Caravanning In Real Life #IRL

The realities of life on the road with a caravan can be ignored in Social Media (SM). What appears idyllic and glamourous has its difficult side that does not get promoted. In the interest of being authentic this list has some of the things not seen and must be faced:

– Free camps are few and far between and usually crammed full of RVs of every shape and size. The camera shots for SM carefully aim for their exclusion. What might look like a gorgeous spot in the middle of nowhere, may have fifty other RVs behind the photographer.

On the road in WA – pre pandemic 2020
  • That perfect vivid photo you see on Instagram has had a filter or two applied. Colours #IRL are usually not as “insane”. Even without the filters it can be hard to modify to a gorgeous clear still aqua sea from the ubiquitous brown dirty choppy waves.
  • Roads are bumpy – sealed and unsealed.
  • There can be hours and kilometres of boring scenery between the ‘good’ spots. In Australia this is absolutely true, and you often think to yourself that it might be a better option to fly there rather than drive.
Barkly Highway Australia 2020
  • Smells and sounds not seen in a beautiful picture can ruin the experience for those there #IRL. At 1770 the reek of dead fish sent us on our way not waiting to take those iconic sunset pics. Some locations smell bad.
  • Beware of the ‘waterfront’ site; when the storm hits waves might come crashing over your caravan.
Waterfront sites Lang Lang Victoria 2020
  • A beautiful native bird can startle you awake in the middle of the night with its blood-curdling cry. The Australian Bush Stone-Curlew is common in northern Australia.
Bush Stone-Curlew Cooktown QLD 2020
  • You might need to elbow your way through a crowd to get that closeup of a kangaroo, turtle, or crocodile in the wild. Often the numbers of people in the crowd outnumber the wildlife unfortunately.
Looking at crocs at Cahill’s Crossing East Alligator River Kakadu Northern Territory 2020
  • You will always need to find a public toilet, and a dump point for emptying the portaloo. These are usually listed on Wikicamps.
  • Not all towns cater for cars towing caravans. You might drive in and drive out without finding anywhere to stop. Thank goodness for the ‘RV Friendly’ towns.
  • Some places are too windy, too hot, too cold, or too dry.
Free off-grid RV park in NSW 2020
  • Some places are inauthentic and trying hard to be something it is NOT. Wave Rock in WA costs $15 just to stop, and above the rock, out of sight, is an ugly manmade concrete dam wall.
  • Swimming in Australia can be problematic due to sharks, crocodiles, currents, underwater rock formations, and jellyfish. Obey the signs for your own safety. Again, SM photos are deceptive.
Warning sign Esperence WA 2020
  • Internet and TV connection is spasmodic. Do not rely on either. Carry some cash.
  • Radio connection in your car is sparse and random.
  • Country music is everywhere.
  • Water pressure, toilet facilities, and showers, in caravan parks vary considerably. You need to drop your standards.
Free off-grid RV park in QLD 2020
  • You still need to do the chores. Food shopping, buying fuel and gas, finding a doctor or dentist or skin specialist, and laundry. It might be a holiday, but …
  • The car and caravan will need maintenance: tyres, service, new windscreens, fixtures refitted, wheel bearings, and regular cleaning.
  • Bare feet might look carefree, but you will need various footwear to protect your feet for different reasons: boots, sandals, thongs, runners, closed-toe shoes, etc.
  • Caravan parks are often full, crowded, cramped, and expensive. Some are difficult to drive in to and get out of.
  • You will hear and see your neighbours: talk, shout, sing, swear, cry (babies), fart (old men), cough, snore (old women), and give unwanted advice and opinions.
Free off-grid RV park in QLD 2020
  • Fares, fees, and tickets can be expensive. Many of these are not optional. The Jardine River Crossing return for a car with caravan was $130 in 2020 to cross about 100 metres of shallow, pristine, crocodile-infested salt waters.
  • School holidays are a difficult time to be on the road as all of the campsites are full. Book ahead for these times or plan to stay put for the duration.
  • Travellers vary and have different expectations and lifestyle habits: grey nomads, backpackers, families trying hard to be full-time ‘social influencers’, not-quite-retired couples, pets, homeless people, Europeans, permanent residents of caravan parks, drifters, motor-homers, expert and longtime caravanners, surfers, the regulars who come to the same spot every year, and many others.
  • Travelling in the Year of the Virus 2020 has had some advantages and disadvantages: restricted travel, less people travelling, closed attractions, less people at famous spots, safety measures such as distancing and hand sanitising, closed borders.
  • Sometimes you will become friends (and then SM friends) with your neighbours and at other locations you might not even speak with those camped next door.
Free off-grid RV park somewhere in Australia 2020
  • Missing family and friends. You will observe locals enjoying picnics with family and feel invisible and homesick.
  • Flies and mosquitoes.
  • Dust.
  • You will still need to lodge your tax return.
  • Trust your instincts, go with the flow, enjoy every moment, and be kind and friendly to everyone you meet.

