Days 200 – 216 (Dec 18th – Jan 3rd) Brisbane to Peregian Beach and Noosa via the delights of Maleny and Steve Irwin’s Zoo

We left Brisbane for a short drive north to our next stop in Maleny, a small town located a few hundred metres up in the Blackall Mountains in the so-called Hinterland (i.e. the land beyond the coast). These mountains used to be cloaked in sub-tropical rainforest but substantial logging for cedar in the early 20th century did for most of the trees but created space for dairy cattle and fruit production. With the exception of the colonial type houses, the resulting landscape is reminiscent of Derbyshire but somewhat warmer. We chose Maleny as a stop as there are a few remnants of rainforest, notably at the Mary Caincross Scenic Reserve, restaurants and for its close proximity to the Australia Zoo, originally established by Steve Irwin’s parents but which was catapulted into the limelight by the man himself. However, Maleny proved to have a few hidden gems as well as disappointments.

Maleny itself is a well-to-do town with more estate agents than charity shops, plenty of clothes shops, cafes and local purveyors of the kind of magic stones one finds in Glastonbury as well as magic remedies prepared using secret herbs by the local aborigines. Everyone we spoke to was jolly nice but we left feeling it was all a little false and suspecting that behind the scenes there was probably some deep unpleasantness. There was, however, a very nice looking pie shop. Our hotel was outside the town, on a ridge overlooking the distant coast and down the road we could see in the other direction, over to the Glass House Mountains, the remaining cores of ancient volcanoes

Our stay was a little disrupted by the small matter of the World Cup Final between France and Argentina which, due to hugely unfavourable time zones, kicked off at 0100 on our first night. With extra time and penalties we could finally get some sleep at 4am.

Our first call the next day was Maleny Botanic Gardens and Birdworld for breakfast and the fabulous view over the mountains.

We then walked the length and breadth of the Mary Caincross Scenic Reserve well-known for hosting some special rainforest birds, notably the Noisy pita and a few rare pigeons, doves and honeyeaters as well as the Red-legged pademelon, a very small kangeroo which shuffles through the undergrowth.

Finally, we’d read about a Duck-billed platypus viewing platform along the river in Maleny so we went there for a look. Heading the wrong way we came across these peculiar growths…

..which on closer inspection proved to be Grey-headed flying foxes or fruit bats which can grow to 1kg in weight and roost hanging from trees during the day before flying off at night to find fruit.

Roosting flying fox
Dispersing at night to find fruit

As dusk approached we found the platypus viewing area. Tali had stayed in town and reported seeing one so we waited a little longer for the tell-tale signs of platypus action…

Definitely a platypus..

Day 2 was saved for the Australia Zoo. This effortlessly combines the ever-enduring allure of Steve Irwin, the attraction of seeing animals otherwise forever unseen with some serious conservation work. Probably the best bits were the saltwater crocodiles…



Finally we saw a number of the most venomous snakes in Australia, and a fantastic aviary replicated the birds of the rainforest, including the elusive Noisy pitta

..and a selection of other animals, such as wombat.

Although nominally a zoo, albeit one which really makes an effort to provide adequate space for its inmates, this is far more than that, being a memorial for the work Steve Irwin did to raise the awareness of wildlife in Australia and a base upon which serious conservation work in Australia is being built. The zoo owns a huge tract of land in northern Queensland, nominally to protect the endangered cassowary but also used to further research into the tropical rainforest of the continent. Perhaps more controversial is over 100,000 acres bought in the interior of Queensland especially to save the Woma python.

Our stay in the hinterland was over, time only for a few photos of the Blackall mountains.

And a quick stop at the Mapleton Falls National Park, yet another small but stunning remnant of sub-tropical rain forest

Sound up to hear the crickets, and the odd irish-sounding chap who was there with his son/daughter..

We arrived at our rental home in Peregian Beach in good time to explore the town and the annual Peregian Beach Carols, a major event in the town best known for the sky-diving santa, for which the best vantage point was on the beach….

The excitement began to build…

…and finally, Santa appeared from the sky

A glorious day indeed.

Our rental house was 5 minutes walk from Peregian Beach, a wonderful place for a short walk into town or for swimming. The area is quite well developed in terms of holiday homes yet there is plenty of preserved forest and protected sand dunes. Peregian Beach lies between 2 different parts of the Noosa National Park, the area to the north around Noosa and the southern element just south of where we were staying. This latter section included a small area of rainforest and sand dunes just behind the beach plus the imposing Emu Mountain, accessed via the formidable Emu Mountain trek…

At a lung-busting altitude of 71 metres this proved to be no problem for ranger Tali but we did get good views of the rarely seen “prawn” clouds, indicative of good fishing, apparently…or maybe we made that bit up…

The next few days included Christmas, when we cooked a turkey which looked remarkably like a fruit bat, many walks along the beach and swims in the increasingly rough seas, our final day coinciding with some dramatic views along the coast. We were also initiated in the game of Finska, a throwing game of a wood baton and numbered blocks. Fun on the sand, impossible on grass! We all won at least once so we’re all happy.

