Central and North QLD 2016/2017

Central and North QLD 2016/2017

WARNING- this post is rather lengthy!

If you are planning a trip from Brisbane up to North East QLd (or Far North QLD) I hope this will give you a bit of an idea of where to go and what to see.

We visited so many amazing places it was hard to shorten the post. I’ve added lots of pics to try and make it interesting 🙂

Please don’t feel as though you have to read it all. Locations all have separate headings, so feel free to skip to the part that interests you.

Part 2 of 3




This is what we got up to on our 2nd roadtrip up to Cairns. We had been up with friends the year before (read part 1 here) and loved it so much that we decided to do it again.

We visited many different places and had a completely different adventure.

Coastal Way Up

  • AGNES WATER – 1 Night
    • 1770
    • Lookout of 1770
    • Calliope Historical Village
  • YEPPOON – 3 Nights
    • Various Lookouts
    • Rosslyn Bay
    • Emu Park
      • Singing Ship
      • Anzac Memorial
    • Byfield National Park
      • 5 Rocks
    • Flaggy Rock Cafe
  • AIRLIE – 2 Nights
    • Hydeaway Bay
      • Gloucester Resort
      • Montes Resort
    •  Bowen
      • The Big Mango
      • Horeshoe Bay
    •  Cardwell
    • Hinchinbrook Lookout
  • TOWNSVILLE – 1 night
  • CAIRNS (home base)
    •  Palmer River Roadhouse
    • Black Mountain
    • Mt Carbine

Inland Way Home

  • COOKTOWN – 2 nights
    • Cooktown Cemetary
    • Cooktown Museum
    • Cooktown Esplanade
    • Trevathan Falls
    • Archer Point
  • ROSSVILLE 1 night

    • Lions Den Hotel
  • CHILLAGOE – 2 Nights
    • Chillagoe Hub Information Centre
    • Chillagoe Weir
    • Chillagoe Smelter
    • Balancing Rock
    • Chillagoe Caves
  • CAIRNS (home base)
  • ROLLINGSTONE – 1 night
    •  The Central Highlands
  • EMERALD – 2 Nights
    • Sapphire Gemfields
    • Miner’s Heritage, Rubyvale
  • CARNARVON GORGE – 3 nights
    • Takkarakka Bush Retreat
    • Gorge Hike
    • Rock Pool
  • CHINCHILLA – 1 night
  • HOME

Agnes Water

December 17th, we set off from Brisbane for Agnes Water. This time we managed to get a great spot at Agnes Water Beach Caravan Park which is right on the water. The previous year we had 2 vans, and there was no space for us, so we stayed at the Captain Cook Holiday Park up the road.

This caravan park is lovely and while there is no pool or playground, there is plenty for the kids to get up to. Like riding, scooting, reading and surfing!:)

We only spent one night here before heading onwards and upwards!

Calliope Historical Village

We headed up the Bruce Highway, making a quick toilet stop at the Calliope Historical Village, which is an open-air museum located about 26 km south of Gladstone.

The boys went to the loo and the girls and I went in for a sticky beak and it was great fun! Lots of history is enclosed in those fences as the museum has captured and preserved some of the original historic buildings from the area. Many of the buildings contain exhibits of everyday life and railway history.

You can read about (and see!) the region’s rich railway history in the Ambrose Railway Station, see a 1940s wooden railway carriage and visit the Raglan Memorial Hall.

The girls loved seeing what the old school was like and I have also read about extremely popular markets that take place here seven times a year, attracting over 3000 people!

It was a short visit though as Chris was keen to keep moving.

We were having intermittent brake problems with the van, so we stopped in Rockhampton, so Chris could sort that out and the kids could eat ice cream.


We rolled into the BIG4 Capricorn Palms, Yeppoon on the afternoon of the 18th and the kids were straight into the pool and down the waterslide while I attempted to set up our new inflatable cloud bed thingies that I had thought would be a great Christmas present. I think Chris enjoyed watching me try to set them up more than actually getting the gift! It took hours and they only lasted an hour or so before your bum started hitting the hard ground. Argh. Oh well. That was my exercise for the day! And I did manage to get a few hours of reading in between re-inflation attempts.

Emu Park

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, Yeppoon is my favourite area – I could easily retire up that way (if we weren’t retiring in our caravan, of course). We had arranged to stay 3 nights, giving us a little bit of time to head off adventuring. Our first spot was Emu Park with its infamous ‘Singing Ship’ and ANZAC Memorial.

The area features parkland, lovely grassy areas, picnic facilities, a covered playground (this was new in our 2017/18 visit), a small beach and has an RSL, hotel & cafe close by.

The walkway to the singing ship is amazing with spectacular views and lots of information.

The kids read all the signs, listened to the haunting sounds of the wind whistling through the ship and admired the views of the sparkling blue ocean. The ANZAC Memorial is incredibly moving and beautifully created. It is a credit to those who contributed and to those who clearly take pride in maintaining such a special place. We learned a lot, including all about the ‘Purple Poppy’ (like the Red Poppy, but for animals).

That night we decided to grab dinner in Yeppoon, so we drove into Afishionado’s on the Esplanade for some fish and chips. It’s a cute little café/bar/restaurant set in the perfect location on the waterfront. Lovely friendly service and yummy food together with outside tables made for a fun family meal. Chris and I walked and the kids ‘scooted’ back to the car and we drove back to the caravan park to make ourselves comfy in their awesome ‘amphitheater’ to watch Peabody and Sherman.

Byfield National Park

The next day was probably one of our most adventurous day trips yet! We had heard so many good things about Byfield National Park and 5 Rocks, that we knew we had to check it out, even though it was a long drive over some pretty interesting HUGE sand hills!

As we were approaching what they called ‘Big Sandy’ we could hear 2 other guys on their radios having a chat – one was in front of us and one was behind. They were locals who knew exactly where they were going and exactly how to get there. We didn’t, and they could tell.  It was quite funny listening to their conversation about us! Eventually we made it to the top and I can’t even begin to explain the beauty of what lay before us.

Lookouts, incredible views and more 4WD tracks that led us right down to the water and beaches we had just been looking down over.

We ended up chatting with the guys in the other cars, and they took us down to a freshwater creek where they were planning on spending some time. We had a look and then headed back down to the waves, so Chris could get his boards out and the kids could play on the beach.

