Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Airlie Beach to Paronella Park Innisfail

Airlie Beach is one of those destinations favoured by most every one after viewing gorgeous photos of kilometres of white sandy beaches, turquoise water & crystal blue skies.
The map below puts things into perspective of the beautiful islands off the coast.


We chose a camp ground that was just across the road from part of the near by Conway NP. We were a little way from the business of the township with tourists every where.....we were 1 of them, but in a different age group. The bird life here was pretty good as well.

Soon after arriving we were checking out the beautiful coast line overlooking the Whitsunday Passage @ Shute Harbour. How gorgeous is that scenery :-)


Near by was a little beach called Coral Beach, a part of the Conway Conservation Park that covers almost most of the peninsular. The photo below gives a better description than I can


The beach is in a secluded area after walking through the natural forest, but alas there is no white sand here ......



There is so much to see around the Whitsunday region. We drove further afield to a place called Hideaway Bay & Dingo Beach - both situated on another peninsula north wards. This area isn't that well known amongst the tourists unless you want to visit out of the way areas.
The coast NW of  Hideaway Bay, called Cape Gloucester is  partly rugged with rocky outcrops.
Few people live in this beautiful area, but there are caravan parks in Hideaway Bay for those who want to be away from the mad crowds.
Cape Gloucester does have a resort or 2 which says a lot for it's beautiful surroundings

Dingo Beach is NE of Hideaway Bay, has not much else apart form a few houses, a lovely beach & the Dingo Pub. The place was quite popular for lunch which looks out towards the beach, more pretty islands & The Coral Sea.
You'd not know that the scene to the left of this photo was so pretty unless you ventured there.
Our pub lunch here was indeed relaxing.

The white sandy beach at Dingo Beach goes on for a long way...............

Driving back towards Airlie Beach we detoured towards an area that is popular with the tourists.
Cedar Falls has an upper & lower waterfall after rain. We only got to see the lower falls dropping into a pretty pool below which is popular for a swim in warm weather.

No tour to the Whitsundays is complete without a tour to an Island or 3.
We chose Whitehaven Express for our day touring amongst the Islands. Included in the package was a snorkel @ Mantaray Bay, a Whitehaven Beach Aussie BBQ & a bushwalk @ Hill Inlet.
The day was picture perfect when we set out from the Airlie Beach marina.

We spent  a very relaxing hour snorkelling over the  beautiful coral & tropical fish on the north- east end of Hook Island.

The Islands that don't have beaches have rugged coast lines.


Approaching Whitehaven Beach we were spoiled by more spectacular scenery that was around us.
Whitehaven Beach is 7 kms long & the sand is said to be 98% silica



Our BBQ lunch was still 45 mins away. I took a stroll up into the Islands National Park. To my surprise I found a lookout that gave me more stunning views & the silica sandy beaches.


Also waiting for lunch were 3 Lace Monitors......this large fellow came close to us in the hope of tackling a dropped piece of food onto the sand.

These were our lunch views. We also got to relax here for an extra 30 mins after lunch whilst the crew had their lunch.

We saw more spectacular coast line as we cruised north to about 1/2 way along Whitsunday Island where we hopped into little rubber dingies to get to the beach again for our National Park up to the lookout @  Hill Inlet.

The views atop the Hill Inlet lookout were once again spectacular. Whitehaven Beach is the coastal bit on the left of the photo.


These were our little rubber dingies I mentioned above. The beach here is quite different.  Rocky outcrops surrounded us here mixed with  white silica sand.


The sunset scenery was unexpected as we cruised back to the marina. (I don't think we were meant to be that late, but we none of  us were complaining)


I did some birding in Conway National Park & Conservation Park, but these birds were on the grassy area at the back of our caravan......Bush - stone Curlew.....there were a family of 4 there & taking photos of these was the easiest I've encountered in taking bird pics.

