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Waterfall Way : Bellingen to Armidale

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The Waterfall Way is a 165km road that runs from the Pacific Highway along the coast, through Bellingen, to Armidale in the New England Tablelands.  It’s a wonderfully scenic drive with plenty to see, including rainforest, waterfalls and green valleys dotted with fat cows.  We drove through in autumn and the blaze of red and yellow leaves splashed colour on the countryside.

 

Bellingen

The arts and crafts capital of the Coffs Coast hinterland, Bellingen is a beautiful little town that overlooks the Bellinger River.  There’s a peaceful, artistic and alternative feel to the place, with many inhabitants and visitors being spiritual and environmentally conscious.

 

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We preferred Bellingen over Niimbin and Byron Bay, as there were no major supermarkets, brand names or blatant drug dealing.  We ended up staying the night at the Bellingen YHA – our new favourite YHA.  It was small and cosy, just like a share house, with trust and respect between the guests.  It was more like a home than a hostel, and it had a beautiful deck, tranquil courtyard and a cute kitty wandering around.

 

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Newell Falls

On our way to Dorrigo, we encountered our first waterfall – Newell Falls.  As the road wound around Dorrigo Mountain, the water from an unnamed creek flowed through a tunnel under the road.  To get a better look, you‘ll need to stop at the nearby rest area, but remember that because the water is so close to the road, heavy rainfall and flooding can restrict access and visibility.

 

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Dorrigo

Located on the Dorrigo Plateau on the Great Dividing Range, it’s a bit of a climb to get into the little town.  Dorrigo Mountain has an elevation of around 750m, and while there are a few mosaic murals around town, there isn’t much to see.  It’s more like a waiting room for heaven than a tourist attraction.

 

The best thing to check out is the Red Dirt Distillery, the only distillery in Australia to do potato vodka.  They also do a ripper gin and a delicious Nocino liqueur made with green walnut.

 

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Dangar Falls

A few kilometres north of town is Dangar Falls.  It has volcanic origins and is a worthy deviation from the Waterfall Way.

 

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Ebor Falls

Holy moly, it was cold!  We stopped here for lunch and could barely move our fingers as we made sandwiches.  Even with four layers of clothes, gloves and a beanie, Juz’s lips had turned blue.

 

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Ebor Falls is located within Guy Fawkes National Park and the upper lookout offers awesome views of the Guy Fawkes River cascading over the rocks.  There’s also a lower lookout and valley view, which was so lovely that it made up for the cloudy day at the Best of All Lookout.

 

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Wollomombi Falls

These falls are the second tallest falls in Australia after the Wallaman Falls near Ingham, plunging over 100 metres into the gorge from an elevation of 907 metres.  The lookout provides great views into the gorge, and there are nearby picnic facilities if you want to stop for a bite to eat.

 

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From here, Armidale is only 30 minutes away, signifying the end of the Waterfall Way.

 

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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Explore : The Gold Coast

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The Gold Coast is about 40 kilometres south of Brisbane and it is the most populated non-capital metropolitan area in Australia.  It covers from Ormeau in the north to Tweed Heads in the south, and stretches west to the Great Dividing Range, including Lamington National Park.

 

Despite starting out as a penal colony at Redcliffe, the Gold Coast soon developed a reputation as a great holiday destination for upper class Brisbanites.  However, back then it was known as the South Coast, but due to inflated prices for real estate during the 1950s, it earned its golden name.  These days, the Gold Coast continues to be a great place for a holiday, with its gorgeous beaches, high rise apartment blocks, theme parks, and a rainforest hinterland.

 

In fact, tourism is the biggest industry of the area, with around 10 million visitors every year contributing $4.4 billion to the economy annually.  The Gold Coast is also the third largest film production centre in Australia, behind Sydney and Melbourne.  Films such as House of Wax (2005), the Scooby Doo films, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the Big Brother reality TV series were shot on the Gold Coast.  Also, the surf beaches are so popular that the Gold Coast has the largest professional surf lifesaving service in Australia.

 

Along the Coast

Our first day on the Gold Coast was cold, wet and windswept.  We went out for a rapid walk along the edge of the Gold Coast Seaway that lead into the Broadwater and watched the waves crash around the rocks.

