Getaway to Experience Undara Lava Tubes

Since, the city of Cairns officially openned its doors for international flights in early 1980s, it has been a thriving city and conitnues even today.With so many visitors flooding the region every year, many come to simply to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere in this tropical paradise destination and also to experience the natural beauty: the reef and the rainforest. While others, come to experience the outback for its lifestyle and unique attractions. Living in this far nothern part of Australia, you virtually get to experience these natural beauties – the reef, rainforest and the outback on a same day without travelling a far.

The Cairns region has all its natural wonder attractions within short drive away. A self-drive road trip to Undara lava tubes is a journey that will take through the outback that definitely shows what lifestyle is like in the outback that not many travellers get to experience. Here you escape to experience the natural wonders of lava tubes in the outback and away from the natural wonders of lush greenery and crystal clear blue waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many tourist destinations around Australia have been restricted for travellers and many residents haven been exploring their own backyard. With this restrictions in place, this has given me a great opportunity to explore some of Cairns regions hidden gems, that I would have never done otherwise.

Why Go?

Having few days of leisure, I decided to venture out to Undara, a tiny place out in the Outback, just a short drive away from Cairns city. This is one of the few places that I always wanted to explore – the Undara Lave Tubes.

This natural geological wonders are so fascinating  and impressive to see and Undara is the place to visit and understand its origins. Curious of exploring certain desinations or places have always been my exciting part of travel. It gives me an opportunity a challenge to explore its sites, attractions and what to see and do. Undara is one place that is filled with such variety of opportunities and challenges to explore.

The thought of Outback Undara Lava Tubes and just under 4 hours drive away from Cairns city makes it thrilling and is one place that cannot be missed on any travellers itinearary to the far north. The Undara lava tubes has been on my list of places to explore for a very long time. Lava Tubes has always fascinated me. Studies conducted confirmed that Undara Lava Tubes are the oldest on earth and are a world class natural geological phenomenon. Huge tubes formed approximately 190,000 years ago. The molten lava drianed out under a thick cooler crust, leaving a series of long, hollow tubes. This is what prompt me to go and see the place for myself. Undara is truly different in every sense.

Getting there?

If you’re the kind of adventure traveller who finds remote regions of Australia alluring, then this scenic road trip from coastal city of Cairns to outback Undara Lava Tubes is for you. It is a great short adventure trip and I found this road trip to be the most scenic way to get myself from Cairns to Undara.Better than that, it turns Undara into a journey, not just a destination.Taking this such adventure road trip to Undara lava tubes has brought me back in time and to understand this natural geological phenomenon which has occured over the years. This was going to be a weekend away for nature, beauty and exploration in the outback. It is a great time to getaway from the city to the outback for relaxation, away from the rest of the world.

Knowing that getting to this place was easily accessible by conventional vehicle, I took on one of Far Northern Queensland regions most exciting drive routes – bring together a world of crater lakes, pioneer history, waterfalls, flora and fauna and mind-blowing views, sunsets and sunrise. This was a road trip that was taken me to a part of the region where blue skies and breathtaking landscapes make driving a dream. From the lush tropical rainforest and colourful reefs of Great Barrier Reef in Cairns to the outback Savannah of Undara Volcanic National Park and seeing unique water falls, crater lakes, rare formation and species of plants along the way is a one-time lifetime experience.

Driving to Undara from Cairns was supposed to be approximately under 4 hours, however, it took me almost 8 hours to get to my destination. Along the way, I detoured to various popular attraction spots that cannot be driven past without stopping by. Every attractions were worth seeing. Leaving early, I headed 20km south of Cairns, passing through lush sugarcane farmlands before turning right, heading west inland from Gordonvale and up Gillies Range, almost 20km of winding road. This road is so windy that if you get motion sickness, it is not recommended to take this route but the views from the Heal’s Lookout, halfway up the Gillies Range is breathtaking and I could not drive past this impressive view. As I conitnued my drive making my way up this windy road with twists and turns, I could feel the change in the coolness of the temperature and the scenery. From sugarcane fields, through rainforest to rolling hills and dairy farmslands of Atherton-Tablelands.

