“If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.”
— Rachel Wolchin
January 2020. We have moved our family of two grown-ups, two kids and one dog from the only home the girls remember – the moderate climate of Goombungee on Queensland’s Darling Downs – to an exciting (and a little bit daunting) new start in Innisfail, Tropical North Queensland.
Leaving friends is tough. No more Friday arvo drives to visit grandparents or cousins for the weekend. The girls took some convincing.
BUT … we have promised a big new adventure, and plenty of fun exploring.
In the spirit of embracing these adventures, and sharing them with family and friends, we decided to start a blog.
Mostly we will be sharing our exploration around Innisfail, the Cassowary Coast and Far North Queensland. Occasionally we will have an adventure to other ‘home towns’ when we visit family and friends. Hopefully we will travel further afield from time to time. It will ALWAYS be really fun and very exciting!
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.
Number 10 on the Bucket List – go fishing and catch a big fish – has thus far proven an elusive feat. It has become palpably clear that fishing the Johnstone River in the tinny is never going to cut the mustard.
Luckily for Mr M and Grandad M, our next-door neighbour is single, but has a 5.6 metre half-cabin, and last weekend was in want of a crew for a morning on the reef. The weather forecast was only so-so for the trip out, so an early start was in order.
The great thing about early starts is the chance to catch the sunrise. They put in at Mourilyan Harbour and headed out to the nearby islands.
And they were rewarded! Mr M was pleased with his two mackerel, great sport, with the number two catch definitely ticking the box for the bucket list. Hooray!
However, catch of the day to Grandad M with a massive Queenfish. It gave him plenty of sport and we are assured he was utterly exhausted when he finally got the beast aboard (too tired for a decent photo on the boat, so we had to snap one on arrival back home).
The crew back home were super exited when the catch came in! Way too much for a single meal, but we ate like kings with Thai Green Curry Mackerel for dinner. Although good quality pre-packaged curry pastes are readily available and make for an easy go-to, for anyone that’s interested, here’s the green curry paste recipe we were gifted by Pui on our Phuket honeymoon, many moons ago. There’s something about bringing the ingredients together with a mortar & pestle that makes the dish feel even more special.
Thai Green Curry Paste
20 green chillies
1 teasp galangal
3 tabs lemongrass
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 tabs chopped garlic
3 tabs shallots
1 teasp salt
2 tabs vegetable oil
handful Thai sweet basil leaves
Use mortar & pestle or food processor to bring together to form a paste. ENJOY!
With school holidays upon us we’ve been thinking about things we can do to get out-and-about when one parent does not have leave from work (bummer).
About a month or so back we took an afternoon drive to Flying Fish Point, just to hang out. Flying Fish Point is the northern headland of the entrance to the Johnstone River (The southern headland is called Coquette Point). It made for a pleasant afternoon outing, and definitely something we’re happy to do again, perhaps with a fish and chip dinner to round out the evening.
We wandered out along the rocky outcrop from the river side to the ocean side, but didn’t spot much wildlife. There are plenty of empty oyster shells adhered to the rocks on the ocean side, but no live ones that we could spot. There were a few fishermen on the ocean side, but we had a chat and they advised that the weren’t really catching anything.
The survey mark we located up on the grassy headland was very interesting, as was the fault line running through the rocky outcrop. Makes you wonder at the forces that have been at play over the centuries, shaping the land to what we see today.
This weekend just gone Innisfail was wet (again). We decided that a short inland trip might be enough to break out of the wet weather zone and see some sights. Picnic packed, we headed for Herberton.
Our intention was to visit the Historic Village but, alas, Covid-19 restrictions meant that it wasn’t to be: Numbers were still restricted to 20 visitors and our party of 5 (Grandad M along for a visit) was too many. Despite this, the lady at the front entrance was lovely and very informative, telling us about other potential attractions in town. She also let us know that the Railway Museum would soon be resuming trips to and from the Historic Village, so we didn’t really mind missing out, because combining a future visit with a short rail ride seems promising.