 

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We stayed at the Surfers Paradise YHA and in the morning, the weather was much calmer so Juz got up early and went out onto Main Beach for a walk to watch the sunrise.

 

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Surfers Paradise

The commercial centre of the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise is a cluster of high rise buildings, shops and eateries, and an incredible beach.

 

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Burleigh Heads & Miami

This was a nice area that wasn’t as busy or touristy as up north.  We’d heard rumours that it was becoming “the new Byron Bay” but after visiting Byron Bay, we’re not sure we see it.  There was a great lookout on the headland just before Burleigh Heads that gave great views of the beaches on either side.

 

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Currumbin

We watched surfers elegantly ride the waves before checking out the Elephant Rock Lookout.

 

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Coolangatta

This is the southernmost town of the Gold Coast and is the twin city of Tweed Heads, the town on the NSW side of the border.  We went to Point Danger and the Captain Cook Memorial before heading towards the Hinterland.

 

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Hinterland

Known as the green behind the gold, the Gold Coast Hinterland features lush rainforest, walks and lookouts, wineries and various fresh produce like avocados, kiwifruits and macadamia nuts.  We loved our time in Queensland’s own Emerald City and it was through this area that we crossed the border into New South Wales for good.

 

Mount Tamborine

There is heaps to see and do in Mount Tamborine.  As you head south from Brisbane, your first stop will be The Bearded Dragon for a free reptile show, a taste of some very hoppy beers and looky-loo around the pub.

 

 

Once you get to the Gallery Walk, your tastebuds can really go wild.  The Fortitude Brewery offers tasting paddles and food while the nearby Witches Chase Cheese Company has the most delectable triple cream brie, ‘Tamembert’ and Misty Mountain blue cheese you will ever taste!

 

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There are also a few wineries, including the Mount Tambourine Winery with a fabulous chardonnay and rum port.  Don’t forget to visit the Tamborine Mountain Distillery.  It’s been around since 1998 and they have a massive range of spirits and liqueurs.  Their post popular flavour is the Wattle Toffee Liqueur, but if drinking isn’t your thing, the cellar door is full of colourful Russian knick-knacks and there’s some very pretty statues and fountains outside.

 

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Amongst all the cafes and fudge shops, there are also souvenir shops, art galleries and the Cuckoo Clock Nest, a store with walls covered in cuckoo clocks and tall grandfather clocks.  It’s definitely worth a visit.

 

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Natural wonders include Cedar Creek Falls and the enchanting Curtis Falls, but if you really want to get close to nature, check out Thunderbird Park.  This place combines adventure with nature by offering horse riding, a tree top challenge, mini golf, thunderegg fossicking and laser skirmish.  They also do awesome pizzas.

 

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Springbrook National Park

Located in the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, Springbrook National Park is full of waterfalls, lookouts and trees with both ecological and historical significance.  While the weather wasn’t great for us, the winding drive through the lush green forest was lovely.  Purlingbrook Falls had a great lookout that showcased the waterfall beautifully, while the Best of All Lookout gave us a great view from inside a cloud!  Sure, we didn’t get to see the actual view, but we really enjoyed the walk to the lookout and marvelled at the ancient Antarctic Beech Trees.

 

 

Natural Bridge

Part of Springbrook National Park, Natural Bridge is a beautiful rock feature that was formed over millions of years by water eroding rock.  It is certainly worth the trip, especially if you visit late in the day to spy the glow worm colony illuminated after sunset.

 

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Information & Accommodation

Trams run along the Gold Coast and are a great way to get around.  For more information, visit the Translink website.

 

For the budget conscious, Surfers Paradise YHA is a great place to base yourself as you explore the Gold Coast. For more information, visit their website.   There is also a Coolangatta YHA if you need to be closer to the Gold Coast Airport.

 

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For accommodation in the Hinterland, check out the Cedar Creek Lodges.  They are on the higher end of the scale, but if you’re visiting for a long weekend or a romantic getaway, it’s totally worth it. For more information, check out the website.

 

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The Tablelands

The Tablelands – Part 3 : Yungaburra to Millaa Millaa

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The southern end of the Tablelands is lush and green, with rolling hills and waterfalls, and the climate is perfect for dairy farming.  To get there, head south from Cairns and turn right at Gordonvale.  Follow the winding road past Frog Rock for around 45 minutes and that will bring you to Yungaburra.  Don’t forget to enjoy the scenery and stop to check out the Cathedral Fig Tree!

