Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Road trip to Cairns

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on November 20, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Car at 2 weeks

Well off we went in search of some sunshine without the caravan as the XR6 we have hired won’t pull the van.  Everyone asks us why we didn’t just hire another 4WD but the main problem with that option was that NONE of the companies I rang and researched had a 4WD with electric brakes that you must have in order to tow our van. So an XR6 it is and then we thought we’d have a bit of a look around and see if anywhere along the coast could be our future home:)  We stopped in to check out the Landcruiser and see what stage it was up to – the back has been cut off and it doesn’t look anything like our car:(  We headed off and it wasn’t until we fuelled up that I realised I had forgotten my purse….oh and my blood pressure meds! Great!  So now I was a cash only gal (OMG no cards!!!) and I had to get to a GP to get another script!

First stop was Gladstone and it seems to have the same limited accommodation as Karratha due to a lot of the accommodation being utilised by the mining companies.  We tried 5 Motels unsuccessfully then we finally got a cabin at the Barney Beach Caravan Park.  It was beautiful, more like a five-star motel!  We had 2 bdrms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, dining and a lounge room.  Wade thought it was FANTASTIC! and it was.  We didn’t get here until 5pm so we decided we’d stop in again on our way back and have a decent look around.  Oh and have I mentioned it is still flippin’ raining!!!

Bowen just b4 we got drenched

Next stop on the agenda was Mackay.  We passed through Rockhampton which is lovely and huge, up through Sarin and stopping in Mackay. The cabin we stayed in was not quite up to par of the first one and we did spend some time checking out the cockies under the bed.  We ate out at a place called Outback Jacks which was great. The staff there were fabulous and it was wonderful to actually have service from the staff, something we weren’t used to after living in Karratha for so long! Still having intermittent rain and forecast is not looking too good either:(

After a quick visit to a GP for a script and a chemist we deloused ourselves and headed off towards Townsville. We all agreed that we won’t be staying at that park again. We stopped at a place called Bowen along the way to stretch our legs.  It is a very small place but very clean and tidy and definitely had that “sea-side village” feel to it.  We were down by the waterfront, near the jetty, where some of the film “Australia” was shot.  Wade and I thought we’d brave a walk down the jetty and try to beat the weather that was very dark and heading our way.  Well we didn’t quite make it.  We ran back to cover after getting soaked and then sprinted back to the car!  It absolutely poured down – so back in the car and onto Townsville.

View from Castle Hill Lookout

Townsville is a huge place with a population of about 170,000.  There is an enormous army base here and we found out our old neighbors from Atwell have just moved here.  We rang them and headed around to catch up for a drink (or three!) The kids have grown even more since we have seen them in May.  A very unhealthy, but yummy KFC dinner and off home about 1030pm. The caravan park we stayed at was called the Walkabout Palms and the cabins were also very nice and the pool was pretty cool too.  We thought we’d definitely stay a few days here on the way back and check things out and catch up with the Chanters again:)

Tanya and I on the way to Port Douglas

More rain in the morning as Joel and I headed off for our runs, yes you heard right, me running too, and the kids had a good sleep in – recovering from the late night before.  Packed and off towards Cairns today.  We passed through Ingham, home of the chickens and a huge Italian Festival and stopped for lunch at a little town called Cardwell.  The main road runs right along the coast and we stopped to grab some lunch – just as we sat down it poured again!  Back in the car and passing through Tully, where they have white water rafting.  With the way the weather is I’ll bet there is a helluva lot of white water in there! We passed through Innisfail and took a bit of a look at the damage that cyclone Larry had caused back in 2006.  A lot of the roofs are new and there are banana and sugar plantations as far as you can see, so it’s not hard to image why the price of bananas went up after the crops were destroyed!  There are quite a few sugar mills around and when it’s not raining you can smell raw sugar in the air. We finally made it to Cairns and went to my cousins place.  They have a place in an older suburb called Freshwater which is absolutely beautiful.

Dan buried in the sand

See we did see the sun

Everywhere you look it’s just lush and green and absolutely gorgeous.  I can see why Tan stays here and hasn’t ventured back to Victoria:)))  The first few days it rained so we spent time catching up with Tanya and Clint and their dog Zephyr.  They have a pool so the kids were amused for the majority of the time and as it was raining we took the opportunity to catch up on the kids schoolwork-yeah from the kids-NOT!

