Longreach, Outback Queensland

Longreach is known as the ‘Heart of the Outback’ or ‘Gateway to the Outback’. This great little town is home to approximately 3000 people and is located in the central west region of Queensland – about 700 km inland from Rockhampton.

The first pastoral lease in Longreach was granted in 1863 and was called ‘Bowen Downs’. Some may recognize that name …. only a few years later it became the site of the most infamous cattle theft in Australia. It was from here that Harry Redford (Captain Starlight) decided to steal 1,000 head of cattle and muster them down towards South Australia. We did mention a little of Captain Starlight’s story in one of our recent blog posts

Longreach was very big in the wool industry and back in the 1950’s it was a very wealthy area due to this. Nowadays, although wool producers still exist, Longreach is now heavily involved in the beef cattle industry.

The Thomson River is found just outside the town and is a great spot for camping, fishing and boating and is home to many fish and birds. Not only is this river a popular spot for Longreach locals and tourists alike, it is a pretty special river in it’s own right. You see, the Thomson River eventually meets with the Barcoo River where they join to form Cooper Creek. This is the only place in the world where two rivers meet to form a creek!

Longreach was officially gazetted in 1887 and was actually named after the founder could not believe how long the reach of the Thomson River was!

There is plenty to do in and around Longreach and below we’ve detailed a few of the places we visited during our short stop over this time.


STARLIGHT’S CRUISE EXPERIENCE (by Outback Pioneers)

This appears to be a very popular cruise and we can see why, it was great!

Our night started when we were picked up from our van park at 4.30 pm and driven by coach down to the river, along the way we were given commentary and information about the town and it’s history. After arriving you are escorted to down to the river to board the Thomson Belle Paddlewheeler (we were actually on the Thomson Princess Riverboat, which was still great. They use both boats when the groups are large).

The cruise itself goes for about 1 hour and includes nibble platters, great commentary and lots of laughs (and it’s BYO so you can enjoy a few drinks too). After watching the sunset, we then headed ashore for some bush poetry which was great. The first poem in particular, about the light horses was quite emotional. This was followed by a traditional stockman’s camp-fire dinner of beef stew and mash, followed by apple pie and custard.

After dinner we all headed back down towards the river to watch the sound and light show which explained the story and adventures of the notorious cattle thief Harry Redford, also known as ‘Captain Starlight’.

We then finished the night with billy tea and damper around the fire, raising of the flag and singing the national anthem, before being dropped off back at camp about 8.30pm.

This is one of those real outback experiences, full of great hospitality, information and yarns. It’s run by the Kinnon family, who are a local family of graziers who have moved into the tourism business as well. The pride and the passion they have for their little town and the lives they live is well and truly alive throughout the night.

Highly recommended tour and next time we are in town we will definitely be booking into their Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience as well.

Contact
Telephone: 07 4658 1776
Email: reservations@outbackpioneers.com.au
Click Here for more information
The booking office is located next door to the Station Store in the historic ‘Welcome Home’ building at 128 Eagle Street, Longreach.

Cruise Details
Duration: 4 hours
Cost: $119 per adult (as at October 2019)
The price includes river cruise, nibbles, 2 course dinner around campfire, billy tea & damper, entertainment, Starlight’s Spectacular Sound and Light show, coach pick up and drop off from accommodation, BYO alcohol.


TROPIC OF CAPRICORN

The Tropic of Capricorn runs right through the centre of town in Longreach.

Location: Landsborough Highway, Longreach (outside the council chambers)


AUSTRALIAN STOCKMAN’S HALL OF FAME AND OUTBACK HERITAGE CENTRE

This centre was opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II. If you want to learn about outback life, our explorers and land owners and everything in between, this is the place to visit. Not only is the museum a great insight into Australia’s and outback Australia’s history, the building itself is amazing!

The Outback Stockman’s Show & Dinner also looks amazing and something we will do when we visit next …. always something else to add to the list!