 

 

Cathedral Fig Tree

Our first stop on the way to Yungaburra was the Cathedral Fig Tree, a 500 year old strangler fig located in the Danbulla State forest about 15 minutes from the main road.  It is a huge fig tree with roots that hang down and create an enclosed little area.  It is certainly beautiful and makes for a great photo opportunity.

 

 

Yungaburra

After a quick walk around town, we stopped for lunch at the Yungaburra Whistle Stop Café and were blown away by the great service, relaxed and familiar atmosphere, and the great value of the yummy meals.  This quaint little heritage town gets its name from the local Yidinyji language and means place of questioning.  It remains relatively unchanged since 1910 and acts as a hub to a few local attractions.

 

Curtain Fig Tree

The Curtain Fig Tree is one of the largest trees in Tropical North Queensland and is a species of tree that strangles host trees.  The way the Curtain Fig got its name is when the host tree fell over onto a neighbouring tree, the fig decided that one tree wasn’t enough and started to grow around both trees.  The result is a huge curtain of roots that are absolutely breathtaking.

 

 

Gallo Dairyland

A perfect stop for any cheese lover, Gallo Dairyland is a fairly new edition to the Tablelands, but it depends on how you look at it.  The owners bought it in 1937 as a standard rotary dairy farm, but they had the dream of turning it into an ‘integrated educational dairy farm experience’.  Seventy years later in 2007, Gallo Dairyland opened to the public and offers delicious cheeses, chocolate, ice cream, lactose free options and a cafe, as well as the opportunity to meet some animals in the nursery, see how cows are milked and how the milk is processed.

 

We sampled their range of cheeses, with our favourites being the luscious macadamia cheese and bitey ‘Gallozola’, and we also tasted a few of the gourmet chocolates – YUM!

 

 

Lake Eacham

This beautiful blue green lake is located within the Crater Lakes National Park.  It was formed around 12,000 years ago when magma from the earth’s core moved towards the crust and heated up the water table.  The resulting steam led to an explosion that created the crater.  There are no streams that feed the volcanic lake – its water comes from rain and the water level fluctuates around 4 metres during the year.

 

The Tablelands

 

It’s a great spot for locals and tourists alike – the location is ideal for swimming, canoeing and wildlife watching, and there is a large grassed area that is perfect for picnics.  Fishing and motor boats are not allowed, which gives the fish and turtles that live in the lake some peace and quiet.

 

The Tablelands

 

Malanda

This small Tableland town was first developed in the 1900s after the discovery of copper and tin at nearby Herberton.  It is known for producing dairy and their furthest milk run went as far north as Weipa and as far west as Wyndham and Kununarra in Western Australia.  That’s around 3,000 km!

 

Malanda Dairy Centre

The best place to get more info about the history of the region is the Malanda Dairy Centre. Essentially, it’s a cafe, but it also has an art gallery and museum with local history and stories from the War era.   Definitely worth a visit, if not for a slice of cake.

 

 

Malanda Falls

On the edge of town is the Malanda Falls Conservation Park.  There is a small waterfall and swimming hole there that is a great place for a picnic.

 

 The Tablelands

 

Millaa Millaa

This small town has a population of around 300 people and includes a post office, library, newsagency, pub and a cafe.  The traditional owners of the area are the Mamu people, and the words Millaa Millaa mean plenty of water.

 

Lions Park

The massive Lions Park that takes up most of the main Street is a perfect spot for picnic or BBQ. There is also a playground, a display of giant Kauri Pine logs and historical statue of the explorer Christie Palmerston and his aboriginal sidekick Pompo.  Christie (yes, girls name for a dude) was the first European to make a track from Herberton to Innisfail.  He was also the first European to climb Bartle Frere.

 

 

De Millaa’s Cafe

By the time we got to Millaa Millaa, we were starving for lunch.  We got a burger each and an iced coffee to share.  The one thing that stood out as exceptionally tasty was the bread – nice and gummy with a beautiful flavour.  We just wish they had some music playing – the tranquillity of Millaa Millaa town couldn’t compete with the sounds of us chewing our lunch.

