Road Trip: Escape to Chillagoe Caves

For many travellers and visitors, Cairns region is known to them as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and World Heritage Rainforest. It is true and these sites are fascinating and definitely a ‘must-do’ on any travellers itinerary. Cairns region offers so much more to do here that often gets missed. One such adventure is a road trip along the Wheelbarrow Way to visit the historic mining town of Chillagoe. A road trip to Chillagoe Caves is a journey through the outback that definitely shows a different side to the region than lush tropical rainforest and colourful reef. Here you leave the world behind and escape to the magical outback west.

Living in Cairns, we are blessed that we can virtually drive only few hours away and your in the highlands of Atherton Tablelands, World Heritage Listed Rainforest and Outback West. The Cairns outback west is no exception and the Great Barrier Reef sits in the heart of it where you can simply ‘sail away’ calmly out to the reef. I decided to take a road trip weekend getaway, heading west.

My destination was Chillagoe, with stops along the way at Dimbulah, Petford and Almaden. Chillagoe is one place that I wanted to spent time on exploring its underground wonders and caves only short drive away. It is a great time to getaway from the city to the outback for relaxation. A weekend away for nature, beauty and exploration.

Why Go?

The township of Chillagoe is a genuine outback town with fascinating attractions and abundant wildlife. The area has its mix of history and geological wonders and was definitely on my list of what to see and do in Far North Queensland.

Chillagoe area is undeniably one of the most exciting, fascinating and diverse area to visit in the tropical outback. This town is known for its unique and impressive caves and underground wonders. Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park includes limestone bluffs, impressive caves, fossils, Aboriginal cultural heritage such as rock art and settler heritage such as historic mining smelters.

Also, the drive from Cairns to Chillagoe is one of my favourite back road that takes you through the scenic “dry” belt of the western Tablelands. During the winter months or wet season of the year, you’re able to capture some of the beautiful scenery. History tells that Chillagoe was once an ancient coral reef which has been transformed into spectacular limestone bluffs with a network of some 600 caves, early volcanic activity has created rich marble and mineral deposits has made it one of the fascinating place to visit. It was fascinating for me to explore this exciting underground world of vast chambers, eerie narrow passages, dripping stalactites and stunning limestone cave decorations. Given its remoteness and raw, natural beauty, it was the perfect place to visit and a ton of outdoor activities and this is what I wanted to do to fill up my weekend getaway. The visit to this area promises to be one of the great contrast, beauty and exploration.

Getting there?

During this global pandemic due to COVID-19, our travel restrictions have been in place and my plans on where to fly to have been limited so decided to go on the road again. Driving along a busy city laneway at 60km/h is not my idea of a relaxing road trip. But I am here 65km northwest of Cairns looking for the signpost that will get me away from the roar of the buses and locals commuting to and from work. It is only when I finally turn off the Kennedy Highway that my visit to one of the Far North Queenslands special places truly begins. This is The Wheelbarrow Way, which starts at Mareeba to Chillagoe, named after the gold mining pioneers who, when work was scare and transportation limited, trudged out bearing their worldly goods in a wheelbarrow.

Getting to Chillagoe is accessible by road and is known for its vast stretches of stunning Savannah land. The drive along the Wheelbarrow Way takes you through rich farmlands and wooded Savannah country. It truly gives you a taste of what tropical outback is like within doorsteps of Cairns. The road trip from Cairns to Chillagoe is 205km. Starting my road trip in Cairns, I crossed the Great Dividing Range (called Kuranda Range), passing Henry Ross Lookout, the Rainforestation nature park, the beautiful Kuranda village and continued to Mareeba, passing Speewah and Koah, on Kennedy Highway.

Mareeba is a sizeable country town located on the northern end of Atherton Tablelands, with fertile soils and consequently farming country. The town have a great museum and a few other things to see and do. I headed into the accessible outback west of Mareeba, taking the state route 27 and passing through Tabacum and Mutchilba before arriving in the quirky town of Dimbulah. Just before reaching Dimbulah is a small township which is the gateway to Hodgkinson Goldfields. In this tiny town, there is a historical railway station and a museum.

The township of Dimbulah in brief history, was the gateway to the gold fields, that sprang up on the Walsh River to service the ore trains. Once the mining faded, cropping became the focus and today sugar cane, mango and lychee plantations can be seen. Dimbulah has a memorial hall, local shops, a hotel, caravan park, soccer ground, bowling club and swimming facilities.

After Dimbulah, the road which is officially called Burke Development Road, I continued my drive west along the road to my next place, Petford. It is a very tiny place with a population of 32 residents. The locality takes its name from the railway station named after John, Joseph Petford, an official of the Queensland Railway Department for many years.

From Petford if you turn south, there is a side trip to Emuford, Irvinebank and Wtsonville that will take you all the way to the township of Herberton. After Petford, I continued my drive west along Burke Development Road to my next township west, Almaden. It is a small community with the population of 71 residents. This tiny township have another historical railway station and the pub – Railway Hotel. The places like Almaden, Petford and Emuford are all linked by the Etheridge railway, which welcomes the Savannahlander train on its weekly run from Cairns via Almaden and Mt Surprise to Forsayth.

From west of Almaden, I continued my journey to my final destination – the outback township of Chillagoe. On entering the Chillagoe region, a dramatic landscape created by massive limestone bluffs and rock formations greets travellers. The road is well maintained and the road to Chillagoe is gravel but the last 20km of the road close to Chillagoe are sealed and travellers should be on the lookout for cattle and horse which wander freely across the unfenced road. At times, you drive on dirt road and you’ll need a car that is reasonable at handling dirt roads. They can be rough at times but don’t require a 4WD.

As I took this state route 27, the scenery begins to change from lush greenery and farmlands to dry and less green as I entered the Savannah Region after Dimbulah. The Outbak scenery is dry, dirt reddish road, scarce greenery and lots of termite mounds. It is very fascinating to see and if it is your first time, you will be amazed to see how high these termite mounds lined naturally along the railways and Savannah.

Chillagoe

Finally, I reached the township of Chillagoe around mid-afternoon where I had enough time to wandered around the town to see the Railway Station, Bank Vault, Court House, Police Museum, Post Office and Post Office Hotel. Around the town, there are some great limestone caves, the old smelters, the courthouse museum, lookout point, the old railway station and the old Mungana township further west. At the end of the town, a tall chimney is visibly seen instantly as you enter the town is part of the ruins of the ore smelter which is iconic to Chillagoe. It is now a drive-around museum at no cost and there is a viewing platform and car park on a high vantage point with informative plaques. It is a site for great photo opportunity and fascinating information on how the pioneers toiled in those days.

As I explored more at my own leisure, I began to see and learn many surviving historic points of interest around Chillagoe and the region. There is so much to see and do to fully experience the past, it truly brought me back in time and immerse myself in the history of Chillagoe. I found Chillagoe a small friendly town with some interesting geology and history. It has a surprising mix of outback landscape, mining heritage, significant Aboriginal art sites and fantastic world class limestone caves. Chillagoe, once a thriving town in its hay-days for range of minerals and today only boasts a small zinc mine and some marble quarries and its world famous caves. Also, it is now one of the favoured haunts of mining buffs tracing the heady days of the 1870’s to the 1920’s mining boom.

Before retiring for the day, my last stop was a visit to the Chillagoe Hub. This is is a private run information centre where I wanted to collect some information about the area and also I signed up for a guided tour of the caves. The caves were my main focus on this weekend getaway road trip as I had never been in the cave before so I made sure to sign up for the next guided tour.

Chillagoe Smelters, once the centre of a thriving mining industry that brought wealth and development to the Chillagoe area, today the Chillagoe Smelters are a fascinating ruin.

Follow walking tracks to viewing shelters and gaze over this significant heritage site. The distinctive chimneys stand as reminders of the gritty bustling workforce, heavily-loaded ore trains and large-scale innovative industry that gave life to this site between 1901 and 1943.

What to do?

