It's going to be a real task to pack up and head back to winter in Norway after almost three weeks of paradise here in Ball Bay. I am from Australia and now live and work in Europe, and try to come back every two years to Australia (wish it was more of course).
Each time I go back to Oz, I try to visit a place that I haven't been to before. Two years ago it was Kangaroo Island. This time it is Ball Bay. Why? Well being from Australia I've already done and hit all the touristy places and now just want to indulge in the thing I miss the most when I am away - the Australian bush and nature.
I guess you have to spend many months or years out of your home country to fully appreciate what you have there, so that what you miss is magnified 1000 fold, and once you get back, you appreciate every little drop. This means I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time before we even arrived. And I was not disappointed with my stay at Ball Bay.
This time we decided to choose one base and stay there for the entire length of our stay, rather than tour around the countryside with a car and tent. We chose Ball Bay because of several reasons: we wanted absolute peace and quiet, the beach in front of our door, warm weather and pure nature around us.
Long story short: That is what you get at Ball Bay beach house.
Firstly, the location is perfect if you don't want to be in the centre of things. And if you want to get your hands dirty, then Mackay city is only 40 mins drive away. As one sign in Mackay says: Cold beer, hot girls! If that's your thing. :)
Secondly, about the beach house: it is a big house with high ceilings, beautiful wooden floors and a large verandah overlooking the beach. It's not brand new or the latest flashy McMansion on the beach. But I am not interested in staying in that kind of plastic setup. Ball Bay beach house is a well lived in and well looked after Australian home. The bedrooms are large and there is one bathroom, plus laundry. Outside you can hang your clothes on the line. In the kitchen there is gas (which I love!) and a fantastic wok which means cooking up many feasts. There is everything you need in the kitchen, even a hand mixer and milkshake thingy, oven, microwave, fridge/freezer etc. I found the house very homey and comfortable. The gardens are also very nice and I am sure you'll find a few new friends in the garden if you are willing to look high and low. If you want to watch TV, you can do so, although many channels may not work 100%, and in that case, use the DVD player. There are DVDs, music CDs, and books that you can use as a part of the accommodation.
There isn't much action in Ball Bay meaning at any time of day or night, it is mostly dead quiet, apart from the constant sound of the beach and wind in the palms. I know, it's a hard compromise. :D Peace and peace is why I came here and it is what you get.
At 4.45 am in the morning, you'll be woken up by a range of Australian birdlife, and the sight of the sunrise peeking in through the blinds and windows will make you bounce out of bed with joy for the new day. Immediately after you'll sprint down to the beach for your morning walk, where at 5.30 am you'll be greeted by the sun, turquoise waters and paradise on earth. Don't worry though, the beach isn't crowded and it is wonderfully long and you can even reach the nearby Smalleys Beach (I think) when the tide is low (there are very changeable tides in this part of the world) and you can cross the estuary / river.
In November, you'll be able to see some turtle tracks coming out of the ocean and up onto the shore where the mama turtles lay their eggs. I think you can see them for real in the late afternoon / evening. Of course there is other wildlife available, and you'll be able to see them at Ball Bay and at the nearby Cape Hillsborough National Park, which is a 5-10 min drive away and worth MANY visits because it is simply a breath taking national park with many fantastic walks.
As for what else is in the local area: there is Seaforth, but I was not so excited by it. They have a jetty there (although you can bring your boat to Ball Bay if you have a tractor and can drive down onto the beach. The beach house does have a tractor parked in the carport, but you'd have to ask the owner if you can use it. Not sure about that one.) Seaforth also has a petrol station and many other things, like a general store, post office, and places to eat.
Neighbouring Halliday Bay has a golf course (not quite what you'd expect) and a safe swimming enclosure. But I found Ball Bay much nicer out of them all, even though there are no services or shops there. Probably why I like it. On the road out to Cape Hillsborough there is a teahouse and a kiosk at the park. There is also an organic store about 15 mins drive away just before you get to the turn off onto Bruce Highway, with a small but good selection. You can even sit there and have a cuppa. Next door is a watermelon farm, and further down the highway at Farleigh (I think) they sell more watermelons and pineapples from local growers.
There is no problem with staying cool at Ball Bay (my tip is not to use air con otherwise you'll suffer even more). Keep cool with the ceiling fans, the lovely sea breezes and drink plenty of water. Besides in November it isn't that hot - I lived in Darwin for 5 years and it can be pretty stinky hot there in November.
A swim in the ocean at Ball Bay in November is also delicious, but it is the start of stinger season. Although a quick dip in the shallow part is okay, and if you are brave you can go further out. Some people said there are crocs swimming around, but I didn't see any and I think it isn't that bad as further north, just be aware that you may share your space with some of the 'locals'. This is Australia, after all. :)
Regarding internet, the owner suggested buying a prepaid mobile stick from Telstra and using it on one side of the house. But we bought a mobile internet stick from Optus and it worked everywhere in the house. It wasn't lightning fast, but it wasn't slow either. You could still watch videos etc. There is a Telstra and Optus at Canelands shopping centre in Mackay and a prepaid stick for one month costs around $AUD40-50.
In sum, one thing I don't like about holiday accommodation is paying for a generic hotel room or apartment that looks like every other hotel room or apartment around the world. That's why I chose Ball Bay beach house. It is unique and it is a piece of tropical Australian life. I liked Ball Bay and the accommodation and I can see why people choose to live or retire here. I will take warm memories with me back to Europe.
A little bit about Mackay: Mackay is not the most tourist oriented metropolis in Australia so you are limited in what you can do there. But appearances can also be deceiving.
Mackay has many freebies which are of really GREAT quality: Artspace Mackay, Regional Botanic Gardens, Orchid House, Showground Markets on Saturdays, Bluewater Trail and Bluewater Lagoon. These are all FREE and will also show you a locals side of Mackay.
For those who want more action, try the Whitsundays and Airlie Beach. Airlie is not my cup of tea but worth a visit for seeing the reef and also island life down under style. Don't forget Eungella National Park and Finch Hatton Gorge, all worth visiting.
One thing that may be of interest is a day trip to nearby Keswick Island, off the coast of Mackay, where just like Kangaroo Island, they also have pure bred bees and lots more to offer. Perhaps an unknown treasure waiting for exploration. I guess that will be on the list for next time.
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This is a lovely spot for a family get away.It's nicer than the pictures show. I wouldn't hesitate to bring the family back. The house has everything you need, and the beds were comfortable. The birds are well fed, and the few people we saw in ball bay were freindly. A curious decoration on top of the fridge set the kids off laughing .....
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