SE Queensland: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Words and photos by Marc Llewellyn. Presented by G-SHOCK. 

Not all trips go as planned.

In fact, most of them get bent out of shape somewhere along the way. And as much as that derailing might grind your gears at the time, more often than not, there’s a sweet, sweet silver lining that invariably—through some kind of divine serendipity—leaves the fondest of memories in its wake.

Girraween National Park was the beacon of hope for this Neck Of The Woods adventure. Witnessing its magnificent granite landscape of enormous boulders stacked in archways and balancing in impossibly precarious positions was the itch we were hoping to scratch.

24-hours out, the wheels fell off our plan. Cue School Holidays and an avalanche of time-poor, highly-strung families looking to milk that teat of a long weekend before the regular programming of 9 to 5’s resumed. When enquiring with the closest caravan park about throwing a swag on the ground somewhere, the manager replied with ‘no chance in hell you’re getting in this weekend pal; expecting 2 to 3,000 people at Girraween…’ Shit!

Plan B it was then. With the car loaded with tents, swags, skateboards, fishing rods and camera gear, we jacked ourselves up with coffee and set a loose plan of just heading west from Burleigh Heads and bouncing around the country towns of south-east Queensland to see what was on offer.

As a kid growing up beachside on the Gold Coast, the irregular occurrence of having to head to places like Beaudesert and Warwick for the odd sports competition was always met with groans and a burning necessity to get back to the beach as quick as possible. But with some extra years under the belt and a more open mind, the gifts of rural south-east QLD kept on giving.

Unlike the tourist-centric metropolitans where anything slightly dated is quickly torn down and replaced with something shiny, the inland folk know that what’s old is rad and what’s natural should be protected. With every small town we went through, the pride and heritage were blindingly obvious. Pubs adorned with historical local memorabilia bleeding stories and nostalgia from the walls. Tech-free kids still doing skid competitions on their pushies, and a general slower, more humble pace of life that felt honest and authentic.

Between the towns were natural formations of magic. Historically what would’ve been such violent natural occurrences, has today created a wildly dense region of insanely beautiful mountain rages where creeks snake through valleys to impressive lakes. Enormous granite boulders explode out of the ground like statues. Undulating hills, sparse with huge old trees where cows would escape the blazing midday sun. There’s a constant sense of what you’d call ‘true-blue’ Australia, and I bloody loved it.

It’s taken a global pandemic and a collapse of international travel to force me to explore my neck of the woods more thoroughly, something that I feel almost guilty to admit. But I can honestly say, hand on heart, that what we’ve got on offer in our own back yard is just as good as any overseas vacation coronavirus might’ve robbed you of.

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