7 – 9 April 2017
After abandoning ship back at Airlie, we stayed another night at the Heart Whitsundays, had a great meal at Fish D’Vine – random name and even more randomly a rum bar, doing a great job with a generator and a limited menu. On the way back we stopped off at the Magnums Hotel Bar for a spot of Cane Toad racing.. as you do.. completely hilarious with most of the people betting on the toads too drunk to realise that they were betting against themselves – we saw one group bid $35, only to then raise it to $50 even though no one else was bidding! The betting takes longer than the race itself which is a bucket in the middle of a wooden square which is lifted to start the race – and the first toad to touch one of the walls is the winner. There is then a fair amount of time spent chasing the escaping toads around the bar…
The next day we picked up a hire car and did the fairly long drive up the coast to our next stop Mission Beach, stopping only to take pictures of the Giant Mango at Bowen, and grabbing some lunch and a mango smoothie near Townsville.
We were staying at the Eco Village just on the edge of the tiny town of Mission Beach, and our room was a little hut in amongst the jungle that goes right down to the beach.
The weather was kinda mixed for the next couple of days but the area inland from Mission Beach is really interesting and we visited Bingle Bay and Kurramine Beach – both gorgeous despite the slightly gloomy weather. It’s definitely a practical joke by Mother Nature that such stunning beaches are rendered unswimable by jellyfish, sharks and crocs…
The landscape is dominated by agriculture and pretty much every road is lined with endless sugar cane fields but they do grow lots of tropical fruit so we stopped in at the Murdering Point Winery to try their range of tropical fruit wines and ports, which actually are much closer wine than I was expecting with both the mango and the passionfruit wines a hit with us both. The Pineapple Port was also a winner but the chances of stopping before the bottle was empty was a bit too unlikely so we opted for the mango.
Day 2 we decided to investigate a local attraction that everyone had mentioned to us as a must see, Paronella Park. In 1913, Jose Paronella came from spain to work in Queenland, initially he worked on the sugarcane, eventually buying, improving and selling on cane farms making a fortune along the way. In 1929 he bought this spot of land with a couple of waterfalls and started to build his castle. They built a small stone house to live in then started on the construction of a castle made from poured concrete and old iron railway track. The castle contained a theatre which doubled as a ballroom and grand staircases down to the swimming hole where people could swim. Impressively he also put in hydro electric power – so the castle had electricity – about 25 years before the local towns were powered.
On the way into the park, we met Mark, one of the current owners, who with his wife had bought the abandoned and almost completely destroyed park after retiring from city life in 1993. They have spent the last 24 years bringing the park and in particular the gardens back to life – not a dissimilar story to the gardens at Heligan. It’s a lovely place, Jose had a wonderful vision and planted walkways of trees, now huge, and created sites around the park that our enthusiastic guide took us round telling us the stories of the dances held and the movies shown over weekends in the 1930’s and 40’s. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
We spent the afternoon soaking in the really lovely pool back at the hotel (it’s a hard life) before taking a glass of our mango wine down to the beach to watch the sun go down. Love Mission Beach!