Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Paronella Park, Innisfail

This place has been recommended to us time and time again while we have been on the road. So it was on our definite list for when we were in Queensland.

Paronella Park was built by Jose Paronella, a spainish immigrant, who came to Australia to earn his fortunes and buy land on which he could build a beautiful castle for his spainish fiancé Matilda. He left her behind in Spain and came to Queensland where he worked hard cutting sugar cane to make enough money to fulfill their dream.

When he returned to Spain 12 years later to collect his girl….. he found… she had married someone else!! Not wanting to return to Australia empty handed he instead married her younger sister and he and his new bride headed back to Innisfail to start the park.

Jose and his wife built the park as an oasis for people to come and visit. All of the buildings were built by hand by Jose himself out of concrete he made using dirt from a tunnel he fashioned in the side of a hill.  He used old railway tracks to reinforce the buildings.

Back in the 1930s life was tough, and this park provided a fairytale escape for the hard workers of far north queensland and their families. There was a grand ballroom that had dances and showed movies on a big screen. A lake to row wooden row boats, gardens with tropical plants to expore, and because it was the first place in the area to have electricity due to Jose installing hydro electricity, they were able to have power to keep icecream. Therefore the  café with Queenslands first gelato bar (made by Joses wife) was very popular. There was jazz band concerts and tennis courts and swimming. It was very before its time and very European inspired.

During World War II Paronella Park became a popular hang out for American and Australian soldiers on their break. Ever the entrepreneur he later opened the tunnel he had created in the hill as a ‘tunnel of love’ and charged the soldiers a penny to take their sweetheart into the dark tunnel for some lovin time!

Unfortunately when the park was still a work in progress, Jose got really sick and died at a young age from a lung infection. The park was left to his wife and two children. His son took over the park and finalized Jose’s dream by finishing some of the water fountains and other bits and pieces. Then, as tragic as his fathers death, Joses son also died at the young age of 38 leaving behind a wife and two children.

His wife could not cope with the place on her own. And had to sell in the early 1970s. The park was over grown and due to new attractions in the area and the Bruce Highway bypassing the park, it all closed down and sat, dormant for many years.

In 1993 a family from south Australia were travelling through the area. Having dinner at the local pub one night they heard the story of the old overgrown park and decided, on a whim to buy it.

After several years of clean up and a $400,000 repair on the hydro electricity plant they opened the park to the public as a historical place to visit. Unfortunately the family didn’t have a lot of history on the area, apart from local gossip. So they weren’t able to offer accurate information and tours.

Then one day an old lady came to visit the park. She introduced herself to the new owners as Joses daughter! She was happy the park had reopened and was able to show them many features hidden amoung the gardens that they didn’t know existed. She also provided photographs, memorabilia and an accurate history of the park.

With all of this information, the addition of a small camping ground, a large café and the stunning grounds to show it is easy to see how this little piece of history has now become Queenslands number 1 tourist attraction.

What the place looked like in the 'olden days'

The grand ballroom. This was the venue for many a wedding back when the park was running. It burned down in 1979 so is now just for viewing 

I can't turn this pic around!! but it is of the beautiful karrie trees that are planted in the gardens. Did you know the bark of the karrie tree was the inspiration for the Australian army uniform or 'camo' as we call it 

The kids having a pic taken by the waterfall. Instead of saying cheese they had to say 'fat Amy'... inspired by pitch perfect 2 and gets them laughing!

The a grand staircase, 47 steps and all made by hand

The waterfall by day 
The waterfall by night (under spotlights)

Picnic area from the 1930s

The refreshment house by day

The refreshment house by night 
The change rooms from the 1930s. Look how small they are! goes to show how thin people were back then 

Kids and craig on the grand staircase

Moss covers everything 

Some of the lush tropical plants that make up the gardens at paronella park 

The lake which was used for recreation back in the day. Nowdays there are crocs that sometimes inhabit the area so no swimming

A view of the ballroom through the main cottage window. Kerry, are you impressed by my photograph skills??!!!

The drawbridge over the top of the waterfall, this was the original entrance to the park 

COST: $120 a family entry which includes: a day tour of the park, a night time tour of the park, a tour of the hydro electricity plant (adults only, so craig did this bit alone) and one nights free accommodation in the camp ground which was a powered site with toilets and showers plus BBQs.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Cape York Peninsula

Family Pic!


After free camping just out of Mareeba at Mount Molloy we rose early and drove north. The huge sign at the start of the cape showed that all roads were open. We stopped at Split Rock and did the half hour hike to see the Aboriginal rock art on the walls of the rock. There were animals and human figures and spirits. 

We then drove through to Laura to fuel up then found a side of the road stop to have lunch before continuing on to Musgrave Station to set up camp for the night. We arrived at the camp ground about 2.30pm. We could have driven on but really we are in no rush. Stopping and setting up early for the afternoon provides time for the kids to play, time for some washing to dry and time for me to sit here and write this!

