The road to Mossman Gorge from the BIG4 Glangarry caravan park is very good and it took about 20 minutes. We arrived at the visitor center and had to perform some COVID-19 tasks before heading in to the souvenir and information centre, procuring some souvenirs after hard decisions. Many of the items are designed or made by local first nations people and the money raised is ethically distributed.
We took the shuttle into the Gorge, happy to support the Indigenous enterprise of running the Centre and maintain the National Park. They run every 15 minutes and cost $10.50 pp.
The gorge is in the Daintree Rainforest, which is 120 million years old. Unbelievable. So beautiful, and even though its another rainforest, its quite different from those of the Atherton tablelands. This is the third time we have been to the Gorge, and each of the other times we went in the water at the swimming hole. However, today there was a warning and the water was churned and dark, running swiftly over rocks. We also had a close call with wildlife, as a wild boar was ferreting close to the path and we rushed past, hoping it wouldn’t pursue us.
There are two walks you can do and we did the longer, 2.4km one, that had small offshoots to it and were there a total of 3.5 hours, including the coffee we had at the end, once the shuttle had returned us.
This is unmissable, with beauty and wonder at every turn.
Take a hat, water and sunscreen. Maybe your camera, too. Only leave footprints!
There is something about the stretch of water ribboning your drive that is uplifting. We had taken this road a number of times before, but with development it had altered. The day was overcast, and a soft rain would set in from time to time, as ahead a tall mountain was topped with clouds and the water to our right reflected the dull hue of the sky. Somehow it maintained a degree of turquoise, which lessened the threat of the waves rolling right in, to the edge of the road. At some stages, as far as we could see, the water was at our side, round tight bends and narrow, rocky ways.
At last our speed increased and the road straightened, revealing sugar cane on either side and greater rainforest vegetation. We were early, so headed in to Port Douglas and were thrilled to find the same casual ambience, the mix of one-off and practical shops and, there must be a heaven – the markets.
So many wonderful wares that are made by the seller and fresh fruit, balms and one proprietor assuring a customer that his black garlic product would cure her hearing loss. We bought wisely for the most part, then headed to a bruncheon spot and walked the town, with its heritage buildings, sought-after wedding venues and foliage bright enough to doubt it was real.
Big4 Glengarry Park is a 10 minute drive from Port Douglas and beautifully maintained. The sites are large and there were plenty of amenities, except working washing machines, but everyone seemed to manage this. The water activities on offer were perfect for the weather and despite the park being almost full, we didn’t ever feel crowded. This branch of parks are really suited to families and we like that atmosphere.
Once again, stone curlews wailed in the evening, through the night and in the early morning. A nearby camper was visited each day by a family of 3 and they said they had seen the offspring from birth until this, 4 weeks later.
Exploring the town, we walked Four Mile Beach and felt as if we walked the entirety, up and back. Oddly enough, after a refreshing dip, we saw a lookout up the side of the headland and decided to not only do that, but continue what was, in fact, O’Halloran Hill walk and continue along the coast until we reached the park near where the markets were on Saturday.
Excellent views from this walk, back down the beach,
out across the ocean and then to the bay.
The whole place is pretty accessible on foot and on the last trip I walked past the old train station and inlet, only to leanr later that crocs often venture on the road, too. I’m not sure if it’s true, but enough visitors to the region have been gobbled up, for me to have a healthy caution.
We found a funky lunch bar and had vegan icecream at the icecreamery (3 choices!!!!).
Visit here before it loses it’s charm and beauty. So many things are close by if the town isn’t enough for you. We overheard our neighbours saying they come here every year since retiring 11 years ago and always find something new to see. You might, too.
Safe travels. Carry water, your hat and sunscreen and wear your bathers/togs/swimsuit everywhere.
For years, Cairns has been a Mecca for those seeking the tropical pleasures of Australia. Set on the ocean, with good access to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, this large city has the capacity to lodge many visitors.
On our recent visit, we travelled via Kuranda, which is a scenic but winding way to go, and headed to the foreshore.
Stopping in at Muddy’s café, they provided coffee and vegan brownie slice before we walked the entire foreshore and saw the lagoon, various playgrounds (some with water parks) and the birdlife on the mudflats.
Many people don’t realise that Cairns is a mudflat and when the tide goes out it is less attractive. Beware of crocodiles along the foreshore and look for boats heading out to the reef along the channel.
