After leaving Cooktown I had a stop at the Lions Den Hotel before a overnight stop at Mt Molloy. From here it was a short but steep run down into the town of Mossman. I had been up to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree on a previous visit so just headed south. I called into the beachside towns of Cooya Beach and Port Douglas before getting to Cairns. The drive along this part of the Highway is simply stunning as you hug the water for a lot of the way and in some parts it feels like you are actually driving just above the water line.
When I was at the Lions Convention in Mareeba a Lion from Gordonvale offered me accommodation at their place which I happily accepted. Staying in the granny flat at the rear of the garage was a welcome change from being cooped up in the hot bus. The house was situated high in the hills with a magnificent bush outlook. It was a very enjoyable time as I was taken on guided tours of the area and Cairns. The Lookout from the Copperlode Dam road was spectacular. I had previously done a lot of the touristy things around Cairns so it was good to experience a few different places with “local knowledge” including a trip to the Mountain View Hotel and tours of the area south of Gordonvale.
South of Gordonvale I called out to Babinda Boulders which was a great swimming spot but full of backpackers so I chose the walk to Devils pool instead. The creek is lined with huge granite boulders and is fed from the nearby Mt Bartle Frere, Queensland’s highest mountain. Babinda itself is a nice little town.
Heading south I stopped at Bramston Beach and Innisfail. Just south of Innisfail there is The Australian Sugar Heritage Centre at Mourilyan. A very informative place where everything you wanted to know about the sugarcane story was told. They had several short videos and these were well worth taking the time to watch. They even give you a free sample of sugar and a few jelly beans.
A short drive out to the coast brings you to Etty Bay which has a gorgeous beach. Maybe it is the crocodiles, but every beach I have been to so far in Queensland seems to be deserted. Just south of Etty was the port of Mourilyan where I was lucky enough to see a ship being loaded with sugar for export. 80% of all sugar produced in Australia is exported, mainly to China and South Asia.
I spent a couple more nights in Tully as I wanted to visit the Sugar Mill and do the tour. This was well worth it. Tully is the only sugar mill left in Australia that still does tours. We actually did 2 tours. Just as we were starting the tour, after going through all the OH&S protocols and donning our hard hats and ear plugs, something went wrong with the automated tipping system to start the process. Whilst they worked on the problem we continued with the tour and just “imagined” what each piece of equipment was doing as with no cane going into the crushers all things came to a halt. We completed the tour and just as we got back to the start the workers had fixed the problem. about 3/4 of the tour group went through again and it was much more convincing to see all the equipment working. We also saw trucks being loaded with the finished product ready to take out to Port. 100% of Tully’s production is exported with waste being used to fire the furnaces and actually produce enough electricity to return some to the grid. The tour was well worth the $25 entry fee.
I found paradise when I drove through Bingil Bay and into Mission Beach. I had heard good reports about Mission Beach but actually being there was something else. I walked the length of the beach and back along the shoreline and the water was so warm and inviting. I had looked at doing a trip out to Dunk Island via the water taxi but they were fully booked that day. There were not many people on the beach but I imagine in peak season the place would be pumping. Wongalong Beach and South Mission Beach were also stops until I headed back inland to the Bruce Highway.
Cardwell is a beautiful spot right on the coast and had a lovely crab roll and beer at one of the many cafes along the coastal strip. The wind had picked up so the water was a bit choppy.
South of Cardwell I turned towards Helifax and went out to the coastal communities of Lucinda and Taylors Beach. I called into The Seymour Hotel at Bemerside. Ended up having a great night here with hosts Douglas and Sue Barrie. Douglas is an historian and they have owned the pub for the past 32 years after buying it based on a 5 year plan they had at the time. They had also spent time in Batchelor NT and I enjoyed the stories that they both willingly related about the history of the area. Doug has written several books and I brought one of them.
I called into the Sunday Markets at Ingham where I bought a book and then spent the rest of the day out at Wallaman Falls (see Bucket List #17)
Balgal Beach was a lovely little place and I spent a night at Mystic Sands Golf Club. Able to house about half a dozen motorhomes or caravans, a $5 donation gets you access to toilets and shower. It was lovely having a beer late in the afternoon overlooking the golf course.
Then it was back to Townsville where I spent a few days chilling by the river at Rasmussen and attending a few Lions Club meetings and catching up with a mate from NSW.