Welcome to Queensland
Pop question, cobbers: what’s larger than the Great Wall of China and is the only living thing visible from space? It’s not Safari Pete’s nostrils. Stumped? Here’s another clue: you’ll find it sprawled along much of the Queensland coast, and, apart from the locals, it’s the most colourful thing in the state. ‘Great’ probably isn’t a big enough word to describe the Barrier Reef, the largest organic construction on Earth. Comprised of over 3,000 reef systems and coral cays, filled with over 1,500 species of fish and more than 400 types of coral, this oceanic masterpiece stretches for over 3,000km – from the rum-making town of Bundaberg to the tip of Cape York, one of the most remote and rugged areas in Australia.
This colossal coral theme park is over 65km wide in places. No wonder that it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
With its tropical climate, Queensland is nicknamed the Sunshine State. For 300 days of the year clouds are a myth and the sands of its surf beaches are golden like the buff bodies that bake on them. One of the most popular places to surf is the Gold Coast, the most populous non-capital in the country. There you’ll find skyscrapers on the beachfront and plenty of backpackers. Back from the beach you’ll find a rainforest hinterland. Heading north towards Cape Tribulation is the Daintree – the largest continuous area of rainforest on the Australian mainland, and also the oldest rainforest in the world at over 135 million years old.
There’s plenty of birdlife, as well as a diverse community of frogs, marsupials,
reptiles, bats and butterflies.
So, if you want to visit cattle stations in the Outback, the cosmopolitan city of Brisbane, the adrenalin-, water- and movie-based theme parks on the Gold Coast, country pubs, thousands of kilometres of coastline or one of the many paradise-like islands inside the Whitsunday Islands group, Queensland is the place for you.
QLD General Info
1, 727, 200km2
Queensland operates on Eastern Standard Time (GMT plus 10 hours) but does not have Daylight Savings.
Queensland is invariably fine and sunny – its catchcry ‘beautiful one day, perfect the next’ isn’t too far wrong. In the south, summer is humid and hot (mid 30’s) and winter is mild (low 20’s). Two thirds of the state (above Rockhampton) is in the tropics where summer is very wet and hot (high 30’s) while winter is hot and dry (25 to low 30’s).
Tel: 07 3535 3535
Safari Pete’s QLD ‘Don't miss’ list
There are over 800 tour operators offering diving and snorkelling trips to the Great Barrier Reef - hop on one and discover this magical underwater marine world.
Non-divers don’t fret – there are plenty of courses around check out
Midway up the Queensland coast you’ll find the Whitsunday Islands. With seventy-four islands around which you can laze onboard a maxi yacht, or else lie on a pristine beach, we may have to call Immigration to come and remove you.
Visit the world’s biggest sand island, Fraser Island, a 123km long sandbar (22km at its widest) which has been created over the years by wind displacing sand from the mainland. With over 100 freshwater lakes and rainforests skirting its sandy banks, you can take a 4WD trip or a wander in this dune dreamscape. www.fraserisland.net
Cape Tribulation is famed for its beaches that stretch for miles; it is where rainforest meets the reef. Relax in super scenery and walk through tropical rainforest. www.capetribulation.com.au
Had you visited Queensland’s laidback capital a hundred years ago, then you wouldn’t have been picking fruit to earn some money. Back then the Board of Health offered cash rewards to people who caught rats. The going rate was two shillings per dozen. Forget trigonometry and business economics, school children were busy learning how to snare rodents. With their agile reflexes and deft little hands, school kids were the town’s top catchers.
Today, Bris-Vegas as the locals call it, isn’t infested with rats. Cane toads have stolen the mantel as the state’s biggest pest. They were brought to Queensland from South America in the 1930s, imported by sugar cane growers who thought their presence would eradicate the beetles that were devastating their crops. To say this scheme failed is like saying Safari Pete looks good in his Safari-style jock strap; it’s a massive understatement. The amorous amphibians are on the march and have rapidly spread down to New South Wales and up into the Northern Territory. Such is the plague that it’s not uncommon to see Queenslanders swerve to the other side of the road in their cars in order to squash one.
Thankfully downtown Brisbane isn’t overrun with toads. It’s a colourful city of
well-kept parks, riverside walkways and brightly decorated traffic signal boxes. It has a thriving outdoor cafe culture and the relaxed friendliness of a big country town. Cruise along the mighty Brisbane River which bisects the town. Relax in subtropical gardens and explore the culture of galleries, art-house cinemas and theatres. Nearby Fortitude Valley has an alternative scene, and Moreton Bay, which has over 360 islands, is the place to dive in shipwrecks and hang out on
Which way Cobber ?
Getting around Brisbane using public transport is easy. Buses, trains and ferries link the inner city and suburbs as well as the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. Free loop buses operate in both directions around Brisbane CBD and Spring Hill. These services run approximately every 10 minutes between 7am and 6pm.
To plan your journey or search bus, train and ferry timetable information visit
www.translink.com.au or call 13 12 30, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"Go Card" is the cheaper, smarter way to travel on public transport in South East Queensland. Buy and top up go card online, over the phone at retail outlets and train stations. Paper tickets can be purchased onboard TransLink bus and ferry services and at train stations. For all go card and ticket information visit
www.translink.com.au or call 13 12 30.
Where to crash in Brisbane
Located in the heart of the city; only 600 metres away from the Roma St train station. These guys have a rooftop swimming pool with views of the city and Brisbane River, a games room with Nintendo, WiFi Internet and secure parking www.yha.com.au
This hostel has free unlimited internet! Solar heated rooftop swimming pool and onsite pub. www.citybackpackers.com
Located directly opposite the Roma St transit centre (Brisbane's major transport hub), this place has five colour-coded floors. It also has a bar and is home to the 'Never ending weekend, but it also offers free rice and pasta! www.tinbilly.com
These guys have an on-site cinema room! Plus they are located in the centre of the city,a short walk from the Southbank Parklands. There is also a BBQ area. www.stayatbase.com
Located directly opposite central station in the heart of Brisbane, these guys have an onsite cafe and are home to the ‘Down Under Pub’. www.stayatbase.com
This place is close to the Brisbane Transit Centre (less than a five-minute walk). All dorm rooms have high-angled ceilings and there is a seven-day convenience store onsite, as well as a roof deck with views of Brisbane's river and city skyline. Their bar has different events and special drink offers every night. www.cloud9backpackers.com
These guys have 24 hour check in, free luggage storage and internet lounge, plus an amazing rooftop terrace. www.chillbackpackers.com
These guys have air conditioned rooms, modern laundry facilities and one bedroom apartments for longer stays. www.bananabenders.com
These guys offer free pick-ups and drop-offs from the Roma St bus and train terminals, between 8am and 7pm, leaving every hour on the hour. They also drop off their guests on pub nights out. There is a pool area with palm trees plus a BBQ and reclining chairs, and also a gym/fitness room and bike hire. www.somewheretostay.com.au
Located in the heart of the cosmopolitan West End, it is only a fifteen-minute walk to the city and a five-minute walk to the beach. They have a pool, a spa, a tennis court, a beer garden and ping pong table. www.brisbanebackpackers.com.au
90% of their rooms have bed privacy screens, and there’s an outside bar that encases a heated swimming pool, a spa and a BBQ. There’s also a nightclub onsite. www.bunkbrisbane.com.au
This small operator provides a beautiful and relaxing courtyard, free parking for its guests as well as hammocks. Five minutes away from the city and South Bank.
Aussie Colonial Inn – 123 Warry St; Ph 07 3257 0799
Located ten minutes’ walk from the CBD, these guys are within walking distance to everything you need. www.aussiecolonialinn.com.au
Pete’s Primo Pastimes
You could easily spend a day or two wandering around the Set on sixteen hectares, it has parks, cafes and restaurants, a rainforest sanctuary and is near a man-made beach. Here you’ll find Safari Pete musing over contemporary Australian art inside the (www.qag.qld.gov.au). You’ll also find him in the science discovery zone at the (www.qm.qld.gov.au), crying ‘Land Ahoy!’ at the (www.maritimemuseum.com.au), reading Proust at the State Library and shaking his toosh at the (www.qpac.com.au).
