A week in Far North Queensland

A visit to Far North Queensland (FNQ) a couple of weeks ago reinforced the conclusion that a longer time is much better. With the world’s oldest rainforests and largest coral reef, as well as scenic country, wilderness, misty mountains, tropical agriculture, intriguing towns and a distinct culture, FNQ is substantially different to my home territory 3,000km to the south.

Friends Peter and Steve generously provided accommodation at their rainforest B&B, located about an hour and a half south of Cairns. This base offers exceptional relaxation in a very special environment; with the sounds of a rushing stream and rapids coupled with late Wet Season showers on a tin roof, the deep green of the rainforest, wild bird calls… as well as walks beside surrounding sugar cane and banana farms, and allowed easy day visits to:

  • characterful Innisfail – featuring Art Deco architecture and quirky local culture, and access to the abundant harvest of its fishing fleet
  • the Atherton¬† Tablelands – gorges, waterfalls, more rainforest, atmospheric towns, lush farms of cattle, sugar cane and bananas
  • the Mission Beach area where two world heritage areas meet (the Wet Tropics and the Barrier Reef).

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Mission Beach looking out to the Coral Sea and Dunk Island, one of many islands close to this coast. You can walk 14 km along the beach for similar sublime views, then explore the rainforest as a contrast, hopefully to sight a Cassowary.

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A wild Brush Turkey making eye contact at breakfast time.

Utchee Creek swimming hole at the rainforest B&B.

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In Australian country towns, pubs usually represent the strongest architectural presence, occasionally challenged by churches. Pub patronage has generally been more enduring.

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The Criterion Hotel in South Johnstone.

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The Malanda Hotel at Malanda in the Atherton Tablelands – above. Below – the Grand Hotel in Atherton and the Royal Hotel at Herberton.

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Innisfail was substantially destroyed by a cyclone in 1918. An Art Deco theme in the rebuild is a feature of the town, similar to the architecture of Napier in New Zealand, rebuilt after that town was destroyed by earthquake in 1931.

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The sign for Ansett Airways – ‘Book Here’ – omits to mention that the airline became bankrupt in 2001, probably just another example of local humour.

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While some towns in FNQ are flourishing, others like South Johnstone are in decline.

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Sugar mills remain important.

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South Johnstone; the cane train line to the sugar mill runs up the middle of the main street.

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Tully’s sugar mill. Tully is the wettest (or second wettest) town in Australia averaging more than 4,000 millimetres (160 in) annually.

I’m heading north again very soon.

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