The Bruce Highway is the main road route spanning the length of Queensland, named after Harry Bruce, Minister of Works in the 1930s. It starts in Brisbane and finishes in Cairns, a total of approximately 1,670 km. Bundaberg is about 50 km east of the Bruce but we had to join it to travel to Brisbane so knew that southern 350 km section well. Andy’s work took him to Rockhampton often, so that section was also well travelled. However, we’d never driven further north on the Bruce until this trip when we will be following the road to its northern conclusion.
It seems that visitors to Queensland have a bit of a romantic preconception of driving from Brisbane to Cairns and imagine that the road trip might be similar to the Great Ocean Road. Unfortunately, and with the greatest respect, we don’t think that the Bruce lives up to that. If you imagine you’re going to be driving along the ocean, you’ll be disappointed as the majority of the road is a fair way inland from the coast. There are places where you travel through some spectacular scenery but on the whole, it’s a fairly monotonous drive. Also, dual carriageway only extends to Gympie, about 200 km north of Brisbane, so you can end up stuck behind a lot of slow moving traffic. Having said all of that, The Bruce did provide our means of reaching the first destinations on our road trip, Tannum Sands, Gladstone and Mackay.
Before we leave Bargara to begin our travels, we thought we should give you a little bit more information about the Bundaberg region. It is a fantastic part of Australia, often overlooked by visitors who flock instead to well known Queensland destinations such as Brisbane, Cairns, and The Gold Coast. Many aspects of the area are quintessentially representative of regional Australia, hence the title of the post which we’ll explain further later on.
As the title says, we love Australian Hip Hop, and have been to see quite a few artists play. A standout experience was at ‘Beat The Drum’, the 40th Birthday Concert of the ABC Radio Station Triple J. South Australian rappers, The Hilltop Hoods were joined on stage by a who’s who of Australian Hip Hop for their track Cosby Sweater – have a look at the video above – its fantastic.
This post, however, is nothing to do with that. Nope, it’s about Bargara Brewing Co, who have developed a range of craft beers including one called Hip Hop, as well as Thirsty Turtle and Drunk Fish. Carry on reading to find out more about the beers and their newly opened BrewHouse in Bundaberg CBD.
It goes without saying that after nearly twenty years of marriage we still have a red hot crush on each other. However, our blog isn’t one of those travel cum relationship cum spiritual cum wellbeing cum hippy nonsense epistles. No ours is much more frivolous than that.
The Crush we’re referring to here is the annual Bundaberg Crush festival. It’s a celebration of the region’s arts over a few weeks in October. The name comes from the crushing of the sugar cane which also happens at this time of year. So once again, I’ve raised your expectations of finding something a little bit saucy only to cruelly dash them before we’ve even got going. Carry on reading though – you might find you like it.
In Australia, its often suggested that Melbourne is the centre of all that is hipster. We now know this to be false and the movement was in fact launched in the New England area across the towns of Glenn Innes and Armidale way back in the mid 19th Century. How do we know this you may ask? Well, two of the original settlers in the area who assisted other squatters to lay title to land were John Duval and William Chandler. They weren’t referred to by their true names. No, because of the impressiveness of their beards they were simply referred to as The Beardies. This name lives on in the main drag of Armidale and the History Museum in Glen Innes dedicated to The Land of the beardies. Apparently, after founding Armidale, the first thing they did was to open a Barista coffee shop, another Australian first. (I may have made that last bit up but the rest is all true).
For those of you looking for something a little bit racy, you’re going to have to read to the end of the post. Anticipation is half the fun after all.
Following an impressive breakfast on the veranda outside our room at Vacy Hall, our second day in Toowoomba was spent mostly nosing around other people’s back yards, as you do. Fortunately, it was entirely above board, and part of the Carnival of Flowers. A number of private gardens are opened as exhibition gardens during the length of the festival and you can pay a nominal fee to have a look round. There’s a number of ways to do this including a hop on hop off bus but we chose to drive around ourselves. The gardens were beautiful but did make us feel a bit inferior given the current state of our lawn. Nonetheless it was really interesting to see how amateur gardeners planned their spaces and put a lot of love and effort into creating a beautiful display for them to enjoy all year round and for visitors to enjoy during the Festival.
You may recall that during the title sequence for the 1970s BBC comedy Fawlty Towers, the sign at the end of the guest house drive was mis-spelt in every episode. My favourite anagram was ‘Flowery Twats’, and visiting Toowomba’s carnival of flowers whilst staying in a guest house gives me a perfect excuse to use it as a title to this post. Not that you need an excuse to use a golden phrase like flowery twats. Indeed, I shall resolve to use it more often in the future. To be fair though, Vacy Hall Historic Guest House couldn’t be further from Fawlty Towers, and Graham, the owner, didn’t strike us as a Basil Fawlty. Indeed, he was most hospitable and also very generous with his advice on granite belt wineries that were next on our itinerary after Toowoomba.
We were off to Fortitude Valley, or just ‘The Valley’. Hence the reference above to the 1979 punk classic from The Skids. Go on have a listen, you know you want to. For fans of Moulin Rouge, The Valley has a reputation similar to that of Montmartre in Paris, a town within the city where the creatures of the night come out to play. In reality it’s cleaned up its act a lot in recent years and a visible police presence means its very safe. It is still, however, one of the main nightlife areas of Brisbane and we were here to see a gig.
Most people don’t realize that the Bundaberg region is Australia’s most valuable vegetable growing region. You can’t miss the sugar cane fields as you drive through the region, but the yearly value of $200 million for that crop is dwarfed by the $500 million generated by the combined small crops. The rich volcanic soil and perfect climate contribute to the region being a big producer of fruit and vegetables including; tomatoes, strawberries, capsicum and macadamia nuts. The region produces around 90% of Australia’s sweet potatoes and even has the nation’s biggest chilli producer. The crops grown and packed here are found in supermarkets across the country. The coastal location also means there’s great seafood to be had all year round.