This is the Touring Wombats (Neil & Merrisa) travel blog for our 2020 East Coast of Australia & Far North Queensland adventure. We left home on 20th June after the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic curve had flattened, the state borders were opening up again and it was winter in Melbourne, so we joined the thousands of grey nomads heading north!

Since we began our journey back in June the “2nd Covid19 wave” hit Victoria and things were a bit difficult – being a Victorian. We were soooo lucky to spend most of our time in Queensland; the safest state to be in at the time. We have now returned home in Melbourne, after 161 days on the road.

Posts are ordered with most recent at top of the page. All links open in a new browser window. Hope you enjoy our blog!
cheers, Neil & Merrisa

Links to other pages – About, Itinerary, Blog Index, Trip Map, Some Stats, Favourite Photos, Search

Gundagai & Shepparton & Home

A one night stay at Gundagai River Camping & Caravan Park was a top spot to break our journey home. Will definitely put this location down as an overnight stop on future trips.

The two timber rail & road bridges spanning the Murrumbidgee flats near the caravan park are both (thankfully) closed due to rotting timbers. They are now a tourist attraction – not sure if they’re heritage listed or not. Even the bridge still in use has some pretty unsafe looking timber in it.

Our very last stop was to stay with long time friends Gary & Lorraine in Shepparton. I went to primary school with Lorraine and spent a lot of my younger years with Gary, so they are really long time friends.

Back home on Sunday 22nd November after 160 days on the road (5 months & 2 days since we left).

Hornsby Heights (Sydney)

As we work our way south we dropped into visit our Bailey caravaning buddies Tim & Anne. It was a great 3 days spent with these guys. They showed us around their part of Sydney and made us feel extremely welcome.

One lovely location was a walk through Crosslands Reserve (photos below) followed by lunch at The Empire Marina in Bobbin Head.

The next day we took a drive to Berowra Valley National Park to check out Galston Gorge. What a tight road in this was with some bends sign-posted at 5KPH – glad Tim was driving. Lunch was at Berowra Waters Waterfront Restaurant then we crossed over Berowra Creek for the drive home. Another top day out in this beautiful part of Sydney.

Thanks Anne & Tim for sharing your home with us and playing tour guides during our stay 😁

The Entrance

Returning to another location we had stayed in 2012 it was great to pull into Dunleith Tourist Park located right on the waters edge in The entrance. If you are fortunate enough to score a water view campsite they actually tow your caravan so the tow-bar is virtually sitting on the sand. The big front windows of our Bailey Rangefinder Comet caravan made it a great spot to stay. We could only get 2 nights though, which was a bit sad.

This was a great opportunity to catch up with Peter Lazarus, a great friend of ours (going back over 30 years) who lives just up the road.

The sunsets at The Entrance are very special too…

Port Macquarie

We were looking to stay in Nambucca Heads or Crescent Head but both were fully booked out so we decided to venture back to Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park where we stayed in 2012. This is a huge caravan park and we managed to get one of the last available powered sites for just 2 nights; so many people are starting to venture out as the Covid19 restrictions begin to ease.

One of the features of this location is the rock art along the breakwall. Back in 2012 we left our own Wombats on tour painting at the end of 16th Avenue and we were ecstatic to see that it’s still there.

Iluka & Yamba

It was hard to choose between Iluka and Yamba as out next destination as we’d heard a lot from other travellers about both. We decided on Iluka as it appeared to be a bit more laid back, which it turned out to be.

As we are starting to get the sniff of home it was decided to park up at Iluka Clarence Head Caravan Park for 3 nights. This was a nice park but we felt that we’d blown it on this decision as the Riverside CP looked like it would have been a better choice – oh well, looks like a return trip is on the cards in the future.

A stay of 3 nights basically means you have 2 full days to check out a location so we made the most of it.

The first day saw us exploring the coastline to the north of Iluka which was quite spectacular.

We caught the Clarence River Ferry over to Yamba on the second day but only had about an hour to explore Yamba before catching the return ferry back to Iluka. Talk about poor planning! All I got to photograph was the Yamba Lighthouse!

Brisbane & Mudgeeraba

We’re seriously heading south now and, after dropping our caravan off at Jabrumke Bailey maintenance near Brisbane for some warranty work we headed off to catch up with our friends Louie & Cheryl in Wynnum West (Brisbane suburb). Out for dinner at Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club, looking over the harbour – nice.

Stayed overnight with Louie & Cheryl then headed down the road to catch up with more great mates, Colin & Tracey, in Mudgeeraba for a few more days as we wait for the work to be completed on our caravan by Jabrumke.

The norm at Colin & Tracey’s is to fire up the firepit each night and sit back and share our life stories & a few jokes. What a great life!

A great thank-you to our friends for opening up their homes to the Touring Wombats so we cold take a break in our long journey and just chill out for a while.
Your friendship mean lot to both of us! Muchly appreciated 😁

Cotton Tree – Maroochydore

The Cotton Tree Holiday Park in Maroochydore (maplink) has a special place in our hearts as we visited in 2012 and fell in love with the place. It’s right on the Maroochy River has fantastic sites which give you complete access to stroll across the road for a swim or just chill out on the sand.

We only had 3 nights here and basically chilled out on the beach, taking some swims and watching the kite surfers in the Maroochy River Estuary. it was a great, but short, stay.

Since we were last at Cotton Tree they have installed these huge sandbag groins to stop the beach and estuary mouth from being eroded. The Maroochy Groyne Field Renewal Project is currently underway to save the caravan park at headland.

The sunsets are still pretty spectacular as well…

Fraser Island Tour

A bucket list item was ticked off today when we visited Fraser Island on the Fraser Experience Day Tour. Our driver, Syd, picked us up at 7.30am and headed off in our 17 seat 4WD bus (with only 8 passengers) for the ferry from Hervey Bay over to Wanggoolba Creek, on Fraser Island (maplink), for a 10 hour tour.

The ferry arrived at Wanggoolba Creek and we were off on our adventure, driving from the west side of the island to 75 Mile Beach on the east coast. What a bumpy ride this was as the sand tracks have certainly had a massive amount of traffic over them.

The Pinnacles & Coloured Sands

Once onto the 75 Mile Beach we headed north to check out the Pinnacles, which are apparently one of the key attractions on Fraser Island, but we found that they weren’t all that exceptional.

SS Maheno Shipwreck

Heading back down the east coast of the island our next stop was the famous shipwreck of SS Maheno.

Now you’re talkin! This is spectacular, especially since it has laid on this beach since 1935.

Eli Creek

Next stop is the beautiful fresh water Eli Creek. We could not believe the amount of vehicles parked up at the creek, but our guide Syd this is nothing and that we should see it at Easter when there are 5 times the number of vehicles (and people) here.

Central Station & Wanggoolba Creek

Lunch was taken at Central Station in the middle of the island. This is a beautiful spot. After lunch it was time to stroll along the boardwalk beside the near transparent waters of Wanggoolba Creek – truly magnificent!

Lake McKenzie

Last stop was at Lake McKenzie which is situated high up in the middle of the island. Crystal clear water to swim in after strolling across the super clean silica sands.

A stormy trip back

Then it was time to climb aboard our bus and have the virtual stuffing knocked out of us as Syd navigated the tracks back to Kingfisher Bay for our ferry trip back to the mainland. We watched as the clouds got darker and bigger, signalling a stormy night ahead. This also provided yet another glorious Queensland sunset though.

Hervey Bay

A lot of people have said to us “oh Hervey Bay, that’s where people go to die”. Well I thinks that’s a bit harsh; it is a beautiful spot. We pulled into the Fraser Coast Beachfront Tourist Park in Pialba (maplink) for a 3 night stay and scored site 16 which backs right onto the beach – bonus!

It’s amazing how far the tide goes out here. It’s a shallow beach just like Rosebud back in Victoria. The weather is still windy with storms building up in the late afternoon.

A walk out on low tide with our neighbours George & Sylvia saw some interesting patterns in the sand. The incoming tide sure came in quick too.

We had a fantastic blood red full moon on our last night. This seemed a bit strange as it’s also a “blue moon” (2 full moons in the same calendar month).

Return to Bargara for Bundy Rum Tour

Returning to Bargara (east of Bundaberg) we booked into the Bargara Beach Caravan Park for just 2 nights. The reason for this was so that we could do the famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery Tour, as it was closed due to COVID19, on our 1st visit back in August (check-out the blog from our earlier visit).

This is a really great tour and there’s so much to learn about how Bundaberg Rum is made and the history of the distillery.

Some history

Bundaberg Rum originated because the local sugar mills had a problem with what to do with the waste molasses after the sugar was extracted (it was heavy, difficult to transport and the costs of converting it to stock feed were rarely worth the effort). Sugar men first began to think of the profits that could be made from distilling and the Bundaberg Distilling Company began its operations in 1888 – find out more on the Bundaberg Rum Showcase website.

Seventeen Seventy QLD

About 1770

Seventy Seventy is a new town. Captain Cook Drive was only sealed in the 1990s and all the houses now scattered around Ocean Drive, and surrounded by the Joseph Banks Regional Park, look as though they have been built this century. It is a place with a marina, a pub (The Tree Hotel), a few shops, a camping ground, and pleasant walks with delightful, tropical views across Bustard Bay. The area’s chief appeal, as indicated by the name of the town, is its celebration of Captain James Cook’s journey up the east coast of Australia. It was the second place (after Botany Bay) where he landed on the continent and that is worth celebrating. It barely has a separate identity which is why the area is often known by the combined name – Agnes Water 1770 (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

I first heard of 1770 back in 2013 on our 1st caravaning trip up the east coast of Australia. Nearly everyone we met told us how cool it is. So we put that into our “must stay at” bucket list back then. There were no vacancies when we were travelling up the coast in August and we were extremely lucky to book 2 days at this idyllic location.

Settling into our beach-side site at the 1770 Camping Ground (very lucky to get this site as well – just sayin’) we took a stroll along the beach to to the nearby Captain Cook memorial cairn commemorating the first landing of the “Endeavour” in Queensland at Bustard Bay.  It stands on the site where one of Cook’s crew carved the date on a tree near where they came ashore.

Seventeen Seventy Campground

One of the most “cramped in” places we had stayed at where people park caravans, motor-homes and tents into every skerrick of available space. Hope they do not have to evacuate this park in a hurry as there’s only one exit! BUT, we were parked right next to the beach and it was beautiful.

Our 1st sunset

With only 2 nights in 1770 we were hoping to view the iconic sunsets which it’s renowned for and the 1st night wasn’t too shabby.