Now while the museum is a must-do, the Australian Stockman’s Experience show is awesome! It’s run by a Stockman and between him and his animals we were guided through life on the land from years gone by to now. You hear his stories of life on the land first hand. It’s a fun, entertaining and informative hour long show that you cannot miss! The Australian Stockman’s Experience show is held most days at 11am.

Address: Landsborough Highway, Longreach
Phone: 07 4658 2166
Email: museum@stockmanshalloffame.com.au
Website: www.outbackheritage.com.au


QANTAS FOUNDERS OUTBACK MUSEUM

We visited the Qantas Founders Museum and did the tours during our last visit to Longreach so this time we just popped over for lunch and took a few quick pics from the car park! But this is a DEFINITE must to visit if you are in Longreach.

QANTAS (Queensland and Northern Territory Arial Service) is a name everyone knows, and even if you aren’t all that interested in planes, i’m sure you’ll find that you enjoy a visit to this place. It’s not hard to find, the big red tail of a decommissioned Boeing 747 jumbo jet can be seen from miles away and as you get up close you realise exactly how big these planes are, you are literally parking in the car park right next to a jumbo jet!

Of course entry fees apply to the museum and to undertake the different tours so make sure you arrive early or check online beforehand to work out what you want to see and do. You’ll not only learn all the history of this famous airline, but you’ll see plenty of old planes and displays, learn the secrets and obtain access to parts of the planes that you would never normally see.

Address: Sir Hudson Fysh Drive, Longreach
Phone:  (07) 4658 3737
Email: info@qfom.com.au
Website: www.qfom.com.au


Like we said, there are plenty of other things to do in the area, like a visit to the School of the Air, Powerhouse Museum, Cemetery tours, Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience, Harry Redford Old Time Tent Show, Captain Starlight’s Lookout, station tours.

Make sure you call into the information centre on Eagle Street to grab a tourist guide or ask them questions as they know where to get the deals and save on entry fees or buy combined passes for various attractions. This is generally our first stop in any new town. They are knowledgeable, they are locals and they know the area so go in and ask them questions, ask what there is to do in the time you have. At the end of the day, that’s what they are there for!

George hanging with the locals!

Yeah it was a short visit, but we had been there before so we don’t feel like we missed out on anything. We thoroughly enjoyed our 2 night stay at the Longreach Tourist Park (a much better experience than we had camping in Longreach last visit!). As it was a relatively last minute decision to visit Longreach we obviously didn’t pre-book and as it turns out, they were quite busy! We ended up camping in the overflow area of the park and to be honest, we thought it was better as we had more room!

As with many of these outback towns, Longreach know that how much the tourists bring to their town and they really do cater for that. You’ll even find dedicated caravan day parking areas where you can park your car with caravan attached while you go exploring.

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Winton, Outback Queensland

After leaving Boulia we said goodbye to Stewy and the kids as they headed back to Queensland and we also started off on our journey home. We had no plan, but we had about 6 days before we needed to be back in Sydney so we had a quick check of the maps and decided to headed off towards Winton.

After a week of no showers (thank god for baby wipes!) we decided to check into a hotel for the night and make good use of their shower and bed! We also took a night off cooking and headed to one of the local pubs, The Winton Hotel, for dinner.

The next morning we were up early to get in some exploring before the relatively short drive to Longreach, where we planned to spend 2 nights. We’ve visited both Winton and Longreach before, but it was nice to be back and spend a bit more time looking around.

If you ever find yourself in Winton, here are a few of the highlights for you to check out.

The North Gregory Hotel

Established in 1879, The North Gregory Hotel was reportedly the site of the first public performance of Australia’s unofficial national anthem, ‘Waltzing Matilda’, on 6th April 1895.

The original North Gregory Hotel was was pulled down in 1900 and rebuilt, only to burn down in 1916 and again in 1946. The building that stands now was built in 1955 and nowadays this hotel is not only a reminder of the past, but also a great place to eat, drink and sleep.

