Winter Camping: Davis Creek National Park and Dinden National Park
Living in Far North Queensland is a tropical paradise. With endless camping sites from beach front camping grounds over-looking Great Barrier Reef to the outback west, there is plenty of places for anyone to go out and enjoy the great outdoors. After living almost 30 years in this northern tropical paradise part of Australia, for the first-time, I decided to go on an over-night winter camping trip at Davis Creek and Dinden National Park. This place is about 23 kilometres east of Mareeba township and just 53 kilometres northwest of Cairns.
It was a glorious cool winter day with beautiful blue sky with a few wispy clouds. It was slightly warm and I felt that the day was beckoning me to get out and enjoy it. I packed my car with my camping gears and headed for Davis Creek camp-site taking Kuranda range route. Depending on where I go, I prefer to go during winter season camping which means fewer people or hardly anyone at the campsites.
Taking Kuranda range road as my shortest route to where my camping ground was but at the same time, it is a windy and very busy road. This road is increasingly very popular among self-drive tourists, tour buses and locals. Many locals who live in Kuranda area take a 30 minute drive down to Cairns and Smithfield to do their major grocery shopping. As I drive up this steep ascent from the bottom of Smithfield suburb, the mountain road starts to twists and curves as you drive through the thick jungle of World Heritage forest. About half-way drive along the way up the range, I came to Henry Ross lookout where I could see the breathtaking panorama view of the sugar cane fields, coast line and the city of Cairns. On a very clear day, Green island and Fitzroy island can be visible from the lookout.
After enjoying this impressive view, I continued my road trip to Davis Creek campsite about 30 minutes from Kuranda township turn-off, crossing the bridge over the Barron River and passing through small roadside cafes, houses and mango farms. It is a lovely drive.
It was just before midday, when I turned into Davis Creek road junction. The next 16 kilometre drive from the Kennedy Highway turn-off to Davis creek camp-site was nothing like a smooth drive. It is a corrugated dirt road and the rattling of everything inside the car became my only sound of music.
I finally arrived at the base of the Davis creek. It is the main recreational area which is a very popular place for families and just metres away from the cascading water pools. I continued, driving further up the steep dirt road and not far from my campsite was Davis Creek waterfalls. It has an amazing waterfall cascading over the huge granite boulders and the impressive Clohesy River fig tree are major features of these national park. The view from the top is absolutely amazing.
After absorbing this majestic views of the pristine woodland area and waterfall, I had a short rough ride to my camp-site where I erected my tent just a feet away from the crystal clear creek. Though, it was very cold, I couldn’t resist the temptation but I was glad I only had it do it once. It was late mid-afternoon when I sat down for my late lunch before gathering some firewood for the camp-fire that night. With that cool winter evening, I decided to cook up one of my favourite signature dish – “lamb stew” for dinner to enjoy and appreciate the cold winter camp as I witnessed the sun disappearing among the tree tops. What a night, what a thrill to experience this peacefulness in the middle of now-where was an absolute blessing to me.
Davis Creek and Dinden camping area is so blessed with hundreds of walking trails grading from easy walks to more strenuous walking tracks for visitors, campers and hikers to enjoy. Some of this walking trails are only accessed by 4-wheel drive vehicles only and on many occasions, you will not encounter any soul in the area. After doing couple of easy walking trails that lead to pristine cold water-holes, I not only like the place but I just totally fell in love with hiking and the great outdoor. For me, the best of all is relaxing and having a swim at cool clear waters of the creek before taking a long-way journey home. In seeing and experiencing this hidden pristine area with unspoilt camp-sites and trails, I can see why few come to enjoy, refuel, unwind, meditate and find peace in this peaceful and quite environment.
From personal perspective: Taking time to explore some of the places that you haven’t seen and visited within your backyard, it is always a great way to start your journey. I always heard of places but taking time to be part of that surrounding environment gives you a totally different perspective – We appreciate the place more.
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Lake Tinaroo has some of the most beautiful getaway campe sites in Far North Queensland. Located just within less than 2 hours drive away south-west of Cairns is the Lake Tinaroo campgrounds in Danbulla National Park , a popular area for camping place for both locals and travellers. The Lake is surrounded by various campgrounds and most of the camping sites are just metres away from the Lake. The whole area is surrounded by tropical rainforest and pine trees. Here, you get to experience camping close to nature’s secluded pristine environment around you. It is peaceful and quiet. The Danbulla National Park has an abundance with wildlife, like a massive outdoor zoo. This gives you a glimpse of what it is like camping outdoors, what nature has to offer, seeing and appreciating things from different perspective.
Where do I begin? A work colleague of mine was telling me, how he enjoyed his time, camping at Lake Tinaroo with his friends. He continued to state, how wonderful it was to go camping and simply having a great time at this camp site. They were sitting by the camp fire, with a drink or two, while enjoying the night-sky filled with millions of stars above. What a great way to spend outdoors under the stars and it sounded just so peaceful to me. As I continued to listen to his camping adventure, I was filled with adrenaline and couldn’t wait to go camping. To be honest, it sounded like heaven on earth to me. I haven’t gone on a camping trip for over 15 years and I must admit, I totally missed the freedom of outdoor atmosphere and being close connection with the nature. Being a keen camper and done camping in so many locations around Australia, I just couldn’t wait. Having few days off from work, was a perfect timing for me to spend couple of days camping on my own exploring and experiencing many things that I have missed for so long. It was time for me to go on a self-drive adventure around Lake Tinaroo, a short drive away from Cairns city.
