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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Broken River Bush Camp and Fern Flat Camping Area, Eungella National Park, QLD.

As there is no phone reception at either of the two campgrounds in the Broken River section of Eungella National Park we booked before arriving. We found it difficult to decide which campground to book. We noticed that generators are allowed at Broken River Camping Area so we thought Fern Flat Camping Area might be more enjoyable for us. However, when I went online to make the booking it stated that I had to choose a site number when booking. I wasn't keen to commit to a site number because we were concerned about ending up too far away from our ute. The service body on the back of our ute contains our kitchen, food, fridge and lighting so we prefer to camp beside it. In the end, we decided to book Broken River Camping Area which didn't have numbered sites. 

Broken River Camping Area

Broken River Camping Area. The area in the middle is not marked for camping.
When we arrived at Broken River there were two Kimberley Cruisers parked in the nicer side of the campground and one of them was running a generator so we opted for the other side of the campground. We were glad we did as the occupants of the caravan did leave their generator running all day, every day, while they went out and then turned it off the minute they returned in the late afternoon. 

Our site at Broken River Campground. There are two long narrow sites in this photo.
All in all, we didn't like this campground much. We were surprised that a campground advertised as "camp sites set amongst natural bushland" did in fact back onto a farm with a pigsty!!!  There was a brisk wind coming from this direction as well and it would have been a lot nicer if a few more trees and bushes were planted along the fence. The other thing we didn't like was how close together the sites were. We had someone beside us every night and we could hear every word they said to each other. I think the sites were probably more suited to small motorhomes than tents. 

To cap off this negative camping experience, I got stuck in the toilet at night when the lock broke. No harm done, as I just called for a screwdriver and was able to set myself free but I was glad it hadn't happened to a child. In the end, we left a day early even though we had paid for another night.

Of course, most people go to Broken River to see the platypus and on this front we were not disappointed. As soon as we put the tent up we went to see if there were any platypus about. Even though it was only 2 pm we saw a platypus straight away. 

Platypus in Broken River
Another highlight for us in the campground was an unexpected sighting of a Ulysses butterfly. It is hard to describe just how stunning these iridescent blue butterflies are. This one was zooming about in the brisk winds and never settled so we were unable to get a great photo of it but it was an exhilarating sight to see and a nice surprise as we hadn't realised that Ulysses come this far south.

Fern Flat Camping Area

Two car parks. One for the site on the right and the other for the site down below.
We checked out Fern Flat Camping Area while we were there and to our surprise we discovered that none of the campsites were numbered. The campground was also empty. This means we could have camped in one of the two sites that are close to a car park but we weren't to know this when we booked. The campground is a bit out of the way and has an isolated feel about it. The sites are quite small and shaded.

Amenities at the entrance to Fern Flat Camping Area
Path to two small campsites below.

Details for Broken River Camping Area:
Where: Eungella National Park, 86 km west of Mackay along Mackay-Eungella Road. From Eungella follow the Eungella Dam Road for about 5 - 6 km to Broken River. 
Access: Sealed roads. Very steep road up the  Clarke Range to Eungella. Caution required for trucks, buses and if towing a caravan. No vehicles longer than 11 meters allowed on Sundays.
Bookings & Fees: $6.35 per adult per night. Best to book online before arriving. Nearest phone reception is a the Sky Window Day Use Area. There is free WiFi for customers at the kiosk.
Sites: 8 grass and dirt sites. Sites are close together with no privacy. Sites are marked but not numbered. Listed as suitable for tent camping beside your vehicle, walk-in camping, medium sized caravans, camper trailers, small motorhomes.
Facilities: 2 long drop toilets, fires only in the few fire rings supplied. BYO clean milled timber. Quiet generators below 65dB(A) allowed between 9 am and 8 pm. Adjacent to Broken River. No water, tables, phone reception, bins or showers. 
Prohibitions: No domestic animals. 

