A Travellerspoint blog

October 2017


Reef Rain Forest & Ranges

sunny 30 °C

Cairns was the first major population centre we had encountered since Darwin after spending a lot of time in the wilderness. It took a bit of getting used to driving in traffic again and the noise of a city. We chose to stay at the Cairns Holiday Park which was a short drive to everything without being near a busy area. The park was quite nice with lots of mature trees for shade and flat grassy sites. It is a smaller park without permanents and has very good facilities, the best showers we have had on our trip.

Debbie was quite excited about getting to Cairns as we had arranged for two of our daughters to meet us here for five days of catching up and seeing the sights of the area. After picking them up from the airport we got them settled in to the spare tent we have carried around for the last 8 months and then headed out to the Crystal Cascades which was only a short drive away. A short shaded walk beside the creek takes you to a series of small waterfalls with clear pools to swim in.

The following day we were all booked on to a boat cruise to the outer barrier reef with Wavelength in Port Douglas. We chose this company from the many on offer after a recommendation from a kiwi couple we met at Captain Billy’s Landing in Cape York. They offer snorkeling only trips on a smaller boat with about 40 people maximum and have a good reputation for providing a great experience. An early start got us to Port Douglas by 7:45am and aboard the boat for the 90 minute trip out to Opal Reef where we would snorkel for an hour at each of three different sites.

The weather gods had come through for us as the day’s weather was as good as you could hope for with just a light breeze and clear blue skies. The three dive sites were all quite different but all had shallow areas and deep drop offs/walls to explore with a large variety of fish, corals and other critters. The water clarity was very good and snorkeling was very easy even for the inexperienced. We saw many different types of clown fish, cuttlefish, starfish, giant clams, anemones, every type of coral imaginable and a huge maori wrasse called Hamish who would come up to you and rub against you seeking your affection.

All of the dive crew on the boat are Marine Biologists and Paul who was very knowledgeable gave two very interesting talks, one on the reef and the connecting ecosystems and the other on how to approach marine life to be able to get close without scaring them away. He is very passionate about the reef and the oceans and his enthusiasm for nature was very inspiring. As we were leaving the last dive site a pod of dolphins appeared and played around the boat for a while. After three hours in the water everyone on board was tired on the cruise back to port but very satisfied after a wonderful day exploring the Great Barrier Reef
Kuranda was our destination the following day, the scenic railway up and the skyrail back. After boarding the historic train at Cairns Station we traveled for a while across the flat plain before beginning the long steep ascent around the side of the mountains crossing many bridges and passing through many tunnels before arriving in Kuranda two and a half hours later. The scenery along the way was fantastic with views extending out the ocean with rain forest clad slopes dropping steeply to the valley below. We stopped for a while to get off the train and look across to Barron Falls and the gorge below.

Kuranda itself is a nice town nestled in amongst the rain forest with numerous shops and eateries catering to the busy tourist crowds. We found the original market to be the most interesting of the different market areas. The Butterfly Sanctuary was worth a visit with a good range of colourful butterflies flying around inside the main enclosure and a huge collection of preserved specimens from around the world. After roaming the streets for a few hours we caught the skyrail back down, stopping at Barron Falls and Red Hill stations where you get off to walk along boardwalks to lookouts. The views from the skyrail cab down into the rain forest were great to get a different perspective and the views out to the coast were stunning.
Over the next couple of days we visited the Cairns Botanic Gardens which were the best botanic gardens we have ever seen and well worth the time to walk through, went to the movies to see Blade Runner 2049 (a great movie), checked out the water park at the foreshore and the girls and Deb checked out most of the shops in the city. While the girls were out shopping I noticed the radiator filling bottle in the car bubbling which didn’t look good so took it to a radiator specialist who confirmed my suspicion that either the head gasket was leaking or the head or block were cracked. Further investigation at the mechanics showed a leaking head gasket which meant we wouldn’t be leaving the next day as planned.

We were certainly glad we had RACV Total Cover which paid for a hire car and our caravan park costs for the 13 days we were laid up waiting for the car to be fixed. During this time we drove south to visit Babinda where we called in at the bakery for some apple pies for morning tea. Their pies are famous and we can vouch for them as they were delicious. Babinda Boulders just 7km down the road is well worth a visit, a recently upgraded walking track takes you along the creek through rain forest to the large boulders where the creek cascades over them. From here we went to Josephine Falls which were fairly busy with backpackers cooling off beneath the falls. There was a good flow of water coming down after recent rains and the waterslide down the rock face was fast flowing with plenty of takers braving the turbulent drop.

