Cairns to Brisbane via the Bruce Highway: Let the Driving Begin (February 5 – 10)

Australia is a huge country and to arrive in Melbourne before our flight on February 27, we had to quickly cover some ground. Interestingly, Brisbane was going to be the halfway point in terms of distance (1700 km) on our trip, and we planned to get there in 6 days. So that meant a few long drive days through the province of Queensland.

The drive was beautiful through sugar cane fields, banana trees, and rainforest. We did have good radio stations which played mostly 80‘s music.  The radio was also good for learning the local slang and we learned that Aussie’s really like to add a ‘ie’ sound to the end of every word!  Examples… Sunnies, swimmies, brekky, esky, and mozzie!  I guess everything here is “EEE-SY”.

We also kept ourselves occupied by looking for wildlife. We saw lots of kangaroo signs and a few dead kangaroos but only spotted one that was alive in this whole stretch!

Besides all of the kangaroo warning road signs that we had been seeing, there was also one stretch of road between MacKay and Rockhampton where there is not a single town for 332 km, and they even had signs with trivia questions to keep the drivers alert! They call rest areas “driver revivers” too.J Another interesting difference is that they have speed cameras everywhere along the highways instead of patrols. They do warn you in advance but still no speeding for us!

So instead of boring you with our day by day, I am going to share a few of the highlights that we saw along this stretch of road. On February 6, we visited Magnetic Island which is 8 km offshore from Townsville. We spent the day in the tiny town of Arcadia, where we had a hard time finding a place open for lunch. We finally found a small pub and enjoyed our food while watching the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl! So strange to be watching it live during lunch on Monday!

After lunch, we swam in the nice bay which had a stinger net up to protect us from the deadly box jellyfish. It was super hot, 110 with the heat index, so the water was a nice treat. But I think the highlight of the day was seeing Rock Wallabies! They where hiding in the shade, but after some looking, we found a bunch of them. They were small, maybe 18” tall, and fairly shy. It was fun to see our first marsupials of the trip!

Our highlight the next day was also Australia’s amazing wildlife. We took a 100 km detour inland to Eungella National Park which includes a 30,000 year rainforest to try our luck at seeing a platypus in the wild. We took a short hike up the Broken river to a small viewing platform and were immediately greeted with tons of turtles swimming. They kept us entertained, while we waited for the shy platypus. We got lucky and after 10 minutes we had our first sighting. It was really cool to watch them swim, dive and then come back up to the surface. It was easy to lose them while underwater and the only sign of them would be their bubbles. I was surprised that they were so small, only about 12” long or so, but they were quick and really cool looking! We also saw a mean looking eel that must have been 3’ long! The detour was totally worth it, and after talking with lots of Aussies, it really is rare to see these amazing animals in the wild!

After 2 long drive days back to back, we were ready for some relaxation and a nice place to celebrate our 10 month wedding anniversary. Noosa turned out to be the perfect spot, even with its 100 roundabouts! Our campsite was located 10’ from the Noosa Sound with breathtaking views of the water and forested national park.

The main beach was a nice place to cool off, and there were no more worries about crocs and stingers, as we were now south of the Tropic of Capricorn. In the evening, we took a sunset cruise around the sound on a ferry boat. It was Bring Your Own, BYO, so we enjoyed a nice bottle of wine while watching the sun set over the sound with a backdrop of mountains. Very romantic and we also got to cruise around as our captain pointed out which of the fancy mansions had the nicest open-air kitchens. It was a nice indulgence and a special way to celebrate 10 months of marriageJ

I think we were both a little sad to leave Noosa the next day, but we needed to continue to make our way south to Brisbane. Brisbane is Australia’s fastest growing city and third largest. After checking into our overpriced campsite, we hopped the bus to city center. It was a sunny Friday afternoon, and we arrived in the pedestrian mall at lunchtime, so all of the city workers were out soaking up some sun. It gave the town a wonderful, happy feel. I also noticed right away that it was super clean with even special garbage cans for cigarette butts!

After following suit with the locals by eating our lunch on a bench in the mall, we started our walking tour of downtown. Brisbane has many beautiful historic buildings and lots of green space. Most of the historic buildings had a very British feel to them, including St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which was designed by the same guy who designed London’s parliament building. One thing I found funny was that the historic Treasury building is now being used as a casino!

My favorite historic building was the Commissariat Stores building that was built by convict labor in 1829. We arrived just in time to join the tour of the building. The tour guide was a retired attorney and kept us entertained with stories of the convicts, including a murder that occurred on-sight and historical tidbits. On the first floor of the building, they had models set up of what the town looked like in the 1830’s. The only other surviving convict built structure is a windmill used to grind grain. It was interesting because Brisbane rarely has wind, so most days the convicts had to manually run the mill. About 12 convicts had to rotate the mill by stair stepping on a treadmill. Wow, did that look miserable!

We ended our day with a nice walk through the botanical gardens and a ferry ride downtown. It was a great day and I can see why so many people are moving to Brisbane as it is a wonderful, green, sunny city!

So after 6 days of driving, we had covered half of our total distance. It was a beautiful stretch of land and we really enjoyed having our own wheels! But now, we were ready for some beach time…

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