Gympie has a Heart of Gold

YOU have to hand it to Gympie: this town believes nothing is impossible.

From the days of the gold rush in the late 1800s when it was known as “The town that saved Queensland”, through to the past decade of resurgence as a family tourism destination, the word “can't” is absent from Gympie's collective vocabulary.

Ask a local, “Where can I find great coffee?” and the confident reply will be quick: “Emilia's in Mary St.”

Ask, “Can I keep two kids under five entertained for an entire weekend?” and you'll be told, “Sure can”.

And the most unexpected question of all, “Is Gympie any place for an international short film festival?”

You guessed the answer: “Of course, it is”.

We travelled up to enjoy the 2010 Heart of Gold International Film Festival – an annual event which has defied the critics.

It will celebrate its fifth year in 2011, running from March 17-20.

Our home away from home over the weekend was Eastwood Farm Bed & Breakfast where hosts Mike and Gina Otswald embraced our family as if their own. The lovely residence where they raised their own children sits atop some 16ha and comes complete with Bonnie the dog – an immediate hit with Miss Two and Miss Four.

The two bedrooms with ensuites are popular with couples who want to make a weekend of it and perhaps take advantage of Mike's internationally renowned bird-watching skills, or his encyclopedic knowledge of the area (the Otswalds go back to the gold-mining era, and Mike's great-grandmother was one of the first women here to own a block of land).

Gina plied us with afternoon tea on our arrival – fresh cakes galore as we sat and enjoyed the views from the spacious enclosed veranda towards Rainbow Beach.

Kicking into family time on Saturday morning, we bundled Miss Two and Miss Four into the historic Mary Valley Rattler steam train for a morning of glorious views and a delightful sense of nostalgia as we clickety-clacked through the countryside and towns of Dagan, Amamoor, Kandanga and Imbil.

More adventures are in store on July 22-24, when the second Gympie Ultimate Steam Festival – a collaboration between The Valley Rattler, The Gympie Mining Museum and The Gympie Woodworks Museum – hits town.

Featuring blacksmithing, wood- chopping, traditional hand tools and plenty of other historical demonstrations, the festival is yet another example of just what Gympie can do.

Close to town, we visited Banyanda Alpaca farm, where Dawn raises about 200 of the animals.

Miss Two and Miss Four thoroughly enjoyed hand-feeding the animals, especially the babies.

It did seem as though we'd caught the Gympie region wearing its dazzling best – torrential rainfall had rendered the scenic valleys and peaks a brilliant green and turned the air cool, yet warm sunshine made the weekend enjoyable.

Just 40 minutes down the road on Sunday morning, we lined up at Tin Can Bay to hand feed Mystique – a second-generation Wild Indo-Pacific dolphin which has chosen to grace this little town with his presence each morning.

Congratulations to Gympie. Can it impress a family of four and make them return for more?

Yes, it can.

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