Miz Lizzie Adventures: Townsville to Cairns and the Tablelands

I know, I know, I’ve been neglecting you.

But I have been having such a lovely time. It has been a tad too hot, at 34°C/93°F and about 70% humidity, but that’s what air conditioning in cars and caravans was invented for!

The journey north from Rollingstone was uneventful and we made good time, to the extent that we took a 40km detour to look at Mourilyan Harbour, where sugar is loaded onto ships, but chiefly of interest to us as a place where the Husband did military exercises in small aluminium dinghies with outboards (universally known in Australia as ‘tinnies’). He has not-so-fond memories of constantly grounding the tinny on sand bars and having to get out and push it off. Which doesn’t sound so bad, until you read the signs…

We passed Queensland’s two highest peaks on our way north, which to be honest isn’t saying a lot: the tallest, Mt Bartle Frere, is only 1622m/ 5,321ft high, and the second highest, Mt Bellenden Ker, is only 1593m/ 5,226ft high. Not hugely impressive by European or US standards, but they are thickly coated with very lush tropical rainforest. The area is volcanic, so on the tablelands you see a lot of volcanic plugs, but the climate does tend to erode anything high quite quickly.

We are staying at the Crystal Cascades caravan park in the north of Cairns, in a valley between rainforest-covered hillsides. It’s ‘off-season’ as far as they’re concerned, which means we can enjoy the facilities virtually undisturbed apart from a few people who are also looking for peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings. In the early morning, the tops of the hills are still draped in cloud, while the sun lights up the lower slopes. It’s an amazing sight to see such contrast.  Imagine that sight, with the sound of birdsong and the smell of frangipani and jasmine to round the experience off!

The one downside of coming here in February is that it’s the month when many of the foodie places on our gastronomic trail seem to be taking their own holiday! Nerada Tea Plantation, the Tolga Woodworks gallery and Mungalli Creek Biodynamic Dairy (which I’ve written about before) and Jaques Coffee Plantation (which was new to us), are all closed. It’s a well earned rest, but we were a bit surprised, as there was nothing on any of their websites. Still, it’s made us slow down a little, which is no bad thing… On the upside, we went to Coffee Works in Mareeba yesterday, which was lovely! They grow, harvest, roast and sell their own coffee as well as blends and beans from all over the world. The smell is heavenly! They also have a gift shop which is a twinkly wonderland of coffee and tea cups, pots, chimes, candleholders, vases, etc, and best of all, an almost cold chocolate shop, where they make their own in all shades from white to 85% cacao, in flavours like lime and pepper, lemon myrtle, ginger and jaffa. Well yes, we did buy rather a lot of chocolate, and yes, we’ve sampled a fair bit of it already, but who could resist…?

We’ve also been back to Gallo’s, a working farm where they milk 200 Friesians every day. Rather than add their milk to the general supply, they have decided to add value and create a niche market and an interesting addition to the tourist offering on the Tablelands. They make their own cheeses and chocolates. The chocolates we bought are long gone, but I can remember the flavours: salted caramel, peppermint truffle, crystallised ginger, chilli, cherry ripe, berry bliss, almond truffle, hazelnut caramel and mandarin creme. And that was just a tiny selection from the huge display case of options. Besides, it was a hot day, and they might have melted… But the cheeses are still with us, and will be featuring on today’s menu, together with linseed, raisin and pumpkin seed crackers and some rather tasty grapes.

Last night it was time to visit our favourite Indian restaurant in Cairns, Tandoori Nights in Sheridan Street. We go there at least once and often twice when we’re staying here, and the food is simple, but great. The Husband had goat curry, plain steamed rice, garlic naan and a share of my subzi makhani, a creamy vegetable curry. I also had chicken korma and plain naan. Not adventurous, but what we both craved, and we left with contented smiles on our faces 🙂 By the time we’d though of taking photos of the food, it was much, much too late!

On previous visits, we haven’t had time to visit the Australian Armour & Artillery Museum out at Caravonica, so this time, with a couple of hours to spare, we turned in. It’s probably chiefly of interest to a couple where the husband is a Reservist of 20 years’ experience and the wife’s father was in the Normandy landings in WWII, landing on Sword Beach on D-Day 2 in his tank as a very, very young 2nd Lieut… We spent well over an hour exploring the vast display of tanks, armoured cars, mine clearers, mobile gun platforms, howitzers, field guns, etc. They had exhibits from Australia, the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Czech Republic and Russia, they had small arms, uniforms, badges… Well, you get the idea. It’s impressive, fascinating and vast, and worth a visit if you’re interested in that stuff. I’d only add that it’s an open-sided building and isn’t air conditioned, so I’d recommend visiting in the cooler months (May – October) if you’re not used to the heat.

We’re giving ourselves a lazy day today. It’s Saturday, and there are more visitors at the caravan park, the ‘sights’ will be busier and the city will be bustling. Time to lie back, enjoy the blue skies over the rainforested mountains, do a bit of handwork, and eat some of that cheese! We might tootle out and visit the Crystal Cascades after which this holiday park is named… or not.