Who knows what 2021 will bring? More travels? More restrictions? The vaccine rolled out?

Middle of Australia 2020

Statistics from One Year of Caravanning in 2020

Looking at the metrics is always interesting and revealing.

We started our planned lap of Australia on the 1st December 2019.

We visited every state except for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

The Wikicamps app proved to be a great way to plan ahead and log where we had been.

The Fuel Map app showed us how efficiently the rig was travelling.

We travelled 41,175 kilometres in total over 373 days.

– $166 per day

– $1,162 per week

– $0.20 per kilometre in fuel

– $190 per week for campsites

– Total spending of $1.50 per kilometre (this is everything including new tyres for the car and caravan, new windscreen, trips, and fees into places of interest, fuel, campsites, food, and all of the usual day to day expenses.)

– We stayed at 80 campsites, 75% were paid caravan parks, 25% were free off-grid campgrounds.

Trip route for Mick & Sue’s Aussie Adventure 2020

Our original planned route was changed dramatically due to the pandemic. We had to back-track from Western Australia due to state borders closing. We spent three months in the initial lockdown period in our caravan on a relative’s farm at Horsham Victoria. Once we were allowed to move, we headed north. We obeyed all of the rules, stayed safe, kept our receipts, filled in the applications for border passes, and had no problem crossing into other states when we could. We kept away from populated areas and the major cities, except for Darwin. We were in Perth before the first lockdown.

Gippsland VIC

The vessel rocks. I hear the soft lapping of the waves and I look up from my writing to see blue water to the horizon. Seagulls and pelicans carouse in the gusty wind. I am not on a boat but sitting inside our caravan that is parked near the water’s edge at Port Albert in South Gippsland of Victoria.

Port Albert VIC

The apocalyptic bushfires of last year tore through large forests and small towns of the Gippsland region and one year on the new growth appears bright green against the blackened trunks. Our first stop is at Mallacoota, which became famous last year as the place where people were rescued from the beach and taken to safety in navy ships, while the sky glowed dark and as red as hell. Fortunately, the town of Mallacoota was not damaged and is thriving now with the second virus lockdown over.

East Gippsland VIC

We camped beachside looking out across the blue inlet where a flotilla of pelicans perched and drifted. Mick fished but had no luck. We enjoyed dinner at the pub with a couple we had met at Eden. All of us confused about the mask-wearing protocol, but we did our best. A koala strolled across the campground then up a tree; the first we have seen on this trip around Australia.

It is cold and windy and so we now wear long-sleeved tops and have the extra blanket on the bed.

Further south we stay at Lake Tyers Beach so that Mick can catch up with a golfing buddy who has moved here recently. The beach nearby is the northern tip of the 90 Mile Beach with beautiful sand stretching on forever and clear cold turquoise waters crashing onto the beach. I see a large echidna snuffling around in the beach scrub.

Mick caught a big flathead at Lake Tyers VIC

We visit Lakes Entrance and walk along the bushy spit to the entrance where fast-flowing waters assist the fishing fleet. I am not a fan of Lakes Entrance and never have been. Something about it disturbs me and makes me anxious. But many other people love it, live here, or come regularly for holidays. We have lunch in a café at nearby Metung, looking out to the lake. Back at Lake Tyers Beach Mick goes fishing and catches a one metre long flathead, and after taking a photo, releases it back into the water. He has a game of golf with his friend and we all have a nice meal at the tavern looking out to the blue Lake Tyers and the beach and sea beyond.