So, I hear you ask, “What else is there to do in a little country town like Herberton?” Well, plenty, as it turns out. As well as finding a great little park for our picnic: Well appointed with electric BBQ, picnic tables, fun play equipment and a cute historical church for your viewing pleasure; we also stumbled across the Mining Museum attached to the Tourist Information Centre.
Now, whilst I’m willing to admit that the adults did not have particularly high expectations for a ‘gold-coin donation entry’ museum attached to a little Tourist Info Centre, we were pleasantly surprised. It was full of historical pieces, well considered displays, and some activities for the kids. Miss A narrates our experience below.
In the middle of the carpark was a fenced off area with a warning: Hidden Hazards! Within this fence is the Dinnerbell Mine Shaft, thought to be at least 20 metres deep. It did not look like much from the top, but I bet it is a long hard fall, if you were to fall down there.
At the front of the museum there was a rather large collection of old mining machines. Grandad explained how the the five head stamp battery worked.
Just beside the path near the entrance to the museum there was an interesting monument with plaques telling the stories of people who died in the mines, not just in Herberton, but nearby. The first name on the plaque was only known as “Scott”, no last name. Scott died in an accident where he tried to activate dynamite with his teeth! It turns out that he did activate it, but it turned out quite badly for him!
The man at the front counter was very friendly and had a lot of information to tell about mining. Dad and Grandad spoke with him for quite a while.
On the left as we entered the museum there was a rock collection and some mining history. As we walked in further, we saw a rather dark-looking cave. Upon entrance to the tunnel, a voice spoke out, “Hey, I’m busy! See you later, alligator.” It gave us a little shock! It turns out, it was just a dummy dressed like a miner, with a sensor to activate the voice recording as you walk in.
It was very dark in the cave, and further in, there was a large display of beautiful rocks which glowed. That showed us what the miners were looking for in the dark caves: Different types of fluorescent rocks.
On exiting the tunnel we saw a display of the possessions of a real-life miner, ‘The Lone Miner’, and an interesting story about his life. Through his mining, he earned enough money to build a big house with proper working facilities and rooms. Even though he owned the house, he still lived in the small mining shack: A one room shack with no toilet. He did occasionally shower in the house or visit it to use the privy!
All of his real-life possessions had been donated to the museum. These included a crate of dynamite and pile of ‘Sunshine Milk Powder’ tins where he stored the tin he found mining. On the wall was his good brown suit, used on special occasions and for outings.
Further into the museum we found dioramas with cranks and handles you could turn, to make the models in the diorama move and show the stages of refining ore.
The model five head stamp battery was very loud! So, what one would be like in real life: Absolutely deafening! Mining seems likes very noisy work.
In the courtyard, at the very end, we tried to break apart a rock using hand tools. It was hard work, but I managed to chip some off. Somebody else had made a large hole! There was lever to push around to lift buckets. It was hard work. We had to turn one way to lift the bucket, and then back the other way to drop it back again. We also had a quick try at panning for gold, but didn’t find anything.
The Mining Museum was very fun. There are some walking tracks that I hope we can do in the future.
Now that Covid-19 restrictions are easing, we have been venturing out and about a little, so time to resume the blog after a long absence. Might be a good time to start with a short one to brush off the cobwebs …
While travel is back on the cards within Queensland, the North Queensland weather has not been playing ball, bringing rain, rain and more rain for the past couple of weeks. Last weekend we decided that a drive to Tully was a fitting way to spend a rainy day.
Although Tully is often referred to as the ‘Wettest Place in Queensland’, the coveted Golden Gumboot honour for recording North Queensland’s highest annual rainfall has actually gone to Babinda for the past few years. Nonetheless, Tully (average annual rainfall of 4,490mm, with a 2019 total of 3,278mm) proudly boasts a Golden Gumboot that stands 7.9 metres tall, representing the Australian record 7,900mm of rain recorded in 1950. There is a viewing platform at the top, but the doorway was locked when we stopped by, so photos were limited.