Once, I reached the top of the Gillies range, the road was almost straight and the drive was easy with incredibly impressive views on every turn. Here at the top, I began my Atherton Tablelands attractions “must-see” stops before heading Savannah Way to Undara.

My first visit was to Lake Barrine, a crater filled with water, surrounded by lush tropical rainforest and native plants with beautiful setting that overlooks the lake.

 

 

Leaving Lake Barrine, I drove to Yungaburra, a classy little town with pioneer history behind it. It is the first town you visit that opens up the gateway to the groups of many townships scattered around Atherton Tablelands. Here, I took a stroll around the swinging bridge which is located right behind the town centre. It is little known to many travellers and visitors to the area.

 

From there, I went over to Tinburra, just a minute drive out of Yungaburra town centre. It is a great picnic and playground area for families but the view of Lake Tinaroo is absolutely impressive. It is so peaceful and a great place for relaxing.

 

 

Just outside the township of Yungaburra is the Curtain Fig Tree. This phenomenal Curtain Fig Tree is a must-see for any visitor to the area. It is one of the visited and photographed site in Atherton Tablelands and probably in Far North Queensland.

 

 

From Yungaburra’s impressive attractions, I continued my “must-see” tour to the township of Malanda – the very heart of Atherton Tablelands dairy land, just 15km out of Yungaburra town. Just 500 metres from the centre of the town is the Malanda Falls, a popular swimming spot for locals and visitors.

 

Just 30km of drive along dairy farmlands and rolling hills from the township of Malanda is the MillaMilla Waterfall. This waterfall is very impressive with its eye-catching and captivating curtain-like water drop which is featured on many travel brochures.

 

I continued further west from MillaMilla Falls, with a stop at MillaMilla Lookout along East Evelyn Road. I couldn’t drive past this place. The majestic birds eyeview of the area and the rolling green meadows from this location is just magical and absolutely breathtaking. Here, I just forget about the world and absorb how far my eyes can see. I know why locals love this place.

I then continued my 20km drive further inland west along East Evenlyn Road to see the wind-farm just before the town of Ravenshoe. This huge turbines that continuosly producing power are impressive and the views of the farmlands and Savannah land from this lookout is special and the beginning of the outback journey.

 

With bypassing Ravenshoe township, the highest town in the State of Queensland, I reached Millstream Falls, just 10km outside Ravenshoe town and was the last attractions to see along the way before reaching my destination – Undara.

Once I past the township of Ravenshoe, the changes from lush rolling green meadows to dried savannah land. This Savannah Way is Australia’s Adventure Drive, linking Cairns in Tropical North Queensland with the historic pearling town of Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley, via the natural wonders of Australia’s tropical savannahs and the Northern Territory’s Top End.

Travelling by conventional vehicle across semi-dried landscapes and tropical savannah took an easy breezy sealed roads without venturing into the dry,dusty and rough tracks and back roads. The bituman road from Ravenshoe to Undara seems like endless highway but discovering this ancient land at my own pace made this road journey even more interesting, with a stop at Mt Garnet town, a tiny township with very little tourist activity except during winter months when grey-nomads flood the town and the popular Mt Garnet races in the outback.

Undara

Finally arriving in Undara, just before five o’clok in the afternoon after a 90km drive from Mt Garnet, in time to unpack, unwind and make myself familiar with the surroundings before dark. This tiny place in the middle of nowhere in the outback takes you back in time where communication accessories are packed-away, except your camera.

 

 

The following day, it was time to go on an informative tour and visit one of this natural wonders – lava tubes. The formation of these lava tubes are a world class natural geological phenomenon and are the oldest on planet Earth. According to the history and studies conducted found that these huge tubes formed approximately 190,00 years ago, which molten lava have drained out under a thick cooler crust, leaving a series of long and hollow tubes.

