Boodjamulla/Lawn Hill

The first time we came across Lawn Hill was a sign on the Barkley Highway near Camooweal, with pictures of a lush paradise. After that, plenty of travellers were either coming from, or going towards it. So, as our trip unfolded, from the Gulf of Carpentaria we headed west towards Boodjamulla (aka Lawn Hill). The Aboriginal name means Rainbow Serpent Country and it certainly has colours and textures to delight the senses.

The journey can be undertaken a few ways and none are for the faint-hearted. We decided to go on bitumen roads from Karumba, through Normanton, south to the Burke and Wills roadhouse and then west from there to Gregory Downs. As mentioned in another post, there are several stretches where it is a single lane, so you have to move over for oncoming traffic.

We had trouble finding the free campground, so unhitched in the park behind the hotel, where you can get a good meal, fuel and information about the roads nearby. We could choose our unpowered site, had a peaceful sunset and a good night’s sleep.

The road out to Boodjamulla is just around the corner from the hotel. As is the free campsite, with flowing river and plenty of room!! The road is pretty badly corrugated, with a few bone-rattling stretches so we were glad we had unhitched the van. We’d been advised to drop our tyre pressure, so found it quite ok, but didn’t get over 80km/hr very often after maybe 10km of bitumen at the start.

The first place you come to is Adels Grove campground and you can get a variety of accommodation here or continue on to Lawn Hill. I suggest you read the reviews, as new owners have taken over and I think it will take some time for them to get their heads around it.

The last stretch, from Adels Grove to Lawn Hill, is almost worse than the earlier travel, as you have potholes and dips as well as corrugation, but it is short-lived. People do the trip in regular cars, but I think you’d be damaging them and better off in a 4WD if that’s an option.

Information abounds
well-signed trails

Once in the National Park, there is plenty of information and, having arrived early as advised, we decided to do the Duwadarri Lookout walk and continued to the Indarri Falls walk (which was easier, as it was flatter). It took less than 2 hours, including stops to chat to other walkers and a quick dip in the falls before heading back. You won’t be able to resist it, so go prepared.

We began alongside the river
The lookout takes in the red limestone cliffs
And back along the river
Where lower gorge meets upper gorge

Securing a canoe is a fair-priced must, and we had time for lunch before ours was due. There are a few tables and chairs, but if it was very busy, you may want to bring your own or find a spot by the river. Our only company was a buff-sided robin, keen to be photographed (or get scraps).

buff-sided robin

The tandem canoe trip takes you through emerald waters, caused by calcium carbonate, from lower gorge to the upper gorge, between high red limestone cliffs or thick green foliage.

At the junction of the two gorges, there are 2 small waterfalls and you can tie up your canoe and take to the water.

If you stay by the side, you can be entertained by the archerfish, especially if you have some tidbits to feed them.

On our way up we saw whole families, including young children, who were merely floating the extent on their swim rings. At the junction, many people leave the water, carrying their canoe about 20 metres to the upper junction and putting in there to complete the gorge. We were concerned that we’d run out of time and not have much fun under the waterfalls, so we just stayed there until we headed back and then headed home.

We treated ourselves to a drink in the hotel yard after dinner and my husband tried his luck at getting the bar staff to change the sport from Rugby to AFL, with success.

It was a great place to have seen but a very long way from anything to recommend it wholeheartedly. There were a lot of young families doing the National Road Trip. One day was very special, but enough for us, and our trip out of Gregory Downs, the next day, was by bitumen. You’d really need to check the condition of the many dirt tracks leading out, as some are horrendous.

Happy travels. Carry water, hat and sunscreen.

Ay Karumba!

We pressed on to Karumba, from Croydon, which took about 2 hours. At one time we had considered stopping in Normanton, which is a much bigger town that we passed through, but as we talked about the overall path, we thought it made more sense to go to the farthest extreme and work back the next day, than the alternative. As it’s almost exclusively Telstra out here, access to the internet and phone coverage is difficult so we’d had no internet for two days. Sometimes, we’d be driving along and hear our phones going off, or sitting outside and hear our phones, on the inside, suddenly get a wave of wifi. I know, third world problems.