Details for Fern Flat Camping Area:
Where: Eungella National Park, 86 km west of Mackay along Mackay-Eungella Road. From Eungella follow the Eungella Dam Road for about 5 - 6 km to Broken River. 
Access: Very steep road up the Clarke Range to Eungella. Caution required for trucks, buses and if towing a caravan. No vehicles longer than 11 meters allowed on Sundays. 600 m gravel road to the campground.
Bookings & Fees: $6.35 per adult per night. When booking you are asked to select the number of the site you want however on arrival there are no numbers on the sites. Book online. Nearest phone reception is a the Sky Window Day Use Area. There is free WiFi for customers at the kiosk.
Sites:  Tent camping. Listed as "Not suitable for camper trailers, caravans or motorhomes". 8 small dirt sites, maximum 4 people per site, most sites are a short walk from your vehicle. You can not park your vehicle beside your tent. 
Facilities: hybrid toilet ( a bit of a walk from most sites), fire rings BYO milled timber. No water, tables, phone reception, bins or showers.
Prohibitions: No domestic pets, no generators. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Walks and Wildlife at Broken River, Eungella National Park, QLD.

Platypus in a deep section of Broken River.
Broken River Bush Camp is conveniently placed on the banks of Broken River. As we crossed the bridge to the River Walk we had excellent views of a platypus. We left the bridge and walked along the River Walk where we could clearly see two platypus. Broken River in Eungella National Park certainly lived up to its reputation for being a premier place to see platypus.

Platypus in a shallow section of Broken River.
There are two campgrounds at Broken River, which I will detail in my next blog. There is also a selection of accommodation in the area.

Day trippers are well catered for as there are two Day Use Areas with large car parks. These pleasant, shady areas have picnic tables and barbecues. There are toilets but no bins. The picnic areas and the River Walk are wheelchair accessible. There is also a kiosk with free WiFi for customers. We saw an Eastern Whipbird foraging right next to the path between the bridge and the kiosk. 

Broken River Day Use Area
Eastern Whipbird
Eastern Yellow Robin
We decided to continue on and combine the Rainforest Circuit (Class 3, 780 m) and the Granite Bend Circuit (Class 3, 1.6 km).

Rainforest Circuit
Once again, we could clearly see another platypus moving about in the river. This platypus was very large, though it's hard to gauge their varying sizes in the photos we took.

Large platypus in Broken River.
Before long we took the track to Granite Bend. 

Granite Bend, Broken River.

We happily watched a female Red-legged Pademelon as it foraged on the walking track.

Red-legged Pademelon, female.
We saw some interesting fungi along the walk.

On our return we made our way to the Platypus Viewing Platform on a section of the River Walk. The signs on the platform stated that the best times to see platypus are in the early morning and late afternoon. However, we had no problem seeing several platypus along different sections of the river during the day time.

Platypus Viewing Platform, River Walk, Broken River.
We didn't actually see any platypus at the viewing platform but we did see some fresh water turtles and a striking blue and orange Azure Kingfisher.

Azure Kingfisher
Turtles at the Platypus Viewing Platform.
That night we went for a walk across the river and we saw several Brush-tailed Possums out and about. 

Brush-tailed Possum

Wildlife seen by us in Eungella National Park: Platypus, Red-legged Pademelon, Brush-tailed Possum, Flying-fox, Fresh water turtles. Ulysses Butterfly. Birds: Australian Brush Turkey, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little Pied Cormorant, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Pied Currawong, Bar-shouldered Dove, Grey Fantail, Rufous Fantail, Little Friarbird, White-faced Heron, Lewin's Honeyeater, Azure Kingfisher, Laughing Kookaburra, Eastern Yellow Robin, Large-billed Scrubwren, Dusky Moorhen, Brown Thornbill, Eastern Whipbird.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Beachcomber Cove Walk and the Diversity Boardwalk, Cape Hillsborough National Park, QLD.

Division Rocks between Cape Hillsborough Beach and Beachcomber Cove.
Beachcomber Cove Track: Moderate Grade. 2.2 km return.

