Three Years on the Road
by
Brett Davis


Opinions of Places Around Australia

Gold Coast. A lot of people think the Gold Coast is ugly, crass, uncontrolled urban development, and in a lot of ways it is, but I actually like it. It seems a bit pointless putting theme parks like Sea-World, Movie World and Dreamworld in the area though, because the whole of the Gold Coast is a theme park in itself. And why not put all the high-rises and garishness into one place like the Gold Coast? It's better in just one spot, so that all the people who prefer this sort of attraction can be kept away from the truly beautiful areas of Australia.

Lamington National Park. A lovely part of the world, especially if you walk. I feel sorry for the day trippers who get off the bus, feed the crimson rosellas and king parrots, have a meal at O'Reilly's and hop back on the bus again. You get out of it what you put in.

Brisbane. A city. A good place to store our excess population.

Noosa. I am reminded of the Eagles song, "The Last Resort". A line from the song says "Call some place Paradise, kiss it goodbye." A pretty little coastal town grown too big.

Noosa hinterland. The sort of place I could see myself living in. A lot going for it, but it could be starting to go the way of Noosa itself.

Hervey Bay. Suburban sprawl without an urb. Probably a nice place to live, with plenty of room for the tourists to blend in. Most of the tourism takes place in the whale-watching season and out on the water. A stopping off place for Fraser Island tourists. Seems to lack direction, which may be a good thing.

Fraser Island. Why is only the top bit of the island a national park? The whole Fraser Island tourism industry feels corrupt, from the seeming monopolies of tour operators to the scenic flights and ferries. It seems to me that its easy to guarantee exclusivity and receive kickbacks, while preaching control of numbers and protection of the environment. I have nothing to back this up. It just smells. A lovely place to visit if you walk and avoid the four wheel drive vehicles. A lot of hoons tear up the beach and rubbish the forests, but that is what happens when car companies create a demand (for Four Wheel Drive vehicles) that has few outlets.

Rockhampton/Yeppoon. Nice in Winter, but I hear that Rockhampton in summer is a no go area. Yeppoon is pretty but might one day go the way of Noosa. The old Iwasaki Resort, now the Capricorn Resort, is a good example of how development and nature can coexist. The resort wetlands are superb. If every resort was similar, we might not have any need for national parks.

Eungella. Any place you can see a platypus in the wild has got to be okay.

Cape Hillsborough. Another very lovely spot. The "resort" is okay, the development low key, and unless a misguided entrepreneur comes along and ruins it, Cape Hillsborough might stay that way.

Airlie Beach. Surprisingly undeveloped, but give it time.

Whitsundays. Karen and I would happily build our house overlooking Whitehaven Beach. We wanted to visit the deserted islands but had difficulty getting transport, especially at a reasonable rate. They say that a guy who set up a business transporting backpackers out to the islands was "convinced" by regular tour operators to pack it in. Some of the islands are virtually inaccessible to tourists these day. Not a bad thing. Hamilton Island? Never been there. Don't want to go.

Townsville. A big, sprawling, typically ugly country town. Nice rock pool.

Magnetic Island. I have heard it described as a tropical paradise, and as a suburb of Townsville. It is probably somewhere between the two. Karen and I enjoyed our five days there, even though we had a lot of rain. That must be a recommendation.

Cardwell. They say it will die unless a controversial resort is built here. Rest in peace, Cardwell.

Hinchinbrook Island. An almost perfect national park. Direct access is difficult, but transport to and from the island is cheap and efficient. Tourism is limited almost totally to walkers and campers, and even then on a limited basis. As it should be.

Mission Beach. Hated it. Will never go back. Lousy place. Not recommended. This description has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the Mission Beach area is one of the last refuges for the endangered Southern Cassowary, and any development and tourism which occurs there will necessarily reduce its numbers to the point of extinction.

Atherton Tableland. If you are going to the Atherton, don't ride up the Palmerston Highway. The other access roads are pretty bad for a bike too. But well worth a visit. Nice waterfalls, pretty farming country, if you like that sort of thing, some interesting volcanic craters and lakes. A pretty laid back kind of area, and hopefully too big to ruin.

Cairns. Could become the Gold Coast of the north, if it isn't already.

Great Barrier Reef. Superb. If well managed, it will last forever, but I guess it depends on what happens with the rest of the planet, what with global warming, rising sea levels, increasing pollution, the hole in the ozone layer etc. See it while you can.

