Way back in 2004 Brenden some how managed to talk me into taking a whole month off work. We packed up our two kids who were then aged four and five and headed north from Cowra in Central West NSW. We spent a week on the Gold Coast before making our way from the Gold Coast to Cairns. Our plan was to camp at a few different spots on our way up the coast.
It might surprise some of you to know that I wasn’t born a camper. I had my first camping experience at 15 and didn’t have another one until I was in my 30’s. Brenden on the other hand grew up camping at Wyangala Dam and on friends’ properties. Motor bike riding was more often than not a large part of those camping trips.
We had absolutely no camping gear, except for our 40 litre Engel fridge. So we went out and bought a tent, camp stretchers, sleeping bags, a gas stove, folding table and chairs and a roof pod so we could fit it all in. We owned a 2001 Toyota Prado at the time.
Setting of for the trip north we got as far as Rockhampton the first day. We ended up staying in a motel there as both the kids were sick with very high temperatures. I thought it best to get them into a cool bath and dose them up on ‘Panadol’ (which worked) and they were fine the next day. However, by the time we arrived in Townsville, Brenden was not well at all. He had a raging temperature and had to put the tent up pretty much by himself because I had no idea what I was doing!
We managed to get the tent up, found ourselves some dinner and collapsed into bed. Only to have our air mattress leak and go flat on us during the night! It went into the bin the next morning and we were off to find a camping shop and buy a new one. Wouldn’t you know it – it had a hole in it and was flat by the next morning too! Back to the camping shop it went for a replacement and change of brand and we still have it stored in the shed now!
Aside from all the dramas my memory of Townsville was of a lovely town with a great water park for the kids to play in along The Strand and beautiful warm water with no surf, so again perfect for the kids and as it was September we didn’t have to worry about marine stingers either. We are planning on heading north again in the next couple of years and I can’t wait to spend some more time in Townsville than we did on that first trip.
We rolled into Cairns in the late afternoon and as I still do now, I picked a caravan park out of a tourist book and said, ‘Let’s stay here!’ and that is how we ended up at Ellis Beach. Without doubt the most beautiful spot we have been to. It is about 30 minutes north of the centre of Cairns and is completely beach front. There were hardly any other campers in the camp section and it was just a short stroll to the amenities. But even better than that, we were only about 50 metres from the beach. It was heavenly. I think it was that location that got me hooked on camping. To me it was just perfect.
Our first day we spent exploring Cairns itself and like Townsville there is a free water park and awesome playgrounds located on The Esplanade. Perfect if you have kids or if you just want to walk and enjoy the views.
A must-do when visiting Cairns is to take a trip to the small village of Kuranda. Kuranda is well known for its markets, food and laid back lifestyle, but the best part of Kuranda is getting there. Kuranda can be accessed by the Kuranda Skyrail or by train. We chose to go up via the Skyrail and come back via the train. The Kuranda Rainforest Skyrail is a 7.5klm cable car ride through the tops of the amazing Cairns rainforest, with two stops along the way where you can hop out and walk along a boardwalk.
The first is at Red Peak and the second is at the spectacular Barron Falls. The whole trip up you are surrounded by the most spectacular scenery and being able to stop along the way to walk through the rainforest and experience the amazing Barron Falls is fantastic.
Kuranda itself is a wonderful little town. It has a very laid back feel to it. There is plenty to do there for the day and lots of great places to eat also. I’m hoping the next time we visit there that the shop that sells Mango Wine is still there!
KURANDA SCENIC RAILWAY
The trip back down on the Kuranda Scenic Railway is as equally spectacular as the trip up. Completed in 1891 the rail line is 75klms long and has 15 tunnels and numerous bridges, some with drops off the side of them of up to 327 metres. The carriages are all heritage style and date back to the early 1900’s. The diesel locomotives date back to the 1960’s. The train even stops on the trip back down to allow you to take photo’s. During the trip down it is not un-common to be able to see the front and the back of the train at the same time as it rounds some of the sharp bends on the track.
This was our first family camping trip and it firmly cemented my current love of travel and camping. Can’t wait to head up that way again!