When it comes to selecting a holiday destination for the family, for me it’s really quite simple. I have a few prerequisites and one of them is to find water with fish in it.
Too much to ask? Well, more often than not I notice the family responding less than ecstatically to that suggestion, so to be fair to all concerned, one needs to look at destinations that will entertain the whole family (while you’re fishing).
One destination that ranks highly on my list is the magical coastal town of Mooloolaba on the Sunny Coast of Queensland, so much so that I recently packed up the family (and the boat) and relocated to the area.
But what is it that creates the perfect trailerboating and family holiday destination? That bit is easy and here’s my list: easy accessibility, a range of accommodation, attractions to suit everyone in the family, a good selection of amenities, and of course prime fishing and boating waters. Fortunately Mooloolaba has them all and more, from resorts to beachfront parks, playgrounds, great picnic facilities along the water, lovely scenic walkways, malls, surfing, fishing, in fact the list goes on… So why don’t I settle down and show what’s on offer?
GOING BACK IN TIME
The name Mooloolaba is thought to be derived from either the Aboriginal word “mulu” for snapper fish, or from “mullu” meaning red-bellied black snake. Personally I’d rather think it was about snapper. Originally known as Mooloolah Heads, the area was first surveyed by Lieutenant Heath in the early 1860s. Due to the protection that Point Cartwright offered, the Mooloola River was preferred over the Maroochy River, and over time the area started to develop, with steamers carrying produce, passengers and timber between Mooloolaba and Brisbane. Inevitably the area boomed and eventually became a top destination for holiday makers, tourists and investors alike.
Mooloolaba lies about an hour north of Brisbane and is reached by following the Bruce Highway north and taking the Mooloolaba off-ramp just after the famous Ettamogah Pub and Aussie World. The drive is scenic, with spectacular views of the Glass House Mountains along the way. Take note though that avoiding peak traffic times north and south-bound is always a good idea since the motorway can jam solid as commuters race to get in or out of Brisbane.
LAYING THE HEAD DOWN
Whether it’s camping, caravanning, self catering, or resort-style, there’s accommodation to suit everyone’s taste and budget. Located in the heart of Mooloolaba, you’re spoilt by choice. Just a few of the many options available include:
• Mooloola Beach Caravan Park (with beachfront powered van and camp sites with good amenities);
• A few more caravan parks northwards towards Maroochydore;
• A wide range of resort-style apartments along the beachfront and esplanade;
• Stunning canal homes with pontoons for holiday rentals; and
• Motels and backpacker hostels. As I said, something for everyone, and for everyone’s pocket.
Comprehensive accommodation options are available on many websites. Your best bet is to use the internet to Google “Mooloolaba accommodation.”
While you’re out taming river or ocean species, the list of entertaining activities for the family is endless. Within the town of Mooloolaba the shopping malls, coffee shops and beauty salons will keep mum and the kids entertained — and relieve them of the burden of having to complain about your particular obsession.
Other activities to get up to include exciting tours and entertainment at Underwater World, Queensland’s largest oceanarium with a viewing tunnel. Seal and otter shows are on offer daily, and there’s a fantastic array of ocean life to ogle at. The beaches in the area are stunning, and you can choose from sheltered, non-surf on the north side of the pier, or from more than 10km of surf beach on the south side of Point Cartwright. The latter is well suited to surfing, kiteboarding, fishing and more lazy relaxing. There’s also a fabulous stretch of beach to the north.
Most of the popular beach areas are safe and patrolled by lifeguards so there’s no need to stress about the kids. Along the beaches are a number of surf clubs that can prove good value when it comes to a bit of entertainment and a meal.
GRABBING A BITE
There are plenty of restaurants and places to eat, from the good old take-away to more exclusive wining and dining along the Mooloolaba promenade or wharfs. With the number of trawlers operating from the river, it would take you a while to even imagine the range of seafood available.
More popular attractions on offer within a reasonable distance include the famous Australia Zoo, which is well worth a family day out. There’s Aussie World, with mini theme-park style rides for the kids at dirt cheap rates, and the famous Ettamogah Pub as well. You could also spend time enjoying the Ginger Factory, Top Shots Fun Park, the Suncoast Barra Fishing Park and Cable Ski Park, a number of fishing charters, and dive and snorkel charters out to HMAS Brisbane and the surrounding reefs. If all this sounds a bit, well, physical, you can always relax on a river cruise and dive into yet another seafood smorgasbord. As far as getting bored is concerned, that’s just not an option!
After getting the formalities out of the way, and the wife and family now interested in the area, we can have a look at the main attractions on the boating and fishing side.
Lying within the lee of Point Cartwright is the all-weather port of Mooloolaba. Due to its sheltered location, the small port is favoured by recreational boaters of all sizes, as well as commercial operators. The mouth of the port is super calm for most of the time due to its consistent depth and the fact that it faces more of a north westerly direction than the more common easterly direction.
