Monthly Archives: July 2014

Innisfail

 

We moved  84 kms south from Cairns to Innisfail as this is a good central location to explore interesting local spots. Our last visit here was shortly after Cyclone Larry in 2006, which had a devastating impact on the town and the the many crops grown in this region – you may remember when bananas surged to $9 a kilo! Our other memory is of our (now) Governor-General Peter Cosgrove getting the Australian Defence Force right behind the local people to help rebuild their lives after the cyclone.
Courthouse Innisfail Innisfail street scene 1 Art Deco 4 Art Deco 3
Now in every direction are rows of sugarcane, bananas, pineapples, papayas – plus there is now a tea plantation and a pepper farm (the only one in Australia apparently). It is a lovely town to stay in with several Art Deco buildings and a diverse mix of cultures resulting from immigrant cane cutters settling here many years ago.
Innisfail site 1 Innisfail site 2
Our van site overlooking the South Johnstone River in the River Drive Van Park is beautiful… although you always have to beware of crocs. It’s kind of sad that you are unable to swim at local beaches due to crocs, stingers or sharks – or a combination of all three. Some beaches have nets or lines, but we heard that a croc got inside one of the stinger nets … now THAT is perseverance!
There are many small towns dotted along this coast, all with a mix of posh and/or beach homes, a school, and a few resident characters (human or animal). First stop was Flying Fish Point to join the merry throng in the queue for fish and chips at the beachfront cafe – hard to beat on a sunny day overlooking the Coral Sea!
Another interesting stop was Etty Beach, a small settlement that bans dogs completely in order to protect a small group of cassowaries living there. These tall birds have several similarities to emus including Dad being the responsible parent. However they don’t sit on their eggs but add vegetation to the nest to maintain a constant warm temperature until the chicks hatch. This Southern Cassowary started with 3 – one was run over by a car, and one has ‘disappeared’. This left this big brown chick who will soon develop the beautiful adult blue throat colouring and red wattles. It was rather lovely to see them wandering up and down the beach, quite oblivious to all us silly humans trying to take photos of them.
Cassowary & chick 1 Cassowary & chick 2 Cassowary & chick 4
Our favourite haunt here is Oliveri’s continental deli which would put many big city shops to shame. The shop started in the 1930s, selling all those homesick European migrant workers their favourite foods in this tiny narrow building. Now it has huge long counters and cabinets of beautiful Italian meats, a wonderful range of cheeses and their own marinated olives – plus they also make delicious lunch rolls and coffee…. and they are starting to treat us like locals!

Whyanbeel Valley and Cairns

Another beautiful day trip in this region is the Whyanbeel Valley, about 40 kms north of Port Douglas on the Daintree Valley Road. This is a farming valley, mainly sugarcane and cattle, banked right up against thick rainforest and waterfalls visible high above in the range.

We first visited Hogland Art Glass in 2006 when Ola and Marie had just opened this gallery to the public, and we were blown away by their exquisite glass. They also work in Nelson, NZ and create special pieces – e.g. for the Americas Cup and Olympics, and sell to glass collectors as different as Bill Clinton and Elton John! Ola is however so welcoming to all people and was happy for Ian to take photos of the studio. We spent ages ogling the displays, when a beautiful piece leapt out at us and said “Pick me, pick me!” So we did, and it is a perfect size to sit on our caravan table and catch the sun’s reflections for us each day.
Hoogland Glass ball 1 Hoogland Glass 3 Hoogland Glass 2
Nearby is High Falls Riverside Restaurant, located right alongside the Whyanbeel River which is more of a gentle, babbling brook in this ‘drier’ season. It was a lovely accompaniment for a perfectly presented, tasty and very reasonably priced seafood lunch. Their speciality is exotic tropical fruit grown on their farm so we were able to walk off lunch and finally match the trees with their fruit. So… it was all so good that we had to return a second time so we could have a smaller first course and still fit in the plaintain banana fritters. Absolutely to die for!

