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).

 

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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.

 

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

 

Oodnadatta Track

Second Year On The Road

Australia Day in Darwin 
Australia Day Cane Toads! Australia Day
Wildlife in our backyard!Possum fell in the pool - nawwww!

 

Cocosaurus Cove
Crocodile snack - Crocosaurus Cove Meet the reptiles - Crocosaurus Cove

 

Litchfield National ParkTermite Mounds - Litchfield National Park

 

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

 

Cutta Cutta CavesCutta Cutta Caves Edith FallsEdith Falls
Lorella Springs Wilderness Park

Lorella Springs Lorella Springs Lorella Springs Northern Spiny-Tailed Gecko
Caranbirini Conservation Reserve Limmen National Park

 

Devil’s Marbles
The Pebbles Devils Marbles

 

Wycliff WellWycliffe WellAileronAileron
Arltunga Historical ReserveBinns TrackTrephina Gorge Nature Park
Binns Track
Alice Springs Beanie FestivalAlice Springs Beanie Festival
Lasseter’s Camel CupLasseters Camel Cup Lasseters Camel Cup
Henley On Todd RegattaHenley On Todd
Alice Springs Reptile CentreAlice Springs Reptile Centre
Our Time In Alice SpringsHelpex Alice Springs Finke Desert RaceFinke Desert Race
Mount Sonder, West MacDonnell RangesWest MacDonnell Ranges
Palm Valley
Palm Valley
Heating up in HermannsburgHeating up in Hermannsburg
UluruUluru-Kata Tjuta
Kata-TjutaUluru-Kata Tjuta
Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley Oodnadatta Track
Coober PedyCoober Pedy
Lake EyreOodnadatta Track

Birdsville

BirdsvilleBirdsville 2014-09-05 031 Birdsville 2014-09-06 007water Birdsville 2014-09-06 047water WintonWinton 2014-09-07 003water
NormantonThe Big Croc, Normanton Cobbold GorgeCobbold Gorge
Undara Volanic National ParkUndaraCrystal Caves
The Crystal Caves
Mt Uncle DistilleryMt Uncle Distillery

 

Cape York
Bamaga TavernCape YorkThe Old Telegraph Track
Cape York

Chilli BeachCape YorkCape York
Zazen

ZazenZazen
CooktownCooktown

Our Time In CairnsCairnsAustralia Day 2015 Cairns


 

 

Lawn Hill

Savannah Way : Lawn Hill to the Tablelands

The Savannah Way runs from Cairns in Queensland, through the Northern Territory, all the way to Broome in Western Australia.

 

Savannah Way

source : http://www.savannahway.com.au/

 

This post is about the section of the Savannah Way from the Lawn Hill side route, through Gregory Downs to Normanton, then along the Gulf Developmental Road to the Tablelands, and eventually Cairns.  In the Northern Territory, we drove along the Savannah Way from Katherine to Boorooloola – check out our post here.

 

When it comes to phone reception, you’ll have more coverage with Telstra.  Optus is available in Normanton, and once you reach the Tablelands, Optus coverage is more frequent.

 

Lawn Hill 2014-09-11 013

 

Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park

We approached Lawn Hill from the south and visited the Riversleigh Fossil Fields before refreshing ourselves at Lawn Hill Gorge.  The road in was in fairly good condition, but keep your eyes peeled for wandering cattle and roadside wallabies.

 

Riversleigh Fossil Fields

Riversleigh was World Heritage listed in 1994 and is recognised for showing important evolutionary stages of Australia’s mammals, as well as the diversity of fossils and quality of their preservation.  It’s paired with the discoveries in Naracoorte near Mount Gambier, SA.

 

Fossils were first discovered in Riversleigh in the early 1900s but it wasn’t until the early 1960s that the first exploration took place.  Fossils of big birds, enormous wombats, crocodiles and fangaroos (carnivorous kangaroos) were found and date back to the oligo-miocene period, about 15-20 million years ago.  In 1992, the Queensland Government took over management of the area and two years later, it was added to the World Heritage List.

 

The D-site is the only site open to the public.  There’s a nifty information hut at the beginning of the loop walk that blends into the surrounding landscape.  The walk takes you past rocks that are embedded with real fossils, and leads you atop the rocky outcrop to a great view of the landscape.

