Our ‘free’ stop over at Tully Beach (or Tully Heads) on Thursday night was not all that was advertised. Since the printing of our ‘travel bible’, the local Council has done quite a lot of work on the beachfront and the free stay was no longer available. With having no Plan B, we decided to cruise the area to see what we could find. We found anther low cost camp ($15.50 per night) but it was very dusty, no services and packed with other travellers. Not enticing at all.
We decided to move around to the next beach – Googarra. While there was no free camping, we did find a very well set up caravan park with a mix of permanents and travellers. The park had ablutions and laundry, diesel pump, LPG fill service and a full shop and café facility for the princely sum of $20 per night. To top it off, the local pub was just next door. We joined our fellow campers for 5 o’clockers (actually started at 3.30pm!!) around a campfire and had a very pleasant evening. Funny how things turn out!
Friday we made our way to Cairns. We made a minor detour on the way to the coast to visit Mission Beach. We had been told it was a place worth dropping in to. While the beach and the little town were beautiful, again the water in this region is full of stingers and crocodiles so swimming in the sea is a ‘no no’. There are plenty of written warning signs for would be swimmers. We are sure the water hazards here must take the shine off owning a beachfront property. We finally arrived in Cairns late on Friday afternoon.
On Saturday we jumped into the jeep and did a tour of Cairns City. The highlight for us was the waterfront Esplanade. It appeared very similar to that of the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast (including the high rise apartments). There were restaurants and cafes everywhere and it was obvious the town was geared to tourism and the ‘younger set’. We loved the way much of the housing is set in a bush type environment. We understand the fire risk but they seem do a wonderful job of ensuring any building does not impact adversely on the environment. More photographs of our city visit HERE .
On Sunday we visited the Barron Gorge National Park. The Park incorporates 2820 hectares tropical rainforest and is one of several parks in Wet Tropics World Heritage area. We caught the Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns to Kuranda, a small art and crafts village 1000 feet above Cairns. The railway was opened in 1891, is 37 km long and includes 15 handmade tunnels, 55 bridges and 98 curves. The train trip takes 2 hours. We returned to Cairns on the Skyrail, a 7.5km cableway that operates above the forest floor from Karunda to Cairns taking 1.5 hours. Many of you will know that Dearne does not like heights so spent the first part of our journey back to Cairns with her eyes closed. Worth a visit if you are ever up here. More photographs of our Sunday trip HERE.
On Monday we completed one of our ‘must do’ things and that was to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. It was a 7am pick up and our boat sailed at 8am. The vessel had recently been refurbished and was in top condition. While it was able to sail with 80 passengers, there were only about 50 on board so there was plenty of space. We snorkelled on two reefs – Hastings Reef and Breaking Patches Reef. Both were about 40km off shore and had excellent coral and fish life, including turtles. To top the day off, a pod of whales passed our bow as we were anchored at Hastings Reef. We had a great day that was complimented by brilliant weather, smooth seas and perfect water visibility. We arrived back ashore at about 5pm. More photos of our day HERE .
We spent today stocking up on groceries and picking up the odd bits and pieces for the next stage of our journey. We head north to Port Douglas tomorrow (Wednesday). We have prebooked two nights in Port Douglas as it is the high season and finding anywhere to park is difficult. We could not find any free camping spots in our book. If we happen to run across one, we may go to Plan B. We will top up the van fresh water tomorrow before we leave just in case we are unable to get water in Port Douglas. From Port Douglas we intend going on to Cooktown, probably arriving this Friday.
For the fishers amongst you, the fishing so far has been abysmal. While the weather has not helped, I was told today that the best fishing up here is outside of the reef – some sixty kilometres from the shore. When we were talking to the guys last night, some had been fishing the area for some six weeks and had only caught a couple of decent fish.