We left the tranquil stunning waters of Coffin Bay and the SA coastline and made our way inland to the rugged ancient rock formations that make up the hot and dry Flinders Ranges.
The Flinders Ranges in South Australia are amazing and best visited in the cooler months of the year, but we were prepared for the heat and decided to go anyway! Yes it was hot, but it wasn’t too bad at all, the heat is a dry heat, totally different to the humidity we get in Sydney.
We spent our time camping in the Wilpena Pound Resort, which is the only accommodation located within the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. This resort offers motel style rooms, luxury safari tent accommodation and powered and unpowered sites. We stayed on a powered site and it was huge, plenty of space to spread out and still be away from your neighbours!
The Flinders Ranges is known for its stunning scenery, ancient landscapes and great 4×4 tracks. The landscape is up to 800 million years old and has been home to Adnyamathanha people for tens of thousands of years.
Day 1 we decided to explore the popular tourist drives including Bunyeroo Valley and Brachina Gorge.
The Brachina Gorge and Bunyeroo Valley tracks are not a difficult drive by any means but they are by far one of the most scenic drives in the Flinders Ranges.
From a geological perspective, this whole area is something really special. To be honest, neither of us really get into the geology side too much, but when you realise you are driving through ranges and valleys with hundreds of millions of years worth of history you can’t help but feel something. We don’t understand it all, but just being there you get a feeling that you are somewhere special.
The Bunyeroo formation consists of soft shale and siltstone which eroded away to form low valleys. It was formed about 580 million years ago when a rapid rise in the sea level flooded the whole area and resulted in deposition of the clay and silt. To know you are driving through an area that was once the bottom of an ocean is quite something.
If time is something you don’t have much of during your visit to the Flinders Ranges then these are your must do tracks. It gives a great introduction into the history and landscape of the area and the scenery is truly amazing. At every turn and every crest you come to you will be amazed at the views.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
Below is our photo from our visit with Stewy in 2013 compared to 2018. 5 years later and new vehicles for both of us!
The Lions Den Hotel is located 28km south of Cooktown on the Bloomfield Road between Cooktown and Cape Tribulation.
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.
It was a relatively short drive from Laura and we arrived in Weipa around lunchtime. Everyone split up to do their own thing and met up again later in the day at the caravan park.
View from in front of our campsite …. plenty of crocs out there!
Weipa is a relatively big town …. well very, very tiny compared to say Sydney!, but for the townships on the cape, it’s a relatively large town with most facilities available. Weipa sits on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula, on the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The region in and around Weipa is very rich in bauxite and this has led to Rio Tinto operating the Weipa bauxite mine for many years. They are in the process of extending their operations to another site in the area aswell. There is some big money being spent on infrastructure in the area and some big money coming out of the mines. The first thing you notice as you get closer to Weipa is that the condition of the road significantly improves! Then you see the traffic lights and the boom gates as you cross the mine access road to enter the town.
We had all booked on a sunset cruise with Western Cape Eco Tours. We had done this exact cruise when we were in Weipa 5 years ago and it was such a great night we couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone took our recommendation and we booked on for a couple of hours of relaxing, history and crocodile sightings.
You’d think being a ‘sunset cruise’ I would have mentioned that we watched an amazing Weipa sunset aswell, well think again! We didn’t even come close to getting a sunset that night, very disappointing, but what can you do! At least we saw plenty of crocs.
Here’s what the sunset should have looked like! (taken on our cruise in 2013).
The cruise itself runs for about 2 hours and takes you around the Embley River to see the wildlife and of course the sunset. The price of the cruise includes beer, champagne, soft drink and yummy antipasto platters.
Western Cape Eco Tours are a small family owned company who love their town and love showcasing its natural beauty. They had only just started out when we took our first cruise with them and we are so glad business is going so well for them. If you are ever in the area, you really must look these guys up.
A visit to Launceston is not complete without a visit to Cataract Gorge. Just a 15 minute walk from the city centre and you’ll be in this paradise known as Cataract Gorge.
The Gorge Scenic Chairlift, built in 1972, covers 457 meters, but the central span of 308 metres is believed to be the longest single chairlift span in the world.
As you travel slowly over the naturally formed basin below you can appreciate the magnificent views of this ancient rock gorge, plenty of time to take in the scenery and take photographs.
We were quite unaware of what to expect when arriving at Cataract Gorge, but it’s spectacular, there are long expanses of green grass to relax under a tree, there are many walking and hiking trails, the chairlift and a swimming pool, a cafe and a restaurant.
Of course there is also the wildlife that are wondering around, we saw plenty of birds and lizards, wallabies and peacocks.
The Alexandra Suspension bridge was first built in 1904, but was washed away by floods and subsequently later rebuilt.
