The next week of our trip was spent catching up with friends and family. Firstly, seeing Aaron, Shay and Cooper in Townsville after missing out on catching up with them during our stay on the way up. Then staying with Glenda’s brother Wayne and his wife Judy on their property in Sarina, near Mackay. Having bought the place more than 10 years ago, they’ve just moved their furniture up from Brisbane. As we hadn’t visited in all these years, it was great to be able to see them in their new home.
We were fortunate to be able to book the same apartment we’d stayed in a couple of weeks before. The V8 supercars were meant to be in Townsville that weekend, but due to Covid, their schedule had been changed and the race is now scheduled for a week later. We did get to drive along the main straight and see the pit entrance and exit which was a bit of fun.
Following our arrival early Friday afternoon, we popped to the local Coles supermarket for a cooked chicken, some salad ingredients and a loaf of yummy bread. Aaron and his family were due for after work drinks on our balcony overlooking the Coral Sea, but we figured they may like to stay for a bite to eat. We were glad we’d decided to do this as once we started chatting, the hours soon disappeared. It was a good thing we did a 16km run along The Strand the following morning, as we then went to their place for a large BBQ lunch. We were really sad to say goodbye when we left mid afternoon and hope to manage a trip up again sometime soon.
Before leaving Townsville on Sunday morning, we did a run up Castle Hill, the large pink granite monolith behind the town and arrived at sunrise. The views were clearer than they’d been 2 weeks prior as it was a clear morning, but we hadn’t taken phone to capture the visas so just enjoyed them!
Sarina via Bowen & Airlie Beach
When we used to have our yacht in the Whitsundays, the weather forecast for the daily scheds was always based on Bowen. Somehow, in all our weeks of sailing in the area, we’d never made it to the seaside town. So we decided it would be a good opportunity to stop off and see what we’d missed. Glenda’s brother had also recommended a visit to a couple of the beaches and to Flagstaff Hill.
We could see why Horseshoe Bay was considered worth a stop – the azure water and boulders provided a lovely backdrop to the white sand. There was even a little café where we picked up a piccolo to drink as we stood and watched the people swimming. Rose Bay was just as pretty, but didn’t have the crowds. The views of the Whitsunday Islands from Flagstaff Hill brought back memories of many a week sailing in the area – and caused Glenda to choke up. It was good to have a look at our old stomping ground. We’ll have to go sailing up there sometime soon! Or maybe kayaking around the islands. This time we just sat on a bench eating cheese & bacon rolls followed by a banana whilst enjoying the sweeping views.
Our visit to Airlie Beach was another one of our attempts to recreate the past. The drive into Airlie is really pretty. And the turquoise sea and boats bobbing in the water was again a heart pumping experience. But we couldn’t believe how much the once little seaside village has grown up. There were so many people that we didn’t even stop for a bite to eat or something to drink. Back on the main road near Proserpine, we discovered a nice place to break for a cuppa.
After a long day of driving, we were happy to reach our home for the next 5 nights. It was also good to have the opportunity to see Wayne & Judy and to see the place we’d heard about so much over the last 10+ years. Perched on top of the hill, the house has lovely views over a large number of the Whitsunday Islands.
The time in Sarina was a mixture of sightseeing, family time and helping out with some household stuff. As Judy had broken her leg 5 weeks before, she was limited in her mobility, so the first day, we just did some local exploration with Wayne.
First visit was to the Port of Hay Point, one of the largest coal export ports in the world. Two separate coal terminals at the port, Hay Point Coal Terminal and Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal, service coal mines in Central Queensland’s Bowen Basin. The mines link to the terminals via an integrated rail-port network. It was quite amazing to see the black and grey machinery backed by the azure waters of the Coral Sea.
Next stop was the pretty Greengrass Beach followed by the long expanse of Armstrong Beach.
The next day was spent putting outdoor furniture together, mowing lawns and installing a ceiling fan, followed by a run amongst the cane fields. We were all ready for a steak and boerewors BBQ that evening before hitting the sack.
The following day was a long day of driving. We travelled through lush flora and volcanic boulder formations contrasted against a tapestry of sugar cane fields as we made our way through The Pioneer Valley and Eungella National Park. Apart from being one of the richest sugar cane growing areas in Australia, this valley is very picturesque and encompasses many rural townships. We passed through small towns along the way including Marian, Mirani, Pinnacle, Finch Hatton and Eungella.
With Covid having closed or limited hours of many business, we managed to find a little café at Platypus Bushcamp and enjoyed a coffee and chat to the owner.
About 50km north of Mackay is Cape Hillsborough National Park, a ruggedly scenic park including rainforest, eucalypt forest, beaches, rocky headlands covered in hoop pines, and volcanic rock formations. A marine park adjoins. On our way to visit the park, we stopped off at the nearby little coastal town of Seaforth. We ordered fish & chips from the little general store – it took them a long time to cook it, but it was pretty good and we enjoyed it at the nearby picnic area overlooking the sea.