 

Mungali Creek Dairy

A dairy producer of yoghurts, milk and cheeses, Mungali Creek is a familiar brand with their yoghurts available at most local supermarkets.  Their cheeses are also available at an outlet at Rusty’s.  They were open for tasting and also have a little cafe that overlooks the operations.

 

Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit

The area around Millaa Millaa is known for waterfalls, including the heritage-listed Millaa Millaa Falls.  This popular swimming spot is easily accessible and includes a lovely grassed area for sunbaking and picnicking.  The beautiful cascade of water runs over volcanic basalt that was formed around 1.5 million years ago.  As the basalt cooled, it formed cracks which have produced the columns behind the falls that you see today.

 

The Tablelands

 

Further along the circuit is Zillie Falls.  The viewing platform is located at the top of the falls, but it isn’t hard for the adventurous to locate the unkempt track that leads down to the bottom.  There is plenty of opportunity to explore the boulders and pools below, but please be careful about getting into rapid water, and of flooding during the Wet Season.

 

The Tablelands

 

The last stop along the loop is Ellinjaa Falls, a wide and irregular cascade of water over lava columns.  The pool at the bottom is fairly shallow and rumour has it that it is popular hangout for platypi and turtles.

 

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On your way to Innisfail from Millaa Millaa, you can see Queensland’s highest mountain in the distance – Bartle Frere.  Its elevation is 1,622 metres above sea level and was named after Sir Henry Bartle Frere, a British colonial administrator who was also the president of the Royal Geographical Society (NERD!).  Of course, it had a name before the British came to Australia – Chooreechillum.

 

The Tablelands

 

So there you have it – the Tablelands.  Our main highlights include Coffee Works and Mt Uncles Distillery in Mareeba, the Crystal Caves in Atherton, and Gallo Dairyland near Yungaburra.  We also loved the enormous fig trees and lush countryside, with the deep blue sky contrasting with the green hills.  After around 6 months of travelling through central Australia, it was such a relief to be out of the dry Outback and Savannah scrub.

 

The Tablelands – Part 1 : Ravenshoe to Mareeba

 

The Tablelands

Kuranda

The Tablelands – Part 2 : Kuranda

Kuranda

 

Nestled in rainforest just 25km from Cairns, Kuranda is an adorable “Village in the Rainforest” with plenty of bohemian character.  Check out the colourful craft markets, indulge in some delicious coffee at one of the many cafes, or get closer to nature by visiting the nearby waterfalls or local animals.

 

The rainforest around Kuranda was the home of the Djaybugay people for thousands of years, before the white settlers turned up in 1885.  The construction of a railway to connect Cairns with Herberton went through Kuranda in 1891 and it was around this time that the Kuranda Post office opened.  Timber was the town’s primary industry for a long time, until it turned into the tourist destination that it is today.  It uses the railway to receive thousands of tourists who travel from Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic Railway.  Other ways to get to Kuranda are by coach or the Skyrail.

 

During our stay in Cairns, we had both Juz’s mum and dad visit on separate occasions, and we took them both to Kuranda.  If you have a day to spare while you’re in the Cairns/Port Douglas region, it would be worth spending some or all of that day in Kuranda.

 

Kuranda

 

Points of Interest

Kuranda Markets

There are two markets in Kuranda.

The Heritage Market started around 20 years ago and is an undercover market nestled between the Wildlife Experience destinations.  The main things on offer are various Australiana products, like didgeridoos, vests and wallets made from kangaroo fur, handmade jewellery, crafts and leather goods.  There is also a nice cafe with a deck that overlooks lush rainforest.

 

 

The original Kuranda Market is located across the road, behind the shops and was established in 1978.  It’s laid out over a sloped landscape with little pathways winding around colourful huts that host the stalls.  This market has a very hippy, colourful, free-spirited feel to it, and the stalls vary from health smoothies and rainbow dresses to dreadlocking and a mini golf course!  The highlights of the original market are the hippy photo op and Petit Cafe…

 

Petit Café

A popular destination for locals and visitors, Petit Cafe offers an entire menu of various crepes with delicious coffee.  During busy times, you might have to wait to get a table, but it is worth it.  The kangaroo prosciutto and goats cheese crepe is heaven.  We took Juz’s mum here when she visited and we all had a savoury crepe each, and a dessert crepe to share.  Scrumptious.

