Ok, first up, this is not a definitive, researched, ultimate bucket-list thingo. This is just me thinking out loud and thinking about 10 locations or features one should check out whilst touring around between Cairns and Townsville. So if your favourite bit is not here, then leave a comment.
But a fcbk friend is heading this way shortly and I thought I'd blog a repsonse. So here goes, and in more a geographical order here are 10 reasons why you should carry a camera in North Queensland.
1. The Great Barrier Reef and the best place to get out there is from Port Douglas. One can either jump aboard one of the big Party Ships that heads out and join the 300 other rubber neckers for a day of sunburn, seasickness and stinger suits, or you could get onboard a 60ft sailing Catamaran which has a limited number of people on board and cruises out to the reef at a pleasant 10kts. Here is a shot of the Synergy which was such a relaxing way to waste the day out on the water!
2. Rainforests. While there ain't as many trees left in the rainforest as maybe there was some 300 years ago, there are still some great spots in North Queensland to get in and amongst the tropical jungle. And some are really easy to get into, like Mossman Gorge and the Daintree, whereas others require some more serious bushwalking like the areas around Tully and mountains like Bartle Frere. However, the most photographed tree in the Rainforest is up at Yungaburra and is the Curtain Fig Tree. This tree is estimated to be at least 700 years old.
3. Birdwatching is fun, taking photos of birds can be a challenge, it can also be time consuming. However, the easy way is to go to one of the wildlife parks and take photos of captive birds in aviaries! How easy is that! Now sure, the Cairns Casino is not the first place you would think about wildlife, but up on top the dome is a wildlife park complete with Crocodile and if you don't mind the damp smellyness of the joint, is is a cool place to get up close and personal with some of the more elusive birds of the tropics. And you don't have to tell your friends the truth... you can say you sat out in a mosquito infested swamp as the sun rose just to get a shot of the rare and endangered!
4. Waterfalls. North Queensland has got a million of them, and you can spend days driving around the Atherton Tablelands visiting simply waterfalls. The prettiest and most visited and most photographed would be Millaa Millaa Falls, and getting a moment to get the perfect shot without some tourist swimming and fouling your nature photography is pretty tough. I guess the option would be to get a waterproof housing for your camera and join in the watery fun!
5. Recently when Queensland turned 150, a bucket list came out with the 150 things you must-see in the state, and topping that list voted by the good people of Queensland was Paronella Park, and what a very groovy old dilapidated castle it is! José Paronella is a legend in North Queensland and just outside of Innisfail next to the delightful Mena Creek Hotel is José's dream! Unfortunately at the moment I hear this year's Dry Season has been very dry for Paronella Park but when it is wet and lush and green, this place is quite enchanting!
6. Further south from Innisfail surprisingly enough, there are more Waterfalls to encounter, from Murray Falls, to the hard to get to Blencoe Falls and even Jourama Falls, but the cracker is the mighty Wallaman Falls just inland from Ingham. A cool drive through some cow farms and then up a mountain jungle pass. Wallaman Falls is Australia's longest single drop waterfall. During the dry season, it is magnificent, and during the wet, if you can get there, it is truly spectacular! Added bonus is the opportunity to see Cassowaries.
7. Now if you cannot make it to the reef or you do not have an underwater camera, then the world's largest indoor coral reef is for you. Reef HQ is such a cool place to go when the weather gets toasty and you get to see sharks, turtles, fishies and other wonders of the deep. It's edumacational too! And the glass is crystal clear, so that when you show your friends your shots, you can convince them that you dive as well as Jacques Cousteau! Easily the best time you will ever have underwater without getting wet! Hey, I should be getting paid to write this shit!
8. Everyone wants to see a crocodile when they go to the tropics and seeing one in the wild is a mind blowing experience, however, they are pretty elusive and shy, so there are numerous wildlife parks where you can hang out and watch these guys being fed by trained professionals. The best display of these prehistoric beasts I have seen is in Townsville and is called the Billabong Sanctuary. And a great place to get some more bird shots, and a place to cuddle a wombat! What more could you ask for?
9. When in Townsville, before you go see the fish and the lizards, you must get to the top of Castle Hill which is perfect for getting a bird's eye view on town and its surrounds. Great for a bit of exercise or even drive your car up the 3km road, Castle Hill is a popular spot. And you can get to see some cool views of Magnetic Island and The Strand and the cemetery!!!
10. And lastly, and most probably the hardest one to get to, as it is well-inland in the Burdekin Dam! Completed in 1987, this monster wide dam with its 500m spillway is amazing to see dry as well as wet, often the water going over the spillway is 3-4m above the wall height and is a noisy cacophony of roaring water! Currently at 15cm below the spillway, it means you can drive across the base of the dam and onto the desert beyond! Why not stop at Ravenswood and look for a ghost?
Not an exhaustive list but just some of my highlights up in this part of the planet.