Karumba Point is lovely. It was about 32C when we arrived at 4 and were desperate to get to the pool. It was fabulous and the warm breeze in the evening, like a piece of soft silk brushing my skin, was so refreshing. A poolside conversation led to us quickly leaving the pool, grabbing our crackers and hummus and heading for the point.

All seats taken at the pub

Here, just outside the hotel, we planted ourselves on a bench, as people sat on the beach, held up their glasses and watched a beautiful sunset. We took great photos and had a drink, along with our dip. It was very special and felt like the Broome sunset routine.

Alan said that, apparently, this place can have some extraordinary rolls of cloud in the morning, so we planned that. We were contemplating staying an extra night, as it was really nice to have warmth and a great caravan park with clean, substantial amenities. Even the Cane toads liked it.

But with tips about Gregory Downs, Lawn Hill and Cloncurry after that, we decided to decline the advice about visiting the Barramundi Discovery Centre, Museum or Normanton’s town walk, and after a beautiful sunrise, we headed for the point and walked along the beach, scabbing shells and feeling the sun start to heat up.

No cloud rolls. Constantly spying for crocs or turning at rustling, I thought we’d best go, and the slithers in the sand didn’t help, either. We went to the coffee shop that heralded itself as the best in the area and managed to get a tomato ($1.80) and half a lettuce ($2.90), which was an improvement on yesterday, where, in Croydon, lettuces were $8.30 each.

A cool little cafe with a view of the beach and fresh veggies on sale.

Then off we went. We passed groups of birds at the water’s edge of ponds and swamps, and they were grey, with red bands on their heads that covered their eyes. They were tall and leggy and ran from us when we stopped the car to take a picture. A lunch stop was by the side of the road and we met a couple on their way to Cloncurry, who had traveled this area 30 years ago, when it was dirt! Off we went to Burke and Wills roadhouse and then on to Gregory Downs and after experiencing single road use for some kilometers, we were there by 4.

Stay tuned for Lawn Hill!

Croydon, Queensland gulf country

One of the great things about meeting people as you travel, is the knowledge they share about where they’ve been, which alters your plans with interesting additions. Croydon was such a place.

As we entered the old gold mining town, we followed the signs to Lake Belmore and wound our way up to the town’s fresh water source and recreation area. It is a huge area, with very good amenities for water sports, picnicking, fishing and bird watching, but you cannot camp there. The obligatory far north croc sign was up, again.

Well-maintained grounds and facilities at Lake Belmore

We returned to town via Diehm’s Lookout and, on advice, went to the True Blue Visitor Information Centre.

Diehm’s Lookout

Apart from having excellent information, The Visitor Centre had strong wifi on the verandah. We spoke to the attendant and watched the short video, to set the scene before heading out to the Heritage Precinct.

The town has done an amazing job of restoring some eight or so of the original buildings and including written information at each, with artefacts at many. In the courthouse, you can hear a recording of a real trial that was held, and stand or sit in one of the areas of the court to imagine what it would have been like. It is definitely worth doing and doesn’t go for too long, if you have young children.

The judge, or magistrate

The court house walls are corrugated iron, as it was originally, and the practice continued in Australia well into the 1900s, because wood was scarce and termites very hungry. I can’t help but imagine, in these buildings, what it was like in 30 – 40C heat, swathed in petticoats, girdles, neck-to-knee close-fitting dresses. It’s a miracle more women didn’t die of asphyxiation and I now understand the fixation historical script writers have with women swooning.

The school dropoff, circa 1890

As you progress to the police station, hospital and schoolroom, you can appreciate the advancements we have made in the 100+ years, especially in medical care, and easily imagine yourself cast back in time.

Each house is next to the other, along the length of one of the main streets, so it’s easy to navigate.

The town surpassed a population of 6500, including 300 Chinese, and the original owners, the Mayi-Kulan Aboriginal people have been scattered, so that it is believed there are no more Mayi-Kulan remaining and the culture is lost. A few photos remain of some original owners and the families they started with European settlers. At the 2016 census the population of Croydon was 258.

To complete your historic tour, visit the Club Hotel, said to be the last pub remaining in town, from the 36 that existed in its heyday, or the train station, where you will see the Gulflander.

