Thursday, September 29, 2016



Steeper part of the Mount Sorrow trek

CAPE TRIBULATION is in tropical north Queensland, 141km  north of CAINS and 103km south of COOKTOWN by road. BRISBANE is 1820 km south.

CAPE TRIB is part of the DAINTREE area: motto - "where the rainforest meets the sea". That's pretty much what you get. Most is National Park or a heritage "no settlement" rainforest area - those cleared spots above are exceptions and are mainly given to scattered housing, some fruit farming and a few holiday accommodation options. It is very difficult to get permission for new construction anywhere in the DAINTREE.
CAPE TRIB BEACH is just to the right of the above cape. To the left is MYALL BEACH. Beaches continue both ways and are particularly impressive to the left where they are stretch all the way past the DAINTREE RIVER 30+km south with occasional interruptions. And beyond - most of the way to PORT DOUGLAS.
I forgot to mark in the 10 minute walking track across the neck of the isthmus between MYALL and CAPE TRIB beaches.
The road from the DAINTREE FERRY to the Cape (and beyond about as far right as this image shows) is sealed - further north is becomes THE BLOOMFIELD TRACK - dirt, steep in parts with some river crossings which must be forded - 4wd vehicles are suggested (image - Google Earth).

"Where the rainforest meets the sea" - that's pretty much the situation at my preferred accommodation, CAPE TRIBULATION BEACH HOUSE. Here you have various types of accommodation spread along a 300m track from the coast road down to the sea. The above was shot less than 50m from the ocean.



Not a great shot. This is from the viewing platform out on the cape. Typical QL National Parks - dang trees in the way of a panorama. I mean, do we have a shortage of trees in the above area?

Part of the hidden section above. Note low tide blues. This beach and other east facing beaches seemed to be suffering from storm erosion - not a lot of sand at highest tide

Can't beat an aerial shot to show CAPE TRIB BEACH to best advantage - I pinched this from Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree


The same tourism outfit shows a pic with the beach extending north past the small section of mangrove mid shot. I don't know what this beach is called - let's name it NTH CAPE TRIB. It goes out of frame right for quite a distance - is about 1700m from mangroves to northern end. Past there the coast becomes rocky, backed immediately by the steep slopes of the mountains - there are occasional small beaches.

This is about the same length of NTH CAPE TRIB BCH shown in the previous shot. I snapped it towards low tide - it doesn't look all that flash. Notice wet sand extends right to tree line - the same period"s high tides were those real high ones associated with full moon - virtually no beach left at top of the tide. Put paid to nightly bonfires on the beach at CAPE TRIB BEACH HOUSE which was in this area.

I thought this was the more attractive of the 2 main beaches latest visit. Faces more south - seemed to be have less erosion/more beach at high tide. Pretty broad at low tide as above.

Turn camera 180 degrees and face Cape.


This pic from Cairns Travel shows the beach south of my camera's position in the 2 previous shots. I think it remains MYALL BEACH all the way to that small headland. Past there is the estuary of MYALL CREEK - after which the beaches continue with occasional breaks for several kms - names like COCONUT BEACH, NOAH BEACH, THORNTON BEACH. The main road runs closely behind these with occasional parking areas. National Parks has a comping area at NOAH BEACH. CAPE TRIBULATION CAMPING is between road and beach towards the far end of the above shot.
The small creek running across the beach in foreground is LITTLE MYALL CREEK.
About 15 years ago I walked the beaches from about 10m south of the Cape. It was a bit freaky crossing the occasional small estuary - the area is known for crocs. In May 2016 a woman was killed by a croc at Thornton Beach. Many signs warn visitors of muggers.
I traveled real light back then - no camera so I can't show personal shots of these beaches. Many are real nice - similar to above.

Hit the accommodation sites and you will find a surprisingly large number of accommodation places in the general area. But one thing you won't find are any sizable resorts or hotels - the strict development curbs mean all the options are relatively small covering the full range from upmarket boutique to budget. There are two camping options at the Cape as well.

My pension grade dictates budget - in my 4 trips into the area I have stayed at two of the Cape's backpacker joints (BEACH HOUSE and PK's JUNGLE VILLAGE) and visited the third (FERNTREE RAINFOREST LODGE). Note all 3 of these also offer upmarket accommodation for people not interested in backpacker dorms. PK's also has a camping section.
I have also stayed at CROCYDYLUS VILLAGE - listed as a Cape Trib option on the accomm booking sites but actually at COW BAY some 27km south (and a good 4km from the beach - nice place when I stayed there 15 years ago but my shuttle driver latest trip was saying it has gone downhill in maintenance recently).

July 2016 was my second visit to this nice joint. I reckon it fits the theme "WHERE THE RAINFOREST MEETS TO SEA" perfectly. 

BEACH HOUSE stretches 400m down a section of rainforested hillside between the main coastal road and the sea about 1500m north of the side road into CAPE TRIB BCH CARPARK.

Bungalows are spread each side of the moderately sloping lane to the beach.

Accomm. spacing is not too squeezy - this section only 150m from the beach is structure free.