Once you’ve fed your mind, indulge your senses in one of . Every Friday night South Bank has a lantern-lit market that continues as a day market on Saturday and Sunday. On Sundays the picturesque Riverside Market is held on Eagle St. For something more alternative, head to Fortitude Valley's mall on Saturdays. For a list of markets, log onto
If bustling crowds are tiring you out, then head 7km southwest of Bris-Vegas and you’ll find a large area of namely the Mt Coot-tha Reserve. Pack a picnic for primo city views – especially at night.
Although your crotch will be stimulated, this isn’t an X-rated publication, cobbers (see Safari Pete does South Australia for some sauce). Brisbane has 300km of bike tracks, including a scenic riverside bike trail from the Botanical Gardens to the University of Queensland. Soon to be introduced is the CityCycle bike hire program. If you’re sticking around for a while, then it may be a good idea to subscribe to the scheme.
Quarterly subscriptions are under $30 and allow you to ride around the city for free, providing your ride is under thirty minutes. For longer rides you’ll pay an additional charge. There are numerous bike stations around the city. Wheel onto
www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/traffic-transport/cycling/citycycle - for more information.
One of the best ways to enjoy the is to cruise down it. After all that
pedalling you can rest your weary legs by hopping on a night-time ferry. Enjoy a balmy evening on the water as Brisbane’s lights twinkle on the bank. Day cruises are also available. www.brisbanecruises.com.au; 07 3630 2666.
head to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (708 Jesmond Rd, Fig Tree Pocket). Australia’s oldest wildlife park has 130 koalas for you to cuddle. They also have crocodiles (best not to hug these), dingoes, kookaburras and platypuses. You can hand feed lorikeets and kangaroos and hold snakes. You can also watch owls swoop and eagles seize their prey. www.koala.net; 07 3378 1366.
Although Steve Irwin has passed away, he’s left a legacy that is focused on
conservation and supporting humanitarian aid causes. Located an hour north of the city, (1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah) was Irwin’s major project during his lifetime. Visitors can hand-feed Asian elephants, walk with Sumatran tigers and watch a crocodile launch from the water’s edge. www.australiazoo.com.au; 07 5436 2000.
The figs may be weeping inside the , but relaxing on the banks of the Brisbane River in these spacious gardens is a joyous experience. Located in the heart of the city, the gardens are a great place to have a picnic, check out some ornamental ponds and stroll along a mangrove boardwalk. Bamboo Grove has twenty-three species of bamboo but no kung-fu pandas lurking in the bushes.
You may recall I said this isn’t an X-rated guidebook. It’s XXXX-rated. One of Australia’s most famous exports and a Brisbane icon, the XXXX brewery is on the itinerary of many a backpacker. Seventy-five-minute tours take you into the bowels of the brewery where you’ll see how it’s brewed and taste test hops. At the end you get to sample four beers. You can also buy beer that isn’t sold commercially. Tours run Monday to Saturday. Check
www.xxxx.com.au for tour times and call 07 3361 7597 to make a booking.
In the city there are a host of restaurants. Pop on your socks and sandals and head to the (416 Vulture St) for some hearty goulash and rissoles. Crossing continents, if Vietnamese is more your style check out 68 Charlotte St) and present yourself with a noodle dilemma; these guys offer a lot of choice. For a slurp of soup and some tender meat, go Japanese at (Shop 2, 414 George St). Asian banquets are the dish of the day at (Shop 2, 120 Brisbane Rd); leave the belt at home as you tuck into yummy yum cha.
(Shop 5, 220 Melbourne St) is the place to go for a curry washed down with sweet saffron lassi, and lovers of Italian cuisine can expect a full plate at (471 Adelaide St). Caxton St has a selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants. Enjoy a cocktail with your tapas at (Ground floor, 55 Caxton St).
As for the suburbs, has heaps of eateries. If you fancy splashing out then iron your Sunday best and head out to the (18 McLachlan St) where a colourful show accompanies a gourmet Brazilian BBQ feast. They even provide dance classes before the show. The West End has good value for money cafes and restaurants – from Turkish to Thai and lots of Mediterranean. Safari Pete salivates at the souvlakis at (170 Hardgrave Rd). It’s popular and cheap. Boundary St in the West End is the place to go for a great range of restaurants and cafes. Park Rd in Milton is the home of al fresco dining in Brisbane. Pizza and pasta fans get ready to give the Parmesan a shake at (Shop 1, 1 Park Rd). Also on this strip you’ll find Italian coffee and tempting sweets, and it’s a great spot for people watching.. In New Farm there are intimate brassieres and trendy cafes. With over thirty mains on offer,
(79 James St) has some untypical yet tasty Indian dishes such as baby potatoes stuffed with dried fruit and cooked in a creamy sauce. Excuse me while dribble... In Red Hill, is a yes-yes, a Lebanese place ideal for a cheap, quick bite to eat. (283 Given Tce) in Paddington is a trendy yet cheap cafe serving gluten free and vegetarian fare and combines food with reading (Baci stands for Books Art Coffee Inc). Safari Pete loves nothing more than chomping on a gluten free fish cake while reading Raymond Carver.
For a list of all restaurants, log onto www.yourrestaurants.com.au.
(308 Edward St) is a popular venue for both backpackers and locals along with the (482 George St) where you can have a game of pool on the many tables. (608 Ann St) is a massive Backpacker Bar with cheap meals and open mic nights. Also popular is the (200 Main St) at Kangaroo Point which has eight bars. Sunday afternoons are best spent with the rest of Brisbane in the (127 Edward St) beer garden. This popular student hangout gets rowdy Thursday through to Saturday night.
For groovy bars and clubs, head to where you’ll find the slightly grungy (321 Brunswick St) and the (339 Brunswick St) which is the place to head to for live music. Also good for live music in the Valley is (711 Ann St) where you’ll find rock, pop, jazz, folk, dub and reggae gigs. If you’re after a good old fashioned pint, head to the (230 Wickham St) where you may see one of the resident ghosts. For a full list of Brisbane (and surrounds) bars, pubs and nightclubs, head to www.yourbars.com.au.
For a list of gigs happening in the city, pick up free inner city weekly newspapers Time Off and Rave. Saturday’s Courier Mail also has a gig listing.
At the mouth of the Brisbane River, 45km north of Brisbane, Moreton Bay is the place to go for all things marine. For 125km, it spans between the Gold and Sunshine coasts and is a place where you can spot bottle-nose dolphins and loggerhead turtles, as well as humpback whales as they pass by during the migration season (July to October). Head here for sailing, diving and sandboarding, and don’t forget to tuck into one of Australia’s delicacies, the Moreton Bay bug – better known as the slipper lobster. www.moretonbayescapes.com.au
The Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is made up of 20km of coastline from BURLEIGH HEADS to SOUTHPORT. It has 35 patrolled beaches, four major theme parks (Movie World, Sea World, Wet and Wild and Dream World) and nightlife galore. You can explore the hinterland behind Surfers Paradise, visit the largest aviary in the Southern Hemisphere (Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary) or head to the famous SURFERS PARADISE BEACH and soak up the Gold Coast lifestyle
Make sure you save some time for a visit to the Gold Coast, located between Byron Bay and Brisbane. The coastline stretches for 70km and has beautiful beaches and great surfing. The hinterland and World Heritage–listed national parks are also only a short drive away. Boasting 287 days of sunshine a year (on average) and a sub-tropical climate, it’s easy to see why backpackers love the place.
For the adrenalin junkie: The Gold Coast is home to numerous theme parks, including Sea World, Dreamworld, Movie World, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and two world class water parks. There’s also jetboating, zorbing, bungee jumping and deep sea fishing.
Party animal: If you like to party, then Surfers Paradise is the place for you. There are nightclubs, bars, pubs and party-club crawls all just one block from Surfers Paradise beach. Plan B Party Tours run organised pub crawls.
Log onto www.planbpartytours.com.au for all the info
Nature lover: The hinterland, waterfalls, national parks and Gold Coast waterways offer a plethora of nature-based activities: hiking, abseiling, bird watching, sea kayaking and much more.
Beach babe: If you love sunbathing, surfing or just relaxing at the beach, then you won’t want to leave! The Gold Coast is home to 35 patrolled surf beaches dotted along the coastline.
Spots to visit: Surfers Paradise, Main Beach, The Spit, Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads, Currumbin and Coolangatta.