With the entrance/exit facing north, the predominant swell and sea chop bypasses the mouth, and even in extreme weather conditions the launching is way easier than on other bars or mouths. Starting off with the ramps, Mooloolaba has three main ones:
• Point Cartwright, located towards the southern end of the river on the Point Cartwright side. This ramp has space for three boats to launch simultaneously, a fish cleaning facility, parking, and a pontoon.
• The next main ramp is located on the northern side of the river and can be reached by travelling through Mooloolaba to the VMR station. Here there are two large ramps, with boat and trailer parking.
• The third ramp is hidden up the back of the river just off Nicklen Way. It’s found by taking the Mooloolaba off-ramp going north on Nicklen Way, then doubling back towards the river. This ramp is situated on the left, and while it’s small, it is adequate and the best one to use when accessing the upper parts of the river (or when the other ramps are full). Like many popular spots, these ramps do fill up fast in the holiday season, so get there early and avoid the dreaded ramp rage.
WETTING A LINE
Beach, river, and offshore fishing is the treat in this area, so whatever species of “line wetter” you are, there’s always going to be a place for you.
Sand ‘n sun: Beach and surf fishermen will find miles of wide open beaches stretching from Caloundra up to Point Cartwright, all filled with gutters, holes and reefs — and no crowds. One of my favourite spots is the beach area just north of the mouth entrance. Flicking soft plastics and hard bodies has proved successful here on a number of species, including really nice flatties. But get in early, or go late, to avoid the bathers.
Fresh to sea: Although a relatively small river system, the Mooloolah River packs a punch when it comes to light tackle fishing, from bait through to lures. From the mouth entrance at the rock walls, right through to the upper reaches of the river, you can target most estuary species on either lure or baits, as well as nab a few muddies for the pot.
Fishing baits: Well, that’s become a long forgotten pastime of mine, because lure fishing has taken over. However, on the odd occasion, and to amuse the young ones, I do succumb and have to say that reasonable fish are occasionally taken. We also have plenty of fun at the same time.
Get hold of a few mac tuna fillets and you won’t go wrong. The river is also a haven to many baitfish species and yabbies. Fresh livebaits are deadly when it comes to targeting specific fish like mangrove jacks, trevally and jewfish.
As for lure fishing, what works in other areas generally works just as well in the Mooloolah River and canals. It’s always a case of each to their own but my personal preference is to fish ultra-light, 2-4lb braid lines with 4-6lb leaders. My favourites are small hard-bodies and soft plastics in either ultra-bright or very dark colours.
This style of fishing can produce a number of fish throughout the shallow banks and structures of the river system. Back in December, while walking the canals, an extremely lost steam train of a barra in excess of 90cm attached itself to one of my lures and, well yes, the excitement was just too much to handle on light gear and the inevitable premature release occurred. The lesson is, there are serious fish out there so it’s a matter of persisting to get results.
EN ROUTE TO THE HORIZON
The main reason for my family relocating to the area was the access to offshore fishing. From the Point Cartwright ramp, access to the open ocean is a mere 1.1km away. Once you’re through the entrance, you’re already offshore and have a huge fishable radius to work in. Just outside the mouth entrance you can fish either along the beach fronts or along Point Cartwright, and both areas can produce good results on bait and lures.
A few kilometres offshore takes you to a number of reef options including the Inner Gneerings, Outer Gneerings, Murphy’s Shoal, Leach Shoal, and many more. Basically, they’re all 5-7km offshore from the point, and at the right times, as on all reefs, these can produce the goods on bottom reef fish and pelagics.
Moving further offshore onto the eight and 10 mile lines puts you into gamefishing territory. These areas hold good bait too and throughout the summer months produce healthy numbers of small black marlin, sails, tuna species, wahoo, mahi-mahi, spaniards, and many others — all taken on livebaits and lures.
Heading further out towards the shelf puts you into the zone of gamefish like striped and blue marlin. Again, success is there for those clued up in that department, unlike myself! Another worthy option is the Barwon Banks, an area prolific with serious fish from the top to the bottom — but it comes at a price and that’s distance. The banks are approximately a 30-40km run offshore so having a decent boat and being spot-on with the weather are important factors when attempting this adventure. On the other hand, when you have to travel these distances offshore the results are generally exceptional, and I often hear talk of quality big reef fish and gamefish caught out there.
Regardless of where you go, you still need to do your research and gather as much knowledge as possible beforehand. If you have good mates in the area willing to share their secret spots then that’s great. If not, try the chaps at the local fishing stores or climb onto the web and simply Google the sites. There are quite a few fishing sites out there that have the “co-ords” for these areas, so have a good look.
A huge part of creating the perfect beer or rum is having the correct ingredients. And just like planning a trip, you need to find family destinations with all the right ingredients to make it successful as well as memorable. Mooloolaba is such a place, whether you’re staying for a day, a week or a month. If you’ve never been to the area, make it your business to stop in and have a look. Who knows, like us, you might be packing up and relocating!
Tourist info sites