 

 

Kuranda Beer

One of the cafes in Kuranda offers Kuranda Draught, a beer made by Red Dragon Brewery in Cairns.  We stopped in to sample and found that this beer was really nice.  The banana and other fruity aromas gave it a real ‘breakfast beer’ taste.  It was crisp and lightly bubbly with a delicate hops aftertaste that left a pleasant lingering bitterness and dryness in the mouth. YUMMO!

 

German Tucker

If you don’t mind a bit of sausage, these guys claim to have the best German sausages in Australia.  Yes, they’re delicious, and come with a variety of sides like caramelised onion, sauerkraut and potato salad, but surely there are other ‘best German sausages’ in Australia… right?

 

Kuranda

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

If you have at least 6 hours to spare, we highly recommend treating yourself to the Kuranda Wildlife Experience.  This package includes three destinations – the Kuranda Koala Gardens, Birdworld Kuranda and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.  You’ll get to meet a whole range of animals, from koalas, wallabies and gliders to lizards, turtles and cheeky parrots.  Check out our post about the Kuranda Wildlife Experience here…

 

 

Barron River Falls

The best time to visit the Barron Falls is once the Wet Season has started (around January), because at this time, the torrent of white water that falls over the Barron Falls Weir is more fierce and really impressive. We visited just before the wet and while we weren’t expecting much, it was still a pretty sight.

 

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Dragonfly - Litchfield National Park

Experience : Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park

Our mates from Melbourne had flown up for a few days so we put aside a day to visit Litchfield National Park.  It’s about 100km south of Darwin and while it’s accessible all year round due to the sealed road, 4WD tracks tend to close during the wet season.  Camping is available at various locations.

 

Litchfield National Park is named after Frederick Henry Litchfield, who was part of the first European exploration of the area.  Over the last 100 years, the area has been used for tin and copper mining, and pasture, before being dubbed a national park in 1986.

 

Florence Falls

Probably the most popular location in the park, Florence Falls offers a beautiful swimming hole with fresh, clear water.  We cooled off in the shade before heading to the measly picnic area for a bite to eat.  We ended up sitting on a rock under a tree because the picnic platforms weren’t shaded.

 

Florence Falls - Litchfield National Park

 

Tolmer Falls

A short walk leads to the Tolmer Falls lookout.  You can see a natural arch that the water has created over the years before plunging down into an inaccessible pool and caves that are inhabited by bats.

 

 

 

Wangi Falls

These falls were really impressive and created quite a spray that was refreshing on our skin.  During the Wet Season, the Wangi Falls are spit out heaps of water and this attracts heaps of tourists.  There’s a café and gift shop on site, camping is available and there is a day use area, but the swimming area is closed during the wet season.

 

 

 

Termite Mounds

There are two termite features in the park – magnetic termite mounds and the cathedral termite mound.  The magnetic termite mounds are pretty cool because they all run north to south, which is designed to maximise on the temperature control features of chimneys and tunnels within the structure.  Scientists did experiments on the termites to see what affects the direction of their houses and after creating a magnetic field that was different to the earth’s, the termites started to build their mound according to the man-made magnetic field – hence the name!

 

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The cathedral termite mounds were huge and the termites were a little scary, but we preoccupied ourselves with funny photos.

 

Kieran, Dave, Maria & Juz

Fortescue Falls - Karijini National Park

Experience : Karijini National Park

This beautiful and rugged landscape is part of the Hamersley Range and is Western Australia’s second largest national park.  There are three aboriginal tribes that traditionally own the Karijini area – the Banyjima, Yinhawangka and Kurrama people.  They’ve lived in the area for over 30,000 years, telling stories of creation, navigating the landscape without maps and practicing fire stick farming as a form of land management that increased plant diversity in the park.

 

The rock in Karijini was formed from iron-rich sediment over 2,500 million years ago under the ocean.  Horizontal compression caused the rock to buckle and crack before rising up out of the water.  Over millions of years, water erosion cut into the cracks to form the deep gorges that we enjoy and can explore today.  During our time in Karijini, we came across some beautiful flowers, including purple mulla mullas, tiny violets and Karijini wattle.