I am happy to move on and we drive further south to Port Albert where we stay at a free RV friendly park next to the water. It is still windy and cold at just 20⁰C in the sunshine. A walk about the town reveals that there is not much here; a general store, a fish and chips shop, a closed and empty pub, and lots of holiday accommodation. The boat ramp and piers are excellent. This little harbour is sheltered by offshore islands from the wild seas of the Tasman Sea and Bass Straits beyond.

East Gippsland VIC

The next day we wind our way through beautiful South Gippsland towards a caravan park we have heard of at Lang Lang foreshore. The weather is bleak and cold typical of this region. We park on a waterfront site between some permanent shacks. The afternoon is calm and still with the low tide revealing mud flats. French Island is beyond sitting in the middle of Western Port Bay.

Western Port Bay Lang Lang VIC

The forecast storm hits like a freight train in the evening. Our caravan is unprotected and rocks and creaks in the gale force winds. At daybreak, the wind has not abated, and now with the high tide, waves are crashing over our caravan! The sea is as high as the rock wall and water gushes across the ground into the main caravan park. The high tide level is beyond the front wheels of our car that is still hitched to the caravan. Waves drench us as we leave the inside of the caravan and get ready to leave. It is ridiculous and something we have not experienced in this trip. What a way to spend the last night.

Lang Lang Foreshore Caravan Park VIC

We drive in windy conditions towards Melbourne heading for Horsham. The motorways have light traffic, and we make it across the Westgate Bridge and through Melbourne in good time.

Sapphire Coast NSW

The Sapphire Coast of New South Wales is well named as the seas sparkle dark blue across the bays and out to the Tasman Sea. With so many rivers, lakes, bays, and inlets, this is a fisherman’s paradise.

Tathra Beach NSW

So, Mick finally gets a tiny bit serious about his fishing forays and tries his luck, taking note of the local tricks. He is happy to catch a lovely plate-sized pair of black flatheads in the Moruya River. At Tathra he has no luck at the Bega River inlet, or from the famous Wharf. He catches a Southern Green Moray Eel from the rocky headland and returns that to the water lifeless after struggling to release his hook. He watches at the wharf as another fisherman fights to land a 1.2 metre Kingfish. At Eden he fishes from the banks of the shallow saltwater lake and then later from the beach. He was elated to catch a good size Australian Salmon. He sees a two-metre-long Mako Shark come into the shallows chasing the salmon. Later we hear that this bay is a nursery for Mako Sharks. The fresh fish van visits the caravan park ringing the bell, so we buy and enjoy fresh oysters and fresh flathead.

Mick is happy with his catches Sapphire Coast NSW

We swim in the cold seas. Kianinny Bay is a beautiful little cove with clear green waters. We see a large black stingray drifting for scraps near the boat ramp. With snorkels and fins adjusted we edge in. It is freezing!! I glide off across the pool, but Mick is out already, stunned by the cold water. Later we swim in the rolling surf at Tathra across the road from the caravan park. It is refreshing in the white frothing surf. We get out and only then notice many blue-bottle jellyfish stranded above the tideline. We need to be on the lookout as we don’t want to get tangled up with those poisonous tendrils. The pool at the caravan park is warmed with a solar system; this will do nicely. At Eden the clear green waves beckon enticingly, masking their underwater power.

Sapphire Coast NSW

At Moruya I become familiar with the gentle flap sound high above as skydivers unfurl their chutes. Blue, crimson, orange, green, yellow; colourful pops that appear suddenly, then the skydivers steer through the air back to the yellow flags on the runway nearby. A couple of tandem rides land on the soft sand at the beach. It is an awesome sight however I am not tempted to do it myself.

Skydivers at Moruya North Head NSW

The campground at Moruya North Head is awful, only surpassed by the dreadful camps of the Rosebud Foreshore. The amenities here are to be avoided. “Permanents” hide in tent hovels, obviously homeless. Despite the campground, there is a lot to do here and explore. So, people are out making their own fun: fishing, surfing, boating, kayaking, skydiving, cycling, walking, swimming, building huts on the beaches using the driftwood from the nearby Moruya River.

