Tackling the Tele – Lions Den Hotel

For many years the Lions Den Hotel has played an important role as the last stop before Cooktown and the rugged Black Mountain pass.  Nowadays this iconic little pub is on everyone’s bucket list.  Everyone wants to get a photo out the front with ‘Leo the lion’!  If you don’t know how popular Leo is, check out this story to read about when someone stole Leo’s tail!

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The historic Lions Den Hotel has been an important stop for tourists and locals for decades.  After a gruelling few weeks of rugged dirt roads, dust and corrugations as you travel throughout the Cape York region, this is a welcome relief and stop over point for a well deserved drink.

History

In 1875 a young Welshman from Rossville named Jack Ross decided to open a hotel in an area which later became known as Helenvale.  Right on the banks of the Little Annan River, where it joined the Mungumby Creek, Jack and his wife Annie opened the Lions Den Hotel.   The hotel was named after the Lions Den tin mine on the nearby tableland.

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You should take a bit of time to walk around the inside of this quirky little pub, there is plenty of history and decorations and many signatures and stories from travellers adorn the walls and ceiling of the rooms.  Yes, amongst all those signatures we are there too …. somewhere!

Accommodation
Accommodation options range from powered and unpowered camping sites to on site cabins and Safari Tents.

During our visit in 2013 with Stewy, Kristy and Rori we all stayed in a Safari tent for something a little bit different.  They are fully screened to keep the bugs out and come with private deck areas, as well as fridge and tea & coffee making facilities.

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Facilities

The Lions Den Hotel has everything you need from a licensed bar, meals, fuel, ice, souvenirs etc.  The large deck areas are the perfect place to sit and relax and share some stories over a cold beer or two.

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As we were nearing the end of our epic journey our whole group took the opportunity to share a meal and a few drinks together.  As we relaxed on the deck, we all had a great night filled with lots of laughs, a few drinks and plenty of food.

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Early the next morning we were all up ready to head off for a day on the tracks ….. 4 of our vehicles were tackling the CREB Track.  But before that we had more photos to take  ….. like the standard ‘Leo the Lion’ photos, every has to get a pic of their vehicles in front of the sign out the front!

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Below is our photo from our visit with Stewy in 2013 compared to 2018.   5 years later and new vehicles for both of us!

Contact

The Lions Den Hotel is located 28km south of Cooktown on the Bloomfield Road between Cooktown and Cape Tribulation.

Phone (07) 4060 3911     www.lionsdenhotel.net

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During our visit in 2013 there were the most amazing jade vines that were hanging from the trees around the deck of the hotel.  These delicate little blue, green flowers almost didn’t even look real.  They looked like little claws swaying in the breeze.

We had never seen anything quite like it in our lives, they were stunning.  To find something this beautiful and delicate in such a rustic, relatively remote location was amazing.   We found out that they were called Strongylodon macrobotrys, commonly known as jade vine and they are a native of the tropical forests of the Philippines.

This time we were looking forward to seeing these amazing flowers again, but we were informed that unfortunately they were destroyed in one of the cyclones which hit the area, such a shame.


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Tackling the Tele – Bramwell Station

It was a leisurely start for the day as we left Weipa and took the Batavia Downs track towards Bramwell Station.  It was during this journey that our Prado started flashing up some warning lights on the dash, it appeared that there was an issue with the 4WD system, but as we had no reception or internet service it was hard to ascertain exactly what was wrong.

We waited until we arrived at Bramwell Station and then set about trying to fix the problem, as a Prado without low range was not going to be a fun Prado to be in on the tele track!  The scan tool wasn’t showing any error codes, but there was obviously something wrong so George & Liam set about trying to work it out.  Eventually, after trying everything else, they decided to just ‘clear’ all error codes (even though there weren’t any!) and the lights disappeared.  A few quick tests and it was confirmed that the 4WD gears were working again!  Little did we know this problem was going to keep popping up during the trip, but at least for now we knew we’d have low range on the tele track.

Now if you are looking for the perfect place to stay before you tackle the Old Tele Track, then you really need to get yourself to Bramwell Station (not Bramwell Junction, but Bramwell Station).  It’s the same family that own both properties, but if you want a fun-filled night, full of laughs and entertainment, then you need to stay at the station.

Bramwell Station is the most northerly cattle station in Australia, but apart from being a working cattle station, it’s a great tourist park with accommodation units and a huge camping ground.

The video below shows Matt (our self-appointed table captain) trying to get our table to sing the loudest!

