Have you ever wanted to go walking for a few days, but didn’t want to carry camping gear? I did, and decided that the Sunshine Coast would be the perfect place to try it.
I put a change of clothes into the day pack, and set off from home early one morning.
I didn’t have much of a plan: Catch the train and bus to Caloundra, then see where I ended up at the end of the day. Hopefully I’d be able to find some accommodation at the last minute.
A couple of hours later, I strolled through Caloundra, and down towards Bulcock Beach.
Even though the school holidays had just started, the place was quiet. The park was empty, and the soft rumble of surf drifted on the breeze through the Norfolk Pines.
The Caloundra Headland played an important part in the Second World War. I passed numerous memorials to sunken ships, gun placements and fallen heroes, and considered myself fortunate to be alive during a time of relative peace. Some people weren’t so lucky.
In the distance, the odd-shaped peaks of the Glasshouse Mountains lined the horizon. This is how they probably appeared to James Cook as he sailed by this headland in 1770. I’ve never seen a Glasshouse, so I can’t say whether or not he chose a good name for these volcanic sentinels.
A few minutes later I passed Shelly Beach – one of the more secluded beaches at Caloundra…
…then up and over the headland to Moffat Beach.
The sand stretched endlessly northwards. That was where I was headed today.
I shuffled down the stairs and onto the sand.
This was a beach walk – and I was glad to finally get off the pavement and onto the beach – even if I did still have my shoes on.
At Tooway Creek I unzipped the legs from my convertible trousers, and took off my shoes.
The water wasn’t deep – but it’s much nicer to get your feet wet at the beach, than to get your shoes wet.
I kept my shoes off for a while and headed north. There were a few more creeks to cross, so it made more sense to go barefoot for a while.
An onshore breeze whipped up some frothy “snow”. I kicked through gleefully it like a kid.
My shins were covered in beige bubbles
Currimundi Creek was deep and fast.
I stepped in and sank in the soft sand. Immediately I realized this was probably not a sensible place to cross.
I walked upstream a couple of hundred metres and tried crossing again.
It was deep. The water came up to my waist. My shorts were soaked. My backside was dripping wet. I was having fun 🙂
A stiff on-shore breeze buffeted me as I walked. My shorts dried within half an hour. Thank goodness for quick-drying synthetic hiking gear.
On the northern horizon I could make out the lighthouse atop Point Cartwright, marking the mouth of the Mooloola River.
As I continued up the beach I passed a few happy dogs and their owners.
Beaches are happy places.
Around noon I reached Point Cartwright.
The Caloundra Headland had almost disappeared behind me.
It’s amazing how quickly the miles pass when you’re having fun.
I walked around the bright blue water tank with its huge mural of beach wildlife.
On the northern cliffs of the headland I could see all the way north to Noosa.
Perhaps I’d get there tomorrow.
Rather than walk through town, I phoned Jerry the Jet Boat man to see if he would give me a lift across the river. It was only a hundred metres, and saved me an hour walking through the busy streets of Mooloolaba.
Jerry explained that his Jet Boat was very thirsty, but his mate (also called Neil) had a small dinghy and would be happy to ferry me over the river for a much cheaper price.
I figured a dinghy would be as good as a Jet Boat when crossing a river, and we agreed to meet at a boat ramp on the southern bank of the river.
As luck would have it, I arrived later than I had expected, so Jerry suggested “Plan C” – he would just drive me to the other side of the river in his car.
I agreed, and pretended I had been ferried there in a Jet Boat. Once I was on the other side of the river it didn’t make much difference anyway 🙂
I waved Jerry a grateful good bye, and wandered down to the beach on the Mooloolaba Spit.
The sea was surprisingly calm.
A huge rock wall jutted out from the mouth of the river, and blocked the incoming waves for the first few hundred metres of the beach.
It was now about midday, so I stopped at a cafe next to the beach for some lunch.
Another advantage of “hiking” by the beach – you don’t have to carry large amounts of food or water.
While I ate lunch, I jumped on the AirBNB app and searched for a place to stay the night about an hour’s walk away.
I sent the host a message “Sorry for the late notice, etc… but can I stay at your place tonight please?”
It would take a while for them to answer so I kept walking…
…around Alexandra Headland…
…then back on to the sand at Maroochydore.
Sooner than expected I arrived in Maroochydore and dropped into the local Surf Club for a rest while I waited for my AirBNB host to respond.
About two schooners of beer later I received a “yes” and happily walked up the road to Denise’s place for a comfortable overnight stay.
Max elevation: 25 m
Min elevation: 1 m
Total climbing: 354 m
Total descent: -363 m
Average speed: 5.38 km/h
Total time: 06:49:52
Day 1. I walked about twenty-six kilometres in just under seven hours including breaks.
I set off early next morning – around 6am before the winter sun had risen.
I had hoped to repeat my luck from the previous day and find someone to ferry me over the river.
Alas, there were no jet boats. Not even a fishing tinny.
The bridge was only four kilometres away. If I walked there, crossed the bridge, then walked back to the beach it would add a couple of hours to my trip – but I wasn’t on a deadline so it didn’t really matter.
The gentle sun awoke.
