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Brisbane–Airlie Beach, July 1998


Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber

An account of a week driving Jean’s vastly overloaded little Ford Festiva from Sydney, where I have lived almost all my life, to Airlie Beach in tropical North Queensland. This page describes the second part of the trip, from Brisbane to Airlie Beach. For an account of the Sydney-Brisbane part, see Part 1.

(Click on photos to see a larger version.)

After Eric picked Jean up at Brisbane Airport, we headed north to the Sunshine
Coast. We turned off the highway at the Caloundra exit and wended our way slowly up the coast road, through the resort towns of Mooloolabah, Maroochydore, and Coolum Beach, amongst others. These towns vary between tired and tacky-looking, and rather upmarket.
We didn’t stop this trip to look at the beaches, but I know from experience that they have lots of sand and usually decent surf, though not as exciting as the surf on the Gold Coast.

Eric says we got lost on the Sunshine Coast, but we didn’t. We just turned off the highway a bit too soon for our destination, which was Noosa. Neither did we get lost in Noosa, though we had a bit of difficulty finding the address we wanted, due to the poorly signposted roads and our inadequate map.

We finally located the Noosa International Hotel, where some friends were expecting us. Graeme is someone I had worked with, and had suggested we drop in since they were in the area for a week. We had a good visit with them, ate at an Italian restaurant, and were shown over pretty much the entire town that evening and the next morning.

Noosa is a very popular and beautiful spot, combining a good surfing beach on the ocean side and calm-water beaches on the riverfront. Quite a bit of the area is now built up into trendy (and expensive) shops, eateries and accommodation, but there’s still plenty to see and do without spending a lot of money.

For more about the Sunshine and Fraser Coasts of Queensland, visit:
http://www.oztravel.com.au/travel_mall/destinations/Sunshine_and_Fraser_Coast1.html

On Friday 24th July, having covered 1435 kilometres from Faulconbridge, we set out around midday, and promptly got lost in Noosa again. Eventually we got back to the highway, and made good time until we stopped at the Matilda truck stop, between Coogum and Gympie. We had some nice salad and settled down in the park, only to be mugged by a flock of renegade geese, who obviously didn’t believe my threats that they could be turned into dinner if they didn’t stop trying to steal lunch. “Don’t let them see fear”, I said to Jean, as she stood on top of the picnic table to escape them.

After Gympie (a good sized town), we passed Maryborough (another good sized town) and decided not to visit Hervey Bay this trip. Just past Childers we turned off on the side road to Bundaberg, our destination for the day.

We reached Bundaberg rather too late for a tour of the rum factory (photo left), so after some searching (which provided a good excuse to see some of the town), we settled into the Park Lane Motel, a short stroll from a Sizzler Restaurant. We had noticed that Sizzler Restaurants hadn’t completely disappeared in Queensland despite an unfortunate financial problem that had closed the ones in NSW, so we partook with delight of their salad bar. At last, the right sort of food! And Eric only had to travel 1672 kilometres to find it.

Bundaberg Rum factory visitors' centreEric with the giant Bundaberg rum bottleSaturday morning after breakfast, we made sure to get to the Bundaberg Rum place nice and early, so we could take the tour, buy the discount bottles, and get photos of each other standing by the giant bottle (photo right). We even got a book on the history of the place, which included the definitive wording of the Bundaberg Rum song.

In response to all this excess, we had a salad lunch at Sizzler, and then back to the road. Unfortunately about five kilometers before the Gin Gin turnoff onto the Bruce highway, we hit a pothole and blew both left hand side tyres. Given how loaded the car was, we were lucky that it didn’t do anything dramatic as Jean moved it to a stop beside the road.

Luckily we were in mobile phone range, so a while later it was on a trailer and the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland tow truck driver had found us an open garage with tyres. When we set off again, we discovered the new tyres didn’t actually fit. Well, they scraped one side of the wheel well at the rear, so it was back to town to have all the tyres moved, so the new ones (a different profile) were on the front. The car didn’t behave all that badly with its mismatched tyres, but we eventually replaced them with the correct profile (which took a week or so to obtain at Airlie Beach).

We didn’t get real far that day, and we didn’t make a planned diversion to Gladstone. We passed through the small towns of Miriam Vale and Mount Larcom (as well as several other, even smaller, places). This stretch of road goes inland most of the way and doesn’t have much of interest to see, but there are numerous diversions, mainly out to the coast, that sound very interesting and are on our list to visit when we have time for a leisurely tour.

We and ended up staying at the Ambassador Motor Inn at Rockhampton that evening. We set off to look for food on foot, and had a long walk before returning to the Sizzler we had bypassed earlier due to the large queue waiting to be seated. It’s located in the Rockhampton Shopping Fair, which also hosts a multi-cinema complex and a large number of shops. If we’re there on a weekday, we make a point of doing some of our shopping for things that aren’t easily obtained in Airlie Beach.

Rockhampton is situated on the Tropic of Capricorn. It is the hub of Queensland’s
cattle country and features large statues of bulls at the north and south ends of town. It’s on the Fitzroy River, about 40km from the coast.

Sunday 26th July we awoke early due to what sounded like renovation noises in the motel. We toured the Central Queensland University campus before leaving the area.

Lunch was at a busy service station at Carmila, where we had some great salad sandwiches, so large I could barely finish my second one. This place has good fuel prices as well as great food, and is popular with truck drivers, presumably for both reasons.

Reached Mackay—well into sugar cane country—around 2:30 p.m. and decided to push on to reach home before dark, rather than trying to catch up with our friends there.

Finally got to Airlie Beach, after about 2500 kilometres, around 5:30. Home at last! Then it was many trips up the stairs to unpack the car, and add its loot to my totally overcrowded shambles of a room here. We shot off to the Sailing Club for dinner, rather than trying to cook something.