Ginny @ High Falls Farm restaurant

We have enjoyed Cairns previously; Ian in 1995 for radar training when he worked for Coastwatch, then both of us attended a 3rd Cavalry army reunion in 2006, and again briefly in 2013 to attend a wedding in Port Douglas. We also have several friends here, so it is always a pleasure to return to this friendly city.

Earlier stays have been in hotels, so our week at the Coconut Holiday Resort was quite a different – but amazing – experience. This is a huge park, with condos, villas, cabins in addition to caravan and camping sites. Fortunately the layout is so well designed that it was a pleasure to stay here, even in Week 2 of Queensland’s school holidays! There is a beautiful garden pool, plus a lagoon pool (including a hot and a cold spa) and a waterpark which mainly attracts the older children. The range of family activities is incredible, with organised activities every day and evening, and it was great to see so many mums and dads and their children having the best time with each other! The range of cool gear to rent was just brilliant too – check out this ‘wagon’…

Big Red Coconut Resort 7 pedal bike Big4 Cairns

A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is pretty much mandatory in this region. We chose a full day Reef Magic cruise, travelling 1.5 hours each way on a catamaran out to their Marine World activity platform out at Moore Reef. Heaps of activities to please everyone from 2 to 92, including helicopter scenic flights, snorkelling, diving, helmet diving for non-swimmers (yes, it looked VERY weird), fish feeding, a safety enclosure for the babies and toddlers, and – hit of the year for Ginny – a masseuse on board!

Reef Magic site 1 Semi sumersable Fish GBR 4 Coral GBR 2 Clam Trip to Reef Magic site 1psd

After her massage and lunch, she barely managed to lever herself on to the glass bottom boat but was soon going ooh and aah at the beauty of the coral reef and the variety of fish. There were many “pan sized” ones according to Ian which caused a few gasps of “But they are protected!” among the assembly. We also went in a semi-submersible contraption which was great for seeing the fish glide past you rather than looking down at them.

Sadly no turtles, but we did see whales breaching on our way home which was very special. Another day in paradise!

More FNQ…

In our last post, the peacocks and bats in the tree above our caravan were making life difficult. All was resolved when a large goanna (aka barnie or perentie) took up residence in the tree, and apparently under our van when we were out. All arguments ceased – the male peacock still slept there each night but was well-behaved without the peahens, and the bats disappeared!
We were happy campers again, and have even had mostly sunny weather the last couple of weeks. The wind however has not let up except for the occasional day. Eastern States people reckon that the WA coast and Perth are windy, but up this way it is a lot worse.
These photos were taken on the Daintree River Wild Watch with Ian (Sauce) Worcester who really knows his stuff and has been doing tours for about 18 years.
Daintree River 2
Kingfisher 2
Tree snake
Croc 4
Sunset 2
These little yellow sunbirds were checking out our awning for a nest site. They evidently have realised that if they build near people they are pretty safe as we scare off any predators. Our neighbours who stay here for 4 months every year often have to remove their pendulous nests before they can move out.
Yellow Bellied Sunbird 1
We are now at Ellis Beach until 7 July when we head into Cairns for the van to be serviced (done 10000 k’s!) Here is the view through our caravan door – a lovely beachfront spot as we got a last minute cancellation (it’s the caravanner’s version of winning Lotto as people book for 2-3 years ahead for this slice of paradise). Within walking distance there is good food at the local bar and grill ($1 oysters on Sundays so Ginny is in hog heaven) and great beach walks…
Ellis Beach 3
Ellis Beach 2
Ellis Beach 1 View from van Ellis Beach
Ian is booked in to a nature photo workshop over two days with Steve Parish and another pro Martin Willis on 2-3 August, so we will be spending more time around this area and the Atherton Tablelands until then. We are really enjoying our time in FNQ – still find the wet tropical rainforest a bit overpowering and claustrophobic, but it is interesting and the wildlife is prolific. Keeps Ian and his  camera on the go!