Sailing the Whitsundays

The whole reason for us returning to Queensland after only visiting last year was to join my sister and her husband on their yacht in the Whitsundays. They are returning from an epic adventure sailing from Fremantle to South-East Asia and returning to the the east coast of Australia over five years and this was our chance to experience the life style before the yacht was sold.

We joined them in Airlie Beach and immediately had a wonderful sail across to Cid Harbour. This turned out to be the best sail of our whole trip as the wind direction and strength forced us to motor or motor sail the rest of the time. We watched the sun drop into the ocean and then woke to a beautiful still day. Unfortunately it was too still as we laboured up Whitsunday Peak wishing for a breeze to cool us. It was worth the effort as it gave a magnificent view in both directions.

We had a rough motor to Hamilton Island to collect our daughter and her husband after they had flown up from Hobart, stripping off layers as they headed north. We then headed back to anchor in Nara Inlet, a popular, narrow sheltered inlet. The dinghy delivered us to shore to see the cave art painted by the first inhabitants and learn about it from the well put together display. We also saw the results of Cyclone Debbie, seeing a second boat pushed up on  the rocks.

It was a short trip around the corner the next day to try snorkelling off Langford Island. We were also treated to the power of the recent cyclone here too as much of the hard coral was broken and scattered about. However it did mean that each remaining patch of live coral was host to a great accumulation of fish. We also learned about spring and neap tides. We were here on a spring tide with the greatest height difference and creating murky water which we got for the rest of the trip. We saw a number of large commercial vessels including one with a slide for the entertainment of guests – we made do with simpler pleasures. The night was spent at Stonehaven.

We motored down the outside of the islands the next day to Whitehaven Beach where a seaplane took off right behind our yacht. We joined the daytrippers and yachties on the beach where the highlight was the tame goannas. Four of us stretched our legs on the walk across the headland.

One of the trees blown off the dunes managed to get tied around our anchor chain and had to be sawn off the next morning before we could leave. We motored up to the other end of the white sand beach and joined another group of people all having fun on the beach. We walked up the ridge on Tongue Point to see the reason for going to Whitehaven Beach – the view over the sweeping curve of Hill Inlet with the contrast of aquamarine water and white sand. We popped around the corner to anchor in Tongue Bay where we were thrilled to see dugongs.

We snokelled some more with better coral but still murky water. We returned to Cid Harbour to let Jessica and Nick climb Whitsunday Peak (which they did much more quickly than us) while Ray and I strolled around to Dugong Bay and back in the same time. They paddled around the harbour and then we settled back to enjoy the light show as the sun set.

After we dropped Jessica and Nick at Hamilton Island we enjoyed the comforts of a marina before heading back to Airlie Beach and the end of our sail after a wonderful time. It was back to our trusty camper and heading inland of Mackay to Mt Britten. This is the site of a short lived gold rush – only 10 years – and not much left to show but a wonderful location to camp.

Lake Elphinstoke was the next nearby destination. It is a very popular spot with lots of caravans setting up for an extended stay on the natural lake. There was lots of bird life to keep us entertained but I can see the advantage of having a canoe.

We headed south down the inland road seeing very little traffic. Lunch was shared at Marlborough with the local rainbow lorikeets who arrived at our table after their previous targets had left. We drove out to Byfield State Forest, north of Yeppoon, but on arrival Ray realised the camper did not look right. Looking underneath we discovered the weld joining the drawbar to the chassis had broken and knew that joining up to RACV Total Care had been a great idea. We had the camper trucked to Rockhampton where were put up for three nights while the damage was assessed. It was then decided the camper would be trucked home and we would have to head home a little earlier than we had planned. Four uneventful days later we were home and sure that staying in motels and cabins was not our favoured way to travel. The unexpected highlight of the trip home was finding the Sandstone Cave walk in Pilliga Nature reserve where the powers of wind and water were once again on display though this time over millenia.

