Sep 30 We chose to make our last stop at Warragul, just 100 kms or so from Melbourne. This is in the Gippsland region of Victoria which is well known for its wineries and gourmet deli products. We take a short trip to Yarragon to visit the Brandy Creek winery and could not walk away without a couple of bottles of rose and a port !! The winery also puts on huge paella evenings which we missed but take a look at the size of the paella dishes.
Sep 25, 26 Next stop is Merimbula on the south-east coast of New South Wales. Merimbula is the holiday resort of the Sapphire Coast. The town has a population of around 4,000 (and far more in summer) is situated around beautiful coastal waterways. The weather on arrival was sunny and 21 degs. However, a southerly change causes quite a drop in temperature but, fortunately, the rain stays away.
We do some local sightseeing and take a walk on the 3 km boardwalk along the water’s edge.
Sep 27 – 29 We finally make it across the Victoria border and set up our next camp in Lakes Entrance, a small town on the coast next to the Gippsland Lakes and a glorious stretch of coast known as Ninety Mile Beach. The weather is still a cool 15 degs or so but we manage to do some local sightseeing on the bikes. We did have some problems with an aggressive magpie that attacked us both but we also snapped some of the more loveable local fauna.
Sep 19 We have to be in Melbourne on Oct 1 to catch the ferry to Tasmania. So we start the trip south with a 1 night stay at Toowoon Bay near The Entrance, which is located about 2 hours north of Sydney on the NSW Central Coast where the magnificent Tuggerah Lake meets the Pacific Ocean. The area is known for its abundance of pelicans which are fed daily.
Sep 20 We take the chance of a stop in Sydney to catch up with Sheila, Siobhan’s best friend from Ireland. We cannot believe the amount of traffic in Sydney and are thankful we do not have to face it every day. Siobhan visits Sheila for a major catch up.
Sep 21,22 We head to Canberra for a 2 night stay. The annual spring flower festival, The Floriade, is on and we spend some time looking at the beautiful flowers. We also visit the Australian War Memorial which is a fantastic museum of history of the Australian military. The weather during the day was a lovely sunny 20 degs … but at night it reached 0 degs – the first time ever our 4 wheel drive had seen ice on the windscreen !!
Sep 23, 24 Continuing our journey south we stop at Bateman’s Bay for 2 nights. Situated on the banks of the Clyde River, it is famous for its oysters, which we sampled at a local seafood restaurant on the water. We visited the local Moruya country markets. The town is famous for its large inticately carved wooden statues throughout the town’s main street. (Sorry, forgot the camera that day !!) Moruya is also famous for supplying the granite used in the piers of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Sep 16 to 18 We finally arrive at Forster Tuncurry, leave the caravan at a site in town and move into a lovely 3 bed house in the Tallwoods golf resort with Tom and Julie, our friends who live in Nelson Bay. We had a lovely time, playing 2 rounds of golf on the resort course and generally relaxing, eating and drinking too much. It was great to catch up with Tom and Julie.
Sep 10 to 15 2011 After a short stay back at Cotton Tree to pick up post, car service, Bob’s pacemaker service, etc, we head south to meet with Tom and Julie at Forster Tuncurry for some R & R. We are meeting them on Sep 16 for the weekend and the trip is about 600 kms in total so we can take our time.
First stop is Tweed Heads which is just over the border from Queensland into New South Wales. The locality is famous for its Snapper Rocks and Point Danger surf breaks.
Next stop is for 1 night at Evans Head, a small coastal fishing town located at the mouth of the Evans River, it was the first prawning port in Australia. It is the perfect place for a casual bike ride along the ocean to spot some of the local wild dolphins playing in the surf. Note the photo of a plaque commenorating some famous local surfing grannies !
Coffs Harbour is our next stop for 2 nights. We took the opportunity to play one of the prettiest golf courses we have yet seen – Bonville. The scenery was spectacular. Coffs Harbour is also the home of migrating birds called short-tailed shearwaters or mutton birds. They nest underground in burrows on an island called Mutton Bird Island which can be accessed by foot from the harbour. We were slightly dissapointed to hear that most of the birds had been disturbed by a rally Australia event the day before which was held around the harbour. The birds did return after a few days.
Final stop on the road to Forster Tuncurry is an old favourite – Port Macquarie. We stay at one of our favourite sites with the river and the beach both really close. We caught up with some friends who now live there and also played golf at Wauchope, just outside the town.
Sep 1 to 7 2011 We arrive at the Wallace Caravan Park in Maryborough for the annual Queensland Vets Golf Championships. There are over 20 players at this event from our own home golf club at Pelican Waters. We are joined at the caravan park by Jeff and Faye Chappell, Dick Hancock and Marilyn Fitzpatrick. Dick and Marilyn have a unique camp fire called the ‘Pig’. It is made out of a 9 kg gas cylinder. We all gather around the Pig each evening for a catch up, a drink (or 2) and nibbles. Marilyn impressed all one evening with her traditional damper – delicious with golden syrup.
Maryborough has some amazing history and beautiful colonial architecture. For example, even though it is 20 kms up river from the coast, it was the second largest immigration port in Australia in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. We went on a 2 hour guided tour of the city (walking !) and learned a lot of the history. The local sugar industry was founded on the import of native labourers from Papua New Guinea, Torres Strait, Vanuatu and the Solomons (amongst others). Unfortunately, most of these labourers were not treated well – average salary was 6 pounds per year, paid half yearly.
Maryborough has another unusual claim to fame. The author of Mary Poppins, Pamela Travers, was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough in 1899 where her father was a local bank manager. A life size bronze statue of Mary Poppins stands at the corner of the road where the author was born.