Sapphire Coast NSW

Tathra is busy on the weekend with lots of families enjoying some much-needed travel in this year of restrictions due to the virus. There are lots of mountain bike trails nearby and it is obviously the thing to do because everyone has their bike and they set off along the paths. It is noisy with people having fun, laughing, and talking. The small town of Tathra struggles to cope with visitors. I wonder how things go in the busy summer holiday periods. We have a nice lunch at the iconic Tathra Hotel. We walk a lot up and down the paths looking out across the beautiful views beside the ocean. Bushfires went through this town about three years ago and you can see where the damage was done. It appears to be recovering well. The lush green fields of the Bega Valley still feed contented cows. It is an idyllic landscape.

Trip routes in New South Wales – avoiding virus hotspots

Further south at Eden we camp at a lovely park-like caravan park situated between the sea and the lake; green grass, tall shady trees, lots of birds, and you can hear the waves breaking on the sand from our caravan. We walk to town several times. We climb the rocks near the ocean pool, too cold for swimming. We take a dip in the sea. We explore some local towns; Boydtown and Wonboyn. The forests are black from last year’s catastrophic bushfires, but once again the forest is regenerating with new green growth up the trunks and new green undergrowth. The cicadas must love these environmental conditions because they call out loudly from the charred wood. We see a large goanna scurry up a tree.

Finally, with 24 days free of COVID-19 cases in Victoria, New South Wales opens the border on Monday 23 November just after midnight. Eden is the first major town along the Princes Highway into New South Wales, and we see an influx of Victorian vehicles with caravans and camper vans. It is easy to tell the difference between the new travellers and others. The Victorians still wear their long pants and long-sleeved tops, and a stunned look on their faces. Others like us still wear shorts and t-shirts and have brown skin and relaxed smiles. I think some kindness, care, and good listening is in order. Lots of people have had it hard this year.

We get new tyres for the caravan at Eden, have them balanced and checked. While we wait, we visit the Killer Whale Museum where we learn about the infamous whale Old Tom who behaved like a cattle dog, befriending the fisherman and rounding up the larger whales and herding them into the bays for slaughter.

Skeleton of Old Tom and life size model of a Mako Shark at Eden Killer Whale Museum NSW

Finally, we head south into Victoria. It has been over five months since we left our home state. There are still some restrictions in place, and we will need to get used to wearing face masks at certain times.

Back to our home state of Victoria

Mudgee NSW

The wine jolts our tastebuds awake, then conjures images of vanilla, musk, honey, eucalyptus, blackberries, cashews, and fermented grapes. Lulled into bliss we sit on the deck gazing out across the vineyards to the town and hills beyond. White fluffy clouds hang suspended in the blue sky while warm sunshine makes us retreat into the shade of the veranda.

Wine tasting at Moothi Estate Mudgee NSW

Moothi Estate has a lovely position on the hillside with views across the valley. We order the Ploughman’s Lunch and taste their Chardonnay, Sparkling Rose, Merlot, and sweet thick fortified Shiraz. We favour the Chardonnay to accompany the delicious local grazing plate. While Noosa might be paradise, this is heaven.

The caravan parks were all full when we arrive in Mudgee, so we find a spot at the Showgrounds. It is a lovely spot with thick green grass, tall shady trees, roses in bloom, lots of birds, and the pretty hills as a backdrop. There had been a horse show on the previous weekend, so despite everything cleaned up, there remained a pervading smell of horse shit and this kept the hopeful flies about. A new amenities block with hot showers are the cleanest we have come across in our travels. Well done Mudgee!

Camped at Mudgee Showgrounds NSW

It is a quaint town with beautiful old buildings, nice parks, the river running through the town, all set in the beautiful valley surrounded by tree covered hills. The roses and other fragrant flowers in full bloom as it is Spring. We enjoy coffee at a cafe across the road from the Mudgee Public Library. I had done a job here years ago as a library system software consultant and wanted to bring Mick here to see this lovely country town.

Mudgee Public Library NSW

As recommended by a friend, we drive north to The Drip at the Goulburn National Park. This unique rocky gorge borders the Goulburn River which was running clear, shallow, and amber in the sunshine. Birds called out from the trees with a unique and varied chorus of voices; some I have never heard before.

