It took me 21 years, but I made it back to Noosa, Queensland and once again, we went hiking in Noosa National Park .
Noosa is a tropical paradise located on the Sunshine Coast, approximately two hours from Brisbane and possibly as close to heaven as you might get. Well, it was 21 years ago. As a young backpacker, I fell in love with everything about it. I cruised and fished on Noosa River, I surfed on its gentle breaks and I just loved setting off on Noosa National Park walks. At night, we chilled in cool bars and made new friends, even if some were only for a night. Leaving Noosa behind, to continue my travels, was a difficult decision, but I promised to myself that I would return and if possible, I would one day make it my home.
So, when we were planning our Queensland itinerary, it made logistical sense to make Noosa one of our stops, but more importantly it made my heart flutter a wee bit.
Noosa, I was coming back.
The first thing we noticed as we turned off the Bruce Highway were roundabouts. Lots and lots of them. Someone on the Noosa town planning committee must have visited some International Roundabout Convention and came back obsessed with these spherical monstrosities. I then noticed how much it had grown. Noosa is now a thriving holiday resort and a much in demand destination and settlement. According to statistics, 20,000 other people have also fallen in love with Noosa and have made it their home since my last visit, while 54% of visitors to Queensland come to Noosa.
If anything, Noosa has become a little too overdeveloped for my liking and a little overpriced. I much preferred it as it was 21 years ago, but I guess nothing stands in the way of progress and its popularity is down to all the things that made me fall in love with it in the first place.
One of the things that I fell in love with was the wonderful Noosa National Park. Queensland is genuinely spoiled for amazing coastal and forest walks and Noosa National Park, accessed just at Noosa Heads, provides some of the most scenic and most accessible walking routes in the state.
The Coastal track walk out to and back from Hell’s Gates is the most popular, but having visited the Information Centre, where you can stock up on supplies, visit the toilet (always go before you go) and collect maps, we decided to head inland on the slightly longer Tanglewood Track. If you follow my blog, you will appreciate that I/we often take the path least followed and that I seldom take the same route twice.
Other than a few trail runners, we had, as we had hoped, the entire route to ourselves, which suited us perfectly . The boys pretended to be Tarzan on the vines and Teresa and I both felt relaxed as we listened to the noises of the forest and walked between the shards of sunlight that sliced through the thick forest canopy. Noosa is a bustling resort and it was nice to get away from the crowds, if even just for a short period of time.
The route to Hell’s Gate, via the Tanglewood Track, is a gentle walk on a sandy track and although there are a few steep inclines, as it reaches its peak, it is suitable for most people and most abilities. Winter in Noosa is as close to perfect as I could ever imagine. It’s sunny and warm enough without making our attempts at being active too sticky or too uncomfortable. If, however, you are taking this route in summer, you might find it a bit more challenging.
Eventually the route meets up with the Coastal Track, where you are met by a noticeable increase in walkers, the crashing sound of waves below at Hell’s Gate and some high winds. It isn’t gale force winds that pass for a normal summer’s day in Glasgow, but while perched on the edge of a bluff, you do feel a little anxious.
Hell’s Gate provides some great views across Alexandria Bay and if you are lucky (we were not) you can spot humpback whales and sea turtles in the waters below. Just don’t be bluffed by its beauty and step too close to the edge, as Hell’s Gate fully illustrates the ferocious power of the ocean as the waves smash and churn within it and lives have been lost on its slippery and steep sides. I know that I was on a constant “where’s Jack?” alert.
It is also a great place to sit down and gaze into the ocean below and warm from the sun above while thinking about…well, thinking about nothing actually. For me, the joy of walking is that it is often a chance to forget; to clear your mind and fill your lungs. Even wee Jack managed to sit peacefully and silently for a few minutes.
We then chose the Coastal path as our route back and one thing disappointed me. It is a busy route, but that is to be expected. However, it wasn’t just busy with walkers, but also runners. I truly love discovering new run routes while on holiday and while I could see the attraction of running along the Coastal Track, I witnessed and felt the runners’ frustrations at having to go around and sometimes push around walkers. As a walker, runner and cyclist, I am all for responsible shared use, but in my opinion, the Coastal Track was far too busy and narrow for runners.
I do sympathise. You walk/run past several gorgeous beaches and inlets and watch as surfers and terns skim across the water in search of that perfect wave and some tasty fish. However, it does feel like a procession with people hot on your heels and too eager to overtake and shoulder you out of the way.
Thankfully this forced us to step off the track and get out of the traffic for a while and we sat and played on the delightful sandy shores of Tea Tree Bay until the sun began its evening descent. The boys were keen to wade further into the water, but as it is an unpatrolled beach, we said no. However, as you can see in the picture below, they didn’t seem to mind too much.
Sometimes we (and I probably mean me) can become too fixated with the pace and distance of a walk and we sometimes forget to fully appreciate and enjoy the experience. The second half of the Noosa National Park walk felt too much like a race, but that wee stop on that beach, at Tea Tree Bay, was enough to rescue the experience and keep the Noosa National Park walk as one of my favourites.
It also helps that as you step out of Noosa National Park you enter Hastings Street, where you will find an array of shops and eateries. Having been refused entry to the Noosa Life Saving Club, on the grounds of me not having photographic identification, we scurried across the road to a wee hamburger place. We were so hungry that we didn’t undertake our usual two hour Trip Adviser restaurant search, but we needn’t have worried. For sometimes what you need is right in front of you.
Betty’s Burgers is an award winning and wonderful wee outdoor establishment with great service and food. Yes, we might have happily eaten anything at this point, but the burgers were fresh, tasty and made exactly to your specification. For me, this meant a topping of fried egg and beetroot. I don’t know what inspired Australians to add beetroot to their burgers, but it is a winning combination and possibly one of the reasons why I have now been to Australia five times.
As we sat with our burgers and watched the final embers of light fade from the sky and the world go past, I realised that although it wasn’t quite what I remembered, I still truly loved Noosa. As a destination it has virtually everything a family might want. Great beaches, walks, activities and places to eat in a climate that is hard to beat.
Noosa, I will probably be back