For another viewpoint of our trip and to see some of the underwater action head to Jessica’s blog.

https://wordsandwilds.wordpress.com/2017/08/12/100-days-later-the-whitsundays-after-debbie

 

 

 

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The Wet Tropics

From desert like countryside to rain and mist was a bit of a shock. After brilliant sunshine every day we now had constant cloud but it is called the wet tropics for a reason. We started in the Atherton Tablelands and visited lots of waterfalls so we couldn’t complain about the wet. We revisited all out favourites from previous visits. A highlight was being shown a Lumholz tree kangaroo high in a tree at Millaa Millaa caravan park – it was a long way away but it was in the wild!

We next visited Paronella Park after having recommendations from everyone who has been to this part of Queensland. Built by Spanish immigrant Jose Paronella in 1929-35 it was a popular pleasure garden and the site of the first power plant in North Queensland. It thrived until setbacks saw it closed in 1979 until being revived by the present owners in 1993. It is once again a thriving tourist attraction and very well presented with camping available and tours provided with entry.

We took a couple of inland deviations to Tully Gorge and Blencoe Falls. Tully Gorge was up an easy bitumen road to a campsite where we watched the parade of rafters and kayakers who come to this river every day. Blencoe Falls was over the ranges on a rough dirt road to an amazing waterfall and peaceful campsite by the creek.

Jourama Creek was another favourite campsite that had to be revisited and then we found our way to Broadwater camp in Abergowrie forest with only one wrong turn. It has a huge camping area that we had almost to ourselves apart from visits by goannas. A night at Taylor’s Creek amongst all the fishermen camped there long term allowed us to enjoy modern amenities.

Outback Queensland

After missing Lawn Hill on every trip to Queensland because it was too far out of the way, this trip we made sure we got there. First stop in Queensland however was Camooweal where we stayed on the waterhole with all the other caravanners. Everyone had their water view and the bird life was great with resident brolgas. We drove out to the caves in the national park which turned out to be sink holes and the caves could not be accessed. It was still worth a visit with Great Nowranie cave in particular being impressive.

On the way to Lawn Hill (Boodjamulla NP) we passed through Riversleigh, the site of the first fossils found in Queensland. The information centre is in a man made rock and a walk takes you around the site with some rocks with fossils on display.

We couldn’t book into the national park campsite due to school holidays but Adel’s Grove is not far away and has more services. On our first day we hired a canoe and paddled up the middle and upper gorges. It was a great introduction to the gorge. The hardest part was the portaging of Indarri falls as we maneuvered ourselves in and out of the canoe and then hauled it overland. The next day we helped a large man who was having trouble getting back in and kept swamping the canoe.

Walking gives a different perspective as we peered down on the water from above. It made us hotter too so I had a swim at Indarri Falls.

We headed to Karumba, the winter hangout of fishermen, and quickly left again. At Normanton we visited the empty station and then caught up with the Gulflander as we drove along the road to Croydon. Cumberland Chimney was an unexpected highlight. We stopped for one night and stayed two as we enjoyed the birds brought in by the dam, a relic of mining days.

36 Waterfalls

I won’t try and show you all 36 waterfalls that we saw in the week in the Lamington and Springbrook National Parks behind the Gold Coast but they certainly were impressive. There was a good fall of rain that we sat out on the coast so all the falls were in good flow. We started at Binna Burra with a circuit walk called Dave’s creek (we never did find a creek of this name, in fact not many creeks!) which gave us views down into the valley. The next day we headed off to Coomera Falls which were almost surpassed by the lovely drop of the Yarrabilgong Falls through the lush green growth opposite. I farewelled Ray and set off to complete the 17 kilometre circuit. The first few river  crossings had large stepping stones to keep my feet dry but unfortunately the supply of large rocks didn’t keep going and I ended up wading across a few times. I followed on up the Coomera River with a series of falls and side streams also providing more highlights before returning to camp via the border track.