The track ends at the restaurant/bar - walk thru......

....and pop out on the beach.

This part of NORTH CAPE TRIB BEACH (that's the Cape in background) is variable - as I said up page it seemed to have suffered storm erosion since my last visit leaving not much sand towards full tide. Above we are about an hour from highest tide - several nights later a full moon KING TIDE (proper name SPRING TIDE - nothing to do with the seasons) saw NO BEACH for about an hour.
SPRING TIDES also see the fortnight's LOWEST TIDES (another SPRING TIDE period is around no moon). This shot of NORTH CAPE TRIB BCH late in the day (hence mountain shadow) shows how the big tidal range and slight beach profile exposes lotsa sand flats and some dead coral reef at lowest tide. Sand flats are way nicer than mud flats which many tropical beaches feature at lowest tides.

The dorms (left - camp kitchen right) are close to facilities but about 200m from the restaurant beach, rustic but comfy. Pretty good value and have....

....a nice central common area to hang out.

The camp kitchen covered all bungalow standards not just the backpackers' - but a lot of guests in the more expensive cabins seemed to use the restaurant. Well equipped and  oranised, the above area coped well with sizable school group on tour - admittedly their teachers had them well drilled. Hard working team of local women cleaners kept place pretty spotless.

Nearby amenities block only okay. Pretty clean but 3 showers/3 toilets a bit too few to handle place when busy (note the most expensive bungalow options have their own en-suites). Small point - no hooks on doors meant extra undressing hassle.
Coin operated washer/driers plus hand basins - but no clothes lines. I hate that!

BEACH HOUSE RESTAURANT - prices a bit high for this bottom budget traveller (I cook up a great meal in camp kitchens) but the nice setting behind the beach sure packed them in at lunch (a lot of tour groups called in) and dinner.
Adjacent small pool (maybe 15x5m) very pleasant (image THEADVENTURECOMPANY)

Nice spot-lighting of rainforest alongside path.

I've stayed at this place twice in the past - my very first CAPE TRIB visit maybe 1985 plus around 15 years ago. WHY NOT THIS TIME? - thing is, I really like BEACH HOUSE's "where the forest meets the sea" and its more relaxed atmosphere - PK's is a PARTY PLACE. I do remember 2nd visit I got a job in the restaurant washing dishes and delivering meals: always wanted to check out the inside scene in a busy restaurant. PAYMENT? a free meal (whatever was left over) plus a jug of beer. How good is that fer a bottom budget traveler?

PK's is not exactly short of choices. Bigger, way more diverse place than BEACH HOUSE (click image to expand - might make sign details clearer).

Not so much "where the forest meets the sea" - PK's is in a flat section of lower Cape Trib. Has a 400m boardwalk between it and MYALL BEACH. This mangrove area over LITTLE MYALL CREEK would be flooded at full tide.

Boardwalk pops out on this very nice section of MYALL BEACH. More attractive than NORTH CAPE TRIB BCH at BEACH HOUSE. And more attractive than the main CAPE TRIB BEACH in my humble opinion.

This is a must do if you are in the area AND HAVE THE TIME and FITNESS.

You are looking at a 7km return, steep track from near sea level to 680m (2230ft). Took me 2.5 hours each way - I'm not a quick trekker but I don't stop for rests.

This is the first time I've been able to find the trail-head - WILEY my shuttle driver from Cairns spent some time pointing it out. As you can see it's not too obvious but.....

....he indicated out that this parking area on the opposite side of the main coastal road about 20mins walk south of BEACH HOUSE and 5mins north of the entrance to CAPE TRIB BCH CAR PARK is much harder to miss.

Track steepness varied between gentle, moderate, steep and very steep. Surface was fine in some areas, very tricky (rocks, roots, slippery) in others. It hadn't rained HARD for some time - I wouldn't enjoy it then. Even so I slipped and fell at least 3 thrice on the descent. Maybe walking poles would assist, although I found clear hands helped in grabbing trackside saplings and branches to steady descent.
My climbing companion was a fellow BEACH HOUSE dorm guest - wanted to do the climb but not alone: I usually prefer to do these things solo but a partner is always a sensible idea.
Fit people should find the climb a real good workout. People of ordinary fitness will need a few rest stops. Unfit people like my svelte-challenged internet buddy Kananga (the only guy I know with 2 rest stops and a defibrillator station on the steps to his front patio) should maybe stay away.

Steepest parts had rope assist. We met or passed maybe 20 other trekkers in the 5 hour duration.

This is one of the few view on the climb - looking out to the north-east.

Viewing platform at the summit. There is a narrow v rough track the other side leads off across the high saddle - we took it for about 5 minutes but it didn't seem to be going anywhere fast.

I thought the view from the summit platform was pretty mediocre and restricted. Looks south. 
But I didn't do this climb for the view - more for the workout, which it sure was. 

Crazy, noisy Frenchmen charged past us on the way down. A few minutes later we heard evidence of big time mass fall. No time to giggle - so did I (fall).