It was a full day spent at Byfield, and if you have a 4WD, we recommend that you go and do some adventuring of your own!

Flaggy Rock Cafe

December 21st meant time to move on from Yeppoon towards Airlie Beach stopping at the Flaggy Rock Café for a much needed ice cream. This is such a cute little roadside restaurant with a lovely dam out the back and beautiful gardens. Our kids always love the ice cream and Chris enjoyed his slice of carrot cake. There is plenty of parking even for giant caravans like ours. We were sad to hear that the co-owner has cancer and it was now up for sale.

After we had stretched our leg and tickled our tastebuds, it was time to get back on the road as we headed for Airlie Beach.

December 21st meant time to move on from Yeppoon towards Airlie Beach stopping at the Flaggy Rock Café for a much needed ice cream. This is such a cute little roadside restaurant with a lovely dam out the back and beautiful gardens. Our kids always love the ice cream and Chris enjoyed his slice of carrot cake. There is plenty of parking even for giant caravans like ours. We were sad to hear that the co-owner has cancer and it was now up for sale.

Airlie Beach

Woohoo! Another favourite spot of ours – The BIG4 Adventure Whitsundays Resort.

We have stayed here about 6 times so far and so far, every single time has been amazing! Our latest trip (17/18) we were blown away by the new mega water park, but – that was still under constructions during this trip. Never the less, the kids had a ball swimming, playing mini-golf, watching movies, riding their bikes, going on the jumping pillow and just being kids. We set up the Christmas lights, and then got stuck into relaxing.

Hydeaway Bay

We spent one day at Hydeaway Bay, about 45 minutes from Airlie. This truly is one of those hidden gems that you could spend your entire 2 weeks holidays enjoying, Perhaps not so much with the kids, but for the 2 of us? Easily.

We arrived at Montes Reef Resort and headed straight to the most beautiful beach I have ever seen in my life (I still haven’t been to Whitehaven though…), and what blew my mind was the fact that we were the only ones there. We stayed for about 2 hours, and a few people came and went. I could see people were staying in the cabins and there were staff members in the restaurant, but aside from that, Hydeaway bay was certainly living up to its name – and I loved it.

We had a delicious lunch at a table by the water, and then jumped in the car to do some exploring.

We found another resort just down the road, Cape Gloucester Resort, which was lovely. It has a beautiful pool, great bar, serves delicious food and has a stunning beach with speccy views and cute little huts dotted around for shelter. We stayed just long enough to have a look before heading down the road, up and over ‘Oh My God Hill’ and to our own secluded piece of sand, surrounded by rocks and more crystal-clear water.

By now the kids had had enough of the sun and Cooper was lying under the car for shelter as the wind had picked up and flipped our awning up and over the car!

We decided it was time to head back to the BIG4 and relax for the remainder of our final day in Airlie.

Next stop – Bowen which included The Big Mango, Horseshoe Bay and smoothies at the Horsehoe Bay Resort. It was a quick stop this year, unlike last year where Chris and I spent a few hours swimming and sunbaking.


We were keen to get on the road and make it to Townsville in time to set up and go grab some dinner in town. Chris has been here many times before and pre-warned me not to be expecting anything fabulous. And well, he was right – it was very dry, and there wasn’t much beauty around! Having said that, we were’t there for long, and I’m sure there are lovely pockets as there are in most cities – we just didn’t get to see any.

We checked into the BIG4 Townsville Woodlands Holiday Park and settled in. I quite like this little park even though it was dusty and small. The pool was fabulous, and the water was as warm as a bath … the temperature outside the pool was just as warm – and I was in heaven! I just love the heat and Townsville delivered in that department.

Chris gave us a little tour through the city centre, took us up into the ‘nicer’ suburbs and we ended up having dinner at Cactus Jacks (which we found out recently is owned by someone Chris works with!). It was delicious, and the restaurant was fun.


We were on the road before sunrise this New Year’s Eve, as we embarked on the last leg of our journey to Cairns stopping off only at Cardwell to stretch our legs and show the kids Hinchinbrook Island with a walk along the water.


We pulled into Ingenia Holidays Cairns Coconut Resort, set up our Christmas lights and started exploring this huge 5 Star Caravan Park. It’s great how they take you around on the golf buggy when you arrive, so you can choose your spot, or simply get an idea of how to get to where you are meant to park. The park seriously is that big.

Christmas day was spent enjoying the park with Chris’s cousins and their kids. Waterslides, swimming, totem volley, climbing ropes, 2 jumping pillows including The World’s Biggest Jumping Pillow, a crazy 8 seater bike, spa, 2 pools, and adults only heated spa, a water park, bike paths and more- yep. You seriously struggle to do everything at this place!

Inland Route to Cooktown

December 27th and we hit the road again heading even further North. Chris and I had been to Cooktown last year and knew it was something that our kids had to see for themselves.

Last year it rained non-stop and even flooded for the first 2 weeks of our trip, including the entire part where we explored our way up to Cooktown and back. So to experience it again with blue skies was amazing.

Mount Carbine presented some pretty speccy views as we headed up and we pulled over to snap a quick pic or 10. We stopped for lunch at The Palmer River Roadhouse where the kids checked out the small ‘museum’ and then it was onto Black Mountain.

With the sun beating down, it was like a different place from the dark, gloomy mountain we visited last year. It’s so very mysterious and there a lot of ‘culture’ and history surrounding it. Some Aboriginal, and some not. It is a significant place for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people of the area and is a focus of several Dreaming stories and continues to be important to this day.

There are stories of people, horses and whole mobs of cattle disappearing into the labyrinth of rocks, never to be seen again. Apparently, pilots report aircraft turbulence and magnetic effects over Black Mountain (thermal currents), and people have reported loud bangs (cracking boulders) and mournful cries (wind and water).


We arrived at the BIG4 Cooktown Holiday Park which was entirely different to the unattended caravan park we stayed at last year!

It was tiny, there weren’t many people around and the staff were lovely. I had one complaint – and it was a big one … swooping plovers! They were horrible, nasty and very, very protective. The park manager gave me a big stick to wave around. Eeek. With that and all the mosquitos, it wasn’t my idea of fun! Needless to say, I didn’t head out of the van very much. We were safe in the little pool, which was nice.