Where to Stay: There are hostels scattered along the coast; however, the majority are located within Surfers Paradise
Where to crash in Surfers
Right in the centre of town, this place is only one block from the beach; it has a pool and a spa as well as tennis and squash courts. They also have a bar, restaurant and bottle shop.
Ever fancy being picked up in a limousine? Well if you're at the Surfers Paradise Transit Centre and are stuck for a ride, this hostel will make you feel like the toff of the town when you stretch your legs out in the back of their limo. They have a swimming pool, free nightclub entry, BBQ facilities, a pool table and a cinema bus, and there are always a range of activities on offer. www.sleepinginn.com.au
Located 50 metres from the beach, each room in this hostel has its own balcony. There is a licensed bar, a beer garden and cinema nights. www.goldcoastbackpackers.com.au
This place has a licensed bar, fans in all bedrooms, free pick-up, free water sports
equipment for loan and organised clubbing nights with free passes and drinks.
Located 100 metres from the transit centre, this hostel has its own cafe, shop, swimming pool, spa and cinema. The Billabong Bar (onsite) opens from midday to midnight. They also organise free entry and drinks into local nightclubs. www.backpackersinparadise.com
Situated 500 metres from the beach, this hostel offers a free courtesy bus service from transit centres, free drinks and entry at local clubs. It has a tropical pool and spa, regular BBQs and pool parties and a currency exchange.
This hostel is situated 500 metres away from the Gold Coast airport; it has a courtesy bus, as well as free breakfast. They also have a swimming pool. www.yha.com.au
Situated 100 metres from the beach, these guys have free pick-ups from the Gold Coast airport, a balcony that overlooks the sea and an onsite bar and nightclub, to which guests have free entry. www.coolangattasandshotel.com.au
Which way Cobber?
Getting around the Gold Coast using public transport is easy. Use TransLink bus services to travel around the local area and trains to connect to other regions. For all you need to know about public transport visit www.translink.com.au or call 13 12 30.
If you are going to visit anywhere on your Oz trip, do yourself a massive favour and check out the Sunshine Coast! With an average of 300 sunny days per year and over 100km of perfect sandy beaches, you can get adventurous with nature or settle a while with work in season. Read carefully and you may see a pattern forming. The Sunshine Coast has kilometre after kilometre of beautiful beaches and attracts surfers from all over the world. It's not as commercial as the Gold Coast and is a 'must see' stop for backpackers making their way up the coast.
The Sunshine Coast is a real life 'choose your own adventure' whether you are in the mood for partying, chilling, getting back to nature or adrenalin pumping excitement. Home to some of Queensland's most scenic National Parks, the region is a perfect playground for surfing, kiteboarding, abseiling, skydiving, hiking, diving, wakeboarding, sailing, mountain biking, horse riding, kayaking, jetskiing and more. Visit www.visitsunshinecoast.com.au to make sure you don't miss a thing.
Pete’s Primo Pastimes
Wake up and throw yourself off the side off a cliff with a . Revel in the epic views of the Sunshine Coast hinterland before you find yourself suspended on a 40-metre cliff. Just don’t look down. Pinnacle Sports, (07 3368 3335, www.pinnaclesports.com.au)
Challenge yourself to a kitesurfing or stand up paddle boarding lesson with . They offer starter group lessons for a maximum of four people so you can learn tips from the pro’s. Adventure Sport Kitesurf Australia, (07 5455 6677, www.kitesurfaustralia.com.au)
Crikey! Although Steve Irwin has passed away, he’s left a legacy that is focused on conservation and supporting humanitarian aid causes. Located an hour north of the city, (1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah) was Irwin’s major project during his lifetime. Visitors can hand-feed Asian elephants, walk with Sumatran tigers and watch a crocodile launch from the water’s edge.
www.australiazoo.com.au; 07 5436 2000.
Where to crash on the Sunshine Coast
With modern facilities and extras like pool table and court yard with BBQ, Caloundra City Backpackers has all you'll need for a comfy stay and a great base to explore the coast and hinterland . www.caloundrabackpackers.com.au
Just a 3 minute walk to white sands of Mooloolaba Beach, you can grab a free bike or surfboard hire and enjoy all this coastal town has to offer. Great modern facilities including a salt water pool, BBQ facilities, off street parking and wifi. www.mooloolababackpackers.com
With a relaxed and homely atmosphere, you're can't help but feel right at home at Cotton Tree. Also on offer is free use of Surfboard, boogie boards, stand up paddle and Kayaks, you can't go wrong! www.cottontreebackpackers.com.au
An activity based hostel set around lush tropical gardens, I love the free courtesy bus, free breakfast, swimming pool and even a woodfired pizza oven! www.maroochydorebackpackers.com.au
Guided and all-inclusive Cool Dingo Tours give you the best of both worlds – action-packed days discovering all the wonders of World Heritage Fraser Island and fun nights enjoying great meals and partying in the Dingo Bar.
Swim in Lake McKenzie’s crystal-clear waters, trek through ancient rainforest, drive along 75-Mile Beach, take a dip in the fresh waters of Eli Creek, swim in Champagne Pools, climb
to the top of Indian Head or visit emerald-green Lake Wabby.
At night you’ll sleep in the Wilderness Lodge, set in a eucalypt forest. Lodges have five bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large open lounge area, with quad, twin or double rooms available.
Tours depart daily from Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach with packages available ex Brisbane. Direct flights to Hervey Bay are available from Sydney, with connections from Melbourne and Adelaide.
Cool Dingo Tours are the best way to discover Fraser...no tents, no sleeping bags, no cooking, no driving, no hidden charges... no worries!
What: Guided Fraser Island tours:
3 day 2 night or 2 day 1 night. Includes return ferry transfers, Wilderness Lodge accommodation, ranger-guided 4WD tours and all meals (buffet dinners and breakfasts with picnic lunches on tour).
When: Daily year round. Departs daily from Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach, with courtesy transfers provided from local accommodation to the ferry terminal.
Please advise when booking so we can give you the pick up time.
Price: Price: 3 Day/2 Night $405 - $450 : 2 Day/1 Night $330 - $450.
Extra nights before or after tour $45 - $65 Includes Dinner & Breakfast.
Price includes National Park Levy. No Extras !!! .
Book: Call reservations 1800 372 737 (freecall) or 61 7 4194 9300.
Or book online.
Explore the Whitsunday Islands
aboard one of our fully crewed
live-aboard sailing holidays
The Whitsundays is a sailing
mecca with 74 islands located
right in the middle of the World
Heritage Listed Marine Park.
Tours include services of
captain and crew,
scrumptious meals, snorkelling instruction and gear. Plus we
snorkel the most amazing coral reefs, visit white sandy beaches and take guided bush walks to amazing island lookouts.
Each night we anchor in smooth water bays that offer spectacular scenery.
Guests can choose from smaller yachts or catamarans, maxi yachts, tall ship or deluxe cruises. Small group tour options include:
America’s Cup Yacht – 14 guests.
Admirals Cup Yacht – 13 guests.
a Sydney 60ft Yacht – 15 guests.
40ft Sail Catamaran – 12 guests.
For guests who like to meet other travelers who want an awesome sailing experience and don’t mind having a bit of a party while on tour. Maxi's also have a lot of space, both on deck and below.
Daily Departures at 8.30am on "Siska" or "Hammer", both Ocean Racing Maxi Yachts, both take 22 Guests.
Daily Departures at 2.00pm.
Choice of Yachts all with amazing racing histories from Sydney to Hobart Ocean Racing to Around the World Racing Events.
- 83ft, takes 28 guests
- 83ft, takes 28 guests
- 78ft, takes 26 guests
- 83ft, takes 29 guests
Experience sailing from a bygone era on a 111 year old two Masted Square Rigged Tall Ship. Being larger this offers guests more space and comfort. – 30 Guests – A/C Share, Double or Twin Cabins.
- offers 2 or 3 night deluxe cruises for just 8 guests.
- offers 2 night dive trips around the islands.
The Whitsunday's ... what a great place to learn to Sail, from Intoduction to Learn to Earn Programs, where you could become one of our Crew.
All year round. Departures from Airlie Beach.
Price from $169 for full day tour. Call us for Latest Specials.
