Driving The Bruce Highway In A Little Pink Car
I should begin this story with a brief introduction and how I came to take this wondrous journey through Queensland in a little pink car.
My name is John Rummery and I have lived at Clifton Beach, a suburb on the northern beaches of Cairns, with my family for the last 10 years. Living and working in this tropical paradise is heaven but it is all to easy to take our surroundings for granted as we go about our busy daily lives.
The events that preceded my magical journey were set into place several months prior when my 19 year old Daughter set off on a working holiday in the hotel and hospitality industry along the Queensland coast. Work is plentiful as tourism is a major industry all along the great Queensland coastline.
Working her way south she eventually arrived at the Gold Coast and while working there she applied for a permanent position back home in Cairns. She was successful and got the position, but needed to start immediately, So rather than drive the 1,800 km from Coolangatta to Cairns, she left her car at Brisbane airport and flew home to take up her new role.
Fathers will understand, when their Daughter says “Please Dad, can you get my car home for me?”, we just cannot refuse our little Princess’s request. In any event, I had never undertaken this drive as when in business time is money and we always fly the 2 hours to Brisbane when we need to be there, this time I would have the opportunity to see our vast State first hand whilst driving my little darlings car home.
In order to avoid the accumulation of excessive parking fees at Brisbane airport, my Son, Rob and I left immediately by air for the two hour flight to Brisbane to drive the car back to Clifton Beach, arriving in Brisbane at around 6pm where we collected the car, a pink Toyota Echo complete with heart stickers on the window and even PINK registration plates.. What a sight, we must have looked two six foot something burly blokes in this small very girly car.
For those readers that have some trepidation about driving through major cities in Australia, there is no reason for you to worry about this aspect of a driving adventure as all the routes are clearly signposted well in advance and the traffic is generally well behaved.
The Great Drive
6.30 pm, Rob and I collect the car and drive out onto the main airport road, the signs to Cairns and major destinations in between are clearly visible, with the Cairns signpost indicating we have almost 1700 km to cover on our journey.
The highway out of Brisbane is a 4 laner (two in either direction), and we were quickly on the road for an easy 2 hour drive to the regional town of Gympie.
Gympie is a town that services a very broad and vibrant agricultural community where cattle are raised, crops are grown and there are many smaller landholdings that enable hobby farmers to breed horses, or simply enjoy the sub-tropical lush countryside. Gympie is also the connecting point to the world famous sunshine coast with places well known such as Noosa Heads, Cooloola and Maryborough.
I have a mate in Gympie that owns an old style country pub and that is where we spent our first night on the road, of course we had a great refreshing sleep after a few, well quite a few, local bevvies with the tourist friendly locals. It must be said that there are many locations where a traveler can obtain accommodation, as well as the traditional country style pubs this vibrant town has modern motels and B&Bs .
We depart Gympie, a little worse for wear, with the highway now a 2 laner, one lane in each direction.
As we travel North in our distinguished vehicle taking our time to take in the fantastic countryside, major crop cultivation's, grazing land and the dramatic backdrop of the “Great Dividing Mountain Range” to the West, traffic is moderate and slower vehicles were, with a little patience, no problem as there are overtaking lanes every few km's.
Our 3.5 hour leisurely drive brings us to the next major regional town “Bundaberg”. This beautiful town nestles on the picturesque coastline and has some fantastic beaches. To the west, north and south there the never ending sugar cane plantations that made Bundaberg famous for their sugar, and is the birthplace of the world famous “Bundaberg Rum”, or “Bundy” as it is known.
We take the time to explore the Bundy distillery, we learn about the history of this iconic brand, and also the time lapse history of sugar farming on a very informative tour of the facility followed by a leisurely and scrumptious lunch.
Having eaten well and refreshed we are once again ready to “hit the road” and set off northward.
Our next major destination is Gladstone a town on the coast that provides a port for the vast inland mining operations. The journey takes us slightly inland from the coast. The road takes us through many small village communities and the light to moderate traffic makes it a pleasant drive.
Established since the very early days of Queensland these small towns have excellent examples of early Queensland architecture. A lot of the houses, in rural Queensland and in the towns have an architectural style unique to the State, are constructed of timber, high set so as to enhance and capture the cooling breezes, the typical name for these homes are “Queenslanders”.
A word of advice for travelers intending to overnight in Gladstone, ensure that you have accommodation pre-booked as the town is currently booming thanks to the mining resources recent expansion and all available accommodation is largely taken by the miners and the accommodation, as you would expect when there is high demand is relatively expensive.