But if anything interesting happens, I’ll be sure to let you know!


48 thoughts on “Miz Lizzie Adventures: Townsville to Cairns and the Tablelands

  1. kathyreeves says:

    The picture with the contrast from sun to clouds is amazing!! 😄 we are expecting 6-12 inches of snow this weekend, so I am basking on your beach, thanks to the lovely picture from your first day.🌴

  2. I love off-season travel… but hadn’t considered the locals might be off holidaying too. Still, you look like you’re coping. All the more stomach and luggage space for coffee, cheese and chocolate, three c’s essential to civilised life.

  3. That was quite the tour, thank you. I always prefer off-season, so many benefits, not least of which is less people around. I would have been happy to join you at Tandoori Nights and the heavenly chocolate place 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      I would happily have stayed much longer at either or both of them, but there’s only so much curry you can eat, and so much chocolate you can buy (in one go, that is, I’m sure there’ll be a return visit).

  4. tialys says:

    I thought it was only rural France that closed off season – although it’s quite common during the season too :/
    You have been busy and wise in your choices of edibles in those places that are open! I always have to have ‘an Indian’ when I go back to the U.K. and a korma is often my choice too.
    Bonne continuation 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      I think if you’re a primary producer, you have to take your holiday when you can, and February is one of those months when stuff’s just growing and doing its thing, and you can close the doors to the general public and breathe a sigh of relief. It didn’t really slow us down much, as there are plenty of places still open…

  5. nanacathy2 says:

    This for me could alternatively have been titled lots of things you don’t know about Australia, from rain forests, to sugar exports and cocoa growing. Thank you so much, I loved very word and every picture.

  6. What a shame some of the places you want to visit aren’t open – it’s a problem we have encountered a number of times when travelling off-season. Never mind, it doesn’t look like you are short of delicious food and beautiful views.
    It’s sunny here today too but currently only 5.9C!

    • katechiconi says:

      It hasn’t been much of a problem, as I was rather over enthusiastic in my list of places to go and we have no shortage of alternatives! We’re having a warm, summery night, but without power at present, as there’s a tremendous thunderstorm going on over the mountain – you can see bolts of lightning like the gods doing battle – and it’s taken out a transformer somewhere. Never mind. If it gets too hot, we’ll go for a drive in the air conditioned car, and the deep cycle battery in the caravan is doing a great job providing light.

  7. nikkibnb says:

    It sounds like you are having a wonderful time. Shame about some places being closed, but hopefully it gives you a chance to discover some new hidden gems. 🙂

  8. dayphoto says:

    OH! This traveling is so much fun! I love seeing your ‘new’ places!

  9. Sounds like a great trip! Beautiful scenery!

  10. gwenniesgardenworld says:

    Looks great !!

  11. claire93 says:

    oooh just look at all that pretty chocolate! We visited a chocolate museum in Brugges a few years ago, and got to watch a lady making chocolates followed by a free tasting session ^^

    • katechiconi says:

      I reckon making chocolate in this climate is a brilliant job: you’re always in the air conditioning! I think we’ll probably have to go back before the end of the trip as the supplies are unaccountably dwindling. It must be mice, or possums, or fruit bats….

  12. Sounds like you’re having a fab time and all the foodie treats are a huge bonus 🙂

  13. The farm of Friesians and Indian restaurant, in themselves, have left me completely satisfied. Who cares if it’s vicarious?

  14. Sorry all the restaurants were closed. That’s the downside to off season. Glad you found a good substitute. We get to do the girl things but always have to let the fellas have their fun too. Tanks and tin cans and all. 🙂 Enjoy.

  15. Lynda says:

    Kate, I loved the photographs, the chocolate, and even the military museum, but when I looked up Friesians it came up horses… Really horse cheese? Whew! Just found the dairy on the internet and it’s lovely, lovely cows! 😉

    • katechiconi says:

      Nah, Friesians are black and white cows, known as Holstein Friesians to give them their full name. They come from Friesland, in the north of Holland. They are usually called Friesians here and in Europe, and Holsteins in the US. So no, not horse cheese, sadly. That would have been an interesting post!

  16. craftycreeky says:

    Lovely photos, sounds a great trip, gets me even more excited for our trip 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m hoping your trip will be as good, if not better. But I must tell you the black clouds are gathering and the thunder is so loud that the caravan is shaking! Ahh… the Wet season in the tropics!

  17. rutigt says:

    Oh…..chocolate, my favorite snack. So many beautiful photos and so interesting to read about all your adventures!!!

  18. Ooh! Chocolate and cheese! I think you have to eat them quickly before the heat gets too much!
    The retirement village where my granny lives has an impressive air force museum, a little like the one you visited but focusing on flying things. I love how it is all run by volunteers, making it incredibly detailed with just the perfect, charming dash of amateur boffin.

    • katechiconi says:

      We had an insulated bag with us, but managed to convince ourselves that the chocolates wouldn’t make it home without melting. We’ll never know the answer to that, but the superb cheeses did, and we’re discussing getting a second batch to take home.

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