Sadly, the last stretch of our ‘Great Beach Highway’ journey was over!
This ‘Great Beach Drive’, which connects the Sunshine Coast and the Gympie region with Fraser Island (K’gari) is a remote strip of beach backed by the Great Sandy National Park (also known as the Cooloola Coast) and stretches for 50 kilometres from Rainbow Beach to Noosa North Shore.
Envisage the freedom and pure elation of driving on one of the longest beach drives in the world… tackling the sandy tracks of the world’s largest sand island, enjoying the incredible National Parks, swimming in crystal clear lakes, being lulled to sleep at night by the sound of the waves lapping at the shore… this is camping at its best!
Edged with the shimmering Pacific Ocean on one side, coastal dunes, and natural bushland on the other, wide sweeps of beach ahead of us and the sea breeze blowing in our faces… this highway drive doesn’t get much better than that and we consider ourselves unbelievably fortunate to have spent 10 exhilarating days travelling this amazing coastline of Australia.
Over the next week our journey (that would normally be only an hour or so drive through Brisbane to the Gold Coast) will take us through the magical Sunshine Coast Hinterland to Currumbin where we will meet with family for the NSW school holidays!
When we think of the Sunshine Coast, our first thoughts are usually of sun, sand, surf, and the major coastal towns of Noosa, Coolum, Maroochydore and Mooloolaba, towns we have often frequented… but with Queensland school holidays still upon us, we decided to miss the crowded coastal regions and head on the short trip inland.
It almost goes without saying that the Sunshine Coast Hinterland towns of Cooroy, Yandina, Nambour, Maleny and Montville, continue to be an endless source of adventure and no matter how many times we visit, there’s always plenty to see and do!
From the volcanic peaks of the Glasshouse Mountains to the rolling hills of the lakes and villages nestled behind the coast our route south will lead us through many hidden gems we were so looking forward to revisiting!
After exiting the ferry from Noosa North Shore, Tewantin was our first stop.
Tewantin, once a thriving gold, fishing and timber town, grew from the result of the Gympie gold fields and is one of the Noosa areas earliest settlements.
It’s name was derived from a local Aboriginal word ‘dauwadhum’ meaning ‘place of dead trees’ – probably because of the local sawmills. The traditional owners of the region are the Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi people.
As well as being the gateway to the Cooloola Coast and the Great Sandy National Park, Tewantin also has an interesting history… and if you have an hour or two to spare visit the Information Centre, grab a town map, then walk along the Heritage Walk and riverbank. It is well worth the effort!
The main street, Poinciana Avenue, is home to the Royal Mail Hotel, a silent movie theatre, the first butcher shop, the RSL and a range of shops and restaurants including the town square.
Down by the river the marina is also a bustling complex that offers coffee, alfresco meals, the Noosa Marina Visitor Information Centre, specialty shops, a private gallery… and as well as incredible river views from the 40-berth marina there’s the very popular Sunday ‘Noosa Marina Markets’ that display craft and produce stalls on the boardwalk.
Just over the river is one of the most popular hidden gems on the Sunshine Coast.
Only 20-minutes by road from Tewantin, the sleepy village of Noosa Heads is a vibrant foodie and shopping mecca…. and one of Queensland’s most sought-after holiday destinations for tourists and surfing enthusiasts from all over the world.
It’s main street, Hastings Street, is the heart of town and loved by many for its alternate mix of trendy alfresco restaurants and its chic cafe scene. Voted the ‘Best Main Street in Australia’ it’s a very busy little strip of resorts, cafes, restaurants, bars, and boutiques sitting alongside gift shops, surf stores, day spas and galleries… but I guarantee the first thing most people will mention after a trip to Noosa is it’s incredibly scenic National Park, the most visited National Park in the country and a photgrapher’s paradise!
With a small active population of Koalas, our first port of call when we visit Noosa is usually the day use area where we do a quick check to see how many koalas we can spot in the treetops. Thankfully a chalk board at the information hut near the park entrance details recent koala sightings, along with where to spot them – and we’ve often spotted one or two snoozing in the trees close to pathways or near the park entrance, oblivious to the many tourists snapping photos!
