In the mid-2000s, my partner and I road-tripped it from southwest Victoria to outback Queensland. While the northern shores of New South Wales were dazzling, the Gold Coast a glitzy novelty and the cattle stations of Julia Creek breathtakingly isolated, it was the Sunshine Coast that stole this country couple’s hearts.
Fifteen years – plus a wedding, a handful of house moves, and three children– later, we headed north again, in 2019. While the trip was officially a promotional book tour for my debut novel, it was also our first family adventure involving air travel.
After touching down in Brisbane, we hired a car to explore the region. Much to the children’s delight, we found dolphins swimming at Tin Can Bay. And then there was Rainbow Beach with its colorful staircase leading to the sand and the cheery weather that earned the Sunshine Coast its name. We were delighted to see our children enjoying the area as much as we had all those years earlier.
Fast-forward to 2021, and we’d optimistically arranged a midwinter multi-state road trip to promote the release of my third rural romance novel. Libraries and accommodation were lined up. Booksellers and event hosts were arranged, with plans to take in the sights and delights along the way.
As the trip drew closer, rumblings about lockdowns grew louder. And then as we were leaving, talk of border closures escalated. Instead of a leisurely drive north, it became a race to reach Queensland before they barred travelers from New South Wales.
Brief pit stops were planned around playgrounds, bookshops and botanical gardens, with our new Engel car fridge proving invaluable for picnic lunches along the way. The weather felt a little warmer at every stop, the sunshine was a welcome treat and we crossed our fingers that we would be fortunate enough to avoid pandemic problems.
While my childhood road trips revolved around Dire Straits and John Mellencamp cassettes, and my early-20s auto adventures were fuelled by country music CDs, this family journey was punctuated with the soundtrack of Paul Jennings’ audiobooks. The quirky tales I’d loved in the ’80s equally captivated my children.
The whole family cheered when we crossed the border into Goondiwindi, Queensland. We shared the road with trucks carting water tank-sized cotton bales and marveled at the sight of sunflowers flanking roadsides. Our first major stop was Toowoomba, where the waterfalls and a picturesque lookout at Lions Park in Rangeville were a hit.
Chinchilla was a popular stopover, our travel-weary children raving about its giant watermelon sculpture and bouldering play equipment. The Miles Historical Village and Museum also came highly recommended by folks we’d met on the road. It was easy to spend an afternoon immersed in the region’s past.
After several book events where the librarians and readers gave us a mighty warm welcome at Gympie, Dalby, Proston, and Chinchilla, it was time for holidays. Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast offered swimming pools, tropical flowers, and birdlife, a range of restaurants catering to all appetites, and acres of accommodation around a saltwater lagoon. Much to everyone’s delight, the property also offered daily children’s activities and plenty of kayaks and sailboats for those brave enough to attempt them.
My son and I haphazardly navigated a catamaran around the lagoon. Anyone within cooee would have heard our gales of laughter alternating with shrieks of alarm and flurried apologies to other sailors as we narrowly avoided collisions in the gusty wind. Despite our non-existent sailing skills, our day on the water was a highlight. We also loved dining at the resort restaurant with a gorgeous view of the swimming pool, lagoon, and manicured gardens. While the weather was considered chilly by local standards, we found it a lovely respite from our wet and rugged southern Victorian winter.
Our plans to explore Brisbane were cut short by an upswing in Queensland Covid cases and our holiday became a race against the clock to return home while we still could. Wary of getting stuck in a lockdown limbo, my husband and son drove home, while my daughters and I flew, reuniting in Melbourne for the final four-hour drive back to our rural property.
It wasn’t quite the leisurely break we’d planned, but with plenty of adventure and sunshine between the drama, there’s no doubt the trip will stay in our minds for years to come. And of course, there’s always the promise of next time.
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