Cape York. Worth doing once, but twice might be pushing it. It's big and probably under-developed. Some of the towns are third world. Tourists should see them without having to live in them.

Weipa. A company town, Comalco. As a result, it is clean, orderly, modern, well managed and well maintained. Australia could do worse than have a lot more towns like Weipa. Compared to some of the other towns on the Cape, Weipa was civilisation. In fact, compared to almost every other city in Australia, it still wins hands down. The last I heard, the town and the mine area were the subject of a land claim by nine aboriginal people.

Thursday Island. Lovely people, despite apparent health problems. A breath of fresh air after the mainland towns. Worth the trip.

Skyrail. A controversial development near Cairns due to its so-called impact on the rain forest. Isn't it strange how a train line to Kuranda, which has carved an ugly scar right across the landscape, can be regarded as a major tourist attraction, but a few pylons and cable-cars moving above the rain forest can be thought of as worthy of opposition. If all development was as environmentally friendly as the Skyrail, Australia would be a better place to live.

Kuranda. Lush, tropical town, but the famed tourist markets here look the same as everywhere else, from Mindel Beach in Darwin, to the Cairns waterfront, to Eumundi near Noosa, to Paddy's in Sydney. Like the Gold Coast, Kuranda is a good place for tourists to gather to keep them away from the good places.

Undara. No problems with Undara. Private enterprise national parks are really the way to go. The government cannot run anything efficiently. Despite taxing us to the hilt, they still make a loss every year. Yet we trust them with the management of our greatest resource. What would happen if we sold the national parks to big business? If they had to make a profit and return a dividend to their stock-holders every year, wouldn't the national parks be in better hands. It might cost more to go there, they might be less accessible, but in the long run they would always be there for anyone willing to pay to see them. I might get some arguments on this one.

Karumba. A fishing village. The fishermen are welcome to it. At least no place has ever been over-developed because of fishing. More fish, more tourists, more catches, less fish, less catches, less tourists. A well balanced system.

Lawn Hill. Another place to see while you still can. A lot like Katherine Gorge, only smaller. Worth the trip, but only if you explore. Day trippers will probably be disappointed. It is a long way from anywhere.

Mount Isa. I suppose there have to be mines and mining towns. Mount Isa is both. A good place to stock up on supplies as you travel to somewhere else.

Lord Howe Island. Paradise, but don't go if you want swimming pools, movie theatres, fast food outlets, high-rises, theme parks, discos and motorised water sports. In place of all that, however, there are some wonderful beaches and a beautiful lagoon if you would like a swim, a community hall which shows movies once a week, a few general stores where you can get a pie, a few houses with two storeys, a tennis court for hire, dancing at the bowling club on Saturday night and some glass bottom boat tours.

NSW South Coast. Another place you would never want to visit, with nothing going for it. Cold, windy, hostile natives, the occasional plagues of boils and frogs, not a very pleasant place at all. I live there. Avoid it please.

Snowy Mountains. It's funny how some of the ski-fields are able to advertise more new ski-runs every year. Something must happen to the trees, in the national parks of which they are a part, during the summer months. And the rocks as well. It couldn't be dynamite. It must just be thunderstorms. A beautiful place, with the potential for disaster.

Vic High Country. See the Snowy Mountains.

Black Spur. When Karen and I came up and over the Black Spur in the mountains between Lake Eildon and Melbourne, the weather was cold and misty and miserable, and the riding was fantastic. The forests were awesome. To be appreciated.

Melbourne. I'm from Sydney. Melbourne is the enemy. It has no harbour, it has no beaches, it has the Yarra - strike three. It's a city, so it's struggling from the start. But if we have to have cities, and we probably do, then both Sydney and Melbourne are examples of how good they can be. I like both places. Melbourne is supposed to be arty, Sydney uncouth. Melbourne is supposed to be conservative, Sydney brash. Melbourne is supposed to be a bastion of the British Empire, Sydney cosmopolitan. If so, how can Sydney have such a dull and boring game as Rugby League, while Melbourne has Australian Rules Football, the best football game in the world? Perhaps the cities are not so very different after all.

Great Ocean Road. Karen and I have ridden a lot of straight, flat roads where the scenery changes little from one hour to the next. The Great Ocean Road is nothing like that. Great views, lovely though expensive little towns, especially on the east side of Cape Otway, but prone to wind on the west. Hopefully the weather will prevent another paradise lost.