Many years ago, these lava tubes lay undiscovered, untouched and unseen. But today, since their discovery, Undara’s highly trained and qualified Savannah Guides conduct small informative guided tours that will take you into the heart of the lava tubes. Once we entered the lava tubes, we were able to marvel at this incredible geological wonder. Seeing this natural creation and formation of these lava tubes kept my head shaking. It truly took me back in time what it was like then. This Undara experience is a one-time experience that I have come to profoundly understand its origins and at the same to experience the tranquility lifestyle of the outback.

Where to stay?

There are various types of accommodations in the area to suit all styles and budget ranging from old railway carriages, custom design huts, Swag Tents and camping grounds. For me to experience Undara in style, I stayed in one of the restored turn-of-the-century railway carriages which Undara offers. Staying in one of this old carriages turned into a comfortable stylist accommodation gave me an ultimate Undara Experience that I have come to enjoy.

 

 

 

My Highlights

To come to an outback area like Undara, located in the middle of nowhere is only for one thing and that is to experience Undara Lava Tubes.  I have learnt so much about the lava tubes and walked away satisfied with my road trip.

 

© COPYRIGHT: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© akamau.org. (2017). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material (photography and writing) without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to akamau.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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.

 

© COPYRIGHT: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© akamau.org. (2017). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material (photography and writing) without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to akamau.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Lush tropical rainforest gem in the city

Located within ten minutes of drive from the heart of Cairns city centre is the Cairns Centenary Lakes. A lush tropical rainforest oasis that awaits, welcoming its visitors with a piece of taste of tropical and rainforest plants.

This Freshwater Lake created in 1975 in a 3-hectare freshwater swamp already existed on the site is an ideal place for visitors and families to come and enjoy the place. It is a great picnic location with sheltered picnic sites, free BBQs, an outdoor nature-park playground for children and public ammenities. This lake is a great place to get close to nature and get to see the lush tropical rainforest plants and you don’t have to travel out of the city to experience this tropical rainforest paradise that is just within minutes from Cairns CBD centre.

Why Go?

This lake decorated by a patchwork of colourful water-lilies that provides shelter for several species of frogs, fish and turtles is an area where you have spectacular time to explore this beautiful city backyard and enjoy nature. Here I come to discover unique wildlife in this swampy area and also a safe haven for many bird species, depending on the season. This lake can be filled with abundance of birdlife and other species of birds that migrate to this location each year, while other wildlife makes it their permanent home. Any visitors making their way to this location can expect to see magpie geese, black ducks, black-necked storks, white Egrets, darter and cormorants.

Getting there?

This Freshwater Lake and Botanical Gardens is accessible by road from Greenslopes Street or Collins Avenue along Whitfield area. It is also easily accessible by foot from the Cairns CBD centre with approximate distance of 3-5 kilometres.

Rainforest Boardwalk

One of the best highlight which I enjoy at this Freshwater Lakes is taking a walk-on-foot along the Rainforest Boardwalk that links to the Flecker Botanical Gardens and around the lake. I was totally amazed by the incredible birdlife and the lush and exotic tropical plants. It was once an unfriendly boardwalk with very narrow wooden path is now a friendly boardwalk that is widen and accessible for prams, wheelchairs and anyone that stroll along without been rushed. This walk will give you the taste of what it is like to be going on an adventure to experiencing lush thick tropical rainforest, further north of Cairns to Daintree-Cape Tribulation area. The rainforest boardwalk connecting Centenary Lakes to the Botanical Gardens in Cairns, far north Queensland allows the visitors to imagine what the coastal areas of Cairns once looked like before settlement. The western end of the boardwalk is located across Collins Avenue from the Main Gate and the eastern end is adjacent to the Saltwater Creek footbridge that accesses the Saltwater Lake.