Captain Cook Memorial

After circumnavigating New Zealand, Captain James Cook’s expedition sailed west for Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) but winds forced the Endeavour north and the expedition came upon the east coast of Australia, landing at this location on 24th May 1770 (hence the town’s name). They anchored in the bay and set off to find fresh water.

We found a memorial cairn just a short walk to the east of the campground.

A trip on the LARC

One of the quirky things you can do while in 1770 is to take a trip on the pink LARC – an amphibious bus come boat. So off we went to support the local tour industry and booked in for the 1 hour afternoon cruise. It was a bit of a novelty thing to do but we managed to see a sea eagle perched in a tree as well as many smaller sea birds. The trip finished with a “splash down” as the driver drives full bore into the water from the beach – pretty cool.

1770 storm and stunning sunset

Toward the end of our second day we noticed the sky darkening while we finished the LARC tour and once back at our campsite decided to pack some of our gear up as it looked really stormy.

Lucky we did some packing up as a massive storm hit the park with extremely strong wind and really heavy rain. The place was flooded in no-time at all. Palm fronds were flying through the air covering tents, cars and caravans – it was really scary. Our poor neighbours tent had so many palm fronds over it that it started looking more like a bush hut than a tent.

Our fellow campers all got together to clean up the mess left by the storm and to make the place safe again. It was then followed up by an amazing pink and orange sunset.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation 1770 Camping Ground (website)
    • Cost per night$48.00 (@ 26-Oct-2020)
    • Facilitiesnot too bad
    • CP Location641 Captain Cook Dr, Seventeen Seventy (maplink)
    • Our rating/score8/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? absolutely
    • Activities & places of interest plenty to do – check out TripAdvisor
    • Tourist info centre?71 Springs Rd, Agnes Water (website)
    • Would we return?yes
    • Overall Score9/10
  • Summing upthis was a bucket list being ticked off – loved it

Keppel Sands QLD

Keppel Sands was selected as a destination as it had a cool sounding name and the pub was within walking distance, as today was the AFL Grand Final and we had to ensure we could watch it on TV. We booked into the Keppel Sands Caravan Park (only one in town – maplink).

Well, we saw the grand final at the pub (great win Tigers), celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary and that was that. The town is very quiet with not much too do, especially when you have thunderstorms and rain. We were glad to move on after 2 nights.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Keppel Sands Caravan Park (website)
    • Cost per night$32.00 (@ 24-Oct-2020)
    • FacilitiesBasic but clean
    • CP Location28 Taylor Street Keppel Sands (maplink)
    • Our rating/score6/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? not really – its a weekend retreat
    • Activities & places of interest bugger all
    • Tourist info centre?Capricorn Spire Visitor Information CentreRockhampton (website)
    • Would we return?no
    • Overall Score5/10
  • Summing upThis was a poor choice of location BUT you never know what a location is like until you go there (won’t be back)

Sarina QLD

About Sarina

Sarina is essentially a sugar industry town surrounded by cane fields. The local sugar mill dominates the landscape. Apart from the Sugar Shed, an excellent introduction to the processes involved in extracting sugar products from cane, the town is most notable for the attractions which surround it. Within a relatively short distance are the rainforests in the hinterland; the excellent Sarina Beach where the water temperature hovers between 20°C and 22°C all year – beware of the deadly stingers; and the fascinating coal loading facilities at Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay.

An amusing bonus is the town’s main street where, in the median strip, there is “Buffy” – the Cane Toad and, at the northern end, a rock commemorating John Atherton (after whom the Atherton Tablelands were named) who was the first European to reach the area. He travelled overland from Rockhampton (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

We left Cape Hillsborough a day earlier than expected as we were bombarded by sand flies (AKA midges) and Merrisa was covered in bites.

So it was off to the sugar town of Sarina. Booked into Sarina Palms Caravan Village again because it was a great little park which we had previously stayed at (maplink).

The owners of the park have a collection of concrete animals placed around the park. It sounds strange but is actually rather quaint. At night the road is actually lit up like an airport landing strip LOL.

Being Friday it was fish & chip night, which we joined in with our fellow campers. What a great night, sharing a few beers and stories with fellow travellers.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Sarina Palms Caravan Village (website)
    • Cost per night$33.00 (@ 23-Oct-2020)
    • Facilitiesstandard and very clean
    • CP Location31 Anzac Street Sarina (maplink)
    • Our rating/score9/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? no chance to check it out
    • Activities & places of interest this was just an overnighter. Would like to return to check it out
    • Tourist info centre?Mackay Region Visitor Information Centre (website)
    • Would we return?yes
    • Overall Score8/10
  • Summing upwe want to come back and check out the area as it looks promising. We’ve stayed here twice but only for an overnighter.

Cape Hillsborough QLD

Cape Hillsborough (maplink) came with fantastic recommendations from so many other travellers we just had to check it out.

The Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park is a top spot to stay, right on a majestically beautiful beach with wildlife all around you. It is also surrounded by the Cape Hillsborough National Park. We even had a couple of young kangaroos snoozing on the site next to our caravan – pretty cool. It was surprising to find the park was pretty empty.

A kangaroo sunrise

Up at 5:00am and down to the beach, with a heap of other dedicated campers, to greet the sunrise along with wallabies and kangaroos.

This is a daily event set up by the national parks ranger. He puts down plastic cones to separate the eager humans from the wildlife PLUS sticks Covid19 social separation signs down as well. The wildlife certainly turned up as well as a beautiful sunrise.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park (website)
    • Cost per night$38.00 (@ 21-Oct-2020)
    • FacilitiesStandard type facilities
    • CP Location51 Risley Parade, Cape Hillsborough right on the beach (maplink)
    • Our rating/score8/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? a beautiful location
    • Activities & places of interest the kangaroo viewing on the beach is great at sunrise
    • Would we return?probably not
    • Overall Score7/10
  • Summing upthis is a lovely spot but we left a day earlier than expected as we were bombarded by sand flies (AKA midges) and Merrisa was covered in bites.

Townsville QLD

About Townsville

The elegant city of Townsville can correctly call itself ‘The Tropical Capital of North Queensland’. It is a city of great charm and style which has not, like Cairns or Port Douglas, been overwhelmed by tourism. It is too big and too devoted to serving the tropical north, to be a slave to tourism. Even Reef HQ, one of the city’s premier attractions, is relatively low key. It makes little of the fact that it is the only living coral reef in captivity – a fact which means that visitors can actually see the Great Barrier Reef while safely on land. The result is that its gracious buildings and old pubs give it a sense of sophistication.

Recognise that Townsville is the largest city in Australia lying north of the Tropic of Capricorn and you will quickly realise that it is a thriving metropolis with lots of accommodation, a vibrant nightlife, and large numbers of excellent restaurants (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

Townsville was selected as a location for no reason at all, except that it was a pin on our map. Glad we chose it and also glad we had a last minute change in our accommodation selecting BIG4 Rowes Bay Beachfront Holiday Park (closest to town – maplink) for 4 nights.

Castle Hill Lookout

First touristy thing to do is to head for the nearest viewpoint of your location and Castle Hill Lookout really did impress. From various points around Townsville you see this massive red granite monolith, which you just want to get to the top of – that’s Castle Hill Lookout.

Townsville Sea Aquarium – ReefHQ

ReefHQ is a great place to catch up on some of the beautiful creatures from the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet. We spent a few hours here checking out this well designed aquarium. Put it on you “must do” list when you’re in Townsville.

Townsville Street Art

I came across a brochure (view in PDF) about the Townsville Street Art Program which caught my interest; so I spent a few hours around Townsville discovering some really brilliant art pieces.

Street art is growing more an more popular these days and it really does bring a place alive. We totally enjoyed the Mallee Silo Art Trail in Victoria last year (view the post) and it’s great to see this type of art moving into city spaces as well. One of the Townsville Artists, Adnate, also painted the Sheep Hills silo’s in Victoria.

Artist’s name are in the caption of the photos below…

Day trip to Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is a short 20 minute ferry ride from Townsville (maplink) and is a great day trip to take.

I must say, that after visiting the island it would have been more fortuitous to actually book some accommodation for a couple of days so we could really explore the place – it has heaps to offer.

We took the hop-on hop-off bus for a whirlwind trip, stopping at Picnic Point and then Horseshoe Bay for lunch.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation BIG4 Rowes Bay Beachfront Holiday Park (website)
    • Cost per night$32.50 (@ 17-Oct-2020 – we got a special!)
    • Facilitiesstandard type facilities
    • CP Location46 Heatleys Parade, Belgian Gardens – a great location close to town (maplink)
    • Our rating/score8/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? a great location with lots to do. We could have easily stayed longer
    • Activities & places of interest plenty – check out TripAdvisor
    • Tourist info centre?Bulletin Square, 340 Flinders St, Townsville (website)
    • Would we return?yes
    • Overall Score8/10
  • Summing upTownsville is a great town.

South Mission Beach QLD

About Mission Beach

Mission Beach is a series of interconnected villages – South Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach, Mission Beach, Bingal Bay, Brooks Beach, Carmoo and Garners Beach – a 14 km beach on one side, and the World Heritage Tropical Rainforest on the other side. Thoughtful promotion has turned these sleepy villages into a desirable holiday resort destination. The road leading to the beachside suburbs is known as Cassowary Drive because the district is home to the beautiful bird, the Cassowary. Mission Beach’s claim to fame is that it is one of the last areas on the north Queensland coast where tropical rainforest actually reaches down to the shoreline. The rainforest is the habitat not only of the elusive cassowary but of parrots, wallabies and impressive butterflies (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

Back down on the coast again, staying at Tasman Holiday Parks – South Mission Beach (maplink). This is a truly lovely part of Queensland, with views of Dunk Island, and it was also great to be able to jump in the ocean again for a swim.

Our first cassowary encounter

After setting up our caravan onsite I settled down to read my book while Merrisa took a snooze inside. There was movement out of the corner of my eye and I looked up to come face to beak with a cassowary – WOW! He walked right past me, under our caravan awning, out to the front. Lucky I had my camera ready. We also had a visit from a local goanna as well.

Around Mission Beach South

As mentioned earlier, this is a beautiful place to stay and you can see why there’s a lot of retirees putting down their roots here.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Tasman Holiday Parks – Mission Beach (website)
    • Cost per night$38.25 (@ 13-Oct-2020)
    • FacilitiesGood – modern & clean
    • CP Location122-132 Kennedy Esplanade, South Mission Beach (maplink)
    • Our rating/score8/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? great place with a truly beautiful beach
    • Activities & places of interest not much. A great chill out location
    • Tourist info centre?55 Porter Promenade, Mission Beach (website)
    • Would we return?yes
    • Overall Score8/10
  • Summing upLoved our stay here; a top spot, right on the beach. The accidental meeting of a cassowary was pretty amazing

Paronella Park QLD

There were so many people we met on our travels who said “you must go to Paronella Park“, so we did. What a great spot with so much history.

