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Australian Road Trip: Part Two

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Missed Part One? Read it here!

Day 6: Finch Hatton Gorge – Rockhampton

After two glorious days of rainforest relaxation, we were feeling pretty upbeat about the remaining section of our road trip. Our optimism was, however, to be short-lived. Given that the Platypus Bushcamp was unpowered there was no possibility of booking any ongoing accommodation online. Wazza kindly rang around a few places in our intended destination (the town of 1770, where Captain Cook first alighted Down Under) but no-one had availability. We therefore drove into nearby Finch Hatton, which had a small local museum with a couple of internet-connected PCs. 1770 is a popular destination and there was very little available at short notice, so we settled on Captain Cook’s Holiday Village, which we booked through, paying in full for two nights.

Half-way there, just outside the Australian beef capital, Rockhampton, we pulled over to make a phone call to the hotel, as we’d experienced quite a few delays due to roadworks and thought we had better arrange for a key to be left for us, as we now did not expect to arrive within the reception’s desk hours. What happened next was truly astonishing: a confused woman answered the phone, and told us she did not really know how to use the computers, her boss was away, and she had never heard of Furthermore, she said, she could not “let us stay” without a booking. Our protestations that we definitely did have a booking and had paid in full fell on deaf ears and the exchange ended with an abrupt hanging-up of the phone (her not us).

Night driving

Night driving

Unwilling to drive a further 200 kms through the night to a tiny town which may or may not have alternative places to stay, we instead decided to look for a hotel room in Rockhampton. The first listing in Lonely Planet was for an old period hotel just a few kms down the road called The Criterion, so we headed there and were pleased to be met by a friendly and helpful receptionist who was glad to accommodate us and even loaned us a DVD player free of charge. We concluded our day with a well-deserved steak dinner.

Day 7: Rockhampton

Rockhampton is a curious place. The reason we’d intended to drive through it rather than stay there was because Lonely Planet and everyone we met in Australia said there was nothing to see or do. However, when we stepped outside of our lovely hotel onto a street of gorgeous Victorian buildings lining an attractive quayside, it occurred to us they might be missing a trick. The staff at The Criterion were so friendly, and the room so comfortable we were keen to stay another night if we could find something to do. There just happened to be a tourist information office a few doors down from the hotel, which is where we learned about the Dreamtime Cultural Centre just outside of town: a museum dedicated to Aboriginal history and culture, including digeridoo demonstrations and lessons in throwing a boomerang. Far too good an opportunity to pass up!

Adrian throwing a boomerang (it didn't come back)

Adrian throwing a boomerang (it didn't come back)

After a fascinating couple of hours at Dreamtime, we headed for the local zoo to check out the crocodiles, kangaroos and koalas, and then had dinner at a local pub. Conclusion: if anyone tells you not to bother with Rockhampton don’t believe them!

Koala bear - so cute!

Koala bear - so cute!

Day 8: Rockhampton to Noosa

Having secured our refund from for the failed attempt to secure a room at Captain Cook’s Holiday Village, we checked out of the Criterion Hotel and headed for the local library where free internet and cheap food – both rarities in Australia – awaited us. Our next destination was Noosa, where we managed to book an online special for a holiday apartment near the beach. After calling to make sure they’d definitely received the booking, we headed off for some traditional Aussie beach fun!

Day 9: Noosa

We have to admit, Noosa is gorgeous. It’s the kind of picture-postcard beach resort paradise most of us dream of throughout the drizzle and cold of the UK winter. Definitely a rich-kids’ playground, Noosa is packed to the brim with plush resorts, holiday homes and marinas for yachts and sailboats. That said, it makes reasonable provision for the budget traveller, and our apartment was of a surprisingly high standard considering we didn’t pay much above hostel prices for it.

Our day in Noosa began with a swim in our complex’s pool and a soak in the hot tub before heading down to the beach. Those of you who know Adrian will be aware that he’s not really the sit-around-on-a-beach type (Emily is much more amenable to this concept!) but on this occasion he was persuaded to spend a full 10 minutes lying in the sun and enjoying doing nothing! This is such a rare occurrence that we decided to create a special picture blog all about our day at the beach.

Day 10: Noosa to Brisbane

Brisbane is only 1.5 hrs estimated drive from Noosa. Based on our experience of driving on Australian roads, we decided to allow 3 hours – which still gave us most of the day in Noosa. Unwilling to spend large amounts of money on expensive watersports, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that it was actually fairly cheap to rent a small motorised boat to self-drive along the Noosa Sound. Thus was our morning spent – and with glorious sunshine, incredible views and a clean, bright white boat, it’s hard to imagine having made better use of our time.

Boat people

Boat people

Arriving in Brisbane in the early evening, we were struck by its hills and busy streets, which seemed oddly reminiscent of San Francisco. Our hotel for the night was the delightful Annie’s Shandon Bed and Breakfast: a Victorian inn that is still owned by the grand-daughter of its founder Annie. The couple managing the inn were Jan and Murray, from New Zealand, who made us feel extremely welcome and even invited us to have tea and cake with them: a very satisfactory end to a wonderful road trip.

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