 

 

The climate in the park can vary from scorching 40 degree temperatures and the occasional thunderstorm in summer to clear days and frosty nights in winter.  We were there in the middle of May and were lucky to complete all the gorge hikes before the rain came, but unlucky that we couldn’t stay longer.  As soon as it starts to rain, you need to be careful of flash flooding and get out of the gorges, or you could have a seriously bad time.

 

Hiking

All walking tracks are graded according to Australian Standards.  Many of the tracks that lead into the gorges are quite steep and the rocks can be very slippery, especially when it’s wet.  Make sure you wear appropriate shoes and carry water with you at all times.

 

Mount Bruce (Punurrunha)

The first hike we did was up towards Mount Bruce.  This is the second tallest peak in Western Australia at 1235 metres tall, and is an important landmark that borders the three aboriginal tribes in the area.

 

As we climbed, we could see the Marandoo Mine Site in the distance, but that was overshadowed by the awe-inspiring view of the mountain rising up before us and the beautifully coloured rocks beneath our boots.  We got about 2.5km in before we turned back – Juz was on day 3 of her hangover and wasn’t feeling 100%.  It goes without saying that she won’t drink that much ever again…

 

 

Joffre Falls & Knox Gorge

The lookout to Joffre Falls was breathtaking and we decided to check out the track into the gorge.  About 300 metres in, we were at the head of the waterfall and were quite happy to not go any further.

 

Knox Gorge Lookout provided some great views of below and reminded us of the Z-Bend Gorge in Kalbarri National Park.  Lunchtime was approaching so we decided to head to Weano Gorge and cook up some bacon.

 

 

Oxer & Junction Pool Lookouts

These lookouts are perfectly placed at the intersection of four gorges – Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge, Red Gorge and Joffre Gorge.  At the base of this intersection is an isolated pool, and the gate on the handrails gave us the impression that tour groups come here to abseil down into the gorge.

 

 

Kalamina Gorge

In between the Weano Picnic Grounds and Dales Camping Area is the Kalamina Gorge and waterfall.  We descended into the gorge and explored for a few kilometres, marvelling at the layers of colourful rock, steep cliffs and clear waters.  The contrasting layers of psychedelic red and magnetic blue rock throughout the gorge was really special.  We returned to the waterfall for a refreshing dip in the chilly water amongst curious little fish.

 

 

Fern Pool & Fortescue Falls

First thing in the morning, we packed up and headed for the walking trails.  We didn’t know when the rain was going to start so we wanted to make the most of the dry time.

 

Fern Pool was first, and the 300m walk from Fortescue Falls was shaded by giant fig trees growing out of the rock.  Once we arrived at the pool, we instinctively knew to be quiet and respectful.  There was something sacred and supernatural about this place, and when we felt the deep blue green water, it was strangely warm.  Two chicks were in the middle of some sort of morning ritual so we left them in peace in this special place.

 

 

The Fortescue Falls were stunning, both from the lookout and in the gorge.  We moved around the tiered amphitheatre and admired the water falling into the pool below, which would be perfect for a swim on a hot day.

 

Circular Pool

A steep descent into the luscious gorge adorned with little flowers, lush ferns, paperbarks and bare-rooted fig trees.  Circular Pool was so exquisite that Juz refused to leave without getting in for a swim, despite the cool of the morning.  So she got her kit off and jumped in.  The water was eerily warm until she got in the deep end; the bitter cold stung her legs so she came back in to dry off and get dressed.  Dave said that if the weather was nice and hot, it would have been tits, but because it was cold, it was just nipples.

 

 

It was now that the rain began, so we climbed out of the gorge and completed our experience at Karijini National Park.  We drove away, saddened that the weather wasn’t kinder to us. We could have stayed another day if the weather was warm to complete the gorge rim hike and go for another swim in the peculiar-coloured water.

 

Camping

There are two places you can camp in Karijini – the Eco Retreat near Joffre Falls or Dales Camping area.  The Eco Retreat is a privately owned resort with a variety of accommodation options.  Dales camping area is managed by DEC and costs $9 per adult to stay the night.

 

 

Facilities include gas BBQs, picnic benches and drop toilets.  There are seven camping areas at Dales and only one accepts noisy generators.  There are no bins in the area (why would a garbage truck want to drive all the way into Karijini National Park?) so please take your rubbish home with you.