Located on Mena Creek (maplink) it was originally opened in 1935 by José Paronella whose dream was to build castle, a picnic area by the Mena Creek Falls, tennis courts, bridges, a tunnel, and wrapped it up in an amazing range of 7,500 tropical plants and trees. He even harnessed the waterfall for his electricity by building Australia’s 2nd hydro electric system in 1933.

A brief history

José Paronella arrived in Australia from Catalonia in Spain, in 1913. For the next 11 years he worked, cutting sugar cane initially, then purchasing, improving, and reselling cane farms. In 1924 he returned to Spain and married Margarita in 1925. The trip back to Australia was their honeymoon.

José first saw this 13 acres of virgin scrub along Mena Creek in 1914. He eventually purchased it in 1929 for £120 and started to build his pleasure gardens and reception centre for the enjoyment of the public.

The earliest structure, the Grand Staircase, was built to facilitate the carrying of the river sand to make the concrete.

First they built a house to live in, then they started on the Castle itself.

Apart from the house, which is made of stone, all of the structures were constructed of poured, reinforced concrete, the reinforcing being old railway track. The concrete was covered with a plaster made from clay and cement, which they put on by hand, leaving behind the prints of their fingers as a reminder of the work they had done.

Staying at Paronella

We camped in the “Paddock” behind the Mena creek Hotel and had a short walk over the road to the park. Plenty of room with power provided but using our own water (from our van’s tanks).

After checking in to the park we drove down to Etty Beach to see if we could spot our first cassowary. With none on the beach (where they are supposed to be) we found one on the drive out LOL.

Night tour and light-show

Our 1st experience was the night-time light-show which was really impressive.

Daytime tour

This is the best part of visiting Paronella Park. The tour takes you through the park and our guide provided an extensive overview of it’s history and how much effort José Paronella put into developing his dream.

They also told us the number of times the park was devastated by cyclones and wild weather and how it was lovingly rebuilt.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation If you’re lucky you may be able to pre-book a site in Paronella Park (pretty hard to get in at short notice) or you could book into the “overflow” behind the Mena Creek Hotel (website).
    • Cost per night$22.00 (@ 11-Oct-2020)
    • Facilitiesnone but may have changed since we were there – we had to use the toilets in the pub
    • CP Location1671 Innisfail Japoon Road, Mena Creek (maplink)
    • Our rating/score6/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? not much in the town. Great pub meals
    • Activities & places of interest just Paronella Park
    • Would we return?no – been there done that
    • Overall Score8/10
  • Summing upParonella Park is totally worth the visit as it’s truly a wonderland of mystical constructions and amazing stories of it’s origins. Make sure you take at least one of the tours – we did both.

Atherton Tablelands QLD

About Atherton

Atherton, at the heart of the Atherton Tablelands, is a substantial and attractive service town. Today, apart from the very unusual Crystal Cave and the Art Deco Barron Valley Hotel, most of the attractions are at the edges or beyond the town. The unusual Tolga Bat Hospital, the Hou Wang Temple and the many parks, lakes and unusual volcanic formations which are such an integral part of the Atherton Tablelands experience and beyond the town’s centre and the intense rich, red volcanic soils of the area, which have been estimated to be over 30 metres deep, have been used to produce tobacco, maize, potatoes, peanuts, macadamia nuts and avocados (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

Lake Eacham accommodation

On our way north we stopped off for a one night stop in Yungaburra (see post) and we planned to stay in the same caravan park on the way back down; but it was booked out! So we hurriedly searched for another place to stay and found Lake Eacham Tourist Park and wow were we lucky as it was a top spot; only 7 powered sites set in bushland (maplink).

We used this as our base to explore the famous Atherton Tablelands region. These photos of the caravan park have been sourced off the web (as we forgot to take any!)…

Lake Eacham

Located approx 500 metres from our campground the Lake Eacham features a beautiful 3 km walk around it’s perimeter. We discovered some turtles at one point plus two gigantic Kauri Pines, each were about 6 metres in diameter.

Malanda Falls

Malanda Falls are located right in the small town of Malanda. These falls are really beautiful with a fantastic tiled entry board created by local indigenous artists.

Yungaburra Platypus

The town of Yungaburra has a platypus viewing platform on the edge of town, over Peterson Creek. So off we travelled and there they were – we saw several of these elusive creatures drom the platform and then more along the walking trail on the opposite side of the main road. Really cool little animals who can swim faster than expected.

Yungaburra Curtain Fig Tree

The Curtain Fig Tree is a heritage-listed tree and is one of the largest trees in Tropical North Queensland. It’s one of the best known attractions on the Atherton Tableland just outside of Yungaburra.

Photographs don’t really do this magnificent tree any real justice. You have to visit it to take in the true awesomeness of this tree.

Lake Barrine

Lake Barrine Tea-house was lovely place to have lunch on our last day in the Tablelands. Sitting in this heritage listed tea-house with views over Lake Barrine was very calming and the food was fantastic.

Lake Barrine, part of Crater Lakes National Park, is a maar – a crater lake formed by two massive volcanic explosions.

Herberton Historical Village

A day out to the Herberton Historical Village is a “must” when you are visiting the Atherton Tablelands region (maplink). This attraction has been put together over the years by very conscientious volunteers and the amount of memorabilia is outstanding.

We spent the day exploring the village with our new travelling buddies, Paul & Estha along with their wonder-dog, NiggaBella.

The Village currently has over 60 original buildings that date from Herberton’s foundation years. Walking through the Village, we were given a sense of being in a real township complete with chemist, bottle collection, school, bank, grocer’s store, frock salon, toy shop, mechanic, jail and more.

There was sooo much to see I may have taken tooo many photos. Take your time to check them out as it really shows how much there is to see here. I took 156 photos but cut them back as best I could to 47. Enjoy…

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Lake Eacham Tourist Park (website)
    • Cost per night$29.00 (@ 7-Oct-2020) we stayed for 4 nights
    • Facilitiespretty basic, but very clean and they fit into the bush style campground
    • CP Location198 Lakes Dr, Lake Eacham QLD (maplink)
    • Our rating/score8/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? Yes
    • Activities & places of interest There is so much to do in the Atherton Tablelands that we could have stayed a couple of weeks
    • Tourist info centre?Silo Rd &, Main St, Atherton (website)
    • Would we return?YES – This is a definite destination to go to
    • Overall Score9/10
  • Summing upA fantastic little caravan park and we met some really fantastic people and saw some great attractions.

Mareeba (Ringers Rest campground) QLD

About Mareeba

Mareeba, an important regional service centre, is the largest town on the Atherton Tablelands. It lies at the heart of the tableland’s agricultural activities and is surrounded by coffee plantations, mango and paw paw farms, avocado farms, macadamia nut plantations as well as sugar cane fields and orchards specialising in pineapples, bananas and cashews (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

After the big clean-up of our car in Cooktown it was off to the town of Mareeba and checking into a farm stay called Ringers Rest for a few days.

Ringers Rest

Ringers Rest is an absolutely top spot to camp for a few nights. Only $10 per night to stay – no power or water, but we’re pretty self sufficient anyway. Located about 6kms SE from Mareeba it’s easy to find (maplink)

Dave, who ran the place, was an absolute blast. He was a true bushman and had so many stories; like…

  • the time he broke his leg saving a young girl from being trampled by a runaway bull. He fixed it by wrapping it tightly with heaps of gladwrap
  • he was bitten by a Taipan snake and he sucked the poison out and survived
  • he has survived out in the bush for so long, living on bush tucker, that he is basically immuned to anesthetics and wakes up during surgery, even after having 7 doses
  • … and the stories went on for about 30 minutes – and we were only checking in at the gate LOL

Here’s some photos from around the Ringers Rest camp…

The sunsets at Ringers Rest were pretty cool too…

Mareeba Museum

Behind the Mareeba Visitor Centre is a pretty cool Heritage Museum about the town and it’s history. It’s worth taking an hour or two to check it out.

Granite Gorge Park

About 17kms SW of Mareeba (maplink) is a park by the name of Granite Gorge. If I were coming through this way again it would be a toss-up between here and Ringers Rest to camp for a few days. $13 per head to enter and explore the park.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Ringers Rest Campground (website)
    • Cost per night$10.00 (@ 5-Oct-2020)
    • Facilitiesa long walk to the toilets – would be crowded when a wedding is on – 1 mens & 1 ladies dunny
    • CP Location277 Fichera Rd, Mareeba (maplink)
    • Our rating/score7/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? Yes – lots to see & do
    • Activities & places of interest Would want to stay at the Granite Gorge Park next time as there are heaps of walks in the gorge
    • Tourist info centre?345 Byrnes St, Mareeba (website)
    • Would we return?maybe
    • Overall Score7/10
  • Summing upit was a great stay. The guy who mans the camp’s entry gate loves to chat & it took us about 30 minutes to check in – 1 minute to pay & 29 minutes to hear his life story; a great character.

Our trip up to Cape York

With all of the kerfuffle with Covid down in Victoria we decided we may as well extend our adventures and do a quick trip up to the nethermost point of Australia and visit Cape York. With a bit of planning and a lot of phone calls we decided on a 2 stop leg up from Cooktown with 3 nights staying ‘at the tip’ and then repeating the same 2 stop leg for our return.

We decided to leave our caravan behind in Cooktown (as we did not want to destroy it on the Cape York roads) and found a lovely guy called Nicko (the seafood seller) who stored it for us on his property for $5/day – far better than paying $49/day in the caravan park.

Trip up the Cape

1st leg – Cooktown to Coen

Our new “best friend” Nicko gave us a tip on which way to go on the first leg so we’d miss the worst parts of the famous Telegraph Track. We followed them pretty well, using our new Heima map book (thanks to our son Brendan for the fathers day present 😀), but we missed the turn-off at Lotus-bird Lodge (no bloody signs!) and ended up at Musgrave (maplink). We were then on the famous track and it shook the bejeevers out of us all the way to Coen.

Booked into the Coen Guesthouse for a 1 night stay. Went to the pub for dinner and then were treated to an absolute delight with a musical presentation by 2 young performers using a Cello and Violin about Australian bird calls. I know it sounds a bit strange but it was absolutely magical.

2nd leg – Cohen to Bramwell Station

After being battered and shaken along 227km of the famous Telegraph Track Development Road (maplink) it was lovely to finally arrive at Bramwell Station Tourist Park for another 1 night stay. We met Ken the boss and he “upgraded” us from a Donga to a room with an en-suite – wow!