This national park is divided into 4 sections: Headland Section, Peregian Section, Emu Mountain Section (where you’re privy to magestic views of the Glass House Mountains) and the East Weyba Section… but the Headland Section is by far the most popular and most picturesque one of them all – so don’t be surprised to find the track swarming with surfers, swimmers, walkers and joggers heading back and forth… and if the surf’s good around the points, you’ll struggle to find a car park!
Only a short walk of around 12-minutes from the town centre there are over 15-kilometres of boardwalks, concrete pavement, and rugged, rocky walking paths (all signposted and colour coded) that lead to a headland and offers magnificent views over Boiling Point, Tea Tree Bay, Dolphin Point, Winch Cove… and the aptly named Hells Gates because of its steep cliffs and deep crevasses which, itself, offers an incredible vista over the remote nudist beach of Alexandria Bay!
This winding oasis of walking tracks, secluded beaches, eucalypt forest, woodland, melaleuca wetland, colourful wallum heathland, dense vine-strewn rainforests and rugged coastline is an easy stroll that takes roughly 4-hours (return)… and all you need to know is to keep the ocean on your left on the way in – and the way in is the way out!
It follows the shoreline from the main park entrance to northern Sunshine Beach with the first few kilometres wheel chair friendly and offering incredible coastal views from a few key lookouts along the way.
‘Little Cove’ marks the start of the coastal track with it passing over several headlands, again providing many more spectacular views… then after a walk along the beach at Alexandria Bay a formed walking track continues on to where a set of very steep steps lead down to Sunshine Beach. From here you can catch a bus back to Noosa – although you will need to walk a further 1.2-kilometres along the beach to the bus stop outside the Sunshine Beach Surf Life Saving Club… or you can just head back the way you came!
Alexandria Bay beach is picturesque and as already suggested – yes, its full of naked bodies… and with no signs to warn you of its little hidden secret it can be a bit of a shock!
This beach is Queensland’s most popular unofficial nudist beach that has been used for nude swimming and nude sunbathing for years… and apparently, there’s even a nude beach carnival held here every year in March, attracting hundreds of naturists!
To explore beyond the beaten track, scramble down rocks to the postacard beautiful ‘Fairy Pools’ near the eastern end of Granite Bay. This is another popular spot only a few minutes’ walk from Hell’s Gates… however, with no track down to these pools and the fact you have to go beyond the barrier and climb down the rocks, they never really appealed to us…. however, they are frequented by lots of bathers!
Back at Noosa and definitly last but not least… you cannot miss the large expanse of white sand -Noosa’s ‘Main Beach’, one of only a few beaches along Australia’s coastline that faces north.
Literally a few steps away from Hastings Street, this beach is perfect for families with surf lifesavers patrolling it 365 days of the year. It is also a great place to take a surf lesson… and believe me there are learn to surf schools and surfers everywhere!
Returning to the shores of Tewantin and after a stroll around the village, some grocery shopping and a visit to the Tourist Information Centre at Parkyn’s Hut to discover its history, we sat on the lawns at the Memorial Park admiring the views of the Noosa River until it was time to head on and meet up with our friends from Rockhampton at Lake MacDonald!
The Sunshine Coast has more national parks than any other region in Queensland… and Tewantin National Park has some of the Sunshine Coast’s best mountain bike trails and abseiling walls.
Just up the road about 2-kilometres we wound our way into this National Park and climbed the the steep, windy road to Mt Tinbeerwah lookout… but be warned – taking this drive to the summit is not for the light hearted and definitly not a road suitable for caravans and trailers…
… and you will need a good pair of walking boots as once there, the last 500-metres follows a well-worn path across rocks to a small, sheltered lookout… a lookout that offers endlesss views over Lake Cooroiba, Lake Cootharaba, Tewantin, Lake MacDonald, Noosa Heads and the hinterland beyond!
After admiring the view and watching a group of abseilers harness up to descend the rocky cliff face we eventually made tracks back to Noosa Road and headed for Camp Cooroora on the northern shores of Lake MacDonald.
Camp Cooroora, situated on Noosa’s water supply, is owned by the Scouts of Queensland, and managed by a very helpful couple who are always pleased to meet people and make their stay memorable.
For those with a little leisure time up their sleeve, this peaceful campground has everything any camper could want and is well worth the $12 a head per night for an unpowered site or $15 for a powered.
