Travel Story Hidden in summer for a million years

JOHN BORTHWICK takes in the sights and sounds from Richard Branson’s island to Noosa’s Surf City nostalgia

I didn’t have quite the $22,000 spare change it takes for a night’s stay at Makepeace Island, Richard Branson’s private bolthole near Noosa. The nice people who run the heart-shaped, 10ha island nevertheless invited me ashore for a good look around, plus morning tea.

In-between Branson sojourns, Makepeace (formerly Pig) Island is available for exclusive occupancy.

Rainbow Beach, about 70km north of Noosa, has a population of 900, but more than 70,000 annual blow-ins. Which means backpackers and grey nomads galore, almost all of whom come to watch the flamboyant Coral Sea sunsets from the 120m Carlo Blow sand dune.

Come morning I make my way to Rainbow Beach Horse Rides where instructors Kayla Pienaar and Dean Weller appoint a suitable horse to manage me, a lovely seven-year-old named Rosie. The sun is out, the swell is running and Rosie canters beautifully.

On the road again — the best address on earth — I drive west to Tin Can Bay where the ebullient Margot Keeley, owner and admiral of Tin Can Bay Houseboats, plus three of her friends, piles me into a cabin cruiser. We spend the whole afternoon exploring the Great Sandy Strait, a much overlooked waterway of braided channels and mangrove shores. The band Icehouse might have been here in spirit when they sang of such magical shores, “hidden in the summer for a million years”.

Next day I drive to Surf City, Noosa for a good, whomping bodysurf, topped off by a comparable coffee.

It’s a long-winded title but Eumarella Shores Noosa Lake Retreat’s name sets the scene for what I find there. More like a low-rise, mini-mansion, it fronts on to Lake Weyba and has a jacuzzi, coffee machine, wi-fi, fireplace, generously stocked fridge, a lakefront pier and even two resident, sun-basking kangaroos.

I drive up to the hinterland where more Ms, including Maleny and Montville, are scattered across the Blackall Range. Billed as the “creative heart” of the Sunshine Coast, the Range Drive is a cool counterpoint to the surf-soaked coast, with its little towns being hugely popular among day-trippers seeking craft markets and Devonshire Tea refills.

To read John Borthwick's story in full, and more, go to thewest.com

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Fact File

Makepeace Island. makepeaceisland.com

Rainbow Ocean Palms Resort. rainbowoceanpalms.com.au

Rainbow Beach Horse Rides. rbhr.com.au

Tin Can Bay Houseboats. tincanbayhouseboats.com.au

Eumarella Shores Noosa Lake Retreat. eumarellashores.com.au

Ricks Garage. ricksgarage.com.au

For more. visitsunshinecoast.com

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