Cape York

Top 5 Things About Queensland

Birdsville

 

We crossed the border into Queensland at the beginning of September 2014, and didn’t leave the sunshine state until June 2015.  In the ten months that we spent in Queensland, we drove through the outback, went to the northern tip of Australia, spent time in the rainforests, got jobs in Cairns, watched the sugar cane whirl by, and soaked up the sun along the sandy beaches.

 

Here are our favourite things about Queensland:

 

Prehistoric Past

Queensland’s prehistoric past includes dinosaurs, volcanoes and megafauna.  During our time in the outback, we hopped on the dinosaur trail and visited the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton.  It was absolutely fascinating to learn about the dinosaurs that used to live on Australian soil – Banjo the carnivorous theropod and Matilda the sauropod.

 

Australian Age of Dinosaurs

 

Further north in Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill) are the World Heritage fossils of Riversleigh, which date back 25 million years.  We got to see even more dinosaurs at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane.  They have a regular dinosaur exhibition that includes information about the dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry.

 

Lawn Hill

 

As we headed towards the coast, we stopped at Undara Volcanic National Park and saw the incredible lava tubes that formed nearly 200,000 years ago.  We saw more evidence of volcanic activity as we travelled east.  Mount Hypipamee Crater and the Crater Lakes on the Atherton Tablelands were all created by volcanic activity, while the Glasshouse Mountains in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland are volcanic plugs of hard rock that have been exposed as the surrounding soft rock has eroded over time.

 

The Tablelands

 

 

Rainforests

The rainforests of northern Queensland are a well known paradise, the most famous being the Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest and largest continuous rainforest in the world.  Exploring the area is easy when you base yourself at Port Douglas, and while you’re in the area, Cape Tribulation is worth a visit.

 

Cape Tribulation

 

Not far away are the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands.  Right in the heart of the lush forest is Kuranda, which is a beautiful little village with plenty to offer, including a range of fantastic wildlife experiences.  Paronella Park is another magical gem hidden away in the green foliage.

 

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To the south are the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, an amazing example of subtropical rainforest that has remained unchanged over many millennia.  Part of this world heritage area is Springbrook National Park, where the Antarctic beech trees reside and the Best of All Lookouts offer views of the valley below (but not for us).

 

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Beaches & Coastline

Known as the sunshine state, Queensland is notorious for its beaches.  Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast is a huge beach with a big surf culture.

 

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Up north on the Cape, after visiting the northernmost point of Australia, we camped at Chilli Beach. The isolation of the area and the row of leaning coconut trees along the beach make it seem like you’re on a deserted island.

 

Cape York

 

Just off the coastline of Queensland is the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.  Juz had an opportunity to go out and snorkel on the reef, swim with turtles and get severely sunburnt, but if you’re not a fan of sunburn or getting wet, you can easily see the beautiful fish and corals at Reef HQ in Townsville.

 

Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling

 

4WDing

There are heaps of opportunities to challenge yourself and your 4WD in Queensland.  Our first major obstacle was the Old Telegraph Track on the Cape.  This was so much fun and there were heaps of water crossings, dips and surprises that required keen navigational prowess.

 

Cape York

 

Fraser Island was another 4WDing favourite with plenty of sandy tracks to sink your tyres into and a whole highway of beach to cruise on, while Blackdown Tablelands gave us an unexpected opportunity to cross some rough terrain.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 082w

 

If you want to do nothing else but get loco on the tracks, head to Landcruiser Mountain Park.  This place is dedicated to challenging tracks of varying difficulty, from relatively easy to “ah fuck – I just broke my car”.  Plus, because the map they give you at reception is so shit, you’re bound to get lost and end up on a track that will push your limits.

 

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Freshwater Fun

Queensland isn’t all about beaches.  There are some beautiful lakes, creeks and waterfalls as well.  In the tropics, waterholes are the perfect spot to cool off and wash the film of sweat from your skin.  Josephine Falls and The Boulders are popular with locals and tourists alike, while Crystal Creek and Jarouma Falls make quite the pretty picture.

