Gladstone on Queensland’s mid north coast has to be one of the most bustling and industrious city on the coast that I have ever seen. With nearly 35,000 people in the city limits is an interesting town with a mix of cultures. Gladstone is also known as having the largest multi-commodity shipping port in Queensland.
Taking a step back in time to 1770, Cook sailed into the entrance of Gladstone’s natural harbour ( Gladstone is sheltered to the east by several islands, Facing and Curtis creating a massive sheltered bay ), but move the clock 30 years forward Matthew Flinders sailed into the same harbour and name it Port Curtis. It wasn’t until 1846 that Gladstone received its name after a British Secretary. In the coming years Gladstone opened up a primary school and today its one of the oldest in the state of Queensland.
Over the next 100 years the town struggled with little industry until 1949 when disaster struck in the form of Cyclone that caused deaths and caused extensive damage to the town its surrounds. Roll into 1960 and the export of coal soon had a boom effect on Gladstone, 1967 a local power station opened, then a rail line and by 1970 the population had doubled.
Over the next 10 years the town had massive growth with more coal facilities, power stations, alum smelter and exportation of gas. These days the export figures are huge and the commercial industry hugs the coastline for nearly 18 km. Now don’t think that Gladstone is all doom and gloom as within the area there are stunning beaches, coastal getaways, heritage villages and because the mountains come right to the coast - there are plenty of lookouts to view the city.
With so much to do around town a good base is needed so we headed to the boutique town of Boyne Island just 23 km away and set down at the peaceful Boyne Island caravan park. Set amongst plenty of shady gums right on the Boyne River this park is one not to be missed with all the standard features of big named parks. The facilities are next to none, huge unpowered sites with river views and fires are allowed, the powered sites are extra large through to cabins scattered throughout the park.
From the minute you step inside and book you’ll feel like one of the family in the parks peaceful settings. Just a 5 min drive away is the stunning coastal town of Tannum Sands right on the oceans edge. A cute town where some of the best coffee can be bought before your mornings stroll along the esplanade beside Tannum Sands beach. The parklands are perfect for an explore, maybe a midday bbq or even a swim in the beautiful water nearby. At low tide you can walk across the creek to Wild Cattle Island which is also part of the National Park, so with everything protected here it is a pristine environment - just watch the tides as if you get stuck it may be a long wait till the next low.
Heading back to Boyne Island there are nearly 15 km of walking tracks throughout this little town, along the river and up onto Canoe Point that will give you un-relentless views along the coastline or maybe the coastal plant walk along the dunes and onto the foreshore parklands. Boyne Island is a haven for water activities, fishing, kayaking and boating seems to be the way of life at Boyne. A little side note here is that if you're into your water activities, the Boyne Island has its vey own boat ramp straight into the pristine Boyne River, and if you do catch a fish they have put in their own cleaning table with boat wash facilities.
After a fix of coastal relaxation heading into explore Gladstone is just as busy as the town itself. On the way into town a great place to spend a few hours are the stunning botanical gardens in the outer suburb of Tondoon. 34 years old and covering a staggering 135 acres there are natural bushland settings, lakes, viewing towers, Japanese gardens and a host of tropical species throughout the park.
We found the best way for an overview of Gladstone is to head up to Round Hill lookout where you will be gob-smacked at the amount industry within the heart and along the shoreline of Gladstone. Up here you can complete the 5 min walk around the mountain where in every direction there are unbelievable views across the region to the coast and the mountains, a bonus is that the local council have installed extremely informative info boards on what you can see in front of you, with history, distances and photos form the past.
Out to sea it's amazing to see the amount of ships awaiting to be loaded and according to the boards, the port operates 24/7 loading these massive ships exporting goods around the world.
For those who want to explore a little further afield, a fantastic day trip can be had by heading 30km west of Gladstone to Lake Awonga. When full, covering a massive 70 square kilometres Awonga allowing for plenty of fresh water activities. If your a gun-ho fisher-person each year 200,000 fingerlings are released into the dam that include Barramundi, Mangrove Jack through to Flathead and Grey Mullet.
The Gladstone area is set amongst an array of hills and being tucked right on the coast the wildlife is huge. From predatory sea birds, right down to Kangaroo’s can be seen on a daily basis on the many walks around the area and we would class the landscape as being coastal bush where gums grow right down near the waters edge.