Goulburn River NSW

The Drip is similar to The Garden at Carnarvon Gorge. Water from the plateaus above seep down into the rocky layers and emerge at the river. The water drips constantly giving life to a greenery of ferns, mosses and other plants. The river hits the embankment veranda at The Drip then turns to run alongside it, amplifying the echoing cascades. I imagine on hot summer days the locals come here to loll about in the river.

The Drip Gorge Goulburn River NSW

Many older folks were out in gangs power-walking the uneven path. A well-attired young family wander and stop frequently to take those perfect shots for social media trying to be ‘influencers’ and fund their travels. Some rangers stop to help a very old lady carrying a walking stick. She had obviously fallen over and she sat on a wooden seat with blood dripping from her forehead. A gaggle of old women gathered around providing comfort and care. This walk is really not ideal for people who need walking sticks as it is quite rough, sandy in parts, and uneven.

Rock formations at The Drip Gorge NSW

From Mudgee we head further south following directions on my smartphone Maps app; maybe not the wisest option. Our road atlas shows this as a viable route too. We cut across the east-west arterials between Dubbo, Sydney, Lithgow, and Canberra. The road deteriorates while the scenery is beautiful. Green fields with lovely hills and mountains beyond. It rains a little. Mick turns the steering wheel back and forth all day as we wind up and down the steep mountain roads. The white lines on the road disappear altogether and we wonder if we have gone wrong somewhere.

View from Moothi Estate Mudgee NSW

Eventually we emerge at Goulburn then continue south to Tarago and Braidwood. Up and over the Great Dividing Range we drive through state forest that was burnt in last year’s savage bushfires. But the tall trees look strong and healthy with new growth sprouting up the trunks. The new undergrowth is green and tree ferns sprout healthy new fronds. Cicadas buzz happily.

State Forest Great Dividing Range near Batemans Bay NSW

We arrive at Bateman’s Bay in the early afternoon, once again on the coast.

Lightning Ridge NSW

Creative flair runs rampant at Lightning Ridge where every man’s castle is unique. What might have begun with a caravan parked on a mining lease evolved with a recyclers ingenuity to make do with what is found. Houses made with rocks, bottles, and cans neighbour lean-to shacks of corrugated iron sheets. While others use their time to build impressive castles of rock.

One man’s castle Lightning Ridge NSW

We had headed west from Caloundra planning to skirt wide around any possible virus hotspots near Brisbane and Sydney on our way south. Staying overnight at St George where the heat stuck to you as the humidity grew with the coming summer storms.

Old Miner’s Hut Lightning Ridge NSW

We cross the border at Hebel where a police checkpoint was set up to monitor and dissuade travellers trying to go north into the forbidden land of virus-free Queensland. We weren’t stopped going south into New South Wales.

Magpies Mural by local artist Lightning Ridge NSW

Lightning Ridge is just off the highway and well worth a visit. Approaching from the south Stanley the Emu greets visitors. He is an eighteen metre tall metal sculpture made from the body of an old VW Beetle and other scrap metal.

Stanley the Emu Lightning Ridge NSW

Sunsets and sunrises out here in the desert are rivalled only by the rare black opals below ground.

Old church Lightning Ridge NSW

The hot artesian pool is free and open to all. I float happily in the hot pool looking up at the clear blue sky. The mineral water actually feels like it is rejuvenating my body. Mick says he feels immediate relief for his aching back. Then he goes off in search of opals.

Artesian Mineral Pool Lightning Ridge NSW

The drive further south takes us through arid land with stock, then gradually morphs into fertile land for crops. On a Saturday I ask Mick where he wants to go next. He replies, “I want to park near a river with willow trees so I can sit in the shade and read the newspapers.” We find a free off-grid RV park at Mendooran beside the pretty Castlereigh River. No willow trees but plenty of tall shady trees and green grass. There are no amenities, power, or water, but a lovely spot for self-contained rigs. We stay two nights and have Sunday lunch at the decaying country pub across the road.

Castlereigh River Mendooran NSW

The journey south along the Castlereigh Highway has been very scenic and enjoyable.

Mendooran Hotel NSW

Caloundra QLD

“Trick or treat!” came the call from outside of our caravan. Luckily we had bought some lollies and were prepared. Children scoured the caravan park in pouring rain while thunder and lightning provided the perfect atmosphere for this Halloween night.

