CAPE CONRAN, VIC
East Gippsland’s Cape Conran Coastal Park is a reserve spanning 11,700ha approximately 420km east of Melbourne. White sandy beaches are dispersed between wetlands, river inlets, rocky terrains, swamps and banksia woodlands.
The region offers excellent bird watching, day hiking, snorkelling and ocean fishing, with a boat ramp located on the west side of the cape.
Between May and October dolphins can be seen, and occasionally whales further out at sea. Skilled boaties can take a closer look at the marine life by making their way to the Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary 5km offshore. The site is favoured by Australian fur seals. A word of warning: its waters (along Bass Strait) are notoriously rough and the reef has been the site of many shipwrecks.
East of Cape Conran itself, the Yeerung River is a good alternative for less confident swimmers and fishers.Further east again, the neighbouring Croajingolong National Park offers excellent opportunities for 4WDing and camping.
The East Cape Boardwalk, located near the Banksia Bluff campground, is a coastal walk that connects to the Nature Trail taking in the West Cape and Salmon Rocks Beach. North of the camping grounds is the Heathland Walk, which winds through the banksia woodlands.
The Banksia Bluff camping ground, near East Cape, has cabins, safari-style tents and campsites that are accessible to vehicles towing caravans. The site has good facilities for what is basically a bush campground, including bins, septic toilets, tables, fireplaces and a cold shower. The water supply is bore water, so it is strongly advised that you bring your own for drinking.
Rainbow Beach is an occasionally busy little tourist town (and former sand-mining centre) 240km north of Brisbane at the northern end of the Cooloola Section of the Great Sandy National Park. The park itself begins north of Noosa and takes in Fraser Island, with the Cooloola Section forming the mainland part between Noosa and Fraser.
The town’s name comes from the coloured sand cliffs in the area, which includes other spectacular sandy features such as the 120m-high Carlo Sandblow and the coloured sands along Teewah Beach. The interplay of sand, wind and water has been shaping the south-east Qld coast for the past 800,000 years, with finely eroded granite from the New England Tableland in NSW washing into the sea and moving north on the currents and waves swept up by the prevailing south-easterly winds.
Much of the Cooloola Section is sandy (though well vegetated) and 4WD only, but the numerous camping spots (permits required) are spectacular and well worth the effort for the wonderful walks, as well as great boating and canoeing along the Noosa River.
The road to Rainbow Beach, however, is all bitumen, and there are many beachside camping spots along the 7km road north towards Inskip Point, the beach embarkation area for Fraser Island. Most of the better camping spots here require 4WD but the one closest to town is accessible by 2WD. There are also a couple of caravan parks.
Apart from bushwalking and boating, fishing is a major attraction here, either from the beach or from a boat. You can also participate in a wide range of organised activities and tours, from hang-glides and camel walks to dolphin cruises and Fraser Island visits. Swimming is not recommended due to the treacherous rips, sharks and jellyfish, but the patrolled section of beach at Rainbow Beach itself should be relatively safe (check the signs for patrol times).
Rainbow Beach makes a great base from which to explore a unique coastal ecosystem with spectacular geographical features, a wide range of rare plants and animals, and lots of exciting activities.
A good gravel road leads to the main camping area at Thomas River in the south-western corner of the park, but most other points of interest are 4WD only and can become impassable after rain. Facilities are very limited (there’s no drinking water anywhere) and visitors should be self-sufficient. If you have a 4WD and supplies, it’s worth leaving your van behind and heading out beyond the eastern border of the park to Israelite Bay in the Nuytsland Nature Reserve. This former telegraph repeater station at the western end of the Great Australian Bight has some interesting ruins and other relics, and reasonable camping spots in the bush behind the beach.
Cape Arid NP is a year-round destination, but make sure you bring a good-quality jacket if you go now, as chilly storms frequently lash WA’s southern coast in winter. A park entry fee and camping fees are payable in Cape Arid NP.
Kiama, 120km south of the Sydney CBD and 36km south of Wollongong, is a small beachside town known for its two blowholes and standout surf coast. The Kiama Blowhole – the larger of the two – is set below the Kiama Lighthouse and has been known to eject water to almost 60m high in rough weather.
If you seek a more tranquil experience, dip your toes in the nearby rockpool along Storm Bay or stretch your legs at the adjacent picnic area. The coastline is best explored on foot, with many of the aforementioned attractions connected by paved walking tracks, one of which extends almost 8km north from the Kiama Blowhole to Loves Bay in Minnamurra. The township itself has a rustic charm, having retained many of its original buildings that date back to the early and mid-1800s. This, combined with its relaxed seaside atmosphere, has made Kiama a popular site for festivals including the Kiama Jazz and Blues Festival, Blowhole Big Fish Classic and Jazz In The Vines.
If you are keen to take a look at some of the local wildlife, visit Spring Creek Bird Hide and Wetlands, five minutes’ drive from the town centre. Or, for a complete change of scenery, head 15km west to the Minnamurra Rainforest in the Budderoo National Park, and stroll along the Rainforest Loop Walk. The 1.6km stretch comprises sealed pathways and an elevated timber boardwalk, and provides access to the Falls Walk, which travels along the canyon cliff edge to the 50m-high Upper Minnamurra Falls.
Camping sites at Kiama are available at the many local caravan parks. For information, visit www.kiama.com.au or phone the Kiama Visitors Information Centre on (02) 4232 3322.
The aptly named Razorback trail leads hikers straight to the heart of the Vic Alps over rock-capped knobs, through snowgum-lined ridges and winding grassy bluffs to the summit of Vic’s second-highest peak, Mount Feathertop (1922m). The trailhead lies near the slopes of Mount Hotham and runs approximately 11km due north to Mount Feathertop which picturesquely looms in the distance.
The Razorback runs over a gently undulating ridge offering 360° views on both sides of river valleys and hazy mountain skylines. Federation Hut, 500m from the base of Mount Feathertop, takes approximately four hours one-way, so the hike is ideal for an extended day hike or a more leisurely overnight trip. At first the Razorback gently ascends and descends over a few knolls covered in snowgrass before sharply sinking to a saddle known as the Big Dipper. Along the saddle, hikers climb through a young stand of snowgums before reaching the rocky peaks of Twin Knobs and High Knob.
Atop these crests, trekkers can enjoy an especially impressive view of Mount Feathertop, the “Queen of the Alps”. The mountain’s name comes from the appearance of feathers formed by spring snow remaining in many of its gullies. Before scrambling to the summit, Federation Hut, just off the main trail, offers hikers a water tank and compost toilet and is a nice spot for lunch or a place to rest weary legs. There isn’t much water elsewhere, so carry enough for the trip.
The Razorback trailhead at Diamantina Hut only provides a car park, but there are plenty of caravan parks, campsites and cabins available in Harrietville, a small town approximately 30 minutes’ drive along the scenic Great Alpine Road. The Razorback is open all year round, but since the trail is covered in snow during the winter months, the best time for novices to tackle the hike is from early November to late May. During winter, it is best traversed on cross-country skis.
The track itself is not particularly difficult but it does require a reasonable level of fitness and the area is very exposed, so come prepared for potentially fierce weather changes.
Harrietville is also the launching point for several spur tracks that clamber up the flank of Mount Feathertop. These tracks are much more challenging as they start off in the valley and shoot straight up the side of the mountain, but at least you can leave straight from the caravan park across the road. Harrietville Cabins and Caravan Park is across from the pub, is pet friendly, and features nice cabins and shady RV sites – contact (03) 5759 2523.
Source: Caravan World Jul 2009.