Paronella Park is located in far north Queensland and is one of Innisfail’s best known landmarks. Located at Mena Creek, this amazing castle was built right on the edge of the magnificent Mena Creek Falls.
Now this place isn’t just another tourist attraction, this place has a truely amazing story behind it. It is all thanks to a man with a dream ….. a man named José Paronella. You see, José wanted to build a castle … and build a castle he did!
José Paronella, from Spain, arrived in Australia in 1913. For the next 11 years he worked hard cutting sugar cane, and later purchasing, improving, and reselling cane farms. In 1924 he returned to Spain and married Margarita, before returning to Australia. It was then that José purchased 13 acres of virgin scrub along Mena Creek for £120 and this amazing story started to unfold.
Over the years José began to create this amazing wonderland known as Paronella Park. Although he lived there with his family, in 1935 he also opened it up to the public so that they could all enjoy the spectacular place. José built the whole park by hand, including the Castle, bridges, a Tunnel of Love, Giant Staircase and hand planting over 7000 tropical plants and trees. This was also home to a Hydro Electric generating plant which supplied power to the whole park, the earliest in North Queensland.
José died of cancer in 1948, leaving the management of the park to his wife and two children. Of course the maintenance and upkeep of such a place was significant and over the years the park also suffered damage and setbacks due to the forces of Mother Nature, floods, cyclones and fires. The park was sold out of the family in 1977, and after a fire swept through the castle in 1979 the park closed to the public.
In November 2009, it was decided to restore the parks original 1930s era hydro electric system at a cost of $450,000 and, like it did when José was alive, this system now once again provides all of the Park’s electricity requirements.
Mark and Judy Evans, the current owner/operators, purchased the park in 1993 and set about putting this place back on the map. After a big job of restoring, maintaining and preserving the history of the park, it was reopened to the public and we can say that they have done an amazing job. They have taken the view of ‘restoring’, rather than ‘rebuilding’ and whilst small restoration projects have been undertaken, the true essense of this park and José insight and dream is still well and truly alive.
We visited in 2018 on the way back home from our Cape York trip, also meeting up again with two other families from our Cape trip. As soon as we arrived Shelly set off on foot to explore the area and take some photographs while George set up camp! Whilst you are welcome to roam around the park by yourself, your entry ticket also includes ‘The Dream Continues Tour’ – a 45 minute guided walk which takes you through the highlights of the park and tells the extraordinary story of José Paronella’s dreams and vision. This tour departs every 30 minutes from 9.30am until 4.30pm.
We all had a delicious dinner at the Mena Creek Hotel, which is also owned by the same people who own Paronella Park, and after the short stroll back to the park we were ready to join in ‘The Darkness Falls Tour’, in which we learned a little more about the history of the park as we strolled around the grounds at night. Seeing the park in darkness gave us a totally different perspective. This tour runs for approximately 1 hour and departs at 6.15pm each night.
After the tour, the current owners came out to speak with our group and told us a little about the history and their experiences and involvement since purchasing the park.
They also handed us all a little pouch with a piece of the castle in it, with a note that reads ‘This is a piece of José Paronella’s Castle. It was hand mixed by José in 1930 and came down in Cyclone Larry in 2006. We hope that this piece of castle reminds you to follow your dreams, just like José did’.
Now this had been on our list of places to visit for a while and we can now highly recommend it. Not only does your entry ticket include the guided tours mentioned above, it also includes overnight camping fees in their camping ground so that you can explore at your leisure. AND your ticket is valid for 24 months, so as long as you have it validated prior to leaving you are able to return again within the next 24 months.
This is one really well run tourist attraction and it’s not hard to see why they win so many awards.
This should definitely be on your list of places to visit. It’s quite the experience to wander around and marvel at the achievements of this man, a man who had a dream and did everything in his power to make that dream come true.
🏠 1671 Japoonvale Rd (Old Bruce Highway), Mena Creek, Queensland 4871
We are George & Shelly, a married couple from Sydney, Australia, who love 4WDing, camping and travelling this great country of ours. We love sharing our adventures and hope to inspire others to travel as well. Join us on our journeys around Australia!
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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.
So we’ve returned from Cape York and we had the most amazing time, but as you would have realised we didn’t do too well on the blog writing while we were away!
Anyone who follows us on Facebook & Instagram would have been kept up to date with plenty of photos, but unfortunately our blog community was a little neglected!
You see, it was just too hard this time travelling in a big group, too much time socializing and drinking! 🍻, we just didn’t find the time to write and post the blogs.
But don’t fret, we didn’t forget you all, there are plenty of photos, videos and stories coming your way …. so sit back and enjoy!
⬇️Check out the short video below of some of the 4WDing we did up the cape!