Most people will have heard about the terrible floods in Queensland earlier this year. Since Maryborough is situated on a large river (the Mary) and is also quite close to the coast, it was affected quite badly. The effect of the floods can be imagined if you look at the 2 photos below. They show the side of a house that sits 26 metres above the normal river level. This year the water just reached the bottom of the house at 26 metres above normal level. However, the record flood was in 1893 at nearly 42 metres above normal.
Back to the golf tournament, played over 2 days, with Pelican Waters Golf Club very well represented with over 20 players. 9 separate golfers from PWGC won individual prizes. An excellent result for the club.
Aug 29 2011 We left Yeppoon and headed nearer to Maryborough (need to be there for the Queensland Vets Golf Championships) for a short stay at Bargara, on the coast just 15 kms east of Bundaberg. Bargara is a beautiful and unspoilt coastal town which is definitely on the re-visit list. There is a coastal bicycle track which travels 10 kms north to Burnett Heads. We gave our bikes a good run on that track ! The track travels through a large turtle sanctuary where turtles return to their birth place to dig large nests in the sand to lay their eggs. These turtles always return to the exact same beach where they were born to lay their own eggs. Unfortunately, the turtle season is later in the year.
We played 2 local golf courses – Bargara and Coral Cove. Coral Cove’s claim to fame is it is one of the only 2 golf courses in Australia with a Par 6 hole. Bob also had a hit at the local Bundaberg squash club to keep his hand in.
Aug 21 2011 Left lovely Lake Maraboon and headed east to the coast for a short stay at Yeppoon.
Yeppoon is the gateway to the Capricorn Coast. The town has a charming esplanade with lovely views over to Great Keppell Island on the Barrier Reef. On the way we stopped at Blackwater which is the centre of Queensland’s coal industry. There was a very interesting museum about the history of coal mining in the area which (strangely) also had a Japanese Garden attached. This celebrated Blackwater’s links to a sister city in Japan.
One of the most interesting tourist sites in Yeppoon is the ‘Singing Ship’. This is a sculpture which incorporates organ pipes which react with the wind to create musical notes. The sculpture was erected to commemorate Capt James Cook’s discovery and naming of nearby Keppel Bay in May 1770.
Imagine our complete surprise when, on setting up the caravan site we were approached by a couple who have been travelling all over the north of Australia since the beginning of June. Jeff and Faye Chappell are friends we know from our golf club back in Pelican Waters ! Jeff and Bob played golf with the local vets at Yeppoon Golf Club and then all 4 of us played at the Capricorn Resort Course which has lots of kangaroos.
We also visited (but did not play) the only 18 hole golf course in Australia that has synthetic greens – the Zilzie Golf Club.
Situated 50 kms west of Emerald are some of the world’s richest sapphire fields. Local town names include Sapphire, Rubyvale and Anakie. Sapphires of all colours are found here, most notably the yellow. The area has been restricted from big mining companies and still has the feel of the original ‘Klondike’ with ramshackle settlements and small individual mines dug by hand. It is possible to ‘fossick’ for your own gems for a small investment in a license.
Siobhan decided to take the easy option and as a token of the end of our recent Parklake Terraces era, decided to purchase a sapphire ring from a small husband and wife team. Peter has mined his own small mine by hand for over 30 years. He cuts and sets the stones and his wife, Eileen, runs the small gallery shop. Siobhan’s 3 sapphire (1 blue and 2 yellow) ring will now be known as The Parklake Sapphires !!
Aug 12 2011 We left Cotton Tree and headed north west inland towards Emerald. Our first stop was at Munduberra. This is the centre of the main citrus growing area of Queensland and is situated on the banks of the Burnett river.
Next overnight stop was Biloela. This is in the Banana Shire which is quite strange because no bananas are grown here. It was named after a bullock called banana whose job was to lure wild cattle into enclosures. We tried out the local golf course at Biloela.
Aug 14 and we arrive at Emerald. Emerald lies on the Tropic of Capricorn and the region combines tourism with mining, industry, agriculture and cattle raising. Most of Queensland’s coal exports come from open cut mines around Blackwater which is approx 75 kms from Emerald. Cotton is the major crop in the Emerald agricultural area. 25% of Queensland’s cotton comes from here. The town was established in 1879 as a service town while the railway from Rockhampton to the west was being built.
Emerald’s railway station was built in 1900 and is classified by the National Trust as the finest building in the Central Highlands. The town also boasts the world’s biggest Van Gogh sunflower painting on an easel. (See if you can spot Siobhan in the picture under the painting – that gives an idea of the size). After a game of golf at the Emerald golf course we had to visit the local Irish bar for a pint of Guiness.
We are booked in at the caravan park at Lake Maraboon which is 18 kms south of Emerald, for a week. The Lake is formed by the Fairbairn Dam and is 3 times the size of Sydney Harbour. It is stocked with barramundi. Murray cod and golden perch. However, the dam is most famous for its red-claw crafish. The caravan site is right in the bush with lots of bird and animal life. The owners of the site organise entertainment and activities most days.
Close to the end of our stay at Lake Maraboon, we went to the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s disco (Yes, disco !) at the camp kitchen. We won a prize for the best smoochy dance couple. The prize was a bottle of very interesting wine. It is called ‘Van Vino Jockey Wheel Cabernet’. The spiel on the back of the bottle says ‘The annex is up, the van is levelled and all wired up. You’ve surveyed your position and smiled at your good fortune. You may have been here a few hours, a few days. It’s perfect. Table set, sun set, you’re set. All that is left to do, as the steak goes on the barbie, is to take a long hard look at the jockey wheel (wine that is).’