Lake Tinaroo Campground – Danbulla National Park
Waking up in paradise! Whether you’re in glamping or camping, Lake Tinaroo has the facilities to make all visitors feel welcome.
Lake Tinaroo in Brief
Lake Tinaroo and the Atherton Tablelands is one of the Cairns and Tropical North Queensland’s best kept secrets. Lake Tinaroo, located in Atherton Tablelands is a region elevated by two mighty mountain ranges. The altitude provides a more temperate climate, which is more comfortable all year round and provides respite from the hot and humid coastal weather. Within Tinaroo Lake region is the Tinaroo Dam, the heart of Atherton Tablelands. It’s main purpose included irrigation for the Mareeba-Dimbulah Irrigation Scheme, water supply, hydroelectricity and recreation. Completed between 1953 and 1958, the dam creates the impounded reservoir – Lake Tinaroo.
Today, whether you’re into glamping or camping, Lake Tinaroo has the facilities to make all visitors feel welcome. Located just 20 minutes drive from Atherton, the Lake Tinaroo Holiday Park has a large variety of luxury villas and sites, to suit every family’s idea of camping. It’s a spacious, clean and quite campground, that has a café and convenient shop, stocking all of your camping essentials including fuel, firewood, gas, bait and fishing gear. If you’re after an active and fun family adventure, then hire a stand-up paddle board, kayak or even a boat from the Tourist Park, and then set off for a day on the lake, which is only a hop, skip and jump from your camp site. It is one of the most popular tourist destination in the area, with plenty to offer all kinds of visitors.
When I found the time to go camping, I block out fews in my calendar to taken an extended break and use the time to travel my own way and hit the open road and travel about 100km south-west of Cairns to Lake Tinaroo campground. Lake Tinaroo and its surroundings is a special place. I keep coming back to the area and never get tired of it, like a child given a sweet candy that never stops eating it. However, for the past few years, going on a camping trip has never been on my agenda. My last camping trip was more than 15 years ago with my late father to Cooktown, a tiny coastal town north of Cairns – a distance about 400 kilometres. Without having a desire for daunting long drives, Lake Tinaroo camping came into mind. When it comes to camping, Lake Tinaroo camping in Danbulla National Park is the Jewel of Atherton Tablelands. It is not a long way to go and the reward is one of Far North Queensland’s most stunning tropical rainforest national park. The whole area surrounded by tropical rainforest, pine trees and close to nature’s secluded pristine environment around will make the camping absolutely worth it. A place of peaceful and quiet. The Danbulla National Park has an abundance with wildlife, like a massive outdoor zoo. A lasting glimpse of what it is like camping outdoors, what nature has to offer and appreciating outdoor lifestyle are on my priority list when it comes to camping.
Hitting the open road again to Lake Tinaroo campgrounds can be done in one big stint. However, taking a long way to Lake Tinaroo, I left Cairns, early hours of the morning before sunrise, I headed up the windy, open Gillies range road, bypassing Yungaburra and Malanda township to Ravenshoe town where my countryside home is located. Ravenshoe is a little quiet country town further away from mass tourism activity in Atherton Tablelands. Arriving late mid-morning, gave me enough time to unpack gardening tools and pack few camping essentials before taking the scenic route along Atherton Tablelands rolling hills to Lake Tinaroo campground.
During the camping trip, it was misty, cold, foggy and with slight showers most part of the day. For keen campers, this wasn’t a perfect weather for outdoor camping. They would have thought, how crazy I was to go camping on this dreary day. However, the miserable weather wasn’t going to deter me from camping. Having the time off, gave me an opportunity to go camping and take some photographs along the way, especially in and around Lake Tinaroo campgrounds. Leaving the township of Ravenshoe, I travelled along quiet country lanes, windy and dusty pathways and tasting some of the local produce in picturesque villages along the way. Atherton Tablelands is known as the farming heartland in Far North Queensland which has some of the most fertile lands in the region. Along the way, I walked along some of the ancient tracks in the footsteps of pilgrims draw me back in time what it was like during those tough and rough years. The beauty of an open road self-drive adventure given me some of Lake Tinaroo’s most spectacular landscapes and still travel at my own pace.
