Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cairns to Bundaberg

Time to head towards Cairns!

It was a nice drive from Port Douglas towards Cairns, winding along the coast:

We stopped at a number of beaches along the way, including Palm Cove which is a popular holiday destination and quite touristy.

We managed to pick up a little friend along the way:

We drove to a town called Kuranda which was a detour about 12km off the main highway. Its a cute town nestled amongst the rainforest and famous for a variety of markets but these were all packing up by the time we arrived.

We headed for Barron Falls which were pretty cool:

We then continued on to Cairns and caught this view as we drove in:

We headed to the visitor centre and then checked in to a caravan park for the night. It appears there isn't a lot to do in Cairns - most of the activities and sights are further out from the city.

The next morning we headed to the Esplanade, passing some giant jelly babies along the way (Dr Who would have been mightily impressed!)

The Esplanade is quite nice to walk along with a nice marina:

However the city is "just another city" - nothing to hold us here so we got back in the car after lunch and continued south. We took a little detour towards a sign pointing to "The Boulders". We passed through a pleasant wee town called Babinda and arrived at The Boulders. This was one of those unexpected little treasures that are often stumbled upon. We had heard nothing about it but it was just beautiful - and there was a free campsite there too which we would most definately have stayed at if we were planning on hanging around.

We first went for a short stroll along a river which flowed along interesting rock formations:

And following this we went for a lovely swim in the river. A great spot definately recommended for anyone visiting the area.

We decided to continue on past Innisfail and veered off to the Old Bruce Highway and the Canecutter Way - a 50km or so tourist drive. We were heading for Paronella Park. This was voted No. 1 thing to do in Queensland and we were keen to check it out.

Jose Paronella arrived in Australia from Spain in 1913. He bought land in 1929 to build buildings and gardens for the public to enjoy. The buildings were all made from concrete and were a very impressive effort. He built a grand staircase, movie theatre, hall for balls and parties, tennis courts, fountains, and a refreshment room. He also built a hydro electric generating plant, powered by the waterfall in 1933. This provided the first electricity in North Queensland. The ground suffered many disasters from wet season floods, through to fires. Mark and Judy Evans purchased the land in 1993 and have done a magnificent job of restoring it. They aim to maintain it in its current state rather than try and recreate it as it was in its former days.

It costs about $30pp to enter the park but you can make this worth every penny if you stay at the caravan park for the night (included in cost), go on both the daytime and nightime tours and also give yourself a chance to explore the park at your own leisure.

We did the 4pm tour which took about 45 mins. We had a wonderful woman called Karen showing us around and there were only 4 people in the group, unlike the tours earlier in the day.

Fish and Turtle Feeding:

A couple of turtles just hanging out:

Refreshment Area:

The Grand Staircase next to the Picnic Area:

Aerial View of Picnic Area:

Later that night we met back for the night tour. This ended with a lighting up of the refreshment room with accompanying music:

In the morning we walked to the waterfall picnic area and cooked pancakes. What a great spot to start the day!

There were plenty of Brush Turkeys around:

The Theatre Room by daylight:

What is left of the great ballroom after a few floods and a fire:

Refreshment Room and Fountain:

"Kauri Avenue":


We most definately recommend this as a place to visit - if you do come, try and stay for at least a night to get the chance to fully explore. It is an incredible place built by a man with an amazing dream.

After our explorations we hopped back in the car and continued South. It was extremely smoky due to the bushfires around the place. We passed through Bingil Bay and Mission Beach. These look to be great places to relax for a couple of weeks but not so much what we were after in terms of sight-seeing. We briefly stopped at Hull Heads and Tully Heads but not much there. We drove down to Balgal Beach - a free spot recommended by someone. This was a beautiful spot - right on the beach. A great spot for fishing so we decided to hang there for two nights. There was a great, very popular small kiosk that did great, cheap hamburgers and fish and chips:

We spent the next day fishing and reading. It was great fun until the day we left and I realised I was covered head to toe in pesky sandfly bites. For some reason they seem to be drawn to me and I come up with big welts. Not pleasant and I spent the next couple of days driven crazy with the itching they caused. Of course Dave escaped unscathed.

The next morning we headed to Craig and Sharon's in Townsville who had kindly agreed to put us up for the night. (Craig is Dave's sister's husband's brother - phew!) We headed to their beautiful new home - very much a luxury after the van! After catching up for a bit we drove to the Castle Hill Lookout for a view over Townsville:

We were both amazed at the size of Townsville - much bigger than we'd expected and a lovely city too. We headed to the Esplanade for a walk along the beachfront. It was extremely windy which was a bit unfortunate but we were still able to see what a nice place it was.

Of course, where there's exercise equipment, Dave must have a go:

Just a tad windy:

There was a great free waterpark for the kids with a huge bucket that filled and tipped over everyone. Looked great!

