Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Queensland: Sunshine indulgence

Among her favourite Aussie destinations, HELEN PERRY recently returned on holiday to Noosaville. However, this time she added another Queensland gem, Hervey Bay, to her itinerary and gave it the thumbs up!

Once again, the Sunshine Coast lived up to its name greeting us with warm sunshine and not a shower in sight.

Flying into the airport, at Maroochydore, proved a blessing. Husband and I were through customs in about 30 minutes although, on our return, it took a little longer to pass through security as there were numerous flights departing. Nevertheless, an easy airport experience.

After a night in Maroochydore, we headed north in our hire car (about an hour’s drive) via the coastal David Low Highway.

Unable to secure a unit in the heart of the Gympie Terrace action, we booked 11 days at Ivory Palms, a large resort close to Noosa Marina and Tewantin, which required a little extra driving.

The Habitat Everglades Eco-Camp

The pristine grounds offered eco-campers, powered and unpowered sites, wilderness safari tents and paperbark glamping tents for hire. Located along the water’s edge – with paddleboards, kayaks and wave skis plus walking trails and boat hire to keep visitors busy, as well as plenty of kangaroos hopping around too!

With three swimming pools – one heated – plus a games room and outdoor fun facilities, it was an ideal family resort. An onsite café served breakfast and dinner from Wednesdays to Sundays, which was handy and inexpensive.

Although it served average fare, I most certainly appreciated the happy hour with two cocktails for just $28!

Our two-bedroom, two level apartment had good parking. It was modern and well-presented but without a sunny, north-facing patio. A small outdoor area on the south side, with an uninviting outlook, meant this was a unit I wouldn’t opt for again. Others were better situated.

One advantage was its close proximity to Noosa Marina where, on Mondays, patrons at a semi-outdoor café were treated to entertainment by a huge gathering of local ukelele, banjo and guitar players. Playing in unison, these talented musicians provided a toe-tapping touch of country.

Noosaville and surrounds offered abundant dining options, some with BYO wine. We ate twice at the Tewantin RSL, an attractive club where meals were generous and drinks cheap, but my favourite meals (lunches) were served at Noosa Springs Golf & Spa Resort. The service, environment and food were exceptional, including my Mooloolaba prawn sandwich with lemon mayo, tomato salsa, crispy lettuce, rye bread and sweet potato fries.

Second time around, we opted for the $45 two-course lunch which included a glass of wine.

I also gave top marks to Seasons in Hastings St, Noosa Heads. It was expensive but my light lunch (three large prawn and scallop ravioli with citrus beurre blanc and roe) was just the best.

Flame Hill Winery, near Montville, was another hit. My husband and I shared a ‘solo’ ploughman’s platter – refreshing, varied and ample for two. Initially sceptical about wine from Queensland, I was pleasantly surprised so invested in a $45 bottle of very smooth shiraz. I Intended bringing home until my son accidentally opened it and we were ‘forced’ to imbibe – superb!

Despite some delicious meals, we were generally disappointed in the overall lack of innovative seafood we had encountered in past years. While prices were similar to New Zealand, Noosa’s Sunday Farmers’ Market offered inexpensive breakfast options galore and I also scored a huge bag of passionfruit, a large punnet of luscious strawberries, a bag of oranges and raspberries all for just $4 each.

Everglades

My son and his partner arrived later than us so, we stayed longer than usual in Noosaville, treating ‘the kids’ to an Everglades Serenity cruise passing along the sheltered waters of the upper Noosa River. These everglades are only one of two such ecosystems in the world, the other located in Florida. Apparently, 44 per cent of Australian bird species reside in the reserve and we saw a wide variety while marvelling at reflections and colours in the still waters.

About 20 minutes driving from Tewantin, the Habitat Everglades Eco-Camp, from where the cruise departed, was impressive. The pristine grounds offered eco-campers, powered and unpowered sites, wilderness safari tents and paperbark glamping tents for hire. It was located along the water’s edge – with paddleboards, kayaks and wave skis plus walking trails and boat hire to keep visitors busy, as well as plenty of kangaroos hopping around too.

I recommend heading there for lunch at the contemporary, on-site Coothara Bar & Bistro and do try some of the eight artesian beers on tap from Habitat’s Micro Eco brewery.

Despite having visited the Eumundi Markets and Montville many times, we returned to both relishing refreshments at the Montville Inn where a talented singer/guitarist kept us entertained. I could have stayed all day, but time was short so it was off to pack our bags again and head for a new favourite destination, Hervey Bay.

Hervey Bay: breathtaking!

We had just three days in the beautiful coastal town of Hervey Bay, but we were impressed.

Our visit included a drive north to visit the Bundaberg Rum Distillery and also the Bundaberg Barrel, home to Bundaberg Ginger Beer and its spin-offs. At the latter family-owned company, the visual timeline was fascinating, but we opted out of a formal tasting session and instead made our way to the nearby rum distillery for a guided tour. It was a real treat! I didn’t realise just how many different rums Bundaberg produced as well as their flavoured rum liqueurs.

Our tour price ($25 for seniors) included two free drinks each (choosing was hard!) and although I’ve never been partial to rum, I learnt a lot from this tour and regretted not buying from the premium range.

We spent the following two days relaxing at Hervey Bay, walking the length of the 880-metre pier and checking out shopping and dining along The Esplanade where there was plenty of beachfront accommodation on offer too – all very appealing.

We stayed at The Mantra at nearby Urangan, where our apartment overlooked the sea and marina. With four waterfront restaurants just beyond the hotel door and The Hervey Bay Boat Club about 350 metres away, dining was easy, especially at The Dock just across the bridge spanning the hotel’s heated pool. A tapas restaurant, its service, prices and food were excellent.

Because our Hervey Bay visit was short, we will return and include a trip to Fraser Island. As it was, we drove to Maroochydore for one last night, dining at rustic and cosy Flume – simple Italian fare and great live music just next door to our unit. The next morning, the road outside was closed for the Sunshine Coast Marathon but, luckily, it opened just in time to return our car and make for the airport.

Yet again, the Sunshine Coast delivered as it does regardless of the season.

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