Lake Tinaroo – Sun 18th To Mon 19th Oct
The highway is only a short drive north of the Lions Den – turn right and you head to Cooktown, and from there back to the Cape. Tempting, but it’s time to turn south again and continue the long run down the coast.
Passing the Lakeland Roadhouse for the third time there is a deja-vu feeling to this drive, we have been here before. However rather than turning to Cairns at Mareeba we follow the road through the tablelands to Atherton.
Sitting at altitude this area enjoys cooler weather than the coast; as one person put it this is the air conditioner of Cairns during summer, a place for people to escape the worst of the heat and humidity.
To the east of Atherton, a flourishing little town, is Lake Tinaroo. Held back by the Tinaroo Dam, 42m high and opened in 1958, the lake covers c. 3,500 hectares or 75% of Sydney Harbour. Originally designed for irrigation, hydroelectric generation was added in 2004.
Genazzano is a lovely campsite, set on a hillside overlooking the south-western edge of the lake. Aside from very reasonably priced canoe hire there is not much else to do except sit back and enjoy the view and the peace.
At night, once the sun goes down over the lake, the locals come out to visit. There are an incredible number of very inquisitive bandicoots here, not afraid to come up to your feet or get into an unguarded rubbish bag. They are very cute, but can make quite a mess if allowed to.
Atherton is the home of one of the oddest shops we have run into. The brainchild of Rene Boissevain, the front is a shop selling crystals and semi precious stones. However the back has been converted into a seven dwarfs wonderland, a twisting grotto constructed to display part of his crystal collection. Centrepiece of the whole thing is the Empress of Uruguay, the largest amethyst geode in the world – standing over 3m high and weighing 2.5t it is an awe inspiring sight.
Well worth a trip, especially for the kids; at the end is a quiz, with 10/10 getting a prize of some crystals and stones. However if you miss out you can buy them by weight from the shop.
Bingil Bay – Tue 20th to Wed 21st Oct
This was one of those fortunate mornings where bad weather holds off long enough for pack up to be dry. Unfortunately the rain then set in with a passion, not particularly heavy, but constant, unrelenting. In reality a good day to be travelling, rather than sitting under cover watching the raindrops.
About 20km to the south of Atherton is Nerada Tea. Unfortunately the factory was not operating, it would have been fascinating to see how the tea is processed. Attached to the factory is a tea shop. The tea was great, but overall this is a bit disappointing. They could do so much more, like offering tea tasting paddles, to make this a wonderful experience, rather than just a stop for a cuppa.
Driving on, just outside of Millaa Millaa you can take a loop road, showing off some of the waterfalls in this area – unfortunately with the rain there would have been little to see, a trip for another time.
Rather than drive direct to Bingil, lunch was a diversion in pursuit of Cassowaries. Etty Beach, just to the east of Innisfail, is well known for these wonderful birds wandering into the campsite or along the beach. Unfortunately they weren’t coming out to play, sad to think we may have to make do with the concrete one from the Daintree River.
Bingil Bay is a small place on the coast just to the north of Mission Beach. It is a tiny site, just enough room for 6, and no caravans over 17ft allowed. Sitting right on the beachfront it is a lovely location, a place to sit listening to the waves whilst the kids play in the sand.
There are not much in the way of local things to do, however a short walk up the road is the Bingil Bay Café. As well as making a top iced coffee the fans above the balcony are fascinating to watch; the Raj meets far North Queensland as the punkawallah cools the air.
Wallaman Falls – Thu 22nd Oct
Heading south a few km is Mission Beach. Yes, we had to stop and get a photo of the trailer, how could we resist with that name….
The beach itself is a long, wide expanse of sand dipping gently into the sea. If it wasn’t for the croc signs it would be beach heaven.
Wallaman Falls is located in Girringun National Park, a short deviation inland from Ingham. The road runs through extensive cane plantations until, reaching the park, it rears up and twists its way back into tropical rainforest and a final chance at a cassowary. According to Hema the climb is not suitable for trailers, OK it is a bit twisty in places but nothing a bit of care and attention deals with.
The campsite here is a circular road around the central camping area. Apparently it can take 60 people. However the camping area is bollarded off, so trailers set up in the parking alongside – not a problem unless there are half a dozen trailers, then there would be no parking for the other 50 people trying to pitch tents…..perhaps not a place for the school holiday rush.
Facilities are good but basic, the cold shower is rather refreshing. Unexpected was the cicada serenade as the sun went down. Whilst they didn’t last for long, they were so loud it felt like your skull was vibrating.
The falls are a short drive from the campsite. There is a viewing platform next to the car park, or for the more adventurous a path leads to the base of the falls – whilst not a long walk the climb back out is very steep. I must admit we didn’t walk, when you are dealing with the longest single drop permanent fall in Australia standing at the bottom and looking up just doesn’t give the right perspective.
The falls are particularly beautiful in the morning. As the sun rises it slants across the cascading mists and splits into an ephemeral rainbow, slowly descending down the fall as the sun gets higher.
Big Crystal Springs – Fri 23rd to Sat 24th Oct
Unfortunately no cassowaries either on the way up to, or the way down from, Wallaman; the concrete model at the Daintree it is then, or another addition to the long list of reasons to come back again!
As the road travels south, around 70km from Townsville it runs alongside Paluma Range National Park, in which the campsite is located. Just before the turn to the campsite is the Frosty Mango. This seems to have attained cult status if you believe comments on Wikicamps; whilst the ice cream is very nice it doesn’t really live up to the hype.
Arriving at the campsite just after lunch we had the pick of the area; opposite to the entrance, adjacent to the day use area, is a secluded little spot on the edge of the site looking out into the bush. It is also handily close to the amenities, and another cold shower!
Being a Friday, and close to Townsville, it is best to arrive early, by 6pm the site was filling up. Unfortunately there was still room for a half dozen who arrived at 7pm with the aim of seemingly just drinking and running around shouting at each other. When asked to turn it down their excuse was amusing “we are teenagers”. OK that probably makes us sound like old farts, but we can’t deny the site was so much better on Saturday after they left and the sounds of the bush returned……
A short walk from the campsite is the aptly named Paradise Waterhole. With absolutely clear water, too deep to stand in the centre, this is a wonderful place to cool off. For the girls it was a slice of heaven, big enough to get the nipper board out and paddle around before heading back camp and marshmallows around the fire.