Gladstone, on Queensland’s mid-north coast, has to be one of the most bustling and industrious coastal cities that I have ever seen. It is known for having the largest multi-commodity shipping port in Queensland, and with nearly 35,000 people in the city limits, it is an interesting town with a mix of cultures, plus no shortage of outdoor activities within easy reach.
Taking a step back in time to 1770, it was Captain Cook who first sailed into the entrance of Gladstone’s natural harbour – a massive protected bay sheltered to the east by several islands including Facing and Curtis.
Move the clock 30 years forward, and Matthew Flinders sailed into the same harbour, which he named Port Curtis. It wasn’t until 1846 that Gladstone received its name after a British Secretary. In the coming years Gladstone opened up a primary school and today it’s one of the oldest in the state of Queensland. Over the next 100 years the town struggled with little industry, then in 1949 a disastrous cyclone struck that caused deaths and extensive damage to the town and its surrounds.
Roll into 1960 and the export of coal soon had a boom effect on Gladstone. In 1967 a local power station opened, then a rail line and by 1970 the population had doubled. Over the next ten years the town saw massive growth through coal facilities, power stations, alum smelter and the exportation of gas. These days the export figures are huge and the commercial industry hugs the coastline for nearly 18km.
Now don’t think that Gladstone is all industry. Within the area there are stunning beaches, coastal getaways, heritage villages and because the mountains come right to the coast, there are plenty of lookouts to view the city. With so much to do around town a good base is needed, so we headed to the boutique town of Boyne Island just 23km away and set down at the peaceful Boyne Island Caravan Park.
Set amongst plenty of shady gums right on the Boyne River, this park has all the standard features you’d expect from big name parks and the facilities are second to none. You can camp on huge unpowered sites with river views and fire rings, the powered sites are extra large as well, and there are cabins scattered throughout the property. From the minute you step inside and book you’ll feel like one of the family in the park’s peaceful settings.
Just a five minute drive away is the stunning coastal town of Tannum Sands, right on the ocean’s edge. It’s a cute town where some of the best coffee can be bought before your morning stroll along the esplanade beside Tannum Sands beach. The parklands are perfect for exploration, maybe a midday barbecue or even a swim in the beautiful water nearby. At low tide you can walk across the creek to Wild Cattle Island which is also part of the national park. With everything protected here the environment is pristine – just watch the tides because if you get stuck it might be a long wait till the next low.
Heading back to Boyne Island, there are nearly 15km of walking tracks throughout this little town, along the river, and up onto Canoe Point that will give you unrelenting views along the coastline. You can also take a coastal plant walk along the dunes and onto the foreshore parklands. Boyne Island is a haven for water activities. Fishing, kayaking and boating seem to be the way of life here. If you’re into water activities too, Boyne Island has its very own boat ramp straight into the pristine Boyne River, and if you do catch a fish there are cleaning tables with boat wash facilities available.
After relaxing on the coast, it’s time to explore Gladstone, and getting there proves to be just as busy as the town itself. On the way into town a great place to spend a few hours is the stunning botanical gardens in the outer suburb of Tondoon. At 34 years old and covering a staggering 135 acres, you’ll find natural bushland, lakes, viewing towers, Japanese gardens and a host of tropical species throughout the park.
We found the best place for an overview of Gladstone is to head up to Round Hill lookout where you will be gobsmacked by the amount industry within the heart and along the shoreline of Gladstone. Up here you can complete the five minute walk around the mountain, where in every direction there are unbelievable views across the region to the coast and the mountains. The local council has installed information boards which explain what you can see in front of you, the history, distances as well as photos from the past. Out to sea it’s amazing to see the amount of ships waiting to be loaded, and according to the boards, the port operates 24/7 loading these massive ships to export goods around the world.
For those who want to explore a little further afield, a fantastic day trip can be had by heading 30km west of Gladstone to Lake Awonga. When full, Awonga covers a massive 70 square kilometres, allowing for plenty of fresh water activities. If your a gung-ho fisho, each year 200,000 fingerlings are released into the dam that include barramundi, mangrove jack and flathead grey mullet.
The Gladstone area is set amongst an array of hills, and being tucked right on the coast, the wildlife is abundant. Predatory sea birds and kangaroos can be seen on a daily basis, particularly on the many walks around the area. The landscape is largely coastal bush, where gums grow right down near the water’s edge. All this, and with the southern Great Barrier Reef on the doorstep, make the Gladstone region a worthy stop for outdoor adventures.
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