Captain Cook Museum

We spent a solid day exploring Cooktown with the kids, and they loved every second of it. We did Fisherman’s Wharf, the town, The Captain Cook Museum and The Cooktown Cemetery.

At Fisherman’s Wharf, we stood where Captain Cook first stood, had photos with the Captain Cook monument, read about the skull they found in the well when it was drained and wandered around just taking it all in.

The Captain Cook Museum is housed in the stunning nineteenth-century former convent, St Mary’s and is filled with a varied assortment of exhibits.  The Endeavour Gallery contains an original anchor and cannon from the HMB Endeavour! It gives a fascinating insight into the 7 weeks that Captain Cook and his crew spent at Cooktown repairing their ship.

The other exhibits are so very different, one from the other.

Toys, dental equipment, tales from the Palmer gold rush, Chinese heritage, the maritime history of Cooktown, nuns cells and dormitories plus personal stories ond objects from local families make up a fascinating, cultural place to visit. The dental tools really grabbed our attention!

Grassy Hill  – what a view!

The kids imaginations were running wild as they pictured what it must have been like for Captain Cook to navigate his ship through the reef.

Captain Cook himself climbed this 162m-high hill looking for a passage through the reefs.

The 360-degree views of the town, river and ocean are truly spectacular.

Cooktown Cemetary

The Cooktown Cemetery took our breath away as we wandered from tombstone to tombstone reading story after story of tragedy, triumph and mysterious events experienced by the people who made up the early settlement of the township.

This story was fascinating. A woman raised by the aborigines was brought back into society by authorities and couldn’t survive.

The oldest tomb stone in the cemetery. A priest who died 10 days after arriving in Cooktown.

Trevathan Falls

We went back to the caravan park and asked the lovely lady at reception if there were any ‘safe’ swimming holes or waterfalls around that were free from crocodiles, and she smiled saying that though many claim to be safe, there weren’t many that she recommended. She gave us a little map and sent us on our way to Trevethan Falls.

Trevathan Falls is a breathtaking waterfall and fairy-tale like swimming hole that is very well hidden by the rainforest. The locals keep it a secret, and it’s easy to see why! It’s not marked on the main road, is totally secluded and away from any tourist attractions.
It’s a bit of a long bumpy drive to get there, and I’d imagine a very hard road to navigate in the wet.

They assured us there were no crocs here…. so I got in.

And then promptly got back out when Chris pointed out that bubbles were rising from somewhere….or something!

A turtle. It was just a turtle!!

Archer Point

We also took some time to take the kids to see Archer Point, where we had stayed overnight in our vans last year. It was as spectacular as ever, and much easier to get to without the van in tow! We even took the Hilux up a crazy steep track, but we had to turn around as the bikes were on the roof and wouldn’t have made it under some low-lying trees. It made for some pretty interesting photos though!

From there it was onto The Lion’s Den Hotel where we once again wrote our names on the fan! The kids scribbled on the walls and window sills as well, and we set up our van out the back for a wonderful night.

Unlike last year, the sun was shining (it wasn’t raining), the river was lovely (not flooded), and there were no mango’s falling off the tree every 5 minutes!

Lions Den Hotel


We left the next morning and decided to head back to Cairns with a slight detour through Chillagoe. And what a great detour it was! We headed down a long, dusty road known as Waterfall Way to find a genuine outback town with fascinating attractions like unused smelters, huge caves, giant bugs and lovely people.

Driving into town we could see the tall chimney at the ruins of the old smelter which we had read about and couldn’t wait to see! But, we had no idea what else was around, so

we checked into our little caravan park (no slabs here!), leaving the boys to set up and the girls and I went to the Chillagoe Hub Information Centre.

I’m so glad we stopped in as there is so much more to Chillagoe than we thought! We discovered that Chillagoe was the site of an ancient coral reef and today the coral has been transformed into massive limestone bluffs containing over 560 known caves, the largest having over 11kms of passages! Of course, the caves were extremely high up on our list of things to see. As was Balancing Rock, the Chillagoe Weir and of course the old smelter.

We managed to fit the weir, Balancing Rock, Pompeii Cave and the smelter all into the day we arrived quite easily, as everything is so close and easy to get to.

Our first stop was the Chillagoe Weir, which was a huge disappointment as all we could see was stagnant water, definitely not the popular swimming spot we were led to believe that we would find.

So, we followed the map onto Balancing Rock. It was a fairly short drive and an easy walk to see this magnificent piece of rock balancing on its end! We climbed right up, and the view is pretty special. There are also sorts of curious things to see, like this rock with a hole in it just the right size for Chris’s head to fit through.

We found a few little caves that you could do self-guided tours of, and Chris guided himself into them while the kids and I waited up the top and held our breath!

Pompeii Cave was fascinating. One HUGE chamber filled with natural light. Chris went down, and we could see his torch flashing up through the ground! We did this after Balancing Rock and before the smelter.

Chris went a little deeper …

The Chillagoe Smelter is like walking through the pages of a history book as you wander around the outskirts and read about what went on here in years past. It is an industrial site with tanks, pits and toxic contaminants like asbestos. This is why the area is roped off. We all loved it, but you don’t need much time to see it all.

Day 2 we headed off on some guided tours of the bigger caves.

Royal Arch Cave was our first tour. We all met the tour guide outside and were given our own torches. We squeezed through tiny little places and ooh’d and aah’d at the walrus shaped formation and sparkly, black fig tree roots.

‘The Walrus’

Black Fig Tree Roots

Crazy big cave spiders!

The laundry chute was the kids favourite – they had to scoot through on their bellies, onto their backs and wiggle their way through. We saw cute little bats and not so cute ginormous cave spiders with their eyes glowing in the dark and of course all the amazing chambers and little tiny cracks we had to squeeze through and under.

Trezkinn Cave had just been reopened after having all new infrastructure put through and the lighting was incredible. The place is just insane!

From here we took the short drive back to Cairns where we spent time catching up with family for New Years before starting our adventures on our way back home.

Josephine Falls

We had to take the kids to Josephine Falls again as they’d had so much fun there last year. We spent an hour or so sliding down the huge natural waterslide and swimming in the rockpool at the bottom.

Cooper almost made it on his feet!


