Tag Archives: Queensland

The Sunshine Coast & Brisbane area

Our base camp at Mooloolaba Beach Holiday Park was great for exploring the Sunshine Coast…. walking distance to excellent shops – loved Think Pinq!  plus the beach, marina and the Surf Life Saving Club for sundowners or lunch with friends Shauna and Allan.

Mooloolaba Beach 1 Mooloolaba Beach 2 Mooloolaba Beach 3 Mooloolaba Beach 4

Dadds & Smiths Mooloolaba Surf Club

Two great day trips stand out; firstly our drive north along the coast to explore the many beautiful beaches. We stopped in Noosa Heads to window-shop along the pretty streets, listen to live jazz in the mall, drool over amazing restaurant menus and finally settled on a gelato – too much choice! We returned south via the inland route and visited some sadly disappointing tourist spots (think overpriced and underwhelming).

Another fun trip was travelling west into the Hinterland, a big change from the coastal sun and surf, and we could easily have spent a week exploring this beautiful region. First stop was the Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World for beautiful views of the Glasshouse Mountains. The gardens were delightful, the Devonshire tea was magnificent (truly amazing scones with proper teapot and all!) but our top pick was the tour of the aviary which only opened last year. Our guide managed to impart so much information; survival tips e.g. which bird would pinch your earrings or hearing aids! as well as the history and habits of each bird species.

Maleny Botanic Gardens 1 Maleny Botanic Gardens 2 Glass House Mts 1

 

Exotic bird 7 Exotic bird 9 Exotic bird 12 Exotic bird 17 Finch with feather 4 Ginny with Macaos Macao 1 Major Mitchell 3 Swan chicks 1

Walking around the town of Maleny was a joy, especially when we discovered there were FOUR bookshops (we have been to many towns where there are none – so sad but apparently we are all buying our books online now?) The Pallet Life Gallery and Cafe was fun – our family is very fond of recycling pallets but there were lots of new ideas here, plus good coffee!

Ginny in pallet chair

Our stay at Brisbane Holiday Village was perfectly located (5 minutes from the city!) for us to catch up with friends. Brisbane is a hilly city, so our first stop was the highest peak Mt Coot-tha to get our bearings. This is a great spot with a botanic garden, a planetarium and many walking and bike trails to explore, plus a cafe for those in need.

Brisbane from Mt Cootha 1 Brisbane from Mt Cootha 2 Dragon Ginny Mt Cootha

Ian was keen to get photos of koalas so off we went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. We sometimes feel ambivalent about going to wildlife parks or zoos as some just don’t measure up – both for the animals and the people visiting. However this sanctuary is not at all glitzy with the animals definitely being the stars, along with many knowledgable staff. Plus there is a waiting list for volunteers to join up (pretty rare these days!)

Les Patison 1

Of course the koalas were gorgeous, doing what they do best i.e. sleep and eat, and the one above really hammed it up for the camera – don’t you think he is grinning?!

Koala 3 Koala 1

The sanctuary rehabilitates all sorts of animals and birds that have been injured. Unfortunately many can’t return to the wild but here they play an important role in demonstrating their skills to us mere humans. This was very evident in the Birds of Prey display.

Wedge tail 2 Sea Eagle 5 Sea Eagle 3 Peregrine Falcon1 Barn Owl 4 Barn Owl 3

The black kite in particular thrilled us with his speedy (scary) flights through the audience.

Kite 6 Kite 1

It must be so rewarding for the staff to see amazing creatures like the sea eagle take to the sky again. Great to see so many families enjoying this place, with many using public transport or combining their visit with a daily launch trip on the Brisbane river.

Next stop… Tweed Heads to visit friends and explore the Gold Coast.

The beautiful Fraser Coast region…

After leaving Hervey Bay for the Fraser Coast region, we made our base at Standown Park, a tranquil van park half way between Tin Can Bay and Gympie. Pam and Rod Elkington have built a mini paradise here and enjoy welcoming veteran visitors along with many other caravanners. Their gardens, kitchen and shared areas are delightful, and sitting around a big fire each evening soon saw us finding new friends! So sad that it was only a short visit this time but we WILL be back.
Standown Park 1 Standown Park 2 Standown Park 3
A short distance away was Maryborough, a beautiful heritage town settled in 1847. As the biggest state port at that time, many 19th century immigrants first entered Australia here. The typical Queenslander homes here are stunning – some are heritage and some modern reinterpretations but all built on leafy streets …. just lovely. There is a huge convention centre and theatre so this town of about 22K people regularly hosts conferences.