There’s a large partly enclosed camp kitchen, an old but clean amenities block looked after by the very friendly camp hosts, a large, grassed area with plenty of room to spread out, a couple of powered sites around the perimeter which, as usual we were happy to forego, an open-air bush chapel (for the scouts), lovely leafy walks through the bush and the beautiful lake only metres from the campground!
There are canoes for hire, and the lake is a fisherman’s delight being stocked with Bass, Mary River Cod, and a host of other fish – but be mindful a permit is required and can be obtained from the caretakers.
On arrival, we made our way to the camp managers residence at the far end of the grounds then after paying our fee for a couple of nights (having already booked a few weeks earlier) we made our way over to set up camp next to Barb and Nev.
Over the next two day we enjoyed one another’s company sitting under starry skies, enjoying a wine and walking the trails by day.
There are various tracks around the lakes edge providing great opportunities to snap the perfect shot, but it was the 2-kilometre walk along a bush track, across the hatchery and water treatment plant to the Noosa Botanic Gardens that was the most enjoyable!
These gardens comprise 8-hectares of native and exotic plant species, a fern house, a lily pond, large lawn areas with winding paths leading to various picnic areas, a lovely Zen garden, and a magnificent large Roman style circular amphitheatre where regular live concerts are held.
Heading back to camp, Jabiru Park is also a lovely natural setting where we sat and watched the resident wildlife for a while… but Kookaburra Park is where all the fun begins and provides access (and car parking) to one of the starting points of the Noosa Trail, a trail that extends to the Kin Kin and Cooran areas and is ideal for hiking, mountain bikes, runners and horse riding with several camping spots along the way.
Once again our two worlds have collided, and once again it was time to farewell our friends and continue south.
One of the worst things about travelling is having to say goodbye. Whether it’s to friends and family when you first start a trip, or to the people you meet on the road… whichever, it’s always sad saying that inevitable farewell once again!
Back on the Noosa Road the next town we passed through was Cooroy with the Bruce Highway, the major northern route in Queensland, cutting right through the middle.
Cooroy is a great little town with everything a traveller needs and then some.
Set in the heart of the hinterland, and central to many towns, it’s a great spot to base yourself to explore the region… and there’s a lovely dog friendly private campground only minutes from the town centre – or you can stay at the Cooroy RV stopover for a maximum of 4-nights.
Snuggled between Black Mountain and Lake MacDonald Cooroy’s name came from the Cooroy Mountain, which was originally called Coorooey, from the Aboriginal word for possum, kauri.
The area was explored by timber cutters as early as 1863, the Cooroy railway station was opened in 1891 the same year a post office opened, and the town survey was conducted in 1907.
Cooroy’s main industry developed from timber into dairying and fruit growing and in 1915 a butter factory opened, which is now operating as an Art and Craft Gallery.
Further north the little towns of Pomona, Cooran and Kin Kin – and to the west Amamoor, Kandanga, the historic village of Imbil, Brooloo and Coonondale are also worth a visit… but our journey was taking us south towards Eumundi, Yandina and Nambour.
For a quick overview of these villages – Pomona is a little historic town set under the towering Mt Cooroora mostly known for its historic hotel, the railway station that now houses an art gallery, and its unique Majestic Theatre, the only remaining silent film theatre in the world.
There’s also a fantastic, self-guided heritage trail around the town… and if that’s not enough to get your heartrate up then tackle the challenging 439-metre climb to the summit of Mt Cooroora for some incredible views!
Cooran further afield, is a quirky town where you’re sure to find a unique second-hand treasure. Bonsai Brewhouse in town, and Dingo Creek Vineyard at nearby Traveston are worth a visit – and if you’re planning on stopping for a few days, Cobb and Co Nine Mile Camping Ground is another great stop, especially for families.
For the adventurer there’s access to the Noosa Trails here, the Cooran Tableland Lookout and the Mothar Mountain State Forest offers walking tracks and swimming holes.
The quaint town of Kin Kin might be a little off the beaten track on the road north but if you’re in the area it really is worth checking out.