Just a short drive out of Chillagoe town is the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park. It is home to some of the remarkable limestone caves in the region that is known for. The following day, I went on an early Park Ranger-guided cave tours to Donna, Trezkinn and Royal Arch Caves. It was time to head inside some of the caves to discover and explore Chillagoe’s underground world which are most popular attractions in the region.

Donna Cave

It was 9am, when we departed for our first cave tour to Donna Cave, located about 1.8km from Chillagoe. From the car park, it was about 10 minutes walk to the cave entrance and had additional time to read the sign. This cave is well lit and is one of the 3 caves in Chillagoe managed by the NPWS. It is only accessed by guided tour with a NPWS ranger who provides a commentary on the formation and history of the cave. Once inside, the first thing that I felt as I headed down into the cave was the enjoyment of the natural air conditioning effect of being underground. The temperature outside was little hotter while inside was nice and cool.

As I entered, right away I could see some of he cool stalactite and stalagmite formations. This cave features beautiful columns, calcite crystals and a cave decoration in the form of the Madonna. The cave has steel walkways and stairs. While walking this 200 metres walk through the cave, we were required to climb several steep flights of stairs – approx. 440 steps in total throughout the tour, including 33 very steep ladder-type steps.

We were made sure to wear the right feet attire and I found myself reasonably fit to do this tour. We were not required for hand-held torches and this spectacular cave were well fitted out with electricity. The stalactites and stalagmites were awesome and the while experience was well worth the effort.

Trezkinn Cave

From Donna cave, I continued my second tour of the caves to Trezkinn Cave at 11am. From the Donna Cave car park, located 1.8 km from Chillagoe, a boardwalk leads to the shelter at the entrance to the cave. From here, we enjoyed outstanding views of the Chillagoe landscape.

The access to Trezkinn Cave is provided via a steel catwalk encircling a huge central mass of limestone. The walk through the cave is about 150m long. Within the cave there are several steep flights of stairs and ramps – about 520 steps in total which includes 46 very steep ladder-type steps.

Inside the cave, a steel catwalk encircles a huge central mass of limestone. The sight of a magnificent ‘chandelier’ formation rewards us and it was absolutely marvelous to look at. No need for hand-held torches, this cave has also fitted out with electricity.

Royal Arch Cave

The final cave visited was the Royal Arch around 1:30pm. From the Royal Arch Cave car park, about 6km from Chillagoe central, a short 200 metres walking track lead us to the cave entrance. Prior to entering the cave, we were given torches that add to the excitement of us exploring the tall limestones karsts and enticing tunnels and to ensure we were able to see where we were waking. There were low overhangs in some places within the Royal Arch Cave so we were to be fit enough to stoop low in several sections. This cave tour took us 600 metres walk through passages, a variety of dark and daylight chambers. In fact, it has 11 chambers in one of the largest cave systems in Chillagoe. Now and again we hist with shafts of daylight that appear in between karst formations, and we could see cave dwelling bats echoing their way around the cave roof tops. The Royal Arch cave has been described by some as grand and impressive. It is a horizontal cave and probably the easiest and longer to explore. In my opinion, this Royal Arch cave was the most impressive cave among the three caves visited.

This cave was discovered by Sir William Atherton in 1888. The name “Royal Arch” given due to two combined features. From the outside the cave, one of the rock formations looks like the profile of Queen Victoria and inside the cave, there is a “daylight chamber” (referring to where the sun shines in) where the collapse of the roof of the cave hundreds of years ago led to the formation of a large rock arch. One of the creepiest parts of the tour was when we turned off all the torches in order to experience the actual darkness of the cave. It was amazing to see how dark it got that it didn’t matter whether our eyes were open or closed. Once the guide convinced us to also be be very quiet, the moment was definitely awe inspiring.

It was quite interesting to learn that the caves served as a tourist attraction since their discovery and that locals often like to take advantage of the cooler temperatures inside the caves by enjoying picnics in the daylight chambers. To me, the highlight of this cave tour was the unexpected shafts of daylight, fig trees, glimpse of darting bats, naturally sculptured limestone formations and ancient marine fossils. It was just fascinating and what a thrill and honour to be exploring this unique caves in Far North Queensland.

My Highlights

After only spending two nights in this outback country town – Chillagoe, I thoughly fell in love with the place. I just wished, I had more time to explore many more other self-guided caves. Discovering these underground wonders of the former mining town of Chillagoe and learning about the natural beauty of the caves have left me spellbound. It was absolutely amazing.

The guided tours to these three spectacular caves with a National Parks ranger and learning more about this amazing underground ecosystem, as well as visit to the Smelter site and Balancing Rock were definitely highlight of my road trip. I have visited Jenolan caves in New South Wales and I must admit, these caves in Chillagoe outclass many of the better known ones in the country and probably the worldwide. The variety and quality of the natural features in the caves were absolutely amazing. The ranger gave indepth information about their age and formation was just beyond. We had to go through the caves which were challenging for the unfit, as there were lots of steps and a few tight places to squeeze through, but overall the effort was worth it. The guide was very understanding if someone was a bit slower.

The tour of the caves was definitely an awesome experience not only allowed me to appreciate the caves but allowed me to see intricate detail as well as sense the awesome big picture of Chillagoes limestone cave systems.. The natural history of the caves and the entire area was fascinating and definitely added a new dimension of new knowledge to me.

For any adventure seeker who is interested or curious in caves should include the Chillagoe Caves on their itinerary to the Far North Queensland. You also get to see a little of the Outback without going too far west. For those wanting a bit more independence on self-guided adventure, make sure to bring a torch with fresh batteries and stay on prescribed routes. Without experience, you will definitely wouldn’t want to wander around lost or even get stuck without a light halfway through a cave. It is totally pitch-black where there is no light.

Journey home

For past two days, spending my time on a lavish cave exploration, it was time for me to take a journey back to Cairns from Chillagoe. The drive back took me longer than expected with a few rest stops and divert of the main road along the way. It is a scenic drive crossing varied landscapes from the red dirt cattle station country, across the irrigated fruit growing tablelands and up through the rain-forested mountains before descending into coastal Cairns. I must say, the journey out west is not most common day trip from Cairns. Cairns is a popular stop for those visiting Tropical North Queensland, which, as they say, is where the rainforest meets the reef – and it is the rainforest and the reef most are in the region to see.

For many travellers, visiting Far North tropical paradise use Cairns as their base, Kuranda, Barron Gorge, the Daintree, Mossman Gorge, Ellis Beach, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation, Paronella Park, Hartleys Crocodile Park and the Great Barrier Reef. These are all popular spots to spend a day. And with good reason, these places are glorious. But if you head west, you will find a totally different kind of day trip – red dirt, big skies, and bushland as far as eye can see – and it is well worth the journey. If you never, never go, you will never, never see it.

 

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Outback Inland: CAIRNS – NEW SOUTH WALES

EXPERIENCE

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the great inland way

Explore and experience the open-wide road. An outback adventure of a lifetime.

Posted by

akamau

Road trip from Cairns to Sydney

Taking this “Great Inland Way” is really a highway like no other. It is one of the Australians most famous highway tourist road route that travels inland from Sydney, New South Wales to Cairns and Cooktown in Queensland. It has been designated by the Queensland Government as a State Strategic Touring Route. It is almost 3000 kilometre journey along fully sealed roads. From Sydney, it takes in much of central New South Wales before reaching the Queensland border at Hebel. The Queensland part of the Great Inland Way road trip extends to almost 2000 kilometres from Outback Queensland to Coral Sea. Some of the highlights include: Sydney, Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo, Gilgandra, Coonamble, Walgett and Lightning Ridge in New South Wales and Hebel, Dirranbandi, St George, Surat, Roma, Injune, Emerald, Charters Tower, Atherton, Cairns and Cooktown in Queensland. It is an open highway and to appreciate and enjoy some of the most beautiful and pristine gorges and national parks, one must detour from the main highway. It is truly a gem waiting for happy road travellers to adventure into.

Why Go?

