Townsville to Cooktown Qld via Atherton Tablelands

After flying back into Townsville from Perth I stayed a night in Townsville before doing a shop and heading north. I only travelled a short distance before I came across a turnoff to Saunders Beach. 48hr camping right on the beach was too good to pass up so I stayed a couple of nights. There was a nice breeze/wind which kept the temperature down and it was a lovely spot to regroup and get back to (my) reality of making my own meals after a couple of weeks of being spoilt.

Heading north I called into the Hinchinbrook Lookout which gives an amazing view across the channel to Hinchinbrook Island. It is worth the short walk up to Panjoo Lookout for a wider vista view. I called into the Tully Information Centre to book into the RV Camp for a couple of nights and to get some information on the Atherton Tablelands region. The RV Camp is well situated right in town and a short walk to the shops. I had a wonder around town and checked out the famous Giant Gumboot. Tully of course being famous as the wettest place in Australia. The golden gumboot stands 8 metres tall and you can walk up inside it. The average annual rainfall in this area is 4,450mm with the highest being nearly 8,000mm.

I was in Tully for the AFL Grand Final so spent the Saturday afternoon/evening watching then celebrating the mighty Richmond Tigers win against GWS. That’s 2 premierships in 3 years. The irony is that it was the intervening year that I was at the MCG for the 2019 Grand Final. Will definitely be there again if Richmond make the GF next year.

I liked Tully as a town. Friendly people. Situated at the base of and surrounded by mountains it has a cosy feel to it. The mountains somehow act as arms around the town. The sugar mill here crushes in excess of 700 tonnes of cane an hour, 24 hours a day over the crushing season from June to December. I will do the Mill Tour on my way back down the coast.

After Tully I veered left at Silkwood to head up the Canecutter Way. This was a wonderful drive through the sugarcane fields, surrounded by large wooded hills/mountains. It is a very picturesque area and one I feel very comfortable in. I came across a campsite at Japoonvale beside a creek so stopped for a couple of nights. Only 10km further up the road is Paronella Park. This was an amazing place and for $47 entry fee it gave you access to wander around the park with its castles, waterfalls, museum, 3 extremely informative guided tours, including a night tour, an awesome concert by the String Family and a powered site for the night. For an additional $10 I stayed in “the paddock” behind the Mena Creek Hotel where I enjoyed a nice rump steak. If you are travelling in this area then I highly recommend putting Paronella Park on your must do list. Great value for money.

A bit further north I turned left off the Cancutters Way to join the Kennedy Highway and up through Millaa Millaa and up to the Atherton Tablelands. I had visited a few of the many waterfalls in this area on a previous visit so didn’t bother doing so again this time around but I did have a walk around the town before heading to Herberton. There are some very slow steep hills to traverse through this area but sufficient pullover areas that I didn’t hold up too much traffic. The mist/fog in the mountains reminded me so much of my first few weeks of my working life back in Dorrigo NSW in the winter of 1976.

I headed to Herberton Historical Village which is a “town” recreated with some 50 buildings depicting shops and life of yesteryear. Each building is crammed full of memorabilia and a lot of “I remember those” moments. They have various demonstrations happening like blacksmithing at various times of the day. There is also a train run separately from the village by a local volunteer enthusiast group that runs the few kilometres into town. I took this $5 trip and there is a little museum in town you can have a look at and also a guided tour of the goods yard where they are restoring engines and carriages. This was a great day out.

I visited Lake Eucham, Lake Tinnaroo and Lake Barrine (see Bucket List #14) and the friendly little town of Kairi. A great overnight camp spot across the road from the pub. Very friendly locals and great food. I spent some time in Atherton which is a surprisingly large town with a very busy shopping precinct.

While I was on The Tablelands I took the opportunity to attend the Lions Q2 District Convention in Mareeba. Had a great time over 3 days meeting new people and catching up with a couple of old friends. They had some great guest speakers including and an interesting talk from the General Manager of the local Wind Farm and an exceptional talk by the joint owner of Natural Evolution Products, Krista Watkins. Their local family company turn green banana waste into flour and now process broccoli, mushrooms and sweet potatoes into gluten free products. They are even distilling sweet potatoes into a vodka. I met a number of Lions from varying towns throughout Far North Queensland and will catch up with some of them as I travel south.

After Mareeba it was north to Cooktown (see Bucket List #15). Cooktown was the most northerly point I would reach before returning down the coast.

The Golden Gumboot Tully
Hinchinbrook Island and channel
Paronella Park
Mena Falls at Paronella Park
Castle remains at Paronella Park
The String Family Quartet
Herberton Historical Village
Mareeba Park

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