For a more effortless and secure experience on our site, please consider updating your browser

Queensland Explorer 21-day Tag Along Tour Brisbane to Cairns days days 15 - 19 on Great Green Way. 

July 20, 2009
Queensland Explorer 21-day Tag Along Tour Brisbane to Cairns days days 15 - 19 on Great Green Way.

Day-15 is another nice easy day. Townsville to Cardwell via Lucinda. The post had finally arrived at the post office, so we were able to depart Townsville and follow the others northwards.

The Bruce Highway from Townsville north to Cairns is a mixture of divided and single bitumen road. Road works are in evidence, and signs promising upgrades are prominent, and it's a case of yes maintenance is especially needed and upgrades would be nice.

There were plenty of times when we were stuck behind a slower vehicle and unable to overtake and some truckies were taking too many chances overtaking when they should not do so.

The Bruce Hwy north of Townsville is also called the Great Green Way and the description is pretty true. Trees, grasses, etc ~ wherever one looks it's green, green and more green.

Glancing eastwards we see the outlines of the various islands north of Magnetic Island ~ with cute names like Rattlesnake, Herald, Havannah and the well-known islands of Palm and Orpheus.

All along the highway we are seeing sugar cane farms and processing mills. The latter are distinctive with their chimneys giving off white, puffy steam vapour which contrasts with the deep greens of the surrounding countryside. Sugar trains rattle and clang their way along tram lines, and we see both empty and full wagons along the tracks.

In the fields we see harvesting machinery traversing the rows of mature cane, cutting the stalks and spining them into huge baskets towed behind tractors ~ the tractors then dumping them into the train wagons ready for processing within 24 hours.

We stopped for a while to watch one team cutting cane, and chatted to the bloke in charge. He reckons that he has the best job in the world ~ what better country to live and work in than here in Australia.

At Ingham we turned seawards towards Lucinda, whose claim to fame is Australia's sugar export port to the world. Each year, many thousands of tonnes of raw sugar are transported from here to ports around the world.

Ships with carrying capacities of 50,000 tonnes berth regularly and are filled quickly by the wonders of modern machinery. The Lucinda sugar-loading wharf extends 6km out from shore into water deep enough for these bulk carriers to load. Once the raw sugar hits the conveyor belt, it takes only 20 minutes to reach the ship,and a bulk carrier is loaded in a day or two.

From Lucinda it was a return to the Bruce Hwy and northwards towards Cardwell. As we drove northwards, the huge bulk of Hinchinbrook Island dominated the skyline to our east. With a channel only 3 5km wide, between it and the mainland it is an easy place to get to, and great for fishing.

Lucinda sugar harvester Mervyn Lees
Lucinda sugar harvester Mervyn Lees

I have spoken before about our GPS unit, dubbed Myrtle - well she was at it again today. The Beachcomber Village is on the right-hand side of the highway at Cardwell, but Myrtle was telling me to turn left into the side streets of Cardwell and take (another) scenic tour.

When I didn't do so, she went into the now familiar tantrums of recalculate recalculate etc so I just pressed the OFF button ~ very satisfying to do so!

The Beachcomber van park is one I stay at often when coming northwards ~ it is a 3-1/2 star caravan park according to the AAA Tourism ratings, and while the facilities are good, clean and tidy, it is a cramped caravan park.

There is no space between us travellers, conversations and laughter travel far during the quiet hours at night, and getting your vehicle in and out can be a bit of a tight squeeze.

Day-16 has been a long and interesting day, and we have covered the huge distance of 175km in the process!

Departing Cardwell still northwards, we aimed for Tully, whose reputation is that of Australia's wettest town, where rainfall is measured in metres, not millimetres like the rest of the country. It is a smallish town, nice, with the usual array of shops servicing its population.

We continued north a bit, before turning eastwards towards Mission Beach, a place whose name is mentioned by we southerners on many occasions.

On the road into Mission Beach, we stopped at a banana farm, and watched them processing bananas.

Lucinda sugar wharf extending 6km out to sea
Lucinda sugar wharf extending 6km out to sea

The huge pod of perhaps 100 bananas, having been cut off the tree and transported to the processing shed is hung from a conveyor belt and after washing and cleaning, the workers cut hands of 4-5-6 bananas for boxing and transport to market.

The bloke we spoke with, Tim, mentioned that although the fruit appeared green now when cut, it would yellow up over the 5-10 days between now and retail sale. We bought fruit from his fruit stall at 6 bananas for a dollar ~ not bad eh?