Cairns Botanic Gardens was next on the list and it’s incredible, with tiered walks and historical information. We had a map, but spent so long trying to photograph butterflies in the conservatory, that the day proceeded quicker than we did and we only saw about a third of the Gardens.
On leaving, we saw a very unusual tree, with a heavily spiked trunk and blossoms like a cotton field. It explained the tufts of white gossamer that lined the path on our entry to the park and the culprit is Malvaceae, or the silk floss tree, of South America.
I’ve since learnt that the Gardens are divided into three sections, so look into that before you go so that you can prioritise what you see. We headed out early for Kuranda and stopped first at Lake Placid Recreation Reserve.
A popular, picturesque destination, with BBQs, toilets and a playground, we were surprised to see several ‘beware of the crocodiles’ signs, given that many people hold weddings here. My imagination runs away with me.
It was a short drive from here to Kuranda and we stopped at the Barron Falls Railway Station and lookout, having taken the train from Cairns to Kuranda some years ago. The view is pretty impressive and optimised in the wet season, but we don’t usually go then, as it curtails many activities and is very humid. We arrived when the train was in the station, so in time to see it snake away through the forest.
The train is a wonderful experience, as it is an old train that enables you to have the doors open as you travel, and passes through stunning scenery. Many people return via the chairlift, but there’s also the community bus.
The Barron Gorge scenic drive was very pretty and most people, unlike us, were walking or jogging it. At the end is the Barron Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station, complete with bridge. As with the Falls, at the end of Winter there was merely a trickle, but the bridge is quite high and beware, as it is windy and not for the faint hearted.
Wrights Lookout afforded sweeping views of the valley before we headed for the town.
Our plan was to go to Kuranda, fondly remembered as a place where the train dropped us off and we drifted among craft stores and local goods. Like many places, 20 years does a lot of damage and we found a quiet commercial centre selling goods from India and Bali, with a few very special shops selling local artwork. The ArtCo-op had glass beadwork, pottery and silk, along with painting and other craft. It was really good and the prices are as you’d expect, with a few bargains amongst the treasure. There are Indigenous goods for sale, but not all are from the area, as commercial products are sold through a kind of co-op, which is Australi-wide, so if you want local goods, just ask.
There are coffee shops (buy local), a supermarket and plenty of eateries, although with Covid so recent the busy multicultural vibe was missing.
Cairns is the best place from which to board a boat and travel to the Great Barrier Reef, but you can see our last trip there, here.
Cairns won’t disappoint. Take hats, sunscreen and water.
The Atherton Tablelands, about 90km south west of Cairns, were probably our best-loved destination in 2020. Lush and green and, as they are at a high altitude, they provide Queenslanders in the tropics with a cool destination for steamy summers.
On our way inland from Ingham, we stopped at the Hinchinbrook Lookout which was pretty impressive. Hinchinbrook Island is huge and the waterways snake through the outlets and past the mainland prettily.
Hinchinbrook is the largest island national park in Australia and we noticed some unusual conservation practices in the area, like this over bridge, below, designed to give creatues like koalas a way over the highway and there was an underpass for those unable or unwilling to use the bridge.
Our lunch stop was the Tully train station, developed in about 1926 and with all the charm of an old Queenslander.
The way from here was winding but so varied that it was very interesting. Banana plantations joined sugar cane and avocadoes are appearing now, with the occasional mango. The Bonadio RV and Nature park (situated on a farm) was well-signed and the hardest part was finding and fitting in to a powered site. It was packed. They’ve set up an area where they feed the wildlife and we saw paddy melon kangaroos (see video below), brush turkeys, birdlife and possums. We went for a walk beside the creek, which is well worn, and enjoyed the cool breeze and platypus sightings. The stone curlews let out their baby-like wails at night.
There are so many things to see in Atherton and we packed it in so that we were out each day by 8 and returned about 4. I’ll give a quick photo summary of what we did/saw. Feel free to post any questions.
The Nerada Tea Company, making Australia’s only tea, has excellent devonshire tea, views of Mt. Bartle Frere (Queensland’s highest mountain) and well-known for easy sightings of tree kangaroos (they’re not everywhere, you know).
There are so many things to see and do and plenty of caravan parks, towns and free/cheap camping, but remember to check if there are conditions such as having your own ensuite, to qualify. The actual town of Atherton is quite large and we were able to get groceries, carparts, camping things, etc., there. We were near Yungaburra, which is a charming town with a supermarket, butcher, cafes, knick-knacks, etc. and many farms sell their goods at the roadside, with an honesty system (you put the money in a tin and they’ll collect it sometime in the day).