We will also take this opportunity to thank all our wonderful friends for an awesome trip filled with amazing memories. Also thank you to mum and dad who looked after the house and animals while we were away (and everything else you did!). Thank you both so much xx …… Gelly & Charli loved having nonna and Gedo here to stay!🐾
And lastly thank you again to our mechanic, Adam from A1 Autohaus, for getting the Prado ready for the trip, we nearly got by without an issue this time, but more on that later!
Ok so this year started with us sitting in the Urunga Waters Caravan Park and guess what …. we ended it in exactly the same place! Yes we are back here again over the Christmas/New Year break. We started 2017 off with us at Urunga, near Coffs Harbour on the mid north coast of NSW. We spent the Christmas/New Year period here with friends last year and celebrated New Year’s Eve with complete random strangers who had camped next to us. We invited them to our campsite to celebrate NYE and we had a great time, that’s what camping is all about.
Well now we are back here again and this time we celebrated with our friends, Lauren and Liam and their kids and niece, our mate Stewy and his daughter and other friends Michelle & Matt and their son. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the New Year than with our beautiful friends.
So again, this has been an incredibly busy year for us. It’s been a year of ups and downs in many ways, we’ve had the stress of renovating, a change of jobs, medical issues and operations and numerous other obstacles, but we’ve also had many great times as well.
Let’s look back on 2017 …..
World Record Attempt
Always ready to try something new, this year on Saturday 4th February, we took part in the world record attempt for the World’s Biggest Haka, which took place on Waitangi Day 2017.
The Haka that we learnt and performed was the famous ‘Kamate’ as performed by the NZ All Blacks and Kiwi Rugby League Teams.
Unfortunately the record was not broken, but we had a fun day and also tried our first Māori hangi … amazing!
Little Levi turned 1
On 6th March our little nephew turned 1! We are all in love with him and he is truly the cutest little boy around! It’s awesome watching his little personality grow and beginning to interact with us more. He’s one headstrong boy, needs to do everything himself and he has no fear! He loves dogs and will happily share his food with them! He loves feeding our two and they are so gentle with him (so much for big scary, dangerous staffys!)
Min returned from the UK
After 2 years working in the UK as a Sous Chef, George’s daughter returned back home in August. She’s settled back in to life in Australia (even having a job lined up before she even landed in the country!). Not sure how long she’ll hang around for though, we have a feeling she’ll be off exploring again very soon.
Spreading the word
This year we were nominated for the Travel Blog Awards with Mr Promocode. We didn’t win, but we were grateful just to be nominated. We’ve gained quite a following on social media over the past years and we love sharing our adventures with everyone. We’ve been approached by news readers and government bodies to use our photos over the past couple of years, as well as most recently by Cub Campers, so social media is certainly the way of the future for advertising and spreading the word.
We are also now in the Top 3% of TripAdviser Reviewers, making us a Level 6 Top Contributor and one of the most popular reviewers in Sydney, with over 45,000 readers.
This was the year to knock off a few of the home renovations we had been talking about for so long. We understand why people stress with renovations, we had lots of arguments and lots of tears, but we are both very happy with the results.
The kitchen started off as maybe just replacing cupboard doors and bench top and ended up turning into a complete rebuild. We have a huge kitchen and it’s one of the reasons Shelly wanted to buy the house, so this rebuild was important to get it right. We both love the end result, just a few little finishing touches still to go and it’s done! (yes George, the plantation shutters aren’t installed yet, apparently this is all Shelly’s fault!)
The front door has made a huge difference and we love it. It’s the first thing people see so we are getting lots of compliments about this one! Wasn’t hard to be better than the old entrance way!
Lastly we redid the powder room and it finally matches the bathroom (only took us about 9 years!).
We had two new babies born this year (well one late December last year, but we will include her too!). George’s cousin welcomed little baby Alexander and Shelly’s cousin welcome miss Chloé.
One of Shelly’s cousins turned 50 this year and all the family made the trip out to Lucknow, in the central west region of NSW, to surprise her. It was a great get-together and a good excuse for a weekend away! Shelly’s boss and his wife also both had their 50th birthday and we celebrated with them at their joint party,
Another cousin had their 21st birthday early in the year, and we partied away with another at his 40th. We also joined another friend to celebrate his 40th birthday with a weekend cruise.
George’s dad turned 70 this year and the family gathered to help celebrate with a beautiful lunch. Of course there was also Levi’s 1st birthday and a couple of weddings thrown in as well! We also attended a 1st birthday party and naming day, which turned into a marriage proposal too! It was certainly a day of memories and celebrations for that family!
Shelly’s sister, Kylie, and her husband, purchased their first family home this year in the Hawkesbury. It’s a beautiful area, with the house backing onto the national park. The whole family, including Levi and his little furry 4 legged sister, Gucci, are loving their new home.
We also attended a few family and friends children’s birthday parties, doesn’t George make a pretty fairy princess!
