After much planning and preparation, the time had come for me to attempt my first bike tour. This was to be a week long journey from my home in Brisbane, to the quiet fishing village of Tin Can Bay, and home again. The plan was for 3 days cycling there, stopping at Coolum then Lake Cootharaba, a rest day, then 3 days cycling back. I had cycled most of the route before, although not as part of a continuous ride. And the section between Lake Cootharaba and Tin Can Bay was new to me. This was to prove the hardest part of the ride by far.
Day one – 22 September, Brisbane to Coolum (75km)
With my fully loaded bike, I took the train to Beerwah Station where I set off through the Beerwah State Forest, heading for the district just south of Caloundra. After only a few minutes riding, I saw a flock of about 8 Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos, noisily making their way through the pine trees.
The road surface was pretty good, and in a couple of hours I had made my way through the forest and into Caloundra. Right beside the cycle path I saw galahs and a corella, peacefully feeding on the grass and quite unperturbed by my presence.
I reached the coast just before lunch, arriving near the Currimundi area.
The weather was comfortably cool, with just a little rain. But this cleared to clear blue sky and bright sunshine as I approached Coolum. I stopped at one of the many coastal lookout points along the way, hoping to see a whale, as this is their southern migratory season. The view was spectacular, but no whales were to be seen.
At about 4pm I reached my accommodation, a little weary as it had been a while since I’d ridden that distance. And I’d never ridden with a fully loaded bike before. But it felt great to have got my first day’s travel in.
Day two – 23 September, Coolum to Lake Cootharaba (65km)
My second day’s riding was almost all along the coast. There is a coastal pathway that runs 95km from the southern end of Caloundra all the way to Noosa. For anyone interested in seeing the Sunshine Coast by bike, this is a must-do ride. Lots of terrific riding by the sea, like this spot near Marcus Beach.
Enjoying another great day of clear sky and sunshine’ I made my way through Noosa and Tewantin, and onto Lake Cootharaba, arriving at about 3pm.
Day three – 24 September, Lake Cootharaba to Tin Can Bay (56km)
On day three I set out early as this was the section of the ride I’d never been on before. And unlike the previous two days, I was not going to be in any populated area – the whole day was going to be spent in the Toolara State Forest. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to make it to Tin Can Bay. My host at Cootharaba has a house surrounded by bushland and wildlife and as I was setting off, a butcher bird settled on the back stair to partake of a few scraps that had been left out.
I set off through the Elanda Point grasslands, and then walked the bike through the 2.5km of the Boronia Trail, leading to Harry’s Hut Rd.
Along the trails, I saw an enormous rainforest tree that had toppled over, exposing the trunk and root system. I placed the bike nearby so as to give an idea of scale.
Coming off the trail, and onto Harry’s Hut Rd in the area called Como, I was very surprised to see a group of three deer grazing beside the road. One very large buck with a magnificent set of antlers, and two smaller deer. They ran away quickly but I did manage to get a photo of on of the smaller ones, whose curiosity about this strange person on a bicycle, must have outweighed the desire to hide in the bush.
After Harry’s Hut Rd, I turned onto the dirt road of Cooloola Way, which would take me almost all the way to TCB. It was at that point that my ride turned from a pleasant exploration to a grueling struggle. The heavens opened and it poured with rain for hours. Cooloola Way turned out to be five and a half hours of bicycle hell. The surface was either so muddy and sticky that it was like riding through glue – or it was rocky and stony and utterly bone-jarring. I left my camera safely stashed in the waterproof pannier, so I don’t have any pictures of that part of the journey. For anyone planning on taking the Cooloola Way as part of a bike trek, I strongly suggest you think otherwise. But eventually I made my way to the edge of the forest, found the bitumen road, and wearily cycled into Tin Can Bay.
As I arrived, the weather cleared as if to welcome me and assure me that the toughest part of my trip was over. I had a rest day to look forward to, and plenty of time to plot an alternative route back to Lake Cootharaba. 196km all up and I had completed the first half of my bike tour.