Located in the centre of town, this hotel provides hotel rooms and non-powered caravan sites.

Address: 67 Elderslie Street, Winton
Phone: 07 4657 0647


Qantas Airfield Commemorative Cairn

This location marks the site of the first landing ground of Qantas. When most people are asked where Qantas was born, they think Longreach, but it was in fact Winton. The local saying about Qantas is that it was conceived in Cloncurry, born in Winton and grew up in Longreach.

The Qantas story officially begins with it’s ‘birth’ in Winton on 16th November 1920, with the initial registration of the company. The Winton Shire Council was the first local authority in the world to support an airline, contributing financially to the purchase of the first landing field. The first Board Meeting was held at the Winton Club on 10th February 1921. There is a commemorative cairn in Elderslie St and also at the site of the landing field.

Price: Free!
Location: Located on Hughenden  Road, behind the Diamantina Heritage
Truck and Machinery Museum 


The Winton Club

On 10th February 1921 the first Qantas Board meeting was held here. We believe there is quite a range of Qantas memorabilia on display, but the club has never been open while we are there.

Location: 27 Oondooroo Street, Winton
Contact: wintonclub@hotmail.com


Jolly Swagman Statue

This statue is dedicated to Banjo Paterson, who wrote Waltzing Matilda. It’s also a tribute to the many swagmen who lie in unmarked graves across Australia.

Price: Free!
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton
(outside the pool at Barry Wilson Memorial Park) 


Musical Fence

This is a strange, yet fun!, place where you can ‘play’ musical instruments made from various everyday items. This is the worlds first musical fence!

Price: Free!
Location: Located on Hughenden  Road, behind the Diamantina Heritage
Truck and Machinery Museum 


 Banjo Paterson statue

A statue of Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson, who wrote Waltzing Matilda. Note: A fire destroyed the Waltzing Matilda Centre in June 2015 but the statue of Banjo Paterson was undamaged. The new centre re-opened in 2018. 

Price: Free!
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton
(located outside the Waltzing Matilda Centre)


Waltzing Matilda Centre

This is the first museum in the world dedicated to a song! This centre tells the story of our unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda.

Unfortunately the original Waltzing Matilda Centre was completely destroyed by fire in June 2015 and very little was able to be saved from the ashes. We did visit the original centre and it was great.

Price: $30 per adult, $10 per child (age 5-11) as at September 2019
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton


The Age of Dinosaurs Museum  

If you like Dinosaurs (and lets face it, who doesn’t!) then this museum is somewhere you need to visit. This is home to the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils in the world.

Years ago while out this way we visited Lark Quarry, the site of the world’s only known record of a dinosaur stampede, that was pretty cool! So this time we visited the The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum to learn a little more about these amazing prehistoric creatures.

We even got to touch a fossilised dinosaur bone, how awesome is that!

The tours are split into 3 sections, but we didn’t have time to see the Dinosaur Canyon, but we did join the guided tour of the Fossil Preparation Laboratory and the Collection Room. Great few hours and highly recommended to visit if in the area. If you are limited for time, just let them know when you arrive and they will happily work out which tours you can do.

The Fossil Preparation Laboratory shows you where palaeontologists expose the fossilised bones, you can actually see them working.

The Collection Room is where you’ll find the bones of ‘Banjo’ (Australovenator wintonensis). ‘Banjo’ is the most complete Australian carnivorous dinosaur ever discovered.

We didn’t visit the Dinosaur Canyon but this area is part of a dinosaur dig where bones are currently being found.

You can even book in to a ‘Dig-a-Dino’ experience where you take part in a real life dig for dinosaur bones. You live and work and learn onsite for 5 days. Definitely something we’d both be interested in taking part in at some point in the future.

Price: Prices vary depending on which tours you do. See website
Website: www.australianageofdinosaurs.com/
Location: Lot 1, Dinosaur Drive, Winton
Located about 25km from Winton. Turn off the Landsborough
Highway onto Dinosaur Drive (it’s well signposted). We were towing
the camper and there is plenty of room for parking.