After stopping at the Golden Gumboot, we took a stroll down the main street and noted that Tully takes its rainy reputation pretty seriously … even the public bins have three-dimensional gumboots protruding from them and are brightly painted with various wet and tropical themes.
A lot of shops and cafes remained closed, despite the lifting restrictions. We stopped by Tully Hot Bread for a snack. The girls chose cream donuts with pink icing, which I’m reliably informed were delicious. We grabbed a beef and mushroom pie, which unfortunately was a bit disappointing. Nice pastry, but the filling was a bit grey and flavourless, with a consistency as though too much flour had been used to thicken an overly-generous quantity of liquid. We did enjoy sitting in the park.
Walking back down the main street, which has a modest ‘Australian country town’ feel, though plenty of shops to browse when restrictions are completely lifted, I couldn’t help snapping a photo of the ‘Iggulden’s’ facade: Retro styling at its best!
We will definitely be visiting Tully and surrounds again.
We are living in strange and uncertain times at the moment. With COVID-19 measures in place cancelling the girls’ sport and other activities, we have found ourselves with free weekends, but avoiding crowded areas and tourist hubs. Still wanting to get out of the house, but mindful of trying to maintain social distancing , we decided that taking the boat out and having a go at bucket list item number 10 (Go fishing and catch a big fish) was the way to go.
Mourilyan Harbour is a short drive from home, and is primarily used as a sugar export port facility, with a boat ramp and jetty for recreational fishing in the harbour, or for heading out to some nearby reefs. It is not uncommon to spot cassowaries near the few houses en route to the harbour, and we were lucky enough to see some the way out, and back, including a large chick! (Bucket list item number 1: Check out a wild cassowary; we’ve put a photo in the collage at the end).
We were on the outgoing tide and the water was a bit choppy, with plenty of wind about. We anchored at a few spots in the mouth of the harbour, but the fishing was pretty poor. Despite trying a variety of baits and lures we only got two bites, and landed one fish – an Oxeye Herring – which made for some good sport on the light line, but was returned to the water. A reasonable size, but not really ‘The Big One’ that the bucket list is aiming for.
Despite this, we enjoyed our day of isolation. A picnic on the boat (ham and cheese sandwiches) for lunch, and mooring over in the mangroves for a little exploring. Mr M took a further chance to try his hand at fishing from the rocky point. The girls and I enjoyed the different colours of the rocks, the varieties of snails and little crabs we spotted, the birds and butterflies, and were intrigued by the discarded man-made items we happened upon.
I’m sure we will be back to visit Mourilyan Harbour again soon.
Miss Z is keen to watch a ship loading sugar at the dock.
This past weekend we had grand plans to take the boat out for a spot of fishing and sightseeing before weekend sporting commitments steal away our Saturdays. Unfortunately, it became clear in the lead up to the weekend that the weather forecast was going to be against us.
Undeterred, we kept monitoring all week, noticed that the forecast for Lake Tinaroo was more favourable than the coast, and decided to try our luck there. While the rain wasn’t quite as heavy, it still wasn’t really conducive to a day of fishing, though we did manage to get the boat wet.
Despite the lack of fishing, we enjoyed our country drive, with a couple of stops on the way. We also made a mental note of plenty of other sight-seeing activities to check out another day.
Leaving home and heading out along the Palmerston Highway, our first stop was Millaa Millaa, mostly so that we could grab a coffee and hot chocolate. Luckily, the rain had eased by the time we arrived, and was down to a steady mist. We did discuss the fact that the rain probably meant that it would have been a great day to do the waterfall circuit, but decided against it with the boat in tow.
The first thing we noticed on exiting the car was that there was loud music, mostly country and old school ballards, emanating from somewhere. Considering the fact that the on-street parking was readily available, we were pretty confident there was no music festival in progress. We soon discovered that the local real estate agency had two huge speakers out the front directing music along the main street. We asked a lovely lady across the street at the library about it, and she informed us they do it every Saturday. Adding to the atmosphere, we presume.
