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SUNSHINE COASTAL PATHWAY: NOOSA HEADS

A surfing trip in 1970, as soon as I had gained a driver’s licence, started a love affair with the natural appeal of Noosa that has lasted half a lifetime.

No wet suits, no leg ropes, a new “short” board of nine foot with flexible fin.

We had driven up through the centre of New South Wales and then cut across to the coastline at Crescent Head.

From there it was a matter of a new surf beach every day, sleeping in the Holden panel van with the sound of waves breaking as a backdrop. Angourie, Evans Head, Byron Bay and then into Queensland.

Everywhere we stopped there was a good surf. Greenmount and Kirra were no exceptions.

Johnsons, November 1968

We drove through Brisbane without catching one red light.

The sense of excitement increased as we reached the Sunshine Coast.

There was a feeling of the tropics when the rainforest trees virtually formed a canopy across the Bruce Highway at the Mooloolah River bridge.

Most people drove up the highway to Cooroy in those days, over the humped timber bridge or the through the gates across the railway line, and then down the range into Noosa Heads.

The Eumundi Road was just single lane bitumen. Wooden signposts told the distance in miles.

We didn’t even go into Hastings Street. Being late afternoon we drove straight around to Little Cove to find those magical waves that were featured in the surf magazines.

Noosa National Park in 1968 and 2020

The Noosa Wave take-away at the entrance to the national park was a favourite haunt for snacks. We surfed by day and slept in the panel van by night.

The Noosa Reef Hotel had just been renovated. Of an evening we would have a counter meal and soak up the sounds of the tropics … cicadas singing, the breeze in the trees, the crack of the surf as it broke at First Point, Johnsons or National.

Sunshine Beach was a day out. A single strip of bitumen to the ocean beach. Gravel and sand streets, a general store and a few houses. That was about it.

Hays Island was still just that … an island. Mangroves lined the creek banks.

The Noosa River mouth was at the end of Hastings Street and the Noosa Woods camping ground enjoyed a waterfront location. A piece of paradise that so many people stayed at and later went on to become locals.

The creation of Noosa Sound on Hays Island as a prime residential enclave in time saw storm seas threatening the exposed house sites.

Consequently, the Noosa Spit was created to protect this prime piece of real estate.

This would be a good spot to start the walk from Noosa Head to Caloundra Head. A walk back through time as well as into the future.

The northern tip of Noosa Spit, looking to Double Island Point

The Spit is a world of its own now. Picnic areas, an open grassed area for events, sand tracks through to the ocean beach on one side and to the river on the other.

Today the waterfront properties on Noosa Sound have multi-million-dollar houses on them as well as holiday resorts.

Power boats, yachts, surf skis and stand-up paddleboards are everywhere. Jet skiis, a river ferry … even a replica Venetian gondola.

Memories come back of dining at The Wharf on Noosa Sound in the 1980s, on the waterfront at The Sound Shopping Centre.

Then and now: Noosa Sound in 1974 and in 2020.

How many Noosa locals did a “runner’’ from The Wharf in the old days simply by jumping up from their table and into the river, then swimming across to the Spit.

It was always done for a dare and they would be back the next day to pay the bill.

Then there was the time, in shades of an episode of Fawlty Towers, one of our group especially wanted the profiteroles.

“No, they are off,’’ the host said.

“But they are so good,’’ she insisted.

Nothing doing. We were told they had run out of the cream-filled pastries.

Truth was, the fresh batch had been tainted by a seafood sauce dripping on them while in the cold room.

From the river mouth you get a different perspective of the Noosa North Shore and the magnificent stretch of beach past Teewah up to Double Island Point.

The North Shore has a strong sense of history in regard to European occupation of Australia.

Eliza Fraser, who survived the shipwreck of the Stirling Castle off the coast on 22 May 1836, was brought back to white civilisation near Teewah after living with the Badtjala people.

Irish convict John Graham, who had escaped from Brisbane penal colony in 1827, was eventually central to the return of Fraser by encouraging the Gubbi Gubbi (Kabi Kabi) people to take her by canoe across Lake Cootharaba to the ocean beach.

Whether John Graham acted alone in rescuing Fraser is a matter of some conjecture. For many years her rescuer was thought to have been another escaped convict, David Bracewell (though sometimes reported as Bracefell or Bracefield).

Bracewell claimed he had led Fraser overland to the outskirts of present-day. Official records show, to the contrary, that it was Graham who walked with her from Fig Tree Point, a corroboree ground near Lake Cootharaba, onto the ocean beach near present-day Teewah.

Looking to Noosa Heads from the North Shore

Here they met the waiting Lieutenant Otter and his small band of soldiers and convict volunteers. They proceeded north along the beach to the main rescue party waiting at Double Island Point from where Eliza was taken by longboat to the penal settlement at Moreton Bay.

Today, the North Shore is accessible by ferry. It is also the southern end point of the Cooloola Great Walk.

Fraser Island, where the Stirling Castle was wrecked, is the largest sand island in the world.

Hastings Street has changed from little more than a sand track to become one of Australia’s favourite holiday precincts.

Noosa Heads circa 1930s
Noosa Heads 2020

 Stop at the car park at the eastern end of the street and appreciate the way the beach has been an important part of the landscape through thousands of years.

First with the Gubbi Gubbi people who found sanctuary in the lee of the headland and enjoyed what they caught in the sea.

For the past 150 or so years, with those taking advantage of the north-facing beach and the sheltered surf.

This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the beach was virtually deserted. It was a chance for the locals to enjoy it … just like all those years ago when we first visited.

Visit Adventure Sunshine Coast for detailed information on various sections of the Coastal Pathway.

Looking to Noosa North Shore
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