Friday 28th February – Day trip from Cairns
– Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge & Daintree
Rented a car for the next 5 days and headed north up the
Captain Cook Highway. After about 25 kms we stopped off at
a wonderful beach, with a huge expanse of totally deserted
sand, palm trees, a couple of islands on the horizon, and
some very colourful bugs and beetles on the trees. There was
also a massive spider lurking in the vinegar dispenser –
vinegar is available on the beaches here for treating jellyfish
We continued north to Port Douglas – an attractive
small town where we had lunch. The mackerel and chips were
delicious but it was not the sort of mackerel I’m used
to back home, this was a white fleshy flat fish.
From here we went to Mossman Gorge. This is a lovely area
of tropical rainforest with a wide river flowing through it
– wonderful scenery and with the addition of a heavy
shower whilst in the rainforest this was a great experience.
The forest literally steams after the rain. There were quite
a few people here, due to the easy accessibility by car but
it’s a big area and most people flocked to the pool
in the river that was nearest to the car park. The temperature
throughout the day was around 30-32°C, so it felt extremely
humid in the rainforest.
This area is also a massive sugar-cane growing region, and
dotted between the cane are many banana plantations. Next
we headed further north to Daintree Village – this was
the furthest north in Australia that we reached (16°14.979
N, 145°19.110 E). This is a tiny, but very picturesque,
village where the general shop is the post office and the
pub, and signs warn against swimming in the river due to crocodiles!
After sitting out yet another torrential downpour we set off
back to Cairns.
Saturday 1st March – Cairns to Townsville
Today we drove south along the Bruce Highway until we reached
Mission Beach (a few kms detour off the main highway). We
drove through some lovely scenery, with tropically-forested
mountains south of Cairns and wide plains of sugar cane in
between. We had a good look at some of the bananas growing
alongside the highway too. The recent rains mean that everything
is stunningly green along this route. After the turn-off to
Mission Beach we saw dense rainforest and masses of signs
warning of cassowaries (there are only 1,200 of these birds
left and they don’t want you to run over any!)
Mission Beach was beautiful, but scorching hot. The temperature
was around 35°C and the beach was deserted. In fact the
whole town was deserted – we found out that most people
go away at this time of year due to the intense heat. Furthermore
it’s the worst time for jellyfish (“stinger season”)
so nobody swims in the sea unless they have a stinger suit
or a deathwish. We collected some pieces of dead coral from
the beach, then set off south again.
As we drove we could see a huge dark storm ahead and realised
we would be heading into torrential rain. The last few minutes
before we hit the storm the light was incredible – bright
green fields and black horizon. Driving through the storm
was difficult and visibility was only a few metres. Eventually
we arrived in Townsville about 1800 and checked into our hostel
- the very friendly Globetrotters Backpackers. Whilst in the
TV room, one of the loudest thunderstorms I’ve ever
experienced came overhead. The lightning and thunder were
simultaneous and the rain came down in bucketfuls. Australia
is not meant to be like this!
Sunday 2nd March – Day trip to Magnetic Island,
then drive to Bowen in the evening
Took the ferry across to Picnic Bay on Magnetic Island –
a fast catamaran doing the trip in about 30 minutes from Townsville.
On arrival at Picnic Bay a bus was waiting to take people
to Maggies Hostel at Horseshoe Bay. Fortunately the eccentric
“Captain” Daniel was happy to transport us too
in his psychedelic purple bus, for $4 each. We got the benefit
of a guided tour of the route to Horseshoe Bay. He also stopped
off to show us a Koala fairly high up in a tree that he had
seen earlier – first one I’ve seen! On arrival
at Maggies we told him we wanted to do the hike up to the
old forts, so he drove us up to the start of the path in his
truck – he was a real character and very friendly.
The hike up to the forts was extremely hot, but there were
beautiful views down onto the beaches and across to other
islands. The majority of the trees were eucalyptus - a wonderful
smell - with a few tropical plants mixed in. Once up at the
fort the views were superb – the mainland and other
nearby islands were silhouettes on the horizon. It was a real
gem of a place. We noticed an abundance of fungi growing all
over the island – seemed quite surprising as the climate
is normally so hot and dry, but the recent rains must have
helped them grow.
We walked all the way down to the Wildlife Park at Horseshoe
Bay (a hell of a walk on such a hot day) - entry fees go towards
looking after the orphaned koalas and kangaroos. The woman
running the place gave us a wonderful opportunity to stroke
the kangaroos and hold the koalas – we were the only
people there, so were treated like royalty. They also have
a large pig, a wombat, several talking white sulphur crested
cockatoos (saying “Hello Darling” mainly!) and
a goose that was determined to bite me but never quite managed
We walked back to Horseshoe Bay, seeing a lot of black cockatoos
(with beautiful red & yellow tail feathers) in the trees.
