This is part three of my motorbike tour of north Queensland’s tropical beaches. I’m now experiencing more iconic post card beaches than I have in the last 2500 kilometres of the Queensland coast. There is a beauty to tropical beaches that can’t easily be expressed in words, it’s more of a feeling. At one moment they are awash with turbulence, at another times the most tranquil and spectacular places on earth.
At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun. “
– Sandy Gingras.
Waiting for rain
I camped at Bingil Bay last night and watched the most spectacular storm roll in. It rained on an off all night, but inside my tent I was dry. In the morning the clouds had cleared and the rain had washed the dust in the atmosphere away. I woke to a beautiful sunrise.
If you’ve just got here and want to know about my adventures so far click on the following link: Lucinda to Mission Beach – Part 2
Just after I packed my tent and gear and took the camouflage cover off Emu. I decided it would be good to get a picture on the beach with the rain forest in the background. I walked onto the beach to check the sand condition and it seemed the tide was going out.
With the assistance of a local camper, I was able to get Emu onto the beach. After my fellow camper took a few photos, I started the bike and attempted to slowly ride off. At which point the back wheel dropped deep into the sand leaving the bike buried up to the bash plate.
It took a lot of huffing and puffing but eventually we made it back to the hard surface. I came to the realisation that a heavily laden adventure bike was not suited to riding down soft sandy beaches.
Back on the road
I was planning on camping somewhere near Cairns tonight, a distance of about 250 kilometre. While that doesn’t seem like much, there are a number of beaches to explore and photograph along the way.
The road from Bingil Bay to the highway is a well maintained tar sealed country road. It weaves through pastoral land, rain forest and past a number of temporary “Cassowaries Cross Here Recently” signs. It was a cool morning due to the rain last night and became a very pleasant ride to the highway.
Once on the highway, I continued north towards Innisfail. The sugar cane plantations were interspersed with small creeks and rivers which in turn were surrounded with rain forest sanctuaries.
As I got closer to Innisfail the clouds seem to get darker and I could feel the humidity building significantly, It felt like rain was imminent and I pondered whether I should stop and put my wet weather clothing on. Too late, no sooner had the thought occurred to me than the heavens opened up.
Kurrimine Beach (Murdering Point)
As I rode along the Bruce Highway, I was covered in water from the rain and spray from the occasional truck. It occurred to me that I should pull over and let the heavy rain subside. Strangely enough, the sign to Kurrimine Beach (Murdering Point) came into view at just that moment. It was your typical tropical beach road, surrounded by kilometres of cane fields on both sides. The road to the point is called “Murdering Point Road” and alludes to a violent history. While Kurrimine is the aboriginal name meaning “rising sun” it was originally called “Murdering Point”.
Murder or just a conveinent snack?
In 1878 Sub Inspector of the Native Police, Robert Arthur Johnston was looking for the cutter the “Riser” that had been reported missing weeks earlier. At the beach he came across some of the papers carried on the “Riser”. Upon closer inspection he located the ghastly remains of the crew inside an aboriginal sand oven. It appears that the cutter had sank after hitting Kings Reef. All the crew had survived only to be killed and eaten by the local aboriginal peoples.
I passed over a few small causeways and then found myself in a rain forest valley. The rain had stopped and I could feel myself drying out rather quickly. By the time I rounded the corner into Kurrimine Beach community I was completely dry. Kurrimine is the closest coastal community to the reef and would be an awesome place for fishing expeditions. Just don’t run into Kings Reef . For more information on the history of this place check out the following web site: https://youraussieholiday.com.au/project/kurrimine-beach-murdering-point-north-queensland/
The Kurrimine community consists of the Kurrimine Beach Conservation Park and the Kurrimine Beach National Park. It has a preserved area of mesophyll vine forest and is significant as a bird sanctuary. It also has a winery (apparently), a shop and a caravan park.
What makes a great beach?
