ROAD TRIP DIARIES # 18
Cardwell Port Hinchinbrook Marina
It came as no surprise to find out we would be cruising to the Hinchinbrook Island with an all gray nomad team after realising we were the only people below 50 in the packed caravan park at Cardwell. Most tourists and backpackers would probably skip this town and head straight to the more popular Mission Beach. But after much contemplation, Charles and I decided to avail of the expensive day tour to Hinchinbrook Island while we were nearby. We reckoned we may never go back to this part of Queensland again and it could be our last chance to see this pristine wilderness.
Hinchinbrook Island is the largest island National Park in Australia and is somewhat of a mecca for serious bush walkers and naturalists. You need to book about a year in advance if you want to trek the famous Thorsborne Trail during peak season and only 40 visitors are allowed to traverse it at any one time. We weren’t really ready or fit for a 3-4 day trek in the wilderness nor had we made any reservation so we opted for a 5 and ½ hour tour, which included exploration of the mangroves, visiting the long stretch of beach at Ramsay Bay and exploring the beach near Hinchinbrook Island Resort.
We started our day in Cardwell driving around the picturesque minivillage near the port looking for a safe spot to leave our camper van. We then joined the rest of the guests at Port Hinchinbrook Marina, had our morning tea and listened to a short talk about our itinerary for the day. It didn’t take long before we boarded the ferry and sailed our way through the Hinchinbrook Channel. It was a ride filled with magnificent scenery: thick mangroves fringed the channel, rugged mountains lorded over the skyline and dense forests and sandy beaches were in abundance.
Stop Over at Hinchinbrook Island Resort
We reached the Hinchinbrook Island Resort in less than an hour and were given about an hour to explore the area. The resort is nicely built into a steep hillside covered in lush greenery. It has cosy wooden cabins, an outdoor pool and beautiful sandy beaches not far away.
After exploring around the empty resort, Charles did his morning beach walk while I slept on the beach throughout our stay hoping to recover fast from seasickness. My short nap did wonders for my seasickness, and I recovered just in time for our mangrove cruise. We left our ferry boat near the resort and transferred to a smaller boat.
It was hard to imagine the immensity of one of the world’s largest island national park while cruising through the mangrove forest but just the thought of setting foot on an unspoilt wilderness was already a rewarding experience in itself.
Cruising with the Gray Nomads
Mt. Bowen lording over the the pristine wilderness
On the way to Ramsay Beach, Charles and I went to find our own separate nook away from the rest of the group. After collecting our pre-packed lunch from our guide, we traced a forested path in the opposite direction from the gray nomads, towards the northern end of the beach. Enjoying the seclusion of a long stretch of golden sand wasn’t a bad alternative to missing the chance to hike through the rainforest wilderness. It was a whirlwind visit which made us think seriously about going back in the future just to trek the Thorsborne Trail, reputedly one of the world’s best trekking adventures.
Off to Ramsay Beach
Testing the water
Lunch on our own secluded nook
The water was too cold for my liking so I opted to walk along the beach after a hasty dip. We were the only people on this side of the island and the whole stretch of the beach on both sides was empty. Perhaps the gray nomads were still having their lunch at some shady spot.
After lunch, Charles didn’t waste any time and dove straight into the waves in his birth suit. We were just starting to have fun when we realised it was about time to rejoin the group and cruise back to the resort. Half day on this island was merely scratching the surface, you could spend weeks here and still have plenty of secluded nooks to explore.
Cardwell Forest Drive
It was still early when we reached the town so we decided to do the Cardwell Forest Drive before heading to Mission Beach . It was a scenic 26 kilometer roundtrip through softwood pine plantations, rainforest lined creeks and farmland. The highlight of this trip was visiting one of the three lookouts which offered a stunning view of the largest mangrove everglades in Australia.
Acres of Planted Pine Trees
Last walk of the day before heading to Mission Beach
There were also a few lovely swimming holes in the area each with their own picnic facilities but we ended driving to the Spa Pool out of curiosity. We found a strangely bluish creek, spooky roots protruding near the river banks and an empty spa pool. It was dry season during our visit so the spa pools were empty. The Spa Pool earns its name from the water gushing into a natural rock formation which creates a stimulating spa effect and provides a fun way to cool off.
Strangely bluish water
One of the natural spa pools
The water here wasn’t as inviting as the previous waterholes we had visited so we left Cardwell and drove to Tully, Queensland – the wettest place in Australia.
(This is part of our 6-week North Queensland Road Trip Series, which took place July- August 2010)
Australian Road Trip 101: A Vantastic Beginning
Road Trip Diaries # 1 – An Encounter with the Strangest Animal in the World
Road Trip Diaries # 2 – Of Strangler Figs, Leeches and Long Holidays
Road Trip Diaries # 3 - Exploring Finch Hatton Gorge
Road Trip Diaries # 4 – Cape Hillsborough: On Bush Walks Beach Strolls and Star Gazing
Road Trip Diaries # 5 – Cape Hillsborough: Sunrise and Wild Kangaroos
Road Trip Diaries # 6 – Airlie Beach: Beaches Babes and Backpackers
Road Trip Diaries # 7 – Ocean Rafting to the Whitsundays
Road Trip Diaries # 8 – Unexpected Encounters
Road Trip Diaries # 9 – Exploring Bowenwood
Road Trip Diaries # 10 – Townsville: Finding Nemo and the Sunken Pandora
Road Trip Diaries # 11 – A Visit at the Billabong Sanctuary and Castle Hill
Road Trip Diaries # 12 – Magnetic Island: What Captain Cook Missed
Road Trip Diaries # 13 – Paluma Range National Park: A Walk in the Clouds
Road Trip Diaries # 14 – Of Didgeridoo, Exotic Fruits and Why I love Camping in the Bush
Road Trip Diaries # 15 – Jourama Falls: A Gray Nomad Affair
Road Trip Diarues # 16 – The Bird Man of Tyto Wetlands
Road Trip Diaries # 17 – The Quest for Wallaman Falls