After a fantastic 2 days sailing the Whitsundays, it was time for another epic journey south. Our ultimate destination was Noosa, some 1,000kms away and a good 12 hours of driving.
We split this into four chunks, and our first stop after getting back on to dry land on Friday afternoon was Mackay – a quick 90 minutes south. As stopovers go, I found little to like about the place (sorry, Mackay). The town was dead, aside from boy racers who glared at us from their cars, and our lurid green hostel room smelled like what I imagine a corpse embalmed in cheap coffee would smell like. Mind you, in a hostel we later discovered was described by Lonely Planet as “rough as guts” we probably got off lightly.
Oddly enough, we managed to hit the road pretty early the following day – a faint eau de coffee corpse cloud wafting after us.
As we drove through Rockhampton (beef capital of Australia and littered with giant fiberglass bulls, lest you forget it) we started to see signs advertising a rodeo a couple of hours further south. Neither of us had ever been to a rodeo (there aren’t many in West London) so we decided to head in until we saw the $30 price tag. Amazingly, Craig managed to blag us free entry for an hour (traveller tip: much can be achieved in Australia with your best British accent and an early mention that it’s your first time in Oz) so we got to go in and watch teenage boys (and one girl) fly round a ring aboard an extremely annoyed bullock. I wasn’t a big fan of the bull ring (it seems a bit cruel) but I did genuinely love that I was surrounded by people wearing both cowboy hats and boots without a shred of irony.
After an hour soaking up the atmosphere we headed on to our final stop for the day – the town of 1770 (actual name). Although we arrived late and left early, I rather liked the look of this charming little hamlet. It struck me as the type of place where life would quickly form a strict routine of morning coffees with the paper and maybe a nice stroll. Lovely.
Before we started our next leg of the drive we took an early morning walk down the long, sandy 1770 beach, which also had a cracking little camp ground attached, if you’re ever in the area. Even at 9am on a Sunday the beach was full of dog walkers, sunbathers and the Little Lifesavers club. I was struck by the fabulous quality of life here. These guys could be out on the beach in some form for upwards of ten months of the year, in almost permanent sunshine. I suddenly felt rather envious.
Our initial plan was to use Hervey Bay as our base for a Fraser Island tour but, for reasons I’ll go into in a later post, we ended up heading further south still to Noosa for our tour. Still, we spent a couple of days enjoying this sprawling little town and the first decent hostel we’d stayed at since Cairns.
We spent a couple of days catching up on travel admin (yes, it’s a thing), walking along the esplanade and enjoying the sunshine.
Hervey Bay is also famous for whale watching tours but, following a pretty disastrous trip a few years ago, Craig couldn’t be persuaded that we should blow our budget on another go so instead we took a walk down one of the longest piers in Australia – it stretches for over a kilometre.
Our final, and unexpected, stop was the resort town of Noosa, which is nestled into hills and around a river mouth. Although I didn’t expect to stay here, I’m glad we did. It is a smart little town with a nice beach and some lovely walks around the river mouth.
On Sundays there is a brilliant Farmers Market (and I do love a Farmers Market – nearly as much as I love an IKEA trip) – don’t eat before you go and take plenty of cash!
There is also a wonderful lookout above the town, which is great for sunsets but a bit of a hike if you don’t have a car.