Day 3 – Toowoomba to Kingaroy

Tea, chocolate, bent-wing bats – about 8000 of them – and a broken thong … that was our adventurous and memorable day, waking up in Toowoomba and watching the sun go down to a chorus of cicadas in Kingaroy.

It did indeed begin with tea, well coffee actually, at a narrow little shop in Toowoomba called Coffee Tea or Me.

It may be a smallish space but owner Tina Amos packs a lot in – more than 250 teas for sale, an espresso machine putting out a house blend by Brisbane coffee master Peter Wolff, and buckets of character.

Tina Amos

Two large ornate mirrors help expand the space – they were salvaged from the ballroom of The Maheno shipwreck off Moreton Island more than 100 years ago.

We also visited another impressive cafe in town, but I’m saving that for a story in my food pages in U on Sunday in The Sunday Mail – stay tuned.

After moseying around Toowoomba for a while – and can I just say I love the place and all its beautiful and alluring shop fronts – we headed off along the New England Highway to Highfields, about 15km away,  and it was there we found a place called The Chocolate Cottage – with a name like that it didn’t take much convincing for the kids to leave the comfort of our by now very beloved Apollo for lunch.

It’s a great looking place, The Chocolate Cottage, but it’s not until you step outside the converted original 1800s schoolhouse and onto the vast back lawn that you realise what spectacular views this spot also has.

There’s a cluster of gift and homewares shops around it too, and more across the highway at Abbey Lane – and 10 minutes more along the highway,  the famous cuckoo clock shop and its newly added nursery and cafe, and  adjoining lolly shop, So Sweet, where sweets seem to cover every flat surface

Salt Antiques

After moseying around Toowoomba for a while – and can I just say I love the place and all its beautiful and alluring shop fronts – we headed off along the New England Highway to Highfields, about 15km away,  and it was there we found a place called The Chocolate Cottage – with a name like that it didn’t take much convincing for the kids to leave the comfort of our by now very beloved Apollo for lunch.

It’s a great looking place, The Chocolate Cottage, but it’s not until you step outside the converted original 1800s schoolhouse and onto the vast back lawn that you realise what spectacular views this spot also has.

There’s a cluster of gift and homewares shops around it too, and more across the highway at Abbey Lane – and 10 minutes more along the highway,  the famous cuckoo clock shop and its newly added nursery and cafe, and  adjoining lolly shop, So Sweet, where sweets seem to cover every flat surface

Salt Antiques

Also worth a visit is the Highfields Pioneer Village – and a great time to check it out will be Australia Day with free admission, free billy tea and damper, live country music and working displays of  blacksmithing, sheep shearing and much more.

Old tractor at the entrance to Highfields Pioneer Village

Highfields Pioneer Village

Salt Antiques

Salts Antiques in Crows Nest is jam-packed full of antique treasures, including furniture, church pews, bronze statues and much more from around the globe.

Next up was Crow’s Nest and a little look at the fabulous Salts Antiques – where owner Roger Salt brings treasures in from around the world. It’s a breathtaking and ever-changing display of antique furniture, bronze statues and curios.

And here’s a tip – the next container load of Victorian sideboards, chaises, church pews and chests from the UK arrives in three weeks… it’ll be in store a few days later.

Bat tunnel

Bat tunnel

It was Roger Salt who recommended our next stop, which turned out to be one of the most memorable of our trip so far – a visit to Muntapa Tunnel, a few kilometres before Cooyar, on the way to Kingaroy.

Hand-dug in 1911 and 287 metres long, it’s the longest single bore railway tunnel in Australia and literally goes through the Great Dividing Range. There’s a 1km round trip walking along a walkway then back through the tunnel to where you started … but I think our “we can do it – no we can’t” indecision may have added a few k’s to our trip.

You see, the tunnel is home to about 8000 bent-wing bats, the prospect of which didn’t appeal to all in our party.

There was one moment of indecision near the entrance in which, jostling nervously for position, someone stood on Dad’s thong…and snapped it. Lucky they weren’t his good going-out thongs.

Final outcome was that three of us walked back along the walkway to the Apollo while brave barefoot Dad and Ms 10 made it through the tunnel … but later admitted it was a tad daunting have the bats flapping so close overhead.

Finally, hot and a bit worn out after our big day, we pulled into the leafy and friendly Big 4 Kingaroy
Holiday Park.  We had a leisurely swim in the pool and cooked steaks on the barbie – we had the whole area to ourselves – seriously, this is the place to be at this time of year!

Quentin had ventured out to find a bottle of local wine and came back with something else, proclaiming there was nothing local in the bottle shop.

“Was it all made in China?” Miss 8 wanted to know.

So, in the name of educating our children about things made in Australia – in Queensland in fact, I’ll be looking out for a couple of good South Burnett wineries in the morning.

Day 4: Kingaroy to Bundaberg

We had a big drive ahead of us today, from Kingaroy to Bundaberg, and there’d be a lot of stops along the way so we hit the road early.

Mt Wooroolin

Mt Wooroolin

A chap at the servo recommended checking out the lookout at Mt Wooroolin just a couple of minutes west of town.

It didn’t seem that high a climb but wow what a view from the top…. 360 degrees over the entire town of Kingaroy and beyond.

Unfortunately we were too early for any of the wineries I’d hoped to visit – most of them open at 10am – but I know where you are and I’ll be back!

One place that was open bright and early though was The Stop Shop on the highway at Memerambi – you can’t miss those bright signs listing everything from licorice, nuts and spices to olives and insense sticks.