A beautiful place. Next stop Noosaville…

Noosa is an interesting place, beautiful and very popular as an up-market holiday destination by the sea. The town has developed enormously since the days when the only activities in the area were logging and dairy farming but has been tightly controlled by the town’s inhabitants, perhaps aware of how similar places have been ruined by over-zealous development. They’ve specified a maximum permanent population (approx 60k), no high-rise buildings, no traffic lights (light pollution!) and insisted on many adjacent areas being designated as national parks. Part of the Noosa National Park extends south to Peregian beach, where we stayed before arriving in Noosa. One part of this collection is the Noosa Everglades, one of only 2 everglade systems in the world (although the definition is a bit woolly). Essentially the Noosa river rises inland only a few metres above sea level and runs slowly through the landscape before it encounters the tidal waters near the sea at Noosa. The slow moving current of fresh water has created a labyrinth of waterways reminiscent of the Florida Everglades. The park was actually a cattle farm until the 1960s, showing how quickly the bush takes over the land in this part of the world. Sadly, however, the logging which occurred prior to the farm being established took out many of the larger tree species and now there is an imbalance, with too many tea trees. These acidify the water, making it impossible for anything but a couple of fish species to live. As a result the dolphins and dugong which used to live there no longer do so.

We took a boat out and toured round the area with a very knowledgeable guide. It is a beautiful area and well worth a visit.

Day 2 was a surf lesson for Andy and Tali on North Shore, a beautiful beach 4kms from our house that took nearly an hour to drive to as we needed to wend our way through Hastings Street, the most popular place in Noosa if you like cafes and shops. Finding a parking spot in Noosa Forest took awhile but they managed to get to their lesson on time.

Settling down on the beach to watch them and many other novice surfers soon had me counting how many seconds good surfers could stay upright. 10 seconds was the best. These were serious surfers back on the high rollers waiting for that perfect wave. Seems to me to be a lot of waiting around for a quick thrill!

Andy and Tali were learning in the waves as they broke onshore. Still serious waves that you could try and stand up on your board with varying degrees of success by them both. They finished their lesson exhausted and covered in friction burns. The sea can be a cruel place!

It looked incredibly tiring and not my or their idea of a beginners beach.

Tali in double speed

There appears to be an error in this post, as there are no photos or videos of Andy! I wonder who has the ultimate editing rights?

Day 3 was snorkelling…by every parameter this was a trip mis-sold. We were promised “Snorkel the beautiful waters off the Sunshine Coast from Noosa’s newest purpose built vessel, the Noosa Wave. Dolphins, turtles, rays and tropical fish are just some of the things you may encounter while diving on Noosa Head National Park” but this was not to be as the weather prevented the boat from leaving the river

…so river snorkelling it was…

Firstly we disembarked at the mouth of the river as the tide started to turn and we were slowly swept inland along the shore, supposedly picking out fish living amongst the weeds and rocks of the shoreline, in water thick with sediment. We’d been warned to keep away from rocks and tree trunks in the water but this didn’t stop a couple of other people on the trip from returning with bleeding torsos and extremities, amply cared for by nurse Helen in her role as observer. Our second trip was to the mangroves, which were associated with huge numbers of nursery fish.

Overall it was good fun but would have been much better if we’d seen more and had the opportunity to visit the coastline of the national park.

New Years Eve involved a morning fishing trip which resulted in quite a few caught fish, all released for being undersize. The skipper was born in Noosa and had seen the town develop from a friendly seaside tourist destination to one where new money was starting to dominate the property market. Houses along the river front (even the “shitty” ones, as he put it) were going for millions whereas some of the better properties, bought for up to $ 20 million prior to COVID, were now going for twice or three times that, impacting house prices for all the locals and especially the people needed to work in the cafes, restaurants and bars.

Having failed, we resorted to the local fish market, buying a red snapper and some Morten Bay Bugs for our New Year dinner.

Followed by fireworks in the town at 9pm so the children could see them. At our vantage point we met a radiologist who often worked out in Rockhampton and Woorabinda and provided a less sanitised overview of both places for Tali’s benefit. Finally we saw 2023 in, an hour after watching the fireworks in Sydney on the tv.

The biggest section of the Noosa National Park is Noosa Heads, a large headland across which a number of trails pass through the rainforest and overlook some wild beaches. The problem is access as the main car park is off Hastings Street, the prime shopping area and thoroughfare to the north facing beaches and the national park trailhead. The only other access point is to park on a side road on the south side of the park and walk from there on the Alexandria Bay walk through the forest.

At the end of trail is a massive beach

Noosa is a glorious place, comprising a number of different small towns and beaches and it’s clearly a very popular destination. Probably best visited in the winter…

We headed back to Brisbane having spent an enjoyable Christmas and New Year in lovely weather and fantastic surroundings. Now it was time to do the parenting thing and help Tali with her move out to Rocky..