We stayed here on our last trip and thought it was great, but stay here in the peak tourist season and you really see what this place has to offer.  The ringing of the station’s bell signals happy hour at the bar and of course we were all there ready and waiting!  But this was just the start of the night.  Most of us chose to have the buffet dinner and that was money well spent.  There is live entertainment at the station every night during the peak tourist season.  The beers were flowing, the food was plentiful and the entertainment was great.  Plenty of laughs were had this night, it was absolutely the perfect way to relax before we tackled the old tele track the next morning.


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Review: Discovery Parks Forster

If you read our last blog you will recall that we were recently invited to visit one of the Discovery Parks and give our feedback.  We decided that we would head up to Forster, a few hours north of Sydney.  This park is located right on the shores of Wallamba River and this makes for beautiful tranquil surroundings and a great location.

This is a great part of NSW, offering a range of activities.  For the adventurous, there is fishing, kayaking, water skiing and bush walking.  For the not as adventurous there are beautiful beaches, cafes and shopping and for the kids you can’t go past the Big Buzz Fun Park.

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The park itself is quite large and very picturesque with many trees and of course the Wallamba River.  Plenty of tables and chairs around to take in the views and enjoy a BBQ by the river.

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If you are into boating, jet skiing or water skiing, you really need to get yourself up to this caravan park.  This place is heaven on earth if you are into water sports.

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From the moment we arrived we were impressed.  The check-in process was easy and the staff were friendly and helpful, giving us maps and brochures for the area, including some discount coupons to use in town.  There was a lot of tourist information on display at reception as well and the staff seemed very knowledgable about the area.

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As far as the park itself is concerned, below is a list of the various park facilities.

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PARK FACILITIES

-Boat ramps offering access to the river

-Resort style swimming pool

-Onsite Café

-Jumping Pillow

-Free Wi-Fi

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CAMPING/CARAVAN FACILITIES

-Large modern camp kitchen .

-BBQ areas with undercover seating

-Large sites, some with concrete slabs, some grassed sites (and Ensuite sites available aswell)

-Amenities, including disabled bathrooms, and full laundry facilities

FOR THE KIDDIES

-Playground

-Jumping Pillow

-Games room

-Resort style swimming pool

-Holiday activity programs

We chose to stay in a Superior Riverfront Villa.  These cabins sleep 5 people.  Our cabin consisted of a double bed in one room and a double bed with single bunk above it in the other.  We believe some of their other cabins have slightly different sleeping configurations.

These particular cabins have complete river frontage and large outdoor balcony areas to take in the views.  It’s the perfect place to sit and relax with a beer in hand and watch the sunset or just watch the world pass by.

Perfect spot to take in the view with a beer in hand!

Contact Details
Discovery Parks – Forster
Freecall: 1800 268 176
Phone: (02) 6554 3123
Address: 99 Aquatic Road, Darawank (Forster)
Website:  www.discoveryholidayparks.com.au/nsw/wallamba_river/forster
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A week at Urunga

Our recent trip took us up to the north coast of NSW to a place called Urunga.  Urunga is a small, relaxed waterfront town where the Bellinger and Kalang rivers meet with the ocean.  It’s about 25km south of Coffs Harbour so it’s a little quieter and without all the crowds, just how we like it!  Leaving early on boxing day and arriving back after the new year, it was only fitting that our years ended and started with us camping.  Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come for the coming year as our intention is to get out and about more often, even if only for the odd weekend away.

We spent the week camped at the Urunga Waters Tourist Park with our mate Mark and his kids, MaryAnn and Anthony.  This is an older style park, but the thing we loved about it is that it wasn’t too crowded.  It’s right on the water and has its own swimming pool aswell so what more could you ask for.

img_5579-3We would definitely stay here again if we are in the area, maybe even take the dogs up there for a week as it’s pet friendly.

The amenities blocks are very small and they, as well as the camp kitchen could do with a little tlc and upgrade, but they did the job.

This park is perfect for the fishermen, with its own boat ramp and complete waterfront access you can be out there all day, every day.

Tuesday we played tourist and visited the Big Banana, Carobana and the Pet Porpoise Pool, and of course we fitted in time for a quick swim as well!

img_5609Carobana is every chocoholics dream destination!  This place is full of carob based products from choc covered nuts and popcorn to rocky road, brittles and honeycomb and the best thing about this place is there are free samples!

This is a working factory and it’s in production most days and open for viewing.  img_5605

 

The day we visited they were making honeycomb and we were invited in by the workers and they showed us how they make a batch of honeycomb from start to finish …. even including taste testing for us!

