- QUEENSLAND TRAVELOGUE -
For the past month your diarist has been visiting
the cities and resorts between Byron Bay and Cooktown. (A good
site is Jasons.com.au)
Here is an annotated history of my travels-
First stop was Byron Bay, the easternmost point of
Australia. Together with the hinterland, BB has long been a haven
for those who desire alternative lifestyles. For some four
I have been a camper at the BB council camping ground. Ever since
Paul Hogan (aka Crocodile Dundee) moved there, the attitude towards
itinerants has degenerated. Now camping rates are $24 for a
unpowered tent site in the "off" season. (Was about $12) Goodbye
Next was Maroochydoor, a booming tourist beach in
the middle of the "Sunshine Coast" about 100 Km north of
Brisbane. Arrived late at night, and found a late game of Chess
at a coffee shop (reasonable coffee) near Alexandra Headland. My
opponent was an American from San Diego who said he had recently
retired from employment in aircraft maintenance. Chet was living
on his 30 foot yacht moored at the local marina. He suggested
that I could sleep overnight in my wagon in the local council
garage. (I have a futon and Toyota station wagon).
On to Bundaberg, an inland (by 30Km) sugar town around 250Km N of Brisbane. The camping ground by the river was cheap ($10) and the other campers depressing. On Sunday morning I attended the "Shalom" market at the local Catholic school. The big chain store Woolworths was selling petrol to long queues of customers for 75.9 c/L, (with the 4c discount, for 71.9c/L). The other ten service stations were selling for 79.9 c/L, and had no customers at all. Predatory pricing indeed! I was told that the low price had been maintained for a long time, and that there had already been a couple of bankruptcies. (There is not much sympathy in most of Australia for service station owners.) The local beach resort at Bargara served quite decent coffee. The ocean beach had no waves. Bargara is at the southern end of the Coral reef.
Gladstone (pop. 30,000?) on the coast 100 Km further
north is an industrial (coal, shale, aluminium) town. There is a
quite respectable harbour, and offshore islands to visit. It had
been raining, and much of my gear was wet. Friends of my daughter
(Tharyn & Rob) let me sleep on their couch & dry out for a
couple of days. They had a flat near the middle of town. Quite
decent coffee can be purchased in a plaza off the main street in
Rockhampton is an inland (sugar & beef) town of
about 50,000 located a few Km north of the Tropic of Capricorn. I
camped in a council park ($7/single) by the river (N side) in the
of town. I quite liked Rockhampton, and decent coffee can be had
in the mall at the backpacker pub in the old city center (S side of
river). Travelled to the local beach report, Yeppoon. Nice
resort, with lots of housing being built to the south. Did not take the
ferry to Keppel Island, which sounded like a rip off at $30 return,
camping possible for $25 overnight.
Mackay is a coastal town, again about 50,000.
I camped at a beach park, and slept whilst 10 centimeter (4") waves
crashed on the beach. At $16 single it was the cheapest ripoff in
town. Shopping is Ok, but could not find a decent coffee.
Airlie beach is a small (pop 5,000?) coastal resort
for the offshore Whitsunday Islands. Nice shops, decent coffee,
and a nice coastal lagoon. (All ocean beaches inside the coral
reef North of Bundaberg are considered unsafe for swimming because of
stingers). Camping was expensive, so I moved on, and slept at Inkermann
lookout, recommended by a retired Melbourne couple I met at
Airlie. They were living in a small (2Tonne?) closed truck, and
didn't like paying camping fees.
Townsville is the second largest (and in my
judgement nicest) city in Queensland. There is a rocky mountain
nearly 1000 feet high plonked in the middle of the city. There is
a road to the top of that mountain. I drove up at about 6am, and
found about 30 hardy souls who had apparently walked up. Quite
decent coffee can be had at a restaurant on the beach, and also at
Horseshoe Beach on Magnetic Island. The ferry ride is about $10
return. Magnetic island has a permanent population numbered in
thousands, I was advised that there were camping sites on the island
On the return trip I visited Mission beach, between
Townsville & Cairns. Passable coffee. The popular Dunk
Island resort is offshore. I did not visit the Atherton
tablelands, a rich agricultural region between Cairns & Townsville.
The backpacker "Mecca" of Cairns was a
disappointment. It is probably a backpacker destination because of the
international airport. To it's credit, Cairns has free public hot
showers on the Esplanade, which is the street that parallels the beach,
and reasonable (but expensive) coffee can be had. On the debit
side, the town is antiseptic in it's layout, (like Canberra) and is the
only town where I was stopped by (reasonably polite) police. Cairns has
an expanding population of parking meters. (I got an infringement
notice when my window ticket had expired by six minutes).
Basically, Cairn's felt to me like a ripoff town. There was no
close in, cheap camping ground.
Port Douglas about half an hour's drive north was a rich man's winter playground. Shops with the ambience of Double Pay (Double Bay in Woollahra, Sydney), and good coffee, Turkish toast.
I next drove up to Daintree, (of Green Protest fame) and there found good coffee and about five restaurants in & around a village with a population numbered at most in the hundreds. Decided not to pay $20 for the car ferry that would have permitted me to drive up to Cape Tribulation. Instead, backtracked to Mossman and took the inland route to Cooktown (pop around 5,000) through quite interesting mountainous/tableland cattle country. Cooktown is a slow moving town with wide streets and several tourist resorts. There is a large aboriginal presence, and a quite good artefacts shop. As it was late I slept in the car, and next morning walked up the local headland/lookout/hill (300 feet?) which had a plaque claiming that it was the oldest European settlement in Australia, since Cook camped at that site for 56 days while repairing the "Endeavour".
On the way south I called in to see a friend at
Noosaville who I had not seen for decades. Peter has started an
online Gallery. We argued politics for a while,
then we visited another friend, Dimitri. Everyone bitched about
the way that booming real estate prices were affecting their
lives. Decent coffee can be had at Noosaville.
A couple of days later arrived at another friend's
GROWS coffee, and gave me a few hundred grammes of his home grown &
roasted coffee, which is about the nicest coffee that I have tasted.
- RICHARD NEVILLE -Usually I avoid commenting or even bothering to read) liberal journalists. However Peter persuaded me to look at richard neville's blog.