The Gulflander travels 4 and a half hours from Normanton to Croydon on a Wednesday, and returns on a Thursday, taking passengers through country that they are unlikely to view otherwise. It is an historic railway, built on steel sleepers to withstand the flooding and termites, both of which devastated previous attempts to move a train. The brainchild of George Phillips, the bridges were also designed to handle submersion.

You might even decide to view the huge display of old mining equipment.

There are shops, service stations and park accommodation, so if you want to stroll at a more leisurely pace or spend longer at lookouts and displays, you can spread it over a couple of days. You never know, this might not be the only nugget you find out here.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last abandoned mining town and there are more to come, as wealthy companies divest Australia of its hidden wealth, setting up huge towns to be left as a reminder no-one heeds.

Undara Lava Tubes

A popular destination from Cairns, taking about 3 and 1/2 hours drive, from Mt Garnet to Undara Volcanic National Park is about an hour. Not realising this, we went on to set up at Mt Surprise, with the intention of returning for our booked afternoon tour. If you find yourself in a similar situation, go directly to Undara, as the Undara Experience Centre has a beautiful bistro, eating area, souvenir selection and waiting space where we could easily have spent the few hours before our tour and then gone on to Mt Surprise later. It would have saved the fuel, at any rate, even if we bought a drink or something. They also offer free tea and coffee, but it’s not of a standard that would have you going back for more.

The lava tubes were explored by one of the Collins family members, who used to take people there when they visited. Later, working with the Queensland government, a National Park was established on the Collins’ land and formal tours and trails have been set up, complete with information about how they formed. The Collins family run the Undara Experience, with whom we took a tour.

So, how did they form? About 200 000 years ago there was a huge volcanic eruption and the lava flow was so fast that, as it travelled along a river bed, the top cooled and formed a crust, while the lava underneath kept flowing on and out, until hollow tunnels were formed. They extend 90km in one direction and 160km in another, making them Australia’s longest lava tunnels and one of the longest in the world.

Over the years, a roof might collapse, forming arches or caves and allowing rare plants and creatures to flourish. Some plants are believed to be relatives of those from Gondwanaland.

Stephenson Cave

Outside the caves, you can see birds and insects unique to the area, including the spider that weaves a net to catch falling prey. I can’t remember what they are called and can’t find the information, so if anyone knows, please send me a message.

Not quite baskets, but an effective series of nets.

We travelled far in to caves and learnt about what lives there and what drips from the ceiling. The formations and surfaces have asuch a fascinating variety of shape, colour and texture.

The Undara Experience has accommodation and there are many walking trails that you can do independently. We chose the only daytime tour available in Covid times, but there are usually several to choose from, including night treks.

If you are staying in Cairns, it’s about a 3 and 1/2 hour drive to Undara, so you might choose to stay there. Be sure to book before you go, as even in these restricted times, the tours filled quickly.

Definitely worth putting on your bucket list.

Safe travels. Take water, hat and insect repellant.

From Cooktown to Mt Garnet

We travelled back to the Tablelands, stopping at The Coffee Works in Mareeba, after a recommendation.

What a lovely set-up with all sorts of nick knacks and plenty of coffee. We had the ‘house’ coffee, Black Mountain, and bought some for us and for a friend.

The drive to Ravenshoe, through the Atherton tablelands was pretty drizzly and foggy, but brought back good memories.

It wasn’t far to Innot Hot Springs in Savannah territory, and we parked beside the caravan park and took 20 steps into the reserve. The creek was very shallow nearby, but sure enough, the water was warm. I ventured a little further and found some warmer spots. Looking up, towards where it was deeper, I could see steam! I went over and carefully felt the water. It was quite hot.

Little islands of sand had formed and as I stepped between them, my foot sunk in and removed my rubber thong. It was VERY hot and I quickly retrieved my foot and footwear, wiser. Im sure I saw fish in there.

The bank was steep enough that you could sit on the side and dangle your feet in or, if you had come prepared as another couple had, go in for a soak. The reviews warned about how hot some patches were and they aren’t exaggerating, so be careful.