We drove on to Innisfail and out to Flying Fish Point for a look but the ocean here was brown from the recent rain. A little further south was Etty Bay, a beautiful spot with rain forest covered hills dropping down to a nice sandy beach protected by rocky headlands at either end. We had planned to stay here for a few days after Cairns but will have to leave it for another time as we need to make up for the lost extra 13 days in Cairns. We also spent time fishing off the pier and lazing on the beach at Palm Cove, swimming in the lagoon at the esplanade in Cairns and driving up to Kuranda for some more browsing and sightseeing.

Cairns has been a great base to explore the area from but 19 days here is just a bit much when we are used to moving on more often. We are missing the bush camping and peace and quiet of the bush so are looking forward to getting to Mission Beach. If you need mechanical work done in Cairns we can highly recommend Cape York Automotive, they are a highly skilled professional business and went out of their way to get us back on the road as soon as possible.


Posted by OzJourney 04:49 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wonga Beach

Change Of Pace

semi-overcast 31 °C

Our initial plan was to travel from Cape Tribulation to Port Douglas but we changed our plans after learning about a nice quiet small caravan park at Wonga Beach which is just north of Mossman. This park is much cheaper than Port Douglas at $30/night powered and has beachfront sites with plenty of room unlike Port Douglas where you aren’t on the beach and are packed in like sardines. It was easy for us to drive to Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge and return to our lovely beach front site which was protected from the wind by coconut palms. The managers are great people and there is a happy hour get together each night from 4pm.

Leaving Cape Tribulation we crossed the Daintree River on the car ferry and got to Wonga Beach around 9am. After a quick setup we travelled in to Port Douglas to check out the Sunday Market near the Marina. The market was huge and there was a large crowd in attendance so we spent a couple of hours looking around before having a nice Indian curry for lunch. We then went up to the lookout which gave great views along Four Mile Beach, wandered around the main street looking in the shops and walking down to Four Mile Beach for a look. The beach was crowded and quite a few people were swimming within the stinger nets, with some other thrill seekers swimming outside the nets. A few days later an elderly woman was taken by a large crocodile in the area which was later caught in a trap, so probably not wise to swim outside the nets.

The following day we drove to Mossman Gorge where you either walk 2km each way from the visitor centre to the gorge or you catch a bus for $9.50 each, we decided on the bus as we were doing the 3km walk at the gorge and thought an extra 4km in the heat would have been testing. The loop walk takes you through some amazing with huge trees, crystal clear creeks and a nice lookout. The reward at the end was a swim in the gorge with the archer fish which was very refreshing.

We ended up staying four nights at Wonga Beach as it was a nice place to relax, walk along the long sandy beach and try to clean some of the dust out of everything. While walking along the beach on our last day we came across a number of large fish frames washed up along the shore, these were very large fish, some emperor, cod, coral trout and others which had obviously been caught and filleted by fisherman who had been out to the reef and returned to clean them near the shore. Not a great idea as it attracts crocodiles to the beach. Wonga Beach was a great spot to spend a few days and we were glad we stayed here instead of Port Douglas.


Posted by OzJourney 05:24 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cape Tribulation

Daintree Rainforest

semi-overcast 30 °C

Cape Tribulation was our next port of call and to get there we chose the short route via the Bloomfield Track. The Lions Den Hotel is a well known stopover for a photo and a beer but we were too early and it wasn’t open for another hour so we just took some photos, picked up some more fallen mangoes and pushed on towards the Bloomfield Track. The bitumen road wound through hilly rain forest and through some small towns which made for a very nice drive. Once we reached the start of the Bloomfield Track it was time to air down the tyres ready for the dirt road with some very steep gradients where low range 4WD is necessary to climb and down the hills.

As we have found a lot in Queensland the road signage is very poor, often one sided signs or no signs at all which makes finding where you are going or warning you of dangers difficult. The Bloomfield Track was no exception, most other places we have been have signs to tell you of steep gradients and when to engage 4WD but not here. We were going along fine in 2WD with some gradual climbs and descents until after a fairly easy climb we came over the crest to be confronted with a seriously steep descent which had been concreted thankfully. With no warning to engage 4WD so we could use engine braking to save the brakes we progressed down the slope foot pushing the brake pedal as hard as possible to no avail as the brakes overheated and we plummeted down the slope getting faster and faster one hand on the handbrake ready to use it as a last resort. Luckily there were no corners to negotiate and we got to the bottom without having to use the handbrake feeling pretty shaky by now.

