I wanted to ring in the New Year and the start of another year of amazing globe-hopping adventures with a special post dedicated to the place where my favourite travel buddy and I will say ‘I do’ – my home region of North Queensland, Australia! And as so many friends and family from the UK are making the trip down under, lots for the first time ever to Aus and most for the first time to North Queensland, I wanted to showcase a few special sights that they should visit while they are over for the wedding.
While lots of foreign tourists do get to North Queensland as part of their Aussie adventure, not that many make it off the Bruce Highway from Cairns or Townsville to Ingham and the Hinchinbrook/Herbert River region – the deserted beaches are testament to this and mean there is definitely an off-the-beaten track Aussie tourist trail to be experienced!
For any Ingham locals reading this, the below will probably make up part of a map of your childhood, a timeline of long, hot summers and endless trips to icy cold waterholes to get out of the sweltering heat and get up to school holiday shenanigans. There are many places missing from this entry because I simply can’t find all the photos on my hard drive (Crystal Creek, Broadwater, Lucinda Beach, snorkelling at Orpheus Island to name a few) and I will indeed be recommending a visit to the Tyto Visitor’s Centre for more information. But if you are from Ingham and there is somewhere that you think is absolutely essential for our British friends and family to visit during their stay in the area, let me know in the comments and I will share it with them!
Without a doubt Wallaman Falls is the most impressive, unspoilt, unique natural attraction in the area. It’s part of the UNESCO World Heritage Wet Tropics region, and at 268m high, it is Australia’s longest single drop waterfall. According to Wikipedia, around 100,000 people visit the falls each year, which on the one hand, hardly does justice to such a stunning show of what nature has to offer – but on the other hand, it means you’re not craning your head around selfie-taking throngs of tourists all shouting above the thundering falls (however, I must stay that everybody I know has a token awkward childhood picture taken with their siblings and parents posing at the falls lookout). It does however mean that facilities are pretty basic and you should aim to come out the other side of the 40 minute drive from Ingham prepared with a hearty picnic and some cold beverages.
You’ll also need some sustenance should you brave the epic walk down to the bottom of the falls in search of one of the most memorable swims you’ll ever have, eery and surreal, like something out of Picnic at Hanging Rock. But what goes down must come up, and during the long, vertical slog back up, you’ll be cursing the moment you ever thought it was ever a good idea to walk down. Or maybe this was just me, and because we had poorly timed our walk during the middle of a 37 degree day. Just another day in North Queensland!
If you are super hard core, you can even camp the night and wake up at dawn to see the platypus swimming. If you are lucky, you might also see a cassowary and live to tell the tale. I, sadly, have done neither. Never say never.
I guess you could say Jourama is kind of the ‘little brother’ falls of the area, certainly next to Wallaman anyway. But what it lacks in grandeur it makes up for in tranquility and surprises. You can take your time ambling across the watery, rocky path, taking in the sound of insects and birds and watching the butterflies skim past, before you get to the main rockpools. Here you can take your choice of deliciously cold swimming holes, all separated by giant, prehistoric looking boulders – how far you get all depends on your sense of adventure.
You could make the trek to the top of the falls, but if your standards have been set by the thundering rage of Wallaman, you should embrace the stress-free swimming and spend your afternoon frolicking in the refreshing water.
Take a scenic flight
Having friends in high places can literally give you a whole new perspective. My very generous friend Emma recently arranged for us to take a scenic flight, one of the services run by her family, Liddle’s Heli-Fishing and Scenic Flights. We whizzed across the region in the four seater plane, taking in the best of the area from our privileged bird’s eye view.
Lush farmlands in neat criss-crossed grids in all shades of green. The famous snaky waterways of the iconic fishing mecca, the Hinchinbrook Channel, its neat myriad of curves stretching out dizzily as far as the eye can see. The mysterious, misty Hinchinbrook Island, with its sulky, seemingly impenetrable forests, isolated waterfalls and jagged, sandy white beaches so deserted that it makes you wonder what secrets they hide. The unmistakable chimneys of the Victoria Sugar Mill and the needle straight Lucinda Jetty.
Savour it, because the hour goes far too quickly. I could spend forever staring out that plane window into the green expanse below.
If you would like to take a scenic flight over the Ingham area, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re lucky, they will let you fly the plane (for about two minutes).
It might look quiet, but this is where it will all happen come April 11! Forrest Beach Hotel manager Trent is working on our late license as we speak!
Don’t expect a DJ, dance floor or 3 course meal at the sleepy Station Hotel – but despite all this, Phil thinks it’s the best pub in Ingham and every time we go back we have to stop in for a schooner or four.
Maybe it’s because of the timeless, heritage Queenslander building that gives it that old world aura. Maybe it’s because of the mismatched memorabilia, including pictures of the Queen and other slightly racy pictures. Or, the feeling that Hugh Jackman might just swagger in wearing tight jeans and a cowboy hat and stop, or start, a fight. Or, it’s because of the greeting you get from pub landlord Keith, who, just like in the good old days, is eager to have a yarn, find out what you’re up to, and tell you about the history of the pub.
Oh, and did I mention Keith makes fresh meat pies every day?
And that rooms are $35 a night? (But bathrooms are shared and rumour has it the place is haunted….)
So there you have it. I told you there were places I missed – what else should be unmissable? Let me know!