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The Cassowary Coast : Babinda to Cardwell

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The Cassowary Coast covers the coastal area along the Bruce Highway from Babinda to Cardwell.  This region is the wettest part of Australia, with the annual rainfall record reaching 7.9m in 1950.  Because of this high rainfall, the area is lush and green with world heritage rainforest, and has gorgeous beaches, creeks and rivers, waterfalls and swimming holes.


The main industry of the region is agriculture, which is evident with all the sugar cane crops along the roadside.  Believe it or not, there’s actually a Cassowary Coast Sugar Diabetic Support Group! Occasionally you’ll see a banana or tropical fruit plantation as well, but sugarcane dominates the region, and because the Great Barrier Reef is right off the coast, tourism is another economic contributor.


Apart from sugar cane, another thing that you will see A LOT is cassowaries… on signs.  Southern cassowaries are large flightless birds that are not only elusive but also threatened with extinction due to road kills, dog attacks and habitat destruction.  Please be careful while driving through this area, or any area where cassowary signs are located, and if you are lucky enough to see one foraging for food in the undergrowth, observe it quietly and don’t approach or feed it. For more information on the cassowary, click here…


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When we left Cairns, Babinda was out first stop.  As we drove through to get to the Boulders, we noticed a Golden Gumboot in the post office window.  The town had won the gumboot for receiving the highest rainfall in the region.


We’d spent all morning packing and it was beautifully refreshing to cool off in the clear waters.  The Boulders is popular with the locals and it’s easy to spend the day there.  The reserve has a large grassy picnic area with BBQs, a playground and toilets.


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Another gorgeous swimming hole not far from Babinda is Josephine Falls, with waterfalls and rock slides into clear pools.


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The art deco capital of Queensland, Innisfail was a small town full of surprises.  Previously called Geraldton, it was renamed in 1910 to avoid confusion with the town in Western Australia.  Innisfail is a romantic nickname for Ireland.


In 1918, a cyclone blew through the town and destroyed almost every building.  The buildings erected to rebuild Innisfail are what put the place on the map.  Many of the buildings stand in a variety of shapes, designs and colours – it was really interesting and almost a step back in time.



Paronella Park and Ma:mu Tropical Skywalk


Paronella Park was a major highlight for us and we can certainly see why it’s Queensland’s #1 attraction.  Check our article about it here…  Ma:mu Tropical Skywalk is Paronella Park’s sister attraction and is another brilliant way to see the rainforest and learn more about the region.


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Etty Bay

We were given a tip to visit Etty Bay if we wanted to see cassowaries, as they usually frequent the beach and are used to people so they don’t scurry away before you can take a photo.  While we didn’t get to see a cassowary, we did enjoy the beach and wandered around the rockpools.


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That night, we stopped at a rest area just north of El Arish.  It was a good little spot with clean toilets and picnic benches.


Mission Beach

We cruised through Mission Beach in the early hours of the morning.  This little beach town caters for holiday makers, as most of the shops along the main road are restaurants, cafes and accommodation.  After a quick stroll along Hervey Perry Jetty, we made our way to Wongaling Beach to check out the Big Cassowary…


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This small agricultural town has one major claim to fame – the Big Golden Gumboot.  Standing 7.9m tall with a green tree frog hanging on the side, the Big Golden Gumboot celebrates the record-breaking amount of rainfall the town received in 1950.  There’s a spiral staircase inside and the view from the top includes the town and the sugar mill.


Tully is extremely proud to hold the record for the wettest town and annually holds the Golden Gumboot Festival – however, over the last 40 years Babinda has actually been wetter, which is why they hold the Golden Gumboot trophy in their post office window.


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The final town along the Cassowary Coast, Cardwell is a seaside town of around 1200 people and a Big Crab.  It’s a nice place to stop and stretch your legs with a stroll along Victoria Street.


About 7km south of Cardwell is Five Mile Swimming Hole, a wonderful place to refresh yourself with a quick dip.


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Attraction : Paronella Park

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We will never forget our experience at Paronella Park.  As soon as we parked the Troopy, we were warmly greeted by Mark the owner, and right from the beginning we knew we were somewhere special.


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Paronella Park is an attraction like no other.  It’s an experience, a journey through someone’s realised dream.  As you walk through the heritage listed grounds, you can see the hard work and persistence that went into constructing this beautiful fantasy – a Spanish castle surrounded by waterfalls, lush rainforest and an enchanted garden.


The day tour through the Park introduced us to the story of the place – a Spanish baker called José who came to Australia in 1913 and worked hard in the sugar industry to earn a large fortune.  He used his wealth to build a beautiful castle surrounded by lush gardens in the Queensland tropics.


Our tour guide revelled in telling us the story, and we were fascinated by it – José’s determination and passion to see his vision become a reality, despite being told that it could not be done, was truly inspiring.  The castle and grounds included a gravity-fed water fountain, tennis courts, a picnic area next to Mena Creek Falls, a movie theatre, and a lavish ballroom that entertained many guests.  Now, after 80 years, several devastating cyclones and a fire, Paronella Park still stands, covered in vivid green moss and has become a part of the surrounding rainforest.


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After the sun went down, we returned to do the night tour.  Everybody was given a torch to light the way and the owner lead us down the paths and through the gardens, telling another story through the eyes of José’s daughter, Teresa. He also provided insight on his own vision of the park, and his plans for its future so that generations to come can enjoy it.


We believe that Mark channels the passion and determination of José to nurture Paronella Park.  After over 20 years, his love of this place and the story hasn’t waned because every person who visits invigorates his enthusiasm with their positive feedback and the impact that the park has made on their lives.  At the end of his tour, everybody was treated with a gift that was truly touching –a piece of the castle, a symbol of turning dreams into reality.


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Our entry to Paronella Park included a night in the adjacent camping park, so we took them up on their offer and moved the Troopy to our designated site, close to the clean amenities and a short walk to the office and café.  In the morning, we explored the grounds once more before eagerly waiting for the café to open so we could have a coffee on the deck.  We thanked Mark and his partner in passion, Judy, for hosting us and made our way to the Palmerston Highway, where our bright orange Paronella Park wrist bands entitled discounted entry to the Ma:mu Tropical Skywalk.


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Ma:mu Tropical Skywalk

About 20 minutes from Paronella Park, the Ma:mu Tropical Skywalk is a great way to learn about Queensland’s rainforests and the surrounding region.  This attraction takes you on a relaxing, self-paced stroll through the forest, up into the canopy and up 100 steps to the top of the observation tower, with beautiful views of the North Johnstone River Gorge below.


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Ma:mu Tropical Skywalk is fairly young, as construction began after Cyclone Larry swept through the area in March 2006 and cleared parts of the forest.  The path and canopy walk were built through and around these clearings and no manual deforestation was required.  It was important for the skywalk to be built in an environmentally sustainable way to minimise its impact on the environment during construction and thereafter.


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As you wander down the path, a complimentary audio device and headset feeds you information about the rainforest, the traditional owners, and the local history.  There is plenty to see on the way, like colourful Ulysses butterflies, huge golden orb spiders sitting in their enormous golden webs and if you’re lucky, a timid cassowary creeping through the bushes.


Ma:mu Tropical Skywalk is located only 15 minutes from Innisfail, is wheelchair accessible and accommodates for the visually impaired.  It’s a good idea to bring along a bottle of water, a hat and some sunscreen, as well as some binoculars if you’re a keen bird watcher.


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