There is plenty more to do around Winton, and there are some great pubs and eateries and bakeries. Another must visit (which we went to on our last visit and loved it) is the Diamantina Heritage Truck & Machinery Museum. This features many restored heritage trucks, tractors, machinery and memorabilia.

Boulia Camel Races

In all our years of travel we’ve never seen camel racing, we’ve seen camels running in the wild, we’ve ridden camels and we’ve visited camel farms, but never been to a racing meet. It’s something we’ve been trying to get to, but dates of events and other commitments just never seem to align. So when we found out the Boulia Camel Races were being held straight after the Big Red Bash we knew we had to visit.

Known as the Melbourne Cup of camel racing, the famous Boulia Camel Races is held annually on the third weekend in July and apparently attracts people from all over the world! Like Birdsville does at Big Red Bash and Birdsville Races time, the population of Boulia dramatically expands during the racing period. For a town of about 300 people, this can swell to 3000 during the 3 day racing carnival. Just think of the funds this puts back into the community and surrounding areas …… just take a look at the constant line up for fuel and you’ll see how much money is being put back in! Again, thank god for long range fuel tanks!

The party starts on the Friday night, with live entertainment until late into the evening. The racing starts on the Saturday morning and continues on all day, along with a bar, various stalls, food stands and entertainment. Saturday night is party night again with bands and fireworks. The racing starts again on Sunday morning and finishes with the main event, the “Boulia Camel Cup” in the early afternoon. The Boulia Camel Cup is the longest camel race in Australia, at 1500m long.

So what’s it like? …… well lets just say that camel racing is like horse racing in slow motion! But the camels are much more naughty and opinionated than horses! We saw a camel finish a race and try to break through into the crowd, one that wouldn’t let it’s jockey off, and one that turned around half way through the race and started heading in the wrong direction …. yep, it was pretty entertaining! And let me tell you, when you are standing there waiting for the camels and jockeys to walk the whole 1500m round to the starting line before the race even starts, this is a very long process! There is a lot of waiting for something to happen.

But you know what, once those camels start racing, you can’t help but get into it. Watching these huge creatures hurtling down the track, the commentator getting into it, the crowd yelling and cheering hoping to win some money, red dust flying everywhere, it’s actually pretty awesome …. Another thing ticked off the bucket list.

If you looked closely to the beginning of the video above, you may have noticed that the jockey was Nick ‘The Honey Badger‘ Cummins. We are not exactly sure why he was there, but he was racing in one of the races and competing in the camel tagging – and looking quite nice with his shirt off when Shelly saw him at camp in the morning!

I think we already knew what to expect as we’ve done so much travel and spent so much time in the outback, but for someone from the city this could be a bit of an eye opener, but also so much fun! There’s a lot of drinking and there’s a lot of Akubra hats (yep we fitted in well)!

Not only are there camel races, but plenty of other entertainment including yabby and novelty races, camel & sheep tagging competitions and nightly entertainment.

Camping is included at the racetrack as part of your ticket. There is plenty of land available to camp on. Many people camped right up towards the track and were quite crammed in, but we had plenty of space to ourselves, just meant a slightly longer walk to and from the track.

Like at Birdsville, the weather at night was still very cold, as were the mornings. It didn’t take too long to warm up in the mornings though and it was hot during the day, but once the sun went down the camp fire was a very welcome addition that’s for sure.

Another dinner cooked over the fire

One of the other things Boulia is famous for is the Min Min Lights. This is one of those stories where you really don’t know if its a myth or not. These unexplained balls of glowing light were first sighted in the Boulia area in the early 1890’s. The first reported sighting was over a grave at the rear of the Min Min Hotel (no longer standing).

Over the years there have been numerous sightings by travelers and local residents, stories of these balls of bobbing light that follow you along lonely roads at night or visit you while camping in the area. Whilst there are theories, there is no scientific explanation of what the Min Min Lights actually are.