Dinner that night was at the free flowing air dining room (no walls here) as we were given a history talk about Bramwell Station from Ken, the owner, which was quiet amazing.

Fruit Bat Falls

We took a short diversion of the PDR to check out Fruit Bat Falls. It was an easy track in to find this beautiful oasis which left no doubt that it was time for a swim to wash off the dust.

Jardine River Ferry Crossing

Arrived 20minutes too late to catch the Jardine River Ferry as the crew knock off for lunch between 12:00 & 1:00pm. The queue for the ferry grew and grew. You could purchase a ticket either as it closes for lunch too. Finally paid our $100 return fee, jumped in the car and were about the 5th crossing before we headed off again towards Bamaga & then Seisia

Our destination – Seisia

After another 212km shaking and rattling trip we arrived at the Seisia Holiday Park and checked into our accommodation for the next 3 nights.

Well, at $250 per night you’d expect something special but it was quite the opposite. This was all we could find so decided to make the most of it. We were given the “lodge” which sleeps 8 people so really cannot complain.

I even discovered a green ant nest in the tree right next to where I parked our car. These are the same sort of ants I got covered in and seriously bitten after tripping into a hibiscus plant when I was a kid living in Madang, New Guinea – I have always tripped over things!

Seisia Sunset

One of the advantages of staying here is supposed to be the brilliant sunsets. Well, for the first 2 nights there was total cloud cover, so no sunset photos.

Then, on our last night we ventured down to the beach and wallah – a sunset! This young kid called Jackson wandered over to check out our photos and was so impressed he pleaded for me to take his photo – so I did (check him out below – cute kid).

Walk to the tip of Cape York

Today saw us taking the walk to the northernmost tip of the Australian mainland – the main reason for us coming here.

Another dusty drive with heaps of red dust from the large number of vehicles (99% were Toyota) heading the same way as us on the way to Pajinka (indigenous name for the tip).

There were soooo many people at the tip that you have to queue up for “that photo”, including some blokes who all got their gear off for a cheeky photo. There were even dogs doing the walk too.

It was also really (really very) windy with hands on hats so they weren’t blown all the way to PNG 😀.

Punsand Bay

It was then off to Punsand Bay for lunch (maplink). Lovely spot right on the beach with beautiful white sands. A couple of beers, a burger and salt & pepper calamari sure filled the spot after the walk out to the tip.

On the way back to Seisia we called into the Croc Shop and picked up a “I walked the tip” singlet to replace the Bintang singlet (which Merrisa hates)

Thursday Island Day Trip

You just have to visit Thursday Island (TI) when up on the “tip” – everyone we met on our travels were telling us this.

So we headed off to catch the Pedell’s Ferry (seniors are half price – woohoo) for a 1 hour 10 minute trip from the Seisia wharf.

Included in the fare was a 1 hour bus tour of the island, so we took advantage of this. The only disappointing aspect was the three museums (a “must see” on TI) were all closed due to the Covid19 Pandemic. So it was shorter than normal bus tour followed by lunch at the pub, then back onto the ferry for the return to Seisia. These are some of the things we got to see on our bus tour of TI…

A look around TI

Green Hill Fort

The Green Hill Fort was built in 1891 to defend the top end of Australia from possible Russian attack. The 1885 confrontation between Britain and Russia, which almost resulted in open conflict, galvanised the Australian colonies to jointly fund construction of the fortifications, and these represent an important and uncommon instance of pre-Federation Colonial cooperation on defence in the “national” interest.

An interesting fact we learnt was the fort was decommissioned after World War One and not used in World War Two – but no one told the Japs. The fort was added to the Australian Commonwealth Heritage List in 2008.

The views are fantastic from this location and pretty impressed to find the canons could fire 8 miles out to sea. The original canons are still in place.

TI Cemetery (incorporating the Japanese Cemetery)

Thursday Island Cemetery is a heritage-listed cemetery. It was established in 1887 and includes the Japanese Cemetery. It contains hundreds of graves, including between 600 and 700 Japanese (mostly pearl-shell divers), entrepreneurs and fortune hunters of all nationalities, Torres Strait pilots, sailors and ships’ passengers drowned at sea, as well as generations of Thursday Islanders.

Return trip from the Cape

After 3 fantastic days checking out “the tip” it was time to turn around and travel the 1,000 plus kilometers back to Cooktown to pick up our caravan from our new mate “Nicko”, then continue on our way south toward home.

We’d heard a lot on our travels up on the Cape about Lockhart River; things like rocks that appear to float on the ocean and the (apparently) world famous Chili Beach, so we naturally headed that way on the way back down from the cape.

So it was off down the PDR (Peninsula Development Road) AKA Telegraph Track over the Jardine River hitting those damn corrugations again..

The Greenhoose – Lockhart River

Bramwell Station was discarded as our first overnight stop (we used it on the way up to the cape) and we booked into The Greenhoose (yes folks a Scotsman came up with the name LOL). Turning off the PDR at Picaninny Plains onto Portland Road (maplink) provided us with our first experience of the famous outback bulldust. In some parts of the first 20kms we probably hit about 20 or more dust bowls where it just covers the car just as if we had driven into water (at a slow speed of course).

Finally reaching our destination at the lovely and basic accommodation we found a green oasis after all of the dust. The people who run the Greenhoose were so welcoming it made the stay even more enjoyable. They also run a little take-away food truck up on the main road so it was pizza for dinner – yummo!

Quintel Beach – Lockhart River

Taking an afternoon drive from the Greenhoose to the town of Lockhart River we found the famous rocks that appear to float on the ocean at Quintel Beach.

These rocks are pretty cool, but didn’t appear to be floating on the water as the tide was not right. Even still it was worth the drive to check them out.

Chili Beach

Leaving the Greenhoose the next morning we took a detour out to see if Chili Beach is as good as it’s cracked up to be. Well, maybe it was the really strong onshore winds or the tides were wrong here too but it was a fail as far as we were concerned. Quintel beach was a much better choice.

The only cool thing we found were the pumice stones littering the beach, which apparently, have come from volcano action in Indonesia.

Heading back to the PDR we basically drove (at about 10km/hr) into a bull-dust hole that totally covered our car so much that we had to put the wipers on the clear the windscreen.

Continuing down the PDR

Returning to the PDR we then reached Coen for another overnight stay at the same guesthouse we stayed in on the way up. It was a matter of off to the pub for dinner then bed; nothing exciting.

Hitting the road again the next day, reaching Musgrave Roadhouse we then turned off the PDR and headed down the Lily Dale Road travelling through the Lakefield National Park to reach the Laura pub for lunch. Then it was back to Cooktown, pick-up the van and settle down for a couple of days to clean up our filthy & very dusty car.

A dirty car!

The roads certainly made a mess of the car, both inside and out. Not sure if we will EVER get rid of the red!

Summing up…

  • Accommodation
    • CoenCoen Homestead Guesthouse for 1 night (website)
      • Cost per night$160.00
      • FacilitiesShared bathroomsbasic
      • CP Location37 Regent St Coen (maplink)
      • Our rating/score5/10 – somewhere to lay your head
    • Bramwell Station – Bramwell Tourist Park, Shelburne (website)
      • Cost per night$110.00 – Donga Room
      • FacilitiesShared bathroomsbasic
      • LocationOff the PDR (maplink)
      • Our rating/score6/10
    • Seisia – Seisia Holiday Park for 3 nights (website)
      • Cost per night$250.00 – bungalow (sleeps 8)
      • Facilitiesnot too bad – self contained bathroom & kitchen etc
      • Location6 Koraba Rd, Seisia (maplink)
      • Our rating/score7/10 (a great location BUT bloody expensive)
    • Lockart River – The Greenhoose for 1 night (website)
      • Cost per night$150.00
      • FacilitiesDonga with an en-suite
      • Location161 Lockhart River Rd, Lockhart River (maplink)
      • Our rating/score8/10
  • Were they nice places to visit?
    • Coen was OK – nice pub with great pizzas
    • Bramwell station was a bit of a rip-off, but a necessary stop to rest
    • Seisia was great but would have been good to take our own tent or swags
    • The Greenhoose was fantastic – owners are really nice people
  • Activities & places of interest plenty to do at Seisia but the other places were really just transit points
  • Would we return?probably not – Cape York was a bucket list which is now ticked off → 🪣 ✔ 👍

Cooktown QLD

About Cooktown

Cooktown is justifiably famous as the site of the first white ‘settlement’ in Australia when Captain James Cook, having struck the Great Barrier Reef off the coast north of Cape Tribulation, struggled up the coast and beached the H.M. Barque Endeavour on the shores of the Endeavour River. Cook and his crew were to stay on the river’s edge from 17 June to 4 August, 1770. Today, with a sealed road from Port Douglas and Cairns, it has become a popular northern point for those not wanting to make the long, arduous and difficult journey to the top of Cape York. It is a charming town which wears its history – lots of statues of Captain Cook and a number of impressive buildings constructed during the gold mining boom at Palmer River in the 1880s – with ease. In recent times it has been driven by tourism and, particularly, fishing (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

Getting there

There are 2 ways to get to Cooktown from our last location at Cape Tribulation. The 1st is 104 kms via the famous Bloomfield Track (maplink) or the 2nd is 318 kms via the inland route (maplink) which is the one we took so we didn’t end up with a destroyed caravan. The Bloomfield Track is notorious for destroying all types of vehicles let alone caravans.

Cooktown Holiday Park

We settled into the lovely Cooktown Holiday Park with plenty of room around us plus heaps of shade and soon learned that with this shade came heaps of duco destroying bird poo. They would have to have the ‘sickest birds’ we have ever come across! The plan is to return here after our trip up to Cape York but will be definitely be looking for a campsite with no overhead trees 😀.

Town Walk

A walk along the recently completed $11million (according to a local) Cooktown Waterfront Park (maplink) which was rewarding with lots of eating shelters and a fabulous water park for the kids. There was lots of info about Captain James Cook and the story of his stranding on the great barrier reef, in 1770, outside of what is now Cooktown.

Grassy Hill Lookout

Just a short drive from the town centre is Grassy Hill Lookout with its mini-me sized lighthouse. This is where Capt James Cook surveyed the reefs surrounding his stranded ship to plan a way of escaping the reefs clutches.

Point Archer

We took a 20km drive south of Cooktown to check out Point Archer as we’d heard that there is a great ‘free camp’ there (the only one near Cooktown) as well as fantastic views of the coastline. It didn’t disappoint and after a stony & dusty 15kms we found this lovely location. It also had a mini-me lighthouse too.