We walked back to BEACH HOUSE via the beach - this is a lower peak on the ridge climb towards MOUNT SORROW viewed from CAPE TRIB BEACH. I think the ultimate summit is that higher point far right of image - doesn't look higher than mid area but consider the angle and distance involved.

Another nice trek (not so challenging) is to walk up the BLOOMFIELD ROAD to EMMAGEN CREEK and return to BEACH HOUSE via the coast.

Distance is 3.5km, say 50 mins walk. Road undulates, more climbing but drops a fair bit at the end. Slopes from moderate to steep - no very steep parts. Surface good although mud could be a problem after heavy rain.

A few hundred meters past BEACH HOUSE the sealed surface turns to dirt. In pretty good condition to the creek when I visited - not much recent rain and had probably been graded lately. Nice surrounding rainforest.

Sweet pool at EMMAGEN CK crossing - popular for swimming: apparently crocs don't come up here although I would be real careful 400m down creek at the estuary - looked a muggers' paradise to me.

This track leaves from a short distance back down the road - leads down to EMMAGEN BEACH after about 600 easy meters. The beach was less attractive than in previous visits (eroded) so I headed off down the coast towards BEACH HOUSE. A fair bit of rock-hopping along the way - not easy but not too difficult. Some parts would be impassible in the top third of the tide. Took me maybe 50 mins.


I'm happy checking the beaches, trekking a bit and (in the past) grabbing a hire bicycle and cycling back towards the Daintree crossing.
For people wanting more: check online or the brochures at your accomm reception for reef trips, sea kayaking, 4wd adventures, nature walks, zip-lining, Daintree Discovery Centre, Marrdja and Dubuji boardwalks, eco tours, horse-riding yada. There's a surprising number of restaurants, cafes and even a couple of bars in the area. Hell, a boutique cinema!

A whole bunch of outfits can get you from the Cairns area to the Cape. Check online because they tend to come and go. Many pick up at Cairns airport (north of the city) and Cairns northern beach suburbs plus Port Dougles along the way. A long time outfit I first used in the 1980s and is still running is CORAL COACHES. 
In the past it has also been possible to do a call in and stay on the way to Cooktown further north but at the time of my last visit no one was offering this. A number of operators offer Cairns to Cooktown via the sealed highlands/inland route.

CAPE TRIB CONNECTIONS is the transfer option I have used the last 2 visits- this outfit does day-trips but also has accomm-inclusive deals for people wishing to stay a night or more - I've found for a small premium over the regular transfer shuttles, CONNECTION's tour which visits places along the way is well worth while.

STOP 1  - coffee/tea and Tim Tams alongside the MOSMAN RIVER just north of the town.

Joining the ferry at the DAINTREE RIVER CROSSING


Mosman River mouth mid-ground. 

STOP 3 - MARRDJA BOARDWALKM - relaxing 20 minute loop thru rainforest.
Our tour leader WILEY clues us up about rainforest flora and fauna. I taught this stuff to high school kids for over 30 years but found a lot of his info new and fascinating. Didn't see any cassowaries though.
Note Marrdja is free to independent travelers.

During/after overnight guests are delivered to their accommodation, day-tip customers spend some time here checking the beach, the nearby viewpoint out on the cape and having lunch (which they can bring or pay a bit extra for to CONNECTIONS). This is actually 3 days later than the events pictured immediately up page - new tour leader CHARLIE (informative and great sense of humour) at left had just picked me up at BEACH HOUSE for my return to Cairns.

About 20 km south of the Cape. Yummy ice cream with a lot of locally grown fruit.


Most guests' favorite (I preferred the Marrdja Boardwalk). Saw abt 6 crocs, a few snakes, several birds. Informative and amusing commentary from boat driver. Complimentary tea/coffee/bikkies.

Reception/Entry with cafe, gift store, rest rooms etc several kms downstream from gorge.
Inclusive shuttle up to gorge
One of several swimming holes alongside gorge boardwalk. Water deliciously cool. Very clean - tint from natural tannins.

Port Douglas is a trendy holiday town 84km by road south of Cape Trib and 68km north of Cairns. We called in to drop off some people who had done the daytrip. CONNECTIONS can also arrange an overnight stop for people wanting to see more than the quick circuit the minibus does.

I'm not sure of the name of that beach below but it is one of dozens between Cape Trib and the northern suburbs of Cairns (which begin around that far headland (Buchan Point) at Palm Cove.
The road between Port Douglas and Palm Cove has to be one of the most spectacular beachside stretches of tarmac in Australia - the above is about as far as you get from the sand; often the road runs adjacent the silica.

The best time is in THE DRY SEASON which in this area tends to be between mid May and mid November. July and August are most popular but often have the rather strong south-east trade winds which blow onto the shore - the experts say Sept is the best bet for calmer beach and sea conditions. Of course these 3 months are winter/early spring down south, but up in the Cairns-Cape Trib area it is always warm.


Common sign - at rivers, creek estuaries, beaches etc - this one at the Daintree River Crossing
(will be clearer if you can click-expand).


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