Maryborough 3 Maryborough 4 Maryborough 2 Maryborough 1

Tin Can Bay is a small fishing port and popular tourist spot – so we were sorry to be too early for their annual September seafood festival! However our chat with the local newsagent and one of his lovely customers persuaded us that we must visit Rainbow Beach to see the ‘Carlo sandblow’.  After walking through a forest track we found a beautiful white moonscape with dunes leading down to a cliff face with coloured sands below. Many families were expending lots of energy here – a great spot to run, jump, slide and make up your own fun. There were also many paragliders enjoying the strong winds!

Carlo Sand blow 2 Carlo Sand blow 1 Carlo Sand blow 3

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!

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!

Cooktown

We took off from Atherton for Cooktown where we hoped to have warmer, drier weather and return to the the coast. That was a mistake! The drive up was very pleasant as the scenery is lovely tropical green and the road was excellent (for Queensland, as we have experienced some shockers) and the burgers at Lakeland Roadhouse were A1.

Evidence of the ferocity of Cyclone Ita which came ashore on Friday 11 April this year is evident from about 45km south of Cooktown. Huge trees uprooted and snapped off, but the vegetation is regenerating quickly – typical of the tropics and fertile soil.

We pulled up at park number 12 in the Big4 ‘van park beside a creek with lovely foliage right at the rear of our caravan. Bliss. As we set up camp it was blowing a gale, 30-40kts and started to drizzle. And overcast. Got the picture? Well, hold that vision for a week with some intermittent heavy rain and you have our experience… Even the locals were whinging! Today is Saturday the 14th and we have been here exactly two weeks – 3 days of that time have been reasonably fine including today, which dawned in glorious sunshine. Camp Cooktown 2 OK, now we have had our whinge about the weather, the positive things here are many. Once again we have friends Jan & Jamie in town, though they have set up their caravan at their friend Nicko’s place on the outskirts of town – a beautiful home with views to the coast. True tropical surroundings with all it entails including very beautiful butterflies, Australian Brush turkeys (haven’t managed to get a photo yet) and the odd ‘roo. Nickos place 3 Nickos place We immersed ourselves in the history of Cooktown. Lieutenant Cook and his crew beached HMB Endeavour in the river mouth in 1770 to repair its hull after running on to the Great Barrier Reef. Guns and anchors have been recovered from the site and are on display at the James Cook Museum, a lovely former RC Convent school dating from the 19th century. As well there are displays of equipment and artifacts from the days when gold was discovered inland at the Palmer River. There is a further museum in the main street (Charlotte St) about the town and its later history which is also interesting. Cook 1 Cooks cannon Cooks anchor We were here for the reenactment of Cook’s landing, but unfortunately it was pretty well rained out. An abreviated version was run at the ‘boat house’, but everyone got soaked to the skin and the wind was very strong and quite cold. The wet shirt and jocks at the ‘Top Pub’ was also subject to the same or worse conditions so after getting thoroughly wet and cold we pulled the pin before the 10:30pm kick off… The fireworks were also called off. Very sad for the locals who work so hard to pull together this festival each year.

A highlight was going for a joy flight in a Robinson R44 helicopter on one of the clear days and it is to be recommended – you get to see the area the town is located in and the rivers draining the hinterland. Spotted a croc trying to warm up on a sandbar. A low level zip round the coast and we approached Cooktown from the sea. Great views. Jan & Jamie Helicopter 1 Scenic flt 2 Low level coastal 1 Croc from chopper Nicko took us for a run in his boat up the Endeavour River for some kilometres. Amazing country – very tropical and lush and spotted some more crocs and wildlife. A great experience. Thank you Nicko! Cooktown waterfront 1 Endeavour River 1 Croc 2 Another fun day was a trip out to the Trevathan waterfall – Jamie even went swimming – and then on to the Lion’s Den Hotel. This old pub has at Helenvale has an entertaining history, and the lunch was yummy as well. Button orchid Waterfall In fact we have had some excellent food here. Nicko is the local seafood purveyor and we have had some very nice Coral Trout and Red Emperor – we also have some prawns packed in the freezer for further down the track. We seem to be spending a lot of time at the Sovereign hotel – great beer, scotch, Sauv Blanc and meals. We are off tonight for a final posh noshup in their a la carte restaurant…  Had a damned fine meal at the River of Gold restaurant as well.

Our little caravan was our water and wind proof home and it did a great job of keeping us comfortable, even on the two days it did not stop raining… In spite of the inclement weather experience we have found Cooktown to be a fun and interesting spot to spend time. Friendly people and beautiful surrounding country. We will be back!

