Epic Road Trip of Queensland - Part 1....
As mentioned in my last blog, this blog would be all about our 2 week Epic Road Trip of Queensland. Hopefully this inspires you to get out and explore this great state. I have lots to share, so the trip will be blogged in three parts:
Part one: Noosa – Gladstone – Airlie Beach
Part two: Mission Beach - Port Douglas – Magnetic Island
Part three: Hamilton Island – Airlie Beach – Gladstone – Noosa
Noosa to Gladstone
420km / 5 hours
The school run: The trip started in Noosa at 2.45pm, when I picked up my son from school, then drove onto Gympie to collect my husband from his school, where he is a teacher. We made it to South Gladstone at about 8:30pm. I had booked a room in this location as it was not far from the Bruce Highway. It was a very basic hotel room, but we didn’t mind; the beds were comfy, and we were happy to stretch our legs.
Gladstone to Airlie Beach
590km / 6 hours 40 mins
We woke up early and headed out into Gladstone for the first time in daylight hours. We hadn’t realised Gladstone is such a mining & industrial town. My husband was impressed, so I Googled some info and was his tour guide as we drove through. This is what we learnt: Gladstone = coal. The port of Gladstone is the world’s 4th largest coal exporting terminal and 5th largest multi-commodity port in Australia, so, yes be impressed by this small town. It’s not just a name on a map.
We arrived in Rockhampton in time for brekky. And yes, I hate to admit it, at the golden arches aka Maccas. Rockhampton is big and the kids spotted a huge playground, but as we had only just started the trip, we didn’t stop to let them play.
There is something quite special about driving through all the sugar cane farms in Queensland. It is something I always remember seeing as a kid on our road trips to the Sunny State. We also spotted a few never-ending freight trains as we drove alongside the railway.
Next stop was lunch in Mackay, which, surprise surprise, is one of Australia’s largest sugar cane farming regions. We couldn’t find a playground for the kids in this tidy town, so instead we enjoyed eating lunch by the river together.
We finally arrived at Airlie Beach early in the afternoon. We were very impressed by the stunning beauty of the hills, and yachts on the gorgeous turquoise water. We stayed on the top floor of an apartment up on the cliff. What amazing views! The township was bustling on this Saturday night; restaurants were jammed packed, and people were out walking on the street. Airlie Beach is set up for tourists, with lots of eateries, shops and accommodation everywhere, piled up on the side of the cliffs.
Airlie Beach – Whitehaven Beach Tour – Airlie Beach
Finally! A no-road-trip day! Today was the first day it actually felt like we were on holiday. My daughter and I woke up early and walked down into the township to get to know our surroundings. First, we came across the stall holders from the local market setting up for the day. Next, we discovered that Airlie Beach has a bay beach and a lagoon pool right in the heart of the shops, making it safer in stinger season to swim. We then saw it also has a huge foreshore playground, which was great for my little climber.
Known as ‘the heart of the reef’, Airlie Beach is where you can base yourself to explore the Whitsundays. And that’s exactly what we did. We booked a tour of Whitehaven Island, the whitest sand island and most popular thing to see. There are so many tour companies to book with, but we went with Big Fury Whitsundays Day Tour, who were great. We got picked up from our accommodation at 9am, taken to the Marina where we boarded the speedboat, were briefed and departed at 10am. Even though we were on a speedboat, it still took 1 hour and 15 mins to get to the Inlet Lookout of Whitehaven Beach, which overlooks the swirling white sands of Whitehaven Beach. It’s also now the No.1 most photographed spot in Australia. Movies such as Fool’s Gold and one of the Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed here too. What a view! From the three lookout platforms the breathtaking views are a ‘must see’ in your lifetime.
The lookout path is a loop track. This led us back onto the boat for a 15 min ride around to the spot for snorkelling. At this time of year stinger suits aren’t required, so on with our mask and flippers and straight into the clear turquoise water we went. We spent a magical hour snorkelling the reef and seeing the underwater creatures and fish. Then we took a 5 min trip to Whitehaven Beach, which was bustling with tour boats and private yachts. There, we spent 2 hours swimming, sunbaking, and walking along the shore and eating a massive spread for lunch provided by the tour company. The unique silica sand at Whitehaven is different to any kind of sand I have seen before. It is great for cleaning your jewellery and making glass, but keep your camera stored away if you’re not using it, as it wrecks it.
After enjoying this stunning beach and island, it took just over an hour to get back to the marina, passing different islands along the way. We even spotted the distinctive Hamilton Island with its high rises on it. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour, with great commentary and many funny jokes included. The tour ended around 5pm with a minibus ride back to our accommodation.
Next up…...Mission Beach and beyond…...