A winter’s day trip to the Darling Downs and Moreton Bay islands

Dalby – Scenic Rim – Stradbroke Island

Covid 19 had a devastating effect on all aspects of life including aviation. We had to put our flying on hold from February 2020 until things settled down a bit. I started doing a few CPL flying lessons in May and by 25th June I decided it was time to brush the cobwebs off MSF and take Tim, Peter Hastings and Harpur for a joy ride around the region. A round trip joy flight over the Bunya mountains, the Darling Downs, the Scenic Rim, the Gold Coast and the islands of Moreton Bay. What could be a better way to spend a winter’s day?

With Peter being a gliding instructor at Maccaffrey Field out near Dalby I felt we should first head out there to let him check on the condition of the airstrip from above.

It was a perfect Brisbane winter blue sky day as we took off over Moreton Bay and passed the mouth of the Caboolture River with a great view of the Glass House Mountains to the north. The Redcliffe area really is a spectacular place to learn to fly.

There was a superb view south as well as we flew downwind.

Our route took us out over the Bunya Mountains and the Tarong Power Station.

I’d rung Oakey air traffic control the day before and asked whether I could obtain a clearance to fly at 3000ft through their airspace. Oakey is used mainly for helicopter pilot training and they rarely fly much higher than about 2000ft so the operator said it wouldn’t be a problem – “Our guys get nose bleeds at 3000ft!” So as we approached the Bunya Mountains I requested a clearance to fly into Oakey controlled airspace and over Macaffrey Field at 3000ft. The air traffic controller was only too pleased to oblige. She must have been having a slow day.

After a couple of orbits at 3000ft we headed to Dalby, about 10 miles away.

All was quiet on arrival at Dalby. We secured the plane and called a taxi.

The taxi took us to Urban Paddock cafe in downtown Dalby where they had a great little beer garden and a great menu. And good coffee! Highly recommended if you’re passing that way.

Urban Paddock Cafe – Home (facebook.com)

Suitably fed, we caught the taxi back to the airport and departed south to Millmerran.

The idea was avoid the Wellcamp training area used by Qantas trainee pilots by flying south from Dalby and then turning east at its southern extremity. We didn’t hear any chatter on the radio in the vicinity but I thought it’d be good to avoid the “danger zone” just in case.

The Millmerran coal mine with its power station was a good waypoint to turn and head east.

As we flew towards the Scenic Rim at 5500ft we passed Warwick.

The country became hilly as we approached the Dividing Range.

We had an excellent view of “the Steamers” at Mt Barney as we flew over the western end of the Scenic Rim…

and of Mount Barney itself.

Mt Lindesay was another spectacular feature that we passed. This is an impressive volanic plug that stands out in the landscape.

We even had a view of Mt Warning on the eastern horizon. Being located not far from Cape Byron, the most easterly point on the Australian mainland, the peak of Mt Warning is the first point in Australia to be hit by sunlight each day.

The Scenic Rim area is one of my favourite places to fly. Rolling hills, volcanic plugs, lakes and scattered villages make it seem magical.

It seems a world away from the Gold Coast, 50km to the east. We passed there about 20 minutes later as we headed for the southern tip of Stradbroke Island.

We also flew directly over Sanctuary Cove with its golf course and marina.

The waterways at the southern end of Moreton Bay appeared like a maze.

Soon we were flying up the eastern coast of North Stradbroke Island with its sand mines…

and perched lakes.

Harpur even spotted some whales in the water but neglected to tell his pilot so as a result the rest of us missed out on that bit of excitement.

Main Beach, Deadmans Beach and Frenchmans Beach at Point Lookout all looked amazing as we flew around the headland…

and headed for Moreton Island.

Crossing Moreton island we passed over Tangalooma Resort with its ship wrecks…

and climbed out over the bay as we headed for Bribie Island.

Soon we were overhead Redcliffe again.

With another wonderful view of the Brisbane skyline.

It was four hours’ flying time in all. That would be approximately 15 hours by car – and you wouldn’t get the views! As we put MSF to bed all agreed it was a fantastic way to spend a winter’s day.

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