 

 

If you want to know more about the fossils at Riversleigh, check out the Fossil Centre at the Outback In Isa Information Centre.  It’s $12 per adult to get in (discounts apply with your YHA membership card).

 

Lawn Hill Gorge

This oasis in the middle of a dry and dusty landscape is the perfect place to stop and refresh yourself.  Go for a swim in the creek, hire a canoe to explore the gorge, or go for a walk along one of their many tracks.

 

After a refreshing dip in the water, we followed the walking track out to the Cascades.  On the way back, Juz stubbed her toe really badly (there was blood) and she wasn’t able to walk after that.  It pretty much ruined the day in terms of activities so we sat in the shade of a tree and read.

 

Lawn Hill

 

The campground nearby is equipped with toilets and cold showers, but sites are limited so make sure you book your spot in advance via Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS)  by calling 13 QGOV (13 74 68) or going online at http://nprsr.qld.gov.au/experiences/camping/camping_bookings.html

 

Gregory

If you’re looking for a free camp not far from Lawn Hill, about 90km east is Gregory.  It’s a small community with a pub, playground and picnic area, and public toilets with (cold?) showers.  The designated camping area is across the road from the playground but because there are a few humpies erected there and no other shelter, it’s not really attractive for an overnight stay.

 

The preferred spot is by the river where all the other campers are, despite all the signs forbidding it.  The Gregory River is a clear, spring fed river lined with pandanus that provides a beautiful spot to set up camp.  We spent the night on the river but packed up fairly early the next day so we could be in Normanton by lunchtime.

 

Gregory

 

Normanton

The first thing we did when we got to Normanton was have a mini pub crawl – because the brochure told us we had to.  There are three pubs in town and we figured this was the best way to get to know the place.

  • The Purple Pub – the most colourful pub in town. The veranda is great for people-watching while the beer garden out the back was spacious and had a relaxing vibe.  The meals were well priced too.
  • The Albion Hotel – it had a great deck with fans that wafted delicious kitchen smells our way.
  • The Central Hotel – smelt like piss but the bar staff were friendly and drinks were cheap. We sat on the veranda and enjoyed the view of town, particularly the Big Croc across the road, who was getting mounted by all the visitors.

 

 

Normanton is small port town that used to service the Croydon Goldfields.  These days, it’s more of a fishing town, or a pass-through town for fishermen who are heading to Karumba.  There are a lot of old buildings in town.  The Westpac bank has set up shop in an old National Trust Building, and the op shop around the corner is in an old corrugated iron building that was built in the late 1890s.  The Visitor Information Centre and library is located in the Burns Philp Building, which dates back to the 1800s.

 

After exploring the town and making use of phone reception, we drove out to Walker Creek rest area, approximately 30km north of Normanton.  The toilets were shoddy, but there was plenty of space, peace and shade.  Whatever you do, don’t swim in the river – crocs!

 

Bourke and Wills Camp 119

Bourke and Wills are the ill-fated explorers who never made it back to Melbourne.  Camp 119 was their northernmost camp and erected at the site is a memorial, as well as an information hut that tells their story and provides information about tree blazing.  Tree blazing was a way for explorers to mark their path, and it’s where the term ‘trail-blazing’ comes from.

 

Normanton  

 

(Aye!) Karumba

About 70km from Normanton is Karumba, a pretty little fishing and port town.  It used to be called Kimberley before adopting its aboriginal name.  Nearly every house has a boat in their yard.

 

Attractions include the Barramundi Discovery Centre, sunsets from Karumba Point Beach and the Morning Glory Clouds, which we were not privy to on that particular morning.  Regardless, we were happy to finally see the ocean after nearly four months in the desert.

 

Karumba

 

After a quick stroll on the beach, we popped into the Thrift Shop next to the Artesian Bore before heading back to Normanton and east along the Savannah Way.

 

Croydon

Croydon was established by a gold rush in 1885 and it was probably the friendliest town we’d come across since crossing the border into Queensland.  Our first stop was the Croydon Central Supermarket, where a woman yelled out, “knackered Australia? You must have come a long way if you’re really that tired?!”  The Croydon Central Supermarket was a very useful stop.  We filled up on fuel, browsed the grocery aisles and had a cold but refreshing shower in their adjacent toilet block.