Halloween night Caloundra QLD

Caloundra is an interesting seaside city with Bribie Island just offshore across the Pumicestone Passage which is a tidal channel where clear tidal waters flow fast. People are out every day enjoying this environment: swimming, walking, surfing, running, cycling, fishing, windsurfing, on boats, jetskis, and kayaks. Or just having a coffee or picnic on the seats or grass of the pretty foreshore. Once again, the Queensland government has provided excellent public amenities making it easy and comfortable for everyone to enjoy. Cafes and restaurants line this promenade, and you are spoilt for choice.

Glass House Mountains Lookout QLD

One Sunday we drive to the Glass House Mountains to see the ancient volcanic “plugs” up close. Captain Cook named them as their formation reminded him of the glass furnaces in England. The trees nearby had been severely damaged from the storm of the previous night; some trees sheered off halfway up the trunk. Branches littered the bush track creating obstacles for us to climb over and around.

Gardner Falls near Maleny QLD

At the trendy hilltop town of Maleny we walked the busy street looking at the unique wares. We had Balinese street food for lunch in a groovy laneway. We bought a mango, an avocado, a pineapple, and a new book (Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey). All around the fields were green and lush. We visited Gardner Falls which is a popular water hole for the locals. Young people were swinging in from ropes strung from overhanging tree branches.

Maleny Lane Maleny QLD

We had to detour and revise our return trip due to an accident near the Bruce Highway somewhere. It was a long but beautiful drive through the hilly hinterland near Montville with panoramic views to the coast.

Kings Beach Caloundra QLD

It was fun to swim at Kings Beach with big waves knocking us off our feet, while nearby groups of school children were instructed on boards, swimming, beach safety, doing laps at the beach swimming pool, and beach running. It is fantastic to see children out doing these activities. I’m not sure they realise how lucky they are. I would have thrived in this environment as a child.

Pumicestone Passage Caloundra QLD

My cousin and his family have lived here for many years and we caught up with them for dinner; lucky to catch them at home as they are usually off travelling somewhere. Drinks on their back patio as the sun set across the canals on a warm night sharing family stories: precious time.

Sunset at Pelican Waters Caloundra QLD

New COVID cases drop to zero in Australia for the first time in five months, while overseas countries go into another lockdown as the third wave of cases builds like a tsunami. Family and friends in Victoria are happy to have some restrictions eased.

One night we are disturbed by some fear-filled cries of “Fire! Fire!” We could smell smoke and looked outside to see flames across the caravan park. Mick dashed out and was first on the scene. He scrambled to find something to douse the growing flames, eventually being thrown a fire extinguisher. It was a small fire started by some careless person throwing their cigarette stub out of a unit and into some dry leaf litter on a very windy night. There was not much damage at all and no one was affected.

Caloundra QLD

Melbourne Cup Day arrived and luncheons were held despite no public holiday in Queensland for this event. There are so many ex-Victorians living here that it remains an important day on the calendar. Any excuse to frock up, where a hat, and drink champagne. There were no spectators at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne because of the virus, which I am sure detracted from the event, and left a big hole in the pocket of many milliners.

The entry to Pumicestone Passage Caloundra QLD

We forgot about this event and arranged to catch up with some people at a local bar. I had worked with Neil in recent years in Victoria and he and his wife had made the move from Victoria to Caloundra about 18 months previous. Despite the rowdy crowd in the bar we enjoyed good beer and great conversation with them. They both have landed good jobs here, and hope to do some exploring in a camper van soon.

Melbourne Cup Day drinks with Neil and Elaine in Caloundra QLD

The next day we head west through gridlocked morning traffic. There had been a couple of accidents on the Sunshine Motorway and another near the Bruce Highway. The roads cannot cope with any stoppages as there are no alternate routes. We were glad to escape before it got worse. We drove out through the gorgeous scenery of the Glass House Mountains landscape and beyond, up and over the Great Dividing Range to the drier lands beyond.

Noosa QLD

Rain fell hard, lightning flashed, and thunder rolled. We were snug inside our caravan watching the football on TV. The AFL GF was at the GABBA! (The Australian Rules Football League Grand Final was being played at the stadium in Brisbane.) Geelong Cats versus the Richmond Tigers.

