Yeppoon to Cape Hillsborough National Park 20 - 23 July 2012

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August 3rd 2012
Published: August 8th 2012
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The journey to Yeppon was long and tortuous due to the condition of the roads - major road works were everywhere with long stretches under repair. Huge sections of the tarmac had just been lifted out of the ground caused by the severe flooding last year. We have never seen so many men and women employed on the roads. Mainly manually operated traffic lights were in use and long queues to get through but then you only got to the next section of repairs.........signs did warn us though of long delays.

We finally arrived in Rockhampton (Rocky), the beef capital of Queensland. A large roundabout at the entrance to the city had a massive statue of one of these huge beasts standing high above the surrounding countryside. Julie the owner at our last campsite had told us that during the recent floods she was unable to get her visting daughter back home as she lived north of Rocky. So much water had flooded the area and had even reached up to the statue’s leg. It made one realize how wide and vast the flood must have been in this relatively flat area for it to get as high as the statue's leg. Julie managed to drive through later when the flood waters had receded and she vividly remembers the smell which was so strong that they had to keep all their windows up for miles.

We continued on stopping at Emu Park to have lunch overlooking the ocean with a few islands just off shore. They had wonderful names like Halfway and Humpy Islands. It was such a picturesque location to just sit and chill and watch the world go round - after lunch we wandered along the seashore for a while and noticed that there were lots of Yellow Masked Plovers in the area, we had seen many of the Red Masked birds in Sri Lanka - they look like something out of Phantom of the Opera...... Just behind the beach on a small hill was the Singing Ship Memorial to Captain Cook which was an inventive pure white monument of drilled tubes and pipes which emitted mournful whistling and moaning sounds in the breeze. It was quite eerie standing there looking out over the ocean with the music vibrating all around us. The monument itself reminded us of a smaller version of the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.

We finally arrived at Yeppoon which is a small seaside town with a long straight beach and our caravan park was located right next to the beach a little walk back into town which we did to pick up some supplies. We managed to obtain the last remaining site and the owner told us that it was an emergency site! We soon found out why as the whole park was full of grey nomads who did not just stop for a few days but some of them spent months here. The whole park was like a small town. For instance at Site Number 21 you could get your hair cut for $15 dollars but go to Site Number 12 you could get it done for $10. Other nomads were offering others services and you could get just about anything you wanted. That being said they were all very friendly people and we met our neighbours Harry and Theresa from Ballarat who came here every year and said that it was a very friendly environment. Whilst we were there there were raffles and free barbecues at many different sites. Apparently they held regular events and one of the popular ones was a game of cricket on the huge flat beach behind the site. Those north of the ‘site office’ against those south of the ‘site office’. They asked us if we were staying as they were going to celebrate Christmas in July with one huge party. Christmas in July seems to be the big Ozzie thing - I think it is because July is their ‘cold month’ whereas in December it is hot in most States - it was shame we were going to miss it but we have to move on. A campervan a few doors up from us even had their christmas lights out!!!!!!!!! Would not be the same though as I think it should be celebrated at the right time - it seems to have lost its meaning............

We had come to the Yeppoon area to visit Great Keppel Island which was only 13 km off shore and we were hoping to be able to get out to the island to do some snorkelling - weather permitting. Great Keppel was the largest of over 18 islands all within 20km of the coast in this area. Unlike the coral cay island we had visited at Lady Musgrave recently which were a build up of tiny fragments of coral, these islands were originally rocky outcrops of the mainland and very different. However this was not to be as the both boats we tried to get on were not going out for a few days, the only other option was the ferry but we had wanted to go snorkelling and would not be able to get into the water without wetsuits etc. In the end we decided that there was no point in going particularly as the ferry fare was $50 each and we would not be able to get into the sea.