Leaving Cairns, early hours of the morning before sunrise to Ravenshoe township, gave me plenty of time to unpacked few things and loaded few camping gears before making my way to Lake Tinaroo. I took the windy Gillies range route, by passing Yungaburra town and through Malanda town before heading up East Evelyn road drive towards Ravenshoe, where my countryside home is located. At this time of the morning, it was misty, raining, cold and foggy. For any campers, this wasn’t a great weather for outdoor camping. This weather wasn’t going to deter me from camping. I had the time and the opportunity to go camping and taking some photographs along the way, especially in and around Lake Tinaroo campground area.
After packing few camping gears, I left Ravenshoe town and 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 a self-drive adventure amongst some of Lake Tinaroo’s most spectacular landscapes is that you can travel at your pace. The views from some of these locations are incredibly breathtaking.
Lake Tinaroo Dam
Arriving in Lake Tinaroo Dam, the gateway to all camping sites was foggy but it was a perfect place to have a good view of the dam from the lookout before making my way to Fong-On Bay campground.
Road to Campground
The drive beyond Lake Tinaroo Dam to campgrounds are rough, bumpy and dusty dirt roads. At times, these roads can be dangerous during rainy periods where they can be muddy and slippery.
For many campers, 4WD are required beyond the Tinaroo Dam but if you plan to get off the beaten tracks and other campgrounds, reliable vehicles are required and most dirt tracks are not suitable for smaller vehicles.
In taking this back road through the Danbulla National Park, it is one of the most scenic drive in the region. It is not only very popular among campers but this location is a gem for photographers, birdwatchers and hikers.
With 8 official camping sites across Lake Tinaroo and beyond, these camping trips offer a leisurely way to explore the countryside on self-adventure drives. For those planning to camp for a night or more, it is compulsory that you book your camp-site online. Booking online is easy and your required to state which camping ground you will be camping, to ensure to track back if any issues may arise. Once, a unique identification number is given, grab a tag which you have to collect before entering the camping site. The tag needs to be tied onto your tent or somewhere that is visible for the ranger to see and check if necessary. This permit allows you to camp legally and also to avoid any penalties, which rangers patrol the areas on regular basis and unexpectedly. Booking online withQueensland National Parks is easy and is available 24/7. To avoid disappointment and penalties, I booked my camping spot online prior to my date of travel.
Lake Tinaroo have fully checked routes with maps and directions and with visible sign board along the way on each camp sites. Danbulla National Park has the largest camping grounds in Far North Queensland, which Lake Tinaroo has it all. From its pristine wilderness of forests, wildlife, lakes and mountains to small country towns, diverse landscapes and more adventures than you could possibly imagine. Lake Tinaroo offers a multitude of ways to experience and enjoy Danbulla National Parks’ spectacular natural area.
Not having to pitch-up a tent as I used my car as my sleeping tent by lowering the two back-seats folded forward, it was a full-length sleeping space from the back of the boot to the back of the two front seats. After organising my sleeping space, I felt my spirit was very high at this point. This campground didn’t have an allocated sections – like some camping sites at Davis Creek near Mareeba, so it was virtually, first in, best location. Apart from, meticulously clean amenities (toilets only), campers are required to supply their own hot and cold shower buckets. The campground have shower cubicles but without any facilities. I was pleasantly very surprised to see how clean the toilets were and how well the campground was maintained compared to the public amenities within Cairns city ground and picnic areas.
After getting myself organised, I went for a stroll around the area to scan the whole campground, along with my lens. Fong-On bay is a huge camping ground area and you have to drive around the area to find a best and suitable spot to erect your tent. This particular camping area is mostly a ‘speed boat’ paradise, where many campers come to display, enjoy and test out their speed boats. I have seen, why they come to this particular location because of its vast calm lake. Shortly after, I started a camp fire and cooked dinner early before sunset as I wanted to capture the sunset at this campsite location. As I just finished washing the cutlery, the sun started to go down which created a perfect picture moment. This is what I came to see and it certainly presented itself amazingly for me to capture. As I begin to prepare myself to relax for the day inside the car, the weather started to turn and spots of rain descended on what had been a good start to my camping trip.
As I settled down to bed, the rain started to get very heavy. During the course of the night, it started to get very heavy rain and wind which kept me up most of the night. However, as the morning began to break, I noticed that 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 concern. Without any delay, I got out my camera to capture more of the sunrise as it starts to ascend above the pine trees which spread its array of colours over the lake. I could truly witness the true extend of the sunrise at this campsite which created a beautiful scenery to photograph. Just like the sunset before the nightfall, the sunrise certainly presented its morning glory in a perfect way for me to capture the beauty of this natural phenomenon.
Being surrounded by wildlife both at day and night time was an unique experience. It is something that I missed for so many years. This short camping experience has given me back something that I love doing. It has brought me back so many great memories of camping and I should to do it more often. Yes, I had a great time camping alone. I will certainly be returning again but to a different camping location to experience other campgrounds and its attraction of wildlife.