The drive to Mt Garnet BP (for free camping for the night) was short and we set up by the side of a deep creek (empty I think) with horses grazing on the steep banks. The camp is free, beside a BP service station, but they ask you to buy something from the shop, so hot chips for dinner it was!

Booked our Undara Experience for the next day and found the archways tour was the only one available and at limited times. This was, after all, the reason for coming this way. Read more about those in my next post, as the lava tubes were better than we expected and I’d ecommend them.

Safe travels. Take hat, water and burn cream.

Cooktown

Cooktown is a pretty town, set on the banks of both the Coral Sea and the Endeavour River. It is in Far North Queensland and seen as one of those ‘last frontier’ places, from where adventurous people head into the wilderness to the north, hoping to make it to ‘The Top of the Cape’ (Cape York Peninsula). We left Port Douglas fairly early, for Cooktown, and so drove on roads that were new to us. We had expected lush rainforest, but instead got dry terrain, much like the Northern Territory. Then, a mountain would loom ahead and we’d have green foliage again, but gum trees for the most part. We met some people at the lookout, who had driven from Cape Tribulation and taken about 2 hours. They said it could be achieved, at that moment, with a 2WD. It pays to ask other travellers as you go, for the opportunity to increase your experiences.

gumtrees, anthills and distant hills

As we got closer to Cooktown, cows appeared on the road more frequently and about 30km out is Black Mountain. If you didn’t know its name, you’d have no trouble remembering it, as there are about 3 moderate-sized hills that are made up of boulders, or rocks, that are jet black. It is a bit like hitting coal mountain. Apparently it is lichen.

Black Mountain

There are few places to stop on this stretch, but Lakeside is worth the stop (not sure where the lake is, though). When we arrived at the campground, our site was backing on to a rainforest and things scuttled in there. There’s a note in the toilets, to turn off lights as lights attract bugs, bugs attract frogs and frogs attract snakes. Yippee.

We made our way in to town where there was a water park, as it isn’t safe to swim in the sea here. First stop the Botanic Gardens, which has examples of the type of plant samples collected by Banks and Cook but is quite small.

pond at Botanic Gardens
the famous Cooktown orchid, in its natural habitat

On to Cook’s Lookout at Grassy Hill, one of the best lookouts we both thought we’d ever seen. It’s probably a good time to mention that the area got it’s name from when Captain Cook beached his ship here for repairs in 1770. The lookout takes in a 360 degree view of the area, which I tried to recreate, taking a small turn each time.

Having awoken early the next day, we set off to find Trevethan Falls, that were supposedly 13.5 km out of town. We drove about 30km to the turnoff and then had a 4WD adventure, trying to get there. When the road/track became very rough and demanding, with no end in sight, we decided to turn around and head to the beach at Mt Amos. We didn’t find that, either, and hit private property, so turned back once more. Locals we asked had never heard of the falls, so…

rough track leading nowhere

Now was the time to hit the markets, which were collections of produce and trash, or fundraising efforts with a strong local feel, and we walked the foreshore, seeing the monuments and Milbi Wall, a mosaic retelling of the history of the area, by the first nations people.

There were also people fishing and everyone keeping well back from the water – crocodile warnings everywhere. Cooktown really established itself on the map when, in 1873, tens of thousands of people from around the world landed here in search of gold and the port became the State’s busiest.

One of those last minute decisions saw us heading for Mount Cook, late in the day to do the 6km return walk up to the lookout. In fact, there are two lookouts, and the first is quite easy to reach, with gently raising paths, lined with trees and shrubs. It is also lined with spider webs, I discovered, or it was until I decided to wear all of them. We made the first section quite easily but the path was littered with leaves and even though we had good trekking sandals, I was anticipating a slippery walk home, when the increased slope would be downward.

The second section was definitely more difficult, with a constant upward climb, although not the steepest I have done. When we finally made it to the main lookout, it was quite a relief and the strong breeze was refreshing. Another traveller at the campground said that he found the really strong winds at the top made him feel like superman. So, either he’s been on the kryptonite or it is windier in the morning (when he went). Definitely do the walk if you visit here, as it is pretty and the view at the end is stunning. But don’t leave it until late in the day. The advice when you get there is to allow 2 hours and that you should be of reasonable fitness. It took us about 1 ¼ hours, but we were moving pretty fast, as walks go.

