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Good Grief Reef! Goodbye East.

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As the saying goes, time flies when you are having fun. We are rapidly approaching the 3 month mark of our 9 month adventure, and it’s hard to believe this much time has already passed. We are on the verge of saying goodbye to the East Coast, and while we have enjoyed this time, there is a feeling that there are more unique experiences and challenges to be had as we venture west to the outback and beyond.

After Hervey Bay we moved onto arguably our best stop yet in Agnes Water and 1770. We had never heard of either of these places, but were given the tip from some Byron Bay locals. We were immediately curious about a place with a number for a name. Seventeen Seventy gets its name as it was the site of explorer James Cook’s second Australian landing in May 1770. It is a tiny village of less than 100 people and is located on a peninsula that is surrounded by water on three sides. We joined the nightly tradition of watching the spectacular sunset over the calm waters of the west facing beach with the mainland in the background; a rare treat on the East Coast of Australia.

We stayed around 7km south of 1770 in the bigger sister village Agnes Water. It has a great little caravan park on the beach, with a nice cafe which was frequented daily. Free WiFi, good coffee and beach views made for a perfect trifecta. The beach is known as the last serious surf beach on the East Coast, as ‘The Reef’ disrupts any swell as you travel further north. Agnes is described as being like an out-of-the way Byron Bay, and you can definitely see where this description comes from. This little pocket of Queensland’s Discovery Coast is definitely on the ‘places to re-visit’ list.

Onwards further north to our next stop on the Capricorn Coast at Kinka Beach, just south of the the better known community of Yeppoon. This is the site where February’s Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia made landfall and wreaked a fair amount of havok. Upon exploring the surrounding communities and national parks, much of this damage was still quite evident. However, the rocky, rugged, volcanic coastline definitely maintains it’s own unique beauty.

On one rainy-day drive through the hinterland we had our own near natural disaster as a local farm dog decided to suddenly lurch out of the dense bushland directly in front of our Jeep! We collected the poor bugger and feared the worst as we came to a screeching halt. But the dog was nowhere to be seen. After about 10 seconds of silence the dog simply walked back out of the bushes on the other side of the road without a scratch, like a canine version of Lazarus, barking angrily at our roadside convention. We sheepishly checked the dog was ok, then collected some bits and pieces from our front bumper strewn back up the road, while the dog marched back home, still barking. We were left to marvel that they breed ‘em tough in Central Queensland!

While most of our stay at Kinka Beach was a bit wet and windy, we got the pick of the weather for a trip over to Great Keppel Island. This is a pristine group of islands a short 30 minute ferry ride off the coast. It has the white sand, the turquoise water and the reef just off shore, but it also has a strange feeling like you’ve just missed the party as you alight from the ferry. The small resort that once operated there is now closed and barricaded off, and was described by our ferry driver as being a bit like Jurassic Park. Despite, or perhaps because of this strange sensation we thoroughly enjoyed our day going on a glass-bottomed boat, swimming, walking on the beach and collecting driftwood.

From here we drove on through the endless fields of sugarcane to a free camp just north of McKay at the Leap Hotel. It was all happening at this iconic North Queensland country pub, with a Masterchef-style campfire cook-off, a 21st birthday party, all topped off with some good ol’ fashioned karaoke. Needless to say, Cold Chisel was given a decent belting on more than one occasion throughout the night. This was a fun one night stop on our way to the beautiful Whitsundays where we spent a few days at Airlie Beach. While the weather again wasn’t fabulous, meaning we didn’t make it out to any of the islands or the reef, we had a nice relaxing couple of days exploring the surrounding areas, including Proserpine, Dingo Beach, and a skinny dip (kids only, promise) at Cedar Falls. We also managed a chance meeting with a local Whitsundays photographer who has since joined the Austockphoto team – thanks Tim! Our final stop on the East Coast was for two nights in Townsville. We had a good family day in town exploring the Reef HQ Aquarium, the beachfront waterpark and playground, then checking out the impressive Castle Hill Lookout.

Due to our slow progress up the coast we have made the very tough decision to skip everything north of Townsville, including Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands, the Daintree and much more. These areas will definitely remain on our to-do list. It’s now time to saddle up and head into the wild west and on up towards Darwin. The further into our trip we get, we are starting to appreciate the absolute vastness of this country and the fact the we will most likely barely scratch the surface of what there is to see and experience.


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