The Lions Den Pub

So many people had recommended we must visit the historic Lion’s Den Pub when you’re in Cooktown. Well, they were absolutely correct. Built in 1875, this very eclectic pup has so many bits and pieces; like hats, beer coasters, beer coasters, money and old miners ‘IOU’s stuck and written all over the walls.

It took us both back to the Daly Waters Pub in NT, which we visited in 2018 on our ‘half lap of Oz’ trip (click here to view that blog).

A nice lunch on the pub veranda then a stroll through the caravan park out the back – even saw another Bailey caravan there.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Cooktown Holiday Park is a nice park, just try to get a site away from the trees so you don’t end up with bat shit all over everything
    • Cost per night$44.10 (@ 23-Sep-2020)
    • Facilitiesnot bad but were a bit of a walk if you needed to get there in a hurry (get the drift?)
    • CP Locationnot bad, about 1.5kms from town. (maplink)
    • Our rating/score7/10 but might try Cooktown Orchid Travellers Park or even the Lions Den Pub next time we’re in town
  • Was it a nice town to visit? yes. Loved this place
    • Activities & places of interest plenty to do here. Make sure you check out the Lions Den Pub
    • Tourist info centre?1 Walker St, Cooktown (Facebook)
    • Would we return?yes, but it’s along way from the last stop
    • Overall Score8/10
  • Summing up – it was a great place to visit. “Nicko” the prawn guy was fantastic allowing us to leave our van on his property for the time we were up on Cape York.

Cape Tribulation QLD

About Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation is one of the iconic places in Australia’s European history. It was here that Captain James Cook, who had successfully navigated the H.M. Barque Endeavour through the treacherous waters of the Great Barrier Reef, was finally beaten by the reef. The vessel ran aground, limped its way to Cooktown, and was there for a number of weeks while repairs were made. It was the first time Europeans had settled, albeit briefly, on the east coast of the continent. Today Cape Tribulation is a popular destination for tourists making a northerly day trip from Cairns and Port Douglas. It is an opportunity to enter the tropical wonderland that is the Daintree National Forest. For the more adventurous it is the beginning of one of the most outrageous journeys on the planet – a road which should never have been built – which runs from Daintree to Cooktown.

Why, never built? Because this is cyclone country and every year when the rains come they wash the red and yellow soils into the once-pristine waters. Still, for all its failings, the road is spectacular and the experience of driving through the rainforest is unforgettable. Equally unforgettable is a stay at Bloomfield Lodge, a remarkable and exclusive resort in the rainforest with superb views across the Coral Sea (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

We left Port Douglas for a leisurely 82km drive (maplink) up to the Daintree for a 4 night stay at Cape Tribulation Campground.

Daintree River Ferry

To get to our destination we had to cross the Daintree River on the ferry ($33 return). A no fuss crossing as you cannot get out of your car to check out the view or look for crocs. This was also our last chance to use our mobile phones as once on the other side, there is no phone reception at all.

Cape Tribulation Campground

The drive from the ferry to Cape Tribulation Campground is nothing but spectacular passing between gigantic melaleuca trees and through avenues of palms and greenery that totally encloses the road – a big green tunnel.

Arriving at our destination we checked into one of the coolest looking caravan parks (maplink) we’ve ever been in. It was so lush and green and only metres from the beach – shame you cannot swim here as it’s a beautiful beach only 1km south of the famous Cape Tribulation. A 4 metre saltwater crocodile was reportedly living on the southern end of our beach which was probably about 300 metres from other  camp ground – whoo hoo – a bit scary (hence no swimming).

As soon as we’d set-up our campsite we immediately headed off to check out the beach. A short walk through the coconut palms and you are onto a truly beautiful sweeping beach. Mangroves on one end (home of the croc) and Cape Trib on the other end. The tide was out so we got some great photos of interesting sand formations and some great shells. We also found ‘WILSON!’ plus a cheeky backpacker – see if you can spot them in our photos below 😀…

Exploring Cape Tribulation

On our second day we went for a lovely stroll out to the Cape followed by a short drive up the beginning of the famous Bloomfield Track which links the Daintree to Cooktown with 30 kms of really rugged 4wd track. We didn’t go that far but agreed that we’d have a more serious look at it later from the Cooktown end.

We then took a stroll along the Dubuji Boardwalk travelling over swampy looking mangroves with their space creature looking tree roots. It was rather devoid of bird-life which we found a bit strange; and we did not see a single Cassowary while walking along but we did arrive at a beautiful beach.

Snorkeling on Mackay and Undine Reefs

When we were in Airlie Beach we took a snorkeling tour with Ocean Rafting (click here to view that blog) and it was soooo good we decided to do another with their Cape Trib crew – Ocean Safari and it was not disappointing at all. This company really do know how to run a great snorkel tour.

We headed out to the Great Barrier Reef from the beach at Cape Tribulation due east for 25 minutes to visit 2 fabulous snorkel locations at Mackay and Undine Reefs. It was a bit choppy but what we saw was really amazing, nemos, plate coral, sea cucumbers, clams and heaps more fish. Merrisa and I were the only people to not see a turtle (bugger) but we still had a ball.

Cooper Creek Croc Tour

We’d seen so many crocs on our half lap trip in 2018 we were a bit undecided whether to do another one or not but decided too anyway. This single man operation travels up Cooper Creek (it’s an ocean estuary about 10km north of the Daintree River).

The tour only cost $35 per head for a 1 hour trip (up and back). It was a bit underwhelming to say the least but we at least got to see one female pregnant croc on the creek bank and the eyes of another, just poking out of the water.

Cape Tribulation Sunrise

On our last day at this paradise of a location I got up nice an early to join a few other bleary eyed campers on the beach to watch the sunrise. It was fairly overcast but I still got some nice photos. See what you think…

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Cape Tribulation Campground is totally awesome. One of the best places we have stayed at.
    • Cost per night$48.00 (@ 19-Sep-2020) great value!
    • Facilitiesbush camp type facilities
    • CP Locationin the best location, about 2kms from the cape. It’s right on the beach located within the national park and really “bushy” (maplink)
    • Our rating/score10/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? absolutely. Make sure you include this in your itinerary
    • Activities & places of interest as you can see from our post we crammed a fair bit in – fantastic!
    • Tourist info centre?Daintree Discovery Centre (website)
    • Would we return?definitely
    • Overall Score10/10
  • Summing up – This was one of the real highlights of our trip. Make sure you go there and stay at the campground.

Port Douglas QLD

About Port Douglas

Port Douglas is primarily a popular holiday destination (an upmarket alternative to Cairns characterised by a proliferation of resorts) which offers a wide range of activities including trips out to the Great Barrier Reef’s Outer Reef (often the vessels go to both Port Douglas and Cairns before heading for the reef); sailing excursions to nearby coral atolls; excellent golf courses; boutique shopping in the chic shopping centre; a huge range of holiday apartments and holiday accommodation options; and the tropical relaxation at the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort with its golf course, neat rows of palm trees and huge upmarket apartments.

Port Douglas was once a wild frontier town filled with itinerant seamen and gold prospectors. Very little of that wild frontier town is left. The village of Port Douglas is now a major tourist resort centre with fashionable arcades, well-heeled shoppers, and the tangy aroma of urban luxury (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

It was about 12 years ago that we last visited this icon of tourism in Far North Queensland. Last time we flew up and stayed in fancy accommodation; this time we’ve driven over 6,000kms and reckon our accommodation is even fancier (in our Bailey caravan).

Pandanus Caravan Park

We’ve booked in for 5 nights at Pandanus Caravan Park which is not far from the town centre (maplink). A nice park with lots of trees and spaced out sites as well.

Some car trouble

About 3 weeks ago we were travelling from Karumba to Georgetown in outback FNQ and received a large chip in the windscreen of our car. It stayed the same 1cm star for this amount of time and I was thinking “cool – I will get it fixed after we have finished our trip“. Well that did’nt happen; 5 minutes after arriving in Port Douglas the chip grew and grew and grew. The car is now booked in for a new windscreen during our stay here – something we did not want!

Around Port Douglas

After we had set up camp we had a quick look around town with a drive up to the wonderful Flagstaff Hill Lookout. Magnificent views down the coast from this location. We will definitely be doing the walking trail from here to the beach. (more photos to come)

Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge is part of the Daintree National Park and definitely worth a visit. To truly experience this beautiful location you must do the 2.4km walk through the gorge (if you have a good level of mobility and fitness). There is a bus which leaves every 15minutes from the information centre to the beginning of the walk – no cars allowed and good walking shoes are a must.

Your experience begins with a boardwalk along Baral Marrjanga track which ends with views over the Mossman River; truly beautiful. There’s a great swimming hole here, which made us regret we’d left our bathers behind.

Moving along we got to Rex Creek bridge, a real swinging bridge had Merrisa holding on with both hands as it really did swing a lot. This is the beginning of the Rainforest Circuit Track which, in places, is a bit rough and ready. The walk takes you through a thick rainforest with massive strangler figs along the way which is truly beautiful.

Once we completed the walk we just wanted to go for a dip in that swimming hole – next time we will bring the bathers and towel!

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Pandanus Caravan Park was a bushy type of park with heaps of trees and plenty of room for each site
    • Cost per night$55.20 (@ 14-Sep-2020) – a bit high but it’s a “premium town”
    • Facilitiesbasic and clean
    • CP Location about 2kms from town (maplink)
    • Our rating/score7/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? it’s always a great place to visit
    • Activities & places of interest we had already been to Port Douglas before and done a lot of activities, so Mossman Gorge was the only really important thing to visit – loved it
    • Tourist info centre?23 Macrossan St, Port Douglas
    • Would we return?probably not, only because we’ve been before
    • Overall Score7/10
  • Summing up – as mentioned, we’ve visited before but if you haven’t then make sure you put Port Douglas on your itinerary. It’s a “pricey” place to visit. Make sure you visit Mossman Gorge and take the trip up to Cape Tribulation too.

Palm Cove QLD

We travelled a measly 18kms from Cairns to Palm Cove (maplink) to spend a full week at the NRMA Palm Cove Caravan Park. It’s a fantastic location situated right on the beach. The park is very green, but the sites are also very “tight” and crowded (its a popular place). We had great neighbours while we were here, so that always makes the stay more enjoyable.