After we finished the viewing we moved on to see how they coat the honeycomb in chocolate.

The Pet Porpoise Pool is a great day out and has always been a favourite of ours over the years.  If you are a fan of dolphins or have ever dreamt of kissing a sea lion or patting a dolphin, then this is the place for you!   The show is what it’s all about, watching the sea lions and dolphins performing their tricks and showing off to the crowd.  You can also have a photo taken kissing or feeding a sea lion, receiving a dolphin kiss or feeding a penguin.

Also, at a cost, they have more up close and personal experiences where you can actually get in the water with the animals, the kids were excited to have a dolphin experience where they were in the water patting and learning about dolphins.

The park itself isn’t all about fun and tourist visits, it does have a serious side to it and they do some amazing work rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured marine animals, before releasing them back to their natural homes.   They also have a large focus on teaching people to change their behavior and views through education programs held at the park.

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Wednesday we headed out for a day on the tracks.  Coffs Harbour is known for its great 4WD tracks so we had to check them out.  To start with we found a few trails that weren’t overly exciting, visually the scenery was nice, but not really anything more than a fire trail.  We then headed off in search of the Rover Trail.

The GPS was set and it decided the best way to reach the track was via another track called The Morbid Trail.  Now the name itself doesn’t really give you a warm fuzzy feeling does it, but we thought we’d check it out anyway.  Got to the frist climb, went half way up, chickened out and reversed the whole way down!  There are a few tracks up there with some interesting names ……. Morbid Trail, Commando Trail, Widow Maker ….. as we tend to like our cars and felt that we really needed them to get us home, we chose not to tackle any of these tracks!

Finally we found our way to the start of the Rover Trail.  img_8428This was a great, fun track (‘fun’ isn’t exactly the word Mark would use to describe this track though!).  It’s difficult in parts and you really do need a capable car and driver, but we had fun, we made it through unscathed and it’s another one we can mark off the bucket list!  There will be another blog post with more photos and info on this track.

img_5613Thursday took us to Boambee beach.  This is one of the beaches that you can 4WD on in the Coffs Harbour area.  The great thing is that you don’t need a permit, although we believe there is talk of this changing in the future.img_8509

We spent a great day swimming and relaxing on the beach, as were many other people!

Friday was the day we took a drive along the scenic Waterfall Way, as you can imagine from the name, it takes you to waterfalls!  The drive takes you through the small towns of Bellingen and Dorrigo and it’s worth a stop in these towns to have a bite to eat or a look around.  The scenery on this drive is spectacular, the landscape changes from lush green countryside to rainforests and waterfalls.

First stop was Ebor Falls.  Ebor Falls occur where the Guy Fawkes River plunges over two waterfalls, the upper and lower falls.  This spot lends itself to some great photo opportunities.  The Gumbaynggirr people traditionally called Ebor Falls ‘Martiam’, which means the great falls.

Not far from the town of Dorrigo you reach the Dangar Falls, which are just as spectacular as the Ebor Falls.  The day we visited there were many people swimming below the falls which would have been great, but it was so unbelievably hot and the idea of walking up and down that hill was not appealing at all!

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A quick visit to the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre on the way back gave us some more photo opportunities.  There are quite a few walks you can do here, but again, with the heat it just wasn’t making for an enjoyable walking experience! Although the temperature did drop slightly once you started to head into the rainforest.

It’s worth a stop at this centre, even if only to see the suspended platform which affords views over the escarpment and into the distance.

Upon returning to Urunga we took a drive out to The Honey Place.  This is quite an interesting place where you can see working beehives and taste the various honey varieties.  The gift shop has numerous products for sale from t-shirts and souvenirs to honey-based body products (moisturisers and lip balms etc) and obviously the many honey varieties.

They also have an interesting documentary video running which is quite informative and the staff themselves are more than willing to teach you and answer any questions.  We both learned a little about bees during our visit, yes useless information we probably didn’t need to know, but regardless, we learned something new!

img_5634Saturday was spent swimming at Valla Beach.  This beach is great, it’s like natures own water park.  There are rock pools to explore and mini swimming holes for you to sit and relax in.  The tidal lagoon is great for adults and kids, the shallow waters at low tide allow little mini rapids to form and you can float down the creek to where it joins the ocean.  Such a beautiful location, whether you are after a swim, a relax in the sun or a walk along the beach.