If you want peace, beauty, tranquility and a bit of light adventure, this boardwalk is the ideal place. As you go along the boardwalk, you will get to see the amazing tropical plant life existing along the walk and the birdlife is in its abundance. This area is very popular with birdwatchers, joggers, walkers and families as it offers spectacular views of the natural tropical plants and variety of birds to spot. Visitors to the area should also watch out for the Lovely Fairy Wren (Malurus amabills) which frequents the area. This special environment has been home for years to endangered plant called the Layered Tassel Fern (Huperzia phlegmariodes) which once thrived in this habitat. It is on the Queensland Government Endangered Species list and is becoming as rare as the ecosystem in which it lives. Yes, sadly, this shrinking ecosystem that once dominated the region has all but disappeared, apart from the small patch around the boardwalk and a few other locations.

This boardwalk not only set its site on enjoying the lush tropical natural plants and the rainforest experience but gives you an in depth information on the flora and fauna along the way and what you might expect to see. It is quite educational to take a time to read what is in the area and expect to see.

 

Popular Attractions

Flecker Botanical Garden

Apart from the boardwalk and the wildlife and tropical plants, Cairns Botanical Gardens is just metres away from the area. It is a very popular spot for locals and visitors. I recommend to take moment to explore this area and there is a cafe located right in the heart of the garden. As you enjoy your breakfast or lunch surrounded by lush tropical plants, gives you a taste of what it is like living in this tropical paradise.

Plants at Botanical Garden

Fitzalan Garden

This garden named after Mr Eugene Fitzalan, the first caretake of the Botanic Gardens from 1886-1897 is a “must see” when visiting the area. The area comprises three separate gardens connected by paths and footbridges, and houses a small water lily pond, giant mature palms and trees.

Access to this area is across the road from either the main entrance of the Flecker Garden or the Visitor Centre

Gondwana Heritage Garden

This garden located between Flecker Garden and the Visitor Centre is an Evolution Garden tracing the evolution of plants from the first photosynthetic bacteria to the modern flowering platns. Emphasis is placed on the Gondwana component of the plant kingdom and in particular the development of the distintive Australian Wet Tropics flora. This garden is certainly worth visiting and takes you back in time.

Click here for the PDF map

Library and Friends’ House

Located within Flecker Garden, this library house is little known by locals and visitors. This library houses botanical and horticultural books and other publications relevant to tropical gardening.

The library is open to the public. For further information, you can email: fobcairns@bigpond.com or can be contacted on (07) 4032 3900

Exploring the area

It is entirely possible to get around and visit this area with the help of public transport. However, my recommendation would be to hire a car and explore the area on your own time. Driving in this area is straightforward. When visiting new areas, be aware of no-drive zones and one-way streets.

 

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© akamau.org. (2017). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material (photography and writing) without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to akamau.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Escape to the city located on the doorstep of Great Barrier Reef

Cairns city located on the door-step to one of world’s natural wonders of the world – The Great Barrier Reef is a city filled with endless list of natural attractions. This city of Cairns, surrounded by natural backdrop of lush tropical mountains and rainforest that meets the sparkling Coral Sea, is a city of extremes and a magical place. This city is a spectacular place to visit with lots of wonderful things to do. Cairns has a culture of luxury and leisure – endless opportunity for outdoor where you can enjoy a cool drink and some great shopping to hiking trails in the rainforest and outback or swimming in the sparking Great Barrier Reef.

Why Go?

For me, living in this tropical paradise city, it is a dream and many times I still try to come to grips with it. With the Daintree Rainforest to the north, the Great Barrier Reef to the east and the Atherton Tablelands to the west, Cairns location is spectacular. From lush bush lands to spectacular sparkling sea, this small port city is the gateway to tropical north Queensland. With its breathtaking scenery of where the rainforest meets the reef and the outback gives a vibrant flavour makes Cairns a regional city that never sleeps. The city known for photographers paradise and its magnetic attraction, push and pulls millions of tourists to the city all-year round. With its friendly and helpful locals, makes visitors keep coming back to the region again and again. Cairns is a vibrant city with vibrant celebrations and Australia’s most popular destination.. There is always something new to see and do in this tropical paradise city. Cairns, is one of the only place on the planet where you can swim in one of the seven wonders of the natural world – Great Barrier Reef. You can swim the Great Barrier Reef in the morning and hit the outback and World Heritage Listed Rainforest the next in the afternoon – all in one day.