The Great Inland Way route has been on my pending list for quite sometime. Taking on this dream destination drive was to experience and explore some of the Australian traditional cities and towns from pristine coastlines to arid outback country lifestyles. Living in Australia, a country that I call home is undoubtedly, one of the best country to explore and I wanted to do it. With over 15,000 Australian towns and cities, it have so many great destinations for holidays. It is a must for me to explore places all over the country from beautiful coastlines  to arid inlands and from lush tropical paradise to dessert outbacks. With such diversity, it has something for everyone to enjoy. Australia is such a big country and is the world largest island and sixth largest nation. Many international visitors underestimate how big Australia is and how far it is between our major cities. From every towns and cities, the climate changes from wet tropics to the arid outback. Australia is a country famous for its landscapes of pristine beaches, tropical islands and the rugged outback. With such diversity, I wanted to explore more of the outback and that is just one small part of it.

My six-day road trip adventure began from Cairns to Sydney passing through few outback towns covering almost from 500 to 700 kilometres of driving each day. The Great Inland Way roads are well signed and flat sealed roads. Driving through some of the outback towns, they are away and isolated from the major cities. I have found some of the towns where time has seemingly stand-still. Many of the towns are untouched by mass tourism and this adventure was to experience places where I can still see,  feel and taste the real outback towns. It has taken me through landscapes with a diverse mixture of earth agriculture, whitewashed, dry and dusty towns and some of the most beautiful sceneries you’ve ever laid your eyes on. Each town and cities I drove through were very different with unique layers of rich history, culture and lifestyle. Each cities, towns, gorges and national parks with their architectures, food and cultural significances tells a story. Each places with its surrounding sceneries along the highway were worth stopping to have breathtaking views.

Taking this route for the first time, I was wondering how to best spend my time in every town I visited but most outback places visited left me with different unique experiences. Each places had nice gardens, parks, rivers, tea houses and recreational areas to take a seat, breath and relax.

Getting there?

Day 1: Cairns to Townsville – 384 kilometres

My road trip adventure was a hectic itinerary as I was determined to visit many countryside towns, gorges, national parks and many must-see places during my six-day road trip. My first drive along the highway known as the “Great Green Way” between Cairns and Townsville was my taste of the Sugarcane plains and Banana Plantations. Using Cairns as my starting point, I left this lush tropical seaside city of Cairns, known as the Australia’s nature capital, famed for its world-class access to the nation’s biggest drawcards, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest I passed through numerous small beachside and inland towns of Innisfail, Tully, Cardwell and Ingham before arriving in Townsville bypassing beautiful seaside town of Mission Beach. My first break along the Great Green Way before arriving in Townsville was the tiny seaside township of Cardwell for relaxation. The views from the foreshore are stunning.

Cardwell

Cardwell is a small coastal seaside town almost half-way between Cairns and Townsville. It is located 200 kilometres north of Townsville city and is a very popular stop for travellers between Cairns and Townsville. Cardwell has a population of approximately 1400 residents and is very much a small community. This small towns foreshore has been redeveloped and transformed into one of the best place for relaxation after a long hours of driving. This township is the gateway to Port Hinchinbrook Islands known as one of the most stunning hikes in the area and is the biggest island of the Great Barrier Reef which is completely uninhabited. This island is a gem for hikers and campers.  

Townsville

After leaving beautiful seaside town of Cardwell, I passed through the township of Ingham before arriving in Townsville city to end the first day of my road adventure trip. I had a quick tour and exploration of the city before having a nice dinner at a Thai restaurant in the city. To get a real taste of the tropics in Townsville North Queensland, the gateway to Queensland’s far north, you need to spent at least two weeks to explore the area. This coastal city will leave you feeling energised and alive. Townsville city has a vibrant mix of modern architecture and restored heritage buildings, bustling outdoor cafes, restaurants, boutiques and quirky galleries, all linked by a shady park-lined beach promenade. Yes, it offers a collection of attractions and events to spark everyone’s curiosity. I took a drive up to the top of Castle-Hill to marvel at the 360′ degrees view. It was just breathtaking. Just beneath the protective presence of Castle Hill is the city’s Central Business District (CBD) area, combined with modern fine dinning area and The Strand, waterfront lined with cafes and restaurants. Just a short 30-minutes ferry ride away from Townsville’s mainland is the city’s famous Magnetic Island where many locals and visitors commute each day.

View of Townsville city from Castle-Hill

Popular Attractions

Some of Townsville city’s many attractions apart from art galleries, parks and museums includes:

  • The world’s largest living coral reef aquarium – Great place to visit and learn about marine creatures. Once inside, you will immerse yourself in the underwater viewing tunnel offering magical views of a living coral reef and the predators that prowl the water depths. Go and discover the beauty and wonder of the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet.
  • Australia native wildlife sanctuary: This Billabong Sanctuary is an Australian native animal wildlife park set in eleven hectares of natural bushland. A great place to learn about Australian native wildlife.
  • The Strand – the spectacular Strand beachfront promenade is the most popular place to visit by locals and visitors. Along the waterfront is filled with cafes and restaurants.
  • Day trip Ferry ride to Magnetic Island – Go for a hike and explore more of the island or simply relax by the beaches

Most of the attractions are all family friendly places and you can’t leave Townsville without setting foot on these popular local attractions.

Where to Stay?

Townsville not only known as the gateway to the Queensland’s far north but it is also the biggest city in far north Queensland. Townsville has various types of accommodation ranging from resorts, hotels, motels backpacker, holiday houses, apartments, B&Bs and outdoor campings nearby. 

Day 2: Townsville to Clermont – 507 kilometres

After leaving the city of Townsville, the gateway to Queensland’s far north, I left behind the coastal cities and towns and headed inland for the dusty and dry country towns and its surrounding environments. My first introduction to the inland township of Charters Towers. Charters Towers is located 130 kilometres south-west of Townsville and is an easy 90 minute drive inland from Townsville. It is one of the most beautiful inland towns in Queensland, with its unrivalled architecture and unique history, Charters Towers is a surprising pleasure and a delight to visit.

Charters Tower

Charters Towers became a gold rush town when gold was discovered in December 1871 and during its hay-days in 1880s and 1890s, the town grew and prospered. Today, this town is known for its large number of elegant and historically significant buildings most of which are located on Mosman and Gill Streets. Within the area and in the surrounding streets, there are over 60 buildings of historical significance. There is lots to see and do in this town and you’re able to discover new adventures, fabulous walks, drives that will astound you. Many people think there is nothing to see and do here but you will find yourself staying longer and discovering much longer than you thought.

Beginning of the dry country – CT country

After spending an hour for fuel break and tour of this amazing inland town, I was away from Charters Towers headed for Clermont intending to stay the second night there, covering almost 400 kilometres. Almost half-way of driving, I arrived in Belyando Crossing Roadhouse situated almost in the middle of nowhere and the only stop between Charters Towers and Clermont. This part of Queensland inland route where you can drive for hours and not see anything more than flat land, kangaroos, cows and the open road. Fuel tank check is essentially vital and other mechanical checks on your vehicle.

Belyando Crossing

The Belyando Crossing approximately 230 kilomettres south of Charters Towers on the Gregory Development Road is where the highway crosses the Belyando River. The only roadhouse located at Belyando Crossing offers a shady picnic area to the travellers passing through. Also, it has a rest area where travellers can stop for a break. For those road travellers who want to break their road trip into two days, especially caravans, there is basic caravan park on the hill behind the service station where fuel and food is available.

Belyando Crossing Roadhouse

After driving for many kilometres and hours, I finally reached the coal mines near Clermont, the only sign of habitation on the entire of my journey, apart from the cattle stations. I spent my second night here with a nice dinner at the local motel before retiring.

Clermont

The township of Clermont is diverse and has a devastating history. It is a rich agricultural community but have a history of gold fossickers where many come to find and seek fortune. Yes, this town of Clermont is one of the historic towns in Queensland, northern part of Australia. It has a colourful past, rich in drama and laced with tragedy where travellers had to stay longer to feel, see and learn about this historical town. In 1916, this town had a devastating flood which killed 65 people. The parkland where the town was once located called “Hoods Lagoon” is now a parkland and it is a great place for travellers to stop. The park is a relaxing venue with barbecue, picnic tables and toilet facilities. It is a beautiful sport and a very family friendly environment. The footpaths and boardwalks around the Lagoon enable visitors to explore more of the numerous memorials which gives you the history of Clermont’s past. It is a very popular and picturesque backdrops for photography.

