16-17 Nov – Paluma Range – Jourama Falls

We got back on the Bruce Highway and headed south towards Paluma Range. Our first detour was up the steep, winding road to Wallaman Falls which holds the title of the highest single-drop waterfall in Australia. The road was challenging enough but more cyclone damage has some major roadworks going on up there to stablise the road – some serious engineering, daring earthworks on the edge of the cliff and a flow of cement trucks. The views out on the drive up the mountain are spectacular but we’re here with a large smokey bushfire burning just across the valley and the views are through a haze.

Wallaman Falls !

Wallaman Falls was also viewed through the haze and with little water coming down the creek, the falls were pretty ordinary with what was coming over turning to a mist that you could only just see raining down in the pool at the bottom. The camping and picnic areas were really ordinary too and we were glad we hadn’t planned to stay up here. Instead we did the two short walks and on a clearer day with more water it would be a spectacular gorge and waterfall to appreciate.

Jourama Falls (2)

We wound our way back down the mountain and back through the herds of cattle that were grazing along the roadside (and standing in the middle of the road) and set a course for the beautiful Crystal Creek swimming holes. The first stop was Paradise Pool which is a large clear swimming hole which we managed to arrive at in a lull of visitors and swimmers. We had a float around to cool off and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings before the lull subsided and the place quickly filled with people for a hot Friday afternoon of beers and swimming.

Crystal Creek

We looked at the camping options here but it was the weekend and it was going to be hectic in the small campground. There are orchards adjoining the national park and an honesty stall had lots of different fruits – we went for their lychees which were delicious.

Crystal Creek-Fruit Stall

We opted to drive back to another section of the national park near Jourama Falls and found an empty campground which is another great spot. Open and grassy with shady trees and resident Noisy Pittas – we decided this was a great place to spend a night or two. The walk into the creek and the falls is easy to start with but then there’s a choice to either stop for a swim down near the creek or head up the steep track to the two lookouts near the waterfall. We decided to get to the lookouts first and then get down to the creek for a swim to cool off.

Definitely worthwhile and would be great in the wet when a good flow is surging over – but it still has a good enough flow to make it worth the walk. Down in the creek you can just wander along and find your own swimming hole. We had a nice one which the boys loved because the rocks were so slippery they could slide down into the water. The bonus at the campsite was a cold shower which was perfect to rinse off.

Jourama Falls

Further upstream of the Paradise Pool is the Rockslides which are amazing fun – we got there early and after a short walk reached the pools and natural waterslides which are surprisingly slippery. An adult would walk away a bit bruised and battered but the boys just kept going undeterred by the growing rips and tears in their shorts!

13-15 Nov – Abergowrie – Ingham

We departed Tully Gorge and pointed south down the highway. The Hinchinbrook area is very scenic – both the huge Hinchinbrook Island that is only just separated from the mainland by a narrow channel – as well as the lush mountain ranges in the background to the west. We stopped in  at the highway town of Cardwell which is right on the water. A stroll on the jetty was worthwhile as we saw a man catch a small hammerhead shark and even helped by taking a photo on his phone for him.

Caldwell Jetty

The information centre was great with very helpful friendly staff who weren’t trying to sell skydiving or island cruises like many of the visitor information centres seem to be focused on these days. Their best tip was the local op-shop that has lots of books for 50c so we stopped in to those very nice folk and picked up four books to keep us going – Lach’s choices were “Hiding Out” by Elizabeth Laird and “Come Danger, Come Darkness” by Ruth Park. Amy tried to pay the $2 but the 50c book deal is actually 50c for as many books as you carry away with you. If you are ever passing through it’s worth a stop in to browse the books and grab a 20c jaffle maker or 10c toaster while you’re there.

Tyto Wetland

The highway winds up and over the Cardwell Range with a spectacular lookout just off the road. The main lookout that most people hop out of their cars for is terrible with huge powerlines right in the centre of the view but make sure you do the short 100 metre walk to a higher lookout which is much better with uninterrupted views across the turquoise waters, dense mangrove creeks and main channel of Hinchinbrook Island.