Along the beach bumped into “Captain” Daniel again,
who gave us a free ride in his purple bus back to the ferry
which took us back to Townsville. It didn’t rain all
day, and the breeze on the island was most welcome as the
temperature was in the 30’s in any sheltered spot.
Then drove the 218 kms south along the highway to Bowen –
fortunately the weather was good and the road almost deserted.
Checked into Barnacles Backpackers – really a workers
hostel, but as there’s no-one around at this time of
year we had the place to ourselves, apart from one other guy.
Cheap but not recommended.
Monday 3rd March – Bowen to Mackay
Drove straight to Airlie Beach, about 85 kms south, arriving
before 9 a.m. Unfortunately the weather was still poor, and
we discovered many tours to the Whitsunday Islands had been
cancelled, so with that in mind we decided not to pursue our
intentions of visiting the islands. People told us it had
been raining for the last 6 days which is very rare. In the
past week they have had the most rain in the last 2 years!
Despite the poor weather, it didn’t actually rain too
much whilst we were in Airlie Beach, but there were very strong
winds. The views of the islands were still beautiful but we
will have to visit them another year.
In the afternoon we continued to drive south until we reached
Mackay mid-afternoon – a smallish one-horse town (the
horse has gone away) but we booked into the McGuire Hotel
which is centrally located. It rained more, so we used the
afternoon doing such exciting things as having a pint of Guinness
in an Irish pub, sampling the aftershaves in the local pharmacy
and checking out the Businesses for Sale. You could get a
Sugar Cane Farm (with or without cattle) – no price
– a skip hire business, or even a concrete lorry ($190,000).
Tempting. Everywhere seemed to shut at 5 p.m. Yes we were
bored. This is not a place that needs re-visiting!
In the evening went out for a pub meal and a drink at probably
the liveliest bar in town – however it was not very
Tuesday 4th March – Mackay to Yeppoon
Set off southwards about 10.00 a.m. Weather was grey but
still warm (27°C) and our first stop was Marlborough,
a very small town with one shop, one hotel and a museum. Visited
the museum which was pretty small then had some food at the
convenience store – it was like going back in time 30
years – they sold everything but mostly there were only
one or two of each item on the shelves.
We continued on until we reached the Capricorn
caves about 25 kms north of Rockhampton. Went on the
one-hour guided tour which was excellent – these are
the largest privately-owned caves in Australia and were discovered
in 1882. There are many fig tree roots growing down into the
caves and many bats – all very small – flying
through the caves. The “cathedral” is the largest
of the caves and has amazing acoustics. People even come here
for marriage ceremonies and they have installed several rows
of pews in the cave. Another cave has a natural hole looking
straight up, through which the sun shines directly for 30
minutes on 22nd December, as the caves are exactly on the
Tropic of Capricorn.
Then drove to Yeppoon where we are staying with some old
friends of ManLan's in their lovely house in the hills overlooking
the town and the beach.
Wednesday 5th March – Yeppoon
A lovely blue sky day at last, with a nice breeze. Visited
Cooberrie wildlife park where we were able to feed kangaroos
– masses of them. Some had young in their pouches too.
They also had cassowaries, crocodiles, emus, snakes, a variety
of ducks, chickens, peacocks, a wombat, cockatoos and more.
We were mobbed by the kangaroos who seemed hungry! Again,
we were the only people here so we had all the animals to
In the afternoon we went to Emu Park, a town along the coast,
where we saw (and heard) the singing ship – a structure
that hums in the breeze. Next we drove to our friends' orchard
– a massive expanse of mango, paw paw, logan and other
fruit trees. We picked a lot of fruit and returned to the
Spent the latter part of the afternoon swimming in their
pool and chilling out. The views from their house are wonderful
and it’s such a peaceful spot with only the sounds of
birds and insects.
Thursday 6th March – Rockhampton to Sydney
Went to Rockhampton in the morning and visited the zoo &
botanic gardens. The zoo is free yet has a good variety of
interesting animals. The botanic gardens were very pleasant
and have some incredibly tall palm trees as well as an unbelievable
sausage tree (kigelia pinnata) plus many other beautiful plants.
Went to the airport at 1400 (ManLan is staying with her friends
until Monday) and I caught my flight to Sydney on a Qantas
Link 717. The views around Rockhampton were unusual due to
the recent rains – many flooded fields could be seen
below. Had a great view of Sydney – Harbour Bridge &
Opera House – as we flew in. Landed at 1715 (1 hour
ahead of Queensland time) and caught the train to Milsons
Point, where my good old friends from England met me. Had
cold beers on their balcony on arrival and enjoyed the fantastic
views over the Harbour Bridge and the city.
Back to: Week 2 (Fri 21st - Thu 27th
Forward to: Week 4 (Fri 7th Mar - Thu