What to do?

With Cairns city been accessible by road, train and air makes it one of the most visited place in Far North Queensland. This picturesque Cairns region offers a wide variety of things to see and do. There are endless activities and places to visit that suits your interests. Whatever you want to do, you will find it – from beaches and reefs to rainforest and outback.

Take a boat trip to the reef on shimmering clear blue ocean, swim with underwater sea creatures – fishes and marvelled at underwater sculptures – coral reefs. If this is not your taste, there are endless hiking trails from easy to over-night trails.

Just within 5 minutes drive from the Cairns city centre is the Cairns Botanical Gardens and Lakes. Here you get to take an easy stroll along with sights and adventure with gorgeous boardwalks to wander around surrounded by lush tropical rainforest gardens, flora and fauna, lake and parklands.

It is a rainforest within the city that you will get to experience. You will be able to have time to stop and smell many exotic and rare plants along the way that are only found in this part of Australia and probably the world. This parkland have some beautiful birds and other species that are frequently found in the area, which makes it a perfect place for bird watchers paradise.

For those who prefer a lay-back atmosphere, take a walk along the Cairns waterfront area, there are endless of cafes, bars, restaurants, shops and you won’t be disappointed. For gallery and art lovers, take a stroll around the city area and you will be surprised to explore some of the unique sculptures, galleries, arts and craft that reflect on the reef all within walking distance.

The waterfront of Cairns, known as the Esplanade is a very popular spot for tourists and locals no matter what age you are. The gorgeous lagoon is a place where you can swim all year round. It has fun and fantastic picnic areas and a boardwalk to walk on at sunset or run on at sunrise.

The promenade also host weekly live entertainment outdoors where you can sit back on the open grass and enjoy the live music, fire twirling, markets and fames Cairns buskers. All this gives you a taste of what’s to come in this tropical paradise.

Popular Attractions

The list of popular attractions in Cairns region is endless and is home to iconic natural wonders – The Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, a World Heritage Listed rainforest.  The only best option is to drive around in the area if you have the time and see more of the area during your visit. To fully enjoy your stay in this area and to make the most of the region’s attractions, I’d recommend staying right in the main centre of the city. It is the ideal introduction to the city area and Cairns life.

To be more adventurous, go on some of the most popular attractions found in the region that every visitor should include in their itinerary that cannot be ignored while visiting the area:

Kuranda Scenic Railway

For those who want to just relax with a breath of fresh air, Kuranda Scenic Train is just for you. This most popular tourist train ride takes you through the heart of the rainforest.

You just have to sit-back and relax while enjoying the incredible views of the Barron Gorge, Cairns city and the Great Barrier Reef out from you window while the train winds up the McAlister Range through rainforest, waterfalls, tunnels along Barron Gorge and jaw-dropping cliff sides to the remote village of Kuranda located up in the mountains.

Sky-Rail

For those who want to see the rainforest and spectacular views from above, take a skyrail, which gives you a unique experience that takes you on an unforgettable journey through one of Australia’s World Heritage Listed Tropical Rainforest. It is the longest cableway in the world, spanning 7.5 kilometres and one of the most popular attractions in Cairns.

This cableway ride takes you over and above Barron Gorge and pristine rainforest, gliding just metres above the rainforest canopy is close as you can get. The skyrail journey will immerse you in an intimate rainforest experience and guarantees a rush of adrenaline and an unforgettable journey. The views from above are incredibly breathtaking as you look out towards the Great Barrier Reef, coastline, sugarcane fields and suburb of Smithfield.