Hinchinbrook View (2)

The climate or at least the weather conditions seem to change instantly as you travel over the range. It definitely feels like we are leaving the wet tropics behind. We decided to head out to the Broadwater campground in Abergowrie State Forest to base ourselves for a few days. Another pleasant drive through the sugarcane farms with the green hills as the backdrop. The cane harvest is in full swing here too and it pays to be alert for the cool little cane trains which criss-cross the roads – the major roads have flashing lights at the train crossings but the smaller country roads are where you need to be on the lookout as the small locomotives come trundling along with 10 or 20 cages full of cane trailing along behind. The funniest was in the hustling, bustling little town of Ingham where the cane trains honk their way through the main streets with everyone expected to give way – cane is king around here!

Sugar Cane Train

Abergowrie State Forest was quite obviously trashed by a cyclone with just about all of the pine plantation which you drive through on the way out to the campground having been flattened. It turns out the area was in the eye of Cyclone Yasi in 2011 and there are some amazing photos of the destruction which the national parks people have put up on the information boards. The campground is looking great now – but there was some serious chainsawing required and there are photos of the army setting up camp here to spend days clearing the mess of fallen trees and damaged boardwalks. There’s a beautiful creek which has a top swimming hole complete with a small platform and ladder for access.

Broadwater Swimming

The downside was the occurrence of Bullrout stonefish which have spines that inflict extreme pain if stepped on – they occur in many coastal streams but for some reason there were multiple warning signs here and we wore sandshoes while swimming to minimize the chance of an unwanted encounter. Cam and Josh spotted the unmistakable ripple of a platypus early one morning and as it swam closer towards them it was sure to be a great photo – a great photo of a turtle as it turned out – you know, foggy morning, mist rising off the water, just waking up etc!

Broadwaater Turtle

The turtle was one of about ten residents that swam to the swimming platform as soon as anyone arrived – hoping for a feed. The campground was empty except for one other couple who started out miles away and then the next morning moved right over near us – acres of open grassy camping and we ended up 30 metres away from each other! But they were quiet, just wanted the same shady spot we had and we ended up being able to have a good chat (except the bloke spoke no English at all) and shared maps and information on places to go and spots to camp. There’s a short walk along a fairly new (rebuilt post-Yasi) boardwalk and there’s a great fig tree which attracts lots of birds.

We used the camp as a base to explore the Ingham region (really it was just taking Josh for a drive so he could go train-spotting for cane trains – Amy is trying to get it through to him that being a cane train driver is not a sensible career change). We poked in at all the little beachside villages along the coast Lucinda, Taylor’s beach and Forest Beach.

We had a fish burger and chips at the small Lucinda store which has views out to Hinchinbrook Island and along the massive jetty that gets the sugar out to the waiting ships – this is a serious jetty at 5.6km long – it disappears out to sea!

Lucinda Jetty

In town the visitor information centre is also the entrance to the Tyto Wetlands which are a great mix of wetlands, raised boardwalks, and trails through different habitats with lots of birds and turtles.

Back at the campground, the highlight was the Noisy Pittas which hopped around the camp – they would be a metre away from our tent in the mornings and it was pretty cool to watch them get about their day flashing their spectacular colours – yellows and reds and greens. The campground gets a big thumbs up from us – heaps of space, nice swimming, good facilities with gas bbqs, water taps spread around and a cold shower to cool off as well.

Bird- Broadwater (3)

10-12 Nov – Tully Gorge

There was some heavier rain overnight and a few of the backpackers in the flimsy little tents that they get given got soaked – we had tried to be helpful by lending them our mallet to get the pegs into the hard ground but that doesn’t solve the problem of their tent not being waterproof in any way. We had another swim and hit the road.

Mission Beach- Umbrella Palm

We passed through Innisfail for some shopping and headed for Tully Gorge. The campground is a pretty large open grassy areas with a few nooks in amongst the rainforest. There’s an outdoor shower with walls but no roof and the cold water is the perfect temperature to refresh. The swimming situation is a bit confusing – a lot of warnings and signs about estuarine crocodiles but then tour groups come for whitewater rafting and snorkeling and don’t seem to be concerned. We decided to find a nice section of rapids with big rocks and just enough of water for a dip (but not enough for a croc to be hiding).

Tully Gorge (3)

From near our tent site, a short walk wound through the rainforest with the focus on butterflies – every 100metres would be another information sign talking about a different butterfly and it’s ecology. We’ve been seeing so many butterflies lately that it was a good overview of all the different species.