Next it was onto Cardwell for a quick stop at Cardwell by the Sea on our way to Rollingstone. We wanted to get there as early as possible and enjoy the fabulous BIG4 Rollingstone Beachfront Resort. We arrived to be greeted by friendly staff, a lovely caravan park with streets lined with palm trees and absolute beach front sites, which we were lucky enough to secure!

We had a wonderful time and wished we were able to stay another night, but no … we had to leave early the next morning (January 5th) to make our way to our next destination, Emerald!

What a view to wake up to!

The pool has a waterfall over a cave – very cool 🙂

The kids made us cocktails but dropped them in the sand – so the lovely staff gave us real ones from the bar 🙂

The Central Highlands

We filled the tank and took extra fuel in case.

The scenery was drama filled and palm-tree void! Open, flat, long stretches of ridiculously bumpy road; our windscreen spattered with both rain and bugs. We were surrounded by road trains and fields of what look like cotton, dead sticks and birds.Some dirt was red, some brown. Some grass was green, some brown. Nearly all rivers were been dry with sandy river beds.

We saw Eagles hanging out by the road … a road which was white, brown and black.Occasionally piles of boulders could be seen close by. Trees were sparse, never completely blocking the view of the open plains.

There were a few cows; some alive and grazing, others simply a pile of bones on the roadside. We saw a few rubbish filled ‘truck stops’ (campsites) that we chose not to stop at … and not much in between!

We also saw a few letterboxes … I guess someone has to tend to the cows and fields of dead sticks!

What an experience that road was. We nearly lost one of the bikes off the roof at one point! We only managed to save it thanks to a truckie passing by that radioed through to let us know.


We checked in at the Emerald Cabin and Caravan Village which was almost empty, as was to be expected this time of year. The park was OK, but we found the staff to be a little bit rude. Still, I guess you can’t have wonderful people everywhere you go, right?

We had arranged to catch up with some of Chris’s friends who live in Emerald and take the kids to the gem fields. Covering almost 900 square kilometres, the Sapphire Gemfields is one of the world’s largest sapphire fields, and includes the townships of Anakie, Rubyvale, Sapphire and Willows Gemfields.

As we drove in, we looked intently out the window pointing out all the little mounds and caravans parked alongside in the dedicated fossicking grounds.

We did a tour of the underground sapphire mine at the Miner’s Heritage in Rubyvale and then did some panning for gemstones.

The kids were blown away by what was on display and what was available to purchase in the store, It stirred a fire in their bellies to get out there and start sifting! 🙂

This was my little stash

Sifting through a bag of wash yielded a few good stones for all of us. We loved the tour and the little history museum. The kids really enjoyed everything about it – I mean, what kid doesn’t dream of finding gemstones in a pile of dirt, right? Lol.

We had lunch at the RubyVale Pub which was delicious. What a cool little place with some very interesting characters!

Carnarvon Gorge

We packed up and hit the road again, this time headed to Carnarvon Gorge. I think we all have mixed feelings about that place! We had a wonderful time and saw some amazing things – but at the expense of our feet! We all ended up in so much pain it wasn’t funny.

Still, adventures were had, and that’s what Aussie Destinations Unknown is all about, right?

Once in the Carnarvon Gorge National Park, we stopped to check out the memorial of where a plane had gone down. The wrecked plane was still there, lifted high on poles with engines and debris scattered around and the tail and cairn below.

We continued on and checked into the Takarakka Bush Resort, collected our map of all the bushwalks from reception, read the sign advising us to start with shorter walks, and went to park the van and set up.

The following day, we chose to ignore the advice we were given, and set out on the full 24km hike through Carnarvon Gorge. With the kids. Without appropriate footwear. What could have gone wrong?

It took just five minutes to drive to the mouth of the gorge where our walking adventures began delightfully as we skipped across the river using the strategically placed rocks to stop our feet getting wet. We found this to be a common occurrence throughout the day as we came to river after river, all dotted with the same handy little rocks.

This place has to be seen to be believed, we have read about it but until you see it for yourself, you can’t really grasp its true breathtaking beauty. So diverse.

Gum trees, pine trees, palm trees, clouds and spits of rain, scorching hot sun and blue skies, complete stillness, gusts of wind, aboriginal art work etched into the rocks, waterfalls, river, cliffs, sharp rocks, round rocks, pigs, birds, butterflies, snakes, dragon flies, crazy water jumping spiders, sand, water, rain from the sun (we think it was cicada pee – lol) and not many other people at all. Simply breathtaking (literally!)

We honestly had no idea what we were in for, even after reading the brochure. We planned on walking for 5-6 hours …. and ended up with many blisters and aches and pains after doing the full 24ks in 7 and a half hours!

We were very sore at the end and wondered how we would manage the other walks the following day, but we did, and they were just as lovely. We finished our adventures at the Rock Pool where the kids all went for a swim and spent hours jumping off the large rock/cliff and into the cool water below.

We spent 3 nights and 4 days at Carnarvon Gorge and loved all of it (minus the sore feet!). We recommend taking your time and starting with the shorter walks! 😛

Chinchilla … where it was so hot it was either air con or pool! 39 degrees will do that for you 🙂

From there it was time to head home. We spent our last night at the Chinchilla Tourist Park in Chinchilla where the weather was scorching, and the swimming pool was cold.

This may have been our second trip up to Cairns, yet it was completely different to the year before, and we loved every second of it.

So many words and so many photos, 3 trips North and I still haven’t seen all I want to see! I trust this has given you a tiny insight into this incredible part of our planet, and if you made it to the bottom of this post – well done!

Until next time,

Happy planning and safe travels,

North Qld 2015/2016

North Qld 2015/2016

We have travelled to north for Christmas 3 years in a row now. Why? Because we LOVE IT! The rest of Australia (and most tourists) tend to steer clear of North Queensland and it’s ‘scorching summer heat’, while we embrace the heat, the availability of sites in caravan parks, the uncrowded beaches and the whole experience. Yes, we love it!

Read Part 1 here.

I must let you know right at the very beginning, that this post is almost 5000 words long! I have thought about ways to minimize it, but we saw so many amazing places, that it would be a shame to cut any of them out! So please don’t feel as though you need to bore yourself by reading everything. I have highlighted the names of locations in BOLD so you can skip to the parts you are interested in.