Details: explorewhitsundays.com Freecall 1800 675 790 or
+617 4946 4999
If it’s adventure and fun you’re seeking in a beautiful, laidback atmosphere and surrounded by nature, make sure you spend time in Noosa. With national parks, beautiful beaches, lakes, river and hinterland, Noosa is a perfect playground for heart-pumping activities – try surfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, diving, horse riding, jet-skiing, abseiling, skydiving, hiking, sailing, mountain biking, wakeboarding and much more. Right at our doorstep are Australia Zoo, World Heritage-listed Fraser Island and the Noosa Everglades, and when it’s time to party there’s plenty of night-life with eating, drinking and live music. Noosa is a backpackers haven with clean, funky, well priced backpacker resorts and hostels.
Pete’s Primo Pastimes
As well as all the cool activities available in Noosa, one of my favourite pastimes is hanging out at Noosa's famous north facing and the best part is, it's free! One of the few north facing beaches anywhere on the east coast, Noosa's main beach is perfect for a surf, paddle, swim or simply watch the world go by. Here's some other awesome pastimes I've enjoyed in the Noosa area.
Hidden within the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park is one of the Sunshine Coast's best kept paddling secrets, ''. Best explored by canoe or kayak, the upper reaches of the Noosa River and the Everglades represent an ancient waterway that has existed unchanged for thousands of years. Choose a guided or self guided adventure, just don't follow me! Kanu Kapers, (07 5785 3328, www.kanukapersaustralia.com)
Get on your and Tour de Sunshine Coast on a downhill mountain bike adventure with Bike On, weaving along rainforest tracks. Or go off road in a different way with a beach ride along Noosa North Shore. Bike On,
(07 5474 3322, www.bikeon.com.au)
Which way Cobber?
Located at the northern tip of the Sunshine Coat, Noosa is on the main travellers path along the east coast of Australia, with the main coach companies stopping in town. Noosa is an easy 1 and 1/2 hour drive north of Brisbane along the Bruce Highway. Take the Bruce Highway exit 224 into Noosa.
Where to crash in Noosa
One of Queensland's finest backpacker accommodation houses, Halse Lodge is located 100m from Noosa's famous surf beach and minutes from the famous Noosa National Park. Relax in the surrounds or enjoy the fantastic restaurant and bar. www.yha.com.au
This hostel offers a courtesy bus, free entry to a variety of nightclubs and free surfboards for rent. They also have a great BBQ area and a swimming pool.
A smaller hostel but big on atmosphere, relax in the courtyard or take advantage of the free surfboard, boogie board and kayak hire. Licensed bar and restaurant on site as well as free courtesy shuttle bus. www.noosabackpackers.com
Brand new and purpose built, Noosa Flashpackers has the ‘feel’ of a resort and the relaxed, communal vibe of a boutique hostel. www.flashpackersnoosa.com
This hostel offers hourly bus drops to the Australian National Park as well as free entry to a variety of nightclubs. They have bikes for rent, a BBQ area and a swimming pool. www.dolphinsbeachhouse.com
Brisbane to Airlie Beach Coastal Drive
Once you’ve finished laughing at the name of the town called Gympie and have passed by the multicoloured cliffs at Rainbow Beach, you’ll come to one of Australia’s fastest growing tourist destinations,
Humpback whales pass by here on their annual pilgrimage to the Antarctic.
This is the place to be if you enjoy water-based activities like surfing, scuba diving, canoeing and kayaking. Make sure you stop by the world’s largest sand island, en route. Because of its isolation there is a thriving dingo population so don’t drop litter and whatever you do, don’t feed them. You’ll be slapped with a fine if you do. www.fraserisland.net
Surrounded by fields of swaying sugar cane, is a popular backpacker stop-off point mainly for the fruit picking opportunities it provides. And there’s the rum factory of course. There are also some great beaches where you can see turtles and scuba dive. doesn’t refer to the population and its residents don’t walk around in period costume. It takes its name from Captain Cook’s famous landing in May 1770. This picturesque seaside village is caressed by the Coral Sea and sheltered by Bustard Bay. Safari Pete’s primo pastime is walking through the tropical landscape of the Joseph Banks Environmental Park.
Further up the Capricorn Coast, as this area is known, there are a host of towns worth a visit including Australia’s self-proclaimed beef capital and a town featuring, possibly, the country’s largest plastic bull. North of Rockhampton you can go crazy. Go on, lose your shit in the Beserker Range which are 23km away and feature the Capricorn Caves, a series of underground limestone sculptures. Once you’ve wriggled through ‘Fat Man’s Misery’, a skinny opening in the caves, and readjusted to daylight, then head offshore to Great Keppel Island for 18km of beautiful beaches and secluded bays. www.greatkeppel.com.au
Where to crash Rainbow Beach
A family owned hostel catering for independent travellers who want to see all the region has to offer. Enjoy free breakfast, wifi, body boards, surfboards, DVD's, coffee & tea and sunset sandboarding walk. Talk to the experienced staff about your Fraser Island trips at the travel desk. www.pippiesbeachhouse.com.au
These guys have a tropical swimming pool, rooms with
air-con, en-suite dorms, a licensed bar and free pancake breakfasts.
This hostel has an outdoor area and swimming pool and is 100 metres from the beach. www.frasersonrainbow.com
Where to crash Hervey Bay
Modern accommodation with great staff, Palace offers a relaxed atmosphere in tropical surrounds, they have a pool complete with hammock and Aussie BBQ area. BBQ and parking is free. www.palaceadventures.com.au
Purpose built hostel offering everything you would expect from a 'flashpackers' including free continental breakfast and wifi. www.flashpackersherveybay.com.au
Multi award winning YHA hostel set in tropical gardens offering a large pool and spa, bistro, bar, internet lounge, tennis & basketball court. www.yha.com.au
These guys include linen in the tariff, as well as tea and coffee and free bike hire.
These guys are located only a five-minute walk to the beach. There’s free linen and towels. www.woolshedbackpackers.com
Which way Cobber?
Hervey Bay is serviced by buses to get you around the local area. Customers can plan their journey and search for timetables at www.qconnect.qld.gov.au.
qconnect paper tickets can be purchased on the bus.
Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays
Well known on the backpacker circuit, Airlie Beach is the gateway to the gorgeous Whitsunday Islands. There are loads of pubs, clubs and bars and it’s a great place to soak up the sun in a lively atmosphere. You can also learn to scuba dive or pretend you’re Captain Birdseye and take to the sea and explore the seventy-four islands of the Whitsundays. is 7km picture postcard of white silica sand and crystal clear blue water. You can snorkel, dive or just dip your toe in. For an aerial perspective, strap on a silly suit and go skydiving.
Back in Airlie Beach you can go windsurfing, jet-skiing, sea kayaking and snorkelaround coral reefs – although it’s not advisable to be taking a dip when thehumpback whales are around. These guys spend several months in
the Whitsundays as they migrate north from Antarctica.
There’s no better way to experience the multicoloured marvel that is The Great Barrier Reef than by actually swimming in it and there is no shortage of options to plan your Whitsunday/Barrier Reef experience from right here in Airlie Beach.
The experienced crew at Explore Whitsundays (07 4946 4999) will guide you through the many options to ensure your trip is truly awesome.
The Airlie Beach Lagoon is a purpose-built saltwater lagoon free of stingers (small and highly dangerous jellyfish) and you can swim in here both day and night.
There’s no better place in Airlie Beach to mingle with like minded travellers than down at the lagoon on a hot and humid afternoon.
Where to crash in Airlie Beach
Ensuite, air-conditioning, balcony, fridge and TV in most rooms as standard! , FREE cutlery, FREE linen & FREE car parking, FREE smiles from the Beaches staff! www.beaches.com.au
This hostel has an onsite bar and restaurant, as well rooms with air-con and a
This place has a swimming pool and rooms with air-con. Parking is available, but make sure to book a space ahead of arrival. www.yha.com.au
These guys have a large pool, a BBQ area, a bar and bistro and nightclub onsite.
Make sure to check out the Down Under Bar. www.stayatbase.com
This hostel has its own bar and restaurant, a BBQ area and air-con in all rooms.
This new hostel is centrally located, just opposite the popular lagoon.
With Swimming pool, spa and individual bungalow style rooms. www.nomadshostels.com/Airlie-Beach/nomads-airlie-beach-backpackers-australia
Which way Cobber?
Airlie Beach is serviced by buses to get you around the local area.