The Beachcomber Cove Track has been under repair for some time. We were hoping that we may have been able to access part of the track but when we arrived at the trailhead in the northern end of Cape Hillsborough Picnic Area we found that the track was closed off. However, not all was lost as it is still possible to head north along Cape Hillsborough Beach to Beachcomber Cove at low tide.

Between Cape Hillsborough Beach and Beachcomber Cove there is a fascinating area of strewn rocks appropriately known as Division Rocks. 

Tiny Sand Bubbler Crabs had left beautiful patterns in the sand.

Sand Bubbler Crab patterns on the beach.
We had hoped we might be able to do some of the headland walk from Beachcomber Cove but this end was closed as well so we retraced our steps along the beach.

Trail marker at Beachcomber Cove.

The Diversity Boardwalk: 1.2 km return. Grade easy. First 300 m wheelchair accessible.
The walk leaves from a huge car park on Cape Hillsborough Road.The Diversity Boardwalk was the surprise of our trip to Cape Hillsborough National Park. The boardwalk offers great access to a tidal mangrove area and then wanders through open eucalypt forest.

Diversity Boardwalk
Mangrove Crab
The eucalypt and vine forest section of the walk offered insights into the local Yuibera culture.

We could visualise sitting under this large rock and throwing a few shells on the midden.

Green Tree Ants (Weaver Ants)
The forest section of the walk was also a great place for bird watching and butterfly sightings.

Little Bronze Cuckoo
Green-spotted Triangle
Orange Plane
Bordered Rustic
Purple Crow
Blue Triangle

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wedge Island and Andrews Point Walking Track, Cape Hillsborough National Park, QLD.

Cape Hillsborough Beach at low tide and Wedge Island.
We had heard that you can walk out to Wedge Island from Cape Hillsborough Beach at low tide so we checked before we arrived to see when the low tides would be during our stay. It turned out that the low tides in the mornings were so early that it would still be dark so we targeted the afternoons for exploring the beach area of Cape Hillsborough. What we had not realised was how huge the tides are at Cape Hillsborough Beach. The tide seems to go out for ever and ever. 

Agile Wallaby, Cape Hillsborough Picnic Area
We parked at the picnic area on Risley Parade and walked down the boat ramp to the beach. Cape Hillsborough is famous as the place to see "kangaroos" on the beach at sunrise. We were there in the afternoon but we did see Agile Wallabies in the picnic area. We also saw them near our campsite at Smalleys Beach Campground.

Wedge Island: Accessible by foot at low tide.

Cape Hillsborough Beach.
We seemed to have got our timing right and it was an easy walk along the beach and across a natural causeway to Wedge Island.

Causeway to Wedge Island
Andrews Point Walking Track: Grade Moderate to Difficult, 5.2 km circuit.

Near the causeway to Wedge Island we saw a sign indicating the entry to Andrews Point Walking Track so we returned to the sign and began the ascent to the top of the headland. This is quite a steep climb with a fair few stairs but the views from the top are worth it.

View of Wedge Island
View of Whitsunday Islands
At Turtle Lookout we could clearly see several large sea turtles way down below. 

Sea Turtles
Looking back towards the mainland
We managed to take our eyes off the views long enough to capture a couple of other beauties along the walking track.

At Twin Beaches Lookout we discovered that there are in fact twin lookouts. One lookout looks back towards Wedge Island and the other looks over Cape Hillsborough Beach and Beachcomber Cove.

Twin Beaches Lookout
Hillsborough Beach and Beachcomber Cove.
We descended to Cape Hillsborough Beach as the sun was coming down feeling very satisfied with our afternoon of exploring this beautiful part of Australia.

Cape Hillsborough Beach

Monday, June 11, 2018

Smalleys Beach Camping Area, Cape Hillsborough National Park, QLD.

View in front of our campsite of Cape Hillsborough National Park.
Smalleys Beach Camping Area is a very popular campground right next to the beach. Some of the sites have views of the beach and other sites are more secluded however, they have their own beach access paths. To ensure that you get a site it is important to book before arriving. You have to select a site number when booking, which is always a challenge when you haven't seen the sites before, so I have given some descriptions of the sites below in the campground details section. We booked our site a few days beforehand and by the time we arrived the campground was booked out. We enjoyed our secluded site and have put this campground on our favourites list.