After several days relaxing in this beautiful region we had to move northwards.
We stopped in Bowen for a quick look at the Big Mango. Alas the shop to buy a souvenir ice-cream was closed.....I was so looking forward in a mango treat, even if it was still 9am :-)

When we arrived in Townsville, we didn't waste time in checking out the sites of the city.
Castle Hill is a heritage - listed pink granite monolith standing 286 m near the city centre.
The hill dominates the city skyline with numerous walking tracks to get up to the top......or one can drive the short distance winding around the hill side as you go upwards.

The 360* views are magnificent. Magnetic Island can be seen here, just a short distance from the mainland.

Beyond the city skyline is the harbour.

Ross River Dam was a short distance out of town, built in 1971 on the Ross River for the purpose of flood mitigation & for the cities water supply.

I found a rock wallaby near the wetland that is near by.

The Townsvilles Reef HQ Aquarium of the Great Barrier Reef was on my tourist radar to visit again .
We had been there before perhaps > 15yrs ago......but I wanted to refresh my memories again.

The main tank is a living reef on dry land with 2.5 million litres of water flowing through the coral - reef tank. The tank which is formed with a tunnel for the visitor to walk through is home to over  130 coral & 120 fish species. Reef HQ also boasts North Qld's only turtle hospital where sick & injured marine turtles are cared for & rehabilitated for their return to the ocean.


A Hammerhead Shark, 1 of the many shark species in the tank.

I always find coral & different fish fascinating......





The Townsville Palmetum was both interesting & disappointing.
 Another side track off this pretty rainforest mixed with palms walk was riddled with fruit bats in the upper canopy :-(  We didn't particularly want to risk being pooped on as we walked underneath them.



We passed the Townsville army base a few times whilst driving  around the small city.
I've got to say, besides the slow down for a few road works, the major link roads in & around this small city was pleasurable to drive on.

We move just 70 kms north of T'ville  to the Crystal Creek Caravan Park, our base for a couple of days whilst we take in the sites around the Paluma Range National Park.
Jourama Falls is not that far from our base. The walk is 3 kms return to the falls lookout.
Higher up, fringed by rainforest Waterview Creek cascades over Jourama Falls. We pass through woodland dotted with rainforest trees & cycads, passing across the creek - where huge boulders & rock pools are the feature.
It is mid May, so I guess we were lucky to see any water coming down the multi tiered falls.



Regardless how chilly the water may be Rod always likes to test out the many ponds we pass by.

The brochures said "take a walk in the clouds". I was with a bird watching colleague when we walked a few tracks around Paluma village & Birthday Creek Falls with the weather indeed cloudy with some occasional mists of rain as we were > 1,000 m above sea level.
The Rainforest walk near Paluma village was lush. Paluma Range NP is on the southern fringes of the world heritage wet tropics.



A few kms away from the rainforests of Paluma, the tall Eucalypt grandis forest were once milled for both hardwoods & cabinet softwoods @ Mt Spec until 1975 with the advent of the the Wet Tropics World Heritage listing. Aluvial tin mining was another industry in the region.

Little Crystal Creek Falls is along the way up the 18km drive up to Paluma Village.


The  heritage listed bridge over Crystal Creek on the way up the Paluma range.

On another day we visited Big Crystal Creek section of the NP


Ingham, 40kms north of where we were staying @ Crystal Creek was our next stop.
The area has plenty to offer for the visitor.
Once the inclement weather cleared 2 days later, we took a visit to Girringun NP.
Situated 50kms SW of Ingham the 1,538 sq.Km NP was established in 1994. The NP consists maily of wet sclerophyll forests, with small pockets of rainforest. The George & Cardwell ranges is strewn with granite debris from volcanic eruptions 100,000 yrs ago,
Wallaman Falls is most visited part of this NP. At 268m, it is the largest single drop falls in Australia.


The many views from a couple of lookouts.



The 120 hectare Tyto Wetlands is just 800 m from the town centre. The wetland is a bird watchers paradise boasting over 230 species of birds through out the year. There are 4 kms of walking tracks around the large lagoon & I spent several hours walking around the lagoon bird spotting.