The Atherton Tableland

Getting to this region inevitably involved climbing as we travelled from the drier ‘flat-lands’ up to the Atherton Tableland. The contrast between the dry country and the wet tropics is amazing over such a short distance (around 300km). There are so many interesting places and small towns to visit that we stayed for a week at the Big4 in Atherton, using this as a central base to explore from. It is a beautiful park filled with lush tropical gardens and the brush turkeys, wallabies and many bird species like this red-browed finch also wander freely among the caravans.
Finch 1
The higher altitude meant a big change in climate – as one of the locals stated it is ‘always overcast’ and light rain occurs almost every day. Combined with the fertile volcanic soils, almost anything grows here.
It was great to meet up again with our friends Jan and Jamie. We all feasted on the fantastic local produce, especially the fresh fruit and vegetables. Ginny ate the best papaya she’s ever tasted, combined with local yoghurt …
Ginny enjoying a paw-paw & yoghurt
Two other foodie highlights:
1. Gallo Dairyland successfully combined two favourite foods – cheese and chocolate – OMG!
2. We were a bit ho hum about the coffee at the Coffee Works at Mareeba – that happens with a group of tea drinkers – but we LOVED the chocolates and liqueurs, and the museum’s collection of coffee paraphernalia
The restored heritage village of Herberton is outstanding – in fact it has spoilt us for all future museums etc as we often say ‘it’s not as good as Herberton’! Initially built to service a tin mining boom, the village is now home to many local buildings that have been relocated to this site rather than being demolished. For example, an old school.
Herberton3
Clearly some women migrants brought totally unsuitable clothes – think fox furs, and posh hats and gloves.
Herberton4
The pharmacy made you glad to be living today – some of the equipment and proposed ‘cures’ were enough to shock you into good health or kill you!
Herberton1
Several printing presses have been restored….
Herberton2
The Hou Wang Temple and museum tells the history of Atherton’s Chinese community, and clearly these migrants copped a hard time from the locals. They ended up with their own Chinatown area segregated from the rest of the town – except for gambling nights maybe!
Chinese temple
Some were able to buy farm land only to have it confiscated in the 1920s for the Soldier Resettlement Scheme. They had to move away to find work so Chinatown was deserted, looted and in a really bad state. The National Trust has now restored the temple, many local people have returned the historic art pieces and the volunteers do a great job in keeping this history alive.
The Avenue of Honour is a community project to pay tribute to our soldiers who have died in Afghanistan. It is located beside beautiful Lake Tinaroo with a backdrop of water and mountains, and the avenue is lined by native flame trees which flower in November around Remembrance Day. Total tear jerker for us both.
Ave of Honour 3
Ave of Honour 1
A question for you:
The last tobacco crop to be grown in Australia was here in the Atherton Tablelands – but what year was that? (Hint – it was in this century…)

Cobbold Gorge

After leaving Undara, a tyre repair was required so we stopped in Georgetown – not the fab suburb of Washington DC that we also love, but a truly great little outback town. While the local tyre fix-it man a.k.a. ‘the Chinaman’ toiled away, we managed to eat icecreams, find op shop bargains and buy award-winning sausages from the local butcher (yummy) and even found … joy of joys – a clean toilet with toilet paper, soap, water AND papertowels! What an amazing start to the day. The fuel outlet put together the BEST corned beef and pickle sandwiches as well…
Then off on the 42 km trip out to Cobbold Gorge. The owners had warned us that there was a section of gravel road with some ‘hairy bits’ s ( two parts, totaling about 70km of dirt ). It was a slow trip with our caravan, but no problems. We lowered tyre pressures all round, car and caravan, and had a much more enjoyable gravel road experience…
The Terry family own Robin Hood station and provide access to tours on and around the gorge. Funnily enough, they had always swum in a local waterhole but hadn’t realised it was fed by this beautiful gorge. It wasn’t discovered until 1994 when one of the sons went exploring in a dinghy!
The rest as they say is history, and the whole experience was very pleasant – think real outback, dusty roads, hot temperatures … and contrast this with an infinity pool overlooking tall gum trees, a great bar and really skilled staff and guides. As well the caravan park was very quiet with a lot of bird life and trees.
Bar Cobbold 4
Cobbold 2
The 3 hour tour started with a bush walk and our tour guide Alex spoke about the local plants and their various uses by local Aboriginal people – fascinating, and subtly different to what we know from living in the Kimberley region.
Cobbold gorge 1
Cobbold gorge 7
Gidji-gidji berries
Cobbold gorge 5
The grave of John Corbett was near the banks of the Robertson River. His gravestone reads that he had been “murdered by blacks” but in retrospect it is far more likely that he was set up and murdered by one or more Europeans after his gold. However the blame was laid on the local Aboriginal people and the authorities killed many men, women and children in what was described as a  ‘meritous retribution’. A chilling story.
Grave Cobbold 1
Grave Cobbold 2
A visit to the butterfly caves was a great chance to see a multitude of the Common Crow or oleander butterflies hovering all around us – such beautiful creatures.
Next was our trip up the very narrow gorge in an electric pontoon about 6 foot wide. As it was so quiet we were able to sneak up on Clyde the Freshwater Crocodile, sunning himself!
Cobbold gorge 6
And the very pretty green tree snake making himself scarce…
Green tree snake 1 Green tree snake 2
The good news is that both Undara and Cobbold Gorge can be visited without 4WD access or even a vehicle! We met several people who had travelled from Cairns on the Savannah Lander, an amazing outback train tour coordinating tours with all these interesting places. Great for overseas visitors, or anyone who is a bit over being on the road….
The turn off to both Cobbold Gorge and the Undara Lava Tubes are from the Savannah Way, the highway that crosses northern Australia from Cairns to Broome. This is on our soon ‘to do’ list of trips… Maybe next year or 2016. Watch this space.
We would love to hear from anyone who has done this trip…