For those curiosity travellers may get the metal detector out, in search for gold nugget. It is a gem for Gold fossickers and you have to call into Clermont Detectors at the Caravan Park for a fossickers licence with more information of the available areas.

Having a quick tour of the this town gave me a feel of the frontier atmosphere that are still can be found in the area without having to look for too long. Hidden amongst the new prosperity are the remnants of earlier times, from the days of gold rush and copper mines, timber-getters and shearers, stockmen and squatters. Today, mining development brought many of the customer comforts of the town and more lively but the attitude of the local people are still one of the rugged individualism.

Popular Attractions

Some of the interesting attractions that a must-do visits in Clermont includes:

  • Clermont Historical Centre – Located just 2 kilometres north of Clermont and has a display of more than 8000 artefacts reflecting the dramatic history of the town, from tragedy to prosperity. Worth visiting and learning about this history that will blow your mind away. It is just surreal.
  • Another major attraction to visit further out of the town about 23 kilometre is the world’s largest seam of steaming coal located at Blair Athol. The tour of the mines are conducted with bookings through the Information Centre.

Have a self-drive tour of the towns parks and the area and you will be surprise to see some of the remnants around the town. It is a history worth knowing.

Where to Stay?

Apart from Caravan parks, there are variety of places to stay from backpackers to motels. However, it is wise to make an accommodation reservation prior to your arrival as most of the stay-over places can be limited.

Day 3: Clermont to Emerald – 115 kilometres

After learning about the Clermont’s turbulent history, I departed for Emerald but without leaving the town with a visit to the memorial that marks the height of the 1916 floodwaters on the corner of Capricorn and Drummond Street. With just a distance of  115 kilometres, the drive from Clermont to Emerald was an easy short drive. I arrived early in Emerald just before fighting the locals on their daily commute where I was to spent my night there. I spent most of the day self-drive, exploring this country town.

Emerald

Emerald is a thriving rural town and is the largest country town. This town is the main hub of the Central Highlands and gateway to one of the largest sapphire fields in the southern hemisphere. Since its establishment in 1879 as the base for the railway line, it has slowly grown into one of the major regional centres. This major country town has a number of industries in agriculture and mining. There is an extensive coal mining in the area which is a major source of revenue for the town’s economy It is also very big in the agricultural industry – that is cotton and grain growing.

Everything you wanted to see and do in Emerald township are within driving distance. You don’t have to drive to far distance to find what you are looking for.

Popular Attractions

With very little mass tourism in the town but there are layers of attractions from restored historical features to modern natural attractions. One has to spend a week or two to really experience this township’s history and natural attractions. On of the “must-see” attraction in town includes:

 

  • National Trust Listed Railway Station – This station was built in 1900 and restored in mid 80’s. It features wrought iron lacework and pillared portico. It is a spectacular sight and cannot be missed.
  • Botanical Gardens – This botanical gardens are located not far from the town’s centre and on the banks of the Nogoa River which covers an area of 42 hectares is something that no visitors expect to see in an outback country town. The Gardens are home to 12 different themed plant communities, most representing plant species that are native to the region. These gardens are the perfect local place for a picnic and for visitors to enjoy.
  • Gem Fields – For curiosity travellers, take a visit to the gem fields nearby to the west of the town like I did. Two places of interests are Sapphire and Rubyvale.
  • Lake Maraboon and the Fairbairn Dam – Just a short drive from the town centre is the lake and the dam. This dam has been built for the cotton industry water supply and holds more water than Sydney Harbour. Be sure to see it to know why it is true. This is a perfect place to relax and have a picnic.

Where to Stay?

The township of Emerald is the largest country town and is a popular over-night stay for many travellers that are travelling by caravans, campers, self-drive travellers and truckies. With its huge agriculture and mining industry, the township has various accommodations to suit all budget travellers from motels, campers, caravan parks to backpacker accommodations. Be sure to make reservations in advance as most cheap accommodations can be busy, especially when most miners and farm workers frequently book this places.

Day 4: Emerald to St George – 597 kilometres

The next day, I left for St George in the early hours of the morning for my next over-night stop as I wanted to spend more time exploring Carnavon Gorge within Carnavon National Park. It is a place that every travellers should see. With a stop-over in the country town of Injune and Roma was worth stopping not only to break up the journey but to explore and learn more about the place.

Injune

This tiny country town of Injune is just more than a tiny town along the “Great Inland Way” route. This town is a great base for those wanting to explore the national parks of the region with breathtaking scenery, walking tracks and beautiful flora and fauna that cannot be seen anywhere in the world. It is just so unique to the area. With minimal time spent in the town, I detoured off the main highway to the secluded location – Carnavon Gorge.

Carnavon Gorge

This place will give you an experience that you will never get anywhere in the world. Falling in Love with Carnavon Gorge is easy to do and I loved it. This is where I came to find peace, beauty, tranquility and hint of adventure. This national park is renowned as one of Australia’s most spectacular wilderness areas and important Aboriginal cultural sites. The images taken shows below speak for themselves about the place. This gorge truly has the stunning landscapes and must say, it is the secret Jewel of Australia. To fully appreciate the beauty and diversity of this park, you will need at least a week to immerse yourself. It is a place where you can take a walk among the untouched and pristine environment, hike and camp in the park’s camping areas.

Roma

Leaving Carnavon Gorge, I felt quite relaxed and re-energise within myself. I continued my journey to Roma Where I had a good rest at a recreational area while enjoying a chat with plenty of happy travellers. Roma is an attractive town and is a thriving community. It lies at the heart of a rich sheep and cattle grazing area and not only boasts the largest cattle market in Australia but the southern hemisphere’s largest sale yards. I had a quick self-drive tour of the town but Roma deserves an over-night stop to take in all it has to offer. Yes, it has so much to offer and I was amazed of what I have seen in this town.

Popular Attractions

With the quick tour of the town, I have seen Roma has so much to offer. There are number of things to see and do which includes:

  • Roma Visitor Information Centre – Located in The Big Rig Complex. This complex is a must see for all who visit Roma. Experience in this place is not to miss by travellers and visitors passing through. It has interpretive panels, audio and other visual presentations and fully restored historic rigs and equipments. The history to present is just incredible.
  • Romavilla Winery – Queensland’s first wine making enterprise.
  • Heroes’ Avenue – To get a real feel of the town itself, take a walk along the heritage-listed Heroes’ Avenue, which is planted with more than 100 bottle trees. Each tree is a memorial to local solider who have lost their lives in WW1.
  • Mount Abundance Homestead – The homestead has important links to early explorers and was built in 1860 which is the site of the region’s first settlement.
  • Meadowbank Museum – I must say, this was my highlight to visit in Rome and highly recommends to any visitors to visit this place. The museum has one of the finest and most unusual collections of memorabilia in the country. Of particular interest is the deadly ‘man trap’ used to trap Aborigines who were stealing cattle. It is a huge and ugly variation of a rabbit trap devised to break the leg and almost impossible to open once caught in it. The rest, you need to visit it to experience and learn about the past.

Where to Stay?

Roma offers a variety of accommodation to suit all budget travellers. There is camping available and campers can inspect the museum during their stay.

St George

St George like many other typical Queensland rural towns is filled with so much history and is worth more than just an overnight stop. The town itself is located on a river – The Balonne River and is the heart of St George. It is known as the fishing capital of inland Queensland because of its location on the vast flatlands in the Darling Downs stretching out beyond the Great Dividing Range. This town is primarily a service centre for the surrounding wheat, sheep and cotton farmers. It also have fruits and vegetables and beef that make up useful contributions to the local economy. With wide streets lined with trees and heritage buildings dating back to the 1880’s add to the town’s country feeling. From the moment you arrive to the time you leave, this town relaxes the senses in all the right ways. I know why, I didn’t want to leave this town in hurry.