Customers can plan their journey and search for timetables at
www.qconnect.qld.gov.au. qconnect paper tickets can be purchased on the bus.
It may sound like something out of a science-fiction novel, but Magnetic Island isn’t a place inhabited by robots and its beaches aren’t cluttered with iron filings. This charming island, half of which is designated as national park, draws you to it. It’s easily accessible – a twenty-minute ferry ride from , the largest city in the tropical north, and with its twenty-three bays and beaches and a host of wildlife it’s one of the few islands on which people live all year round. There are 24km of walking tracks where you can hop over granite boulders and wander through rainforest, roaming free with 2,000-odd koalas. After you’ve worked up a sweat and checked out the old forts, you can laze on a secluded beach. www.magnetic-island.com.au
Which way Cobber?
Townsville and Magnetic Island are serviced by buses to get you around the local area. Customers can plan their journey and search for timetables at www.qconnect.qld.gov.au.qconnect paper tickets can be purchased on the bus.
Deep in the rainforest, rummaging around the forest floor, there lurks the world’s most dangerous bird. It’s not the missus after an argument; this title is reserved for the cassowary, one of the world’s largest flightless birds. Looking like the lovechild of an emu and a turkey, are usually shy creatures but startle one and you’ll know about it.
Ornithologist Thomas E Gillard warns people that a cassowary’s middle toe is “fitted with a long, murderous nail which can sever an arm or eviscerate an abdomen with ease.” The chances of you being attacked are remote and you’ll be so busy admiring the stunning area around Mission Beach to even think of being in danger. Comprising four small villages along a 14km strip of coast, this is where two World Heritage areas merge; the wet tropics rainforest trails down to the tip of the mighty Great Barrier Reef.
Further up the coast sunny Cairns is one of Australia’s most popular tourist
destinations and a place many travellers find hard to leave. It’s a tropical
cosmopolitan city with a laidback lifestyle, diverse locals and a great base from which to explore the many natural wonders of the area. And it doesn’t hurt that backpackers are extremely well catered for with cheap booze, eats and great
nightlife. Beer heads aren’t the only foaming things around here. Rivers gush and there are a variety of white water rafting trips operating out of Cairns. Head to Fitzroy Island and go sea kayaking, play beach volleyball and shake your toosh at boat parties. Rusty’s Bazaar may sound like one of the locals has gone mad, but this market bustles with a variety of stalls along the Esplanade. It operates from Friday to Sunday. www.cairns.com.au
Pete’s Primo Pastimes
I just love the vibe of tropical North Queensland and after a few days of socializing and catching up with friends, I always make time to explore the awesome and unique destinations right on the door step of Cairns. It's no secret that the world's largest living structure, , is just off the coast and no trip to this region would be complete without 'getting wet' and diving this marine wonderland, for more info check with the crew at either Cairns Dive Centre, (www.cairnsdive.com.au, Ph: 07 4051 0294), or Down Under Cruise & Dive, (www.downunderdive.com.au, Ph 07 4052 8300).
Adrenalin junkies like myself are well catered for with Australia's one and only at AJ Hackett, (www.ajhackett.com, Ph 1800 622 888). Remind
yourself that you're still alive with one of 16 Bungy styles on offer, my favourite
is riding a BMX off the roof!
Sometimes, it's the simple in life that are most enjoyable, especially when they're free. When the tropical heat gets all too much, you can cool your heels at the , as massive swimming pool in the shape of Queensland and yep it's free! For a more adventurous swim, a short drive out of city is a swimming spot very popular with local, Crystal Cascades. There's no public transport out there so you'll need the use of a car, just head through Redlynch and follow the signs the Crystal Cascades, or just ask the locals for directions.
For a truly cultural experience, I can highly recommend the , (www.tjapukai.com.au, Ph: 07 4042 9999). Immerse yourself in the traditional Tjapukai culture with a wide range of activities and experiences which will open your mind.
I like to try something different on every visit to Cairns and Tropical North Queensland and luckily I have never run out of options. Have a go at White Water rafting, Kuranda Railway and Sky Rail, wake boarding, horse riding, visit Fitzroy Island and list goes on and on, I look forward to seeing you legends up here.
Where to crash in Cairns
One of the smaller hostels in Cairns, JJ's Backpackers offers a friendly, social
atmosphere and fantastic service. This owner/operated hostel is perfect for
meeting people, having fun and has that family feel you are looking for. Breakfast & dinner is included in the price. All bed linen is provided and dorms are only 3 or 4 share! Doubles, twins & singles available and a free courtesy pick up! Secure off street parking for those self drivers. www.jjsbackpackers.com
Calypso Inn Backpacker Resort – 5-9 Digger St; Ph 1800 815 628
A relaxed vibe, Calypso offers 5 airconditioned accomm styles. Chill out by the tropical pool and induldge yourself at the Zanzibar Bar & Grill. Free courtesy bus to city and airport. www.calypsobackpackers.com.au
Njoy! – 141 Sheridan St; Ph 1800 807 055
Your NJOY!ment is their mission, great central location, friendly staff and chilled atmosphere.There’s free airport and coach pick-ups (7am-9.30pm) and a free airport drop-off service (minimum two-night stay). They also run a free shuttle to the marina and city centre. www.njoy.net.au
Dreamtime Travellers Rest – 189 Bunda St, Parramatta Park-
07 4031 6753
Set in tropical garden with swimming pool, spa jets and hammocks, They offer a fresh clean linen, duvets and towels. www.dreamtimehostel.com
Bohemia Central Accommodation – 100 Sheridan St;
Ph 1800 558 589
Set in the heart of Cairns (one block from the centre), this hostel offers
off-street parking, a resort pool and wide verandas on which to watch the sun set. Complimentary airport pick-ups are available if you arrange them ahead of time. www.bohemiacentral.com.au
Corona Backpackers – 72 Grafton St; Ph 07 4041 5288
Check in for a free evening meal. They offer discounts of tour bookings and have a currency exchange. www.coronabackpackers.com.au
Global Waterfront – 67 The Esplanade; Ph 1800 682 647
These guys offer a cheap $5 evening meal at PJ O’Briens and have evening activities in conjunction with their sister property, Global Central. Your room key gets you discounts in bars and clubs. They also have $5 airport pick-up between 9.30am and 8.30pm, and free fitness classes!. www.globalbackpackerscairns.com.au
Nomads Esplanade – 93 The Esplanade; Ph 07 4041 0378
These guys have a tropical garden with swimming pool, free breakfast and evening meal, a BBQ area and a restaurant. They also have free car parking.
Nearby to nightlife. This place has a big courtyard with swimming pool, 2 spas and outdoor games area. It has indoor and outdoor dining area, internet cafe, TV room and secure luggage storage www.yha.com.au
These guys are a five-minute walk from the bus and train station. There is a pool, an onsite nightclub, a restaurant and BBQ area. All rooms are en suite and have air conditioning and a kitchenette. www.koalabeachresortcairns.com
Situated in the heart of Cairns, this place has a swimming pool, bar and outdoor entertainment area. www.greenhouse.cairns-hostels.com.au
There’s a rooftop swimming pool here with an inbuilt stereo (not in the water,
obviously!). They run a courtesy bus from the airport as well bus and train stations.
Newly re-furbished pub-style backpacker accommodation right in the heart of Cairns. All rooms come with a fridge, air con and security lockers. The Jack has a great pub vibe and plays hosts to a great variety of local and national acts.
Set in a tropical garden with a large pool, this place has plenty of hammocks and a grassy green lawn. They also run a weekly BBQ with kangaroo and crocodile
burgers and all you can eat pizza nights. www.tropicdays.com.au
These guys have a resort pool, hammocks, free breakfast, free pick-up and a free evening meal with every tour booked through them. Free WiFi internet access is also available. www.geckosbackpackers.com.au
This hostel has a large swimming pool and night porter security staff. Situated on the waterfront, it is near a marketplace that has over a hundred shops and the famous 'Mud Markets'. www.bellviewcairns.com.au
These guys have free Wi Fi and a free daily meal. www.cairnsbeachhouse.com.au
These guys offer Hotel style accommodation and have ensuites in every room. Massive lagoon swimming, plasma TV's and theme nights.
Located only metres from the city swimming lagoon and sunbaking park! Free
evening meal & luggage storage.