We went to Port Douglas for a picnic lunch on the foreshore near the mariner.  Tanya has worked for Quicksilver for the last 14 or so years and started work here in the Port Douglas branch, originally working out on the boats and now works in Cairns.  There is so much accommodation available up here and a lot of people live on their boats.  One of the boats from the Sydney to Hobart race was berthed in the mariner, called Ragamuffin.  It looked quite small in the pens next to the million and billion dollar boats in there!

Dan and a big barra

Wade and his barra

We went for a drive up to Julatten to see Tanya’s Uncle Kerry who i haven’t seen for a few years and was quite looking forward to catching up with.  He manages a Barramundi Farm up there, where he maintains the ponds and harvests the fish for sale to markets.  Even though it was his day off he took us all down to the ponds with a couple of rods and the boys had a great time catching and releasing some big barras.  Kelly and Sam, Kerry’s daughters,  joined us as well so it was quite a family affair.  Wade and Daniel had an absolute blast catching the barras with lures, reeling them in, then unhooking and releasing back into the pond to fight another day.  We had to drive out in the middle of a few paddocks and at one stage I thought the XR6 was gonna get bogged, but we managed to stay out of the bogs and made it safely back to Kerry’s.  We went out to dinner at the Highlander Tavern in Julatten.  The food was very yummy and the place was beautiful.  The road to Julatten was very windy and hilly and as beautiful as it was I couldn’t imagine doing this road trip everyday but many locals work ‘down the hill’ as they say and do the trip regularly.  Joel and I were just discussing how there was no way we’d bring our 25′ caravan up this way and as we rounded a bend, there was a poor bugger towing a van who had a flat tyre.  He had managed to pull into the corner as best he could but we really felt for him being in that position and thanking-god it wasn’t us!

Joel wowed Tan and Clint with his mexican cooking, making very yummy chicken burritos and his famous chilli con queso dip!  It was very scrum-didly-umptious and he offered to do the seafood ones for them before we left here. We spent the next day touring with Tanya, visiting some of the beaches and stopping in at Trinity Beach.  Wade wanted to use his inflatable body board and i went in the surf with him on Dan’s board.  The water wasn’t cold at all but the surf was a bit choppy from the wind.  Dan did the usual digging a hole to China in the sand, which when it started to fill itself in, Joel and Tanya helped while Dan was still in the bottom.  It filled up around him until you could only see his chest and head:))

Quicksilver Catamaran

Wade raring to go

The next day Tanya had booked us in onto a Quicksilver tour out to the Agincourt Reef for the day.  As we are family she got us an amazing discount+Thanks heaps Tan!:) We caught the bus from just up the road and was flabbergasted at how fast the bus drivers do the trip from Cairns to Port Douglas.  There are a lot of windy sections which seemed even more so on a bus and lucky no-one was sick.  We boarded the boat at 9.30am from Port Douglas and set off for a 90min cruise to the reef.  The weather wasn’t too bad (no rain just overcast) but they did expect stronger winds for the afternoon.  The boat is a huge catamaran and we hopped up to the top deck, but sat inside as seating was limited.  We listened to and watched a talk from the onboard Marine Biologist and just absorbed the whole trip.  We moored up to the floating platform that was huge and proceeded to get our butts in the water.  We decided to wear the stinger suits as it is that time of the year up here.  They are a type of lycra suit, sort of like ‘skins’ for running, but a whole suit.  Wade had a ‘beautiful’ faded blue suit, with hood and the rest of us had black ones.  We named him the teletubby and we were power rangers!  We had decided to bring our own snorkels this time and just used the fins on the boat.

Quicksilver floating platform

Reef fish

It was hard to get a pair to fit Daniel ‘cos he takes a mens 12 at the moment but his feet are sooooo wide and his instep so high that it was difficult to find him ones to fit – but we did. Daniel doesn’t love snorkelling like the rest of us and we’ve finally figured out that he has a fear of sharks-yeah he’ll not be watching Jaws anytime soon I can tell ya! or he’ll never get in that water!:)  After much explaining and cajoling and using up all of my patience:|, he finally got into the water.  Well he loved it.  Wade and Joel had gone in already so we swam around looking at all the beautiful corals, fish and sea life.  I was so glad he got to experience this. After an hour or so we hoped out to eat from a beautiful smorgasboard lunch as it was only served between 12:30 till 1:30pm.  We let our lunch digest and went into the semi-submersible to view some more of the beautiful reef.  Luckily we were at the back as midway there were two people sitting one behind the other who were violently sea-sick.  Imagine there are about 20 people down in this enclosed area, all lined up in a row of twos and all I can say is Thank god for brilliant ventilation as we didn’t smell any of it but you could hear and see them go!  Whoa get us outta here! The views were pretty good even though the water was getting a bit choppy above the waves and stirring things up a bit but it was still nice to see.  We had a look through the underwater observatory then back into the water for some more snorkelling.