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of world is one of those places that you must visit in your lifetime. Whether you love the water or just want to see of the Great Wonders of the world, take a relaxing trip out to the reef. It is home to diverse marine life and a great opportunity to experience marine life. From seeing some of the colourful corals, reef fishes to relaxing and swimming surrounded by unforgettable nature. Many visitors come to this region to stay and experience one of the many coastal getaways. It is an experience of a life time.

 

Daintree Rainforest – Cape Tribulation

Daintree Rainforest – Cape Tribulation is a natural botanical wonderland that many visitors come to enjoy. The place is richly blessed with nature, culture and history. Take a journey into this dense rainforest and see the vast array of flora and fauna. Immerse yourself into one of the most spectacular, unforgettable and thrilling experience you’ll ever have as you drive through the rainforest.  A place to come to this region to enjoy, relax, admire and appreciate this natural wonderland.

Other attractions that are popular, which can be visited in the region includes:

Cattana Wetlands

Tjapukai Dance Theatre

Short full or half day reef  trips to Fitzroy and Green Islands

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

Hartley’s Crocodile zoo

Cairns CopperLo Dam

Where to stay?

Cairns is very attractive for those who are on a budget, especially for those who have families and backpackers. It is a very popular spot for both domestic and international all year round, this city provides various types of accommodations in the area to suit all budget. The accommodation range from resorts, backpacker, holiday houses, apartments, B&Bs, caravan parks and campings nearby. Also, the area offers a range of properties throughout the region to fit most holiday styles and budgets.

Exploring the area

Cairns region, with its famous and world renowned natural and man-made attractions and attributes, makes this city a popular destination to explore. It is the gateway north to the top of Australia. Many come to indulge themselves in this tropical paradise lifestyle of sun, sea and sand.

It is entirely possible to get around and visit many attractions and places in this area with the help of public transport. However, my recommendation would be to hire a car and do a self-drive tour and explore the area on your own time. Driving in this area is straightforward as long as you keep your wits about you and don’t mind the locals who drive much faster than vary tourists. When visiting new areas, be aware of no-drive zones and one-way streets. Sometimes, you will save yourself a few headaches when it comes to parking or driving around places to locate the area. It is best to go on a tour and get away with less stress.

 

© COPYRIGHT: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© akamau.org. (2017). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material (photography and writing) without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to akamau.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Day trip to Cape Tribulation

Daintree-Cape Tribulation is where the Rainforest meets the Reef. A place that you come to reconnect with nature and see the rainforest in its splendour. Just 140 kilometres further north of Cairns, away from the major cities and famous resorts, you will find very laid-back area of Cape Tribulation located in the Daintree region. It is the place where time is seemingly stands still. Untouched by mass developments, this place is where you can still see and feel the real rainforest. It is the place where the centuries-old palm trees have survived invasions. The area has a diverse mixture of nature, culture and history. You’re surely to find some of the most beautiful rainforest coastlines you have ever laid eyes on. Yes, Cape Tribulation is an area of breathtaking beauty with mountain ranges, narrow coastal strips and dense rainforest reaching to the edge of the beaches.

If you are visiting the area for the first time, you may be wondering how best to spend your time in this beautiful and pristine rainforest location.

Why Go?

Part of the reason why I take this bi-monthly day trip to Cape Tribulation, it is such a magical place because it is richly blessed with nature, culture and history – A place where rainforest meets the reef. It is one of the iconic places in Australia and a popular destination for tourists who make a northerly day or weekend getaway from Cairns and Port Douglas. It is an opportunity to enter the tropical wonderland that is the Daintree National Forest. Taking a drive from the moment you cross the Daintree Ferry to Cape Tribulation is one of the most spectacular, unforgettable and thrilling experience you’ll ever have as you drive through the rainforest.