Port Campbell National Park. Perfect development. Hardly any. Good lookouts, paths, steps, car parks and information. Lots of little towns along the way to stay at, or do it all in a day from Melbourne and keep the pollution concentrated.

Mount Gambier. Truly beautiful location with the lakes and the hills, but the town is a typically ugly Aussie country town, though beautifully planned and laid out.

SE South Australia. A bit like the Great Ocean Road west of the Otways. Reminiscent of images of Cornwall or Scotland. Treeless, windblown, salt sprayed coastal grassland. Let the birds have it.

The Coorong. See previous entry.

Murray River. Gets so thick by the time it reaches the ocean that it just stops running. Someone should build a recycling plant at the end of it and extract all the fertiliser, top soil and salt that flows into it from one sixth of the country.

Adelaide Hills. Prime real estate. I could live up there too.

Adelaide. Nice city, probably because it is fairly small. Actually all the Aussie capitals are okay. The only problem with Adelaide is the Crows (the football team, not the birds). I guess in time, if I lived in Adelaide, I could come to love them. But it would have to be a bloody long time.

Kangaroo Island. Karen and I checked out the logistics of taking the bikes to KI via the ferry, and where we could stay and what the roads were like, the whole thing, before deciding to take a quick package tour. There are a couple of nice spots on the island, but it would have taken us a fortnight to see them all by bike. We settled for a day trip. A three quarters of a day trip would have been enough.

Barossa Valley. Any place that produces wine must be a great place. The area is one huge monoculture, but worth a visit to sample some of the world's greatest joys.

Clare Valley. A valley that would be the Barossa Valley if it could be, but is better off the way it is. Nice.

Wilpena Pound. Excellent, but again, be prepared to walk to get the best out of it.

Port Augusta. The first time I went to Port Augusta I thought it was the ugliest town I had ever seen. The second time around, it had not changed very much, but I now realise it is not Australia's ugliest town. I've seen Bamaga, Seisia and Coober Pedy since that first time. It may be ugly, but at least it is trying to improve.

Coober Pedy. Ugly. But fascinating, a bit like a traffic accident. Gruesome, but you can't take your eyes of it. A true outback, frontier town, unlike anything else in Australia, and possibly in the world. Worth stopping at.

Ayer's Rock. Unique. Worth cycling eight thousand kilometres for, though it was good to get a lift for the last little bit. And climbing it is an experience I will not forget. At my age, it takes a lot to inspire me. Ayer's Rock is such a place. It would be a pity if we gave in to political correctness and closed the climb. One of the few Aussie tourist attractions that does not make me cringe.

The Olgas. In their way, just as spectacular as the Rock. The two together are a hard act to follow.

King's Canyon. King's Canyon was the act that followed the hard act to follow, and it found it hard. A bloody long way from everywhere, and really not worth the trip from anywhere. There are similar places in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, like Kanangra Walls, or the Gross Valley, that are even more spectacular, and certainly more accessible. When I watched "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" I could not understand why one of the stars had a dream to climb to the top of King's Canyon in high heels and drag. Why not climb Ayer's Rock? Having seen both of them, I now know why. You could never climb Ayer's Rock in heels! But you could climb King's Canyon.

Alice Springs. We kept coming back to it, but only because it was in the middle of everywhere we really wanted to go. Quite a scenic little city, and the weather was good, but not a pleasant environment.

West MacDonnell's. How many names are there for a gap? We had Simpson's Gap of course. Then came Standley Chasm, closely followed by Ellery Creek Big Hole, and Ormiston Gorge, all gaps, or gorges, or chasms or big holes. They were all okay. So was Glen Helen Gorge. In Alice Springs, a lot of tourists complain of being "all gorged out". But the best place of all, and one of the most impressive sights to my eyes in all of Australia, was Ormiston Pound. Unexpected, huge, rugged, awesome. Probably better than Wilpena.

East MacDonnell's. Very different to their western cousins. Trephina was nice, and Spartan. Good walks. Worthwhile.

Devil's Marbles. I don't know why, but I always thought they were on the other side of the road. They were wonderful. We stayed a night at the Marbles. If we had the food and the water, we might have even stayed two.

Tennant Creek. A pleasant surprise. Some travellers advised us to avoid it because of their aboriginal fears. It was no worse than any other outback town. Not that we had a choice about whether we stayed there or not. Motorists would ask us whether we stayed at this roadhouse, or that town, or that pub, on the Stuart Highway, not realising that we stayed at them all! We stayed at Tennant Creek for a couple of days. It has problems, but it seems to be coping.