Scenic Flight over Fraser Island
Over the years we’ve been on quite a few scenic flights, we’ve been on little Cessna’s (George has even flown and landed one), we’ve been on seaplanes and a helicopter, but the one thing we had never done in all our visits to Fraser Island was to take a scenic flight over the island. This October, driving back to camp one afternoon we saw the Air Fraser Island pilots and planes on the beach and pulled over to discuss taking a joy flight. As it turned out, they had a bit of time right then, so we handed over some money and jumped in the plane for a scenic flight over the island. Wow, it was a great flight and amazing to see the island from above. For years we’ve been exploring Fraser Island on foot and by 4WD, but to see it from above was a totally different experience. Highly recommend this for your next visit to Fraser Island.
The 4WD’s & Camper Trailer
Not too many mods this year, but we did get a second battery installed in the camper trailer to give us a little extra battery life when we are free camping. We also painted the rims black (properly this time!) and they look great.
As for the old Prado, she got a full new set of shocks and springs.
The old Prado looks tough by itself, but next to the new one it looks like a baby!
The 150 series Prado got a new ARB Winch Bar, Brush Bars and Side steps AND a new Winch! This is turning into one expensive little Prado!
Everyone always says to us ‘you two are always on holidays’! It doesn’t feel like that to us, but to be honest we did have a few this year, some were just a weekend away and others a bit longer!
January was our week in Urunga
February we spent a weekend at Forster with George’s parents
March we packed up the camper and headed down to Kiama for the weekend for the Red Hot Summer Tour …… John Farnham was the headline act!
April it was time for our annual visit to Fraser Island and this time we even fitted in a few days on Moreton Island aswell, our first ever visit.
May (also known as the month of Shelly!) we spent the weekend away for Shelly’s birthday. We actually stayed in a hotel about 15min drive from home (it had been a gift) and spent the weekend drinking cocktails, going to the drive-in, checking out the markets etc. Considering we were so close to home, we actually had a great weekend.
July saw us spend a weekend away with friends 4WDing on Stockton Beach and the Watagans. We also spent a weekend at Lucknow with family celebrating Shelly’s cousin’s surprise 50th birthday party.
October we headed back up to Fraser Island again with friends, never get sick of that place! October also saw us board a cruise ship for a 3 night cruise with friends to celebrate a 40th birthday.
And of course, December we are back here at Urunga.
So yes ok, when you put it like that I guess maybe we do have a lot of holidays!
We also had quite a few weekend 4WD trips by ourselves, with friends and with 4WD clubs. We spent a few weekends at Stockton Beach and had a few days playing out at Lithgow.
Our regular followers will remember our night stranded in the Watagans! The Watagan State Forest is an unpredictable area and unfortunately this time it got us too and we spent hours trying to get the 3 4WD’s out, spent a lot of time backtracking and snatching that afternoon/night!
Jobs and future planning
This year also saw us in the early planning stages of us getting sorted for our trip around Australia and ultimate move to Queensland. Still a few years off yet, but we’ve started decluttering at home and planning for our life on the road. We both undertook a barista course to give us another skill to use if we need to pick up work on the road.
We started a new business selling Scentsy which is still very new but so far we are doing ok. Hopefully we can build up a customer base and spread the word while we are travelling and bring in a little extra income. Check out our website, Awaken The Scent if you are interested.
After 11 years working for Bridgestone, it was time for a change and George starts a new job in January as a Business Development Manager for Monster Lubricants. After spending majority of his working career in the tyre industry, George is excited about this new challenge. Oh and in case you were wondering, it’s lubricants as in engine oils, coolants etc ….. not the other type of lubricants as many people have thought!
How we spent Christmas
We put on lunch at our house on Christmas Eve for Shelly’s side of the family. Christmas has always been a big thing and Shelly’s mum always put on the full hot Christmas Lunch every year. After Noeline passed away, Shelly continued this tradition and always put on the big Christmas lunch …. not as traditional as far as food is concerned, but we all still gather and open presents and then have the big sit down lunch.
This year was a lot of fun as Levi was interested in opening his presents and playing with all his toys …. who knew a 20 month old would get so excited over a pair of shoes! His face when he opened the box and smiled and said ‘shoes’ was hilarious! He sure was one spoilt little kid …. and I’m sure that continued on Christmas Day with his presents from his other grandparents and aunty as well!
Christmas Day we both headed to George’s parents house to spend the day with George’s side of the family. Another day with plenty of food and lots of present giving. Our niece and nephew scored pretty good on Christmas Day as well! Christmas really is all about the kids and we love buying them lots of presents.
Finally Boxing Day we went to see the kids and exchange presents. We spent a lovely morning with Min and Tre and their adorable funny little dogs before continuing on our journey to Urunga for our week long camping trip.
Merry Christmas from Gelly & Charli!
What’s planned for 2018?
Australia Day this year will be spent camping locally with a group of friends. In fact it’s a whole 29km from home! At least we’ll be able to pop home if we forget anything! Should be a fun weekend though.
