|Subject: Trip notes from Tropical North Queensland (long)|
Hi Ziners I'm just back in Sydney after spending 15 lovely
days in the far north of Australia, and thought I'd share a
few thoughts with you.
Regular members of the Zine will know that Gail Norris stays annually in the Cairns area (thanks for your previous postings Gail, they were really useful) so I thought I'd add some comments about the Tablelands west of Cairns as well as the beautiful Daintree Rainforest area. We didn't venture out to the Barrier Reef this trip, we have visited there before and although stunning, it wasn't one of our priorities this time.
We stayed in Julatten in a house that my husband is housesitting for a month (private arrangement). Julatten is about 30 km north west of Port Douglas, near Mt Molloy, and is cooler and less humid than the coast. The area is very popular with birdwatchers, with the Mareeba wetlands and other bird watching areas close by. (For Ziners that don't know where Port Douglas is, it's 2000km north of Sydney, and about 1 hour drive north of Cairns on the Queensland Coast. Flying time from Sydney to Cairns is about 3 hours, depending on headwinds).
Highlights of our trip included a hot air balloon ride over Mareeba which was exciting, and beautiful watching the sun rise as you float over the rainforest and farms. My 82 year old father achieved a life- long ambition when he completed this ride. We went with Hot Air Cairns - their web address is http://www.hotair.com.au They were fun and very professional. There's a couple of other companies as well.
We visited Kuranda, taking the train up and the skyrail down, which was also a great day out, with lovely views both ways. More information is available at http://www.skyrail.com.au
If wine tasting is one of your pleasures, and I know it is for many Ziners, I can also recommend the Golden Drop Mango wines. They are situated about 50 minutes drive from Cairns on the Kuranda Range. They have large signs up saying that if you don't buy any wine you have to pay for the winetasting, but apparently they usually don't adhere to this - we certainly weren't charged for the tasting. The mango wines were crisp and dry, with a mango bouquet that was quite subtle. They also make ports and liqueurs. The family are Italian, and their range of "Cellos" are their answer to the Isle of Capri's Limoncello. I don't think anything can beat sitting on your hotel balcony on Capri sipping icy cold Limoncello, but their's were pretty good anyway. Their web address is http://www.goldendrop.com.au Also in the Mareeba area is a coffee plantation, with a tour and tastings. This is situated right in Mareeba, there's plenty of signs and the coffee was very pleasant.
A very interesting day out is to the Undara Lava Tubes. They are situated 3-4 hours drive west of Cairns. If you have the time I would recommend staying overnight, so you can really experience the "outback". There are coach tours leaving Cairns regularly, or you can self drive - the roads are sealed for most of the way, and it's quite interesting seeing the road trains and open savannah country. The lava tubes were formed 190,000 years ago, some are as long as 1.2km but you can't walk in them due to high levels of carbon dioxide making it unsafe for the general public. We took a 2 hour tour, and saw inside 2 shorter tubes in that time. Tours are directed buy a guide and very informative and the route is well laid out, with boardwalks making it all very easy. They do advertise that this tour is suitable for mobility impaired people also. Their web site is http://www.undara.com.au We would certainly go back there to take a longer tour. Bookings are essential.
On the way to Undara we stopped just near Ravenshoe at Millstream Falls, they were very pretty, and worth a stop. It was made very special when we were lucky enough to see a platypus swimming in the pool just upstream of the falls. If you are interested in platypus the area around Yungaburra, west of Cairns has quite a few places that you are likely to see a platypus.
We drove north on a couple of occassions, into the Daintree National Park. On one day we went to Cape Tribulation where we went walking in the rainforest on boardwalks both at Cape Trib, and other spots further south. The rainforest is peaceful and quite beautiful, full of the sounds of birds; butterflies floating past; fish and tortoises in the streams; wild piglets; geckos and other lizards. Of couse there's crocodiles too, but we only saw them from a boat on the Daintree River when we took a cruise on another day. The Daintree Discovery Centre (http://www.daintree-rec.com.au) was well worth seeing also. They have a walk through the canopy of the trees, giving you a whole new perspective of the rainforest. We happily wandered there for a couple of hours.
Finally, we visited one of our sons on Dunk Island, where he works and lives. We drove to Mission Beach, about 3.5 hours from Julatten, and took the Catamaran to the Island. Dunk is a typical resort, with lots of activities, good food and accommodation, and postcard views of the tropical waters in every direction. We stayed only one night, but thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I could quite happily spend a week there, swimming and snorkelling and participating in the other activities on offer. Their web site is http://www.poresorts.com.au Follow the links to Dunk Island.
If you are holidaying in North Queensland at any time give the Cairns and Post Douglas hinterland around Atherton some thought. It's well worth a visit, with many interesting attractions. For some general information to get you started, try the Atherton Tablelands Promotion Bureau - http://www.athertontableland.com or for more general information about Queensland the Qld Govt site at http://www.queenslandtravel.com and for Tropical North Queensland try http://www.tropicalaustralia.com
Sadly for me, it's back to work tomorrow. The only consolation is that now we can start really planning our trip to the UK next year. Stand by for some questions from me!
Cheers Sally from Sydney