A couple of Agile wallabies were having a stoush when I arrived.

One of several Green Pygmy-goose seen on the water.

Lucinda was just a short 25km drive towards the coast. The town boasts a 6 km long jetty.....it's so long it disappears in the distance.

During a walk along some of the beach area tracks, I happened upon this tree.....

More debris can be found on the beach.....a legacy of many cyclones & severe storms




After leaving Ingham we travel just approx 150 kms towards our next destination & not far north of Ingham is the Hinchinbrook Lookout. We would have had more spectacular views had it not been for the clouds......

As we drove northwards we were amazed at these boxed cages stretching across the road every few hundred metres.....they are for possums to move from 1 side of the highway to the other without the risk of death by vehicles.

I think this section of the Great Dividing Range would have been quite pretty had it not been for the low clouds that hung around all the mountain tops as we passed them....even the tallest peak in Qld - Mt Bartle Frere was enveloped in cloud the next day :-(


Our destination for this day was Paronella Park - just a short drive SW of Innisfail.



Jose' Paronella arrived in Innisfail in 1913 from northern Spain. After creating some wealth from sugar cane & farming he set about creating a castle for himself & his new bride in 1930.
The 13.75 metre drop waterfall on the Mena Creek was his chosen site.
Jose' started with a grand 47 step staircase built of stone to shift building materials from the lower to the upper level.
Everything was built of stone & was built to have spectacular views of the Mena Creek Falls.
He built a little cottage for his family, & then moved onto an entertainment area for visitors to enjoy the spectacular falls.
He had change rooms built, a movie theatre & ice-cream parlor  that was transformed into a ballroom on weekends.
He even built a loo with a view of the waterfall for himself.
Jose' surrounded his home & castle by planting more than 7,000 trees including a Kauri forest.
North Queenslands first hydro-electric plant was built in 1933 to power the 5 ha park.
The cost to build his dream cost him 30,000 pounds ( currency used in Australia until 1966)
He opened the park to the public in 1935.
In 1946, a mass of logs from up stream descended on Jose's palace, destroying the refreshments room. Jose' repaired what he could, replanted gardens & re-opened for business 6 months later.

Jose' passed away in 1948, leaving the park to his wife & children. His descendants continued the dream Jose' once had until 1977.
Much of the grand ballroom was destroyed by fire in 1979.

The current owners bought Paronella Park in 1993 & set about reviving Jose's dream.

Now visitors once again enjoy the heritage listed park. We stayed in the purpose built camping grounds near the buildings amongst the beautiful tropical trees.







Many cyclones have hammered the  Innisfail region over the years. Cyclone Winifred affected the area in 1986, but it was Cyclone Larry - a category 5 storm system that destroyed much of the park.

Mena Creek Falls that Jose' built his palace next to.

This area was both for entertainment & swimming. Separate ladies & mens change rooms were provided for the guests.


 The stair case that was built before everything else. There are flood markers on at least 3 steps to show how high the flood levels became.....some floods destroyed some of the buildings that had to be renovated.


Views from across the foot bridge.

Looking across to the castle from the foot bridge.




This side of the Lower Refreshment Room is a backdrop to many weddings.



The Movie Theatre & Ballroom that was destroyed by fire in 1979.

The Loo with a view that is now surrounded by some of the vegetation that was planted in the 1930's

The Kauri tree forest that has grown since planting in the 1930's.

The front room of the  Cottage has been restored. The front room  is now a museum containing a pictorial history of the park & some equipment used by the family back in the early days.

The Movie picture machine.

Our entry package included a night tour of the park. Coloured lights lit up many of the buildings & surrounding gardens.






Another waterfall Teresa Falls named after his daughter in the expansive tropical garden.

To finish, I thought I would post a photo of a bouquet of flowers gathered from the tropical plants in the garden. These days the park is open to the public who enjoy Jose' Paronella's dream. Camping & guest rooms are provided for visitors.
There is a cafe' for meals & refreshments & a souvenir shop with many delights with in.