Queensland: The great green way
By Helen Wright
Backlit by haze from the setting sun, the road ahead almost beckons you toward it like a divine light. Winding, lined with flowering trees and dotted with glossy black mountain boulders that have tumbled from the valley over time, it’s likely you won’t pass another car for half an hour. If you want to get lost, the stretch of road between Townsville and Cairns is the place to do it. The Great Green Way is a largely undisturbed stretch of natural beauty which includes two World Heritage sites – the Wet Tropics Rainforests and the incomparable Great Barrier Reef. The area has over 25 tropical islands off its coast, over 12 mainland National Parks.
In a bid to escape the backpacker army that storm the east coast of Australia, I’d rented a Jucy camper van with my friend Ella and decided to follow the less-trodden path to beauty. Equipped with everything we needed to survive, including an actual kitchen sink, we didn’t need a plan. The idea was to set off, stop when we got tired and bathe in the Pacific. With the iPod on and the windows down we got off the highway and followed the coast, weaving through rich green mangrove forests and catching the odd tantalising glimpse of the sea.
THE GREEN ROAD
Driving this route is considered safe but wild camping or parking up at truck stops isn’t recommended. Pleasingly there is a host of well-equipped holiday parks along the way which are just rustic enough to make you feel like you’re getting the real experience but with the benefit of wifi and showers – not that lathering up in the ocean isn’t a alluring prospect… Along the road it’s easy to leave real life in your rear view mirror. With the town of Cairns behind us we passed rainbow orchards, coffee plantations, wineries, sugar cane fields and curiously named creeks (Cabbage Patch, Ginger Beer and Little Goodbye to name but a few). As a pair of Brits exploring Australia for the first time, driving with a pack of wild Kangaroo racing beside you is the ultimate high.
This part of northern Queensland is all rugged mountains, wetlands, salt pans and hidden mangroves ideal for exploring by canoe or hiking. Hidden in the bush is a wild Beatrice Potter community of brushtail possums, sugar gliders, northern brown bandicoots, wallabies and rufous bettongs. Don’t expect to rely on the sat nav, GPRS is virtually non-existent once you get into the forest. Signs are intermittent, we hadn’t seen one for a while so we decided to swing the van into a dusty side road and see where it led.
REST AND REVEL
We stopped in a small town on the Cape York Peninsula called Lakeland to breathe in the fragrant Laura River Valley. With a population of only 227 people, it’s tranquil, with only the squark of Golden Shouldered Parrots interrupting the hum of flowing water from the cascading falls. If a dip in the cold creek isn’t enough to wake you up, coffee brewed from local plantations will get the heart racing. You can take the hard sounding Bruce Highway from Cairns to Townsville which only takes four hours to travel the the 410km, but captivated by eccentric locals and the stunning natural beauty we opted for the soft route and made our trip last a whole week.
The journey exactly mirrors the exact attitude to life in north Queensland; relaxed, laid back and slightly out of the mainstream.
Find out more about Queensland
We rented a van with Jucy Rentals www.jucy.com.au Nicknamed ‘Irene’ it had two floors, a fridge that charged from the car battery, a stove, running water and lots of space for luggage – it was pretty damn great. (And none paid us to say that!)