The Min Min Encounter is a great attraction to visit to find out more about these strange lights …. they say ‘you don’t find them, they find you’! It’s a really interesting place and definitely one to visit if you are in the area.

We have visited Boulia before so didn’t visit the encounter again, so whilst Stewy and the kids went off to the Min Min Encounter, where do you think we headed …. the pub of course!

George indulged in a camel burger (they have a whole ‘camel menu’) and Shelly had to drink XXXX out of a maroon can – what’s up with that! Sorry to our Queenslander followers!

EVENT DETAILS

Price: $80 (for a 3 day pass), single day passes available as well.
Children under 18 are free.
When: Held annually on the third weekend in July
Location: Held at the Boulia Racecourse in Boulia, Outback Queensland.

Free camping onsite is included in the price of your ticket.
Get all the details at www.bouliacamelraces.com.au

Big Red Bash wrap up

Well there is another trip done and dusted, 4,838 km driven across 3 states over 16 days! ….. ok so yes we know we didn’t quite keep the blogs up to date while we are away, but we will do a recap of each day now that we are home and have more time and internet connection! But in the meantime, below is a quick recap of the whole trip to get you excited!

This was one of our shorter trips, only 2 weeks away, but as usual we still managed to pack alot into that time!

The main purpose of the trip was to visit The Big Red Bash, the worlds most remote music festival … and what an awesome, fun filled couple of days that was! They say once you visit you’ll go back again and that’s so true, we are all hooked! The bands, the people, the volunteers, the atmosphere … it was all awesome. Probably by far the best run event we have ever been to.

Although the bash was our main reason for travel, we wanted to make a mini holiday out of it too. We’ve been to Birdsville before and also to most places we visited, but it was still great. We stopped in at Cameron Corner again (where the borders of NSW/SA/QLD meet) and also stopped off at Haddon Corner for the first time (where the borders of QLD/SA meet).

We got our history on visiting some of the sites connected to Burke & Wills …. Burkes grave and Dig Tree to name a couple and we finally visited the Birdsville Hotel and went inside to have a beer (we’ve previously been to Birdsville but didn’t go to the pub, who does that! 😆)

Camel Racing 🐪 yes, we finally went to a camel racing meet, and not just any old camel racing, the ‘Melbounre Cup of Camel Racing’!  We spent 3 days camping at the race course and watching the Boulia Camel Races.

We went on a sunset dinner river cruise on the Thompson River in Longreach, attended an Outback Show at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, we saw the ‘big bogan’ in Nyngan and the ‘big billy’ in Trangie. We touched a dinosaur bone fossil at Winton and visited the site of the first Qantas plane crash in Tambo. We dropped into little country towns to support and show the love and bought heaps of souvenirs we probably don’t need!

Now to our good mate Stewy, so glad we got to experience our first bash together! Many of you would know that we travel quite a bit with Stewy and his daughter, they love this as much as us! And great to have Jackson along this time aswell! Glad you all made it home safely and we will see you on Fraser Island at Christmas!

It was great to catch up at the bash with Jim & Jackie who came along with us to Cape York last year, hope you enjoyed the bash and have a safe and enjoyable remainder of your trip.

The bash was the place to be and it was great to also run into Matt from Cub Campers again too, hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip, and following along on ours! We will see you soon to arrange our new awning!

Randomly running into one of Shelly’s old high school friends at the Birdsville Hotel (and at the bash and the races!), was great into see you Virginia and meet your family, enjoy the rest of your travels.

Jay and Sallie, our camping neighbours for a couple of nights in Longreach, it was great to meet you both (pj’s and all!), may catch up again one day.

To the guy who works in Target in Longreach, you are hilarious … really bad jokes, but hilarious! And to the people at the Wyandra Post & General Store, thank you for accommodating Shelly’s request for pepper even though you were allergic to it (who knew!) and thanks for opening our eyes to Mac n Cheese Smiths Chips (again, who knew!) …. hope you found your Spaghetti Bol chips! Also great briefly chatting with the caretaker of the Gladstone Hotel in Wyandra, good to hear a little about the community and the hotel.