Leaving Gladstone we travel onto our next main destination “Rockhampton” or Rocky as the locals call it.
Rocky is a mixture of a tourist town, a farmers town and also the regional base for mining operations to the West. Rocky is also the jump-off point to the famous “Great Keppel Island” situated on the very southern end of the Whitsunday archipelago.
This is where we spend our second night on the road. We feel immediately at ease in this laid back place, the locals are friendly and talkative, and interested in us. Probably because of our pink car!
We check into a small modern motel, that we had booked on-line the day before, with very reasonable rates for bed and breakfast.
Our evening in this small alluring city, with its heritage public building, fantastic gardens, wonderful pubs and restaurants, is spent meeting new friends and learning from the locals about this great place.
After a great breakfast we are again on the road north with the next major destination Mackay.
After 2 full days on the road Rob and I are relaxed, stress-free and eager to continue on our adventure. We liken ourselves to Noddy and Big Ears in our little pink car.
The drive to Mackay takes us along the fringes of the Conners range with spectacular scenery to the west and some great coastal views can sometimes be seen to the east. Again our journey takes us through numerous small villages and farming communities and reach Mackay after an easy 5 hour journey.
Mackay is in the throbbing heart of the Whitsunday archipelago, the world famous destination for traveler from around the world.
Mackay is truly magical with lush tropical surrounds, crystal clear protected waters, truly a boaties paradise. Travelers to Mackay can arrive by car, as we have done, by air from any major city in Australia, or by rail from Brisbane.
Adventurers here can take hosted game fishing expeditions, they can also “skipper a clipper” and sail around the pristine protected beautiful islands of world’s most beautiful un spoilt places.
We had decided to make Mackay our home for the night as the next major destination is approximately a 7 hour drive to Townsville.
We had selected a motel near the centre to spend the night with many other travelers and adventurers in a party atmosphere.
Our heads tell us we partook of a little too much party, but we soldier on in our little pink car.
The road North to Townsville takes us along the coastal plains through the rural and tourist towns of Proserpine, Bowen and Ayr.
The drive is easy with moderate to light traffic, and more of the same wonderful scenery I am afraid.
Wherever we stop to take in areas of interest, for fuel or food we meet with friendly locals all eager to direct you to their favourite local place and if we followed all of them would probably still be on the road today.
We arrive in Townsville, home to the North Queensland Cowboys National Rugby League team, the Royal Australian Regiment 6th Battalion, a Royal Australian Navy base, James Cook University and is a must see destination, for travelers looking to explore the Great Barrier Reef, Magnetic Island.
Townsville has it all, you can rub shoulders with laconic locals who are fiercely proud of their town’s heritage and history, National sporting icons, travelers from around the globe in a huge melting pot of cultural diversity.
Townsville accommodation ranges from big name multi-national hotels to dormitory accommodation in backpacker hostels, and everything in between.
The locals say, "if you cannot find it in Townsville then it cannot be found". Visitors to Townsville can get there by road rail and air.
Rob and I had booked a motel on the water front with views out out to the pristine Magnetic Island.
We wandered along the waterfront in the evening passing boats marinas and an abundant supply of restaurants and bars to pass a few pleasant hours talking with friendly locals and travelers, each with their own unique stories of places to visit, things to see and do in and around Townsville.
As we climb into the little pink car for the last 4 hour leg of our journey north ,that will take us through the beautiful and picturesque village of Cardwell with the world famous Hinchinbrook Island just off the coast, through Tully with Dunk Island again just off the coast, Innisfail a small rural township with significant history and home to several Australian sporting icons.
All along this road are places to see and for travelers to stay, there are restaurants and amenities to cater for all tastes located on beautiful beaches and truly spoilt living in this beautiful part of the world.
As we get closer to Cairns Rob and I agree we must do this trip again, as soon as we can, and take more time as we have barely scratched the surface of things to see and do in the 4.5 days we have spent on this magical adventure.
Back home sitting by the pool with friends, blowing the froth of a few cold ones the next evening, we recount our adventure and the people we met along the way, who made it such a memorable journey and everyone agrees a road trip is a lot more fun than watching the in flight entertainment on a Brisbane bound aircraft.
In true fairy tale tradition the story has a happy ending my Daughter loves her new job and her precious pink car is home safe and sound.
My bucket list got a new item: to see a lot more of the Sunshine State, which is larger than the size of Europe, by car and spend enough time to do a lot more than scratch the surface on my next road trip.