last post was missing a rather important trip.  Eumundi is a little village about 30 minutes inland from Noosa.  Its claim to fame is its market, by far the best we have seen in our travels.

There are two markets a week, Wed and Sun.  Sunday is the pick as many stalls don’t open for the Wednesday.  Car parking is simple, although it does cost $5, on a field next to the market – the signs said it is all for charity, there must be some well-funded charities in the area as there were hundreds of cars there.

It is hard to divide the market into segments, there seems to be an eclectic mix of stalls throughout – fabrics, arts, crafts etc.  Generally speaking the prepared food is in the middle, the rest on either side.

It is well worth a visit and an easy place to spend a morning.  At the stall selling fresh pressed sugar cane juice the girls thought I was mad when I said you can chew the cane – until they tasted how sweet it was.

 Borumba – Mon 30th Nov to Tue 1st Dec

 Borumba is a deer park near the village of the same name, about 45km inland from Noosa.  On a bend in the river it has an idyllic spot, and according to Wikicamps the deer wander through the campsite in the morning.

They would have to be good at climbing fences to do so, as they were all penned up whilst we were there.  That may have been due to the Jungle Love festival on Sat / Sun, which reportedly saw a thousand people at the campsite.  There was certainly a lot of cleaning up going on.

Having set up, the weather decided to test us.  With storms developing from the south there was an incredible wind which blew all the loose bark off the trees and swirled it around.  Then came the rain, torrential rain, but an hour later it was all sunshine again albeit a lot more humid.

The river is slow flowing, a safe place for the kids to swim and play on the rope swims, although the water is a little murky in places and the mosquitos can be evil.  A canoe had been discarded by one of the festival goers, providing some fun paddling up and down; but unfortunately too heavy to carry away with us.

Although a lovely location, for the facilities provided the campsite felt overpriced.  It may have been different if the deer had been wandering about, but as just a place to stay it was expensive (although in the covered area it certainly had the quirkiest ceiling ornaments we have seen).

 Beerwah – Wed 2nd to Thu 3rd Dec

 Heading back towards to the coast Beerwah is a small town on Steve Irwin Way.  Yes, time to visit Australia Zoo.  There is not much in the way of camping in this area, however the showground at Beerwah is a great little spot; clean amenities, right next door to the shops and a swimming pool and a powered site for $25 – fantastic value.

Australia Zoo is just to the north, a simple 10 minute drive.  Visiting outside of school holidays was a great time, nothing was crowded and no need to queue.

15-12-03 Aus Zoo 1

There are various add-on experiences over and above the standard entry, like stroking a tiger, petting dingo pups, cuddling koalas etc.  Or you can just wander about and enjoy the exhibits, various keeper talks and of course the crocodile show.

In no particular order:

Cassowaries – finally in the flesh!  Just a shame it was in a zoo not when we were up on Cape York.  Actually, for birds with a naturally large range their pens seemed rather small.

Dingo Pups – there were 3, but this one seemed the most inquisitive, climbing up onto a rock to survey the area.

Aldebaran Tortoises – slow moving, but very interesting.  According to the keeper their shells are touch sensitive, so they enjoy a good back scratch.  Also new to us was that mating is dangerous, if the male falls off onto his back that’s the end of him as he cannot right himself, so a large part of the keeper’s job is picking up the failed suitor.

Water Dragons – not specifically an exhibit, these are everywhere in the park, sunning themselves and scuttling around.

Crocodiles – the zoo has freshwater, saltwater and also alligators.  The saltwater crocs provide the excitement, be it in the amphitheatre like crocoseum or around one of the holding ponds.  You have to hand it to the keepers, taunting a 4 metre croc by stamping in the water then flicking a chicken across its nose.  Apparently a human can outrun a croc on land, not a test I’m keen to take up anytime soon.

Echidnas

Echidnas can be observed in their enclosures.  However for the full experience you can pay to feed them.  Rather spiky creatures so not the easiest to stroke (their spines will puncture a car tyre), but will sit happily and lick from your fingers a mush of mince, insects and other stuff.  Very cute but plenty of handwash needed afterwards.

All up there is plenty to keep you amused for the day, and for a couple of dollars on the entrance you can visit the animal hospital.  What you see depends on whatever medical emergency is occurring at the time; this time they were prepping a koala for surgery on a broken arm.

Captain Logan’s (Wivenhoe) – Fri 4th to Sat 5th Dec

Captain Logan’s is located on the shores of Lake Wivenhoe, just outside of Wivenhoe Hill.  One of a pair of adjacent sites, the other is Lumley Hill.

With close proximity to Brisbane, and being a weekend we expected it to be full, indeed Lumley Hill was booked out.  However whilst busy it was very peaceful; it helps the sites are staggered to maximise the view.

Located on a headland sticking out into the lake, the pick of the sites are right on the end – this is where Lumley Hill loses out as the end of the headland is day use.  We were fortunate to get a spot pretty much by the water’s edge.