The camp ground is behind the roadhouse and has filled up super fast with campers and tents. Only a couple of caravans have ventured this far. Lots of people with tinnies (boats) on the roof and a few groups of government workers have set up camp. As I sit here and type I can see more people pulling up to pay their $10 a night per person to have a shower and camp here. Cows surround the grassy camp site, desperate for some green feed. We are next to the gate in the shade and Craig has kindly opened and closed the gate about 50 times for people to drive on in.

sign at Musgrave showing distances 

Night at the Musgrave 
Road conditions from Laura to Musgrave were actually really good, we sat between 80-100km for most of it. We listened to some John Farnham and did a bit of singing to ‘take the pressure down’…. Quite apt since Craig has now let the tyres from 40 psi to 30 psi.


Yay, one of the kids wet the bed last night. So it was early to the laundry (shed with a washing machine in it) so I could wash sleeping bag, sheet and mattress protector and have it on the line so it could dry a bit before we left. Knowing there was no point in packing up straight away and rather than get angry at said child for not waking to wee,  I went for a walk up the air strip, had a cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs then did some school work with the kids while Craig went and helped some old people start their van.

Even so we were still packed up, washing dry and away and ready to hit the road at 10.45am. Our latest morning start so far on this trip but lucky, as ive said before, we are in no rush!

From Musgrave we headed to Cohen were we stopped at the playground. There wasn’t much at this place. Just some houses dotted here and there a small school and this large playground. Afterwards we left and headed through Archer River, past the turn off to Weipa, then to our overnight camp here at Morton telegraph station. I just spoke to some ladies by the toilet block who had done the old telegraph track on the way up the cape and had to help some people off the roof of their car who had become stranded on a river crossing. Water had flooded their car and they had to climb on the roof to survive. Scary stuff!!

trees at sunset, Morton Telegraph Station


By far our biggest day driving on the cape so far. We went from Morton Telegraph station to fruit bat falls and Elliot falls, then over the Jardine river and up to our final camping spot at Loyalty beach.

Road conditions on the bypass were ok from Morton Telegraph to Jardine. But today we turned off and did a section of the Old Telegraph Track. This part of the road was rough, bumpy, deep water crossings and was best done in low range at about 20km an hour. Roads from Jardine to Bamaga were the roughest we have been on so far in our whole trip. Deep corrugations and hidden pot holes. We were shook around a lot and speed dropped to about 40/60km an hour. And that was probably a bit fast!

Craig has had a fair bit of 4WDing experience in his life but he says this road and the water crossings on the OTT were the toughest and deepest he has ever driven.

Spent our day at the caravan park doing washing and relaxing. Went for a drive into Sesia to a playground then to Bamaga to have a look around.

Our camp spot by the beach!

The kids playing on the beach out the front of the camper. 

Today we touched the tip! Walked all the way out to the very northern point of Australia’s mainland. I was also lucky enough this morning to take a helicopter ride over the top of the tip and along the edge of the ocean, looking out at the small islands of the Torres Strait.

One of the islands that surround the cape
Chopper selifies!!, note that there were NO DOORS on this helicopter!!

Cape York Peninsula! from the sky
We went to the ‘Croc tent’ and got a Tshirt saying we had reached the cape. Kind of gimmicky and we look like a dork family, but Im good with that!

Took a drive in the afternoon and found the wrecks of the Word War II planes that crashed over the cape. Things are untouched up here and it is really eerie to see.

World War II plane, this is pretty much how it crash landed. There were five men on this plane, all died on impact

Had fish and chips by the beach for dinner tonight with fellow campers and watched the sun go down. 

Today we headed down to the beach to get our mugs on the telly! Sunrise was filming at Loyalty beach and we thought we might get in the background. Turns out my kids must be so darn cute as Edwina asked them to be on the 7am live cross!

The kids with Edwina off sunrise and their sign for nana!!

After our five seconds of fame we headed to Sesia to catch the boat for our day trip to Thursday Island, which is part of the Torres Strait. We had a bus tour of the island and visited the old military site before heading to the ‘most northern pub anywhere in Australia’ for a beer and lunch. 

Heading off tomorrow, it should take us another three days to get down, making our Cape ‘detour’ a nine-day journey, the same amount of time as we spent on the Gibb River Road. This trip was a lot harder than the Gibb but I think we are more organized this time (food, water and car wise).  

Thursday Island

At the look out on Green Hill

So much war history on Thursday Island. I took this photo of a photo at the museum. For some reason it really made me feel emotional. Seeing so many men, all about my Brothers age, heading across the sea to fight in a war. Some of the men look proud, some look excited, some look overwhelmed. 