A Giant Clam

All of us snorkelling

Daniel wrote postcards to his Grandparents which are post-marked from the Barrier Reef.  We heard a final horn blast and made our way back to the boat – we were almost the last ones back onto the boat, then out of our ‘power ranger’ suits and a quick shower/rinse, change then ready for the trip back to the marina.  The kids loved the morning and afternoon tea (read free sweet biscuits!!!) and we certainly got our money’s worth!  The day was a bit overcast but it didn’t rain and it wasn’t cold and we had an absolute ball! Back to Tan’s by bus and an early night for all! It was a brilliant day!

Daniel and Michelle snorkelling

Joel and Wade snorkelling

Crystal Cascades










Rainforest at Crystal Cascades

We took Tan and Clint out to tea on our final night as a special thanks for having us stay with them.  It was so wonderful to spend some time with them – and we will definitely be back next year!  The countryside around Cairns is just so beautiful, we even went looking at some real estate.  I showed the kids one property and they were pretty impressed.  Looks like Cairns could be a contender for our new home…….just have to try a wet season first and see if we can handle the humidity! but they have air-con and pools up here so we should be okay???!!! We went out to the Crystal Cascades which is a popular freshwater swimming hole that the locals know well.  It is hidden away in a tropical rainforest and has cascading waterfalls amongst overhanging rainforest.  We did the 2km walk up and back and stopped for a refreshing swim in the waters.  What a beautiful place.


Turtles, turtles and more turtles

Saving the baby turtle

After a wonderful week with Tanya and Clint we headed back down to Townsville to the same caravan park as it’s only around the corner from where our friends live.  Joel had a shocking headache so put him to bed with some tablets and took the kids to the pool for the arvo.  Next day we went down to the Waterfront in Townsville.  It’s a beautiful area with a long walk along the beachfront and a playground and protected swimming area in man-made lagoon right on the beach. The kids played in the lagoon area until the Chanters came down just after lunch.  The kids were getting hassled by some indigenous kids with just stupid taunts but then the mum came over (with her blonde hair and blue eyes but unmistakable accent ) and what a lovely mouth she had on her.  I don’t know what she was on but it must’ve been good, ‘cos for doing nothing and saying nothing to her, she was gonna get the ‘family’ to come and fight us! with some more choice words thrown in.  I bit my tongue, yep I know, it’s hard to believe ‘cos I wanted to say a lot of things to her really but didn’t think it appropriate in front of the kids. Is their vocabulary so limited that they just have to repeat the same words over and over, ones that would get our kids mouths washed out and some how that makes them tough and scary! Honest to god, just had to tell myself, walk away Michelle, walk away. (Yeah I know you’re laughing at this Grant!)

River walk

Pool at CP in Townsville

The kids still enjoyed themselves for a while more, then Claire and Rob showed us around Towns.  We went for a walk along the river and played spot the million dollar mansions! There was a great walk and cycle pathway there and over one bridge where we stopped, the river was filled with fish and turtles!  They must get fed a lot as there were heaps, all popping up, waiting for some food. We almost stepped on a baby turtle that we thought was dead but the kids put it back near the water’s edge and we hope it managed to survive:) We went up to the Castle hill lookout and got some amazing views of the city.  The kids went feral running around and hopefully exhausting themselves:)) The hill is very popular with fitness freaks who walk up and down the hill just for fun.  The walk does seem pretty good actually but you have to walk on the road and there’s isn’t much of a shoulder and there are lots of blind corners, but other than that it would be a great workout!  We headed back to the Chanters for a BBQ dinner and more catch up!  It was great to see them again and so glad they are settling in so well.  We’ll catch ya next time on our way up next year-thanks for the hospitality:)

We wanted to spend a few days looking around Gladstone so we made the very long trek from Townsville to Gladstone in one day and stayed again at Barney Beach Caravan Park (for 2 nights)much to the delight of Wade. We drove around looking at Tannum Sands and some other areas just outside Gladstone.  There is a lot of industry in this area and a new Gas Plant being built on Curtis Island.  The unit we’re staying in has a huge plasma tv so tonite it’s takeaways and a movie on the big screen:)

Back to Brisbane, check on the car and sell the rest of the gear off the cruiser.  Next few weeks we’ll do the Theme Parks and catch up with a few friends.

Till next time



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