The Main car park is at the First Basin. Follow the signs from York or Frederick Streets. Entry is free to walk around, but there is a charge for the scenic chairlift.
Both of us enjoy our cars, we both have differing views on what we like best but we can both appreciate our old cars, so a visit to The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania was a must for us.
The museum has plenty of vehicles from days gone by, as well as a mezzanine level packed with motorcycles. All of these cars are privately owned and whilst some come with stories of their own, combined they all play an important part in our history of automobiles. This is one of Australia’s most significant motoring collections.
These small air compressors were a common sight in garages in the early 1930’s. In the 1920’s they were revolutionary, having made the hand pump obsolete. This is the famous Michelin Rubber Man pump made in Paris in 1926.
Open 7 days a week.
Address: Cnr Willis Street & Cimitiere Street, Launceston, Tasmania
‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’, you hear that phrase thrown around all the time, but we are about to use it again …. yes, this was another of those once in a lifetime experiences that was truly amazing.
Devils@cradle is a wildlife conservation facility located in the world heritage wilderness area of Cradle Mountain, Tasmania. This great facility focuses on Tasmania’s three carnivorous marsupials, the Tasmanian Devil and the Eastern and Spotted-tail Quoll.
The sanctuary not only raises public awareness and much needed funds for these animals, but it forms part of a nation-wide captive breeding program for the Tasmanian Devil.
Their Field Monitoring Program collects data from within the Cradle Mountain area by use of remote cameras, road kill surveys, spotlight surveys and speaking with locals and visitors about their experiences and possible interactions.
The keepers at this facility are all very knowledgeable and passionate about the devils and are committed to ensuring the long-term survival of this unique species.
Both the Tasmanian Devil and the quoll are nocturnal creatures and quite shy and for this reason it’s actually quite uncommon to see one in the wild.
Tasmanian Devils are currently listed as a vulnerable species under the threatened species act. There are numerous issues impacting the long-term outlook for the Devils, but one of the more severe factors is Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).
A lot of you will be aware of Devil Facial Tumour Disease, but for those of you who have not heard of this (particularly our overseas followers), this is a debilitating cancer which is so wide-spread that it’s affecting up to 50% of wild Tasmanian Devils. The disease is characterised by the development of ulcerated tumours which appear around the jaws and head of the devil. The disease is fatal and an affected devil will generally starve to death within 3-5 months.
DFTD is such a complex issue and there is no treatment or vaccine. It appears that each tumour that is found is identical, with the same genetic code, which means that environmental stimulants can be ruled out and these tumours are being transferred directly between the individual devils.
One reason for this could be inbreeding and lack of genetic diversity of the devil population and this is resulting in the tumours ‘transplanting’ from one devil to another. At this stage it is near impossible to control this and this is why places like ‘Devils @ Cradle’ are so important for the future preservation of this species.
One thing to keep in mind if visiting the sanctuary is to take a warm jacket! The day we visited it was summer and we had been in shorts and t-shirts all day, but by the time we reached the sanctuary (which is around 850m above sea level) it was absolutely freezing and our change of clothes and jackets we took with us were greatly appreciated!
The tour we took part in was called ‘Dine with the Devil’ and this was a chance to have an up close and personal interaction with the devils in a small group – in our case, it was a personal tour for just the two of us!
We were supplied with a beautiful platter of Tasmanian salmon, cheese and crackers, olives, dip, wine and beers.
After spending time watching these cute little guys playing we had the unforgettable experience of meeting one of the young devils up close and patting her.
After a walk around the sanctuary grounds and learning a little more about the devils and quolls, it was time to feed the hungry devils and roast some marshmallows around the campfire.
These devils may be small, but they are strong, you wouldn’t believe the weight pulling on that rope. We were stunned at just how quickly the devils devoured their meal aswell, all completely gone … fur, bones and all!
The tour ran for around 1 hour and we had a little extra time to watch the devils playing before and after the tour.
Information: You can choose from Day Keeper Tours, After Dark Feeding Tours and of course, the Dine with the Devil tour that we did.
Who doesn’t love a Platypus! These elusive little creatures are very rarely seen in the wild and to be up close and personal with them was quite an experience. Plus, then throw in some echidnas aswell and you are set for a truly unforgettable experience.
This place is likely to be as close as you’re ever going to get to either of these creatures and we absolutely loved it. Unfortunately the playful little platypus turned out to be quite hard to photograph, so we didn’t get too many good pics.
The Platypus House was established to educate and provide public awareness and understanding of these two monotremes. What is a monotreme you might ask? Well, let us explain (as we are experts now!) Don’t worry, we had no idea up until a few weeks ago either!
Monotremes are one of the three main groups of living mammals, along with placentals and marsupials and they are distinguished by the fact that they are egg laying mammals, rather than birthing live young. There are only 2 egg-laying mammals left on the planet and they are the platypus and the echidna.