Rain fell in Brisbane as the pregame entertainment hit the stage. We were in Tewantin just 140 kilometres north of the live action. It has been a strange, hard, and different season of football due to COVID-19. The clubs, players, and families had to make changes and plans on the run finally settling into a revised season based mainly in Brisbane, far from the home of AFL in Melbourne.

The game was nail-biting: perfect for a grand final clash. The Tigers won and I know many friends and family who would be ecstatic.

We love Noosa and surrounds. It is still one of our most favourite spots in Australia.  We could live here. The beach is perfect for swimming and we were grateful to finally be able to take a plunge without the concern of being eaten alive.

Sunshine Coast QLD

The day we arrived lots of people were enjoying the sunny day and it was near impossible to get a place to park. Hastings Street was packed with people shopping, eating, drinking, and just hanging out on a beautiful warm sunny day.

The caravan park where we stayed is called the Noosa Caravan Park but is inland from the Main Beach, up the Noosa River, at the lovely town of Tewantin. Palm trees, birds, and ducks, a very good swimming pool, and walking distance to the shops, make this a lovely location to stay.

One morning we walk the popular and beautiful boardwalk from Hastings Street to the point at Hell’s Gate. It is about five kilometres and then the return. It is narrow in places allowing only two people to pass, but walkers and runners pound this path every day. The scenery is magnificent looking out across the bay while tall trees shade the hot journey. Koalas live here but we didn’t see any. Sea turtles and dolphins live here too, but we didn’t see any this time.

Noosa Heads QLD

It was a beautiful Monday morning and people were everywhere, swimming, out on jet-skis and boats. No surf, so nobody out sitting on boards. We had coffee in the park soaking in the beauty, then walked back to the main beach for a few swims in the sea. This is paradise.

Noosa Main Beach QLD

Another day we walked around the beautiful and expansive Botanic Gardens that sit beside Lake MacDonald. The Jacaranda trees were in full purple bloom and I snapped away happily taking photos.

Jacaranda tree at Noosa Botanic Gardens QLD

We went for lunch at the Noosa Surf Club and the food, views, service, and beer were excellent. I quite like Stone & Wood beer that is made at Byron Bay. It has a passionfruit flavour I think. We first had it here at Noosa a couple of years ago. Looking out the open windows, the water appeared light grey, flat, and still as clouds gathered to the south west. The rain started to fall as we returned to our car and by the time we were back inside the caravan, thunder was rolling before the heavy rains fell.

We had not planned to stay at Noosa during this trip. We had already stayed at Caloundra for a couple of days and thought we would be going south. But the caravan parks were all busy. We tried to get in at other caravan parks all along the Sunshine Coast where we have not stayed before, but they were all fully booked. Our drive along that coast left me feeling down. I dislike that environment immensely for the development, houses, apartments, traffic, lack of parking, uninteresting beaches, and far too many people. It feels so suburban to me and I start feeling anxious. I am glad this caused us to go back north and have this little unplanned visit to Noosa.

Noosa Heads boardwalk QLD

From here we will return to Caloundra for a week before trekking south, planning to be home for Christmas. Meanwhile in Victoria they finally had two days in a row with no new COVID cases and no deaths. The State can finally ease the harsh restrictions and people will be able to move a bit. Face masks will be a feature for some time to come, with the Premier stating they may still be compulsory throughout the summer. This makes sense to me. But so far, we have not had to experience the inconvenience of wearing masks. My sister-in-law tells me we need several different types for different purposes.

Agnes Water and 1770 QLD

Paradise can be found in many locations in Australia and during this year long trip we have seen places that easily fit this description. Agnes Water and 1770 are not that.

While I don’t want to seem negative, in the interest of honest reporting, I want to provide a description of a place as I see it. Not every place in Australia is beautiful or feels great.

The colours in this area of Queensland are not as vivid as we have seen recently in the tropics. In fact we have now left the tropics behind. Olive brown trees, with grey brown dirt, beige dry grass, and a dirty sea, and smelly river mouth. The trees and shrubs look damaged, dry, and dead. Many Pandanus trees on the sea cliffs are dry, dead, and broken in stark contrast to the healthy and fruiting pandanus we have seen up and down the coast.