Lake Tinaroo and Dam
After few hours of driving along rolling hills of Atherton Tablelands, I reached Lake Tinaroo Dam, the gateway to all campgrounds around Danbulla National Park. It was still misty and foggy day but it was a perfect location to have a good view of the dam from the lookout before making my way to Fong-On Bay campground. When the weather really warms up, Lake Tinaroo is one of the ‘go-to’ swimming destinations in Tropical North Queensland. It is especially suitable for ski boats, wakeboards and fishing. Setup a gazebo and BBQ by the water’s edge and cook a sausage or the fish you just caught. The larger camping sections are kept maintained and managed by Queensland Parks. Fong-On Bay, Downfall Creek and Platypus Campground are popular areas for large groups who enjoy water sports and looking for traditional camping. All camping areas are accessible by conventional vehicle or boat. Site booking are required in advance.
Fong-on Bay Campground
Taking the back road through the Danbulla National Park to the campground, it is one of the most scenic drive in the region and is little known to many travelers. This location is very popular among local campers and is a hidden gem for photographers, birdwatchers and hikers. The unsealed roads beyond Lake Tinaroo Dam to Tinaroo campgrounds was rough, bumpy and dusty dirt road. At times, these roads can be dangerous during rainy periods where it can be muddy and slippery. For many campers, 4WD are required beyond the Tinaroo Dam and if planning to get off the beaten tracks and other campgrounds, reliable vehicles are required. Most dirt tracks are not suitable for smaller vehicles. Finally, arriving at the campground before dark was like winning the lotto jackpot. The weather turned out to be perfect, in time to erect the tent and gather firewoods for the evening camp-fire.
Where do I begin from here? Lake Tinaroo surrounded by various campgrounds, has some of the most beautiful getaway camp sites in Far North Queensland. Most of the camping sites are just metres away from the Lake. This campground was amazingly well-kept and pitched my tent right next to the lake. With hardly no other campers around during the week, it was quiet and peaceful, except the sounds of ducks, curlews and many more other wildlife inhabiting the area. The amenities (toilets) were meticulously clean. It has shower-less cubicles and had to supply my own hot and cold shower bucket. It wasn’t required as I spend most of my time in the lake. Being first time to the campground, I was pleasantly very surprised to see how clean and how well the campground was maintained compared to the public amenities in the cities and picnic areas.
After erecting the tent and firewood gathering for the evening camp-fire, I went for a stroll around the campground to scan the whole campsite which I love doing if visiting the area for the first time. I noticed that, this particular camping area is mostly a ‘speed boat’ paradise, where many campers come to display their water sport skills or simply trying their luck on fishing. Many come to this particular location because of its vast calm lake. As I sat by the lakeside, witnessing the sunset going down on me beyond the mountain range and tree tops created a perfect picture moment. This is what I came to see and it certainly presented itself amazingly for me to capture. Just sitting there in the middle of the rainforest watching the sunset was incredibly peaceful. It was so beautiful to see the sunset at this location.
As I began to prepare myself to relax for the day inside the tent, the weather started to turn and spots of rain descended on what had been a good start to my camping trip. Within minutes, the rain started to get heavy. During the course of the night, it started to get very heavy rain and wind kept me up most of the night. However, as the morning began to break, it was just another perfect morning and the sky was crystal clear with no heavy clouds hovering above. At this point, I knew it was going to be another beautiful day without any weather concern. Wasting no time, I got out my camera to capture more of the sunrise as it starts to ascend above the pine trees as it spread its array of colours over the lake. I could truly witness the true extend of the sunrise at this campsite creating a beautiful scenery to photograph. Like the sunset before the nightfall, the sunrise certainly presented its morning glory in a perfect way to capture the beauty of this natural phenomenon.
The campground has an abundance of wildlife and this campground – Fong-On Bay certainly spit out the true dwellers of the lake. I was certainly in my photography glory and tried to use my amateur photography skills to capture this living creatures that inhabit this gigantic lake. To avoid disappointment, I couldn’t stop clicking on my camera. Every turn was vital to me and it was truly an amazing experience. Being surround by wildlife both at day and night was an unqiue experience on its own. It is something that I missed for years.
This camping trip has given me back something that I loved doing and certainly brought back many great camping memories. Camping alone is something that I love doing and anyone should experience it in their lifetime. All things must come to an end and without a doubt I will certainly be returning to this location to enjoy its natural wildlife attraction. It was time to take a few kilometres journey back home.
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