Popular Attractions

St George town situated on the river makes it an attractive town in an idyllic setting. A place to explore a little longer includes:

  • Since the town is perched on the banks of the might Balonne River, it is just a great place to stretch your legs and take in the breeze on the shady riverbank walkway flanking the town.
  • Visit Steve Margaritis and be amazed at his talent for carving emu eggs. When you see it carved into a stunning, illuminated piece of art
  • Indulge yourself at Riversands Winery and Cafe while in town
  • Learn more about the local cotton and grape industry by taking a tour of the Cotton Farm and Winery
  • Visit the immaculate museum with plenty to admire with the complex
  • Take a town tour and explore the murals 
  • St George Heritage Centre
  • Aboriginal Bush Garden
  • Picnic on the grassed river banks near the centre of town
  • Visit the Beardmore Dam or Jack Taylor Weir, both are great spots to picnic and throw in a line. It is a gem for every angler and you won’t be disappointed either. 

If your passing through the town on the day, St George’s event calendar, your able to catch some of the events that bring St George alive includes:

  • Dirranbandi Family Fishing Classic, the annual St George Family Fishing Competition
  • Yellow Belly Country Music Festival, which keeps the family and everyone entertained

My favourite tour was packing some drinks and nibbles and enjoying the Sandytown River Cruise. As we idle down the river and enjoying the views was just amazing. As we watched the abundant of birdlife including pelicans, cockatoos and eagles enjoying its natural environment is something you don’t see in country towns. It is definitely a place for photographer’s dream destination.

Where to Stay?

St George is a town that has various types of accommodations ranging from camping sites, backpacker, caravan parks, B&B and motels

Day 5: St George to Moree – 240 kilometres

Moree, over 200 kilometres further on from St George is my next stop. Leaving, Queensland State crossing over to the tiny township of Mungindi. This town is uniquely situated on both sides of New South Wales and Queensland border. The drive from St George to Moree is nothing more than miles and miles of operational farmlands from cotton, wheat, wool to dairy farming. 

Mungindi

This tiny town with an approximate population of 700 people,  is quite unique as it is the only border town in the Southern Hemisphere with the same name in two states, just divided by the tiny Barwon River. The township also uniquely have two Police stations, one in each state. The schools are in New South Wales and the hospital is situated in Queensland side. This tiny community is a vibrant place as it is renowned for its enthusiasm in bringing world class festivals and events to the local area. It has a lot of history that is worth spending few hours before continuing your journey.

Moree

Arriving in Moree just before the peak period as locals, farm-workers, truckies and caravaners commute, I unpacked quickly and headed for the hot-springs for the rest of the day. The township of Moree is rich with black soil plains and you will know why the area is an ideal for farming cotton, wheat, beef cattle, olive groves, vineyards and pecans. It is not only a farming country town but it is also one of the largest farm machinery distribution centres in the country. The location of the town is near the Mehi River and during the wet season, the town get flooded regularly over the years. The main streets are lined with beautiful heritage buildings.

Moree Spa Centre
Cotton farm tour

Popular Attractions

There are plenty of attractions in Moree and the list is endless. Spent a week or two to explore and have a feel about this town. Since the town being located near the Mehi River means that the town has numerous attractive riverside parks and reserves which are worth taking a stroll. Some of the attractions include:

  • Mary Brand Park – It is a pretty riverside picnic spot and also there is walking tracks as well known as Barry Roberts Walk which is highly recommended.
  • Stahmann Pecan Nut Farm Trawalla – It is the largest pecan farm in the Southern Hemisphere and you won’t be disappointed on this tour.
  • Cotton and gin farm tour – Moree is Australia’s richest cotton-producing region and taking this tour will give you an insight some of the unanswered questions about the cotton industry
  • Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre – The town is famous for its Artesian Spa and is my favourite spot. This place attracts thousands of visitors who flock the spa centre each year to enjoy the soothing thermal springs and people seeking health-giving waters. You can’t leave Moree without have a bath at the spa. It is an idyllic place for relaxation, rejuvenation and a great place to discover the therapeutic benefits of the mineral-rich waters.

Where to Stay?

There are plenty of places to stay to suite various budgets, ranging from caravan parks and classic country pubs to motels.

Day 6: Moree to Sydney – 621 kilometres

Spent only 2-days in Moree and loving it, I felt like I have been living here for years. With long distance of driving, covering more than 600 kilometres to reach Sydney, I planned to stopover in few towns and cities along the way. Hitting the open road, I drove through beautiful countryside towns of Gunnedah, Narrabri, Musswellbrook, Singleton, Maitland and Australia’s seventh largest city and second most populated area in the Australian state of New South Wales – Newcastle before reaching my final destination – Sydney.

Gunnedah

This country town of Gunnedah is the main hub of one of Australia’s richest agricultural regions – the Liverpool Plains. It is a large service town and it has everything for every travellers passing through to refill before continuing their road journey. It has variety of supermarkets, a choice of pubs and bistros and few great parks to stretch your legs. It has few additional attractions if you plan to stretch your break for a day or two. They is plenty of accommodation in the town. You will marvel at the beauty of the district and enjoy the hospitality and comfort that only the country local people can offer. Their genuine smiles and the natural beauty of the landscape paint a picture of real country Australia.

Narrabri

This country town cannot be missed as pass through. It is the centre of a major cotton growing industry apart from other agricultural industries in the area – wheat and beef. Spend few hours exploring the sights in and around Narrabri and you will be amaze to see the attractions the town offers. It includes, Mount Kaputar National Park, the Australia telescope Compact Array and other agricultural centres.

Maitland

The township of Maitland is both impressive and interesting town to explore. It is realistically, two township town. There is Central Maitland with its impressive High Street with lined with heritage buildings and charming mall – The Levee. The other is East Maitland. Both townships have are very impressive and is a place visitors need to see and explore their rich heritage. Maitland has always been the principal town of the Hunter Valley, renowned for its famous winery in Australia.

The Levee mall

Newcastle

The city of Newcastle is a destination that every visitor’s dream. Just 3 hours drive north of Sydney is the sunny-natured Newcastle. This town is anchored in indigenous and convict history and is filled with entertainment and attraction for everyone. From surfing beaches, hand-cut sea pools, a coastal fort to contemporary bars skirt the city’s harbour. The museums and artisanal restaurants lie at its heart. No wonder, I love this city and I have certainly ticked it off my list.

Sydney

Taking a big breath when you arrive in Sydney – you are in one of the Australia’s major and busiest city and is the gateway to two of the world’s iconic architectural structures – The Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Opera House and the famous Bondi beach which lies in the heart of it. It is the end of my journey and what a place to finish the might Great Inland Way and it couldn’t get any better.

In this typical modern city, you will almost find anything that suits your need and interest from shopping, food, entertainment, restaurants, markets, wines to all styles of accommodations (1 star – 5 star) and the list is endless. There is something for everyone. 

Popular Attractions

Being one of the busiest city in Australia, there is an abundance of attractions for everyone. Sydney is a world-class destination with so many spectacular zoos, parklands, beaches, historical centre and more. Some of the most popular attractions where millions of visitors come to Sydney to visit includes:

  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • The Opera House
  • Taronga Zoo
  • Bondi Beach
  • The Blue Mountains
  • Ferry Ride to Manly Beach
  • The Gap

 There is plenty to see and do and each day will be something different and new. To fully enjoy your stay in Sydney and to make the most of the city’s attractions, I’d recommend staying right in the heart of city centre or close the circular quay. This way you don’t have to fight the traffic from locals on their daily commute and you get to sample some of the beautiful sceneries and views in the city.

Where to Stay?

There are variety of places to stay and you need to find something that suit your style and budget. The accommodation range from 1 star to 5 star and you’re expected to find things more expensive than country towns.