It wasn’t until our way out that we stopped at the Mareeba Information Centre and it had good historical displays, cafe and information.
The Mareeba Coffee Works, visited on our return loop, is a must-see and they deliver coffee anywhere in Australia for free. I can’t believe I didn’t take any photos as the place is quirky and delicious.
Undara Lava Tubes are not too far, but we saw them later, too, so you’ll have to wait for my post on that.
We would go to Atherton again, for sure. There were plenty of places we didn’t see or would see again. During late August the days were warm (not quite suitable for shorts) and the nights cold (had the quilt out).
Proud enough of its history to paint the walls with it, this quaint country town has a great feeling. Artistic, cultural and well-maintained, Ingham is a farming area, with sugar and dairy thriving in this tropical area.
Let’s start with a coffee, and there were a few choices, but we chose JK’s delicatessen. In Adelaide, that wouldn’t be an unusual name, but way out east it’s very unusal, as the first white settlers were predominantly from the UK and they have ‘milk bars’ and now cafes. A good selection of coffees, teas and vegan sweets and it was very large.
As we travelled, many people told us we had to stop in Ingham, as it had a strong Italian ‘flavour’ and this wasn’t a big draw card, but then we found the Mercer Lane Mosaic.
A project that was co-ordinated by Karen Venables, it involved about 2000 locals and visitors who created mosaics to represent the history and diversity of the Hinchinbrook Shire.
Local artist, Kate Carr, did most of them and they are mosaics because it’s quick to learn and represented a popular artform of Italy, from where the greater percentage of the population come (https://www.hinchinbrookway.com.au/do/mercer-lane). Merceer Lane is 50m of cultural celebration and commemoration. There are even columns with family history, which fascinated me and I thought every town should do it.
We made our way to an economical campsite, on a farm, set up and left the van so that we could explore Wallaman Falls.
It was a beautiful 50km drive through sugar cane and cattle farms to Girringun National Park.
The falls, Australia’s highest single drop waterfall, are impressive and after viewing from the top, we decided to do the walk to the bottom which was steep, but easy on the way down.
Alan clambered over rocks to get as close as possible to the Falls , but I stayed back, unsure of the path he had taken and cautious after seeing a black snake.
The walk back was pretty demanding, nearly all uphill and steep. The falls are about 250km high and all in all we were there about 2 hours, including lunch.
We made it back to our campsite, only to be told that we couldn’t stay because we didn’t have a shower in our van. We had thought self-contained meant having our own toilet, but we were told we had to have a shower, by council regs. and would have to leave. This may be a Queensland thing, but other travellers we spoke to had not heard of it. In fast-approaching dark we were eaten by mozzies as we packed and, in the dark, we headed for the town caravan park, which was very welcoming and had drive-through sites.
The next morning we went to the TYTO wetlands, named after an endangered owl of the area. The wetlands are home to over 200 birds, and we thought we’d get a peaceful walk in before travelling on.
It is a very picturesque park and the paths are lovely and level. However, from the birdwatching gazebo, top right, above, I took a shot of what I thought was a log. As we continued, we saw a sign that said there’d been recent crocodile sightings, and we joked about whether my log was actually a croc, as you do.
Well, every rustle in the grass, interspersed by long tunnels of flattened reeds, had us jumping nervously. We decided to head back to the car and, as we travelled along, I put on my glasses and went through the photos. You’ve probably guessed by now…
Across the river had been no log.
Travel safe, take water, hat and your glasses. Ingham is well worth a visit.
We were returning after a 20-year absence, full of good memories and expectation of a backpacker ambiance. The town disappointed but the caravan park was so full of promise, we booked an extra night on the spot.
More famous for Shute Harbour – the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, we drove down there to discover some major renovations and expansion.
Back in town, there were cafes and eateries that faced the beach but we found it hard to get a park, so continued on a little to the lagoon, where patrons are protected from stingers by the presence of nets and patrols, in a landscaped garden setting.
If you’re hanging out in Airlie Beach and not taking a cruise somewhere, this is a great free activity / venue and there are plenty of shops nearby for fast food, icecream, nicknacks or diversion. An abundance of chemists line the main street, for suncream, moisturizer, bags or whatever, and there is a supermarket in the heart of town with regular-priced goods.
We couldn’t wait to get back to the Big4 Tropical Eco Resort caravan park and the great pool, where we lazed in the cool water while watching the metallic starlings, with their red eyes, glossy plumage and hanging communal nesting habit.
