It’s the thickness in the air, the engulfing and comforting warmth, the sound of the joyful insects, and the vital green of the landscape… You can just feel you’re in Queensland’s tropics.
We jump in our hot little Subaru XV, which is my adventure buggy for the next ten days! I’m off on a Great Barrier Reef road trip.
Great Barrier Reef Road Trip
Following the coastline of the Reef, our first stop is Mission Beach, named for the indigenous mission set up in 1912, now home to gorgeous resorts, happy holidaymakers and charming laid-back locals. Ten kilometres of stunning sand sandwiched between World Heritage Rainforest and World Heritage Coral Reef. How can it get better than that?
When we do arrive in true tropical fashion, it is raining and the beach looks a little soggy for sunbathing so we turn to the rainforest where the drizzle is more welcome.
Setting out for a leisurely walk up to a waterfall, we soon realise we are in for a trek, not a stroll. Caroline, our Indigenous guide from Ingan Tours, generously shows us her ‘backyard’ and colours our day with the stories and ways of her people. Six hours in and two river crossings later, we arrive at a clearing in the forest where a torrent of fresh water tumbles over a cliff into a perfect pool of icy cold mountain water. It’s the perfect way to experience this tropical paradise.
It looks ideal for a swim but dipping my little toe in suggests otherwise. (I’ll let you into a little secret, here, I’m not so keen on cold water.) I’m encouraged by the team, and who is going to argue with a cameraman who just lugged fifteen kilos uphill to film this?
I bravely ‘take one for the story’ and leap in with Caroline by my side. It’s fffrreezing and refreshing and invigorating, all at the same time.
When we hop on out, I’m a slight shade of refreshed blue. Ambling back down the mountain, I praise myself for making the most of that perfect little spot in the middle of the rainforest I would have never known existed and smile at Caroline who is slowly thawing out in front of me.
Home Away From Home
Next stop on our Great Barrier Reef road trip, our home away from home, Castaways Resort. This beautiful property sits literally on the sand in the middle of the beach, with the best of both worlds in front of you (the reef) and behind you (the rainforest).
From here, we can cruise out to see this incredible natural wonder of the world. I’m diving with Andy, the local dive master from Calypso Adventures. We drop down into the depths and cruise around the incredible coral, watch the fish darting in and out of anemones. Andy even manages to freak me out with a sea cucumber! But you’ll have to watch the show to find out how he managed that. We ascend before our bubbles run out and have a chat on deck with this incredibly optimistic local who loves sharing the local ‘aquarium’ with all who visit.
The pub with no beer
Continuing the road trip south from Mission Beach, Queensland, it’s a change of pace and scenery as we head slightly inland to sugarcane country and the town of Ingham. Very much an ‘Aussie’ township, Ingham is home to the famous ’pub with no beer’, Lee’s Hotel.
Made famous by Slim Dusty, Charles the colourful publican has gone to enormous lengths to preserve the unique history of the area, the pub and the poem that inspired the hit song. It’s understandable if you forget where you are and think you’ve walked into a museum, nevermind the beer in your hand.
Our rendition of the famous song over a XXXX beer is much to the team’s amusement. And you will be relieved to know that when you stop in Ingham, the pub is fully stocked and Charles swears it will never be out of cold ones again.
Sugarcane Country and Waterfalls
Following some delicious brekky rolls from the local Italian fish and chip shop (there’s a huge resident Italian population here) we decide to see the lay of the land from above & head up in a chopper.
First we fly out to the coast where we gasp at the famous Hinchinbrook Channel and Island. The only National Park protected island in the world, it’s breathtaking from the air. We follow the kilometres of sugarcane farms back inland to another spectacular waterfall, which our pilot tells us is the largest single-drop waterfall in Australia.
When we land, we decide it’s worth more of an investigation, and we jump in the Subaru and cruise the 50 kilometres out to see Wallaman Falls. It’s a powerful, awesome sight no matter where you take it in from.