Tully Gorge (4)

Who would have thought that it might rain overnight while we are staying at the wettest point in Australia? This place absolutely cops the precipitation so we were lucky to get away with some drizzle. We did a day trip down to the coast but found a good back road that took us across to Murray Falls first.

Tully Gorge (6)

This was a great little drive through a very disused road that eventually popped out into the huge banana farms mixed with sugar cane and cattle grazing properties. But the bananas are just on a different scale – there’s semi-trailer after semi-trailer coming out full of bananas. Murray Falls is nice – no swimming except for downstream, beautiful campground and nice lookouts only a short stroll along the boardwalk.


We got down to the coast and visited Mission Beach – South Mission Beach was probably the pick of the real estate with some nice beachfront houses with their infinity pools overlooking the water. We stopped and had lunch in the main strip of Mission Beach which you could tell would be a happening place many nights a week with small cafes, bars and restaurants. We stopped in at the main Cassowary conservation headquarters – Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation or “C4” – and had a good look through their information about all the work they are doing for the big birds.

Tully Gorge (2)

One small walk we did through a beautiful palm forest even had a Cassowary-proof enclosure for people to have their picnics without being harassed by Cassowaries – we got excited that we might get another sighting but it wasn’t to be. There are lots of official roadsigns regarding Cassowaries, where they cross, telling people to slow down, to not stop or get out of their cars. But the great thing was the homemade signs that people put out to get people to slow down or to let drivers know there was has been recent Cassowary activity in the area – they are very fond of their Cassowaries around here!

Mission Beach- Cam found the eggs!

We poured our emergency spare 20litres of diesel into the fuel tank and emptied out a couple of jerry cans of water that we’d also stashed away up the back of the ute in case of need – we tried to justify that we were just freeing up some weight but the reality is we are entering the final six weeks of our trip with less chance of us needing back-up supplies.

Tully Gorge Camp

9 Nov – Babinda Boulders

We wound our way down the mountains to the lowlands of Innisfail where the sugarcane started again. We headed up the highway to Babinda hoping for a swim at The Boulders which is a great Creekside recreation area.

Babinda Boulders- swimming hole

The main swimming hole is nice and refreshing and there are some walks that take you to some spectacular lookouts over the gorges and waterfalls which were pretty tame at the moment but would be raging when the rains and storms come.

Babinda Boulders (3)

We camped at a small free camping area within walking distance of the creek and there was also a good playground for the boys to have some fun on as well. For some reason we broke one of our rules of not staying in these highly promoted, easy-access, free-camping sites and the area quickly went from about six campers to about 25.

Babinda Boulders (2)

The permanent residents were the bush stone curlews, this time instead of eggs mum and dad were looking after a (very cute) baby curlew which seemed to be hanging around our camp. It was great for the boys to see.

For all our dislike of backpackers and their disrespectful , space-invading and loud behaviour, it was Australian campers who managed to ruin the whole camp for everyone – two blokes in a commodore – absolute loonies who looked like they’d just escaped from jail. We couldn’t pack up fast enough and we weren’t the only ones who were glad to be leaving the next morning!

Babinda Boulders

8 Nov– Misty Mountains – South Johnstone River

As we departed the Atherton Tableland we stopped at a few spots on the way. First was Hasties Swamp which had lots of birds – nothing we saw was a remarkable addition to our bird list but the interesting feature here is the two-storey bird hide – still not sure why there was a need to construct a high-rise viewing structure but it’s unique.

We also decided to have another go at tree kanagaroo spotting in Wongabel State Forest but the walk we did was pretty quiet. Next stop was Milla Milla Falls which are considered to be one of the most picturesque waterfalls. It was nice but busy with backpackers and tourist buses and we decided to skip the tourist drive that loops around past a few more waterfalls.

Milla Milla Falls (2)

Just as the highway starts winding down to the coastal flats of Innisfail, there’s a nice picnic and camping spot called Henrietta Creek where we stopped for some lunch. As we stepped out of the car a swarm of march flies hit us and did they bite with some ferocity! There were hundreds. We ate quick, walked a few hundred metres down a track to the creek, had a quick swim but then gave up and got back in the car – as nice as the campsite looked we weren’t hanging around with these bities.