Disappointed that we would not be able to get into the ocean we did try and make the most of our time here and undertook various walks. Most had excellent views out over the ocean and the islands nearby - it reminded us a little of the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. We travelled to a view point called Wreck Point and saw a few dolphins swimming in the bay far below. We chatted to a couple from Adelaide who loved travelling. The wife said she was quite happy as she did not have to worry about the washing. She just filled a small tub they had in the caravan with washing and some powder and as they drove around the washing got cleaned!

We wandered around the Keppel Bay Marina in Rosslyn Bay which was a modern marina with just a shop and cafe - sold really good coffee and cake though. In the car park next to the harbour a couple of Sea Osprey had built their nest on the top of a street lamp and we watched the male flying around whilst his mate sat on the nest. We walked up to a lookout called Double Point which had tremendous ‘double views’ of both the harbour entrance and the island - a long hike up but so worth it. We later drove back to Emu Park to have lunch looking out over the lovely bay and chatted to a couple who had lived here for 7 years. They said they loved living here but were concerned with the pollution from a newly built jetty where the locally mined coal and gas were being uploaded and the smells were emanating into their picturesque town. What once had been a thriving fishing community was slowly declining and fish stocks were depleting rapidly. They were also worried about the large number of cancers being detected amongst the local population - quite an emotive subject and reason of concern to the local populous.

Our next journey was quite long as we were travelling 400+ kilometers north to Cape Hillsborough National Park. This small coastal park just north of Mackay was quite rugged dominated by the 300m high Cape Hillsborough and Andrews point with Wedge Island joined by a causeway at low tide. We had a really nice pitch for our van completely private and surrounded by palms and other vegetation. We walked down the few metres to the sea and wandered along the shore and watched the sun set. A lovely kingfisher was sat on one of the rocks - usually they are along side rivers but this one was quite happy in the middle of the beach. On the beach, sand bubbler crabs had left their intricate patterns in the sand - as pretty as a picture. Whilst in the trees around the campsite we spotted several Sunbirds with their striking yellow colour and pure blue neck and upper breast we had last seen these striking small birds in Cairns last year.

The shoreline was dotted with several shells and we were astonished to find the unusual Pansy Shells (because the beautiful shell has a perfect flower carved on one side) - we thought we knew what they were because when we were with Bronwyn and Alan in Melbourne they had shown us one they has found on a beach in Mozambique. The shells on the beach here though were much smaller but seemed to have the same flower pattern on one side. Apparently they are called different names in different parts of the world and are not all the same but are related. They are known as Sand Dollar, Sea Cookie, Snapper Biscuits in New Zealand and Pansy Shell in South Africa. They are actually not a shell at all but a living Echinoid that feeds whilst burying itself just under the surface of the sand in shallow water. When alive it is purple in colour and it is only when it is dead that its bleached white by the salt and the sun. Pansy shells have the best of both worlds as they are born male and then later become female in order to lay the eggs already fertile inside them. Related animals include sea urchins, sea cucumbers and the lovely starfish. I liked the legend that is told though about the pansy shell:

There is a pretty little legend

That I would like to tell

Of the birth and death of Jesus

Found in this lovely shell

If you examine carefully

You’ll see that you find here

Four small holes and a fifth one

Made by the roman spear

On one side the Easter Lily

Its centre is the star

That appeared unto the shepherds

And led them afar

The Christmas Poinsettia

Etched on the other side

Reminds us of his birthday

Our happy Christmas

Now break the centre open

And here you will release

The five white doves awaiting

To spread goodwill and peace

The simple little symbol

Christ has left for you and me

To help us spread his gospel

Through all eternity

The Mozambique shells do actually have five little pieces in the shape of doves inside but Bronwyn and I were unable to ascertain whether the smaller ones I found on the beach in Cape Hillsbourbough did as when we cracked them open they were too small to be able to tell.

Later walking around the campsite we came across this very large friendly Eastern Grey Kangaroo which apparently was called Bridget and she was quite tame. We saw her wander into an open cabin a few doors down which was decorated with paintings and had various bits of furniture. She hopped in looked at some of the paintings on the wall and them just made herself at home staring at us through the open side - it was so bizarre but we think it was her home.

