Airlie Beach to Cairns

Leaving Cape Hillsborough, our next stop up the coast was Airlie Beach, gateway to the Whitsunday Islands.

It’s a lively little town and one of the more touristy places we have stopped off at, which surprisingly, I was glad of.

Not usually my thing, I enjoyed walking around the main street and relaxing next to the man made lagoon.

I must have been tired as sunbathing isn’t something I often have the patience for but Anna caught me fully embracing the sunshine and looking dead happy doing so, ‘dead’ being the optimal word here.

The nearest free camping to this little town is next to a petrol station a 40 minute drive from the beach. It isn’t the picture perfect spot we had hoped for but it came with clean toilets and wifi so we couldn’t complain!

Unfortunately the next day was filled with heavy rain showers so although we did achieve a nice long walk between two coastal towns, the infamously teal coloured water was influenced by the grey clouds overhead.

We spent most of the afternoon in the van watching Netflix before going to a yoga class which helped in stretching the van life back out of our bodies!

We returned to our petrol station home and got an early night as the next morning we had booked a kayak tour around the Whitsundays.

We woke up to more rain and in two minds whether we wanted to spend four hours in a kayak.

Everybody but us had cancelled due to the weather. This actually worked in our favour as we were given a private tour of the islands.

The rear seat in our kayak had foot pedals for the rudder and I was elected to sit behind Anna in order to operate these. Unfortunately (fortunately) I was actually too tall to comfortably do this (a first for the company) so Anna had to go back and operate the turning system.

The weather cleared up (mostly) once we got onto the water and even when the skies did open, it was awesome being out there and seeing the rain bounce off the ocean around us.

Being up in the tropics, even when it heavily rains, it is still warm so I dare say we were actually glad of it.

Teased by sightings of turtles and dolphins in the distance we never quite got a good look at any but it was nice knowing they were close.

We stopped off at White Rock, one of the smaller islands, put on some flattering stinger suits to prevent death by jellyfish and snorkelled the rocks and coral in the immediate vicinity.

The islands name sounds more romantic than its true reason. It is a particular favourite spot for the local birds to sit on, lending to its colour..

Getting out of the water we were happy to see a cheese and fruit platter had been laid out for us to enjoy on our little private island.

After our food we rowed back through the beautiful islands avoiding small ferries and got back to shore after a pretty special morning, glad we hadn’t cancelled like those other fools!

Once dry, we drove the ‘short’ four hours it took to reach Townsville and incidentally stayed in another petrol station car park for the third night in a row!

We had been a few days without a shower so drove to a park in the centre of town and used the ones there. They were surprisingly clean and it didn’t matter that they were cold as it was so warm outside.

From the park we then drove across to the ferry terminal and got on a boat to Magnetic Island.

The crossing took about half an hour and we were dropped off at a small dock on this rainforest covered island.

We jumped onto a bus which loops around the entire island and stopped off at the far side, Horseshoe Bay.

After relaxing on the beach and having an extremely expensive beer we decided to walk back across the island in the assumption it wasn’t very big.

It is quite big.

Three hours, two wrong turns and a couple of really big hills later, we found ourselves back on the west side of the island.

We were just in time to go and look at the furry local residents, the rock wallabies, as they came out for some food.

They were more timid than we had been led to believe but still cute enough to be worth hanging around for.

As we had already walked so far, we did the extra half an hour around the coast to the dock as the sun was setting.

When we returned to our petrol station home, we were approached by a lady with a cat on a lead. This is not the first nutter we have met in a free site. ‘Mad as toast’ is becoming a frequently used phrase here. Shaking her off before she could speak for too long as went to sleep before moving on again towards Mission Beach.

On the relatively short two hour drive we saw kangaroos, a wombat, a crocodile, (potentially) a bird eating spider and a few eagles all without leaving the main road.

The only thing I got out of the van for however was this view.

As we arrived at Mission Beach we were left a little bored, it undoubtedly one of the more beautiful beaches in Australia but there isn’t much else in the town and the water is inhabited by crocodiles, sharks and deadly jellyfish so we moved on fairly quickly.

We found ourselves at the intriguing Paronella Park.

Built in the early 1900’s by an eccentric and hard-working Spaniard, Jose Paranella, this park is the result of his dream to build a castle in a rainforest.

Entry included a day and a night tour of the park as well as free camping for the night.

After a few floods and cyclones the park is now a set of ruins but that added to the charm and it was fun to walk around and imagine what the place would have been like in its heyday. 

The next couple of days were spent battling and then sheltering from some rather British weather in the Atherton Tablelands.

Needing to do some washing we did so but ran out of money in the launderette meaning we had to improvise with an indoor washing line.

We did get to see some pretty impressive sights such a crater lakes, waterfalls and rainforest but I dare say we would have been more enthusiastic if the sun had been shining!

Luckily this weather coincided with us figuring out how to tune the van’s TV so we bought some cheap port, an out of date cheese selection and had a very budget port and cheese night in front of the tele!

The cheese had been inspired by happening across a factory, we had gone in, eaten some free samples and left before they could get any money off of us!

The night before setting off on the home stretch to Cairns we found ourselves in a moral dilemma.

Having previously and on more than one occasion enjoyed hanging out with kangaroos, we actually bought some roo burgers, cooked and ate them. They are bloody delicious as well.

I now just have to decide if I prefer petting or eating these creatures, is it possible to do both?!
After a slow few days (which in hindsight was probably needed to recharge) we drove to Cairns.


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