Henrietta Creek

Just down the highway, a sign points off into the bush to Misty Mountains – it’s not immediately clear what that is but we knew there was a campsite about 12kms in which was unlikely to be frequented by the backpackers which we knew were going to flood the camp where we had just had lunch. It was a steep, winding 12kms and probably took about 45minutes but it was a beautiful drive through rainforest and across crystal clear creeks.

Misty Mountain dragonfly

The campsite was small but no one else was around. There’s a small besser block forestry hut with a water tap fed from the river and the campground has some picnic tables and good sized shelters. Unfortunately, the march flies were there to greet us – we must’ve passed through a climatic boundary as we left the higher elevations of the Atherton Tablelands and these nasty, hurtful, sneaky flies are in plaque proportions. The camp is in the middle of the Misty Mountains rainforest – probably one of the most remote areas of wet tropics rainforest you can drive to.

Misty Mountain (2)

As we tried to take a photo of a brilliant blue Ulysses butterfly erratically flapping through the camp, we somehow failed to notice the Cassowary that was 30metres away from us busily pecking up some blue fruits that had fallen to the ground. We tried to snap some photos before it walked off into the bush and fortunately we got a good look as it looped around and came through the campsite only 20metres away from us. Pretty stoked with that sighting – we were all very excited.

Misty Mountain- Cassowary

The other highlights were the rainforest pigeons that were everywhere, fireflies during the evening and swimming in the pristine South Johnstone River – probably one of the most relaxing family swims we’ve had – perfect temperature, beautiful spot and nice river sand beach.

Misty Mountain

That brings us to the rain – it’s called the Misty Mountains for a reason – mostly you can’t see the mountains because they are shrouded in fog – or in this case – drizzly rain. It just came in during the night and then continued to drizzle the next morning. We were fortunate to have the large picnic shelters where we could dry the tent so it didn’t have to be rolled up damp. The positive, of course, is that the rainforest looks its best when it’s wet and misty and all the wildlife is out. We only stayed one night and the drive out was just as enjoyable as on the way in.

Bird- Misty Mountain


2- 7 Nov – Atherton Tableland

Leaving Speewah and Cairns behind, we headed west through Mareeba again and then south towards Atherton to spend some time exploring the Atherton Tableland. The best option we decided was to head out to Tinaroo Dam and set up for a few days while doing day trips to all the places we wanted to see.

Tinaroo Dam Camp

The dam is big and there are various campgrounds spread around catering for hundreds of people as the dam is popular with locals for fishing, boating and water-skiing. It was a Friday and we hoped we were getting in early enough to find a nice, quiet, out-of-the-way spot from any crowds or partying.

Bird- Tinaroo Dam (2)

The first warning sign that the locals might be a bit wild on weekends came when we had to lend our phone to a bloke who had just crashed his car into an embankment and wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry – actually, it turned out it wasn’t his car at all and he was in all sorts of trouble when the real owner found out the extent of the front-end damage. The “mob of kangaroos” he had swerved to miss weren’t there when we got there and his mates didn’t have the same marsupial-based version of events as the driver – explaining that the weight of the all the grog in the boot – being taken out to the dam for a big party tonight – had made the back of the car swing out as they came around a corner. The fish-tailing that they had been doing was evident all along the road and they were desperate to get the car out of sight asap before the constabulary happened to drive by and draw the same conclusions we had. Anyway, we asked where they were “camping” (aka partying) and struck that site off our list – we did feel sorry for the driver though who was in shock, looked a bit bruised and confused and worst of all…it was his birthday…and his party tonight!!

Tinaroo Dam- Pelicans

We checked a few campgrounds but decided on Downfall Creek which was big and had a nice flat high spot with nice views where we could set up. Within hours we were being inundated with cars and a large group with fishing boats and probably around eight cars set up near us.

Bird- Tinaroo

In the end they weren’t too bad. They did kick on around the fire til pretty late (or early) but they also wanted to get up early to get out fishing so they didn’t go over the top. We bought a yabby trap to try and catch some redclaw which all the tourist information says are in huge numbers here but we didn’t catch any and, surprise, surprise, no one else seemed to be tapping into the vast redclaw stocks of the dam either.

Tinaroo Rainforest Walk

From Tinaroo we did various day trips – the first was around the dam itself where we could stop in at the different campsites and see what they were like. A huge old Strangler Fig tree called the Cathedral Fig is only a short walk in on a boardwalk.

There are various volcanic features such as crater lakes which we could easily access as well.

