Tweet Manookatoo Adventures: "Chilling" in Cairns

Monday, 13 November 2017

"Chilling" in Cairns

Babinda Boulders
Cairns was always a milestone destination for us, being somewhere we have always enjoyed visiting, somewhere the First Mate lived for six months, and where we intend leaving Manookatoo for the cyclone season. We were pleased to land here last Sunday morning, knowing we had "arrived" four weeks before we needed to and looking forward to checking out all that Cairns had to offer us. This past week:
Palm Cove on a windy day
We've checked out the beaches, at Trinity Bay, Palm Cove and Yorkeys Knob, and enjoyed meals out at each of them.
We've checked out the marinas at Blue Water (where we will leave Manookatoo for the cyclone season), Half Moon Bay (overlooking the sea - lovely to visit but not suitable for the summer!), at Cairns Cruising Yacht Club and North Queensland Ports (the closest one to the city).
We took the bus into Cairns city, which has really grown since the first mate lived here 30 years ago - we enjoyed walking around the streets and visiting the shopping centre but the best place is the fabulous Lagoon. This is a favourite destination for many people, particularly in the warm and steamy weather, and we enjoyed floating around in the water before and after a picnic lunch on the lawn.
Busy Green Island
On a calm day, we headed out into Half Moon Bay, bound for Green Island, 15 nautical miles away. With the hot and humid weather, we were ready for another chance to swim in the sea and, even though the travel was going to take us longer than we would spend there, we felt it was a worthwhile cruise. Green Island is a very popular destination for tourist cruises, being so close to the city, and offers those who visit Cairns a chance to see the reef up close. There were lots of tour boats on the jetty or just leaving or on their way across from Trinity Bay, as well as many "glass bottom" boats, snorkelling groups and an underwater observatory boat cruising around near us. We pulled up a mooring in 42 feet of water, glad we didn't have to try and anchor, then headed across to the island, taking a walk around, noting the crowds of overseas tourists, and enjoying a swim at the beach before returning to Manookatoo and some peace and quiet! We had a leisurely lunch on the back deck, and the captain had another swim but the first mate was concerned about the fast current. We returned to "the mainland" in the late afternoon, enjoying the luxury of returning to the same mooring, where ropes were already tied and mooring was easy.
Mena Creek falls before the rain
We didn't see one!
Thursday was a windy day, the start of a pattern lasting the rest of the week. As we had been expecting this, we had booked a car for a couple of days, and soon after breakfast we took our small bag of clothes and headed south! On previous trips to Cairns we had travelled west to visit the Atherton Tablelands and Mareeba, or north to Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge, so we were keen to see what we could find south of Cairns. We stopped for morning tea at Babinda, enjoying a sausage roll from the bakery, then continued south, leaving the Bruce Highway at Innisfail and taking the more picturesque Cane Cutters Way through South Johnstoneville. We stopped at Mena Creek and admired the beautiful waterfall, then continued back down the hills and onto the highway again, stopping for lunch at Tully, "the wettest town in Australia". We retraced our steps over the river then headed east, along the Cassowary Way, but we didn't spot a cassowary, before we reached our final destination, Mission Beach. We had booked a night at the Rainforest Resort Motel, a quirky, old style motel amongst the trees, one street back from the beach. After settling in we took a walk around the town then enjoyed a swim in the pool. With quite a few restaurants to choose from, we finally settled on "The Pepper Vine", where we enjoyed a delicious Moreton Bay bugs and seafood pasta, accompanied by a couple of very large glasses of red wine. Quite a lovely meal!! We arrived home just before the rain started, and enjoyed a drink outside as the water cascaded down the roof.
Paronella Park
Kauri trees
On Friday morning we took a walk along the Ulysses track to Clump Point, once a farming area now returned to rainforest vegetation. Returning to the motel we enjoyed breakfast, packed the car and headed out, following the coastline and then returning to the highway at El Arish, then back onto the Cane Cutters Way and into the hills. This morning's destination was Paronella Park, a castle and gardens built in the 1930s by a Spaniard, Jose Paronella, who bought the land next to the Mena Creek Falls and proceeded to turn it into a fantasy ground, complete with forests of towering Kauris and waving Bamboos, with moss covered stairways, turrets and tunnels, a ballroom and tennis pavilion, all powered by his very own Hydro Electricity plant! It is an amazing place.
Mena creek falls after the rain!
Arriving early, we were lucky to get our own private tour of both the grounds and the hydro plant, as the place gets very busy as the day goes on. The rain overnight had swollen the waterfall and the creek and it was quite a spectacular sight. Leaving Paronella Park just after morning tea, we followed the Canecutters Way back to Innisfail, then continued north, stopping at the Babinda Bakery for pies for lunch, which we enjoyed beside "The Boulders", a popular swimming place with spectacular views over the boulders and rapids beneath the swimming hole. We walked along the creek and admired the view, then returned to our car for the trip to Cairns, stopping at the shopping centre to take advantage of having our own transport for stocking up the boat with food and drink. Once we had unpacked all our supplies we drove the car to the local shops, leaving it at the car rental depot and enjoying a delicious Thai dinner before walking back to the marina.
And on Sunday afternoon, we caught up with an "old friend" of the first mate's - Deszi had befriended her in Cairns 31 years ago and it was great to catch up again - swapping stories of our babies, now all grown up, and marvelling at how our lives had changed since then. Deszi showed us some of the beautiful sights from the hills around Cairns, including the fantastic view from her own house, before returning us to Manookatoo and enjoying a couple of drinks and a gossip with the first mate at the boat club. A lovely catch up!
So that was our first week in Cairns. The wind is forecast to abate tomorrow so we are planning to drop the ropes and head out again to explore more of North Queensland before we head south for the summer!

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