Set in lush tropical gardens, this hostel has a pool and BBQ area and is only a short walk to Cairns city centre. Courtesy pick-ups available from 8am-8pm, TV and DVD Guest Lounge. www.travellersoasis.com.au
Set in lush, tropical and landscaped gardens, this place has rooms with private
balconies. There’s also a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi and a restaurant onsite. It’s a
five-minute drive from the airport and they offer free pick-ups 6am-11pm.
This tropical hostel is located just minutes from major transportation and has a free shuttle bus from the airport and to hotspots around town.
They have a licensed bar and a big swimming pool.
Free evening meals at a restaurant in the city await backpackers who stay here. They offer a free airport pick up service, although call them if you’re arriving after 10pm. There is a currency exchange here, too. www.caravella.com.au
Which way Cobber?
Cairns is serviced by buses to get you around the local area. Customers can plan their journey and search for timetables at www.qconnect.qld.gov.au.
qconnect paper tickets can be purchased on the bus
It’s not where you end up, its how you get there. Or so the mantra goes. One of the best things about this small town is the journey to it. Located 25km northwest of Cairns in a swathe of tropical rainforest, there are a number of ways to get to Kuranda. You can drive, fly over the forest by cable car or else chug there on a scenic railway. Kuranda railway station celebrates its centenary this year. The town centre is filled with arts and crafts stalls, restaurants and opal shops. It’s also a great place to buy a didgeridoo.
This bohemian enclave nestles in the Atherton Tableland, which is a fertile plateau that constitutes part of the Great Dividing Range. Volcanoes once belched their lava loads onto the land, and although the eruptions occurred many thousands of years ago, the volcanoes’ legacy can still be found in the nutrient-rich soil. Don’t be alarmed if you see the bushes move and feel as though you’re being watched. Kuranda and its surrounds attract flocks of twitchers armed with binoculars. I enjoy nothing more than a bit of bird spotting – the more bush, the better! There are twelve species endemic to this area including the pied monarch – not Her Majesty chomping down on a Four and Twenty, but a cute little flutterer from the genus ‘Arses’. With all of these twitchers and arses around, it’s no wonder that Kuranda is in the Wet Tropics World Heritage zone. This rainforest area has the highest concentration of primitive flowering plant families in the world. Only two other humid tropical regions in the world (the islands of Madagascar and New Caledonia) have comparable levels of endemism.
Pete’s Primo Pastimes
One of the best ways to get out and see the flora and fauna of the area is to walk, mountain bike or 4WD in Kuranda National Park. Barron Gorge National Park is also a great place to immerse oneself in rainforest. Don’t miss the Barron Falls, which cascade 265m into a gorge. The falls are spectacular after heavy rain. www.nprsr.qld.gov.au
Why drive or walk when you can glide? Pretend you’re a flying fox and embark on a Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience. Cable cars meander over 7.5km of tropical rainforests, descending through the canopy to immerse you in the guts of the trees. Cable cars depart from Kuranda. It’s a 90-minute journey (one-way) to Caravonica; allow 2.5 hours to make the return trip. www.skyrail.com.au
You’d be a flamin’ galah if you didn’t visit Birdworld Kuranda. (Heritage Markets)See Amazonian macaws, lorikeets and other colourful flappers (nearly 80 species) in a rainforest habitat punctuated with waterfalls and exotic plants.
From flappers to flutterers: the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary (8 Rob Veivers Drive) has Australia’s largest butterfly aviary. Nestled beside the Kuranda heritage markets, the sanctuary has over 1500 tropical butterflies. These flying rainbows of colour have artistic masterpieces on their wings, masterpieces of fluoro yellow, green and blue and every other colour imaginable. www.australianbutterflies.com
Butterflies aren’t the only things you’ll see flying around Kuranda. Dedicated wildlife carer Pam Tully may not have wings, but she’s an angel to bats. She runs BatReach, a rehabilitation centre for injured bats – particularly spectacled flying foxes. Pam has successfully reared and rehabilitated thousands of bats. She also cares for possums, gliders, bandicoots and native rats. Head to the top of the Jumrum walk (next to the fire station) to find BatReach. www.batreach.com
Just when you thought that Kuranda had run out of animals, they went and built the Koala Gardens next to the heritage markets. Here you can cuddle koalas. Best not to cuddle the freshwater crocs and also the snakes as you stroll through Australia’s first walk-through snake house. There are also kangaroos, wombats, reptiles, pademelons and parma wallabies, who are especially fond of cheese and tomato. www.koalagardens.com
Where to Crash
Kuranda has a variety of accommodation options. Depending on your budget, you can stay in units, cottages, an artist’s studio, cabins, dormitories, or just sleep in a tent. Check out www.kuranda.org and head to the accommodation tab for more details.
As hijacked planes smashed into the twin towers of downtown Manhattan, far away on the other side of the globe in the tropical climes of Port Douglas, ex-president Bill Clinton was tucking into a meal at a seafood restaurant. The experience must’ve been surreal: surrounded by lush rainforest on one side, and the tranquil Coral Sea on the other, it must’ve been hard to reconcile that violence could exist in a world so seemingly peaceful.
With its nurturing climate and palm-fringed beaches, Port Douglas is the kind of place that would inspire the invention of postcards if they didn’t already exist. Four Mile Beach winds around the foreshore and is the site of countless weddings, sun-bakers, and, at the southern end, kitesurfers. Its tropical monsoon climate means you can expect hot summers (around 30C on average) and warm winters (low 20s).
Golden sands had another meaning back in 1877 when gold was discovered at nearby Hodgkinson River. In just under a century, Port Douglas peaked with a population of 12,000 before dwindling to just 100 in 1960. It was only in the mid-1980s that tourism pumped new life into the region, and today the town is recognised by Australian Traveller Magazine as the country’s third best town. And with the adjacent World Heritage areas of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, it’s a coastal treasure with plenty of jewels.
Pete’s Primo Pastimes
Situated 15km offshore, Low Island may sound like a colony for the vertically challenged, but it’s actually a protected coral cay with only one resident – a solitary caretaker that looks after the lighthouse. Sea turtles abound and you can spy them by either snorkeling or embarking on a glass bottom boat tour. Those with good balance can opt for a more interactive approach on a stand-up paddle boarding tour. Quicksilver (www.quicksilver-cruises.com/wavedancer.htm), Reef Sprinter (www.reefsprinter.com.au) and Sailaway (sailawayportdouglas.com) all offer trips to Low Island.
Outdoor aficionados will be salivating at the number of adventure activities Port Douglas has on offer. If you’ve never tried kiteboarding before, then head here in the winter months when trade winds blow from the south and there’s a bit of puff around. Lessons are available at nearby Palm Cove (www.kiteboardingcairns.com.au).
Mountain bikers can gear up and head into the rainforests and mountains. Bikes are available from hostels and also Port Douglas Bike Hire (3 Warner Street; portdouglasbikehire.com.au) and PD Bikeworks
(Shop 2, 46 Macrossan St; www.pdbikeworks.com).
If you fancy catching your dinner and having an adventure at the same time, then there are numerous fishing operators that can take you out. www.fishingportdouglas.com.au.
Kayaking is a primo way of accessing spots that are otherwise difficult to get to on foot or by car. Back Country Bliss (backcountrybliss.com.au/sea-kayak-port-douglas/) runs 4-hour trips in sit-on-top sea kayaks.
