We had arrived in Australia!! Even though we were extremely tired getting very little sleep on the flight, and flying at 2am and arriving at 8am local time we were very excited to be there!
We picked up our rental car and headed straight for Wonga in Queensland, which is a town North of Cairns up near the Daintree Forest. We made a quick stop at the nearest supermarket on route to our place to pick up some essentials, which was a bit of a shock to the system after being used to Bali prices for three weeks.
After shopping we arrived in Wonga, a cute little beach town, and found our accommodation. We were staying with a couple through AirBnb and had our own private area with bedroom and bathroom, with the main house and outside area to share. We met Theresa who was so welcoming and spent most of the afternoon talking to her outside and getting tips about the local area. She told us about all the local animal residents to the house, including two tree frogs called Frodo and Freda, and two rat kangaroos called Ruby and Ruffus, among cane toads, many birds, lizards and geckos, all of which we saw during our stay.
Later that afternoon we made the very short few minute walk to the beach near us and it was wonderful. We felt really lucky being so close to such a quiet beach, we only saw a couple of other people there.
Then it was time for some fish and chips at Newell Beach another beach nearby and a walk along the beach, a perfect evening!
Our first full day in Cairns didn’t get off to the best start… Upon heading out nice and early to get to Mossman Gorge, we realised we had a nail in one of our tyres. We had to call the car rental place and then roadside assistance and wait for an hour, whilst calling our insurance to check it was covered. Then after we had our space saver changed we had to find a local tyre shop to repair the old tyre.
After all this was done we finally headed to Mossman Gorge and had a wonderful afternoon walking around the rainforest area. It felt incredible to be in the rainforest and to hear all the creatures around. Mossman Gorge is an indigenous area, run by predominantly aboriginal people and forms part of the Daintree Rainforest area.
That evening as part of our stay our hosts could provide dinner at an extra cost. We had read great things about Theresa’s cooking and decided it would be worthwhile to try and to enjoy an evening with our hosts. The food was absolutely delicious, the main meal being a Hungarian goulash, which neither of us had had before. It was also great to spend the evening getting to know Theresa and Noah and to meet many of the animals we had heard about. This included grabbing a torch throughout the evening to spot the rat kangaroo when we heard the sound of crunching close by and listening to the strange bird calls, including the curlew that sounded like it was screaming – we really felt like we were experiencing real Australia.
Our day began heading off to Crocodile Express in Daintree Village to go crocodile hunting along Daintree River. The cruise was an hour long and we did spot a croc swimming past the boat.
Then we set off for Port Douglas, the most popular beachside town in our area – we loved it there! The Four Mile Beach was impressive and we even saw these little bubble crabs scuttling around.
Our day started early as we were heading up to the Daintree Rainforest. It was quite a short drive involving a car ferry to cross the Daintree River, as this is the only way to enter the rainforest. It was an interesting experience and our ticket was bought for us as a treat from our hosts too, which was lovely.
We arrived over the river in less than 10 minutes and began driving through the rainforest. It was stunning! The roads were windy and we passed many signs for cassowary crossing areas (a large human sized bird, this variety only found in Queensland Australia in the world). Unfortunately we didn’t see any on our drives or walks, but we were told they are extremely well camouflaged for such a large bird so we may not have noticed if we had gone past any. We did however get to meet one later on during our week.
We completed all the boardwalks in the area – it was amazing to hear the sounds all around and to think of all the wildlife around you… most of which it was probably good we didn’t see!
We did spot a Boyd’s Forest Dragon, which was luckily pointed out to us by a tour guide ahead, as it was very camouflaged. We were told this was quite a treat to see as they are very hard to spot usually and quite elusive.
We also visited the Daintree Discovery Centre, which included a 23m canopy lookout, lots of interesting walks, creature displays and an audio tour, which we enjoyed listening to and learn more about the rainforest.
Daintree Rainforest is considered to be the oldest continually surviving rainforest in the world. It is more than 180 million years old and one of Earth’s most precious living treasures. To put this age into context, the Amazon rainforest is said to be about seven million years old.
Lastly we drove up to Cape Tribulation. We were a little disappointed with the walk and lookout here, maybe because the weather had turned quite grey and cloudy, so we didn’t get the best views. But it was still beautiful to see the rainforest and beach colliding in one place and to walk along the beach.
Cape Tribulation was discovered by James Cook in 1770 and named so because ‘here began all our troubles’, he recorded. His ship ran aground on what is now known as Endeavour Reef, and was seriously damaged. He and his crew then had to get to Cooktown to repair their ship. He also named Mount Sorrow behind the Cape – clearly not a good time for him!
Then our drive home… at about 10 miles from home we found ourselves driving in the most awful storm we had ever encountered – very tropical, nothing like we have in England. It was torrential rain, thunder and lighting and with the rain bouncing off the roads we couldn’t see anything ahead, it was like driving blind. The roads were windy and prone to flooding, so we were pretty scared. We finally made it home safely though and will maybe keep a closer eye on the weather up here in the future. We only saw one other car in the whole drive, so everyone else definitely knew something we didn’t!
Today we decided to head back to Port Douglas. While there we went in search for somewhere to have lunch to give us enough energy to make the climb up Flagstaff Hill – this is a lookout at the top of the highest hill in Port Douglas. Once at the top it gave us an incredible view out over the Port which was well worth the ascent.
We were very excited to be heading to Wildlife Habitat today and we had an awesome day, one of our best yet! The sanctuary endeavours to keep and showcase native animals in enclosures that mimic their natural environment, which was brilliant and a different experience to what we have seen before.
We went to a few of the talks and presentations, which were all really informative and included stroking a python, blue tongued lizard and a baby freshwater crocodile.
We also went on a feeding tour round the wetlands area and got to be up close and personal with many birds, including feeding grapes to a cassowary.
Then the best bit… feeding kangaroos! We had so many around us and as soon as they knew food was around we were surrounded.
Another highlight – holding a koala. It was heavier than we thought and very cuddly, we also couldn’t believe how strongly it smelt of eucalyptus!
Lastly, we went to a crocodile feeding and talk, and had a great view of some saltwater crocodiles being fed. The star being a four and a half metre male who was very hungry!
Our last day staying in Wonga… we set off for an early morning walk along Wonga Beach and then went on a second boat cruise on Daintree River as part of the ticket we bought. It was on a different part of the river and the tour was really informative. We did see another saltwater croc but unfortunately only his head was sticking out of the water.
After hunting for crocs, we then decided to eat one – a crocodile pie, which was surprisingly tasty!
Next we went back to Mossman Gorge to swim in the gorge as we didn’t go for a swim last time. As we arrived and bought our tickets for the bus over we noticed the information guidance board stating that swimming was not allowed. However, when we arrived it seemed like no one had taken any notice as there were loads of people in there. So, we joined them and went for a very cold, refreshing swim. It was amazing to think we were swimming in a gorge of a rainforest – awesome experience!
For our last evening we headed back to the fish and chip shop we went to on our first night. We were sat outside enjoying our dinner when the owner came out and asked us if we wanted some beers and came out and joined us – in true Aussie fashion! An awesome way to end our time here and our first week in Australia.
We thought Wonga was an awesome little beach town and a fantastic gateway to all of the surrounding areas (Daintree Rainforest, Mossman Gorge and Port Douglas). We loved driving around and taking in all of the incredible scenery.
Lauren’s favourite thing – feeding the kangaroos
Daniel’s favourite thing – swimming in Mossman Gorge
So that’s it for Wonga and the Daintree area and off to Cairns…