The Stop Shop

Tony and Rose Palm took over the business 15 months ago and have since expanded the gluten-free and orangic lines. It’s a quaint little shop, all vintage wall paper and aromatic spices – and 20 flavours of ice cream including a greyish licorice version and one with chunks of ginger in it. I know it was early but the kids had ice creams – hey, we’re on holiday!

On we travelled through the countryside – the drives through wide, open spaces and seemingly endless spindly native trees and greenish brown hills might be an acquired taste but I absolutely love it – which is just as well as they’re a big part of a trip like this.

We drove through Wondai with its fascinating South Burnett Timber Industry  Museum and then  Murgon and arrived in Goomeri where we bought Kenilworth Cheese at Cheese World. This is a good place to know about if you’ve already purchased some wines at nearby Moffatdale and Clovely Estate wineries.

I love the art deco Grand Hotel in Goomeri – built in the 1930s after the original hotel burnt down – sadly that was how so many country Queensland towns got their art deco hotels in those times.

At Christmas Creek, near the dot on the map of Tansey, someone had strung tinsel over the signs in both directions.

The quiet country town of Biggenden had some unexpected gold – a big gothic bat-winged creature standing guard in someone’s front yard, and a newly opened cafe and art gallery where we were impressed by owner Karinah Murphy’s graff and digital works. She’s also selling T-shirts and other items from a collective of independent US artists there. Karinah’s looking for other artists from the region interested in exhibiting. Her gallery is called Art.i.luv.

Our letterbox of the day award goes to the emu with the cement mixer belly just outside Dillarnil.

Heading into the North Burnett region, and especially getting closer to Bundaberg, the landscape greens up a lot as the crops and orchards and sugar cane for which the region is famed come into view.

Bridge into Bundaberg

Bridge into Bundaberg

We buzzed into town and straight to Grunske’s By the River for fish – fresh caught local barra – and chips.

Beryl and Paul Grunske are well known in this region for their fresh seafood which they sell wholesale and retail. Their shop and restaurant occupies a mighty spot on the river with perfect views to match a seafood lunch.

If you make it here some time be sure to try the Hervey Bay scallops – a sweet scallop served on the shell and without the roe for which other types of scallops are known.

An hour in the pool at our destination for the night – the palm-dotted Big 4 Cane Village Holiday Park put us all into serious relax mode after the day’s journey… and recharged our energy levels enough that we ventured down to Bargara, the lovely seaside spot 15 minutes south,  for breads and dips and oysters.

It’s a bit nice to be on the coast for a little bit of our trip.

Day 5 – Bundaberg to Maryborough

I have started writing today’s little update while having a second coffee at Indulge.

It’s hard to drag yourself away from this buzzing little nook in the main St of Bundaberg, with its menu driven by a fierce integrity and dedication to using really truly local seasonal produce.
Amanda Hinds at Indulge, Bundaberg

Indulge, Bundaberg

The Bundaberg region is a veritable food bowl, producing a massive range of fruit and vegetables and Indulge owner Amanda Hinds makes the most of this, sourcing practically everything from the region around her.

Like the mini Roma and Black Cossack tomatoes grown by Dean Depolli. “Suppliers like Dean are an integral part of a business like this,” Amanda says.

She also makes passionfruit curd from Dean’s fruit. “We use his okra too – we chuck them into egg then rice flower and fry them.”

Another grower, Andrew Dowling, provides ginger and “vine sweets” – small capsicums that Amanda fills with ricotta.

My breakfast, a pumpkin omelet with sweet roasted pumpkin – local of course, free range eggs from a nearby farm and sage plucked fresh from a pot out the back.

So, remember Indulge next time you’re in Bundaberg – it’s a meeting of great produce and great cooking, by a team of foodies who really “get” food – the range of lovingly created cakes here is one of the best you’ll find in Queensland too.

After dragging ourselves away from indulging at Indulge, we went for a wander around the CBD and were mightily impressed by the beautiful shops – places like Haight & Ashbury Boutique in Bourbong St and the little vintage place, From Little Vintage on Woongarra St.

I also really loved Avenell Bros, a giftware/homewares shop on Bourbong St established in 1898. It was started by Ferderick W. Avenell and is today owned and operated by his great-grandson, John Greenhalgh. And it only took 114 years, but you’ll also now find Avenell Bros on Facebook!

Avenell Bros

Again, we had to drag ourselves away from the Bundaberg CBD to get on the road again (but promised ourselves we’d be back soon for a longer visit) and so we headed south where Miss 10 was able to stock up on her favourite ginger beer from The Bundaberg Barrel www.bundaberg.com . If you’re not pushed for time you can even take a tour of the Bundaberg Brewed Drinks factory.

Worth checking out in the region if you are here at night is the Mon Repos Conservation Park, 14km east of Bundaberg, where visitors can watch nesting and hatching turtles on the beach at night.

But it was now the middle of the day and so we hit the road for Maryborough, via Childers, through a gloriously alternating red-dirt and lush green landscape.

peanut van

peanut van

One of the great pleasures of travelling in a motorhome is being able to stop at playgrounds and rest areas and wherever takes your fancy along the way to make a cup of tea – and this we did just outside the lovely historic town of Childers, after stocking up on peanuts from the famous Peanut Van (there’s a matching one in Kingaroy).

If we hadn’t “Indulged” in Bundaberg we would have stopped by another Childers icon – Mammino ice cream – you can visit the factory at 115 Lucketts Rd – near the Snakes Down Under Reptile Park or buy direct from a little kiosk in the main street of town.

We travelled on to Maryborough – the birthplace of Mary Poppins author, PL Travers, where we spent the night at The Wallace Motel and Caravan Park

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