We then headed to Canungra where we left the trailer rather than towing it up the steep narrow road to O’Reilly’s where the campsites were small. We had our packs so that we could complete two walks without having to backtrack. The first day saw us heading for Albert River. We zigzagged gently down the mountainside with each corner giving us a new waterfall to view on Lightning Creek. We only spent a short time on Albert River but it provided a number of pretty falls.

Our campsite was deep in the forest but it was in a saddle and the wind roared through. We tried our best to screen the gas cooker but it took a lot longer than usual to cook. We were near Echo Point Lookout which gave great views towards Mt Warning and the coast so we visited to see it in different lights.

The next morning took us along the edge of the rim and through beautiful, mossy rainforest dominated by Antarctic beech trees. We then descended to Toolona Creek and one waterfall after another. Each one was different from the towering Toolona falls to the pretty Gwongurai Falls tumbling into a leafy green  bower. We finally had to leave this creek to return to our starting point.

Springbrook NP is on the other side of the valley so we towed the trailer up the steep road to the excellent campsite. We took a short circuit walk to visit the very powerful Purling Brook Falls and were rewarded with rainbows in the sunshine. Best of All Lookout lived up to it’s name as we again enjoyed a view of Mt Warning and the coast.

We arose in the dark the next morning to capture sunrise only to find we had to clear ice off the windscreen first. It was worth the trip to the lookout and there was still plenty of frost when we returned for breakfast.

Another circuit walk had us again visiting multiple waterfalls as we completed the 17 kilometre Warrie circuit. We must have been going the wrong way as we met many people walking the other way and no-one going our way.

We weren’t waterfalled out yet so managed to visit a couple more on the way home including the well known Natural Bridge. The weather was cold as the clear winter skies gave us frosts as we dashed through New South Wales and home.

South to Surfers

It was time to turn south and head for home though we still had four weeks to get there. We stopped as usual at National Parks along the way. Jourama Falls had less water than the last time we were there but the camping area was greatly improved. The camp at Big Crystal Ck in Paluma Range was another great spot and we revisited the photogenic bridge as well as seeing new sights.

We reached the Whitsundays where we first had a stopover at Bowen. It was very scenic out on the point and there were beaches in every direction. We could snorkel off the beach but unfortunately the visibility was not great. We moved to Airlie Beach where we organised an overnight stay on Hamilton Island on standby. We found it good value with our boat trips, bus rides, sailing and other beach activities included. We made the most of our two days but found that was enough – we are not resort people and couldn’t spend a week there.

Back on the mainland the first stop was Eungella to spot platypus (pretty much guaranteed) and then out to Cape Hillsborough where we didn’t see the kangaroos on the beach as in the brochures but enjoyed our stay. We headed inland to visit Cania Gorge, a much less dramatic version of Carnarvon Gorge. We managed to complete almost all the walks in our two days – our most walking since the Thorsborne Trail.

The hinterland of the Sunshine Coast was a pleasant surprise as we drove up on one of the steepest roads so far. We bypassed all the tourist shops and headed to Kondalilla Falls for an excellent circuit walk over the top and to the bottom of the falls. We couldn’t go past the Glasshouse Mountains without revisiting Mt Ngungun (pronounced noo-noo) as we had 17 years ago. They had improved the track putting in gentle zigzags instead of scrambling up the steep mountain side but the view was just as good if a little more crowded with houses. We then stayed at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast to wait out bad weather and catch up with family.

The Thorsborne Trail

 

We had planned this whole trip to Queensland around walking the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island, a long held dream, and the time had arrived. We set off from the wharf at Cardwell and could soon see rain squalls ahead. After dodging a couple we were engulfed but it was shortlived. By the time we were dropped at the jetty it had stopped and we were dry after ten minutes walking.

We climbed a small headland and dropped to Blacksands Bay before a bigger climb over Nina Saddle and dropped down to our first creek crossing and crocodile warnings. There were mangroves but the tide was well out and the only movement was from the mud skippers. The next creek gave no easy option but wet feet or boots off. Ray was his usual walk straight through and had wet boots for the rest of the trip while Ann and I kept our boots dry. We were soon at Nina Bay where we said goodbye to our boat mates who were all walking the route in four days while we had elected to take five very easy days.

