Discovering Australia's hidden gems

Posts tagged ‘nature’

Exploring the Foreshore in the Town of 1770.

Having left the bright lights and balmy nights of Cairns behind, we now find ourselves in a little lost oasis which goes by the name of the Town of 1770.

The Town of 1770 – aptly named the Birthplace of Queensland.

Captain Cook’s historic landing on May 24th, 1770 has given this town its namesake and its claim to fame. The Town of 1770 was the second place that Captain James Cook came ashore after his original landing in Botany Bay, and it was the first time any European had ever set foot on Queensland soil.

 This cairn is a monument to the historic landing.  James Cook pulled the Endeavour into the sheltered waters of 1770 in almost the exact spot as we are staying now.

Our vantage point from the observation deck would have given us a good view of the majestic white sails as the tall ship drifted towards the shore over 200 years ago.

That scene is not too hard to imagine as I gaze out over the waters in this place that feels timeless.

I wonder what the Aborigines must have thought when they saw a gigantic part kayak/part bird pull into shore!

Today we leisurely wandered along the 1770 Foreshore, which has a well maintained boardwalk winding through lovely parklands and waterfront picnic areas.

It took a long time to cover a little ground as we continually stopped and snapped pictures of the natural beauty in this area.

The lovely Sooty Oystercatcher

‘Suzy Butler’ in the wild … stalking the unsuspecting Sooty Oystercatcher.

We’re on 1770 time today.

No schedule, no rush, no worries. 🙂

Just being in the moment and enjoying nature’s beauty.

My (newly discovered) passion for nature photography continues to increase, and has been spurred along by the excitement of having one of my photos picked up by a popular international travel blog as their Fan Photo of the Week. They are now using it temporarily as their Facebook Page Cover photo, with my name credited.  Have a peek before it disappears!

[Go to]

The Town of 1770, and its neighbouring seaside village Agnes Water, are far from being fully explored yet. This is the hop off point for the idyllic Lady Musgrave Island which we will be visiting soon, and there’s plans to have a lark on the Larc tour (Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo) as well. This full day tour covers both the land and waterways of Agnes Water & 1770, taking you to otherwise inaccessible areas and providing lots of interesting (we hope!) historical facts.

But for now it’s back to 1770 time … as the sun sets on another day in paradise.

Stayed tuned for more adventures!

© Copyright November 2012


Best Markets EVER at Yungaburra – Atherton Tablelands

Wow! The Yungaburra monthly market takes the prize for the best markets I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a few). Today this quaint, sleepy little town burst into life as people flocked from near and far to visit the Tableland’s most famous market.  We changed our travel plans especially so we could be here for the markets after hearing good recommendations, and I’m so glad we did.

We arrived at 7.30am to beat the crowds and the heat, but were still there at 11.30am when it was of course very crowded and hot! These outdoor markets are large and offer a good variety of fresh produce, arts/crafts, clothes and the most wonderful home-baked goodies, priced to tempt the most avid health fanatic into buying at least three or four of these delicious looking sweet treats. Somebody should invent the mixed box so all of the tempting tasties can be trialed!

My market experiences over more recent years is that you don’t really get a bargain at the markets anymore. You’ll find things that are unique, handmade and mostly not mass produced, but you will also have to pay a good price for them. I found Yungaburra markets to be the exception. Certainly some of the stalls fell into that category, but overall the stalls had remarkably low prices on high quality, unique goods. The fresh produce was also amazing. Locally grown, usually by the stallholder, the fruit and veg was fresh and healthy, and also well priced.

Only at a country market!

I felt frustrated (and sort of thankful) that I wasn’t able to buy many of the things I desired because we are living on the road and in between homes today. No fridge and no room in the car for extra purchases. I saw many things that would make wonderful gifts, but again, travelling meant that I couldn’t cart them around with me for the next few months, and they would be too fragile/expensive to post back home. So the budget was saved today, only to cause future regret that I didn’t pick up ‘that perfect little something for such and such’ when I was at Yungaburra. And at approximately 3000 kilometres from home it’s a little too far to come back.

Or is it …?

I have truly loved this town. Surrounded by an amazingly diverse range of landscapes, it has an old-style charm with a European flavour, with lovely restaurants and cafes boasting Swiss, Italian, French, and Austrian/Hungarian cuisines.

