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.
Our Saturday started with an early morning visit to the world-famous ‘Salamanca Markets’. What a coincidence that we just happened to be in Hobart on the day of the markets …. Ok, maybe a little bit of secret planning on Shelly’s part!
In 1974 local traders established the first Salamanca Market and this was taken over by Hobart City Council and really came into its own as a tourist attraction by the 1980’s.
Every Saturday morning, Salamanca Place comes alive with market stalls filled with fresh Tasmania produce and plenty of other goodies. The street is filled with about 300 stallholders setting up to sell their wares for the day. There is so much variety on offer, including fresh fruit and vegetables, clothing & jewellery, toys, gifts & souvenirs and plenty of handmade arts of craft items. Of course there is plenty of yummy food around for you to try as well.
Attraction Information: Salamanca Market is open every Saturday from 8am until 3pm at Salamanca Place, Hobart
After a morning at the markets it was time to head off to Launceston, our home for the next two nights. We decided to head up the coastal road which took a little longer, but the views were definitely worth it.
On the way we called in to Bicheno. This is a very picturesque town on the east cost of Tasmania, approximately half way between Hobart & Launceston, on the coast. We called in here as everyone had told us how beautiful it was and how good the seafood was …… well the beautiful part we will agree with, but the seafood part we didn’t really find unfortunately. Although George did enjoy an overpriced crayfish roll.
OK so now George was really wanting some decent seafood! We asked at our hotel and we were recommended to go to Cataract on Paterson as it was probably the best restaurant in Launceston. Luckily we were able to get a late booking for dinner, so off we went. Wow, this place certainly didn’t disappoint …. the venue, the food and the staff and service was all impeccable, we couldn’t fault any part of our night.
Cataract on Paterson is located about 5min from the centre of the Launceston CBD. The venue itself is slightly industrial inside, but still warm and welcoming with its quirky features. The menu was a contemporary mix of Tasmanian produce with plenty of choice for all tastes. They also offer their interactive dining experience that serves your meal cooking at your table on a 400 degree volcanic stone! Neither of us had this, but our dessert did come on a frozen stone!
Attraction Information: Cataract on Paterson is located at 135 Paterson Street, Launceston
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.
We 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.
Tuesdaywe 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!
Carobana 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.
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.
Wednesdaywe 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. This 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.
Thursdaytook 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.
We spent a great day swimming and relaxing on the beach, as were many other people!
Fridaywas 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!
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!
Saturdaywas 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! We 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!
Mondaymorning 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.
After 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!
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!
Ever since we arrived on the west coast we keep hearing about the amazing seafood and how great the fishing is, sounds great for a seafood lover doesn’t it! Well it would be if you could find anywhere to eat it!
There are plenty of takeaway fish and chip shops, but a nice fresh seafood platter that isn’t covered in batter and deep fried is near impossible to find. Our meals at Finlay’s in Kalbarri were great, but it still wasn’t exactly what we (well mainly George!) had been looking for.
After arriving in Geraldton we went in search of a good seafood restaurant and yet again we couldn’t find one.
Yesterday we were looking through the shops and saw a sign for the Port View Restaurant and thought we’d check it out. The menu looked great, but again they didn’t have a seafood platter. The waitress said she would chat to the chef and see what he could do. Next minute the chef is out talking to us and asked what we wanted, and said he would be happy to do one for us with whatever seafood they had or could get for us.
We booked in on the spot for dinner last night! We arrived back at the restaurant a few hours later and were showed to our table and then joined by one of the owners. We chatted for a while and he explained that they had only opened a couple of weeks ago and were still settling in. He said they were more than happy to cater for our request as it was all part of the service and making their customers happy. They had even decided to add the platter to their specials menu!So the platter arrived and it looked great! George was happy! A full lobster, prawns, calamari, fish, scallops, salad and a yummy aioli. The seafood tasted amazing, so fresh.As well as the platter we also had bruschetta and a dessert each and we couldn’t fault the food, everything we had was amazing. Even the scallops, Shelly doesn’t generally eat these and she loved them! Everything seemed to have their own little twist to the flavour and they nailed it!We can’t thank the staff of Port View Restaurant enough for their food, service and willingness to accomodate our request. Go check out this restaurant if you are in Geraldton you won’t be disappointed – and the views over the water aren’t too bad either!
We wish you all the best in your new venture, you certainly have two happy and appreciative customers here!