Road trip to the Wet Tropics

Time to hit the road again heading North. Leaving Townsville and the Dry Tropics behind, we set our compass in the direction of Cairns and then onto Port Douglas. A few great stops along the way sometimes taking the road less travelled and getting away from the highways and the crowds. Our first stop was beautiful Cardwell with amazing views over Hinchinbrook Island and surrounds.

You can tell straight away as soon as you get into the Wet Tropics, the humidity rises, the dead grass gives way to luscious green undergrowth and the sugar cane farms really start to go all the way to the horizon. Cardwell sticks to the coast as the inland mountain ranges come in close and are an ever present sight in every scenic picture you take. The panoramic views over Hinchinbrook Island are impressive from every angle but especially from the wharf. Located in the centre of town and always full of local fisherman trying to catch lunch, the 100 m long wharf give the best photo opportunities of Cardwell with the mountains in the background and over the Channel to Hinchinbrook. We were once again blessed by the local wild life, getting to see both a massive sea turtle and a Dugong within two minutes of each other. Both an absolutely amazing sight and the sighting of the Dugong a first for us all. #Cardwell #Hinchinbrook

We chose to take the old highway route up north turning off at Tully and heading along the Cane Cutters Way. Its pretty easy to see how this highway got its name with Cane fields dominating the landscape and Cane railways criss crossing the roads in every direction. Following along the old highway lead past a young family enjoying a roadside watering hole full from the recent rains and countless fruit stalls selling Huge watermelons, mangoes and pineapples. Our next destination was somewhere we had visited roughly ten years ago, Paronella Park.

Think about Indiana Jones, lost cities and castles in the Jungle. Paronella Park was built by a visionary Spanish businessman almost 100 years ago deep in the Innisfail Hinterland. Its centre piece were 6 amazing Castles built to be fully functional and all serving a purpose. One of the castles served as a ballroom and function centre, another for kitchens and dining and others built to meet every need of the guests. All of this was built around one of the most scenic waterfalls in Northern Queensland with a massive water hole at the bottom. All of these castles were surrounded by manicured gardens with trees from all around the world. The park was left abandoned for almost 30 years after floods and cyclones took their toll on this amazing attraction. This abandonment has only added to the character of the park, the rain forest engulfed the castles and just before it was lost forever it was resurrected by the current owners and reopened to the public in its current state. During our visit the Wet Tropics really lived up to their reputation and the heavens opened. We were still lucky enough to continue through and complete a tour hosted by one of the guides while dodging the growing puddles and staircases that had turned into rushing waterways. There is also a great museum onsite showing the park at its absolute prime and an onsite caravan park. Once again we had the privilege to witness the stunning show of a beautiful yellow hummingbird creating a spectacular display. If you stay locally your pass entitles you to come back for a night visit where the castle is lit up by spotlights leading to a completely different experience. Definitely a must do if you are in this part of the country. #Paronellapark

We ended the day in a picturesque caravan park just south of Innisfail. The owners were super accommodating and friendly. If we were to ever manage or own a caravan park it would be one like this, beautiful and green, great facilities and super close to the coast. #Augustmoon. Our plan for the next day was to take our first short trip through the Atherton Tablelands, for a very long time this has been one of the destinations we have been dying to see as so many people have said its beautiful. We were not disappointed, it lived up to and surpassed all of the hype and buildup. Unfortunately this was only a day trip, we will return and take our time next time around. We started our ascent into the tablelands heading towards the small town of Millaa Millaa. There are countless lookouts and waterfalls on the ascent so if you have the time don't rush as there is plenty to see. The rolling hills are home to a large number of Cattle farms which make for a welcome change from the endless Cane Farms of the coastal land. Millaa Millaa has a heritage park in its centre paying tribute to the settlers of the area and a large lumber display showing some of the massive trees felled in the area, some of them being up to 3-4 m across. The towns of the tableland are very scenic and inviting, it would be an amazing place to settle down. Definitely one of the most beautiful parts of Australia.

We moved onto the capital of the Tablelands next, Atherton has it all, a real rural hub. We only had limited time in this beautiful little town and had to prioritize what we thought would be the top attraction. In the centre of the main street is the Crystal Cave, a massive interactive crystal display showing some of the best examples of crystals from all around the world. With crystals over 3 m in height right down to the chance to crack your own geodes and be the first to see whats inside since their formation 44 millions of years ago. All of this amazing display is set out inside of a re created limestone cave formation, you are handed a head torch on entry and sent in to discover the crystals displayed inside. There are over 600 crystals on display, you are invited to touch and interact with any and all of them. All of the displays have a full descriptive write up, our favourite part was the interactive map of Australia showing where you can find gems, crystals and precious stones. We now have some new destinations for the future and a few tips for searching for crystals and gems. #Crystalcave #Athertontablelands

Some more great scenery as we continued through the tablelands heading towards Kuranda, to check out the famous markets. As soon as we parked and entered the markets we were greeted by a live indigenous cultural performance in the lower part of the market place. The layout of the markets is of winding alleyways and staircases with an amazing range of shops, clothing, collectibles, the best crepery we have ever been to and an authentic Japanese lane complete with Kimono rental and traditional cuisine. All of these shops are intertwined with the rain forest and an amazing array of street art displaying indigenous influences. On the upper level of the markets is a shop which has been operating for over 20 years, Jimmys Didges boasts wall to wall displays of Didgeridoo and other indigenous art. The manager is more than willing to put on an impressive display as well and a quick introductory lesson for anyone who is willing to give playing a try. The are advocates of traditional artists receiving what they are owed and show you the way to spot commercially made substitutes. The tropics gave us another welcome soaking as we made our way through the markets adding to the atmosphere and character of the venue. A welcome distraction and great way to finish our quick trip through the Tablelands. #Kurandamarkets @ThePetitCafeKuranda

We were now on the final stretch to Port Douglas, we stopped on our descent from Kuranda to check out the view from the lookout over Cairns and the kids managed to spot the Gondola descending from Kuranda as we snaked our way down the range towards Cairns. A very quick drive by of the northern suburbs of Cairns and we were onto the beautiful Captain Cook Coastal Highway. The beaches are so picturesque and inviting but unfortunately not able to be swam at. The ever present reminders about the stingers and crocodiles are enough to put anyone off from even entering the waters around any of the beaches. We finally pulled into Port Douglas late in the afternoon and found our Air BNB, our home for the next week. One street back from the beach, this beautiful Queenslander style house with massive pool and tropical landscaping was a welcome sight. #Portdouglas #Paradise #Aspiringadventurers #Tarlahandfaelan

- Aspiring Adventurers.

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