A trial run – Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort

If you love travelling, you might have noticed that an affinity for hotels is often accompanied by a slight addiction to the review site, TripAdvisor, both to research potential hotels and review them after you’ve stayed. Indeed, I was secretly delighted a bit embarrassed to learn yesterday that I’m on the cusp of being awarded my ‘Senior Contributor’ badge. A good one for the CV!

Once the campervan is finished, I have a vague notion of developing a website to review and recommend campsites that we (and others) stay at – obviously not on a TripAdvisor scale, but there doesn’t seem to be anything similar out there. Maybe because Australian campers relish the surprise of arriving at uncharted campsites; if that’s the case, Mum – the site might just be for you.

So over the next few months, keep an eye out for bestcampsites.com.au, and in the meantime, here’s the first review.

Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort, Cape Hillsborough, Mackay, Qld

As the name implies, the Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort has much higher ambitions than your average humble campsite. And for the most part, I think they’re justified – you can’t go far wrong when you’re located on a deserted tropical beach and surrounded by beautiful national park.

Cape Hillsborough beach

This review is just our impression of the resort. For full details about facilities and prices, please visit the website: www.capehillsboroughresort.com.au

Accommodation
There are powered and unpowered sites, some studio rooms and a variety of beachfront cabins, ranging from the more luxurious Beach House to the less salubrious Fishing Huts (boasting the description: NO LINEN AND NO BATHROOM – I know we were seeking a camping experience but thought this was a step too far for our first jaunt). We opted instead for one of the mid-range Beach Huts at $125/night.


The cabins

 

One of the powered sites

Our cabin was fairly outdated but functional with a bed, kitchenette and shower/toilet. Outside we had a small deck and a couple of chairs. An army of ants had moved in before we arrived, as could be expected in an outdoors setting, but they were politely unintrusive. The room could have been improved immeasurably though with a quick blast of Exit Mould and a whiff of bleach; it was the sort of place where you might just keep your flip-flops on. I can’t comment on the cleanliness of the other cabins, but from the outside, I got the impression they might be fairly similar.

Redeeming features
The resort is renowned for attracting native wildlife (not just ants), the highlight being the resident kangaroos that congregate on the beach at sunrise and sunset. As recommended, we stumbled on to the beach at 5.15am to find a sizeable crowd had already gathered around a lone kangaroo. Who, to his credit, was distinctly unfazed by all the commotion.

Bovvered?

If you don’t fancy such an early start, you may find (as we did) that once the sun is up, the kangaroo(s) will stroll nonchalantly into the campsite and snooze outside your cabin for the rest of the day anyway.

Resort guests only? Pffft.

Vibe
Relaxed, good humoured and friendly – so much so that as people walked back from the bbq at breakfast time wafting steaming plates of bacon and eggs under your nose, you did wonder if they might offer you some. Especially as we were less than prepared and sitting on our deck with one cereal bar each. (They didn’t though – not a sausage.)

Verdict
If you have a tent / caravan / campervan, go for it – it’s a great resort, and the pool would make it a hit with families. Make sure you stock up on provisions before you arrive, the onsite shop is limited, and there are few cafes or food outlets around. I’d probably give the cabins a miss.

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The great outdoors

Having spent the best part of a year building our campervan in preparation for lots of mini-breaks in the great outdoors, a thought suddenly occurred to me: I hope we do actually like the great outdoors. In 13 years together, our experience of campsites has extended to one short holiday travelling around New Zealand a few years ago – a campervan trip we enjoyed so much it encouraged us to build our own.

Limited experience of ‘the outdoors’ (in NZ)

The main reason we’ve never truly embraced this quintessentially Australian lifestyle is probably due to a complete LOVE of hotels. Whether it’s a city centre spa nestled in a quirky cultural quarter, a boutique B&B perched on a clifftop, or, quite frankly, a Holiday Inn on the M1, if there’s ever a chance for a weekend away, you can put our names down.

It’s such a treat staying in a hotel; a real feeling of escapism. I love the sense of anticipation when you first pull back the curtains and peak at the view. The excitement when you prise open the mini-bar and involuntarily gasp at the price of the Pringles. The thrill when they replace all your toiletries the next morning (when actually you’ve just stashed the first lot in your washbag). The indulgence of hanging the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door, just because you can. (Much to my sister’s embarrassment when I was sharing a room with her.)

While room service and complimentary smellies might be harder to come by at a campsite, it’s the sense of freedom we’re hoping to capture in the campervan. The chance to escape after work on Friday, put a pin in the map and then just rock on up to somewhere new – particularly somewhere with a beautiful view. (Of course the fact we’ll be able to open the fridge when we get there and not have to pay for Pringles is an added bonus.)

And having devoured every episode of Bear Grylls in recent years, I feel we’re fairly well equipped to deal with anything nature might throw at us. I will be quite content to sit under our awning and twirl a twig for three hours to produce a spark for our stove. And if ever a cold front moves in and we get caught in a storm, I will be instructing Paul to immediately strip off all his clothes and perform 20 star jumps naked to get his (and everyone else’s) heart pumping.

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Anyway despite these useful skills, for all intents and purposes, we are definitely camping novices. So we thought we should conduct a trial run before our van is finished, just to brush up on our camping etiquette and basically check that after 12 months’ work, our enthusiasm for an outdoors mini-break is still intact.

The opportunity arose a few weeks ago when we visited some friends in Mackay, 1000km north of Brisbane. We decided to break with tradition and, after spending one night in ‘a nice hotel’, we checked into the Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort for the next night. I’ll do a quick review of the campsite and our experience in the next blog post – not that it particularly warrants the added suspense, but from a ‘technical perspective’ I can separate it out from blog posts about the campervan conversion.

Thankfully though, we had a great time. And suffice it to say, star jumps are so last year.