If you are planning your adventure from Brisbane to North Queensland, I hope this gives you some ideas.

As I have mentioned before, we share our kids which means we usually have them with us for half of the holidays. This has allowed us to do so much more, and with all that we’ve seen and experienced, I could easily write a novel! But I’ll try not to.

I will keep this brief and expand on our favorite locations as I have the time to break each of the best bits down properly.

    • Gin Gin
    • Miriam Vale
  • AGNES WATER/1770 – 1 night
    • Lookout of 1770
    • Agnes Water Beach and Park
  • YEPPOON – 2 nights

    • Rosslyn Bay
  • AIRLIE BEACH 2 nights
    • Esplanade
    • Shute Harbour
    • Bowen
    • The Big Mango
    • Horseshoe Bay
      • Burdekin Bridge
  • BALGAL BEACH 1 night free camp
    • Balgal Beach War Memorial
    • The Frosty Mango
    • Lucinda
      • Jetty
    • Hinchinbrook Lookout
    • Cardwell
      • The Seaview Cafe
  • CAIRNS (home base)

    • Redlynch
    • Crystal Cascades Waterfalls
    • Crystal Cascades National Park
    • Night Markets
    • Cairns Esplanade
    • Palm Cove
    • Kuranda Scenic Rail and Skyrail
    • Mena Creek (Paronella Castle)
    • Babinda (The Babinda Boulders)
    • Atherton Tablelands
      • Lake Barrine
      • Lake Eacham
      • Malanda
        • Malanda Falls
      • Curtain Fig Tree, Yungaburra
    • Great Barrier Reef
  • EN ROUTE from Cairns to Cooktown
    • Palmer River Roadhouse
    • Black Mountain
    • Grassy Hill Lookout
    • FInch Bay
    • Esplanade/Waterfront
    • Elim Beach (day trip from Cooktown)
  • ARCHER POINT 1 night
    • Lighthouse
  • DAINTREE (day trip from Cairns)

    • Cape Trib Beachouse
    • Bloomfield Track
    • Emmagen Creek
    • Daintree Ice Cream Company
    • Cape Tribulation Lookout

Luckily Chris has lived in QLD since he was just 2 years old and has family both here in Brisbane and up in Cairns. He spent his childhood between the two places and knows so many secret little spots here, there and everywhere in between that we were able to visit. And what he didn’t know, his family did! Having ‘connections’ sure makes things so much more fun 🙂

Our first trip up was in December 2015. We spent the first 2 weeks travelling with our friends and their kids, and we had our 3 kids for the second half of the holidays.  This was a wonderful trip in our old 2014 Hilux and Jayco Discovery Pop Top.


Our old Jayco Discovery Pop-top and the old 2014 Hilux




December 19th was day one. We met our friends at the Nudgee service station, as so many people do, and headed on up to Gin Gin where we had a toilet stop and grabbed something to eat. After a bit of a lie down in the grass and a chat, we kept going until we reached Miriam Vale (great name for a town by the way!) and we got out to stretch our legs.

It is very much a bush setting at the Captain Cook Holiday Park at Agnes Water


From then it was a straight trip up to Agnes Water where we set up for night one. There was no room for both of our vans at the caravan park on the water in 1770, but the Captain Cook Holiday Park was lovely. It had a great pool and the amenities were clean and tidy. The staff were lovely, and the park was well kept and in a lovely, tranquil bush setting. The boys were a bit upset that they weren’t right on the beach at the Agnes Water Beach Caravan Park, so they could surf, but I’m not a surfer, so I was happy with the pool! I think the kids were as well.

We had a wander up to the lookout of 1170 and explored the town a little before heading off to Yeppoon.




Christmas Lights


Yeppoon has to be one of our favourite places … every time we go it just gets better!

We stayed at the Big4 Capricorn Palms Holiday Village with our sites backing right on to the pool. The kids swam, and we had a bit of a relax. I find that every trip we take, Yeppoon is the most relaxing place of all. It might be because we stay a few nights, or it might just be the place itself. Either way, I love it! 🙂

We had a wander around Yeppoon; went up to a lookout and down to a beach, we grabbed ice cream in town and wandered along the esplanade as the kids checked out the waterpark that was under construction.





Nailed it!


The 20th of January meant time to make our way through Mackay and on to Airlie Beach. We stayed at the Airlie Cove Caravan Park which was a cute little park with a deadly little waterslide! Far out did the boys (the adult ones!) have some fun on that slide!


We went and had a look around Shute Harbour before heading back into the Esplanade for a walk and some fish and chips as the sun went down.

The next day we headed back into Airlie and had a quick dip in the pool. We got the bikes out and went for a ride. It’s such a lovely little spot when it’s not teaming with backpackers.


Shute Harbour

Riding along the Esplanade in Airlie Beach




Bowen was next on the list with the obligatory pics taken in front of the Giant Mango, the Whitsundays sign and the Mango thief sign. Our friends headed off to find a waterpark for their kids, while Chris and I discovered the most gorgeous little beach, Horseshoe Bay. We lay on the rocks in the sun, swam in the crystal-clear water and eventually I got a sunburnt bum! I was annoyed with myself for getting burnt so early into the trip. But this turned out to be of zero significance as it rained non-stop for the next 2 weeks!


The Whitsundays! 🙂



Horseshoe Bay


The Giant mango



While Chris has done this trip too many times to count, it was all a brand new experience for me, and our friends – and Chris was the best tour guide! We had walkie talkies and he was pointing things out and explaining as we went along.


The Burdekin Bridge


The Burdekin Bridge, also known as the ‘Silver Link’ was the next landmark that made us go ‘wow’! It’s longer than the Sydney Harbour Bridge, took 10 years to build … and was built on sand! Chris explained that this bridge provides a vital pathway between Northern and Southern Queensland during the floods. And he should know! He was stuck in Cairns for weeks during the floods about 5 or 6 years ago.




Balgal Beach was our first ‘free camp’ … and it was also my first experience with a Northern QLD beach. I was sooo disappointed! Everything was brown. The water, the sand … gosh. I wondered what I’d got myself in for. Why had I left the stunning beaches of South East QLD during the best months of the year.

There were ‘Atchung’ signs everywhere warning me of crocodiles that the swim nets were there to protect me from. In fact, there was a resident crocodile that lived in the inlet right near where we camped. I actually ventured out at about 1pm while sleep was evading me, trying to catch a glimpse of the giant beast through the fog that was sitting low over the water. But no crocodile was seen much to my disappointment.