From Personal Perspective:

I have found out that there are lots of reasons why I had to take a few days on this road trip and to make it more about the journey than the destination. This was the only one way to truly get a taste of the country towns. Also, by embarking on a Cairns to Sydney – Great Inland Way drive to get acquainted with the countryside. This Great Inland Way has taken me on a journey infused with exhilarating natural experiences and breath-taking beauty. The Great Inland Way runs through some of the finest scenery in the world and gave me an experience that I will never get anywhere around the world.

ABOUT ME


icgolina

Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.

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Coach Trip: EUROPEAN SCENIC JOURNEY

EXPERIENCE

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great European road trip

The best thing about visiting this road trip is, you get to visit many different and unique places along this journey

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akamau

Europe road journey in brief

After taking my first major road trip in North America, I decided, it was time to take another road trip and Europe was one place that came into mind. I decided to take a premium coach tour in Europe with Trafalgar Tour Company. This was the best way to scratch my travel itch and most economical way to see Europe in a short length of time. This tour company can get prices that no individual tourist/traveller can match. Choosing a good premium coach trip came with the best option of travelling in comfort and all inclusive. This way, someone else handled the wheels and I get to relax and enjoy the views from the comfort of my coach window. 

My European coach road trip was to start and end in London with Trafalgar for 15 days. This tour was to discover Europe’s highlights with London, England and take me through Amsterdam, Netherlands and seven other countries in Europe. The tour include visiting some of the major sights, landmarks and places from Buckingham Palace, Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, Venice to Red-Light District and Swiss Alps. This road trip included all accommodation as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more.

Why Go?

After an amazing road trip and visiting so many great places on my first Great American Road Trip I decided to take another road in Europe. Without a doubt, Europe is one place that has enormous amount of road trips and I wanted to do this route for years. I get to pass through more than one country in a day. It is true that travelling around Europe on the road is certainly made for coach journeys and this was a must-do for me before I die. Wether, I was visiting Europe for the first or the hundredth time, the diversity and uniqueness amidst the cities and towns makes it difficult to decide where to go, especially I was short on time. However, it was history, culture, architectural structures and monuments and natural wonders that I admire. 

This road trip was going to provide me with a flavour of the diverse countries and the best way to immerse myself and understand this medieval cities. I was able to see all the major sights and get to stop and go through little quant villages if we wanted to. This made up my Europe journey and was a great introduction to some of the European cities and towns.

Getting there?

London – England

My Great European Road Trip began with a long-haul flight from Brisbane, Australia to Heathrow Airport in London with a short stop-over in Bangkok before arriving in London around 5-am. Been familiar with London and knowing exactly where my hotel was, I took the Heathrow Express train using my London Pass card to London Paddington station before transiting to Kensington station via underground tube. My hotel was located less than 15-minutes walk from the station. The London Pass card is the ultimate sightseeing package that has been tailor-made, especially for its visitors. It gives holders the ability to visit top sights and attractions in London whilst saving time, money and stress. Heathrow Express offers the fastest journey time and is one of the most popular and efficient ways to travel between the airport and London Paddington.

Since, arriving in London, it was my first taste of heavy traffic, cold and miserable London weather. I was in London for two days earlier, prior to my coach journey and I was already beginning to enjoy London’s high end. Although, I was enjoying London’s hospitality, yet I was starting to get tired of the cold weather and I was ready and couldn’t wait to leave the dreary weather of London. I knew that better weather was outside London.

The road trip

Most starting points for coach varies for multi-country tour of Europe. However, most tours start in London and travel further and beyond. Like the cruise-ships, most coach tours visit variety of places for short time or even for one or two days before continuing. The coach tours gives you a brief introduction to popular destinations and see major sights and hoping many will return and revisit the places for longer in their own time and pace. 

Like most coach tours, I began in London and headed to Amsterdam for my first night. We headed out of London’s dreary weather and busy London centre after meeting my Trafalgar tour family, the guide and coach driver. We left passing through fabulous UK countryside with fields of canola, sunflower and more to port of Dove where we caught the ferry across the English channel to Calais in France. Dove, located in the county of Kent in the south east of England is the port of Dover. The town lies on the English Channel coast at its narrowest point between England and France. This narrow stretch of the English Channel is called the Strait of Dover.  

Amsterdam – The Netherlands

A few hours of Ferry ride across the English channel to Calais with minor rough seas, we disembarked and onto our waiting coach for a long road ride to Amsterdam, for our first stop and night for the start of our 15 day tour of Europe. Amsterdam, renowned for its uniqueness and colourful flavours is famously known for its Red-Light District. This was the introduction to the flavours to Europe and what are great way to start the tour and what was ahead. 

Amsterdam, capital city of the Netherlands is located in North-West Europe between Germany in the east, Belgium in the south and the North Sea in the north and west. This city is where you think twice, why everything happens here – from legalised prostitute areas to legalise drug cafes but there is plenty more to this liberal city than most visitors realise. We went on sightseeing in Amsterdam with our guide pointing out the city highlights including the Red Light District, a well-known prostitute area, legalised drug cafes and more. We then went on a Canal cruise to see the town from water level. By afternoon, we had time to explore on our own or join other optional excursion and back to out hotel after having dinner at a local cuisine restaurant.

Cologne – German

The following morning, we continued our coach journey to the city of Cologne in Germany for our second night. Cologne is the largest city in the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. History states that, in medieval times Cologne was the largest city of the Holy Roman Empire but today, it is one of the nation’s media, tourism and business hotspot. It is known to be one of the most liberal cities in Germany. 

Arriving in the early hours of the day, we dispersed for free time where I had the opportunity to explore this city on my own. As I love history, historical monuments, shopping, unique cathedrals and nature, this gave me great opportunity to spent time visiting Cologne’s famous Gothic Cathedral for hours before having a mad-rush on my favourite brand clothing shops from Paul & Shark, Gant, Tommy Hilfiguer, Ralph & Lauren and many more. This city was definitely a shoppers paradise and I could see why. I went ballistic on shopping and I was only in early stages of my tour. In the evening, we went on a sunset cruise along the Rhine River with vistas of the Lorelei rock, hilltop castles, half-timbered wine villages and terraced vineyards. The was incredibly unforgettable to me and was romantic for others.

Innsbruck – Austria

After enjoying the unforgettable sunset cruise along Rhine River and endless shopping opportunities in this vibrant and liberal city of Cologne, we continued the roady journey to the city of Innsbruck in Austria. Innsbruck is the capital of Austria’s western state of Tyrol and is a city in the Alps that’s long been a destination for winter sports. This city is known for its Imperial and modern architecture. 

During the journey, we came across some mild to severe weathers but I found Innsbruck weather, to be extreme and it was totally freezing for me, including many Australian travellers who are not exposed to such extreme weather. It was my first taste of extreme European winter after living in tropical climate most of my life. I was glad to leave this cold weather behind and we continued our road trip to Venice, Italy.

Venice – Italy

Leaving Innsbruck, we cross the border into Italy to the unique floating city of Venice, with clear blue skies without a storm in sight nor extreme cold weather. Venice, a capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It is a city of canals and bridges and has no roads – just canals, including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with renaissance and Gothic palaces. We took a boat ride to St. Mark’s Square, followed by a visit to a traditional glass-blowing. I didn’t want to miss out on the romantic optional gondola trip, I jumped onto one of the gondola gliding along the picturesque canals with a local troubadour to serenade me. What a thrilling place this is and will take your breathe away in every turn.

Rome – Italy

From the city of canals – Venice, we continued to Italy’s capital- Rome. This “eternal city” is steeped in history. Rome is a sprawling, cosmopolitan, vibrantly alive and exciting city and absolutely unique. A city that comes with influential art, architecture and culture that is on display. Ancient ruins such as the Forum and the Colosseum evoke the power of the former Roman Empire. From Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, which house masterpieces such Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes to semi ruins of Colosseum, known as the Flavian Amphitheatre kept me mesmerising.

I couldn’t hardly think of a city as inspiring as Rome. I was totally blown away by St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, the Spanish Steps, the iconic Colosseum, the largest amphitheater ever built, Circus Maximus and the Trevi Fountain. Rome is a city that offers endless list of major historical sights which are incredibly amazing and one that has to explore this city with limited time is impossible. There was so much to do and learn.

