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.
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.
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.
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!