Isabella Falls was first on our list for the day. It is a short drive from town and very close to the road.

From here the plan was to go to Hope Vale to see some Indigenous art and on the Elim Beach, where there are coloured sands. Hope Vale was poorly sign-posted and the road just ended, leaving us to drive uncertainly around the community. Feeling that this was intrusive, we headed back but saw a sign for Endevour Falls and pulled in to the Tourist park , behind which, after a 2 minute walk we made our way to the small but pretty falls behind the park. It is a very attractive park, 20 minutes out of Cooktown, with shady sites and well-maintained.

the small Endeavour Falls

Why not visit Keating’s Lagoon? Only a short way out of Cooktown, we went to the birdwatchers paradise and spied keenly for the object of our visit.

Mulbabidgee, or Keatings Landing

Cooktown is known as a windy city, so when you hear the ‘waves’ of wind tearing through the park at night, fear not. There is quite a bit to do, so that while you reach for the furthest point you can attempt in Queensland, there are a few spots before you turn around or press on. Usually there are plenty of international tourists, but we met only three while there and a handful of Australians who weren’t in lockdown.

Safe travels. Water, hat and sunscreen (and a jacket for the evenings).

Upper Daintree

From our base in Port Douglas, we drove to the upper Daintree Rainforest, which began with a short ferry ride over the Daintree River, at a cost of $31 a car (return). Despite having decided to drive all the way through to Cape Tribulation before going to any of the attractions on side roads, we did stop at the first lookout and try to get a clear shot of the vista.

At the Cape we did a walk to Kulki (gool-gee), the name given by the traditional owners, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji. It is a short walk to the beach, although you can’t swim here, due to crocodiles. We weren’t going to walk on the beach, but saw about 12 people walking back from the other end, so thought we might as well. Silly, really, considering that crocodiles will sit and watch people patiently, waiting for the time to be right. The appearance, shortly after entering the sand, of not one but three park rangers, eased my mind, although they said it was fine to walk on the beach, but definitely don’t swim there, as there is a resident croc who inhabits the waters, usually swimming to find food.

Cape Tribulation

It was quite a lovely spot, and seeing huge, old mango trees at the water’s edge was extraordinary. We next stopped at Dubuji Boardwalk, which means place of spirits in Kuku Yalanji. It is a mangrove walk and the name fits, as it is quite eerie.

Dubuji

The information taught us a lot about the foods in the forest, for animals and birds, and we saw a lot of colorful fungi. A big feature are the fan palms and it was an easy ring route.

An unexpected sign after leaving here had us stop at Madja Boardwalk. Madja means jungle or rainforest, and the place holds spiritual significance for the traditional owners. At this spot, the walk is quite dark and the environment, once again, is mangrove. Although short, there are information boards along the walk, plenty of added examples of colourful  fungi, and it ends at a vast expanse that I think is the end of either Noah or Oliver Creek, or both.

The last walk was Jindalba and we chose the shorter, 700m track. This had a lot of classic rainforest, with ferns, streams and very unusual birds hooting and whistling overhead. As we hot into our car, a bright flash of wings had us look up to see a wompoo fruit dove, or two in fact, sitting in their nest above our car. Hard camera shots, I have to say.

The Daintree is said to be the oldest tropical rainforest in the world (https://australia.com) and if I had to choose upper or lower, I think I’d say lower, just because it’s more accessible from major towns. The large areas of swamp in the upper Daintree are bleak but incredibly important to the rest of the world’s ecological health.

Why not see them both? If you have a 4WD you could take the infamous Bloomfield track to Cooktown. Try to get information from other travellers who have done it very recently, before attempting this, especially if you have little or no 4WD experience. We were told, once in Cooktown, that there was so little water we could have crossd but not without an offroad van.

Safe travels. Take water, hat and sunscreen. Ask around if you are unsure and don’t pat the crocodiles.

Mossman Gorge

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.

the calm water is decieving – strong undercurrents can sweep you away

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!

Port Douglas

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!!!!).

cof

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.

Cairns and surrounds

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.

Barron Falls

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.

Kuranda scenic railway

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.