And a fine Aussie roast dinner at the pub for $10 – delicious! The pub (Lake Eacham Hotel) was another wonderful old federation style building, with a big stately dining room and an open fire. Along with their normal bistro menu they had a different $10 special everyday (and $10 roast any day). The meals were large and a cut above the usual bistro standard. They also had free pool tables which sadly we ran out of time to use. Too many things to do in this perfect little pocket of Australia.

I have a strong feeling I’ll be returning to this charming little town one day. The friendly small town vibe (I dropped in on a casual yoga class and the group invited me to have lunch with them), the picturesque landscapes, the incredible wildlife (I spotted a platypus, tree-kangaroo, emus, rock wallabies and a multitude of lagoon birds all in their natural environment), the lovely locally sourced food, and the accessibility to some of the most amazing natural sights I’ve seen (Milla Milla waterfall, The Crater, the gigantic Curtain Fig tree to name just a few) make Yungaburra and The Atherton Tablelands region a must see if you love nature, food, and old charm hospitality.

Milla Milla Falls

© Copyright October 2012

Crikey – It’s a Cassowary on the Beach!

Crikey – It’s a Cassowary on the Beach!

Just when I think my recent wildlife experiences can’t possibly be exceeded, there she is, in all her majestic beauty, the finest specimen of a wild cassowary I have ever seen, (and I’m lucky enough to have spotted a few now). Only this time, she’s strutting along the sandy shores of Etty Bay beach, which in itself is a shining diamond of nature. What a day folks!

It’s hard to describe the awe and appreciation at seeing this prehistoric looking endangered species walking along one of the most picturesque beaches in Queensland, foraging and feeding on roots and berries underneath the rainforest trees bordering the beach.

I followed her along the sand, at a respectful distance, for around 15-20 minutes as she unhurriedly went about her business. At times I bravely approached to within 2 – 3 metres of this imposing piece of creation, until she would look me in the eye with a look that said “that’s close enough, thank you”, at which point I backed away slowly (as all the warning signs tell you to do, right after the part about not approaching a cassowary …), and admired her from a distance.

The lustrous sheen of her thick black feathers and the bright, iridescent blues and reds around her head showed a healthy, well-built bird. The helmet, her crowning glory, was extra-large and in mint condition. A wonderful evolutionary tool to scare potential predators, and curious nature-loving tourists, into respecting this bird’s personal space!

And what a space this bird inhabits!

Etty Bay – promise to keep it a secret if I tell you how perfect it is?

The glimpses of aqua blue waters through the trees alerted us as we descended the mountain, then as we rounded the corner into Etty Bay we knew we had found something special.

Book-ended by dense green forest, the beachfront is interspersed with coconut palms and larger tropical shade trees. The northern end of the beach has wonderful formations of jagged black rocks which form secluded little coves, the perfect sitting spot to escape the fresh south-easterly wind that’s blowing.

And finally people, finally … a body of water that doesn’t turn your blood into red icicles when you submerge yourself in it! Yes, the ocean is warm here. Well, relative to what it’s been like everywhere else on this trip. I’d estimate the water temperature was around 24 degrees, which in my language equates to ‘do-able’!

But of course there’s a catch, in that you might end up being the catch of a passing crocodile. “But wait!” you say. “What a croc! Crocs don’t live in the ocean.” You’re quite right my friend, they don’t, but wait until you ready my post Croc Alert at Port Douglas Beach, coming soon to a computer screen near you … You’ll never feel safe swimming in any FNQ beach again.

But back to the beauty …

The warm waters (for paddling …), soft, tree-lined, picturesque sandy shores, and interesting rock formations rate this beach very highly for me.  And not the least of this can be attributed to the little town of Etty Bay itself. If you can even call it a town, it’s really only a small beachfront van park with attached kiosk and a surf lifesaving club.

Whilst I have visited many stunning beaches in Queensland they are often back-dropped by high-rises or other retail/commercial development. But it’s the undeveloped beauty of Etty Bay which sets it apart from the rest. And the resident cassowaries of course, who are, by the way, not the only magnificent prehistoric looking residents in town.