In February we head down to Tasmania for a few days for our wedding anniversary. Neither of us have been to Tasmania before, so this will give us an idea of what it’s like. We would really love to go back with the 4WD at some stage and spend our time exploring.
2018 also sees us make the trek back up to Cape Yorkagain. This time we will be joined by a few other families and 4WD’s ….. apparently as we’ve been once we are the ones to go with, so we’ll be leading our ‘George & Shelly Cape York Adventure Tour’!! haha We are both excited to head back up there again and share the natural beauty with our friends. This trip we are hoping to fit in an overnight stay at Roko Island which looks absolutely divine.
We’ve got more renovations planned, repainting the whole house and renovating and landscaping the backyard, plus a few other things on the list, we will get there!
Lastly, we’ve been approached by Cub Campers to see if we’d like to be part of their ‘Cub Stories’ web series. So we will be meeting with them in the new year and filming our story, we’ll be sure to let you all know when it’s finalised!
Goodbye 2017 …. hello 2018!
What a great night we shared to bring in the new year. We all decorated the camper trailers, we set up our nibbles for the night, had fridges full of beer 🍺 and cocktails 🍹 too! There were plenty of glow sticks and sparklers too! Although we were probably the loudest group in the campsite we all struggled to make it to midnight, I think we were all in bed by 12.15am! Regardless it was such a relaxed night, just the perfect way to end a busy year.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our family, friends and followers for their support over the past year. We absolutely love being able to share our adventures with you all, so if you know anyone who may be interested in seeing our photos and/or reading about our adventures, please tell them about us and ask them to follow our blog or follow us on Facebook or Instagram. Wishing you all a very happy, safe and adventure filled 2018 ….. and as we always say, never ever take life for granted, live your life to the fullest and live a life of no regrets. Bring on 2018!
The latest project that we have become involved in is “Protect Cape York”. We are so excited to be involved with such a great cause and we are getting a lot of positive feedback which is amazing. This idea came about by a few people who have visited Cape York recently and saw the amount of rubbish left around by fellow campers and thought that something needed to be done.
Back in 2013 we headed to Cape York as part of our honeymoon adventure and, after seeing this first hand, we decided to jump on board and help out this great cause. Now this issue is certainly not confined to the Cape York area only, we see this quite often in our travels. You all know the old saying, “Take nothing but photos, Leave nothing but footprints”, if all of us abided by that rule, the amount of rubbish would be significantly less. If there isn’t a bin where you are camping, does that give you the right to leave your rubbish on the ground, NO, your responsibility is to take it with you and deposit into the next bin you find. It’s really not that hard, but it’s a concept that so many people seem to forget about once they leave their home.
The amount of rubbish that is left behind on the tracks by fellow campers is disgraceful. We have been sent photos of lizards with their heads stuck in cans, we’ve all seen photos of turtles and birds with plastic wrapped around them, not to mention the fact that no-one wants to camp next to your dirty used toilet paper and nappies!
While up at the Cape we took a drive along the beaches run and the amount of rubbish lining the beach is unbelievable. Now in reality, a lot of this would have wash up onto the beach from offshore, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ok. At the end of the day, it’s all still rubbish and if we can organize clean up days and educate people on where they can dispose of rubbish and how to do so safely, just maybe we can help in some small way.
The team and us have achieved so much already in such a short amount of time. Word is spreading and the feedback and support we are receiving is amazing. We already have some great sponsors jumping on board, including our major sponsors, TJM Cairns and The Albatross Resort, Weipa. We are also lucky enough to have Keep Australia Beautiful on board to help promote our cause, as well as more and more places coming on board.
We have set up a website which details exactly what we are trying to achieve and how you can help to promote our cause to others http://www.protectcapeyork.com/
So who are we and what are we trying to achieve?
We are just a small group of like-minded people, everyday Australians located all over the country, but with one aim in mind ….. to protect and preserve the beauty of Cape York. We want to clean up the area and educate people in the process. This is the iconic tip of Australia, thousands of people make the epic journey here every year and we want future generations to be able to experience this aswell.
Our immediate goal is to be in a position to hand out 200-300 ‘Cape York packs’ in time for the 2016 tourist season. We are hoping that by handing out these packs, people will be reminded to clean up after themselves (and others as the case may be!). These packs will include a map of rubbish disposal areas and helpful hints, as well as rubbish bags, tongs, gloves etc. We aim to provide campers with the tools to clean up after themselves.
There are so many ways that you can become involved, so please take the time to check out our website and contact us if you would like to become involved or if you have any comments or contacts that may be able to benefit us.
Please help us on our journey to clean up our country and educate people in the process.
This was something we had always wanted to do, to celebrate New Year’s Eve at Cameron Corner. Many people may not even know where Cameron Corner is, so let me explain so that you know why this was such a unique experience.
Our little lizard friend we tried to save from the middle of the road, he was not a happy little boy!