 

Other attractions include the Croydon General Store, the longest continually running general store in Queensland (and possibly Australia).  It was built in 1894 and still sells groceries but also has a museum with various memorabilia and artefacts from the area.

 

The True Blue Visitors Centre has a great historical museum and maps of the Heritage Precinct in town.  We had lunch at Anzac Park, which has plenty of seating, free electric BBQs and a playground, before having a look at the War Memorial and Chinese monument.

 

 

Georgetown

There really isn’t that much to see in Georgetown, other than the Ted Elliot Mineral collection.  This is accessible via the Visitor Centre.  Other than that, you can check out Cumberland Chimney just outside of town.  The brick chimney and the nearby dam were built in 1889 for a steam powered mill that crushed gold-bearing stone.

 

They are the remains of the Cumberland Mines of the Etheridge fields, which brought diggers in from around the country, creating a tent city that has a larger population than Georgetown.  By 1891, the tent city was a full town with a butcher, police station, school and four pubs!  When the gold ran out, so did the diggers and the mine was abandoned in 1897.  The town reduced to a single hotel while the school continued to operate until 1915, when pupils ran out too.

 

Cobbold Gorge

If you’re looking for a place to rest and recuperate for a couple of days, stop in at Cobbold Gorge.  While the road from Georgetown is a rollercoaster ride of crests and flood ways, once you’re at the resort, you can let your hair down.

 

Have a drink at the bar, cool off in the infinity pool, have a yummy home-style meal from the restaurant, or go on a tour through the gorge.

 

Cobbold Gorge

 

Undara Volcanic National Park

You cannot miss the Undara Experience because it has it all!  Located about 40km east of Mount Surprise, the resort sports a unique bar and restaurant that features turn-of-the-century train carriages, abundant wildlife, a swimming pool, bush walks, nightly campfire activities and the incredible Bush Breakfast – complete with billy tea, campfire-toasted bread and bacon!

 

While you’re there, go on a tour to explore the lava tubes, which were created after Undara volcano erupted 190,000 years ago!  The tubes extend over 100km from the crater, making it the longest flow from a single volcano in the world.

 

Undara

 

After an amazing experience at Undara, we moved on towards the Tablelands and spent the night at Archer Creek Rest Area about 16km west of Ravenshoe.   There was plenty of space to park the Troopy, with places alongside the highway, or further down next to the creek.  Fires are allowed, toilets are available, and you can even swim in the creek.

 

The Tablelands

Once you’ve entered the Tablelands, you know that the outback is behind you.  Drive amongst winding green hills, see waterfalls and rainforests.  Taste the fruits of the land at the local wineries, dairy farms, coffee plantations and Mount Uncle’s Distillery.

 

Our Savannah Way journey felt like it ended here.  No longer were we surrounded by Savannah bushland with yellow grass and sparse trees – the Tablelands are moist and beautiful and after a few days exploring the area, we headed north towards the Cape.

 

The Tablelands

 

Undara

Natural Wonders : Undara Volcanic National Park

Undara

 

About 190,000 years ago, when Australia was a lot different to what it is now, there was an eruption.  Not a violent, ‘Dante’s Peak’ eruption.  The ground grumbled, dark smoke and steam billowed from a crack in the rocky terrain, and molten rock from below the earth’s crust oozed from the fissure.  When Undara erupted, it left its mark on the land and today, we can get a glimpse into the tremendous enormity of volcanos.

 

Located along the Savannah Way, Undara Experience is a remarkable opportunity to explore Australia’s natural geological wonders and experience true hospitality in a brilliant outback environment. 

 

The Collins family were the first white settlers in the area and have owned the property since 1862. It wasn’t until 1987 when fourth generation member Gerry Collins submitted an application to showcase the lava tubes while still maintaining sustainability and environmental consciousness.  In partnership with the regional and state governments, Undara Volcanic National Park was gazetted and tours of the caves were to be provided via the Collins family lodge.