We pulled over to let the brakes cool down before continuing on and while having some morning tea I thought I should check the trailer brakes to see if they were hot. They were cold so on further inspection I lifted up a rubber dust cover over the hydraulic brake piston to find that the lever to disable the trailer brakes had been engaged, obviously at the workshop when the trailer was being repaired. No wonder the car brakes overheated with the camper trailer pushing the car down the hill. After engaging low range for the rest of the journey we had no more scary moments and successfully reached the end of the Bloomfield Track.

Cape Trib Camping is the campground we stayed at during our 3 days in Cape Tribulation and what a great spot it was. It isn’t cheap at $34 a night unpowered but the money was well worth it for the great location and beautiful campground. The campground in the Daintree National Park is right beside a gorgeous beach lined with palm trees and rain forest. There is lush green grass and large private camp sites under the cover of rainforest with an open area in front to run solar panels and total wind protection. There is a bar area where you can get wood fired pizzas and drinks, the amenities are very good and there are two large camp kitchens. We had site 31 which was excellent and had a track to take you the 20 metres to the beach.

The Daintree National Park is a magnificent place to spend some time, there is so much to see and do here. There are a number of boardwalks that take you through the rainforest and mangroves with some huge ancient trees, fan palms, a big variety of ferns and dense rainforest. Places we enjoyed were Kulki and Alexandra Range Lookouts, Marrdja, Dubuji and Jindalba boardwalks. Nice beaches at Cow Bay, Cape Kimberley, Thorton and Myall. At Jindalba there is a 3km trail that takes you through the rainforest, up and down some steep hills which pass some amazing trees. This walk was challenging in the high humidity and we were unprepared wearing thongs in the rugged terrain with tree roots, rocks and steep slopes but this was a real highlight of our time in Cape Tribulation. This walk takes you away from the tourist crowd into a very old rain forest with amazing trees and plant life and is well worth the effort.
On the culinary side of things we enjoyed some lovely Biodynamic ice cream at the Floravilla Ice Cream Factory where they have a huge range of flavours. We had a great meal of barramundi at Whet Cafe Restaurant on the night of my birthday. On that same day we went to Cape Trib Farm for an Exotic Fruit Tasting which involved trying 12 different tropical fruits, none of which either of us had tasted before. The selection of fruit was interesting and tasty with some history of the different fruits and the farm mixed in. Following the tasting we were shown around a small part of the 80 acre property. The experience goes for one and a half hours and we enjoyed it a lot, something very different.

On our last morning I fished off the beach in front of camp and found the fish on the bite but had trouble hooking anything. Finally one found the hook and I pulled in a good sized fish which I thought may be a type of salmon but realised after cooking and trying to eat it that it was full of bones. Further investigation via google showed it to be a bonefish which are inedible due to the small bones all through the flesh. Our three day stay in Cape Tribulation went by all too quickly and we could easily have stayed here for a week. Cape Trib Camping was one of the best campgrounds we have stayed at on our big lap and is a place we will return to another time.


Posted by OzJourney 21:37 Archived in Australia Comments (0)


Green Change

overcast 31 °C

Cooktown is a very nice town situated on the Endeavour River and was a welcome green stopover after the dry and dusty Cape. On the way from Elim Beach to Cooktown we missed a turnoff into Hopevale and forgetting I was towing the camper trailer I reversed back to the turnoff only to have the camper go down over the road edge and jack knife causing the jockey wheel to be crushed by the tow bar. This also bent the tongue of the towbar and broke a couple of welds on the stone guard on the camper trailer. So with no jockey wheel we had to find a caravan park and leave the camper attached to the car until the following day when we could get the camper repaired. Before parking up for the night we went to a car wash and gave the car and camper a good clean to get rid of most of the accumulated dust and then did some shopping.

We stayed at the Cooktown Caravan Park which had large shady sites and was quiet except for some road noise as it on the road out to Cairns. There were a few mosquitoes around at dusk and some tree stumps in the sites which were a tripping hazard but overall a nice small park with good amenities. Next morning we dropped off the camper trailer at an engineering workshop which did a great job in welding up the stone guard, straightening the tow bar tongue and fitting a new jockey wheel. While the camper was getting fixed we had the car booked in at Cape York Tyres to get the tyres rotated and when they rang to say the job was done we returned to find that the wheels hadn’t been balanced. On questioning why the wheels hadn’t been balanced they said that balancing wasn’t part of the $60 quoted to rotate the tyres. There would be no point in rotating the tyres without balancing but they probably realised if they quoted an extra $60 when we asked the cost we would have gone elsewhere. We left in disgust refusing to pay the extra $60 for a balance, instead going to Tyrepower just out of town who charge $48 for rotation and balancing compared to the rip off $120.