The lake is a great place for paddling about, the stand-up board had plenty of use.  Other campers had surf skis, canoes, fishing kayaks etc. all enjoying the lake.  Some great sunsets too.

Hervey Bay to Noosa – Fri 20th Nov to Sun 29th Nov

Hervey Bay – Fri 20th to Sun 22nd Nov

 A different campsite this time, at the other end of town and thankfully away from the Esplanade so a great deal quieter.   Hervey Bay Caravan Park appeared to be largely permanent residents, but with a pleasant central area given over passing trade.  After pay showers it was great to get back to just turning on the tap.

No-one could be bothered to cook so late at night, so it was off to the bowls club next door which offers dinner on Thursday and Friday.  The food was fine, but we did feel a bit young watching the members slowly rotate round the dancefloor – definitely no sambas at this venue.

Exploring the Esplanade more fully there is a great water park to keep the kids occupied whilst mum and dad enjoy the coffee shop.  Even better the park is free (sadly not the coffee).  We have seen these free parks all across the top and QLD, makes you wonder why Sydney doesn’t have them.

15-11-22 Hervey Bay

 Noosa – Mon 23rd to Sun 29th Nov

 We had always been keen to see Noosa on the trip and were not disappointed.  The Main Beach end of town has the upmarket shops running along behind the beach, then there are the multitudinous waterways branching off the river and lined with houses and private jetties.  This is definitely a town which enjoys water.

An alternative to the town caravan parks is Noosa North Shore, just a short drive away.  It does need a short ferry crossing, from Tewanton, but is worth the effort.

The campsite nestles behind the dunes and can be roughly divided into small bushland sites and more open areas.  There was plenty of space to make your own spot, ours was just behind the dune in a semi shaded area protected from the wind off the sea.

Just a few paces away was the beach, lovely clear blue water but a place to be careful of the rips.

Facing due east it is a great spot to see the sun rise over the ocean.

With the Whitemans joining us the kids had great fun making their own entertainment on the sand, climbing the trees and wearing themselves out, what the beach holiday is all about.

15-11-26 Noosa North 1

Resident at the site is a family of kangaroos, not the smaller reds of the trip do far but large greys – the male of the group sporting bodybuilder arms and a decent “what are you looking at” stare.

Back in Broome it had been time to say goodbye to our old and battered surfboard (someone wanted it, five minutes after it was put by the bins it had been claimed). Now that we were far enough south that crocs and stingers were no longer on the fatal list it was time to get back on a board, albeit this time a paddle board.

Space is precious when travelling (and indeed when not travelling if home is a Victorian terrace), so an inflatable board is an ideal solution but a bit of a workout pumping it up.  It is definitely easier paddling on Noosa’s endless enclosed waterways than it is on the open ocean………..

Fraser Island – Fri 13th Nov to Fri 20th Nov

This is it, the last big adventure of the trip!  It’s a little sad to write that, the trip has been such a great experience.

Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island – so large that, before sense prevailed and it was protected, it was mined for the sand.  It is also home to some of the purest bred dingoes in Australia, set apart from the mainland their stock has not been polluted by feral dog – more on the dingoes later.

The barge departs from River Heads.  To make it fun there is no wharf there, just a slipway where the barge drops its ramp and then uses its engines to hold in place against the tide.  You then have to reverse on – all good and well in a car, slightly more pressure with a trailer, especially when you are first on and everyone is watching…..

The crossing is about half an hour, nice and smooth as the waterway is protected from the open ocean by Fraser itself.

Unlike the crossing from Inskip to the south, there is no danger here of bogging straight off the barge.  It is a simple drive (forward this time…) up a concrete slipway onto a gravel road.  The gravel lasts a couple of hundred metres then the sand begins – nothing of great concern though, all pretty smooth and firm, winding through the constantly changing forest.

Whilst it is possible to drive north / south on the internal tracks by far the easier way is to drive along Seventy Five Mile beach on the east of the island.  Hence the earlier comment about tides, best not to drive in the 2 hours either side of high; there are plenty of you-tube posts around of cars getting wetter than they should.

Joining the beach at Eurong it is actually a pretty simple drive, washouts are the only danger. Washouts are little streams cutting channels as they ran out to sea – a simple matter of keeping speed under control and your eyes open. The beach itself is huge; wide and stretching out of sight in both directions.

Camping on Fraser

Along the beach there are various camping zones, behind the dunes, plus some commercial resorts and a few fenced national park campsites.  The dune camping is beautiful, right behind the beach but no facilities.  The fenced campsites come with toilets, showers ($1 a go) and, from the girls’ perspective, most importantly a fence to keep the dingoes out.

We chose Dundabara, towards the north end of the beach, but still close enough to the attractions.  As with all QLD national parks you have to book ahead.  There are only 5 trailer spots and you choose on arrival, so best not be unlucky last in.  It’s a great spot, spacious and with a communal firepit; the only drawback is, being in the trees it is a bit shaded for solar.