Cameron Corner is located at the border of NSW, SA & QLD. This unique location means that you can celebrate New Years Eve three times due to the differing time zones, how cool is that! So while everyone else around the country celebrated once, we welcomed in 2015 THREE times!
Our journey started on boxing day as we headed out to Dubbo and then on to White Cliffs, Broken Hill & Silverton, Tibooburra, Cameron Corner, Bourke & Lightning Ridge. We were travelling with a group of 3 cars, 6 adults and 2 children – all of which, except us, had never done any outback travel, so everyone was excited about what lay ahead.
After a few days of exploring the surrounding areas, 31st December had arrived and we were off to Cameron Corner.
We left Tibooburra early for the relatively short drive to Cameron Corner, we wanted to arrive early and set up camp before it got too hot.
The roads during that part of our journey were more red and sandy than the previous days as we headed closer to the Strzlecki Desert.
The Dog Fence
We drove through the Sturt National Park and along the dog fence, passing through the dog fence at Cameron Corner.
We arrived at Cameron Corner around 11am (but gained an hour as the store is located in Qld so it was only l0am!).
We arrived and went to the corner store to pay for our camping and have a quick drink at the bar.
Camping was $10 per night, with $5 of that going to the Royal Flying Doctors Service.
With the $5, they rolled it up with a tack in it and you have to throw it up for it to stick on the roof! Believe me, this is not as easy as it sounds …… although the owners make it look easy!
After setting up camp we went for a drive around the property and then took a drive back to Fort Grey campground and had some lunch there. We then headed back to Cameron Corner via the Queensland side and the Fortville Gate.
You can even play a game of golf while at Cameron Corner, as you cross over the borders in the three states! Another pretty unique experience, but it was a little too hot for us to undertake on this visit!
It was nice to be in the air conditioning of the car as the temperatures were in the mid 40’s (it was 31 degrees at 9.30am!). Yes it was hot, but the temperatures were a lot lower than what we were expecting and had prepared for. We had been told to expect around 50 degrees at that time of year, so we were very lucky. Also there was a slight breeze which helped, especially at night.
After lunch we drove through an area which was completely filled with kangaroos and lots of babies aswell. Some of these guys were huge and although we have seen so many kangaroos the last few days, we haven’t seen this many together. When we got back to camp, we were talking to the store owners and they said that there is absolutely no water around and most of these poor guys will be dead in the next few months. Guess that’s the sad reality of outback life, really made you think.
So by early afternoon we were back at camp and the area was starting to fill up, with more people still arriving. We had camped in the non-powered side, so we were all fairly spread out, but the powered area on the opposite side of the store was pretty full.
The festivities started in the early afternoon with games of horse shoe toss, mini golf etc. We took a wander around and met some of the other campers, even met some from a few suburbs away from us!
Everyone was in party mode, there was music and laughter all around, while people wandered around the camp sharing a drink and a chat with each other.
The real party started around 10.30pm (or 11.30 pm Sydney time). Everyone started to make their way up to the ‘corner post’ where the owners had set up tables, chairs and music. We all headed up with drinks, glow sticks and sparklers! The ground was marked with lines in the sand so we all knew which ‘state’ we had to be in!
The first celebration was in NSW, we had the countdown and then everyone celebrated with each other as we brought in the new year! We then waited for our next countdown!
1/2 hour later we all walked over to South Australia and had yet another countdown and celebration! And when I say we ‘walked to South Australia’, I mean we literally walked about 1 meter and crossed over the marked line in the sand!
Celebrating with Fenn, the owner of the Corner Store
There was plenty of music, singing, drinking and laughs to fill in the time in between.
Finally it was Queensland’s turn, so we all jumped over the line in the sand into Queensland for our final New Year’s Eve celebrations for 2014.
The celebration was was finished off with a small fireworks display, not quite Sydney harbour standard, but we’d never seen fireworks in the middle of the outback before! What a fun night. The owners sure know how to make this a fun and unique experience!
We were all in bed around 2am and up again at 6.30am to pack up camp! Not a great deal of sleep ….. the music blaring and talking, laughing and screaming all night didn’t help things either, but hey it was New Year’s Eve so what do you expect!! Must say that things were a lot quieter in the morning!
George standing in SA and Shelly standing in NSW!
What a great night, such a unique experience and such a great bunch of people. We estimate there would have been around 70 people there. We will definitely be back again! It’s one of those things we are glad we could tick off our bucket list, highly recommend people experience this at least once in their lifetime!
We have recently been reliving part of our trip to Cape York with our Instagram and social media followers, it was great to go back over the photos and be able to share them with others. It was just one small part of such a great holiday we had.
Weipa Eco sunset tour
For those that don’t know, back in 2013 we embarked on our honeymoon, a 7 week trip from Sydney to Cape York and then to the Northern Territory, South Australia and back home again.