The Cape Hillsborough National Park features rough cliffs and rocky headlands with some sand dunes surrounded by mangroves and a rainforest that came right down to the sandy ocean - very scenic indeed - particularly the tall green Hoop Pines bordering the seashore. We decided to spend a few days here and undertake a couple of the walks where there were remains of Aboriginal middens and stone fish traps as well as a good boardwalk through a tidal mangrove forest. It was so peaceful with no shops or anything for miles and we did not have to take the van anywhere just sit back and enjoy the natural setting. We liked it here so booked another day in this little paradise.

We awoke early next morning - we even set the alarm as someone had told us that kangaroos and wallabies go down to beach in the early hours. Well we were not expecting to see any as it is not their usual habitat but as soon as we got onto the beach a couple there was Bridget the friendly Kangaroo along with about six other much smaller Wallabies. Not sure what they were doing on the beach but they appeared to be eating the sand - maybe it was the salt? We watched them for ages before wandering along the beach and watched the sun come up over Wedge Island - pure magic. We wandered back to the van and had breakfast before heading off on our first walk of the day to Hidden Valley. We decided to walk the Yuibera Plant Trail first but had to walk 1km to get to the start of the walk, which was located behind the campsite. Such a lovely medley of song was coming through the forest it was indeed a good start to the walk.

Along the way this self-guided trail highlighted the Yuibera Aborigine’s traditional use of plants and how they existed in this environment before the arrival of the white man. When we reached the sea a small plaque outlined how they had used a stone fish trap on the shoreline to catch large numbers of fish. You could still see part of a curved wall of rocks between two natural outcrops with some of the rocks still in place after all this time. The fish would swim in over the low wall and then when the tide receded they would be trapped and unable to get back out to sea, making them easy to catch without much effort. We walk continued along a path into the bush and every now and then a small plague would detail a particular tree or plant and its many uses. The trail and information all blended so well into the natural environment and at the same time gave an insight into the lives of the local peoples all those years ago. It was a most enjoyable as well as informative walk and we wandered back to the campsite just before lunch. Paul then decided that he would go for a swim in the pool - not for me, even though it was such a lovely day the water in the camp pool was very very cold. So I just chilled and read whilst he turned blue..............and other locals came down to see what this ‘pom’ was doing..........

In the afternoon we set off for our second walk of the day and decided to tackle the Andrews Point Track about 5.2km return. The track started at the end of the beach and climbed steadily uphill along a rocky track. Along the way several lookout points gave the most spectacular views across the ocean. We passed through mainly remnant rainforest before this opened out to more exposed eucalyptus forest as the track meandered along a narrow ridgeway where the sea was on both sides of us - the most fantastic views all around us. Along the way we saw many butterflies deep in the forest as well as numerous birds and the sound of the surf echoing far below - every now and then the trees would clear and you could see the ocean and islands far away. Deep in the undergrowth fallen trees would harbour lots of colourful orange fungi which we had seen all around Australia. As we descended out of the forest there was a lookout over Wedge Island and we finally arrive at the shoreline only to find that the causeway was still covered so we could not cross to the island - so another day’s walk.

We walked back around the shoreline to try and find a way back to the campsite which we knew could only be completed on a falling tide - otherwise it meant having to walk all the way back the way we had come! We seemed to be quite lucky for a while and did not get our feet wet as we scrambled and climbed up over several huge volcanic outcrops as the tide had still not gone out far enough to get through. I will not mention what I called Paul as I had to clamber over and over until we realised we were going to have to get our feet wet a little in the end. Luckily though we managed to wade around the last outcrop and finally arrive on the sandy shoreline - I was happy that we were not going to get stranded on a beach in the middle of nowhere!!! So relieved we walked along a long stretch of beach dipping into the water to relive aching feet and continued and continued........ We could have quite easily gone back to our campervan but carried on along the beach which led us to yet another beach and before we knew it - well about an hour later actually we were miles away......... we noticed that we had also completed part of the walk we were going to do the next day. So we thought we still had plenty of time before dark and the prevailing tides so set off yet again (uphill) through the forest steady climbing through the rainforest with lots of dark green hoop pines, ferns and vines (tarzan would have enjoyed it here!) as well as hundreds of grass trees, I do so love these. Several view points along the way looked down on the mangrove swamps miles below before we finally curved around the hill and saw our campsite directly below.