Site 9.
Site 8 
Amenities Block and Drinking Water Tap.
Brush Turkeys and a Lace Monitor with an amputated back leg patrolled the campground.

Despite missing half a back leg and having an ungainly gait this Lace Monitor looked healthy.
We didn't even need to leave the campground to see great birds and butterflies. At night, the mournful sound of Bush Stone-curlews could be heard; although we didn't manage to see any.

Yellow Honeyeater
Leaden Flycatcher, male.
Helmeted Friarbird
Dingy Bush-brown
The grass trees (Xanthorrhoea) were just coming into flower which attracted a good variety of wildlife.

Bordered Rustic, open (L) closed (R).
Blue Tiger and Rainbow Lorikeets
There are no defined walks at the campground but we enjoyed leisurely walks along the beach in front of our campsite. Other campers were fishing on the beach for whiting and our camping neighbours caught a large trumpeter for dinner. We also enjoyed going down to the beach at night and star gazing as the night sky was very clear away from city lights.

Looking west on Smalleys Beach.
Pied Oystercatcher on Smalleys Beach.
We found the edge of the beach, were the vegetation meets the sand, was also worth exploring.

Olive-backed Sunbird, male.
Agile Wallaby.
Cotton Stainer bugs.
I will cover the walks in other areas of Cape Hillsborough National Park in another blog.

Details for Smalleys Beach Camping Area, Cape Hillsborough National Park, QLD:
Where: Turn off the Bruce HWY about 20 km north of Mackay, into Seaforth Road, travel another 20 km and turn right into Cape Hillsborough Road. Travel a further 6 km and turn left into Smalleys Beach Road until arriving at the campground.
Access: Smalleys Beach Road is gravel. The last couple of kilometers has pot holes. Camping Type: The campground is listed as suitable for caravans, camper trailers and tent camping beside your vehicle.
Fees & Booking: Book online or phone 13 74 68 before arriving as there is no phone reception at the campground. This is a very popular campground, even during the week, so it is safer to book in advance or you may miss out. $6.35 per adult.
Facilities: 11 numbered sites, sandy surface, most sites have a picnic table. Amenities: flushing toilets, hand basin, 1 drink water tap (town water). Fires are only permitted in BYO off-ground fire containers, BYO milled timber. We did not have Telstra phone reception. Sites 1 to 5 have views of the beach. Site 5 is next to the toilet. Sites 2 - 5 and 6-7 are open to each other. Sites 8 - 11 can't see the beach but are separated by plants and have individual, short, access paths to the beach.
Prohibited: No pets, no generators, no fires on the ground.
Caution: Dangerous marine stingers may be present all year round; most common October to May.

Wildlife seen by us in Cape Hillsborough National Park: Ocean Turtles (type unknown), Lace Monitor, Agile Wallabies. Cotton Stainer Bugs, Weaver Ants (Green Tree Ants). Mangrove Crabs, Sand Bubbler Crabs. Butterflies: Yellow Albatross, Blue Tiger, Bordered Rustic, Grass Yellows, Caper Gull, Monarch, Orange Plane, Clearwing Swallowtail, Purple Crow, Dingy Bush-brown, Green-spotted Triangle. Magpie Moth. 
Bird List: Brahminy Kite, Whistling Kite, Australian Brush Turkey, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Bar-shouldered Dove, Spangled Drongo, Grey Fantail, Leaden Flycatcher, Helmeted Friarbird. Lewin's Honeyeater, Dusky Honeyeater, Yellow Honeyeater, Sacred Kingfisher, Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Lorikeet, Magpie-lark, Masked Lapwing, Spectacled Monarch, Pied Oystercatcher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Silvergull, Olive-backed Sunbird, Varied Triller, Rufous Whistler. Heard: Bush Stone Curlew.