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“What is the name of this beach?”

It was a simple question but one I had never been asked in all my years of living on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and I couldn’t believe my answer.

“Are you a beachcomber?” I asked. “Do you have that beachcomber spirit?”

We were day two into a 100km walk from Noosa Head to Caloundra Head, along the Sunshine Coastal Pathway.

Day one had seen us cover about 8km through the magnificent Noosa National Park.

Day two was from Sunshine Beach to Peregian Beach, a distance of 10-12km.

Here we were mid-morning, about three or four kilometres into the walk, and we were approached by this couple wearing colourful clothes and smiles to match.

It was that look, and the wide-brimmed beach hats, that prompted my beachcomber response.

“Well, I guess we do,” the man said.

“Good, then I’ll tell you,” I replied.

“It’s called Castaways Beach. Like Robinson Crusoe on Treasure Island.

“Just look for some coconut palms to shelter beneath and make your home here.” 

“That’s us,” the man said. “We’re castaways.”

He was Cuane and she was Mel … travellers from Durban in South Africa who had become stranded in Australia due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

They had been to Fiji and were returning home when international air travel was restricted.

Indeed, they might make their home on the Coast. They have been locked down since March 2.

On the return from Fiji they stopped in New Zealand, then Sydney in New South Wales.

“Why the Sunshine Coast? Why are you staying at Noosa?”

“Why not,” was Cuane’s answer. “It’s better to stay and pay for luxury accommodation than to pay incredibly high air fares to go home. 

“And with car hire at $15 a day, they are virtually paying us to take the car.” 

This meeting on a near-deserted beach on a glorious autumn day highlighted the state of the world at that time.

Fellow travellers from across the Indian Ocean, making the most of the moment to experience other landscapes … similar landscapes due to the latitudes of the two countries yet different.

Our walk from Head To Head was prompted by the pandemic as well.

Australia had gone into lockdown and it was only in May of 2020 that restrictions had eased so we could travel up to 100km from home.

This day we had started at Sunshine Beach and walked along the sand with the ocean to one side and the houses nestled in the sand dunes on the other.

At Sunrise Beach we climbed up the beach access track and followed the pathway beside the David Low Way, past Beaches gated estate to the old highway and Burgess Creek. 

Such diversity of environment, climate, buildings, walks, beaches and history.

This journey was proving rewarding yet nowhere near as difficult as the great New Zealand trek along the Routeburn Track, according to my walking companion. That can be walked as a four-day, three-night return experience of 32km each way through Fiordland National Park in the South island.

Although with spectacular vistas over vast mountain ranges and valleys, her journey was in soaking rain. 

This return journey starts and finishes near Glenorchy, 68 km from Queenstown.

Such a trek in harsh conditions brought a sense of camaraderie in the group of friends.

Each had gone for different for reasons … some for therapy, to get their head-space in order.

Some did it for the company … to be inspirational to each other.

While others simply wanted to enjoy the solitude. You do not need a sense of arrival, just the time on the track. 

Yet, achievement is a part as in a sense that can prepare you for other challenges. 

The ocean-side road that winds its way through the Castaways-Marcus Beach area is one of those iconic drives … like the road from Cairns to Port Douglas, like the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.

Castaways Estate was first developed in the 1990s and young families have grown up together. The community spirit is alive and well.

At Marcus Beach, just to the south, you have a couple of streets on the beach side of the road but more streets winding their way back into the national park to the west.

Absolute beachfront living is also found at Marcus Dunes, a gated estate just to the south of Sunrise Beach and Burgess Creek.

From there to Marcus Beach is a golden stretch of beach that is dog friendly.

Cutting edge beach-style homes are always being constructed among the more established homes. There some quite spectacular places being constructed on the high ground to take advantage of the outlook.

Castaways is basically one or two streets deep and is landlocked by the national park on three sides and the ocean to the east.

There is the private beachside precinct around Tristania Drive; the more affordable and leafy residential area across David Low Way and adjoining Noosa National Park; and the gated, elevated enclave at Marcus Dunes with views to Noosa Heads and Point Cartwright.

TM Burke opened up the coastal strip between Coolum and Noosa when granted land in exchange for the building of roads.

TM Burke himself started the Noosa Beach Estate project in 1928, but it floundered until revived by his son, Marcus, (after who Marcus Beach is named) as Sunshine Beach.

Marcus Beach itself was not first developed until the late 1970s, with a few of these original beach houses still standing. 

At the 6.6km mark we head up from the sand to the car park and pathway again. 

I love the patterns the creeks make in the sand as they run down from the dunes to the ocean, the way the afternoon sun reflects on the water. 

These beach access tracks evoke memories of childhood holidays by the sea.

That sense of adventure as bare feet make their way through the dunes and foreshore bushland, then the sand a grasses before the ocean is revealed in all its majesty.

Time stands still as you watch and listen to the waves ending their journey upon the shore.

After 10.10km in three hours of walking we reach Peregian Beach.

The breeze has picked up and my walking companion points out that it’s always better to walk with the wind rather than into it – not only is it better to walk with the breeze at your back but it stops the sand from blowing into your face. Simple really.

Today’s journey at times involved two-metre wide bike/walk paths through the dunes, metre-wide concrete footpaths or asphalt strips beside the coastal road, and most of the way along the beach. 

The roadside paths gave elevation and views from the ridges yet the sand of the beach felt as if it was doing your good.

That’s the thing about the beach. You just relax to the sound of the waves and let your body give into its calming effect.

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

6 comments on “Life of a Beachcomber

  1. Bettina Mertel says:

    BEAUTIFUL, Erle! And so well written!

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  2. I marvel at all the different stories of people who got stranded in the world when air travel stopped so abruptly in March last year. The couple you met on Castaway beach got lucky from the sound of it. I can practically smell the salty ocean air. What a beautiful stretch of coastline it is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. leavearly says:

      You are right Jolandi .. it’s a time of change … travel is changing …I feel it will return to the time of the traveller .. those who are deeply interested in the different cultures, landscapes and lifestyles rather than the casual tourist … yesterday I spent three or four amazing hours with a dragonfruit grower … life never ceases to surprise as long as you are open to change … more about dragonfruit later …


      1. You are so right. Sounds like an interesting couple of hours, and seeing that I love dragon fruit, I can’t wait to hear more about it, so I’m looking forward to that post. I am completely clueless how they are grown.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. leavearly says:

    Dragonfruit … the fiery red colour of a dragon’s breath … they are grown from cuttings or from seed. I suspect you could grow them where you are as they are basically a cactus … they do well in Central and South America, South-east Asia and here in semi-tropical Queensland. They need about 80% sunshine and simply grow on a post or trellis. They fruit quicker if planted in the ground rather than a pot. The red ones seem to have a better taste and there is a slightly pinker one that seems more zesty. Good luck in your search.


  4. “That’s the thing about the beach. You just relax to the sound of the waves and let your body give into its calming effect.” That’s what I love about being near the ocean as well! How lucky for your two beachcombers that they were stranded in such a beautiful part of the world. Loving the calming effect of your beach photos as well in my day. Wishing you a safe and serene new season.


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