There are a variety of snorkelling and diving trips to the Great Barrier Reef as well. One of the best aqua adventures around is a snorkel and dive trip to three different Agincourt Reef sites. Silversonic (Marina Mirage Wharf Street) runs 5-hour cruises and picks you up from wherever you’re staying. Divers can indulge in three dives; novices can do introductory dives. Lunch and morning tea is included as well as all diving equipment. www.silverseries.com.au
Those who prefer to stay in the boat can take a jet boat up Dicksons Inlet. This is the age of Aquarius Twilight Sailing (Meridien Marina) – a primo way to watch the sun sink into the Daintree rainforest. Cruises last 1.5 hours and boats depart at 4.45pm. Crunch on a canapé and bring a bottle of vino to sup at sunset. www.barrier-reef-holidays.com
With a sunset that will live long in the memory (and hopefully no hangover), it’s time to eat breakfast with a difference. Pull up a seat in the middle of a wetland and watch birds flit overhead as you tuck into a tropical breakfast buffet. Breakfast with the Birds is an initiative of Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas (Port Douglas Road) where guests sit in Nature and dine with birds all around. Set on 8 acres, these guys look after injured, orphaned and sick animals. Once you’ve finished breakfast, had a wander around or embarked on a guided tour, it may be time for lunch with the lorikeets… www.wildlifehabitat.com.au
All that hanging around with birds may make you want to fly so strap in and take a helicopter ride. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be alone on a deserted island, or to have lunch in the heart of an isolated rainforest while a waterfall cascades beside you, then GBR helicopters could be your ticket to finding out. They’re based at Cairns airport, but offer scenic flights over Port Douglas and trips out to the Great Barrier Reef. Trips include snorkeling equipment, a talk from a marine biologist, coral viewing on a semi-submersible vessel and lunch. www.gbrhelicopters.com.au/tours
Where to Crash
United Backpackers – 37 Warner St, Port Douglas; Ph 1800 801 540
You could be one of the first people to sleep in this hostel as it has just opened. Situated in the heart of the Port Douglas township, and perhaps more importantly a short walk from magnificent Four Mile Beach, this place has a poolside cinema to watch flicks under the moonlight, as well as a pop-up bar. There are also BBQs, as well as free Wi-Fi and bikes to zoom around town. Those with cars can take advantage of free onsite undercover car parking. unitedportdouglas.com.au
Dougies Backpackers Resort Port Douglas –
111 Davison St, Port Douglas; Ph 1800 996 200
Set on a couple of acres, this place is nestled in tropical palms and has poolside hammocks. It’s only 300 metres to the beach from here. Facilities include a bar, free BBQs, satellite TV, and bike and fishing rod hire. www.dougies.com.au
Daintree and Cape Tribulation
Bar a gang of marauding pirates, there are probably few things scarier to a sailor than hearing the seabed scrape against the bottom of the boat. This is exactly what Captain Cook heard when he sailed around Cape Tribulation, a narrow stretch of land that resides within the Daintree National Park. Nowadays there’s no trouble around here, just rocky headlands and long sandy beaches flanked with tracts of rare beachside forest. However, tribulation may come your way if you try and clamber up some of the steep, forest-covered slopes of the McDowall Ranges, which create the western border of Cape Trib. Two rivers mark the northern and southern borders, namely the Bloomfield and Daintree respectively.
Daintree National Park itself is over seven times larger than Cape Tribulation. It is an area of extreme biodiversity and contains the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest in Australia, which has been left to grow undisturbed for millions upon millions of years. Needless to say, it’s a haven for wildlife, from reptiles to marsupials; a single hectare of the Daintree can contain over 30,000 species of plants and animals. There are 430 species of birds including the endangered cassowary.
The southern cassowary is the third tallest and second heaviest living bird in the world. Catch a cassowary on a bad day, and it could mean a trip to casualty. They have been known to charge at people and have a long, bayonet-style nail that can impale or else lacerate your vital organs. You’ve been warned!
Pete’s Primo Pastimes
Pack your loincloth, harness up and get ready to unleash your best Tarzan cry. Jungle surfing is an adrenaline-packed way of seeing the rainforest while whizzing between treetop platforms. You start nearly 20 metres off the ground in the canopy of the world’s oldest rainforest. Jungle Adventures’ longest zip-line is 78 metres above a fast flowing creek. The adventurous can attempt their last zip upside down. Jungle Adventures also offer two-hour guided night walks in the jungle. Find them at 24 Camelot Close, Cape Tribulation. junglesurfing.com.au
If whizzing through the trees on a flying fox sounds terrifying, then perhaps a horse ride along Myall Beach will calm down the tempo. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rodeo rider or are cocking your leg over for the first time, Cape Tribulation Horse Rides (152 Rykers Rd) cater to all levels and offer morning and afternoon rides. www.capetribhorserides.com.au
Cape Tribulation is one of the closest access points to the Great Barrier Reef. Ocean Safari (oceansafari.com.au) run snorkeling trips in one of the best diving locations in the world.
Back on terra firma, rev the engine and climb aboard for a 4WD adventure along the Bloomfield Track. En route you’ll see rainforest, beaches, swimming holes and creeks. During the road’s construction in 1983, protesters tried to stop the
bulldozers by tying themselves to trees. They failed, and a road that winds its way through the rainforest north of Cape Tribulation to Cooktown was completed. The road is only partially sealed and may be impassable after heavy rains. Billy Tea Safaris runs trips down the Bloomfield Track, as well as a variety of other trips around the area. www.billytea.com.au
One of those trips is to the alien like formations inside the Chillagoe Caves in the Chillagoe-Mungana National Park. Scientists believe the Chillagoe area could be 400 million years old. En route through the caves keep your eyes peeled for bats, pythons and spiders. And try not to breathe too near to the limestone – the structures inside the cave are terribly fragile. www.billytea.com.au
Mossman Gorge, located in the southern part of Daintree National Park, contains the oldest continuously surviving rainforest on earth. Within the wisdom of the trees there are many evolutionary secrets, generations of life knowledge pertaining to nature and indigenous ways. One of the best ways to unravel some of the secrets is to go on a Dreamtime Walk through Mossman Gorge. Accompanied by an indigenous guide, wind along a gentle track through rainforest flanked by serene streams. After a traditional smoking ceremony to ward off evil spirits, you’ll disappear into the forest to visit sites of cultural importance, hear stories of the Kuku Yalanji culture and traditions, learn about bush tucker and see ochre painting demonstrations. Bush tea and damper awaits you at the culmination of the tour.
To further immerse yourself in indigenous culture, head to the art gallery at the Mossman Gorge Centre (212 Mossman Gorge Rd). The gallery showcases local artists’ work, which explores both traditional culture and contemporary issues within the indigenous world. There are also artifacts and clothing on display. mossmangorge.com.au
Where to Crash
Daintree Village is a good base from which to explore Cape Tribulation and the surrounding Daintree area. There are bed and breakfast eco lodges, tourism resorts and campgrounds. For a list of options log onto www.cape-trib.com /accommodation, or else check out the following hostels. All prices were correct at the time of writing.
Daintree Crocodylus ECO Adventureland –
161 Buchanan Creek Road, Cow Bay; Ph (07) 4098 9166
Located in 21 acres of rainforest in Cow Bay, just north of the Daintree River, rooms here start at $25 per night. Accommodation is in wooden and canvas bungalows built in a safari tent style with high ceilings. There’s a pool, Internet and a licensed bar. daintreecrocodylus.com.au
Ferntree Rainforest Lodge – 36 Camelot Close, Cape Tribulation;
Ph (07) 4098 0000
Set in lush coastal rainforest, these guys have a variety of rooms, from a private pool suite, to garden lofts (buildings on stilts), cabins and dorms. Prices start from $28 per night. There’s a restaurant onsite, a Balinese-style dining hall.
Cape Trib Beach House – Rykers Rd; Ph (07) 4098 0030
This rainforest resort has a private beach and some cabins are only 20m from the shore. There’s a restaurant onsite and a range of good accommodation options. Prices start at $29 per night. www.capetribbeach.com.au
Cooktown & Cape York Peninsula
Wild and sparsely populated, getting to Cape York – as far north as you can get in Queensland – is one of the biggest adventures you’ll have in Oz. Deserted roadhouses, a trail of pirouetting red dust in your wake and the odd croc are all things you can expect to encounter en route to this narrow peninsula, roughly 160km south of Papua New Guinea.
The peninsula is the largest unspoilt wilderness area in eastern Australia, and is accessible in both wet and dry seasons by air, ship or road. There are a handful of indigenous communities up this way, and if you don’t fancy driving yourself then there are tour operators that offer a range of safaris and multi-day
Once the second biggest town in Queensland during the 1800s goldrush, Cooktown nestles at the end of the Bloomfield Track. The incursion of this road into native rainforest opened up Cooktown to visitors; the area was isolated for many years and is now only accessible by 4WD. Coming here is a great opportunity to experience indigenous Australia. Meet the laconic locals and set your clock to Cooktown time.