Platypus House is home to Tasmanian platypuses and Tasmanian echidnas, both of which are unique to Tasmania and not seen anywhere else in the world.
Once you enter the Platypus House you are shown a video about platypus and given a lot of information about them, before being taken on a guided tour of the facility, firstly starting with the platypus pools to see them playing and watch them feeding. You then walk through the echidna garden to watch them feeding and wandering around. Now this was a cool experience watching these cute little creatures wobble around the room, even climbing over people’s feet if you happened to be in the way!
So many words to describe the platypus … beautiful, mysterious, majestic, cute, odd, elusive, playful.
These unusual little things swim, but they have feet. They have a duck like bill, a long flat body and a tail like a beaver or otter …. this is one strange-looking creature, but really, could they be any cuter!
Thousands of years of isolation have made the Tasmanian Platypus genetically discrete from other Australian Platypuses and makes them one of the most unique animals on earth.
Platypuses actually have two separate layers of fur, which help to keep them warm and dry. They spend all day swimming around and hunting for their food but when they come back to land to eat, this two-layer fur feature keeps them warm as the second layer has basically kept their skin dry.
You see, when the platypus is on land, the two layers of fur trap air between them and help keep his body dry and make him more buoyant when swimming. Once he enters the water, the little air pockets are released between the fur.
Did you know …..
Male platypus have spurs on their hind feet that can deliver venom into their victim.
Yes they may look like these soft, cute, cuddly and playful creatures and you just want to pat them, but think again. We were told that if you are injected the effects are immediate and long-lasting, the extreme pain can apparently last for 3 months!. Initially the excruciating pain is so bad that even morphine doesn’t help alleviate it. But that’s only the beginning, soon you can become nauseated and suffer from cold sweats and swelling starts.
Now we were told that a human is not going to die from this, although they may feel like they would rather than deal with the pain they are feeling!, but if it were a baby or a small animal it’s highly likely the result would be fatal.
And in case you were wondering, yes it’s only the nasty males that want to harm you! The females are born with a spur, but it does not have any venom and generally falls off before adulthood.
Echidnas are strange-looking too! They have long beaks, are covered in spikes and are very awkward, but again, like the platypus, watch these little guys in action and they are just so adorable, you can’t help but love them.
Echidnas are very common across Australia, but, like their platypus mates, they are actually seldom seen by people in the wild.
Anyone who knows our little Gelly – or staffys in general, will know that they are little bulldozers and they won’t stop for anything, if you are in their way they are going through no matter what! Well being in this garden was like being surrounded by little spikey Gelly’s who did what they wanted and walked where they wanted, whether you were in their way or not, one walked straight over the top of my foot!
Did you know …..
*The spikes on the Echidna are very strong and sharp and are used for defence. When they are feeling threatened, they will curl up and leave only their sharp spines exposed.
*A baby Echidna is called a ‘Puggle’.
*Echidnas have no teeth.
Spend a few minutes watching these guys walking around your feet and you can’t help but fall in love.
Information: Platypus House is open 7 days a week and is a 45min drive north of Launceston. Your entry to Platypus House includes a guided tour of the platypus pools to see them playing and feeding and also a walk through the echidna garden to watch them feeding.
* Platypus House and Seahorse World are located next to each other. You can purchase a ‘Tamar Triple Pass’ which gives you access to Seahorse World, Platypus House and Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre and offers a large saving on entry fees.
It is estimated that over 20 million seahorses are taken from the wild each year, predominantly for traditional Chinese medicine.
Seahorse Australia was initially created to farm seahorses to supply to the Traditional Chinese Medicine market to try to reduce the pressure on wild seahorses being fished. Monetary issues came into play and over the years this has changed to breeding seahorses for aquariums and pet wholesalers around the world. The focus is now on seahorse breeding, education and conservation.
Seahorses are basically a tiny fish. They were named because of the shape of their head which looks like ….. well it’s pretty obvious isn’t it! These really are the cutest little creatures around.
We had no idea there was even a place called Seahorse World until a week or so before we left for Tasmania when we saw one of our fellow Instagram followers post that they had visited. Of course we were intrigued and asked for details and made it a must visit place on our trip.
When you enter Seahorse World you are taken on a guided tour around the facility and learn all about these amazing magical creatures.
The first room you enter has numerous different coloured seahorse and it is in here that you start to learn a little about the amazing little seahorse.
Next you enter the ‘working’ seahorse farm, where you see how they feed them and can see the seahorses in all stages of life. The babies are so unbelievably tiny.
Yes they are baby seahorse!
The final room is a showcase of some of the other sea life found around Tasmanian waters, including a huge crab which George wanted to take home for dinner! We even got to hold a little seahorse which was pretty cool.