Everyone kept asking if we were southerners, as they thought the water was cold, for August, but our beaches have water that’s straight off the Antarctic – that’s cold!
Many travellers don’t want to stay at Big4 parks, as they are geared for families and children and they no longer need those facilities. We, however, like to remenisce and support the places we were able to take our kids to. The facilities are always very clean and safe, too.
Safe travels. Take a hat and water and your swimming gear.
Mackay, pronounced Mack-eye, is about half way along the coast of Queensland, and referred to as both northern and central, as a result. It is a huge sugar-producing area, responsible for about a third of the country’s total sugar. For people who come from a much drier state, the sight of the green fields is wonderful, and when they are set alight at night it’s impressive, if the smell of smoke takes a while to ignore.
The very specific farm equipment, too, was fascinating and we didn’t mind when we had to stop and wait while a train went through.
However, when you search things to do in Mackay, the return list is quite brief. Fortunatley, the Botanical Gardens is mentoined, so we stopped there en route to our next destination.
The small carpark shouldn’t put you off, as the many ways in, via attractive walking paths, herald plenty of street parking. The entrance is wide and clearly signed, and sunny enough to bring in some local pythons. I wouldn’t have noticed them if people weren’t walking around, casually pointing them out. It appears that they are very common in people’s yards up here.
You can enter via the cafe and opt for a tour or go straight through to the information board, looking out over the wetlands and letting you know that the Gardens are still in a developmental stage.
There are two main directions to take, left or right, and we took the right, only to find there were further choices as we went along. Many people were using the paths for exercise and arriving from outside the Gardens. It wouldn’t matter which way you went, as the gardens are very pretty and accessible.
There’s a variety of birdlife and plants and the path is easy and accessible for wheelchairs.
A very pleasant place to visit and lots of shade, but always take a hat and water.
Recommendations are constantly made, when you are on the road, about good, cheap places to stay. One such suggestion we received was for Cape Palmerston. We were told it was beautiful and, as part of Queensland’s national parks, the rate to camp is $6.50pp/night. It was unforgettable.
How hard could it be? The road to Palmerston was dirt off the highway, which was now sugar cane country, but reviews were good and nothing to indicate any special skills or vans, apart from ‘recommended with a 4WD’. So off the highway we ventured and tentatively followed signs until the final turn-off, where we saw two people inflating their tyres. Uh-oh. We stopped and had a conversation, during which they advised driving over the hill, keeping well to the left, following in others’ tracks, unless we could ride their rise, stay well away from the water, watch the tide so we did’t get caught in quicksand (did she say ‘quicksand’?) and we should make it to the first camp. Stay there.
It would be accurate to say we had some reservations and the woman suggested some sand driving would stand us in good stead. Over the rise we drove and saw some other cars, to either side, well back from the beach. We decided to have lunch and then head back where we had come, then forward in our journey, but when one couple came over and said they were moving on and we could have their spot for a camp…well, we moved in.
I’m still uncertain that Queensland Parks intended this spot for a camp, but I got online and paid our fee, and soon we were exploring the beach.
The tide was about 40 m out from our camp and receding. We had taken maybe 30 steps when a movement on the sand caught my eye. Crabs! But no ordinary crabs; these were travelling forward (not sideways) and carrying bulbous blue heads/bodies .
If we approached them, they stopped and spun themselves under the sand in a second. They travelled in groups, alone, in a line and in any direction. The sand was alive!
The entertainment having lasted a good hour, we explored some more and found very unusual jellyfish nested in the sand (waiting for unsuspecting tucker?)
then tucked into dinner. As the sun set, our neighbours fished at the water’s edge, our cameras s clicked and we noticed the waters beginning to return towards us. No cause for alarm, the signs of last night’s high tide were at least a metre from our door. And the others were in a tent, further forward, so any cries of alarm would alert us in time.
Sunrise was lovely and, although we had both spent some of the night listening to waves lap near our door, we awoke high and dry. A little trouble with midgies, which were also new to us.
Plenty of cars had taken to the sand trail the day before, during the late afternoon and early evening, speeding off in other people’s tracks or on their rise, way off to the point, where we hoped they avoided the quicksand and made it around to the first campsite.
An unforgettable experience, nonetheless. Sorry Queensland National Parks if we took a liberty. Cape Palmerston is for the more adventurous and experienced and by all accounts is excellent for fishing and beaching.