The Mission Beach caravan parks wesaw when stopped for a cuppa and a stretch were all crowded. It is not a place where I could stay comfortably ~ I do not like being treated like a sardine.

One caravan park's price board visible as we walked past displaying both daily and weekly rates showed only a $3 discount for for a weekly booking ~ it didn't excite me in any way.

From Mission Beach is was along the coast to Bingal Bay, another small holiday village on the beach, before back to the Bruce Hwy at El Arish. At Silkwood we turned inland towards Paronella Park.

This place is awesome ~ both in its beauty and the folly of its designer-builder way back 75 years ago. The bloke who put it all together, Jose Paronella was a Spaniard who used old sugar-cane tramway rails inside

the concrete of his construction, not realising that years later the rust would cause the concrete to shatter.

Mission Beach Banana farm Helen  Suzanne
Mission Beach Banana farm Helen Suzanne

Today, the owners are trying to keep the place alive via tourism ~ and it's working. An assortment of multi-language fluent young people are highly proficient tour guides, and guided tours of the site are conducted regularly.

The buildings, while not liveable are enchanting, the grounds are spectacular. The river running alongside provides a wonderful waterfall, competent tour guides take groups around, and the caravan park powered sites are free ~ included in your entry ticket!

Day-17 the group headed for Innisfail, to do some basic shopping before heading up to the Atherton Tablelands. Innisfail is a delightful country town, well supplied with retail outlets, and is located on the banks at the confluence of the North and South Johnson Rivers, where there also is a good walking track along the river bank.

From Innisfail we headed westwards up the Palmerston Hwy as it runs through some prime agricultural lands, lots of dairy farming on lush green grasses.

As we climbed through the Frances Ranges, the views were impressive ~ all around the horizon we could see many hills covered by the deep blue haze so characterstic of Australia.

At Millaa Millaa we took the Waterfalls Road to see several of the many waterfalls of the region.

The spectacular Millaa Millaa falls; the Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls were all running well, all with the inevitable tourist buses in attendance along with our group, and all visitors' cameras were clicking away merrily.

Ravenshoe is another pleasant country town on the Tablelands; locals and tourists are well served by its shops and cafes, there are good schools to be seen as we drive through the town.

Thirty kilometres west of Ravenshoe is Innot Hot Springs, our destination for the day. We will be here for two nights, and having a lazy day in between.

We checked in with Shane and Leanne, our hosts and got settled into our sites; and soon set off for the long walk (well it was 30 metres) to the hot pools and spa. Later in the afternoon, Alayneand I joinedhalf dozen other travellers in one of the many pools available. As I lowered myself into the warmth of a 35-degree hot pool, I allowed myself to be cocooned by it. Aaaaaaah !!

At our happy hour, members of the group were chatting about options for tomorrow ~ Bill and Helen are considering popping out to the Undara Lava Tubes (about an hours drive away), Neill Roberta are just going to relax a while, and Allenand Suzanne are considering their options - in other words, we will wait and see. Ah isn't it nice to be able to do this.

The Innot site appears to be quite run-down, something which I find most disappointing.

When I first came here three years ago, our hosts (only managers, not the owner) were new to the place were full of ideas for its rejuvenation after many years of indifference by a previous owner. It appears, however, little has changed, and the place is now looking the worse for wear. All our group had concerns about the state of the park and its facilities.

Day-19 and our 21-day tour will soon be over. Today we ventured back to Ravenshoe and onto Herberton.

Herberton has a history of mining, both tin and gold, and is now home to many such museums. We visited the world-renowned cameras museum and as is often the case checked out the local cafe's Devonshire Tea offering as well.

Atherton is a much larger town, lots of shops and services to which we availed ourselves, before continuing to Lake Tinaroo for the next two nights.

More later about the Atherton Tablelands ~ hope that you are enjoying the journey so far.

Regards, Phil Alayne

Disclaimer: none of the businesses referred to herein have supplied any services or discounts to Phil Jones Photography Tours to secure any preferential comment in the above travel blog.

Editors Note: To follow the adventures of the Brisbane to Cairns Tag Along group please open the attached link and follow the extra links at the end of the GoSee Information Article.

Paronella Park Symonss from Tassie
Paronella Park Symons's from Tassie
Lucinda sugar loading facility commemorative Stone
Lucinda sugar loading facility commemorative Stone
Mission Beach Banana farm worker Tim
Mission Beach Banana farm worker Tim