Our search for hot beverages led us to the ‘Barista in the Mist’ cafe, where we not only found great coffee and hot chocolate, but some very tasty homemade sausage rolls. An eclectic fun decor, including a fantastic traveller’s trunk complete with care instructions in the top drawer, greeted us and we enjoyed a couple of quick games on chess.
After leaving ‘Barista in the Mist’ we continued our short walk up Main Street and happened upon segments from a giant Kauri Pine under cover behind the local museum, next to the park. Information panels near the pieces advised that it was carbon dated at 870 years old.
The specimens were trucked the present site post-Cyclone Larry in 2006, the tree having collapsed in 2003 when the root system could no longer sustain and support the tree (apparently at that time 26 metres from ground to the first branch, with a diameter of 2.7 metres).
Next stop en route to Lake Tinaroo was a short diversion to check out the Curtain Fig, which Mr and Mrs M could recall visiting a decade earlier on a Tablelands self-drive. While strangler figs are not uncommon in North Queensland, the unique formation and sheer size of the Curtain Fig make it worth the diversion.
Signs at the entrance to Lake Tinaroo promisingly proclaimed it a ‘Barra Haven’, and while we did put the boat in, the rain meant that we didn’t really have a serious attempt at fishing. We motored about and tossed in some pots hoping for a haul of redclaw, but no luck. We had fun, until the rain got a bit much, and we headed home.
Bucket List goal number 10 is to go fishing and catch a big fish. We have had a couple of short fishing trips since arriving, but so far the big fish has eluded us. In fact, it’s fair to say that nearly all fish have eluded us.
As part his strategy to land ‘The Big One’, Mr M has started throwing the cast net to bring in some bait fish (aka ‘tiny baby fish’), under the expert tutelage of Grandad M. Miss Z has been loving this activity, which has made it to the top of her personal list of favourite things to do. I have to admit, it is heaps of fun just spending time down at the pontoon with the cast net, some snacks and a couple of fishing lines, even if we don’t end up bringing dinner home.
This is a little brief about our afternoon down at the pontoon at Coconuts, where the view and the outdoors make for an enjoyable, if lazy, afternoon, whether the fish are biting or not. Words by Miss Z.
We got down to the river. Dad threw the net out and when he pulled it back up there were tiny fish in there. They are really hard to get out, but all of them lived. We put the tiny fish in the Esky when we got them out of the net. It was full of water. They can swim around in there and I can put my hands in and catch them and pull them out.
The little fish are different types and colours: Mostly silver, but some were a bit orangey and some were a bit rainbow. They were very jumpy, and some tried to jump out of the Esky.
The little fish were used as bait. We caught a cod. We didn’t eat it because it wasn’t big enough. The cod was kind of a brown colour, and had dark spots. It had a very big mouth to swallow lots of fish. I looked it up on the fish chart.
When Dad threw the fishing line out, some birds came to try and take the bait. We threw some tiny fish out for the birds to catch and eat. The birds would swoop down into the water and catch them. Mum got us fish and chips to eat.
I like going down to the river, because the tiny fish are adorable! They make their home there. Being at the river was very enjoyable, but I’d like to catch more fish next time!
So, we were going to finish of our Babinda trip with the Devil’s Pool as our next post, but circumstances have made it appropriate to talk about something that Innisfail is not short on: Rain. Or more correctly for this post: Storms.
We’ve gotten pretty accustomed to an afternoon or evening storm most days. In fact, there is the rhythmic rumbling of thunder in the background while I’m writing this at 4:30 on a Sunday arvo.
Whilst we’ve been assured that rainfall is actually well down compared to the usual for this time of year, it has been a pleasant change to see regular rain and green grass after moving from the drought stricken Darling Downs. But on Friday night we had a storm that I’m willing to describe as a little taste test of that North Queensland phenomenon that did not make our bucket list: Cyclones.
It was sudden. It was loud. Lightning flashed. Rain lashed the side of the house. Trees cracked and thudded on the ground. Debris was hitting the roof. Everything rumbled. The power went out. The girls squealed.
