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Merry Christmas – enjoy the holidays!

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Hi all,

 

We’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year… and what a year it’s been!

 

We started 2015 in Cairns, where we stayed until May, working and biding our time until we had to fly home for two weddings.

 

Australia Day 2015 Cairns

 

Once we were on the road again, our task was fairly simple – explore the east coast of Australia.  After a magical visit at Paronella Park, we passed through Townsville and Mackay before heading inland to the beautiful Lake Elphinstone.

 

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We cruised through the Central Highlands before returning to the coast. We ate beef in Rockhampton, drank rum in Bundaberg, then caught a ferry to Fraser Island. We gave the Troopy a 4WD workout at Landcruiser Mountain Park and watched the rain clouds come in on the Sunshine Coast.

 

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We spent about three weeks in Brisbane because Dave needed some medical attention, but it was great to spend time with friends in that beautiful city.  As we approached the Gold Coast, the dark clouds returned and by the time we got to the Best Of All Lookouts, we couldn’t see a thing!

 

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We crossed the border into New South Wales and bee-lined straight to Byron Bay for a few days in the easternmost town of Australia. We were lucky to get a few days of sun but the drizzle returned as we made our way to Coffs Harbour.  Finally, with some sun, we got to enjoy the beautiful coastline from Port Macquarie to Newcastle.

 

 

We enjoyed a tipple in the Hunter Valley before spending a week on the Central Coast, helping out a family with their household duties while Juz scored some work with a school holiday program in Gosford.

 

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Arriving in Sydney was a little surreal. It’s the biggest city in Australia and we spent a lot of time walking around the city getting exhausted. We also have a few friends in Sydney so it was great to catch up and spend time with them.

 

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We headed inland to the Blue Mountains and Central West just in time for a freakish cold front to sweep through the area. We had the pleasure of experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, as well as seeing the Dish in Parkes and exotic animals at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

 

 

With a few more friendly visits in Kiama and Milton, and a stop at the Big Merino in Goulburn, we finally visited our country’s capital. We called in at the War Memorial and National Mint and even saw our old travel buddies Tom and Bella.

 

 

Once we returned to the coast, the wet weather reappeared and we reached the Victorian border within a day or two. From then on, there was no point stuffing around – we were 4 hours from home.  On Sunday the 2nd of August, we rolled in unannounced and enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.

 

Since our return to Melbourne, we’ve been busy.  We got jobs, reconnected with friends, and started making plans for the future.

 

We’re going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the silly season and spend time with our family and friends. We’ll see you all in the new year with more posts about the last leg of our lap around Australia, as well as our run down of Tassie later in the year.

 

Thanks for all your support,

 

Dave & Juz

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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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Babinda

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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Innisfail

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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Tully

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.

 

Cassowary Coast

 

Cardwell

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.

 

http://paronellapark.com.au/

 

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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.

 

http://mamutropicalskywalk.com.au/

 

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Cairns Central YHA

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Winner of the 2014 Best Backpacker Awards in the Queensland Tourism Awards, Cairns Central YHA ticks all the boxes.  A clean and well maintained hostel with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that provides affordable accommodation in a central location. With everything in such close proximity, and a tour desk to book all your adventures, this is an ideal place to base yourself while you explore tropical north Queensland.

 

Facilities

There are 225 beds in 59 rooms that range from 10 bed dorms to double and family rooms.  Each room has keyless entry and is air conditioned.

 

The outdoor common areas include a pool surrounded by sun chairs and two spas, hammocks on the balcony, an undercover outdoor area with a pool table and a courtyard with a fountain.  Inside, you’ll find a lounge area with a TV, a quiet reading room, and a nice big kitchen with plenty of fridge space and shelving for food.

 

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In the reception area, there’s a tour desk that has special deals for guests and there’s also a money exchange service.  Reception hours are between 6:30am and 11pm, and check out is at 10am.

 

Cairns Central YHA offers FREE WiFi to all guests and FREE pick up from the airport between 8am – 8pm.

 

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Things Close By

Within 1km

  • Cairns Central Shopping Centre – Across the road. Includes major stores and supermarkets.
  • The Grand Hotel – 80m. Cheap meals and the Croc Bar.
  • Bus stop – 260m (out the front of Cairns Central Shopping Centre)
  • Central Plaza Doctors – 300m
  • Tokyo Dumpling – 600m. This place has awesome lunch and dinner specials, that include a main meal and three dumplings for under $15.
  • Woolworths, Abbott Street – 600m
  • Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome – 850m. Meet some Aussie wildlife while you zip line and navigate your way around a ropes course up to 13 metres high.
  • The Esplanade & Lagoon – 900m. Beautiful parklands built on reclaimed land and a free public swimming pool for everyone.
  • Reef Terminal – 1000m. The departure point for trips out to the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Cairns

 

Surrounding Attractions

  • Palm Cove – 30km north. A beautiful spot with a pristine beach, restaurants, and weekly markets.
  • Kuranda – 30km north west. The perfect place to spend a day visiting the local wildlife.
  • Walsh’s Pyramid – 30km south. One of the world’s largest natural pyramids – don’t forget to take plenty of water if you plan to do the over 900 metre climb to the top!
  • Port Douglas – 68km north. Another beautiful holiday destination. Make sure you try a serious sandwich made by chefs at The Little Larder.
  • Paronella Park – 105km south. A magical place with an inspiring story that is an absolute must see destination.

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

 

The Essentials

Cairns Central YHA is located at 20-26 McLeod Street in Cairns.  To contact YHA and make a booking, call 07 4051 0772, email cairnscentral@yha.com.au or visit their website here

 

Cairns