Check out this guy! Isn’t he beautiful?  The waddling gait of the goanna is a joyful thing to watch. I love these creatures (again, from a respectful distance). We followed this guy for a while trying to snap some decent pictures until he found his way home to a hollow in the beachfront tree trunk, where he scaled the inside. I watched the tip of his tail disappear from sight as he settled in for the evening. Seems we both scored a room with a view tonight. Which brings me to the next part of this story …

View from our balcony

Upon arrival, we immediately realised we’d made a terrible mistake in pre-booking accommodation at the Innisfail Motel for the night, our plans being to continue southbound tomorrow heading for Townsville. But the first thing we saw as we drove in (apart from the spectacular beach view) was the perfect little cabin only metres from the beach, which happened to be available, and, below budget! It seemed too good to be true, and doubly frustrating to be committed elsewhere. But such was the appeal of this beachside wonderland that we sheepishly phoned the motel to plead for a late cancellation, which to their credit, they granted graciously. Yippee!

Feeling secure with our prime piece of real estate, we then set off to fully explore the beach, which is when we encountered the amazing wildlife.

Still on an elevated high from our initial Etty Bay experiences, we felt reluctant to give up our prime piece of real estate and impulsively booked an extra two nights. The manager invited us to have ‘happy hour by the beach’ with everybody tomorrow night; it’s going to be a special occasion happy hour – a Hawaiian themed sausage sizzle! Now how could you turn down an invitation like that?

Mareeba Wetlands

Perhaps we’ll also be dining with a cassowary? And why not, this morning we had breakfast amongst wild emus at Mareeba. Another stately bird with a far less threatening demeanour than ‘Queen Cassowary’. The emus are highly curious creatures and come close to check you out. They have a much friendlier, if not as impressive, face than the cassowary. But Breakfast with Wild Emus is a whole other post yet to be written!

 Sunrise at Etty Bay. Seriously – how can we leave this place?!

But as each new day dawns, who knows what new, awe-inspiring things we’ll discover in this wonderful land of Oz!

Stay tuned to find out …!

© September 2012

Aboriginal Rock Art – A Cultural Experience in Cooktown.

 Aboriginal Rock Art

– A Cultural Experience in Cooktown –

Today we had a taste of Aboriginal culture in Cooktown as we visited historic rock art sites.

We joined a half day tour guided by Aboriginal elder Willie Gordon who gave us a lot of local and historical information as we headed bush.

The landscape was surprisingly familiar, reminding me very much of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney. My grandparents had property bordering the national park and as children my cousins and I would spend many hours exploring the bush, seeing which native flowers were in bloom, and listening to the variety of bird calls. The large flat black rocks were a great picnic spot and play area.

The Cooktown tour today took us past scenic rocky ledges and through narrow gorges as we approached the rock art caves.








In this region the paintings are fine art rather than dot style, and Willie showed us how they make the paint (ochre stone and water) and the brushes, which are feathered pieces of strong reed that is also used for basket weaving.

The Rainbow Serpent

Aboriginal art reflects the surrounding environment – its plants, animals and practical things like tools used for hunting.  But it is also very much about the story behind the art, and a lot of paintings represent Aboriginal mythology.  There are many folk stories that Aboriginals use to explain their natural environment and surrounding landscape, this is referred to as The Dreaming. The story of the Rainbow Serpent would be the most familiar to non-Aboriginal people, and is their symbol of creation.

Art is also used to record significant historical events and to show respect for esteemed members of society. In Aboriginal culture, people of great knowledge who are able to teach others are ranked most highly in society. This painting shows a teacher, with the stripes representing levels of knowledge that have been obtained. The stripes are actually scars formed from the tradition of cutting the skin with sharp pieces of  quartz crystal. Our guide likened it to openly displaying your resume′ on your body.

Other paintings depict sacred locations such as birthing sites.  This picture shows the mother, the baby, and an upside-down male, signifying that the male is out of place in this location. The birthing site also provided people with a connection to place and a spiritual identity, similar to a nationalistic attachment that we may feel identifying ourselves as citizens of our country of birth.

The handprint stencils you see are usually the signature of the artist or a way of marking your place of belonging.

My favourite piece of art represents the Aboriginal spiritual belief that all life is created from ‘the light’, and although there is also darkness in this world, the message behind this artwork is to insert your face onto the body that has the’spirit of light’ shining through.

Shine on beautiful people!

Copyright August 2012