The Undara Experience!

We deviated from the Great Inland Way west to the Savannah Way to visit the Undara Lava Tubes as this trip had been highly recommended by the locals.
Back in 2008, we saw the ongoing lava flows on Big Island in Hawaii that ooze out to the sea creating huge steam plumes – very spectacular and basically what happened to form the lava tubes at Undara. The tubes are formed when a lava flow melts (1200C or more) the surrounding rock and then a crust forms of cooling lava over the liquid river… In Undara this happened thousands of years ago.
Lava tube 7
Our guided tour through these lava ‘tubes’ which were formed by one of the Earth’s longest lava flows was fascinating as we explored the beautiful underground caves and their very colourful rock formations. The entrance to these is where the tube roof has collapsed in places. These collapses are plainly visible from above as they have vegetation growing in them which has been spared the periodic fire that the plain above has experienced.
Lava tube 1
Lava tube 3
Lava tube 8
These ancient volcanic rocks cooled under different pressures – the scoria was full of gas and frothed like the head on a good Guinness whereas the granite was formed under intense pressure and now is as hard as a …rock really!
Undara 5
The nearby Kalkani Crater was a more traditional ‘fountain’ volcano and we walked up to the top and around the rim. This huge hollow is home to many birds and several species of wallabies that were new to us.
Undara 3 Rock walaby 2
Undara has many types of accommodation and tours and is the venue for the two annual music events; Opera in the Outback’ and the Outback Rock and Blues concert – what a magical place to visit!

Charters Towers

We immediately felt ‘at home’ in Charters Towers as the beautiful sub-tropical plants, trees and birds reminded us so much of living in Broome on the opposite coast of Australia – very similar sights, sounds and smells.

Charters Towers 1

The town is well laid out, with wide streets and magnificent buildings preserved on Gill and Mosman Street; for example the regional Stock Exchange which operated during the gold boom in 1870-90, the original (huge) post office and the Gentlemen’s Club. Some lovely examples of the iconic ‘Queenslanders’ – those unique houses on stilts that Queensland is renown for…

Charters Towers composite 1

Charters Towers composite 2

Charters Towers composite 3

At the Towers Hill lookout we had a great view of the town and enjoyed the story boards about the gold rush. Jupiter, a young Aboriginal boy, was first to see the bright glimmer of gold in a stream when he was searching for horses spooked by a thunderstorm. The gold was initially processed with the pyrites method and later with cyanide. Not an easy way to make a living and so many tragic stories.

The long mining history is well recorded at the Zara Clark museum. One of the interesting items on show was an aerial photograph about 2 metres long of the town and surrounding area with the underground mine workings overlaid… Hundreds of kilometres of them! The deepest shaft is 2960 feet deep. There were some interesting WWII items on display including pieces of a Curtis P-40 with the details of the pilot and his successes…

Charters Towers 10a

The regional beef industry gives the town two strings to its bow and helps the community to survive the ups and downs of both industries. This is definitely cattle (beef) country. We have seen many herds of them especially when we entered Queensland. Quite a few different types – the Brahman cross seem to be dominant in the far north as they are on the west coast. They are able to handle the tropics better than other breeds. The beef we have sampled has been beautiful and the steak Ian had in Irish Mollie’s pub was to die for…

Charters Towers 11

We enjoyed our stay in the Big 4 Outback Oasis; lovely shaded caravan sites, Country and Western music one night and pizzas cooking in their big wood-fired oven. An impressive spot, and a great town to visit. Next stop – the lava tubes at Undara!