And lastly, to our other friends, Lauren, Liam and the kids and Leah & Brendan who were meant to be coming to the bash and both didn’t make it for various reasons, hopefully we can all do it again next year!!

All the dust, the smoke, everything smelling like a campfire, the lack of showers and toilets, the cold, the flies …. we wouldn’t trade it for the world. To sit at camp and stare up at the stars, to share a beer with friends or total strangers, to meet the locals and share stories with other travellers, the laughs, the adventure and the memories …. this is life 💕

Oh and to share it with all of you guys too, we love it and glad we could take you along on the journey!

Check out all the stats below ⬇️⬇️⬇️

THE STATS
—————-
🔸4,838 km
🔸travelled across 3 states 
🔸16 days
🔸Total Fuel $1,290
🔸most expensive fuel $1.90/L for Diesel at Innamincka

🔸$210 total accomodation 
(1 x night hotel $160, 2 x nights caravan park $30, 2 x nights low cost camps $20, rest free camping or included in BRB/Camel Races tickets)

MINOR INCIDENTS
——————————
🔸Windscreen chip
🔸Lost reflector off camper
🔸Tear in the awning off the camper
🔸Changed tyre on the camper 
🔸Kangaroo splatter incident 

WHAT WE LEARNT
—————————
🔸It’s really exciting when you initially hear and see someone whip cracking …. it gets really annoying when that’s all you hear all day and night for a few days!
🔸‘Shelly GPS’ has nearly 100% accuracy, ‘George GPS’ is crap!
🔸It’s a game of luck when driving in Longreach …. cross streets have no ‘Give Way’ or ‘Stop’ signs! Oh and to it make it even harder to navigate, the power poles are situated right in the middle of street!
🔸Baby wipes really are your best friend when showers are few and far between (well we knew this one already!)
🔸If you look at a tyre before you leave home and think ‘we really should change that before we go’ ….. you probably should!!
🔸Be very wary of all dead kangaroos on the road! 
🔸You very quickly learn to be open about your toilet trips at the bash …. more on this later, but ‘one scoop per poop’ is the saying in Bashville!💩 
🔸We already knew it, but WikiCamps is awesome! We always find the best free camps using this app … if you aren’t already using it, you really should be!

Paronella Park

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.

Click Here to read more of the history.

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

🖥 www.paronellapark.com.au

📞 07 4065 0000

Tackling the Tele – Cape Tribulation

The official last night of our Cape York trip was a stay at Cape Tribulation.  This is an absolutely beautiful part of Australia, one we have actually visited quite a few times, but have never really taken too much time to explore.

On this stay we chose to spend 2 nights here as Shelly wanted to go Jungle Surfing …. more on this in another blog post!

We stayed in the Cape Tribulation Camping ground (well some of us did, long story!) and will definitely stay here again.  We camped right behind the beach, a walk down our sandy pathway through the palm trees and you are on this stunning beach.

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Our campsites were nestled in behind these palm trees.  Camp fires were allowed on the beach and there were plenty of families set up with dinner and a little campfire, such a perfect spot for it.

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Ash & Tas swinging from the vines!

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Words really can’t explain how beautiful and peaceful it was to watch the sunset out here.  The water was so still, it was like glass.

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Cape Tribulation is this special area where the rainforest meets the reef. To basically walk straight from the rainforest onto the beach is pretty amazing. This area of the Daintree National Park is really an area to be explored.

You’ll find Cape Tribulation about 35 km north of the Daintree River and this is where the bitumen ends and the dirt roads start (Bloomfield Track). In fact, the road to Cape Tribulation was only put through in 1962.

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The name Cape Tribulation can be traced back to Lieutenant James Cook. As Cook was trying to navigate his way through this area his ship ran into Endeavour Reef, north-northeast of Cape Tribulation. He wrote: “I name this point Cape Tribulation, because here began all my troubles.”