Did you know….
Seahorses have a prehensile tail which is similar to that of a monkeys’ and can pick up or hold on to anything.
The fin on their back is called a dorsal fin and propels them forward and they maintain their balance with small pectoral fins situated on either side of the back of their head.
They have the ability to change colour to blend into their surroundings.
Did you know….
The male seahorse is the one that will carry the eggs. He will have them in his body for up to 45 days and then they will emerge full-grown. These tiny baby seahorses will all then float together clinging to each by their tails as they try to find their food and hide from the many predators trying to eat them!
You can tell the difference from the males and females by looking at the abdominal area. The males have a smooth area with a pouch. That is where the eggs will be deposited. Females have a pointed stomach that is rough.
They are vertebrates due to the fact that all seahorses feature an internal skeleton.
Attraction Information: Seahorse World is open 7 days a week and is a 45min drive north of Launceston. Your entry fee includes a 45 minute guided tour where you see many, many seahorses and learn about these mysterious creatures.
*Seahorse World and Platypus House are located next to each other. You can purchase a ‘Tamar Triple Pass’ which gives you access to Seahorse World, Platypus House and Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre and offers a large saving on entry fees.
The Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre in …. well, Beaconsfield! is a very interesting place with many stories to tell, machinery to see and plenty of interactive displays to allow you to immerse yourself into the surroundings.
Now the interactive side of things really appealed to us, Shelly is always touching things and this place just gave her the go-ahead to touch and play with everything! I’m guessing actual ‘kids’ would really enjoy that side of it too!
A lot of work has gone in to preserving the history of Beaconsfield and the heritage of the region, by opening up this tourist attraction.
History of the mine
This area is where Australia’s first iron ore exports occurred in the very early 1800’s. But it was the discovery of the Tasmania gold reef that really started the mining in the area and put Beaconsfield (then known as Brandy Creek) on the map. From 1877 the area was filled with miners and their families and facilities were abundant to cater for everyone.
The gold rush was certainly an exciting and prosperous time. At its height, the reef averaged 20 grams of gold per tonne. Over the years the mine had constantly battled water problems and flooding and by 1914 the continuing costs of removing flood-water caused the mine to close and it remained this way for the next 80 or so years.
In later years a museum was set up to show the history of the area, but by the early 1990’s, a joint venture was formed and the Tasmania Mine was reopened to again tap into the reef and it’s abundance of gold. $1 – $1.5 million worth of gold was being extracted during this second opening.
In 2011 the mine’s owner announced that the Beaconsfield Mine would be closing, not because there was no gold left, but because the current gold prices didn’t make it viable to mine below the current depth of 1210 metres.
Tragedy strikes Beaconsfield
Any Australian would remember ANZAC Day 2006 when a 2.3 eathquake caused a rock fall to occur in the Beaconsfield mine.
17 miners were working underground that day, including Todd Russell and Brant Webb who were working 925 meters below ground in a cherry picker cage, which was being operated by the forklift driver Larry Knight.
Unfortunately Larry Knight was killed in the rock fall, but remarkably Todd and Brant survived, and in fact they survived trapped for the next 2 weeks before they were finally rescued.
The greatest misfortune of this whole incident is that Larry should have been in his grader smoothing the surface of the decline, but instead, as his grader was undergoing a mechanical service, he jumped into the telehandler (similar to a cherry picker) and headed into the mine.
News and pictures from Beaconsfield were beamed across the world and this once unknown little Tasmanian town was now the centre of a huge media story.
This helped to push air into the working face of the tunnel to give the rescuers clean, fresh air …. if you look closely it’s a witches hat and bucket taped together.
They even have a simulation of the rock falls where you can climb in and experience where the miners were trapped for 2 weeks, waiting to be rescued ….. now this is the part that really puts it into perspective, wow, unbelievable the size of this area where they were both trapped. We were there for about 10 seconds, not two weeks!
“At 5.59am Todd Russell and Brant Webb were brought to the surface after 13 days and 18 hours of being trapped underground. From this very position the moment was beamed to television screens across the world”
These are the actual overalls worn by the miners during the ordeal
There is an entry fee and you are given a map and can take yourself on a self-guided tour. There is so much to see and you should really allow a couple of hours to see it all. We could have easily spent longer there than we did, but unfortunately we were on a bit of a tight schedule that day. There are plenty of volunteers around to help with any questions you may have – like the one that told George he wouldn’t be finding any gold if he kept panning the way he was and gave him a lesson!
Address: West Street, Beaconsfield
Telephone: (03) 6383 1473
You can purchase a ‘Tamar Triple Pass’ which gives you access to Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre, Seahorse World and Platypus House and offers a large saving on entry fees.