Queensland beaches are great all year round. With the mild sub-tropical climate even a winters day can be a great time to head to the coast. The beaches can be at their most beautiful on these sunny ‘off-season’ days when the sky is clear, the water is glistening and it’s not too crazy hot or busy.
This autumn / winter we’ve set ourselves the challenge to head to the Caloundra area on the southern Sunshine Coast to take on the Coastal walkway. The Caloundra Coastal Walk is a 25 kilometre beachfront trail from Bells Creek at Golden Beach in the South to Point Cartwright Drive in Buddina in the North. As the return 50km walkway is too far for us on a day we decided to break it into sections to cover the full trail. Our first segment was from Golden Beach through Bulcock Beach and Kings Beach to the Caloundra Headland. This leg of the trail is around 5km so 10km return. The area is marked on the map below with black arrows. It might not be the most logical to start in the middle but heck, there are no rules.
This part of the Sunshine Coast is very picturesque and has quite a bit of variety for South East Queensland coast which is better known for its miles upon miles of white sand surf beach. Golden beach is sheltered by the top end of Bribie Island making it a calm stretch of water, you can hire kayaks and other water craft from here to explore the island and sheltered coastal waters.
Keep you eyes open for the local wildlife as you walk along, there are a variety of sea birds but the pelicans are quite prolific and definitely large enough to attract most peoples attention. It’s good to see them back in good sized flocks again after being mostly absent for several years after the drought. The water is super clear along here so you can sometimes spot fish or rays from the shore.
At Bulcock beach there’s a boardwalk with tables to sit out with a coffee from one of the local cafes and watch the fisherman on the wharf reeling in the black bream. It was interesting to stop and chat to them, the fishing in Australia is very different from Aucklands Hauraki Gulf and while I miss the snapper and terakahi there are some interesting seafoods here too. My favourite though would have to be the huge juicy Queensland prawns, tasty mussels from South Australia and Tasmanian salmon, none of which are going to turn up on my baited hook anywhere around here.
Walking further north you come to the wide sandy beaches and then further along still are rocks for clambering over and searching for life in the rock-pools. I’ve loved rock-pools since I was a kid in Wellington where on a good day you might find a seal or two on one of the rocks but mostly limpets, anemones and shrimps will keep me amused, I don’t seem to have grown out of searching the rock pools but it is a long time since I found a seal.
Kings Beach has been a favourite holiday destination for Queenslanders since the 1880’s but back then development was hampered by the poor quality of the roads connecting it to Brisbane. By the 1920’s though it really came into its own when sea bathing became increasingly acceptable and access gradually improved. In 1937 the council put a major development plan in place and one the the key parts, a Spanish Mission style beach pavillion was built and is still in use today as public toilets and changing rooms. Recent years have seen councils again renew investment into the area and the Coastal walkway is part of that spend.
As the sand comes to an end before the headland you’ll find the Kings Beach Ocean Pools which are also known as Sir Francis Nicklin memorial pools, they’re a welcome alternative for a dip if you prefer not to swim in the sea. These pools were renovated in 2006 and are provided free for public use. The maximum depth is 1.5 metres and the usual rules for pool safety and the enjoyment of other swimmers are in place. While the pools are open for use all year round they are only patrolled by lifeguards in the summer months.
Continuing up the hill to the headlands of Caloundra and Centaur Park there are great views up and down the coast. There’s a memorial here to the AHS Centaur, an Australia Hospital ship from WWII that was sunk off the coast of Queensland by a Japanese submarine on the 12th May 1943. More than 250 people were killed while 64 others were plucked from the water up to 35 hours later. The ship was attacked despite bearing the full hospital ship markings of green lines and the Red Cross on its hull, a war crime under the Hague convention. No one stood trial for the attack but Lieutenant Commander Nakagawa who is believed to have commanded the torpedo attack was later jailed as a war criminal for other incidents.
We ended our first segment of the Coloundra Coastal Walkway at Centaur Park. I would have liked to keep walking but we still needed to walk back the way we came to the car. We expect to complete the walkway with two subsequent segments one to the north and the other to the south during this winter.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our photo-walk today. If you do get to Queensland I hope you’ll enjoy the beaches and wildlife here as much as we do.