Our first ‘free camp’ at Balgal Beach was surprisingly accommodating


Once I got over the brown sand, brown water, crocodile warnings and stinger nets, it turned out to be a lovely place!


The grassy area was actually lovely with manicured lawns, BBQ’s, an Anzac memorial and various shelters, and the amenities were quite clean too. Once I got over the ‘brown’ … it was actually quite a cute little spot. (It wasn’t until much later we realized the Rollingstone Big4 was right around the corner!)



Frosty Mangoooo!


Frosty Mango was next, and we stopped and had our pics with the cute little mango wearing the big black bow tie, grabbed a mango smoothie (our friends had what looked like delicious ice creams!) and we kept on going.

We stopped in to see what turned out to be the longest Jetty I’d ever seen! Or not seen – it was so long that I wasn’t able to see the end until this trip in 2018 when we sent the drone up!

Lucinda Jetty is actually the longest service jetty in the southern hemisphere at 5.76 kilometres long, supported by 660 concrete and steel pylons. It takes the sugar 22 minutes to travel along the conveyor from the on-shore storage to the shiploader.

There are little signs dotted along the foreshore walkway filled with very interesting information about the location and the sugar terminal. There’s even part of a plane that that crashed nearby on display.

There were more ‘atchung’ signs scattered around, more brown sand and swimming nets that had some keen tourists splashing around in as they tried to cool off.


So many mangoes!


There was also a giant mango tree that had mangoes falling off it everywhere! Our friend’s kids were in heaven as they ate them right off the ground and gathered up what they could to take with them. It was pretty funny to watch!

We kept heading north along the Bruce Highway until we came to Hinchinbrook Lookout which is about 20ks north of Ingham. We pulled over and took the short pathway up to the most amazing lookout that provides uninterrupted views of Hinchinbrook Channel and Hinchinbrook Island. It is just stunning, even with the low-lying cloud that was around that day.  This only takes a few minutes, so we were back on the road in no time.


It was still beautiful even with the cloud cover




Cardwell … this always means time for a feed and a happy snap or two. But never really much more than that. It wasn’t until this last trip up in 2017 that we stopped for a couple of nights and explored the area. It is absolutely breathtaking! The rock pools are just a few minute’s drive and will blow your mind! But hey – that didn’t happen on this trip!



Hinchinbrook Island was completely covered by cloud (and rain!) by the time we left





It was about this time that the rain started (the rain I mentioned earlier that didn’t stop for 2 weeks straight!) and we arrived at the Big4 Crystal Cascades Holiday Park on Christmas Eve to the news that there was a cyclone forming somewhere on the horizon somewhere not too far away. Oh how fun!


BIG4 Crystal Cascades Caravan Park


This resulted in a very, very wet couple of weeks and some spectacular waterfalls. The closest one to our caravan park being Barron Falls. That was something we have only seen once and will never forget!


Barron Gorge


Walking to Barron Gorge



That night Chris’s Aunty, Uncle and cousin came around for a BBQ and a beer or 3.


Christmas morning was bacon and eggs on the BBQ with Chris cruising around on his new longboard that I had sneakily asked our friends to hide for me while we were in Airlie! He loved it and was seen flying down the almost empty streets in the caravan park with his Santa hat on for hours.

We had Christmas lunch with the family and then set off to do some more exploring. We wandered into Cystal Cascades – one of those hidden gems I was talking about earlier. Crystal Cascades is one of the secrets of Tropical North Queensland that locals wish they could hide from visitors and is accessible only by self-drive. No bus loads of tourists here! 🙂

It’s a secluded freshwater swimming hole that is hidden away in the tropical rainforest. A series of small waterfalls flow into large pools surrounded by large impressive granite boulders. Rainforest trees hang over the mountain water, keeping it cool and refreshing. As it had been raining for a while, it was a bit too ‘cool and refreshing’ for me to get in! But the others did and seemed to enjoy themselves 🙂


Chirs about to go for a swim under the waterfall


The cool water was refreshing (so I’m told!)



We had planned to head all the way up to Cooktown, and we didn’t let a little cyclone warning put us off! We hooked up the vans and hit the road.

Our first stop was the Palmer River Roadhouse – where they serve the most ginormous, tasty burgers! There is a great little museum inside where you will find a collection of artefacts related to the goldrush of 1877. Why? Because this was the area of the last great goldrush in Australia, which led to the establishment of Cairns, Cooktown and Port Douglas. There’s quite a bit of history that was made right there in that spot. If you have time, be sure to check it all out. The kids loved it! (We took our kids there when we went back up the following year).


Lunch and a history lesson on the way to Cooktown


Yep, there was lots of rain


Where to next?


What a burger!





The clouds continued to hang low as we continued on our way to Cooktown. As we took in the ever-changing scenery, we couldn’t help but notice a huge mountain range made out of massive granite boulders jutting up into the sky. We stopped at Black Mountain to read about this fascinating ‘mountain of death’.

Apparently because there is no soil between the boulders and rocks, there is a maze of gaps and passages which can be used to penetrate inside the mountain. These rocks can become extremely hot when it’s sunny (unlike when we were there!)

Why is it known as the ‘mountain of death’? We read that numerous people and those searching for the missing have disappeared without a trace. Hmmm. I’m glad the kids didn’t run off!


Black Mountain


It was pretty black!



Next stop – Cooktown! I absolutely loved our first trip to this remote little town. We had booked in to the Peninsular Caravan Park, to be greeted by … no one! The owners had gone on holidays and left a sign on the locked door and the lady down the road in charge. There were no other vans in sight, and with the constant rain and grey clouds, it felt kind of eerie! Ok … Not ‘kind of’ but seriously eerie! I think even the men were a bit creeped out. It was an experience none of us will forget! What an adventure 😛

We were the only vans in the caravan park!


We set off exploring Cooktown –  a charming little place nestled between the Endeavour River and Grassy Hill, that is absolutely jam packed full of history. This place is ideal for a self-guided walking tour!

A great view from Grassy Hill of another storm rolling into Cooktown

It was like stepping back in time as this little town is completely unspoilt by the urgency of modern life.