Here a visit to the old-fashioned country pub is a must! This is one of those little pubs where you are sure to hear a yarn or two from the locals and you would swear you were deep in the outback – but then I guess that is why they say the Noosa Hinterland is ‘Where the Outback meets the Surf’!
The general store is also worth a visit… but be warned – just the labelling of the ‘Black Ant Gourmet Food’ leaves a lot to be desired!
If you’re travelling out west, Amamoor is a small village that comes alive in August each year for the ‘Country Music Muster’. The railway station here is famous for its lovingly restored Mary Valley Rattler heritage steam train…
… and the State Forest is a bird lover delight with several long and short walking trails for the more adventurous.
Further south Kandanga is a very popular RV friendly town on the banks of Kandaga Creek where they serve great meals at the newly rebuilt Kandanga Hotel (sadly the 100-year-old hotel was burnt to the ground in 2015). This area is rich pasture and orchard country overlooking the Noosa Outback.
Next is Imbil, the largest town in the Mary Valley nestled on the banks of Yabba Creek. Take a mountain ride through state forests from Imbil to the next town on the map, the small Noosa Outback community of Brooloo. There’s not a lot here but it’s worth the visit just to say you’ve been there… then check out the views from Imbil Lookout. If visiting on a Sunday the Imbil Market is a must!
Beyond, Kenilworth is dairy country and one of the larger towns of the outback with the Kenilworth Dairies cheese, yoghurt and ice-cream factory definitely worth checking out.
Coonondale, located on the Mary River and surrounded by the Mary Valley is a region of rugged beauty with the Conondale Range and National Park providing rainforests, eucalypt forests, waterfalls, creeks, and stunning scenery!
Mount Allan fire tower, at 9.6-metres high, offers 360-degree views of the mountain ranges and includes interpretive signs giving a detailed insight into the region.
There’s a day-use-area, camping area at Booloumba Creek, and a track for experienced walkers… but most importantly this national park provides an important refuge for rare and threatened animals like the Mary River Turtle.
Back at Cooroy our journey continued along the Bruce Highway (M1) through Eumundi, a sleepy little town that only springs to life each Wednesday and Saturday for its world-famous Eumundi Markets. There’s seems plenty of markets in this part of the world, but I bet few can say they’ve traded over 40 years like the Eumundi Markets can!
Having visited a few years back it was hard to forget the magnificent heritage listed fig trees that dominated the main street or the smell of freshly roasted coffee that wafted through the air as we drove in!
This picturesque little town is full of galleries, clothing stores, cafes, fresh fruit, and veggie stores… and is even home to the oldest bookseller in Australia, Berkelouw Books.
There’s certainly plenty to occupy your time here and you most certainly won’t go thirsty with two pubs within 100- metres of each other!
Yandina was next on our map and one thing I knew about this little town was that it was home of Buderim Ginger and the Ginger Factory… and the ‘Nutworks and Chocolate Factory’ just over the road. A must stop… just for a few treats!
The local Aborigines, the Kabi Kabi, called the district around Yandina ‘koongalba’ meaning ‘small water’ and the early settlers named it Native Dog Flat. Eventually the town was named Yandina after the Yandina cattle run which, was located east of Mount Ninderry.
It is claimed that ‘yandina’ is a combination of two local Kabi Kabi words ‘yan’ meaning ‘to go’ and ‘dinna’ meaning ‘feet’ – go by foot!
Sometimes called the ginger town, the old town, the timber town or the railway town – this town is the oldest town on the Sunshine Coast laying claim to one of the hinterland’s oldest buildings -the Yandina Hotel built in 1887 which, was moved by a bullock team to its present site in 1891.
Our last stop before turning off the highway was Nambour at the base of the Blackall Range.
Nambour’s name is derived from the Aboriginal word ‘naamba’ referring to the red flower bottlebrush and was named after a cattle station that was settled in 1891.
It was here at this little town where we caught the train to Brisbane for a day trip while holidaying at Mount Coolum a few years back and although not that far from the coast it still boasts that lovely touch of historical town appeal.
Just south of Nambour we turned inland and continued along a narrow windy road through Mapleton, Flaxton, Montville and Melany to Landsborough.
Mapleton is a small hinterland village with soaring views stretching across the coastal plains. With ocean on one side, and dense subtropical rainforest blanketing the other it makes for a spectacular photo!