Red Rock Trail, Agnes Water QLD

Brown scum floated offshore stretching for kilometres along the coast, discouraging us from swimming. We investigate to find it is a natural marine occurrence that has been happening for many years, and even noted by Captain James Cook in the year of 1770 when he was here.

Marine Algae bloom – brown scum on sea at Agnes Water QLD

At the town of 1770 there was a strong putrid smell of rotting fish. And yet people swam, fished, paddled, surfed, and were sitting in outdoor cafes and restaurants eating food. Are they immune to the odour? We could not stay as the smell drove us away.

The caravan park where we stayed was not a positive experience. My first enquiry about a campsite was met with complaints from the receptionist about other travellers. At the caravan park there were signs for rules everywhere. They had gone too far with their interpretation of the COVID rules by closing off half of the toilets and showers. We have not seen this anywhere else in all the caravan parks we’ve stayed at this year. Of course signs are up, but not physical barriers to restrict people. There has been no overcrowding anywhere, so no justification for this action.

The showers were restricted too by an automatic timer set to four minutes for the water flow. I had to wait for ninety seconds for the warm water to flow, leaving my shower to two and a half minutes before it shut off. (No water, hot, warm or cold!) Again, we have not seen this anywhere else in Australia.

TV reception was non-existent except if you paid an extra fee to hire a special cable. This cable formed a constant tripping hazard in our caravan, prevented the door from closing properly, and allowing flies and insects to come inside. The actual TV reception was intermittent, so we gave up and disconnected. Once again, we have not come across this anywhere else.

The caravan park itself was dry and dusty. There is a small unattractive swimming pool but compared to the dirty smelly beach this was the better option for a cool off.

We walked the Red Rock Trail along the beaches and headlands. The scum was being washed in on waves as thick brown sludge. The trees were broken and dead. The sand brown and thick. Sea turtles come here to lay their eggs when it is time. Houses dot the hillside sitting amongst the natural bush. It is an Eco Estate; whatever that means here.

Kangaroo Tail plants at Agnes Water QLD

I could not get out of this area fast enough, happy to head south along the Bruce Highway amidst heavy morning traffic.

Local kangaroo at Agnes Water QLD

I realise these sound like petty complaints, especially in this year with COVID-19, when so many people are restricted and still in extensive lockdowns and isolation. We are lucky to be able to travel at all: paradise or not. And even without the pandemic, these are First World problems. I just want to say that not every location is perfect or can be described as ‘paradise’.

Cape Hillsborough QLD

Every day at Cape Hillsborough the little crabs dig holes in the wet sand covering the sand flats with millions of sand balls. Then the tide returns washing away this natural work of art, ready for the crabs to start all over again. Armies of crabs scurry away then bury themselves in the wet sand as you approach.

At sunrise, the kangaroos hop onto the beach as well as many sleepy-eyed humans. There were about five or six kangaroos on the beach when we were there at 5am one morning surrounded by about thirty or forty humans. Everyone trying to get that special photo of a kangaroo on the beach at sunrise.

Kangaroos on the beach at sunrise at Cape Hillsborough QLD

Mick fished from the rocks and caught a nice trevally for dinner. We climbed out to Wedge Island where there is a lovely little rockpool perfect for a dip and a couple of families with children were assessing whether to go in. We spotted sea turtles nearby in the water. They live in this area and we saw many, big and small, rise like floating rocks before diving below the rough waves.

Cape Hillsborough QLD

We walked to the lookout through the dry bush and rainforest. We swam in the pool. It was windy. We did a strenuous rock scramble to the northern headland. The environment here is quite unique. It is not tropical although palm trees grow alongside giant hoop pines. The land beside the sea is rocky with interesting rock formations. Smooth ovoid multi-coloured rocks fill the beach.

Rocks on the beach at Cape Hillsborough QLD

It is a lovely place that we had visited 26 years before and had always wanted to return.

The drive from Proserpine to Cape Hillsborough is gorgeous: vivid green sugar cane fields stretch into the distance to the dark blue mountain range, under powder blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Sweet fresh scents waft into the car with the warm breeze. Paul Kelly songs playing on the local radio station. Perfect.

Driving through the sugar cane fields near Cape Hillsborough QLD