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.

 

Paronella Park 2015-04-25 231w

 

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).

 

IMG_20150612_161845

 

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.

 

Gold Coast 2015-06-12 101w

 

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.

 

Landcruiser Mountain Park 2015-05-16 075w

 

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.

 

 

Blackdown Tableland 2015-05-07 035w

 

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.

 

Lake Elphinstone 2015-05-05 031w

 

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

 

Port Douglas

Town Profile : Port Douglas

Port Douglas

 

We’ve visited Port Douglas three times and found all occasions to be quite pleasant.

 

The first time was for our birthdays in 2013, when we flew over from Darwin and met up with our friends and family, who flew up from Melbourne to celebrate with us.  It was a week of eating and drinking, late nights and plenty of injury, and it was during the peak tourism season so there were plenty of holiday makers around.  The second time was with the Troopy, as we began our descent down the east coast of Australia.  Tourism was still bustling in October but it just seemed a lot quieter without our mates around.

 

 

The third time was during our seven-month stint in Cairns.  We’d been playing trivia every week at the Red Beret Hotel and the prizes were vouchers for various places in Port Douglas.  After collecting a booty of vouchers, we put aside a day to drive up and use them.  Despite being warm and sunny, March is right in the middle of cyclone season, and one was expected to hit the coast in a day or two – Port Douglas was deserted.

 

We felt like we had the whole town to ourselves and had an amazing, action packed day that included a delicious breakfast at Cafe Fresq, shopping at various gift stores, a mind-blowing sandwich from the Little Larder, a walking tour around town, and a sunset dinner at the Yacht Club.

 

Port Douglas

 

Port Douglas is essentially a tourism town that can be fully experienced in a day or two.  If you can’t afford to stay at one of the lavish resorts and spend the rest of your time drinking cocktails by the pool, Port Douglas has a few budget accommodation options, including a YHA, and is a great place to base yourself while you visit the various attractions in the region.

 

Fast Facts

  • Port Douglas is #3 on Australian Traveller magazine’s list of Australia’s 100 Best Towns. It’s about 1 hour north of Cairns.
  • It is the gateway to two World Heritage listed areas – the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.
  • There have been several films shot in and around Port Douglas – Sniper (1993), Paradise Road (1997), The Thin Red Line (1998), Paradise Found (2003), Fools Gold (2008) and Nim’s Island (2008).
  • Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, died off the coast of Port Douglas after a stingray shot its barb into his heart. He was filming a new documentary called The Ocean’s Deadliest.

 

History

The traditional owners of the area are the Kuku Yalanji people, and their country stretches from the Mowbray River to the south of Port Douglas to the Annan River just south of Cooktown.

 

Port Douglas was established in 1877 after the discovery of gold in a valley near the Mowbray River.  At its peak, it had a population of 12,000, with 26 legal and registered pubs and even a few opium dens!  The schoolhouse built in 1878 and it is the oldest building in the region and was still operating until the 1960s when it was closed due to lack of population.

 

Scandal hit Port Douglas in 1887 when Ellen Thomson was convicted of murdering her husband. She pleaded innocent but she and her lover were both sent to Brisbane where they were sentenced and hung.  She became the only women to ever be hung in QLD.

 

In 1911, a devastating cyclone hit Port Douglas and once it had past, two people were dead and only seven buildings were left standing.  The impact of the cyclone lingered for several decades, and the population dwindled to abound 100 people in the 1960s.

 

christopher_skaseWho would have thought that the town’s saviour would later be known as Australia’s most wanted fugitive and fraudster.  In 1988, Christopher Skase unveiled his new 5-star Sheraton Mirage Resort, which triggered a massive tourism boom.  Because of this, it’s said that Skase is responsible for reviving Port Douglas and thus creating a successful tourism-based economy.  He is also responsible for the relocation the St Mary’s Church from up on the hill to down near the water’s edge in 1988, because its position was on valuable real estate land!  The non-denominational church was originally built in 1880 but was flattened by that cyclone in 1911.  It was rebuilt and remained in its spot on the hill until Skase’s arrival.

 

These days, the St Mary’s By The Sea is a popular place to get married.  Port Douglas is a thriving tourism town with a population is around 3,200, but this figure can double during the tourist season between May and October.

 

Port Douglas 2015-03-18 053w

 

Places of Interest

There are a few things to do in town, such as browsing shops along the main street, having a drink and a meal at one of the pubs, or lazing on the best beach in town – Four Mile Beach. The sand at Four Mile Beach is so flat and firm, that many years ago planes were often landed on the sand.  There’s also a market on every Sunday in the park opposite the Courthouse Hotel.