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As the area sits right on the fringing reef of the Great Barrier Reef, at low tide you could see quite a bit of coral washed up on the beach.

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After pizza and a few drinks in the restaurant we all retired back to our campsite for the night.

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We couldn’t have asked for a better end to our second Cape York trip.


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Tackling the Tele – CREB track

From the Lions Den Hotel four of our vehicles headed off for a day on the CREB Track.  Our other two vehicles opted for the easier, but equally scenic drive along the Bloomfield Track.

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The CREB track was originally constructed as a maintenance track by the Cairns Regional Electricity Board (CREB) to service their power lines.  Now it’s a 4WD playground!

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Not only will the track test your 4WD and your driving ability, but the scenery is absolutely stunning.  For a visually appealing 4WD track, you will find it hard to beat this one.

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Looks like a perfect place for a lunch stop …… and the unfortunate disintegrating butterfly event (drones and butterflies don’t go well together!)

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The whole CREB Track is only about 70km or so in length and basically runs from the Daintree Village to the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal.   Assuming you have no issues on the track, you can easily drive this in a few hours …. although there are places to camp should you wish to spend longer.

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This track can be one of the scariest drives you’ll do.  The track can change in difficulty significantly, the slightest bit of rain and this can change from a scenic drive to a very scary, dangerous drive.  Hence why the track is quite often closed.  The CREB is very narrow and steep in places and has numerous creek crossings and the clay base means that once the slightest bit of rain falls, the surface offers absolutely no grip at all.

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We first drove this track back in 2013 and it was a slightly overcast day and we did get a few spots of rain which added to our apprehension.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect of the track as it was, so rain wasn’t something we were excited about!  We were definitely able to see why they close this track in the wet.

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The track passes through World Heritage rainforest and eucalypt woodlands and the views are spectacular.  It really is a rewarding drive, both for 4WDing and visually.

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The longest and deepest water crossing on the CREB Track is the Daintree River.   It’s not a hard crossing and the base is fairly solid, but it’s always fun!

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Tackling the Tele – Lions Den Hotel

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

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

History

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

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

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

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

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Facilities

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

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

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

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

Contact

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

Phone (07) 4060 3911     www.lionsdenhotel.net

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

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

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


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Tackling the Tele – Cooktown

Cooktown is one of our most historically significant towns.  In 1770, the British explorer, Captain James Cook and his ship HMS Endeavour, ran into trouble as they hit the Great Barrier Reef and caused significant damage to their vessel.  Captain Cook needed to find safe water to repair his ship so he limped it into the nearest river.  After a lengthy stay onshore to undertake repairs, Captain Cook sailed north to Cape York and through the Torres Strait to Batavia.

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The river in which Cook and his men had been stranded in was named ‘Endeavour River’ and apparently this is the only river in Australia that Cook ever named.

A century after Cook’s landing, Cook’s Town was built and a new community grew to support the many miners and families of the Palmer River gold rush.

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Cooktown is one of those beautiful historic coastal towns that you really need to visit to understand the beauty and history of the area.  We’ve found that people either love or hate Cooktown, for us we love it and have visited numerous times on our travels.  There is so much history, some of the old buildings are amazing and the views are simply spectacular.  Cooktown also happens to be Australia’s closest town to the Great Barrier Reef.

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For our visit to Cooktown this time we decided that everyone would split up and do their own thing for a few hours.  We had been to Cooktown a few times previously so we just went for a walk, did a bit of shopping and grabbed some yummy local seafood to eat down on the water.

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What to do:-

**James Cook Museum – Learn all about the story of Cook’s arrival from the perspective of the Guugu Yimithirr people.  Displays also include the anchor and cannon from the Endeavour.

**Cooktown Cemetery – An interesting place to visit with many historical graves, the oldest identifiable grave is that of Rev Francis Tripp who died on the 20 May 1874 at the age of 46 years.  Other gravesites include that of Elizabeth Jardine (wife of John Jardine – one of our earlier blogs went into detail of the Jardine family), Mary Watson and the Normanby Woman.

