The Cassowary Coast

Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
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Trip End Nov 15, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The coastal road flowed like a ribbon as it wound its way south along the coast with lush green mountains to one side and glistening turquoise water on the other, it was yet another stunning drive.

South of Cairns we passed through the town of Gordonvale where in 1935 there were 100 cane toads released, the first in Australia.   Knowing Queensland's fondness for creating giant replicas we kept an eye out for the big cane toad but to no avail.

It wasn’t long before we arrived in the delightful town of Babinda, known as 'The Umbrella Town’ due to its high annual rainfall, and home to the spectacular Babinda Boulders.  After confirming the road was suitable for the big white beast we took the short drive out of town to the fringe of the Wooroonooran National Park to explore the Boulders

Tucked away in the foothills of the Bellenden Ker Range, Boulders is a gorgeous swimming hole along the Babinda Creek.  We enjoyed a lovely walk through the tropical jungle which meandered along the banks of the creek.  The scenery was majestic; a teasing grey sky brushing the tips of the mountain range, its dense foliage stretching down to the granite lined bed where crystal clear water casually flowed along the winding creek regularly forming into pretty little waterfalls. 

Along the stone covered bed of the creek were perfectly rounded pools carved into some massive granite boulders, the pebbles which carve out these deep circular pools sitting idle at the base awaiting the wet to get to work once again.  Whilst it all looked tranquil during our visit we can only imagine the torrent of water that streams down from the mountains during the wet.  It really was a magic little spot.

There was a lovely camp site with beautifully manicured lawns nearby and had it not been so early in the day we would have enjoyed an evening there, however we still had another waterfall to visit.

Josephine Falls was located a little further south and in the Wooroonooran National Park.  These falls were amazing. I know you’ve read it all before… however they truly were amazing!  Josephine Creek, like Babinda Creek, was lined with granite boulders however at Josephine Falls there were long and broad expanses of smooth sloping granite which appeared to undulate, the water flowing effortlessly over its surface and crashing into a series of pools below.

We once again took a pretty stroll through rainforest admiring the density of the foliage whilst soaking up the different scents and sounds.  Feeling the heat we were keen to take a dip, however with the water flowing directly from Mount Bartle Frere (Queensland’s highest mountain), the temperature was refreshing to say the least and whilst we tried to immerse ourselves in the crystal clear waterhole we never quite made it all the way!

We continued on driving through Innisfail and on to Etty Bay; our next stopover.  The drive took us through sugarcane fields before skimming the edge of the Moresby Range National Park.  As we rounded the bend at the top of the range a turquoise bay came into view and we got the sense of being somewhere special.  Set between the Coral Sea and the fore mentioned ranges, there is just a short narrow strip of land which houses an old council caravan park including a kiosk and a day use area, this is Etty Bay.

There was merely a thin strip of bitumen between our site and the beach.  Whilst there were a few day visitors, there were only a couple of other people camping and so we felt like we had the place to ourselves.  We took a walk along the beach and with the water temperature said to be around 28 degrees even ventured in for a swim.  There was a netted area for protection against stingers and crocodiles and whilst I did question just what protection it would offer especially from the latter I nonetheless cautiously indulged. 

We were just walking back to our van when a Cassowary came down onto the beach.  We were so thrilled,  it was one thing to see one however for it to be so close was simply awesome.  The Cassowary, a flightless bird, is on our endangered species list with less than 1500 said to exist.  In some areas cyclones have destroyed their food source forcing them onto the urban fringe where they have been hit by cars and in some cases killed by dogs.  Cassowaries are imperative in keeping our rainforests healthy for they have a unique digestive system…  They can eat and pass large plant seeds almost unscathed therefore dispersing these seeds, which in turn enables rainforest re-growth.  Anyhow, back to our experience...  ‘Etty’ (the Cassowary) is a regular at the bay and frequents the beach and campsites most afternoons.  They are massive in size, with a heavily, yet finely feathered body, thick long legs and a tall boney casque atop their head. 

We were delighted when a male cassowary appeared to do a set of rounds after Etty had left, strutting so confidently around the park it was almost surreal.  Still in awe of having seen two cassowary’s we were sitting outside watching the waves roll in just loving this unique little gem of a spot when a Musky Rat Kangaroo paid us a visit.  We love this place!

The following day whilst we were admiring the beautiful waterfront and Art Deco architecture of Innisfail a lady happened to ask if we had seen the crocodile at Etty Bay… apparently encountered during Surf Club the prior Saturday.  We didn’t go for another swim at Etty!

From Etty Bay we continued our travels through Queensland hugging the coast.  We stopped in and visited a few beaches and bays along the way before stopping in Mission Beach.  We unhitched the beast at our beachfront park and then set about exploring.

Not wanting to intrude, however wanting to get a sense of the progress in recovery since the cyclone, we drove to Hull and Tully Heads where the cyclone had wreaked havoc.  There is still a lot of work to be done, repairs and rebuilding, as there were vacant blocks where homes once stood.  At Etty Bay we had found that people were still employed to ‘fast track’ claims and the evidence was there with many homes still sporting tarpaulin roofs.

Ironically as we headed into Tully (the wettest town in Australia) we experienced the heaviest rain thus far on our journey limiting our visibility to a mere couple of metres.  We were disappointed to find the big gumboot (with attached green frog) was cordoned off ending our plan of an artistic photo shoot in the rain!

Back at Mission Beach we took a lovely long walk along the beach chatting to a couple of locals and getting our dog fix along the way.  The beach surface was a mass of little sand balls from the crabs burying themselves, for the length and width of the beach, as far as the eye could see… there must have been millions of crabs.  We watched with interest as a steady stream of adrenalin junkies skydived onto the beach, lucky to make the jump before the clouds closed in and the rain once again descended upon us. 

The following day we bid farewell to the Cassowary Coast delighted in having had such a close encounter with the enchanting, elusive and endangered Cassowary.

Highlights of the Cassowary Coast:

-          Having two Cassowaries just strolling around nearby

-          Gorgeous little gem of Etty Bay

-          Babinda Boulders

-          Josephine Falls
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Comments

Shelley & Alan on

Glad to see you are enjoying your trip. Worth a visit as you head down is Wallaman Falls. Also stop and camp at Paluma National Park (Big Crystal Creek) and a short walk into the rocklsides is a great place to see. Further south before Mackay is Cape Hillsborough National Park. It you can get into Smalleys beach it is a great place to base. Only 10 site so need to book online. sites 1-3 or 6-10 are better as the others 4-5 share the site with the toilets. Still Ok. The sites are huge and private set on a large expanse of beach, great fishing and mudcrabbing and a good base to explore Mackay, Fichhatton Gorge and Eungella (guaranteed platypus sightings, we saw several we were able to watch for an hour (until Alan dragged me away) Beautiful walks at Cape Hillsborough,the rainforest walk is full of thousands of butterflys. Camilla beach, St Helen and Calliope River as the only 'free camps' along from there we would recommend. It you head home this way you are welcome to come and stay for a while. We will be happy to show you the beauty of the lakes, ocean and canals by boat and kayak.

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