Cape York

Top 5 Things About Queensland



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




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).




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



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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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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