Later we wandered along to a picnic area at the entrance to the campsite to try and pick up a signal to call Bronwyn and Alan and also check our emails. It was quite funny standing in one particular spot which was the only place where you could get a bit of a signal but were able to log on. We had an email from our granddaughter Maisie which was great and also managed to arrange our meeting up with Bronwyn and Alan in Bowen near the Whitsunday Islands.

The next day morning we awoke early but could not drag ourselves out of bed to see the kangaroos on the beach - too much walking I think. After a leisurely breakfast though we headed out across the causeway to Wedge Island mindful of the tide times. Crossing over was not that easy as huge rocks covered the crossing and you had to watch your footing but we were soon alone on this little island and sat and watched the world go by - we could see some large bird tracks in the sand going into the interior of the island but there were no footpaths. Not sure what the footprints were but assumed they were the Brush Turkey as we could hear some shuffling in the bush behind........... what else could it be......

Before the tide came in and marooned us we though we had better cross back over the causeway and decided to head up the mountain side to undertake the walk we had done the day before but in reverse. This is such a lovely walk and as we climbed up to the Turtle Lookout we had tremendous views all around - although we did not see any turtles - we did meet a couple of Holland though. All around we saw many different butterflies and really enjoyed the walk just as much as the day before.

Our next door neighbours Max & Joan who were from Cleveland, near Brisbane stopped and chatted. Joan said her maiden name was Loader and her ancestors were from Bridport in Dorset and she had some connection to the Loader Arms in the town. Max was 85 and still driving around towing a caravan but was finding it more difficult as he was getting older so they were thinking of getting a motorhome like ours so that they could ‘downsize’ and continue to travel - such an energetic couple, hope we are like them in a few years time!!!!

Back at the campsite we decided to go for a swim as it was getting quite warm - alas though the swimming pool was freezing cold but we did go in and we had wondered why we were the only ones in it..........Wandering around the campsite later I came across ‘Bridget the Kangaroo’ who was lazing around by the washing lines enjoying the sun.

Paul went off to do the washing up whilst I wrote up the blog don’t know who gets the short straw! Two hours later Paul returned (we did not have that many dishes) he had met up with a couple from Brisbane and talked about just about everything from poms, to politicians, to religion, to travelling and finally to beer........... that took two could only be in Australia....................

The next morning we awoke early as we just had to see the kangaroos and wallabies on the beach, one more time ......and sure enough there they were, some were having fun hopping at breakneck speed along the water edge whilst others were sedately licking the sand along the tideline. We watched the sun come up over Wedge Island before heading back to the van for breakfast. So it was time to say goodbye to this area and our neighbours Max and Joan who we had enjoyed chatting to. We promised to send them a photo if we got to The Loader Arms in Bridport when we were back to the UK but for now we were heading to north to meet up with Bronwyn and Alan in Bowen near the Whitsunday islands - see you there.

Additional photos below
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10th August 2012

G'Day from Vic
Hi Sheilla and Paul, Really enjoying hearing and seeing your trip. The weather down hear is similar to that of your "PommeCountry". Yesterday the temp. was 1deg! with sleet and snow! Thank you for "Insulting Us" saying the Melbourne Football club is black and white!!!!!!! If you look at your Demon Room photo the colours are RED and BLUE! The black and white colours (Collingwood) are our staunch enemy!! But you are excused as you are pomms. Love to you both Jill and Pete x

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