Captain Cook had a sizeable impact on this part of Australia’s coastline. Cooktown was the site of the country’s first non-indigenous settlement in 1770, the place where he beached his ship so that repairs to the hull could be carried out. Cook’s seven-week stay laid the foundations for a drastic change in indigenous fortune; it planted the seed for modern day Australian civilisation and the conflict that was to come. The humble sea turtle was the beginning of the unrest, when the natives clashed with the Brits who refused to share the sea turtles that Cook kept on the Endeavour. After attacking Cook’s camp, Cook got trigger-happy and wounded one of the tribe. While reconciliation took place, it was a false dawn – the start of white supremacy over indigenous Australians.
Pete’s Primo Pastimes
For those who are interested in learning more about Captain Cook’s fleeting stay and his impact on the area, head to the James Cook Museum (50 Helen St, Cooktown). Located in a 19th century convent building, the museum contains the original anchor and cannon from Cook’s ship the Endeavour, which was only retrieved from the reef in the early 1970s. The museum provides a balanced account of Cook’s encounter with indigenous people, with perspectives from both sides. It also exhibits scientific discoveries made by Joseph Banks, chronicles the Palmer River gold rush, Cooktown’s maritime history, and also tells stories from Cooktown’s early residents. Closure may occur during the wet season (October to March), so contact the museum before visiting.
With a head full of history there’s a fair chance you’ll need a sit down in the Sir Joseph Banks Garden, which surrounds the museum. Sip a cup of tea while relaxing in a shady grove and see if you can spot some of the species that Banks identified when he came here with Cook. When you’re done plant spotting, watch the calming flow of the Endeavour River, which can also be seen from the garden.
A great way to see more of the town is by walking the 16.3km Scenic Rim Walking Trail. From the mangrove-lined banks of the Endeavour River, to the tropical rainforest of Mount Cook National Park and the sand dunes and beaches of Cooktown’s rugged coastline, this walk combines landmarks with diverse habitats. You can do as much of the walk as you please, either in small bite-sized sections or else pack a daypack and do the whole thing. Pay your respects at the cemetery, eat a picnic in the botanic gardens, or perch on a rocky pew on the headland between Finch and Cherry Tree bays. Check tidal times for some sections before heading out, and be aware of estuarine crocodiles. Snap!
Those wanting a more strenuous walk can summit Mount Cook (roughly 7km out of town). The track winds through a sheltered bush-land gully and amongst granite boulders. There are primo coastal views when perching on the boulders up top, as well as views over Cooktown. The walk is a 6km return.
Flip out and take the plunge as Cooktown is one of the closest towns to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Dawson and Cowlishaw reefs are both just a couple of miles offshore. There are several companies that offer snorkeling and glass bottom boat trips out to the Reef, most of which are located in Cairns.
What twitches, hides in small structures and gets excited if it sees a chowchilla? Well, it could be you if visiting Keatings Lagoon Conservation Park roughly 5km south of Cooktown. This bird sanctuary is positioned in a freshwater lagoon that traps wet season run-off, therefore creating an ideal habitat for wetland vegetation. Flocks of migratory water birds come here to feed late summer to late autumn; the lagoon wetland is often parched during winter and early summer months. There’s a 390-metre walk around the lagoon, as well as a bird-hide replete with bird identification chart. Be prepared for inquisitive mozzies.
Pete’s Primo Excursions
All aboard, cobber! Strap in, rev on and prepare for an adventure. Cooktown is a great base from which to explore the surrounding area, and if you’ve got a car then check out the following day trips.
Hope Vale is 50-minute drive northwest of Cooktown on a partially unsealed road. En route to this indigenous community, you’ll pass through the scenic Endeavour Valley where there are options to crash (see Where to Crash). Hope Vale is an important site because it was the first community in Queensland to receive a Deed of Grant in Trust, a document that enabled them to self-govern. Check out the local gallery at the Hope Vale Arts and Cultural Centre. For a more personal indigenous experience, indigenous elder Willie Gordon runs tours to ancestral rock art sites housed in shelters formed by huge boulders. And once you’ve worked up an appetite, enjoy a traditional bush feast with Irene Hammett. You can book both tours in Cooktown. www.cooktownandcapeyork.com/tours.
If you have a 4WD, then the 25km-drive from Hope Vale to Elim Beach is well worth undertaking if the tide is low. It takes about an hour on an unsealed road and winds through white silica sand hills, rugged escarpments and heath-lands. You’ll soon be immersed in a land of gigantic sand dunes the colour of blistering sunsets. You can camp on Elim Beach. Permits and maps are available from the Hope Vale servo (closed Sundays).
In a place where black algae crawls over huge granite rocks and a large grey kangaroo rock stands custodian-like over a jumbled maze of stone, secret legends are stored deep in the darkness. Black Mountain, situated 25 km south of Cooktown, is a place of myth and legend – a source of many Dreamtime stories. It’s probably little wonder that ghost bats live here, in an area where wet tropics meets drier savanna and woodland regions. Explorers can immerse themselves on a mountain where boulders the size of houses are stacked jenga-like, balancing precariously as if in a game of marbles between giants. Try not to sneeze or the blocks may topple…
Scenery, sauntering and swimming are the orders of the day at Alkoomie, a working cattle station roughly 30 minutes from Cooktown. There’s alchemy at Alkoomie with views across the Endeavour River Valley to Cooktown and out to the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll find Queensland’s emblematic flower, the Cooktown Orchid, blooming here; this mauve/lavender coloured flower has been symbolic of Queensland since 1959. There is a range of walks along rugged escarpments here – from 3 to 7km long – and you can wash off in a natural rock pool or beneath a waterfall afterwards.
If it’s solitude and sand you’re after, then you’ll have to hire a boat or else walk into the remote Cedar Bay National Park 40km south of Cooktown. The area wasn’t so quiet in 1976 when 40 police accompanied by government officers, black trackers, light aircraft, a helicopter and a naval patrol boat descended on the area to catch dope-smoking hippies. The raid was as unsubtle as my fluoro safari suit, and the hippies were probably too blissed out to see it coming. They soon took notice when police burnt their dwellings and belongings. Four police officers were charged with offences and the police commissioner resigned over the incident. There’s no such shenanigans nowadays just tropical rainforest hinterland, sea-sculpted headlands and beaches with sumptuous curves. Bliss without the dope.
Pack a picnic or three, slide on the bathers and head out on a road trip to explore a number of waterfalls in the Cooktown area. It’s generally safe to swim at the base of these falls, but check in with the locals before swimming, just in case any wandering crocs may be around. Endeavour Falls (32km north of Cooktown) are not safe for swimming. Access is via the Endeavour Falls Tourist Park so let the owners know you’re visiting as a courtesy. Towards Hope Vale is Isabella Falls, where you can swim. Hike to the swimmable15m Mungumby Hidden Falls. You can arrange a guided walk through the forest to the falls at Mungumby Lodge in Helenvale (www.mungumby.com).
Cascades aplenty at Trevethan Falls (13.5km south of Cooktown) where there is a succession of private swimming pools as well as the swimming hole at the base of the falls. Home Rule Falls rule. There’s a campground near the falls and you can swim here. Bloomfield Falls are bloomin’ marvellous! Guided tours of these falls are available because you’ll need a 4WD
to get there (www.masonstours.com.au/4wdsafaris.htm).
Further north, heading towards Cape York, you can swim at Fruit Bat and Eliott Falls in Jardine National Park and Heathlands Resources Reserve, which includes much of the catchment of the Jardine River, the largest perennial river in Queensland. This area is only accessible via 4WD during the dry season (May-November). Just remember to check in with locals before swimming anywhere as conditions can change. Don’t swim after dusk or early in the morning unless you want to end up as croc fodder.
If, after all that water action, you’re still keen for aqua adventure then be lured into a guided trip with one of several fishing companies in town (www.cooktownandcapeyork.com), one of which offers heli-fishing! Failing that you can hire a dinghy for the day, or else take a two-hour eco cruise on the Endeavour River where you may spot some crocs. www.cooktowncruises.com.au
Further north, as north as a crocodile cruise will go in fact, is Cape Crocodile Adventures where you’ll cruise through verdant marine wetland systems and explore various tributaries looking for the salty, Australia’s largest species of crocodile.
Where to Crash
For a list of campgrounds and cheap accommodation options around Cape York, Cooktown and in between, head to www.cooktownandcapeyork.com.
For more information log onto www.capeyorkinfo.org or
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