Tales from The Bruce Highway Part 1

Trip Start Jan 23, 2012
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Trip End Jun 09, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Sunday, April 15, 2012

We left Airlie Beach bright and early the following morning for the 484km drive to Rockhampton. Soph cracked on with the first couple of hours of driving, before Neill took to the wheel for the final few hours. We arrived in the outskirts of Rockhampton relatively early, and like all previous arrivals, headed straight to the local tourist information centre and requested a list of local campsites for the night. Soon enough, we were camped up on the bank of the Fitzroy River and knocked up a cracking lunch of crisp butties - lovely!

We then headed out to explore the town a little. Hopefully we just caught Rockhampton on a bad day, but the town seemed a little rough around the edges and generally a little run down. We were determined to give the town a chance, so wandered around for a good couple of hours but strangely, everywhere was either shut or closed down, and there was literally no one around...it felt like a real ghost town!

On our wander across town, we learnt that Rockhampton bill themselves as the steak capital of Australia, and consequently, they hold an annual tournament to find the best steaks from around the country. Soon enough, we found a restaurant selling "2011's best festival steak" and with a billing like that we thought it must be worth a shot! So we popped into the restaurant, and despite the place being empty barring three tables, it took 20 minutes to get served, and we were then told the place was fully booked - despite being empty at 7.30pm! Disappointed, we headed back to the camp site and cooked up a storm of noodles...yum!

So the following day it's fair to say we were glad leave, and we were on our way to Rainbow Beach by 9am. The drive took the best part of 7 hours due to the 55 kilometers of constant roadworks (we're not exaggerating) in the Gladstone region. Thankfully, after that hair-thinning episode we made good progress with plenty of lovely scenery passing us by. One particular highlight was the town of Maryborough. Unfortunately we only passed through, but the place looked like it was right out of the 1900's - take away the cars and you'd genuinely feel like you'd been time-warped back a century. A really stunning, beautiful place and we've promised to visit there someday!

Soon after, we arrived at Rainbow Beach, named so because of it's multi-coloured sands on the beach and cliffs. We soon found Pippie's, a local backpacker's hostel that allowed camping, so we booked ourselves up for two nights. The following day, we were up bright and early for our tour to Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island, and world heritage listed since 1992.

Fraser island has been created by the powerful ocean taking the sand from Antarctica and dumping it in Australia until it reaches Fraser island.  It is now at the point that the waves take as much sand as they bring, so the island is unlikely to get any bigger.  Yet all this sand works it way further north until it reaches the continental shelf never to be seen again - it is so incredible to imagine that such a thing happens.

The day consisted of a pick up from our hostel in a 4x4 lorry, which took us to Fraser Island via a barge, and then via an 18km drive along the '75-mile beach' to the Euronga resort. There, we had some morning breakfast, before being driven to the Maheno shipwreck (details here), and then to Eli creek for a paddle in the freshwater. The views were simply incredible - we'd seen many beaches on our travels so far, but the natural beauty of this island was really something to behold. Unfortunately we couldn't swim in the beaches though as they were infested with sharks, so we had to hold off until later in the day. We then spent the next few hours exploring the island's beaches and freshwater creeks, which come from far inland, finally making their way to the beaches and to the sea. We then headed to the famous Lake McKenzie, one of only 12 perch lakes in the world, and set roughly 100 metres above sea level, containing purely rainwater. We had a good old swim for an hour or so, and took full advantage of the fine sand's exfoliating properties by scrubbing our hands and faces! Again, as you'll see from the photos, the natural beauty was something to behold.

Finally, we were taken on a two hour tour through the rain forests on the island (that's right, a rain forest in sand dunes!), and learned about the flora and fauna which live on Fraser. We were also told how 6 of the 20 world's most venomous snakes live on this island, so were glad to leave shortly after!

Two particular highlights were:

1) Our tour guide and driver, Cameron, a passionate local who's knowledge of Fraser is second to none. Anything he doesn't know isn't worth knowing! So if you happen to book a tour with Fraser Explorer Tours, ask for Cameron as your driver - you won't regret it.
2) Seeing a pack of wild dingoes roam the beaches. Unfortunately for a few local campers, the dingoes were chasing the scent from a nearby campsite and proceeded to tear open the tents, and food boxes within. No doubt whoever was staying there had a shock when they returned to their tent!

It was a real honour and a privilege to visit the island, and if we'd known how lovely it was prior to our visit, we may just have booked an overnight stay.

The following day, we continued on with our journey to Noosa!
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