Only problem so far has been the wind. After four days here it’s been extremely windy (about 40-50km/hr winds) and the first three days has been wet. Apparently the Cairns Harbour was recently dredged and the spoils were dumped near Trinity Beach. The strong south-easterly winds have then been blowing towards Palm Cove making the water here very muddy. It’s sort of taken the edge off our stay at this iconic location but ‘s*#t happens’

On a more positive note the main drag (Williams Esplanade) is truly beautiful; with massive melaleuca paperbark trees along the side of the road. It almost appears that the buildings have been built around the trees and in some cases the trees actually grow through the building – pretty cool.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation NRMA Palm Cove Caravan Park was a good park but space was a premium. Everyone’s crammed in
    • Cost per night $54.00 (@ 7-Sep-2020)
    • Facilities good
    • CP Location excellent. right on the beach and close to town (maplink)
    • Our rating/score8/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? a truly beautiful town with restaurants are shops within walking distance. The trees around the shopping strip are incredible. some are even inside the restaurants
    • Activities & places of interest we really didn’t do much, just chilled and soaked in the serenity
    • Tourist info centre?119-121 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove (website)
    • Would we return? yes
    • Overall Score 8/10
  • Summing up We’d definitely return and hope the wind is not as strong (really put a dampener on it)

Cairns QLD

About Cairns

Cairns is unique. It is, for the tens of thousands of backpackers that flow up the eastern coast of Australia, the end of the line. It is their final destination and it has a final destination feel about it. It also has a very heavy focus on adventure activities for backpackers. But, more than anything else, it is the major tourist destination in North Queensland. An international airport; a superb Aboriginal theme park; a Skyrail with aerial gondolas which float above the tropical rainforest; charming hinterland villages with craft markets; and a rich variety of modern accommodation and eating options attract visitors all year round. But the special appeal is to catch a boat – a catamaran or a sailing vessel – and head for the Great Barrier Reef and the islands (many of which are unspoilt coral cays) that are all easily accessible from the city’s harbour.

Cairns is an aggressively modern city driven by tourism. Its fundamental raison d’etre is to attract tourists and to provide them with a wealth of ways to spend their money – from gift shops, reef visits, snorkelling, Aboriginal artefacts and culture, nightclubs and forays into the hinterland to places like Kuranda and the Atherton Tablelands, opal shops, deep-sea fishing, adventure holidays to Cape York, seafood restaurants, white-water rafting, catamarans and helicopter joyrides (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

Lake Placid Caravan Park

Well, we are now back onto the east coast in the lovely city of Cairns. Staying in the Lake Placid Tourist Park located about 18kms from the CBD (maplink). Nice caravan park with great amenities and a pool.

It was also great to catch up with friends Paul & Esther (from Noosa) whom we had met on our travels in Karumba.

We really enjoyed our stay at Lake Placid Tourist Park. Great location away from the hustle bustle of Cairn but close enough to go into town.

There is also a lovely walk along the Barron River from the CP to Lake Placid, which (supposedly) has a 4 metre saltwater croc living there. At the start of the trail there’s a sign warning about crocs but it’s covered over by a palm frond – LOL.

Cairns Botanical Gardens

We spent the afternoon taking a stroll through the beautiful botanical gardens then drinks and a blueberry muffin in their great cafe.

Barron Gorge Power Station

We took a short drive from Lake Placid Caravan Park to Barron Gorge to check out the power station (maplink). It was nothing really exciting but still worth a look. The power station was commissioned in 1963 with a maximum capacity of 66 megawatts and is still operating today. It takes it’s water via a 1.6km (3m wide) tunnel from the Kuranda weir and releases it back into the Barron River.

If you’re lucky you may even get a glimpse of the Kuranda Train, as we did, traversing some of the ravines.

Crystal Cascades walk

It’s been raining for a few days now so we decided what better way to spend a rainy day than checking out the Crystal Cascades. So we packed the rain coats and umbrella and headed off to check out this location.

This is a beautiful rain forest walk with the bubbling creek running directly below the path. It is basically a series of small waterfalls flowing into large pools surrounded by large impressive granite boulders. It was a nice afternoon spent here and we totally recommend it.

New boots for the Cruiser

The car got booked in for a full set of new tyres (BF Goodrich Ko2’s) from Bob Janes in Cairns; so now we will be able to tackle Fraser Island on our way south – YAY! Merrisa also had her hair done and we stocked up on food and beverages (aka grog).

Kuranda Skyrail

We were really lucky as the Kuranda Skyrail had been closed due to the Covid19 pandemic and opened today! We managed to book a return trip on the gondolas as the train was unfortunately booked out. The normal thing to do is to travel one way by train and the other by Skyrail.

Skyrail is a unique rainforest experience travelling over and through Australia’s World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforests. The rainforest cableway spans 7.5km and as our gondola (or as I heard one guy say – the glass bubble thing) traversed the McAlister Range, through the Barron Gorge National Park, we sat in wonder of the forest canopy below.

We caught up with some other travel buddies, Paul & Shayne (from Canberra) and spent the day checking out the 2 hop-off stations and then lunch in the Kuranda Pub followed by a stroll through the town.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Lake Placid Tourist Park is a great park with good sized sites
    • Cost per night $35.10 (@ 3-Sep-2020)
    • Facilities a bit dated (like the caravan park) but very neat & tidy
    • CP Location – about 15kms out of Cairns town centre but we liked the location (maplink)
    • Our rating/score8/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? loved it
    • Activities & places of interest plenty to do in Cairns but our stay was not long enough
    • Tourist info centre?Cnr Esplanade & Shields St, Cairns City (website)
    • Would we return? definitely, and we would stay longer
    • Overall Score 9/10
  • Summing up we really enjoyed our stay in Cairns but may look for another caravan park; not because the one we stayed in but just for a change.

Lake Tinaroo – Yungaburra QLD

About Yungaburra

Yungaburra is an attractive and historic timber township/village on the Atherton Tablelands which subtly mixes a sense of history with an ‘alternative lifestyle’ culture. Situated 720 metres above sea level it is cool in summer and can be quite chilly in winter. It is a popular holiday destination for people wanting an alternative to the bustle of Cairns. It is surrounded by fascinating crater lakes, World Heritage rainforest, huge and ancient strangler fig trees and extinct volcanoes (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

Lake Tinaroo Caravan Park

We actually pulled out of the Undara Lava Tubes caravan park (see previous post) a day early as we felt it was time to move on. So we literally poked a finger at the map and found this gem of a location called Lakeside Motor Inn & Caravan Park situated on the shores of Lake Tinaroo (maplink) just outside of Yungaburra, in the Atherton Tablelands region. It was difficult to believe that in the 205kms from dusty outback Undara we were now in lush and green Yungaburra.

The caravan is situated right on Lake Tinaroo so the views were really great over the water.

We only had a one night stay here but had a quick look around. Directly over the road from our caravan park was this wonderful memorial called The Afghanistan Avenue of Honour which was a beautiful tribute to our troops who served in Afghanistan.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Lakeside Motor Inn & Caravan Park is in a fantastic location with well spaced out sites and great managers. They even set-up a fire pit for happy hour
    • Cost per night $30.00 (@ 2-Sep-2020)
    • Facilities great – very clean & modern
    • CP Location a bit out of town (about 3kms) but right on Lake Tinaroo which is lovely (maplink)
    • Our rating/score9/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? yes
    • Activities & places of interest plenty – we only had an overnighter but this place has potential for a longer stay
    • Tourist info centre?2 Kehoe Place Yungaburra (website)
    • Would we return? definitely
    • Overall Score 10/10
  • Summing up we’ll be back!

Undara Lava Tubes QLD

About Undara Lava Tubes

One of the wonders of Australia, the Undara Lava Tubes are reputedly the largest lava tubes in the world. Located in savannah grassland south-west of Cairns, they can be inspected only by taking conducted tours which are organised by an eco-tourism organisation known as the Undara Experience. The tour offers a unique insight into the flora and fauna of the Australian tropics as well as accompanying visitors into the caves formed by the Lava Tubes (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

Why go there?

We had promised people back home that the Undara Lava Tubes would be part of our trip agenda and all I can say is “thanks so much for the tip”!

What a truly majestic place to visit (maplink). We stayed for a couple of nights in the campground, which is really nice. We travelled from Georgetown to the village (asphalt all the way).

The village and campground is known as the Undara Experience and it truly is an experience. The village has great food and the roof over a restaurant area is designed to look like a lava tube – very creative.

The Lava Tube Tour

Access to the lava tubes is by guided tour only as it is in a National Park. You travel from the Undara Village via bus and then are taken through 3 different lava tubes by very informative guides.

The Undara Lava Tubes were created about 190,000 years ago when a staggering 23 cubic kilometres of lava flowed into a river bed and kept flowing for 160km, making it the world’s longest lava flow from a single volcano.

Huge caves, some over 21m wide and up to 10m high, have formed in places along the tubes. They are never dark because they are gaping holes which can be entered by visitors accompanied by tour guides. The experience is genuinely unforgettable.

Summing up the caravan park…

  • AccommodationUndara Caravan Park is well spaced out with great sites. A bit dusty, but that has to be expected. They do water the roads twice a day, which is great.
    • Cost per night$39.00 (@ 31-Aug-2020)
    • Facilities single en-suite style – very modern, neat and tidy
    • CP Location it’s a done deal as it’s closest you will ever get to the tours (maplink). Otherwise it’s a 104km round-trip drive from Mt Surprise
    • Our rating/score9/10

Summing up the tour…

  • What did we think? Great place to visit – certainly a bucket list item if you are travelling in this area.
  • Was it value for money? absolutely – $80 per person – a discount was included as we were staying there
  • Would we return? no – a once off visit
  • Overall Score 11/10 😁
  • How do you book a tour? try the Undara Experience website

Cobbold Gorge QLD

I just happened upon a brochure for this wonderland called Cobbold Gorge when checking into a caravan park one day. How lucky were we to discover this place as it’s totally amazing. I did some more research (as I tend to do a lot) and discovered there is a campground there but the road in is about 85kms from Georgetown (route map) of which the majority is pretty rough dirt.

We then decided to camp in Georgetown and leave the van behind and take a day trip. We pulled into the Goldfields Caravan Park (Facebook) and were happy to find out that they have a happy hour every night – nice. Once on that dirt road we agreed that our Bailey caravan was not “off-road” enough to have taken the journey – good choice!

The gorge is located on the 1284-square-kilometre Robin Hood Cattle station, so named because it adjoined the Sherwood mining lease, has been in the Terry family since 1964. The gorge was discovered by Simon Terry and in 1995 Simon and his new wife Gaye, who together had recently taken on Howlong Station, an area of Robin Hood that includes what is now known as Cobbold Gorge, decided to open a small bush camp so people could visit. It is now a multi award winning tourist destination and we were so glad to visit it.