That afternoon we headed back to Craig and Sharons for a swim, fantastic pasta dinner (thanks Sharon!) and a sleep in a real bed in air conditioned comfort. And not a sandfly in sight.

The next morning we headed for a lovely spot not far from their house by the river for breakfast. There was another great huge FREE swimming pool here - not something you'd see in Sydney! There was a big pool, lap pool and babies pool.

After a nice relaxing morning we headed back to the house to say goodbye. A Big thanks to Craig, Sharon, Cameron, Brendan and Nate for having us!

We continued on a journey South towards Bowen. The next morning we had a drive around the beaches surrounding Bowen, including Queen's Beach, Grays Bay, Horseshoe Bsy and Rose Bay. We drove up Flagstaff Hill to the Interpretive Centre:

It was pretty windy and we retreated inside for a coffee and great views of the beginning of the Whitsunday Islands:

We passed the giant mango:

(Apparently this caused a bit of a stir when it was erected as it is upside down).

We continued on to Airlie Beach to catch up with old footy friends of Dave's - Darren (Crozzer) and Michelle and their two kids - Ella and Jackson.

We had a quick catch up at their place and then headed into town with Michelle where we had a bit of a tour and booked into an Ocean Rafting tour. We had a few drinks and a BBQ for dinner and a good chance to catch up as it had been about 7 or 8 years since Dave had last seen them.

The next day Dave and I drove to Dingo Beach which was really lovely (although still windy!)

There was a great little pub which we had lunch at:

We spent the day exploring, checking out both Hydaway Bay and Cape Gloucester. We headed back to Darren and Michelle's for dinner watched Twilight (not as good as the book we thought!)

The next day was our Ocean Rafting Tour out to the Whitsundays. This was recommended to us by Michelle and it was a fantastic day out. It was a good alternative to a sailing trip which we had already done out to the Great Barrier Reef.

We left from Airlie Beach:

Our vessel for the day:

It's a pretty bumpy jet boat style ride and this was made even more so by the swell we had on the day! Our first stop after about an hours ride was Mantaray Bay on Hook Island for some snorkelling.

The water was a bit murkey due to the weather but it was still great. There was plenty of coral near the beach and we found ourselves surrounded by schools of fish. The highlight was the HUGE Maori Wrasse called Fat Albert which comes right up to the boat. He was a big boy!

The photo below shows the size of a Maori Wrasse - but unfortunately its not our picture as we didn't have an underwatercamera this time so I had to find one on the internet!

It is named a Maori Wrasse due to the tattoo-like markings on it face (not its big lips!)

After about an hour of snorkelling we headed to the Hill Inlet Lookout over Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. The views were spectacular:

Unfortunately I cracked my toe as I was walking to the lookout - it wasn't too sore to start with but I was paying for it the next day!

We then jetted off to Whitehaven Beach for lunch. The sand is pure white and so fine. You can give your jewellery a good polish too! the water was crystal clear and just gorgeous:

After lazing on the beach and haveing a swim we headed back to the marina. A great day - thoroughly recommend it.

We met back up with the Crozzers and headed out to Mexican for dinner.

Dave found a spot next to a typical Airlie beach parker:

The happy Family - Michelle and Darren with Ella and Jackson:

The next morning my toe was a bit more painful:

Before seeing Michelle and Darren off we wer lucky enough to be able to visit the new home they'd just bought - they had only just been handed the keys that morning and needless to say, they were very excited! Look at their view!

We headed off for Dave's free haircut by a trainee stylist, transforming him back into some semblance of normality.

We drove out of Airlie through Proserpine and West of Mackay to Eungalla National Park. We headed to Finch Hatton Gorge but passed on the walk due to my manky toe. We then drove to Eungalla which was a really nice drive:

We drove up a really steep road to get to Eungella and a great view below:

We continued on to a free stop South of Mackay at Carmila Beach just on dark.

The next day we drove on, stopping just north of Rockhampton at "The Caves". We decided not to do the tour however we were entertained by a big kangaroo (with big something else!):

We drove out to Yepoon for a brief stop.

The Whistling Ship:

We drove to Rockhampton where there had been some serious fires not long before. We drove up Mount Archer and saw how close the fires had come to many of the houses. We continued on our merry way and stopped at a rest stop in Calliope.

The following morning we woke early and drove to 1770 - a place recommended by a number of people. We drove to the lookout and did a short walk. We had a bit of a drive around and walked down by the water:

We went for a swim at Agnes Water and headed off before lunch to Bundaberg. We checked into a caravan park and then headed to the Bundaberg Ginger Beer Brewery - yummy! We both love our ginger beer so stocked up on a couple of cheap cases!

Ginger Beer Centre:

We called past the Rum Factory but neither of us is a fan of Bundy Rum so we didn't mind that it was closed. we did have to take a photo though of course!

The lovely Rum Factory sending off a bit of pollution:

Then it was back to the caravan park ready to head to Hervey Bay for a few days of whale watching and a trip to Fraser Island. Next Blog folks!