The area provides a vast array of flora and fauna and un-hikeable rough and dense terrains. Visitors and locals come to the region, just simply to enjoy and appreciate nature. The region is undoubtedly one of the natural botanic kingdoms in the world. I couldn’t find a better place than this – To come to this region to enjoy, relax, admire and appreciate this natural wonderland right on the door-step of Cairns.

The area provides a vast array of flora and fauna and un-hikeable rough and dense terrains. Visitors and locals come to the region, just simply to enjoy and appreciate nature. The region is undoubtedly one of the natural botanic kingdoms in the world. I couldn’t find a better place than this – To come to this region to enjoy, relax, admire and appreciate this natural wonderland right on the door-step of Cairns.

This natural wonderland begins once you cross the Daintree River on the ferry. The road leading to Cape Tribulation is filled with pristine thick rainforest, incredible views, beautiful beaches and coastlines and has number of boardwalks that brings you closer to nature. This place is undoubtedly nature-lovers paradise.

Road through the thick rainforest
View from Daintree Lookout

With this natural botanic kingdom nearby, this 12-hour return journey began in Cairns to Cape Tribulation, stopping and viewing some of the Far North’s iconic towns and major tourist attractions along the way.

Getting there?

Daintree region is only accessible by vehicles. Many independent, adventurous tourists and locals take this road journey to Cape tribulation and surrounding sites and return the same way. For those who want to experience a more adventurous road trip, you can drive beyond Cape Tribulation to Cooktown and surrounding villages along the way but only with 4-wheel vehicles. Some of the rugged part of this terrains are rough, dusty and dangerous as you cross some of the crocodile infested waters.

Where to stay?

There are various types of accommodations in the area to suit all budget ranging from motels, lodges, B&Bs and campings nearby. Also, the region offers a range of properties throughout the area to fit most holiday styles and budgets. It is a popular destination for backpackers and the area has number of backpacker hostels.

Most of the accommodations are surrounded by palm trees, thick rainforest and with plenty of space to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere, it is the ideal introduction to the area.

Popular Attractions

This region is home to iconic UNESCO World Heritage-Listed Rainforest – Daintree. Driving around in this area is possible if you have the time and want to explore more of the area on your visit. To fully enjoy your stay in this area and to make the most of the region’s nature attractions, I’d recommend staying few days in the area. This way you get to sample the beautiful rainforest, boardwalks and do easy nature hikes and tracks. Undoubtedly, this is where the true heart of the area shines.

One of the most popular and my favourite place is the Cape Tribulation Lookout. The National Parks and Wildlife Service have installed an easy 400 metres cement path and boardwalk, known as the Kulki Boardwalk. Just a short walk through the rainforest to the headland where a lookout point provides excellent view across Cape Tribulation beach and pristine coastline.

There is a useful map which gives out all the detail information about the area. Click here

Boardwalk leading to Cape Tribulation Lookout and coastline

Mason’s Guided Walks

The Mason’s offer two hour and half-day guided tours in their privately owned rainforest. There are jungle tracks on their property and they offer guided tours which they offer local information about flora and fauna. My favourite is the night walks which pass through the property and end on the banks of the Myall Creek, where crocodiles can be spotted.

Mount Sorrow

Mount Sorrow is 850 metres high and there is a trail which runs off the end of the sealed section of Cape Tribulation Road. I recommend to do this trail with a guide or in a group and NOT alone, even if you’re an experienced hiker. With extreme high temperatures and humidity during summer months and heavy rainfall during rainy season, makes this track impossible to navigate alone. There is a useful map, which gives out useful and detail information. Click here

Dubuji Boardwalk

This boardwalk runs for 1200 metres from the Myall Beach car park. It runs through rare tropical lowland rainforest with mangroves, fan palms, strangler figs, flowering palms and many other exotic tropical and rainforest plants. It can be an interesting walk as you might be able to spot tropical birds, tree snakes, spiders and many other wildlife including fruit bats. For more detail information, click here

 

© COPYRIGHT: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

© akamau.org. (2017). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material (photography and writing) without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to akamau.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.