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Best of Tropical North Queensland

Thursday, April 14, 2011
The hearts of all Australians went out to Queenslanders as we watched their state being devastated by Cyclone Yasi and raging floods. Twenty-two lives were lost and livestock, towns, crops and anything else in the way was destroyed or severely damaged.

Tourism is a crucial part of Queensland's economy and the floods and cyclone had as much affect on places that remained untouched as those that bore the brunt.

Getaway visited affected areas to see how the recovery was progressing, and to show that it's open for business. We are urging you to get back to Queensland.


Natalie Gruzlewski started the journey in the far north of her home state and found that hotels, resorts, caravan parks and tourist operators want everyone to know that they are well and truly ready to welcome visitors.

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The cyclone travelled just south of it, and things were back to normal there and in Port Douglas in a couple of days.

While business dropped dramatically, fortunately just 300km of the 2400km of the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef were exposed and damage was minimal.

Quicksilver Cruises was founded in 1979 with a catamaran taking visitors to the Low Isles' coral cays. The fleet grew and they ventured to ribbon reefs at the outer edge of the Continental Shelf. It now has a fleet of advanced Australian-made cruising vessels and has been voted the country's best tour operator.

Their tours to Green Island are special. The coral cay, 27km offshore, was formed around 6000 years ago and supports diverse vegetation from beach plants to a vine thicket rainforest.

Smaller operators, such as Caravilla Caravan Park, are doing it a little tougher. The park has been in the Hughes family for 40 years and since Yasi paid its destructive visit, they have had to let staff go. Being a family business and having put so much effort into building the place up, Wayne Hughes described the whole affair as "heart wrenching". They are more than ready to show warm Queensland hospitality.

They have a range of cabins (family size with ensuite, double with ensuite and standard) as well as and caravan or camping sites. The pool is covered with shade cloth and there's a barbecue area, a mini-golf course and space for ballgames provide family fun.

Mission Beach

Getaway visited Castaways Resort a year ago, just after a major makeover. The multimillion-dollar refurbishment was welcomed with much fanfare, and then came the storm.

Fortunately, no-one was hurt and damage was pretty much superficial, so they are feeling blessed. The pool resembled a swamp, but it's been drained, acid washed, cleaned and filled. Fences have been replaced and Castaways is back to where it was, despite water surging into the bar and everything being pretty muddy for a while.

It was owner James Neville-Smith's first encounter with the fury nature can bring and he can't speak highly enough of how the community and region in general handled it.

Mission Beach is spread along a thin strip of land between ocean and hills and has kept a small town feel. Castaways is 20m from a sandy beach and has accommodation ranging from hotel- and motel-style rooms to apartments.


Mareeba is 417m above sea level on the Atherton Tablelands. Natalie met up with farmer Mark MacLaughlin who starred in the most recent season of the Nine Network's Farmer Wants a Wife. Natalie hosts the show and she's very happy that his love life is progressing well but the same can't be said about his livelihood!

Mark is farm manager at Skybury Plantation, which includes the Australian Coffee Centre. Locals had 24 hours' warning that Yasi was going to hit, so were prepared for the worst, and in almost no time at all, doors were reopened and coffee was on sale.

Mark's parents own the 120 hectare property which is perched at the apex of the Great Dividing Range and has 360-degree views. It also has just the right soil and climate for producing excellent bourbon and kauai varieties of Arabica coffee. About 50 percent of the crop is exported to Europe, Canada and Japan. Conditions are also perfect for producing delicious bananas, sweet red papaya and other exotic tropical fruits.

They offer escorted tours three times a day and in one hour you will know more about coffee than you thought possible.

The two-storey Australian Coffee Centre has a restaurant, licensed bar, coffee laboratory, gift shop and coffee cinema. Superb timbers and woodwork featured inside highlight the skills of local craftspeople and artisans. Visitors stroll through coffee trees and gardens, enjoying the company of birds and animals who've made it home. There are beans for sale as well as coffee liqueur, chocolate coated beans and coffee makers of all kinds. You can order online at

Daintree Eco Lodge

Catriona Rowntree visited Daintree Eco Lodge in the world's oldest tropical rainforest. Yasi took out the area's electricity supply, but everything is working again and all of the marvellous things on offer are there to enjoy once more. The lodge has been awarded World's Leading Eco Lodge twice.

Tree Villas blend into surrounding greenery and put guests right among the ancient rainforest. Trees reach 21m above a stream and open doors and windows let in the smells and sounds of nature at its best. (Micro screens keep the bugs out!)

Owners Terry and Cathy Maloney have blended relaxation with local culture. Fifty Indigenous locals are employed at the Lodge and Catriona suggests asking local expert, Barma, to accompany you when you go exploring.

An impressive waterfall is an integral part of the property. It is incorporated wherever possible and guests dine beside it or enjoy a spa treatment or massage there.

There are cultural activities, interpretative rainforest walks, history of local Aboriginal tribes, plants, birds and wildlife and even an insight into bush tucker.

Julaymba serves Australian cuisine with a native twist and is enjoyed overlooking the rainforest and lagoon. The Julaymba Aboriginal Art Gallery is full of artworks, sculptures and carvings that may be purchased.

So everyone agrees, far north Queensland is ready to welcome you on your next holiday!


Queensland's far north.


Great Adventures Green Island cruises start at $77 for adults. They operate year-round.

Castaways Resort & Spa rooms start at $155 a night.

First City Caravilla campsites start at $28 for two adults.

Skybury Plantation Tours cost $23.75 for adults and $11.90 for children. Tours run every day at 10.30am, 11.45am and 2.15pm.

Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa villas start at $550 a night. Full breakfast is included.

Virgin Blue has one-way flights to Cairns from:

  • Sydney $179
  • Brisbane $165
  • Melbourne $209
  • Canberra $229
  • Adelaide $239
  • Hobart $249
  • Darwin $259
  • Perth $349

There are limited seats, which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at April 14, 2011, and are subject to change.

Prices correct at April 14, 2011.

For further information

Virgin Blue
Ph: 136 789

Great Adventures Green Island Cruise
Cairns, Queensland 4870
Ph: (07) 4044 9944
Fax: (07) 4044 9955

First City Caravilla
1 Kelly Street
Earlville, Queensland 4870
Ph: (07) 4054 1403
Fax: (07) 4054 6639

Castaways Resort & Spa Mission Beach
2 Pacific Parade
Mission Beach, Queensland 4852
Ph: 1800 079 002
Fax: (07) 4068 7429

Skybury Australian Coffee Centre
136 Ivicevic Road
Paddy's Green
Mareeba, Queensland 4880
Ph: (07) 4093 2190
Fax: (07) 4086 6145

Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa
20 Daintree Road
Daintree, Queensland 4873
Ph: (07) 4098 6100

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