We wandered down the main street (still in the rain!) and down to the esplanade where the beautiful gardens are filled with historical artefacts and signs filled with fascinating facts of what went on in years past. We saw where Captain James Cook first set foot on land, the Cook Monument, the Milbi Wall and much more. I could have spent ages there – but it was pouring with rain and we had other places to be! Luckily, we were able to make a return visit with the kids the following year and see much more (see Part 2!)

We spent some time at Finch Bay, which used to be the local swimming spot many years ago (and is now apparently filled with crocs), we explored Grassy Hill where we saw some of the biggest centipedes I have ever seen, and we had dinner at the Sovereign Resort Café Bar watching the lightening flash and listening to the thunder booming around as we waited for another storm roll in.




Storm or no storm, we decided to spend a night at Archer Point, even though we were told we could be cut off if it rained while we were there! We towed our vans through the muddy roads and parked right up on the edge of a cliff with the most amazing views of the ocean, islands and the reef.

We arrived to this paradise

We waited the storm out and by morning, it was back to paradise. We took the Stand Up Paddle board out, and went for a dip. The water was deliciously warm, and we had it all to ourselves. There were about 3 others camped close to where we swam, but not a soul in the water.

Can you see the chicken?!


We went for a drive up to the Archer Point Lighthouse where we came across a local lady and her kids who had come up to release the biggest snake we had ever seen! This beautiful python had eaten one of the lady’s chickens and it was quite clearly visible in its belly. We took a few pics before letting her slither off to digest her lunch. The views form the lighthouse were some of the best I’ve ever seen. Words can’t begin to describe it – you’ll have to take the time and go see for yourself 🙂

A great place to park the van for the night


We packed up and headed back, a tad concerned that due to the rain we would be forced to stay another night, but the Toyota’s towed the vans through the water without a problem and in no time, we were back at the deserted caravan park for night 2.

Showing us how it’s done


The rain turned the dirt into mud and the dips into rivers!




The next day we left the vans behind and took a daytrip up to Elim Beach. It’s meant to be one of the most spectacular beaches in Queensland, but I was sorely disappointed when we arrived. It had taken hours of the most horrendous roads, and we were greeted with water so high we couldn’t get to where we wanted to go, lots of mosquitos and lunch on a little patch of beach out the front of a small caravan park.

Chris assures me that we will go back so he can show me how gorgeous the place really is, and I’m looking forward to that day! I’m not looking forward to doing that road again though.

Elim Beach


We stopped for lunch and some fishing




And what trip up this way would be complete without a stop at the Lions Den Hotel? Of course, it was still raining, quite heavily actually – and not just water. There is a huge mango tree right out the front and it was dropping mangos all over the place. They were splatting on the ground and banging quite loudly on the roof. We had to cover up as we raced inside so we didn’t get a mango to the head!

Once inside – wow. Just wow. There was so much to look at! People’s names covered every single part of the floor, walls, ceiling, doors – pretty much anywhere you can reach. Chris and I found a spot and I signed our names on the motor of the fan right in the middle of the bar. They had to turn the fan off so I could stand up on the eski and reach right up on my tippy toes – but I did it! We had lunch before heading off back down to Cairns.

The iconic Lions Den Hotel


You’ve got to see this place!


They turned the fan off so I could climb up


Proof we were here!





Waterfalls and rivers …


Our view out of the windscreen


And this was by far the scariest part of our trip. By now the rain was torrential and the roads were starting to flood. The wipers could hardly keep the rain, dirt and debris off the windscreen as what was once surrounding paddocks and fields made its way onto the road and onto our car and van.

Lightening was flashing around, as white as Chris’s knuckles as he gripped the steering wheel tight, concentrating hard to keep us on the road. Water was rising rapidly, waterfalls were pouring off the side of the road and rivers were forming everywhere.

We slipped and slid as we made our descent and found out shortly after that they had closed the road behind us.

We returned to Crystal Cascades, set the vans up recovered from our little adventure.



We went into the Cairns Esplanade, beautifully lit up as it is at night and had a look through the night markets. We didn’t stay long, but it was enough to see the stalls, and take note of the massages being given and to mentally book one in for when we had more time.  It wasn’t a late night as we were all exhausted.

Ciarns Esplanade by night



The Daintree

On New Years Eve we headed up to the Daintree for a look (yes, in the rain!). We left the vans behind as none of the caravan parks are open this time of year.  We took the cars a short way up the Bloomfield Track. The track was closed at Emmagen Creek, but we forged our way through to find a track that was littered with potholes and huge trees that had fallen across its path.

Chris and I stopped in at the Cape Trib Beachhouse to see Chris’s cousin who was setting up to play a gig there that night. We headed home via the Daintree Ice Cream Company. They make the most delicious ice cream from exotic fruits from the fruit trees in the orchard right on the property! We drove all the way back with the kids the following year only to find that they didn’t accept credit card and we had no cash. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed.

This ice cream is ridiculously good!


Views and clouds … (it was a bit of a reoccurring theme!)


We stopped at the lookout Walu Wugirriga where you can see the reef meeting the rainforest. It was beautiful, although the views were somewhat obscured by low hanging rain clouds … and it was still raining.






New Year’s Day was spent by ourselves as it was our last day together before the kids arrived.

We spent the day exploring Palm Cove, walking along the beach, eating ice cream and wandering into some of the little boutiques and resorts lining the esplanade.

We had a look through the quirky Apres Bar & Grill which was filled with relics and had all sorts of weird and wonderful things lining the walls and hanging from the ceiling.



That evening we enjoyed a romantic dinner at the Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant. You’ll find them on the corner of Lake and Gatton streets in Cairns, and I only mention this as I highly suggest you pay them a visit. The food was outstanding, and the atmosphere was just lovely. We had the Balinese rijsttafel which was a banquet and gave us a taste of so many delightful dishes. It is yet another thing on my list of ‘must do again’! 🙂





The next day the kids arrived at the Cairns airport with big grins on their faces and would you believe the sun came out! We swam in the pool at the caravan park, floated down the nearby river on lilo’s, (that was an adventure in itself!) and had a grand old time. It was great to have the kidlets with us again!

We went for a day trip on the Kuranda Scenic Train and spent a few hours at the top wandering around the shops and market stalls, eating ice cream and having lunch at a pub before catching the Sky Rail back down.