Florence – Italy

From Italy’s capital city to Rome to another Italy’s regional city of Florence. This city is located in central Italy and is the capital city of the Tuscan region is surrounded by rolling hills that are covered with villas, vineyards and orchards. Florence is a cosmopolitan city that didn’t lost its historical side. It is true that Florence is the centre of Italian Renaissance and one of the most cultural, artistic and expensive cities in Italy. 

For those who are interested in Renaissance culture, history and art, this city is the destination that one must come to see. It is not a very big city and you can visit the city centre with its historical architecture within a day or two. You can walk in the area within a day and feel the typical artistic atmosphere. One of the most important and beautiful monuments is the Dome, one of the biggest cathedral in the world and the Uffizi museum and many more which many visitors come to see. 

Lucerne – Switzerland

Leaving the beautiful city of Florence, we crossed the border into Switzerland for a two day stay in  the Swiss Alps, the city of Lucerne. We arrived mid-morning and the remainder of the day was free to start exploring this delightful town on the Reuss River including a visit to Chapel Bridge, the Water Tower and Jesuit Church.

The next day, I went on my special excursion to Mt. Pilatus, one of the major tourist draw card to the area. There is nothing more exciting than going on a journey almost 7000 feet (2,132 m) up for a spectacular view over central Switzerland. The view was beyond my dreams and nothing compared to  towers like Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York. This was just phenomenal. 

Paris – France

For the last leg of my European road tour, Paris was the last city we visited before taking the ferry back from Calais to Dover port and onto London by coach. The city of Paris is France’s capital and is a major European city and a global centre for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. Paris, famous for its landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and the 12th-century, Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral, this city is known for its cafe culture and designer boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honor’e. 

Apart from attending the amazing Moulin Rouge show, the city lights of Paris, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame that took my breath-away. Here I get to enjoy my city tour, exploring all the main sites such as the Lourve, Champs Elysees, Notre Dame and along the River Seine. This, Paris’s famous iconic building, seeing it on television, travel brochures and magazines gives you a different perspective than authentically standing on top of it. The stunning views of Paris from above was incredibly breathtaking but the night-lights creates the place, even more romantic place to be.

It is entirely possible to travel around Europe to visit many cities and its major attractions whether in a rented vehicle, train or coach tours. If you have limited time, I prefer to go on a coach tour where someone else is driving and get away with less stress whilst you enjoy the views along the way. However, if you have the time,I recommend, hire a car and do a self-drive tour around Europe and explore many Europe’s countryside, villages, cities and its popular attractions on your own time. Driving around Europe is straightforward as long as you keep your wits about you and don’t mind the locals who drive much faster than wary tourists. When visiting new areas, be aware of no-drive zones and one-way streets. 

WOW factor cannot be denied as you travel around Europe. I certainly feel so attached to almost every cities and villages I visited. Without a doubt, Europe is a continent that is filled with history, culture and abundance of fun but so much to see and learn. From visiting Buckingham Palace in London, taking a walk through world renowned Red-light District in Amsterdam, marvelling St. Marks Square in Venice, visiting the Colosseum and Vatican city in Rome, absorbing the breathtaking views on top of Mt Pilatus in Lucerne to stunning views of Paris on top of Eiffel Tower gives you an ultimate satisfaction of Europe in its splendour. 

Taking a coach tour with Trafalgar tours just proves why Trafalgar was my ultimate choice. The Trafalgar coach tours have been designed to unlock the cities and sites to its customers and offer some great things to do and at the same time, saving time and money. The routes that Trafalgar offers has taken me to some of the best iconic sites, attractions and restaurants in various cities along the way. Most importantly, I had time to myself by day or night, where I had a chance to mingle and chat to the locals and learn about what each country truly has to offer. It will certainly leave you hungry for more

ABOUT ME


ic.golina

Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.

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Red Centre Outback: CAIRNS – ULURU

EXPERIENCE

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Australian outback towns

The best thing about taking this outback journey to remote towns gives you an experience of a lifetime that you would have not otherwise…

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A journey of a lifetime to through Queensland and Northern Territory Outback

Cairns to Uluru

Taking a road trip from Cairns to Uluru 21 years ago certainly brings some eyebrows and who have thought that it would have been possible. Taking a road trip to the Australian Outback with other group of youths, with a mission of sharing the gospel has been and will be one of the greatest moments of my life that I will treasure in my lifetime. What a honour and what a thrill to be part of that team over 20 years ago. It was a mission that was worth it. 

It was not until recently that I had a text message from an old friend asking me, if I was still in town. I was quite shocked and stoked to hear from him but not surprised as he always like to keep in touch over the years. Without hesitation, I immediately replied, YES, that I was still living in Cairns. He kindly asked me, if I wanted to go out for dinner that same evening and if I know any nice restaurants in town which I said, Yes. As I began to get ready to pick him up at his hotel, I was filled with excitement and at the same time, I was very anxious to know what he has been doing. Finally, I picked him up and we both went to a Chinese restaurant on Spence street. Keon Kong restaurant. This restaurant is not overly classy but it is nicely set out in a way where diners can go there either dressed casually or formally. Many times, I have been there, I found this restaurant, less noisy and as a  peaceful environment. It is an ideal place to have a nice dinner and at the same time, having a conversation with friend and families without any disturbances. After ordering our meal, we started having our conversation while waiting for our dishes. I certainly had thousand questions on my mind to ask him but we both tried to work out how long since we have seen each other. To our surprise, it was 21 years ago and yes, time flies. As we continued our conversation over the dinner table and at the same time enjoying our meals, we both tried to reminisced about our past. Yes, we  have changed over the years. To give a brief review of our past and present – I met Ross when he was our Youth Leader at a local SDA church in Cairns that I was attending. After leaving the church, he returned to study theology at the Avondale college in New South Wales. About half-way through his first year of study, he planned to go to Cambodia for 12 months only but ended up living over there for over 10 years. He then married a local lady over there and eventually took his young new family moved back to Australia. He told me what he has been doing since moving back to Australia. His wife is now a doctor here in Australia and Ross have changed course and is now a doctor here in Mackay.This has prompted me to write something about which I thought was worth sharing – A mission for a good course.

Why Go?

It was almost 21 years ago that a group of us – young Adventist youth from Cairns, decided to go on a mission to visit some of the indigenous communities in the Australia Outback of Tennant Creek. Our mission, headed by our Cairns Youth Leader – Ross McKenzie and Church Paster Lindsay. Our mission was to visit these remote communities not only sharing the gospel to them but spending some time with the kids in sharing fun educational activities that many of them don’t get to experience in their communities. With this in mind the Outback attractions in this part of the world to be seen and visited are historically unique, impressive and with cultural significance that are cannot be found anywhere in the world, including Uluru (previously known as Ayers Rock), Olgas and the Red Centre.

Getting there?

To accomplish this mission in the Australian Outback, we had to take a road trip right across the Rend Centre of Australia. For many of us, we were aware that it is an open wide space out there and one has to make an effort to go out to see it and to experience the vast country that we live in. For this, we need to go outdoors and hit the open road to know life is an adventure. Just enjoy the ride and at the same time we must embrace the detours.

The tour leaders put an lot of effort in planning and organising this return journey of a lifetime – Our return road trip need to be successful and safe. With carefully constructed travel itinerary, each segment of the journey was profoundly calculated – daily hours of driving, direction of route, departure and arrival times in each destination, places of accommodations and our three meals a day menu for each day. Each of us were given a detailed information on our daily tasks and roles for each day for the whole duration of our road trip. We were about to embark on this road trip that was to take us through some of the remote outback towns, cities, road houses and desert plains in Australia. This was a 6000km return trip by road starting from Cairns to Uluru passing through Townsville, Charters Tower, Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Camooweal, Barkly Homestead, Tennat Creek, Ti Tree, Alice Springs and many more along the way.

