14.03.2016 - 19.03.2016 32 °C
From Brisbane we continued up the M/A1 now named the "Bruce Highway" nice and early, so that on route to Riverheads and the Fraser Island ferry we would have time to make a quick diversion to Bli Bli and it's aquapark. This is a salt water lake complex on the Sunshine Coast, that consists of an inflatable assault course of immense proportions. $20 bought us each 50 mins on the assault course which doesn't sound like much but it was one of the best work outs I've had in many a year. My abs even now have not recovered from the frequent struggle to get back on the course after falling off or going down one of the awesome giant slides when I could conquer the not Sarah sized steps up to them!
We reached Riverheads with a few moments to spare, parked up and hopped on the Kingfisher Bay Fraser Island ferry (thank you Talah & Nick). Fraser Island is the world's biggest sand dune, the scale of which is hard to describe. It has a few hotels, lots of dingos, snakes and spiders and the longest pure sand highway on the planet.
After a short 50 minute sail we disembarked on the pier onto a little train (Rob of course loved this) that took us to the main resort building and then on to our room. Without a word to us at check in the staff had upgraded us to an ocean view room and we found chilled champagne and a congratulations on our wedding card in the room. We enjoyed the fizz that night sat on our balcony watching the sun go down. We sampled the one of the on site restaurants that evening and had a seafood tower for 2 that probably could have fed at least 7!
View from the pier train
Another early start for us the next morning saw us boarding our 4wd mini bus for our Beauty Spots Tour (thank you Danny & Jan) at 8am. There is only one very short road on Fraser and this leads to the old sand logging tracks that make up most of the road system. This was a very similar journey to some of the rollercoasters we went on a few days prior, and felt like what I imagine the inside of a tumble dryer feels like - it was great fun! First stop was the Stone Tool Sand Blow.
Then it was onto 75 Mile Beach, which is a beach and a highway, but not actually 75 miles long. There we met up with Air Fraser and some very small prop planes (only seating 5 people) for a scenic flight over some of the highlights of the island. I as always when involving going high up in something not a big jumbo jet type plane was terrified, and Rob as always laughed at me and tried to capture my fear on film. The take off and landing on the beach were incredible, as were the views from the flight, however I remain unconvinced that this type of flight is for me!
The plane dropped us off at Eli Creek, where the bus had made its bumpy way to. Eli Creek is a freshwater and somehow freezing stream that is great to float down in a tube.
After a morning tea and time to dry off in the sun, we continued along the beach to the Maheno shipwreck, which doesn't look so healthy after almost 70 years and a few cyclones.
Then on to the Pinnacles before a buffet lunch at a resort along the 75 Mile Beach.
The last stop of the day was Lake Mckenzie, a white sandy beach lined fresh water lake known for its healing powers. I don't know if I was healed of anything after an hour splashing in the lake but my skin felt very soft and my rings were shiny clean after a scrub in the pure white sand.
The vastness of Australia is not something you can comprehend looking at the maps, and although you hear how big it is compared to Europe or the US until you drive it and can drive for over 150km without seeing even a village you don't get it. As our drive to the next stop (Airlie Beach) was about 900km we broke it up with a night in Rockhampton at the Denison Boutique Hotel, which is in the old rail post station near the centre of town. This is the most outback town we are going to on our trip (ignoring Ayers Rock) and it had a wild west feel that we both loved. The hotel was spectacular with high ceilings, 4 poster bed and a spa bath filled with rose petals.
The town has grown up around the railway and this means that the trains run right down the middle of the road no doubt causing traffic chaos in rush hour. The line ran down the road the hotel was on and it was an odd sight to see these massive locomotives chugging through the shops. Opposite the hotel was the Grand Western, another old hotel and bar but one which has a full rodeo stadium in the back room. Sadly we were a few weeks too early for the rodeo. I can't comment on much of the town as we only had a few waking hours there, nor can I comment on the restaurants as we just had a Dominos in the hotel room as we had a 5am start planned to get us to Airlie in time to catch our yacht. Dominos in Oz is $5 if you collect, this is £2.60 and I can think of a few people who would be very jealous about this!
We started our Whitsundays cruise abroad the Powerplay on St Patrick's day at midday, and we sailed straight out for a rendezvous with their dive boat. As the only certified diver I had a guide all to myself and we went on a sadly unsuccessful shark hunt, but as the Whitsundays are still in the Great Barrier Reef the corals and other sealife were still incredible. Rob went off for a shorter dive with a group of beginners and was much improved from his first rather clumsy dives in Malaysia a few years ago (thank you Pam & Stef). Back on the yacht we cruised to another awesome snorkelling site before a BBQ dinner and stargazing from the hot tub on the bow of the yacht, with a glass of 2 of "goon" (very cheap boxed Australian white wine that is a must pack when sailing the Whitsundays.
Apparently all boats have early starts, and Powerplay was no different, by 7am we were all out of bed and out on deck cruising towards Whitehaven Beach, somewhere after almost 24 hours on a constantly shifting deck and feeling a tad queasy (again Rob laughed at me) I was rather happy to reach. After a quick bush walk from the landing beach to the viewing platform we arrived at Whitehaven Beach, and the postcards really don't do it justice! Here we got a few hours to lay on the beach and sunbathe, or go into the water and splash around with lemon sharks and stingrays, and even the odd turtle or 2.
Yes this is a very rare sighting of the Rob reading a book!!!!
Back on Powerplay we had lunch and journeyed to another snorkelling site before dinner and another glorious sunset.
The next morning we reached the mainland at Airlie Beach at 10am, and were ready to start our longest car journey yet, the 600+km drive to Cairns, our last stop on the east coast, and from where I am writing this blog.