Now 7 weeks of camping and 4WDing around Australia is probably not everyone’s idea of a great holiday, but for us it was perfect. We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Below is a basic outline of our itinerary
Archer River Roadhouse, Qld
Bramwell Station, Qld
Eliot Falls, Qld
Thursday Island, Qld
Captain Billy Landing, Qld
Chili Beach, Qld
Musgrave Roadhouse, Qld
Kalpowar Crossing, Qld
Lions Den Hotel, Qld
Cape Tribulation, Qld
Innot Hot Springs, Qld
Mt Isa, QLD
Tennant Creek, NT
Wycliffe Well, NT
Alice Springs, NT
Palm Valley, NT
Kings Canyon, NT
Coober Pedy, SA
Port Augusta, SA
Broken Hill, NSW
We had our share of drama’s though, our mates who were meant to join us on part of the trip had to pull out after their engine died in the first few days. All that hard work and planning was gone so quickly. Luckily we managed to meet up with them for a few days on the way back from Cape York before we headed over to NT.
We had a frantic phone call from Weipa to our mechanic back in Sydney when the 4WD wouldn’t engage in our car and he instructed us over the phone as to how to fix this.
At different times throughout the trip we also had a badly cut hand, a dislocated thumb, a bad case of heat stroke and a few episodes of car sickness!.
We had our alternator die about 400km out of Alice Springs and we limped our way there watching the voltage drop in our batteries. We watched as the radio, lights, taco, speedo all started gradually shutting down one by one! Luckily by the time we car eventually stopped, we managed to coast into a servo in Alice Springs, just 5 min from our pre-booked accommodation. We also had a few suspension issues and this all required us to be stranded in Alice Springs for a few days while repairs were done.
Even with all of this, it was a great trip and we made it and that’s all that matters! If anything, we learned exactly what type of people live in Alice Springs, the most friendly, helpful, genuine people. We couldn’t have been happier with the service we received there.
Here is a small extract from our previous blog posts about this amazing trip.
Fruit Bat Falls, Cape York
So what can we say, what an amazing holiday. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend our honeymoon. We are so privileged to have been able to spend time in some of the places we did, it truly is a blessing to have been able to travel our great country. The people of outback Australia are some of the kindest, laid back and most genuine people you could ever meet. It really is a totally different world out there. You could not get any further from the hustle and bustle of Sydney if you tried. We met some amazing people on our travels, both in the towns and our fellow like-minded campers. To think that we set up camp and then spend the whole day out exploring, leaving to tent unattended, unlocked, suitcases and belongings inside, chairs and table outside and you come back at night and everything is how you left it. There is a mutual respect and no-one would even think to touch your belongings. Yet at home we close the windows and deadlock the door before driving to the shops for 5 minutes! It really was refreshing being able to live in a world where everyone looks out for each other and respects others and their property …. even if it was unfortunately only for 7 weeks.
Sunset over The Olgas (Kata Tjuta), NT
Camel rides at Uluru
Everyone is amazingly friendly, you rarely pass a car without getting a wave (even from the truckies and coppers!). We even had a truck driver stop his truck and get out to warn us about a huge pot hole on one of the dirt tracks we were travelling on. The road train drivers are equally courteous of fellow drivers, a quick chat on the CB will often let you know if its safe to overtake or warn of any upcoming traffic/road issues. It really does remind you that there are still good people in this world, unfortunately in the city many people are just too busy to worry about anyone else but themselves. Each day we would set up camp and there was always someone walking by, beer in hand, ready to have a chat! Always someone who has been where you are heading and ready to answer questions or give advice and always someone waiting to hear stories of our adventures.
Inside a lava tunnel
We visited some wonderful places, saw some amazing things and experienced so much. We stood on the northern most point of Australia, drank beer in Australia’s most northerly pub (on Thursday Island). We stayed in a refurbished train carriage and went on a tour through million year old volcanic lava tubes at Undarra Volcanic Park. We stayed in an underground motel at Coober Pedy (where 80% of the population live underground), we toured the Rio Tinto bauxite mines in Weipa, learned the history of the gold mines in Tennant Creek and explored an opal mine in Coober Pedy. We saw the sunrise over Uluru and watched the sunset over Uluru and Kata Tjuta from on top of a camel! We travelled in the footsteps of some of our early explorers, we followed the Old Ghan Railway line and we had the chance to drive some of the 4WD tracks on every true 4WDers ‘must do’ list. We drove through bushfires (and even had one surrounding our campground), survived gale force winds and major storm at Captain Billy’s Landing and 120km winds at Port Augusta.
Coober Pedy mine tour
We ate camel burgers at Kings Canyon and Crayfish pie at Thursday Island! We felt the magic and beauty of being at the Devils Marbles and we were overwhelmed by the sheer size and presence of Uluru. We saw more wildlife than you could ever imagine, birds, eagles, crocodiles, emus, camels, dingoes, lizards, cows, snakes, goats, horses, dogs, sheep, kangaroos. We even had the awesome opportunity to hold and play with a baby orphaned wallaby at Wycliffe Well.