Tinaroo- Volcanic Lake

We spotted cute Musky Rat Kangaroos in the rainforest along with the White tail rats notorious for destroying any electrical wires they can find to chew on under your car bonnet!

Musky Rat Kangaroo

There were lots of turtles in the dam and one came up looking for a nest site – only to find much of the campground was compacted. The boys monitored it’s movements and made sure it wasn’t run over by the growing traffic through the campground. We even got the shovel and loosened up some soil to help out.

The Bush-stone Curlews are in good numbers and added their screaming to the massive chorus of other birds including the huge number of waterbirds. An amazing phenomenon we watched was a flock of about 40 pelicans working with a flock of possibly 100 or more cormorants and together they circled themselves into a swirling mass of black and white birds – some splashing the water and some diving – eventually herding whatever fish they were chasing into the right spot where they landed and feasted on the trapped food. It was an absolute frenzy and then after five minutes everything went quiet.

Tinaroo Dam- feeding cyclone

The next creek along from our campsite was a beaut little spot called Kauri Creek which had a small, crystal clear steam with a nice grassy bank to sit on and watch the boys play. The other great swimming spot was at Lake Eacham which is a crater lake that only fills with rainwater and it is so clean and clear that there were even some scuba divers going in for an explore while we were there swimming.

Eacham- swimming

There was a big fig tree we sat under for shade and the were some great birds like the Double-eyed Fig Parrot to watch.

Bird- Fig Parrot (2)

Lake Barrine is the other crater lake nearby and we did a short rainforest walk that passed by the giant twin Kauri trees which have been growing away quietly for a few hundred years.

Twin Kauris

The little village of Yungaburra was a highlight with a small platypus viewing area constructed on the main creek through town.

Yungaburra Platupus

There wasn’t much happening in that little pool so we found the walking track that sneaks off under the road bridge and off along the creek. Amy was lucky enough to spot a platypus swimming across the creek but it was a fleeting glimpse and it wouldn’t stick it’s bill up again once we were all in our platypus-spectator positions.

Bird- Eacham

Not much further along the creek, however, and as we crossed a small suspension bridge we found two tree kanagaroos sitting quietly and because we were up five metres on the bridge, they were at eye level so we got a great view. They are Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos and are fairly rare as their rainforest habitat is damaged and they get hit by cars as they move between patches of bushland. We were pretty happy to have spotted these two while not even looking or expecting them to be here!

The boys had spotted the ‘pick-your-own’ strawberry farm from a mile away and somehow we had managed to drive past about five times before we had to stop in and have a go. There were still some nice fat strawberries in the field being so late in the season and we picked two punnets. Then – hot and exhausted from our six minutes of fruit picking – we sat in the shade and had strawberry ice cream and sorbet. All in all we had a great time on the Atherton Tableland – it’s definitely a destination you need a good few days or a week to explore.


21 Oct-1st Nov – Cairns Coast & Hinterland

We left Noah Beach and got down to the Daintree River for our ferry ride across to the big, wide expanses of sugarcane country we could see across the river. The small cane trains on their small tracks were fun to spot.

We hit the coastal drive and stopped in at Port Douglas where the Sunday markets were in full swing and the moon was right for fresh prawns straight off the trawler.

Green Island- strictly one Tern per Buoy!

The drive along the coast to Cairns is spectacular as the road winds along the cliffs and beachfront. Being a Sunday, it was very busy with a non-stop stream of traffic both ways.

Cairns Lookout (2)

We pulled into Cairns and surprisingly easily located where we were staying for the week. Some shopping and the boys hit the pool for some tropical Queensland fun. Grandma and Pa are our special guests for a few days and we picked them up from the airport. Again, the airport was surprisingly close and easy to get to.

cairns 2

A day down on the foreshore esplanade was great with lots of playing at ‘muddies’ playground and a lazy swim in the waterfront lagoon. The birthday boy enjoyed a great lunch at one of the restaurants overlooking the marina.

Over the road from where we are staying is the Centenary Lakes parkland and a short walk through there brought us out into the botanic gardens which are pretty expansive – so much so I don’t think we ever had much of an idea where we were exactly but the amazing flowers, butterflies and orchids kept us fully engrossed.