However, for the second and third nights the trees were a blessing, with violent thunderstorms sweeping in from the south their shelter was very welcome.

Maheno Wreck

One of the icons of the island.  In July 1935 the Maheno was being towed to an Osaka shipbreaker when a cyclone pushed it ashore.  At first it sat above the sand and plans were made for its salvage, until a year later a second cyclone half buried the hull in the sand.  So there it has sat, slowly rusting, until only its outline remains.

Aside from the superstructure one of the few remaining identifiable features is a row of 4 holes through the remains of a tiled floor, clearly what used to be a set of toilets.

It seems to have been a draw ever since the time it first ran aground.  In the shop at Happy Valley there are copies of a newspaper clippings covering a wedding on board in 1936 – apparently the guests, and the bride, had to climb a ladder for the nuptials, held on the sloping deck.

Knifeblade Sandblow

There are several drives marked on the map of Fraser, and is part of the Northern Forests scenic drive.  There are many sandblows dotted around, this one is the largest on the island.

Formed when a break in the beachside dunes allows wind to push sand inland, the sandblow then marches with the wand, devouring the forest ahead of it.  However as with most things in nature it all balances out, once the sandblow passes its trail revegetates.

15-11-16 Fraser 6, Knifeblade

Lake Wabby

Ordinarily this would just be a pretty, but ordinary lake.  What sets it apart is how it is being slowly filled in by the Stonetool sandblow, also it is the deepest lake on the island at up to 12m.

It can be reached either from the beach or inland from the Cornwell Road track.  The inland path is shorter and passes a great lookout.

Lake Allom

Also along the northern track this is a pretty lake, surrounded by sedge set within a concave depression.  By rights it should not exist, as it is above the water table.  However layers of vegetable matter form a waterproof layer which traps the water, creating a “perch” lake.

Allom is home to a large number of friendly turtles, although their fondness for swimming by the boardwalk suggests they have perhaps been fed in the past.

Champagne Pools

Another icon of the island, located to the north just before Wadi Point.  Historically these pools were fish traps for the local people, a major food source.  There are certainly plenty of fish there, no longer threatened by spears but by being trampled to death.  As with many of the major attractions you can have the pools all to yourself, then a tour bus arrives and they are like Bondi on a hot Saturday.

At high tide the waves tumble over the rocks which make up the walls of the pools, filling them with the bubbles that give their name.  At low tide the pools are calmer, less bubbles but great snorkelling amongst the fish.

Wathumba

Whilst most camping is on the eastern side there are a few camps on the west, Wathumba is one, reached via an inland track from Orchid Beach past Champagne Pools.  With the wind prevailing from the North-East this side is much calmer.  Located on a large creek this a beautiful place of white sand and mangroves.  A fine spot for lunch.

Lake Mackenzie

Another example of a perch lake, and the prettiest lake we saw on the island – also the busiest.  If you have got it to yourself you have either got up very early, or should buy a lottery ticket when you get back to the mainland.

The track in is easy enough, we pulled the trailer through fine, just a little bumpy in places and you need decent clearance. Not so easy for the guy in the jeep who was belly down in the sand ahead of a dozen cars including us and a tour bus – first problem was tyre pressure, second problem was a lack of clearance: not sure if he was, in the words of the ad, happy “he bought a jeep”…

Unlike Allom or Wabby the water is crystal clear; combined with a gently shelving white sand beach this a beautiful place.  Not the best place for lunch though, you can only have food within small fenced areas away from the beach.

Dingoes

Some of the more lurid press would have you believe they are crouched in the grass, slavering to pounce as soon as you turn your back.  Not quite true.  In fact by day 4 we were beginning to think they were a myth.  Not surprising really – Fraser is about 1800 square kilometres, so with an estimated population of 200 that is 1 dingo per 9 square km (although that’s not a true measure as they are a pack animal).

The best chance of seeing them is early morning or in the evening, they use the beach or inland tracks as easy pathways so those are good spots.  This one was on the beach lazily heading north:

 

They have little fear, this one came right up to the car presumably looking for food (now where would he have learned that association?); he soon moved on when there was none.

Although they are not that common it is easy to see why kids need to be kept at arm’s length at all times.

Eli Creek

This is a picturesque little stream of crystal clear fresh water, flowing down a small gully to the sea.  It is incredibly popular, so much so there is a boardwalk to the head of the stream.  From there you can float down with the current – or if you are a tour group you can walk up then down en-masse, which was our first experience as they swamped us.

High tide proved a good time to see Eli, as it becomes impassable; for our second visit we had it to ourselves for a wonderful half hour.

In Conclusion

Fraser is fantastic, tons to do all in close proximity and in relative terms a “safe” adventure.

Unlike some places in Australia, if you get stuck you are unlikely to be there for days waiting for another car – more likely you’ll be at the head of a queue forming behind you, embarrassed as anything but with plenty of helpers; after all if they are stuck behind you they have to get you out to get past!

The worst part of it is several hours back on the mainland washing and polishing the car to get the sand and salt off!