Saturday also happened to be New Years Eve and you can’t have a party without decorations!  The kids and Shelly set about decorating the camp site, we had glow sticks and sparklers and lots of food and beer!  img_8581We met a couple who were camping behind us and invited them over to spend NYE with us.  We spent the night laughing and sharing travel stories with our new friends.  They live in WA, but have been on the road travelling since March (jealous is the only word that comes to mind!).

Sunday morning Mark and the kids left early to head back to Sydney so we had the day to ourselves.  With temperatures again in the mid 30’s there was no other option but to head back to the beach, so back to Valla Beach we went.  And guess what ….. there were markets on, what a coincidence!

Monday morning started out a little overcast and drizzling with rain so we decided to head into Coffs Harbour for a look around and a bit of shopping.

img_5600After our day of wandering around we headed back to camp for a relax before deciding to go out to dinner for our last night away.

Now who says you can’t be comfortable while camping, this inflatable pink lounge was the best $20 we’ve spent!  We actually had to fight to get to the lounge first it was so comfy!  Nothing better after a day out than to come back to camp, grab a beer, lay down and take in the view!

For years we’ve driven through Urunga and seen the Anchors Wharf Café sitting down the side of the bridge, but we’d never visited.  After seeing a photo of their seafood platters on their website, this is where George wanted to go!img_5674

Anchors Wharf Cafe & Restaurant sits right on the south bank of the Kalang River at Urunga. The views at sunset are beautiful, it really was such a nice place to spend our last night.

We couldn’t fault this restaurant, the food was delicious and the staff were friendly and attentive. They definitely didn’t skimp on food when it came to the seafood platter, it was packed with yummy fresh seafood and fruit. The prawns were huge and there were so many they didn’t even all get eaten …… anyone who knows George, knows that this would very rarely happen!

 

Ningaloo Reef

We arrived in Exmouth and spent 2 nights at the Ningaloo Caravan & Holiday Resort. Great park right on the main road and central to everything and right opposite the information centre.  The in-house restaurant was great too, we ate dinner there on our last night and loved our meals. Great atmosphere sitting on the deck covered in fairy lights and overlooking the pool.IMG_7540Our main reason for visiting Exmouth was so that we could snorkel the World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef.  The Ningaloo Reef, an intricate reef system stretching over 260km, is one of the world’s largest fringing reefs. Ningaloo Reef is a fringing reef, rather than a barrier reef, meaning that it is closer to the shore with shallow water separating the land and reef.IMG_7541We spent a day in Exmouth out snorkelling the pristine reef and we weren’t disappointed, another tick off the bucket list. We drove out to the Cape Range National Park which is full of turnoffs to various beaches and campgrounds. We went snorkelling at Lakeside, which had a self guided snorkel area.IMG_7573We literally walked in off the beach and we were there swimming above the coral and with the most colourful fish, stingrays, reef sharks, turtles …… to have these creatures swimming past or gliding under you was really a sight to see.IMG_7655Personally I enjoyed this a lot more than our snorkelling trip to the Great Barrier Reef.IMG_7578Whilst in Exmouth, we also drove to Shothole Canyon, this 4WD track takes you right through the base of the canyon.  It’s not the smoothest of rides as you drive in and out of rivers/creek beds (all dry), but the scenery is quite nice.

It’s also worth taking a drive out to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse.  This gives a great view over the Ningaloo Reef.img_4452

We do love a good shipwreck story so we headed out to see the SS Mildura Shipwreck – During a cyclone in 1907, the SS Mildura (a cattle ship) came to grief on the reef.  The crew were rescued, but they let all the cattle free.  Unfortunately most of them drowned trying to make it to shore.  The hull of the ship was later used for bombing practice in WW2.  The wreck can still be seen quite clearly at low tide.IMG_7557

Anchor from the SS Mildura


Another unique thing about Exmouth is their resident emus! They wander the park and the streets and it’s not unusual to see them wandering around the town.  The morning we left we saw traffic waiting for one to cross the main road outside the caravan park!IMG_7518
Next up we were headed to Coral Bay for 2 nights.  Coral Bay is a tiny little beach town on the coast of WA and it’s absolutely beautiful. Like Exmouth, the Ningaloo Reef runs through the waters of Coral Bay aswell, but it’s even closer to the waters edge here. IMG_7595IMG_7596From our caravan park, we simply had to cross the road and we are on the beach, take a few steps further and you can already see the fish swimming on the shoreline. At low tide you probably only need to walk a couple of meters and you are ready to explore the coral and fish.IMG_7605IMG_7655The waters around both Exmouth and Coral Bay are beautiful.  The blue, green, aqua and turquoise of the water are a sight to see, it’s even more beautiful than it appears in the pictures.  And the water is so crystal clear, you can see right through it, so pristine.IMG_7656This area is also famous for their whale sharks and the ability to swim with them (we didn’t do this as we ran out of time to be able to book in on a trip), but hopefully one day we will be back. As well as whale sharks, there are humpback whales, dugongs, turtles and of course the reef sharks and fish.IMG_7674Today we booked on a 1 hour cruise on the glass bottom boat and this was well worth the money. We saw a lot of coral and many, many fish. We even fed some of the fish which was fun! It was a fun, informative cruise and we got some great photos through the glass bottom of the boat – wish we had of had an underwater camera to capture these shots while we were snorkelling.

