After several days of wet weather, Friday morning greeted us with a sunny smile. Ahhh, finally that North Queensland winter weather we’ve been looking forward to! We decided to hit the road and head to Cardwell, just over a hours’ drive south, for a change of pace.
Although Mr & Mrs M have driven through Cardwell a few times before, we’ve never had cause to stop and look about. Despite this, we’ve always remembered it as a scenic drive, with the Highway running right along the foreshore, providing long views to the ocean and across to Hinchinbrook Island. If nothing else, we decided the drive would be worth it for the chance to take in the view over lunch.
The Seaview Deli Cafe
It was about time for lunch when we arrived, and Cardwell was bustling. We wasted no time choosing a venue – The Seaview Deli Cafe – and placing our order. The choice of eatery was based on simple Aussie tourist logic: “Where else would tourists eat, if not the building with the giant fiberglass crab atop it?” Jokes aside, we are certainly no strangers to the fact that Hinchinbrook Mud Crabs (or Dirt Crabs, as Miss Z rather innocently calls them) are a draw card in Cardwell, and there seemed no better place to buy a crab sandwich.
While we had a bit of a wait for lunch to be prepared, the shop was doing a roaring trade for both dine-in and takeaway orders, so we wouldn’t consider the wait unreasonable. We ordered a crab sandwich for Mrs M, fish and chips for Mr M & Grandad M, and beef burgers for the girls. When everything was ready, we popped across the road to eat.
In terms of ‘rating’ lunch – the crab sandwich was a definite 5/5 – lovely fresh bread, an extremely generous quantity of filling that was not at all dry, and I only located one tiny piece of shell which, for the amount of crab in the sandwich, I had no real drama with. Both girls also gave their beef burgers 5/5 – lovely fresh roll, plenty of fresh crisp salad (shredded carrot, beetroot, lettuce, tomato) and a very juicy and tasty patty. The fish and chips didn’t fare so well – 2/5 from Mr M and 3/5 from Grandad M – with both agreeing that the batter was the real let down – stodgy and a bit sticky to the touch. Mr M also said his fish was bit dry, but both agreed that the chips were good – crisp, no soggy ones, and not too much salt.
Bush Telegraph Heritage Centre
After lunch we wandered up to the Heritage Precinct, which includes the Bush Telegraph Heritage Centre. Entry was free, but in all honesty, considering the high quality of the displays, we would not have objected to paying a small fee. The Old Cardwell Hall (now the local library) was closed, but the remaining buildings: Courthouse, Lockup and Post Office / Telegraph Station were all accessible. One of the really terrific aspect of the displays were that so many items were interactive.
The Courthouse had the gavel, inkwells and various books and ledgers (blank copies) set up on the Magistrate’s desk, which could be opened to view. There were examples of files, forms and bound copies of legislation in the book shelves that could be removed and flipped through.
The Post Office / Telegraph Station had ringing telephones to be answered, examples of letters and postcards (laminated copies of the real thing) to sort and read, a working currency converter for pounds to dollars in the drawer, and various banking, postal and telecommunications forms to read and view. There were two telegraph stations set up in opposing rooms with a Morse code chart and some paper and pencils, enabling the girls could try their hand as sending each other a message.
The detached rear kitchen held a lot of memories for the adults – filled with familiar items we had either used ourselves (mostly Grandad M), or experienced at our Grandparents’ houses. The idea of regularly finding wildlife (snakes, rodents, frogs and so on) in the kitchen was a bit much for Miss A, who declared how glad she is to have a more secure kitchen, and a ‘better fridge’ than the Coolgardie safe spotted hanging in the corner.
The Cardwell & District Historical Society has a great little website with some interesting history of the heritage precinct here:
Almost directly opposite the Heritage Centre is the site of the original Cardwell Jetty, built in 1872, but destroyed by a tropical cyclone in 1890. The second Cardwell Jetty was build further north along the foreshore, at the site of the current (third) Jetty.
Up until Tropical Cyclone Yasi struck in 2011, stumps from the original jetty were visible in the sand extending out into Rockingham Bay, but were covered by sand level rises as a consequence of the storm surge. While the storm may have covered some stumps, others were revealed and salvaged, and now form the display to mark the original location.
More to explore
There is definitely more to explore around Cardwell.
Adjacent to the Cardwell Jetty display on the foreshore are three large Aboriginal figures standing like sentinels looking out across the water to Hinchinbrook Island. Their colouring is so striking, we couldn’t help but stop to look. A little bit of research has since informed us they are Bagu, inspired by the traditional fire-making tools of the region. While we’re keen to learn more, our reading has informed us that the firesticks had two components: the Bagu (body), which had small holes (often the eyes) in which to rub the Jiman (sticks) against the dry tinder to make fire at the new camp. A visit to the Girringun Art Centre on our next visit to Cardwell might tell us more.
We were also quite taken with some of the street art in Cardwell, and look forward to ticking off some more of the sights on the ‘street sign’ painted on the wall outside Cardwell News.