In Mapleton Forest Reserve and Mapleton Falls National Park, we felt lost among the lush piccabeen palm groves, grandiose bunya pines and tall blackbutt forests as we wandered along the 50-metre track to the fall’s lookout.
The longer Wompoo Circuit track of 1.3-kilometres winds its way through rainforest heavy with the scent of eucalypts and Fruit Dove that echo through the trees, eventually coming to the Peregrine Lookout and more incredible views over Mapleton Falls, the Obi Obi Valley and rainforest canopy below.
The small village of Flaxton, surrounded by avocado orchards, art galleries, cafés and restaurants, offers sweeping views to the ocean’s horizon in one direction and to the west the rainforest of Kondalilla Falls National Park, home to beautiful walking trails and rock pools.
Further on Montville, first settled in 1887 under the name of Razorback (due to the steep ridges it sits on), again offered an array of quaint shops, restaurants, cafes, galleries, and I loved the clock shop with its extensive range of cuckoo clocks.
This village has been developed on the lines of an European mountain village complete with Swiss and Bavarian chalets, mills and Tudor cottages. … but nothing compared to the glorious views over the Sunshine Coast.
This Sunshine Coast Hinterland region certainly forms a stunning backdrop to the beaches only a short drive away…
… and driving this countryside was certainly an experience in the car but when we passed a few keen cyclists obviously needing to challenge their fitness by peddling up the steep zigzag of the razorback – we knew they were definitely a bit crazy!
Maleny is a side trip high on the hill just before Landsborough.
This charming little village is home to some very creative souls who craft jewellery, soap, colourful clothing, and carved wooden creations… and along with its fine dining and cafes, well known locally grown produce, award-winning dairy – and not to mention its exclusive wines, it is a very popular wedding and holiday destination!
But its the view that will take your breath away and there are simply no words that can describe the beauty…
… the gentle Obi Obi Creek winds its way around this little hamlet, the gentle rolling hills interspersed with pockets of rainforest are dotted with cows… but just to complete the picture the spectacular Glass House Mountains provide a magnificent vista in the distance.
… then if that wasn’t enough, continuing back down the steep, windy road towards Landsborough we were again privy to more spectacular views of patchwork farms with the coastline stretching far off into the distance.
It was breathtaking scenery that we could easily loose ourselves in and I was constantly begging to pull over into one of the many designated spots so I could snap the majestic countryside.
With still a long way to go we stopped only briefly at Landsborough, unfortunately not catching up with our friends Luisa and Philip who we had met on a country road in far northern Queensland. Welcome to our blog guys!
Landsborough is one of those towns which, although only 20-kilometres inland from the coast, still manages to retain much of its old-world charm.
Named after the explorer William Landsborough who settled in the Golden Beach area between 1881-1882, this township was originally known as Mellum Creek with Mellum said to be a local Aboriginal word for volcano. Its name was changed to Landsborough in 1891 after the railway went through.
Leaving Landsborough, we followed the Old Gympie Road towards Woodford along a road that once formed the route of the Cobb & Co coaches and ran between Brisbane and Gympie goldfields in the late 1800s.
Today, this route is a beautiful awe-inspiring journey that allowed us the chance to take in the dramatic views of the famed Glass House Mountains from a different perspective to the one I remember when we first travelled the Bruce Highway many years ago!
These mountains, comprising 10 steep-sided volcanic plugs completely dominate the hinterland’s landscape and are hard to miss whichever road you take – the highway, the hinterland towns or the country roads that wind their way past various lookout stops… and the ‘Glass House Mountains Lookout’ was the ideal spot to take in the magnificent views of the coast and hinterland… and make a cuppa!
The Sunshine Coast certainly knows how to turn on a good vista and this is one place you really need to have your camera batteries charged!
Named by Lieutenant James Cook during his epic voyage along Australia’s east coast these magnificent rocky outcrops that make up these mountains are remnants of volcanic activity that occurred around 25-27 million years ago. As the volcanic mountains cooled stunning vertical columns emerged and today they have become iconic landmarks.
If you’re feeling a little energetic add a hike or two to your visit. There are a few good walks in this park but be warned many are not easy climbs so make sure you are well prepared and know what you are about to tackle.
