Testing life on the road – screaming rug rats, midges and algal blooms

As spring progressed and we neared the start of humid weather in the lead up to the tropical summer, we were gradually making our way down the coast of Queensland. During the first week of the school holidays in September, we found ourselves at a secluded caravan park at Cape Hillsborough, just north of Mackay.

The tourist park was first developed in the early 1950s by Rex and Vi Risley. Rex spent many years clearing a track to the area and built the walking trails. When the tourist park was declared a national park, 21/2 hectares were set aside for the caravan park and eventually freehold title granted. Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service took over management of the remaining area, including the walking tracks in 1966.

This tourist park is popular during the school holidays and not without reason – located immediately behind a spectacular bay in an isolated area within a national park. Parents can relax at their campsite or go fishing while the kids frolic in the pool, play cricket in the reserve, or swim and play cricket at the beach. For us, the area’s attraction was the opportunity to ‘get back to nature, unwind, disconnect from every day and reconnect with each other and the beautiful natural environment.’

However, to achieve that I don’t recommend staying there during the school holidays. For full-time travellers, such as us, who are used to sedate and mature neighbours, staying at a popular caravan park packed with over 100 toddlers screaming and throwing tantrums isn’t exactly enjoyable. Throw in the midges, and you quickly become miserable, locked up in your van trying to find an escape.

To top off our ‘weekus horrendus,’ the Coral Sea decided to set off its early spring algal bloom that washes ashore. The result is a fishy stench that drifts from the beach through the caravan park. This kind of algal bloom is common in the tropics. Trichodesmium is a naturally occurring blue-green algae that occurs in marine waters all over the world. It is toxic for humans and means you cannot swim when these surface blooms invade the beach. It pools in drifts on the ebbing tide. Cape Hillsborough beach is renowned for its spectacular sunrises, but the Trichodesmium meant the beach was off-limits for this experience.

The beach at Cape Hillsborough showing the green-coloured Trichodesmium washed up on the sand

But this blog isn’t all doom and gloom and a whinge.

There are some nice walks on the headland above the caravan park and the adjoining bay further north. At Turtle Lookout, you may be lucky to see some turtles swimming near the rocky shore. And during the migration season whales may be seen offshore. Two hours on either side of the low tide the causeway linking Wedge Island becomes accessible. In late September golden orchids are in flower but we didn’t see any on the island.

View from Turtle Lookout

Several tame eastern grey kangaroos inhabit the tourist park, not because they are fed to bring them in for the enjoyment of the punters. However, they have become social media stars with their daily appearance on the beach. Six separate families have run the park for over seventeen years. In that time, they have accepted orphan kangaroos mainly from road accidents. At the moment they have seven roos that call the park home. 

The kangaroos on the beach. Photo courtesy Luke Marsden.

Emmy Lou and Molly loved to ensconce themselves in the shade under our awning. Emmy Lou is 17, and her constant companion is Molly, only three years old. Molly has ragged ear margins that show her history. Her mother was killed by a car with Molly in the pouch. Before being rescued, she was attacked by crows that usually attack the pouch when occupied. They bite at the ears to pull the joey out of the dead mother’s pouch. Fortunately for Molly, she was rescued in time by a wildlife carer and reared back to health. The kangaroos can only take so much attention from the rug rats and are known to disappear to the nearby Wedge Island for weeks before returning to the comfort of the park.

Molly and Emmy Lou relaxing near our caravan awning

3 thoughts on “Testing life on the road – screaming rug rats, midges and algal blooms”

  1. Janet Onfray

    Sounds and looks a great place to visit, out of school holiday times. An amusing and interesting tale! 😀

  2. As you say, your stay was not all doom and gloom. I’m sure the kids and their parents enjoy their short holidays and whilst a little occasional inconvenience to full time travellers, it is certainly a lifestyle that many (like us) would enjoy.

    I enjoyed the read. Thank you

    Diane

  3. Nice Blog Robert. Pictures are amazing, we might visit there on the way back down the coast.

    Safe travels 😃

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