Everyone started waking up.
After about half an hour, the motorway bridge came into view.
“Walking is much slower than riding a bike” I thought to myself.
But I didn’t mind. The aim wasn’t to get to my destination in a record time. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what my destination was. It was fun to just walk – and slowly watch the world go by.
You see some odd things when you take the time to walk.
I crossed the bridge.
Traffic whizzed by on one side.
The river glided gently by on the other.
I’d rather “glide gently” than “whiz by” any day 🙂
A few cyclists splashed past on the wet pavement as I reached the northern side of the bridge.
Noosa was still a long distance away.
I didn’t think I’d get there today.
Coolum was looking within reach though.
I chuckled to myself. Just like yesterday I had no idea where I was going to sleep tonight.
This new experience of “controlled vagrancy” felt strangely pleasant.
As I made my way back towards the beach, I stopped briefly at “Settlers Park”.
The sign appeared to have some interesting historical information.
The Gubbi Gubbi people have been here for thousands of years. I wondered what this area might have looked like when they first arrived.
A few minutes later I had a small glimpse of what the ancient coastal plains might have been like.
A thick melaleuca forest covered a vast expanse of swampy ground.
Beneath them lay a luxuriant carpet of Bungwall ferns. These ferns were an important food source for indigenous people. Early settlers told how in the mornings they could hear the “tap tap tap” of hundreds of people banging the fern roots with stones to make them soft and edible.
The time machine in my head scrolled backwards a few hundred years and pictured what it might have been like.
A few minutes later I saw a faint path leading through some cotton trees and followed it into the dunes.
Back at the beach again!
I grinned happily.
I strode through the dunes and down onto the sand.
In the distance, Mudjimba Island hardened itself against the incessant wind and waves.
Dreamtime legends say that this island is the head of the young warrior Coolum, who died in a fight with Ninderry – an old man who kidnapped Coolum’s bride, Maroochy.
It’s reassuring to know the Dreamtime Titans had the same passions and conflicts that we have.
It’s also nice to know Maroochy eventually escaped from the wicked Ninderry.
The Gubbi Gubbi say that Maroochy wept so much her tears made the waters of the Maroochy River, which I had crossed yesterday.
I love the old stories.
My feet hurt, so I sat down for a while to sort them out.
I had a few blisters and covered them with some gel dressings. The dressings worked really well.
Next time I walk, I’ll bring these things with me.
A friendly dog asked if I was ok.
He didn’t have problems with blisters, and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but gratefully accepted a gentle scratch on the side of his head anyway.
I dusted the sand off, and continued. My feet were sore, my blisters stung. I had a conversation with my feet.
“Look guys – I know it hurts, but we’re going to be ok. Just hang in there.”
It sounded insane, but it helped to think of the pain as information being transmitted along my neural pathways, instead of… pain.
Despite the discomfort, I was really enjoying this walk.
The endless stretches of secluded beaches were perfect food for the soul.
Perhaps if I could fix the problem with my feet I could try something a bit more ambitious in future?
The large inverted bowl of Coolum grew larger as I neared it.
When heavy rain started to fall, I thought it might be easier to walk on the path behind the dunes.
The trees would give me a bit of shelter.
Also, it was easier to walk on the path than on the soft sand.
I stopped at Point Arkwright to rest my legs and enjoy the view.
On the northern horizon I could see the Noosa Headland. I had really wanted to get there tomorrow, but my feet had other plans.
“This is it, boss. Stop soon or we’re going on strike.”
I slowly made my way down the path towards Coolum Beach.
While I ate my lunch, I scrolled through AirBNB to see if I could find some accommodation maybe an hour’s walk up the road.
Today was Saturday – the first day of the school holidays. The place was full.
The only place I could find was here at Coolum Beach, so I contacted the host to see if I could stay.
Almost immediately, Christine replied and said “Yes”.
I was delighted. “How about I bring around a bottle of wine to share?” I said.
“You can if you like,” Christine replied, “but we’re going to a craft beer festival. You’re welcome to join us”
I couldn’t believe it. I picked the last place available in town, and the host was offering to take me to a craft beer festival.
The beer goddess, Ninkasi, was smiling upon this intrepid brewer.
After a shower, and quick change, we bundled into Chirstine’s car and headed to the Eumundi Pub.
I had no idea my Saturday night would end up like this.
I’m glad that this time I just “made it up as I went along”. Sometimes we try to organize everything as part of our strategy to minimize risks. Sometimes it’s better to take a chance, and see what happens.
Thanks, Christine, for providing a roof and friendship for this footsore traveler.
Max elevation: 42 m
Min elevation: -11 m
Total climbing: 985 m
Total descent: -962 m
Average speed: 4.46 km/h
Total time: 07:52:01
Day 2. I walked about twenty-six kilometres in just under eight hours including breaks.
Total distance over two days: about fifty-two kilometres.
I really enjoyed this little adventure. It was low impact, didn’t require much planning, and didn’t need much gear. There were plenty of places to buy food or even extra clothes if I needed them.
It’s not the same as a multi-day wilderness trek, but it’s a good start.
I would like to try this sort of walk again, but will try to better protect my feet next time.