The 2.8-kilometre Mount Ngungun summit walk is probably one of the easiest and most enjoyable of them all and takes only 25 minutes to get to a summit that offers incredible views of Mount Tibrogargan, Mount Coonowrin and Mount Beerwah.
It also pays to be aware that these mountains hold great spiritual meaning for the Traditional Owners of this land.
The Jinibara and Kabi Kabi people and their creation stories and beliefs are still reflected today with many ceremonial sites still present… and along with all visitors being asked to be considerate and use only the walking tracks and lookouts provided, it is also requested Mount Beerwah and Tibrogargan summits not be conquered out of respect for the mountains’ sacred values.
Next up the road, Beerwah village is one of the larger towns dotted throughout the Glass House Mountains area with 2-major attractions that have really put it on the map. One is the largest of the Glass House Mountains Mount Beerwah that presides over the town like an ever-watchful protector… the other, although closer to Landsborough, is ‘Australia Zoo’, made famous by the Crocodile Hunter – the late Steve Irwin.
We had planned on catching up with friends at Beerburrum who we had stayed with at the beginning of our trip but with a few days left of the Queensland school holidays they were off enjoying a well earned break in their van before returning to look after grandchildren – welcome to our blog again Marlene and Barry.
Just over 30-kilometres on from Beerwah following Commissioners Flat Road we pulled into Cruice Park on the outskirts of Woodford to make a sandwich.
Woodford, home to one of Australia’s largest collections of narrow-gauge steam locos, is a small town on the D’Aguilar Highway noted for its wide streets, grand old hotel, colonial style shops and folk festival that takes place over the New Year holidays.
It was one of the earliest settled areas of this shire with its history reflected at several noted tourist spots around town including nearby Mount Mee State Forest, a popular spot with locals and visitors alike that offers picnic areas, camping sites and spectacular views from the summit of Mount Mee over the Moreton Bay Region.
This area is also rich farmland country with strawberries, bananas, pineapples and pawpaw for sale at many roadside stalls including Cruice Park where luckily, we were able to stock up on some lovely fresh produce to see us through the next week.
Nearby Cruice Park, home to a Memorial to Leichhardt who used this area as a base for his exploration, is located only 4-kilometres west of the township along the Kilcoy-Beerwah Road and makes for a great overnight stop for even the biggest of rigs due to its large grassy areas and sealed loop driveway… and although close to the road it has lots of lovely large shady trees and very clean amenities.
It had been a long day and we had considered staying here the night but with Kilcoy in our sights and Lake Wivenhoe only a hop, step and jump further on, our journey continued west. We knew next time we set up camp it would be for a few days!
Kilcoy got its name from brothers Evan and Colin Mackenzie, who arrived in the district in 1841, took up a substantial landholding and named it ‘Kilcoy’, a Gaelic word meaning ‘nook of the wood’, after their family estate in Scotland.
Nestled south of the Conondale Ranges, this quiet rural town is the northern gateway to the Somerset Region known for its beef cattle and more recently, vineyards.
Many know it for the legendary Maleny Folk Festival located at Woodford 21-kilometres east of the Kilcoy… a famous festival first started in 1987 that is now recognised as the largest music and lifestyle festival in Australia attracting thousands of people for a few days over the New Year’s Eve period…
BUT since 1979…. most now know it for its one significant attraction that fascinates and attracts tourists all year round – the YOWIE!
After making the most of our Kilcoy Yowie experience with a photo of the Yowie Statue at Yowie Park we turned onto the D’Aguilar Highway for the last stretch of black tar for the day and made tracks towards Somerset Dam and Lake Wivenhoe.
Located 10-kilometres south of Kilcoy, Somerset Dam is one of the region’s oldest and largest water storages… and one of the most popular recreation destinations in the region.
Named after local MP Henry Plantagenet Somerset, construction first commenced on this dam in 1935 but had to be suspended due to World War II. Work resumed in 1948 and the dam was completed in 1959.
It was first used to supplement Brisbane’s water supply but today, with a storage capacity of 904,000 megalitres – the water from this dam is also released into Wivenhoe Dam which, then connects into the Brisbane River and supplies water to Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Redcliffe, the northern end of Gold Coast City, and the shires of Beaudesert, Esk and Kilcoy.