Mataranka. The Thermal Pool and resort would have been nice with a few less people. I am sure the two thousand people who were there on the day we visited would agree. Karen and I did watch "We of the Never Never" for free on the veranda of the replica Elsey Homestead. That was good value.

Elsey National Park. Elsey National Park was nice, new and not yet spoiled, though its management is trying hard to remedy that.

Katherine. A lot like Alice Springs.

Katherine Gorge. Excellent, especially if you do it yourself by walking or paddling. The double canoes could be a bit bigger.

Edith Falls. The best swimming hole I've seen. Don't worry about the freshwater crocs, or the snapping turtles. They don't bite. Much.

Darwin. I would live in Darwin. In winter. A thriving little metropolis, it serves as a classic example of how to make an Australian town more beautiful. Get a cyclone to knock it down, then build it again completely from scratch.

Kakadu. Unique. Again, a quick visit will just not do, it needs to be experienced. It gave me an appreciation of aboriginal culture, something thousands of aboriginals, in towns from Cape York, to Mount Isa, to Port Augusta, to Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, failed to do. I will probably return to Kakadu at least once in the future. Kakadu has everything, scenery, wildlife, culture. It is completely different from any other place in Australia. So why are cows and horses allowed to run around at Cooinda, right in the middle of an environment that relies on some fragile, low levees to keep back the salt water of the sea? It could not have anything to do with who owns them, could it?

Litchfield Park. We had heard a lot of hype about Litchfield. Many people said it was better than Kakadu. What could they have been thinking? Sure, its got a few good waterfalls and swimming holes, but it was too like Sydney sandstone country for me to be overly impressed. Worth a look, but Kakadu is worth a stay.

NT Wildlife Park. Loved it. The eagles and kites display was worth the price of admission alone. A classy venture.

Kununurra. Not a bad town. Day trip incorporating Lake Argyle and the Ord River is excellent.

Wyndham. Probably not worth the effort of getting there, especially by pushbike.

Bungle Bungles. An exceptional natural feature and a national treasure. Lives up to its hype.

Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. No comment.

Derby. The town is just a town, but the tides are amazing. Get there around full moon and spend six hours at the wharf. How good can the town be if the best thing about it is watching water go up and down?

Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. Both excellent, but the walk through the range along Tunnel Creek is unique.

Broome. A tourist Mecca, but surprisingly low key and laid back. Lots to do in the area, some good coastal scenery, great tides, history and the birding on the mud flats is as good as it gets. Cable Beach is just a beach, but it has waves and sun and warmth, even in Winter. We will be back there one day.

Port Hedland. An industrial port and it shows. Also expensive. Not much to do there. A good place for boat people.

Karratha. A company town for the industry and port nearby, but surprisingly user friendly.

Exmouth. A nice town, and a perfect jumping off point for the Cape Range National Park and the Ningaloo Reef, both of which are well worth seeing.

Carnarvon. A town. When travelling down the coast, its green-ness is striking. A bit of an oasis.

Monkey Mia. A good example of how tourism and small scale development can blend in with a lovely, natural setting. A pleasant surprise.

Kalbarri. Nice town, with a good national park on its doorstep and whales just off the coast. Some good coastal scenery too. A good package.

Geraldton. A place to stay for a night.

Perth. A nice city, but it would not want to get any bigger. The only trouble - it is so bloody far from anywhere and everywhere.

Rottnest Island. Loved it. If it stays as it is now, it will be great forever, but I fear inevitable over-development.

Bunbury. A major port and industrial centre that attracts dolphins to its bay-side beach. Perhaps they are not as smart as we think.

Margaret River. Not what I expected. No beach. Not much river. And don't get your mail directed there.

Augusta. A lovely little town. We saw it during still, warm, sunny weather. We suspect we were lucky.

Nannup. Probably home to Tasmanian Tigers.

Pemberton. The centre of the timber industry in the south-west. Take the tour and bait the tour guide with greenie sentiments. I did, and it was fun.

Walpole, Nornalup, Denmark. Nice little coastal backwaters not without some attractions.

Albany. Not a bad place at all. It has beaches and nearby mountains. We could live there.

Porongurups and Stirlings. Great scenery and some good walking.

Esperance. A truly lovely coast and ecologically sustainable wind power generators. Could it sometimes be windy there?

Norseman. A difficult place to get to, and an even harder place to leave, although you will want to.



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