We swam under waterfalls, bathed in the 43 degree natural springs at Innot Hot Springs and drove through many croc infested rivers.
We were covered in red dirt, went days without a shower, toilets were few and far between at places. We encountered more flies than you could ever imagine (even one in George’s beer … nice surprise!). We got used to eating the odd bug in our dinner and having sand and dirt throughout the car, the tent, the sleeping bags and your belongings was just normal. We encountered a 2 degree night and 40 degree days, wild winds and torrential rain, had dingos stalking us for our dinner and we had spiders living on our chairs. We wore the same clothes more than one day each and washing with baby wipes was the done thing. But we loved every single part of it, it is all part of the adventure! And at the end of the day, every single person you meet is in the same position as you so no one even comes close to caring! So to say that we enjoyed our time away is an understatement, we loved every minute of it and cannot wait to get back out there again.
Palm Valley, NT
So here is a bit of a summary of our trip.
Total KM travelled 13,367 km
Total time away 49 days (7 weeks)
Total amount of money spent on petrol $4,240.20
Average overall L/100km 18.49 (combination of weight, a batch of bad fuel, low & high range off road driving, highway driving, few days of bad headwinds)
What we missed the most while away The kids, the dogs, family and friends
Best Chips n Gravy Archer River Roadhouse, QLD
Best Coffee Cobar, NSW
Best Burgers Archer River Roadhouse, with Musgrave Roadhouse a very close second
Best Pizza Outback Pioneer Kitchen, Ayers Rock Resort & Alfrescos, Broken Hill
Best meal Loyalty Beach. Not just the food, the whole package …. Food, location, atmosphere and service
Biggest surprise How much we loved Alice Springs, could totally see us living there. Also the sheer size of Uluru.
Most Scenic Flinders Ranges, SA and Finke Gorge National Park, NT (Boggy Hole in particular)
Favourite campground (remote) Bramwell Station and Chili Beach
Favourite campground (city) Cairns Big 4 Coconut Holiday Resort – amazing service and awesome caravan park.
Most expensive petrol Jardine River and Bamaga (Cape York) – $2.55 / litre for normal 91 octane unleaded petrol
Most expensive beer $56 for XXXX Gold cans in Weipa
Most expensive place in general Ayers Rock Resort
Most expensive campsite Kings Creek Station ($19 per person).
Cheapest Campsite any of the National Park camping in Queensland ($5.45 per person)
Biggest rip-off Jardine River Ferry Crossing Ticket & Permit ($129 to cross the Jardine river – about 40 meters wide)! don’t have much choice though as the crossing is too deep and dangerous to attempt, and infested with crocodiles!
Biggest Adrenalin Rush Palm Creek, Old Telegraph Track (Cape York)
Best 4WD Track Old Telegraph Track, for its diversity. With the slightly damp CREB track a close second
4WD Tracks driven Old Telegraph Track, Frenchmans Track, Battle Camp Road, CREB Track, Oodnadatta Track (in part), Ernest Giles Road, Mereenie Loop (in part).
States travelled to NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia
What exceeded our expectations Boggy Hole & Uluru
Strangest place Wycliffe Well, NT. Did enjoy our night there, but really is quite a strange little caravan park!
Where we wouldn’t go again Captain Billy’s Landing – the corrugations to get there were back breaking and the howling wind, crashing waves and pouring rain made for a not so fun night! Also the Pebbles (Kunjarra) outside of Tennant Creek – if you’ve ever been to Devils Marbles and also seen the Pebbles, you will understand!
Biggest disappointment That Stewy, Kristy and Rori couldn’t complete the Cape York portion of our trip with us, due to their car problems
What we wouldn’t take with us again The kitchen (our smaller table was sufficient and we never took the larger kitchen bench/table out at all!), the toilet/shower tent, so much food!
Best Purchase before the trip Our satellite phone, SPOT tracker
Best 4WD modifications that have made our lives easier for off road travels Rear ARB Air Locker, custom made shelves to replace rear seats, CB radio, Raised King Springs/Bilstein Shocks on Bridgestone tyres & new touring seats.
Scariest Moment Camping at Captain Billy’s Landing – gale force winds, didn’t sleep at all! The severe weather warning of 120km/h winds while camping at Port Augusta, Palm Creek crossing on the tele track!
Nicest people Alice Springs in particular, but Northern Territory as a whole. Although while travelling we had many great encounters with people everywhere!
A few weeks back we headed off on a tag-a-long trip with our mates at Great Divide Tours. We do a lot of travel by ourselves, so sometimes it’s nice to get out and meet some new people.
This tour took us up to Barrington Tops for some great 4WDing and amazing scenery and then to Myall Lakes for some beach driving. The best thing about this trip was that it was accommodated, camping in Barrington in winter is not our idea of fun! It was 7 degrees up on the mountain during the day!