We never made it to the visitor centre which is where we thought we were heading and we’d probably need another day to keep wandering around. Even though we’d ditched the tent for some second-storey, brick and tile accommodation, we still couldn’t help noticing a friarbird that had built a nest in the top of a palm level with our balcony. Over the days we watched the eggs being laid – four in total – and kept watch as the bird came and went and often just sat guard in a nearby tree leaving the nest open for us to see if any new eggs had been laid.We also had a special visit from a green friend!.

cairns 1

Grandma and Pa jetted back to Sydney – not before we had some great fish and chips and shared a dozen oysters – the boys’ newly acquired taste for oysters means a dozen doesn’t go far!

We spent a day cruising out to Green Island and had a great time snorkeling and exploring the small island.

The birds are interesting – the first Buff-banded Rail you see is exciting but by the time you leave the island you’ve seen about 800 – they are everywhere!

Buff Banded Rail

Underwater was great even if the coral is damaged and bleached – the fact that the fish, turtles, rays and sharks are still living is a positive. The highlights were a Black-tip Reef Shark which we got a good close up view of and we followed a turtle off the coral into a seagrass meadow and watched it casually grazing while we floated above only metres away.

But all the little fish, starfish and clams make it a fun spot to spend a few hours – and just a swim off the beach as well which the boys easily managed being the fish they are!

We also did a short glass-bottomed boat trip which was ok and got us out a bit deeper from the island but the commentary was average with the boat skipper not knowing much correct information.

Green Island- Glass bottom boat

We saw some bigger fish (which they feed to attract them in….) and a turtle but overall you could skip it and spend more time snorkeling.

Green Island fish6

We were tired by the time we did the return cruise to Cairns but still sat on the top open deck and watched the beautiful scenery of the islands and hinterland of Cairns.

Green Island all aboard

Another great day trip was the Skyrail from Cairns up into the ranges where there are two stop-over stations to hop out of the gondola carriages and do short walks to lookouts over the dense rainforest valleys and Barron River Gorge.

Skyrail excitement

The Skyrail finishes at the small village of Kuranda which is chockers with overseas tourists – we didn’t realise that this is such a “box-ticker” for so many people’s Australian tour – probably the huge number of international flights from so many countries direct in and out of Cairns boosts the numbers.

We pottered around the village but it was a very hot day so we sought refuge in the cool, sheltered beer garden and had a pub lunch.


To get back down the mountain to the coastal plains of Cairns we took the scenic train ride which is slow and surprisingly full of people – we had four very friendly Americans sitting opposite us on the bench seats and the lack of breeze had everyone sweating.

But there are very nice views at times and there is some interesting history around the construction and engineering of such an impossibly steep railway. Eventually we trundled through the back streets and level crossings of Cairns and hopped off.

Cairns Skyrail (10)

Once we’d had enough of staying in the big smoke, we shifted back into camping mode and booked a campsite at Speewah Nature Reserve up in the hinterland west of Cairns. The compact campground only had four defined campsites which were large and private and then a big open grassy area for more tents to be set up. We took up one of the campsites and hit the walking trail to explore the rainforest – the tracks go for miles – days of walking – in a few different directions and some people do the walks in sections while others do longer walks all in one go.

Speewah- bandicoot

We had one couple who camped for a night as they made their way trekking along the trails. A few others in cars and campervans came and went but overall it was pretty quiet for the five nights we stayed here. Quiet except for the Bush-stone Curlews which we absolutely love hearing but they went pretty hard on the all-night screaming here. The resident curlews were easy to spot as they secretly tip-toed around the campground. We even found a nest with two mottled eggs which was pretty cool but it was also while we were trying to have a school lesson on the phone so it was a tad distracting!

Speewah- Bush Stone CurlewSpeewah- Curlew eggs

The highlight on the bird front though – you can probably guess – was the Cassowary which we spotted three separate days while we were staying there – it would pop up out of the rainforest creek and forage along the edge of the campground before quickly disappearing back into the scrub. Good luck chasing it through the thick, nasty wait-a-while.

Misty Mountain Cassowary

One of our day trips while we were at Speewah was a bit of a back-track north to Mossman Gorge which Uncle Nick had given a rave review for swimming. We went inland to Mareeba and then north on the main highway zig-zagging down the steep range back to the coast.

Mossman Gorge (3)

The last two kilometres of the road to the gorge has been blocked off with a boom gate and you get funnelled into an information centre which doesn’t offer much unless you want a souvenir or coffee – but they then try and put you on a bus for the 90second drive to the end of the road for about $27.