The rest of the day we spent visiting Finch Bay, a nice beach with a creek at one end, the Botanic Gardens and the wharf area. We also drove up the steep road to Grassy Hill Lookout which gives great views over Cooktown, the Endeavour River and along the coast. Unfortunately the wind was very strong and a mist was obscuring the views out to sea and along the coast. The James Cook Museum was an interesting place to read about Cook’s landing in Australia and lots of other local history and artifacts. Cooktown has a large amount of mango trees around town which were loaded, with lots of mangoes on the ground under the trees that were a great find and were delicious.


Posted by OzJourney 21:30 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cape York Part 6

Hann Crossing and Elim Beach

sunny 33 °C

With a long days driving ahead we left Chili Beach early, arriving in Coen around midday to refuel and buy some fresh fruit and vegies. We had lunch at a cafe on the road out of Coen which seemed a very popular stopping point for travelers. The road from Coen to Musgrave was in poor condition, so the going was slow and we stopped at Musgrave to refill our water jerry cans and to top up with diesel. The road from Musgrave to Hann Crossing was very good.

Hann Crossing is in Lakefield National Park and you have to book ahead online. There are 20 sites well spread out along both banks of the North Kennedy River, most are on the high banks overlooking the river. We chose site 10 which was a very large site with just enough shade for the camper trailer and a nice flat rock shelf to fish from. After checking out all the other sites up to 16 we reckon that 13 was the best with nice shade, a great rock platform and very secluded, site 10 would have been our second pick.

We spent 3 nights here and on our first morning we spotted a huge saltwater crocodile sun baking on the opposite bank. It would have been 5 metres long and very fat with an enormous head. We were both stunned by the size of the beast, we have seen quite a few crocs on the trip but nothing compared to this monster. After a while he turned around and slid into the water, then watched us for a while before hiding behind low hanging tree branches over the water to keep watch on us. At one stage he swam across towards us and then submerged only to reappear beside a log on the other side to continue his vigil. After a while he cruised off up the river for 100 metres then crossed to our side and submerged only to appear a few minutes later sneaking up along the bank beneath the trees over the water only 10 metres from our camp, when he realized I had spotted him he got angry and thrashed his tail and disappeared under the water. This croc was definitely stalking us and made us very nervous about being anywhere near the bank, even though it would be 2 metres above the river a croc that size could launch up the slope.

On our last day here we went for a drive to Red and White Lily Lagoons, Red Lily was looking fairly dry but White Lilly had a good variety of bird life. We also found a lovely drive on a 4WD track which passed by Hanush’s Waterhole, Melaleuca Waterhole and some beautiful lagoons and forested areas. Hann Crossing was a great place to camp with lots of wildlife, wallabies, birds, crocs, fish in the river and overall a wonderful remote camping experience.

Elim Beach near Hopevale was our last campsite in Cape York and what a beauty it was. After checking out the Old Laura Station on the way we turned onto Battle Camp Road which is a beautifully scenic drive through forested ranges and across the Normandy River which we stopped at to take some photos of the scenic river crossing. As you approach Elim Beach you pass snow white sand dunes which shimmer in the sunlight and then enter this wonderful camp ground beside a stunning beach. We arrived around midday and were lucky to get a prime waterfront campsite, as other campers had just left that morning. Our site was 10 metres from the beach on the sand with great views of the coloured sands and Cape Bedford.

Elim Beach is a great place to take it easy, pull up a chair at camp and watch the fishermen come and go in their tinnies, the birds looking for a feed on the sand flats at low tide, and the constantly changing scenery in front of you. The beach is lined with beautiful paperbark trees with some areas of mangroves and big changes of tide. Just near our camp there is a natural freshwater spring which bubbles up through the sand below the high watermark. The spring has been circled with a galvanised steel water tank buried in the sand, so that the freshwater fills the tank constantly and drains through a hole near the top. When the tide comes in the saltwater covers the tank and sits above the freshwater, so that at low tide the salt water drains out leaving cool freshwater. This was a great natural spa to cool off in after a long beach walk.

The nights were wonderful sitting around our camp fire watching the stars and hearing the lapping of the waves just metres from our camp. We also did a beach drive to see the coloured sands and to check out the kite surfing hire camp further around the beach. Elim Beach was the best campground we have stayed at in all of Cape York and a fitting end to a wonderful adventure up here in this remote part of Australia.


Posted by OzJourney 23:44 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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