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Brisbane to Cairns via the sunny here and there

After a washed-out summer of floods and cyclones and what felt like a year of solid rain in Auckland, we fled to Australia seeking blue skies and warmer temperatures. We weren’t disappointed – mostly.

In a large, rental motorhome the first thing you realise about driving in Queensland is how smoothly the motorway systems interchange, by-passing everything along the way. If we were going to see the beauty of the mountains and the coast, we would need to make some side trips. The second thing is how vast – and flat – much of Queensland is.

Used to a carefree, ‘let’s see’ style of caravanning in New Zealand, we had made a draft plan and booked a couple of caravan parks to cover the first few days. After that we thought we’d decide where next as it happened. We quickly had to sit down and rework how far we needed to travel each day to actually make Cairns before the plane left. And it was further than we thought. Suddenly, some of our leisurely three night-two days stopovers were crossed off the list to be replaced with shorter hops and one-night stays.

We were also astonished both by the number of caravans on the road, mostly from other states looking for sunshine just like we were, and the size of the campgrounds. One of our first bookings was at Cotton Tree Beach at Maroochydore. Originally, a 215 acre reserve gazetted in 1873 where The Salvation Army established an encampment for holiday makers, today, (at roughly 9 hectares) it is the oldest and one of the largest in Queensland.

Here was our first taste of the boulevards, promenades, strands, and esplanades that line the coast of Queensland. In nearly every town we visited, there was a waterfront or riverside park incorporating paved walkways, BBQ and picnic areas, beautiful trees for shade, fountains, band stands, and swimming pools of various depths for everyone to enjoy.

We walked kilometres to and fro along these pathways while the adjacent beaches were nearly empty, but if it was warm for us with sunny blue skies, mild temperatures in the low to mid-20s and low humidity, it was still winter in July for the locals. Swimming isn’t our thing at the best of times, but we do love walking the beaches and these waterfront parks were generally beautiful everywhere we went.

Our first side trip was inland into the hills of the Blackall Ranges and the town of Montville with all its charming shops. After lunch there at the Poet’s Cafe, we travelled on through Maleny to the Australian Zoo, enjoying the scenery and ease of travel. The zoo lived up to its reputation, but we avoided the school holiday hype of the crocodile show and wandered peacefully among the park like surroundings inspecting the animals. It was the only time we were to see any native animals, until visiting a smaller Koala sanctuary near Cairns. So far so good. We had a lovely day even though the skies turned grey and threatening, it was still warm. We arrived back at our campsite satisfied, but too late to sit outside and enjoy the evening as dark fell soon after 5pm.

The next day, after breakfast at one of the cafes and with the skies remaining gloomy, we headed north to the resort style village of Noosa Heads but found we preferred our walk along the Noosaville Riverside, which was less crowded and more peaceful. We had intended to visit the Big Pineapple on the way back, but the skies opened, and it tippled down so we returned to our campsite to hunker down for the night, hoping that the sun would return soon. The Sunshine Coast had not lived up to its name during our stay, but we will return one day. There’s so much more to see and do.
Read Part Two next week.

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