If you look into driving North from New South Wales up through Queensland any given camping guide will insist you visit Cape York. For many people in Australia, going all the way to the tip via the Old Coach Road is the final frontier- the adventure to top all adventures. While it certainly comes highly recommended, especially if you have the right vehicle, the experience sounds a touch overrated. Over the years, Cape York has become one of those coveted tourist destinations that travelers seek out for its “authenticity”. This has only led to over-development and crowded camping during school holidays. We decided not to go. That being said, there are a number of beautiful places to visit along the way.
Will and I began our road trip in Newcastle and drove straight to Wauchope to visit a dear friend at her cabin. Her view of the valley was stunning and the town itself was quaint. We were able to stock up on cheap second hand clothes from a selection of charity shops, which was convenient considering I neglected to pack a sweater.
- secondhand shops
- overlooking the valley
From Wauchope, we drove all the way up to Byron Bay in search of warmth. Sadly, we were disappointed by the weather as well as the location. This so-called hippie town is the epitome of overrated and overcrowded. I have never seen so many surf lifestyle shops. It took about fifteen minutes of walking down the main drag to determine Byron is inhabited solely by British backpackers and people pretending to be wizards. Not to mention those pesky bush turkeys! I recommend skipping it. If you want to visit a charming hippie town take a detour to Bellingen for the Winter Music Festival.
Things to Avoid:
- Surf shops
- Bush Turkeys
- Byron Bay
SOUTH MOLLE ISLAND
Our next stop was Whitsunday Islands. We took the ferry from Shute Harbour over to South Molle Island for some fairly secluded beach-front camping. The island is primarily protected national park, however, there is a run-down tourist resort on one side. It was recently purchased by Chinese developers so I daresay it will only be a few years before natural beauty gives way to corporate greed. If you can get there in the next couple of months stay for at least three to four nights, hike all the walking tracks, go for a snorkel and camp on the far left side of the beach. If you have a bigger budget spend the money to visit one or two of the other islands. They all sounds pretty spectacular.
- Rent a kayak and paddle among the islands
- Snorkel off the beach
- Mountain bike on the trails
- Walk the beach at night to spot interesting wildlife
Upon returning to the main land we took it easy for a few nights in a trailer park near Ingham where we could do laundry and cook pizza in the camp kitchen. The highlight was our visit to Tyto Wetlands. Whether you are a casual birdo or a natural born twitcher you should absolutely walk through the grounds to check out the brilliant array of avian creatures. Finish your day with a glass of wine at the wetlands’ bar and restaurant. There is a nice view from the balcony where you can observe jacanas walking on the lily pads.
Birds to Spot:
- Forest Kingfisher
- Crimson Finch
Ingham was followed by Tully Gorge which was an incredibly moist patch of rain forest. Will loved this area. He did a lot of solo hiking in search of fishing holes. I took in the scenery from the campsite where I could read and drink tea without fearing for my life. Apparently, the waters are home to salt water crocodiles. We never saw any. We did see an incredible number of butterflies though. Keep an eye out for the stunning blue Ulysses butterfly!
- Citronella coils
- Rain jacket
- Good book
- Binoculars and camera for butterfly watching
The next place we went camping was Davies’ Creek. This was definitely among my favourite campsites. It was hot and dry with plenty of swimming holes. The water was clear, beautiful and refreshing. Most importantly, there was not a crocodile in sight. We hiked up to Kahlpalim Rock on our second day. It was a long, steep, strenuous walk that finished in a patch of clear-cut rain forest next to a radio tower. We were devastated. Until we realized the real vantage point was across the way, overlooking the entire valley, on the edge of a massive granite outcrop. Make sure you find that or you will be sorely disappointed.
- Kahlpalim Rock
- Swimming in the creek
- Sunset at Davies’ Creek Falls
To be continued…