The second day was another four kilometre day and the pity was we couldn’t swim at the beaches because of crocodile warnings. We skirted the rocks and then traversed the aptly named Boulder Bay. The next bay was Little Ramsay Bay, the usual first night’s stop but we pushed on to Banksia Bay to take an hour off the next day – the longest.

Having time to spare we explored the headland to discover an intricate rocky pavement and a view to the next headland which would be an island at high tide. Our walk across the beach at low tide showed us the amazing handiwork of the very small crabs. We camped right next to the beach, just behind the crocodile sign.

Our longest day provided a contrast to the headlands and beaches of the first two as we headed inland and climbed up to a saddle. The climb down the other side along a rocky watercourse was the trickiest bit of the whole walk though one member found it the most enjoyable. We then entered the rainforest and the rest of the day was spent walking through it’s gloomy depths. We crossed the first two creeks easily and kept our boots dry and congratulated ourselves as the tracknotes warned we might get wet. Then of course we came to the real first creek crossing and we could not get through it with dry boots. Out came the sandals and the trusty walking poles were very handy in the knee-deep, fast-flowing water. The next was

 

even stronger and I suddenly wished I had two poles. We also had to walk through a couple of swamps with ankle deep water. We finally emerged at Zoe Bay and a well set out campsite with bench tables.

Zoe Bay also provided us with our first swim as we headed up to Zoe Falls and the lovely pool at the base. We still felt wary of crocs after the warnings from the local at Cardwell to the green tourists and the taking of one on Cape York Peninsula only two days before our walk, so we didn’t venture far in to the dark water. The sun set behind Mt Bowen as we enjoyed the spectacle from the beach and then lit up the clouds and the bay the following morning.

We climbed up beside the falls the next day and stopped for an idyllic swim in the pools at the top. We crossed and recrossed the creek on our way to the highest point of the trip and our first views to the south where Lucinda Jetty, the longest in the southern hemisphere, dominated the scene. Mulligan’s Falls was our final campsite and yet another swim as well as visits from the local wildlife. We could now appreciate why we were putting all our food in metal boxes every night.

The last day was another easy stroll with a few more creek crossings and then a long beach stroll. We chatted to the other walkers while waiting for the boat and one fellow was on his fourth trip and had always kept his boots dry – there was much more water this time. Our last crocodile infested creek was negotiated and the only ones we saw were on the boat ride back to Cardwell.

 

The Wet Tropics – The Coast

Down off the Tablelands to the coast and first stop was Josephine Falls. The water was flowing well but when we returned five days later it had calmed down and the usual crowd of young ones was swimming and sliding down the rocks.

Babinda Boulders is a favourite with its mix of calm, clear green water and fast flowing action through the enormous, rounded boulders. We also met some of the local wildlife with a trio of curlews frequenting the camp and sounding their sad, plantive cry in the night. We also found a beautifully coloured small spider and a troop of green ants manhandling a dead caterpillar.

We made it to Cairns, our northern most point of the trip, where I couldn’t resist the classic train trip to Kuranda with a return on the Skyrail. While in Kuranda I indulged my passion for photographing butterflies at the Butterfly House.

We couldn’t come here without a trip to the reef so we took a whole day trip to the outer reef where we snorkelled in three places. We saw lots of fish and coral as well as a spotted ray but only a glimpse of a turtle.

We picked up friends in Cairns and headed south, revisiting our favourite spots before stopping at Murray Falls for the night.

The next day gave us our first view of Hinchinbrook Island, our destination for a five day walk, on our way to Wallaman Falls, the longest, single drop, permanent waterfall in Australia. I hope I got the adjectives right as so many waterfalls lay claim to being the biggest in their category but these ones are hard to beat.

On the drive out I finally got a decent sight of those elusive mauve waterlilies we were meant to see at Lake Nuga Nuga and we had to watch out for the Brahman cows that felt the road belonged to them and were reluctant to move off it.