 

The birth of the Undara Experience followed in 1990 when the Collins family acquired the old railway carriages. They were used during the early 1900s and once they were decommissioned, the Queensland Government was planning to scrap them.  When Gerry caught wind of this news, he negotiated a deal and took them of the government’s hands, refurbished them, and set them amongst the trees.  They now have a new life, providing a unique style of accommodation and an eccentric atmosphere to the bar and bistro.

 

The Lava Tubes

Undara means “long way” in the local Aboriginal dialect, referring to the distance that the lava flowed from Undara volcano 190,000 years ago, and today, 164 craters can be found in the national park.  The only way to see the lava tubes is by guided tour, and we were stoked to go on the Archway Explorer tour with 20 other lucky explorers.  We learnt a lot about the geology of the surrounding area, from the pink granite boulders that are 350-400 million years old, to the vesicular basalt that has bubbles in it caused by gases from the last volcanic eruption, about 190,000 years ago.

 

We descended into a valley that was green and lush compared to the savannah scrub above, and strolled along boardwalks until we got to our first set of lava tubes.  These valleys were created by sections of the lava tubes that had collapsed and are now vegetated with semi-evergreen vine thicket.

 

The lava tubes are a result of the eruption of the Undara volcano.  It was a shield volcano about 340m wide, and the eruption was a non-violent event, more like a pot on the stove boiling over.  The lava flowed out of the volcano along water courses at about 900m per hour – the outsides of the lava cooled while the centre stayed fluid and kept flowing.  The lava tubes extend about 160km from the volcano, making the lava tubes at Undara the longest flow from a single volcano in the world.

 

So far, 69 tubes have been found in Undara Volcanic National Park.  Tours allow the public access to eight of them, as the others are not safe for humans due to their extremely high levels of CO2.  The Archway Explorer tour was so interesting that before we knew it, time was up and we were back on the bus and heading back to the resort.  Other tours include the Active Explorer, Volcano Valley and Wildlife at Sunset, which gives guests the opportunity to see the wildlife that visits the tubes at dusk.

 

Undara

 

The Resort

Accommodation varies from fully air-conditioned Pioneer Huts, restored Railway Carriages, Swag Tents and Safari Shelters, or you can bring your own tent or caravan and set up in one of the powered or unpowered sites.  Facilities include a guest laundry at $2 per load, fuel and Wi-Fi access.  Wallabies and kangaroos wander around the park, some with joeys hanging out of their pouches.

 

Undara

 

 

Activities around the resort include meals at the Fettlers Iron Pot Bistro (watch out for the thieving kookaburras), a nightcap of their delicious Undara Lava Tawny at the Saloon Car, self-guided walks that explore the surrounding bush, or a lazy afternoon by the pool.  In the evenings from 8pm, there are also various campfire activities.  We sat and listened to readings from great Aussie poets, like Banjo Patterson while treating ourselves to their delicious signature chocolate volcano dessert.

 

Undara

 

One of our favourite activities was the Bush Breakfast.  We had just returned from a sunrise hike around Kalkani Crater and our tummies were grumbling. A path through the bush brought us to a clearing with the most wonderful smells.  There were two campfires – one for bush tea and coffee, the other for toasting your own bread.  There were also sausages, eggs and bacon on the BBQ, with beans and vegie ratatouille on the side.  A table was set up with all the breakfast staples – juice, milk, soy, four kinds of cereal, butter and vegemite, and a wide variety of fruit – with tin cups and plates and log stumps for tables.  We feasted, and did not need to eat again until dinnertime.

 

 

Undara

 

The Essentials

Undara Experience is located 40km east of Mount Surprise, and the road in is fully sealed, so it’s easily accessible by car and caravan.  We cannot express how impressive the Undara Experience is.  We could have easily spent a week going on the tours and guided walks, playing pool in the Saloon Car or just relaxing by the pool.

 

To have your own Undara Experience, book now by calling 1800 990 992.  For more information, visit their website at undara.com.au

 

Please be aware of wildlife on the way into Undara. The road in is nicknamed Kangaroo Alley, and we actually clipped the backside of a kangaroo on the way back from Kalkani. We’re happy to say that it continued to bounce away but would have copped a nasty bruise on its backside.

 

Undara