To say Woodgate is quiet, is to make the understatement of the year, if fishing and lawn bowls is the height of excitement for you, than this is your place. There is a part of me that is reluctant to share this little piece of paradise, for fear that popularising the destination has the potential to spoil what is a sleepy, perfect location. Woodgate is a 16 km white sand beach, partly sheltered by Fraser Island and gently lapped by the sub tropical Pacific, maybe, it is because, it is not a great surf beach, that it has remained so pristine and undeveloped. It is surrounded by the Burrum coast national park which also helps protect it from development. It is Kabi Kabi country, but I had to look that up, and I did not see any acknowledgement of traditional owners, but as always we wish to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional custodians of the land and sea country.
The gentle surf is great for families and kids. Enough surf for body boards but not much else. It was here at Woodgate that I first learnt to swim in the surf, despite the best efforts of my dog at the time, a German Shepard who was convinced that the water was not to be trusted. He would physically remove me from the surf every time I managed to get past him and got further than ankle deep, as a toddler there was no danger that I would drown, as Rin, (and yes he was named after Rin Tin Tin), was never going to let me. I was largely left to my own devices, parents did not need to watch me much, as I went everywhere with a highly attentive, personal, canine, body guard who took his responsibilities seriously. Enough of nostalgia.
The place has changed little since I was a kid. There was once a swimming enclosure on the beach, and that has gone and the picnic and shower facilities have improved, but otherwise, Woodgate is still a sleepy village with one general shop/takeaway/post office, a caravan park and not much else, although it does have a bowls club with a restaurant.
The NRMA caravan park also has an excellent cafe, Serenity, a gorgeous deck based cafe positioned under two spectacular Indian almond trees. The cafe seems to be the meeting place of choice for the locals as well as the park residents. There are a couple of real estate agents who I suspect mostly just manage the holiday rentals.
The esplanade is still characterised by the traditional fibro beach shack but there are some more upmarket residences on the street. The grey nomad set also seem to have discovered the lovely Woodgate, with a significant number of that tribe frequenting the caravan park. The permanent population is less than a 1000, although the population jumps on school and public holidays. The median age of the local population is 61.
During non holiday times, Woodgate is so quite, the human population is rivalled by the grey kangaroo population, which wander out of the bordering national park and graze on the cultivated lawns of the areas retirees. The roos have also been known to come down and frolic on the beach, with juveniles even going for a splash, while we saw plenty of roos on our weekend there, I was not lucky enough to see them frolicking on the beach. The area is rich in wildlife, bird life and marine life.
While waiting for dinner at the Serenity cafe, we watched an echidna casually amble across the road into a garden. We had another close encounter with an echidna up at Theodolite Creek, which is at the northern end of the beach. While I did not see a lot of marine life, the area is rich in turtles, dugong, dolphins, and sting rays, it is an excellent spot for whale watching and the area is famous for the fishing and crabbing. As a kid I can remember living off fresh caught fish and mud crab, I took the luxury diet for granted back then. The mangrove around the creek always provided plenty of mud crabs, but I did think the mangrove has receded a bit since I was a kid.
Did see lots of soldier crabs, but even they did not seem as prolific as I remember them. Perhaps just tricks of memory, it has been a long time since I have been there. Lots of birds, including waders and hawks, beautiful bee catchers and while I am used to seeing blue faced honey eaters, this was the first time I experienced one joining me for morning tea and taking jam soaked scone from my fingers, and happily tweeting at me to hurry up and provide another morsel.
There are numerous national park walks, with the nearest one starting right behind the caravan park, the Banksia walk, part of which is wheelchair accessible. I was a bit lazy and only really did the Banksia walk and otherwise just walked along the beach, but there some great walks, including one to a bird hide, maybe on our next visit I will spend more time walking.
Sitting on the deck at the serenity cafe, under those glorious trees with the birds for company and watching the gently rolling ocean just across the road, the breeze keeping the heat at bay and gently rifling the casuarinas, all along the esplanade, I felt totally blissed out. Despite the five hour drive, the trip to woodgate was so worth it, providing a much needed break from work. We took advantage of the Queen’s birthday weekend and just added a couple of days. On the weekend the park was still packed with families making the most of the last weekend before school went back, but when Monday rolled around the park emptied out and the beach was largely deserted. I had a glorious few days of daily swimming in the surf and walks on the beach.
Despite being busy the park was relatively peaceful. We had a bit of a walk to the amenities block but the bathrooms were clean and the showers hot. The cafe was great, excellent coffee, and the location was sublime.