Old world charm and treasures
Historic homes and Mary Poppins, beautiful Maryborough has it all, writes Alison Cotes
REMEMBER those mysterious old houses that used to fascinate you as a child, either in a street in your neighbourhood or in creepy adventure novels? They were usually very rundown with an overgrown garden hiding them from view, and you were convinced that a murderer lived there, or at the very least an old witch, and your one ambition, which you were too scared to carry out, was to sneak inside one day and have a peep.
We discovered one such house in Maryborough on a two-day stopover on our way to Fraser Island. Mavis Bank, dating from 1874, has only just been opened to the public. I’m there are ghosts in there, and what nefarious goings-on took place in that downstairs laundry with its old wooden mangle and strange old washing tubs, not to mention those kerosene-heated smoothing irons, I shudder to think. But the charmingly eccentric couple who live among this glorious jumble of 19th-century treasures are immune to it all, and Liz cheerfully shows visitors around for the princely sum of $ 6 a head, and points out treasures like 18th-century desks with hidden drawers, cut-throat razors and granny knickers, as well as homemade toys.
There’s always something different to do in Maryborough, which is much more than just a stop-off point on the way to the Great Sandy Straits. It’s all history and beautiful architecture and there’s something to please everyone, from train buffs to antique buyers to doll lovers to hearty walkers and aficionados of war history. And there’s always the beautiful Mary River, where you can take a relaxing cruise past heritage houses and observe the wildlife – although if you suffer from bat phobia, as I do, beware.
Maryborough is where P. L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins, was born, and there’s a statue of the formidable nanny outside her creator’s house in the Portside Precinct, looking very cross indeed because she was recently moved to the other side of the street during major roadworks.
From the look on her face she could fly away again at any moment. But maybe she’s just cross because it was a Monday, which is when the whole of Maryborough closes down, it seems.
There’s nowhere to eat at night except for clubs and various ethnic takeaways, no performances at the Brolga Theatre, so that I missed
again ( for this relief, many thanks), and not even the river boat runs. So perhaps if you’re using Maryborough as a base for your Central Coast holiday, Monday is the time to take that day trip to Fraser Island or Lady Elliot, or to do the selfguided walk or drive around this beautiful city ( brochures are available at the Information Centre).
The heritage-listed Brennan and Geraghty’s Store is one place that’s open all week, a general store that was closed in 1972 after 101 years of trading. Closed by Geraghty’s youngest son George, then 88 years old, it contained the complete stock from the 1890s through to advertising signs of the 1920s and packaging from the 1960s.
The place is now a heritage-listed building, filled with more nostalgia than you can shake your walking stick at. A great treat for children who know only supermarket shopping.
Maryborough really comes to life on Thursdays, when the local markets occupy the whole of the populace, it seems, and when the miniature steam train the Mary Ann chugs through Queens Park with two carriages full of excited children and nostalgic grandpas.
But you can look up all these activities on the website because, having decided to take a few days off in this lovely port city, you need to find somewhere to stay, and I’ve found a new place that is ideal for a short or long holiday.
It’s a rambling, simple, old Queenslander house that has been meticulously restored by French woman Cecile Espigole and her Australian husband, Stephen.
It sleeps two to six people and it’s comfortable without being fussy. The kitchen is big enough to swing a cat in ( preferably not Cecile and Stephen’s French tabby, who will probably come to visit) and there are four bicycles on which the whole family can do some exploring. Clean and spacious, with every fitting the heart could desire, the house is all yours for as long as you want to stay, and it offers so much more freedom than a B& B or a motel, and is just as cheap.