Mossman Gorge (2)

The walk there takes 20 minutes through beautiful rainforest and nice views across the sugarcane to the green hills but they try and find all kinds of excuses for you to get on the bus! We declared it the most expensive bus trip in Australia and decided they were fleecing enough money from the unsuspecting tourists without us contributing so we took the walking option.

Mossman Gorge- cane train

It was good to see that others did too but the majority got on the buses. The gorge section we got to was more of an open boulder-strewn creek with a good flow coming through for the late dry season. We had a nice swim (the information centre also had a sign that said there was currently no swimming….but when asked why – maybe poor water quality – they said the sign always said that????).

The walk that we did up to the suspension bridge was worthwhile with kingfishers and Ulysses butterflies. We navigated through the cane trains that are busy during this harvest period and drove the coastal road back to Cairns and then up the Kuranda Range Road to our camp.

18-20 Oct – Daintree Rainforest – Noah Beach

The Bloomfield Track continued to be steep but we were ready for it now and just took it slow. It’s an incredibly scenic drive – if the first taste of the ancient, tall, dense Daintree rainforest isn’t enough then the ocean views from so high up in the ranges is sure to amaze!

Daintree Lookout

Towards the Cape Tribulation end is a nice crystal-clear creek crossing which is wide and deep enough to deter many non-4WD vehicles from attempting the track. We passed by Cape Tribulation and were immediately struck by the numbers of tourists, backpacker vans, full carparks and traffic.

Daintree (7)

Hoping our campsite was going to be different, calm, peaceful, private – we were a bit disappointed that our spot was still occupied – no problem that they were allowed to have time to pack up camp but there seemed to have been little to no progress on that front so far. The problem in these pre-booking campsites is that you can still show up and the ‘stealth campers’ will have taken the site you have booked and paid for…..awkward!

Daintree (10)

Anyway, we had plenty to explore so we drove off and did some nice walks through the coastal forests where the rainforest and mangroves blend.

Daintree (5)

The raised boardwalk at Maardja is good and offers protection from any angry Cassowaries that decide to attack – but at this stage we are desperate to see any Cassowary we can!

Thornton Beach was a good stop too with the light winds putting on a flat glassy ocean. We dawdled along the beach and spotted a shark hunting in the shallows. Back into the village and we found a new walk to do around the Dubuji boardwalk. A pair of Shining Flycatchers caught our eye in the mangroves and as we focused in for a photo a group of tourists stopped to look for the crocodile or cassowary that we must have spotted.

Then a tour guide with a dozen followers came along asking if there was a cassowary….we ducked and weaved and got out of there! Back to our campsite and we were slightly closer to moving in and evicting our squatters. It was pushing 2pm so we claimed some space and cooked up a sausage sizzle.

Eventually they left and we could officially move in for our three night stay. It was an awesome spot with a short track to the beautiful beach but rainforest shade at the campsite which was a very welcome refuge from the heat.

Out of the rainforest and we stopped at a tea plantation that was planted as a trial back in the ‘70s. A basic information shed gave a good overview of the history and processes and we bought a few packs of their Daintree Tea Company tea bags and loose leaf.

Daintree Tea Farm

The Jindalba boardwalk was our best hope for a Cassowary sighting and the adjacent picnic areas have many signs telling people not to feed or annoy the big birds so we were hopeful we were in the right spot. We got there early at about 7.30am before anyone else and did the boardwalk section – lots of other birds but not the target. A rougher and less used bush track leads off into the denser jungle and we decided to have a look along there.

Almost straightaway we were finding older Cassowary droppings and eventually some fresher piles.

Daintree Cassawarry poo

Lachie was the leading the search party along the walk when he spotted a big Cassowary on the track in front. We tried to snap some photos but the rainforest was so dark it was almost impossible to get a good shot. Then we noticed the juvenile Cassowary that was following along with its Dad – a big brown bird which was fantastic to see.

Cassawarry (2)

The most amazing thing was how we could watch them from the track as they browsed through the rainforest and they weren’t interested in us or scared in any way. They just pecked up fruit after fruit off the ground and gobbled them down whole. After about ten minutes they wandered into denser scrub and we couldn’t watch anymore. We tried the track again the next day as we driving past but didn’t have the same luck again.

