From Undara we headed north-east to Ravenshoe, the highest town in Queensland, and at the Southern end of the Atherton Tablelands. We had been to the Tablelands before, but not to this southern town which hosts Millstream Falls, the widest in Australia. It was grand, but nothing compared to its majesty in the wet season we were told. We also wanted to see Tully Gorge from above, but the Misty Mountains were true to name when we made it through thick fog, so could only imagine what the 293m gorge looked like.
We then continued towards Innisfail, but stopped 30km short at Paronella Park for an overnight stay. Jose Paronella arrived from Spain around 1930 and worked as a cane-cutter. But his dream was to build a Spanish Castle complete with waterfall and eco gardens. So he bought and sold cane farms with his earnings from cane-cutting until he could afford the 120 pound price-tag for 10 acres of land with a waterfall that was useless for cane growing! He then returned to Spain to “pick-up a bride” 15 yrs his junior, and back to Aus to build the “dream”. He built the family home from sand/gravel from his creek and imported cement. Then came an imported hydro- electricity turbine to become the first electricity supplied home in the district. Then he discovered a freshwater spring on his property, so a small water pump made him the first home in the district with fresh running water as well as power. Then to make money, a Ballroom and kitchen to feed and entertain the locals, a café and ice-creamery at his waterfall supplied natural massive pool, with entry only by formal dress, and yet another charge to use the change-rooms for a swim! Then a “lovers lane” with an entrance fee and you now get the gist – nothing for nothing. They had 2 kids, but he died at 60 and eventually the dream was deserted for about 15 yrs. It re-opened by new and energetic owners, but cyclones Larry and Yasi have knocked around the remains. There is still plenty left, and both the daytime and night-time tours are sensational………….put it on the bucket list.
Then on to Innisfail for our first look at the sea since we left home. It is a “sleepy” sugar/fishing city with “art deco” character in the old quarter on the South Johnstone River.
We looked around all the local sights, and enjoyed the only “croc safe” swimming spot at Etty Bay.
The surprise of our stay was a visit to Babinda, another sugar town not too far north. We found a (nother) bakery with lamb and rosemary pies to die for,…..and Josephine Falls in pristine tropical rainforest.
Then on to an even more stunning setting at the Boulders, a series of granite boulders in a kilometre long waterfall gorge. The pics don’t do this gorge justice. Hard to describe but another spot we will definitely return to, with a free-camp near the day use area as good as we have ever seen – for setting and amenities.
We then moved south about 30km for a week at Kurrimine Beach. I am struggling to accept that it just gets better. This relatively untouched hide-away is mainly frequented by “southerners” looking for warmth and tranquillity. The CP was small and half the residents were there for 4-6 months….every year, on the same site for the same time. Potentially very cliquey, but we seem to break the “outsider” barrier…..as you should expect of fine OMNIstock people, to enjoy fantastic happy hours every night. We did visit Mission Beach and surrounding beaches, but there was plenty of long walks on our beach, and plenty of R&R talking to many new friends. We really enjoyed the very slow pace of things……..with all the time in the world to “smell the roses”…and enjoy the plethora of fresh local seafood.
The best day trip was to…….you guessed it…………Tully Gorge from below! This Gorge is one of the best rafting gorges on the planet. We watched 20 odd rubber ducky’s of Asian tourists enjoy one of the best rafting experiences on the planet. At the most dangerous spot was a land-based guide just in case something went wrong. So he gave us a running commentary of what each guide was doing to the unsuspecting tourists as he catipultated them out of the “duckie”.
Finally we had to leave many new friends and head south to Lucinda Point for 3 days. The CP is like a tin of sardines, all squashed in, but the setting is fantastic. The adjacent park, beach, sugar terminal, and general ambience mean the over-priced CP is always full. Apparently, the fishing here is the best in FNQ, as the “reef” is fairly close, and the spoils to die for. There are more boats here than people…….and maybe more fish than both! We didn’t fish…….except in the wholesale fish outlet.
We did go to Wallaman Falls around 50km from Ingham. These are the highest falls in Australia at 236m, and the spectacle was sensational. Bas did do the scramble to the base of the falls, which gave a different perspective to the magnificent setting.