**Botanic Gardens – Beautiful gardens and plenty of walking trails.  Free entry.

**Cooktown History Centre – This is housed in the oldest building in Charlotte Street and has everything you need to know about Cooktown’s history.

**Fishing – We are not fisherman, but apparently the surrounding rivers and estuaries are the perfect place to catch a meal!

**Grassy Hill Lookout – This is the place for amazing 360 degree views of Cooktown and surrounds.

**The Milbi Wall – This 12 meter curved wall is placed at the location where Captain James Cook and his crew first set foot on land.  This wall features almost 500 hand painted and carved tiles.

**The Musical Ship – This unique interactive musical playground is fitted with many different instruments to help you make your own music.  This is great fun for the young and old!  

 

Cooktown is actually quite a large town with excellent facilities and this offered a great opportunity for people to stock up on anything they needed.

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A walk along the foreshore is a must, apart from beautiful views there are plenty of monuments and other interesting things to look at.

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After a few hours exploring Cooktown, our meeting place was Grassy Hill Lookout.  This is one of the must visit places to take in the amazing views over the Endeavour River and Cooktown.  Grassy Hill is from where Captain Cook was able to map out a course out through the reefs.

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Although this is an old historic town and it seems quite remote when you are there, today your visit to Cooktown is made even easier with the fully sealed highway running all the way into town.  If you are after a relaxing break with great scenery and plenty of history, this is a great place to base yourself to explore the surrounding areas.

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Just a few dirty 4WD’s sitting in the main street of Cooktown!

 


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Tackling the Tele – Elim Beach

Not far past the Aboriginal community of Hope Vale you reach the beautiful Elim Beach and Coloured Sands.

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Hope Vale is a relatively large Aboriginal community which was originally built in the late 1940s as a Mission run by the Lutheran Church.  The church brought Aboriginal people from all over Australia, so today there is a mixture of languages and culture in the community, although Guugu Yimithirr is the language most spoken after English.

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We had never been to Elim Beach before … we had intended on going years ago but didn’t quite make it there.  While planning for this latest Cape York trip I read about this place called Eddie’s Camp, the reviews were great and all of the photographs I’d seen were amazing so I reworked our itinerary to enable our stay at this great place.  I must say that the guys from Eddie’s Camp were very helpful in our planning phase by giving information on travel times, road conditions and suggested routes.

Eddie’s Camp is owned and run by Thiithaarr-warra elder, Eddie Deemal and his son Ivan.

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This is a great little camping ground situated at the stunning Elim Beach.  If you are looking for 5 star camping, this is not your place.  It’s very basic, the owners are very casual and relaxed, there are no powered sites and only cold water showers.

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Little tree frog living in the toilets!

You know what though … THIS IS CAMPING and it suited us perfectly, we absolutely loved our stay at this beautiful rustic little campground.

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After a quick stop in Hope Vale to visit the grocery store we all headed down to Elim Beach, checked in and set up camp.  There is no pre-booking here and no allocated campsites, you simply set up wherever you like.  After setting up we went for a walk along the beach and George and Stewy took the drone for a flight, while some of the others took off in search of the coloured sands.

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Later that night we all sat around the campfire, chatted, toasted marshmallows and cooked some damper.

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We were also joined by the friendly local dogs for much of the night….

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This gorgeous little guy was so friendly and we (well Shelly!) wanted to take him home with us ….. not sure how Gelly & Charli would have felt if we rocked up back at home with a dingo!  Apparently this little guy just wandered into the campground one day and hasn’t left, he’s made friends with the resident dogs and was having a great play with some other campers dogs aswell.

It’s amazing that essentially a wild animal can be so friendly and playful.  When we went to pack up in the morning he’d made himself at home on our mat as you’ll see in the pictures, he wouldn’t get off to let us pack up, i think it was all a bit of a game for him!

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