Thursday and Friday 12th& 13thApril 2018
Our drive through Hervey Bay and Noosa into Coolum Beach marked our return to ‘civilisation’ after three days off the beaten track. Our ‘welcome’ to the Sunshine Coast was a sharp increase in campsite charges from $30 to $63 a night. The Sunshine Coast is made up of a succession of towns along this stretch of coast, some with tighter planning laws than others judging by the spread of high-rise buildings casting their shadows across the beaches. All power to the elbows of the residents of Yaroomba who are in the middle of a bitter fight to prevent the monstrosities encroaching on their community judging by the proliferation of posters and stickers we saw.
Coolum Beach is pretty much right in the centre of the Sunshine Coast and dominating its beachfront is the Coolum Beach surf club. This is a large modern two-storey building, about the size of a primary school. A quick stroll along the esplanade showed us that the surf club was the most happening place judging by the lights blazing out so Wendy dragged me in to explore further (purely in the interests of this blog of course). The club was members only, but that was quickly rectified by signing the register and automatically becoming members. So we climbed the stairs into a vast brightly lit bar that was packed in Coolum terms – there were three other customers! They were dotted around the room sitting on tall bar stools and staring at the ten large screens around the bar all showing a different sport and linked to a ‘Keno’ betting booth in the corner. Keno was the same company we had seen in the bar of the Burnett Heads Hotel earlier in the week. Off the bar was a room full of pokies and down the corridor was a large empty restaurant area. The barmaid was working a double shift that night and told us that just one person playing the pokies for a minute could spend more than her wages for the entire shift! No wonder they have an ATM point placed right outside the pokies room. It is no wonder gambling is a big social problem in Australia. It turned out that all the surf club activity takes place on the ground floor and the top floor is for ‘income generation’.
Apart from the Surf Club the most dominant feature on the Coolum skyline is Mount Coolum. This is one of four or five abrupt hills that standout on the flat plain that stretches from Bundaberg to Brisbane. At this point the geologists amongst you will be stroking their chins, nodding sagely and muttering;
“That is an ancient volcanic dome called a laccolith and probably created 26million years ago when a dome-shaped bulge of magma cooled below the Earth’s surface.”
If so, you are absolutely correct.
On Thursday morning the hill was just too inviting to ignore, so we pulled in to the car park at its foot where we were confronted by a notice board warning us of the difficulties of the climb in no uncertain terms; entreating us to check our fitness, our health, our foot wear, our water supplies and our medical insurance before attempting the 200 metre ascent.
It was steep; almost all the way we were climbing up steps that were either part of the hexagonal rock structure or had been cut into the rock itself. At the top there was the obligatory phone mast and a 360˚ view that would have been stupendous if the visibility wasn’t so poor. It still felt like a very special place, the Mount Coolum She-Oak is found only here and no where else in the world and even here it is endangered due to a fire some years ago.
On the stroke of lunch, according to my stomach, we pulled into our destination for the night, Mooloolaba (I think this is my favourite Australian place name so far). The campsite was again right on the beach and very similar to last night’s as it is run by the same council. Mooloolaba had been recommended to us by Claire and Reuben and it clearly had a bit more of a vibe than Coolum, but was not as pretentious as Noosa had seemed. Wendy immediately hit the beach in order to recover from the morning’s exertions on Mount Coolum and I explored the campsite. I am fascinated by Australians camping. Everything is done on a much grander scale than in the UK. Their vehicles are all macho 4x4s, or ‘Utes’ (a bit like a pick up). They are all kitted out as if they have just driven overland across the central desert from Perth rather than the Bruce Highway from Brisbane; weighed down with shovels, sand tracks, Jerri cans, UHF aerials, kangaroo bars and windshield stone protectors. The caravans and camping trailers are of a similarly rugged style, built on off-road chassis, with lots of aluminium plating, double axles and with stone guards that would see off small nuclear explosions. Then there are the accessories, air-conditioning units and full size domestic fridges and freezers in the awnings and awnings on the awnings. For extra bragging points, the family next door to us had rigged up an outside cinema for their children with a screen and digital projector.
Opposite the campsite was Mooloolaba’s Sea World Aquarium. We haven’t been to one of these for at least twenty years so we felt we had to check it out, especially as the campsite had a special deal with them. It was well worth a visit as it specialises in Australian species and especially those of the east coast. It also had the largest underwater tunnel we can remember – it was mesmerising standing seemingly right in the middle of squadrons of sharks and rays swimming around and over us. There was also a section devoted to jelly fish and a sheet of plate glass and ultra violet lighting made these look like works of art rather than the nasty horrible ‘stingers’ we know them to be.
The Sunshine Coast has more than its fair share of beautiful beaches and this autumn it has lived up to its name with clear blue skies from dawn ‘til dusk – it is weird to be in a country where the sun doesn’t rise until 0600 and it is blazing hot by 0700 and doesn’t cool down until after the sunsets at 1730 (they don’t do twilight either)!
At the end of a very full week on the road, we pointed the van southwards, down the Bruce Highway and back to Brisbane with just enough time for a wash and brush up before meeting Katy and Ant in town for a taste of the city’s nightlife.