Like similar beach side communities dotted up and down the coast, Kurrimine has all the facilities it needs to make a great beach community, I’m sure if you live there you might think it is one of the best. But for me as a casual observer, I find it hard to differentiate it from other similar beach communities along the coast.
Innisfail was just down the road and as I was very keen to go to Fly Fish Point, I decided to make my coffee break there. But as I got closer to Innisfail the clouds got darker and it started raining heavier that it had before, I can’t remember a time passing through Innisfail where it hadn’t rain on me. I found a turn off to a place called Ettay Bay National Park. While I hadn’t intended to go there, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t adventure down the road.
The road into Ettay Bay starts like so many others in this part of the world with kilometres of sugar cane lined single roads. But it wasn’t long before it started to climb into a rain forest. Then it started to wind around tight turns and climbing corners. The perfect roads for riding an adventure bike. The bay itself is perfectly tucked away at the bottom of a steep rainforest road. It is a small secluded rain forest oasis. There is a caravan park at the northern point, a Surf Life Saving Club and small cafe in the middle.
Ettay Bay is definitely on my top five list of best beaches in Queensland. Out the front of the Surf Life Saving Club is the large stinger enclosure. It had all the features a beach community needed, a pub (of sorts), caravan/camping area, long protected beach and it was in a tropical rain forest setting.
It was getting close to lunch time and it had stopped raining again. I wanted to find one more beach, preferably one with a cafe and bakery. So I thought there would be a good chance of one at Fly Fish Point.
Leaving Ettay Bay it started raining again, as I was looking around for a place to pull up to get my wet weather gear out of my panniers, I noticed my jeans weren’t getting very wet and there was no rain drops on my mobile phone. The KLR650 has a comprehensive fairing and as I was tucked into the bike the rain wasn’t actually hitting me in the legs.
My upper body was getting wet, but as I wear a marino wool tee shirt and a mesh jacket the rain had a cooling effect. So I continued riding in the torrential rain, until I got to Innisfail where the rain stopped completely and the sun came out.
Fly Fish Point
Fly fish point is about six kilometres west of Innisfail on the banks of the South Johnson River. Riding out to the beach I passed cane fields (what else) and banana plantations. Upon arriving at the beach I was a little disappointed. Riding into the beach area there is a significant amount of housing development on the right side of the inlet, which swings around into the river estuary where the boat ramps is.
Limited access a worrying trend in beach side communities
There’s no park area in this part of the community and it seems like any access to the estuary or river is out of the question. Homes seem to be packed together to restrict unwanted people from having access. The only way to get to the river is via the council boat ramp. So I turned around and continued to the beach area. The beach itself is about 3-5 kilometres of sand between two small head lands, in itself it’s not very attractive and seems a little wind swept, as there are no significant trees to block the wind,
The houses are older than the more recent developments near the estuary. Apart from the occasional modern house, the majority are beach or fishing huts. Some are the older 70’s style houses which are in various states of decline due to neglect.
As the only cafe I could find was closed, I rode back to Innisfail and found a small take away. It was raining again so I ate my food on a small chair next to the take away shop under the shade of overlapping veranda. I watched as Emu and all my gear got soaking wet in the rain. This pretty much sums up all my experiences with Innisfail over the years.
After a wet uncomfortable lunch in Innisfail it was good to get back on the road and heading for Cairns. There was one more beach I wanted to drop in at before getting to my final destination for the day. There is a small sign just north of Innisfail, and like many of the beach side communities in the tropics the sign is understated. But I’ve past it several times, but on this occasion, I have both the time and a purpose to make it worthwhile to take a look.
Bramston Beach is typical of many of the beaches I have been to in the tropics, it is a long straight stretch of golden sand with a combination of palm, coconut and beach trees. There is a large caravan park in the area that gives visitors easy access to the beach. Unlike other similar communities outlined in this series, the beach gives generous access to everybody. I stopped at a cafe and enjoyed a cup of coffee, but the heat was oppressive. I would like to have stayed longer. Of all the beach communities south of Cairns I feel Bramston is probably one of the most inviting.