Cassawarry chick eating fruitThe road from Cape Tribulation to the Daintree River winds up over steep headlands and then down onto long flat coastal stretches. The best lookout was Mt Alexander with spectacular views over the Daintree River estuary out to the coast. Back at Cape Tribulation there’s a small walk up to a lookout which is nice enough but busy.

Daintree Lookout (2)

Down on our beach, we fished in Noah Creek which had big fish zooming around but we were on a low tide which was the best excuse Josh could find for not getting even a small bite.

Daintree Starfish

Around a small headland we found a secret cove with a pretty stretch of beach – Captain Cook hadn’t seemed to record it so we named it Keating Beach. The pair of Beach Stone Curlews were the only others to have left some footprints.

Overall a great experience spending a few days here – nice campsite, beaut beach with awesome sunrises and sunsets and great short walks to see the Daintree up close – and the Cassowaries; did we mention the Cassowaries? Plural. Dad and young one. We saw two Cassowaries.

Daintree (5)

17 October – Bloomfield Track – Daintree rainforest

Firstly, happy birthday to GG Pat- the leader of the October birthday buddies, pulling off 103 years today- best wishes from the  JALC team we look forward to catching up to share some stories.

Katherine Gorge Flowers

We only got to the outskirts of Cooktown before we made the obligatory stop in at Keating’s Lagoon – apparently some early settlers who owned land around here. A short boardwalk and birdwatching platform provided a good overview of the site.

Keatings Lagoon

Spoonbills, lots of Magpie Geese, and a crocodile lazing on the muddy bank were some highlights.

Keatings Lagoon (7)

Not long after we were driving along shady roads with Daintree rainforest starting to take over. We got onto the Bloomfield Track which is 4WD only and we quickly realised why with very steep sections that needed slow ascents and very slow, low-range geared descents.

Bloomfield Track- Rainforest Camp (2)

But the rainforest is beautiful and some of the glimpses of the ocean were spectacular. The track is only pretty short – the whole drive from Cooktown to Cape tribulation is about 100kms – but it cuts directly through – otherwise it’s a long drive around the outside.

We decided to find a camp half way along and a small clearing away from the road did the job – it was probably a small roadworkers stockpile site and it was a prefect stopover for a night.

Bloomfield Track- Rainforest Camp

The first thing we noticed were the amazing bird calls – as usual pre-dawn was an incredible chorus. We were keen to get going the next morning and see our next campsite at Noah’s Beach.

Bird- Bloomfield Track

15-16 October – Elim Beach

Just north of Cooktown is the large Aboriginal town of Hopetown and after passing through there it’s only another 15 minutes to Elim Beach where local Elder, Eddie, runs a small beachfront campground – actually it’s a pretty big area but most people, as always, jostle for the prime beachfront campsites. As we arrived, we were lucky that they pointed out a day-tripper car and said that we should grab that when he leaves as it’s one of the best sites.

Elim Beach camp (2)

That we did and set up camp (on our best behaviour because the bloke swagging it next to us was the local cop from Hopetown). The rain had poured down here too and a small creek was flowing across the beach right in front of us.

Elim Beach

Teaming up with two other boys – Cooper and Darcy – our boys got busy with shovels to dam the creek – other kids got involved too and it was a lot of fun. Darcy and Cam shared the same birthday just a year apart and at one point our tent was converted into the campground cinema while they all piled in to watch movies on the laptop.

Elim Beach- kids building dams

The next morning, after spotting dolphins hunting in shallow water maybe a metre deep at most, we were captivated and couldn’t leave so we went back up to the house to pay for another night here.

We walked up the beach (you can drive if you want but watch the tides and soft spots!) to an area called the “coloured sands” which are a diverse mix of different colours and a walk takes you up through a small gorge with steep sand cliffs.

The boys  thought the highlight was the small rat they found that had been washed out of its home in the recent rain, although cute there was just no room in the car for a pet!

Elim Beach- Coloured Sands (5)

A massive sandy slope lets the kids release some energy while climbing up and tumbling down.

Elim Beach- Coloured Sands (13)

We eventually left Elim Beach with a good tip on a shortcut back to Cooktown known as the ‘Smugglers Run’ – with alcohol banned in Hopetown and car searches common – we guessed this track had some ulterior uses.

Elim Beach (6)