 

If you are interested in learning about the town and the area, we recommend going on a K-Star Walking Tour.  Kevin is really knowledgeable about the geography, history and flora in the area and it’s a great introduction to tropical Queensland.  Alternatively, hire some electric bikes; an easy and super fun way to get around town.  Prices start at $20 for 2hrs.

 

Port Douglas

 

As we said earlier, Port Douglas can be explored in a day or two, but it is a great place to station yourself while you explore the surrounding wonders.

 

Cape Tribulation

Located within the Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation is a headland that was named by Captain Cook after his ship was damaged on the Great Barrier Reef.  It was named so because it was where Cook’s troubles began, but despite this, it is a wonderful beach to visit.  On the road to Cape Tribulation are various cafes and ice creameries which certainly don’t hurt to visit.

 

Cape Tribulation

 

Mossman Gorge

Due to efforts to conserve this naturally beautiful place, a regular shuttle bus that runs from the Mossman Gorge Centre is the only way to visit the Gorge.  It has a relatively low fee and does allow multiple trips on the day of purchase if required.  We recommend exploring the walking trail before having a dip in the cool waters.

 

Mossman Gorge

 

Flames of the Forest

This is a very indulgent experience for special occasions only.  Enjoy a gourmet meal in a romantic atmosphere of illuminated trees while being serenaded by a wonderful performer.

 

Flames of the Forest

 

Bloomfield Track & CREB Track

For the off road enthusiasts, check out the two tracks that go through the Daintree.  We only did a small portion of the CREB Track before turning around to follow the Bloomfield Track.  Our brakes weren’t in great shape at the time and we had been told by locals that the Bloomfield Track was the safer option – plus, there were a few bush fires around and we needed to put safety first.

 

CREB Track

 

Food & Drink

There are heaps of places that offer a great feed in Port Douglas.  For a decent coffee, check out Moonshine Bay and while you’re there, browse through all of the colourful things in the shop.  Moonshine Bay uses coffee from Four Mile Roasters, local coffee bean aficionados who have a great little cafe called Origin Espresso.  Located in the backstreets away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist-ridden main street, sip a quality coffee while sitting on hessian sack milk crates and contemplating which baked treat to eat next.  Very Melbourne…

 

 

Many of the good cheap eats in Port Douglas are on Grant Street.  The French toast at Cafe Fresq is delicious, all the food from Menu Thai Restaurant is incredible and for a late night snack after the pub, go to Get Ya Kebabs for a juicy meal.  However, one of our favourite places was an award-winning bakery…

 

Mocka’s Pies

Not only do they have a great selection of pies, including Kangaroo and Crocodile Laksa, but they are absolutely scrumptious.  Mocka’s regularly participate in the Official Great Aussie Pie Competition and their pies win medals every year.

 

Mocka's Pies

 

On The Inlet

This restaurant is a little on the pricey side, so it should probably be put aside for special occasions, but the food is quite good and they have a resident groper called George… and by groper, we mean fish, not pervert.

 

The Little Larder

This place is a popular spot amongst the locals and visitors alike.  They do a wicked breakfast and cup of coffee but the main attraction is the ‘serious sandwiches made by chefs’.  We had lunch here and our lives are ruined because all future sandwiches will never be as good as the sandwiches we had here! Check out our post about this excellent food outlet…

 

Port Douglas

 

Off The Track

There is a wicked food joint on Warner Street, just behind Coles.  They have an awesome selection of gourmet burgers, including beef, pork, chicken and vegetarian, and each burger comes with a little pile of perfectly cooked chips.  They also do breakfast and can brew a very nice Lavazza coffee.

 

Port Douglas

 

Port Douglas Yacht Club

For a more local experience, you must visit the PDYC!  This open air bar and restaurant is a great place to meet friendly locals and watch the sun set over the estuary.  We enjoyed a delicious and well priced dinner that included fresh, crisp chips and a lovely side salad.  Their chicken parma is juicy and thick with all the correct toppings, and they also offer Cargill steak.

 

Port Douglas

 

Information & Accommodation

The Port Douglas Tourist Information Centre is located on the main street at 23 Macrossan Street, or you can visit these websites: http://www.tourismportdouglas.com.au/ or http://www.pddt.com.au/

 

Port O’Call Lodge YHA – 4 green star eco-lodge.  To make a reservation, call 07 4099 5422 or email portdouglas@yha.com.au

 

Cape Tribulation YHA – nestled deep within the Daintree rainforest.  To make a reservation, call 07 4098 0030 or email capetribulation@yha.com.au

 

Port Douglas