Saturday morning was an early start for us to drive from Sydney to meet up with everyone at 9am at Singleton. We then headed off towards Barrington Tops National Park. It was very foggy in the morning as you can see from the photo above and with rain on and off, combined with the recent rainfall in the area, we knew this was going to make for an interesting day on the tracks! It was a good test for the new car to get out and play in some mud!
Majority of people on our tour had not done a lot of, if any, 4WDing offroad, so with the muddy tracks, it was quite an adventure! As you can imagine, they were a little intimidated with the situation and their car’s ability, but we all need to learn somewhere right! As we are mates with the tour leader, we were put at the back as ‘tail end Charlie’, George and I joked that we needed to be put on payroll because of all the help and recoveries we undertook! It did make for an interesting day and in a way, it was great for everyone else to experience it all in a safe environment, rather than being caught out there on their own.
One of our stops was to visit ‘The Rock’ / ‘Cock Rock’ / Dick Rock’! Whatever you call it, it’s a funny sight to walk through the bush and be confronted with this! A few funny photos were taken here, as you can imagine, boys will be boys!!
Rumour has it that any couple who are having trouble falling pregnant should visit this rock. If they manage to have sex on the rock, they will be rewarded with a pregnancy!
After a great day of 4WDing, we arrived at Gloucester, our home for the night. We stayed at the Gloucester Country Lodge, a great hotel, rooms were great, service was great and the view …. WOW!
View from outside our room
Saturday night we all went to the golf club for dinner. We had a few drinks and laughs and of course, birthday cake for Shelly! Sunday was Shelly’s birthday, the last year of her 30’s. We were surprised to find that the club was completely empty at about 8.30pm and when the staff started leaving to go home we got the hint that maybe we were about to be kicked out! At that moment we realised that we certainly weren’t in the city!
Sunday morning kicked off with breakfast in our room and then to meet up with everyone for the day’s briefing. We headed off towards Myall Lakes via the back roads, such beautiful scenery, so lush and green. The day was sunny and warm compared to the day before. Morning tea was spent visiting The Grandis, the tallest known tree in NSW. The tree and picnic area is located just off the Pacific Highway, north of Bulahdelah.
We then headed down to Bombah Point for a coffee and to catch the barge/car ferry across the river. From there it wasn’t too long before we hit the beach for some beach driving and lunch. Again, no-one else had done sand driving before, so we had a quick lesson and what to do and what not to do before heading down on to the sand.
Our lunch spot was great, we had a huge pod of dolphins entertaining us while we ate lunch and went for a walk up on to the headland.
We all said our goodbyes around 4pm and headed back home after a great weekend away. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to welcome in the last year of your 30’s!
Unfortunately it all must come to an end at some point, no matter how long we spend on Fraser Island, it’s never enough!
This time we managed to reach the Western Beach and spent an amazing day over there, meaning that we have now driven every section of beach possible on Fraser Island. We had some great weather, and some not so great!, as shown in the photos below, but it didn’t spoil our holiday one bit.
We cannot tell you how badly you all need to visit Fraser Island! It’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve been to and the track conditions change daily, the scenery changes, it’s just amazing. One minute you are driving along the beach and the next through a rainforest.
Anyway, after we packed up and said our goodbye’s to our good friends, we headed off around 9.30am towards the barge. By the time we hit hook point, the tide was still a little high so we had to wait a while before we could head around to the barge (would rather do that than take the unbelievably rough inland track!).
Goodbye Fraser Island, you’ve been great as always…. until next time.
On Monday we had an early start and headed south to have a look at some of the inland lakes that we hadn’t been to for years. The first was Lake Boomanjin, pictured below. The colours of this lake were amazing, the red was a blood-red colour so it was a little freaky, but awesome at the same time! This photo really does not show the true colours, but it gives you an idea.
Lake Boomanjin is the largest perched lake in the world. Fraser Island also claims the worlds highest perched dune lake, Boomerang Lake. Perched lakes are the most frequently occurring type on the island. Perched lakes are separate from the influence of groundwater. Their water levels can reduce due to evaporation during long dry periods, but then fill again during the wetter periods.
We drove over to the western side of the island to Ungowa to see the old jetty. There is a nice little campground there with toilets, but nothing else except this amazing view! The old wooden jetty and the boat ramp are both closed off due to deterioration, but you can still clearly see both.
Next on our list was Tobys Gap Airstrip, surprisingly this was fairly flat, although it didn’t look it at all, very overgrown with grass, rocky and sandy! And yes, we may have drove down the runway, pretending to be a plane!!
We went to Lake Birrabeen for a swim, beautiful spot and no-one there. To be honest, this lake is just a nice as Lake McKenzie, but without the millions of people there. The sand is so white and the water crystal clear and warm, such a nice lake.
After lunch on the beach we took a drive down to Eli Creek for a while. As usual, the water was freezing so there was no swimming there!
We then took the car for a photoshoot on the rocks! Just a bit of fun for the arvo!