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Tiger Prawn Tours – A “Quintessentially Queensland” Experience

It’s 9am on a perfect spring day. I’m outside Elements Retirement Living, in Dennis Road at Springwood, with a lively group of excited residents ready to board our comfortable, air-conditioned mini-bus for our Tiger Prawn Tour.

Tiger Prawn Tours, is owned and operated by locals and is the quintessential Queensland tour. Our tour operator, driver and tour guide, James Herbst promises us a fun-filled day where we can enjoy a full commentary tour to south-east Queensland’s largest prawn farm via some of the prettiest scenery in the region.

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We head off towards Jacob’s Well, where we drive through Stapylton, catching a glimpse of Yellowwood Mountain on our way. The tour takes us through the south-east’s historic sugar cane fields, an area lying between the Logan and Albert Rivers, to the water’s edge on beautiful southern Moreton Bay. We are half-way between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. As James will attest, it is an area that truly is “Country on the Coast”.

It’s cane harvest time and everywhere the harvesters are busy at work, cutting the cane. Sugar production is the main industry in this region. The cane here is harvested every eighteen months.

Once transported by cane trains, these days trucks deliver the harvest to the Rocky Point Mill, the smallest and only privately owned mill in Australia, owned by the Heck family since the 1890’s. Rocky Point Mulching is the area’s largest producer of sugar cane mulch. James tells us that other industries reliant on sugar cane include ‘green’ electrical production from the Rocky Point Cogeneration Plant.

Many German immigrants settled here in the mid to late 1800s and James’s family, the Herbsts, like the Hecks and many other families in the area, have been in the sugar industry for five generations.

In his commentary James tells us a funny story about the historic Gem Hotel, now over 100 years old. This pub had the first ‘drive-through’ in Queensland consisting of a timber servery where the farmer on his horse, would order a glass of beer. As he drank his beer he’d chat to the barman through the window, then when he’d finished, he’d put his glass on the servery, bid farewell and gallop off home to the farm.

With school kids outside to wave to us, we pass through the Woongoolba … it means “Island of the swamps” in the local Aboriginal language…. commercial area. As James points it out, we blink and miss it!

We arrive for a short break at Cabbage Tree Point. This in an incredibly pretty area with a boat ramp, swimming area and a well-deserved boast for some of the best fish’n’chips in the Bay.

James tells us Moreton Bay is about 100kms long and stretches from the Gold Coast Broadwater to Bribie Island, north of Brisbane. There are some 365 islands mostly in the southern end of the bay. Larger islands such as Russell, Macleay and Coochimudlo are inhabited. James jokes that nobody lives on Mosquito Island!

The large land mass North Stradbroke Island, with its white sand hills can be seen from many parts of the Redlands. South Stradbroke is flat and not so easily seen from a distance. Whilst we’re taking in the views and having refreshments, James asks the number one question…. Do you love prawns? We all bounce to life with a very eager, “Yes!” He takes orders for us to purchase Australia’s most awarded tiger prawns at the Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture farm. They’ll be packed and ready for us when we arrive, as promised, direct from the farmer at farm-gate prices.

Now it is time for the main attraction of the tour…..a visit to the GCMA Tiger Prawn Farm!

In 1986 sugar cane farmer, Noel Herbst founded Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture on his existing sugar cane farm, adjacent to the Logan River. What began as a relatively small venture growing Black Tiger Prawns, GCMA has grown to become the largest prawn farm in South East Queensland. The prawns are farmed in saltwater ponds, approximately 1 hectare in size and 1.7 metres deep. Birds are the major predator for prawns with diving birds like the cormorant potentially capable of eating up to 6 kilos a day per bird. Fortunately they usually aren’t that lucky!

After driving through the farm, we make our way to the top of a man-made hill on the property where we view the whole of the farm. An eagle watches over us as we take in the 360 degree view of the farm. First looking south and west to Mt Tamborine and the Scenic Rim, then north towards Brisbane, and finally east, towards Moreton Bay.

It’s time to leave the farm and head for Harrigan’s Drift Inn at Calypso Bay, where we will have lunch. On our way, we spot an osprey nest on a telephone pole. James tells us that the bird returns to the nest every year for the visitors on his tours! This has the happy group chuckling yet again, delighted with our guide’s witty and entertaining sense of humour.

Harrigan’s Drift Inn, with its high ceilings and big glass windows, has magnificent views of the islands including South Stradbroke. The Drift Inn, an Irish Pub, serves fine food prepared in either the Irish tradition or with local fresh seafood in season. It also boasts a good range of vegetarian meals. I settle on the Guinness Pot Pie. It’s one of the best I’ve tasted!

After we’ve eaten, James takes us for a walk around the Calypso Bay Village. A mooring is provided for ‘boaties’ who regularly stop into the Inn where, on weekends there is always live music. Before moving on, we watch a video and learn how the locals catch fish….by making them jump into their boat! James and the group share their own ‘fishy’ tales.

It’s time to leave and we quickly gather to board the bus. A short drive through the outskirts of Beenleigh takes us to a local produce grower who, amongst other things, grows some of the best strawberries you’ve ever eaten when in season. We buy fresh strawberries and other farm fresh produce from the farmer and his wife at their farm-gate.

Back on the bus, we chat about the wonderful day we’ve had. We exchange contact details to send photos and before we know it we are back at Elements. We collect our packaged farm-gate tiger prawns from the esky with much enthusiasm. It is around 3:30pm and, as we turn to say farewell, there before our eyes are a mob of red-necked wallabies that have come out in the cool of early evening to feed. The perfect end to a perfect day!

Tiger Prawn Tours offer tours for groups of all sizes – perfect for Probus Clubs, Church Groups, Retirement Villages, Garden Clubs, Day Tour Operators and more.

Visit the Tiger Prawn Tours website for more information www.tigerprawntours.com.au/

Article written by Gaill Macciocca.

For more information on things to see and do in Logan visit the Logan Tourism Association website www.logantourismassociation.com.au

December 2014