With 237 kilometres of unspoiled shoreline this dam is nestled in a protective ring of hills, bushland, valleys, lakes, and rivers including the town of Somerset and its calm waters make it ideal for water sports.
The drive from Kilcoy around the foreshores of Lake Somerset was a certainly a wonderland of hidden valleys, bushland, and quiet rivers with excellent viewing points where we could pull over around the edge of the dam… but Somersets success is mostly due to its dairy farms, cattle farms, and timber mills.
Originally home to the Aboriginal tribes of the Jagera, Yuppera, Ugarapul, Yuggera and Jininbara people, the first settlers who arrived in the region in 1841 were the McConnels at Cressbrook, who were responsible for the first deer in the area.
When travelling this region, it’s not uncommon to see red deer grazing among the rolling hills and the story of how they came to be is a very interesting one indeed.
Apparently in 1873, Queen Victoria sent a gift of red deer to Queensland in celebration of the state being named in her honour.
There were two stags named Norman and Bolingbroke, and four hinds – Atlas, Alma, Ada and Martha… all arriving from Windsor Castle gardens aboard the Great Queensland.
In 1873 these deer were released at the McConnel family property, Cressbrook and continued to be released until 1978.
Today, aside from the off-springs roaming the hills, apparently in honour of this significant event, a life-size bronze, red deer sculpture named Norman has also been installed at the Somerset Regional Art Gallery.
After crossing the river south of Somerset Dam, we continued south passing through the small village of Esk.
Esk is in the heart of Somerset and best known for its stunning backdrop of Mount Glen Rock.
Situated on the former Mount Esk pastoral run, one of several stations taken up in the early 1840s on the inland side of the D’Aguilar Range this town was named after the River Esk which runs from Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland to the Solway Firth in England.
Today it is a small rural town on the Brisbane Valley Highway, notable as an another historic town with several buildings, many in the main street (Ipswich Street), fine examples of late19th century Queensland architecture. Two notable buildings, the Club Hotel with its cast-iron balustrades and gracious verandas is a fine example of a Queensland country hotel and the Nash Gallery and Cafe known to the locals as the Lars Andersen house is a charming timber residence standing out against the other buildings on the street.
Just up the road we came to the turnoff to Lake Wivenhoe where we had camped a few years back.
After a fun filled and hectic couple of days at Lake MacDonald… and today doing a lot of driving, we were finally ready to set up camp for a few days!
Lake Wivenhoe, completed in 1985 and also known as Wivenhoe Dam, is the largest dam in the south east region of Queensland.
There are 2-camping areas at Logans Inlet – Captain Logan Camping area where we had camped previously, is a popular well provisioned campground… and Lumley Hill Camping is a small peninsular area suitable for caravans, camper trailers and tents, with some powered and unpowered sites… and there are three large amenities blocks with very well looked after toilets, showers and washing up areas, an abundance of covered tables, benches and barbecues – and plenty of open space!
Covering 33,000 hectares, unlike Somerset Dam, this lake restricts the use of motorised boats so with no speed boats or jet skis it makes it an ideal destination for those looking for a relaxed break.
It’s the largest lake in South East Queensland and provides more than half of the region’s drinking water.
It has 6 recreation areas all open to the public – Cormorant Bay, Logan’s Inlet, Hamon Cove, O’Shea’s Crossing, Branch Creek and the Spillway Lookout …
… and here at the private camping grounds you can enjoy barbecues and picnics, playgrounds, sailing, rowing, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and traipsing or riding the many multi-use trails! At Logan’s Inlet there’s also a designated swimming area.
The comprehensive 16-kilometre network of trails is divided into 4 trails – red, black, white and blue with colours displayed on totem poles along the way.
Lake Wivenhoe is also popular with the fisherfolk and it is said it is the place to go for Australia’s best Bass fishing… but in saying that it is also stocked with Silver Perch and Yellow Belly as well as Saratoga, Cod and Red Claw… but you do need a fishing permit if you intend on dropping a line in.
Another little-known fact is that it is also home to the unique air-breathing lungfish, a rare prehistoric fish whose lineage can be dated back 380 million years.
