I love a good ol’ road trip. The adventure of the open road ahead, window down and wind in your hair. Singing out loud to the radio – much to your fellow passengers despair. The occasional pit-stop for a coke and a wee. Slipping from one obscure town to the next until you finally and readily reach your destination.
Who wouldn’t love all that? Truth be told, you do need to overcome the few road-trip niggles. The endless tarmac, traffic, heat exhaustion, road-kill, dodgy backpackers and any ailments which might encroach you on the way. But overall, we all love a little bit of road-trippin.
Aah, the Sunshine Coast. Stretching about three hours north of Brisbane along a beach encrusted, clear blue shoreline, where the sun shines warm and the sand is soft and bright. The further you go the more “coastal” the places become. The more you feel yourself unwind into the laid-back attitude of the area.
Strangers greet you on the streets, pedestrians wave as you drive-by. Surfboard in hand, sun-bleached golden locks and toned active physique – headed to the beach for a morning surf – you would wave too.
We first stop in an area called Maloolaba (which I am still uncertain how to pronounce – is it Maloo-la-bar?) and after a stroll along the busy, school-holiday infested beach, we stop for lunch at an Italian place and enjoy an incredible Salt and Pepper Calamari Caesar Salad. Yes please! I love the coast and their obligatory seafood menus.
We head further north – not far – toward Maroochydore and find our backpackers in the little suburb of Cotton Tree. Not particularly endeared by the place (and possibly the last time we will ever opt for the backpacker route – getting too old perhaps!) we head straight back to the beach.
There we find an estuary which leaks into the land; and is defined by bulging sand-islands in convenient places for kids to paddle across and dominate their own little paradise. As the sun start to set and the water turns golden, we take an exaggerated meander down the beach and plan our next meal.
We settle on an incredible Spanish restaurant called Ba Vigo. We try crispy artichokes stuffed with goats cheese, flame-grilled prawns and Barramundi (my new favourite fish – Salmon is surprisingly pricey in Australia). A bottle of Red doesn’t go amiss.
After dinner, full and content with the happiness of food, we walk it off along the estuary boulevard and feel sleepy with the sleepiness of the town. We get no sleep at the backpackers though – enduring an entire night of fellow residents loudly sinking their beer and the night away. Damn them and their energetic youth (yep – definitely getting older).
We head further north again the next day, stopping along the way to scope out future “dream houses” on the beach, of which we will probably never afford but will stick a picture of their view on our fridge. We admire the long stretches of sand which curve their way around every corner and out of sight – beaches which are probably quieter and deserted in all the right places.
Reaching Noosa Heads, it is a fight against traffic to get across the busy tourist center bursting with shops, restaurants and beach-stuff for hire. Another town inundated and defined by waterways curving around hidden corners; the largest stretch of water facilitating boats, yachts and paddlers alike.
We beach it. Soak up all the sun we can before breaking sweat in the cool, temperate waves. There is a children’s surfing lesson in session and we observe while warming up again on the sand. Our eyelids sit heavy as we watch the more energetic manage the surf. The shore-break and seagulls lull me to sleep.
Refreshed from a nap, we lunch again. It’s tough, but someone has to do it. This time we try Bernardos Bistro – On the Beach and this time we choose the beef burger – beef on the coast! Sacrilege! But so very good. We enjoy the meal and a cool drink practically on the beach itself (hence the name) and I notice an Australian flag fluttering high above an ice-cream cart, on the sand and swarming with families in queue for their Sunday treat.
Before post- road-trip blues completely take over, we steal a final walk along the heads – a National Park area which stretches around perfect ocean views for five kilometers or so. Through a forest of trees towering over the rugged waters, we find secret beaches and enticing look-out points, the smell of woodlands and sea breeze stronger than before in the cooling air.
To avoid the consistent stand-still traffic along the Bruce Motorway (yes – the Bruce Highway) we choose a detour along Steve Irwin Way and pass Steve Irwin Zoo. We hope to come back to visit but agree that with the African exhibition currently advertised, it would really just be like returning home.
Nearing the final stretch of highway, I am thrilled to catch a glimpse of the majestic Glass House Mountains, a small cluster of immensely steep but small mountains sticking out of the horizon like mole-hills on steroids. They contrast the horizon of orange, red and purple sunset.
As the dusk settles and the shutters of darkness take away last glimpses out the window, we are almost home.
Beach, fun and sun on the Sunshine Coast. We love a good road-trip.