From the truck stop in Townsville (just a convenient stopver in a car park) we headed along the coast and ended up at Glen Erin Farmstay near Bowen. This campsite had a campfire every evening in which they cooked and then served Damper. It tasted more like a cake than bread. Each day had two different flavours, we had Cinnamon, Apple, Beer & Golden Syrup, Mango. The campsite also had a kangaroo which they had hand reared and so was very tame.
From here we explored several beaches – Horseshoe Bay (very windy), Grays Bay on the opposite side of the peninsula which by contrast was very calm. Kings Beach was another windy one so we tried Queens Beach which was beautifully calm. We took advantage of the free gas barbecues which were in the picnic area by the beach. We found these dotted all over coastal Australia and made use of them on several occasions.
We booked onto a Great Barrier Reef Cruise from Airlie Beach with Cruise Whitsundays. It was an early start, the staff aboard were fantastic providing colouring for the kids to keep them busy whilst travelling to the reef. We stopped at Hamilton Island to pick up and drop off passengers, then got going to Hardy’s Reef. The ride was a little bumpy but nothing that the travel sickness pills couldn’t handle! Once at the reef the boat moored to a floating pontoon from which further activities were available. Nick signed up for the scuba diving and also hired an underwater camera, completing a dive either side of lunch. Nick hadn’t dived for 12 years, but this wasn’t a problem. He was with an instructor and buddied up with another tourist, so the group size was only 3. The kids and I went in the semi-submersible that did trips alongside the edge of the reef every hour or so, and also enjoyed views of the marine life from an underwater observatory which was attached to the pontoon.
We tried snorkelling from the pontoon, but the water was very cold, and there were only stinger suits in the kids sizes rather than wetsuits (available for the adults) and the kids were too scared to snorkel in the open water – even though there were ropes and buoys to guide you. So after a few tears and a very quick dip we got changed and warm again and went back into the semi-sub. The semi-sub gave us fantastic views of the reef and a member of staff was on board to name the fish and corals we saw. In hindsight I’m very pleased we chose this trip rather than a purely snorkelling trip.
Our next sightseeing stop was Eungella National Park, the last part of this journey taking in some very steep and windy roads which was interesting in a big motorhome. We had heard that Broken River was the place to see platypus, so that was our destination. After parking up, we followed the river and on reaching a pond it wasn’t long before we started to see some platypus. So after a picnic, plenty of photos and watching them dive and resurface, just a few metres away at one point, we made our way back down the winding roads.
From Broken River, we continued inland to Clermont and the gem fossicking areas.