Prior to the day of travel, we had a group debrief and an itinerary to give us an clear indication of our journey. With anticipation, this was one of the highlight of my trip since my permanent move to Australia. I just couldn’t wait to hit the open road. Finally, the day had come where we had to meet in the front yard of the church in the early hours of the morning to pack all our travelling bags from suitcases, backpacks, sleeping bags, foods and other important travel accessories including first-aid kit, excess petrol and camping gears. Finally, we were on our way from the green hills and tropical low-land areas of Cairns to desert plains of Outback Queensland to Northern Territorys Red Centre..

Cairns to Charters Tower

Having to travel on a very tight travel schedule for our serious Australian outback adventure meant that stopping along the way was to kept to a mininal unless neccesary for use of bathrooms and lunch. Taking the A1 Bruce Hughway route along the Australia’s East Coast from Cairns to Townsville known as the “Great Green Way”, leaving the lush tropical rainforest and colourful reef of Cairns city in our mini-van, through sugarcane farmlands along the way to the township of Charters Tower via Innisfail. Tully, Cardwell, Ingham and Townsville city. They say, once you past the tiny town of Silkwood, just 20 kilometres south of Innisfail is where your adventure resumes. Without stopping along the way, we bypass some of the most pouplar highlights along the way including Babinda Boulders, Paronella Park, Mission Beach, Hinchinbrook Island off Cardwell and Magnetic Island off Townsville city. After having a quick stop-over for refreshment in Townsville, we went off the coast road and detour inland west to Charters Tower for our first night. We arrived late in the evening but had enough time to prepare our evening dinner before laying out our single camping style mattresses and sleeping bags on timber-style floor at a church hall. It was a real experience and challenge for many of us who never been away from our own comfort of home setting. 

The drive from Townsville, following the A6 route – Flinders Highway to Charters Tower heading west is approximately just over an hour and half and is bitumen all the way. The township of Charters Tower is just close enough to a major city (Townsville) to make driving into ‘Outback Queensland’ feasible for any traveller. The first thing, I noticed after leaving Townsville and further along the way, the scenery began to change from lush tropical greenery to less greenery surroundings except dry, dusty and semi-arid lands.

Charters Tower to Mt Isa

With 8 hours and 15 mintues of drive ahead of us, the next day we had our Weetbix products early for breakfast, packed the mini-bus and just before the sunrise, we were already on the again driving along Flinders Highway continuing north-west to Mt Isa. passing through Torrens Creek, Prairie, Hughenden, Richmond and Julia Creek, where we stopped for refreshment and lunch. Without exploring any of these outback towns, we continued our road trip through long stretch of dry and arids lands to Mt Isa from Julia Creek. We past through the remote town of Cloncurry, without stopping for sightseeing continued along this wide open-space road and just hearing our own voices as entertainment on board. It seems like the road just went on and on for endless. However, I found that there is something relaxing about travelling by road through the Outback. It is simply the chance to stare out the window at the surroundings and not with unwavering concentration on the road ahead. Also, it is the remote landscapes themselves that are astounding to see, the sense of freedom that overcomes you. The journey like this allowed me the freedom to be in my own deep thoughts one moment and completely engaged.

We finally arrived in Mt Isa, the very heart of the Queensland Outback just after dark on a long lenghty road drive. Most of us were tired, sleepy and exhausted. However we managed to settle for our second night after dinner. 

Mt Isa to Tennant Creek

The following day, after taking a group photo on the hill overlooking the township of Mt Isa, we left Mt Isa early and took an easy drive towards the Queensland and Northern Territory border. The drive from Mt Isa to Tennanet Creek was less than 7 hours drive and was not not long and strenuous drive like the day before. Having most of the outback roads with bitumen throughout the whole trip made it easier for us and other travellers on the road we passed by made it comfortable for us without any hiccups along the way. Like most outback areas throughout Australia, most of the areas have very little greenery vegetation except dry, desert land with very little trees around. At times, it can be sore to look out the window but at the same time, it is exciting and fascinating to know that the land we live in can be so different from one place to another and some places have extreme conditions.

Just within 2 hours of driving from Mt Isa across the deserted lands of western Queensland we reached the small country town of Camooweal which is known as the gateway to the “Northern Territory” and “Queensland”. Finally, we crossed the border to Northern Territory, leaving Queensland behind before reaching our final destination – Tennant Creek.

Tennant Creek

Arriving in this tiny town of Tennant Creek, we were located to our accommodation in a big shed with open spaces. We then, unpacked our van and selected various corner of the shed, setting up our sleeping accessories, making it our home for the next few days. I was quiet amaze to see how red the place was and the sunset was even more red. It was quiet fascinating and impressive to see in this remote part of the country. This tiny town of Tennant Creek is located in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is the seventh largest town in the Northern Territory and is located on the Stuart Highway, just south of the intersection with the western terminus of the Barkly Highway.

In the next few days, we were to go about our daily task to accomplish our mission – SHARING.. We went to few remote communties to entertain and involve children with various fun activities from arts and craft, sing-along to indoor games. It was interesting and challenging but end up having the best time I ever had spenting time with the children from all walks of life. We all simply had fun with lots of laughter. It was worth it. This journey had given me an opportunity to experience and see life from different perspective, the contrast between the lifestyle in the city and in remote areas – real life experience. that has blown my mind away.

Group Photo in Alice Springs
Group Photo in Tennant Creek
Music time with the kids
Music time with the kids
Having fun games with Kids from Tennant Creek

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Tennant Creek to Uluru

After spending a fabulous time with the children from remote communities in Tennant Creek, we felt that it was time to explore more of the remote area by visiting some of the iconic places in Northern Territory. We left Tennant Creek feeling satisfied that we have accomplished what we tried to achieved which was our main goal of the road trip. We came, we delivered and we accomplished. Just before dawn, we packed our van and within minutes we were on the road again heading towards Uluru, known in the past at Ayers Rock. Knowning that we were almost on a 10 hour road trip ahead of us, we made sure to spend little time in various places including Alice Springs. Though we spent little time in Alice, it welcome us with impressive views and rock formations to look at – Yes, we had time for photo opportunity.

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We continued our road trip along this vast desert land and all we could see was dry arid land as far as our eyes could see. At times, it was impressive and amazing to look at but at times, it was unwelcoming because of its endless view of dry land on every window you looked out. It seems that there was no change of scenery. By the time, we arrived in Uluru, it was late night and some of us were totally exhausted, weak and tired. Some of us end up making outdoor sitting area as our campsite. and didn’t have to think twice where we were going to sleep. However, it was pleasantly comfortable probably been so tired.

The following day, after having our weetbix breakfast we headed to see the Rock and Olgas. What a thrill and honour to see this gigantic amazing rock appears right in the middle of nowhere. It was almost unbelievable to accept this and keeps you guessing and wondering how it all began. This place called Yulara certainly have something that many tourists come to see to tick it off their adventure bucket list and I certainly have. Yes, this area is home to one of Australias iconic rock – Uluru (Ayers Rock) which is captured throughout the world.

Below are variety of pictures of Uluru and the Olgas

My Highlight

What this whole journey that is totally impress me is the Rock. It is known that Uluru is The Australias iconic red centre and I have come to understand why. From what I saw in front of me, standing there and looking at this gigantic rock appearing in the middle of nowhere makes me understand why Uluru is one of the most impressive landmarks in Australia. This huge chuck of rock is located down towards the southwest corner of the Nothern Territory. 

This rock is enormous and entends about 350 metres from its barren surrounds is relatively very impressive. It is very interesting that Ayers Rock extends even further than this amount below ground. There are other similar types of rocks to Ayers Rock – like the Olgas nearby that we visited and Mt Augustus in Western Australia. This World Heritage site, Ayers Rock changed its name to its traditional Aboriginal name – Uluru. History tells that Indigenous people lived in the area about 10,000 years ago. White men did not come onto the scene until the 1870s.

After this amazing experience, I cannot wait to explore some of the natural wonders that are lies ahead of me in varous part of the country.

ABOUT ME


ic.golina

Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.

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