The coral here isn’t as colourful as other areas we’ve seen (eg Fiji) as this is hard coral and this normally takes on the more earthy tones, rather than the typical colourful coral you tend to see in photographs, which are generally from your soft corals.

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Fish feeding


George went in for a snorkel after our cruise, but it was a little cool for Shelly today (ok, it was 25 degrees, which may sound great to our poor rain soaked Sydney-siders back at home, but what can we do!).IMG_7586After lunch we went for another drive up along the dunes and found our own little piece of beach all to ourselves.IMG_7666Coral Bay is a little slice of paradise and we can see why it’s so popular as a holiday destination for WA locals.  

A visit to the Ningaloo Coast should be on everyone’s bucket list, it really is an amazingly beautiful part of the country.

Eighty Mile Beach

Last night we stayed at the Eighty Mile Beach caravan park. The campground is situated just behind the sand dunes of Eighty Mile Beach, with our site located right down near the beach.Eighty Mile Beach is renowned for its great fishing and there were plenty of people doing just that! The other thing it’s famous for is its shells, and there certainly isn’t a lack of them, they line the beach in every direction!  As you drive along the beach you can hear them crunching under the tyres and as you stand on the waters edge you are hit with them as the water washes in and out!  It seems that the boys go fishing and the girls collect shells! …. yes we now have a car full of shells!The park is very nice with grassed sites, which is a change for us! Each site is quite large and well marked out, which makes things a lot easier when trying to find your way around (it’s surprising how many parks don’t do this!).

They even supply a wash bay area to hose down the car after being on the beach and an air compressor to pump up your tyres, great idea.Today we are off to Port Hedland.

Mount Elizabeth Station

We spent two days staying at Mt Elizabeth Station. It was so quiet and secluded compared to the campgrounds we had stayed in the previous few days. 

The property is about 30km in off the Gibb River Road and it wasn’t the smoothest of roads by any means, we were glad when we finally reached the homestead!

This station is run by the Lacy family and they have been operating the Mount Elizabeth pastoral lease since 1945. The primary operation over the years has been beef cattle, but in recent years they have moved into tourism aswell, with a camping ground and homestead stays.

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Our campfire making hot coals to cook our choc chip and marshmallow damper!


The campground is quite large and you can camp wherever you like which was great because it meant we had no one around us, as everyone tends to congregate together and close to the toilets and showers! There were no powered sites which didn’t worry us, but there were toilets and showers, nothing too flash, but they did the job.

Probably the best thing about staying at this property is the fact that you are able to visit their gorges which are only available to guests camping or staying in the homestead.

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This gorge and waterfall was amazing, so beautiful – and it was only us and one other couple there at the time. 

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It’s a bit of a trek to get to this gorge, the track leaves from the campground and is a 10km 4WD track which took about an hour to drive. It wasn’t exactly hard, but it was very slow going, with a couple of interesting sections! Once we reached the end of the track it was then a 1.5km walk in to the gorge at the top of the waterfall.

We could have climbed down further and gone for a swim, but it was early in the morning and still a bit cool to be swimming.  

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George under one of the smaller waterfalls

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George standing on the top of the waterfall

Shelly sitting on the edge of the waterfall



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This gorge was a lot easier to get to, a small easy drive from the campground and you could basically park right at the waters edge, which suited us after the earlier walk! 

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Had a little traffic jam on our way back to camp!


On our last night at camp this little lady came up to us at camp and hung around with us for about 1/2 hour or so.

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As she got closer we could see that she had a little joey aswell, so adorable. She was more than happy to show him/her off to us and he kept popping in and out of the pouch.  If anything startled mum she would push him back in, but once she could see both of us again and was sure it was ok, she let him come back out. 


It’s amazing when wild animals feel secure enough to approach us and show off their babies.