 

Crystal Creek 2015-04-28 009

 

Up in the Atherton Tablelands, the Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit takes you around to three waterfalls set in the rainforest, while Lake Eacham is a beautiful turquoise lake that is great for swimming and kayaking.  Another beautiful plateau is the Blackdown Tableland further south near Mackay.  There are lots of creeks surrounding the camping area but the real beauty is Guddo Gumoo, which is also known as Rainbow Waters.

 

 

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In country Queensland, there are three locations that are simply sublime.  Our favourite was Lake Elphinstone, and we were very fortunate to be there on the night of a full moon.  For those who are travelling along the Savannah Way, Lawn Hill Gorge is a beautiful place to get your togs wet, and while we don’t recommend getting into the water at Cobbold Gorge (CROCS!), we do recommend a peaceful boat cruise through the gorge.

 

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Only 7km north of the border between Queensland and New South Wales is Natural Bridge, set amongst the Gondwana Rainforest.  Natural Bridge is a product of time, as water has washed over the rock, eroding it and creating a hole.

 

Springbrook NP 2015-06-12 052w

 

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Explore : The Central Highlands

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Just below the Isaac Region is the Central Highlands of Queensland.  It’s a new region that was created in 2008 and encompasses Capella in the north, Duaringa in the east, Rolleston in the south and the Gemfields to the west.

 

We entered the Central Highlands from the north after spending the night at Lake Elphinstone.  We breezed through Capella, Rubyvale and Sapphire before arriving in Emerald to set up camp for the night.

 

Emerald

The capital of the Central Highlands, Emerald is a friendly town that was named after the lush green pastures that used to surround the town.  Established in 1879 as a base for the building of the western railway, it’s a clean and tidy town that services the surrounding coal mines and is also involved in agricultural activities such as growing cotton and sorghum.

 

The Visitor Information Centre is the best place to stop when you get to town – they will tell you what to see, where to stay the night, and even give you vouchers for a free coffee at the local bakery!  Near the info centre is The Big Easel – one of the most impressive Big Things we have come across.

 

We stayed in the free overnight area next to the botanic gardens.  There were picnic benches, a BBQ, power points and even a tap, but what were really special were the rainbow lorikeets.  Hundreds of them flocked around the gardens, chatting noisily, wrestling each other, and picking at scraps that were left behind by a mysterious old man with a long white beard that visits the park at night.  The overnight area was relatively quiet during the night, until about 5:30am when trains cross the overhead bridge.  This is good because then you don’t need to set your alarm to wake you up in the morning.

 

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Egerton Street is the main strip through town.  There are various art installations down the street, as well as pubs, cafes and at the eastern end, there’s a shopping centre with a major supermarket.  Nearby on the Capricorn Highway is the Old Railway Station that was built in 1900.  It has a beautiful façade with wrought iron lacework and is worth a look.

 

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Rubyvale & Sapphire

Rubyvale is a small country town with a scant population of around 500 people.  Fossicking is big in the area, but the biggest thing is the Big Miner outside Bobby Dazzler’s Sapphire Mine Tours.

 

Down the road is Sapphire, which is about the same size as Rubyvale, and as the name suggestions, you can find sapphires in the area.  Outside the roadhouse on the main road is the Big Pick, Shovel and Sieve, and we also passed a Big Sapphire and a Big Spanner.

 

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Capella

A small town that services the surrounding coal mines, it’s a great place to stop, have a picnic and walk through the war memorial park that runs alongside the railway line.  It touches on the story of the Australian Light Horse Emu Plume, which became a tradition amongst troopers in the area.

 

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Blackwater

Considered to be the coal mining capital of Australia, Blackwater is a small town with a few fast food outlets and a Lions Park with a martini glass shaped water tower and tired-looking display of 30-something tattered, international flags – we think we saw Italy, Hungary, Ireland, India or Mexico.  The coal mining museum is the main attraction in town, with a café, cinema, and an adjacent Japanese garden.

 

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Nearby is the Bedford Weir, a great place for people who like to fish.  Free camping for 7 days is available, with hot showers in the toilet cubicle, but it’s not recommended to swim in the water.

 

The turnoff for Blackdown Tableland is about 30 minutes east of Blackwater and if you enjoy camping, 4WDing and great views, then we recommended ducking in for the night.  To book a campsite, call 13 QGOV.

 

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