Finding a place to camp
When on a motorbike tour, I always find that riding through cities is a real pain. Not only does the exhaust from the traffic make me me feel sick, but being continually on the look out for idiots trying to kill you is exhausting. It was getting late and I had been rained on constantly during the day, dried out as I rode and then rained on again.
Cairns itself is situated on Trinity Bay and the Trinity Bay inlet. The town was originally known as Trinity then Battle Camp, later it was changed to Cairns. Most of the area around the town is mud flat. Walking around the foreshore all you see is the long flat muddy inlet. However, further north the beach suburbs open up to some of the most spectacular beaches in the region.
I rode through Cairns and then up to the Northern Beaches, the tide was in and the water looked turbulent. These were nice beaches and there were expensive looking resorts facing out towards the Great Barrier Reef. I wasn’t really dressed for the occasion and neither did I want to spend the money for a view I could get from my tent.
Cairns Northern Beaches
They are much publicised and commercialised tropical beaches. I rode into each of them, but to get there I had to navigate through suburbia and as it was getting late, I didn’t want to spend valuable time taking photos that would look like crap anyway.
I also couldn’t find a reasonable caravan park so I thought I would come back and organise to take photos at a more opportune time.
Unfortunately, I didn’t end up coming back this way. The following link provides an excellent overview of these beaches with spectacular professional photos: https://www.tropicalnorthqueensland.org.au/articles/guide-to-cairns-beaches/
There was a great looking caravan park at Clifton Beach. While the people there were nice they suggested that their sites were really more suited to caravans and they catered more to the grey nomads.
The lady suggested I ride about five kilometres up the road to Ellis Beach, where she thought I would find a beach site. She indicated there was a site for me if I was unable to find one there, but she was confident that I would like Ellis Beach caravan park.
Clifton Beach is one of the less developed of the Cairns Northern beaches and as such more suitable for people looking for simplicity. I liked the beach but found winding in and out of the small roads and trying to get to the actual beach frustrating. The beach has easy access to parks and to the sand and is definitely worth looking into. If there was no accommodation at Ellis Beach I would be happy returning here for the night.
Ellis Beach is one of those places you could easily miss if you weren’t paying attention. After the busyness of the Northern Beaches and the chaos of the Captain Cook Highway, you suddenly find yourself out of suburbia and cruising over a small hill. The terrain turns to a forested bushland as you drop down towards the coast and the famous coastal route to Port Douglas. In my opinion this is one of the most scenic and awesome biker roads in Australia.
Just before you get to the Ellis Beach Hotel tucked into the left side of the hill and directly opposite the stinger nets of Ellis Beach, you come across the park. The entrance to the Ellis Beach Caravan Park is half way down the hill on your right. Be mindful of cross the traffic and the vehicles behind you.
It was hot, humid and getting late, I wanted to explore this place before the sun set and get into position for some great sunset photos. It would cost me $35 for a camp site but only $80.00 if I took a cabin. Deal done and I got my own personal shower, air conditioning and the opportunity to get a good nights sleep in a Queens sized bed.
A best beach contender
Ellis Beach is one of my favourite beaches in Queensland. It typifies what a tropical beach should be, with palm and coconut trees on the beach and rain forest behind. It also has a hotel and restaurant close by. Unfortunately, the hotel that should have closed at 5.50 pm decided to close early at 4.30 pm just as people were rocking up looking for a feed. I’m not sure the young people running the place understood the concept of hospitality. As I walked past later I could hear the loud music of a private party in the back room.
Settled in for the night
I settled into my cabin for the night and enjoyed both the air conditioning, the TV, charging ports and my dehydrated meal. All in all it was a good day, I had found two spectacular beaches for my top five best beaches. I was kicking back watching TV and siping on a red wine. Tomorrow I will ride up through the Daintree Rain Forest and over to the Lion’s Den hotel.