Having booked in with the friendly camp hosts we then set up camp in the Captain Logan Camping area, our designated site a beautiful shady spot overlooking the lake just along from where we had camped on a previous trip, and just along from where all the tents had set up.
Being in the rooftop this trip gave us the advantage of a not so crowded, private and fenced gravel site.
This lake is very popular with the locals and being the last week of the school holidays campers from all over Australia seemed to have flocked to Lake Wivenhoe.
On arrival we were welcomed by the dam’s quiet surroundings and panoramic views but that was short lived when a group of schoolies returned to their campsite and bought with them bad language, loud music, and boisterous behaviour!
After 2 nights we had finally had enough and after requesting another campsite we moved to Lumley Hill Camping area on the hill… not quite as scenic but a lot quieter!
Peace and quiet reign supreme here and although not as close to the water’s edge as we were over the way, we were surround by lots of friendly birdlife and native critters including dozens upon dozens of large kangaroos, a few possums and even a couple of monitors! Even the kookaburra’s dropped in for the occasional chat!
With the dam level right down some kangaroos even frequented the amenities block in search of water, making it difficult to access the wet area… and at times even the shower block!
Now, it’s well over 60 years that I have been able to shower by myself without the need of adult supervision, so you’d think I’d know most of the tips and tricks of the trade by now… especially while travelling. Like the caravan park shower blocks are notoriously cold, it’s incredibly hard to adjust showers to a comfortable temperature and you don’t step out of your clothes until you are ready to step straight into the shower!
Well, here I was in the amenities block in my birthday suit, trying for ages to find a happy medium between boiling hot and icy cold water when just as I stepped in… I suddenly realised I didn’t have my towel!
Dripping wet I donned my clothes to dash back to camp and just as I was about to step out of the shower cubicle one very large kangaroo wandered in the main door… and there I was barricaded in the shower cubicle by a very inquisitive man size kangaroo who was going nowhere anytime soon!
25 minutes later when the roo finally decided to leave, I snuck out of the shower block feeling quite fresh having decided to make the most of a difficult predicament…disappointed I hadn’t even been missed – but I did have a camera on my phone to tell the story!
Australians can’t deny that kangaroos are a major part of the Australian identity. They are on our coat of arms with the emu, on our 50 cent piece and one-dollar coins, North Melbourne Football Club made kangaroos their mascot and their tail is on every QANTAS plane giving the planes the nickname of ‘The Flying Kangaroo’… so if you’re keen to see one of these true-blue Aussie icons … just come to Lake Wivenhoe!
After 5 glorious days at Wivenhoe, we waved goodbye to our camp site and excitedly made our way towards the Currumbin for a week with our son, daughter in-law and 2 grandchildren.
From here it was a quick trip to the Gold Coast with Fernvale the first town we passed through.
Fernvale nestled in the Lockyer Valley on the Brisbane Valley Highway was probably the last location that appeared to be a little town snuggled in between worlds.
Less than 20 minutes from Ipswich CBD it appeared a peaceful, semi-rural paradise with a beautifully kept memorial park, a well-known and award winning bakery, lovely cafes, restaurants, gift shops, lovely picnic areas at Savages Crossing and Twin Bridges on the outskirts… and on Sundays, the Fernvale markets!
From here on towns seemed to melt into the suburbs of Brisbane with Ipswich, located on the Bremer River, next on our map.
Ipswich is one of Queensland’s oldest provincial city renowned for its architecture, cultural heritage, beautiful parks, quirky food, and shopping precinct known to locals as the ‘Top of Town’.
There was a time in the 1990s when a certain fish and chips shop in Ipswich became the talk of Australia. This fish and chip shop was owned by Pauline Hanson who, for a moment was the most well-known politician in Australia.
Next came the outer suburbs of Brisbane and the Gold Coast as we turned back onto the Bruce Highway, a bit of a shock for us as we tend to avoid the bigger cities and the hustle and bustle…
… then after turning at West Burleigh Head we finally arrived at Currumbin.
It may not be one of Australia’s most renowned regions, but Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Hinterland is certainly Mother Nature’s playground and a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy coast and city life.
Treat yourself to the sanctuary of the beautiful towns intertwined with mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and forests… it truly is a beautiful place to be – and the fact its off the beaten track only adds to its allure.