Cobbold Gorge Boat Trip

The first leg of the Gorge Tour is done in a long skinny aluminum boats, seating 14 people and powered at each end by an electric motor – that’s because the boats cannot turn around in the skinny gorge for the return trip.

It is so quiet as we seemed to float through the gorge for about an hour; spotting 3 freshwater crocs and these magical St George spiders who build their webs in such a way the archer fish cannot shoot them down with their spouts of water.

The gorge narrows so much in parts that the people in the boat can virtually spread their arms and touch both sides at once. This is truly a magnificent place.

Cobbold Gorge Walk

Another part of the tour is to walk over the gorge on the recently constructed glass bridge.

We thought that was going to be all but we were totally surprised by the talk provided by our guide, Kev who told us about the environment we were in. There were Gillie Gillie berries which, if eaten, would kill a person in no time at all, with no remedy. Then the various bushes you could use to clean your hands or poison the water to catch fish – all indigenous types of things the bush has to offer.

To complete this part of the tour we donned our protective foot covers and strolled out onto the 11 metre wide glass bridge. Opened in October 2019 it is Australia’s first glass bridge (read the news article). Wow – totally awesome! Especially when the next tour’s boat sailed through right underneath our feet.

Summing up…

  • What did we think? – If you are ever anywhere near Cobbold Gorge, do yourself a favour and take the trip out.
  • Accommodationstay in Georgetown at the Goldfields Caravan Park (Facebook) if you don’t have an off-road caravan or even book one of the cabins in the Gorge Village for the night – $25.00 per night (@ 29-Aug-2020)
  • Was it value for money? – absolutely – $108 per head
  • Would we return? – no – a once off visit but you should go
  • Overall Score – 12/10 😁
  • How do you book a tour? – via their website

Karumba QLD

Karumba was on our “places bucket list”. W were not too sure what we’d find here but “just had to have a look”. Not disappointed at all with our choice.

Karumba Gateway
Karumba Gateway

In 1937 Karumba became a refueling point for Qantas and BOAC flying boats travelling from Australia to London. During World War II the town was an RAAF base for Catalinas flying into New Guinea, Timor and Indonesia. Parts of the infrastructure still exist today.

It was a wild old town back in the 1970’s when there were over 40 prawning trawlers operating from Karumba. The local pub was known as the Animal Bar which was pretty wild. They say that everything had to be bolted down even the ashtrays, so it couldn’t be used in the many pub brawls that occurred there. Today it is still home to extensive prawn, mud crab and the barramundi fishing fleets.

Karumba Caravan Park

There were 2 main choices for caravan parks in Karumba – Karumba Point Tourist Park OR Karumba Sunset Caravan Park (over the road from the Sunset Tavern) – maplink. We selected the 1st one as we’d heard a lot of bad reports about the sunset one, which we soon discovered were incorrect. Well there’s always a chance of staying there on our next trip.

Karumba Sunsets at the Tavern

There’s one place that you must pay a visit to experience an awesome sunset and that’s The Sunset Tavern (Facebook). We paid two visits to the pub to experience the sunset and each time stayed to experience their mouth watering grilled Barramundi.

1st sunset

2nd sunset

Karumba Barramundi Centre

The recently completed Les Wilson Barramundi Discovery Centre is a fantastic place to visit. You must take the tour of the centre to learn more about the iconic “Barra” (maplink).

Merrisa even attempted to hand feed some of the barra but they weren’t hungry but it was still pretty exciting waiting for a 1 metre long barra to snaffle the tiny squid she was holding above the water.

Kerry D Fishing Charter

You must take a fishing charter out of Karumba when you’re in town. The natural choice has to be Kerry D Charters. They have been in business for ages and know all the right spots. Their price was very reasonable too at $140pp for about 4 hours.

Our trip was great with Paul (skipper) & Mick (decky) looking after us really well. The fish weren’t all that friendly. The water was just 19 degrees so a bit cool for a great catch but Paul & Mick tried so many spots trying to improve our chances.

We were about 1.5kms from shore and the water depth was about 1 metre on average. Could not believe that it was so shallow.

Merrisa was successful with 2 lovely blue threadfin salmon and I caught 4 catfish (throw back fish).

Sunset Cruise

Karumba’s Croc & Crab Tours run a sunset cruise, so we thought “why not” and booked in for our final night in Karumba.

They begin with a bit of a tour up the Norman River informing us of the history which surrounds the port. They spoke of the cyclones and floods they regularly get, where a young boy once caught a 25kg Barramundi on the main road out the front of his house (half a km from the river). Another was about this massive croc which came out of the Norman River, walked down the main street and settled on the doorstep of a house. They had to get professionals out from Cairns to remove and relocate him.

More history – In 1938 a flying boat base was built in Karumba to provide a refueling point for the Sydney-Singapore legs of the Empire Air Route to Britain. During WW2 the RAAF stationed a fleet of Catalina ‘Flying Boats’ out of Karumba.

Lot’s more info was provided about the town and it’s port. We already knew about the fish & prawn part, but there was also a ship, called Wunma in town which carries Zinc & Lead Ore from the Century Mine 304kms away at Lawn Hill, via a ‘slurry’ pipeline to a Karumba refinery. After processing the Wunma takes the ore out to mother ships for export.

Following the very informative talk about Karumba’s history we set sail for a small sand island to witness yet another brilliant Karumba sunset. Drinks and nibbles on the sand as the sun went down was totally beautiful. Then it was back to the boat ramp to finish up a really nice tour.

Normanton and Georgetown

Leaving Karumba we refueled in Normanton (maplink) at the local BP. It was a bit of a classic experience with 3 old blokes sitting around in dilapidated armchairs next to the fuel pumps, giving advice about travel & life in general – very funny. We checked out some of the historical buildings’ like the Purple Pub (Facebook) and the Burns Philp building (a bit of family history – my mum worked for Burns Philp in Madang PNG in the early 1960’s)

Then it was off to Georgetown for a couple of nights stay. We decided to stay here as a base for the trip into Cobbold Gorge due to the reported poor road conditions on that leg of our trip. We pulled into the Goldfields Caravan Park (Facebook) and were happy to find out that they have a happy hour every night – nice.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation the Karumba Point Caravan Park is pretty dusty park with lots of “rules”
    • Cost per night$39.00 (@ 25-Aug-2020)
    • Facilitiesclean but pretty outdated
    • CP Location have to drive about 3 kms into town (maplink)
    • Our rating/score6/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? yes – a bucket list item ticked off
    • Activities & places of interest plenty to do but you have to look around for it
      • The sunsets from the pub are absolutely fantastic
      • Barramundi Centre is great – plenty to see & learn about the famous “Barra”
      • Kerry D fishing charter was fun – only $80 per head
      • Sunset Cruise? – take it or leave it
    • Tourist info centre?149 Yappar Street, Karumba (website)
    • Would we return?no – been there & done that but still totally recommend it as a must do location
    • Overall Score 8/10
  • Summing upLoved our stay here and made some really great friends too.

Burke & Wills Roadhouse – 4 Ways QLD

Today we departed Mt Isa for our road trip up to Karumba in the Gulf of Carpenteria. We decided to break the 565km trip in half and take an overnight stop at the Burke & Wills Roadhouse located at the “Four Ways” intersection (route map).

Copped a chip & crack in the windscreen today, from a passing vehicle, which will require a replacement at some point.

It was a bit dusty, but “it’s the outback!” Quickly made friends with the neighbours, Steve & Norelle, shared some stories and had a couple of beers – as is the custom.

Dinner was the famous roadhouse burgers, which did not disappoint at all.

Summing up…

  • Accommodationthe Burke & Wills Roadhouse is the only one in town
    • Cost per night$30.00 for power – $10 for non-power (@ 24-Aug-2020)
    • Facilitiesas expected for an outback stay
    • CP Locationmidway between Cloncurry & Karumba (maplink)
    • Our rating/score7/10
  • Summaryas it’s the only CP in the area it was a welcoming respite in our drive north. The burgers at the roadhouse were fantastic

Mount Isa QLD

About Mt Isa

Mount Isa is the largest township in western Queensland. It is a mining town with an air of self-confidence and vibrancy. Mining is the town’s raison d’etre and though it dominates the skyline and the local economy, Mount Isa does not feel like a just another outback mining town. It is a centre with quality accommodation, good restaurants, and enough activities to keep even the most enthusiastic visitor busy for a week.

Mount Isa proudly claims to be the largest city in the world. The argument is that the city extends for 43,188 square kilometres, and that the road from Mount Isa to Camooweal, a distance of 189 km, is the longest city road in the world. The attractions in the area are genuinely unusual: it is still possible to go on an underground mining tour; to visit an Underground Hospital created during World War II; to see what Mining/Company Town accommodation was like in the 1930s; and to visit the remarkable Lawn Hill National Park (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

Mt Isa Caravan Park

We pulled into the Argylla Caravan Park, which is just outside of town (maplink) for a couple of nights. A pretty basic looking park with not many people staying but it was comfortable.

Around Mt Isa

Took a look around Mt Isa and ended up at the town lookout with views over this mega mining town. The water tank on top of the hill has some fantastic artwork, painted by David Houghton in 2019. The views are pretty standard with the mine taking up a large amount of the vista to the west. The lookout has heaps of whistling kites flying around on the thermals which is pretty spectacular as they dive down onto unsuspecting things like chips left by messy tourists and the pigeons trying to eat those chips.

Mt Isa Boulders

While in Mount Isa we paid the local tourist information centre a visit to check out what sites or tours may be of interest. While chatting to the lady I asked about this stunning outback painting on the wall of big red boulders (a bit like the Devil’s Marbles in NT). She told us about the Sybella Granite Mine, where the boulders are located and gave us directions (route map)…

Directions – Take the Boulia – Mt Isa Hwy out past the mine; when you get to the power-station sign travel another 11km until you see the 100km/hr sign. The entrance gate to the boulders should be on your right. Go through the gates and start exploring (don’t forget to close the gates!)

Off we went exploring away and the whole area is pretty spectacular.

Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Tour

One of the “must do’s” while in Mount Isa is to take the Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Tour located in the Tourist Information Center (AKA Outback Isa).

The centre was only 5 weeks old and really well set-up for us to gain an understanding about fossils found in the Riversleigh World Heritage area, some 277 kms from where we were (maplink).

Our guide, Allan, was an absolute wealth of knowledge; having fossicked and worked on fossil reclamation for over 50 years. Allan’s total passion for the topic made this an absolutely fantastic experience.

We looked through periscopes to view the tiniest fossil remnants which had been reclaimed from their rocky prison using chemicals and a lot of patience.

