Sunday, September 23, 2012

Roadtripping Part II

We're home again (have been for several days in fact) and have had an amazing holiday.  Taking up from where we left off in Part I, here is a recap of the second half of the trip!

Still based in Cairns, we agreed in the end to do Mossman Gorge / Port Douglas / Daintree / Cape Tribulation as a day trip and so we took off north for a day.  We decided to drive up to Cape Trib first, and then visit the other stops on the way back...But a little bit south of Cape Trib on the Daintree River is a car ferry which was really expensive ($28!) and only took cash, and we had no cash - talk about bad planning!  However, conveniently located right next to the car ferry were several croc spotting tours so we pulled in to check them out instead.  They all looked a bit sketchy, but there was one leaving in 20 minutes that took credit card and I didn't want to have driven all that way for nothing!  So we decided to do a croc spotting tour with Solar Whisper.  It was a really excellent tour - the guide was really knowledgeable about not only crocs but all the other wildlife in the area and had an eagle eye for spotting crocs and birds (although unfortunately we didn't see any snakes).  There were only 6 of us in total on the tour so he could give us all attention when we asked questions.  It was quite early in croc season and a fairly cool day so we were lucky to see crocs out of the water.  We saw several adult crocs and even a "creche" of baby crocs!  He also shared several anecdotes about croc attacks and how to stay safe around crocs which was really interesting.

After the croc tour we drove down to Mossman Gorge, which has recently had a new visitor's centre built.  We had lunch in the cafe which was really good and very reasonably priced, then took the (paid) shuttle up to the gorge area.  Apparently you used to be able to drive up yourself but since the visitor's centre opened you have to walk the 2km up or pay around $5 each for a shuttle, which seemed reasonable to me but apparently has caused some outrage.  The gorge was very pretty and the walks were very well-developed.  Afterwards we decided there wasn't really a reason to stop in to Port Douglas so we headed home.

The next day we did the first of our two reef trips, to Green Island, which was fun.  The boat ride out was quite rough and there were a lot of seasick people on the boat (although we were fine), and the island itself is very pretty.  Unfortunately low tide was right in the middle of our snorkeling time and the lagoon is very shallow, so it was quite awkward to snorkel.  The island is heavily touristed and the reef was pretty but there were patches where it was clearly struggling.  We still had fun exploring the island and experimenting with our hired underwater camera, but we were happy we had booked a second reef trip the next day.

Our second reef trip, with Seastar, was just amazing.  We chose them based on the low numbers and excellent feedback they had received and we weren't disappointed.  They take up to 35 people, but on our cruise they only had 12, which meant we all had personalised service.  The crew were all great and the two spots on the reef we visited were both beautiful and had varied corals and fish.  We even saw a turtle!  It was again quite rough which did make it a struggle at times to snorkel, and I had some issues with my masks leaking and had a bit of a freak-out, but the staff were great and I felt very safe.  Another highly recommended activity!

After Cairns, we turned around and started the long drive back home.  We saw several waterfalls (including the excellent Josephine Falls, and had Devonshire Tea at the tiny cafe nearby) and did plenty of bushwalking.  We stopped a couple of times at the same place we had visited on the way up, but we did do a few different things on the way back too...

Our first new thing was Paronella Park.  We didn't know much about it other than that it was RACQ's Number 1 Must Do! in Queensland, and that there were Spanish castles involved.  It was actually really interesting and a very intriguing story.  We stayed in their teeny campground overnight which got us both the day and night tour as well which was the best value.  The tours were different enough that it was worth doing both, and having two different guides meant that we got different views on the story of the place which was interesting.

The second new thing we did was the Capricorn Caves.  The Caves are about half an hour north of Rocky and again have a tiny campground attached, so we did the tour and camped overnight.  The tour was really cool, it was really interesting to see the caves and the different rock formations.  They have one cave called the Cathedral Cave which often hosts weddings and also hosts opera performances due to its excellent acoustics.  During the tour they play music in the cave to let you appreciate the acoustics.  The Caves were excellent but the camping ground was disappointing, with very basic kitchen facilities and no unpowered sites for vans.  I'd recommend staying in Rocky instead, as there's no night tours of the caves or anything, so no reason to be there outside of the middle of the day really.

As we'd hoped, we stayed at 1770 instead of Bundaberg on the way home.  Several people had said 1770 was beautiful and it certainly was.  The 1770 Camping Ground (warning: ridiculously Flash-heavy website!) is absolute beachfront and we managed to snag a beachfront site which was just gorgeous.

Finally, in the middle of the home stretch we stopped at the Abbey Museum just north of Brisbane.  It's a small, private museum that was excellently curated and had some really interesting pieces.  They host a medieval tournament in July each each year so I've already made plans to go to the next one!

After the museum, we pushed on for home and made it back a couple of days earlier than planned.  We were both ready for our own bed (and bathroom!).   We had an excellent trip and saw some really amazing things, but it's always good to be home!  I'm still working through the 1600-odd photos we took (!) and hopefully will have some up soon.

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