Kuranda Rail

Us being us!



Unfortunately, the rain had set back in, so we didn’t get the magnificent views we were expecting on the way down, but it was fascinating none the less. It was expensive, but we all had a great time and I’d say it’s necessary to do at least once.

Our friends headed back down south, and we continued adventuring with the kids. We squeezed so much into the few days we had left in Cairns!


We did Paronella Park which was breathtaking –  so much so that we have visited three times! This fairytale-like park will stir up a medley of emotions that bubble up from the very bottom of your soul. The heritage listed crumbling ruins and lush rainforest are all that is left of Jose Paronella’s dream to build a castle and share it with the world.

Paronella Park


Alongside Mena Creek Falls he built not only his castle but a picnic area by the falls, tennis courts, bridges, the tunnel of love and many other little concrete creations that we stumbled across as we made our way slowly through the gardens.

In my opinion, this was more of a place to be enjoyed with adults than the kids. While our 3 did enjoy some parts, they were just ‘too hot and too tired’ to enjoy it properly. The fact that Aylah got smashed by mosquitoes didn’t help much either. When we returned with my parents in 2017, we enjoyed it just that little bit more 🙂




We didn’t stay for the whole day as many people do, but instead we headed back to Josephine Falls, which for our kids was definitely the highlight of the entire trip! The falls are located just 75ks south of Cairns, and we had to drive right past on our way back from Paronella Park. It was the perfect place for us to cool off, and for the kids to have some fun.

One foot!

It is just a short 700 metre walk from the car park to the waterfall and the natural waterslide that is a huge slippery rock, perfect for sliding down on your bum, or if you are Chris, on your feet! This is what kept us entertained for hours. There is a beautiful sandy ‘beach’ behind the ‘slide’ and in all honesty, I think we enjoyed this more than Paronella Park, and it is free!

As we were driving along, we passed the sign for ‘Babinda Boulders’ at the foothills of the Bartle Range and Chris said it was another great spot that the kids would love. So, we turned off and went for a look and he was right – it was gorgeous! It is quite obviously named for the huge granite boulders that you can see along Babinda Creek set right in the sparkling, cascading, cool, crystal clear mountain water. We grabbed our lilo’s and floated around until hunger took over and we headed off in search of food.




Another magical place that we spent some exploring was the Atherton Tablelands.

Devonshire Tea dahling


We stopped in at the relaxing Lake Barrine Rainforest Teahouse which is just one hour from Cairns. We enjoyed Devonshire Tea on the balcony of the charming 80-year-old teahouse while the kids had a swim in the water-filled crater below. At one point we threw the GoPro over the balcony (while it was filming), and the kids had a great time taking some underwater shots and capturing the moment beautifully.  It’s a lovely place hidden in world heritage rainforest.

Lake Barrine Rainforest Teahouse Lake Barrine Teahouse

We made our way to Lake Eacham, another spot I had heard lots of wonderful things about. It is a clear, blue lake surrounded by lush rainforest where you can swim, canoe, head off along the walking tracks, enjoy the picnic areas, or do what we did – swim!

It is quite a popular spot and there were quite a few people there who seemed to be set up for the day.  Once again, the Lilo’s came out and we spent about an hour just floating and swimming. The boys went in search of a crazy high tree to jump off, while the girls and I relaxed in the water and watched with great interest from a distance.

The girls relaxed at Lake Eacham


And the boys went tree jumping!



The Curtain Fig Tree

From there we headed to Malanda Falls which is right next to the visitor centre and looks almost man-made. It’s not worth making a special trip for, but if you are in the area, you should stop by. It is right next to the road, so you can hear the cars passing by over the waterfall, which kind of detracted from the ‘mood’ for me. And while it’s not the most beautiful of the falls, the kids had fun jumping off the concrete wall until poor Charli sliced her foot open on one of the kids many jumps into the water! This made our next stop interesting as Chris had to piggy back her.

Our next stop was The Curtain Fig Tree (which is located just outside the small township of Yungaburra on the Atherton Tablelands). And while it may not have the most exotic name in the world, it’s well worth adding to your bucket list. We have seen some breathtaking trees, and this is certainly one of the most ‘intriguing’! It’s one of the largest and most interesting trees in Northern QLD and is about 500 years old.

There’s an info board that explains how it came to be. Apparently, it has grown into this curtain like tree thanks to one tree leaning against another on a 45-degree angle. The strangler vine then grew along the oblique angle of the leaning tree, dangling 15 metres to the ground to create the curtain affect. So so so cool!





Little Upolo Cay


Green Island

My favourite day was my very last day in Cairns when we went out to the Great Barrier Reef with Chris’s uncle in his boat, ‘Mistress’. It was every bit as magical as I had been led to believe. We headed straight out to Little Upolo Cay, a naturally formed coral cay about 30 kilometres from Cairns, dropped anchor and spend some time snorkelling. It was lovely to have the place almost to ourselves.

We also spent some time at Michaelmas Cay, a much bigger sand cay that is home to about 23 species of seabirds.  There are so many of them that the sounds are quite deafening and while you can get out and walk on the beach, the birds are protected by a rope fence. You can still get close enough to take some amazing piccies though 🙂

Our boat was surrounded by some giant black trevally and Chris dove in and got some amazing footage. They were so tame, and he was able to touch them! They swam alongside out boat for miles as we sped off when it was time to head home.

The boys caught lots of fish!



My favourite part of the trip!



A perfect way to end the holiday


The kids stayed with family that night, and Chris and I headed out with his cousins for dinner at Salt House, one of our favourite restaurants in Cairns. We then spent the evening listening to one of his cousins playing at The Pier Bar. What a fabulous way to end my holiday!

And that was it for me as I had to head home for work. Chris and the kids took the scenic way home along the coast stopping at many gorgeous little places like Mission Beach.

I may have missed out on that part of the trip, but thankfully we did it two more times, and I wasn’t silly enough to head home early for work! I will share those adventures in parts 2 and 3.

If you made it to the bottom .. I congratulate you! I hope I have inspired you to head north – it’s a trip you will never forget! And unless you want to be on the road for a few months, you may need to do it a few times like we did. It’s hard to see all that Far North Queensland has to offer in 3 or 4 weeks.

Until next time … safe travels!