The Jetty at Thursday Island 

So tomorrow we head down the cape road and back to the coast somewhere… not really sure where yet…. But I’ll keep you posted!!

Again the car and camper did a super job on the dirt! Now time to clean!!!!

Monday, 22 June 2015


Our journey to Chillagoe

The daintree was a lovely spot to visit and Im so glad we drove up there, but while we were there it rained. And rained. And rained.

We left the Daintree with a soaking wet camper trailer, and a nasty cough for Craig, myself and Charlotte.

After spending the day exploring the area it was 3.30pm when we pulled out of Daintree village and Craig said ‘that’s it we are driving to Mareeba and staying the night in a motel.’

So we put DVDs on for the kids, turned the wipers on full and headed inland towards Mareeba.

Arriving at dinner time and with no home set up to make food we opted for the safe option of a red rooster family pack. We sat inside the takeaway joint balancing green peas on plastic forks and eating chicken with our fingers as we watched the grey clouds growing lower and lower over town.

Just on dark we pulled up at the Mareeba Motel and spent half our weekly camping budget on a room!

I gave the kids a nice warm shower and put them in their PJs and they climbed into bed and watched a little TV before going sound asleep.

As I got into bed myself I thought how strange it felt to not climb a ladder to get in! It has now been two months on the road plus two and a half weeks at mums before we left that we have lived in the camper. I miss my ‘real’ bed that is packed up in a sea container way back in Perth but I am used to the camper and it was definitely a big change to be in the motel. We all slept through the night and woke the next morning to the next challenge.


Again, I had no kitchen to make food. All our supplies were in plastic tubs under the camper and the room service breakfasts had to be ordered the night before which we hadn’t done. Funny how as a mum all eyes turn to you when its meal times. Craig looked at me and said well, we better hit the golden arches!

So off we went to Mcdonalds. Our second takeaway meal in a row!!!! Bacon and egg burgers and hotcakes went down well. Craig and I felt much better and Charlottes cough sounded like it had eased off a bit. Our initial plan was to head south from mareeba to the table lands, then to Winton and longreach. But looking at the weather we saw we would end up very wet as Queensland experiences an unusual rainfall. A quick look at the map and on advice from a fellow facebook traveller, we decided to head the 140km inland to Chillagoe to set up the camper and dry off.


We arrived mid morning and I will admit. I was in a bad mood and I couldn’t’ shake it. You would think with the luxury of the motel room the night before I would have been refreshed and ready to go, but I was feeling unsettled, displaced, still a bit ‘flu’ish and tired.

I wondered out loud to Craig what the F we were doing here, before taking on the task of unpacking the wet camper then wiping it down with vinegar and water to kill any mildew. I then washed. Everything. Doona covers, sheets, matress protectors, towels… I also aired on the line all our doonas and sleeping bags.  Old people tried to stop and chat but I was on a mission and had my head down to get the job done.

We were only going to stay one night but the next morning Craig went and paid for another so we could use the day to explore the caves in the local area and have some down time. We did a fair bit of school work in the morning then had a guided cave tour in the afternoon. Craig, on his morning walk, saw a guy who collected holdens. Holdens everywhere. He was impressed. Then that afternoon while getting fuel he came across another old man who collected fords. Fords everywhere. Chillagoe was a town of surprises!

Chillagoe Caves

galahs on the power pole 

Another day another beer

With our plan to still head south to Winton we sat down that night and found a dirt track on the map as a short cut to take us down. I knew we would bush camp a few nights so took the thermo mix to the campers kitchen to make cake, spaghetti sauce and to boil rice as bases for some easy to cook on the side of the road meals.

As I was sautéing onions (speed 1, 100 degrees 2 minutes)  I thought of the map we had looked at earlier. I thought of Cape York that we were bypassing due to time, costs and ease ability. I also thought of all the time we have planned to have in capital cities. Brisbane, Sydney…… Places we could easily fly to from Perth any day.

But Cape York.

Well when would we ever get to do it? Next trip? But what if that’s not till we are old. Two tour guides we had spoken to on our trip had said that in ten years time the whole cape road would be bitumen and the experience of the telegraph track would be gone forever, it was already too commercialized. Would we miss out if we left it till a next time trip?

To be honest I, personally, am not too fussed. But I knew it was something Craig wanted to do. I knew the car and camper had done the Gibb so at least that was something towards knowing our set up was ok to go. I knew the kids are already fabulous travellers who would really be happy wherever we go.

The thermo mix beeped telling me the onions were done. In two minutes I had decided for us that we would do the cape.

I called Craig over and aired my thoughts. He agreed immediately. We decided to get the car serviced and the camper looked over by a mechanic before we headed off to ensure all the barings etc were good.  We looked at the map and decided to head back to Mareeba, do a big shop, get the car sorted then start heading the couple of hundred KM north to the Pennisula Development Road to start another big part of our road trip.