We get a number of clients who like to do a loop from Cairns with their motorhome hire, rather than heading off to Brisbane or maybe Darwin. And that’s a great thing as there are quite a few gems to be seen in and around Australia’s Northern Savannah wilderness.
Clients of ours, Kay and Geoff did exactly this recently, and have shared some of their favourite spots. They hired their motorhome in Cairns, which was to be their home for an 11-day adventure through parts of Queensland.
Almost 80km heading west inland from Cairns they headed back to Granite Gorge Nature Park. This is one of Kay and Geoff’s favourites, as they’ve been here before. It’s an interesting place, formed by volcanic activity creating a spectacular landscape of huge boulders as far as the eye can see.
Here at Granite Gorge Nature Park, there are a range of many adventurous walking tracks, including into the gorge, that are great for families and differing capabilities. You can even get up close with the rock wallabies with the opportunity to hand feed them with macropod pellet food bought at the park. Also at the park, you may get to see the rare and endangered Mareeba unadorned rock wallabies.
In fact, its wildlife galore, as you’ll possibly get to see possums, sugar gliders (they have 5 types here) frilled neck lizards, quolls, turtles and echidnas which all inhabit the gorge. Keep your eyes peeled too for the ample birdlife and poise your cameras at the ready as you’ll most likely get to see some of the 200 species of birds in this area alone.
You’ll also find some good swimming holes to suit all ages here too, especially as these pools are free from nibbling creatures! Its water holes are fed by several springs and an overflow from Lake Tinaroo which gives a constant flow of water. If you find yourself at the south end, then this is an ideal place for a refreshing swim!
There is a ‘fair priced’ daily admission fee for Granite Gorge Nature Park and all camping fees (powered and unpowered sites are available here) include walk fees as well as a free map.
Upon leaving the Granite Gorge Nature Park, coffee lovers should pass through Mareeba and head to the ‘Coffee Works Mareeba’. Enjoy a coffee and lunch in the unique roastery, you won’t be disappointed with the chocolates and coffee liqueurs on offer and they also have a comprehensive museum on coffee here too with lots of weird and wonderful things to peruse!
If you venture out further west of Mareeba, around 150km west, make sure you stop at Chillagoe for a night or two. Once a thriving mining town, this genuine Outback town has fascinating attractions and abundant wildlife easily accessed from Mareeba. The road from Mareeba to Chillagoe is called the ‘Wheelbarrow Way’ as the old miners used to walk the 150kms from Mareeba to the goldfields, pushing wheelbarrows! For those travelling in a 2WD camper, the final section of this road is expected to be sealed soon.
To honour these pioneers, each year they have ‘The Great Wheelbarrow Race’ which takes them three days to push a wheelbarrow along the ‘Wheelbarrow Way Tourist Drive’. We’ll stick to our campervans thank you!
While at Chillagoe, be sure to head to the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park. Some scientists believe the landscape here was formed around 400 million years ago, when limestone was deposited as calcareous mud and coral reefs on the bed of a shallow sea where Chillagoe is today. With subsequent erosion and weathered limestone, over a lot of time, the limestone has been formed and now towers over the surrounding plains and with fluctuating groundwater levels slowly dissolving the limestone, it has formed caverns and passages, some of which displaying magnificent calcite stalactites and stalagmites. These caves were home to the now extinct giant kangaroo and current bat species, pythons and a variety of insects and spiders!
If you find yourself parking up in the ‘Balancing Rock car park’ then take the moderate walking track (440m return), a rough track, and climb the rock formation to view the spectacular limestone outcrop and the surrounding landscape of open woodland. Balancing Rock is an example of tower karst, a feature of world scientific interest found in this area.
Our Gallivanters Kay and Geoff headed east via Atherton, as some of the roads west and south of Chillagoe weren’t sealed, and enjoyed a night at a working farm that’s nestled along the Barron River – the big attraction for them being the regular visitors of the platypus in the river at the bottom of their campsite. They went on to stay at Tarzali Lakes the following night, again being privy to another platypus spectacular of at least 4 or 5 of these egg laying mammals.
From Tarzil Lakes, Kay and Geoff headed south from the Atherton Tablelands, passing Milla Milla Falls, stunning picturesque falls well known for swimming at, and ended up along the coastline and camped at Kurrimine Beach, around 120km south of Cairns. This picturesque beachside haven has beachfront camping facilities and has manta rays trawling the beach shallows and turtles coming in to nest on the beaches.
No trip in this northern part of Queensland is complete without a visit to Kuranda. Kuranda is a mountain village 25km northwest of Cairns and is surrounded by World Heritage Rainforest. Apart from its spectacular surroundings, it has become a popular place for artisans to call home and has become a place of vibrant arts and craft culture.
From here, you can make an easy trip to return your campervan to Cairns and get ready to start planning your next adventure – we know you’ll have such a good time, you’ll want to do it all over again. If you are looking at hiring a campervan or motorhome, check out our vehicle options here and get in touch to chat and find out what deals we can find you and make sure you are getting the right vehicle to suit your travel needs.
Images were kindly provided by our Gallivanters Kay and Geoff.