Lake Moondarra

We joined our neighbours, Rene & Sylvia and Ron & Di, from the Argylla Caravan Park and travelled out to experience the sunset at Lake Moondarra, about 17kms out of town (maplink).

This is a beautiful location with a large number of wild peacocks strolling around the lawns of the barby area. We took a look around the dam wall and it’s surrounds. The peacocks were very tame, even trying to pinch our chips.

We settled in for a few quiet drinks as the sun set over the lake. It was one of those monumental sunsets, enjoyed with new found friends. We stayed for an hour after the sun had set as the twilight was stunning.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Argylla Caravan Park was probably the worst park we’d stayed in so far
    • Cost per night$38.70 (@ 21-Aug-2020)
    • FacilitiesNot the best
    • CP LocationOut of town by about 3 kms. Would definitely look for an alternative next time (maplink)
    • Our rating/score5/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit?Not too bad
    • Activities & places of interest We were surprised that the was not all that much to do here except mine related tours etc
    • Tourist info centre?19 Marian St, The Gap (website)
    • Would we return?Probably not – been there & done that
    • Overall Score6/10
  • SummaryWe went to Mt Isa as we thought we would probably not get the chance again. It was pretty disappointing. We did enjoy the boulders and Lake Moondarra plus making some new friends.

Richmond QLD

About Richmond

Richmond is a small outback town, located halfway between Townsville and Mount Isa, which is essentially a service centre for the surrounding sheep and beef pastoral community. Characterised by a wide main street (Goldring Street) it is enhanced by its median strip gardens of bougainvilleas, native trees and shrubs. The town’s main attraction is Kronosaurus Korner – the town’s marine fossil museum – which vividly reminds the visitor that over 100 million years ago this vast, flat area was an inland sea teeming with primitive wildlife (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

The road trip

Our trip from Charters Towers, heading west, to Richmond (maplink) was one of the bumpiest ones yet. We couldn’t believe how much we bounced along the road – had to slow down to 80km/hr at some points.

We pulled into the Lakeview Caravan Park for 3 nights, which was really nice but everyone is packed in “real tight” (maplink).

A walk around Fred Tritton Lake (next to the caravan park) followed by drinks up at the barby shelter afterward was a great way to end the 1st day.

A look around this lovely and very tidy town showed up some gems, one of which was the Cambridge Store, a restored store from the 1800’s. Another was the stockman statue out front of the Council offices.

Sunrise over Fred Tritton Lake was stunning. Check out these shots…

Kronosaurus Corner

A major attraction in the town of Richmond is the Kronosaurus Corner at the visitors centre. This is a fantastic exhibition of marine fossils and a “must do” if you’re ever in this neck of the woods. There is so much to learn here and the centre provides you with hand-held audio guides which explain each of the exhibits to you.

Penny the Plesiosaur exhibit is totally incredible as it is one of the near complete fossils ever found intact by Mr Ian Ievers in 1989 on Marathon Station near Richmond, while feeding cattle near the homestead.

We were so inspired by the fossil displays at Kronosaurus Corner that we purchased a “fossil fossicking” permit and headed out to one of the fossil locations to try our luck at finding something special but came away with nothing but the dust on our clothes (LOL).

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Lakeview Caravan Park is in a great location but the sites are pretty close together
    • Cost per night$26.00 (@ 19-Aug-2020)
    • FacilitiesBit old & dated but clean
    • CP LocationGreat location with views over the lake (maplink)
    • Our rating/score76/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit?yes – a very neat & tidy town
    • Activities & places of interest Kronosaurus Corner is the highlight
    • Tourist info centre?91-93 Goldring St, Richmond (website)
    • Would we return?Only if passing through the area
    • Overall Score7/10
  • SummaryEnjoyed our stay. Happy hour drinks under the rotunda was great

Charters Towers QLD

About Charters Towers

Charters Towers is arguably the most beautiful inland city in Queensland. It may not have the range of domestic architecture that makes Ipswich so distinctive but in terms of public architecture it is unrivalled. Like Kalgoorlie, Cue and Coolgardie in Western Australia it is a city built from the huge profits of gold-mining and, as such, the city fathers (a quixotic band of nouveau riche miners) were determined to flaunt their wealth. Today the city is beautifully preserved and the best of the buildings are concentrated on Mosman Street and Gill Street (sourced from the Aussie Towns website – click for more).

The Roadtrip

The trip to Charters Towers from Airlie Beach had a little bit of drama thrown in courtesy of our (3 year old) Toyota Landcruiser’s GPS. There are basically 2 ways to get to Charters Towers but our brilliant Landcruiser discovered a 3rd one which, after 47kms, ended on the worst corrugated dirt road you could ever imagine. Check out the route map – it’s the bit in the middle, which added 94kms to our trip and broke Merrisa’s favourite scotch glass! Looks like we’re off to an opp shop to find a replacement.

The primary reason for going to Charters Towers was to catch-up with Merrisa’s sister, Catherine and her family. Catherine’s husband, Steve, is a geologist in the gold mines nearby. It was great catching up and thanks to Catherine & Steve for inviting us into their home and showing us around the town.

Our Caravan Park

We booked into the Big4 Aussie Oasis Holiday Park which was a great choice (maplink). There are 3 pet barramundi in the pond out the front of the office; one is a metre long. Friday night (our arrival) is pizza night (woohoo) but it was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid19 regulations. Damn! Looks like we will have to return.

A bit of history & a look around Town

Charters Towers has a lot of history. The town was founded in the 1870s when gold was discovered by chance at Towers Hill on Christmas Eve 1871 by 12-year-old Aboriginal boy, Jupiter Mosman. Jupiter was with a small group of prospectors including Hugh Mosman, James Fraser and George Clarke. Their horses bolted after a flash of lightning. It is still an active “gold town” but not as prosperous as it was back then – read more here

Towers Hill Lookout

A trip up to the Towers Hill Lookout is a must as it provides a fantastic vista of the town and it’s surrounds. It also shows how flat it is out here (maplink). The area has lots of WWII bunkers, some of which have video displays depicting what it was like in the war.

Charters Towers Sunset

I’d heard that you can witness a great sunset from the Towers Hill Lookout so I ventured up there just before 6:00pm and got these fantastic photos.

Burdekin Weir

The Burdekin Weir Park is about 17kms out of Charters Towers (maplink). We ventured out to have a look and should have taken our lunch with us as it was a lovely place for a picnic. The weir is the primary source of water for Charters Towers. Would love to be here when the river is in flood, it’d be pretty spectacular.

Ravenswood day trip

We took a day trip to Ravenswood to check it out. This town is full of history and was really worth the 175km round trip from Charters Towers.

Gold was originally discovered here in 1868 and the population grew to over 50,000; now it is just 255. Gold is still being mined here and while we were there we checked out the new primary school, where Merrisa’s sister works, built by the mining company as they are about to begin open cut mining at the old school’s location. No expense seems to be spared here as the new school is absolutely beautiful.

Lunch in the Imperial Hotel (best burger ever!) chatting with some of the locals and then a look around the town and surrounding district. There are lots of chimneys from old smelters

Just out of town is the White Blow which is a massive milky quartz outcrop. Quite amazing sitting out in the middle of nowhere (no gold there though).

On the way back to Charters Towers we stopped at the Macrossan Bridge, over the Burdekin River, to check out the flood marker pole. It is extremely hard to understand how much water has flowed through here in floods over the years. The 1946 flood was the highest at 21.79 metres.

We also came across a bit of Aussie humour where someone has built this massive steel boat but there’s no water. Check out the funny photo below.

We took a day trip to Ravenswood to check it out. This town is full of history and was really worth the 175km round trip from Charters Towers.

Gold was originally discovered here in 1868 and the population grew to over 50,000; now it is just 255. Gold is still being mined here and while we were there we checked out the new primary school, where Merrisa’s sister works, built by the mining company as they are about to begin open cut mining at the old school’s location. No expense seems to be spared here as the new school is absolutely beautiful.

Lunch in the Imperial Hotel (best burger ever!) chatting with some of the locals and then a look around the town and surrounding district. There are lots of chimneys from old smelters

Just out of town is the White Blow which is a massive milky quartz outcrop. Quite amazing sitting out in the middle of nowhere (no gold there though).

On the way back to Charters Towers we stopped at the Macrossan Bridge, over the Burdekin River, to check out the flood marker pole. It is extremely hard to understand how much water has flowed through here in floods over the years. The 1946 flood was the highest at 21.79 metres.

We also came across a bit of Aussie humour where someone has built this massive steel boat but there’s no water. Check out the funny photo below.

Longhorn Cattle Ranch

Plenty of people we met along the way, plus a lovely lady named Deanne strongly recommended we take the Texas Longhorn Tour at ‘Leahton Park’ 10km out from Charters Towers (maplink).

This is a really great experience. Our host, Linda, took us through how they perform AI (artificial insemination) on their heifer’s, as there are no bulls on the property – any bull calves are neutered or sold off after birth.

Then we all jumped into some Polaris 4×4’s and Linda escorted us around the property to show off their magnificent longhorn cattle. JR has the longest horns measuring over 3.1 metres (11 feet) wide. He had the world record for a while but has now been out done by a longhorn in Colorado USA.

Summing up…

  • Accommodation Big4 Aussie Oasis Holiday Park was the best one in town – well we thought so
    • Cost per night$40.00 (@ 14-Aug-2020)
    • FacilitiesA bit basic but clean and tidy
    • CP Locationon the highway (away from noise). You need to drive into town for supplies (maplink)
    • Our rating/score7/10
  • Was it a nice town to visit? Yes. Lots of history
    • Would we return?Yes
    • Overall Score8/10
  • Activities
    • Lots to do in Charters Towers. It was also handy having family here to show us around
    • So many beautiful old buildings in the town to check out
      the lookout is also a definite must do
    • The trip to Ravenswood is totally worth it. You can also book tours with Raven Tours
    • The Longhorn Cattle ranch is a must do – cost was $69.50 per head (seniors) book through the Texas Longhorns website
    • Tourist info centre?74 Mosman St, Charters Towers (website)
  • SummaryA great visit and will certainly come back.

Whitehaven Beach QLD

You cannot come to the Whitsunday’s without travelling out to their islands. Today we booked a day trip with Ocean Rafting on their Northern Exposure tour out to Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island, along with snorkeling at two different locations on Hook Island.

These guys are the best! We booked the lunch as well, which was scrumptious and had a few beers to wash it down. A perfect day out on the water.

Totally recommend this tour if you’re in Airlie Beach or surrounds as it was worth every cent (cost was about $355 for 2 – bargain)!

Snorkel time