Thankfully it passed on pretty quickly, and as it was still light out, we had a chance to survey the damage. Everyone on the street had the same idea. There were branches down on the street and in every yard. The neighbourhood wheelie bins, ours included, had taken a tumble. There were shredded leaves stuck to the side of our house like confetti.
After securing the bins and any other loose items, we got the generator going for the fridge, set up some camping lights, and settled in for a family game of Cluedo. The drinks were cold, the company was engaging, and we didn’t miss the electricity.
The next morning we took a look at the banana farm down the road, so that the girls could see the impact that even such a short severe storm had on them. Nothing akin to the widespread destruction of Cyclone Larry in 2006, but I’m sure the stock losses will be felt nonetheless.
Now that we’ve cleaned up our yard, apart from the snapped off bottlebrush and the pile of green waste destined for the tip, you’d never know the storm hit. We’re also super impressed with how quickly everyone else in the neighbourhood dug in and cleared the fallen trees and debris. Almost like it never happened.
Mr and Mrs M were living in Cairns when Cyclone Larry hit, so were spared the worst. For us, the actual cyclone was more like a significant storm. We had to contend with power outages and some fallen trees, but the actual property damage in Cairns was minimal.
Innisfail, on the other hand, bore the brunt. And it is pretty clear already that the cyclone had such a widespread impact that some businesses never really recovered.
Mrs M did observe the damage first-hand coming down to help clean up the yards of work colleagues who were too busy helping others to look to their own homes. It was unforgettable in terms of the magnitude of the property damage, and field after field of decimated banana crops.
Here are some links if you’re interested in a short history of Cyclone Larry:
Time to share our first local adventure: A day trip to the Boulders for a swim in the Babinda Creek (and a tick for number 9 on the bucket list – swim in a freshwater swimming hole – for those playing along at home).
Babinda is about 30km north of Innisfail, around an easy 20 minute drive. We packed a picnic lunch, togs and snorkels and headed off relatively early on Sunday. First impressions of Babinda are that it is a super cute little town. The Babinda Bakery comes highly recommended (but closed on Sunday), and we noticed the Babinda Munro Picture Theatre as we drove through, which has got to be worth a look in future.
The Boulders were a short drive through town and the cane fields, and it was clear when we arrived that it is a popular spot for a swim: Several early morning, budgie-smuggler clad swimmers were heading back to their cars dripping wet, and a small tourist bus was parked in the bus parking zone.
The Wanyurr Yidinji Aboriginal people know the area as Bunna Binda, meaning ‘water passing over your shoulder’ and it was easy to see why. The water rolling over the smooth grey rocks and boulders in the creek was simply beautiful, and so inviting. We were straight in for a dip.
The water was beautifully cold.
After wading past the bus-load of European backpackers with skin tones ranging from lily-white to raging-sunburn-red, we paddled up and down the creek and across the waterhole to explore.
A word of warning: Despite the waterhole being quite calm, there was a strong current in the creek on either side that was slightly masked by the relatively low water level. Clearly when the creek is running high the waterway can be treacherous, and the mossy rocks below the surface pose a serious slip hazard for those rushing headlong without caution.
We enjoyed the swim so much that it was hard to drag ourselves out to eat the picnic lunch.
The garden / picnic area is well cared for, with the usual facilities. There was also a resident peacock strutting his stuff, we spotted a brush turkey making a dash across the lawn, and noted a handful of chickens roaming the gardens (an odd addition).
After lunch we took the walking path to the Devil’s Pool lookout. More about that next post.
Our top tips
We recommend getting here early if you’re looking for a peaceful swim. The water wasn’t too crowded when we arrived, but from mid-morning to early afternoon the number of swimmers grew dramatically (the weather was glorious).
Swimming is suitable for all ages, if care is taken to stay to the shallows with young children. Easy access from the man-made walkway to the main swimming hole.
Tidy lawns and plenty of tables for picnics, but we recommend taking a picnic rug or plastic table cloth. Public BBQ facilities were in demand at lunch-time.